Monday, April 21, 2014

The week ahead: Leonora Carrington at Gallery Wendi Norris and more

I have to confess that this is not one of my better written columns; it is pretty straightforward but that does not mean you shouldn't see the shows. I mean - Leonora Carrington, Romare Bearden, Creativity Explored and Gallery 16 all in one small city. How cool is that? Surrealism, African-American Art, the unique artists at CE AND Rex Ray whose powerful graphic design has gathered him international recognition. Carrington deserves - and has - volumes writen about her work. The twenty works on exhibit at Wendi Norris is just a small selection of her oeuvre. Carrington’s exhibition will include roughly ten rarely exhibited oil paintings in addition to a seven-piece gouache series that was on view at the Guggenheim’s seminal exhibition, "Surrealism: Two Private Eyes,"  the Nesushi Etegun and Daniel Filipacchi Collections in 1999.
  •  The "Celtic Surrealist" in the title of the show is a bit of a stretch but as the work was first shown in Dublin, it makes sense to tie it to a specific location. One tapestry - that of the hunter, dogs and horned deer could pass for Celtic but those figures are also part of ancient Indo-European mythology. 
    The rest of the work is not Irish at all but still, what differences does a title make. If the Irish want to claim her as a Celt (and her mother was Irish), why not?
    "The Celtic Surrealist" at Gallery Wendi Norris. Through May 31.  11 A.M to 6 P.M. Tuesday through Saturday. 161 Jessie Street. San Francisco, (415) 346-7812.
    If Duchamp can call a urinal a work of art, the Irish can claim that Carrington - English born, the lover of German Max Ernst and who lived most of her long life in Mexico - is using Irish symbolism. and mythology in her art. 
    It is exciting to see that Romare Bearden, the master of collage, is also the master of watercolors, that most difficult of mediums. Bearden’s collages in "Storyteller" — including mural maquettes, an Olympic poster, and a book jacket for a collection of poems by African writers — highlight the artist’s mastery.
    His watercolors were originally commissioned for the opening titles of the 1980 film Gloria with the vibrant colors reflecting his Caribbean heritage. 
    Prints based on his collages are showcased in his Odyssey series, which illustrates Homer’s epic poem; the series seemingly departs from his best-known work of edgy urban and jazz scenes or his depictions of African American life in the rural South. Yet, because Bearden depicts these Greek mythological figures as black, he invites a comparison between classical myth and African American culture. Viewers may liken the Greek king Odysseus’ arduous and heroic ten-year search for home after the Trojan War to African American struggles. 
    At the dock.
     Replacing white characters with black figures, Bearden attempts to defeat the rigidness of racial roles and stereotypes and open up the possibilities and potentials of blacks. Bearden says about this series and his work in general, "What I tried to do is take the elements of African American life….and place it in a universal framework."

    Romare Bearden: Storyteller: Through June 21. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, until 5 p.m. Saturday. Jenkins Johnson Gallery, 464 Sutter St., S.F. (415)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Getty Villa Moves ‘Heaven and Earth’ for Byzantine Art Exhibition

Byzantium - or it's artistic heritage - is now on display at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles. The show is drawn from 34 national collections in Greece and spans more than 1,300 years from the very pagan beginnings of Byzantium, through the synthesis of pagan and Christian art portraying both the decades of glory and the grief of decline.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Matisse's illustrated books on view at the Legion of Honor

Henri Matisse was 60 years old when he began to create original illustrations for livres d’artiste (artists’ books). By the time of his death, 25 years later, he had produced designs for 14 fully illustrated books, several of which are considered 20th-century masterpieces of the genre. View seven of these rare books, including Poésies (1932) and Pasiphaé (1944), in conjunction with the special exhibition "Matisse from SFMOMA" at the Legion of Honor.

More at:

Friday, March 28, 2014

Weekend Picks for March 28 - 30

The cosmic Buddha Ratnasambhva, approx 1275 - 1350

Asian Art Museum: "Enter the Mandala" - a small but powerful exhibit of 14th-century Buddhist paintings which are aligned in a 2nd floor gallery with the cardinal directions.

 The cosmic Buddha Vairochana, Tibet, Approx 1100- 1250

The space is transformed into an architectural mandala. Those who walk the patterned floor have a chance to experience the images in three dimensions and to dwell in the midst of the cosmic symbols and be transported to another world.

 Impressionists and more at:

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Salon Doré to reopen in April

Of of all the museums in the Bay Area, the Legion of Honor gives the strongest sense of being both French and 18th century. Of course it is not; the Legion's beautiful Beaux arts building was build to commemorate Californian soldiers who died in World War I.

But so much in the collection is French and is reminiscent of the arts of living in 18th century France (if you were an aristocrat or/ had lots of money).

There is Francois Boucher's delicious painting of Marie-Louise O’Murphy, one of the many young mistresses of Louis XV.

Their collection of 18th century English and French porcelain

Prints such at Jean-Guillame Moiette's "Sacrafice to Diana." Pen and brown ink with white heightening on blue paper (later 18th century). Below

Or this anonymous drawing of a graceful beauty, red ink on cream laid paper.

Denis-Jean de La Villgueray may have been one of the urbane elite that visited the salon; we will never know.

Jean-Antoine Watteau (French, 1684–1721). The Foursome (La Partie Quarrée), ca. 1713. Oil on canvas. Museum purchase, Mildred Anna Williams Collection. 1977.8 

Ranked among the greatest artists of France, Jean-Antoine Watteau’s enigmatic themes were popular, influential, and widely collected during his lifetime. Born in Valenciennes, then part of Flanders, his intensely personal style was informed by the Venetian masters, whom he studied in Paris, and by a deep affinity for music and theater.

In this painting, known as a fête galantes, the artist evokes an arcadian dreamland of music, conversation and amorous dalliance. Although the work’s title can be defined simply as a party with two couples, the risqué implications of The Foursome remains unchanged from the eighteenth century. This union of observation and fantasy, plus ambiguity of intent and erotic connotations is characteristic of Watteau’s best work.
Dalliance in the salon? Mais bien sûr! As well as politics, witty repartee and all the arts that made this era so delicious for the privileged.

But, lacking Dr. Who's telephone box or a time travel machine,  being at the Legion and walking through the elegant rooms is one of the only ways we have to mentally reconstruct that world at it's most gilded and sumptuous.