Carol Lloyd wrote about the driving force behind the new deYoung Museum building – San Francisco citizen, Dede Wilsey.The museum is most commonly known as de Young. This is museum for fine arts which is situated in Gate Park which is in San Francisco. This is one among the Fine Arts Museums in San Francisco and the other one is Legion of Honor. It is named after its founder, M. H. de Young. Crypto Code also was named after cryptocurrency. The project has been financed with $165 million of private donations. She asks the question, “Does the public lose anything when public institutions become wholly dependent on private donors?” and museum director Harry Parker answers that an institution needs both:

“When you get a balance, you have the good qualities of both,” he says. “Private funding tends to be opportunistic and entrepreneurial; public funding is more cautious and stable. But public money is slow as molasses.”

Lloyd also tells us a little more about the Gerhard Richter mural (mentioned earlier in this space):

When Wilsey gave the money for Wilsey Court, the vaulted-ceilinged central gathering place at the de Young, she wanted to also donate the art that would adorn the enormous wall. “If I gave the art, I could make sure it wouldn’t be too ugly,” she explains. In the end, she chose to commission a piece by Gerhard Richter, an artist whose more traditional work appeals to her but whose more challenging pieces remain, well, challenging. “We really hit it off,” recalls Wilsey of her trip to Cologne to visit the celebrated artist. “It’s mostly black and white, but there was some color, and I love color. My favorite colors are pink and green. I said, ‘I see lavender, and I see green.'” The painting, which is based on blown-up images of atoms, reminded her of the large pearls she was wearing. “And he said, ‘It’s a self-portrait.’ And I said, ‘OK. I’ll buy the thing.'”

Lloyd’s full story is entertaining and informative – read it at SFGate

– – –

The cool project I mentioned yesterday? I’m interviewing Open Studios artists. I’ll pick artists from around the city, most of whom I’ve never met (I’ll let you know when I’m interviewing friends) and I’ll attempt to choose artists of different styles, but I’m focusing on painting. I wish I’d thought of this earlier, so I could have gotten a head start on it – ideally, I would post the interview the week before the individual artist has the open studio event. But I may not be able to get any completed before this coming weekend. Next year I’ll be more organized. I’m contacting artists now, and I’ll let you know more soon.
Permanent Link to this entry.

September 28, 2004 (Tuesday)
I started this blog almost one year ago, on October 4, 2003. It’s been a successful experiment for me. It’s kept me writing every day, and thinking more in words (not at the expense of thinking in pictures, but in addition to thinking in pictures.) I wonder though, what do you the reader get out of it? Here’s your chance to weigh in, anonymously, with your opinion about this blog (and others.) This online survey was constructed by a small group of art bloggers in an effort to find out what art blog readers are looking for, and if we’re providing it. It’s not particularly personal, and it only takes a few minutes: CLICK HERE for Art Blog Survey
The survey will be online through October 11, 2004. I’ll post a few of the more interesting findings when the survey is complete. For more info go to: Todd Gibson at From the Floor.
In response to Rachel’s question, I’m going to pass on choosing the “best” painterly excerpt from a work of fiction. Instead, I’ll quote a couple of works that have been making painting images in my head for many months now. I’m planning on looking for models as soon as Open Studios is over and starting the paintings in November:

“Now what, Lady?”
“I’m leaving you with the Red Sparrow. You’re in good hands. Goodbye, Belane, it’s been fun.”
“Yeah . . .”
And there I was with that gigantic glowing bird. It stood there.
This can’t be true, I thought. This isn’t the way it is supposed to happen. No, this isn’t the way it is supposed to happen.
Then, as I watched, the Sparrow slowly opened its beak. A huge void appeared. And within the beak was a vast yellow vortex, more dynamic than the sun, unbelievable.
This isn’t the way it happens, I thought again.
The beak opened wide, the Sparrow’s head moved closer and the blaze and the blare of yellow swept over and enveloped me.
-the last few lines of Charles Bukowski’s “Pulp”

I looked up and there it was
among the green branches of the pitchpines –
thick bird,
a ruffle of fire trailing over the shoulders and down the back –
color of copper, iron, bronze –
lighting up the dark branches of the pine.
What misery to be afraid of death.
What wretchedness, to believe only in what can be proven.
When I made a little sound
it looked at me, then it looked past me.
Then it rose, the wings enormous and opulent,
and, as I said, wreathed in fire.
– Mary Oliver’s “I Looked up”

And finally, I finished that painting that has been giving me so much trouble for the last two months. Took it down to Almac this morning:

Don Felton of Almac Camera , doing what he does best.
Permanent Link to this entry.

September 27, 2004 (Monday)
I saw Cosi fan tutte this weekend, at the San Francisco Opera. It was a beautiful, funny, thoroughly engaging performance. It reminded me of a Marx Brother’s movie, with better music. The stage setting was a Mediterranean resort town around the time of the first world war. It was Claudia Mahnke’s resemblance, as Dorabella, to a young Lucille Ball, that first made me think of the Marx Brothers. Frederica von Stade stole the show as the scheming maid, Despina. This role is usually played as a young airhead, but von Stade’s Despina is a crafty, mature woman who knows more than she lets on.

Alexandra Deshorties, as Dorabella’s sister Fiordiligi, did a terrific job with her aria, Come Scoglio, in spite of the fact that her dress had ripped open in the back, from waist to neck. She kept her composure and managed to move about the stage without turning, and without losing the dress entirely. She was off stage for only a few minutes before the next scene – the hilarious mock-death of the soldiers. The two sisters came out with Red Cross aprons over their dresses, which allowed the audience to forget about Deshorties’ costume and focus on von Stade’s performance as the wacky military doctor with a wild electric revival procedure which brings the men back to life.

The orchestra was small, but sufficient, and I was close enough to watch the bass players line up some little red candies along the sheet music stand. Then, during a lull in their section, they would lean forward, pop a piece in their mouth, and chew furiously. One of the viola players seemed to be having a problem with his bow, and the string players next to him examined it, with one of them exchanging hers for his. Before the second act, I could see down the stairs under the stage, to the hallway that the orchestra uses. The conductor, Michael Gielen (who also played harpsichord during the performance) stood down there waiting for his entrance cue, reading a typical employee bulletin board which was papered with a mix of official notices and ragged clippings.

It got me to thinking about how so much of the art world is a parallel working-class universe. The general public has no clue how much they have in common with artists.
Permanent Link to this entry.

September 25, 2004 (Weekend)
I’m still struggling with that painting that was giving me trouble on Tuesday. It has to be finished this weekend if I’m going to enter it in the Open Studios show. I got some advice from a friend, painter Dale Erickson. He helped me see a few things I was missing, so here’s hoping… I can certainly empathize with Elise Tomlinson’s feeling of being a half hour from disaster.

D.C. apparently has an event similar to our Open Studios. It’s a city-wide, unjuried art event, called “Art-O-Matic.” Lenny Campello at DC Art News defends the event this way:

“I am also rather sick and tired of the way (because of its size, energy and open attitude towards hanging any and all artwork as long as the artist is willing to help run the show) that it gets bashed by some in the lamestream media, the alternative media and even the BLOGosphere… they miss the key ingredient that the event adds to our cultural tapestry: an incredible amount of artistic energy and a vast amount of attention to the visual arts. Anytime that you get over 1,000 artists to organize something of this magnitude, the footprint and its impact will be vast.”
rest of the post here

And what about the impact of artists working in art supply stores? (Thursday’s entry.) Rachael Balduffington worked in an art store, too. She’s wondering if the experience changed our work. In my case, not really. I did experiment with materials quite a bit, but eventually went back to my main thing: acrylic on canvas, representational style. She also mentioned the attitude so prevalent in art store staff in urban areas. Small town art stores tend to have a friendlier vibe. Why is that? I don’t know, but it’s one of the reasons I buy most of my supplies by mail.

Carolyn Zick at Studio Notebook has been visiting San Francisco. She didn’t mention any art supply stores, but she checked out SFMOMA, Yerba Buena Center, and the Shooting Gallery. At City Lights bookstore she picked up some local art publications and quotes Ann Hatch of the Capp Street Project:

“And the museums are really sort of hollow places….in the Bay Area it just seems we have these massive, beautiful buildings and these multi-million dollar budgets and its not working for the full spectrum of people. It’s kind of a self-aggrandizing club of folks that go to museums. It needs to be much more inviting to kids, and has to be more meaningful for them.”

On the other hand, Charles Downey at ionarts reports on a lecture by New Yorker art writer, Peter Schjeldahl. (Marja-Leena Rathje points to this post as well.) Schjeldahl disagrees with Ann Hatch’s idea of making the museums more inviting for kids:

“One of Schjeldahl’s major points on the topic he chose (“What Art Is For Now”) was that the snob appeal of art is one of the “underestimated engines of culture,” that for now he has “no desire to swell the size of the tent” of those who love art. In his view, there is no reason to bring art to the masses. Those who want it will find it, and “if somebody doesn’t want art, bully for them.” However, as Schjeldahl also noted, the audience for art worldwide may be larger now than it ever has been, and the art market is a booming business. ”
Read the full report here – highly recommended.

September 24, 2004 (Friday)
A week or so ago, a reporter from MSNBC called to interview me about eBay and art fraud. We had an interesting talk and then I immediately forgot about it. Besides finishing the paintings and otherwise getting ready for a show in three weeks, I’ve been spending every free moment helping a seriously ill friend. A few days ago, there was a huge spike in traffic to my web site. At first I thought it was related to the Open Studios catalog listing, but the weird part was, most of the hits were from google searches of the phrase, “artist anna conti.” Eventually it dawned on me that a news story somewhere must have used that phrase. I found the story (eBay fights its toughest legal battle – Tiffany lawsuit puts ‘hands off’ approach to the test) and reporter Bob Sullivan got it all right. I’m definitely rooting for Tiffany to succeed where so many others have tried and failed – to make eBay take more responsibility for the Black Market they promote and profit from. See Also: MSNBC’s section on “Online Auctions – Fads, Scams, and Temptations.” And reader Monica Lopetegui pointed me to a new online sales site that avoids some of the eBay problems: www.classifiedbuyers.com

September 23, 2004 (Thursday)
The New York Times ran a story yesterday about artists working in an art supply store.
I used to work in an art store, too. It was a little like this one. Staffed by artists, it was a big place, with an inconceivable number of weird, hard to find items. Unfortunately it was often hard to find the normal everyday items in the chaos of this place. Each department was supervised (ruled) by an artist with a specialty in that field. They each had an idiosyncratic organizational scheme and supervisory style. As you wandered from drawing to painting to sculpting to crafts, it felt like you were crossing international boundaries. The management attempted to place employees in the department where they had the most knowlege – I was in the painting department. This was a pretty good deal as an employee. We got free samples from the product reps, got to try out the new product lines before they hit the shelves, and spent a lot of time standing around talking to people about painting. I’m less sure if it was good deal for customers. We didn’t know diddly about sales. Sometimes a beginning hobby painter would come in and ask something like, “What’s better, acrylic or oils?” Depending on who they were talking to, they might get an anti-acrylic diatribe, a lecture on the history of painting, or an eye-rolling bum’s rush toward the watercolors. We did, however, know the product – if someone asked about the difference between Cad Red and Pyrrole Red, they’d get an accurate (if not always coherent) answer. Eventually the downside of working retail got to me – the crazy, cranky customers who would roll into view, pulling box cars full of entitlement, screech and hiss for a while, then chug away, leaving us in a cloud of hot steam.

September 22, 2004 (Wednesday)
The 29th annual San Francisco Open Studios catalog is out. It’s FREE! You can pick it up at cafes, bookstores and museum shops throughout the Bay Area or at the ArtSpan gallery at 934 Brannan Street, SF. (It’s also available for $5 via mail – to order, call 415-861-9838 or e-mail camille@artspan.org) It’s a big, tabloid-size (10″ x 14″) glossy paper, full color beauty. Approximately 900 artists will hold studio shows during this event; about 600 of them are in the catalog, and about 500 have a piece at the Artspan gallery. There’s a huge range of artists in this event, from people who just picked up a brush last year to artists who are nationally known. I’ll be showing with some friends at Ft. Mason, on the third weekend (Oct. 16th and 17th.)

Here are some interesting stats from page 11 of the catalog:

California’s rank in number of arts-related businesses, among 50 U.S. states: 1st.
California’s rank in per-capita arts spending, among 50 U.S. states: 50th.
San Francisco’s rank in per-capita support to the non-profit arts, among U.S. cities: 1st.
Percent increase in the number of works in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s collection over the past decade: 100 percent.
Percent by which the California Arts Council’s budget was decreased in 2004: 94 percent.
Amount in state funding now budgeted to the council: $1 million.
Estimated amount nonprofit arts add to the California economy annually: $5.4 billion.
Amount nonprofit arts generate in state and local taxes: $300 million.
Percent change in revenue generated from nonprofit art taxes since 1994: +279 percent.
Minimum number of California jobs supported by nonprofit arts: 160,000.
Percent change in arts and cultural organization worker income since 1994: +89 percent.
Percent change in arts and cultural organization admissions and on-site sales since 1994: +141 percent.
September 21, 2004 (Tuesday)

Proof of an unquiet mind? This painting is taking way longer than usual. The weird transition from cool to warm light is giving me problems. It’s one of those cases where how it really looked is too strange to be believable. So I keep toning it down, then feeling disappointed in the result, jack it up again. It’s starting to feel like a hamster wheel. I worked straight through the evening and didn’t make it to the art event. If I can’t finish it tomorrow, I’m putting it aside and grabbing one of the other canvases – something I can finish this week. This makes mush of my brain… at least the part that’s responsible for language… so, nothing too interesting to say today (sorry.)

September 20, 2004 (Monday)
This is the last week to finish up my paintings, etc before Open Studios month. I have an appointment at Almac next week and then need to work on the other aspects of the show. Tonight is the big artists shin-dig down at Pier 28, so as soon as I get this stuff uploaded, I have to buckle down and get enough painting done to justify taking the evening off.

I was talking to a painter who showed this past weekend at the Marin Art Festival – he said there were about 120 booths and only 16 of them were painting. The rest were crafts. He came to the same conclusion I came to several years ago – forget those outdoor festivals – they’re not the place to sell original paintings, unless the paintings are small, cheap, and cute.

I went to the Cliff House reopening recently – lots of work still to do, but it’s looking good. They reinstalled those ceramic ladies in the stairwell area (see left.) Great views, good food, but not much art… some old photos, reproduction posters, and original swimsuits from Sutro Baths:

September 18, 2004 (weekend)
I saw this street art on a construction barricade on Post Street, near Grant:

At “Thinking about Art” J.T. Kirkland gave space to artist James W. Bailey for a very, very long essay about… well, mostly about the state of the contemporary art world. I don’t usually read 3,500-word blog entries, but this one held my interest all the way through.

Here’s a quote from James W. Bailey:
“The modern art system is one with a historic parallel. Being from Mississippi, I know all about the share-cropping system. My mother who holds every educational degree under the sun was raised on a sharecropping plantation. What exists today in the art world, especially in this country, is an art version of the post-Civil War Mississippi Delta plantation. The plantation owners are the so-called leading art museums. The plantation foremen are the museum curators. The sharecroppers are the emerging artists. What you have to do as an artist sharecropper, and as a human being, to elevate your self through the plantation system to artistic independence, to that coveted position of celebrated international artist superstar, is almost unspeakable. Selling out doesn’t even begin to describe it.

The results for this country are horrible. The average American is absolutely alienated from contemporary art. They are alienated because they have been treated with contempt by the modern art establishment. The thinking that prevails in New York is that the average American is a cultural idiot who is too unsophisticated to understand the secret language of modern art. Therefore, considering how stupid they are, it would be an incredible waste of our valuable time and resources to share our wealth of secret knowledge with them to help them understand what they don’t know and will never appreciate.”
– – James W. Bailey – full text here

September 17, 2004 (Friday)

A conversation with artists David Holmes (above left) and Larry Morace (above right) at the Newmark Gallery on Wednesday, September 15, 2004. (David and Larry are standing in front of one of Larry’s night scenes.)

Gallery owner, Mark Wladika (in red shirt at right) introduced these two very different photo-based painters, by noting that as he watches gallery visitors review work by these two artists, he is struck by the fact that most people express a strong preference for one or the other, but only the rare “elite viewer” appreciates them both.

Recently someone asked me if I made a distinction (on my “About Realism” page) between photo-based realists and observational realists. I would add self-generated realism to that mix, but the answer is no, I think those kinds of categories are interesting for artists and art academics to chew over, but not particularly useful for viewers in enjoying the art. David and Larry both paint from photographs while another Newmark Gallery artist, Mary Proenza paints from observation. David and Larry’s work is more different from each other than either of them are different from Mary. I guess by Mark’s standards I’d be considered an elite viewer, because I like the work of all three of them.

What follows is my effort (with pencil and notepad) to record as much as possible of the rather freewheeling conversation:

DH – I’ll start out by saying what I like about Larry’s work. I’m somewhat jealous of Larry’s expressionist, emotional style. I like the sense of space in his work… let me show you (he shows us a print of Gustave Caillebotte’s “Paris Street; Rainy Day” – at left.) I painted an homage to Caillebotte’s “Paris” in this painting (“Mission Street” ©2002, Acrylic on canvas, 48″ x 36″, see below right.) I tried to create that same sense of space, muted colors…

LM – When I paint, it’s an unconscious process, but David has to think.

DH – The danger (with my style) is in getting stale – sometimes I need to get away from it.

LM – When I was very young I saw Caillebotte’s ” Paris” at the Chicago Art Institute. It was one of the first quality works of art I remember seeing. I was very nearsighted as a child and literally saw the world as a blurry place. I was initially attracted to impressionist paintings – they seemed completely realistic to me. But when I tried to paint like that, with those little brushes, I just got lost in small areas of the painting. It was discouraging. Then one day I saw how Bischoff used these huge brushes… I tried it and it was a real breakthrough for me. I work the whole canvas at once. That’s why it’s hard for me to paint a work larger than I can reach.

DH – Does your eyesight still affect the way you paint?

LM – Well, I don’t have an excuse anymore (pointing to his glasses.)

DH – Do you wear them when you paint?

LM – Sometimes… depends… first I look for overall shape, then I tighten up. When it starts getting tighter, I have to stop because it feels like I’m losing the unity of the piece.

LM – This painting of yours, David, is my favorite (“Mission Street”, see above right.) I like the way you backed off on the colors and focused on the tonality. And this subtlety in the background trees… they’re really abstract shapes. Every painter is an abstract artist – it’s just a matter of levels – of when you make the decision to stop – of when you have enough information.

LM – I like this painting of yours, too (“Say Hey Willie”, © 2003 Acrylic on canvas, 20″ x 16″, at left.) You’ve been able to add detail without losing gesture. You can see these little stories taking place between the people. My style means a loss of that narrative detail.

DH – How do you work, what is your process? You said earlier that you have more than one painting in progress…

LM – Yes, I do… I try to find a rhythm. Sometimes I work upside down. I start with an image the way a jazz musician starts with a melody and then I improvise from there. Each session has its own mood. That’s why sometimes I paint the same image over and over – to work on different moods. Sometimes I have to set a piece aside and let it percolate for awhile. What’s your process?

DH – I work on a single piece until it’s done, starting with larger brushes and gradually using smaller ones. When I get to the three-hair brush, I know I’m almost done. I take my own photos, using a digital camera, and work from those photos. I like the city, and I’m especially drawn to signage, maybe because of my background in graphic design – I love the text. Sometimes people ask me why bother to paint it, when you have the photograph, but it’s about the process…

LM – Chuck Close showed the limitations of photography when he did those huge hyper-realistic heads with so much tiny detail. I work from photos, too. I used to use slides, and purposely blur them, but now I use a digital camera and get the same effect. I just edit differently (than David.) I like to work upside down to trick the mind into not recognizing objects. Mostly I’m going for the illusion of space. I learned a lot from Richard Diebenkorn’s “Ocean Park Series.”

Question from audience: Which is better – abstraction or realism?

DH – Realism (joking.)

LM – You just need to do whatever your nervous system dictates. There’s bad realism and there’s a whole lot of bad abstract art. Arnheim helped me with that – he said you could take a slide of the most perfect neo-classicist, say someone like David, and if you blurred it until the objects were unrecognizable, you would still be able to see the abstract beauty of the piece.

DH – Gerhard Richter blew me away with his range from most realistic to most abstract.

LM – And another artist with a large range is David Hockney… and of course the first was Picasso. I love seeing this kind of schizophrenic painter. I like more styles now than I used to.

DH – I was conservative as a kid and didn’t like Picasso, but I grew to understand him in art school and now I think he was a genius. You need context to really appreciate art.

LM – It’s more personal and visceral for me.

Question for David – What can you tell me about your painting surfaces?

DH – I just started painting seriously two years ago, and I started with canvas, but now I’m working on panel. It’s smoother. I like it for the greater control it gives me. Right now I’m working on a door (sanded and gessoed.) It’s a big painting with 40 people, 18 identifiable faces… you can go to my website to see a preview of this work.

Question for Larry – When you say you paint the same thing over again, did you mean literally on the same canvas?

LM – Sometimes. Like say, if this piece here (“City Canyon”, ©2003, 24″ x 30″, Oil/Canvas, at left) was still in my studio, I might grab it one day and starting painting over it. Again. My work is getting more abstract over time. I want less and less in an image.

Question for both artists – I’m curious about your use of color – what can you tell me about that?

LM – People always ask me about that… the night scenes are definitely about color, but I try to draw first. Drawing is the most important to me. Color is like the sirens, and they will lead me to the rocks rather quickly, so I need to draw and get a good composition first.

DH – My colors are muted, due to the fact that I mostly do cityscapes, so black and white and brown are my most dominant colors.

Question for both artists – What about details? How do you decide what to keep?

DH – There are certain key elements in each painting that I have to get right because I know people will focus on them. If I get those right, if I can convince the viewer there, then I can let other parts slide, so to speak.

LM – I do the same thing – focus on a few elements that need to be convincing in order to sell the idea to the viewer.
September 16, 2004 (Thursday)
More thoughts about explaining images…

Years ago, I used to work in a flatter and more symbolic style. (At left, “Digging”, ©1995, 24″ x 30″, acrylic) I didn’t explain these images. Sometimes people would ask what the painting meant, and I would usually ask them what they thought. I got some fascinating explanations. I might comment on what I was thinking while I was painting the piece, but usually the viewer’s interpretation was close enough, and even if it wasn’t, it’s fine with me if the viewer has a different experience with the painting than I do.

Later, after I had begun painting more “realistically” (right and left: “Cold Potato”, “Hot Potato”, both ©2002, 10″x10″, acrylic) I began to get even more questions about “what it means.” I don’t always know why I choose certain images, but the pressure to come up with some kind of explanation can be intense.

Then last year I did a complex narrative series about the Trickster. – (left: “Through the Veil”, ©2003, 24″ x24″, acrylic) – I went all-out with the explanations. Spent almost as much time explaining as I did painting. It was less than satisfying. The percentage of people who are befuddled and want explanations remained about the same. And the folks who like to figure it out for themselves wanted to argue with me, because they felt that their ideas about the images were more correct. And you know what? They’re right.

A painting, like a person, can reveal different aspects to different people. My relationship with a piece of my own work usually ends after I have finished making it. The painting is then free to go out and have a completely different relationship with someone else.
September 15, 2004 (Wednesday)
Several years ago I wandered into the Contemporary Realist Gallery (now Hackett-Freedman) and saw some paintings that have haunted me ever since. They were by a guy I’d never heard of: Robert Schwartz. No one I talked to had heard of him either, so I dragged a few friends to his (rare) shows. In between shows, every once in a while, I’d get up the nerve to ask the gallery if I could see one of his paintings from the back room (they always obliged.) I had just started to work in gouache at that time, and his work had the the small scale, the intense colors and the narration of the gouache Persian miniatures at the Asian Museum. But Schwartz used perspective and contemporary scenes & symbols. It was exciting to see contemporary painting in gouache. The craftsmanship was the best I’d ever seen, and the narratives were so compelling it was difficult to leave one and move on to the other.

The San Jose Museum of Art has put together a retrospective of Robert Schwartz’s work, and boy, have they got a great show catalog! (“Dream Games” – photo above, left.) It’s 10″ x 10″, 200 pages, lots of illustrations, and due to the small scale of his work, many of the reproductions are the same size as the original, if not larger! The painting used on the cover, “Painted On A Leaf”, is about four times larger than the original.

I loved the show at SJMA, and I’ll be back to see it again. But one thing about it annoyed me – the wordy wall tags, full of conjecture and bullshit about what the paintings mean. In one case, they went so far as to hang a photo of Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” right next to Schwartz’s “Serenade(II).” They did the same thing in the catalog. Then they proceeded to write a page and a half of stuff like this:

“To compare Schwartz’s “Serenade(II)” with Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” begs the question of why Smithson’s act is considered laudable yet the men digging the trench are engaged in an obviously ridiculous activity. While perhaps poking fun at earthwork, Schwartz asks a larger question: Is the production of art itself, an inherently impractical endeavor (specifically his own mind-bendingly painstaking work), ultimately absurd and possibly meaningless? Or should we understand the spiral of “Serenade(II)”, despite it’s apparent outrageousness…” and on, and on, and on. page 79, “Dream Games”

The artist is dead. He didn’t leave any written explanations about the “hidden” meanings in his paintings. So can we all just give it a rest, and let the viewers figure things out for themselves? Please? Or, at the very least, make the explanations available to those who want things figured out for them, but don’t shove the explanations into the field of vision for everyone who sees the painting.

The artist’s obit in the March 2001 “Art in America”:

“Robert Schwartz, 52, painter, died of heart failure on Dec. 5, in San Francisco. Known for refined, diminutive figurative works that are sometimes linked to Magic Realism, the Chicago-born artist studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and showed at Richard Gray Gallery before moving to California in the late 1960s. There, he had numerous solo exhibitions at Hackett-Freedman Gallery. His most recent New York exhibition was at Forum Gallery in 1995; a survey of his work was presented at Seattle’s Frye Art Museum last year”

Page 167 of the catalog – one of his last paintings, “Would That I Didn’t Know, ” Oil on Panel, 11.5″ x 11.5″

More Schwartz images at artnet.

September 14, 2004 (Tuesday)
I’m trying to catch up on two weeks of reading – blogs, books, news…
Tyler Green at MAN had another great interview with Michael Auping, chief curator at the MOMA Fort Worth. He talked about installing the permanent collection in a big new space, and how he used that freedom. Auping also made a good point about temporary exhibitions vs the permanent collection:

Temporary loan exhibitions bring a lot of people into the building, and that is a positive development. Temporary exhibitions come and go, and people like them because they’re more akin to entertainment; more and more people require the next new thing. … But there is also something to be said for visiting old friends, reconnecting with certain works that have fascinated you, maybe since childhood. You get a very different group of people who come to see the collection — they’re people I would like to have a dialogue with, more than the person who says, ‘Wow, did you see that Kiefer show? Do you know Kiefer, he’s that German guy.’
rest of the interview here

It got me thinking about the de Young, still under construction but looking good. It’s going to be a big new space and it’ll be exciting to see what they do with it. In the current issue of ARTnews, Kenneth Baker says that the de Young has “commissioned three major site-specific works: a continuous crack in the stone surrounding the building, by Andy Goldsworthy; a subterranean light installation, by James Turrell; and a mural by Gerhard Richter.”

Roberta at artblog wrote about one of my favorite topics – “Looking and Seeing.” She showed examples of photos taken by two people of the same subject, at the same time – obviously seeing different things. A couple of my friends (photog John Wall and painter Pam Heyda) just returned from a trip to the southwest and both posted photos on their web sites (John here, Pam here) – same places, same times, same views – seeing different things.

Charles at ionarts mentions the new Brassaï book. My husband just picked up a similar monograph. It was remaindered for $25 at CWLPB (I haven’t had a chance to really study it yet – Bullfinch Press, 2000, 308 illustrations, 10″ x 12″.) It looks great: Paris after dark, dock workers, prostitutes, artists, landscapes, still-life, peeling paint, graffiti, plus sculptures and drawings. The man obviously loved life and loved to see.
September 12, 2004 (Sunday)
OK, I’m back. It’s been a rough couple of weeks. My friend is very ill, but doing a little better. Other friends are stepping in to help out, so I can get back to painting. I have another show coming up in less than three weeks and still have a lot of work to do.

Even though I’ve always considered art a necessity, rather than a luxury, I didn’t paint, look at art, or think about art for most of the past two weeks. A few days ago I was standing on a corner waiting for a bus, feeling sad and dark. The bus was taking a long time. In the store window behind me I saw a Ray Charles CD, “Genius Loves Company.” I forked over my last fifteen bucks and took it home to load into iTunes (surprise – there’s a little Quicktime movie on the disk – interviews with Ray Charles.)

What is it about songs of sorrow and misery, when they’re done so beautifully, so artfully, that they feel like a good massage after a hard day’s work? This album was the perfect balm for me. “Sinners Prayer” with RC, BB King, and Billy Preston is flawless. The guitar, piano and organ ebb and flow like a single, living, breathing entity. Now, that’s art.

September 1, 2004 (Wednesday evening)
Sorry, but my posting here is going to be a bit sketchy for the next couple of weeks – I’m spending most of my time helping a friend in need.

Luckily, I got this item from another friend:

Hey Anna, I was reading in your journal about “new models for art
patrons.” This puts me in mind of what Elisabeth Sunday does. She’s a
photographer (see http://www.elisabethsunday.com/ , and specifically,
http://www.elisabethsunday.com/patron.html to see how she handles it) who
has different levels and classes of patronage. This has worked for her for
many years. She has, I believe, a gift for self-promotion.
– from Heather Robinson