Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012, Bay Area art in review: the good, the bad and the ugly.

This is the time of year when all the newspapers trot out all the lists of that's good in some field (art, music, film, theater). They are usually numbered by 10, 10 best, 10 worst, 10 so on and so forth.

The Bay Area had more than its share of both but three events stand out - what might be called, for lack of a better phrase, "the good, the bad and the ugly."

The good was SFMOMA's tribute to Jay DeFeo.

When Jay DeFeo died in 1989, at age sixty, she was at the height of her creative powers. Despite her iconic status as the creator of the monumental painting “The Rose,” she was little known outside a small circle of art insiders. Her whole body of work had remained largely unknown.

Comprising more than 130 works, “Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective" brings together the artist's paintings, drawings, photographs, collages, small sculptures, and jewelry designs—most of which have not been seen in decades or have never been exhibited before.

The ugly was the most blatant example of nepotism ever seen in San Francisco's checkered art history. In fact, it was so blatant that every art writer in the Bay Area commented on it.

Several of the de Young's prime, first floor galleries hosted a mediocre exhibit of photographs, belonging to Trevor Traina, a member of high society, collector wanna-be and FAMSF board trustee. He is the son of the president of the board, Dede Wilsey. Enough said.

The bad was the Legion of Honor's unceremonious and unexplained firing or rather, "letting go" of curator Lynn Orr. The museum has been leaderless since since its late director, John Buchanan, died at the end of 2011 and plagued with more than its share of problems.

Orr, a brilliant and widely respected curator of European art, hasn't been at work since Nov. 20, and although no one is saying why, colleagues fear she's been given the ax.

When contacted, Orr declined to comment. A museum board meeting, scheduled for December, has been postponed until March 2013.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Maxine tells it like it is

If I couldn't laugh at the tidal wave of political stupidity that we are downing in, I would cry.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Crown Point Press at 50 and more

 When Kathan Brown established Crown Point Press in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1962, she expressed a commitment to etching that was remarkable for the time. Most workshop-based print publishing ventures in the 1960s  focused on lithography and screenprinting.

 Brown offered an alternative and welcomed artists who were new to intaglio, giving them an opportunity to explore an alternative printmaking possibility that was ideally suited to contemporary expression.. Over the last 50 years,  art movements have included Minimalism, Conceptualism, and Neo-figuration.

But Crown Point Press has risen to the challenge of each while developing a skill set that can help each artist, regardless of style, realize their vision.

  Wayne Thiebaud, Tide Figures, 2006. Color drypoint with hardground etching printed on gampi paper chine collé. Crown Point Press Archive, gift of Crown Point Press. Art © Wayne Thiebaud/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Robert Bechtle, Three Houses on Pennsylvania Avenue, 2011. Color soft-ground etching with aquatint. Published by Crown Point Press, San Francisco. Collection of Crown Point Press
images courtesy FAMSF.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Ode to Joy

Happy holidays, seasons greetings to one and all. The "Ode to Joy" done in inimitable Muppet style:

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Henri Le Noir and un Noel sans joie de vie.

Henri le Noir has to be the most delightful discovery of the year. He (and his creator) rank very high in the top ten artistic discoveries of the year. His ennui and the artistic melancholy of the narration never fail to make me smile. If it's been a bad day, Henri makes it better.

Here's Henri on Christmas. He regrets nothing. Je ne regrette rien.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Artists who died in 2012

 Blessing. Nancy Ewart @2011

I was researching this topic because I wanted to do a blog post.  But I see that Katherine Tyrell has beaten me to the punch and as she says it better than I can.

Of course, this is only those artists who have made names for themselves. I have no doubt that there are thousands made art and never received any public recognition.

This post is for you too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's the end of the world and I feel just fine

The Internet is buzzing with rumors of the end of the world. Depending on which doomsday-monger that you read, things will go boom or bang or maybe just end with a gigantic whisper.

Details are vague, ranging from annihilation from a rogue comet, a giant solar storm or an invasion of the Daleks without Dr. Who's traditional intervention.
Mayans themselves reject any notion that the world will end. For them, it is the end of one long count calendar and the beginning of another.

But if the world was ending in three days, what would I do? I'd spend the time viewing as much art as possible.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The wisdom of Margaret and Helen

Next week I will try to get back to arts blogging but right now is not the time.

I think there are more important things to put into the blogsphere than more words about art.

I believe that art saves lives but it's helpless in the face of bullets.  The US has 28,000 gun shops and the number is rising on a daily basis, along with the guns that people seem to feel are necessary for their...what? In this country and under these circumstances, what do guns prove?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

This is Victoria

This is Victoria. She died a hero today. She hid her first graders in the cabinets and closets after hearing the gunfire. When the shooter came to her classroom, she told him that her students were in the gym. He then gunned her down and moved on. She saved the lives of all of her students. Please pass this on if you see it. She deserves to be remembered for her bravery.

Friday, December 14, 2012

When is it going to be enough?

 Sho Kannon is one of the most popular deities in the Japanese Buddhist pantheon. He watches over humankind and extends his limitless compassion to all sufferers (image courtesy Asian Art Museum)

May all beings everywhere plagued
with sufferings of body and mind
quickly be freed from their illnesses.
May those frightened cease to be afraid,
and may those bound be free.
May the powerless find power,
and may people think of befriending
one another.
May those who find themselves in trackless,
fearful wilderness--
the children, the aged, the unprotected--
be guarded by beneficent celestials,
and may they swiftly attain Buddhahood. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mongolian warriors, Plein art art in Santa Barbara and all your art, all the time on a UK website.

Mongolian-born artist Zaya presents a solo show of a dozen ink-and-watercolor paintings inspired by the exploits and lifestyle of Genghis Khan's warriors. Combining traditional Mongolian styles with Japanese art techniques, the striking, highly detailed images bring these warriors and their era to life.

Reception 7-11 p.m. Saturday. Through Jan. 5. Noon-7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Shooting Gallery, 839 Larkin St., S.F. (415) 931-8035.

'California Dreaming: Plein-Air Painting from San Francisco to San Diego.'
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, through March 24, 2013

This exhibition presents a selection of early 20th century paintings that celebrate the specific topography and climactic effects associated with the California landscape.

In America, a distinct version of Impressionism dominated mainstream art from roughly 1890 to 1930. California was no exception to the trend as its breathtaking scenery providing the prime subject matter for painters working “en plein air,” or outdoors. While technically varied, all of the artists associated with California Plein-Air Painting were utterly devoted to the indigenous landscape and sought to reproduce faithfully the effects of light and atmosphere that so specifically characterize the natural paradise that is aptly described by the moniker of the Golden State.

The website only has one small painting; this image came via one of the art AP wire services that I subscribe to. There was no caption so if anybody knows who the painter was, let me know and I will add the information. 

The British Public Catalogue Foundation announced today (December 12)  that it had succeeded, in partnership with the BBC, in its mission to put images of every publicly owned oil painting in the UK online - that means every painting, good or bad, on display or in stores, and whether owned by museums, galleries, councils or universities. Those held by police stations, zoos and a lighthouse are also included.

Your Paintings project has taken nearly 10 years to catalogue all of Britain's 211,861 publicly owned oil paintings. I didn't include any images for fear I would be trespassing some copyright regulations.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Roman de Gillion de Trazegnies

The J. Paul Getty Museum announced today the acquisition at auction of the Roman de Gillion de Trazegnies, an illuminated manuscript from Flanders by Lieven van Lathem (1430–1493).

The work is considered one of the finest productions by Van Lathem, the most accomplished and sophisticated painter of secular scenes in the golden era of Flemish manuscript illumination.

 Saint Michael - Tempera colors, gold leaf, gold paint, and silver paint on parchment, 1469.

The Roman de Gillion de Trazegnies contains eight brilliantly painted half-page miniatures and forty-four historiated initials. The text of the book was rarely copied after its composition: the romance appears in only three other manuscripts.

Dr. Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum explained, “This type of large, lavish book filled with inventive scenes and made for a famous patron epitomizes all the finest and most distinctive qualities of Burgundian manuscript illumination of the period. As an exemplar of the heroic exploits that defined tales of contemporary chivalry, the manuscript’s acquisition adds a new dimension to the Museum’s already celebrated collection of 15th-century illuminated manuscripts and, as a masterpiece of this stature sometimes can, raises the entire representation of Northern Renaissance art at the Getty to a new level.”

The only documented manuscript by Lieven van Lathem, the Prayer Book of Charles the Bold, is already in the Getty Museum’s permanent collection, having been acquired in 1989. This primary work provides the basis for all other Van Lathem attributions. The Roman de Gillion de Trazegnies is regarded as the artist’s preeminent secular work, and this acquisition represents an unrivalled opportunity to unite masterpieces of both secular and devotional illumination by Van Lathem in a single collection.

Christ Appearing to Saint James the Greater from the Prayer Book of Charles the Bold, ca. 1469-1471. Antwerp. Tempera colors, gold leaf, gold paint, silver paint and ink on parchment. 6.3 x 4.6 cm. 89.ML.

The Roman de Gillion de Trazegnies focuses on the exotic adventures of a nobleman from the family of Trazegnies, whose seat was in Hainaut (present-day Belgium). Part travelogue, part romance, and part epic, the text traces the exciting exploits of Gillion, who journeys to Egypt on pilgrimage, inadvertently becomes a bigamist, and dies in battle as a glorious hero. The tale encompasses the most thrilling elements of its genre—faithful love, nefarious villains, strong family loyalty, and violent battle—with the exotic elements of dangerous travel and Eastern customs adding additional excitement.

The distinctive works of Van Lathem are known for their graceful, spirited figures, subtle handling of emotion, vivid color palette, and complex compositions filled with incredible details. In one miniature, Van Lathem depicts a raging battle being fought on the water. Soldiers leap from ship to ship in their eagerness to engage their enemies, while the unfortunate are left to drown in the swirling maelstrom. The real star of the image, however, is the water itself, which undulates and splashes amid the action.

Van Lathem cleverly constructed his visual stories as a series of rhythmic groupings and structures that alternate between foreground and background, outside and inside, and written and oral communication. The delicately painted faces mirror a variety of emotions, while the figures’ naturalistic gestures and interactions create an effortless flow for the narrative. Despite being set in the East in the early Middle Ages, Van Lathem’s figures are dressed at the height of 15th-century fashion and enact their various exploits in Flemish buildings and churches, helping viewers make a connection between themselves and one of the great legendary personalities of the nobility of Flanders.

The secular romance genre originated in the noble courts of 12th-century  France. Audiences were eager for vivacious accounts of heroes and their ladies as they navigated the rules, frustrations, and rewards of courtly love. These romances, often tens of thousands of lines long, were read aloud in an episodic manner, with skilled readers breaking off at a dramatic moment to leave the audience breathless for the next installment.

By the middle of the 15th century, Flanders was well established in Europe as the preeminent locus for the creation of secular illuminated manuscripts. At this time, the voracious collecting of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy (1396–1467), was rivaled only by that of his councilor and trusted advisor, Louis de Gruuthuse (1422–1492), Prince of Steenhuijs, governor of Holland and Zeeland, and Earl of Winchester. Louis, the patron of the Van Lathem manuscript, is one of history’s greatest manuscript collectors.

Charles the Bold Presented by an Angel (1469-1471). Tempera colors, gold leaf, gold paint, silver paint and ink on parchment. 6.3 x 4.6 cm (2 1/2 x 1 13/16 in.). 89.ML35.68 © The J. Paul Getty Museum.

“The setting of the story in the lands of the East would have had contemporary resonance, as Louis and Philip were at the time promoting a  Burgundian crusade to regain Constantinople and Jerusalem,” explains Elizabeth Morrison, senior curator of manuscripts for the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Filled with illuminations of a Flemish knight in the East vanquishing his enemies, who are depicted as Saracens, the volume would  have promoted Louis’s political plans as well as fulfilling his desire for an imaginative text illustrated by beautiful and entertaining images.”

The addition of the Roman de Gillion de Trazegnies cements the Getty’s position as the strongest holding of Flemish material in America, and places it on a par in terms of quality with the finest collections of Flemish manuscripts anywhere.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Raphael's drawing sold for 48 million dollars

One of Renaissance master Raphael's greatest drawings still in private hands soared to £29,721,250 ($47,869,045) on Wednesday at a Sotheby's sale in London.

Nearly doubling its low estimate of about $24 million, the drawing reached a record for a work on paper. It followed the trend of iconic examples by top-name artists bringing premium prices at auction while mid-range works have passed.

The 16th century "Head of an Apostle" is a 15-by-11 inch chalk study for the artist's last painting, "Transfiguration," in the collection of the Vatican Museum in Italy. When Raphael died in 1520, his body was laid out in state in his studio with the Transfiguration hanging at his head

Gregory Rubinstein, worldwide head of Old Master drawings at Sotheby's, said ''If you are lucky, at some point in your career a work like this comes along.

''A number of the world's greatest collectors stepped up tonight in recognition of the genius of Raphael and the extraordinary beauty of this drawing with its exceptional provenance.''

He has previously called it "one of the greatest privileges" of his career to handle the sale of "such extraordinary importance - and of such incredible power and beauty too".

Provenance was listed as Chatsworth, the ancestral home of the 12th Duke of Devonshire who is also deputy chairman of Sotheby's.

Four bidders battled for 17 minutes until it went to the phones, with a Sotheby's rep who is known to handle Russian clients winning the lot.

"The Apostle" drawing narrowly beat out the previous record price for a Raphael (given the British pound sale price). His "Head of a Muse" sold to financier Leon Black for £29,161,250 million pounds (then reportedly $47,941,095) at Christie's in London three years ago.

Ranking as the highest price paid for a lot sold at auction in Europe this year, it was also the second highest sum attained for any Old Master after Rubens.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Happy Chanukah-Make the Match

The Maccabeats, a capella singing group, have continued their Miracle Match Campaign this year. From just one year's efforts, 25 matches have already being identified for patients in need of lifesaving transplants.

 This year's video "Shine", an original song, sheds light on the brightness that can come from continuing the campaign this holiday season. 

"Chanukah is about miracles and we have to remember that everyone can play a role in making miracles happen," says Michael Greenberg. "Last year's campaign taught us that individual people like us can make a difference through fundraising. We wanted to share this lesson with other people, and especially with kids. What a great message to teach someone at a young age: you can change the world; you can save someone's life."

Friday, December 7, 2012

Has Lynn Orr, curator for the FAMSF, been fired?

Today's SF Gate brought the following news about Lynn Orr, the curator of European art who has been MIA since October. Apparently she's been fired but nobody is saying anything.  I haven't heard anything via the various news sources that I subscribe to.This is when I wish I was a real journalist and had the cred to call the museum and ask all the right questions.  If this is true, it's a real tragedy for the museum; she put together the most wonderful shows and was always nice and helpful to us "lowly" bloggers.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Innovative Bay Area artists create art from trash

In 1941, Fats Waller sang "Get some cash for your trash." WW II was in full swing and there was a need for recycled materials.

At ARC Gallery: From left to right: "Scarlet Quilt"- Bruce Wile; Sculptures "Patty" and "Wolfgang"- Robert Haemmerling; Mask - "Wake Up! I'd Like to See You Again"- Aiko Cuneo; (small textile piece) "Lily"- Susan Field; (bottlecap wedding gown)"First Comes Love"- Remi Rubel; "Marking Time"- Karen Balos

Today we are in the midst of another war, a war to save the planet from drowning in junk.

All of the artist in today's "Weekend Picks" column are doing their best to save the planet by creatively using recycled materials. Hopefully, as in the old Fats Waller song, they will also get cash for their remade trash.

"Fish"- Francisco Hernandez at ARC Gallery

Using trash and detritus, SF renowned junk collage artist Jason Mecier taps into the lower level of reality TV with his portrait of child TV star Alana “Honey Boo Boo.” Boo Boo is the latest media sensation from the show “Toddlers and Tiaras." Some think that reality TV has hit new low with this show but Mercier, like all the eco-artists here has made art from a really distasteful objects. You can view this and lots more at

"'I search a r t: Repurposed Gift Wrapping'"- Megumi Inouye at ARC Gallery

Speaking of art that’s made from trash but not trashy, check out the latest exhibit at ARC Gallery. The artists in the show used materials from SCRAP, the Bay Area’s oldest creative reuse center. From quilts to sculptures to wall hangings and masks, the exhibit is a showcase of the imaginative use of recycled materials.

Want one of the most unique wedding gowns around? Forget that show on TV ("Say Yes to the Dress"), and wear Susan Field's wedding dress made of bottle caps. Diana Krevsky's "Eagle" and "Warrior" from the Forest Spirit Series are spiritual guardians reminiscent of Oceanic art. Francisco Hernandez's "Fish" is the first time one has been made from loops of metal with a huge funnel for a head. "A Woven Identity" by Sofia Gonzalez could grace any wall with its delicate color weave.

SCRAP Party with hands-on creative reuse activities: December 8th 1-3PM

Exhibition: December 1, 2012 – January 9, 2013

Junk food packaging inspires Thompson’s “Snack Paintings”. Fitting the bright colors and zany fonts into painted grids, Thompson captures the irresistible pull of chemicals, sugar and salt.

SFMOMA's Artists Gallery at Ft. Mason: Robert Larson, Terry Thompson and Paula Moran grew up during the era of American “affluenza” with its emphasis on overconsumption and consumerism. They make art inspired by and as a reaction against this kind of manufactured wastefulness.

Methodically arranging discarded Marlboro cigarette packaging, matchbooks, and scratch-off lottery tickets, Larson arranges them into formal patterns and grids onto two-dimensional surfaces. In "Red Honey," for example, Larson created a complex honeycomb arrangement using variously aged and weathered pieces of red Marlboro boxes.

Ceramist Paula Moran poses questions of deception versus reality in her trompe l’oeil clay sculptures. Here Moran presents common objects like bottles, pull-top cans, books, and leather suitcases and instills them with subtle twists and messages, urging the viewer to concentrate on the contents as much as the package.

The SFMOMA Artists Gallery is located in Building A at Fort Mason Center. Gallery hours are 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Admission to gallery exhibitions is free of charge..Through December 15th

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

RIP Mr. Brubeck

I am not a huge fan of jazz but I always liked his work. This, from a concert in Rome, shows the joy that he brought to his music and to those who listened to it.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet in concert at the Univerity of Rome in 1959. In "Take the A Train" we hear a brilliant set of drumbreaks by famous drummer Joe Morello.

Dave Brubeck born in 1920 is one of the most well-known jazz pianists of all time. The classic Dave Brubeck Quartet featuring Paul Desmond's liquid alto saxophone lasted for 17 years, during which time they produced the first ever million-selling jazz tune (Take Five), toured the world many times, and introduced enormous numbers of people to the jazz sound.

The two other members of the quartet were Eugene Wright on bass and Joe Morello on drums.

A lovely remembrance and obit:

Sunday, December 2, 2012

All I want for Christmas is (are) more mini-prints by Electric Works

For your holiday gift giving, forget the lords-a-leaping, the geese-a-laying and the partridge in a pear tree. Buy your beloved a unique print from Electric Works (or buy one for yourself). 
"Compulsive: by Amanda Hughes - "Compulsive" by Amanda Hughen-her exploding universe of patterns, cell walls and energy fields is all contained in this print.

"Irene's Palette" by Katherine Sherwood which features medical book imagery.

With every exhibition in their gallery, Electric Works has the artist produce a small, limited edition print, which can be purchased individually for $40 or through a yearly subscription for $350. The artists in their collection represent a who's who of Bay Area artists, from Paul Madonna (All over coffee) to Enrique Chagoya to Katherine Sherwood.