Saturday, April 26, 2014

A celebration of the life and works of John James Audubon

Audubon, Golden Eagle, 1833–4

John James Audubon (Jean-Jacques Audubon) (April 26, 1785 - January 27, 1851) was a French-American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter. He was notable for his expansive studies to document all types of American birds and for his detailed illustrations that depicted the birds in their natural habitats.

 Audubon, White Gyrfalcons

His major work, a color-plate book entitled The Birds of America (1827-1839), is considered one of the finest ornithological works ever completed. Audubon identified 25 new species.

 In this image: John James Audubon (1785?1851), Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) and Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus), Study for Havell pl. no. 76, ca. 1825. Watercolor, pastel, graphite, black ink, oil, gouache, black chalk, collage, and outlining with a stylus on paper, with selective glazing on paper, laid on card; 25 13/16 x 39 3/8 in. (65.6 x 100 cm).

Monday, April 21, 2014

The week ahead: Leonora Carrington at Gallery Wendi Norris and more

I have to confess that this is not one of my better written columns; it is pretty straightforward but that does not mean you shouldn't see the shows. I mean - Leonora Carrington, Romare Bearden, Creativity Explored and Gallery 16 all in one small city. How cool is that? Surrealism, African-American Art, the unique artists at CE AND Rex Ray whose powerful graphic design has gathered him international recognition. Carrington deserves - and has - volumes writen about her work. The twenty works on exhibit at Wendi Norris is just a small selection of her oeuvre. Carrington’s exhibition will include roughly ten rarely exhibited oil paintings in addition to a seven-piece gouache series that was on view at the Guggenheim’s seminal exhibition, "Surrealism: Two Private Eyes,"  the Nesushi Etegun and Daniel Filipacchi Collections in 1999.
  •  The "Celtic Surrealist" in the title of the show is a bit of a stretch but as the work was first shown in Dublin, it makes sense to tie it to a specific location. One tapestry - that of the hunter, dogs and horned deer could pass for Celtic but those figures are also part of ancient Indo-European mythology. 
    The rest of the work is not Irish at all but still, what differences does a title make. If the Irish want to claim her as a Celt (and her mother was Irish), why not?
    "The Celtic Surrealist" at Gallery Wendi Norris. Through May 31.  11 A.M to 6 P.M. Tuesday through Saturday. 161 Jessie Street. San Francisco, (415) 346-7812.
    If Duchamp can call a urinal a work of art, the Irish can claim that Carrington - English born, the lover of German Max Ernst and who lived most of her long life in Mexico - is using Irish symbolism. and mythology in her art. 
    It is exciting to see that Romare Bearden, the master of collage, is also the master of watercolors, that most difficult of mediums. Bearden’s collages in "Storyteller" — including mural maquettes, an Olympic poster, and a book jacket for a collection of poems by African writers — highlight the artist’s mastery.
    His watercolors were originally commissioned for the opening titles of the 1980 film Gloria with the vibrant colors reflecting his Caribbean heritage. 
    Prints based on his collages are showcased in his Odyssey series, which illustrates Homer’s epic poem; the series seemingly departs from his best-known work of edgy urban and jazz scenes or his depictions of African American life in the rural South. Yet, because Bearden depicts these Greek mythological figures as black, he invites a comparison between classical myth and African American culture. Viewers may liken the Greek king Odysseus’ arduous and heroic ten-year search for home after the Trojan War to African American struggles. 
    At the dock.
     Replacing white characters with black figures, Bearden attempts to defeat the rigidness of racial roles and stereotypes and open up the possibilities and potentials of blacks. Bearden says about this series and his work in general, "What I tried to do is take the elements of African American life….and place it in a universal framework."

    Romare Bearden: Storyteller: Through June 21. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, until 5 p.m. Saturday. Jenkins Johnson Gallery, 464 Sutter St., S.F. (415)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Getty Villa Moves ‘Heaven and Earth’ for Byzantine Art Exhibition

Byzantium - or it's artistic heritage - is now on display at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles. The show is drawn from 34 national collections in Greece and spans more than 1,300 years from the very pagan beginnings of Byzantium, through the synthesis of pagan and Christian art portraying both the decades of glory and the grief of decline.