Monday, October 24, 2011

Masters of Venice: Renaissance Painters of Passion and Power at the de Young.

Giorgio da Castelfranco, called Giorgione. The Three Philosophers.  ca. 1508-1509.  Oil on canvas.  Gemäldegalerie of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

I still haven't finished the review for the show on the splendors of the royal courts of India but in the meantime, I got to preview this show which is stunning. 

Frankly, while the Indian art dazzles, I didn't feel an emotional connection to all that flashy, ostentatious consumption. Their self-indulgent life style, financed on the backs of the oppressed Indian peasant, looks too much like today's Wall Street Masters of the Universe. Plus ca change, plus ca le meme chose.

I realize that Renaissance art was the conspicuous consumption of its day but somehow it doesn't annoy me the way all that bling at the Asian did. Nevertheless, the show at the Asian is superb and there is a lot to say about it but not right now.

The de Young Museum is hosting another not-to-be-missed show - a worldwide exclusive presentation of 50 paintings by sixteenth-century Venetian painters Titian, Giorgione, Veronese, Tintoretto, Mantegna.

All on loan from the Gemäldegalerie of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, this exhibit features outstanding examples of the work of these artists, the most celebrated holdings in the collections of the Gemäldegalerie.

Maharaja: The Splendor of India's Royal Courts.

 Baubles, bangles,
Hear how they jing, jing-a-ling-a,
Baubles, bangles,
Bright, shiny beads.
Sparkles, spangles,

The Asian Art Museum opened its doors to the dazzling world of India's legendary maharajas (Sanskrit word for "great kings") with the U.S. premiere of Maharaja: The Splendor of India's Royal Courts.

The exhibition, organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, presents nearly 200 important artworks from the glittering world of India's rulers over three centuries.

 Maharaja is the first exhibition to comprehensively explore the world of the maharajas and their unique culture of artistic patronage. Maharaja is accompanied by an extensive schedule of public programming, including a film series featuring a guest appearance by esteemed producer James Ivory, live music and dance performances, artist demonstrations, multimedia and docent led tours, and more.

The show at the Asian is a dazzling display of conspicuous consumption. It should leave the thoughtful viewer with some serious questions - what is the role of religion in maintaining social order, how can a ruler justify living in such extreme luxury while the majority of his or her subjects live in abject poverty, what parallels are there between the conspicuous consumption of Indian royalty and our own society?
Full Review to come at the

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What's next ?

There have been so many fantastic shows in the last week that I can't decide which to write about - Maharaja, the arts of India or Pissarro's paintings. Then, next week, a show of Titian, Giorgione and other Venetian artists from their golden age will be opening. I'm looking at this banquet of art and just can't decide where to start.

Anybody have a preference?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Night TV (aka, guilty pleasures). Ursula and Martine.

TCM's line up tonight plays to all my guilty pleasures - cheesy movies about imaginary worlds, actors wearing few clothes and women slathered with copious amounts of blue eye shadow. In the 60's, I think that Hammer Horror cornered the market on blue eye shadow and pop-up bras.

I read "She" as an impressionable pre-teen and probably never recovered from it. From then on, I judged science fiction by the number of femme fatales with décolletage and draped gowns, handsome (but often clueless) male heroes and the occasional dinosaur thrown in for good measure. Although they conflicted with my increasing political consciousness, natives in loin cloths blandishing spears were a nice extra touch.

Tonight's TCM is a whole line of of kitschy goodness. First, there's She with the gorgeous, statuesque Ursula Andress in her prime playing the priestess/goddess of an ancient Roman kingdom, hidden somewhere in Africa (natch). Ursula wears gold lamé, the hero is blond and dumb and Christopher Lee plays the high priest, who pontificates lines like  "Dare you disobey the orders of She who must be obeyed." (shades of Rumpole of the Bailey!) 

Then, another rare jewel - Prehistoric Woman staring the unforgettable Martine Beswick, as Kari, a slave girl who has risen through absolute mercilessness to the strata of tribal leader ("Cruelty has made me cruel"). Meow...

Whether lounging on a day bed of cheetah skins or coiled to commit grievous bodily harm for the privilege of coupling with the only available male, Beswick stomps the terra, not so much stealing the film from her fellow actors as tearing it away to swallow whole. The script by Carreras (tendered under the pseudonym Henry Younger) posits an adolescent boy's dream getaway in a world ruled by women who gad about in low cut pelts and dance seductively when not trying to claw out one another's eyes. 

The dialogue runs to purple but the narrative is offered with an undeniable sense of humor and fun, putting Prehistoric Women in the same camp as Cat-Women of the Moon (1953) and Queen of Outer Space (1958).

The Zap TV website is even more terse: Brunettes and their queen of the white rhinoceros capture a hunter and boss around blondes. As a former brunette (now graying) I can go for that. 

In the sixties, after spectacular efforts such as The Brides of Dracula (1960) and The Evil of Frankenstein (1964) as well as other reworkings of classics like The Phantom of the Opera (1962) and The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), Hammer actively pursued stories with women in the lead, a departure from practically the entire Hammer catalogue, going back even before Hammer horror to the earliest days of the studio's existence. The success of The Gorgon (1964), She (1965) and One Million Years B.C. (1966) proved that they were on the right track in expanding beyond gothic-inspired horror and, in 1967, they made the decision to go headfirst into a full-blown historical epic, The Viking Queen (1967). 

It wasn't about Vikings, wasn't very historical and, sadly, wasn't very good. A Druid high priestess (do they ever have a peasant in these movies?) and a Roman centurion fall in love. Oh love, oh mores, oh really predictable. Well, maybe comparing her to cardboard is more accurate.
She says her lines dutifully and doesn't completely fudge every inflection (although she comes close) but, in the end, she's just not there.

The movie might have worked had the leading lady had any effect other than blah. Still, the location shooting in Ireland gave the film a beautiful look and the final scene is so bad that you have to watch it to believe it. '

If you want to stay up past midnight, the next deathless film is "The Wild Wild Planet" in which a space cowboy saves planetary leaders from an alien shrinker's army of inflatable females. OK. Er.. inflatable females sounds like something from the back (way back) pages of the National Enquirer or it's less-than-stellar imitations. I haven't seen it but I see that Franco Nero is listed in the cast. He played Lancelot in the 1960's Camelot along with Vanessa Redgrave who added him to her stable of lovers.

Add popcorn and/or some beer and it's a Friday night line up just made for fun.

information from the TCM and Hammer glamor website. website.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

So NOW the world is supposed to end tomorrow?

It seems Harold Camping is at it again. The world is supposed to end tomorrow... But I'm not ready! I have nothing to wear! Plus, I have two great art shows to view - Pissarro at the Legion and next week's treasures from the Hapsburg's at the de Young.

Pissarro's People at the Legion

Self Portrait
 “Pissarro’s People,” opening this weekend at the Legion of Honor, brings together more than 100 paintings, showing his humanistic viewpoint through portraits of his family and paintings of working class people and peasants of late 19th century France. Pissarro was the most modest, the most committed and the most politically radical of the impressionists and for us, the least known.

Apple Pickers

Those who believe impressionism viewed the world through misty idealistic glasses should ponder Pissarro's commitment to "our modern philosophy, which is absolutely social, antiauthoritarian and antimystical ... a robust art based on sensation,"- a philososphy he expressed in paint. He was a committed anarchist and believed that Impressionism was the natural way to present social progress, science and ethical behavior. He believed that natural vision was a primary value in art, achieved through a direct encounter with the "thing seen."

His paintings of the working class and peasantry of 19th century France were far from the usual contemporary genre scenes but portraits of those who he saw as active and individual forces in contemporary life. Ordinary people, rather than gods, goddess and mythological beings, were important subjects. His working men and women, albeit somewhat idealized, were were seen as harmonious with nature, productive, working, leading a fulfilling life, neither brutalized or sentimentalized.

Maid making cafe au lait.

As Robert Hughes wrote, "There has long been a tendency to repeat, without checking it against the pictures, Gauguin's irritable verdict that Pissarro was a good second-rater, "always wanting to be on top of the latest trend ... he's lost any kind of personality, and his work lacks unity." So although there has been no lack of Degas shows, Monet retrospectives, homages to Cézanne and museum tributes to Bazille or Caillebotte, Pissarro has remained less known—an irony, since, with his peculiar steadfastness and probity, he was the linchpin of the impressionist group."
all images courtesy of the FAMSF.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Maharaja, opening October 21st at the Asian.

A little taste of "Maharaja," opening later this week at the Asian. Bill Wilson, a photographer for the Sentinel, was able to see the silver coach and has posted pictures and a video of the coach being installed.

Richard Serra at SFMOMA

After the 20th black on black painting the show became, dare I say it, boring? Would I be considered a philistine for saying so? Probably. One thing is for certain; if it weren't for Serra's international reputation, no museum would be showing all of these without some serious editing. 

Naturally Kenneth Baker thinks the work is fabulous and those who don't "get it" are "dull." Naturally, I disagree and think the adulation is completely misplaced. Black is the only color in the show and you won't have to worry about processing the imagery because there is none.

LOVE this comment, Mike Strickland's reaction to the Baker article at SF Gate. I know Mike and he doesn't pull any punches: "How does one write a sentence like: "Serra found his feet as an artist at the post-minimalist moment when he and several other contemporaries were trying to make process as manifest as possible in the final form of a work." with a straight face?

The drawings are actually black "paintstick" on paper and linen and feel more like paintings than drawings. The sculptures are gargantuan, manly schtick and I'm still praising the twist of fate that kept one of his huge rusted metal sculptures from defacing the front of the Palace of the Legion of Honor where the natural views are beyond sublime."

Click on the link, earn the writer a penny:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Upcoming - Houdini, Marahaja at the Asian, Richard Serra at SFMOMA

As soon as I recover from Open Studios, I'll be back in action. Unfortunately, every Open Studio offers its challenges - mostly from one's fellow artists. As if the studio wasn't hot enough already, the potter decided (as always) to fire up the pottery kiln the day before the opening, thereby raising the already hot temperature another 10 degrees. Then, we had the "filmmaker" who cranked up his speakers and blasted the hallway with thudding noise. When we asked him to turn the sound down, we were told that he's already done a "sound check" and it's not a problem. We tell him that we, the artists next door, think it is a problem but nothing gets done. This is when I lament our lack of responsible leadership which emphasized consideration for our fellow studio members and regret, yet again, the loss of Elaine, the former studio manager.

Anybody know of a nice, quiet, well ventilated studio space for rent? 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Opening Tonight!

Nancy Ewart, Blue Landscape. Oil, 2011
689 Bryant St, #27, SF

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Open Studios, 3rd Weekend

Yellow Sea, Nancy Ewart, Oil on canvas. 2011
October 15 & 16, 689 Bryant St, #27
The studio is cooler inside so don't let the 87 degrees and rising weather put you off. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

SF Open Studios, Weekend 3

 "Mermaids at the fountain." Nancy Ewart. Ink and watercolor on paper, 2011

I'm showing this weekend so I hope to see some of you there (Nancy Ewart, 689 Bryant St, #27). I'm having a half off price on lots of items so there will be bargains galore. 

More images at my Flickr account:

689 Bryant St: The studios are easy to get to by walking, bicycling or by public transportation. All featured studios are close to the CalTrain station and only a few blocks from Market St. BART stations. Several MUNI bus routes run to the neighborhood including the 9, 10, 12, 15, 27, 30, 45, 47 and metro lines N and T.
Nearby street parking is available and on Saturday, you can ride the Art Bus:
October 15th, 12-5pm: Download the bus map here:

Click at the link and earn me an extra penny:

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Let us break bread together

Bessie Smith could sing about how nobody could bake a jellyroll like her and the Newbeats liked their peanut butter, but for this sometimes Southern woman, there's nothing like cornbread (with or without the sexual innuendo).

Dancing with the devil 'round a fire
(mess your) mama bed for a little more magic
make you wanna run around naked
cause you know it looks good on you
but you ain't never had my corn bread
a little bit heaven and a little bit of uh huh
cut it down the middle open wide and jump right in (Dave Matthews Band).

 Cornbread baked in my 100 year old cast iron skillet. The first cut...

Last Friday, I was a bit a loose ends because the traffic in the city was one huge mess due to Fleet Week and dozens of street closures. I didn't want to paint and I didn't want to write and I'm already exhausted by the work involved by my upcoming  Open Studios(Oct 15-16th). More about that later....

I knew that I was going over to my dear friends Anna and Dave's on Saturday for a pot luck brunch where we would all sit around, discuss the issues of the day, share art and ideas. Plato has nothing on us for dissin' about the soul and the good life.

So, what better way to spend the day than in the kitchen? I had a marathon cooking day, making food for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. Turkey in cream sauce and Buffalo chili for the carnivores and green beans with tomatoes, Lima bean casserole and carrot soup for the vegetarians. (Recipes on request).

 Wedgewood Stove, circa 1947 or so.

But the hit of the day was my cornbread. I don't think that my recipe is anything special. You can find variations of it all over the internet. But I added a can of corn and I think that brought a touch of tenderness and sweetness to the bread. I also credit my old cast iron skillet with giving the bread the right kind of crust while baking the inside to the right consistency of tender crumby goodness. 
The proof of the pudding is in the eating and I'm glad to say that I didn't have any leftovers to take home. 

I have had that skillet for almost 40 years. It belonged to my grandmother and I brought it down to San Francisco after her death. I remember her making cornbread in that skillet and spoon bread and hush puppies. She had a couple of other pans that I wish I'd taken from the old house, a special pan for corn pone and her old Dutch oven. But I have this and the cast iron stove top grill where she used to grill the salmon that my grandfather caught off the Oregon Coast or the Geoduck that we'd find, digging like crazy on the beach. I remember the clean tang of the salt air, the wind in the pines behind their house. I remember the smells of food, of love, of comfort and safety. My parental units were not the nicest in the world so I am glad that I have these wonderful memories.

Whenever I get out my old skillet, I remember my days of standing at my grandmother's elbow, taking in cooking wisdom and old Southern adages. Sunday dinner after church was best but she would tell me to get out of my "go-to-meetin' clothes" (good clothes) before I stepped foot in the kitchen. She could fuss at my grandfather, telling him that he was "slower than molasses."  She could be cranky, opinionated and she was far from politically liberal, especially on issues of race. She said that I was as stubborn as a mule but I opined that it was something that I learned from her.

What act cements a relationship more, even now, even in our secular society, than sharing a good meal?  It is how we understand that we are in this together: the sharing of food, of life. And so our religious traditions include that shared meal: whether in the form of the formalized Eucharist of Christianity, the offering to the Goddess at the turn of each season, the candy for Ganesha or other Hindu gods or the offerings of food, shared with friends.

We're seeking relationship, with the world, with our spiritual selves, with the circles of community widening out from ourselves. Let us break bread together and give thanks.

1/4 cup oil
2 cups ground yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups corn kernels, fresh, thawed, or drained


Preheat the oven to 450°. Pour the vegetable oil into a seasoned skillet and place in the oven. Heat until the oil is very hot; remove the pan from the oven and pour off any excess oil. In a mixing bowl, sift together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Stir in the buttermilk, eggs, and butter, stirring until just mixed. Stir in corn kernels. Pour the batter into the hot skillet and return to the oven. Reduce the temperature to 400°. Bake until golden brown; a toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean. Cool cornbread on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Invert cornbread onto a large plate and cut into wedges.  Skillet cornbread recipe makes about 8 wedges.

Butter is not optional. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Saturday Grab Bag

Christie's estimates that this Degas dancer will bring between 25 - 35 million at auction.

The Toledo Museum just purchased a new Frans Hals painting. Family Portrait in a Landscape (early 1620s) is a large work (60 x 64 ¾ inches/151 x 163.6 cm) that will take its place in the Great Gallery near Rubens’s The Crowning of St. Catherine and Guercino’s Lot and His Daughters, the Museum’s most recent Old Master acquisition, which came into the collection in 2009.

“This painting is a tremendous addition to our collection of European paintings,” said TMA Director Brian Kennedy. “It is one of only four known family portraits by Hals to have survived and is the earliest of the four. Its strong composition and the way Hals captures the personalities and personal interactions of the family members will delight our visitors.” 

The Walters Art Museum (Baltimore) announces the launch of its redesigned works of art website with the removal of copyright restrictions on more than 10,000 online artwork images through a Creative Commons license. In addition to being able to download these images for free, the site introduces a new look and feel, and enhanced searching, tagging and community collections features. This kind of website revamp is something I wish our local museums would do The problems range from small images to very user-unfriendly search options.

 Mesrop of Khizan Isfahan Armenian, Isfahan, Iran, Asia, 1615
Tempera colors, gold paint, and gold leaf on glazed paper  MS. LUDWIG II 7, fol. 193v

 In the Beginning Was the Word: Medieval Gospel Illumination at the Getty

The word Gospel comes from the Old English word god-spell, meaning "good news." This was in turn a translation of the Greek word for this collection of texts: evangelion. With examples from Western Europe, Ethiopia, Byzantium, and Armenia, this exhibition traces the tradition of Gospel illumination in Christian art and worship.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs.1955-2011. RIP.

“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” - Steve Jobs
This evening, Apple announced that Steve Jobs, its legendary leader, has died. Watch his powerful talk “How to live before you die” — in which Jobs urges us to pursue our dreams and see the opportunities in life’s setbacks, including death itself.

I remember the first time I used a Mac after years of working on PC's. It was like going from a donkey cart to a Cadillac. Everything worked the way it was supposed to. All the programs interfaced together, cleanly and elegantly. I realized that Mac was a superior product when I moved from a Mac user environment to a department that used PC's. 

The department that used Mac's had two tech guys to take care of over 500 doctors and personnel. They were busy but not overwhelmed. The department that used PC's had an IT staff of 10 for 150 doctors and their staff and they could not keep up with the computer breakdowns, the virii and the hackers. Any change in operating system was traumatic and forget about installing your own software.

The flow of innovative products has been amazing - computers that really were plug and play, all the versions of OS which did not crash and did what you bought them to do, the iPhone, the iPad, software that worked as soon as you installed it. Sometimes Apple was a bit behind the game, as in voice recognition software, but they were in front in so many other ways.

My biggest complaint is that they never imported my favorite city building games onto a Mac platform. As for the rest of the games - not interested, not my thing. I leave the big bangs and the imaginary violence to people like my immature upstairs neighbors.

RIP Steve - you made my life and that of millions of other computer geeks in hundreds of ways, how we work, how we play, how we communicate. Let's hope that Apple stays on the path you forged for it. 

ps: Boing Boing has changed their web page to honor Jobs. Anybody who remembers their first Mac will remember that screen. I got a lump in my throat when I saw it; I remember naming my first Mac after a Goddess, a practice that I still follow. She was called Clio, followed by Artemis, Sophia, Minerva and Athena.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Jay DeFeo at Hosfelt Gallery

 In the first West Coast exhibition of Jay DeFeo's art in fifteen years, Hosfelt Gallery presents a focused investigation of some of the formal and metaphoric themes that run through various bodies of work made in the two decades between the completion of her legendary painting The Rose and her death in 1989. The exhibition includes approximately 40 works, including paintings, drawings and unique photographic-based works, many of which have never previously been exhibited. 

From Dana Miller, Catalogue for the exhibition Jay DeFeo: No End : Works on Paper from the 1980s, Botanicals: Photographs from the 1970s, August-September 2006

"Jay DeFeo's first toy was a pencil, or so her mother was fond of telling people. As a young girl, DeFeo drew constantly, and the arrival of each new coloring book was a monumental event. While she was in elementary school, a neighbor gave her a "how-to-draw" book, and she spent hours practicing her favorite exercise, how to draw the perfect circle. As a mature artist, the circle, along with the triangle, the cross, the square, the spiral, and the oval, became the basis of her formal iconography." 

Jay DeFeo” @ Hosfelt Gallery through October 22, 2011.
Learn more about Jay DeFeo.
All images: ©2011 The Jay DeFeo Trust/Artists Rights Society/ARS, New 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Listeria, e-Coli contaminated meat and now Velveta? - oh joy!

 @ AP Wire Services

Fall has officially started and those of us who aren't vegetarians should be thinking about beef stew and other hearty cool weather dishes. But the bad news about contaminated foods just keeps on coming.

Those of us in the Bay Area should not be smug; if you shop at the big chain supermarkets, you are at risk of buying e-coli contaminated beef, pork containing foreign materials or cantaloupe infected with listeria. Californians love their salad. Well, read on down about the 2500 cartons of listeria contaminated lettuce from a California farm.

Even Velveeta cheese isn't safe!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Joan Brown at the San Jose Museum of Art

The San Jose Museum of Art will explore the work of the pivotal Bay Area artist Joan Brown (1938-1990) in the exhibition This Kind of Bird Flies Backward: Paintings by Joan Brown, on view October 14, 2011-March 11, 2012. The exhibition, the first major survey of Brown's art in a decade, is the first to examine and stake a claim for her work in the context of the women's movement. 

 Girls in the surf, moon casting a shadow, 1962

The exhibition includes approximately 40 paintings (plus a select group of drawings and mixed-media works) on loan from public and private collections as well as from the artist's estate, including some never before seen by the public. The exhibition spans Brown's career from 1959 to 1984. Brown emerged as a successful artist just before the advent of 1960s feminism. Her pioneering use of domestic subjects, decorative motifs, and autobiographical imagery prefigures the new artistic territory championed by the women's art movement in the 1970s.

Self portrait with scarf, enamel on canvas, 1972
Brown experimented freely with a range of styles, and her art has been discussed in relationship to abstract expressionism, Bay Area figuration, and new image painting. Yet she consistently took everyday moments from her personal life as her artistic subject: her son, Noel, in front of the Christmas tree; her birthday celebrations; her routine swims in the San Francisco Bay; evenings at the opera with her husband. 

 Dancers in a city, #2, enamel and fabric on canvas, 1972
Born in San Francisco, Brown began her studies at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute). She was influenced by her fellow artists Elmer Bischoff, Richard Diebenkorn, Frank Lobdell, and Nathan Olivera. Her success came early: she had her first New York show at Staempfli Gallery at the age of 22. That same year (1960), she was the youngest artist included in the pivotal exhibition Young America 1960 (Thirty American Painters Under Thirty-Six) at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Brown's early work was characterized by thick paint and expressive texture, and was clearly influenced by abstract expressionism. By the 1970s, Brown's canvases were thinly painted, yet full of bold color and vibrant pattern. 

 The Journey #1, 1976
She moved away from her interest in traditional still-life elements toward an unrelenting examination of her own image and life. In 1976, following a divorce, Brown traveled to Europe: this trip inspired her "Journey" series, a deep personal reflection on relationships. (Brown's Journey #1, 1976, is in the collection of the San Jose Museum of Art and included in the exhibition). Brown's interest in spirituality and the new age movement grew throughout the 1980s. She died in 1990 in an accident while helping to install an obelisk for Sathya Sai Baba's Eternal Heritage Museum in Puttaparthi, India.

Opening October 14th through March 11, 2012
images courtesy San Jose Museum of Art