Friday, November 29, 2013

Deconstructed flower, orange

I was fooling around with this flower piece, got frustrated and just let my brush fly over the paper. I think it works better than some of my more carefully done pieces. In any case, it was a lot of fun to do. I do realize that I get caught up in being nit picky with my art. When I see something like this, I am reminded that when I cut loose, sometimes the results are pretty good.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving and Chanukah

Happy Thanksgiving and Chanukah -may your feast be delightful and not cut short by any crazy rushing-off-to-do-shopping.

Cosco and Nordstrom refuse to ruin Thanksgiving and so say all of us:

For those in the East Bay who wish to avoid the bridge and BART (and who can blame them), there are lots of choices:

And for those of us in San Francisco, I hardly know where to start. So many good art exhibits, museum shows and even, through SF City Guides, a way to walk off that stuffed feeling: Kristina Quinones, ArtZone 461, Studio Gallery, Green Apple and more.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Happy Birthday Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa

Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa or simply Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (24 November 1864 – 9 September 1901) was a French painter, printmaker, draughtsman, and illustrator, whose immersion in the colourful and theatrical life of Paris in the late 1800s yielded a collection of exciting, elegant and provocative images of the modern and sometimes decadent life of those times. Toulouse-Lautrec is known along with Cézanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin as one of the greatest painters of the Post-Impressionist period.

He was an aristocrat, the son and heir of Comte Alphonse-Charles de Toulouse and last in line of a family that dated back a thousand years. Henri's father was rich, handsome, and eccentric. His mother was overly devoted to her only living child. Henri was weak and often sick. By the time he was 10 he had begun to draw and paint.

 Mr. Toulouse paints Mr. Lautrec (ca. 1891)

At 12 young Toulouse-Lautrec broke his left leg and at 14 his right leg. Due to extreme inbreeding, (both his grandmothers were sisters and his parents were first cousins), his bones failed to heal properly, and his legs stopped growing. He reached young adulthood with a body trunk of normal size but with abnormally short legs. He is reported to have had hypertrophied genitals.

Deprived of the kind of life that a normal body would have permitted, Toulouse-Lautrec lived wholly for his art. He stayed in the Montmartre section of Paris, the center of the cabaret entertainment and bohemian life that he loved to paint. Circuses, dance halls and nightclubs, racetracks--all these spectacles were set down on canvas or made into lithographs.

 In the Restaurant La Mie
 Toulouse-Lautrec was very much a part of all this activity. He would sit at a nightclub table, enjoying the show, drinking, and constantly sketching. The next morning in his studio he would expand the sketches into bright-colored paintings.

 In Bed

In order to become a part of the Montmartre life--as well as to protect himself against the crowd's ridicule of his appearance--Toulouse-Lautrec began to drink heavily. The invention of the cocktail "Earthquake" or Tremblement de Terre is attributed to Toulouse-Lautrec: a potent mixture containing half absinthe and half cognac (in a wine goblet, 3 parts Absinthe and 3 parts Cognac, sometimes served with ice cubes or shaken in a cocktail shaker filled with ice).

The style and content of Lautrec's posters were heavily influenced by Japanese ukiyo-e prints. Areas of flat color bound by strong outlines, silhouettes, cropped compositions, and oblique angles are all typical of woodblock prints by artists like Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) and Ando Hiroshige (1797–1858) . Likewise, Lautrec's promotion of individual performers is very similar to the depictions of famous actors, actresses, and courtesans from the so-called "floating world" of Edo-period Japan
 La Goule
 His size also prevented him from having a "normal" relationship with a woman and from early on, he frequented brothels. Some of his most compassionate and powerful work is of the prostitutes of 19th century Paris. Since he was a cripple himself, he could look at these women as fellow-sufferers, wounded and brutalized and suffering underneath the power and rouge that they donned for their customers.

La Toilette, 1889

In the 1890s the drinking and syphillis started to affect his health. He was confined to a sanatorium and to his mother's care at home, but he could not stay away from alcohol.
Woman before a Mirror, 1897. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864–1901)

Toulouse-Lautrec died on Sept. 9, 1901, at the family chateau of Malrome. Since then his paintings and posters--particularly theMoulin Rouge group--have been in great demand and bring high prices at auctions and art sales.

Artchive: The Soul of Montmartre (Pegasus Library)
Toulouse Lautrec, A life by Julie Frey

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Brent Bushnell and Sofia Carmi - life partners who make art that transcends boundaries.

Another in my sporadic series on artists who manage to survive in San Francisco.

San Francisco is a hard city for artists to survive in, harder now that ever. With apartments renting at $2000 a month and condos selling for five million and up, it’s become a city for the 1%.

But some artists who don't have a trust fund or a huge salary have managed to survive without compromising their vision of making art that transcends boundaries.

Just ask Sofia Carmi and Brent Bushnell who have managed to survive here for decades, with one stint “in exile” in Sacramento.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Happy Belated Birthday Georgia

 Georgia O'Keeffe (Nov 15, 1887–1986)

Abstraction Rose, 1927

How could I forget O'Keeffe's birthday? She was the first woman artist that I learned about. I still have the collage of images of her and her work that I made as a teenager. I idealized her and her work but that gave me hope that I too could be a "real" painter some day.

 Flower Abstraction, 1924

Later, much later, after reading many biographies of her, I realized that she was not the feminist icon that I had believed. But she was a damn fine painter.

Abstraction 1926

Beginning in the 1920s, her flower paintings made her a popular success. But they emerged from her earlier, more challenging abstract work.

When O’Keeffe was 20 (1907), she came to New York from Virginia to attend the Art Students League. There she studied with William Merritt Chase and followed his conservative painterly lead for a while. Afterward she took teaching jobs far away from the city, but kept her finger on its pulse long-distance.

In 1912 she learned of the aesthetic theory being espoused by Arthur Wesley Dow at Columbia University, a utopian vision of a consciousness-shaping art based on harmonious abstract design. Soon afterward, she was introduced to the radical thinking of the New York social critic Randolph Bourne, whose proto-feminist writings were in line with O’Keeffe’s own views of female equality and independence.

 She was working in Amarillo, Tex., in 1913 when the Armory Show hit New York, but on later trips she saw lots of new European work — Picasso, Matisse, Braque — much of it at Stieglitz’s gallery. And she gradually formed stimulating friendships with painters like Charles Demuth, Arthur Dove and Marsden Hartley. Dove, an abstraction pioneer, was particularly encouraging.

She  needed encouragement. Outside of narrow avant-garde circles no audience or market for abstract art existed. In the popular press it was at best dismissed as a scam and at worst reviled as un-American. But O’Keeffe’s stake in it was not commercial or social or formal. Abstraction was simply the only kind of art, she said, that let her express her deepest feelings.

What were those feelings? She couldn’t describe them. “Words and I are not good friends,” she wrote to Stieglitz in an early letter.

It is nearly impossible to talk about the work of either O’Keefe or Stieglitz without mention of the other. The personal and professional union between these two iconoclastic talents lasted for more than a quarter of a century and to this day is considered one of the most fruitful and well-known collaborations of the modernist era. The reality is somewhat different. O'Keeffe felt smothered by Stieglitz and had affairs outside their marriage. So did Steiglitz and while they never divorced, the marriage was, for all intents and purposes, over when she moved to New Mexico.

Stieglitz felt that her work was about the essence of womanhood, about the female body, about sexuality. Stieglitz emphasized that message - and the fact that he, a married man and years older than O'Keeffe was her lover - by his nude photographs of her. She posed in front of her paintings, echoing their forms with her arms and hands. He also photographed her nude body, often in close-up. The photos assured that her art would be viewed in erotic terms - terms which O'Keeffe came to loathe and reject. It's hard to feel that much sympathy for O'Keeffe. Like everything else in her life, she want to define her art herself- and the devil take the hindmost. But who could fail to see the sexual imagery in her flower paintings? She knew and didn't want to admit it publically but the erotic frisson in her work is what made her popular. After all, it was the age of Freud.

Obviously she was a willing collaborator in all of this. She posed for the pictures, helped to process them and applied the cropping and close-up techniques she learned from them to her paintings. She made many of those paintings suggestively sexual. But what was really at stake was power. O’Keeffe wanted the power to include sexuality in her art’s expressive range, without necessarily making it the subject. Stieglitz wanted the power to define her art purely in terms of feminine sexuality, and to market it accordingly.

 Radiator Building, New York, 1927

By the mid-1920s O’Keeffe had painted herself into a corner and knew she had to get out of it. She also understood that her approach to abstraction was part of the problem, and tried to change it, moving from curves to rectangles. A result was a remarkable group of small vertical pictures, inspired by New York.

While O’Keefe’s New York paintings bear a romantic character resembling that of the Romantic movement and its fascination for glowing celestial bodies and halos in mystical colors, her urban works are most closely associated with the American art movement of the 1920′s known as Precisionism, or Cubist Realism, a combination of Cubism and Realism.

Toward the end of the decade, the strains of dealing with the New York art world, her growing boredom with Lake George, and her deteriorating relationship with Stieglitz took their toll on her physical and emotional health. In response, she made her first extended trip to New Mexico in 1929. It was a visit that had a lasting impact on her life, and an immediate effect on her work. Over the next twenty years, from 1929 to 1949, she made almost annual trips to New Mexico, staying up to six months there, painting in relative solitude, then returning to New York each winter to exhibit the new work at Stieglitz's gallery. This pattern continued until she moved permanently to New Mexico in 1949.

Cow's Skull: Red, White, and Blue, 1931, Oil on canvas; 39 7/8 x 35 7/8 in. (101.3 x 91.1 cm) Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1952 (52.203)

The last two decades of the artist's life were relatively unproductive as ill health and blindness hindered her ability to work. When she died in 1986 at age ninety-eight, her ashes were scattered over the New Mexico landscape she had loved for more than half a century. Her rich legacy of some 900 paintings has continued to attract subsequent generations of artists and art lovers who derive inspiration from these very American images.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Happy Birthday Claude

Claude Monet (14 November 1840 – 5 December 1926) was a founder of French impressionist painting, and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement's philosophy of expressing one's perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air landscape painting. The term Impressionism is derived from the title of his painting Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant). In this image: In this Jan. 19, 2011 photo, Dean Yoder, conservator of paintings for the Cleveland Museum of Art, gently dusts Claude Monet's vast water lilies painting at the museum in Cleveland.

Les Bassin aux nympheas

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Francis Bacon's 'Triptych' is the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction

 What a sad and troubling thing to view the front page of the NYTimes and see "Devastation in the Philippines" right above "At $142.4 million, Triptych Is the Most Expensive Artwork Ever Sold at an Auction." I'm sure the irony has not been lost on hundreds, if not thousands, of readers.

How much typhoon aid could $142.4 million provide to the people of Tycloban and surrounding areas? How many gallons of clean water could these people be drinking? When the seas settle, when the material destruction is finally cleared away, how many men, women, and children could have been saved with the help of $142.4 million?

Or how about using that money to research and impliment energy saving and ecological wise devices and programs to prevent all of us, in the coming decade from being wracked by worsening weather, foul air and water and all the horrors of global warming?

Their fancy estates will not protect the 1% of the 1% then.

Helping Typhoon Survivors

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there are several resources on how you can help, such as the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns and Asia Society Philippine Foundation, Inc.
The New York Times has compiled a list with a link to GuideStar (an organization committed to nonprofit transparency), which outlines its “expert-recommended” agencies to assist with informed charitable decision making. These are merely suggestions for getting started, because at times like this, it’s all hands on deck.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Anders Zorn at the Legion

Google 'Anders Zorn." If he is not a household name in the art world, he should be. The show that opened at the Legion yesterday blew me out of the water. Zorn is of the same generation as Sargent but his work is more robust. He doesn't shy away from female nudes who are full figured and earthy. His watercolors that made me weap with envy. It's the must see show this year for anybody interested art that falls into that category between 19th century realism and Impressionism.

I have read a review from his show in Boston that compares him unfavorably with Sargent. I don't know about that but then, the Legion has only one Sargent and that's not enough for an honest comparison. I will write a more analytical review later but for now, I just want to be a cheerleader.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

German Authorities Find $1-Billion in Nazi-Looted Art in a Munich apartment

Untitled painting by Franz Marc who was killed in action during WW I. 

The German magazine Focus has just revealed the news of the astonishing discovery of about $1-billion worth of looted art missing since the Nazi era. Although the art was seized almost two years ago, the Focus story apparently represents the first public account of the works' discovery.

In 2012 German customs officials raided the private apartment of Cornelius Gurlittand, the son of a famous Nazi era art dealer. They confiscated 1,406 works of art by famous artists, including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Chagall.

But the story really began back in 2010.

Throughout the years following the war, there have been governments, institutions and individuals who have profited from the Nazi's actions. Life insurance unpaid, savings accounts and looted personal possessions including art, became the spoils of war. Even now when much that was hidden is revealed, self interested parties continue to obstruct restitution and  justice for the victims of Nazi brutality.

For instance, look at the story of Jacques Goudstikker,  a well-known art dealer and collector. His speciality was "Old Masters," just the kind of art that Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring had a taste for. Over the objections of his widow, Goring obtained the collection in a forced sale six days after Goudstikker's death. Naturally the art sold for a fraction of their real value.

This story is a tale of tragedy, greed, bigotry and great injustice, redeemed by courage and perseverance. It is a great story, but the ending is bitter-sweet for the principals never saw justice done, and indeed, the price of justice has been very high. It took the Nazis two months to loot the family's belongings. It took the family sixty years to recover a fraction of what was stolen.

The treasure trove that was just unearthed in Munich contains a great many pieces of what was considered "degenerate art" by the Nazis. They classified "degenerate art" as the product of Jews and Bolsheviks, although only six of the 112 artists featured in the 1937 exhibition were actually Jewish. They also underestimated the appeal of this art to the German public. The exhibition attracted more than a million visitors - three times more than the officially sanctioned "Great German Art Exhibition."

Many big truths here, none revelatory, all tragic. Nazis were evil scum who treated artists and creative art with the same inhuman contempt they exhibited toward Jews, Gypsies, Gays, and other demonized peoples.

Two pieces by Otto Dix, who was despised by Hitler. He was one of the lucky ones. Although he was arrested by the Nazis, he was released. Later Dix was conscripted into the Volkssturm. He was captured by French troops at the end of the war and released in February 1946.

This is possibly the biggest trove of missing 20th-century European art discovered since the end of World War II, and the first glimpse of it on Tuesday brought astonishment but also anger and the early stirrings of what will likely be a prolonged battle over who owns the works. (Larger treasure troves are probably in Russian hands but good luck in getting any of that back.)

A previously unknown work by Matisse

Art historian describes 'incredible joy' at seeing previously unknown works among 1,406 found at home of Cornelius Gurlitt. Now how about putting photos of the work on the Internet and working with the various agencies who track down the heirs to Nazi-looted art?

The German artist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was also branded a "degenerate". This picture, entitled "Melancholic Girl, " was previously unknown. Kirchner committed suicide after the Nazis came to power.

Why has there been such a gap between the discovery of the works and the public revelation of this treasure trove? My cynical response is that the authorities were hoping to not have to deal with the survivors and their claims. The longer the wait, the fewer survivors one has to deal with. Then it could have been sold or put in German museums, just like so much of what was stolen has ended up in both European and Russian museums and private hands. I doubt if there is a big museum in the world that doesn't have a piece of Nazi looted art.

     Another unknown painting - this one by Chagall. 

A lyrical and melancholic essay by NY Times writer Michael Kimmelman

This may only be the tip of the iceberg.  "In the community of German art dealers there were about 40 people like Gurlitt's father. If each of them had 2,000 works, we get to a huge quantity of paintings that are still hidden all over the world − not only in Germany," Tel Aviv-based attorney Joel Levi he told Haaretz.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Calendar Page for November

Calendar page for November with a bas-de-page  scene of men on a hunt, from the Golf Book of Hours, workshop of Simon Bening.
Calendar page for November with a bas-de-page scene of men on a hunt, from the Golf Book (Book of Hours, Use of Rome), workshop of Simon Bening, Netherlands (Bruges), - See more at:

The Bay Area in Art: Nov 5-11 (and beyond) Pop-Up is brought to life in their first pop-up store located in San Francisco's Union Square. The popular art haven allows customers to explore art through an interactive and inspiring retail experience. Between the two collections, "The Art of Color" and "Eye on Nature," galleries by the likes of Jonathan Adler and Steve Justrich, and exclusive art by Nigel Barker and San Francisco-based artist Rex Ray, customers have the chance to find art for any interior. The pop-up even helps customers create their own art through's Photos to Art iPhone app.
When: Through January 2014
Where:, 117 Post St.

Rebirth, self-discovery, life out of death, the eternal—all represent the various meanings the ancient symbol of Ouroboros has referenced in history. The snake that eats its own tail appears in numerous religions, Jungian philosophy, alchemy, and modern science. This exhibition, with participating artists like Joyce Burnstein, Matt Keegan, and Sandy Kim, examines the history of the Ouroboros and our understanding of it today.
When: Wed. 11/6 - Sat. 11/23; opening reception 7 - 10 p.m., Sat. 11/9
Where: Root Division, 3175 17th St.

"Project Los Altos"
The SFMOMA offsite exhibition "Project Los Altos" will undertake a site-specific exploration of the once-argicultural community that now sits in the heart of Silicon Valley. In various locations, both indoors and out, nine artists—including Bay Area natives Charles Garoian, Chris Johanson, and Mike Mills—incite a dialogue around the region's history of innovation. Don't miss Jeremy Blake's Winchester trilogy of animation, inspired by the mad Sarah Winchester and her famous mystery house, and Alec Soth's stark black-and-white photo documentation of what goes on behind Silicon Valley doors.
When: Sat. 11/9 - Sun. 3/2/2014
Where: Various venues, Los Altos

"100 | 50 | 1"
Fifty of the world's most talented mobile photographers are brought together in this new photo exhibition. "100 | 50 | 1" will showcase portraits these photographers captured with their smartphones. Profits from sales at the show will be donated to 100cameras, a non-profit that enables kids to initiate change in their communities by teaching them to document their lives through photography.
When: Sat. 11/9 - Sat. 11/16, opening reception 6:30 p.m., Fri. 11/8
Where: The New Black, 1999 Bryant St.

Monday, November 4, 2013

'David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition' now at the deYoung

A longer, more analytical and critical review of the Hockney show at the deYoung. Did I like it? the review and see what you think. Relevant comments are always welcome.