Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Life Goes On

William Bailey. Torre Romeggio. 1994. Aquatine with hard ground and soft ground etching. @Crown Point Press

The Mexican Museum gets a new director who I sincerely hope can lead the musum out of the morass it seems to have been mired in since forever.

 David J. de la Torre

Monday, February 25, 2013

Tagore poem for Paul.

Sarah Wells posted this on Paul's wall and I think it's so beautiful that I want to share. I am mostly OK with his passing. We have all known for a some time that he was getting closer to the end - but every now and then, something catches in my heart and I feel the tears start up.

He brought such fun and such a wealth of understanding and wisdom to our talks. I loved that he studied Jungian psychology, another interest of mine. I respected his faith while not sharing it. I admired him all the more for not letting bitterness at the Church's treatment of gays taint his generous nature.

From time to time I feel the moment for travel has come.
On the day of leaving, cast a veil
of humble sunset-glaze.
Let the time to leave
be quiet, still. Let no pompous memorials
build the hypnosis of grieving.
Let the lines of trees by the departure door
bestow the tranquil chanting of earth
on quiet heaps of leaves.
Let night’s soundless blessing slowly descend,
iridescent offerings of the seven stars. Tagore

BAM/PFA, Crown Point Press, SJMA & Dolby Chadwick

Back in the saddle again with lots of really interesting and cutting edge art - unfortunately, I can't pronounce half the names.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul: 'Morakot (Emerald)': A renowned Thai artist's 2007 projected video installation reanimates with sound and image a derelict Bangkok hotel that once served as a haven in the 1980s for Cambodian refugees fleeing invasion by Vietnam. Through April 21. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. $7-$10. Berkeley Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft Way, Berkeley. (510) 642-0808.

William Brice. Untitled #9 (Two Elements), 1990. Color soft ground etching with soap ground and spit bite aquatints. 4 x 6". Edition 15. Published by Crown Point Press. Printed by Pamela Paulson.

Small Gems: A Winter Group Show: Prints by William Bailey, Sol LeWitt, Wayne Thiebaud, Tony Cragg and others, including Richard Tuttle's entire suite inspired by the alphabet make a stirring survey. Through March 9. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday. 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Crown Point Press
Alex Kanevsky at Dolby Chadwick Gallery: “The Fox and the Hedgehog." The show’s title is an allusion to the aphorism “the fox knows many little things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing,” commonly attributed to the Greek poet Archilochus.

Kanevsky’s pigment is applied with visible strokes and counterstrokes, which gives substance to his forms. He avoids strong contour lines, leaving his edges blurry. There is also an all-pervasive light in many of his works, though the illumination is not all-revealing. Instead, strongly communicating an emotional climate, the paintings are endowed with a sense of mystery. (from Art in America, January 2011).

Huang Yan. Spring, "The Four Seasons," 2005. Chromogenic print
39 × 31 5/16 inches. Collection of Dale and Doug Anderson. Photo: Kelly Marin, Inc

The San Jose Museum of Art: "Rising Dragon: Contemporary Chinese Photography" showcases images by photographers working in mainland China between the years 2000 and 2012—both Years of the Dragon in the Chinese zodiac. The exhibition includes more than one hundred photographs by 36 Chinese artists. Many of these photographers revive social-documentary photography and experiment with new, digital photographic processes to explore common concerns such as the alteration of the natural environment or the erosion of cultural heritage in an increasingly globalized society. Several of the artists have long careers and established names, but have only recently been discovered by museums and galleries in the United States.

“Undercurrents of China’s rich artistic legacyare present in many of the portraits, landscapes, cityscapes, and scenes of daily modern life,” said Rory Padeken, curatorial assistant at SJMA. “Yet these images also often seem to fast-forward into the future with a very “now” visual style filled with humor, artifice, and pop excess.”

Friday, February 22, 2013

Paul Brenner, RIP. 11/2/39 - 2/22/2013

My dear friend and beloved mentor, Paul Brenner, departed this life this afternoon. We who knew and loved him will always remember his smile, his warmth, his knowledge and giving nature. Requiescant in pace

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

For Paul

A dear friend of mine is hovering on the cusp between life and death. It's been a long struggle and he's ready to go. I pray for his peaceful release.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Architect Lebbeus Woods, South Africa and Apartheid at SFMOMA

This was so much easier to write than yesterday's 'stumble through and keep my fingers crossed piece" on 'Silence' at the BAM/PFA. I keep thinking that if I look at enough conceptual shows and write about them, I will evenutally figure out what the whole stick is.

It hasn't been working that way so far. I liked many of the individual pieces but would not see how they worked into the theme of "Silence."

SFMOMA is open for business on President's Day with a new exhibit of the work of architect Lebbeus Woods. Recognized beyond architecture, Lebbeus Woods (1940–2012) has been hailed by leading designers, filmmakers, writers, and artists alike as a significant voice in recent decades. His works resonate across many disciplines for their conceptual potency, imaginative breadth, jarring poetry, and ethical depth.
from February 16 through June 2, 2013

South Africa and Apartheid: This exhibition illuminates a difficult, and painful period in the recent history of South Africa from the perspectives of three photographers: David Goldblatt, Ernest Cole, and Billy Monk. The son of Eastern European immigrants, documentary photographer Goldblatt came of age under apartheid and observed the increasing entrenchment of racial inequality in his country. His early project In Boksburg (1982) portrays a typical suburban white community shaped by what the artist calls "white dreams and white proprieties."

The photographs, taken from a mostly frontal, horizontal view point, could be from any white town in the 1950's, with the same racism and ignorance. At that point, the White Afrikaners did not acknowledge black Afrikaners except as servants, to be kept as far away from their privileged life as possible.

In one photograph, a Caucasian politician is photographed, standing in front of a banner which ironically calls for the "brotherhood of man." Another photograph shows Black African workers meeting with white management reflecting a snapshot of black African suspicion and fear vs smug white privilege.

Included at Goldblatt's request, photographs by Cole and Monk expand the exhibition's field of view. Cole, a self-taught black South African documentary photographer, observed the other side of the racial divide in the 1960s, making photographs that are eloquently observant and deeply humane.

Of the three, it is Cole and Monk whose photos are the most revealing and whose stories have the most tragic outcome.

Cole, a tiny (5' 3") black photographer with a huge vision was inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson to created a powerful pictorial record of apartheid South Africa. He was forced into exile in 1966 and his life crumbled. At one point, he was homeless, living on the streets of New York. Mr. Cole died at 49 in 1990, just a week after Nelson Mandela walked free. His sister flew back to South Africa with his ashes on her lap. His images still have the power to shock and anger even those of us who haven't lived under apartheid.

Monk's work provides an extraordinarily evocative glimpse of Cape Town's little-seen late 60s bohemian demi-monde. Monk was a night club bouncer and not very good at his job. In a bid to supplement his income, he started taking photographs of the clientele.

Monk would snap his subjects with the 35mm Pentax camera he had offloaded from one of the Japanese sailors trading under-the-table goods, and sell the pictures as mementoes of the evening. He was a trusted fixture in the club, friendly, part of the relaxed atmosphere where all races would mingle and have fun in a place which ignored South Africa's race laws.

Monk gave up photography when Polaroids begun to flood the snapshot market and tried to make his living in other ways. But his work was discovered by Jac de Villiers, a photographr who had moved into his old studio – he later told de Villiers he had little feeling for this instant product.

 Monk gave up photography when Polaroids begun to flood the snapshot market and tried to make his living in other ways. Later his work was discovered by Jac de Villiers, a photographr who had moved into his old studio – he told de Villiers he had little feeling for this instant product.

Despite his distinctly criminal past (he’d been a safe-breaker, a poacher and done jail-time before he ever became a bouncer), he had settled down somewhat, making a small living running a leather shop and a vegetarian restaurant, just a few blocks down from the Catacombs on Long Street.

An exhibition of the work was opened by David Goldblatt in Johannesburg's Market Gallery in July 1982, but Billy Monk did not attend. He was diving for diamonds off the Port Nolloth coast. The show was critically acclaimed but the itinerant Monk never got to read the reviews nor see the show: he was shot in the chest at close range in a street fight just two weeks after it opened.

In November of the same year, Lin Sampson wrote a wonderfully descriptive feature on Monk's short, fast life for the South African Sunday Times magazine, which was been reprinted in the book, "Billy Monk: Nightclub Photographs, " by Dewi Lewis.

"He died on Saturday evening in a house with turquoise-blue walls and a bar with a glitter top that had lost its shine from too many elbows sliding along it … A girl told me what had happened … Monk died protecting his friend Lionel in a tacky argument over moving furniture … Before he fell to the ground, he stood there helpless and plunging, his arms spread out in shock and pleading. 'Now you've gone 'n' killed me,' he said."

These three groups of pictures are complemented by a selection of Goldblatt's recent, post-apartheid photographs, sober yet hopeful records of an imperfect, still-evolving democracy. Closing March 5.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

'Silence' at the Berkeley Art Museum

I had a very difficult time writing about this show. First of all, conceptual art is not something I like. Secondly, the idea of silence in this show was so vague the even some of our better professional art writers, like Stephen Winn, focused more on interviews and quotes about science and the brain, rather than the art.

Plus the Examiner template is very difficult to work with. I had several images and only one of them could be uploaded to the site. Some days I really wonder why I am doing this.

The joys of the show were seeing Magritte's pieces and a few other "real" paintings. But for a show that was supposed to be about silence, it was full of noise and discordant pieces.

Maybe that was the point.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

One Billion Rising

The best gift for billions of women around the world isn't a Valentine's Day card. It's equal opportunity. It's to control their own bodies, their own lives. It's freedom from rape and violence.

One Billion Women spoke out today. I want to see one billion men on their side. On our side. On the side of humanity.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day: Eros at the Met

A new exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Changing Images of Eros, Ancient Greek God of Love, from Antiquity to Renaissance," demonstrates that ancient Greek sculptors responded to erotic love by creating statues that still resonate, 2000 years after they were made.

Greek philosophers from Plato to Epikouros reflected on its power and its centrality to human existence.

Not for nothing did the poets call erotic love as sweet as honey, as sharp as the sting of a bee. *

The centerpiece of the exhibit, which opened last week and runs through June 23, is a life size bronze sculpture of Eros shown as a sleeping baby.

One of the few bronze statues to have survived from antiquity, this figure of a plump baby in relaxed pose conveys a sense of the immediacy and naturalistic detail that the medium of bronze made possible. Every feather is visible in his wings and his chubby legs, draped over the stone, show rolls of baby fat.

Unusually for Greek art, the god's eyes are shut. In a touching nuance, the baby's mouth rests open, while his left hand lies limp, having dropped his famous bow.

The image of Eros captured in the statue, which is dated to the 3rd-2nd centuries BC and comes from the island of Rhodes, spawned a remarkable dynasty of lookalikes, right from Roman art's Cupid to the winged cherubs of Renaissance paintings, and into our popular culture today.

But Eros wasn't always so cute and cuddly. Until the period when winged babies came out with their darts of passion, the god was depicted in Greek poetry as a "powerful, often cruel, and capricious being," the exhibit explains.

The ancients felt the sing of Eros' arrow as well as the sweetness of desire fulfilled. The Roman poet Longus wrote, "There is no medicine for Love, nothing you can drink for it, nothing you can eat for it..."*

 Catullus was distraught when his love affair with the famous Clodia ended. "Poor damned Catullus, stop being idiotic," he moaned and went on to both mourn the end of the affair and curse his lover.

But when his love was new and he believed her true, he wrote one of the most beautiful love poems in Western literature.

Let us live, my Lesbia, let us love,
and all the words of the old, and so moral,
may they be worth less than nothing to us!
Suns may set, and suns may rise again:
but when our brief light has set,
night is one long everlasting sleep.
Give me a thousand kisses, a hundred more,
another thousand, and another hundred,
and, when we’ve counted up the many thousands,
confuse them so as not to know them all,
so that no enemy may cast an evil eye,
by knowing that there were so many kisses.

Contemporary Valentine's Day celebrations are more focused on the sweet and tend to ignore the often bitter end of love gone awry.

What would you say to this sleeping Eros?

Jim Dine at SFMOMA. (courtesy SFMOMA)

Or, if you prefer to write a love letter to art, SFMOMA is sponsoring a "write a love letter to art," at

*Michelle Loveri and Nikiforos Doxiadis Mardas. A Book of Love from the Ancient Mediterranean.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Red Boat

The pastel doesn't show in the scan the way it does in reality. I merged the colors more so the red boat didn't overwhelm the piece. This is when I wish I still worked in oils because this subject is perfect for oil's blending and glazing properties.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

'The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, Where Art and History Intersect'

Bernard and Shirley Kinsey
To honor the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Museum of the African Diaspora and Wells Fargo are hosting the "The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, Where Art and History Intersect."

Throughout their 43-years of marriage, Bernard and Shirley Kinsey have explored and celebrated their African American heritage by collecting items of historical and cultural significance.

Romare Bearden. Falling Star. 1979

Kinsey a Los Angeles philanthropist and entrepreneur and his wife Shirley are famously known for espousing two life principles, “To whom much is given much is required" and live “A life of no regrets." They have collected pieces from those whose works resonate with their belief that education was the key to wisdom and upward mobility.

Floridians by birth and graduates of Florida A&M University, they began collecting as a way to remember their travels, but the collection soon became a repository for African American intellectual, historical and artistic works.

Elizabeth Catlett. Jackie. 1974.

The Kinsey collection is now one of the largest private collections of African American art, with artifacts, documents and artwork spanning 400 years of history.

A history of the African American in art is charted through works by numerous celebrated artists, including Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Aaron Douglas, Sam Gilliam, Palmer Hayden, Richard Hunt, Lois Mailou Jones, Artis Lane, Richard Mayhew, James Porter and Henry O. Tanner.

Although the exhibit is rich in African-American painting and sculpture, the documents are what provide the core and the emotional charge of the show. The Kinsey collection highlights objects, letters and documents offering an unflinching look at slavery from the perspective of Africans who survived it, Union soldiers who fought it and slave owners who perpetuated it.

On display is the first document collected by Bernard Kinsey. Dated 1832, it was a bill of sale for an 18-year old male, being sold along with cattle, horses and farm implements. 

The collection contains a rare 1789 copy of the first, first-person narrative of the slave trade, written by Olaudah Equiano. Enslaved as a child, he later was able to buy his freedom and worked for the abolition of slavery.

Among the original documents is a 1798 proclamation, declaring that "any person may kill these escaped brothers." If they were caught, it was their death warrant.

Jonathan Green. Field Hands. 1988

In 1854, an owner sent his 17-year old slave to be sold so he could buy some horses. He was so upset that he couldn't tell her about the letter she was carrying. He was upset; one can only image how she felt to be sold away from her family.

A first edition of the autobiography of Frederick Douglas is on display and even more thrillingly, the pamphlet of his famous 1852 speech.

On July 5, 1852, the Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society of Rochester, New York, invited Douglass to be the keynote speaker for their Independence Day celebration.

In this fiery speech, Douglass powerfully asks the crowd if it was their intention to mock him by inviting him to speak on the Fourth of July. He notes in the seventh paragraph, "The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me."

On the wall is the 1863 edition Mercury News, with a page open to the list of auctions. One of the slaves for sale was a 2-year old named Jassy.

Through May 13, 2013

Gallery Talk: Peter Doig's The Architect's House in the Ravine

Friday, February 8, 2013

Woman Vandalizes Iconic Delacroix Painting at the Louvre

 Another day, another piece of barbaric vandalism - a painting that is the enduring image of the French revolution and adorned the 100-franc note for nearly two decades was vandalised this week at the Louvre-Lens museum, but officials there say it has not sustained any permanent damage.

One of the most iconic symbols of the French Revolution, Eugène Delacroix’s 1830 “Liberty Leading the People”, was defaced on Thursday by a 28-year-old woman with a black marker at the Louvre’s branch in the northern city of Lens.

The famous work shows a bare-chested female figure bearing aloft the French Tricolor with one hand and a musket in the other.

"The integrity of the work has not been affected, as the inscription was superficial and remained on the varnished surface without reaching the layer of paint," a Louvre spokesperson said in a statement on Friday, amid fears that a piece of France’s national heritage had been permanently defaced. Specialists have since removed the mark, which measured approximately 30 centimetres (12 inches).

The painting was immortalised after it was featured on 100-franc bank notes from 1978 to 1995.

Motive unknown

According to judicial sources, the woman scrawled “AE911” on the canvas using an indelible black marker.

On Friday morning, French media were speculating that the graffiti could be a reference to the “Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth” group, which believes that the 2001 collapse of the World Trade Center could not have resulted solely from the impact of two fuel-heavy airliners.

“We won’t know if there is any political significance until police questioning ends,” the museum’s Communications Director Raphäel Wolff told FRANCE 24 on Friday morning.

“She is still under arrest and the state prosecutor is here at the museum investigating this,” he added.

The vandal is due to appear before a judge on Saturday, and prosecutors have ordered that she undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

“Liberty” is the showpiece work at the Louvre-Lens, which opened its doors for the first time on December 4.

By FRANCE 2 / William EDWARDS (video)
Tony Todd  (text)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Michelangelo's unfinished sculpture sentenced to a stint in prison.

The noted Italian artist worked on "La Pieta Rondanini" from 1552 until his death in 1564.

An unfinished sculpture by Michelangelo is heading to an unlikely temporary location -- prison.

It's not because the sculpture offended any puritanical sensibilities. It's because the Milanese city government thinks it will have a positive effect on the prisoners 

According to the Art Newspaper, the decision is backed by the Milan city government and culture minister Stefano Boerir.

Others differ. The unconventional placement faces some serious criticism from Italian art historians such as Vittorio Sgarbi. "Nobody moves Michelangelo’s David from the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence; nobody moves his Madonna and Child from Bruges," he wrote in the newspaper il Giornale, adding that fewer people will be able to view the sculpture once it is moved to the center of the 19th century jail.

In response, proponents of the move have plenty to say about the power of art in "outsider" communities. "This is what art is about," remarked Tim Robertson, chief executive of the London-based prison arts charity, Koestler Trust, to The Art Newspaper. "And the most useful art should be for people who are falling off the edge of society.”

As of yet, the Milanese prison has not announced any specific arts program associated with sculpture. The Pieta will head back to its home at the Castello Sforzesco once renovations are complete. 

So far, there is also no information on what security measures will be taken to protect the priceless sculpture. Italy has a very high rate of art theft. Supposedly well guarded art has been stolen in broad daylight. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Free Tuesday at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

Free Tuesday tomorrow at the Contemporary Jewish Museum + screening of "When Harry Met Sally." Ezra Jack Keats show is still up plus California Dreaming, Storycorps and Stanley Saitowitz: Judaica

Friday, February 1, 2013

Busy, busy, busy: Dutch art, 'Silence' in Berkeley, Matisse in Monterey

Carel Fabritius. The Goldfinch. 1634. Oil on panel. Mauritshuis, the Hague, Netherlands

Art saves lives and it certainly continues to enrich mine. The Double Dutch show at the de Young is the most spectacular exhibit now in the Bay Area. Don't get me wrong. I don't mean that the works are bold, loud or gaudy.

No, this kind of work is work that you need to be able to stop and look at, take in, think about. A couple of friends of mine have gone and so far, the crowds haven't been impossible. I hope they remain so for the opportunity to see so many old masters in our city won't come again. If you have money to travel to Holland and see them in the museum once their restorations are finished, good for you. But most of us don't have that kind of money so this is a once in a life time event.

The Listening Room (La Chambre d'Écoute, 1952) is an oil on canvas painting by the Belgian surrealist René Magritte 

Weekend Recommendations: I haven't been able to get over to Berkeley to see the show on 'Silence" but it's high on my list of "must do things." Dorothea Tanning has long been a favorite of mine and even more so since she was both a painter and a poet, something that I aspire to.

Pieces from Matisse's "Jazz" come to Monterey. Now here is an artist that I find continually inspiring. At the age of 71, he recovers from cancer surgery and proceeds to invent a new art form.