Saturday, September 29, 2018

Caravaggio. Born this day in 1571

His life was tempestuous and his art influenced artists for centuries. Born Michelangelo Amrisi in Milan when it was part of the Spanish Empire he trained there before moving to Rome in his 20's, when Rome was the epicenter of art in Italy and indeed, in Europe at the time. 

In Rome, he developed a considerable name as an artist, and as a violent, touchy and provocative man. A brawl led to a death sentence for murder and forced him to flee to Naples. He killed a man in a bungled castration attempt. A documentary by Andrew Graham-Dixon, one of the world's leading art historians disclosed that the killing followed a dispute between the two over Fillide Melandroni, a female prostitute, whose services both men sought.

In Naples, he again established himself as one of the most prominent Italian painters of his generation. He traveled in 1607 to Malta and on to Sicily, and pursued a papal pardon for his sentence. In 1609 he returned to Naples, where he was involved in a violent clash; his face was disfigured and rumors of his death circulated. Questions about his mental state arose from his erratic and bizarre behavior. He died in 1610 under uncertain circumstances while on his way from Naples to Rome. Reports stated that he died of a fever, but suggestions have been made that he was murdered or that he died of lead poisoning. He was only 38 when he died.

Questions about his sexuality have been asked since he first started painting his disturbing works of young street boys, obviously for sale to the rough trade of Baroque Rome. As Jonathan Jones wrote in his article in the Guardian," In my mind, it is the risk of Caravaggio's sexual passion for male flesh that gives his art its incomparable kick of reality; Caravaggio's paintings go way beyond "realism", the 19th-century art movement that tried to show the world as it truly is." 

Caravaggio's innovative treatment of the subject in ‘The Supper at Emmaus’ makes it one of his most powerful works. Learn more about this painting and the artist's tumultuous life with our lunchtime talk here: 

On his lust, talent and power: Caravaggio's sexuality is at the heart of his genius. His paintings are acts of defiance in an age when the wrong kind of love could get you executed. This fact has shaped perceptions of his art for centuries. He was virtually forgotten in the respectable Victorian age, when his florid young men were just too much for corseted psyches to take, then rediscovered in the 20th century. . . . 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Eritrean American artist Ficre Ghebreyesus at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)

The Museum of the African Diaspora presents the first museum showing and first west coast exhibition of the paintings of Eritrean American artist Ficre Ghebreyesus (1962-2012), who fled conflict in his country and made his way to the United States as a political refugee. City with a River Running Through brings together more than a dozen of his finest works, with a particular focus on Ghebreyesus’ abstractly rendered and vivid painted landscapes, replete with water imagery and aquatic life.

Visitors first encounter one of Ghebreyesus’ most impressive paintings and the exhibition’s namesake, City with a River Running Through upon entering the exhibition. This massive painting, divided into four panels, is over 18 feet long and is a cartographical tour-de-force, depicting, from multiple perspectives, a cityscape made up of an abstract patchwork of colors, patterns, and shapes.

Many of the paintings on display are abstracts, studies of geometric color that highlight the artist’s delight in the material qualities of acrylic paint on canvas. Other works are more figurative, seeming to hint at dreamlike fables: a Coptic angel swims with a school of fish; a nude woman stands in front of a bottle tree while a Yoruba rider and horse look on; a young man reads a book as he walks into a tangle of corals and seaweed. In all of these evocative, and often surreal, landscapes, the viewer senses a myriad of influences on Ghebreyesus’ work from the craft markets of Eritrea to the musical polyrhythms of the Black diaspora. This cultural layering speaks directly to the forces that shaped the artist’s life.

Along with his work on behalf of his country and its people after arriving in the United States, Ficre Ghebreyesus studied painting at the Art Students’ League and printmaking at the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop, both in New York City. He later studied at Yale University, where he earned his MFA in 2002 and was awarded the Carol Schlossberg Prize for Excellence in Painting at graduation. Ghebreyesus made his life in New Haven for almost thirty years, where he lived with his wife Elizabeth Alexander and their sons Solomon and Simon. From 1992-2008, he was executive chef and co-owner with his brothers of the immensely popular Caffé Adulis that brought creative Eritrean cuisine to New Haven and New York City. In the last years of his life, he dedicated his work time solely to his art. He died unexpectedly in April 2012.

Ficre Ghebreyesus: City with a River Running Through is curated by MoAD Director of Exhibitions & Curatorial Affairs Emily Kuhlmann and Lowery Stokes Sims, Curator Emerita for the Museum of Arts and Design (2007-2015); former Executive Director, President, and Adjunct Curator for the permanent collection at The Studio Museum in Harlem (2000-2007); and former curatorial staff at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1972-1999). This exhibition is made possible at MoAD with thanks to support given through the Afropolitan Ball 2018, including Dignity Health, Concepción and Irwin Federman, FivePoint, Gilead Sciences, Pacific Gas and Electric, Target and Verizon.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Paul Delvaux.September 23 1897 - July 20, 1994

September 23, 1897. Paul Delvaux (23 September 1897 - 20 July 1994) was a Belgian painter famous for his paintings of female nudes. He was influenced by the works of Giorgio de Chirico, and was also briefly associated with surrealism. In this image: Paul Delvaux, Les femmes devant la mer, Oil on canvas, 105.5 by 166.5 cm, Painted in 1943 © Paul Delvaux Foundation, Belgium. Photo: Courtesy of Blain|Di Donna and the Paul Delvaux Foundation, Belgium.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

RIP Marlene Aron

A San Francisco artist who friends described as loving, giving and a fervent supporter of the arts has been identified as the woman struck and killed by a truck in Bernal Heights last week.
Marlene Aron, 75, was walking at the intersection of Cortland Avenue and Ellsworth Street when a flatbed truck towing a trailer struck her at 2:49 p.m. Wednesday, police said. She died after being transported to the hospital.
Aron had spent the days leading up to her death hauling soil, mulch and lava rocks into Reclaimed Room, a San Francisco art gallery featuring projects crafted from recycled materials, for a joint exhibit titled “Reflections.”

It was one of dozens of exhibitions she contributed to in her lifetime, including collections at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art, the San Francisco Mission Cultural Center and De Galerie Den Haag in the Netherlands.
The exhibition’s opening reception went on as scheduled Friday night, but friends and family packed into the gallery and held each other, sharing memories of Aron while peering at her canvas work, layered with twigs, stones and leaves, hanging on the gallery walls and soil and rocks spread into a floor installation.
“Art was her whole life,” said Tom Wishing, Aron’s partner. “Sometimes she would go without eating or sleeping in order to support her friends and their art. She was a lover of art and a lover of nature.”
She shared a studio in the Code & Canvas art collective on Potrero Avenue and loved walking along the beach when she wasn’t creating art or teaching, Wishing said.
Aron, a peace activist, had lived in San Francisco for several decades after taking a years-long detour to Europe in the 1960s, where she became an expert on Vincent van Gogh. She most recently lectured Bay Area artists on Impressionism and female artists in the 1800s, years after lecturing at Penn State University and her alma mater, Youngstown State University in Ohio, he said.
Angel Gurgovits, the gallery curator for Reclaimed Room, said Aron was a prolific, lifelong artist and poet who found happiness in making art and hosting art lectures in local libraries.
Gurgovits said Aron spent Tuesday bent over the gallery’s polished floors, plunging her gloved hands into white buckets of soil and rocks, spreading soil in a semicircle and meticulously placing rocks throughout the bed of dirt. Gurgovits filmed Aron as she worked on the floor installation in silence.
She spent several seconds hovering over rocks she placed in the soil, a green scarf hanging from her neck, and pulling her shoulder-length blond hair behind her ears to get a better look.
“She had all this mulch, rose leaves and lava rocks, spreading it so thick with layers,” Gurgovits said. “She was quiet about it. Placing rocks down, making adjustments. It was like beautiful meditation.”
During brief breaks, Aron sipped on freshly brewed coffee. The cocoa bean hulls pressed into her pieces made her art smell like chocolate in the gallery, Gurgovits said.
“She had to have everything perfect, especially when it came to her art,” Wishing said. “It was an act of her relating to the materials and how the materials should relate to each other.”
In Aron’s artist statement for the exhibit, she said her art was about “building up of layers and stripping away of surface.”
“I create environments of reflection and contemplation. To instill a sense of quietude and balance in an otherwise noisy and turbulent world,” she wrote. “When I place a rock, draw on the wall, walk and breath and reflect, it is an act of communion with what is before me, what is within.”
On Friday night, Wishing read one her poems to the gallery packed with friends. In the opening line, Aron wrote, “I’m going to make my art, and that will be my protest.”
Wishing said the pair were just weeks away from embarking on a trip to Amsterdam, Germany and Paris. She planned to connect with old friends and dive into records for research at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
“I asked myself all the time, ‘How did I so lucky?’ She was kind, gentle and loving,” Wishing said. “She was one in a million.”
Wishing said Aron’s family has not yet scheduled a public memorial service.
Aron’s “Reflections” exhibition, shared with artist Marilynn Pardee, runs until Nov. 16 at Reclaimed Room, 701 Amador St., San Francisco.
Article from the SF Chronicle. 

Lauren Hernández is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: 
Twitter: @LaurenPorFavor
Images of her art and artists statement:

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Hans Baldung Grien. Gifted artist with an unknown birthdate

Hans Baldung Grien. Gifted artist with an unknown birthdate

A masterpiece of German chiaroscuro, this woodcut is one of Hans Baldung Grien's best known prints, produced soon after his move to Strasbourg from Nuremberg, where he had worked as a journeyman with Albrecht Dürer from about 1503 to 1507. Although Baldung was not the inventor of the chiaroscuro woodcut—the credit for this must go to Hans Burgkmair—he was among the very earliest and most effective practitioners of the medium.

The tone block for this woodcut is sometimes printed in an orange-brown, casting a hellish glow onto the scene; here the use of a gray tone block creates an atmosphere of nocturnal gloom from which the three witches emerge, gathered around the steaming cauldron of "flying unguent." The flickering highlights, where the white of the paper is exposed, give three-dimensional presence to forms that would otherwise be engulfed by the dark setting and, by continuing the modeling of the dark hatching strokes, powerfully define the volumes of the monumental nudes, the blasted tree, and the solid coils of steam that support the witches as they ascend in the night air.
The interest in witchcraft in the German-speaking countries was especially strong at the beginning of the sixteenth century, heralded by the publication in 1487 of the Malleus Maleficarum (The Witches' Hammer) by Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, which was reprinted fourteen times before 1520.

Death and the Maiden

Self Portrait - looking rather irritated at the viewer

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Jean Arp. Born on this day in 1886

September 16, 1886. Jean Arp or Hans Arp (16 September 1886 - 7 June 1966) was a German-French sculptor, painter, poet, and abstract artist in other media such as torn and pasted paper. In this image: Cloud Shepherd, Jean Arp (1953), Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas.

The Art Story:

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Pre-Raphaelites at the Legion of Honor, SF

With selected pieces by the artists whom they admired and were inspired by. 

Through September 30. The Digital Story here...
 Images courtesy of the Legion and DeWitt Cheng. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Once Overlooked, Impressionist Painter Berthe Morisot gets her due

The French Impressionist painter Berthe Morisot has long been overshadowed in art history by male contemporaries such as Claude MonetEdgar Degas, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. But at long last, Morisot will take center stage at Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation this fall, with her first monographic exhibition in the US since 1987.

“We look forward to fleshing out the story of Impressionism represented in our holdings with the presentation of this groundbreaking exhibition,” said Thom Collins, the Barnes’s executive director and president, in a statement. “This international collaboration introduces important new scholarship that contributes to a more complete understanding of Impressionism and Berthe Morisot as a revolutionary figure within the movement.”

The traveling exhibition was co-organized by the Barnes Foundation, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Musées d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie in Paris, and the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, where it will debut in June before heading to the Barnes. The show was co-curated by the Barnes’s former chief curator Sylvie Patry, now the chief curator/deputy director for curatorial affairs and collections at the Musée d’Orsay and still a consulting curator in Philadelphia, and Nicole R. Myers, curator of European painting and sculpture at the Dallas Museum of Art.

More At: 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Happy Birthday to Robert Indiana

September 13, 1928. Robert Indiana (born Robert Clark; September 13, 1928 - May 19, 2018) was an American artist associated with the pop art movement. His "LOVE" print, first created for the Museum of Modern Art's Christmas card in 1965, was the basis for his 1970 Love sculpture and the widely distributed 1973 United States Postal Service "LOVE" stamp. In this image: Robert Indiana, "LOVE WALL" 1966 - 2006, Cor-ten steel, 144 x 144 x 48 inches, 366 x 366 x 122 cm. Installation view at Paul Kasmin Gallery 2018 © 2018 Morgan Art Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Christopher Stach.

The artist spent his childhood in and around Indianapolis. After military service, he attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago on the G.I. Bill, graduating in 1953 with a fellowship to study art in Edinburgh. Upon his return to the United States in 1954, he settled in New York City. In 1958 he changed his last name to Indiana, assuming what he called his “nom de brush” and acknowledging his roots in the American Midwest.
Indiana began a series of paintings in 1961 with a bold sense of graphic design and an affinity for symmetry and the dynamics of American advertising, Sometimes critical of consumer tendencies or political excesses in American culture, Indiana’s images combined stenciled text and numbers and hard-edged bright colour fields into compelling signs. His ever-popular Love design—first realized as a painting in 1966 and later created in many other media, including sculpture—became a Pop icon of the 1960s. On Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1973, the U.S. Postal Service issued Indiana’s design as a commemorative stamp. His work was also the subject of many exhibitions, including the retrospective “Robert Indiana: Beyond Love” (2013–14), held at the Whitney Museum of American Art. From 1978 until his death, Indiana lived and worked in Vinalhaven, Maine.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Green Thursday - SF museums free from 5 - 9 PM

Green Thursday Night, Sept. 13.  In honor of the Climate Change conference going on now...
From 5 to 9 p.m., all the museums — including S.F. Museum of Modern Art, SOMArts, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Museum of the African Diaspora, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, California Historical Society, Children's Creativity Museum and American Book Binders Museum, as well as various galleries and SPUR — are free to everyone (and offering special environmental activities and exhibitions), and there's an outdoor concert in Buena Vista Gardens.
From SF Gate

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Mozart's Requiem

For ALL who lost their lives on September 11 and ALL those who have lost their lives because of September 11.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Saturday, September 8, 2018

The First Mac

"Smartphones and laptops seem so ubiquitous to us all," writes experience designer Jinsoo An. "But in reality, the ubiquitousness we experience every day is based on a series of learned behaviors. Someone once said that, 'The only intuitive interface is the nipple. Everything else is learned.'" This, he points out, holds for the simple magazine as much as it does for the computer mouse — a device which certain generations use even more intuitively than they do anything involving the printed word. But, many computer users found the mouse, just a few years before it achieved ubiquity, hardly intuitive at all. "If you can point, you can use a Macintosh," insisted an early Apple ad for that innovative desktop computer.
If, convinced, you went on to buy a Mac of your own, and you received with it a printed manual including a section explaining the mechanics of mouse usage. "Every move you make with the mouse moves the pointer in exactly the same way," goes one of its sentences that would now seem comically unnecessary. "Usually the pointer is shaped like an arrow, but it changes shape depending on what you're doing."And for those who found the book too intimidating, Apple also included a cassette tape containing a production called "A Guided Tour of Macintosh," in which friendly voices explain such important subjects as "Mousing Around," "What's the Finder?," and "Why Do I Have Windows?" to a soundtrack by artists from the powerhouse new-age music label Wyndham Hill.
An's post includes the audio of this techno-educational journey, and at the top of the post you can watch it synchronized with video of the accompanying application that came onboard the computer. We can all have a good laugh at this sort of thing now that we've fully internalized once-confusing concepts like windows, the finder, and the mouse — but isn't it more startling, in this era when so few people even consider reading manuals that many companies seem to have stopped printing them entirely, to imagine anyone, before they dare use their new computer, popping in a tape?
Related Content:
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Maria Schalcken. Born on Sept 6 in 1680

Self-portrait of Maria Schalcken at her easel, 1680. She was Godfried Schalcken's sister and learned painting from him. Only a handful of her (very fine) works survive, so she is sharing his day. Only recently have her works been discovered; previously they ere all attributed to her brother - then somebody cleaned a canvas and there was her name.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Caspar David Friedrich. Born on this day in 1774

September 05, 1774. Caspar David Friedrich (5 September 1774 - 7 May 1840) was a 19th-century German Romantic landscape painter, generally considered the most important German artist of his generation. He is best known for his mid-period allegorical landscapes which typically feature contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning mists, barren trees or Gothic or megalithic ruins. In this image: Caspar David Friedrich (1774 - 1840), Giant Mountains, not dated, Oil on canvas, 73,5 x 102,5.

His vast, mysterious, atmospheric landscapes and seascapes proclaimed human helplessness against the forces of nature and did much to establish the idea of the Sublime as a central concern of Romanticism.

In 1835 he suffered a stroke from which he never recovered, and a second stroke in 1837 caused him almost complete paralysis. His reputation was in decline by the time of his death as the Romantic movement gave way to Realism. For a long time his work was forgotten; it was revived in the 20th century, and the artist’s reputation continued to strengthen into the 21st.

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818). 94.8 × 74.8 cm, Kunsthalle Hamburg. This well-known and especially Romantic masterpiece was described by the historian John Lewis Gaddis as leaving a contradictory impression, "suggesting at once mastery over a landscape and the insignificance of the individual within it. We see no face, so it's impossible to know whether the prospect facing the young man is exhilarating, or terrifying, or both."

Two Men Contemplating the Moon (c. 1825–30), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Seashore by Moonlight (1835–36). 134 × 169 cm. Kunsthalle, Hamburg. His final "black painting", Seashore by Moonlight, is described by William Vaughan as the "darkest of all his shorelines

Overview and Analysis:

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Eva Hesse in 2011 at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. (reprint)

Often there is a romantic aura around artists who die young. Their work is over praised and when looked at in a more sober light, does not hold up well. But that's not true of Eva Hesse. Her death at an early age of 34 denies us the full trajectory of her career but what we have is amazing. 

Born in Hamburg in 1936, Hesse and her family escaped Nazi Germany to the US in 1939. She studied art at the Cooper Union and Yale, before returning to New York to become a painter. In 1964 she and her husband, the sculptor Tom Doyle, moved to Kettwig an der Ruhr in Germany, working in an abandoned textile factory. Here, amid the scraps of material, cord and corroded machine parts, and against the cultural backdrop of cold war politics, Hesse created her first sculptures. They were witty and sexually suggestive, inspired by the erotic surrealism of Marcel Duchamp and Hans Bellmer. She bound papier-mache in cord and hung string bags filled with scrunched polyethylene, so that they dangled like fat, viscous teardrops from the gallery walls.

Her career spanned just ten years. The materials that she used were very fragile - something that she knew at the time. In a way, she built the fragility, transparency and unique nature of her materials into her creations. Their transitory being is part of their effect, an effect that is proof that you don't have to make huge sculptures of steel to make powerful works of art. In fact, her work is more powerful in that it whispers and entices you to come nearer to hear what she is saying. Hesse was aware that she was producing works that were ephemeral, but this problem was of less concern to her than the fact that she simply wanted to work with these particular materials. As she stated in an interview with Cindy Nemser in 1970, “Life doesn’t last; art doesn’t last.”

Shortly before her death, Eva Hesse described her subject as ‘the total absurdity of life’. Indeed, one of the chief characteristics of her work is a vein of subtle humor that runs from the self-deprecating, abject quality of her early self-portraits to the quirky fetishism and playful repetitions of her later sculpture. 

Working in what was then very much a man’s world, she pursued her ambition to become a great artist with single-minded determination. Hesse readily absorbed the influences of Surrealism, Conceptualism and Minimalism, always filtering them though her own distinctive sensibility to produce a unique and highly individualistic body of work.

The pieces that are being shown at the Berkeley Art Museum are pieces from her studio practice. The objects, both small and large, range from raw material experiments to works in their own right, all of them revealing process and the moments between thinking and making. They are the equivalent of the sketches that a painter would make, prior to staring a large project - the experiments of making thought and ideas visible and visual. The exhibition contains many works from BAM/PFA’s own collection, part of a major gift made in 1979 by Hesse’s sister, Helen Charash; the Berkeley presentation includes a special selection of works from the collection that are too fragile to travel. 

Hesse lived and worked in her New York studio, a two-story loft apartment on the Bowery. A photograph taken by her friend Mel Bochner shows many items occupying a table made for her by her friend, the artist Sol LeWitt. She used the table in different ways: to arrange her own work and other objects that might be handled, and to display the ordinary, everyday ephemera of exhibition reviews and gallery announcements. In this exhibition, the first grouping of work that you encounter are "spirit boats," shaped and molded from a myriad of delicate materials. These were pieces that Hesse often gave to friends and which have never been shown publicly. 

The second gallery displays work that is more familiar - braided latex strips and obscene fleshy globes hanging suspended in nets - even in sketchy form, they speak of fetishist fantasies and the male genitalia, comically mocked. Small molded pieces of latex are displayed in another case; they could be dug up from some prehistoric cave, or clumps of amber washed up from the Baltic or neolithic goddesses in forms that speak ambiguously of female genitalia. 

Yet she was anything but the media's version of a stereotypical feminist. In an article by Robert Hughes,  she is quoted as saying, 'The best way to beat discrimination in art is by art. Excellence has no sex.'

These small but sensuous experiments created in her studio can be seen as “a collection-in-miniature of Hesse’s art”, says art historian Briony Fer, in a new book on the sculptor published to accompany the show. “I don’t think it is too much of an exaggeration to see their combined effect as a small bomb exploding the category of things called sculpture.”

The show bowled me over but then, I've been an ardent admirer since her large retrospective at SFMOMA some years ago. For those used to today's over sized sculptures, large enough to seat a party of 100, their smaller size, delicacy and fragility might take some getting used to. But get closer, listen more carefully to what she has to say. It's worth hearing.

The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) is the first of only two United States venues presenting Eva Hesse: Studiowork, on view from January 26, 2011 through April 10, 2011. The exhibition, which will have traveled to London, Barcelona, and Toronto before arriving in Berkeley, is the result of new research by renowned Hesse scholar Briony Fer and is curated by Fer and Barry Rosen, director of The Estate of Eva Hesse. The curator in charge for the BAM/PFA presentation is Phyllis Wattis. MATRIX Curator Elizabeth Thomas. 

Romare Bearden, Born September 2, 1911

September 02, 1911. Romare Bearden (September 2, 1911 - March 12, 1988) was an African-American artist. He worked with many types of media including cartoons, oils and collages. In this image: Romare Bearden, "Out Chorus", 1979-80. Etching and aquatint, 12 3/8 x 16 ¼ inches. Courtesy: Romare Bearden Estate. ©Romare Bearden Founcation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, New York.



Here's your chance if you missed seeing the documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg titled RBG in a theater earlier this year.

It will be broadcast on CNN Monday (Labor Day) evening at 9PM and again at 12 midnight U.S. eastern time.