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.

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