February 9, 2005 (Wednesday) – Robert Bechtle, part 1.
There are three Robert Bechtle shows opening in San Francisco this month, and since he’s had some influence on my work, I thought I’d write a few more words than I usually do. The SFMOMA retrospective, the first full-scale survey of Bechtle’s work, covers his career from the 1960s to his most recent work, with 91 paintings and works on paper. It opens to the public this week and I’m planning on attending the member’s preview as well as the Saturday lecture.

A couple of San Francisco galleries also opened Bechtle shows, and I saw them last week. Gallery Paule Anglimhas a new exhibition of Bechtle’s charcoal drawings, and Crown Point Press is showing a large group of etchings, color lithos, wood cuts and gravure/aquatint prints. Both shows are terrific.

It seems like just a year ago that I saw another show of Bechtle’s charcoal drawings at Gallery Paule Anglim, but it was in 2002. I think this show is all new work (one of the night scenes looked familiar to me.) The drawings are all on a thin, tinted drawing paper – the kind with the French-style lined texture and deckle edges. This orderly texture (as opposed to, say, rough watercolor paper) adds to the sense of stillness he builds with orderly drawing, mostly empty streets, lots of empty space (even when the view is just across the street or across the room.) Whether it’s a drawing, a print or a painting, Bechtle completely nails that blinding California light. He as born in San Francisco in 1932 and has lived in the Bay Area all of his life.

Kathan Brown of Crown Point Press writes that in San Franciso, Bechtle found,

“… a small art community that has long fostered original art ideas. Hans Hofmann taught in Berkeley in the early 1940s before he lived in New York, and abstract expressionists Clyfford Still and Mark Rothko were at the California School of Fine arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) in the 1950s. Richard Diebenkorn and other Bay Area figurative painters provided influences toward figuration before those kinds of ideas resurfaced (after abstract expressionism had done away with them) in New York. And funk art, a kind of homegrown humor-filled, surrealist-influenced pop art began in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1960s. In the 1970s, conceptual art and photorealist art were two streams of figuration with influences from the minimal art being developed in New york and Europe. The photorealist artists and conceptual artists working in San Francisco in the 1970s were different in obvious ways, but (in varying degrees) they had in common a desire to make their art workmanlike, without embellishment. Early in his career, Bechtle has said, he ‘was consciously trying to see how devoid of inherent interest I could make things, how bland they could be and still make some kind of sense.’ ”
from the Crown Point Press newsletter, “Overview”, winter 2005

His most recent work, some self-portrait drawings at Gallery Paule Anglim and the etching, “Texas and 20th Intersection” at Crown Point Press show a continued devotion to this intention. A series of self portrait drawings all show him in front of a window, at different times of day, no furniture in the room, facing the viewer with an unreadable expression. Many of the city scenes show a car covered with a cloth. (They’re so common in Bechtle’s work that whenever I pass one of those covered cars on the street, I think of him.) The drawing itself is perfectly smooth and flawless. Large shaded areas are so smooth and flat they almost look sprayed on. Each line, curved or straight, is smooth, sure, unwavering, and unsmudged. And it’s clearly charcoal! Amazing.

Tomorrow, Robert Bechtle, part 2 (more about the Crown Point Press show)
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February 8, 2005 (Tuesday) – Lisa Dent Gallery.

The Lisa Dent Gallery is directly across the street from the Cartoon Art Museum and the (still under construction) Museum of the African Diaspora (MOAD), just a few doors down from the California Historical Society, and around the corner from SFMOMA & YBCA.

There’s no banner or obvious sign, just “660” on an awning over the door, and a little plaque next to the door buzzer. It’s a secure building, meaning you need to ring the intercom to get in, but the very loud traffic on Mission Street makes it hard to hear the receptionist – it took me three tries to get buzzed in.

Once I was up to the fourth floor, though, I was glad I made the effort. The current show is Robin Ward’s”Otherkin,” light, fun, inexplicable narrative works on paper. Most of these drawings involve animals and they all have that trendy isolated-images-on-a-plain-paper-background look. The drawing is skilled, but I kept wondering about her source photos.

Photos are the important asset for everyone. When we want to look back the old and golden days, we can see the photos which were taken before and have a look at it and enjoy the memorable moments we had. Nowadays, the technology has grown so well. Many cameras with so much of technology options are available in markets now. The lifestyle of the people changes based on the technology. We can earn money from home itself by depositing money in the trading markets. The software named 1k Daily Profit is a trading software which provide consistent and realistic parameters. The minimum deposit amount for this software is $250.

I was really hoping to see some work by Marcia Kure, and they kindly unwrapped several pieces in the back room for me. These are the small framed pieces in the photo at left. This work is also isolated images (Kolanut pigment, ink, watercolor and pencil on white paper.) Each drawing is a unique spirit portrait, in beautiful, rich, reddish yellow-brown Kolanut with delicate, spidery, lines defining and animating the form. Incredible stuff – very powerful. Keep an eye out for this artist. More of her stuff on the web HERE, HERE, and HERE.
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February 7, 2005 (Monday) – How to Ship a Painting.

Lots of people will tell you they use cardboard and bubble wrap, and sometimes you get lucky with that method, but after you’ve spent weeks or months slaving over a one-of-a-kind, never-to-be-repeated work of art, do you really want to protect it with such flimsy materials? I could tell you my horror stories about shipping valuable objects, but I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of your own. If you’re worried about the shipping costing more than the work of art, then you’re not charging enough for your art.

Art museums and people who deal in fine art use shipping crates, usually made of wood. Here’s an example of a custom shipping crate for a painting that I’m sending from San Francisco to the East Coast (photos above and at at right – click on image for larger view.) It’s made of smooth, sanded and varnished, birch-plywood (nothing rough or splintery that might aggravate the delivery people.) The top panel (lid) is held in place with recessed screws. After you (the recipient) have removed the screws, you will notice that the painting is nestled down inside the wooden box, and held securely away from the outer panels by little blocks of wood. The only thing touching the surface of the painting is the four corner pieces, which are padded with felt. The corner pieces are removed by unscrewing from the outside, and then the painting is lifted straight up out of the box.

This is a fairly small, light painting in a simple box. Bigger and heavier paintings may require additional supports, attachments and handles. You may need waterproofing. An experienced and reputable art shipper will know what kind of packing your painting needs.

My shipping crates are made by Mark Grim (415-665-6352). If you’re in some other part of the world, try asking the nearest art museum or large gallery (one that has artists and clients from out of the area) who they use.
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February 6, 2005 (Weekend) – Faces in Marin & Doggie Diner Head moved.

Local artist Chester Arnold (represented in SF by Catherine Clark Gallery) teaches at College of Marin. After seeing the NYT photo-spread of the war’s first 1,000 dead troops, he had an idea for his figure drawing class:

“Contemporary artists are dealing with a lot of narcissistic stuff — people trying to distinguish themselves by doing something unique, something bizarre,” he said. “It struck me that making memorial portraiture, one of the oldest uses of artistic skills, is a way out of that. The students were working on self-portraits, and all of a sudden I thought, why am I having them do that when I could be offering this project up? Here I had an assignment that had to do with the absolute realities of life and death.”

Two weeks later, he drove to a copy shop and enlarged the photos from the New York Times — 16 photographs to a sheet. He went to an art-supply store and bought 1,000 small canvasses; there was no time to wait for purchase orders. Worried that his students might think the idea was a “downer,” he nonetheless introduced his idea at his Friday life-painting class.

“He said, ‘What do you think of the idea of at least attempting to recognize some of these faces?’ ” recalled Tracy Eastman, 22, one of Arnold’s students. “He said the more each person did, the closer we’d get to doing the whole 1,000. He told us it was not meant to be a political statement, and there was no pressure; you could do it or not do it.”
from SF Chronicle story by Janet Somers, full story HERE

The project took on a life of its own and the exhibition, “To Never Forget: Faces of the Fallen,” more than 1,100 paintings, drawings and prints of U.S. soldiers killed in the Iraq war, by College of Marin art students, faculty and staff, is up through Feb. 22nd. Exhibition website here.
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Some folks have been calling me about the Sunset Doggie Diner Head. Here’s the scoop: according to Frank Felice at the SF Department of Public Works, DD was moved to 45th & Sloat, as part of the five-year-old agreement with Sloat Garden Center (owner of the old Doggie Diner property.) There will be a ceremony for the Doggie next Monday, Feb 14th at 11am, at the new location (just up the street from the old spot) at 45th and Sloat Bloulevard. Be there or be square!

I shot the photos above and left last Friday around 11am. Click on photo at left for a VERY LARGE image of the Doggie. Image at right is an old painting of mine, “CAR”, ©2001, 48″x36″. I haven’t painted the Doggie in a few years, but hardly a month goes by that someone doesn’t ask me about it. Here’s a link to some of my old DD paintings, and to the official Doggie Diner Head pages.

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February 4, 2005 (Friday) – Upcoming content (shows and interviews)
This is Dale Erickson and Stevan Shapona in Shapona’s studio. I talked with these two San Francisco figurative painters Wednesday evening, and taped three hours of a conversational interview. It’s going to take me several days to transcribe the tapes and edit it down, but I’ll be posting it next week. Also I’ll be seeing some new shows this weekend, and I’ll have something to say about those shows before I post the interview.

And I hope I finish my taxes early this weekend, as the weather is stunningly beautiful here – gotta get to the beach or take a bike ride. Seeya Monday.

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February 3, 2005 (Thursday) – Barbara Kruger
Thanks to my friend Tipler, who scored the tickets, I attended the Barbara Kruger lecture Tuesday night at the SF Art Institute. It wasn’t really a lecture, more like an annotated slide show. (Real slides! In a carousel projector. Sometimes upside down and backwards.) My first thought was, hey – if someone asked me to give a lecture about my work, god only knows what I’d come up with. A slide show is not a bad solution. My second thought was, it was actually the perfect presentation of her work: a pithy comment or two, followed by silence, then another seemingly random comment. Life imitating art. So, in that spirit, here’s a sampling of Kruger comments from the lecture:

“I’m interested in how language zig-zags between tenderness and violence.”

Referring to to her current work in video:
“One thing about being in L.A. – lots of actors need work.”

“For years, I only used black and white images because I couldn’t afford color.”

“I’m interested in doubt, which pretty soon, in this country, you’re going to get arrested for.”

Talking about the difficulties of doing installation work that is difficult to sell:
“The fact that I even have a pot to piss in, is an amazement to me.”

“The art world is a sub-culture that, compared to the movie or music business, is benevolent. It’s a pile of disavowal, with power circulating throughout.”

About New York Times chief art critic Michael Kimmelman:
“I guarantee I will get a negative obituary from him.”

“I have no complaints except for the world.”

All quotes noted above were spoken by Barbara Kruger at SFAI lecture Feb. 1, 2005

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February 2, 2005 (Wednesday) – photo vs painting
I pass this scene often on my way to SFMOMA. It’s Annie Alley, between Stevenson and Jessie. I’m quite fond of the image and considered making a painting of it. That’s almost always my first reaction when I see something that visually attracts me. Drawing is a way of knowing. But some things make better photos than paintings, and this is one of them.

Now, I have to get back to TurboTax.
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February 1, 2005 (Tuesday) – the business hours of art making
Tax time again… won’t get too much painting done this week. The process of looking over the records for the last year is always an interesting, sometimes educational, process. This time I didn’t need a calculator to tell me that 2004 was a tough year. For some reason, the number I always look to first and tend to fixate on is, how many paintings did I finish? Answer: 22 paintings in 2004, which is well below my usual numbers (35 to 55.) There were good reasons for that – I got diverted from painting by a series of personal crises that were outside my control and ate up a lot of time and energy. On a positive note, they’re all good paintings that I feel good about submitting to juried shows, galleries, etc. Sending out submissions is the other big project this month. Hence the stack of slides and labels on my desk. I just updated my mailing list and image database yesterday, but I still need to do my promotional materials for this year. So this week, I’ll be sitting here with my back to the easels, grinding my teeth, while I get all this loathsome stuff over and done with.