Friday, June 28, 2013

'Beyond Belief' opens at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

Agnes Martin, Falling Blue, 1963; oil and graphite on canvas; 71 7/8 in. x 72 in. (182.56 cm x 182.88 cm).

Co-organized by the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), Beyond Belief: 100 Years of the Spiritual in Modern Art is an expansive exhibition conceived as a journey into the connections between spirituality and modern and contemporary art. Spanning the years from 1911 to 2011, the exhibition features more than sixty works on loan from SFMOMA.

The exhibit benefits from the more intimate space; smaller works like those by Klee and Kandinsky have been lost in SFMOMA's larger galleries. But three pieces in particular - Philip Guston's"Red Sea; The Swell; Blue LIght," .Rothko's 'No 14" and  Teresite Fernandez, 'Fire" needed more space. Each piece needs a room by itself as each is so powerful. But, again, it may be the more intimate spaces at the CJM that make the viewer aware of the power of this art.

Teresita Fernández. Fire, 2005

"Beyond Belief" is divided into ten sections, organized under headings that examine widely held spiritual ideas, many of which closely parallel or are rooted in Jewish religious thought—such as the Bible’s original creation story and the bias against literal depictions of God.

The exhibition begins, aptly, with Genesis and wends its way through different sections that reveal how artists have addressed diverse spiritual ideas, such as the invisible presence of God, death, redemption, mystical writing, and the understanding of God as a divine architect.

In Tallus Mater (Madre Tallo/Stem Mother), Mendieta evokes the power of prehistoric fertility goddesses, especially those associated with Mayan and Native American spiritual systems. The ficus, or fig tree, roots with which Mendieta created this sculpture might allude to the Garden of Eden, a primary creation myth in Western monotheism.

Many rich religious stories are translated into complex and provocative works of art, some on display for the first time in years.

Helen Lundeberg’s mysterious painting Oracle—a Greek word meaning either a prophet or the physical shrine where a divine voice emanates—evokes a host of natural forms.

The show requires an open mind to other dimensions of spirituality. There is a lot of wall text and some have found the organization confusing, but a thoughtful and contemplative approach will allow the deeper meanings to emerge.

While perhaps the museum overreaches in their attempt to bring together the aesthetic and the spiritual, the presentation of artists who affirmed the transcendental in art yields much in the way of both enjoyment and enlightenment. In a decade which has seen art reduced to cow parts in formaldehyde, any attempt to break away from the crass commercialism and expensive emptiness is commendable.

The museum has created an interactive website to help visitors explore the exhibit in more depth:

Contemporary Jewish Museum: 736 Mission Street (btwn. 3rd and 4th Streets), San Francisco, CA 94103 | Hours: Daily 11am–5pm, Thursdays 1–8pm, Closed Wednesdays | 415.655.7800 |

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The de Young's tribute to 'Richard Diebenkorn. The Berkeley Years...'

 Berkeley #22. 1954

"Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years: 1953-1966," which opened Saturday at the de Young Museum, is the first show to focus on the thirteen years that he spent in Berkeley between 1953 to 1966. The core of the show is the breakthrough work of this period, where Diebenkorn developed his working methods, important artistic themes and gained national recognition.

More than 130 paintings and drawings, beginning with the artist's earlier abstract works and moving through his subsequent figurative phase, display how he moved all his life between abstraction and representation.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

'Introductions' at Creativity Explored, 'West of Center' at Mills College Art Center

 Marcus McClure, Watermarks. 
"Introductions" at Creativity Explored presents recent work by four young studio artists who represent a range of artistic styles, perspectives and subject matter in its new summer exhibition.

Kate Thompson, 24, expresses her vision in exquisitely detailed scenes using pen and ink on paper, one of which is licensed to the contemporary home furnishings store CB2 for an upcoming pillow design.

Marcus McClure, 29, creates exuberant layered abstracts in mixed media using predominantly circular and other geometric forms; CB2 also selected two of McClure’s works as the basis for past rug designs. 

Steven Liu. Cyclists.

With black marker on canvas, Steven Liu, 24, fluidly renders intricate scenes with people– all elaborately detailed and in a state of motion, reflecting his own active physical nature.

Keenan Dietiker, 23, specializes in abstract landscapes using mixed media on paper.

The four artists have all attended Creativity Explored for at least one year, and are still evolving in their practice.  “Each of these young artists incorporates a unique vision, approach and technique,” says Gallery Manager Amy Auerbach, co-curator of the exhibit. “We felt their combined pieces offer an intriguing spectrum of work, from very abstract to intricately rendered,” adds Gallery Assistant and co-curator, Janessa Post.

Since its inception 30 years ago, Creativity Explored’s innovative and respected programs, structure, and culture have served as an organizational model worldwide in the field of art and disability. Creativity Explored provides artists with developmental disabilities the means to create, exhibit, and sell their art in their studios and gallery, and around the world.

Through August 7.  3245 Sixteenth Street (at Guerrero), San Francisco, CA 94103,

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, artists living in the American West produced an incredible amount of beautiful, innovative, and far-out artwork. Now, Oakland’s Mills College Art Museum is hosting a retrospective of art from that place and era. Dubbed "West of Center: Art and the Counterculture Experiment in America, 1965-1977, " the exhibition features drawings, videos, and photographs from that time period’s counter cultural movement, with artists like the Ant Farm Collective, Anna Halprin, and Single Wing Turquoise Bird.

"West of Center" illuminates the unique works of these individuals through videos, photographs, drawings, ephemera, and other original and re-created objects and environments.

through September 1, 5000 MacArthur Boulevard.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

'Impressionists on Water' at the Legion

 Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841–1919) Oarsmen at Chatou,1879

 The "Impressionists on Water" show at the Legion has received, at best, tepid reviews from our local art critics. I suppose that they prefer work that is considered more challenging, like the current show of work by Nicole Eisenman at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. 

Impressionism is so familiar to us by now that we have forgotten what a radical movement it was, a new way of experiencing the world through quick sensations, expressed in paint. Even their preferred mode of painting - en plain air - was considered revolutionary. They experienced nature directly, instead of through the medium of staged sets within a studio setting. Their art making depended on the radical changes in art supplies which included portable easels and manufactured paint in tubes. The impressionists created a work without mythology or kings or monsters; one which still speaks to the sensual and sensitive within us.

Paul Signac (French, 1863–1935). À Flessingue (At Flushing, Netherlands),1896

But in these perilous times, where it looks like we might be throwing more money at yet another Middle Eastern country in the middle of a confusing civil war, what would be better for the spirit than experiencing beautiful art? 

Why art that is beautiful became suspect and then, denigrated and even despised is an essay for another time. But for now, imagine yourself floating down the Seine on a summer day in 1898. The Franco-Prussian war is over and the horrors of WW I not even on the horizon. Enjoy a brief moment of tranquility before the 20th century arrived, beginning with optimism and ending with the destruction of so much that was promised but seldom delivered.

Paul Signac (French, 1863–1935). Le Soir (Abend-La Jetée de Flessingue) (Evening), published in Pan,1898

Friday, June 14, 2013

Weekend picks for June 13 - 16

Photographs from the Iraqi invasion at the de Young, a Sunday lecture at the Museum of the African Diaspora, Leibovitz at the San Jose Museum of Art and a call for artists from the San Francisco Center for the Book:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Joss Whedon's witty homage to Shakespeare, 'Much Ado About Nothing'

"Much Ado About Nothing" is as charming and as well acted as any viewer could hope for. Filmed in 12 days in black and white, it's a breezy, somewhat truncated version of the original and will delight viewers with it's modern take and fast clip.

In the summer of 2011, the writer-director Joss Whedon, having completed principal photography on Marvel's Avengers Assemble, was contractually obliged to take a week off before he began editing.

Instead of taking the time off, Whedon, a Shakespearean geek from a long ways back, and at the urging of his wife, decided to film a play.

Those familiar with Shakespeare's version won't find anything startling about this: Claudio (Fran Kranz) falls in love with Heor (Jullian Morgese). At the same time. Benedict (Alexis Denisoff) and Beatrice (Amy Archer) trade barbs. Their encounters are made all the more bitter by Benedict's betrayal of Beatrice's love.

The Duke (Reed Diamond) and his entourage have decided to play a little trick on the two antagonists. When the two enemies are in view, but ostensibly hidden, the rest of the  gossip what the two are really madly in love with each other.

Soon enough, both Beatrice and Benedict are being fools for love; Denisoff shows a real talent for physical comedy which will come as no surprise to those who saw him as Wesley in both "Buffy" and "Angel."

The snake in the grass is the Duke's bastard brother, slickly and sexily played by Sean Maher, another Whedon regular, who sets up the lovers for a nasty bit of misunderstanding. Villainy, comedic turn by Nathan Fillion as the weary fool, head of a security firm, a fake death are resolved for a happy ending for all.

Don't worry about spoilers. Playgoers since Shakespeare's day know how the play will end. Lacking the artificial suspense of an unknown ending, viewers can relax and enjoy the Southern California setting and lines spoken clearly with an American accent. Whedon's stripped down version works better in the comedic scenes than in the one's which need Shakespearean narrative. But for lovers of good, old-fashioned romantic comedy, it's this summer's sparkling hit.

Directed by Joss Whedon; written by Mr. Whedon, based on the play by Shakespeare; director of photography, Jay Hunter; edited by Daniel S. Kaminsky and Mr. Whedon; music by Mr. Whedon; production design by Cindy Chao and Michele Yu; costumes by Shawna Trpcic; produced by Mr. Whedon and Kai Cole; released by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions. Running time: 1 hour 47 minutes.

WITH: Amy Acker (Beatrice), Alexis Denisof (Benedick), Nathan Fillion (Dogberry), Fran Kranz (Claudio), Jillian Morgese (Hero), Sean Maher (Don John), Reed Diamond (Don Pedro), Clark Gregg (Leonato) and Tom Lenk (Verges).

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Free Sunday at the CJM, Ferlinghetti at Krevsky, Sandi Yagi at Bash & a new gallery opens at the Oakland Museum of California

The Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) welcomes its new Executive Director Lori Starr and celebrates the first five years in its Daniel Libeskind-designed home in downtown San Francisco. Free admission, dance and music performances, art-making and crafts for families, and more on Sunday, June 9, 2013.

The festivities will include a reading by San Francisco Poet Laureate Alejandro Murguía and remarks by California State Senator Mark Leno on Jessie Square in front of the Museum, plus  indoor and outdoor performances by AXIS Dance Company, a cappella Leonard Cohen choir, The Conspiracy of Beards, Bulgarian woman’s choir True Life Trio, and Porto Franco Klezmer All-Stars.
Sunday, Jun 9. Free admission all day.

Bash Contemporary: Grand Opening tonight with an exhibit of works by Sandi Yagi , mistress of 21st century Gothic. This will be Yagi's first solo show at a location that is becoming full of interesting, quirky art spaces, not afraid to show "risky" art. The Tenderloin is becoming the center of SF”s cutting edge art spaces, as noted in a recent article in "Beyond the Chron":

 Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Future Woman. Through June 2013

George Krevsky: "Future Woman." SF poet laureate Lawrence Ferlinghetti is having his 7th solo show at George Krevsky. The 94-year old shows commendable vitality, if little finesse, in his current paintings of brash nudes.

“In 20th century art, the image of woman was constantly under attack, from Picasso’s two-faced women to De Kooning’s merciless portraits, to the latest tagger’s decimation.” Ferlinghetti wrote recently, “Women’s liberation movements freed women from conventional restraints, but also dethroned her from the pedestal where she had always been seen as the embodiment of pure beauty and mystery.” Pure beauty and mystery? Obviously he hasn't been looking at much for the last 50 years. Ferlinghetti's work is crude enough to qualify as a sexist attack and as far as women's lib freeing women - maybe Mr. Ferlinghetti should read the daily news.

But he is still the poet laureate of SF and can do no wrong as evinced by this laudatory interview at SF Weekly:

 Oakland Museum of California: After more than 3 years of construction, the Gallery of California Natural Sciences is open to the public. Visitors can experience seven real places throughout California that depict the stat's diverse habitats. A new exhibit is on display "Inspiration Points: Masterpieces of California Landscape," presenting more than 60 iconic paintings, photography and works on paper.

Xavier Timoteo Orozco Martinez

The artworks included in Inspiration Points have been carefully selected from the Museum's extensive and pre-eminent holdings of California art from the Gold Rush era to the present to tell the stories of how people have interacted with the natural world. Artists featured will include Ansel Adams, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Hill, David Hockney, William Keith, Arthur Mathews, Richard Misrach, Thomas Moran, and more. The exhibition will be divided into several areas of focus that reflect artists' depiction of the landscape from a celebration of California's sublime natural world, to the documentation of exploitation of natural resources, to the investigation of the intersection of the urban and "wild."

 Arthur Mathews. Spring Dance.

Drew Johnson, Curator of Photography and Visual Culture,  says, "From majestic scenes of unspoiled wilderness to exploited lands and dystopian visions, Inspiration Points illuminates how artists have interpreted the landscape at particular moments in time. Highlighting important recent acquisitions while also shedding new light on timeless favorites, the exhibition examines the changing attitudes toward the environment over time and provides a surprising investigation of California's natural world."

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

SFMOMA on the go

After a 4-day extravaganza to end all museum extravaganzas, SFMOMA closed on Sunday for a 2 1/2 year expansion plan to make room for the Fisher Collection and other anticipated purchases.

People took photos of themselves in front of favorite artworks on every floor, and stood in line for hours to see the 24-hour film "The Clock." The free Family Day had a variety of activities for the kids, including making a model of a trebuchet and flinging non-lethal boulders. No castle walls were destroyed but there was a lot of laughter.

49,467 attended the museum, partied throughout the night and ended the celebrations at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday with a free-form dance through the atrium and out onto the street. As closings go, it was a joyous event.

But the museum is not going away. If anything, it's going to be even more present. "We're not going to let you forget about us," SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra told the crowd. "The lights may go off here at 6 o'clock this evening, but we'll be turning on the lights all over the city for the next 2 1/2 years until we see you all back here in 2016."

Bay Area's own Mark di Suvero's sculptures are on display at Crissy Field.  The eight sculptures scattered across the 26.5-acre field is the largest display of di Suvero's work on the West Coast. It is also the largest public single-site, single-artist exhibition mounted by SFMOMA and the pilot for an Art in the Park program by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which manages the field. The exhibition is free and will be up for a year.

The mammoth sculptures are also large enough to withstand the hurricane force of the wind coming through the Golden Gate Bridge. In fact, they are so study that it seems a shame that di Suvero wasn't put in charge of building the Bay Bridge. The bridge might have been built faster and with a greater respect for the steel bolts and girders.

"Lure: Bay Area Artists Explore the Sea" at SFMOMA's Artists Gallery at Ft. Mason. The America's Cup is the news of the day and several museums are taking advantage of the fact. This exhibit will bring together works by Bay Area artists whose art is inspired by the sea. Opening Saturday, June 15, 2013. 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.Building A, Fort Mason Center San Francisco, CA 94123. Free to the public.

 Teresita Fernández, Fire, 2005. Silk yarn, steel armature, and epoxy, 96 x 144 in. Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase; copyright © Teresita Fernández.

"Beyond Belief. 100 Years of the Spiritual In Art." Jointly organized by the Contemporary Jewish Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, this expansive exhibition — spanning the years 1911 to 2011 — journeys into the far-reaching connections between spirituality and modern and contemporary art. Featuring diverse works by artists ranging from early 20th-century visionaries such as Paul Klee and Piet Mondrian to leading postwar and contemporary artists including Jay DeFeo, Kiki Smith, and Zarina, Beyond Belief offers a fresh new vision of familiar and lesser-known works from SFMOMA’s collection. On view June 28 through October 27, 2013. Admission is free for SFMOMA members.