Monday, December 29, 2014

The FAMSF and Guidekick partner to create a mobile app guide to SF

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) has announced their partnership with Guidekick, a start up company that creates pocket sized, mobile app guides. Their first San Francisco based project will be to create a guide to Golden Gate Park, which will include nearly 150 points of interest, The de Young Museum is included as well as the California Academy of Sciences, the Japanese Tea Garden and the San Francisco Botanical Garden.

 Cliff House

 Sutro Baths

The 3-D images look like what you would expect - very sterile but the wealth of history and other info makes this worth a $1.99 download from i Tunes. As it is, people are fixated on their cell phones so they might as well get some real info while they are obsessing at the tiny screen.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

209 Seconds

Appropriate for so many reasons on so many levels:

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

video courtesy of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford University, England

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas

 A little silly fun on an overcast and chilly day:

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Free admission to the CJM and what else is open in the Bay Area on Christmas Day

At the Contemporary Jewish Museum: Grammy nominated duo—The Pop-Ups perform their music using cardboard props, hand-painted sets, and a colorful cast of original puppets; crafting a world of magic that engages, educates, and delights all ages. Performances at 1 and 2:30pm with a special “meet the puppets” workshop at 11:30am.*Tickets for The Pop-Ups performances available on a first-come, first-serve basis on the day of the event and are extremely limited.

Monday, December 22, 2014

RIP Joe crocker

The gravel-voiced, charismatic singer has died of lung cancer. He was the idol of many in my generation and at 70, seemed too young to die. His cover of the Beatles' song "A Little Help from My Friends" propelled him to stardom, reaching number one in 1968. He went on to create the standards of blue-eyed soul. His early career was a wild one, with drink and drugs nearly doing him him.

The musician went through personal struggles with drugs and alcohol.

In 2012, he discussed those struggles with NPR's Rachel Martin:

"I was about 26 years old, and I kind of felt indestructible," Cocker says, recalling the 1970 tour that spawned his famous live album Mad Dogs & Englishmen. "By the early '70s, the drugs and the booze took their toll. ... It was a long road back. A lot of times when you're young and carefree, you don't realize, when you tip over the edge, how difficult it is to climb back in."

Look back at his career:

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Wassail for the Winter Solstice

The Briton Ensemble Gloucestershire Wassail Winter 2012

Wassail (Old English wæs hæl, literally 'be you healthy') refers both to the salute 'Waes Hail' and to the drink of wassail, a hot mulled cider traditionally drunk as an integral part of wassailing, an ancient southern English drinking ritual intended to ensure a good cider apple harvest the following year.

Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Happy Birthday Pieter de Hooch

This is a week for great artists. First Klee, now de Hooch whose work so impressed me in the traveling show from the Hague.This was one of the best shows that I have seen in San Francisco and not only because they were exhibiting “The Girl with the Pearl Earring.” 17th century art is a genre that I can view over and over - so many masterpieces that pull you in by their skill, their love of ordinary life and their understated mystique.

December 20, 1629. Pieter de Hooch, also spelled "Hoogh" or "Hooghe" (baptized December 20, 1629 - 1684) was a genre painter during the Dutch Golden Age. He was a contemporary of Dutch Master Jan Vermeer, with whom his work shared themes and style. Most scholars believe that de Hooch's work after around 1670 became more stylized and deteriorated in quality. It may be that his distress (at age 38, with a young family) at the death of his wife (in 1667) affected his work.

 In any case, his health was now deteriorating, and he died in 1684 in an Amsterdam insane asylum, though the direct cause of his admission there is unknown. In this image: A Couple Walking in the Citizens' Hall of Amsterdam Town Hall (aka Départ pour la promenade) - circa 1663-65 oil on canvas, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg.

 A Dutch Courtyard, 1658/1660 (this piece was on exhibit at the de Young, SF - from the National Gallery of Art)

De Hooch is noted for his interior scenes and use of light and best known for his early works, which he painted in Delft. His favorite subjects were middle-class families in ordinary interiors and sunny courtyards, performing their humble daily duties in a calm atmosphere disrupted only by the radiant entry of natural light penetrating a door or window. Critics believe that it was De Hooch who influenced Vermeer rather than the contrary. De Hooch repeated his basic compositions many times, so that some consider his later works less interesting. Alejandro Vergara, Vermeer and the Dutch Interior. Madrid, 2003, p. 211

Soldiers playing cards. 

Woman with baby on her lap, 1658

 "De Hooch's paintings have complex structures, which create the illusion of real perspective. Rectangular architectural frames and blocks give the impression of distance, and lead the viewer's eye to the main focus of the painting...receding floor tiles also help to create this impression of perspective.

"As well as his mastery of perspective, De Hooch was skilled in the portrayal of natural light falling on a scene. His light is warm - more intense than Vermeer's - and his color range is richer, with fewer cool tones."

- From Kirsten Bradbury, "Essential History of Art"

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Happy Birthday Paul Klee

 Dream City, 1921

From the Met's website: Klee was born on December 18, 1879, in Münchenbuchsee, near Bern, Switzerland, the second child of Hans Klee, a German music teacher, and a Swiss mother. His training as a painter began in 1898 when he studied drawing and painting in Munich for three years.

Red and White Domes, 1914

By 1911, he had returned to Munich, where he became involved with the German Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), founded by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. Klee and Kandinsky became lifelong friends, and the support of the older painter provided much-needed encouragement.

 A Young Lady's Adventure, 1921

Until then, Klee had worked in relative isolation, experimenting with various styles and media, such as making caricatures and Symbolist drawings, and later producing small works on paper mainly in black and white. His work was also influenced by the Cubism of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, and the abstract translucent color planes of Robert Delaunay.

Hammamet with Its Mosque, 1914

Klee's artistic training, which began in 1898, can be said to have lasted until 1914, when he visited Tunisia. The light of North Africa aroused in him a sense of color, and there Klee made his now-famous statement: "Color and I are one. I am a painter."

 Twittering Machine

In January 1921, at the invitation of architect Walter Gropius, its founding director, Klee began teaching at the Bauhaus. When the school moved from Weimar to Dessau four years later, Klee and his wife shared a Gropius-designed faculty house with the Kandinskys.

Ventriloquist and Crier in the Moor, 1923

 During the decade Klee spent at the Bauhaus, he created some of his most endearing art works, including The Twittering Machine, Dance You Monster to My Sweet Song, and Highroads and Byroads. It is to the school's credit that they supported his work, since the philosophy of the place was to try and fit everything into a square box. The more precise the musical and mathematical formulas he devised for his work, the more the work itself took off in bizarre and unpredictable directions.
Klee at the Bauhaus:

In the late 30's, as the world raced toward war and Klee had to seek refuge from the Nazis by fleeing to Switzerland, his work, always visionary, took on tragic overtones. He was dying of scleroderma, a devastating disease which turned his skin into a kind of armor.

 Burdened Children, 1930

In the year and a half remaining to him--he died in June 1940 as Western Europe was being engulfed in war-- "he crowded in an amazingly copious and varied output, as if he were collecting all his baggage for the great voyage: more than 1,650 paintings, drawings and colored works all told. Many of them are full of premonitions, of his fate and the fate of the world." Robert Wernick

 In this work, he covered a sheet of newspaper with black gouache on which he then drew the outlines of the figure and of the crescent moon with a thick, soft graphite pencil. Then he filled in these forms with a thin white wash. It is the black ground peeking through the white pigment that gives this creature its ghostly shimmer.

 In spite of his success during his lifetime, Klee was generally regarded as a peripheral artist. It was only after his death that he began to receive critical acclaim. A careful look shows how enormous his influence has been in every "school" of art. But he never founded a school; his vision was too unique.

  "Klee's career was a search for the symbols and metaphors that would make this belief visible. More than any other painter outside the Surrealist movement (with which his work had many affinities - its interest in dreams, in primitive art, in myth, and cultural incongruity), he refused to draw hard distinctions between art and writing. Indeed, many of his paintings are a form of writing: they pullulate with signs, arrows, floating letters, misplaced directions, commas, and clefs; their code for any object, from the veins of a leaf to the grid pattern of Tunisian irrigation ditches, makes no attempt at sensuous description, but instead declares itself to be a purely mental image, a hieroglyph existing in emblematic space." -

From Robert Hughes, "The Shock of the New"

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Women in the arts. NCWA shows for December 2014

The Northern California Women's Caucus for Art (NCWCA) is a networking organization for women in the arts.  They offer exciting events and programs: member forums, exhibitions, art-making, art activism and community. Dues are $65 a year but the exposure to other women artists and the opportunity to network is priceless. 

Mary K. Shisler in Berkeley Artisan's Holiday Open Studios, 2547-8th St, Berkeley, Saturday and Sunday, December 13,14, 20, 21, 2014 11am -6 pm and some hours before Xmas.

Sandra Yagi in "Tales of the Uncanny" group show, Bash Contemporary, 210 Golden Gate Ave, San Francisco, Nov 14 - Dec 31.

Carol Ladewig in 2014 Invitational gorup show at Axis Gallery, 625 S St, Sacramento, Dec 5-28. Also in Triton Museum of Art Salon group show, 1505 Warburton Ave, Santa Clara, Dec 6- Feb 8.

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer." ~ Albert Camus

Marian Yap in group show "Seasons of Life,"  Peninsula Art Institute Gallery, 1777 California Dr, Burlingame, Nov 20, 2014 - Jan 4, 2015.

Elaine Jason in "Then and Now" group show, OXS Gallery, Nevada Arts Council, 716 N Carson St, Carson City, NV, Nov 10, 2014 - Jan 23, 2015.

Judy Shintani in UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health "Serenity Exhibition, Artist Judy Shintani invites visitors to Floor 4 to use intuition to find their appropriate nature shield. “The plants were intuitively gathered to adorn and infuse the shields with qualities of healing, perception, power, transformation, and beauty,” she explains. The feminine shaped shields honor the strength and serenity women carry for their family, community, and the planet. 2356 Sutter St, Oct 16, 2014 - Jan 13, 2015.

Maxine Olson's works at The Kingsburg Historical Park honoring individuals for contributions to the town and its history, 2321 Sierra St, Kingsburg, CA.

Miwako Nishizawa in Berkeley Civic Center Art Exhibition at the Martin Luther King Jr Civic Center, 2180 MIlvia Street, Berkeley, June 16, 2014 through end of May, 2015.

all images @the artist

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Monday, December 15, 2014

Party On! The BAM/PFA celebrates their last show at the old concrete building.

I have trudged up the hill to this concrete block of a building more times than I care to remember. Figuring out the Berkeley bus system has been a challenge, not helped by the usual surly bus driver or Berkeley's confusing bus schedules.

Some people like the space. I hate it - it's cold, difficult to mount shows in with gray walls that suck the life out of art and acoustics that allow the least whisper to boomerang around the hollow circle until your ears ring.

But the shows have been intriguing, interesting and even when a failure, more of a success than many a more "successful" but boring show in a mainstream museum or gallery.

I won't miss the old concrete barn and am looking forward to the party of all parties to end her tenure on the right note:

John King weighs in on the museum, pointing out (rightly) that the huge concrete space dwarfed many shows (i.e. Whistler's exquisite prints of Venice and London):


I think we may need a boat, sooner or later

@Nancy Ewart. From the Boat series. 2012/13

Friday, December 12, 2014

The worst time to be an artist?

Happy birthday to Edvard Munch

Happy birthday to Edvard Munch, an undisputed master of the print medium - as well as that more famous poster that most of us had on our walls at one time or another. Born on this day in 1863

 Munch was born in Norway on December 12, 1863. He was the son of a priest, and lter wrote “My father was temperamentally nervous and obsessively religious—to the point of psychoneurosis. From him I inherited the seeds of madness. The angels of fear, sorrow, and death stood by my side since the day I was born.”

The Scream is Munch's most famous work and one of the most recognizable paintings in all art. It has been widely interpreted as representing the universal anxiety of modern man.

Painted with broad bands of garish color and highly simplified forms, and employing a high viewpoint, the agonized figure is reduced to a garbed skull in the throes of an emotional crisis.
Go beyond the scream:

Saturday, December 6, 2014

'Picturing Mary'

Long before Madonna became the icon of pop culture. the original Madonna was the focus of worship for millions of Christians for over 2000 years. That would be the original Mary, the mother of Jesus.

“Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea,” a new exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) , takes a look at the representation of the Virgin Mary in Renaissance and Baroque Europe. This landmark exhibition brings together more than 60 Renaissance- and Baroque-era masterworks from the Vatican Museums, Uffizi Gallery, and other museums, churches, and private collections in Europe and the United States. Presenting the multi-faceted images of Mary is part of the NMWA's ongoing program of major historical loan exhibitions that examine humanist themes related to womankind.

More at:
Elisabetta Sirani, Virgin and Child (detail), 1663; Gift of Wallace and Wilhel - See more at:

Friday, December 5, 2014

Seurat: December 2, 1859 - March 21, 1891

Georges-Pierre Seurat (2 December 1859 – 29 March 1891) was a French Post-Impressionist painter and draftsman. His large work "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte "(1884–1886), his most famous painting, altered the direction of modern art by initiating Neo-impressionism, and is one of the icons of 19th century painting.

Seurat was looking for "something new, an art entirely my own." By studying the science and aesthetics of perception, light, and color, he attempted systematically to re-create nature's luminosity. In the technique he preferred to call "divisionism," Seurat juxtaposed touches of unmixed color for "optical" mixing by the viewer's retina. 

 Seated Bather, 1883

After a year of military service at Brest, Seurat exhibited his drawing Aman-Jean at the official Salon in 1883. Panels from his painting Bathing at Asnieres were refused by the Salon the next year, so Seurat and several other artists founded the Societe des Artistes Independants. 

 His famous canvas Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grande Jatte was the centerpiece of an exhibition in 1886. By then Seurat was spending his winters in Paris, drawing and producing one large painting each year, and his summers on France's northern coast

The Models, 1887-1888

Peasant Woman Seated in the Grass, 1882-1883

The Eiffel Tower, 1889

 In his short life Seurat produced seven monumental paintings, 60 smaller ones, drawings, and sketchbooks. He kept his private life very secret, and not until his sudden death in Paris on March 29, 1891, did his friends learn of his mistress, who was the model for his painting Young Woman Holding a Powder Puff.

This is a portrait of Madeline Knoblock, Seurat's mistress. Sge brings to mind the circus and carnival people and the music-hall artistes Seurat was seeing so much of at the time (he often went to the Gaite Rochechouart and the Eden Concert). Perhaps Seurat wanted to show us his lovermin her habitual surroundings- corseted like a traveling player, dressed in organdy, with heavy bracelets and a pink hair-ribbon of the kind we see attached to the round mirror on that little rickety- looking table.

Poplars. Conté crayon on Michallet paper

Seurat died in Paris in his parents home on March 21 1891. He was only 31. His last ambitious work, The Circus, was left unfinished at the time of his death.

"But Seurat was a complete artist at twenty-five when be painted the Grande Jatte. What is remarkable, beside the perfection of this enormously complex work, is the historical accomplishment. It resolved a crisis in painting and opened the way to new possibilities.
If one can isolate a single major influence on the art of the important younger painters in Paris in the later '80s, it is the work of Seurat; Van Gogh, Gauguin and Lautrec were all affected by it. - From Meyer Schapiro, "Modern Art"

 The Death of Seurat:

The Drawings:

Seurat and Neo-Impressionism:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Giving Tuesday

Following Black Friday and Cyber Monday is the new international day of giving dubbed #GivingTuesday. On Dec. 2, holiday shoppers around the world will focus on making gifts to support charities and non-profits.

Art suggestions include museum membership or a gift shop Item. Support your local museum or one near your gift recipient with a membership or gift shop purchase. Browse your favorite museum's website for gift ideas, such as a membership card or visit a local art gallery to buy that special gift for that special someone. Support your local artists and a small local gallery - more here:

More about Giving Tuesday at:

One of my favorite places in SF: Creativity Explored @creativityxplrd
In the words of CE artist John Patrick McKenzie, giving makes you feel good #GivingTuesday ...

Saturday, November 29, 2014

This Fall's Must See Exhibits

I've been somewhat busy the last few months - in case you missed these, here are some of the art exhibits that I've covered.

Alcatraz— @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz. Through April 26, 2015
 @Large: AiWeiwei on Alcatraz (pronounced “At Large”) is an exhibition of seven new installations in which freedom is a central theme. It has been the art news of the day.

de Young—Keith Haring: The Political Line: Haring started out as a graffiti artist, plastering NY’s subways with cute, jazzy cartoon figures. His bold graphic works were a spring board to success in the fevered NY art world of the 80's. His distinctive style easily lent itself to his numerous commercial ventures - t-shirts, cups, posters and the like. The show explores his political work in the context of the AIDS epidemic. Through Feb. 16, 2015

 Asian Art Museum—Tetsuya Ishida. This is the first U.S. exhibition of paintings by the Japanese artist, who died in 2005 (a possible suicide.) Ishida blended dreamlike realities with everyday life and melancholy isolation with bizarre wit, producing a body of work that triggers strong emotions but resists easy explanation.

The eight remarkable paintings exhibit the range of Ishida’s themes, including the pressures of academic and office life, social dislocation, the dulling effects of mechanization and the search for identity. Through Feb. 22, 2015

Legion of Honor—Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House
 Have you ever dreamed of living in a sumptuous English country estate, being served tea by a liveried footman, going to grand balls and sleeping in 4-poster beds, covered with rare Chinese silk? The current exhibit at the Legion of Honor, "Houghton Hall; Portrait of an English Country House" should satisfy even the most avid lover of Downton Abbey and of a particular kind of very upper class, very elite English life style.

 Houghton Hall brings to San Francisco a wonderful array of objects from one of Britain’s great country houses. Houghton House was built by Sir Robert Walpole, between 1722 and 1735, and is considered the finest Palladian house in England. All that is missing is his glorious collection of old master paintings (sold off to pay his and his heir's debts). Through Jan. 18, 2015

I would also add "Roads of Arabia." Saudi Arabia's very recent exploration of the peninsula's ancient past has yielded up its some of fascinating pre-Islamic history.