Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Institutional Art in Oakland

I'm clipping a couple of recent articles from the NYT and from Timothy Buckwalter's blog, about art in Oakland. We also have a new Oakland correspondent, Favianna Rodriquez, who will be checking in soon with news of the current Oakland art scene.

Where ‘Art’ Has Met ‘Craft’ for 100 Years
Published: November 11, 2007

WHEN the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his shop, Frederick Meyer, a German-born cabinetmaker with links to the Arts and Crafts movement, turned disaster into opportunity. The next year he and his wife, Laetitia, opened the School of the California Guild of Arts and Crafts with 3 teachers and 43 students. They had $45 in the bank and a vision of providing rigorous training to fine artists and craftsmen alike.

That school is now the California College of the Arts, a remarkable Bay Area institution that while perhaps unfamiliar outside the region has played an important role in shaping the past 100 years of California art.

“From the beginning the unity of arts and crafts was the most important principle at C.C.A., just like it would be at the Bauhaus, which was established 12 years later,” said Peter Selz, professor emeritus of art history at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1959, while a curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, he exhibited two little-known painters with connections to the college, Richard Diebenkorn and Nathan Oliveira.

Both those successful artists are now among the 100 alumni and faculty members whose work is in “Artists of Invention: A Century of C.C.A.,” on view until March 16 at the Oakland Museum of California.
rest of the story here

Final thoughts on the Oakland Museum.
By Timothy Buckwalter
Published: December 5, 2007

Dear Oakland Museum,

Your idea of trying to offer a showcase for California art is ridiculous. Your holdings are seriously lacking in any substantial numbers of recent work from So Cal.

Phil Linhares told me that the Museum will stand by this policy of claiming to show all of California, while in the same breath he said the Museum simply cannot afford to buy any work from these guys. Okay, if you are gonna stick up for a obsolete idea at least think of way around it – why not work on getting some pieces on long term loan? Or, hey, what about prints? As a matter of fact, San Francisco’s Crown Point Press has some Baldessaris available right now.

Here is a better idea, and one that requires much less work. Why not re-mission yourself and become the only Bay Area spot that shows an in-depth selection of 20th Century and 21st Century Bay Area art? There is no competition for the title. SFMOMA doesn’t show local art. Not with any serious commitment, at least. Rene di Rosa only shows the bargains he picked up in the last four decades. Oakland could be a beacon in Northern California of the best and brightest from the place we call home. I’m not talking about hosting a Roy De Forest retrospective. I’m talking about thoughtfully rehanging a vast selection of work that brings to life our proud, brilliant and freakish art heritage. How many schools began here? Let’s name them -- AbEx, Bay Area Figurative, Funk, the Mission School, and so on. Don’t be shy, throw some video and performance in the mix. Geez, SRL is still around and pumping its testosterone. Put one of their pieces outside for the kids to enjoy.

You probably haven’t noticed it, but in the last three years a self-supporting art scene has sprung up in Oakland. I say you probably haven’t noticed because I’m trying to be positive here. If you noticed it and ignored it, wtf Oakland Museum? And like you, it seems the scene is gonna stick around. As a matter of fact a few galleries are even bringing in work from out of town, trying to get a dialogue going with our scene, tossing in some new ideas. Mills has hopped on the bandwagon and promised to import more international and East Coast works into the mix. The Magnes is getting local artists to rummage through their archives to create fantastic shows. What are you doing to support us? (No, a bike tour of Oakland does not count.)
rest of the story here

(Images are from the Oakland Museum, top one via the NYT)


Timothy Buckwalter said...

To put the excerpt of my piece in some kind of context - In a few weeks the Oakland Museum is closing its art gallery for the next year or so. The purpose is to renovate the space, adding more floor footage by enclosing the outdoor bays, and then do a new hanging of the permanent collection.

For the last 6 months of so, I have been railing against the Museum's current mission statement of trying to showcase art from all of California. To my past whinings Phil Linhares has responded that though they cannot afford to aquire any contemporary art from LA they will continue on with their mission.

As you can see from my letter I think that is a ludicrous idea. No one in the immediate Bay Area offers a decent showplace for Bay Area art. SFMOMA certainly does not. One could almost say they intentionally ignore it instead opting to make a statement that their permenant collection is more broadly based. They've gone on record as saying they feel their strength is their Yves Klein holdings. Whatever.

Now is the chance for Oakland to step up.They have what it takes, they just need to be proud and repurpose themselves.

Nancy Ewart said...

I have never understood why few of the Bay Area museums showcase Bay Area artists --- until they have made it in NY (Thiebauld, Nieri, et al. ) or after they are dead (most of the Bay Area Figurative Painters). We could have so much more of a vibrant and FINANCIALLY viable art community if we had a bit more local support. It's great that artists support artists but I'm still waiting (as are many) for the local museums to do the same.

Timothy Buckwalter said...

Well, except local museums, institutions and collectors have supported local artists in the past. Long before they have gone on to acclaim in NYC and the rest of the world, SF has supported our conceptual artists, AbEx painters, funck sculptors, beat artists, and the Mission School. Its just that currently you cannot see any decent representation of this without travelling out of the immediate Bay Area.

SFMOMA has a stunning collection of Bay Area AbEx art - they just choose to not show it (the last time they put anything of consequence up, voluntarily, from that school was when the new space on 3rd Street opened). It was an AMAZING look at 50 years ago.

Oakland has a great overview of work from the last century by Bay Areans. They just mangle the presentation of it by throwing in an occasional So Cal artist - which is my bone with them. Why waste the space on alot of second-rate So Cal pieces when we are so lacking for representation.

But with the closing of Oakland for the next year and a half, there is a serious vacuum. We are probably the only American City that does not showcase its own schools - LA does, NY does, Philly does, and so does Portland.

Isn't it time to change this?