Friday, December 30, 2011

Looking back at the year in art

"God created the Maharajas to provide a spectacle to humanity” wrote Rudyard Kipling, and the Asian did justice to his observation in their next big show, "Maharaja, Splendors of Indian's Royal Courts. There wasn’t an object in the show that wasn't embellished, inlaid with gems and gold, looped with sapphires and diamonds or outlined with pearls.The gaudy display was a reminder that today's 1% aren't alone in ignoring the misery outside their  mansions. 

The FAMSF gave us a feast of European art - from Pissarro to the splendors of the old masters to the subtle skill of 17th century Dutch painting in the Von Otterloo collection. 

Pissarro is probably the least well know of the impressionists and the show displayed his humanistic look at family, friends and the working people of the day as well as his political radicalism.

The behemoth blockbuster of the year was the two-museum tribute to the Stein family. Most of us know of Gertrude, the contrary, cantankerous and sometimes charming women who is notorious for saying 'There is no there, there" when referring to Oakland. Using a wealthy of archival material, the show brought to life her and Alice and a multitude of the famous and infamous of the Parisian avant-guard for decades.

 Right across the road, at SFMOMA was an eloquent tribute to the family as art collectors. Seldom have so few bought so much art with so little money. It's difficult to say which is more amazing - the low prices paid for now priceless paintings by Cezanne, Picasso and Matisse or the Steins' (particularly Sarah Stein's) courageous support of art that was then new, provocative and revolutionary.

Across the bay, the Berkeley Art Museum hosted two unique shows, the first West Coast exhibit of the work of Karl Schwitters and "Create," a show of art made by artists with disabilities.

"Create" highlighted the extraordinary contributions of three of the foremost centers for artists with disabilities, all located in the Bay Area: Creativity Explored (San Francisco), Creative Growth Art Center (Oakland), and NIAD Art Center (Richmond, CA).

As I said at the time, "It's really a shame to call them "artists with disabilities" because they are artists first, and mentally challenged second. Yet, to ignore their condition is to make light of the difficulties they face.

Thanks to the lack of a safety net, the disabled roam our streets, beg on the sidewalks, mutter to themselves, are messy, dirty, frightening. They challenge us to define what it is to be human. They test the limits of what we can do, can afford to do, have the will to do. Unfortunately, they can't always communicate how extraordinary they can be, with help, with encouragement, with love and a support system."

The MoAD brought us a rare look at original works by Romare Bearden, the vibrant quilts of the Siddis, part of the African diaspora in India and "Textural Rhythms," swing, jazz and be-bop in fabric and thread,

The CJM brought us the work and tragic life of Charlotte Salomon, considered among the most innovative artists of mid-century Europe whose work defies categorization, and continues to influence artists in unusual ways.

In the galleries: Hosfelt bought up a rare look at works by Jay De Feo. Next year, a major traveling retrospective of Jay DeFeo's work, organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, will be presented at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in the autumn of 2012.

These are a few of my favorite things from the rich offerings from my favorite city by the bay. But none of this would be possible without the people behind the scenes at the museums. I want to give a shout of thanks to the following: Jill, Robin Wander, Cheryl McCain and Peter Cavagnaro at the Berkeley Art Museum, Libby Garrison and Robyn Wise at SFMOMA. If I left out your name, accept my apologies.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunnyvale Pottery Studio Christmas Sale

 All this of Pot and Potter—Tell me then,
Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?
        Omar Khayyam—Rubaiyat. St. 87. FitzGerald’s trans.

 Danny Shue. @the artist. Oxblood glaze in a contemporary format.

 Here's another one in the sporadic series of "support your local artist and art organizations." ......

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Automata: Mechanical Wonders of the Nineteenth Century at SFO

Fiddler c. 1910 . probably by Renou . France .papier-mâché, fabric, paint, metal, glass, wood, hair  Collection of SFO Museum

If you are stuck out at SFO this holiday season, this exhibit can help you pass the time. The new exhibition features exquisite mechanical figures and musical machines from the 19th century.

Before the Industrial Revolution, automata were created mainly as one-of-a-kind scientific experiments, political or religious theater, and given as diplomatic gifts. Eventually they became promotional devices to attract sales. French manufacturers later incorporated mass-production technology to produce musical automata, musical dolls, clockwork singing birds, and tableaux méchaniques (mechanically animated scenes) to meet the increasing demand for these new forms of entertainment.

From the mid-1800s to the 1900s, automata served as parlor entertainment. Many skilled artisans were required to manufacture these clockwork machines. They were not considered toys for children, but rather items of social privilege and status - which didn't prevent me from wanting to play with them!
Continue reading

Monday, November 21, 2011

Busy times at Chez Nancy's

I've been busy reviewing art and even posted a new food recipe up at my food column at the

I want to do a longer piece on Bernini and more on the Venetian painters who are up at the de Young - heck, whole encyclopedias have been written about Bernini and Titian. Do you think I could be contented with just one column?

Vegetarian pot pie

Later in the week, I'll start my promotion pieces for local art fairs and community centers. There are so many local art centers that are desperately trying to survive. Financial support is being cut back in all areas but remember the motto "art saves lives. Feeding the soul is important in desperate times.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bernini's "The Medusa" at the Legion

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, The Medusa, 1640s. Carrara marble. Musei Capitolini, Rome

This piece is so delicately beautiful and the level of craftmanship is so high that it has to be seen to be believed. At the press preview today, John Buchanan, the Director of the Museum, hinted that there will be more exchanges between the Capitolini Museum in Rome and the Legion. No details yet but keep tuned to this space ...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Anonymous Was A Woman 2011 awards

Anonymous Was A Woman announced the ten artists selected to receive the Foundation’s annual award. The “no strings” grant of $25,000 enables women, over 45 years of age and at a critical juncture in their lives or careers, to continue to grow and pursue their work. Lauren Katzowitz Shenfield, director of the program, explained, “Anonymous Was A Woman Awards are synonymous with important recognition in artists’ personal and artistic development. The financial gift helps artists buy time, space, materials, and equipment, often at early stages of a new project, and, sometimes, recover from traumatic life events. In itself, the Award helps artists feel recognized and honored by other distinguished women who seek no credit for the role they play.”

Jungjin Lee, Buddha on hand made paper.

For me the real beauty in photography is not the end product but the process. My images are a means of metaphorical expression: not a representation of the actual world, or a reconstitution of visual beauty, but a basis for fundamental meditation. The photographs represent thoughts incapable of being expressed in words, asserted, or emphasized as a single argument. My THING series, unlike my past works, approached me from objects which were near and familiar to me. The familiarity means a waiting and a private communication between the thing and myself. And that familiarity turns into an estrangement through the vacating of thoughts. The act of vacating, like the blank spaces of my work, makes the thing dream of itself as well as me.

More award winners at:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Masters of Venice: Renaissance Painters of Passion and Power at the de Young.

 Paolo Caliari, called Veronese.  Lucretia.  ca. 1580-1583.  Oil on canvas.  Gemäldegalerie of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. courtesy FAMSF/Andrew Fox

The de Young Museum is hosting another not-to-be-missed show - an exclusive presentation of 50 paintings by sixteenth-century Venetian painters Titian, Giorgione, Veronese, Tintoretto, Mantegna, and more,

Review at:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pissarro's People at the Legion


“Pissarro’s People,” opening this weekend at the Legion of Honor, brings together more than 100 paintings, showing his humanistic viewpoint through portraits of his family and paintings of working class people. Pissarro was the most modest, the most committed to the original principles of Impressionism, the most politically radical and for us, the least known.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Richard Serra Drawings at SFMOMA

Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective is the first-ever overview of Serra's drawings. This traveling exhibition brings together roughly 70 works made over the course of some 40 years—including many of the artist's sketchbooks that have never been shown before—and is presented chronologically, tracing Serra's ever-evolving ideas and methods since the 1970's.

Long before the 20th black on black painting the show became, dare I say it, boring? Would I be considered a philistine for saying so? Probably. One thing is for certain; if it weren't for Serra's international reputation, no museum would be showing all of these without some serious editing.

Click on the link, earn the writer a penny:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Open Studios, 3rd weekend

 "Mermaids at the fountain." Nancy Ewart. Ink and watercolor on paper, 2011

Weekend 3, October 15 & 16, highlights SOMA, the Tenderloin, Potrero Hill,
and Bayview.

I'm showing this weekend so I hope to see some of you there (Nancy Ewart, 689 Bryant St, #27). I'm having a half off price on lots of items so there will be bargains galore. 

SOMA Artists Studios at Bryant at 5th have 35+ artists showing everything from puppets to pottery to painting. 

More images at my Flickr account:


The studios are easy to get to by walking, bicycling or by public transportation. All featured studios are close to the CalTrain station and only a few blocks from Market St. BART stations. Several MUNI bus routes run to the neighborhood including the 9, 10, 12, 15, 27, 30, 45, 47 and metro lines N and T.
Nearby street parking is available.

October 15th, 12-5pm: Download the bus map here:

Click at the link and earn me an extra penny:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Weekend Picks for October 6th - 9th

Haven't got plans for the weekend? Here are a few suggestions..

 At the Asian Art Museum: Ha Insun , working with pencil on Korean mulberry paper, explores the hidden afterlife of broken ceramics. She is part of the Seoul-based art collective, Ipgim, whose work reflects the emerging feminist art movement in Korea today.

More at:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Jay DeFeo at Hosfelt Gallery

In the first West Coast exhibition of Jay DeFeo's art in fifteen years, Hosfelt Gallery presents a focused investigation of some of the formal and metaphoric themes that run through various bodies of work made in the two decades between the completion of her legendary painting The Rose and her death in 1989. The exhibition includes approximately 40 works, including paintings, drawings and unique photographic-based works, many of which have never previously been exhibited.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

36th Annual San Francisco Open Studios, 2011. 1st weekend

The Mission, Bernal Heights, Castro, Eureka Valley, and Excelsior are the
focus of Weekend 1, October 1 & 2. Paul Madonna, well-known Mission-based
illustrator and creator of All Over Coffee, a weekly strip in the San Francisco Chronicle and on The Rumpus, returns this year, as well as painter and installation artist Cynthia Tom, whose surreal paintings touch on cultural identity, women¹s issues, the circus and more.

 Alexandra Blum is showing her colorful monotypes at 661 Castro while Jennifer Ewing exhibits her work on "spirit boats" at 540 Alabama St. 

Felicia Hoshino's charming children's book illustrations at Art Explosion and the Metal Arts Guild on Valencia, showcasing the work of dozens of  skilled, contemporary metal and jewelry artists.

Sadie Valeri's exquisite realistic paintings, showing at the studio complex at 18th and Mission.

Check out other artists and art events at the Art Span website and download a map.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Glenda Joyce Hape: Connections Through Fiber

The de Young’s Artist-In-Residence Program returns after a short hiatus with Glenda Joyce Hape: Connections Through Fiber, October 5–30, 2011, in the Kimball Education Gallery. Hape, a Maori artist living and working in New Zealand, has had an interest in weaving for as long as she can remember. In recent years, she has enjoyed challenging technical boundaries and combining multimedia in her form making.

Hape’s strong passion draws attention to traditional and contemporary weaving techniques in the context of Maori costume, especially as it relates to kakahu (cloaks). Hape acknowledges her family, kinship group and community as strong informants in her thinking and inspiration for creating artwork. “My artwork speaks of and acknowledges the exquisite taonga (treasures) created by our tipuna (ancestors),” explains Hape. Read more at:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Central Market Arts Festival Kick-Off Weekend at Mint Plaza

San Francisco sure knows how to party..Central Market Arts Festival Kick-Off Weekend at Mint Plaza

Celebrate the start of the annual 24 Days of Central Market Arts Festival at Mint Plaza with a weekend of performances by acclaimed local companies on Friday, September 23 through Sunday, September 25. A complete list of events here:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Smithsonian Museum Day, Sat 9/24/2011

Ji-Young Lee. Be Tinged, 2010 . Naturally dyed silk and silk yarn, traditional surrender technique, handstitching. Museum of Craft and Folk Art, SF

In the spirit of Smithsonian Museums, who offer free admission everyday, Museum Day is an annual event hosted by Smithsonian magazine in which participating museums across the country open their doors to anyone presenting a Museum Day Ticket...for free.

Check out the link for a list of Bay Area Museums offering free admission. The beauty of this offer is that it's nation wide so where ever you live, there's probably a museum participating in the program.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dog murdering artist gets $750,000 grant from SFAC

When the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) sent out the press release for the artists chosen to decorate the Central Subway project, I filed it in my "ticker" file with a note to keep checking back.

I didn't give it much further thought except to note, with irritation, that some of the larger grants had not gone to local artists.

Like many San Franciscans, I was dubious about the value of the subway project. The price tag of $8 million and rising was high to begin with and a few extra million to various artists didn't seem more than a drop in the bucket of political patronage.

The name "Tom Otterness" didn't ring a bell.

Read more:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at the de Young

Diego Rivera (Mexican, 1886–1957). Two Women and a Child, 1926. Oil on canvas. Gift of Albert M. Bender to the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. 1926.122. © 2010 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Diego Rivera's art was rooted in European modernism and the Mexican Renaissance, which sought to reaffirm indigenous culture as a means of unifying national consciousness. Rivera's depictions of rural Mexicans transformed cultural stereotypes with negative associations of poverty and ignorance into powerful nationalist symbols of human dignity and perseverance.

more at:

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remembering 9.11

9/11/2011. The Day. Bern Rauch. acrylic on canvas, 9x8'. At Driftwood salon.

I was sound asleep when one of my friends called me with the news. She was an early riser and told me to turn on the TV. I could not believe what I was seeing and it took quite a long time for what was happening to really sink in.

I was touched by the world wide outpouring of support and grief. For once in my life, I felt patriotic and even listened to the ceremony where Kathleen Battle sang so powerfully.

Then came the rest - restrictions on our civil liberties, a bombastic jingoism, a hijacked election, a right wing Supreme Court, endless war, endless death. How many have died since 9.11?  I can't even begin to count.

I hate the meaningless rhetoric wrapped around the American flag. I refuse to accept that it's been the "worse catastrophe" since ever and I know too much to believe the fraudulent claim that nobody has suffered like we have. We didn't even attack the right country when we invaded Iraq for the majority of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia!

But if Bin Laiden and his followers wanted to destroy America, I think they have succeeded in ways that they may have never predicted. We have a debt that will probably destroy the country, unless we can reverse the tax breaks given to the most wealthy. The right wing and the mega-rich have a death grip on our economy, seeming not to care if the majority of people fall into an abyss little better than medieval serfdom . We have lost thousands of our young and killed more than thousands of people in countries that we knew little about before 9.11 and probably still know little about. Our political discourse has become toxic. The middle class that supported our democracy is under attack - not from outside terrorists but from an equally ruthless right wing plutocracy.

There are a few artists and a few events that approach this anniversary with sensitivity and political acumen - Driftwood Gallery is featuring the work of Bern Rauch (my friend Bernie from Project Artaud) whose paintings are a powerful look at 9.11. Ben Wood will be showing a new video at an interfaith service, the Cartoon Museum is sponsoring an on line exhibit and SFMOMA is offering free admission to active duty police, firefighters and first responders (and their families) this Sunday, September 11.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Getty acquires the Abby Bible, a 13th century Italian masterpiece

The Getty Museum has just added to their already superb collection of manuscripts by the acquisition of the Abbey Bible, an Italian illuminated manuscript that exemplifies the highest achievements of the Gothic era.

more at....(plus more images:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bay Area Fall Arts Preview

Titian. Danae, part of Masters of Venice: Renaissance Painters of Passion and Power From the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna: Key works by Tintoretto, Titian, Giorgione, Mantegna and others from one of Europe's great city collections. Oct. 29-Feb. 12. De Young Museum

Mark your calendars for we are in for a glorious fall. You will be able to travel the world culturally without leaving the Bay Area - Dada in Berkeley, Houdini at the CJM, Maharajahs at the Asian and masterworks collected by the Hapsburg Dynasty - including Titian, Mantegna and Giorgione at the De Young. Read on because there's more, much more...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Four Saints in Three Acts - no pigeons, no grass and that's a fact!

Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein looking over the score for Four Saints in Three Acts, ca. 1929; Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Library, Yale University; photo: Mabel Thérèse Bonney

Review up at:

Monday, August 22, 2011

Oh, Art therapy, now I get it:
Charlotte Salomon at CJM

Matisse channels David Park at SFMOMA

After the Gertrude Stein exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, see Charlotte Salomon's 300 small paintings on display.

Through her brush, Salomon articulated every painful and important thought and event -- the history of her life -- during a 2 year seclusion starting in the late 1930's.

For years, when I thought of SFMOMA, two colorful works came to mind: Sol Lewitt's wall drawings in the atrium, and the pre-psychedelic Matisse "Woman with a hat."

Even though Lewitt's installation was removed several years ago, I still expect to see it. And I've always wanted SFMOMA to move "Woman with a hat" to one of the back galleries -- like the Mona Lisa, something to be discovered -- rather than displaying her like a Wal-Mart greeter as you enter the permanent collection galleries.

What caught my eye in all the color at Steins Collect at SFMOMA were two dark nudes by Matisse, their blank sadness reminding me of works by David Park.

And when I found a fascinating painting like Picasso's Head of a Sleeping Woman (Study for Nude with Drapery), also at Steins Collect, I appreciated being able to go back and forth between the painting and the many studies of it, seeing how it came to be.

posted by Phil Gravitt

Saturday, August 20, 2011

FourSquared - 16 Artists

If you are tired of always looking at the big picture, try the Second Annual FourSquared show at Arc Gallery on Folsom Street. The opening reception is August 27, 7-10PM, and runs til Sept 26.

Sixteen Bay Area artists will each be showing sixteen small works.

Featured artists include Annie Arrasmith, John Fitzsimmons, photographer Audrey Heller, Judy Johnson-Williams, Barbara Kleinhans, Kristin Kyono, Paul Madonna (creator of "All Over Coffee"), Michael McConnell, Carrie Nardello, Nite Owl, Mark Paron, Sonya Philip (see Philip's fiber art pictured above), Silvia Poloto, Fernando Reyes, Rebecca Szeto, and Hadley Williams

Arc Gallery
W-Th-Sat 12-5PM
1246 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA 94103

posted by Phil Gravitt

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Mourners. Tomb sculptures of the Dukes of Burgundy at the Legion

Thirty-seven pilgrims from the Middle Ages landed at the Legion in San Francisco this week. Since 2010, they have have been making a journey across the United States and San Francisco is their next- to-last stop before returning to France, never to travel again.

Continue reading on The Mourners. Tomb sculptures of the Dukes of Burgundy at the Legion - San Francisco Museum |

Friday, August 12, 2011

70 Years of Archie Comics and the Green Lantern at the Cartoon Art Museum

Even though this cartoon strip came after the original creator served in WW II, it's still so very innocent and naive. Reality never intrudes in Archie's world. He may be seventy but he's still got all his hair, his freckles and hasn't gained an ounce of weight. Furthermore, he's still dithering between Betty and Veronica. The museum was full of kids, religiously reading every frame so obviously he's still got a lot of fans.

Promotional caricatures of Archie Andrews and cast for The Adventures of Archie Andrews, as part of the NBC Parade of Stars promotion. 1942 ? (from Wikipedia)

Read more at:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Michael McMillen: Train of Thought' at the OMCA

I liked the show a lot better than I thought I would; usually conceptual and installation art leaves me cold but this was interesting, thoughtful, quirky and edgy. 

 Michael C. McMillen: "Train of Thought," the current exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is a retrospective look at the career of Michael C. McMillen, an internationally renowned Southern California-based mixed-media artist. The exhibition features large-scale multisensory installations, assemblages, sculptures, paintings, drawings, and films that invite viewers into McMillen's imaginary world, Review up at:

(really infuriating that the Examiner template cuts off the top and bottom of almost all images) 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Studying with Hans Hoffman - resources at the Berkeley Art Museum

 Hans Hoffman, Effervescence, Berkeley Art Museum (BAM).

Going back in time to study with one of the most influential teachers of modern art would require a time machine and I am afraid that we haven't built one yet. But the next best thing is right here in the Bay Area. UC Berkeley has a huge collection of Hoffman paintings and almost always has one gallery exhibiting work.

After all, the Berkeley Art Museum was founded in 1963 by following the donation to the university of forty-five paintings and $250,000 from artist and teacher Hans Hofmann. Their on-line data base also has a large number of Hoffman images; the search function is completely unworkable, but the images are fairly large with comprehensive captions. If you check the archive out, look at the enormous numbers of beautiful Chinese paintings. I hope that when the new museum opens (2014?), that they will have more room for exhibiting their collection of Asian Art.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage at the Berkeley Art Museum

The multidisciplinary nature of Schwitters’s output, which can make a career survey look like a group show, may be one of the reasons he remains an little known figure. His sole American retrospective, at MoMA, was 25 years ago. Representative samplings of his art have since rarely been on view, there or elsewhere.

Yet he has had a huge effect on post-World War II artists and is revered by many. Two of the collages in the show are from Jasper Johns’s collection; two others are owned by Ellsworth Kelly. ...And a Schwitters effect, however indirect and unrecognized, can be spotted in much contemporary work. (Holland Cotter, NY TImes)

Two part essay - Part two of the review of the show in Berkeley:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage at the Berkeley Art Museum

 Peter Bissegger: Reconstruction of Kurt Schwitters's Merzbau, 1981-83 (original ca. 1930-37, destroyed 1943); 154-3/4 x 228 3/8 x 181 in.; Sprengel Museum Hannover. Photo: Michael Herling / Aline Gwose, Sprengel Museum Hannover (c) Peter Bisseger.

Kurt Schwitters, Color and Collage” which opens Wednesday at the Berkeley Art Museum is the first major overview of the legendary German artist’s work presented in the United States in twenty-six years. The exhibition includes approximately eighty assemblages, sculptures, and collages made between 1918 and 1947 that elucidate the relationship between collage and painting—as well as color and material—in Schwitters’s work.
More at:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

SFMOMA buys a work by Sol Le Witt

I often wonder how work that is this intellectual and non-emotional will hold up. Will the next generation care about it the way we care about Rembrandt and Matisse? I don't find him very interesting myself but I do realize that conceptual art is the flavor of the decade (for some).

Yesterday, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) announced the acquisition of Wall Grid (3 x 3) (1966), an important early work by Sol LeWitt, one of the key artists of the postwar period.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Soulful Stitching: Patchwork Quilts by Africans (Siddis) in India at the MoAD

 My grandmother used to make quilts but nothing like this. These are gorgeous, intricate works of art and if they were painted by men...well, you know the drill. It's only been in the last decade that quilts and other textile works, mostly made by women, have been looked at seriously. Now many are collector's items! If the art critic can extend the meaning of art to "conceptual art" and "installations," then there is no reason why these quilts shouldn't be considered works of art. For one thing, they are far more beautiful than much contemporary art and the level of skill is far higher.

But my mind boggles at the realization that these were made for everyday use. These stunning quilts are created out of the philosophy of "waste not, want not," in cultures where nothing goes to waste. We could learn a lot from them.

As part of its exploration of how traditional practices are adapted over decades throughout the African Diaspora, the Museum of the African Diaspora's (MoADSF) current exhibit is yet another example of textile art made by women.

The stunning, colorful, patchwork quilts are known as kawandi and are made only by craftswomen living in the little known Siddi communities of Africans in India.

Continue reading on Soulful Stitching: Patchwork Quilts by Africans (Siddis) in India at the MoADSF - San Francisco Museum |

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Masterworks from the Dutch Golden Age at the Legion of Honor

This is the next part in my continuing series on the current exhibit. 

 Rembrandt van Rijn (Leiden 1606–1669 Amsterdam), Portrait of Aeltje Uylenburgh, 1632. Oil on panel, 29 x 22 inches (73.7 x 55.8 cm). The Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection. Image courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Prosperous Dutch Burghers: As the Dutch merchant class became ever more powerful and prosperous, they demanded art that reflected their social status. Portraiture became a genre a genre that ranked only below history painting in the traditional hierarchy of subject matter. 

Read more at:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Masterworks from the Dutch Golden Age at the Legion of Honor (part two)

Part two of a continuing series

Van van der Heyden (Gorinchem 1637–1712 Amsterdam), View of the Westerkerk, Amsterdam, ca. 1667–70. Oil on panel, 21 x 25 1/4 inches (53.5 x 64.2 cm). The Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection

Friday, July 8, 2011

Masterworks from the Dutch Golden Age at the Legion of Honor

Jacob van Ruisdael (Haarlem 1628/29–1682 Haarlem?), Winter Landscape with Two Windmills, ca. 1675. Oil on canvas, 15 1/8 x 17 1/8 inches (38.5 x 43.4 cm). The Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection. Image courtesy Peabody Essex Museum

Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo began collecting horse carriages, until they completely filled their New Hampshire barn. So they switched to horse and sporting prints, until about two decades ago, when Peter Sutton, then curator of European painting at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, encouraged them to get into Dutch and Flemish art. It seemed a natural fit for the Marblehead couple -- she a native of Belgium, he a Dutch-born investor and developer who had co-founded the Boston investment firm Grantham, Mayo & Van Otterloo in 1977.

The result is the current exhibit at the Legion of Honor. nearly seventy paintings  from the 17th century.  It's the most astonishingly beautiful show that I've seen in San Francisco in a long time - and that includes the current Picasso show at the De Young and the Stein collection at SF MOMA (with a few exceptions for the Matisse pieces and the early Picasso). 

 Don't bother with the over-hyped show of "Baroque Masterpieces" at the Berkeley Art Museum. The show consists of eight poorly lit drawings, one of which showed some damage and is in need of conservation. You can barely see the work for the glare on the glass. The rest of the show consists of two third rate paintings by a largely forgotten painter. The show is frustrating to view, difficult to access and poorly documented. I have to make two exceptions; the Tiepolo drawing (also on the web page) is the best drawing in the show. The "St. John in the wilderness" by Caracciolo is amusing for its lack of any religious feeling. The boy in the painting is obviously a Roman rent boy and certainly for sale.  While lacking in Caravaggio's sly eroticism, he is gesturing with a finger that seems to say, in 17th century Italian, "You talkin' to me?"  What's with the red toes? But there's not a masterpiece in the lot.

Here's where some real art history scholarship would have been much appreciated. It's difficult to understand why Berkeley, with it's art and history departments couldn't find at least one student to do some basic research and write up more comprehensive wall tests. If the museum doesn't have the money, they could certainly find someone who would do it for class credit. This is even more important because the web site has only one brief essay, one small image and the guards are Berkeley are ever vigilant to make sure that you don't take a photograph (even with the flash off) or write with anything other than the soft, stubby yellow pencils that smear at the first touch.

Needless to say, I was underwhelmed. 

I can't say the same for the show at the Legion. I guess that the difference between the two is the difference between a museum that's basically interested in the new and trendy vs. a museum that displays classic art. One venue largely shows art that spends a lot of time telling you what it is because the artist is not skilled or talented enough to let the image do the talking. It's unfortunate that this is the case because the BAM has a wonderful collection of Asian art and maybe even a decent collection of European art but you'd never know by the way it is presented.

The other venue (the FAMSF) displays art that does not have to waste a lot of time in text because the artist is (or was) well enough trained to make a painting that's worth the proverbial 1000 words. Of course, this art is also beautifully documented because it's historically important and has stood the test of time. The contemporary art at "the other museum" will last, at best, maybe 25 years. By and large it does not deserve to last longer.

The Dutch masterworks comes to SF from the Peabody Museum in Salem where it was originally organized in conjunction with the Mauritshuis. Dr. Frederik J. Duparc was the guest curator, and Karina Corrigan, the H. A. Crosby Forbes Curator of Asian Export Art at Peabody Essex, was the coordinating curator.  The Legion's curator of European art has followed in their footsteps, hanging a show where every painting is in superb condition with an impeccable provenance.

Don't be shy; a click on the link earns me a whole .05 percent of one cent. Spoil the local artist and blogger and exercise that clicking finger:

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Luis Cancel, Director of the SF Arts Commission, resigns from his post

Well, heads are rolling at the SF Arts Commission. Dissatisfaction had been building for some time about the behavior of Luis Cansel, the $147,000-a-year head of San Francisco's public arts program. 

More at: 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Art from trash

I am horrified by what we are doing to our world. Like a horde of locusts, we are picking the planet clean and one of the worst areas is what is happening to the ocean. The amount of trash that ends up there is staggering - I don't know how large the "floating plastic crud" is that's out in the Pacific and I'm not sure I want to know. 

But Angela Pozzi and her fellow artists at the Marine Mammal Center at the Marin Headlands are using that trash to make art and trying to create a greater awareness of the problem. This is even more relevant on the 4th of July when everybody makes speeches about American the Beautiful while leaving trash on everything in sight. Read more at my column at the