Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Aurobora Press: New Works on Paper by Dana Frankfort

Faith / Yes / Blah Blah :
New Works on Paper by Dana Frankfort
September 2 - October 11
Without experimentation, no discovery;
Without discovery, no regeneration

Aurobora Press is one of my favorite galleries. Formerly a firehouse, it's been beautifully crafted into a marvelous space to view contemporary prints, many of which were made there.

As a calligrapher and former commercial lettering artist, I found this work extremely exciting. I have just started to incorporate text into some of my art work and seeing her pieces got me thinking in all sorts of new ways. Her letters are printed, printed over and handwritten to create pieces of calligraphic complexity. It's not easy to do something new with letters, to create pieces that use text in a painterly way and not have it degenerate into neo-calligraphy loops. By letting go of the form of the beautiful letter, and focusing on shape and texture, Frankfort moves text into new realms.

147 Natoma, T: 415.546.7880; Open: M-Sa: 11AM - 5PM
*Images and motto from the Aurobora website

Monday, September 22, 2008

What to do on Tuesday night: Bruce McGaw at SFAI

Bruce McGaw: Paintings and Drawings, a Solo Exhibition, to Open at SFAI
Wednesday, September 03, 2008

On Tuesday, 23 September 2008, the opening reception for Bruce McGaw: Paintings and Drawings, a solo exhibition of work by longtime SFAI faculty member Bruce McGaw, will be held from 7:00 to 9:00pm at the Walter and McBean Galleries on SFAI’s 800 Chestnut Street campus. Free and open to the public (Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 11:00am to 6:00pm), the exhibition will be on view from 23 September to 4 October 2008 at the Walter and McBean Galleries.

“For over five decades, Bruce McGaw’s paintings have explored and embraced his keen interest in the grand history of European painting, an interest often expressed through a carefully modulated deployment of three related elements: figure, color, and ideas of pictorial architecture. After 1990, though color remains a significant element that entices and rewards the eye, it is the figures and their narrative implications that come much closer to the work’s pictorial and philosophical foreground.”

from SFAI faculty member Mark Van Proyen’s exhibition essay, “Picturing the Life of Color: The Art of Bruce McGaw
Images from:

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Visits and Revisits

Friday was just about the last day of Women Impressionists at the Legion. I went with my friend Judy and while the place was crowded, I did get to revisit several old favorites and refresh my memory about pieces that I had forgotten. It was a pleasure to "explain" painting to Judy who doesn't know very much about art or technique. I'm afraid that I held forth in quite the opinioned way; in fact, at one point, I had a bit of an audience. Some thought I was a docent but I had to beg off and say that I was just sharing my views which were informed by my current struggles with oil. I now notice texture against canvas and individual brush stokes. The pastels just amazed me (again). Pastel is a very difficult medium and her variation of texture and stroke is simply marvelous. The flesh areas are carefully worked but not overworked and there's a joyous bravura in the treatment of the background and the clothing. Later, we went for lunch at Burma Star - making this another multi-cultural day in San Francisco.

Yesterday, I revisited the Ming exhibit at the Asian. Like the exhibit at the Legion, this would close on the 21st and there were crowds but I knew what I wanted to see. I've been reading about Wang Hui, one of the most prolific and talented painters of the late 17th century and a star of the Ming period. I thought that there were one or two examples of his work at the show. I particularly wanted to reexamine the amazing large hanging scrolls, which are filled with the most exquisite detail. I found myself wondering about the process of painting something this large. I know about the materials, the ink, the silk and the paper but I could not find any information on how long the process took. I couldn't see any area which showed obvious breaks that can happen in any water based media. Yet, the wall paintings were so complex that it's impossible to imagine that they were painted in one session.

I thought about how tragic it was for China's future that she was not able to develop further her early scientific and geographic discoveries. I can't remember the name of the eunuch who made seven voyages all over Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean in the name of the emperor. Yet, upon his death, the emperor of the time closed China to further exploration. She was able to live on past glories for a couple of centuries but it's possible that had China been allowed to develop scientifically she might have been able to avoid the long disaster of the 19th century, the opium forced on her by British military superiority and the loss of so much territory to Japan and the European powers. Given China's tragic history vis-a-vis the West, I don't blame her current crowing over our misfortunes. I don't like it but I do understand.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Wild West at the Beach

In 1902 Buffalo Bill brought his famous Wild West show to San Francisco. There exists a fairly well known photograph of Buffalo Bill and 100 Indians, mounted on horseback, stretched out along Ocean Beach below the Cliff House. Earlier this month Seattle artist, Thom Ross installed his recreation of that spectacular image. Ross lined up over 100, bigger than life-size, brightly painted plywood cutouts of Indian worriers and Buffalo Bill himself, in the sand right on Ocean Beach. It certainly was a sight to behold and fun to photograph.

You can see more photos here.

Photo: ©2008 David W. Sumner

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Jane Grossenbacher Retrospective

Jane Grossenbacher's Retrospective
Jane Grossenbacher - A Retrospective of Photographs and Photogravures 1972-2008
The Gallery at 323 Potrero Avenue
(between 16th and 17th Streets, in San Francisco)
Open weekends 1pm - 5pm
Sept 12 - Oct 19, 2008
(photos of the opening here)

Don't miss this show. If you have any interest in B&W photography, you must visit the gallery on one of these upcoming weekends. Her rich, emotional imagery, and her luscious prints fill the gallery walls, several racks, and a beautifully boxed set.

Jane's body of work is extensive (her web site only has a tiny sampling that doesn't begin to do her justice.) She has mostly focused on people and animals, including scores of dancers and countless cats and dogs.

Her dogs remind me of Elliot Erwitt's images. She once told me that she loved shooting dogs because of their open hearts. "They don't guard themselves," she said, "it's all in their faces and their bodies."

Her photogravures of a Moroccan camel herd caught in a sudden thunderstorm are a tour de force.

Jane is in hospice care, at her home in Project Artaud.

"Jane has a great depth of vision that reveals an essence the subjects themselves would find surprisingly refreshing." - David W. Sumner

She worked hard on perfecting her photogravure technique - images of a print workshop led by Jane: on Flickr. Two of her photogravures above: "Scoopback" and "Dancer Guitar Mirror", both ©Jane Grossenbacher

Friday, September 12, 2008

Linda Fong at Ratio 3

Ratio 3 is a new gallery (to me) and I enjoyed the current show. The recent exhibit at the Oakland Museum and Joanna Mattera's work have made me more appreciate of geometric work, even though this work skirts the edges of that style. The end wall pieces, with their bright colors and geometric forms, worked particularly well in the narrow space. Standing in the middle of the various colored geometric pieces was rather like revisiting the 60’s sans the psychedelic drugs. The edge to edge wall installations gave the pieces more presence than I think they would have if shown individually.

However, I’ve seen a lot of SF hipster art and while the narrow gallery space buzzed with the geometric pieces, I found the SF hipster attitude pieces more than a bit – dare I say – boring? Painted surfboards, cartoons, video art. Ho hum, been there, seen that.

However, it turns out that I’ve been hoaxed. When is a Linda Fong not Linda? Well, apparently, when she’s a he - a "hoax" right in the best SF trickster tradition.

“Add Lydia Fong to the list of pseudonyms used by San Francisco artist Barry McGee. A solo exhibition A Moment for Reflection: new works by Lydia Fong opened stealthily at Ratio 3 on Fri, Sept. 5. Up until two week ago the Ratio 3 website had the show simply listed as ’something by somebody’.”

A Moment for Reflection:
new work by Lydia Fong: September 5 - October 18, 2008

1447 Stevenson Street • San Francisco • California • 94103 USA
Wednesday - Saturday, 11am - 6pm and by appointment:
images from website

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Circus Show in Sacramento

Sacramento-based artist Gale Hart is curating the 2nd annual Circus Show at the Verge Gallery and Studio Project this Saturday in downtown Sacramento. The show will be from 5-10 pm at 1900 V Street (corner of 19th Street). Proceeds will go to benefit animal protection groups. Here’s more information:

The 2nd Annual Circus Show & Other Atrocities juxtaposes the dark, painful lives of performing animals with the fun, amusing atmosphere of the carnival.

Curator and artist Gale Hart brings together performers and visual artists to create a unique and powerful event. This year’s show is already shaping up to be extraordinary!

The show has over 100 national and international artists participating. The performance line-up starts with Dan Piraro, creator of Bizarro, who will be joined by comedian and MC, Keith Lowell Jensen, singer Larisa Bryski, plus jugglers, belly dancers, firebenders and other performers, freaks, artist-made midway games and rides, as well as raffle prizes including original artwork and so much more. With proceeds donated to animal protection groups.

The artist reception and performances will be on Second Saturday, September 13th from 5pm – 10pm, with the World’s Largest Artist-Made Circus Train installation, on display in the gallery through October 11th.

The Circus Show is more than just a performance and art show as participants take to the streets for the unofficial Midtown Freak Parade and the event spills over to other venues throughout downtown Sacramento who will also have circus-themed shows the same evening. This year’s Circus Show will easily top the Ringling Bros. circus, which just happens to be in town the same weekend.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bob Armstrong

I first met Bob Armstrong several years ago, by not paying attention at a silent auction. The fundraiser was for Buena Vista, a Spanish immersion elementary school here in the City. After paying my six dollar winning bid for a tour of SFMOMA, I learned the tour was for kids and their parents, and would be led by Armstrong, the PTA funded art teacher at Buena Vista.

On the day of the tour, I arrived to find Armstrong surrounded by a half dozen parents and their fourth graders. Armstrong is outgoing and friendly, and with his trademark hat and soft spoken nature, comes across a little like Indiana Jones without the Pan Am frequent flier miles.

I soon found myself in the middle of an incredibly interesting and insightful art experience. One of the advantages of going to a museum with a group of kids is that they crowd around a painting and are not bashful about sitting on the floor for a more comfortable view. This swarming not only allows accompanying adults an unobstructed view of the painting, it gives us more than a brief moment to ponder the piece, as well as preventing other patrons from weaving their way to the front. Anyone who has mooed through the cattle drives at Frida Kahlo, Chihuly, and the Women Impressionists recently can appreciate this tactical advantage.

As a teacher, Armstrong uses the Visual Thinking Strategy (VTS) learning method. VTS is a way to teach critical thinking about the arts to children, to get them involved. Rather than a top down lecture about art history, Armstrong asks children what it is they see and engages them personally in the art work, then encourages discussion and shared insights.

Armstrong prompted the kids with questions about each painting, and asked them questions to expand their responses or to discuss another classmate’s viewpoint. He occasionally made a broad observation about a painting, or added historical facts, as a lead in to more questions.

We spent about 90 minutes in the first three rooms of the permanent collection at SFMOMA, after which our brains were full and we all went home for milk and cookies and a well deserved nap.

I’d seen the collection many times, but never so thoroughly and from so many different angles. I now have a half unit of credit in fourth grade art, in case I ever decide to go back and refresh my elementary school degree.

Armstrong teaches that math and art are not separate, they are interrelated. He believes art interacts with and supports academics in a direct way. Music and math are very much intertwined. The way he uses grids in his own paintings is mathematic.

Armstrong’s paintings grow out of an idea of balance and exploring texture. "Lament" from his bee series is a way to balance the geometry of the hexagon with the realism and naturalism of bees, flowers, branches.

“Aspen” shown at the top is an acrylic painting whose panels have the textured look of real aspen bark.

His current abstracts are the kimono series, which also the explore idea of balance. The series gets its name from the paintings giving the appearance of a displayed kimono.

“Cycle of Fire” shows the life cycles of a pine tree forest. Pine needles, fire, new life, new start. The fire sections are cracked like burnt wood or dry clay soil.

Bob Armstrong still teaches an occasional class for students with special needs at Buena Vista. He finds it a good way to get out and be with people in the mornings before spending the afternoon alone creating his paintings. He is active in and is the former president of the Artists Guild of San Francisco, and is often part of the Guild’s weekly public art shows around the City.

by Phil Gravitt

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Melissa Chandon at I. Wolk in St. Helena

Melissa Chandon, an artist new to me, opened a new exhibition at I. Wolk Gallery in St. Helena, CA this past weekend. Most galleries up there remind me of the galleries in Monterey, that is to say the art displayed is not to my taste. Once again though a lone standout, well, stood out.

I like this work very much. And so apparently does Wayne Thiebaud who says "Chandon has developed an effective synthesis of abstract and representational elements in her works. This gives the works an intensity and raw graphic power to behold"

If you have a chance to go see the works they are worth the trip. Try also to hit Elizabeth Spencer Winery, in the old post office across from the Rutherford Grill. Each wine was very good and relatively reasonable.

For those interested, the works ranged in price from $3500 to $9500 (as was our favorite, the Snow King sign), while the piece with the palms was priced at $35000. It must have been 8'x8' or larger. The I. Wolk site has all of the paintings shown.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

New Work at the Galleries

Guillermo Bart at Gallery 415 (49 Geary)

Chilean born artist Guillermo Bert's signature style is beautifully executed artworks with harsh political messages. The opulent finishes of gold and glossy jewel colors against the stark and hard edge laser cut barcodes with their blunt irony are a perfect example of the dichotomies he explores.

Julie Heffernan at Catherine Clark (through September 27th). Her work combines Bosh, surrealism and an ironic look at modern life to create works that are disturbing and beautiful

Other New Shows @ 49 Geary:

1) Brian Gross Fine Art (fifth floor): New work by Roy Thurston; work by Anna Valentina Murch

2) Gregory Lind Gallery (fifth floor): "Beacons, Floaters and Lost Objects," works by Sarah Walker.

3) Haines Gallery (fifth floor): "Gold Mountain," sculptures by Zhan Wang, "Library of Dust," large-scale photographs by David Maisel.

4) Mark Wolfe (suite 202): "Waiting for the Water," sculptures by Jeremy Mora.

5) Robert Tat Gallery: "Pictoral Modernist," photographs by Karl Struss.

6) Steven Wolf Fine Arts (suite 411): "Let's Pretend," works by Charles Fahlen.

other gallery openings:
1) Cafe Royale: 800 Post; "When is Now," paintings by Christina Empedocles and Leah Rosenberg.
2) Dolby Chadwick: 210 Post; Paintings by Emanuel Bernstone.
3) Frey Norris Gallery: 456 Geary; "Experimental Studio," three projects by Shen Shaomin.
4) Hang Art: 556 Sutter; "Colorfields, Colored Skies," new paintings by Addie Shevlin.
5) Hang Art Annex: 567 Sutter; "Intentionally Unintentional," new works by Hang Art artists.
6) Jenkins Johnson Art Gallery: 464 Sutter; "The Figure Today," group show.
7) Marx and Zavaterro: 77 Geary; "In God We Trust," works by Andrew Schoultz.This looks particularly interesting as Schoultz takes on America, George Washington and the War in Iraq8) Meridian Gallery: 535 Powell; "Art of Democracy: War and Empire," group show.
9) 111 Minna Gallery: 111 Minna; "Golden," Recent work by Serena Cole and Tahiti Pehrson.
10) Rare Device: 1845 Market; "Sleep Walk" new work by Amy Earles.
11) Rena Bransten Gallery: 77 Geary; "New Work," photographs by Matthias Hoch. "Leave it on the Dance Floor," paintings by Joseph Park.
12) Trogonon Gallery: 77 Geary, second floor. "Transitions, Transformations, and Transcendence Hybrid," works by Xuchi Naungayan Eggleton; "Adventure Art II-XIX," by Terra Fuller.

images from gallery websites; list from the Examiner; comments my own.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Banned and Recovered

Banned & Recovered: Artists Respond to Censorship

An exhibit that is quite relevant, given our politics. I have been to the SF Center for the book twice to see this. The art work is marvelous, way beyond my capacity to photograph but the ideas are what hit you the hardest.
It's not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. — Judy Blume, children's book author

Curated by Hanna Regev, the exhibit features work from more than 60 artists working in a variety of media. With most artists interpreting a banned book of their choice, the project provides a unique forum for visual artists to respond to the suppression of literary art. The exhibit, with different work on display at each location, will run through November 26 in San Francisco and December 31 in Oakland. Participating artists include Enrique Chagoya, Sandow Birk, Mildred Howard, Emory Douglas, Naomie Kremer and many others.

Books that have been suppressed constitute a shockingly wide selection, ranging from colonial-era novels to acknowledged contemporary classics—books such as Fanny Hill, Tom Sawyer, The Color Purple, and the Harry Potter novels. "What's most troubling," says AAMLO chief curator Rick Moss, "is how arbitrary the process is. In keeping with the missions of our two organizations, we all felt this was the most thought-provoking and appropriate way to explore this issue, while dovetailing with the ALA's 2008 theme 'free people read freely.'"

Curator Hanna Regev works with many Bay Area cultural organizations and art galleries, producing public programs in history, art, and museum practice. Regev serves on the board of the First Amendment Project, and is a past president of the Northern California Council of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Regev’s view is that: "Collectively, the work initiates an important undertaking—the recovery of fragments of our censored history. We felt that the pairing of visual and graphic artists with these banned and threatened books was a natural one. After all, what better group to interpret suppressed works than visual artists, who are already so attuned to the threat of censorship. The show is a powerful reminder of the fragility of our freedoms, many of which are being chipped away by the Patriot Act. It is a powerful testament to the irrepressible creative spirit."

Public programs in conjunction with the exhibitions

Four panel discussions have been designed specifically for the exhibit, addressing a variety of topics. All are free to the public.

Sept. 28, 2 pm, San Francisco Public Library, Koret Auditorium: Dispelling Dirt: Sex, Gender and Censorship
Artists Kara Maria, Nigel Poor, Jan Wurm, and Alejandra Chaverri

Oct. 18, 3 pm, AAMLO: Mark Twain and the Censors
Victor Fischer, editor Mark Twain papers, Bancroft Library; artist Milton Bowens

Nov. 22, 3 pm, AAMLO: Literary Works on Trial
Jan Wurm moderator; David Greene, Director, First Amendment Project; artists Richard Kamler, Eileen Moderbacher, Justin Hoover, Barbara Milman

Dec. 6, 3 pm, AAMLO: African American Writers and Censorship
Jeanne Powell, poet; artists Emory Douglas, Favianna Rodriguez, Bryan Keith Thomas

Two Locations:

San Francisco Center for the Book, 300 De Haro St, San Francisco: From Aug. 15-Nov. 26, 2008 And African American Museum and Library at Oakland
Sept. 5-Dec. 31, 2008
Gallery hours: Tues-Sat, 12-5:30

images from SF Center for the Book

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Fifth Annual ROADWORKS: Steamroller Prints

It’s the Fifth Annual Roadworks Steamroller Prints. Come to SF Center for the Book and see an real steamroller make prints and enjoy all the great art and wares from local vendors

Potrero Hill's street fair will take place Saturday, September 20, 2008, 12 noon to 5 pm, on De Haro Street between 16th and 17th streets.

Local artists and members of the community convene at this annual free street fair to create unique large-scale linoleum block carvings printed with a three-ton steamroller.

Roadworks: Steamroller Prints will bring together 6 local artists, Patricia Curtan, Emory Douglas, Jason Jagel, Rik Olson, Favianna Rodriguez, and San Quentin State Prison students of Katya McCulloch with Art Hazelwood, will create original linocut prints to be pressed by the steamroller. You can find out more about the artists and see some of their work here.

In addition to steamroller printmaking, there will be free children's activities, music and dozens of book arts vendors selling their wares. At the Roadworks: Steamroller Prints street fair you can buy a "little lino" steamroller print; chose from an array of handmade books, gifts and prints; get a bite to eat; take a tour of the SFCB gallery and pull your very own letterpress print.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Shirley Shor at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

The Well

Multimedia installation
Commissioned by the Contemporary Jewish Museum
Courtesy of the artist, Moti Hason Gallery, and Gallery Paule Anglim

I am not normally a fan of video art but this piece is astonishing - which is why I was so sorry that the noise level prevented me from really looking at it. Like the other exhibits, this was set within its own recessed space and there was some sort of sound track which was, unfortunately, obliterated by the noise coming from the other pieces in the exhibit. Shor set up search engines that mined Hebrew and English Internet sites such as blogs and social networks to search for texts that used the biblical phrase “In the beginning,” from Genesis. She also mined the Internet for the phrase “Thou shalt not,” as its proscriptive tone is a counterpoint to the possibility inherent in the words “In the beginning. The piece is shaped like the mouth of a well and the words circle around in an endless stream of combinations and colors. “In this piece,” notes Shor, “the Bible and the Internet function as The Well, a physical and virtual meeting place. The Well becomes a source of knowledge both sacred and mundane; both perfect and flawed.”

She is also currently showing at (through September 7th) at Gallerie Paule Anglim; well worth seeing.

image from their CJM website