Thursday, March 29, 2012

RIP Adrienne Rich

 I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains' enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The fashion world of Jean Paul Gaultier at the de Young

I could have done without the fawning, groveling tributes to Gaultier or the insistence that fashion is art and belongs in museums. One of the museum curators (or perhaps the woman from Montreal) was trying to claim that a Gaultier gown is the equivalent of a Van Gogh and that he personifies all the humanistic values.

What utter BS. 

Gaultier turned out to be quite charming, probably sober, on his best behavior and regaling the press with stories of his grandmother and her corset and his teddy bear.

I did not find myself dazzled. I don't buy the statement that anybody can wear his clothes. Really? The old, the poor, the really fat?

I don't think so. It's a world of conspicuous consumption that is both expensive and transitory.

But if your taste is for outrageous flamboyance and vulgar display, the Gaultier is the designer for you. The show is packaged beautifully with unique mannequins that almost look like real people. The walls are painted black, the lighting is dim and there is some sort of music in the catwalk display. I didn't stay long because I preferred the beauty of the park and the fresh air to this, yet another, tribute to clothes that few of us can afford, much less wear.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Parallel Visions at Creativity Explored

 You Are Unemptiable by Louis DeMarco © 2010 Project Onward

Parallel Visions, the latest exhibition at Creativity Explored Gallery, shows work by artists from five different arts and disability organizations in conversation with work made by selected artists at Creativity Explored. The resonance felt between these artists, working in disparate studios across the globe, is uncanny and inspiring.

This show assembles a group of artists who emphasize drawing processes and repetitive mark making to create their work. A range of artwork is on view, though three distinct themes emerge: abstract works; figurative ink drawings; and, work comprised of poetic text and number systems.

“For the first time in our gallery, work by Creativity Explored artists will be seen as part of a larger context. We’re excited to share this extraordinary work from across the nation and beyond with Bay Area audiences,” says Amy Taub, Executive Director. As a whole, this exhibition is a survey of global contemporary trends in the arts and disability movement – through pairings and small clusters of work reveal intimate relationships and conjure their own fascinating dialogs."
Exhibition Dates and Times: March 8 through April 25, 2012; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday, 10:00 am to 3:00 pm; Thursday 10:00 am to 7:00 pm; Saturday & Sunday 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Where: Creativity Explored Gallery, 3245 16th Street at Guerrero Street, San Francisco CA 94103

(415) 863-2108.
Creativity Explored is a nonprofit visual arts center where artists with developmental disabilities create, exhibit, and sell art.

Monday, March 19, 2012

National Gallery of Art launches NGA images.

 The National Gallery of Art announced the launch of NGA Images, a new online resource that revolutionizes the way the public may interact with its world-class collection at 

This repository of digital images documenting the National Gallery of Art collections allows users to search, browse, share, and download images believed to be in the public domain. Many of the open access images have been digitized with the generous support of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

"As the Gallery marks its 71st anniversary, it is fitting that we introduce NGA Images and an accompanying open access policy, which underscore the Gallery's mission and national role in making its collection images and information available to scholars, educators, and the general public," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. "In turn this supports research, teaching, and personal enrichment; promotes interdisciplinary research; and nurtures an appreciation of all that inspires great works of art."

Designed by Gallery experts to facilitate learning, enrichment, enjoyment, and exploration, NGA Images features more than 20,000 open access digital images, up to 3,000 pixels each, available free of charge for download and use.

The resource is easily accessible through the Gallery's website, and a standards-based reproduction guide and a help section provide advice for both novices and experts. Other features for users include the ability to create one or more "lightboxes," or images sets, and to save, share, and download multiple images at a time. Users may add individual labels and notes to their lightboxes or to images within them. Links to users' customized lightboxes may be shared via e-mail or may be copied and pasted to social media sites.

Users may freely browse the NGA Images website and download screen- and lecture-size images without registering an account. Registration is required to use certain features of the NGA Images website, including saving and sharing lightboxes and e-mailing image links to others. Additionally, registration is required to fulfill certain image requests, including direct downloads of reproduction-ready images.

 With the launch of NGA Images, the National Gallery of Art implements an open access policy for digital images of works of art that the Gallery believes to be in the public domain (those not subject to copyright protection). Under the open access policy, users may download any of these images free of charge and without seeking authorization from the Gallery for any use, commercial or non-commercial.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Erin Go Bragh

Luke Kelly and the Rising of the Moon - the great song of the Irish rebels and the uprising against the English.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Weekend Picks: Chinese Historical Society, Mail Art, Intersection for the Arts

One of Jake Lee's watercolors of "Old Chinatown" now showing at the Chinese Historical Society (image courtesy Chinese Historical Society).
In the early 1960s, restaurateur Johnny Kan commissioned a series of water color paintings by artist Jake Lee. For many years, these stunning paintings hung in the private Gum Shan (“Gold Mountain”) dining room of the landmark Kan’s Restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

The fascinating back story at the NY TImes:

More weekend picks at:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

International Women's Day and Women's History Month

Women's Day observed online

Thursday was International Women's Day. To celebrate, the Museum of Women is starting an online exhibition, Mama: Motherhood Around the Globe (, which explores global maternal health through art, video, essays and action steps. Perhaps the coolest thing about the exhibition is that it offers opportunities to connect with women from around the globe.

In celebration of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, ITVS presents an online film festival of documentaries showcasing extraordinary women and girls on the front lines of change around the world.
Get inspired! Watch online through March 31.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970 at the Berkeley Art Museum

 8 Natural Handstands" (1969/2009) includes this image of Robert Kinmont on a Sierra promontory, part of a series of black and white gelatin silver prints. Courtesy Berkeley Art Museum

In the 70's, the boomer generation came of age. Students were marching all over the globe - against the war in Vietnam, protesting injustice at home, organizing for the brave new world they hoped to create.

All of this and more is reflected in the new exhibit at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Archive (BAM/PFA),  “State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970,” which features 150 California artists and their radical contributions to art, developing a practice and a form of art that would be known as Conceptualism.

The story of California Conceptualism begins in the mid 1960s, when the state emerged as an incubator for social change and youth-oriented counterculture. California was full of newly established art schools along with the old, but scarcely traditional schools like the San Francisco Art Institute. The living was easy, jobs were plentiful and rents were cheap.
Curated by the Berkeley Art Museum and the Orange County Museum of Art, the show is part of "Pacific Standard Time," the huge LA-based exhibit about post-war California art. Organized thematically, the exhibition brings together artists whose works are not usually seen together to underscore their related interests and to provide a fresh perspective on the development of Conceptual art in California.
"The San Francisco Bay Area, the epicenter of the counterculture, had a particularly strong attraction for young artists," Lewallen and co-curator Karen Moss note in their introduction to the exhibit catalog. 

If Marshall McLuhan’s “The medium is the message,” was the mantra of the era, so was the artistic idea that process is more important than product. Performance was the name of the game and the more outrageous and the more transitory, the better.

The artists wanted to change how art was made, how it was displayed and even what materials were used by the use of non-traditional materials such as photography, performance and video as documentation.

These practices were often documented through the newly available use of video, several examples of which are on display throughout State of Mind.

Southern California artist Chris Burden, for instance, explored the body through performance—flirting with danger to experience what most wish to avoid—in a series of iconic performances he began while still a graduate student. For his most infamous performance, Shoot, a friend shot Burden in the arm with a .22 rifle—the artist’s response to the killing of student protesters at Kent State.

If they changed the forms of art, they also revised the content: the Vietnam War, the shootings at Kent State, racism, feminism and the gay rights movement became part of the mix. Art and politics were no longer separate entities.

Most of the art is not as subtle as in Michael Asher's untitled work from 1966-67, which is a column of cool air flowing down from the ceiling in a gallery hallway. This was so inconspicuous it had to be pointed out by one of the show’s curators.

Politics are on display in every gallery. The LA Chicano collective Asco dressed as parodies of popular figures — for instance, a Gothic Virgin Mary — to address ignored issues of gender and sexuality as well as the marginalization of Chicano artists in the LA gallery and museum world.

Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful" (1967-72) is a photomontage by Martha Rosler.

Issues of gender and sexuality permeate the show. Barbara T. Smith’s controversial performance piece “Feed Me,” is represented by performance documentation. In a simulated boudoir, Smith allowed visitors, one by one, to enter the space where she lay naked and to interact with her as they chose. Smith saw this as a method of self-transference, which others disagreed strongly.

But the multitude of feminist works in the show document how vibrant, diverse and wide ranging the movement was. There's not one photo of bra-burning in the whole show.

Paul Kos’s installation, “Sound of Ice Melting” — made by eight microphones connected to an amplifier recording the sound of melting ice blocks — is a perfect example of conceptual art being a record of creativity, rather than a static object to be displayed, in a gallery or otherwise.

Bas Jan Ader’s “In Search of the Miraculous (One Night in Los Angeles)” records in solemn photographs his walk from the Hollywood Hills to the Pacific Ocean, a dusk-to-dawn compilation imprinted with handwritten lyrics from The Coasters’ ballad, “Searchin’.”

Decades after they were created, many of the works in "State of Mind" are still disturbing, fascinating and sometimes funny.  The questions asked then are still being asked.

“State of Mind” also reveals the most enduring legacy of early California Conceptualism, which was a broader understanding of what art could be. The very definition of art, the role of the artist and that of institutions, which taught and displayed art were challenged.

In fact, the Berkeley Art Museum is currently displaying the work of two artists, Andy Warhol and Ray Johnson, who continued the dialogue beyond the 70's.  While not considered California conceptual artists, they also challenged the status quo, even raising the question of “is it art?”

While SFMOMA has the reputation of presenting the most important modern art in the Bay Area, the nature of the Berkeley Art Museum’s exhibits proves that in many ways it is more adventurous and not afraid to walk on the lesser known, but equally important, dark side of the art world.

The Joy of Books

I've got several reviews in process and even a food article in process but nothing is ready to post yet. I am severely handcapped by the never ending street construction and the equally loud and continual noise from my immature and inconsiderate neighbor.

 It's hard to concentrate enough to write through jack hammering and rap "music" shaking the apartment for 5-8 hours at a stretch. (Anybody know an enforcer who can made Junior an offer he can't refuse?)

But just so you don't think the blog is moribund, enjoy this charming video.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Weekend Picks; Letterpress in Oakland, Nieto Fine Arts, SF History Expo

John Nieto, Self-Portrait (courtesy Nieto Fine Arts Gallery)

Nieto Fine Arts. "Spirit of a Gene" features father and contemporary artist John Nieto with son and photographer John A. Nieto in their first-ever, joint fine art show.
For more information about the exhibit or Nieto Fine Art, call 415-393-4511, view the fine art gallery on the web at or visit 565 Sutter St. in San Francisco.

"The Art of Letterpress" at the Compound Gallery in Oakland, CA , is an exhibition celebrating the bygone era of letterpress printing.  A visual panegyric in honor of this distinctive form of artistry, the show features some of the finest letterpress artists in the Bay Area and beyond. 

Today, we text, email, and print at the touch of a button, making it easy to forget how labor intensive it was to simply make a sentence and reproduce it multiple times.  In an increasing digital age, people long for something that is tangible and tactile—analog. The characteristic texture, ink, and surface of letterpressed text declares it an antiquated champion of typography.

In addition to a display of various letterpress prints, bins of small prints, books, and broadsides, this exhibition will feature timeworn letterpress paraphernalia, ephemera, equipment, and more.

The Compound Gallery. 1167 65th st. Oakland, CA 94608.

San Francisco History Expo 2012 at the Old Mint (March 3-4, 2012, Free)

A city is defined by its past as well as its present. San Francisco’s past is extraordinarily rich and varied, thanks to the influx of immigrants who came here, bringing their traditions to this new world. We are fortunate that today there are those who strive to preserve the past and the history of their neighborhoods through oral histories, artifacts and photographs.

The two-day event will feature mini-museums set up by participating organizations. In addition, there will be a special exhibition of 42 photographs called “Elegant Pit Stops,” a display of historic garages in the city.

There will be special presentations on the main level each day, and historic films will be on the Vault level. We also have it on good authority that Emperor Joshua Norton plans to make an appearance.

More at: