Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Asian Art Museum: Ring Them Bells!

The painting depicts Vajrabhairava performing a war dance by which he transforms demons into protectors of the Buddhist doctrine. Backing up his lead performance is a captivating chorus of similar blue figures. His thirty-two outer hands carry various weapons, which are repeated in the hands of figures dancing around him. His main hands hold a chopper and a skull cup. With his sixteen feet Vajrabhairava tramples on all sorts of creatures to stop harmful influences in their tracks - as most of us would like to trample significant portions of 2009 underfoot.
Read about ringing in the bell on New Year's Eve to purify yourself and the world and to start the New Year with some good karma:

Image and information from 7 Junipers Blog:

Monday, December 28, 2009

Alchemy at Gallery A440: Joy Broom and Jerry Leisure

The gallery finishes off the year with a show featuring Joy Broom and Jerry Leisure. Married for 35 years, their work  mirrors a mutual interest in layered images, pulled from nature and drawings reminiscent of medieval alchemical texts. Using paint, paper and ink, Joy's most successful work finishes off the smaller pieces with a layer of wax so that each piece shimmers as if it were taken from an ancient civilization. DeWitt Cheng, writing in the East Bay Express said: “Broom's work shows the interpenetration of plant, animal, and human realms, with semi-transparent butterflies, birds, insects, polyps, worms, cocoons, branches, roots, and seeds radiating auras like wave fronts, and answered by juxtaposed and superimposed human hands and faces. The works themselves appear arrested in the process of metamorphosis, half science museum and half sacred grove.” The show also features some more naturalistic three-dimensional colleges which are less successful. Her partner, Jerry Leisure sculpts small wooden heads, merging imagery evocative of both African sculpture and surrealistic nightmares. The show also features a few of his small-scale digital work that also combines layering and collage.

Through December 31
49 Geary St, 4th Floor
San Francisco

artist's website:
East Bay Express:
Images courtesy of Gallery A440

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

SFMOMA - The Anniversary Show - Celebrating 75 years of Art in the Bay Area.

Jackson Pollock, Guardians of the Spirit, 1943. Purchased for SFMOMA in 1945 for $500

New article on the 75th anniversary celebration of SFMOMA up at:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Print Gocco:
Get in touch with your inner Gutenberg

This past Saturday I took a three hour Print Gocco class at SCRAP--Scroungers Center for Reusable Art Parts--in San Francisco. Print Gocco is a Japanese printing system that uses paints/inks, flashbulbs, and a stamping machine or hand stamp. The manufacturer stopped making the machines over a year ago; it is surprising because there are a lot of accessories to order, so it is a perfect way to keep getting revenue. What is also surprising is the clarity and quality of the printing. You can make dozens and dozens of copies from one paint load.

The class was taught by local artist Marc Ellen Hamel, a certified fourth degree Goccologist. Her painting to the left is by hand, not by Print Gocco. In the class, I was surrounded by women artists, one of whom complained she was way behind everyone else, then turned out a card so incredibly detailed I thought she must spend her weekdays engraving currency plates for the U.S. Mint.

Here is how Print Gocco works, from the perspective of a stick figure doodler who was too busy squirting and stamping to really understand the whole concept. First, take a black carbon pen/marker and draw your figure to be printed, on card stock size paper. Photocopies from certain copiers of previously drawn or assembled images will also work. The main criteria is whatever is going to be printed has to start out as black carbon; only the black areas will transfer the paint.

To prepare each original, the reflective Print Gocco attachment is first loaded with two big flash bulbs, the kind that drove King Kong out of his gourd when he was on stage. Then put your original to be printed on what is called the print table of the machine. You slide the master, which is a miniature Etch-a-Sketch photo sleeve, into the Print Gocco lid. When you close the lid and press down, the flashbulbs go off. You can see the bones in your arms for a few seconds, then millions of little stars, right before you black out.

The flash process makes what looks like a silkscreen burn of your drawing, and makes your original stick to the back of the screen. Using the dark lines of your original to guide you, gleefully squirt various colors of ink/paint over the lines of your drawing on the screen, letting it build up generously. Whatever was black before will become the color you are squirting over it. If your lines are too close together, thin strips of foam with adhesive backing can be used to separate the colors.

Once your screen is all slathered up with ink/paint, you close the plastic flap of the Etch-a-Sketch again and put it back in the Print Gocco Machine. By slipping blank card stock in the machine, each time you press down it prints a color version of your original drawing. The amazing part is you can make dozens and dozens of copies from the original inking. When you get tired of making cards, you can remove the “stencil” and put it in a hand held stamp. With the hand stamp you can wallpaper your room with the designs, or make wrapping paper, wanted posters, personalized lunch bags, giant business cards, it just goes on and on. When you have printed everything in sight, there is still ink left, although fading a little like a monotype would.

When your printings are dry enough, you can trade one of your Pablo-Picasso-in-the-third-grade cards to each of the artists and engravers for one of theirs, and pack up and go home.

If you really want to know how to do it, see eHow.

By Phil Gravitt

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Saturday Grab Bag

RIP to the man who made the mummies dance: Thomas Hoving dead at 78
Obit over at:

Interesting discussion panel at Art Miami on the role of art bloggers - moderated by Joanne Mattera.

Think global, shop local and support your local artists:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


My friend, Katherine Derbyshire, shared this as a note on Facebook. Her background, as you can see if you follow the link, is the sciences, but as with many of us her interests are wide and deep, and conversations with her lead...anywhere! I thought the exercise she describes here is just too cool to not share with other artists. Sez she:

Fun creativity tip: go to a reasonably well-supplied bookstore or newsstand and spend $30 or so on magazines that you don't normally read. You don't need to read them cover to cover, but read at least a sample from each major section. Look at the pictures, look at the ads, look at the layout. Clip them up and shuffle the pages around if you want. Think about how the material in the magazine might be relevant to your work, or how your work might be relevant to the magazine's typical readers. (Yes, I know it's a stretch. That's the point.)

I originally learned this one back in my editing days, and it's obviously a great way to find design and layout ideas, or ideas about the mix of content in a magazine. But it's surprising helpful for other kinds of creative projects, too. Exposure to different images, different ways of thinking? A look at the lives of people who aren't me? I haven't examined it too closely, I just know it helps top off the mental tanks.

For this exercise, I've found it helps to have a good mixture of the popular and the obscure. Go ahead and buy Vanity Fair if you must (who could resist this month's interview with Meryl Streep?), but be sure to balance it with some quirky small journals, too. Whatever you pick should be fairly light reading, though. If you can't bring yourself to actually read the 20-pager on cybersecurity in Foreign Affairs, you've defeated the purpose.

For me, a mix of photography (or other visuals), reportage, and maybe some essays or poetry works well. Fiction doesn't, and serious analytical writing doesn't, probably because both are so self-important, and perhaps also because large blocks of text aren't visually interesting. The idea is to replenish my own store of ideas, not to immerse myself in someone else's work.

I haven't figured out how to replicate this exercise with online resources, vast and varied as the internet is. I think it's because this is partly a tactile exercise, and pixels on a screen just don't replicate the experience of shuffling paper around.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Ceramics, War and the Artist's Intent

Aaron Carter

On my way to the Berkeley Art Museum, I came upon Aaron Carter and his table of ceramic works. (He was in front of Cafe Mattina on Telegraph, between Channing Way and Haste St.) Mostly pit-fired cups, bowls & containers, and some sculptural items. Each piece had a little spirit and personality of its own. Some had faces. Beautiful surfaces, with organic colors & textures. Very reasonable prices! Mr. Carter is friendly and easy to talk with. He said he fires his work in his back yard, and sells it at a few shops/galleries in the Bay Area, including Expressions Gallery (2035 Ashby Ave. Berkeley) and the Richmond Art Center. Plus he's usually out here every Sunday, as long as the weather's not too bad. He studied art at SF State, Laney, and Merrit. Next time you're in the neighborhood, find his table and check it out. And say "Hi" for me. He doesn't have a web site, but he said I could publish his phone number: 510-534-9234.

When I got to the Berkeley Art Museum, one of the first things I saw was more ceramic work - "New Pathways to Ancient Traditions," a small exhibit of Chinese scrolls, seals, and ceramics. It was the ceramics that really interested me. From the Song Dynasty (960-1279) these elegant works used a decorative technique I'd never seen before, at least not with this skill level. It involved raised patterns in the clay, covered with translucent glazes that settled into depressions, leaving a thinner layer on the raised areas and creating subtle color gradations and combinations (the color of the clay, versus the color of the glaze.) It got me to thinking about how that technique might be possible in paint, and I think I'm going to experiment with it. (photo from Christies.)

Fernando Botero's "Abu Ghraib Series" was my main reason for visiting the museum, so I headed up, up, up the ramps toward the 6th floor. On the way, I passed through "Material Witness," which was a very collegial neighbor to Botero's work. "Material Witness" is drawn from the museum's permanent collection and includes Goya's "Disasters of War" as well as contemporary works that address politics and cultural memory. I think it's easy to approach these works as "reportage to activist response" (Lucinda Barnes, curator of the show) but I'm not so sure that's true, at least not in terms of the artist's process. I just finished reading James Lord's biography of Giacometti, which spends a good chunk of its 570 pages describing the artist's process as a search for truth and a means of understanding the world. It rang very true to me, as that has been my own experience in making representational work with narrative content. It's frequently interpreted as reportage or propaganda and while many works of art can be used for both purposes, I think most often that neither are "true." That is, if you consider the artist's intent to be the truth (another arguable point, admittedly.)

My immediate reaction on reaching the the 6th floor and encountering the "Abu Ghraib Series" was to think, "How can this be possible? How could this happen?" And it remains my opinion that Fernando Botero was trying to answer those questions for himself, as he painted.

(Botero drawing from Columbian Art Blog.)

Video of a conversation between Fernando Botero and Robert Hass, HERE.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fisher Collection and the Torah

New pieces up at Chez Namaste Nancy and

(l)Paul Madonna, Feast and Famine, 2009, Ink on paper, courtesy of the artist. (r) Abram/Abraham, 2009; Oil and graphite on canvas. Courtesy of the artist and Ratio 3, San Francisco. Installation views. As it is Written: Project 304, 805. Photo credit: Ben Blackwell

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Art and Science

I ran across this 2005 story on NPR which features artist Ned Kahn. Kahn is a scientist/artist whose work highlights natural phenomena and, as he says, "let[s] nature do the sculpting." His work is rarely static; rather, it focuses on recurring patterns of behavior in nature. You're probably familiar with many of the exhibits he's created for the Exploratorium, but his work doesn't stop there. Be sure to visit the video gallery and portfolio on his website to see some of the other fascinating work he's done.

Although my link over to the side still doesn't connect to anything, you can always reach me at -- Ramona Soto (bluemonk)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009