This is what I’ve been doing the last couple days, and probably the next few as well. But on Thursday, I’ve got some great shows to see, and on Friday I’ll tell you all about it.
This past Friday I made my third attempt to see the Deco show at the Legion. Crowds give me the heebee-jeebees, so I turned away the first two times when I saw huge lines just to get into the place. But mid-day Friday there were no lines, so I took a chance. Bad choice – the galleries were packed and it was one of those times when you have to stand for an eternity waiting for a couple of nattering fools to move along before you get a chance to shuffle over a few inches to see the next painting… I was very cranky before leaving the first room, so I gave up. I’ll try again next month.
Sunday morning I was out walking in some alleys south of Mission Street, and I got some fantastic photos of residence hotels, which I plan to use in paintings very soon.Transforming photos into a piece of art is something that is commonly done by artists these days. But mostly it is advised to paint seeing the scenic location or from a life that is still and painting the living models. But sometimes you don’t have time to spend that much time in one particular location, in that case artists take a photograph and paint it later. You can view this page for Bitcoin Loophole. When I got back to the studio, I pulled them up on the computer, fiddled around with them a bit and then printed out the copies I’ll use to paint from. I never print them bigger than 8″x10″. I learned that from Larry Morace. His work is so loose, it can sometimes pass for abstract. I was in his studio a few years ago and he showed me this fancy German slide projector he’d just gotten. I was shocked that he even used a projector, but then he showed me that it projects on a little 8″x10″ screen. He said he tried to avoid looking at anything bigger because then he just becomes mired in details and loses the color and compositional elements that attracted him to the scene in the first place. Good advice, I thought. “Drawing up” (sketching the image on a larger canvas, using a smaller image as reference) invariably results in further editing and adjustments, and a more satisfying painting.
Speaking of ideas for paintings, When I added those two images I just mentioned to my stack of “paintings-to-be”, it brought the total to 80. And when you consider that my average annual output is about 50 paintings, and I’m getting new ideas all the time, and whenever I get a bee in my bonnet about some special project (like the Trickster Series) it puts all the other painting on hold, it’s easy to see that one lifetime is simply not enough. As a reminder not to waste any more of this one, I started a painting a couple of weeks ago that may take me the rest of my life to finish. It’s a medium sized canvas, covered with 7305 little (1 cm) squares, one for each day of the rest of my life (7305 days = 20 years, which will take me to age 73.) When I step back and take a look at it, it’s a shockingly small number of squares, especially now that I’ve started filling in one each day. Each tiny square is a unique painting, but also part of the whole, which will not be revealed until it’s done… when ever that may be. I hope I finish this one and start a new one in March 2024. But in the meantime, whenever I enter the studio, this unfinished painting is a visual reminder to live each day:
March 25, 2004
In response to the question from Rachael at Honest Art Talk : How do you work in your studio? What surprises you about the process?
On a good day …
At the start of a studio session, I sit in front of the easel and look. Sometimes this process lasts 20 or 30 minutes. My husband calls it “staring” (“What are you doing in there? Oh – you’re staring again.”) I see the painting in front of me as if it was the first time. I see where the painting has been and where it can go. I decide on the direction for today and imagine how I’ll proceed. If there are unresolved problems from the previous session, I “try out” different solutions in my mind. When I have a clear idea of the first few steps, then I pick up the brush and begin.
Once actual painting has begun, I go into a kind of pre-verbal state, that feels as if my brain is being bypassed. There is a zing of energy that goes from eyes to heart to hands to eyes… and so on, in a continuous loop. If you were to ask me a question at this point, I would have a great deal of difficulty locating the words and then placing them in the proper order to construct a sentence. Sometimes, in the middle of this process, I hear my impatient questioner say, “Earth to Anna…”
Strangely, although I have trouble saying words, I can listen to them. Once the painting is well under way, and humming along nicely, I like to turn on the radio and listen to “This American Life”, “Philosophy Talk”, or “New Dimensions”. Books on tape are good too. It’s as if the body and spirit have gone painting and the intellect is forced into coming along, like a recalcitrant child who is told to be quiet, sit still, and and don’t touch anything.
What I’m working on now:
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March 24, 2004
More about painting, photography, and copyrighting images
Is it ethical for an artist to paint a picture based on a photograph, without permission of the photographer?
This issue has come up more and more frequently since the Pop art era, and it is currently being debated online and in the art world because of a lawsuit being brought against painter Joy Garnett, by a photojournalist. The photographer shot a photo of a young man throwing a molotov cocktail, the image was printed in a newspaper, and Ms. Garnett made a painting from the image. The painter’s friends are taking action by disseminating Ms. Garnett’s painting, as well as digitally manipulated versions of it, as widely as possible. I think they are trying to make these points:
1- copyright protection is meaningless in these times
2 – we don’t care if you use our images, so why should you care if we use yours
3 – copyright protection is wrong – open source standards are better for society
(There is a parallel version of this argument in the music industry and it seems like plagiarism stories have been in the news a bit recently, so maybe it’s a bigger story than I realize, but for now I want to focus on visual art.)
Both photographers and painters are visual artists. They both manipulate their mediums to present a personal vision to the viewer. Some present “straight” reporting, which is generally considered “real”, “realistic” or “realism”. Others focus on stylistic concerns, but their work is usually still “representational”. Others are more concerned with pushing the limits of their mediums, and these images often become “abstract.” And there are plenty of artists who cross these fuzzy boundaries.
Sometimes painters use photographs. They make painted copies of all or part of the photo. They copy the photo as exactly as possible, or just use it as a starting point, and change so much that the source is not recognizable. Sometimes they take the actual photo and literally paste it into the painting.
Less often, photographers use paintings (or sculptures.) They shoot photos of sculptures and paintings in public places. They set up a scene to look like a famous painting, then shoot photos of it. In at least one case a photographer (Richard Misrach) photographed parts of paintings and then published a book titled “Pictures of Paintings”.
Both painters and photographers “use” what they see in their world. This includes people, animals, flowers, food, furniture, buildings, vehicles, natural and man-made land formations, sunsets, sunrises, bill boards, magazines, videos, web pages, etc. The list is infinite. There is no shortage of images.
Reasons why artists might decide NOT to paint or photograph a particular image:
1. They live in a society that jails or kills artists who make this kind of image.
2. The image is copyrighted by someone and the artist does not wish to risk a lawsuit.
3. The subject of the painting or photograph does not want to be portrayed in this way, and the artist cares about the feelings of this person or group.
4. The image has already been done over and over, and this artist has nothing new to add.
… and, after all, there is no shortage of images.
Reasons why artists might decide NOT to sue another artist for “stealing” their copyrighted image:
1. It’s more trouble than it’s worth – how much money can you squeeze out of the average artist?
2. Thinking about people who live in glass houses…. is there an artist anywhere who hasn’t appropriated something from other artists?
3. The energy that goes into tracking down and prosecuting copyright violations is not put into creating new work.
… and, after all, there is no shortage of images, and new work to be created.
So, what I still don’t understand is why this still happens. If your business is in the visual arts, then the issue of copyright is not new to you. So why ask for trouble? If you’re trying to make a political point, then I can see how getting sued would add to the value of your project. But if you’re mainly interested in aesthetics, use your creative juices and pick another image that does the same thing… it’s not like there’s a shortage of images.
Elise Tomlinson on the law and painters using public images, March 23
photonet forum – a series of letters from photographers on the issue
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March 19, 2004
I’ve been worrying too much about finances lately (basic stuff, like where am I going to get rent money if I don’t sell another painting soon) so I decided to calm myself by re-reading Lewis Hyde’s book, The Gift – Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property. This time I started at chapter 8 – “The Commerce of the Creative Spirit”, which is really the heart of the book. He starts out with the question of the sources of an artist’s work and concludes with this:
I do not want to overreach the bounds of my argument here. The destruction of the spirit of the gift is nothing new or particular to capitalism. All cultures and all artists have felt the tension between gift exchange and the market, between the self-forgetfulness of art and the self-aggrandizement of the merchant, and how that tension is to be resolved has been the subject of debate since before Aristotle.
And yet some aspects of the problem are modern. Eros and logos have a distinctly new relationship in a mass society. The remarkable analysis of commodities with which Marx opens Das Kapital appears in the nineteenth century, not any earlier. and the exploitation of the arts which we find in the twentieth century is without precedent. The particular manner in which radio, television, the movies, and the recording industry have commercialized song and drama is wholly new, for example, and their “high finance” produces an atmosphere that all the sister arts must breathe. (Your favorite show) may be the best show that ever came to television, but it belongs to a class of creations which will not live unless they are constantly fed large sums of money. The more we allow such commodity art to define and control our gifts, the less gifted we will become, as individuals and as a society. The true commerce of art is a gift exchange, and where that commerce can proceed on its own terms we shall be heirs to the fruits of gift exchange: in this case, to a creative spirit whose fertility is not exhausted in use, to the sense of plenitude which is the mark of all erotic exchange, to a storehouse of works that can serve as agents of transformation, and to a sense of an inhabitable world – an awareness, that is, of our solidarity with whatever we take to be the source of our gifts, be it the community, or the race, nature, or the gods. But none of these fruits will come to us where we have converted our arts to pure commercial enterprises. The Nielsen ratings will not lead us toward a civilization in which the realized gifts of the gifted stand surety for the life of the citizenry. Sprinkles of gold flake will not free the genius of our race.
And so I went to bed, thinking those thoughts, and woke up the next morning to read a little web news before heading out to see some art. I saw Tyler Green’s artnet review / essay about painting (Joy Garnett, Ian Whitmore, et al) vs photography and then his posts about Joywar – Painter Joy Garnett is being sued by a photographer for using a news photo as the basis for one of her paintings
I had very mixed feelings on this topic, and mulled it over as I rode the MUNI light rail downtown to SFMOMA. I have a lot of friends who are trying to make a living as photographers, and I wouldn’t dream of using one of their images unless I asked them first. (This is one of the reasons I take my own photos for most of my photo based paintings.) I’ve had some interesting conversations with photographers about images that “would make a good photograph” vs “would make a good painting.” Sometimes we help each other out by pointing out visual situations that we know the other would love to capture, on film or in paint. When I set up my Trickster project, I couldn’t physically shoot it all myself, so I asked some photographers to help me. What I’m getting at is simple respect and courtesy. As I came out of the underground onto Market Street, my sympathies were with the photographer – I felt that Joy Garnett was wrong to appropriate a living artist’s image, especially without asking.
Then I went into SFMOMA to see the Pop! show. Well, I’m sure you can see where this is leading… although my favorite pieces in the show were paintings by Vija Clemins (“Envelope”, “Fan”) and David Hockney (“Seated woman Being Served Tea by a Standing companion”), original images all, the overwhelming sense of the show was of cleansing the window of perception; taking a look back at the onslaught of visual imagery so many of us are exposed to every day. This is not a new thought, but understanding it intellectually is not the same as the understanding that comes from art, and that’s what happened to me in about the third room full of Ruscha, Warhol, et al.
So I understand what Joy Garnett was doing when she used another person’s image, an image that was part of the visual melange floating out there in the public spaces. OK, I get it. And yes, the Disney corporation getting laws changed to lock up copyright to Walt Disney’s images, long after the artist is dead, is a perversion of the original idea behind copyright laws. And lawsuits are completely out of control these days, being used as a first strike rather than last resort.
But I still would have asked first.
Addendum to March 15th listing of favorite blogs:
Nathaniel Kramer reminded me about the Artbusiness site that does mini reviews of San Francisco art openings. I used to read this, but had forgotten about it.
Tyler Green and Rachel Buffington Baldanza tipped me to a blog by New York based collector/curator Paige West, at Art Addict. Thanks!
March 15, 2004
Joan Ryan of the SF Chron wrote a column about Brian Goggin, the artist I mentioned on March 9th (scroll down), who constructed the hungry couch in the “Domestic Odyssey” show at SJMA. I’m curious about why Brian seems to avoid mentioning his membership and residence in Project Artaud.
I’m really enjoying my daily blog breaks. I usually have two canvases going at once, so that I can work on one while a glaze on the other dries. But now and then both canvases need 30 minutes or so to set (we’re talking acrylics, not oils.) Which is the perfect time to make a new cup of tea, check my email, and see what kind of art news is out there. I define news loosely, to include the categories of “factual” reports, gossip, speculation, new ideas and other fiction. Perfect blog material.
I mentioned art blogs at dinner a couple of weeks ago, and a (well read, intelligent) friend cut me off with, “Blogs are boring.” Well, OK, I guess some of them are, maybe even most, but that could be said about books, music CDs, and paintings. that doesn’t stop a lot of people from looking for the good ones.
Frankly, art news is not easy to find. Especially if you work in isolation. I subscribe to several art magazines, but they’re mostly bound versions of all the show announcement postcards that arrive each month, not that I don’t love looking at all the pretty pictures. (Modern Painters is a magnificent exception. Wish it came out more often.) The web is the perfect place for the exchange of information I’m looking for.
So for those people not inclined to look for themselves, here’s my current list of blogs worth taking a look at:
About Last Night
by Terry Teachout in New York and “Our Girl” in Chicago, both critics, take turns writing about their experiences in the arts, as critics and consumers. It’s funny, it’s informative – this is one of my “must reads”.
Just text, short to long entries, updated daily.
by Alanna Spence, a San Francisco painter (and web developer) who writes a very personal journal about making art, working, and her broken foot. Mostly, I get a kick out of this blog because I’ve never met her, but we move in the same circles, go to some of the same events …
Mostly text, short entries, updated almost daily.
by Roberta Fallon and Libby Rosof, who post from Philadelphia. I love this blog! I spent a lot of time in and around Philadelphia in the 60s and 70s, and reading this reminds me of how much of my art sensibilities have been formed by the Philadelphia scene, even though I haven’t been back there in about 20 years. They pick interesting artists and the writing is clear, informative, enjoyable.
Lots of images with the text, short to moderate entries, updated daily.
Art Blogging LA
by Caryn Coleman (curator and gallery director) and Emily Ho – they cover the Los Angeles art openings, interviews artists, and share editorial musings.
Text and a few images, short entries, updated daily.
by Elise Tomlinson, a librarian and painter from Alaska. Painfully honest reflections on painting and on life.
Text and images, short to long entries, updated every day or three.
by John Perreault, New York artist, poet, author, who was painted nude by Alice Neel in 1972, writes a weekly art essay – the kind you’d find in print publication.
Text and a few images, long entries, updated weekly.
Bad Art Cafe
by Clara Jolie Clare, who describes herself as a “creative writer/former starving artist”. Strong literary bent – most entries are a quote from an art book, story, or film. Interesting cross-referencing system lets the reader search the site for various art topics. Lots of photography references.
Just text, short entries, updated every two or three days.
Cup of Chicha
by Nathalie Rachelle Chicha – A kind of “Readers Digest” of the web, with an arts and literature bias.
Mostly text, mostly short entries, updated daily.
Honest Art Talk
by Rachael Buffington Baldanza, a watercolor painter with a day job in Atlanta, she makes cheerful salads of tidbits culled from the web, mixed with personal observations.
Text and a few images, short entries, updated every day or two.
by Danny Gregory, author and artist from New York, writes about everything… from an artist’s view.
Original art and text, short to long entries, updated almost daily.
by four guys in and around Washington DC, who write on music, art and literature – tons of culture links on their site.
Mostly text, long entries, updated daily.
Modern Art Notes
by Tyler Green, a political consultant and art writer, lives in Washington DC. He sees a lot of shows, hears a lot of scuttlebutt, and writes intelligent, witty reports. One of my favorites.
Text and a few images, short to long entries, updated daily.
That Rabbit Girl
by Alice Maggio, a librarian from Chicago, shares items on art and literature.
Just text, short entries, updated almost daily.
Studio Notebook (Dangerous Chunky)
by Carolyn Zick, a painter in Seattle writes about the art scene in the Pacific Northwest.
Mostly text (with single icon), short entries, updated every day or three.
Wish Jar Journal
by Keri Smith, illustrator and comic artist, lives near Toronto and writes motivational and philosophical observations.
Original art and text, mostly short entries, updated every 3 to 6 days.
by Witold Riedel, who draws intricate line drawings, and takes surrealistic photos of New York, and writes… odd, beautiful thoughts
Image-rich, text variable, updated irregularly.
by Michael and Friedrich, self described as graying amateur art buffs – they discuss a lot of things, but art comes up frequently, and they live up to their domain name.
Mostly text, very long entries, updated daily.
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How can you sell art you don’t care about? And if you sell your own art, the question becomes, why bother making art you don’t care about? There are plenty of downsides to living as a freelance creative – you may as well engage in the main upside, which is making work that you’re passionate about. But at some point, most of us have to sell it. Which means you have to be able to talk about it. Explain the unexplainable, or at least shed some light on it. I saw a couple of things recently about a “reality” TV show that set two teams of apprentice art dealers loose to see who could sell the most art:
from the Art Biz Coach:
“The teams visited four artists and selected the ones they wanted to work with. One team ended up selling over $13,000 worth of art. The other sold a single work for $869. Why the big difference? The losing team selected the artist based on the price of her work. No one on the team seemed to like it, but it had higher prices and, so the logic goes, they would have to sell less of it in order to win. The Donald (Trump) said over and over again, “You have to love your product in order to sell it. You have to believe in your product.” That was the failure of the losing team. They had no interest in their artist or her artwork. How can you sell something you don’t believe in or care about?”
Copyright (C)2004 Alyson B. Stanfield, Stanfield Art Associates, 5968 El Diente St., Golden, CO 80403. All rights reserved.
from About Last Night:
“Trump put them on the wrong foot at the outset by standing on the steps of the Met telling them, in his introduction to the assignment, that all art was “subjective,” a view that they all parroted when it became clear that they were failing. … So intent on proving their ambition and business-worthiness are these contestants that you wonder if there’s a genuine response out there anywhere among those who don’t hit the galleries and the museums. … their utter inability to talk about the work, even if only to sell it, and their bemused indifference about what they were doing only consolidated the idea for me that visual art is a flummoxing agent of the highest order. And it deserves better. These works tonight deserved better, and with my enthusiasm for what I was seeing I could have outsold the Apprentices with my mouth taped shut. It wouldn’t have been hard, given the quality of the “product.” Why is enthusiasm so elusive these days?”
Thanks to Our Friend on the Block (who previously opined forAbout Last Night here)
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March 9, 2004
Visited the San Jose Museum of Art last weekend to see the Domestic Odyssey exhibition featuring work by artists “who use household items — appliances and furniture — as touchstones for their work.” I was especially looking forward to seeing Liza Lou’s “Kitchen”, as this is the first time it’s been exhibited in Northern Califronia. On entering the gallery, I forgot all about Lou’s beaded ovens. Stretching halfway across the gallery and towering above me was a huge, red, writhing beast, consuming a wing-back chair. On second look, this thing is a sofa! It’s 33 feet long, upholstered in red faux leather, with a center section that bulges like an anaconda that has just consumed a table, a television, a lamp, and a telephone. “Desire for the Other” is by Brian Goggin, the artist that did the “Defenestration” installation. I’m really sorry I can’t find a photo of “Desire” anywhere. It’s a beautifully crafted piece of work. If you’re in the Bay Area, you’ll have to go see it.
Just beyond the cannibalistic couch is Liza Lou’s contemporary masterpiece, “Kitchen.” She spent 5 years creating this installation – a full sized suburban kitchen, the surface of every object, as well as the walls and floors, covered with millions of tiny glass beads. Appliances on the counter, food on the table, dishes in the sink are all covered with bright, busy designs. Inside the oven is a cherry red design with mud-flap style naked women. Beaded strings “flow” from the faucet into a sink full of dishes with a swirling Van Gogh sky on the surface of the water.
In another gallery, Marlene Alt’s “Still Waters” is an iron bed frame with a “mattress” composed of a flat white surface receiving a video projection of rippling water. A long wordy academic wall tag completely overlooked the main point/joke: it’s a waterbed! Willie Cole scorched a stretched canvas with a waffle iron, making overlapping designs in shades of tan and brown (made me hungry.) Oh, I almost forgot- there were almost no paintings in this show, but the one at the entrance was a beautiful, funny piece by Robert Colescott. “The Dutiful Son” shows a pink fleshy woman of a certain age, reclining on a sofa, eating bon-bons, while an adolescent boy in a frilly apron vacuums. Gotta love it.
Working artist, Rachael Buffington Baldanza, mentions on her blog that astronomers said the Hubble image released on Thursday “bears remarkable similarities to the van Gogh work, complete with never-before-seen spirals of dust swirling across trillions of miles of interstellar space.” Like the swirling patterns in Liza Lou’s beaded sink and Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketches of the deluge.
Yesterday Tyler Green quoted a favorite passage from a Chicago Tribune interview with Lee Bontecou: “The art world is the artists and the work. I was reading Vincent van Gogh’s letters. Now what the galleries want to give you is like stardom. I think what Vincent had was maybe healthier, made better art than now when everything has to be ‘new.'”
And on the same topic from Franklin Einspruch “Most art schools teach how to invoke unprecedented reality, which is a better term for what this is usually called: originality. An artist ought to be generating at least some unprecedented reality or he’s not doing his job. But by emphasizing the novel, the art world has become fashion-driven. The cutting-edge art school experience has the students graduating with little more skill than they entered with, but with a finely-tuned art-world fashion sense. The blows to sincerity and integrity have been palpable. This is why I favor craftsmanship and connoiseurship – I believe human concerns ought to be addressed by art not just intellectually, but formally. Otherwise, you get the results that you often see on the gallery wall: art that does to your soul what sitting in the Mies chair does to your back.”
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March 5, 2004
Great weather here lately, and I’ve been out and about. I hiked up Leavenworth Street, through the Tenderloin, to the John Pence Gallery for the Randall Sexton show. His work fills the back two rooms at JPG. (The front room has some work from the next show, “Allegory”, which opens April 2nd. ) Sexton’s new work is focused on Cuba and San Francisco: vibrant cityscapes, populated with casual folks, clowns, parade crowds, and classic cars. He paints in a loose, plein-air style, but I’m guessing that most of these were done in the studio. His work is deeply saturated, with large swatches of toned ground showing through. His underpainting seems to have been scraped or rubbed in a rough pattern, to show the texture of the canvas. This creates a sparkly effect that adds vibrance to the image and works especially well when painting the street surface or stucco walls. Many of the people are rendered as specific individuals and the reflections on the cars are perfect. There were are few sloppy details that bothered me, like a woman’s thumb that was as long as the rest of her hand, and a pedicab’s awning poles that were all painted on the same side of the cab. I admire this style of painting, but I’ve never been able to stop in time – I start out loose, but keep fiddling with it until the details are all in place.
A nice stroll down the east side of the hill brought me to 333 Bush (a corporate lobby) to see Dale Erickson’s “Friends” series. I’ve seen these all before in his studio at Project Artaud, but they look different here – smaller, more personal. Each one is isolated in an acre of white marble.
When I asked the security guard if I could take some photos, he started telling me how much he enjoyed the paintings. I can see why – without the artwork, this lobby would feel like a an arctic mausoleum.
A couple of friends told me I should see the show at John Berggruen gallery : small gouaches by Paul Wonner and drawings by Picasso. I didn’t think much of either show. In both cases, the work seemed like the kind of stuff that every artist has piled around the studio – little things you noodle around with to warm up, or get ideas, or practice. They’re good for giving to friends or patrons, but I can’t see making a show out of them.
I’d also heard that the Mark Lombardi drawings at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts were worth checking out. And they are. I’m not sure if I’d call them art, but they are fascinating. I’d like to see them installed under glass table tops in a coffee house. These drawings invite close, prolonged inspection. When looking at them, it’s almost impossible to resist the urge to turn to the person nearest you and say, “Oh my god, did you see this?” Lombardi used a (very sharp) pencil to draw complex diagrams showing the connections between political figures and corporate and financial institutions, using idiosyncratic symbols for the transfer of influence, power, and money. It’s a lot more interesting than it sounds.
Speaking of political figures, next stop was the Cartoon Art Museum to see the “Don’t Parade on My Reign” show with editorial cartoonists Phil Frank, Tom Meyer, Mark Fiore, and Don Asmussen. The focus of the show was the recently ended eight year reign of Willie Brown as San Francisco’s mayor. There was also a Dr. Suess exhibit and a show of comic strips that were made into films. Hilarious, as usual, and always nice to see high quality pen and ink work.
Li Huayi takes ink work to soaring levels at the Asian Art Museum. His monumental landscapes are rendered on some of the largest pieces of paper manufactured today, and placed in the traditional hanging scroll. He begins with washes of splashed and dripped ink. Then he works over the surface with a small brush and a palette of two or (rarely) three colors. The subject matter is mountains, trees, waterfalls and clouds. The clouds and misty atmosphere provide rests from the microscopic detail of the trees and rock. The emotional impact is overwhelming.
Leaving the Asian Art museum, I walked across the Civic Center (where the resident chicken scratches among the new “Love” plantings in front of City Hall )
to SFPALM. The San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum has a dance exhibit in the galleries now. Two galleries are devoted to George Balanchine: Ballet Master, A Centennial Exhibition, and includes photographs, posters, programs, correspondence, newspaper clippings, costume and set designs, and video excerpts. One of my favorite items is Geralyn Donald’s personal photo album. Ms. Donald was a dancer with the NYC Ballet in the late 50’s. Her impromptu snapshots of dancers backstage and after the show are a warm and intimate look at the NYCB. In another gallery at SFPALM is the Dance Heritage Coalition’s first traveling exhibition, America’s Irreplaceable Dance Treasures: The First 100. The ambitious goal of this project is to “identify 100 treasures representing the richness and range of American dance.” There are photos, posters and costumes and an original work of art by Anna Halprin called “In the Mountain, On the Mountain.” I’m not sure, but I think this piece of paper is the choreographic notation for the performance piece. It’s approximately 24″ x 60″, with collage and painted images, plus hand prints and writing.(About 12 years ago I took a two day seminar with Anna Halprin. It had something to do with art and healing. What I remember most about that weekend is the way she cajoled us into moving around, to put down our paints and remember what it felt like to have a body. There was a lot of resistance, but by the end of day two, we were dancing around the room in a conga line, weaving in and out among the paintings.)
But the most compelling item in the Dance Heritage Coalition exhibit is the interactive video kiosk. The touch screen options and well designed program guide the viewer through a personal and intuitive tour of American dance history, with fabulous video clips for most of the performers. I started with Tap and went from a delightful 1945 clip of Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry the mouse, to a 2002 Savion Glover performance at Jacob’s Pillow, to a 1935 Kinetic Molpi performance at Jacob’s Pillow, to a Sioux Ghost Dance filmed in 1894 by Thomas Edison, to Anna Halprin with “Hangar” in 1957 and so on… there was an incredible 1938 clip of Erik Hawkins performing in “Filling Station” – it looked like Vaudeville meets “West side Story”. They finally had to kick me out of there as they were closing.
(but I’ll be back – the exhibit is at SFPALM through May 15th, then it heads for the East coast.)