Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Arnold Newman at the CJM, Keith Harring at the de Young & a bit more


Ben Gurion
"Arnold Newman, Master Class," at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM): Nobody will be able to accuse Arnold Newman of promoting a simplistic or easily recognizable brand. An influential 20th century portrait photographer, "Arnold Newman: Masterclass" at the CJM presents some of his most famous portraits as well as numerous works which have never before been shown in public.

 Martha Graham

 Divided into 10 sections that delineate Newman's various approaches – the extensive exhibition, which is too much to take in at one visit, expands on how he thought and practiced his craft. Empathetic and sympathetic, he never descends to romantic cliche or facile glamor.

 Henry Miller
 Newman found his vision in the empathy he felt for artists and their work. Although he photographed many famous personalities—Marlene Dietrich, John F. Kennedy, Harry S. Truman, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, Arthur Miller, Marilyn Monroe, Ronald Reagan, Mickey Mantle, and Audrey Hepburn—he maintained that even if the subject is not known, or is already forgotten, the photograph itself must still excite and interest the viewer. He sought to capture the person in their environment, avoiding the staged cliches of other photographers.

 Marilyn Monroe
A vulnerable Marilyn Monroe has never been photographed with such delicate understanding or the grand diva of dance, Martha Graham, with such respect for her icy power.

"I didn't just want to make a photograph with some things in the background," Newman told American Photo magazine in an interview. "The surroundings had to add to the composition and the understanding of the person. No matter who the subject was, it had to be an interesting photograph. Just to simply do a portrait of a famous person doesn't mean a thing."

"We want to show another side of Newman," said co-curator Todd Brandow. "There's a whole body of his work that hasn't been explored. For the first time we're getting into the way he worked. He kept his secrets to himself, but we had access to his archives."

The first major exhibition of the photographer's work since his death, "Arnold Newman: Masterclass" examines the evolution of his singular vision. Contemporary Jewish Museum. Through Feb 2015.

The Haring show is bound to be enormously popular - jazzy, brightly cartoon figures, all fun and games. But Arnold Newman's photos require much more attention and should not be missed.

More about Keith Haring, Mark di Suvero and Udo Nöger at

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

'Roads of Arabia' explores the Arabian peninsula's ancient past

A new exhibit "Roads of Arabia," now showing at the Asian Art Museum displays a treasure trove of the Arabian peninsula's largely unknown pre-Islamic past, some of which dates back to the beginnings of human history.The objects on display may radically transform our understanding of the history of that now barren wasteland, still largely closed to Westerners. Although the exhibit is not lacking in beauty, “Roads of Arabia” is an archaeological and historical exhibition, rather than an art show.

In 2009, Australian scholar David Kennedy used Google Earth to identify almost 2,000 unexplored archaeological sites. He was able to focus attention on the battle between the powerful Saudi Arabian clergy for the destruction of that heritage and the determination of the  Saudi Arabian monarchy to protect that inheritance.

more at: http://www.examiner.com/article/roads-of-arabia-explores-the-arabian-peninsula-s-ancient-past

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Bay Area Weekend Picks for Sept 30-Oct 2. Hans Hoffman, SF Giants and more

The weekend will get off with a roar on Friday with the SF Giant’s victory parade and Halloween.Eric Fischl has some critical words about American art in the Guardian, Lee Krasner and Nicki de Satint Phalle were born this week and it’s the 3rd weekend of SF’s Open Studios

Weekend 3 (11 a.m.-6 p.m. Nov. 1-2): Mission, Castro, Bernal Heights, Noe Valley, Upper Market, Glen Park


It's Alfred Sisley's birthday as well! 

Happy birthday to Alfred Sisley, born on this day in 1839. Enjoy "The Seine at Bougival."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

'Houghton Hall; Portrait of an English Country House' at the Legion of Honor

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 Downtown 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, and reflects the history of this magnificent estate across nearly 300 years, from the 18th century to the present day. The show features more than 100 pieces from the estate, including old-master paintings from their once-lost collection, Sèvres porcelain, and pieces from the eighteenth-century interiors and furniture designed by William Kent.

More at: http://www.examiner.com/article/houghton-hall-portrait-of-an-english-country-house-opens-at-the-legion

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Día de los Muertos and more events for October 10 - 12

October at the Oakland Museum of California: A new exhibition opened at OMCA this Wednesday, October 8, honoring the Mesoamerican and Californian traditions of Días de los Muertos.

"Songs and Sorrows." Días de los Muertos 20th Anniversary marks two decades of OMCA exhibitions devoted to the evolution of this tradition. Spanning three galleries and including immersive new installations, "Songs and Sorrows" offers many ways to revel in the history of this celebration.

The 20th anniversary of the exhibition at OMCA will explore the tradition from its pre-Hispanic origins to its present expressions in California. Pre-Hispanic funerary artifacts, Mexican folk art, contemporary art, and installations will convey the iconic imagery and the aesthetic and spiritual qualities of this festival.
Friday, October 1, 7 - 8 p.m. Opening Artist Ritual for "Días de los Muertos"

For more information: http://museumca.org/   

SOMArts' 15th annual Día de los Muertos exhibition, "Visions at Twilight." Each year, more than 80 Bay Area artists from diverse cultural backgrounds acknowledge the cycles of life and death in the Day of the Dead exhibition at SOMArts. Through their installations and altars, they look at local and global issues, ranging from the deeply personal to the political and emphasize viewer interaction.

This year the exhibition pays special attention to cycles of change and the loss of people and culture being felt in the Bay Area now.

More information about the exhibition & accompanying events: http://www.somarts.org/visionsattwilight
Tickets are $15 each. Opening this Friday, October 10, 6–9 p.m.

Yerba Buena Night. This free outdoor arts festival includes more than 40 performances on five stages throughout Jessie Square, Yerba Buena Lane, the Yerba Buena Center of the Arts and Annie Street Plaza. The event kicks off with the Yerba Buena Alliance Art Walk at 4 p.m., during which galleries and institutions will be free; area restaurants and bars will offer discounts. 4-10 p.m. Saturday. Check website for schedule and locations. http://ybnight.org.

Litquake. The biggest literary festival in San Francisco celebrates its 15th anniversary with a quinceanera at 7 p.m. Friday at Z Space, 450 Florida St. (tickets: $15). Then, the nine-day affair kicks into high gear, with some 30 events around the area on Saturday alone. Through Oct. 18; check website for schedule. www.litquake.org.

Flourish Oakland. Oakland Art Murmur’s annual fundraising party-auction presents works by emerging and mid-career artists as well, chosen from member galleries and donated by the artists themselves. There will also be live music from the Oakland Manouche Project and cameos by Oakland Ballet dancers. 6-10 p.m. $75. Saturday. Classic Cars West, 411 26th St., Oakland. http://bit.ly/1rG9vV4.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ai Weiwei at Alcatraz and 'Songs of Freedom'

Ai Weiwei, @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz explores human rights and freedom of expression in the context of this iconic historic site. Installed across four locations on Alcatraz and on view from September 27, 2014, through April 26, 2015.

The seven installations commissioned by the FOR-SITE Foundation for @Large include:

• With Wind, New Industries Building: This large-scale installation, located in the building once used for prison labor, features a contemporary version of the traditional Chinese “dragon kite,” a large kite handmade by Chinese artisans in collaboration with Ai’s studio. Scattered around the room are other kites decorated with stylized birds and flowers, which speak to the natural environs of Alcatraz Island—an important bird habitat—and reference 30 nations with serious records of restricting their citizens’ human rights and civil liberties. The position of the kites—trapped inside a building, unable to fly—suggests the powerful contradiction of freedom and restriction.

 Do Thi Minh Hanh, a young Vietnamese labor activist, was released from prison on June 27 after serving four years of a seven-year sentence for leafleting in support of footwear workers striking for better working conditions and higher wages. During her imprisonment, she suffered repeated beatings at the hands of prison guards and other inmates.

 Fariba Kamalabadi, who was jailed in Iran, for being a leader of the Baha'i faith

• Trace, New Industries Building: 175 portraits, constructed from LEGO® bricks,  are laid out on the floor. Each portrait represents an individual who has been imprisoned or exiled because of his or her beliefs, actions, or affiliations.

 • Refraction, New Industries Building: Using the imagery of flight to evoke the tension between freedom and confinement, this monumental installation—weighing more than five tons—is modeled after a bird’s wing. The artwork is composed of reflective panels originally used on Tibetan solar cookers.

• Stay Tuned, A Block: Stay Tuned invites visitors into 12 individual cells in A Block, where they can sit and listen to spoken words, poetry, and music by people who have been imprisoned for the creative expression of their beliefs—as well as works created under conditions of incarceration. Each cell features a different recording, such as works by the Russian punk band Pussy Riot and the South African anti-apartheid activists Robben Island Singers.

• Illumination, Hospital (Psychiatric Observation Cells): The psychiatric observation cells, used for the isolation and observation of mentally ill inmates, resonate with chanting recorded at a Buddhist monastery and a traditional song of the Hopi tribe. In the 19th century, the Hopi, along with other American Indian Tribes, were subjected to a program of forced 'Americanization." In 1895, 19 of them were imprisoned here for a year.

The installation of chants raises an analogy between subjugated peoples and those who have been classified as mentally ill—both often dismissed, deprived of rights, confined, and observed. Illumination speaks to the profound role of chanting as a source of comfort, strength, and identity under severe circumstances.

 • Blossom, Hospital: With intricately detailed encrustations of ceramic flowers, Ai transforms the utilitarian fixtures (sinks, toilets, and tubs) in several hospital ward cells and medical offices into porcelain bouquets. The flowers, rendered in a cool and brittle material could be understood as an ironic reference to China’s famous Hundred Flowers Campaign of 1956, a brief period of government tolerance of free expression, immediately followed by a severe crackdown against dissent.

• Yours Truly, Dining Hall: In this interactive work, visitors are encouraged to write postcards addressed to some of the prisoners represented in Trace. The cards are adorned with images of birds and plants representing the nations where the prisoners are held. Ai has spoken of the deep feeling of isolation that afflicts incarcerated people and the fear that their causes have been forgotten.

Ai Weiwei at Alcatraz is organized like your high school English papers - find out what the teacher wants, tell the teacher what you are going to say, say it and tell them again. The installation is huge, overwhelming, chaotic, and lacks nuance and in some cases, historical accuracy. Of course, it's this season's must see show.

I realized that Ai's images didn't make any sense without extensive text. But I have a real problem with that - if the visual doesn't convey the message, is it really art - or, in this case propaganda that could have just as easily been written in a book. Now I agree with many of Ai's ideas about political prisioners, the lack of democracy around the world and the totalitarian state as well as the injustices of the past. 

BUT to link that with the criminals who were held on Alcatraz and make no distinction between them, the actions taken during Alcatraz's over 100 year history and now is sloppy history, If not sloppy art making.

For more about some issues with the exhibit: http://www.examiner.com/article/ai-weiwei-s-songs-of-freedom-on-alcatraz

Thursday, September 25, 2014

SJMA, Dickerman Prints, Robert Koch Gallery and more..

From "Night and the City," 2011

Pin-Up Show at Dickerman Prints: For one night only, Dickerman Prints hosts an audience participatory photo show.  Those who attend are encouraged to bring their favorite prints and pin them the wall. 50% of sales will benefit the SF non-profit "Sixth Street Photography Workshop" which brings photography to the residents of SF's hotels and shelters on the Sixth Street corridor. The other 50% of sales will go to the photographer.

How it works: Bring a favorite print (or prints under 16"x20"), and Dickerman will provide the magnetic pins for you to hang them with. Price your photo(s) accordingly. Browse others' works on display while enjoying a complimentary glass of wine or a cold beer and mingle with local photographers. Buy a print from another photographer, if you wish. Your money will help to support "6th St Photography Workshop" which brings the art of photography to the homeless and transient residents living in the 6th St corridor.

Have a great evening socializing with other Bay Area photographers and helping to support a wonderful local organization! Plus, maybe you'll sell a print or two!

There is no cost to participate, and all are welcome.

Viewers will also choose a photo to win a "Viewer's Choice" printing package prize worth $200 redeemable at Dickerman Prints. RSVP at Facebook. One night only Friday, Sept 26th (6 - 9 p.m.) 1141 Howard St.

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