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 Examiner.com Soulful Stitching: Patchwork Quilts by Africans (Siddis) in India at the MoADSF - San Francisco Museum | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/museum-in-san-francisco/soulful-stitching-patchwork-quilts-by-africans-siddis-india-at-the-moaf#ixzz1SUoM0YDh

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 Examiner.com: