Tuesday, September 30, 2014

James Dean. Still Mad About the Boy?

James Dean wasn't a visual artist but he was the icon of disaffected youth for a whole generation. He died today in 1955, and his films are still making money.

 James Dean in a still from Giant. 1955

 The other two roles that defined his stardom were as loner Cal Trask in East of Eden (1955), and as the surly ranch hand, Jett Rink, in Giant (1956).

Dean's enduring fame and popularity rests on his performances in only these three films, all leading roles. His premature death in a car crash cemented his legendary status

Years after the making of the movie, teenagers are still trying for the cool that was James Dean, the poster boy for the tortured netherworld between child and adult.

From Time Magazine: What Price Celebrity

Germaine Greer was "Mad about the Boy "

From the lack of views and comments, I would say that most are not "mad about the boy," if they even know who he was. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Tintoretto, born today in 1518

Jacopo Robusti (September 29, 1518 - May 31, 1594) was born in 1519, the son of a wool dyer; it is from his father's profession that he derived his nickname Tintoretto (little dyer). The tale, probably aprophycal, is that he studied for a few days in Titian's studio, until the old master, seeming his talent, kicked him out.

Early biographers report that Tintoretto worked with a variety of artisans, from muralists to furniture painters, to learn his craft. Although he may also have apprenticed in the shop of a second-tier painter, he was essentially self-taught as an artist. How he got from his beginnings as an artist in the 1540's to his first masterpiece in 1548 is not really known. The early records have been lost, yet the original sources emphasize his intelligence and relentless determination.

Giorgio Vasari, the Florentine artist and writer, disliked Tintoretto's work, yet nevertheless proclaimed he had "the most prodigious brain ever seen in the art of painting." Pietro Aretino, the poet and chief arbiter of taste in Venice, said he was brilliant and headstrong. Carlo Ridolfi, Tintoretto's main biographer, stated that his mind was "filled to the brim with countless ideas" and that "he was always thinking of ways to make himself known as the most daring painter in the world."

John Ruskin during his first visit to Venice wrote: "I never was so utterly crushed to the earth before any human intellect as I was today before Tintoret. Just be so good as to take my list of painters, and put him in the school of Art at the top, top, top of everything, with a great big black line to stop him off from everybody.... As for painting, I think I didn't know what it meant till today."

Christ Washing the Feet of His Disciples. 1547
Tintoretto combined originality with superb technical skills. He was also not afraid to paint big. Only in Venice can one see the full scope of his achievement - for instance, the series of paintings he made for the confraternity of the Scuola di San Rocco between 1565 and 1588. Covering the walls and ceilings of two floors of a large building, the paintings are simply an astonishing tribute to his talent and his prodigious imagination. Although much ot Tintoretto's murals have been lost or destroyed, enough remains for visitors to Venice to come away with the impression that he painted every church and public building in the city.

Two of his early works, now in the Venetian Academy, are Adam and Eve and the Death of Abel, both noble works of high mastery, which leave us in no doubt that Tintoretto was by this time a consummate painter - one of the few who have attained to the highest eminence in the absence of any formal training.

Christ's Baptism.
Several characteristics of Tintoretto's painting technique stand out. One is the relative simplicity of layering in the application of successive strata of paint. A Renaissance painting is built of many layers of different hues that combine to create the desired colors and effects. This is especially true in the paintings of Titian and the other Venetian artists who pioneered the technical and pictorial capacities of oil, a comparatively new medium. Painting slowly over many work sessions, Titian would lay down a series of translucent glazes on his pictures, each layer adding to and blending with the pigments already applied.

Not Tintoretto. He devised a new method that entailed a minimum of layering. Working on top of a substratum of dark pigment, he would, with some exceptions, first paint a middle value of the color of an area of the picture; then he would add broad swaths of brighter or darker intensities of that color to indicate passages in light or shade; finally he would apply the highlights and shadows in large and bold strokes of the brush. (Butterfield, Andrew (2007-04-26). "Brush with Genius". New York Review of Books (NYREV, Inc.) 54 (7). Retrieved 2007-04-18.)

The Origin of the Milky Way. 1570

A comparison of Tintoretto's final The Last Supper with Leonardo da Vinci's treatment of the same subject provides an instructive demonstration of how artistic styles evolved over the course of the Renaissance. Leonardo's is all classical repose. The disciples radiate away from Christ in almost-mathematical symmetry. In the hands of Tintoretto, the same event becomes dramatic, as the human figures are joined by angels. A servant is foregrounded, perhaps in reference to the Gospel of John 13:14-16. In the restless dynamism of his composition, his dramatic use of light, and his emphatic perspective effects, Tintoretto seems a baroque artist ahead of his time.For his phenomenal energy in painting he was termed Il Furioso but for the timeless appeal of his work, he should be termed an Immortal of Art.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Robert Henri at the SJMA, Dickerman Prints, Robert Koch Gallery & lectures at Treasure Island

Tam Gan, 1914

The Failure of Sylvester, 1914

The Beach Hat, 1914

The Laundress

In my generation of art students, Robert Henri's “The Art Spirit,” was required reading. Henri was a leading member of the Ashcan School and one of the most influential artists and teachers in American art of the early 20th century. His philosophical and practical musings were collected by former pupil Margery Ryerson and published as "The Art Spirit" (1923), a book that remained in print for several decades. The spirit of his ideas are still important to artists today:

"It is harder to see than it is to express. The whole value of art rests in the artist's ability to see well into what is before him."
"Art cannot be separated from life. It is the expression of the greatest need of which life is capable, and we value art not because of the skilled product, but because of its revelation of a life's experience."
"Paint what you feel. Paint what you see. Paint what is real to you."
"Different men are moved or left cold by lines according to the difference in their natures. What moves you is beautiful to you."
"There is only one reason for art in America, and that is that the people of America learn the means of expressing themselves in their own time, and their own land."

A dozen of Henri’s oil paintings from his 1914 visit to California are on display at the San Jose Museum of Art. Portraits of everyday working people, including Indians, African Americans and newly arrived immigrants from China and Mexico, are on exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Art. “Robert Henri’s California Portraits: Realism, Race and Region, 1914-1925” runs through Jan. 18 and gives an artist’s view of an anti-immigrant period in California history marked by exclusionary laws and discriminatory legislation. The pieces came to San Jose from the Laguna Art Museum.

Henri considered himself a progressive and celebrated California's increasing diversity but modern eyes may see differently. Pretty Chinese girls and almost stock cartoon portraits of a young African-American boy spell racist to us today; but when looking at his art, as with any artist, it's important to consider the time and place as well as the the artist's intent.

Robert Henri’s California Portraits: Realism, Race and Region, 1914-1925: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, until 8 p.m. third Thursdays. Through Jan. 18. $5-$8; 6 and under free. San Jose Museum of Art, 110 S. Market St. www.sanjosemuseumofart.org. (images courtesy of the SJMA)

More weekend picks at: http://www.examiner.com/article/san-jose-museum-of-art-dickerman-prints-koch-gallery-treasure-island-lecture

Monday, September 22, 2014

Mama mia - Sophia Loren is 80!

Sophia Loren turned 80 on Saturday -- a landmark birthday feted across Italy with celebrations of the beauty and talent of the country's revered cinema icon.

She just released a memoir titled "Yesterday, today and tomorrow." It is full of anecdotes detailing, for example, how enamoured Cary Grant was of her, and how she once resisted Marlon Brando's amorous advances by hissing at him like an angry cat.

The illegitimate daughter of an actress, Loren is adored in her homeland for that kind of feistiness -- as well as for her triumph over extremely humble origins, her acting talent and for her voluptuous curves.

Born on Sept. 20, 1934, to an unwed mother from a poor family in pre-war Italy, her early life was a far cry from the movie diva she was destined to become.

After barely surviving the devastation that befell her town during WWII (she still has a scar on her chin from the bombings), Sophia tapped her real-life experiences to play a young widow struggling to save her child in war-torn Italy in Vittorio De Sica's 1960 film Two Women.

The film became an international success, and earned Loren an Oscar for her work – the first for Best Actress for a non-English-speaking role.

 "Everything you see I owe to spaghetti." (If only spaghetti looked so good on the rest of us).

The first movie I saw Sophia in was "Boy on a Dolphin." I was a very naive teenager but when she rose from the waves with that wet dress clinging to every curve, I knew that Aphrodite had reincarnated and was now among us.

Only Sophia could take a role where she went from prostitute to wife and imbue it with humor, sexuality and pathos. She brought the same qualities to every role that she played and in even the cheesiest parts, there was a gleam in those eyes that said "I know what I am doing here. Do you?" 

Buon compleanno Sophia!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Kandinsky on the Spiritual Element in Art and the Three Responsibilities of Artists

The greatest meditation on how art serves the soul came more than a century earlier, in 1910, when legendary Russian painter and art theorist Wassily Kandinsky published Concerning the Spiritual in Art (free download; public library) — an exploration of the deepest and most authentic motives for making art, the “internal necessity” that impels artists to create as a spiritual impulse and audiences to admire art as a spiritual hunger.

 Kandinsky’s words, penned in the period between the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the consumer society, ring with remarkable poignancy today. He begins by considering art as a spiritual antidote to the values of materialism and introduces the notion of “stimmung,” an almost untranslatable concept best explained as the essential spirit of nature, echoing Tolstoy’s notion of emotional infectiousness as the true measure of art.

 "There is no “must” in art, because art is free."

 "The artist is not born to a life of pleasure. He must not live idle; he has a hard work to perform, and one which often proves a cross to be borne. He must realize that his every deed, feeling, and thought are raw but sure material from which his work is to arise, that he is free in art but not in life."

 "The artist has a triple responsibility to the non-artists: (1) He must repay the talent which he has; (2) his deeds, feelings, and thoughts, as those of every man, create a spiritual atmosphere which is either pure or poisonous. (3) These deeds and thoughts are materials for his creations, which themselves exercise influence on the spiritual atmosphere."

The complete essay at: http://www.brainpickings.org/

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Weekend Roundup: Anderson Collection, Richmond Art Center, Mythos Gallery, Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz

 Richard Diebenkorn, Girl at the beach, 1957

The Anderson Collection now open to the public. David Smith sculpture, Adolph Gotlieb and Franz Kline are thoughtfully paired in this portion of the museum. One hundred and twenty one works from one of the most comprehensive collection in private hands of post -war American art has now been gifted to Stanford and is now installed in its own museum on the Stanford campus.

Richmond Art Center: Closely Considered – Diebenkorn in Berkeley

Featuring intimate works on paper by Richard Diebenkorn which were created during his Berkeley years (1953 – 1966), several of which will be shown publicly for the first time. Also included will be drawings by other Bay Area Figurative movement artists and those closest to Diebenkorn including David Park, Elmer Bischoff, Frank Lobdell, Nathan Oliveira, James Weeks and Joan Brown. An exhibition catalog and public programs will provide a background on the historic role that the Art Center played in the rise of the Bay Area Figurative movement, a unique perspective into the ways in which Diebenkorn’s work lives on in local, private collections and still resonates in the contemporary art world today.

Mythos Gallery: Beauty Fierce as Stars II, Transcendent Women Painters 1930s and Beyond : This exhibit, the second in a series, continues to display the work of strong women painters, looking back, beginning in the 1930s, highlighting women who influenced Bay Area art movements of the past and in the ensuing years.  This time we are also featuring painters, who we feel had an unique vision, not necessarily following the abstract expressionist trends of the period ( which was our focus in the last women's show). We are including painters from following generations, whose work is infused with an awareness of the past and who continue on with their powerful creations.

Featured Painters
Ariel, Ruth Asawa, Adelie Landis Bischoff, Katherine Barieau, Frances Dunham Catlett,  Anna W. Edwards, June Felter, Hildegarde Haas, Colleen Maloney, Jennifer Pochinski, Barbara Scales, Louise Smith, and Edith Park Truesdell. 

http://www.mythosfirehouse.com/ September 12 - October 18, 2014

 “@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz” does not open until Sept. 27 but two of the seven pieces are already installed. One is a metal sculpture that can only be seen through a broken window pane of the guard gallery. The other is a series of portraits made of 1.3 million Legos.  http://blog.sfgate.com/artsandnot/2014/09/18/first-look-at-ai-weiwei-on-alcatraz/#26692101=5

Oakland Museum of California: Fertile Ground: Art and Community in California

An expansive exhibition of art and ephemera drawn from the collections of both museums and other archives, the show explores four particularly creative periods in Northern California art and the convergence of personalities and social circumstances that spurred them: the 1930s era of Rivera and public art, the existential post-World War II period at the California School of Fine Arts, UC Davis during the freewheeling ’60s and ’70s, and the up-from-the-street Mission District scene of the ’90s. http://www.museumca.org/

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

'David Park, Richard Diebenkorn, Nathan Oliveira, Manuel Neri: Figures and Landscapes' at John Berggruen

I haven't begun to sort things out yet as it's been a hyper busy couple of weeks.  I have been going to as many galleries as I could.  But for me, the standout gallery show was the exhibit of iconic Bay Area figurative painters at the John Berggruen Gallery.

More at: http://www.examiner.com/article/david-park-richard-diebenkorn-nathan-oliveira-manuel-neri-at-john-berggruen

Sunday, September 14, 2014

'Gorgeous' closing at the Asian Art Museum

SFMOMA is closed for renovation but continues to be present in the Bay Area's art world. Last week, they, in collaboration with the Asian Art Museum opened "Gorgeous," the museum equivalent of a summer movie. "Gorgeous" works like an arranged marriage, which is to say, sort of, kind of and not at all.

The show pairs vulgar, crass and relentlessly commercial modern art with the elegant, spiritual and timelessly beautiful art of Asia. The show's principal curators - Forrest McGill and Alison Harding of the Asian must have raided the Oxford English Dictionary to fish out every synonym, antonym or association that the word "gorgeous" would evoke.

More at: http://www.examiner.com/article/gorgeous-at-the-asian-art-museum

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The poetry of Parmigianino's 'Schiava Turca' at the Legion

"Schiava Turca” (“Turkish Slave”) arrived at the Legion of Honor, cloaked in mystery. A small painting, set within an elaborate gold frame, the lady is winsome and coy, from her stripped turban, heavily rouged cheeks and delicately arched eyebrows to the tips of her graceful fingertips. On loan from the Galleria Nazionale di Parma, it was painted between 1531 and 1534 in Parma.

More at: http://www.examiner.com/article/the-poetry-of-parmigianino-s-schiava-turca-at-the-legion

Caturday: Cat Investigates Lemon Slice, Because Apparently Sour Things Are Suspicious

Lemons seem pretty innocuous in the scheme of the larger universe, but maybe not to this suspicious cat.

In the video -- posted in 2012 by YouTube user 220hime, but recently surfaced by Tastefully Offensive -- our feline friend Hime paws and prods a lemon like a furry lil' detective.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tango in the hood from People in Plazas

HDM/SF Switch Tango presents Switch Tango Milonga as part of People in Plazas
at the new McCoppin Hub: 16 Valencia Street, San Francisco

Thursday, September 11, 7-10pm FREE

SF Switch Tango provides a night of tango 21st century-style: everyone both leads and follows, with DJ'd tango music that is an inspiring mix of classic, contemporary, and electronica.

7pm:  LESSON taught gender-neutral by SF Switch Tango's Ali Woolwich provides all some chewy moves in leading, following and transitions to get you ready to dance at a milonga to remember.

8pm:  DANCE Switch Tango Milonga, with Mission:Fusion/Tango Atipico DJ Jamie Triplett.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Picks for the week of September 8. Coastal Arts League and Museum and more

Coastal Arts League and Museum in Half Moon Bay. The Peninsula Chapter of Women's Caucus for Art is presenting a show around the theme of water, a theme that resonates more strongly the longer the drought continues.

Some of the most beautiful work is by Alysanne McGaffey who was a part of the Bay Area Figurative Movement of the late 1950s and early 60s, while studying at the San Francisco Art Institute. Like many artists, she was forced out of S.F. but moved down to Half Moon Bay and continues to create, although well into her 80's.

She continues to teach art and painting; for the last several decades focusing on watercolor. She has had numerous solo and group exhibitions throughout her career, is heavily involved in various art organizations and holding offices in several.

In her last show in SF, at the Lost Art Salon, the artist herself curated a group of watercolors depicting a lifelong devotion to the Pacific Ocean and its remarkable vistas.  McGaffey's roots in the Bay Area Figurative Movement are still palpable - in palette, stroke, and vibrancy; reminding us of the inherent similarities between the human figure and its environment. With titles such as "Sonoma Coast" and "Rockaway Beach", one can trace McGaffey's Bay Area route of inspiration.  Its effects are translated into vignettes of a coastal life, and ultimately, a life lead in pursuit of natural beauty.

Through October 12, 2014

more at: http://www.examiner.com/article/picks-for-the-week-of-september-8-coastal-arts-league-and-museum-and-more

Sunday, September 7, 2014

September: Harvesting Grapes

  September: Harvesting Grapes an illuminated page from the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry by the Limbourg Brothers

Thursday, September 4, 2014

September at the Asian Art Museum

Go just to check out the Yahama motorcycle. I had a wonderful conversation with one of the ladies behind the desk who was a motorcycle expert. I think that she knew every single detail about the machine which I hadn't noticed until my 2nd or 3rd visit.

Plus a program on Bernice Bing later this month. Fantastic.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014


September blowe soft, Till fruite be in loft. Forgotten, month past, Doe now at the last. —T. Tusser (image from the Getty).

Threshing grain in September (BL Lansdowne 383 f.7). In Old English this month is called Hærfestmonað or Haligmonað. (https://twitter.com/ClerkofOxford)

 Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry Septembre
  Sep 1
Calendar leaf for September, Jean Bourdichon, Hours of Louis XII, Lewis E M 11:22

Monday, September 1, 2014

When Labor Day Meant Something

 Pullman strikers outside Arcade Building

Remembering the radical past of a day now devoted to picnics and back-to-school sales      .......
Labor Day, though, was meant to honor not just the individual worker, but what workers accomplish together through activism and organizing. Indeed, Labor Day in the 1880s, its first decade, was in many cities more like a general strike—often with the waving red flag of socialism and radical speakers critiquing capitalism—than a leisurely day off. So to really talk about this holiday, we have to talk about those-which-must-not-be-named: unions and the labor movement.


The Bloody Origin Of Labor Day

A labor movement in Chicago in 1894 left 30 Pullman workers dead, and later spurred Congress and President Grover Cleveland to pass a bill creating Labor Day. But the history of this holiday is rarely taught in schools, and there are few full-time labor journalists to write about working class communities. ...