Friday, June 29, 2012

End of the month picks

Ann Weber at Dolby Chadwick. @the artist. Courtesy of Dolby Chadwick.

How did the month of June zip by so quickly? I was looking at the calendar and realized that this is the last weekend of the month and there are a number of shows that I haven't mentioned.

Of course, there are also dozens more shows that I haven't had time to write about - the current calligraphy exhibit at the SFPL,  "Cardburg 2012" at the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek and the WFTWTT show of "Levitated Mass" at LACMA. Ten million dollars worth of rock.

Michael Heizer.  "Levitated Mass" @ LACMA (photo courtesy of LACMA)

This is supposed to be art? At least the Japanese, who love beautiful rocks more than any other culture, put them in gorgeous gardens where the visitor can contemplate nature in serene surroundings. This rock is sort of balanced on top of a big concrete wall and in the summer, that concrete space is bound to be an inferno. So far the comments at the LA Times have not been complimentary.

If recycling is the Bay Area's religion, then Ann Weber at Dolby Chadwick has to be one of the Goddesses. Or, at the very least, the queen of dumpster diving because that's where she gets her materials for the woven organic shapes that she creates.

She started out as a potter but became frustrated by the heavy nature of the medium. She turned to cardboard, drawn by the lightness of the materials, the inexpensive cost and it's ubiquitousness in our culture. Her free form organic shapes are woven, stapled and shellacked from recycled cardboard so that they seem part of a natural life form.

Her puffy sculptural pillows, woven from recycled cardboard, are on view at Dolby Chadwick through July 7th.

 Interview on Spark:

Gay Outlaw whose work I saw at the SFSU gallery a couple of years ago, will be having her first show here in three years. Her work is always interesting: Interview at SF Gate:

 Cosmological painting, approx. 1750–1850. India; Rajasthan. Opaque watercolors on cloth. From the Collection of William K. Ehrenfeld, M.D., 2005.64.54. (Courtesy Asian Art Museum)

The Asian Art Museum blog continues their insightful look into the current show "Phantoms of Asia" with a lecture on Cosmologies

The San Francisco Arts Commission Galleries’ Art at City Hall program presents Stretch & Expose at City Hall (In the basement).

Why would artists still choose to screen print when the prevalent method for printing has become digital? When the curators posed the question to the participating artists, each answer was different, however there seemed to be common ground rooted in both the desire to control the work through a particular physical process, and also enjoying the random inconsistencies the process produces. Additionally, screen-printing is an economical way to produce duplicates, and it allows for a myriad of experimental possibilities.

Each artist selected for Stretch & Expose approaches the media with unique aesthetic objectives in mind.

Also written up by Mike at his blog: Civic Center, complete with wonderful images:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Karen Karnes & Mel Ramos at the Crocker

 It's a mark of the diverse collections at the Crocker Museum in Sacramento that they can present two such disparate artists as pioneering potter Karen Karnes along with an exhibit of work by Mel Ramos, whose paintings of women represent a particularly explicit pop art and Playboy version of the nude.

Karnes is a potter of subtle glazes and elegant form whose work ranges from hand thrown free form pieces to more traditional works. She pioneered the form and extended that pioneering philosophy to her own life when she moved to Vermont with her life partner, Anne Stannard.  Her work is very Zen, very Japanese, very peaceful in affect.

Mel Ramos's art is an entirely different matter.

 Ramos. Hamburger Girl, 1972 (Playboy calendar?)

I do appreciate Ramos' art although I find it vulgar and sexist. Being a feminist doesn't prevent me from liking bright, candy colors and skillful realism.

However, we sure don't need any more reinforcement of the "woman as boobs" presentation in our culture.

But Mel Ramos' work is just a small and elite part of the daily flood of images that crudely objectify a certain type of female body. At least he is a skilled painter.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Where the hell is Matt, 2012

I loved the original and this one is even more loving. Peace and dance on, Matt!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

'Heaven, hell and dying well.' Medieval visions at the Getty

Master of the Chronique scandaleuse. French, about 1500
Tempera colors, ink, and gold on parchment

In "Denise Poncher before a Vision of Death," the young owner of the manuscript is shown kneeling with her prayer book before a terrifying spectacle: the walking corpse of Death and three of his victims. The image likely served to remind the viewer that Death could arrive at any time and that prayer could prepare one's soul.   ....

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Heaven, Hell & Dying Well"

In the Middle Ages, hope mingled with fear concerning death and the afterlife, providing stirring subjects for manuscript illumination. Depictions of souls in paradise, the rewards of the blessed, and God's mercy reassured Christian audiences, while sometimes horrific illustrations of funerals, demons, and the punishment of the wicked prompted the pious to repent for their sins.

At the core of visual devotion stood images of the crucified Christ, promising resurrection and eternal salvation. This exhibition—which includes not only manuscripts but also printed books, a panel painting, stained glass and other media—explores medieval images that reflect imagined travels to the netherworld and attempts to map what awaited humankind beyond this earthly existence.

The morbid imagery found in late medieval prayer books sheds light on the intense preoccupation with matters of death. Lavish depictions of deathbed scenes, funeral rites, and the uncertain fate of departed souls focused attention on the viewer's own mortality and the transience of material wealth. Prayer cycles recorded in such manuscripts include the Office of the Dead, recited to ensure repose for the deceased and shorten their time in purgatory. The intimate scale of prayer books was appropriate, encouraging devout Christians to prepare themselves inwardly and contemplate death in solitude.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Irreverent humor at the SJMA, Thiebaud at Berggruen

Various cakes. 1991

The artist that Robert Hughes called "the poet of pastry" and the rest of us call an Old Master is currently exhibiting at the Berggruen Gallery in San Francisco. "Thiebaud is still thought of by many people as a Pop artist--whatever that name now means. Actually, in relation to his work, it doesn't mean much: only that he was and presumably still is intrigued and delighted by the sight of multiple-produced American food. Not so much the package (like the soup can) as the soup itself, or for that matter the sandwich, the cake or the slice of pie, sitting there in virginal garishness, the coconut icing soft and fluffy as a baby angel's wingpits, under the fluorescent tubes in the glass diner case."


"The surface is dense, creamy and unctuous, yet it never looks dragged or displays the laborious appearance of palette-knife work. It is painted all the way, and it invariably looks as though it was put on alla prima, without glazing or reworking.
You see what he's aiming for: the sort of one-shot, spot-on accuracy that Manet displayed when he painted his single stalk of asparagus with what looks like a single brushstroke. Except that Thiebaud has a way of punching up the effect with sharp lines and rainbow profiles of complementary color, a green or a purple, that pulse like halos and throw the whole form into relief. He isn't being hit-or-miss. He is, on the contrary, being intensely thoughtful." (The Arts/Art)." Time 158.2 (July 16, 2001): 66+.)

Bawdy irreverence, iconoclasm, parody, and puns are hallmarks of the work spawned by the art department at the University of California, Davis, in the 1960s and 1970s. In keeping with the counterculture of the time, the tone of this humor was often aggressive and transgressive......Walter Robinson’s larger-than-life, hot pink and melting animal cookies point to the realities of global warming, part of the current exhibit at the SJMA.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Via Crucis, Maria - Barbara Furtuna & L'Arpeggiata

L’Arpeggiata is a vocal and instrumental ensemble devoted to authentic performance. Its composition and personnel are flexible, but at its centre is its musical director and conductor, Christina Pluhar, whose enthusiasm and expertise galvanise the performances of her chosen musicians. This piece is particularly passionate and heart wrenching.
Found via a link in Paul Krugman's blog at the NY Times.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Traina collection press preview at the de Young.

Garry Winogrand. Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1957. Gelatin silver print
8 5/8 x 13 in. (21.8 x 33.1 cm). © Garry Winogrand, courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

Most of the time I enjoy being a "member of the press," however lowly my real position is. But last week's photography show opening at the De Young was an exception.

 I hadn't realized that Trevor Traina was Wilsey's son but she made sure that we knew that. She mounted the podium and bragged that she offered to buy him a house but he preferred money for his photography collection.

It's the supreme example of a ...totally worthless individual whose biggest problem in life is that his monthly dividends – which would house, clothe, and feed all of us both extremely well until this time next year (at least) – sometimes aren't quite enough to buy another print from a negative.

And he has to say, "No." Oh, the sorrow. Oh, the disappointment.

Oh gag me with a spoon.

Installing your son's collection at an institution you head, is a step too far. Can you imagine Neal (SFMOMA) announcing a show featuring his son or daughter's collection?Or, for that matter, any other museum head?

Wilsey forced the issue by taking the stage at the press deal. She made herself and her son the story.

I do want to say something - witless rude arrogance like that should not go unchallenged - but I also don't want to get kicked off the press list. Yet, I am still so angry and disgusted that I can't even remember what I saw.

Steven Winn at the Chron delicately skirted the issue, showing that even a journalist with his reputation has to walk carefully in this minefield of power and nepotism.  But the comments at SF Gate nail it:

Eventually, I will try to separate the bizarre press preview from an objective assessment of the collection. But I'm not ready yet.

The museums whose shows we cover need a reminder that the press' obligation is to be honest, both to myself and to those who read this blog or what I post at the But I see from the articles in the mainstream press that such honesty will probably be relegated to blogs such as mine.

To add insult to injury, the press did not get any usable images and the "catalogue" which was given to us in thumbnail format has "copyright" in huge letters blazoned across each page.

I had observed that all the PR people that I normally dealt with were no longer at the museum. Now, I find out from an anonymous source that all the PR and marketing people have left, mostly because they disagree with what she is doing.

I wonder what John Buchanan would have thought.

Friday, June 8, 2012

10 Things That Should Never Be Said to Artists

Guess what? I've heard variations of all of these at one time or another. Found on the Internet...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The transit of Venus

The Transit of Venus is a rare astronomical phenomenon where Venus appears as a small dot gliding across the sun. Before you even attempt to observe the transit of Venus, a warning: NEVER stare at the sun through binoculars or small telescopes or with the unaided eye without the proper safety equipment. Doing so can result in serious and permanent eye damage, including blindness.

Recreation of the 1882 transit of Venus from old photographs

What to expect

Transit of Venus sparks international transit of poets

Links to art exhibits and contests to celebrate the transit:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

O Fortune, Misheard

A hilariously clever mangling of "Oh Fortuna'. Do not watch while eating or drinking.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

'Phantoms of Asia' at the Asian

Choi Jeony Hua. the 24-foot-tall "Breathing Flower, " of kinetic fabric is an ancient Asian symbol of spiritual illumination and renewal.

The red lotus that was just installed in the Civic Center Plaza is the outside symbol of an exciting, exhausting and bold exhibit inside the Asian Art Museum, now located inside revamped Beaux Arts building that formerly housed the old San Francisco Public Library.

Created by the Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa, the monumental red lotus is just one of the 60 new pieces by 31 contemporary artists in an attempt to create a dialogue between the art of the past and the present. With this exhibit, the museum takes an immense stride toward the goal of focusing on contemporary art that is inspired by and reflects the traditions in it's permanent collection.

Poklong Anading's "Anonymity" is paired with an Indian 17th century painting of the cosmos.

According to Allison Harding, the Asian Art Museum's assistant curator of contemporary art, artists today are still exploring the same timeless spiritual concerns. ."Where do we come from? Where are we going? How is the universe structured? What is the nature of the universe, and what is my place in that unknowable expanse?"

Harding and the museum chose Mami Kataoka, the chief curator at Tokyo's Mori Art Museum, to curate "Phantoms of Asia."  Kataoka came up with an open-ended idea for the show, one which looked for spiritual  connections between contemporary and traditional art.

Sun K. Kwak. 2012
As visitors enter the exhibit, the first piece on view is a striking black drawing, covering one wall of the courtyard. It was created on the spot by New York-based Korean artist Sun K. Kwaw by wrapping wide strips of black masking tape around the pillars and over the top of the wall.

 “At the close of an exhibition,” Kwak explains, “the space once again becomes blank, as the black tape of the drawings is pulled off the wall and thrown out. This process of emptying the space is a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life and my acceptance of the emptiness of that nature. Yet the drawing lives on in viewers’ memories as an imprint that leaves the space forever altered.”

Another more subtle and minimal exhibit was created by the Japanese-born photographer and sculptor Hiroshi Sugimoto. His "Five-Elements" installation consists of seven small crystal pagodas, sitting on thin wooden plinths. They were inspired by the 13th century Japanese Buddhist stupas whose geometric shapes symbolize the five universals of the cosmos (earth, water, fire, wind, emptiness). Each glass pagoda encases a photograph from the artist's famed "Seascape" series, letting the viewer look at sea and sky through an ancient Buddhist prism.

Up in the Chinese ceramics gallery, surrounded by pieces adorned with mythological creatures and other traditional imagery, you find a vivid and grotesque painting by Hong Kong-born Canadian artist Howie Tsui. It draws on everything from ancient Chinese mythology and Edo-period ghost paintings to contemporary Japanese anime. Among other fantastical figures, there's a headless guy with a hatchet dancing on a two-headed elephant.

The show is spread throughout the entire museum and feels huge. It IS huge, both in concept and execution. The visitor may feel museum fatigue as exhibit after exhibit opens out on the second and third floors. 

It's an artistic treasure hunt, requiring time, energy, patience and comfortable shoes. Plan on coming back a number of times, for, like an archaeological dig, the return viewer will continue to uncover priceless treasure.

Kataoka has some advice for viewers, who don't need to know the backstory of these pieces (although the more the visitor understands, the more he or she will appreciate what's on display), to experience them fully.

"What you have to do is take a big breath and try to feel the invisible energy. Then you begin the show."

Asian Art Museum Blog - read about the process of installing the work and interviews with the artists and curators at the Asian:
Phantoms of Asia: Contemporary Awakens the Past: Fri.-Sept. 2. $7-$12. Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St, S.F. (415) 581-3500.

images courtesy of the Asian Art Museum