September 1, 2005 (Thursday) Hurricane Katrina & the Arts / Press Release for tonight’s lecture

Tyler Green has a great roundup of links to info about Hurricane Katrina and the Arts, including a – – page about a fund for museums affected by the hurricane.

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This is a crazy week for me (hence, no post yesterday) so I’m signing off with a bit of shameless self-promotion and I’ll be back to my regular daily posting on Monday.

Press Release for my lecture tonight (first thursday!), 7pm, downtown SF:

Newmark Gallery San Francisco presents

IN THE STUDIO WITH LARRY MORACE AND ANNA CONTI , Two visions of one city

Thursday, September 1st, 2005, 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Campton Place Hotel, 340 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA.

Two distinct painters compare their very different views of San Francisco in the luxury of one of the finest hotels in the city. Join painters Anna Conti and Larry Morace in an extraordinary lecture and art presentation on Thursday, September 1st, 2005, 6:30pm – 8:30pm, at Campton Place Hotel, 340 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA.

Larry Morace and Anna L. Conti both live in the Sunset district of San Francisco. Both artists create photo-based representational paintings of the city and share many of the same artistic influences, such as Edward Hopper. However Morace’s work is radically different from Conti’s. Morace works with juicy oil paint to the edge of abstraction while Conti’s works are rich with crisply detailed draftsmanship and symbolism. How do these two painters with so much in common arrive at such wildly divergent styles?

Morace and Conti’s will speak candidly about their studios, painting process and style, shared artistic influences, and what they like about cityscapes. Both artists are experienced presenters and have arranged a slide show to accompany the talk. The presentation includes painting displays and ends with an open Questions and Answers session.

Come and see more Larry Morace and Anna Conti’s paintings in “San Francisco Cityscapes,” Newmark Gallery’s second annual San Francisco cityscapes exhibit. Featuring artists Larry Morace, Paul Madonna, Anna Conti and Toru Sugita. The exhibit encompasses several styles with the common thread being the insider’s view of the City. August 2nd through October 1st, 2005.

Newmark Gallery San Francisco is located at 251 Post Street, Suite 412 in the Union Square area of San Francisco. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday 11 am – 6 pm and by appointment. Please view our website at www.newmarkgallery.com for more information and upcoming events or call 415-392-3692.

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August 30, 2005 (Tuesday) New gallery in Yerba Buena Gardens?
Seen in the old “Cloud Nine” location this past weekend:

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August 29, 2005 (Monday) A room of one’s own, but where?
As Virginia said, a room of one’s own is essential – but does it matter if the room is attached to the living quarters, or somewhere completely separate?

I’ve always maintained a studio that was attached to my living space. I didn’t like the idea of having to put the muse on hold until I got to a studio across town, or wherever. But since I’ve never actually tried a completely separate studio space, who knows – I might discover some unexpected benefits there. The confluence of a stories about Matisse and art bloggers’ studio tales has made me reconsider:

Carol Es reports that her new studio at Angels Gate helps her get more work done and create more of a separation between her work and her life.

Cinque Hicks reports that he’s decided to get his first-ever separate studio space.

Peter Scheldahl writes in a New Yorker review of Hilary Spurling’ biography of Matisse, that the artist had no separation between his private life and his art: “His art reserved nothing for himself. In an age of ideologies, Matisse dodged all ideas except perhaps one: that art is life by other means. … According to Spurling, ‘The family fitted their activities round his breaks and work sessions. Silence was essential.’ Even during the years when Matisse lived mostly alone in Nice, an ‘annual ritual of unpacking, stretching, framing and hanging ended with the whole family settling down to respond to the paintings.’ The conference might last several days. Then the dealers were admitted.”
And then just last week, I stopped in at the SOMA Artists Building (5th & Bryant) to visit the new studio space of my star painting student, Lillian Rubin. It’s a clean, well-lighted building, with 38 artist studios on two floors and common sink & toilet areas. They’ve recently been doing some major construction on the second floor, to carve out new studio spaces, which have all been leased, although not everyone has moved in yet. I spoke briefly with Jana Grover, one of the organizers, and an artist She has a bigger space, with windows overlooking the street. She told me they’re trying to get organized in time to open for this year’s SF Open Studios.

I’m getting a glimmer of an idea of how a little more separation between work and life might be beneficial.

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August 27, 2005 (Weekend) Tinhorn, Hayes Valley art walk, part 3

Santa Cruz artist, Carol Summers, has wood cut prints at Tinhorn Gallery. (Also here.) They’re not your average woodcuts. They’re filled with big, bold areas of saturated colors, and make minimal use of lines. My two favorites were “Dudh Rosi (Milk River)” and “The Grave of Santa Ana’s Leg,” hanging left and right in photo of gallery, at left. The gallery has a display case of Summer’s wood blocks and materials (photo below) to answer the questions of people like me (“This is wood cut? How did he do that?”) He uses an unconventional printing method of laying the paper over a dry, carved block and then rolling the ink over the positive impression. The print is they sprayed with mineral spirits which creates a blurring of the sharp edges and an undulation in the color fields.
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August 26, 2005 (Friday) Bucheon – Hayes Valley art walk, part 2
According to Ed Winkleman (in NY) via Tyler Green (in DC) the west coast art scene is hot right now. Hmmm… maybe. Maybe in L.A., at least. It’s kind of hard to see it from here. Of course, every week it seems like another artist friend tells me they’ve signed with an L.A. gallery, so maybe there’s something to it.

Here in SF, the Bucheon Gallery has a “Summer in San Francisco” group show of new work by the gallery artists. I was overdue for a gallery walk in this neighborhood, so I came by a few days ago. I’m glad I did – it was easily the best of the eight places I visited that day. They had a deep selection of paintings and mixed media pieces.

The first painting to really grab me was Elena Sisto’s “Untitled” (at right.) There were several other iconic female portraits by this artist, and they all have a thick, painterly surface, amiable colors, and a placid facade. There’s a sense that much, much more is beneath the surface. I would love to see a 2-person show of work by Elena Sisto and Lisa Yuskavage. I think it’d be fascinating to compare and contrast these two.

Day by day as there in advancement in the field of hand-held devices, even traders and investor are looking forward for platform on their mobile devices to do trades. They want to have an opportunity to show their skills and not risk their money and do trading on their portfolio. You can see the review for Infinity App online.

I almost passed by the piece by Ken Kirsch (at left), but the friend who was accompanying me that day made me take another look (one of the benefits of seeing art with another interested party.) It’s oil on panel, but it resembled Fred Tomiselli’s work, the way the opaque elements floated in (or on the surface of) the translucent layers of glazing. They had a fantastic piece in the dimly lit bathroom (impossible to get a photo) of pale butterflies in a red field.

Other worth-the-trip paintings: Merrilee Challis’ finely detailed symbolic landscape doodles (at left); Rebecca Bird’s amazing watercolor on panel of natural totemic elements; and Jenny Dubnau’s thin oil photo-based portraits that reminded me of Chuck Close’s early work.

I’m late with this post, so I’ll put this up and write about the rest of Hayes Valley tomorrow.
… the Bucheon guard dogs.

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August 25, 2005 (Thursday) Hayes Valley art walk
Yesterday I went by the M.A.C. (Modern Appealing Clothing at 387 Grove Street) to take a look at the Lost Art Salon “satellite exhibition”, highlighting three artists: Alice Bishop, Leon Wall, and Clyde I. Seavey. M.A.C. looked to me, like a gallery that also sells clothes. I suppose to some people, it might look like a clothing store that also sells art. But art and clothes are well integrated here.

I first read about the Lost Art guys (Gaetan Caron & Rob Delamater) in the SF Chronicle. They have a big salon/gallery on South Van Ness, but this is a tight little spot show on the long wall near the entrance of M.A.C. Each artist has a small, discrete grouping of work.

Alice Bishop’s pencil drawings (above) look like they came from a sketchbook. The wall tag had this to say about her:

“Alice Bishop (birth and death dates unknown). Like many of the artists in the Lost Art collection, Alice Bishop’s personal story is unknown. And like so many other women artists of her time, it is believed that Bishop never had gallery or dealer representation. But the spare beauty and subtle strength of her sketches of trees, boats, barns and friends are evidence of a seasoned talent-awaiting discovery. Details in the sketches and the paper used indicate that the pieces were done in the early part of the 20th Century, most likely in England. the discovery of such deserving, but previously unknown artists, is part of the Lost Art Salon mission of presenting new artistic voices from the past and giving them perhaps their first opportunity to be heard and appreciated by a new generation of art lovers.”

Leon Wall (1919-1980) was represented by small abstract pastel drawings (above) and Clyde I. Seavey’s work was figurative charcoal drawings on printed paper. One of Seavey’s images was used to promote the show.

All kinds of other art is situated around the store. A couple of large Ann Webber sculptures (above left) were in the middle aisle (these are corrugated cardboard, staples and shellac.) Brightly colored guitars (above right, by Spike Milliken) made out of cigar boxes, old oil pantings (mostly anonymous) were everywhere, and little shadow boxes were tucked in here and there.

Tomorrow: Tinhorn, Bucheon, and other Hayes Valley art spots.
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August 23, 2005 (Tuesday) Around the web, and elsewhere…
I probably should have broken this up into two or three days, but I’m going to be out of the studio and away from the computer for the next few days and I don’t know when (if) I’m going to get a chance to post, so here it is… consume in small amounts, and it’ll last ya.

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Interesting story by Sarah Duxbury from SF Business Times (via MSNBC) about the practice of “timeshare” art donations to major museums, and how the SFMOMA has “emerged as a big player in the art world’s timeshare market.”

•••

Chris at Zeke’s Gallery pointed to an interesting story about corporate art collections. It’s an interview with Shirley Reiff Howarth, art historian and expert on corporate art collections, who gave a lecture earlier in the year on this topic. She started a directory of over 1300 corporate art collections, world wide.

“The corporate art environment is an interesting segment of the art world and few people know very much about it. It is very different world – it is nothing like the auction world, the gallery world, the artist’s world, or even the museum context. And yet it has grown into becoming quite an important force in the arts.

(The) word “collection” is a misnomer. Unfortunately, there isn’t a better term to use. The company’s “collection” might not only be displayed throughout a single building; it might be displayed across the country. For example, JP Morgan Chase, which has offices and branches around the world, has works of art in all of these locations. They are managed by the curator in New York.

Every corporate collection is very different. A lot of them are not collections in a true sense. They are simply assemblages of art purchased to decorate the walls, to make a pleasant environment for the employees. The true collections that have an integrity and coherence tend to have been of long standing. For example, Fleming’s Bank in Scotland has a collection of Scottish art. It is probably the finest single collection of Scottish art. When that bank was sold and merged with an American bank, they protected the collection and created a foundation separately, so that the collection is still intact. ”
Shirley Reiff Howarth

•••

Roberta Fallon posted the final two entries (here and here) about her trip to San Francisco and her gallery crawl. For the record (read Roberta’s post first):

• the guy behind the desk at Gregory Lind is always testy, but I think he’s sincerely trying to be polite. He’s just not very good at it.
• the Viola Frey sculptures are in the hallway at 77 Geary, between the Heather Marx gallery and the George Krevsky gallery, and just down the hall from the Rena Bransten gallery (which reps Frey.)
• the “senior-xing” sign is next to a senior subsidized housing building. The traffic on Howard Street is so horrendous that the slow-moving residents kept getting mowed down at an alarming rate, so this is part of the civic response.
• I had a great time looking at art with someone who can go at it as long as I can, and who can provide intelligent commentary as well. Thanks, Roberta!

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More about John Gutmann: I wrote about John Gutmann on August 15th and received a couple of emails about him. Eva Lake wrote an update remembrance on her blog and Susan Friedewald wrote to let me know about John Gutmann Photography Fellowship Trust, which is planning several exhibitions of Gutmann’s work this year.

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Honesty (in art) – Cinque Hicks wrote a brilliant little paragraph on this topic and then over at Franklin’s forum, “artblog.net” they tossed it around a bit. Here’s Cinque:

“Honesty? I mean, if you ever stifle an impulse toward beauty or ugliness, clumsiness or elegance, openness or obscurity, then you are not honest. If you want to be funny but keep a straight face instead, if you want to be serious but laugh it off, then you are not honest. If you are making work and the thought in your head is, “this will totally wow ’em,” or “so-and-so will think this is so cool,” then you are not honest. If you are making work and simultaneously composing the paragraph about yourself that you imagine will appear in all the art history books or in the newspaper or in the press release, you are not honest. If you look at your own work and say, “shit, that looks too much like artist X; let me change it,” or, “dammit, I have to make it look more like artist Y,” then you are not honest. If you pursue something only because it’s sure to gain the respect of your peers, your teacher, a curator, a gallerist, your father, or your girlfriend, you are not honest. If you do something only because it is sure to piss off anyone from that same list, you are not honest. If you neglect your desire to do X because everybody has come to expect Y from you, then you are not honest. And if you’re an artist and claim never to have had one of these moments, then you are really not honest.”
from Bare and Bitter Sleep

•••

I picked up a newspaper from the SF Arts & Media Expo with two stories about unofficial public art in San Francisco.

The first was written by “Comrade Q”, about the installation of a sculpture:

“It was a public art attack. February 26, 1993, at the foot of Market Street in San Francisco, the Department of Public Art (DPA) drove up in a rented pickup truck.
Out we sprang, dressed in white Tyvek disposable suits, each adorned with a black and blue DPA logo specially created for the purpose. Comrade X had the clipboard with our work order, duly signed and filled out, describing our apparent civil service duty of installing the sculpture in Justin Herman Plaza).”

They installed the sculpture, and then,

“With a flourish of feigned cityworker boredom, we pulled the plastic away to reveal our masterpiece: “The Door Is Always Open.” A mannequin was flying over a
1965 Chrysler Imperial car door, its bicycle upended into the door itself. All of it had been painstakingly assembled during the previous week. Few cyclists are unfamiliar with the drama of getting “doored” while riding the narrow side spaces on most urban streets. It was but the first of a series of occasional Art Attacks by the San Francisco Department of Public Art, stretching through the 1990s and well into the new millennium. No doubt others will appear in coming years. ”

The second story, “Urban Alterations” was by Scott Kiddall, and told about how he altered some of the city-installed, U-shaped bicycle racks that are bolted to the sidewalks:

” I enlisted friends and together we removed the racks at night and took them back to my metal shop. There, I added welded ornamentation following themes of disempowerment. The first one depicted items of physical labor such as a pipe threader, a railroad spike and a factory gear, reflecting the transition to a service-oriented economy. Another depicted stuffed animals that were incarcerated.”

He reinstalled the modified racks that same night and most of them are still there, three years later.

So, now you know.

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August 22, 2005 (Monday) Painting in Union Square, fending off pigeons
For the next six weeks I’m going to be doing my regular plein-aire stints in Union Square (open plaza in the middle of downtown SF) instead of, or in addition to Golden Gate Park. People often stop to talk to me when I’m painting in public, and it just dawned on me last week that I could be sending them to the gallery (which is only half a block from Union Square.) I hadn’t painted here in the past because it seemed too touristy and frankly, it didn’t strike me as particularly appealing, visually. You can look in four different directions at four slightly differing walls of retail & hotel buildings. Then there are the usual assorted palm trees, lots of restless people, and pigeons. Aggressive pigeons. Kamikaze pigeons. But, hey, it’s good to challenge yourself now and then, so…

Last Friday I headed down there for my first session. There’s a great little Italian cafe at the edge of the square, and I had this fantasy that I could sit at one of their tables, sipping a mocha, listening to Frank Sinatra or Italian opera, and sketch… something. But it didn’t work out that way.

When I came up out of the underground at Market & Stockton, I noticed a fine grey mist in the air, and for once it wasn’t fog. Then I heard helicopters. Hovering. Lots of them. The streets were packed with people, most of them hurrying somewhere, or standing, looking up. I headed to the gallery, where they told me about the explosion at Post & Kearny. I thought they were kidding at first.

So I went over to Union Square anyway, and tried to get a table at Rulli, but it was bedlam. I’ve never seen it so nuts there. I had to cruise for about 15 minutes before I was able to snag a table. I ordered a sandwich, too, in hopes that I could lay claim to my little patch of real estate a bit longer. I couldn’t hear any music above the helicopters and sirens. Forget looking for the best view – I just started sketching what was in front of me, with a black ink rollerball.

Then the couple at the table next to me got up and left a few scraps on the plates. The pigeons descended, in rapidly increasing numbers, until they were a writhing grey mass that started edging my way. I started swinging my sketchbook to fend them off. Next thing you know, there’s a kid under my table trying to FEED the pigeons a piece of bread! I told her to get lost, but I soon decided to strike out for new territory, myself.

I moved over to one of those black stone “hat boxes” that line the perimeter of the plaza, and pulled out my watercolors. I spent the next (mostly peaceful) hour adding some color to the ink drawing and talking to a few people. Next time I’m bringing my tri-pod table and setting up away from the cafe.
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August 19, 2005 (Friday) Buy Art Now
There’s a brand new art blog here in San Francisco, “Newmark Confidential”, by gallerist Mark Wladika. I mean REALLY new, as in, started just this week. His Wednesday post, “Buying Art” is a rumination on why more people don’t buy art. He’s asking for feedback on this topic – anybody have any insight on that?

For me, it’s one of those mysteries of life that I’ll probably never really understand. Art is so central to my life (and books, too) that when I see a house or apartment with nothing original on the walls and no books in sight, it’s like looking into a parallel universe where nothing makes sense.

And it’s not about money. Most of my friends are artists, and many of them are living below the official poverty line, and while most of the art on their walls is self-made or acquired through barter, I know many artists who have purchased art at “full price” from a gallery or studio. Original art can be had (even from galleries) for a few hundred bucks or less. Sometimes much less.

So it’s hard not to laugh when someone stands in my studio and says something like, “I love your work, but I just can’t afford it.” This is usually from a person driving a $30,000 car, wearing thousands of dollars in clothes, carrying hundreds of dollars in electronic gadgets, and heading out for a restaurant meal that will cost more than my monthly grocery budget. So, I usually figure the “can’t afford it” statement is just a polite brush-off.

When I’ve been out and about in the non-art world, and the possibility of buying original art is brought up, it’s amazing how often the reaction is a startled, “Huh?” You can almost see the “this is a totally new concept” cloud forming over their head. The idea of the “average person” (which most people consider themselves to be) buying original art is completely outside their frame of reference.

So maybe it means we need some industry ads, like the “Got Milk?” campaign. Something that doesn’t promote a particular kind of art, or place of purchase, but plants the seed that gets them thinking about the possibility that they could be art collectors, and why that might be a good thing.

But that’s just a guess.

(The image is “Gallery 33”, one of my older paintings, of my favorite room in the old de Young.)

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August 19, 2005 (Friday) Corporate Art
I just finished a little painting (“Ozone”) that I’ve been working on for entirely too long, so I went down to pick up the mail, and ….

Whoa! Look at this week’s New Yorker! Every single ad space is taken up with red, white and black Target ads. Sorta like the saturation bombing of the MUNI underground by the pharmacy, travel and computer companies. Must have cost them a fortune.

No words, just pictures, obviously by real artists, some familiar to me. Geeze, I like it. I don’t want to like it, being more of an “Adbusters” kinda gal, but I can’t help myself… it looks great.

It’s a portfolio of portraits of New York. It’s a little creepy seeing bullseye targets plastered all over New York, but it’s exciting to see page after page of artwork, created on a given theme… A corporate-sponsored art show, in a popular format… but what if it was somebody like Exon? Or Halliburton?

From Jen Chung at Gothamist:

“Anyway, what do you think of the ads? Designer Michael Bierut writes about the “unnerving” effect of the ads, adding that he counted over 200 Target logos in the first 19 pages before giving up. Gothamist actually liked them, because we knew which pages were actual editorial since they weren’t festooned with red and white bull’s eyes. And it was like having a capitalistic fever dream, in a world when buildings, teams, and maybe even cities will be branded. Oh, wait, that might still happen.”

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August 17, 2005 (Wednesday) Newmark opening

Last Saturday was the opening for the SF Cityscapes show at the Newmark Gallery. It’s a four-person show with some of my recent “Urban Caves” paintings, plus expressionistic oil paintings by Larry Morace, ink and wash drawings by Paul Madonna, and etchings by Toru Sugita. (Photos by David W. Sumner)

Yours truly, on the left, with Steve Gorski and Judi Gorski.

With Toru Sugita.
Stu Kremsky and Janet Rosen.

Above: Paul Madonna and Larry Morace; Left: Leaning on the wall for support by the end of the night.
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August 17, 2005 (Wednesday) spotlight
It’s all about me, today. I’ll keep it short.

Current studio photo at left: The wrapped paintings in the foreground are destined for Gallery Siano in Philadelphia. I just picked them up from the framer, and I’m awaiting the custom packing crate. The two paintings on the easels (“This Way Out” – a garage exit, and “Portrait of Virginia”) are still in progress, but they have to be finished in the next two weeks, as they are both headed for other shows.

Roberta Fallon posted her interview with me over at artblog. I told her that next time she comes to town, I get to ask the questions.

Later today I’ll post photos from the Newmark Gallery opening… stay tuned.

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August 16, 2005 (Tuesday) de Young tour

This week the de Young opens the free-to-the-public areas (everything but the galleries.) I toured it first thing yesterday morning with my friend, Harry (aka Cranky Pants.) To be fair, I started the day a little cranky, myself. For starters, we were inundated with thick, low, drippy fog.

As residents of the neighborhood next to the museum, Harry & I discussed all the controversies on our walk over there… the long battle over the parking garage and the still unresolved fight over the lane widening at Ninth & Lincoln and its impact on the Inner Sunset. And Harry (who has plenty of company on this issue) hates the exterior appearance of the museum (I love it.)

Then there was the issue of the member’s-only soft opening of the gift shop and cafe (not the galleries.) Seems like every other person I talk to has been given a tour of the galleries, so I found it a little insulting (as a many-years-loyal, albeit low-level, member) to be offered the “privilege” of spending time in the gift shop and cafe. Still, I took it. I’ve been desperate to get past the chain link fences and look around inside.

It was worth it. They actually had a large portion of the museum open to poking around, including the tower. Even with the fog, it’s a spectacular view from up there. You can look straight down into the main courtyard (image at left) and (on a clear day, according to the docent) out to the Farallon Islands, 30 miles off the coast. The whole place is open, spacious, with views of the outdoors everywhere. Even Harry said, “this was worth coming for.”

I only saw a few of the site-specific works that were commissioned for the museum. As we entered, the Andy Goldsworthy’s “Drawn Stone” tectonic split started at the sidewalk and jagged up the walkway, into the entrance court and then circled around, through several big stones from Scotland.

The massive Gerhard Richter mural in the lobby was misinterpreted by almost everyone as an homage to the pierced copper panels on the exterior of the building (it’s actually based on the atomic structure of strontium titanate.) If you stand a couple of feet in front of it, these weird optical effects make it seem to start blinking (or maybe it was just me?)

More good news: you can take photos (sans flash) anywhere in the museum, except the special exhibition gallery. Best news: they are going to be starting members tours of the galleries on October 9th. I’m happy now.
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August 15, 2005 (Monday) John Gutman
Seems like John Gutman (who died in ’88) is all over SF these days. He was a painter who took up photojournalism as a way to escape Germany during the Nazi era. He came to the US and when he got to SF he set up the Photography department at San Francisco State University.

SFMOMA has some of his photography on view and the Fraenkel Gallery has a selection of his paintings and his photographs. (The Fraenkel is a photography gallery but they show paintings now and then, for instance when they showed work by Chuck Close a few years ago.) One of the paintings at the Fraenkel, Gutman’s “Still Life with Sketchpads” (image left) reminds me of a painting by another German-born artist, Chester Arnold. Arnold’s “Bad Paintings” is a still life with a pile of paintings turned against the wall. Last time I looked, it was hanging over the desk at the Catherine Clark Gallery (sorry, I couldn’t find an image of it.)

The Greenwich Village Gazette ran a great essay by Eva Lake about John Gutman’s earlier shows at the deYoung and LAMOCA. She wrote:

“Gutmann influenced how we view photography in more ways than one. He was one of the first to teach classes in it, beginning in 1936. He set up a complete photography program at San Francisco State University in 1946. It would be an understatement to say that not only did the photo world rock with Gutmann’s presence, but so did San Francisco. He was a link between European Modernism and the west coast.

Having lived in San Francisco for part of the 80s, I often saw him around. He was no art world snob, but completely accessible and one who participated in life. He came to my parties and to my exhibitions, a point of focus in any room, sometimes offering a criticism you had to listen to. Not a lot of people can get away with that (especially as he was not my teacher), but his words were always well chosen. It was really just another form of his great generosity.”
from “Remembering John Gutman”, by Eva Lake in The Greenwich Village Gazette

Image at right is Gutman’s “Death Stalks Fillmore”, 1934, printed ca. 1974, Collection SFMOMA

Also, this Wednesday, August 17 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts will show the film “My Eyes Were
Fresh, The life and photographs of John Gutman”, by Jane Levy Reed. This film profiles an artist whose art and life forged a link between the European modernism of the early 20th Century and the
burgeoning artistic culture of the SF Bay Area in the seconf half of the century. Local videographer, Voitek Szymkiewiczwas the cameraman on this film, and Wednesday is his birthday. After the screening we will meet at ‘Catalyst Cocktails’ for drinks and cake. Please join him to celebrate! The bar is located right across the street from the Hall of Justice,in the alley.

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August 12, 2005 (Friday) Russian Criminal Tattoos

When I was at the Legion of Honor the other day, I also spent some time in the bookstore. Kudos to whoever orders the books there. In a city with more great bookstores per capita than anywhere else in the country, this little shop still manages to surprise me with cool books from obscure publishers. My most recent discovery was the “Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia,” published in Germany by Steidl/Fuel, 2003 (ISBN 3-88243-920-3). It contains two short, fascinating essays (about 20 pages) and the rest of the 390 page book is illustrations (photos and line drawings) with explanatory captions. The drawings were by Danzig Baldev, who describes himself in the forward as, “descended from baptized Buryat-Mongols, people who were rich, brave and strong.” He writes that at least 58 members of his family died in Soviet prison camps, and he feels that “everything the country has gone through has been reflected in prison and camp life.”

I’ve been thinking about tattoos and their place in Art ever since a conversation I had with a guy from my local tattoo shop a couple of weeks ago (I’m considering interviewing them for the blog.) What does it mean when the human body is your canvas? Well for starters, the work is usually a collaboration between the artist and the client, although forced tattoos are not uncommon in prison situations. According to the author of the “Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia,” Alexei Plutser-Sarno, tattoos in the Russian prison system serve the following functions:

a unique language or arnot; a message carried by courier from one community to another zone

a permanent “uniform”, depicting rank and service record of time in prison

a case file or visual criminal record

a passport to and from certain communities

collective memory

symbols of public identity or social self-awareness
“If we look around, we shall see that not only “legitimate thieves” but also millions of perfectly honest, upright citizens are covered with these tattoos. Simply because every fifth inhabitant of our country has passed through the camps and every second has been through army ‘zones.” And we honest, upright philistines and law-abiding petty bourgeois have long ago become used to seeing ourselves in the role of noble bandits, downtrodden victims and fearless inhabitants of tattooed slums.” – Alexei Plutser-Sarno

Two things surprised me about the visual images in this book: the high quality of the imagery and the high percentage of political images. There are portraits of Lenin, Stalin, Kruschev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev, and Yeltsin. They’re rarely complimentary portraits, and often include lettered statements addressed to the political figure. The author writes that these are symbols of the wearer’s refusal to be subjugated.

The book also contains charts of the complex symbology of finger “ring” tattoos, and explanations of the shifting meanings of a given image, depending on what part of the body it decorated. A lot of the images have strong sexual content. I consider it valuable addition to my collection of books on symbolism.

(Drawings above by Danzig Baldev, from the “Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia”)

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August 11, 2005 (Thursday) “Make Your Art Your Business”

Tuesday evening I was at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to give a talk about setting up your space for a studio show (the other speakers were Leah Edwards and Dimitri Kourouniotis.) They video-taped the lectures and are supposed to be making them available on the ArtSpan web site, soon. (Image at left: view from the stage as audience started to arrive.)

Getting to the screening room was a surreal experience. The lobby of YBCA was packed with New Zealand art event attendees, in evening wear, drinking champagne (a marked contrast to our audience of working artists, many of them dressed in paint-spattered pants and faded sweatshirts.) As I walked upstairs, through art installations from “Bay Area Now,” including a 3-tiered wedding cake and big flower arrangements by the “Mail Order Brides Wedding Consultancy Service,” I passed by a gathering of beefy, nearly naked guys, in Maori dance outfits. As soon as I was in the screening room, I heard a conch shell being blown, and throughout the lecture, we kept hearing drumming and melodic chanting. I found the whole chaotic scene to be oddly comforting, in a familiar “art-happening-here” sense.

Leah Edwards talked a bit about the importance of marketing your open studio event. I talked about setting up your space to receive visitors, and Dimitri Kourouniotis talked about making sales, with an emphasis on how to close the sale. He had a lot of simple, common-sense advice that I’d never heard before, mostly focused on attention to body language. He also recommended getting a sales technique CD by Bruce Baker and listening to it before every show.

The notes from my presentation are HERE, but I’d like to expand on my answer to one of the audience questions. Someone asked about gallery prices, versus artist’s studio prices. Everyone on the panel emphasized all the obvious reasons that artists should maintain consistent pricing, no matter where the work was selling. Then the issue was raised that friends, family, and other “savvy” buyers know that the gallery gets a significant portion of the selling price. Therefore the expectation seems to be that when art is purchased from the artist’s studio, the artist should pass along the “savings” to the buyer.

Let me dispel that misguided line of thinking. A work of art does not magically transform itself from an idea in the mind of the artist to an object in the buyer’s possession. There are two main stages in that transformation, and both of them require time, energy and resources. The price of a work of art reflects both of these stages. The first stage is the obvious one – the creation of the work of art. The second stage is apparently not so obvious – the selling of that work of art. Call it selling, adoption, transmitting, loaning, or whatever you want, moving the work of art from the artist’s studio to the buyer’s possession usually means putting it in front of many people, many times, in many ways. The work of art appears on the web, on a post card, in print ads, in press releases, in show after show; and it is accompanied by knowledgeable people who can help match the right buyer to the right piece of art.

When the gallery performs these functions, they deserve every penny of their percentage. Why is it that when the artist performs these functions, some people expect them to do it for free?

Potential complications arise when the artist is selling work from the studio at the same time that the gallery is selling work. Since many buyers need repeated exposure to a body of work, or a particular work of art, before they commit to buying, the actual site where the final purchase takes place may not be an accurate indication of where the selling took place. As Dimitri emphasized, the artist and the gallery are business partners. The partnership will be more successful if the artist and the gallery agree ahead of time on a policy for handling sales that they have both participated in.

And then there’s the issue of “collector discounts.” I can certainly agree that a patron who has purchased multiple paintings of mine, doesn’t require much “selling” anymore, and I’m happy to give them a nice discount. I do get a little irked, though, at the total strangers who will show up at one of my shows, and announce, “I’m a collector, will you give me a discount on that painting?” Yes, I usually try to smile (while grinding my teeth) and offer them 10 per cent – mainly because it’s customary, it’s obvious that they know it, and to refuse would be to lose the sale. The fact that it still irritates me is, I guess, a good indication that I’ll never make a great sales person. Maybe I need to listen to the sales CD that Dimitri mentioned.

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August 10, 2005 (Wednesday) One Dwarf
Last Week I went over to the Legion of Honor to interview for a volunteer gig. I said I didn’t want to work with the public, so I think my chances of getting a call-back are slim. As long as I was there I spent some time in the collections. The fashion show is up now (“Artwear: Fashion and Anti-Fashion”.) I’m not particularly interested in fashion but I have to admit there were some compelling works of art in this show, including pieces by William Wiley, Robert Kushner and Ed Rusha. It was more art than fashion, to my surprise.

The rest of the museum has a kind of deflated “on-hold” feel. Everyone seems to be focused on the imminent reopening of the de Young. It was relaxing to hang out in the nearly deserted (early morning, weekday) permanent collections. Especially in the Renaissance and early European galleries which have expanded since there are no temporary exhibits at that end of the museum right now. They brought out a wonderful Moroni portrait (“Portrait of a Gentleman”, 1550, above left) which reminded me of Whistler’s “Arrangement in Grey and Black” On the other hand, there’s a room in the modern wing with a strange collection of funky British fairy paintings, Stonehenge photos and watercolors, tapestries by Edward Burne-Jones and a Maxfield Parish painting of Snow White (with one dwarf.)
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August 9, 2005 (Tuesday) Weekend Gallery Walk
On Saturday I met some friends at the Newmark Gallery (251 Post) to see the “San Francisco Cityscapes” show again, then we headed out to see some of the other shows in the downtown galleries. I mentioned the “New Acquisitions” show at John Berggruen yesterday.

The Meyerovich has some big Richard Serra etchings (90″ x 48″ vertical black rectangles, labeled as “Arc of the Curve”, highly textured intaglio etchings) which are sharing the room with some Andy Warhol trucks (silk screen on paper.) They go well together. The Serra etchings are basically a paper version of his sculptures. There’s a lot of ink on the paper, creating a thick, textured surface, similar to the surface of corroded metal. The gallery is displaying these without glass, which I can understand because if you put a sheet of glass over these large, deep black rectangles, you’ll have a nice mirror and the art will disappear. Still, framing without glass is bound to shorten the life of the piece.

Gallery Paule Anglim has more work on paper – some not-so-recent digital prints by Jack Fulton and some old figurative drawings by Joan Brown. Most of the Joan Brown drawings were stiff narrative/fashion images. But there was one loose, loaded-brush piece that looked like a quick sketch from life (image at right.) There was an intriguing painting on stretched linen next to the gallery-sitter’s desk but repeated questions directed at the young woman seated there elicited only faint, monosyllabic mumbles. Although she said the artist’s name was “Smith”, my best guess is that it was a piece by Dean Byington. It looked like a fascinating process of (maybe?) black-line photomechanical silkscreen overlayed with colored oil glazes, on a white background. Part of the imagery was an appropriated Thomas Nast cartoon, surrounded by original delicate line drawing.

Catherine Clark is showing “Social Insecurity” by her regulars: Chester Arnold, Sandow Birk, Masami Teraoka, Walter Robinson and Ray Beldner, as well as some that were less familiar to me. The work depicts current events as well as more generalized anxieties. There were two beautiful Julie Heffernan paintings. I’d only seen her work in reproduction before this, and was pleased to see that in person the work is much richer, more painterly, more skilled, with more complex imagery. There was also a really interesting set of three pieces by Andy Diaz Hope with a pharmacological theme. (Many thanks to Josh Feldman for getting the artist’s name for me.)

The images were printed on paper, cut into little bits and stuffed into clear pill capsules with part of the image facing out. The capsules were then arranged in a grid to form the bigger picture (ala Chuck Close.) The plastic framing resembled a medicine chest, or a blister pack for pills. (At far left is one of the three panels; near left is a close-up of the stuffed capsules.)

As usual, the Gregory Lind gallery is showing the obsessively detailed, highly crafted work that I’ve come to expect there. This was a two person show with surrealist architectural models by Randy Dixon and gouache/ink drawings of tiny-block structures by Will Yackulic. (At right: “Nerves”, 2005, gouache on paper, 18″ x 16.25″)

Modernism has some new work by Mark Stock. For those of you who are fans of “The Butler’s In Love”, he’s moved on. Stock is now into tromp l’oeil still life narratives, with heavy emphasis on faux wood graining. (Two of the series at left.)

George Krevsky has a beautiful show of work by Raphael Soyer, including his early WPA prints and drawings, some paintings, and later pieces including portraits of Alan Ginsberg, Gergory Corso, and Diane Di Prima. I’ve seen this show twice – this is a master and these are great examples of his work. If I came into some money, I’d buy Soyer’s drawing of his brother, Moses. Good photos of the show at Alan Bamberger’s site (although someone is standing in front of the Moses drawing.)

The Art Exchange at 49 Geary (no web site) had a terrific selection of smaller works by local artists, some of them labeled “From the Collection of a Local Artist.” There were a few paintings by Kim Frohsin (her figurative show just closed at Dolby Chadwick) and a small Guy Diehl still life of orange soup in a white bowl, on a grey surface (image at right.)
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August 8, 2005 (Monday) New Work by Old Guys:
John Berggruen Gallery has a “New Acquisitions” show with lots of familiar names. The first thing you see when entering is a very big David Hockney swimming pool (“Swimming Pool With Reflection,” 1978, colored pressed paper pulp – six sheets, 72″ x 85″; shown at right with Mark di Suvero sculpture, “Mayakovsky”, 1976.) I like David Hockney’s work, and I like images made from colored paper pulp, but this piece was priced at $1,000,000, which seemed a bit excessive. Unless, of course, you accept the validity of the dead butterflies on black enameled canvas by Damien Hirst which was priced at $225,000 (“Tall Thin Love”, 2001, 6″ x 102″)

They also had a couple of Ed Ruscha pieces (“Jinx”, 2004, 32″ x 75″, $385,000), a new Jim Dine pastel on paper, a big Paul Wonner flower painting, a little marble house sculpture by Louise Bourgeois, and strange little drawings on ripped, lined notebook paper by Marcel Dzama.

Which made me wonder again why no one is showing Charles M. Ware’s work these days. His drawings and spray stencils are full of his personal iconography and yet they’re very fresh looking. If you saw them hanging in a gallery somewhere, you’d think the work was done by a 20-something. Which is remarkable, because Charlie doesn’t get out much. It’s enough to make a person believe in a collective unconscious. Speaking of Charlie, I called him yesterday, to tell him that Martin Bromirski had mentioned him in Anaba. Charlie told me he’s started a new series of bigger collages, made from tracings of his older drawings, pasted on doorskin boards. The guy is amazing – he never stops.

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August 5, 2005 (Friday) Cracker Jacks Prizes and a Bag-O-Art
Recently, I was the lucky recipient of a “Bag-O-Art” by Roberta Fallon and Libby Rosof. Opening the white paper bag brought back the thrill I used to get when my mother would hand me a box of Cracker Jacks after she had finished her shopping. (My brothers and I had to wait in the car while she did the monthly “stock up” at the base commissary.) Remember when Cracker Jacks came in a box and the prizes were really cool? They were often wooden, metal, or plastic toys that had to be assembled. I still have some of mine:

The Bag-O-Art held as much mystery and promise as the old Cracker Jacks box. It’s full of color, imagery, and thought grenades; and I still get a charge out of looking through it:

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August 4, 2005 (Thursday) Catching up…
Sorry for the absence – I had some unexpected family obligations the last few days, plus:

Yesterday I spent most of the day touring art galleries with Roberta Fallon, who was in town with her husband Steve and daughter Stella. She’ll write something about it on her blog in a couple of weeks, when she gets back to Philadelphia.

I’ve been buried in the studio for the last couple of months so it was wonderful to get out and look at art. August is a weird time to visit galleries in San Francisco. Some of them close for the whole month. Some do “new acquisitions”, “introductions” or other group shows. And the galleries that are still open are a bit more casual than usual. Roberta and I were both eager to see “Social Insecurity” at the Catherine Clark Gallery. It’s one of my favorite local galleries and Roberta had seen them at Scope and wanted to see more. This was a group show with work by Chester Arnold, Sandow Birk, Julie Heffernan, Masami Teraoka, Ray Beldner, and others. As expected, it was a great show. I may go back this weekend and write more about it next week. (Also, keep an eye on Roberta’s space for photos of the show, and more details.)

We caught the Joan Brown show at Paule Anglim – they were still hanging it, but we got good look at the drawings. It’s figurative work on paper, from the 70s… reminded us of Mattisse, Hockney, and Peyton. Actually, it looked kinda contemporary. When the de Young reopens, Joan Brown’s paintings will be featured in the inaugural show. (Image above left: Joan Brown, “Mary Julia #37″, 1976, Mixed media on paper, 36″ x 24”, from the Gallery Paule Anglim web site.)

Last, but not least, we went by the Newmark Gallery to get my first look at “San Francisco Cityscapes”, a four person show with work by me, Larry Morace, Paul Madonna, and Toru Sugita. It was very gratifying to see the show hanging in the gallery, with great lighting and all… the work always looks so much better there than it does when it’s stacked all over my studio. Larry and Paul have both done some impressive new work. (Image at right: Larry Morace, “Drive Home”, from the Newmark Gallery web site.) I’ll write more about this later in the week….

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August 1, 2005 (Monday)
Look Familiar?
When I was downtown a few days ago, I saw the most egregious misuse of an image that I have witnessed in a very long time. It was in the front window of the Art People Gallery, which is in the Crocker Galleria, at 50 Post Street, in San Francisco. It’s a framed bas relief of a woman’s head, in brown metallic colors. At first glance it looks like an image from “Night of the Living Dead.” But then I recognized Magnum photographer Steve McCurry’s famous photo of an Afghan girl. Hard to believe a respected photojournalist would license his image for schlock like this. I’m betting he didn’t.

September 1, 2005 (Thursday) Hurricane Katrina & the Arts / Press Release for tonight’s lecture

Tyler Green has a great roundup of links to info about Hurricane Katrina and the Arts, including a – – page about a fund for museums affected by the hurricane.

– – – – – – – – – –
This is a crazy week for me (hence, no post yesterday) so I’m signing off with a bit of shameless self-promotion and I’ll be back to my regular daily posting on Monday.

Press Release for my lecture tonight (first thursday!), 7pm, downtown SF:

Newmark Gallery San Francisco presents

IN THE STUDIO WITH LARRY MORACE AND ANNA CONTI , Two visions of one city

Thursday, September 1st, 2005, 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Campton Place Hotel, 340 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA.

Two distinct painters compare their very different views of San Francisco in the luxury of one of the finest hotels in the city. Join painters Anna Conti and Larry Morace in an extraordinary lecture and art presentation on Thursday, September 1st, 2005, 6:30pm – 8:30pm, at Campton Place Hotel, 340 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA.

Larry Morace and Anna L. Conti both live in the Sunset district of San Francisco. Both artists create photo-based representational paintings of the city and share many of the same artistic influences, such as Edward Hopper. However Morace’s work is radically different from Conti’s. Morace works with juicy oil paint to the edge of abstraction while Conti’s works are rich with crisply detailed draftsmanship and symbolism. How do these two painters with so much in common arrive at such wildly divergent styles?

Morace and Conti’s will speak candidly about their studios, painting process and style, shared artistic influences, and what they like about cityscapes. Both artists are experienced presenters and have arranged a slide show to accompany the talk. The presentation includes painting displays and ends with an open Questions and Answers session.

Come and see more Larry Morace and Anna Conti’s paintings in “San Francisco Cityscapes,” Newmark Gallery’s second annual San Francisco cityscapes exhibit. Featuring artists Larry Morace, Paul Madonna, Anna Conti and Toru Sugita. The exhibit encompasses several styles with the common thread being the insider’s view of the City. August 2nd through October 1st, 2005.

Newmark Gallery San Francisco is located at 251 Post Street, Suite 412 in the Union Square area of San Francisco. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday 11 am – 6 pm and by appointment. Please view our website at www.newmarkgallery.com for more information and upcoming events or call 415-392-3692.

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August 30, 2005 (Tuesday) New gallery in Yerba Buena Gardens?
Seen in the old “Cloud Nine” location this past weekend:

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August 29, 2005 (Monday) A room of one’s own, but where?
As Virginia said, a room of one’s own is essential – but does it matter if the room is attached to the living quarters, or somewhere completely separate?

I’ve always maintained a studio that was attached to my living space. I didn’t like the idea of having to put the muse on hold until I got to a studio across town, or wherever. But since I’ve never actually tried a completely separate studio space, who knows – I might discover some unexpected benefits there. The confluence of a stories about Matisse and art bloggers’ studio tales has made me reconsider:

Carol Es reports that her new studio at Angels Gate helps her get more work done and create more of a separation between her work and her life.

Cinque Hicks reports that he’s decided to get his first-ever separate studio space.

Peter Scheldahl writes in a New Yorker review of Hilary Spurling’ biography of Matisse, that the artist had no separation between his private life and his art: “His art reserved nothing for himself. In an age of ideologies, Matisse dodged all ideas except perhaps one: that art is life by other means. … According to Spurling, ‘The family fitted their activities round his breaks and work sessions. Silence was essential.’ Even during the years when Matisse lived mostly alone in Nice, an ‘annual ritual of unpacking, stretching, framing and hanging ended with the whole family settling down to respond to the paintings.’ The conference might last several days. Then the dealers were admitted.”
And then just last week, I stopped in at the SOMA Artists Building (5th & Bryant) to visit the new studio space of my star painting student, Lillian Rubin. It’s a clean, well-lighted building, with 38 artist studios on two floors and common sink & toilet areas. They’ve recently been doing some major construction on the second floor, to carve out new studio spaces, which have all been leased, although not everyone has moved in yet. I spoke briefly with Jana Grover, one of the organizers, and an artist She has a bigger space, with windows overlooking the street. She told me they’re trying to get organized in time to open for this year’s SF Open Studios.

I’m getting a glimmer of an idea of how a little more separation between work and life might be beneficial.

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August 27, 2005 (Weekend) Tinhorn, Hayes Valley art walk, part 3

Santa Cruz artist, Carol Summers, has wood cut prints at Tinhorn Gallery. (Also here.) They’re not your average woodcuts. They’re filled with big, bold areas of saturated colors, and make minimal use of lines. My two favorites were “Dudh Rosi (Milk River)” and “The Grave of Santa Ana’s Leg,” hanging left and right in photo of gallery, at left. The gallery has a display case of Summer’s wood blocks and materials (photo below) to answer the questions of people like me (“This is wood cut? How did he do that?”) He uses an unconventional printing method of laying the paper over a dry, carved block and then rolling the ink over the positive impression. The print is they sprayed with mineral spirits which creates a blurring of the sharp edges and an undulation in the color fields.
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August 26, 2005 (Friday) Bucheon – Hayes Valley art walk, part 2
According to Ed Winkleman (in NY) via Tyler Green (in DC) the west coast art scene is hot right now. Hmmm… maybe. Maybe in L.A., at least. It’s kind of hard to see it from here. Of course, every week it seems like another artist friend tells me they’ve signed with an L.A. gallery, so maybe there’s something to it.

Here in SF, the Bucheon Gallery has a “Summer in San Francisco” group show of new work by the gallery artists. I was overdue for a gallery walk in this neighborhood, so I came by a few days ago. I’m glad I did – it was easily the best of the eight places I visited that day. They had a deep selection of paintings and mixed media pieces.

The first painting to really grab me was Elena Sisto’s “Untitled” (at right.) There were several other iconic female portraits by this artist, and they all have a thick, painterly surface, amiable colors, and a placid facade. There’s a sense that much, much more is beneath the surface. I would love to see a 2-person show of work by Elena Sisto and Lisa Yuskavage. I think it’d be fascinating to compare and contrast these two.

I almost passed by the piece by Ken Kirsch (at left), but the friend who was accompanying me that day made me take another look (one of the benefits of seeing art with another interested party.) It’s oil on panel, but it resembled Fred Tomiselli’s work, the way the opaque elements floated in (or on the surface of) the translucent layers of glazing. They had a fantastic piece in the dimly lit bathroom (impossible to get a photo) of pale butterflies in a red field.

Other worth-the-trip paintings: Merrilee Challis’ finely detailed symbolic landscape doodles (at left); Rebecca Bird’s amazing watercolor on panel of natural totemic elements; and Jenny Dubnau’s thin oil photo-based portraits that reminded me of Chuck Close’s early work.

I’m late with this post, so I’ll put this up and write about the rest of Hayes Valley tomorrow.
… the Bucheon guard dogs.

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August 25, 2005 (Thursday) Hayes Valley art walk
Yesterday I went by the M.A.C. (Modern Appealing Clothing at 387 Grove Street) to take a look at the Lost Art Salon “satellite exhibition”, highlighting three artists: Alice Bishop, Leon Wall, and Clyde I. Seavey. M.A.C. looked to me, like a gallery that also sells clothes. I suppose to some people, it might look like a clothing store that also sells art. But art and clothes are well integrated here.

I first read about the Lost Art guys (Gaetan Caron & Rob Delamater) in the SF Chronicle. They have a big salon/gallery on South Van Ness, but this is a tight little spot show on the long wall near the entrance of M.A.C. Each artist has a small, discrete grouping of work.

Alice Bishop’s pencil drawings (above) look like they came from a sketchbook. The wall tag had this to say about her:

“Alice Bishop (birth and death dates unknown). Like many of the artists in the Lost Art collection, Alice Bishop’s personal story is unknown. And like so many other women artists of her time, it is believed that Bishop never had gallery or dealer representation. But the spare beauty and subtle strength of her sketches of trees, boats, barns and friends are evidence of a seasoned talent-awaiting discovery. Details in the sketches and the paper used indicate that the pieces were done in the early part of the 20th Century, most likely in England. the discovery of such deserving, but previously unknown artists, is part of the Lost Art Salon mission of presenting new artistic voices from the past and giving them perhaps their first opportunity to be heard and appreciated by a new generation of art lovers.”

Leon Wall (1919-1980) was represented by small abstract pastel drawings (above) and Clyde I. Seavey’s work was figurative charcoal drawings on printed paper. One of Seavey’s images was used to promote the show.

All kinds of other art is situated around the store. A couple of large Ann Webber sculptures (above left) were in the middle aisle (these are corrugated cardboard, staples and shellac.) Brightly colored guitars (above right, by Spike Milliken) made out of cigar boxes, old oil pantings (mostly anonymous) were everywhere, and little shadow boxes were tucked in here and there.

Tomorrow: Tinhorn, Bucheon, and other Hayes Valley art spots.
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August 23, 2005 (Tuesday) Around the web, and elsewhere…
I probably should have broken this up into two or three days, but I’m going to be out of the studio and away from the computer for the next few days and I don’t know when (if) I’m going to get a chance to post, so here it is… consume in small amounts, and it’ll last ya.

•••

Interesting story by Sarah Duxbury from SF Business Times (via MSNBC) about the practice of “timeshare” art donations to major museums, and how the SFMOMA has “emerged as a big player in the art world’s timeshare market.”

•••

Chris at Zeke’s Gallery pointed to an interesting story about corporate art collections. It’s an interview with Shirley Reiff Howarth, art historian and expert on corporate art collections, who gave a lecture earlier in the year on this topic. She started a directory of over 1300 corporate art collections, world wide.

“The corporate art environment is an interesting segment of the art world and few people know very much about it. It is very different world – it is nothing like the auction world, the gallery world, the artist’s world, or even the museum context. And yet it has grown into becoming quite an important force in the arts.

(The) word “collection” is a misnomer. Unfortunately, there isn’t a better term to use. The company’s “collection” might not only be displayed throughout a single building; it might be displayed across the country. For example, JP Morgan Chase, which has offices and branches around the world, has works of art in all of these locations. They are managed by the curator in New York.

Every corporate collection is very different. A lot of them are not collections in a true sense. They are simply assemblages of art purchased to decorate the walls, to make a pleasant environment for the employees. The true collections that have an integrity and coherence tend to have been of long standing. For example, Fleming’s Bank in Scotland has a collection of Scottish art. It is probably the finest single collection of Scottish art. When that bank was sold and merged with an American bank, they protected the collection and created a foundation separately, so that the collection is still intact. ”
Shirley Reiff Howarth

•••

Roberta Fallon posted the final two entries (here and here) about her trip to San Francisco and her gallery crawl. For the record (read Roberta’s post first):

• the guy behind the desk at Gregory Lind is always testy, but I think he’s sincerely trying to be polite. He’s just not very good at it.
• the Viola Frey sculptures are in the hallway at 77 Geary, between the Heather Marx gallery and the George Krevsky gallery, and just down the hall from the Rena Bransten gallery (which reps Frey.)
• the “senior-xing” sign is next to a senior subsidized housing building. The traffic on Howard Street is so horrendous that the slow-moving residents kept getting mowed down at an alarming rate, so this is part of the civic response.
• I had a great time looking at art with someone who can go at it as long as I can, and who can provide intelligent commentary as well. Thanks, Roberta!

•••

More about John Gutmann: I wrote about John Gutmann on August 15th and received a couple of emails about him. Eva Lake wrote an update remembrance on her blog and Susan Friedewald wrote to let me know about John Gutmann Photography Fellowship Trust, which is planning several exhibitions of Gutmann’s work this year.

•••

Honesty (in art) – Cinque Hicks wrote a brilliant little paragraph on this topic and then over at Franklin’s forum, “artblog.net” they tossed it around a bit. Here’s Cinque:

“Honesty? I mean, if you ever stifle an impulse toward beauty or ugliness, clumsiness or elegance, openness or obscurity, then you are not honest. If you want to be funny but keep a straight face instead, if you want to be serious but laugh it off, then you are not honest. If you are making work and the thought in your head is, “this will totally wow ’em,” or “so-and-so will think this is so cool,” then you are not honest. If you are making work and simultaneously composing the paragraph about yourself that you imagine will appear in all the art history books or in the newspaper or in the press release, you are not honest. If you look at your own work and say, “shit, that looks too much like artist X; let me change it,” or, “dammit, I have to make it look more like artist Y,” then you are not honest. If you pursue something only because it’s sure to gain the respect of your peers, your teacher, a curator, a gallerist, your father, or your girlfriend, you are not honest. If you do something only because it is sure to piss off anyone from that same list, you are not honest. If you neglect your desire to do X because everybody has come to expect Y from you, then you are not honest. And if you’re an artist and claim never to have had one of these moments, then you are really not honest.”
from Bare and Bitter Sleep

•••

I picked up a newspaper from the SF Arts & Media Expo with two stories about unofficial public art in San Francisco.

The first was written by “Comrade Q”, about the installation of a sculpture:

“It was a public art attack. February 26, 1993, at the foot of Market Street in San Francisco, the Department of Public Art (DPA) drove up in a rented pickup truck.
Out we sprang, dressed in white Tyvek disposable suits, each adorned with a black and blue DPA logo specially created for the purpose. Comrade X had the clipboard with our work order, duly signed and filled out, describing our apparent civil service duty of installing the sculpture in Justin Herman Plaza).”

They installed the sculpture, and then,

“With a flourish of feigned cityworker boredom, we pulled the plastic away to reveal our masterpiece: “The Door Is Always Open.” A mannequin was flying over a
1965 Chrysler Imperial car door, its bicycle upended into the door itself. All of it had been painstakingly assembled during the previous week. Few cyclists are unfamiliar with the drama of getting “doored” while riding the narrow side spaces on most urban streets. It was but the first of a series of occasional Art Attacks by the San Francisco Department of Public Art, stretching through the 1990s and well into the new millennium. No doubt others will appear in coming years. ”

The second story, “Urban Alterations” was by Scott Kiddall, and told about how he altered some of the city-installed, U-shaped bicycle racks that are bolted to the sidewalks:

” I enlisted friends and together we removed the racks at night and took them back to my metal shop. There, I added welded ornamentation following themes of disempowerment. The first one depicted items of physical labor such as a pipe threader, a railroad spike and a factory gear, reflecting the transition to a service-oriented economy. Another depicted stuffed animals that were incarcerated.”

He reinstalled the modified racks that same night and most of them are still there, three years later.

So, now you know.

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August 22, 2005 (Monday) Painting in Union Square, fending off pigeons
For the next six weeks I’m going to be doing my regular plein-aire stints in Union Square (open plaza in the middle of downtown SF) instead of, or in addition to Golden Gate Park. People often stop to talk to me when I’m painting in public, and it just dawned on me last week that I could be sending them to the gallery (which is only half a block from Union Square.) I hadn’t painted here in the past because it seemed too touristy and frankly, it didn’t strike me as particularly appealing, visually. You can look in four different directions at four slightly differing walls of retail & hotel buildings. Then there are the usual assorted palm trees, lots of restless people, and pigeons. Aggressive pigeons. Kamikaze pigeons. But, hey, it’s good to challenge yourself now and then, so…

Last Friday I headed down there for my first session. There’s a great little Italian cafe at the edge of the square, and I had this fantasy that I could sit at one of their tables, sipping a mocha, listening to Frank Sinatra or Italian opera, and sketch… something. But it didn’t work out that way.

When I came up out of the underground at Market & Stockton, I noticed a fine grey mist in the air, and for once it wasn’t fog. Then I heard helicopters. Hovering. Lots of them. The streets were packed with people, most of them hurrying somewhere, or standing, looking up. I headed to the gallery, where they told me about the explosion at Post & Kearny. I thought they were kidding at first.

So I went over to Union Square anyway, and tried to get a table at Rulli, but it was bedlam. I’ve never seen it so nuts there. I had to cruise for about 15 minutes before I was able to snag a table. I ordered a sandwich, too, in hopes that I could lay claim to my little patch of real estate a bit longer. I couldn’t hear any music above the helicopters and sirens. Forget looking for the best view – I just started sketching what was in front of me, with a black ink rollerball.

Then the couple at the table next to me got up and left a few scraps on the plates. The pigeons descended, in rapidly increasing numbers, until they were a writhing grey mass that started edging my way. I started swinging my sketchbook to fend them off. Next thing you know, there’s a kid under my table trying to FEED the pigeons a piece of bread! I told her to get lost, but I soon decided to strike out for new territory, myself.

I moved over to one of those black stone “hat boxes” that line the perimeter of the plaza, and pulled out my watercolors. I spent the next (mostly peaceful) hour adding some color to the ink drawing and talking to a few people. Next time I’m bringing my tri-pod table and setting up away from the cafe.
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August 19, 2005 (Friday) Buy Art Now
There’s a brand new art blog here in San Francisco, “Newmark Confidential”, by gallerist Mark Wladika. I mean REALLY new, as in, started just this week. His Wednesday post, “Buying Art” is a rumination on why more people don’t buy art. He’s asking for feedback on this topic – anybody have any insight on that?

For me, it’s one of those mysteries of life that I’ll probably never really understand. Art is so central to my life (and books, too) that when I see a house or apartment with nothing original on the walls and no books in sight, it’s like looking into a parallel universe where nothing makes sense.

And it’s not about money. Most of my friends are artists, and many of them are living below the official poverty line, and while most of the art on their walls is self-made or acquired through barter, I know many artists who have purchased art at “full price” from a gallery or studio. Original art can be had (even from galleries) for a few hundred bucks or less. Sometimes much less.

So it’s hard not to laugh when someone stands in my studio and says something like, “I love your work, but I just can’t afford it.” This is usually from a person driving a $30,000 car, wearing thousands of dollars in clothes, carrying hundreds of dollars in electronic gadgets, and heading out for a restaurant meal that will cost more than my monthly grocery budget. So, I usually figure the “can’t afford it” statement is just a polite brush-off.

When I’ve been out and about in the non-art world, and the possibility of buying original art is brought up, it’s amazing how often the reaction is a startled, “Huh?” You can almost see the “this is a totally new concept” cloud forming over their head. The idea of the “average person” (which most people consider themselves to be) buying original art is completely outside their frame of reference.

So maybe it means we need some industry ads, like the “Got Milk?” campaign. Something that doesn’t promote a particular kind of art, or place of purchase, but plants the seed that gets them thinking about the possibility that they could be art collectors, and why that might be a good thing.

But that’s just a guess.

(The image is “Gallery 33”, one of my older paintings, of my favorite room in the old de Young.)

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August 19, 2005 (Friday) Corporate Art
I just finished a little painting (“Ozone”) that I’ve been working on for entirely too long, so I went down to pick up the mail, and ….

Whoa! Look at this week’s New Yorker! Every single ad space is taken up with red, white and black Target ads. Sorta like the saturation bombing of the MUNI underground by the pharmacy, travel and computer companies. Must have cost them a fortune.

No words, just pictures, obviously by real artists, some familiar to me. Geeze, I like it. I don’t want to like it, being more of an “Adbusters” kinda gal, but I can’t help myself… it looks great.

It’s a portfolio of portraits of New York. It’s a little creepy seeing bullseye targets plastered all over New York, but it’s exciting to see page after page of artwork, created on a given theme… A corporate-sponsored art show, in a popular format… but what if it was somebody like Exon? Or Halliburton?

From Jen Chung at Gothamist:

“Anyway, what do you think of the ads? Designer Michael Bierut writes about the “unnerving” effect of the ads, adding that he counted over 200 Target logos in the first 19 pages before giving up. Gothamist actually liked them, because we knew which pages were actual editorial since they weren’t festooned with red and white bull’s eyes. And it was like having a capitalistic fever dream, in a world when buildings, teams, and maybe even cities will be branded. Oh, wait, that might still happen.”

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August 17, 2005 (Wednesday) Newmark opening

Last Saturday was the opening for the SF Cityscapes show at the Newmark Gallery. It’s a four-person show with some of my recent “Urban Caves” paintings, plus expressionistic oil paintings by Larry Morace, ink and wash drawings by Paul Madonna, and etchings by Toru Sugita. (Photos by David W. Sumner)

Yours truly, on the left, with Steve Gorski and Judi Gorski.

With Toru Sugita.
Stu Kremsky and Janet Rosen.

Above: Paul Madonna and Larry Morace; Left: Leaning on the wall for support by the end of the night.
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August 17, 2005 (Wednesday) spotlight
It’s all about me, today. I’ll keep it short.

Current studio photo at left: The wrapped paintings in the foreground are destined for Gallery Siano in Philadelphia. I just picked them up from the framer, and I’m awaiting the custom packing crate. The two paintings on the easels (“This Way Out” – a garage exit, and “Portrait of Virginia”) are still in progress, but they have to be finished in the next two weeks, as they are both headed for other shows.

Roberta Fallon posted her interview with me over at artblog. I told her that next time she comes to town, I get to ask the questions.

Later today I’ll post photos from the Newmark Gallery opening… stay tuned.

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August 16, 2005 (Tuesday) de Young tour

This week the de Young opens the free-to-the-public areas (everything but the galleries.) I toured it first thing yesterday morning with my friend, Harry (aka Cranky Pants.) To be fair, I started the day a little cranky, myself. For starters, we were inundated with thick, low, drippy fog.

As residents of the neighborhood next to the museum, Harry & I discussed all the controversies on our walk over there… the long battle over the parking garage and the still unresolved fight over the lane widening at Ninth & Lincoln and its impact on the Inner Sunset. And Harry (who has plenty of company on this issue) hates the exterior appearance of the museum (I love it.)

Then there was the issue of the member’s-only soft opening of the gift shop and cafe (not the galleries.) Seems like every other person I talk to has been given a tour of the galleries, so I found it a little insulting (as a many-years-loyal, albeit low-level, member) to be offered the “privilege” of spending time in the gift shop and cafe. Still, I took it. I’ve been desperate to get past the chain link fences and look around inside.

It was worth it. They actually had a large portion of the museum open to poking around, including the tower. Even with the fog, it’s a spectacular view from up there. You can look straight down into the main courtyard (image at left) and (on a clear day, according to the docent) out to the Farallon Islands, 30 miles off the coast. The whole place is open, spacious, with views of the outdoors everywhere. Even Harry said, “this was worth coming for.”

I only saw a few of the site-specific works that were commissioned for the museum. As we entered, the Andy Goldsworthy’s “Drawn Stone” tectonic split started at the sidewalk and jagged up the walkway, into the entrance court and then circled around, through several big stones from Scotland.

The massive Gerhard Richter mural in the lobby was misinterpreted by almost everyone as an homage to the pierced copper panels on the exterior of the building (it’s actually based on the atomic structure of strontium titanate.) If you stand a couple of feet in front of it, these weird optical effects make it seem to start blinking (or maybe it was just me?)

More good news: you can take photos (sans flash) anywhere in the museum, except the special exhibition gallery. Best news: they are going to be starting members tours of the galleries on October 9th. I’m happy now.
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August 15, 2005 (Monday) John Gutman
Seems like John Gutman (who died in ’88) is all over SF these days. He was a painter who took up photojournalism as a way to escape Germany during the Nazi era. He came to the US and when he got to SF he set up the Photography department at San Francisco State University.

SFMOMA has some of his photography on view and the Fraenkel Gallery has a selection of his paintings and his photographs. (The Fraenkel is a photography gallery but they show paintings now and then, for instance when they showed work by Chuck Close a few years ago.) One of the paintings at the Fraenkel, Gutman’s “Still Life with Sketchpads” (image left) reminds me of a painting by another German-born artist, Chester Arnold. Arnold’s “Bad Paintings” is a still life with a pile of paintings turned against the wall. Last time I looked, it was hanging over the desk at the Catherine Clark Gallery (sorry, I couldn’t find an image of it.)

The Greenwich Village Gazette ran a great essay by Eva Lake about John Gutman’s earlier shows at the deYoung and LAMOCA. She wrote:

“Gutmann influenced how we view photography in more ways than one. He was one of the first to teach classes in it, beginning in 1936. He set up a complete photography program at San Francisco State University in 1946. It would be an understatement to say that not only did the photo world rock with Gutmann’s presence, but so did San Francisco. He was a link between European Modernism and the west coast.

Having lived in San Francisco for part of the 80s, I often saw him around. He was no art world snob, but completely accessible and one who participated in life. He came to my parties and to my exhibitions, a point of focus in any room, sometimes offering a criticism you had to listen to. Not a lot of people can get away with that (especially as he was not my teacher), but his words were always well chosen. It was really just another form of his great generosity.”
from “Remembering John Gutman”, by Eva Lake in The Greenwich Village Gazette

Image at right is Gutman’s “Death Stalks Fillmore”, 1934, printed ca. 1974, Collection SFMOMA

Also, this Wednesday, August 17 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts will show the film “My Eyes Were
Fresh, The life and photographs of John Gutman”, by Jane Levy Reed. This film profiles an artist whose art and life forged a link between the European modernism of the early 20th Century and the
burgeoning artistic culture of the SF Bay Area in the seconf half of the century. Local videographer, Voitek Szymkiewiczwas the cameraman on this film, and Wednesday is his birthday. After the screening we will meet at ‘Catalyst Cocktails’ for drinks and cake. Please join him to celebrate! The bar is located right across the street from the Hall of Justice,in the alley.

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August 12, 2005 (Friday) Russian Criminal Tattoos

When I was at the Legion of Honor the other day, I also spent some time in the bookstore. Kudos to whoever orders the books there. In a city with more great bookstores per capita than anywhere else in the country, this little shop still manages to surprise me with cool books from obscure publishers. My most recent discovery was the “Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia,” published in Germany by Steidl/Fuel, 2003 (ISBN 3-88243-920-3). It contains two short, fascinating essays (about 20 pages) and the rest of the 390 page book is illustrations (photos and line drawings) with explanatory captions. The drawings were by Danzig Baldev, who describes himself in the forward as, “descended from baptized Buryat-Mongols, people who were rich, brave and strong.” He writes that at least 58 members of his family died in Soviet prison camps, and he feels that “everything the country has gone through has been reflected in prison and camp life.”

I’ve been thinking about tattoos and their place in Art ever since a conversation I had with a guy from my local tattoo shop a couple of weeks ago (I’m considering interviewing them for the blog.) What does it mean when the human body is your canvas? Well for starters, the work is usually a collaboration between the artist and the client, although forced tattoos are not uncommon in prison situations. According to the author of the “Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia,” Alexei Plutser-Sarno, tattoos in the Russian prison system serve the following functions:

a unique language or arnot; a message carried by courier from one community to another zone

a permanent “uniform”, depicting rank and service record of time in prison

a case file or visual criminal record

a passport to and from certain communities

collective memory

symbols of public identity or social self-awareness
“If we look around, we shall see that not only “legitimate thieves” but also millions of perfectly honest, upright citizens are covered with these tattoos. Simply because every fifth inhabitant of our country has passed through the camps and every second has been through army ‘zones.” And we honest, upright philistines and law-abiding petty bourgeois have long ago become used to seeing ourselves in the role of noble bandits, downtrodden victims and fearless inhabitants of tattooed slums.” – Alexei Plutser-Sarno

Two things surprised me about the visual images in this book: the high quality of the imagery and the high percentage of political images. There are portraits of Lenin, Stalin, Kruschev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev, and Yeltsin. They’re rarely complimentary portraits, and often include lettered statements addressed to the political figure. The author writes that these are symbols of the wearer’s refusal to be subjugated.

The book also contains charts of the complex symbology of finger “ring” tattoos, and explanations of the shifting meanings of a given image, depending on what part of the body it decorated. A lot of the images have strong sexual content. I consider it valuable addition to my collection of books on symbolism.

(Drawings above by Danzig Baldev, from the “Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia”)

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August 11, 2005 (Thursday) “Make Your Art Your Business”

Tuesday evening I was at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to give a talk about setting up your space for a studio show (the other speakers were Leah Edwards and Dimitri Kourouniotis.) They video-taped the lectures and are supposed to be making them available on the ArtSpan web site, soon. (Image at left: view from the stage as audience started to arrive.)

Getting to the screening room was a surreal experience. The lobby of YBCA was packed with New Zealand art event attendees, in evening wear, drinking champagne (a marked contrast to our audience of working artists, many of them dressed in paint-spattered pants and faded sweatshirts.) As I walked upstairs, through art installations from “Bay Area Now,” including a 3-tiered wedding cake and big flower arrangements by the “Mail Order Brides Wedding Consultancy Service,” I passed by a gathering of beefy, nearly naked guys, in Maori dance outfits. As soon as I was in the screening room, I heard a conch shell being blown, and throughout the lecture, we kept hearing drumming and melodic chanting. I found the whole chaotic scene to be oddly comforting, in a familiar “art-happening-here” sense.

Leah Edwards talked a bit about the importance of marketing your open studio event. I talked about setting up your space to receive visitors, and Dimitri Kourouniotis talked about making sales, with an emphasis on how to close the sale. He had a lot of simple, common-sense advice that I’d never heard before, mostly focused on attention to body language. He also recommended getting a sales technique CD by Bruce Baker and listening to it before every show.

The notes from my presentation are HERE, but I’d like to expand on my answer to one of the audience questions. Someone asked about gallery prices, versus artist’s studio prices. Everyone on the panel emphasized all the obvious reasons that artists should maintain consistent pricing, no matter where the work was selling. Then the issue was raised that friends, family, and other “savvy” buyers know that the gallery gets a significant portion of the selling price. Therefore the expectation seems to be that when art is purchased from the artist’s studio, the artist should pass along the “savings” to the buyer.

Let me dispel that misguided line of thinking. A work of art does not magically transform itself from an idea in the mind of the artist to an object in the buyer’s possession. There are two main stages in that transformation, and both of them require time, energy and resources. The price of a work of art reflects both of these stages. The first stage is the obvious one – the creation of the work of art. The second stage is apparently not so obvious – the selling of that work of art. Call it selling, adoption, transmitting, loaning, or whatever you want, moving the work of art from the artist’s studio to the buyer’s possession usually means putting it in front of many people, many times, in many ways. The work of art appears on the web, on a post card, in print ads, in press releases, in show after show; and it is accompanied by knowledgeable people who can help match the right buyer to the right piece of art.

When the gallery performs these functions, they deserve every penny of their percentage. Why is it that when the artist performs these functions, some people expect them to do it for free?

Potential complications arise when the artist is selling work from the studio at the same time that the gallery is selling work. Since many buyers need repeated exposure to a body of work, or a particular work of art, before they commit to buying, the actual site where the final purchase takes place may not be an accurate indication of where the selling took place. As Dimitri emphasized, the artist and the gallery are business partners. The partnership will be more successful if the artist and the gallery agree ahead of time on a policy for handling sales that they have both participated in.

And then there’s the issue of “collector discounts.” I can certainly agree that a patron who has purchased multiple paintings of mine, doesn’t require much “selling” anymore, and I’m happy to give them a nice discount. I do get a little irked, though, at the total strangers who will show up at one of my shows, and announce, “I’m a collector, will you give me a discount on that painting?” Yes, I usually try to smile (while grinding my teeth) and offer them 10 per cent – mainly because it’s customary, it’s obvious that they know it, and to refuse would be to lose the sale. The fact that it still irritates me is, I guess, a good indication that I’ll never make a great sales person. Maybe I need to listen to the sales CD that Dimitri mentioned.

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August 10, 2005 (Wednesday) One Dwarf
Last Week I went over to the Legion of Honor to interview for a volunteer gig. I said I didn’t want to work with the public, so I think my chances of getting a call-back are slim. As long as I was there I spent some time in the collections. The fashion show is up now (“Artwear: Fashion and Anti-Fashion”.) I’m not particularly interested in fashion but I have to admit there were some compelling works of art in this show, including pieces by William Wiley, Robert Kushner and Ed Rusha. It was more art than fashion, to my surprise.

The rest of the museum has a kind of deflated “on-hold” feel. Everyone seems to be focused on the imminent reopening of the de Young. It was relaxing to hang out in the nearly deserted (early morning, weekday) permanent collections. Especially in the Renaissance and early European galleries which have expanded since there are no temporary exhibits at that end of the museum right now. They brought out a wonderful Moroni portrait (“Portrait of a Gentleman”, 1550, above left) which reminded me of Whistler’s “Arrangement in Grey and Black” On the other hand, there’s a room in the modern wing with a strange collection of funky British fairy paintings, Stonehenge photos and watercolors, tapestries by Edward Burne-Jones and a Maxfield Parish painting of Snow White (with one dwarf.)
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August 9, 2005 (Tuesday) Weekend Gallery Walk
On Saturday I met some friends at the Newmark Gallery (251 Post) to see the “San Francisco Cityscapes” show again, then we headed out to see some of the other shows in the downtown galleries. I mentioned the “New Acquisitions” show at John Berggruen yesterday.

The Meyerovich has some big Richard Serra etchings (90″ x 48″ vertical black rectangles, labeled as “Arc of the Curve”, highly textured intaglio etchings) which are sharing the room with some Andy Warhol trucks (silk screen on paper.) They go well together. The Serra etchings are basically a paper version of his sculptures. There’s a lot of ink on the paper, creating a thick, textured surface, similar to the surface of corroded metal. The gallery is displaying these without glass, which I can understand because if you put a sheet of glass over these large, deep black rectangles, you’ll have a nice mirror and the art will disappear. Still, framing without glass is bound to shorten the life of the piece.

Gallery Paule Anglim has more work on paper – some not-so-recent digital prints by Jack Fulton and some old figurative drawings by Joan Brown. Most of the Joan Brown drawings were stiff narrative/fashion images. But there was one loose, loaded-brush piece that looked like a quick sketch from life (image at right.) There was an intriguing painting on stretched linen next to the gallery-sitter’s desk but repeated questions directed at the young woman seated there elicited only faint, monosyllabic mumbles. Although she said the artist’s name was “Smith”, my best guess is that it was a piece by Dean Byington. It looked like a fascinating process of (maybe?) black-line photomechanical silkscreen overlayed with colored oil glazes, on a white background. Part of the imagery was an appropriated Thomas Nast cartoon, surrounded by original delicate line drawing.

Catherine Clark is showing “Social Insecurity” by her regulars: Chester Arnold, Sandow Birk, Masami Teraoka, Walter Robinson and Ray Beldner, as well as some that were less familiar to me. The work depicts current events as well as more generalized anxieties. There were two beautiful Julie Heffernan paintings. I’d only seen her work in reproduction before this, and was pleased to see that in person the work is much richer, more painterly, more skilled, with more complex imagery. There was also a really interesting set of three pieces by Andy Diaz Hope with a pharmacological theme. (Many thanks to Josh Feldman for getting the artist’s name for me.)

The images were printed on paper, cut into little bits and stuffed into clear pill capsules with part of the image facing out. The capsules were then arranged in a grid to form the bigger picture (ala Chuck Close.) The plastic framing resembled a medicine chest, or a blister pack for pills. (At far left is one of the three panels; near left is a close-up of the stuffed capsules.)

As usual, the Gregory Lind gallery is showing the obsessively detailed, highly crafted work that I’ve come to expect there. This was a two person show with surrealist architectural models by Randy Dixon and gouache/ink drawings of tiny-block structures by Will Yackulic. (At right: “Nerves”, 2005, gouache on paper, 18″ x 16.25″)

Modernism has some new work by Mark Stock. For those of you who are fans of “The Butler’s In Love”, he’s moved on. Stock is now into tromp l’oeil still life narratives, with heavy emphasis on faux wood graining. (Two of the series at left.)

George Krevsky has a beautiful show of work by Raphael Soyer, including his early WPA prints and drawings, some paintings, and later pieces including portraits of Alan Ginsberg, Gergory Corso, and Diane Di Prima. I’ve seen this show twice – this is a master and these are great examples of his work. If I came into some money, I’d buy Soyer’s drawing of his brother, Moses. Good photos of the show at Alan Bamberger’s site (although someone is standing in front of the Moses drawing.)

The Art Exchange at 49 Geary (no web site) had a terrific selection of smaller works by local artists, some of them labeled “From the Collection of a Local Artist.” There were a few paintings by Kim Frohsin (her figurative show just closed at Dolby Chadwick) and a small Guy Diehl still life of orange soup in a white bowl, on a grey surface (image at right.)
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August 8, 2005 (Monday) New Work by Old Guys:
John Berggruen Gallery has a “New Acquisitions” show with lots of familiar names. The first thing you see when entering is a very big David Hockney swimming pool (“Swimming Pool With Reflection,” 1978, colored pressed paper pulp – six sheets, 72″ x 85″; shown at right with Mark di Suvero sculpture, “Mayakovsky”, 1976.) I like David Hockney’s work, and I like images made from colored paper pulp, but this piece was priced at $1,000,000, which seemed a bit excessive. Unless, of course, you accept the validity of the dead butterflies on black enameled canvas by Damien Hirst which was priced at $225,000 (“Tall Thin Love”, 2001, 6″ x 102″)

They also had a couple of Ed Ruscha pieces (“Jinx”, 2004, 32″ x 75″, $385,000), a new Jim Dine pastel on paper, a big Paul Wonner flower painting, a little marble house sculpture by Louise Bourgeois, and strange little drawings on ripped, lined notebook paper by Marcel Dzama.

Which made me wonder again why no one is showing Charles M. Ware’s work these days. His drawings and spray stencils are full of his personal iconography and yet they’re very fresh looking. If you saw them hanging in a gallery somewhere, you’d think the work was done by a 20-something. Which is remarkable, because Charlie doesn’t get out much. It’s enough to make a person believe in a collective unconscious. Speaking of Charlie, I called him yesterday, to tell him that Martin Bromirski had mentioned him in Anaba. Charlie told me he’s started a new series of bigger collages, made from tracings of his older drawings, pasted on doorskin boards. The guy is amazing – he never stops.

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August 5, 2005 (Friday) Cracker Jacks Prizes and a Bag-O-Art
Recently, I was the lucky recipient of a “Bag-O-Art” by Roberta Fallon and Libby Rosof. Opening the white paper bag brought back the thrill I used to get when my mother would hand me a box of Cracker Jacks after she had finished her shopping. (My brothers and I had to wait in the car while she did the monthly “stock up” at the base commissary.) Remember when Cracker Jacks came in a box and the prizes were really cool? They were often wooden, metal, or plastic toys that had to be assembled. I still have some of mine:

The Bag-O-Art held as much mystery and promise as the old Cracker Jacks box. It’s full of color, imagery, and thought grenades; and I still get a charge out of looking through it:

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August 4, 2005 (Thursday) Catching up…
Sorry for the absence – I had some unexpected family obligations the last few days, plus:

Yesterday I spent most of the day touring art galleries with Roberta Fallon, who was in town with her husband Steve and daughter Stella. She’ll write something about it on her blog in a couple of weeks, when she gets back to Philadelphia.

I’ve been buried in the studio for the last couple of months so it was wonderful to get out and look at art. August is a weird time to visit galleries in San Francisco. Some of them close for the whole month. Some do “new acquisitions”, “introductions” or other group shows. And the galleries that are still open are a bit more casual than usual. Roberta and I were both eager to see “Social Insecurity” at the Catherine Clark Gallery. It’s one of my favorite local galleries and Roberta had seen them at Scope and wanted to see more. This was a group show with work by Chester Arnold, Sandow Birk, Julie Heffernan, Masami Teraoka, Ray Beldner, and others. As expected, it was a great show. I may go back this weekend and write more about it next week. (Also, keep an eye on Roberta’s space for photos of the show, and more details.)

We caught the Joan Brown show at Paule Anglim – they were still hanging it, but we got good look at the drawings. It’s figurative work on paper, from the 70s… reminded us of Mattisse, Hockney, and Peyton. Actually, it looked kinda contemporary. When the de Young reopens, Joan Brown’s paintings will be featured in the inaugural show. (Image above left: Joan Brown, “Mary Julia #37″, 1976, Mixed media on paper, 36″ x 24”, from the Gallery Paule Anglim web site.)

Last, but not least, we went by the Newmark Gallery to get my first look at “San Francisco Cityscapes”, a four person show with work by me, Larry Morace, Paul Madonna, and Toru Sugita. It was very gratifying to see the show hanging in the gallery, with great lighting and all… the work always looks so much better there than it does when it’s stacked all over my studio. Larry and Paul have both done some impressive new work. (Image at right: Larry Morace, “Drive Home”, from the Newmark Gallery web site.) I’ll write more about this later in the week….

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August 1, 2005 (Monday)
Look Familiar?
When I was downtown a few days ago, I saw the most egregious misuse of an image that I have witnessed in a very long time. It was in the front window of the Art People Gallery, which is in the Crocker Galleria, at 50 Post Street, in San Francisco. It’s a framed bas relief of a woman’s head, in brown metallic colors. At first glance it looks like an image from “Night of the Living Dead.” But then I recognized Magnum photographer Steve McCurry’s famous photo of an Afghan girl. Hard to believe a respected photojournalist would license his image for schlock like this. I’m betting he didn’t.