Thursday, April 30, 2009

Opening at City Hall: In our Own Pictures

Thursday, April 30 (5:30-7:30) join the SFAC Gallery at the opening reception of In Our Own Pictures and In Our Own Works, an exhibition of work from San Francisco community art organizations, the Sixth Street Photography Workshop and Central Hospitality House.

The Sixth Street Photography Workshop and Central City Hospitality House provide disenfranchised residents with the resources and support to have their voices projected into the greater community through artistic expression.

In Our Own Pictures was created by The Sixth Street Photography Workshop. Residents of Sixth Street were invited to have their portrait taken in full view from the sidewalk, in the Muse/Dekker Photography Studio between Howard and Folsom. Each participant is respectfully represented by a photographer from the neighborhood trained by the Workshop. A collection of photographs were taken and each person who participated was given several copies of their portraits to take with them. These served as a formal document of a moment in time as well as a tool to reconnect with often estranged family and friends.

In Our Own Works is a collection of figurative works from the Community Arts Program at the Central City Hospitality House which is currently celebrating forty years of service. The works on display have been selected from the archives of the open art studio space in the Tenderloin. This organization provides a sheltered place to create and gives support to individuals living in severe poverty who may also be suffering with addiction problems. During studio hours, artists work in a variety of media and are encouraged to explore their imagination and express their feelings and concerns through the creation of works of art.

*Check out The Sixth Street Photography Workshop's latest book, Stories of the City: The Sixth Street Workshop 1991-2005. Support the workshop by purchasing a copy (low income/students: $15, general public: $25).

**Artist and educator Renee Billingslea, along with her photography students at Santa Clara University, worked in collaboration with the Sixth Street Photography Workshop to provide homeless families with professional-quality photographs. An inspiration experiment in art and social justice, this project received some much deserved attention from the Christian Science Monitor.

Reception: Thursday April 30th, 5:30-7:30
City Hall Hours: Monday - Friday, 8am - 8pm

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hopper in SF Musuems

This piece - The Bridle Path is owned by SFMOMA but isn't on exhibit. When I did a search at the De Young and the Legion, I was hoping to see some of Hopper's iconic, light filled pieces but it looks like they have only (mostly?) graphic works and none of them are on display.
East Side Interior, 1922

For Hopper, the complete separation of the real and the abstract, and the depreciation of realistic representation and the elevation of pure abstraction as the be-all and end-all of art -- its transcendental fundament, so to speak -- was not the advance in artistic wisdom the modernists claimed it to be. It was an unwitting artistic decadence, a dubious Solomon’s wisdom, for it destroyed what Kandinsky called the "welcome complementation of the abstract by means of the objective and vice versa."

The "ultimate ideal," as he said, is their "absolute equilibrium," and we see that in Hopper’s pictures. It is the "ever-varying balancing act" between "the ‘purely artistic’ and ‘objective’," to again use Kandinsky’s words, in Hopper’s pictures, that gives them an Old Master consummateness, suggesting the inadequacy of purely abstract or (social) realistic art. Both are one-sided, and because of that lost their vitality and became self-stereotyping, that is, dead-end mannerisms. Hopper’s pictures are not products of the mass culture industry, which is what a good deal of contemporary abstraction and realism, with their brittle flashiness, seem to be. (Kuspit)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Edward Hopper at Fraenkel Gallery

Frankel Gallery is showing the work of Edward Hopper along with works by photographers who have been influenced by him. His influence on popular culture has been enormous so that you can't look at images of rural emptiness or urban blight without thinking of Hopper. The photographs show loneliness and decay, people who are perennial outsiders, the lonely crowd.

The photographers “get” the urban angst and rural desolation but they miss – for the most part – his light, the emotion in his paintings, that goes beyond their technique. There is one photograph in particular which is of a tumble down clapboard shack, probably somewhere in the South. You can almost see the cockroaches and smell the garbage and greasy food but what you don’t see – what Hopper paints so eloquently – is the inner life of these places and the people in them.

Robert Hughes writes: The word great is crippled by hype these days, and perhaps it merely clouds what it seeks to praise; yet the qualities it suggests—patient, lucid development; the transcendence of mere talent; richness and density of meaning; and a deep sense of moral dignity in the artist's refraction of his own culture—are so evident in Hopper that no other word will really do.

There is one masterpiece in the gallery, Intermission (1963), painted a few years before his death. In Intermission, Hopper again paints a canvas with a solitary figure, a seated woman, preoccupied with her own thoughts, calmly waiting for the play to continue. In any other hands, the spare scene would have been trivial but in his, the diagonal of floor and wallboard are intersected by the vertical lines of the chairs and interrupted by the vertical edge of the stage. Everything is bathed in a luminous off-white light. He does not strive for realism but goes beyond that. Perhaps the woman is a metaphor for us all, waiting for the curtain to rise on the next act of our lives. Hopper takes us beyond the limits of chronological time into a timeless place, an introspective world beyond the fashions of the day and the politics of the time.

Frankel Gallery: through May 2nd: 49 Geary, SF,9171,954589,00.html
Gail Levin: Edward Hopper, The art and the artist

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Nick Cave at Yerba Buena

He made his first sound suit in 1992 by making body wearable art out of twigs that he found at the part, making something valuable out of discards

“It was a very hard year for me because of everything that came out of the Rodney King beating,” he said. “I started thinking about myself more and more as a black man — as someone who was discarded, devalued, viewed as less than.”

As soon as the twig sculpture was finished, he said, he realized that he could wear it as a second skin: “I put it on and jumped around and was just amazed. It made this fabulous rustling sound. And because it was so heavy, I had to stand very erect, and that alone brought the idea of dance back into my head.”

He started off learning how to sew at the Kansas City Art Institute and later, became an Alvin Ailey dancer, “I was always interested in movement,” he said, “but I knew I didn’t want to devote myself exclusively to dance. I wanted to bridge dance and art.” He went on to get a Master’s Degree and later taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The sounds suits have become more elaborate – some made for performance, some for the gallery system, some are durable, some more fragile but all are based on the human body and all are made for some version of dance.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

FREE! Family Day at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

Free Family Day at the Contemporary Jewish Museum: Sunday, April 26, 11 AM - 3 PM

Celebrate Spring by enjoying music, making art, and sharing dramatic tales of freedom!
* Sing, dance, and listen to stories in Goldman Hall. Enjoy musical performances by beloved local musician Elana Jagoda, and popular storyteller Liora Brosbe will be here to share tales of the spring season.

* Explore the Museum's exhibitions, including: New Works/Old Story: 80 Artists at the Passover Table, and Chagall and the Artists of the Russian Jewish Theater, 1919-1949.

* Make art with your entire family! Use symbols of freedom to create a colorful banner, or create fanciful puppets to tell your favorite tales!

For more info: The Contemporary Jewish Museum
736 Mission Street (between Third and Fourth streets)
San Francisco, CA 94103 415.655.7800

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bye Bye Crouching Spider

Luis R. Cancel, Director of Cultural Affairs of the San Francisco Arts Commission, announces the removal of Louise Bourgeois’ sculpture, Crouching Spider. On loan to the City since November 2007, the 2 ½ ton monumental bronze arachnid has enjoyed pride of place at the Embarcadero’s Entry Plaza at Pier 14. Louise Bourgeois, at 97, is considered to be one of the world’s most important and influential living artists. The sculpture, which was originally cast in 2003 from the artist’s famous Spider series, was made specifically for display in San Francisco. So, if you've got the energy in this heat, go down to the Embarcadero for one last look.

Initially lent for eight months by the artist, courtesy of Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco and Cheim & Read, New York, the sculpture’s stay was extended due to popular support. On Friday, April 24, Crouching Spider will be disassembled with the greatest of care into ten pieces and transported to a private collection in Houston, Texas.

“Crouching Spider set a new precedent for public art in San Francisco. It has been truly wonderful to have such a magnificent sculpture by a world-class artist placed at the entrance of the City were it was viewed and enjoyed by thousands of people,” stated Luis R. Cancel, Director of Cultural Affairs. “We thank Mayor Newsom for his enthusiasm and support for the public art program. His support reflects his belief that the arts are a vital part of the life of the city, and we look forward to continuing to enrich the community by bringing new works by leading local and national artists to the Bay Area.”

Ms. Bourgeois’ spider sculptures pay homage to her mother, who like a spider, was a weaver and spinner, working in the family business of tapestry repair. For Ms. Bourgeois the spider represents an ideal mother because it is a creature that protects its children while weaving for them a beautiful home. The immense scale of the spider sculptures corresponds to the monumental importance of the artists’ mother to her daughter.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Figurative Work at Dolby Chadwick

Dolby Chadwick is showing some particularly juicy figurative work right now. There are several small pieces by Kim Froshin in their back room with an upcoming show scheduled for May 7th. But the main show features work by Marius Bosc, mostly nudes poised against loosely geometric backgrounds. His paint surfaces are luminous, with brushwork that is inspired by Bay Area Figurative painting but is obviously his own. (Through May 2nd)

Dolby Chadwick Gallery: 210 Post Street, Suite 205
San Francisco CA, 94108
(images from the website)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


"Spring Lupine" by Carl Sammons - pastel, circa 1920's

Through June 28th, the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah is showing a sizeable collection of work by this California impressionist painter who was active from the 1920s into the 1960s. I haven't been yet but it looks like good stuff!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bay Area Book Arts

Bay Area Book Artists is a group of independent artists bound together by a passion for the book arts. The group meets twice monthly. On the first Sunday of each month they meet for four hours for share studio time and for mini-workshops or demonstrations run by members. On the third Thursday of each month they meet to plan events, exchange information and share books in-progress. Since 1995, BABA has presented exhibitions at local galleries and museums. In 2002 BABA members organized the first Book Arts Jam at Foothill College.

and since I'm writing about the book arts, don't overlook the current exhibit at the SF Center for the Book: Wings for Words: New Bookworks from Korea and Japan

The San Francisco Center for the Book presents an exhibition of bookworks from fourteen professional artists working in South Korea and Japan today. These contemporary bookworks embrace a variety of techniques from altered books to woodblock printing. The artists bring their individual styles to their works, inspired by cultural, natural, and personal themes.

Some of the books, like Ryoko Adachi's bioethical version of Jack and the Beanstalk, have narrative text, other books, like Haran Kim's Striped Dictionary are altered, sculptural works, with the words used as visual texture. Kyung Hee Kim uses bird imagery in Plus & Minus, while Sangmi Chun shows the story of Snow Queen as a snowflake, also reminiscent of flying. In this exhibition, "wings for words" becomes the metaphor for the books themselves; books are the wings, transporting the artists' feelings and thoughts to the readers. The works are in Korean, Japanese, German, and English.

For many of the participants, this will be the first time their works will be shown in the United States. The artists, chosen from recommended lists, have sent their books via air to San Francisco: Ryoko Adachi, Sangmi Chun, Hiroko Fukumoto, Ryo Hamada, Haran Kim, Kyung Hee Kim, Narae Kim, Kahoru Otani, Eunkyung Park, Veronika Sh├Ąpers, Kanako Shibata, Hea lim Shin, Mitsutaka Tanimoto, and Young Kil Yim.

Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 10am-5pm and Saturdays from 12-4pm.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Max Klinger at the Legion of Honor

I am a huge fan of symbolist art, so it is with that partiality that I highly recommend seeing “Waking Dreams: Max Klinger and the Symbolist Print” currently on exhibit until July 5th at the San Francisco Legion of Honor museum. Klinger was born in 1857 in Germany, and died in 1920. Well known as a symbolist artist, he worked as a painter, printmaker and sculptor.

Klinger’s etchings are not something one gets to see very often (at least in my circles) so this show is a great treat. In fact, I’m not sure if I had ever seen one of his works in person. The highlight for me was seeing the complete series “Paraphrases About the Finding of a Glove”. The most famous print in this series, “The Rape”, is pictured above. This series of etchings tells the story of a woman’s glove found by the artist and its extraordinary travels through worlds known only to the imagination. I was impressed by Klinger’s artful compositions, delicate details, and exquisite mastery of creating subtle variations in value. The show contains several other series of prints as well. The work is dark, macabre, mysterious, strange, and wonderful.

The exhibit is small and fills two rooms at the end of the Pre-Renaissance/Medieval Art hall. The works of other symbolist artists also hang in this show. I was delighted to see one of Bresdin’s tiny detailed etchings, and works by other symbolist artists: Redon, Ensor, Munch and more.

San Francisco Legion of Honor:

Friday, April 3, 2009

Fortune Sitole
South African Shanties
West Portal Art Fair

Fortune Sitole's three dimensional mixed media creations pull you much closer to the subject than a painting.

Streets of stone and gravel protruding from the earth, separating rows of shanties, one of a kind yet all the same, made of corrugated metal and other materials.

Bright roofs, doorways and windows on odd shaped cubes, shacks pieced together with found materials.

Sitole's ancestors lived in shanty towns like these in South Africa. Similarly constructed towns appear throughout the world.

There is a message of sadness and despair in Sitole's works. Then, in the background, girls with hula hoops can be found in many of the his pieces. Children play other games in dirt streets. Girls skipping rope, musicians, women in brightly colored clothing carrying bags, baskets and bundles in their hands or on their heads, all are found scattered in the self assembled neighborhoods. Whatever the town is or isn't, it is still home to the residents.

Sitole can be found through Sunday, crafting new pieces between showing displayed works, at the West Portal Art Fair, in front of West Portal Bakery. As is unfortunately often the case, rain is forecast for the event.

by Phil Gravitt

Elaine Bagley Anroux at the Old Mint

One week only-Portraits by Elaine Badgley Arnoux at the Old Mint (4th and Mission)
San Francisco: Faces of the City
Friday April 3 through Tuesday, April 7, 2009, Noon to 5 PM

The show will be open to the public between the hours of 12 noon and 5 PM Friday through Tuesday, April 3 through 7. A $10 donation will be requested at the door.

You can learn more about Elaine from this wonderful video. I've known her since 1985 when she ran an art school (EBA) at SOMA Arts where I (and 40 + other artists) now have studios. She had been involved with so many progressive arts causes, including the Shopping Cart Show which sought to bring public attention to the plight of the homeless in SF. As the creator of the video so accurately says, her life is a love affair with art.

Shadow And Light is about the life and art of Elaine Badgley Arnoux. The film examines seminal moments of her life; from her childhood traumas; two early marriages, moving to France at age 50 with her 27 year old lover and finally meeting the man of her dreams to grow old with.

The enormity and scale of her life and art projects are revealing to the nature of the artist herself. She lives large and paints large with an appetite for life beyond the boundaries of her canvas and the walls of her studio. Making art is elemental to her being, and is a valiant attempt to come to terms with her own personal history and integrate it into her esthetics . "I had a very dark childhood, I was very old when I was young, I wasn't young until I was old".

What drives Elaine Badgley Arnoux, a gifted San Francisco artist, in the twilight of her years, to work relentlessly to convey her vision of the people in her community through portraiture and the creation of paintings documenting the political upheaval of our time?

Through the lens of a camera we come to understand Elaine's story is a love affair with life. Art is the vehicle that has driven her process of self discovery and delivered her lost youth in old age.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Naomie Kremer
Paintings and Hybrids
Modernism Inc. Gallery

Modernism Gallery usually has interesting exhibitions, and that is the case with the current showing of paintings and “hybrids” by Naomie Kremer.

As seen in "Quark" above, the chaotic order of Kremer’s works explode with bright and clear colors, like Jackson Pollock after a Benadryl and six sessions with a personal organizer.

Each of the paintings share a common message: Come hither, keep looking, there is more to see. In many of the paintings, as in “Mixed Greens” below, one finds little villages of forms and figures slipped in and under the canopy in the forest of green.

Kremer’s “hybrids” are paintings that also include video projection. The projections bring movement to the canvasses, each in a different way, in addition to slightly altering the color due to light, shadow and focus.

Subdued whites become bright whites in the bouncing light; I found myself blocking the light with my hand to separate what was light from what was paint. In "Hybrid Lines" above, the rolling waves of light bring the painting alive with ripples moving across a painted body of water.

The Naomie Kremer exhibition runs through May 2 at Modernisim, Suite 290 in the Monadnock Building (worth a visit on it's own), 685 Market St, San Francisco.

By Phil Gravitt

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Thiebaud Gallery Reopening

This is indeed good news. After a long hiatus, the Thiebaud Gallery (formerly on Columbus) has moved into the space that used to be the Campbell-Thiebaud Gallery. It's a beautiful, two story building with much more room for shows and a lovely garden out back. To celebrate the gallery opening, they will feature recent still life compositions of food by Wayne Thiebaud, an on-going theme in his decades long career. According to the press release, all of the works in the show were painted from memory. The sketchbook drawings are included to demonstrate how compositional exploration from memory allows such a richness of possibilities over the years. "This signature style of Thiebaud's paint handling - the rich, smooth dragging of paint across a surface or around a shape in a way that both proclaims the luscious texture of oils and often transforms itself into the very material being depicted, from frosting or whipped cream to metal - is referred to by the artist as "object transference." Its origins can be traced not just to Morandi but also Thiebaud's interest in the bravura effects of such artists as Joaquin Sorolla, clearly apparent in the transitional Beach Boys of 1959, the work of Willem de Kooning, and the Bay Area Figurative painters Richard Diebenkorn and David Park.

"Thiebaud's language can be decidedly low-key and limited in its formal agendas, but even then, his objects say a lot about the people who make them and enjoy them. They also comment on the abundance that is part of American society and the longing or desires that go with it: desserts lined up in rows stretching far into the distance like trees in a landscape but held separate from the viewer by the glass of window or case. The tone, however, is celebratory, not negative.

For Thiebaud, "[My subject matter] was a genuine sort of experience that came out of my life, particularly the American world in which I was privileged to be. It just seemed to be the most genuine thing which I had done."

"Commonplace objects are constantly changing, and when I paint the ones I remember I am like Chardin tattling on what we were. The pies, for example, we now see are not going to be around forever. We are merely used to the idea that things do not change." In an time of change and uncertainty, it's a joy to revisit these delicious confections and to honor the artist who made - and still makes paintings that celebrate abundance. And afterwards, you can walk down the street to Stella's and have a delicious pastry and celebrate another facet of San Francisco's diverse cultures.

Steven A Nash, in "Wayne Thiebaud: A Paintings Retrospective"
WAYNE THIEBAUD: CONFECTION MEMORIES at 645 Chestnut Street (Between Columbus and Mason)
April 1 through Saturday, June 27th.