Thursday, January 31, 2013

Weekend Picks: guitars in Berkeley, 'Silence' at the BAM, glass in Oakland & Dorothea Tanning

L@TE: Friday Nights @ Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive. The much-lauded after-hours performance program returns with a typically eclectic schedule, melding dance, theater, music, and more.

This “eclectic group of pluckers”—eight virtuosos of classical guitar, including ensemble founders David Tanenbaum and Peppino D’Agostino—supplements nylon strings with steel, combines electric basses with seventeenth-century theorbos, and throws in an oud for good measure. Tonight they join forces to tackle a wide variety of music, including Steve Reich’s seminal Electric Counterpoint, as well as works by Sérgio Assad, Terry Riley, and Astor Piazzolla. Programmed by Sarah Cahill. February 1, 7:30 p.m. Doors open 5 p.m.

Giorgio de Chirico. Melancholia. 1916. Photo Hinckey-Robinson, Houston

'Silence,' a new show at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive explores the aesthetic, emotional, psychological and spiritual terrain that underlies those expectations and assumptions. Ranging from hushed Surrealist canvases by Giorgio de Chirico and René Magritte to experimental silent films to a Robert Morris minimalist wooden box that murmurs the recorded sounds of its own creation,

Andy Warhol. Big Electric Chair. 1967. Artists Rights Society.

"Silence" spans a century's worth of work that challenges, cajoles and charms visitors into re-examining the complex sonic space and the increasingly rare silence they share in a hyper-wired and amplified world. First mounted by Houston's Menil Collection and supplemented by new works here, the show opened in Berkeley on Wednesday.
Review by Kenneth Baker at SF Gate. Read more:

Dorothea Tanning at Wendi Norris: Over 30 of her paintings, sculptures and drawings are now on view in "Unknown but Knowable States,"  running through March 2 at Gallery Wendi Norris (161 Jessie St., SF).

Married for 30 years to the Surrealist painter and sculptor Max Ernst, Ms. Tanning became well known in her own right for her vivid renderings of dream imagery. Much later in life, after she had reached 80, she gained a different kind of attention when she began to concentrate on writing, producing a novel, an autobiography and poems that appeared in The New Yorker, The Yale Review and The Paris Review.

"Unknown but Knowable States" features rare and ground-breaking paintings, drawings, and sculptures by Dorothea Tanning. For the first time, the gallery will be dedicating the entire 5,000 square foot space to the work of one artist, paying tribute to Tanning’s fearless vision and prolific body of work. Focusing on works created between 1960 and 1979, during which the Surrealist artist and writer lived, worked, and exhibited in Paris, the show will include over thirty pieces, and will be documented in a 80-page catalogue featuring an essay by Catriona McAra.

Oakland Museum of California: On view are "Suburban Dreams"  an exhibition of 22 competently crafted, large-scale color photographs by Beth Yarnelle Edwards now at the Oakland Museum.

Taken between 1997 and 2006, they depict a small group of various Silicon Valley residents before the economy tanked and destroyed a huge chunk of the middle class. Unfortunately, the portrayal of banal conformity results in an exhibit of equally banal images.

Fortunately, this rather boring exhibit was redeemed by the other show at the Oakland Museum: "Playing with Fire: Artists of the California Studio Glass Movement."

 John Lewis, Copper Patina Bench (@OMC/the artist)

Featuring 32 works on view representing 22 artists in the Gallery of California Art, the exhibition Playing with Fire: Artists of the California Studio Glass Movement celebrates California's involvement in, and impact on, this movement that was brought to the Golden State by Marvin Lipofsky, who started the glass programs at California College of Arts and Crafts and UC Berkeley, and by Robert Fritz, who established the program at San Jose State University.

Free admission on February 3

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kwan Yin

The latest in my series of images of gods and goddesses in the Asian/Buddhist pantheon.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Seven days in the Bay Area Art World.

Sculptured Chinese calligraphy at Mid Market Gallery, trompe l'oeil painting at ArtZone 416 and watercolors and variations in Pleaanton

James Edmonds. My Grandmother's Teapot. oil on panel. ArtZone 461@the artist
Time Warp, Artist Ona Kingdon.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

‘Girl With a Pearl Earring: Paintings from the Mauritshuis’ at the de Young

 Abraham van Beyeren, 'Banquet Still Life.' after 1656

John Buchanan, the late and much-missed director of the de Young, had a psychic sense of what museums were going to be closed for renovation. That's how San Francisco’s de Young Museum got two impressionist shows and that's how the de Young is graced with this jewel of a show from the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague.

While the museum is closed for renovation, the Mauritshuis has sent thirty-five masterpieces of Dutch art on a tour of the United States. San Francisco is their first stop. These works reflect the culture of artistic, economic, and technological innovation that allowed the Netherlands to prosper in the 17th century.

This is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The de Young has never exhibited so many great paintings in one place at one time. The show has five paintings by Rembrandt, still lifes by Willem Heda, Adriaen Coote and Rachel Ruysch, a landscape by Jacob van Ruisdael, a delicate luminous goldfinch by Carl Fabritius. Jan Steen is well-represented as is Franz Hals by two magnificent full-length portraits along with genre paintings by a number of lesser known artists.

These are the kinds of paintings that you want to live with, to soak in, to meditate on. Most are small, intimate and really need time to fully appreciate. All are well set off by gallery walls, painted in rich tones of Venetian red, grape, dark gray and olive green

Jan Vermeer left no more than 36 paintings and the Mauritshuis has sent us one of the crown jewels of European painting, “The Girl with a Pearl Earring.” The painting inspired a novel and a movie and neither do justice to the work.

For art lovers, this is the Holy Grail, the World Series, the Oscar, and the Nobel Prize all rolled into one. Small, 17-by-15 inches, she is the only painting by Vermeer on the West Coast.

Her image is almost photographic. Vermeer’s possible use of the camera obscura is controversial but shouldn’t be. Seventeenth century Holland was at the forefront of the scientific revolution. Vermeer may have learned about photography from Delft scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek, the first man to observe bacteria with a magnifying lens, and the executor of Vermeer's estate.

Her mesmerizing gaze goes far beyond the possibilities of photography of any era.

Installed in her own room so as to be above the crowd, the lighting emphasizes her creamy skin, the light on her lips and the pearl, the beauty of her face emerging from the masses of expensive lapis lazuli pigment. She gazes at the viewer with a melancholy reserve, inviting questions but never giving an answer.

When these artists were painting the images that we see as resonating with calm and peaceful affluence, Europe was erupting with vicious wars.

These 17th century painters were born during the Thirty Years’ War, which destroyed Germany and nearly destroyed the Netherlands as well. These were years of terrible religious conflict and economic devastation. Vermeer was ruined by these wars and had to declare bankruptcy. It is possible that this was a contributing factor to his early death at the age of 42. His great contemporary, the painter Carel Fabritus, died at the age of 36 in a massive gunpowder explosion that killed hundred of people in Delft.

Jacob van Ruisdael. View of Haarlem with Bleaching Grounds. 1670-1675.

It is then all the more extraordinary that the Dutch showed an enviable religious tolerance while under constant military threat. Their economy prospered while developing a society and culture that was the first to be truly modern and secular. A market developed for art among the emerging mercantile class but even the modest shopkeeper wanted a etching or two to pin up in his walls.

The painters in the show did not allow the external turmoil to enter their work. There are no epic bellicose battle pieces in the show. The still lifes show an awareness of life’s poignant moments – Claesz’s painting of skulls in “Vanitas Still Life,” Rachel Ruysch’s bugs and dying flowers, as well as flowers out of season in her “Vase of Flowers.”

Watches show up to mark the passage of time. Surely no observant viewer can miss the meaning of the overturned glass in Heda’s “Still Life with a Roemer and Watch,” or the smoking candle in the second of the two paintings by Claesz in the show?

Rembrandt’s five pieces span his lifetime, from a fairly early portrait, probably painted by a student, of him with a gorget (military breast piece) painted in 1629 to a possible self-portrait of him as an elderly man in 1667.

The slicker brush of his early work has been replaced by a thicker impasto, crusting the face with the signs of age and worry. No other painter has looked at himself so honestly, without ego or vanity. How is it even possible that such a small work should hold such power, of the ravages of age portrayed with a sad wisdom devoid of malice?

Viewers of Rembrandt's “Susanna and the Elders” will have to forgo the current hatred of full-figured women with rolls of fleshly plenitude to appreciate Susanna’s rounded body and her pearly, shimmering skin. The painting has been recently cleaned and reframed to reflect what the curators believe was its original size. Look closely to see the leering face of one of the elders, hidden in the sparkling foliage.

There are a number of paintings of everyday life, showing the Dutch love of food, drink and merriment. Gerrit van Honthorst’s “The Violin Player,” is all exuberant cheer wearing a red and gold draped mantle that exposes quite a bit of skin.

Jan Steen’s “The Oyster Eater” is very tiny but there is no stinting in the lavish domestic details. The young woman looks at the viewer with a half-smile; is she inviting us to join her in eating oysters – the food of seduction?

It is a truism that great works of art can evoke a multitude of reactions. However you define it, this show offers a sufficiency of grace.

Girl With a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings From the Mauritshuis: Opens Saturday. Through June 2. De Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, S.F. (415) 750-3600.

All images courtesy of the FAMSF

Monday, January 21, 2013


Obama by Mark Harris. 11 x 14 framed (see earlier post for contact information)

"It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law –- (applause) — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity — (applause) — until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm."

Inauguration 2013

Collage by Mark Harris, (used with permission) part of 3 images
11 x 14 framed. If interested, contact Mark Harris at

“For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate,” Mr. Obama said. “We must act; we must act knowing that our work will be imperfect.”

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring." coming to SF

One of my friends was concerned that attending this would not be a very happy experience. She was concerned about the crowds and even the quality of the work. Given how this exhibit is being ignored in the media and elsewhere, I don't think she has to worry. Fine art is not the flavor du jour. It doesn't even place in all the hoo-ha over the latest scandals. We have become such a junk loving culture that even President Obama's second inauguration is 3rd page news.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The girl with the pearl and a heck of a lot more.

The show that opens next week at the de Young has been advertised as featuring Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring." But there will be a lot more on view and what there is, is equally important.

This will probably be the most significant show of Dutch art ever seen in San Francisco. Last year's Von Otterloo collection was very good but this is the ccrème de la crème of 17th century Dutch painting.

 Rembrandt. Portrait of a man with a feathered beret.1635-1640

 Jan Steen. "As the old sing, so twitter the young. " 1688

 Van Beyeren. Bouquet Still Life. After 1655

 Claesa. "Vanitas." 1630

 van Honthorst, "The Violin Player," 1626

Ruisdael. "View of Haarlem with Bleaching Grounds." 1670-1675

The exhibition features 35 paintings representing the range of subject matter and technique characteristic of 17th-century painting in the Dutch Republic. Among the works traveling to the United States is the Mauritshius' celebrated masterpiece Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer and the enchanting The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius. The painting Vase of Flowers by the gifted Rachel Ruysch, one of the few female painters of the Dutch Golden Age, is being restored especially for the American tour. (naturally the museum hasn't released either image to the 3rd level press although I assume that Baker et al at the Chro will have access prior to the rest of us). All images from the de Young web site.

Cursory introduction from Wikipedia with images:

Essays from Mark Harden's Archive (search by painter's name)

The Essential Vermeer: the definitive on-line site for all things Vermeer:

"Girl with a Pearl Earring" opens January 26th

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Oakland Musuem releases a photo of the stolen jewel box

courtesy Oakland Museum of California

Yesterday, The Oakland Museum of California released a photo of the priceless gold- encrusted jewel box stolen on Jan. 7.

Police had previously refused to release a picture, fearing that it would compromise their investigation.

Right. Big woop-de-do. Now we have a photo of the stolen box - I remember seeing this on one of my visits to the museum and thinking that it was a beautiful example of 19th century taste in artwork.

It's sickening to think how inadequate the museum's security is - and in a city that's notorious for crime. I fear that the gold has been melted off and turned into cash. I would be very surprised if the box ever surfaces again.

Also, to offer a $12,000 reward for a box that's supposed to be worth $800,000. Not the smartest move they could make.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Museum of the African Diaspora celebrates MLK day with free admissin

The Museum is sponsoring lots of great events plus a last look at the jewels of North Africa. I am not a jewelry person but I have been seriously tempted by these.

Monday, January 14, 2013

New work at Chez Nancy

New work at Chez Nancy - I decided to work larger and more loosely - this is about 22" x 36", watercolor, ink and acrylic on rough water color paper. I may leave the background as is but I'm in no rush to finish, just letting the inspiration come as it will.

I might call this "Man with a hangover." LOL!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Jackson at Creativity Explored and a god returns to Sicily

Wonderful show at Creativity Explored - work by Vincent Jackson - bold graphics, striking colors.

"Creativity Explored announces the inaugural solo exhibition of Vincent Jackson, who at age 52 is one of the most prolific and longest-practicing artists at the studio. For nearly 30 years – as long as Creativity Explored has been in existence –Jackson has worked in the studio five days a week, creating large-scale, brightly colored, intense and soulful portraits in oil pastels and other media that break the human form into geometric shapes. The resulting mask-like works can be viewed as a contemporary renewal of traditional African and Oceanic folk art imagery that has entranced art collectors around the world."

The J. Paul Getty Museum announced on Jan. 11 that it will be returning a a terracotta head of the Greek god Hades to Sicily.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Second theft at the Oakland Museum of California

Lynn Fogarty, Director, Oakland Museum of California (Getty Images)

At a press conference yesterday, the Oakland Museum of California announced the theft of a historical quartz and gold-encrusted jewel box from its Gallery of California History.

The burglary, which occurred early Monday, is the second in less than two months. Last November (between November 12 and 13), gold nuggets were stolen from the same collection.

This marks the third theft of gold from a California museum. Three men were recently arrested in connection with the other, at Mariposa’s California State Mining and Mineral Museum.

The box, which is shaped like a small shoe box, depicts images of early California history and was originally a wedding anniversary gift from a San Francisco pioneer to his wife, museum director Lori Fogarty said.

According to Fogarty, the jewel box was created by a San Francisco goldsmith and was made with quartz that has not been mined in California since the 1800s.

She added that its value has not been appraised for at least 30 years and museum officials will not disclose its current price. "It's very difficult to assign value to something like this," she said. "But I can say it's a treasure of our collection and a critical piece in our holdings."

Fogarty said the high price of gold, which was selling Wednesday at about $1,657 an ounce, might have prompted the break-ins.

A $12,000 reward is being offered by the museum and its insurance carrier for its recovery, provided that the claimant is not involved with the theft. The reward also includes the return of the gold nuggets, but the museum is currently focusing on recovering the box, Fogarty said.

There are now three empty spaces where display cases in the Gold Rush section of the California history exhibit were burglarized. In front of one of the empty spaces there is a sign that reads, “Artifact temporarily removed.”

Both the Oakland Police Department and the museum will not release a picture of the stolen box until additional investigative leads have been pursued. According to Oakland police Lt. Oliver Cunningham, the first five business days after the theft are the most crucial for investigators to pursue any leads—for reasons that he could not disclose.

Cunningham said surveillance footage captured one suspect, whom he described as man between 5’ 9” and 6’ tall, African American with a medium complexion and short black hair.

The man is believed to have entered the museum forcefully through an exit located near the display and to have fled without being apprehended. Cunningham said the OPD believes only one person is responsible for the crime.

Museum officials are concerned that the box could be melted down and sold for its gold.

The museum has installed additional security guards but the guards on duty during the break-ins arrived too late to stop the thieves.

The museum, as well as the Gallery of California History collection, remain open as usual to the public.

Anyone will information regarding either burglary can contact the Oakland Police Department’s Major Crimes Section at (510) 238-3951 or visit

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Coming to the Asian Art Museum in 2013

China’s Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor’s Legacy

The Asian Art Museum kicks off its 10th anniversary in San Francisco’s Civic Center with an exhibition from one of the greatest archaeological discoveries in modern times. China’s "Terracotta Warriors" features 120 rare objects from the great tomb complex of China’s First Emperor (259–210 BCE), including 10 life-size terracotta figures—the maximum number of figures permitted outside China in a single exhibition.

 The 2013 exhibition offers a new generation of visitors the rare chance to view the clay figures up close. Visitors will also discover new secrets from the tomb, with more information than ever before on the First Emperor, his reign, and his quest for immortality. February 22–May 27, 2013

Maize and Coxcomb, 18th Century, by an unknown artist (Rinpa School). Japan. Color and ink on gold leaf. One of a pair of six-panel folding screens. © Private Collection.

."In the Moment: Japanese Art from the Larry Ellison Collection." In the summer of 2013, the Asian Art Museum will present an exhibition of Japanese art from the rarely seen collection of Larry Ellison. Ellison is CEO of Oracle, the 3rd largest software company in the world and a notable collector of Japanese art.

Approximately 80 artworks will be on display, spanning 1,300 years of Japanese art and history. The exhibit will be curated by Emily Sano, the former director of the Asian Art Museum. June 28–September 22, 2013

The Cyrus Cylinder: Dating to 539 BCE, the Cyrus Cylinder—considered one of the most famous surviving icons from the ancient world—was uncovered in 1879 at Babylon (in modern Iraq), during a British Museum excavation. The Cylinder has been referred to as the first bill of human rights because it appears to encourage freedom of worship throughout the Persian Empire and to allow deported people to return to their homelands.

The Asian Art Museum will serve as one of five U.S. venues to present this intimate exhibition that also includes other rare artworks from ancient Persia, providing a context for the Cylinder’s cultural and historical significance. August 9–September 20, 2013

"In Grand Style: Celebrations in Korean Art," explores the importance and cultural significance of celebrations during Korea’s Joseon dynasty (1392–1911). During this period, Confucianism was culturally embedded in society as the governing state belief, and festivities marking important rites of passage—political appointments, birthdays, weddings, funerals, among others—followed elaborate protocols.

"In Grand Style" features approximately 150 objects from 13 Korean institutions. Nearly all of the artworks and their accompanying narratives will be presented to US audiences for the first time. October 25, 2013–January 12, 2014

Bay Area Contemporary Focus: Emerging and established artists come together in Bay Area Contemporary Focus, a thematic exhibition in three parts. Artists will show recent work as well as commissioned pieces, often reacting to the museum’s renowned collection. Related programming will accompany the exhibition.

May 24–July 21, 2013, October 11–December 8, 2013 and December 20, 2013–February 16, 2014

Photo credit:  @Asian Art Museum

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Girl with a Pearl Earring - coming to SF this January

On January 26, 2013, the de Young Museum will be the first North American venue to present Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis, a selection of paintings from the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague.

The de Young will host 35 paintings from the collection, including the renowned Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer, The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius, and four works by Rembrandt van Rijn. Highlighting the spectacular artistic achievements of the Dutch Golden Age, these works reflect the culture of artistic, economic, and technological innovation that allowed the Netherlands to prosper in the 17th century.

At the center of this exhibition is one of the world’s most famous paintings, Vermeer’s masterpiece, Girl with a Pearl Earring. This work, sometimes called “the Dutch Mona Lisa,” is one of only 36 known paintings by the artist and rarely travels outside the Netherlands. Though little is known about Vermeer’s life, the quiet grace and virtuoso technique evident in his paintings, and in particular his rendering of light, have placed him among the most important artists of the 17th century.