December 29, 2005 (Thursday) – Year End Beginning
Sorry for the lite postings lately. It’s that time of year again. Regular programming resumes next week. (midweek)

I’ve been cleaning out the studio – literally as well as metaphorically: finishing up the last few projects of 2005 (like that commission last week,) giving away old paintings that have had too many shows (without selling,) dusting, washing, reorganizing…

and now I’ve ACTUALLY STARTED (as in, brush-to-canvas) that big project that has been circling my head for two years now. The working title is “time/space” but I’ll come up with something better before it’s done. I took over 300 photos of my models a year ago this month. I’ve been doing some reading in physics, or at least as much of it as you can study without getting into the math. I’ve revised my small sketches again and again. I’m ready. My studio’s ready. Yabba dabba dooooo……

permanent link to this entry

December 27, 2005 (Tuesday) – Art Fraud

Diacritic reports on the current trend of awarding art prizes and honors to plagiarized images:

“Brigada” by Russian painter M.C. Ombus-Cuznhexov
“Dawn on building Construction” by Vietnamese painter Luong Van Trung
There were several cases this year where award-winning art and photography works have been discovered to be plagiarized. Today VietnamNet reports the latest embarrassment. It was discovered that the painting above by artist Luong Van Trung was for all purposes identical to a painting nearly a quarter century earlier by Russian artist M.C. Ombus-Cuznhexov. The forgery was awarded a bronze-medal at the National Fine Art Exhibition 2005 in Hanoi earlier this month. It was also discovered that the gold-medal winning submission was in fact resubmitted under a different title after winning a cash prize in the earlier Philip Morris competition.

Rest of the story here

permanent link to this entry

December 22, 2005 (Thursday) – Visiting the San Jose Museum of Art

Your intrepid corresponents: (L to R) Dale Erickson, Bernard Catchings, Anna Conti, David Sumner, Bernie Rauch (photos of Anna & David by Bernard Catchings)

Last weekend I went down to San Jose with some friends to visit the SJ Museum of Art – The “Visual Politics: The Art Of Engagement” show is up through March 5, 2006. San Jose was having a Christmas festival downtown, so it was busy. There was an ice rink just outside the museum, and there were more visitors than I’ve ever seen there before. It’s a friendly museum. Besides the fact that admission is free, they let you take photos as long as you don’t use flash. In an earlier post, I mistakenly said you couldn’t download the podcast, but I was wrong – you CAN download it from the museum website (although it’s a rather clunky format – a folder full of 13 mp3 files, pdf files, and Word docs.) The audio is well done, with different commentators and appropriate music selected for each art work. I listened to it after I got home.

Hanging sculptures in lobby included some Ruth Asawa knitted wires by cafe door (image at left), and a few Dale Chihuly glass pieces, above our heads. This exhibit is drawn largely from the permanent collection.

The show seemed to be organized, more-or-less chronologically. Just inside the entrance were two small gouache pieces, done in 1944 & 1946, by Erle Loran, called “San Francisco Burning” (image at right.)

Dale Erickson : Erle Loran wrote that classic book on Cezanne’s compositions. He went and photographed Cezanne’s motifs and paintings from the 30s in Southern France. He taught for a long time at University of California. His art became very abstract, almost Hoffmanesque. He was a Hans Hoffman student.

Anna Conti : I read somewhere that he threatened to sue Roy Lichtenstein for exhibiting some paintings based on diagrams from the pages of his Cezanne book.

Bernie Rauch : It’s like he had a premonition that the Japanese would bomb San Francisco… that was the scare, at the time, I guess.

“Ascent (Red)”, 1962 by Frank Lobdell oil on canvas (image left)
Anna Conti : This is pretty powerful, but I prefer his newer work, with all the brightly colored symbols…
Dale Erickson : I like his early work – it’s got more guts.

“Berlin”, 1989 by David Best (image above right, photo by Bernard Catchings)
Anna Conti: I think this is the guy who did all those death carriages and art cars up at the di Rosa preserve. (He also built the Octavia temple.)
Bernie Rauch : Man, look at that frame… I like the black hood on top… it’s probably the German eagle underneath.

“Raft of the Grand Wizard”, 2003 by Travis Somerville oil & collage (image at left)

Bernie Rauch : Oh, this is really strong. He’s taken the old “Raft of the Medusa” and reworked it.
Anna Conti : I remember seeing some drawings by this artist at the Catherine Clark gallery this summer – he was working with Southern history in those, too.
Dale Erickson : You should be in this show, Bernie.

“Burnt Out Europe” 1992 by Manuel Ocampa, oil & decal on canvas (image at right)
Bernie Rauch : Wow, look at this one!
Anna Conti : This kind of painting is straight out of the heart, isn’t it?
Dale Erickson : Reminds me of Goya.

Bernie Rauch : Some of this stuff is really bombastic, like that one on the pedestal over there (pointing to Robert Arneson’s sculpture, “Colonel Hyena”, image at left)
Anna Conti : What? You don’t like Robert Arneson? I can’t believe it!
Bernie Rauch : Well, not that one.

“Father and Son”, 2001 by Dinh Q Le, c-print and linen tape, image at right.

Bernie Rauch : It’s woven.
Anna Conti : I’ve seen this technique before, but never done this well.
Dale Erickson : Wow, this is pretty involved…. he used linen tape to back it, probably, and hold it together. You used to do things like this Bernie, with photographs…
Bernie Rauch : Yeah, but I never wove ’em together like this… I’m in the same school, let’s say.

According to the SJMA podcast: Dinh Q Le slices photos and film strips and uses grass-mat weaving techniques. He’s exploring the distortions of memory. (detail at right)

“Rebellions and Revolutions,” 1970 by Irving Norman, oil on canvas, image below left

Dale Erickson: This is Irving Norman… if it wasn’t for his political statements, he would be considered one of the top Bay Area painters.
David Sumner : Wasn’t this at the de Young awhile back?
Anna Conti : I don’t remember this painting, but they do have some of his work in the permanent collection.
Dale Erickson : And the di Rosa has one.
Bernie Rauch : He was in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, that went over to fight Franco. That says a lot. Those guys were really… they were the other extreme from mercenaries.
Anna Conti : Well, he stayed focused on these issues for pretty much his whole life, and I think it isolated him.
Bernie Rauch : Yeah, none of the galleries wanted this.
Dale Erickson : He was a barber – that’s how he made a living.
David Sumner : This kind of work is so labor-intensive…
Dale Erickson : I couldn’t do this, I mean, the intensity of the details and then the negativity of the statement… I mean it’s beautifully done, but…
Anna Conti : Imagine doing a few hundred of these… a lifetime’s worth.
Bernie Rauch : Well, except for the depressing statement, you could do it, Dale.
Dale Erickson : Oh yeah, well, I’d need treatment for depression.

“Nuclear Stockpile,” 1983 by Robert Arneson, mixed media on paper (image below left)
Anna Conti : This is so beautiful…
David Sumner : I didn’t know he did work on paper.
Anna Conti : His drawings and paintings are great – I’ve never seen one I didn’t like.
Dale Erickson : He was a good draftsman.

“Their Freedom of Expression…” 1984 by Enrique Chagoya, charcoal & pastel on paper (image above right, photo by Bernard Catchings)
Bernie Rauch (Reading the drawing): “Ruskies and Cubans out of Central America” heh,heh, and “By the Way, Keep Art out of Politics.”
Dale Erickson : He teaches at Stanford.
Bernie Rauch : Yeah, they must have a good time – everything he does is humorous.

“Resident Alien,” 1988 by Hung Liu, oil on canvas, image below.

Bernie Rauch : This is a current topic – congress just passed that ID act and now they’re turning illegal aliens into felons.
Anna Conti : This is painted by Hung Liu – I had no idea she she ever painted in this style – I’ve only seen her flowery, drip works. Oh, it’s an earlier work. I wonder if the line through the fingerprint is significant?

In the third gallery, there was a beautiful work that looked like a large versions of the traditional cut paper images I’ve seen in Chinatown and the Mission. But this one is made of laser cut steel plates, painted black, and hanging out from the wall by wires, just a little way from the wall. Unfortunately, I can’t read my notes, and don’t know who the artist is, but I remember that she was Latina. (Images below, second one down is by Bernard Catchings.)

Bernie Rauch : After looking at this for a little bit, I went over to read the wall tag, and all of a sudden I realized I was looking at the letters on the card as though they were hanging out in space…

In the center of the middle gallery was a street vendor’s cart, the kind you see all over the Mission, painted on all sides, with jail-yard fencing on the top surface. It’s “Raspado Mojados,” by Judith Baca, a mixed media piece created in 1994, in response to California’s Prop 187, which tried to deny social services to any resident who could not document their legal status. Each side of the cart refers to a different immigration issue.

“Oneiric Song (The Darkening Garden),” 2002 by Tino Rodriguez, oil on canvas (image at left)
Dale Erickson : This is incredibly painted… is it on canvas?
Bernie Rauch : The man’s a master of his medium, yeah.
Dale Erickson : What kind of paint did he use for the fish scales?
Bernie Rauch : It says oil and canvas…
Dale Erickson : It looks like it’s got some glitter in it there on the tail.
Anna Conti : I think he just put tiny white dots down, and then covered them with really thin, saturated glazes.
Dale Erickson : It’s just so meticulously painted…
Bernie Rauch : It crosses different types and genres… surrealist, fantasy, visionary, and he’s got some flying saucers in there, too. This must have taken months of work.

“Semana Santa / Cloning Eve and Geisha”, 2003 by Masami Teraoka (image above)
Anna Conti : This is another one of my favorite painters…
Dale Erickson : What is that stuff on the surface supposed to be?
Anna Conti : It looks like the tears are not on the subjects, but on the surface of the painting – as if the painting itself is ripped and bleeding.
Dale Erickson : Hmm, well, the literalness doesn’t catch up to the execution. I mean, he’s telling a story but I just can’t buy it. The pictorial isn’t convincing.
Anna Conti : What do you mean? You can tell it’s a city, you can tell those are geishas… what kind of information do you need?
Dale Erickson : No, that’s too literal. He’s telling me a story, but I’m not buying it because I’m not interested in how he’s executing it.
Bernard Catchings : If someone told you a story with an accent, you wouldn’t want to listen because of the accent?
Dale Erickson : It’s just badly painted.

Here’s what Masamai Teraoka says about this work, on his website:

This narrative takes place in Venice, Italy. A live cloned mouse, computer mice and a keyboard in the painting symbolize high tech culture while a priest represents historical and ethical viewpoints in the US. Here, cloned Eves, cloned geisha, and cloned samurai are seen visiting Venice. The samurai are Japanese people who have had facial and body surgeries to become a western man and woman. They abandoned their samurai faces and wanted to be western. They not only had facial surgery, but also changed their entire bodies.

I call US culture the “Culture of Unlimited Imagination.” Commercial products in this country thrive endlessly. Americans’ “Overcoming Nature” belief provides continuous national entertainment and constantly brings out new invention. Americans’ drive to become beautiful and for physical fitness by exercise or just by surgically draining fat from their bodies is conceptually unthinkable to a Japanese such as myself.

“Beyond Manzanar” ,2000, by Tamiko Thiel and Zara Houshmand, interactive reality installation (image at left)
Bernie Rauch : Is this interactive? Wow… this is the way people will visit museums someday. Really lazy people. How far can you go in?
Anna Conti : If you find the right door, you can go all the way back to Japan, but then you can’t get home again.
Bernie Rauch : This is amazing…

We went upstairs and left Bernie, to Thiel’s virtual reality. There are three exhibits upstairs right now. Tales from the Kiln: Contemporary Ceramics (image at right), is up until next July.

Inside Out: Selections from the Permanent Collection is also up until July.

It includes “Abode Sanctuary for the Familia,” 1994 bottles, by Mildred Howard, wood, frogstone pebbles, images at left and right.

Sandow Birk’s Divine Comedy is the third gallery on the second floor. It’s a great show, and I’m going back next week to see it again, so I’ll write more about it then. It’s only up through January 8th. From teh SJMA page:

This exhibition features Sandow Birk’s most recent series of prints and paintings, which are based on his contemporary re-translation of Dante Alighieri’s 14th century epic poem The Divine Comedy—a classic work of Western literature that invites readers to tour the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso with Dante as their guide. However, Birk’s reinterpretation of the tale, which he undertook with journalist Marcus Sanders, is more than a straightforward rendering. In Birk’s Divine Comedy, police helicopters descend upon the streets of Los Angeles, gas guzzling SUV’s overtake the streets of San Francisco, and fast food emblems and corporate logos dominate the American landscape. In over 70 prints and paintings, Sandow Birk crafts an imaginary American narrative that is humorous, yet brimming with political relevance.

After we collected Bernie, we went over to Original Joes for refuling, then walked back across the Guadalupe River to the CalTrain station and our ride home to San Francisco.

permanent link to this entry

December 21, 2005 (Wednesday) – Delivering a Commissioned Portrait

Yesterday morning I finally finished that portrait I’ve been working on for the last six months. Yesterday evening I delivered it to the client (ragtime musician Virginia Tichenor), at Pier 23, where her husband (Marty Eggers) was playing. Pier 23 is also the scene in Virginia’s portrait. She plays there often and I was attracted to the image of the red wall and black piano next to that window. The musicians hate the window but I liked the way the neon throws colored reflections on everything at night and the way the sun coming through the neon casts broken patches of light on the scene. I’ve shot many photos of that piano over the last few years (incidentally, Pier 23 has Guinness and great seafood) but I was never able to get just the right image. Then one of Virginia’s fans, Lewis Motisher, took the perfect series of photos, and I used them to make this portrait.

I really wanted to get it out of the studio so I could start the new year with a fresh canvas. so I asked Virginia if I could bring it to Marty’s performance. I’m very happy with the way this painting turned out, but it gave me a lot of unexpected problems. I spent months working on the background, especially the red wall – that was honestly the hardest part of the whole thing (you can’t see the layers or color modulations in these photos.) I was pretty sure I’d nailed the likeness – with such strong light on the subject, and it being a profile, that was actually the easiest part. But you never know how the subject will perceive the thousands of little decisions you make when you’re doing a portrait. So I was a little bit nervous about this public unveiling. During a break in the sets, we took it out of the wrapping and set it on a bench in the front dining alcove. It was well-recieved and I thank Hal Krueger for getting some terrific photos of Virginia as she first saw the painting.

Photos (top to bottom, left to right): Virginia sees the painting for the first time (photo by Hal Krueger); Outside Pier 23 last night; Marty Eggers at the piano; Marty’s student, Jared DiBartolomeo, plays during the break; Anna & Virginia with the painting (photo by Hal Krueger.)

permanent link to this entry

December 20, 2005 (Tuesday) – Mark Your Calendars

While San Francisco may have the fewest children per capita of any major U.S. city, 112,802 children under 18 do call San Francisco home. The mayor (SF Department of Children, Youth & Families), and the SF Examiner have planned a Family Appreciation Day on Sunday, Jan. 8th.

If you have kids, you’ll want to visit the museums that day. If you don’t have kids, you’ll probably want to make other plans.

More than 20 museums all over town are opening their doors for FREE to San Francisco families with children. The list of participating attractions is amazing. These museums and tours literally range from A (Asian Art Museum and Academy of Sciences) to Z (Zeum and the Zoo). Families will find participating attractions in every corner of the city (Chinese Alley Walking Tours and Museum of Modern Art and Conservatory of Flowers), and to suit children of all ages (Exploratorium and the new deYoung). The “rules” are very simple:

• Families can visit one, some, or all of the participating attractions from 11 am to 4 pm on Sunday January 8.

• Adults must accompany children ages 0 to 18 years old.

• Adults must show proof they live in San Francisco. Proof can be a driver’s license, state ID, rent receipt, or utility bill showing their name and San Francisco address. Citizenship or green-card status does not matter.

Pick up the Examiner on Friday January 6 for complete event details.

(Image is “Child looking at Faustina the Elder” from the Mt. Holyoke Art Museum website)

permanent link to this entry

December 19, 2005 (Monday) – Local Art Museum Podcasts

On Friday I got an email from Andrew Goodrich at SFMOMA about their podcasts:

SFMOMA has released its new podcast series, called SFMOMA Artcasts. Each monthly installment has two parts: an audio zine filled with a variety of short features related to works on view and a tour for a current exhibition meant to be used in the galleries.

Highlights of the current edition:
·Chuck Close and Kiki Smith each discuss their current retrospectives
·Bruce Conner describes how he made his inkblot drawings
·cellist Joan Jeanrenaud responds to Conner’s work in music
·Peter Sarkisian on what those two nude bodies are doing in the box

Our goals in promoting the podcasts are twofold:
1) Encourage you and your readers to download the latest SFMOMA Artcast
and send us feedback on how this series can be improved and expanded.
2) Generate additional ideas that we can pass along to the staff – how can we expand our online content to supplement the museum’s collection to meet the expectations of internet savvy visitors?

SFMOMA is taking questions from the public, to be answered in upcoming podcasts. Email if you want to submit a question or suggestion. They’re also looking for submissions from the public, of podcasts, or “Artcasts” as they call them, for the first “Artcast Invitational.” Winning entries will be selected by a jury comprised of SFMOMA staffers and a guest artist. Selected podcasts will be featured in monthly SFMOMA Artcast installments beginning in March.

If you have iTunes, it’s easy – just open the Podcast directory and type SFMOMA in the search bar. If you’re using other audio software, go to SFMOMA’s Artcast page.

While listening to the November podcast – mostly a preview and introduction to the series – I kept searching for an image of Doris Salcedo’s work while they were talking about it, but I was unable to find one. I’m familiar with Chuck Close’s work so I could easily imagine the things he was talking about, but still it would have been nice to see a few images.
Great selection of comments from Chuck Close:

Chuck CLose – “A painting is a record of the decisions an artist makes and you can almost see, as if you were looking over the shoulder of the artist, how one color was placed on top of another and how the image was built.”

Chuck CLose – “Everything you see in the first room (where I’m trying to figure out what it is I’m doing) is a product of trying to make something as different as possible from what I had made when I was in graduate school. When you’re in school, you get rewarded for knowing what art looks like. You get rewarded when you make things that look like art. Trouble is, it must look like someone else’s art, or it won’t look like art. And the dilemma I faced, which is the dilemma every painting student faces when he or she gets out of school is, “where am I in this room?” For lack of a good idea… you don’t know what you want to do, but you sure as hell know what you don’t want to do… I just comstructed a series of self-imposed limitations that would guarantee that I would no longer make that work. the work had been big, loose, colorful abstractions. So I decided to get rid of color, which I had depended on. And since my hand made art shapes, I decided to take the photograph, so the shapes had to be the shapes in the photograph and I couldn’t just make de Kooning shapes over and over….”

Generally, I’m pretty happy with this pod-casting debut from SFMOMA, but I think they need to add images. The SFGate did the best job of an art podcast. Kenneth Baker talks about the work in the de Young’s Modern galleries, while images of the galleries and some individual paintings appear. (Image from the SFGate podcast at right.)

The de Young Museum has produced their own series of monthly podcasts. The first was 12/02/05 (8:38 minutes) and focused on the opening of the new museum. Lots of visitor comments. Andy Goldsworthy talks about his site-specific commission. Most of the speakers are unidentified. Again, no images, except the opening panel. More fluff and less meat than the SFMOMA or SFGate productions. Again – easy to find in iTunes, but if you use other audio software, good luck trying to find the podcast on their web site.

MOAD has made one podcast (no idea when the next one is coming) called “Introducing MOAD” – they just opened, and this is a one-of-a-kind museum, so this first podcast (6:53 minutes) is just what the title says – an introduction that takes you on a virtual tour through the museum. They get bonus points for the music, slide show & video. They pack a lot into 7 minutes. Can’t wait to see their next production. (Click on the link under “Introducing MOAD” on their front page. Image from the podcast at left.)

The San Jose Museum of Art has a podcast guide for their current show, “Visual Politics: The Art of Engagement,” but it’s not downloadable. You have to borrow the free iPods on site, to listen while you peruse the galleries. I hate having someone yammer in my ear while I’m looking at art – I’d rather listen to the commentary before or after the visit. I’d recommend that they make the podcasts available on their web site.

This is new stuff, and these are just the initial offerings from these places. It’ll be interesting to see what the coming year brings. I hope more of them use images the way SFGate and MOAD did. Maybe galleries will offer podcasts about the shows or about their artists? Maybe individual artists will start making podcasts as promotional tools? SFMOMA is on to something with their call for entries.

I’m thinking, “I should try this.” I have all the parts (images, audio clips, software). I just need to figure out how to put it all together. How hard could it be? Actually, making it is easy. Getting it from my computer to yours seems to be the tricky part… I’m working on it, and I hope I have something to show you in a week or so.

Addendum: I just discovered the KQED Gallery Crawl – a monthly video podcast of SF Bay Area art galleries. There are four episodes available so far (none on iTunes for December, yet) each one focusing on a single venue. The November was the “Revenge of the Monster” show at Creativity Explored. October was the Will Wilson show at John Pence Gallery, August was “Social Insecurity” at the Catherine Clark Gallery.

These are really well done, with music, slides with voice-over, and video. They’re available on their web site, as well as iTunes.
permanent link to this entry

December 14, 2005 (Thursday) – About Curators
Last week when I was at the Legion of Honor, the sale table in the gift shop was piled high with steeply discounted books. I scored a real deal on a little paperback called “Words of Wisdom: A Curator’s Vade Mecum on Contemporary Art”. It’s a collection of very short essays by more than 60 art curators from around the world. They talk about what they do, why they do it, and what’s important about it. Here’s a bit of the publisher’s blurb:

A modern update of medieval trade manuals—the ‘come-along-with-me’ (vade mecum) of medieval craftsmen—Words of Wisdom: A Curator’s Vade Mecum on Contemporary Art is an invaluable guidebook for anyone interested in contemporary art and the practice of curating. In short and concise essays, this compendium presents advice to a new generation of curators from established masters of contemporary art exhibitions who, over the past twenty-five years, have played a crucial role in shaping what we see today, and how we see it. While providing an intimate look at the minds of these master curators, Words of Wisdom also establishes the curator’s craft as an important vocation that has changed tremendously over the past quarter-century. In the course of their musings, the curators offer behind-the-scenes insights into influential exhibitions and institutions and the contemporary art world they represent.

FORMAT: Paperback, 5 x 8.5 in. / 144 pgs / 100 b&w
ISBN: 0916365603; RELEASE: 2001

As an artist, I found it fascinating to get a look the kind of thinking that goes on at the other side of the gallery/museum walls. Just a quick, more-or-less-at-random google search of some of the contributing curators turned up these gems:

Rosa Martinez – Spanish-born, New York-based independent curator – her chapter from the book

Carlos Basualdo – born in Argentina, recently hired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art – the Philly Inq article

Robert Fleck – Austrian curator posts a manifesto advising, “It has now become absolutely impossible, in moral terms, for any artist, galerist, museum curator or collector, to exhibit any longer in Austria, or to cooperate with any Austrian institution.”

Thelma Golden – Interview with Gothamist – A born and bred New Yorker, Golden is the Chief Curator at The Studio Museum in Harlem.

Olu Oguibe – BOMB interview with this Nigerian artist, writer, theorist and curator

Marcia Tucker – what does a curator’s private web site look like?

Barbara Vanderlinden – born in Belgium, chosen to co-curate the 2004 Taipei Biennial – an article about her co-curator (Amy Cheng) boycotting the exhibition, which was titled, “Do You Believe in Reality?”

permanent link to this entry

December 14, 2005 (Wednesday) – Generations
My father is in a hospital in Schenectady, NY; maybe having heart surgery today (I’m still waiting to hear from my brother.) It got me to thinking about family, etc…

I have two nieces and five nephews, from 14 to 30 years old, and all but one of them have gone into the arts. And not because of anything I’ve done – I only see them about once a year, or less. Of the fourteen adults in the parent/step-parent/aunt/uncle generation for these kids, only two of us work in the arts. Of the previous generation (ten grandparents) there’s only one.

Is this typical for the U.S. population? Certainly the numbers reflect the post-war baby boom and the subsequent falling birth rate. But is there really such a huge increase in people making a living as “creatives”?

Anecdotal evidence, based on kids I see and work with around here, has made me very pessimistic about the future of the arts. It seems like the majority of young people I’ve encountered in the last ten years lack three necessary attributes for the creative life: focus, contemplation, and original thought. Now I’m sounding like an old fogey, so I’ll just leave it at that and get back to painting.
permanent link to this entry

December 13, 2005 (Tuesday) – More Updates

I’m locking myself in the studio this week (and maybe next week.) The focus is more on painting and less on looking. It’s a non-verbal process so it’s hard to come up with things to say about it. We’ll see…. something will probably come to me. Meanwhile, I have a couple of items for you:

Yesterday’s SF Chronicle had a great story about one of the hidden gems of San Francisco, the Performing Arts Library & Museum. Plans are under way for a major change, and a bigger public profile, including a name change and new building.

Reader Roger Parodi had a comment about the Dec. 9th post:
“Your note about the Legion of Honor has a Fra Angelico painting as a one illustration of what’s in the collection. Please note that this painting is not currently on view but is in the Fra Angelico show at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC. Thought you’d like to know should anyone ask.”

permanent link to this entry

December 12, 2005 (Monday) – Music and Painting Update
Many thanks to Heather Robinson, Josh Feldman, Gregg Chadwick, Pamela Heyda, and Jennifer McMackon for their excellent additions to the art song list. I also added links to the musicians. The new songs are:

Pablo Picasso by Jonathan Richman – I Must Be King – The Best of Jonathan Richman
Artists Only by the Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings and Food
Flash of Green by Ben Graves – Memphis
Blue by Joni Mitchell – Blue
A Case Of You by Joni Mitchell – Miles of Aisles
Painter’s Song by Norah Jones – Come Away With Me
Keep Your Day Job by the Grateful Dead – Dick’s Picks, Vol 6
Mr. Jones by Counting Crows – August and Everything After
Joe the Lion by David Bowie – Heroes

Commentary (from contributors) about the songs:

There’s the classic “Pablo Picasso”, written by Jonathan Richman and made famous by the Burning Sensations who recorded it for Repo Man. You can find his version and a few other covers (including david bowie!), but not the burning sensations version, at the itunes store.

Originally from the Bay Area- Counting Crow’s “Mr Jones” (“Grey is my favorite color…If I knew Picasso I would buy myself a grey guitar and play.”) from the album “August and Everything After.” I used to drive around SF in my old car playing a demo tape from a band called the Himalayans- we knew the drummer. One day I found myself in a record store on Market Street singing along to a song playing over the store’s sound system. I sang along till I realized that it was the Himalayans now known as Counting Crows.

David Bowie’s “Joe the Lion” from “Heroes” is written about performance artist -Chris Burden. (One of my art school friends at UCLA got arrested for pointing a bbgun gun at Chris during an in class performance. That was years ago. Was not surprised to see a similar action happen years later. Well covered in the art blogs.)

For the complete, updated art song list (now on its own page), click HERE.

And for a related post, about musicians who paint, check out Yuppie Punk (via Zeke’s) for names, and examples of painting by David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Paul McCartney, John Mellencamp, Chris Mars, Jon Langford, David Byrne, Marilyn Manson, Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan, Mickey Dolenz, Robbie Krieger, Tony Bennett, Robert Smith, Jon Anderson, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Ron Wood, Eric Burdon, John Entwistle, Ron Asheton, Janis Joplin, and Grace Slick.

To that list, I would add: Joni Mitchell, Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet), Patti Smith, Jonathan Richman, Phil Deal and Mikey Welsh. (And Robert Crumb?)

permanent link to this entry

December 9, 2005 (Friday) – Art theories, etc

This is a good time to visit the Legion of Honor – I was there yesterday morning, and the place was deserted. I was literally the only person in the 14th – 17th century galleries. This is when you can quietly commune with your favorite paintings. Downstairs, they were setting up the photo show, “After the Ruins, 1906 and 2006: Rephotographing the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire,” which opens next week.

Elsewhere, Todd Gibson pointed to a pair of art-making philosophies as explained by collector Erik Schneider. He compares artists to mathematicians and physicists, with either left-brain calculations or right-brain “13 dimensions” strategies for making art. He feels that the former have dominated the art world for some time, but that the latter are part of a “tidal wave that is coming.” Interesting theory, and I may not have summed it up accurately, so read the whole thing HERE.

A few people responded to my art songs list (below), with good suggestions of their own – I’ll update the list on Monday, so if you have a favorite art song I haven’t included, send it along before Sunday.

Images are from the thinker website:
left: Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Dutch, 1606 – 1669) Joris de Caulerii, 1632
right: Fra Angelico (Italian, 1400 – 1455) The Meeting of St. Francis and St. Dominic, circa 1430

permanent link to this entry

December 8, 2005 (Thursday) – Art songs, art music, music for artists

I’ve been collecting what I called “Art Songs” for a few years, so imagine my surprise to discover that the term “Art Songs” applies to a distinctive musical form, from Northern Europe, as defined on :

“Art songs are songs created for performance in their own right, or for the purposes of a European upper class, usually with piano accompaniment, although they can also have other types of accompaniment such as an orchestra or string quartet, and are always notated. Generally they have an identified author(s) and require voice training for acceptable performances. … Of the romantic music era, the art song is considered one of the most distinctive music forms developed. The accompaniment of pieces of this period is considered as an important part of the composition. The art song of this period is often a duet in which the vocalist and accompanist share in interpretive importance. The pieces were most often written to be performed in a home setting although today the works enjoy popularity as concert pieces. The emergency of poetry during this era was much of what inspired the creation of these pieces by Brahms, Schumann, Schubert and other period composers. These composers set poems in their native language. Many works were inspired by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Heinrich Heine. An art song with a German text is often referred to as a Lied.”

This is not at all what I was listening to and looking for. Now I need a new term for my kind of music. I don’t know what to call it, but I can define it as: a nod to visual artists, from musicians, acknowledging our common creative processes, lifestyles, and ways of looking at the world.

With a few exceptions, my collection is mostly rock, pop, folk, & blues (vocal) songs. Including instrumental music would have overwhelmed the list with pieces that (except for the titles) seemed to have little to do with visual art. I realize that some of you may think that description also applies to some of these songs, and you may be right. But it’s my list, and while I’m starting to regret Kenny Rogers’ “If I Were a Painting,” you won’t be able to talk me out of Billie Holiday’s “I’m Painting the Town Red.” (Some of these tracks are available on my iTunes page, HERE.)

I’m Painting the Town Red by Billie Holiday – The Incomparable
Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones – Forty Licks
Paintings In Yellow by Sandra – Paintings In Yellow
Yellow and Blue (Wasted On You) by Shawn Alexis – Yellow and Blue
Painting the World Blue by Marcia Guderian – Mansion On Mars
Pale Purple by Ani Difranco – Ani DiFranco
Grey by Ani Difranco – Revelling/Reckoning
Shades of Brown by James Brown – Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud
Charcoals and Grays by All One Surface – Such Is the Way to the Stars

Art Is Hard by Cursive – The Ugly Organ
Inside Your Painting by Patty Larkin – Red=Luck
Painting by Numbers by James McMurtry – Too Long in the Wasteland
Painting Outside the Lines by Dan Neal – When the Big Picture Fades
Painting Mailboxes by Mitzi Cowell – 33
Roadside Art by David Wilcox – East Asheville Hardware
Drawing On the Sidewalk by Brady Rymer – I FOUND IT!
Graffiti Limbo by Michelle Shocked – Short Sharp Shocked
Sad Pencil Blues by Big Bill Broonzy – 1937-1940 Part 2: Chicago 1937, 1938
My Pencil Won’t Write No More by Muddy Waters – One More Mile – Chess Collectibles, Vol. 1
Sketchings on a bar room napkin by Lullaby for the Working Class – Song
Empty Canvas by Cary Aria – Obsexed
When I Paint My Masterpiece by Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits
Orange Crate Art by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks – Orange Crate Art
(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures by The Revillos – Totally Alive in London
Procrastination by Madelyn Lavender – Memory Tree

Fine Artiste by R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders – R. Crumb’s Music Sampler
Paul Gauguin In the South Seas by Jimmy Webb – Twilight of the Renegade
Hopper Painting by Janis Ian – Janis Ian
Edward Hopper Land by Pop’s Basement – Pop’s Basement
Vincent by Don McLean – American Pie
Vincent Van Gogh by Jonathan Richman – Not So Much to Be Loved As to Love
Picasso’s Last Words by Denny Laine – Choice Rock Cuts
The Monsters of Goya by Deadman – In the Heart of Mankind
Salvador Dali Day by Don McIntyre – Love Goes On (but the Gloves Come Off)
Music for Marcel Duchamp by Markus Hinterhauser – Cage: Works for Prepared Piano
Escher by Teenage Fanclub – Thirteen
Frida K’s Fault by JohNNy SiZZle – JohNNy SiZZle
Jackson Pollack Is Dead by Driftless Pony Club – Janel
Andy Warhol by David Bowie – Bowie at the Beeb – The Best of the BBC Radio Sessions 68-72
Bob Ross the Art of Painting by Transformer Di Roboter – Blacklabel Records Compilation
Mona Lisa by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Alone in IZ World
You and the Mona Lisa by Shawn Colvin – A Few Small Repairs
A Mural from Two Perspectives (Whitney Museum) by Duke Ellington – Live at the Whitney

Art Class (Song for Yayoi Kusama) by Superchunk – Here’s to Shutting Up
Pictures in an Exhibition by Death Cab For Cutie – Something About Airplanes
Gallery Opening by Bas One – For the Mentally Astute: Theory of a Throw Up
In the Gallery by Dire Straits – Dire Straits
Hanging in the Gallery by The Strawbs – The Very Best of Strawbs – Halcyon Days
Museum by Donovan – Troubadour, The Definitive Collection
I Live for Art by Mark Gould and Pink Baby Monster – Mark Gould and Pink Baby Monster
Pictures and Painting by Jenna Mammina – Under the Influence
Must I Paint a Picture? by Billy Bragg – Must I Paint You a Picture?: The Essential Billy Bragg
If I Were a Painting by Kenny Rogers – Love Is Strange
The Lady Painting by Raz – The Other Side
Painting Pictures of Egypt by Sara Groves – Conversations
A Painter Passing Through by Gordon Lightfoot – A Painter Passing Through
Painter & the Poet by david m. bailey – LIFE
Portrait by Rosanne Cash – Interiors
Subterranean Lovesick Painter by Moes Haven – Svetlana Finds Solace In the Arms of English Men of Letters
The Painter by Neil Young – The Painter – Single
Be My Yoko Ono by Barenaked Ladies – Gordon
Tattoo by The Who – The Who Sell Out
(You Dyed Your Hair) Chartreuse by Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five – Five Guys Named Moe
Psychedelic Lunatic by Madelyn Lavender – Memory Tree

Did I miss anything? Let me know where I can hear it, and I’ll consider adding it to the list.

permanent link to this entry

December 7, 2005 (Wednesday) – Odds & Ends

“Art, especially live performing art, is one of the essential ways we have to keep tapping into ourselves and the human spirit and keep moving forward.”

-Pamela Rosenberg (who is leaving her her five-year tenure as general director of the San Francisco Opera) in an interview with Steven Winn.

– – –

Danny Gregory wrote a beautiful piece about a couple of self-employed artists, Rick and Brenda Beerhorst, who live the artist’s life, in the best sense of the term. When asked how he manages (with six kids !) Rick said: “The pattern of our lives seems to be we are frequently hanging from that little branch on the edge of a cliff and rescued just before our grip gives out. Living like this is a pain in the ass but it keeps us awake, attentive and appreciative. ”
(Image is Rick Beerhorst’s “Self Portrait with Palette” from his website, “Sprouting Visions”)
– – –

Robert Genn has a valuable story about Chinese image pirates, who are selling the work of more than 2800 artists – if you’re an artist, check this site out to see if you’re one of the “represented artists.”

– – –

David Byrne wrote about how the security guards are part of the art viewing experience (scroll down to November 30th): “The presence of these uniformed bodies slowly gliding here and there cannot be separated from the experience of the shows. I would go so far as to say their presence is a big part of these shows, like it or not. Not a part of the shows anticipated by the artists, I suspect, but in some ways more powerful and resonant than the work on display. Whoops.”

permanent link to this entry

December 6, 2005 (Tuesday) – Odd Nerdrum, Perverse Humanist

“While we cannot bear to be fully conscious of the disappointments and tragedies, the injuries to our narcissism which reality causes us to suffer, they are revealed to us by the artist. His sensitivity reflects experiences of which we have only been dimly aware, and he makes us face them. In our time, he shows us not only the images of a machine-dominated world which pervades our existence and confronts us with unimaginable dangers, but above all the world’s rejection of our humanity – our impotence and sense of futility in a world which happens without us and takes no notice of our judgments and aspirations. He shows us just how dispensable we have become.”
George Frankl, Civilisation: Utopia and Tragedy

Looking at Odd Nerdrum’s recent paintings, one is tempted to say that he is a special sort of contradiction: an existential humanist and morbid pervert in one. That is, his art affirms the constancy of humanity in an inhuman world – in Frankl’s words, lithe human self-image” in “a world in which the human being had disappeared” – but it does so in a way that reflects the perverse effect of the world’s indifference on the human self-image.

…from Donald Kuspit’s The Rebirth of Painting in the Late Twentieth Century, published by Cambridge in 2000, ISBN 0-521-66553-1

(image from web site: Odd Nerdrum, Recent Works, is “Limbo”, 2005)

permanent link to this entry

December 5, 2005 (Monday) – Road (and water) Trip

I took the train to Santa Cruz this weekend, and took a boat back to San Francisco (sort of… there was automobile assist in both directions.) Didn’t see much “Art” as it’s usually defined around here, but kept my eyes open and took a lot of pictures, and I’ll share a few of them.

On the way down there we got stuck in the San Jose train station for way too long, waiting for the bus to Santa Cruz. Had plenty of time to stare at this mural on the wall above the ticket counters. It’s not bad, in terms of technique, and composition… I have no idea who the artist was, but the I found the subject matter very puzzling. A wedding party, in an ox cart, being pulled through deep mud (apparently over some mountain pass, because the background shows a valley stretching out below) while explorer-types on horseback survey the scene below and Indian-slave-types tend to the oxen.

This building originally belonged to Southern Pacific, so I assume they commissioned the painting. Did they intend for this image to glorify their trains? Frankly I thought the comparison with the ox cart was apt.

Saturday evening in Santa Cruz they held the Lighted Boat Parade. This was my favorite entry, seen from the Crow’s Nest Restaurant. If this boat was a painting, I’d say it was too busy, but in this context, it was just right.

Then it was on to the Catalyst to hear Robert Earl Keen – great music; the venue sucked. No pictures.

Next day, got on a boat in the bay and headed north. Saw Mark di Suvero’s 60 ft. sculpture, “Sea Change” from a different angle. (I usually see it from the N-Judah) It’s installed in South Beach Park, along the Embarcadero, near the ball park. This work was commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission for the Waterfront Transportation Project in 1995.

Later, over in the Oakland shipping channel, near Jack London Square, I was trying to get photos of the big cranes for a painting project, when I saw one of those huge container ships entering the channel. “Well, this is going to be interesting,” I thought – the waterway is not real wide there. At first we thought it might be coming to one of the cranes near the square, but then it was pointed out to me that the ship was riding so high out of the water that it was already unloaded. It moved part-way up the channel, stalled, and then unbelievably, started to turn around.

Actually it was maneuvered around by two tugs, one pushing at the bow and one pulling at the stern. When it was cross-wise in the channel, it completely blocked the waterway.

I was stunned at how close it came to the structures on both banks. All traffic in the channel stopped until the ship was facing back out to the bay.

We slipped past and headed over to the city, just in time to see one of those classic sunsets under the fog.

permanent link to this entry

December 2, 2005 (Thursday) – de Young Textiles gallery
The textile gallery at the de Young was a revelation to me. The room is filled with masterworks from around the world, and while they’re all impressive, the pieces made by the hunter-gatherers are so intricately made, and so beautiful, that they truly embody the concept of “priceless.” It puts a final nail in the coffin of the myth that industrialization supports a class of artisans who can make work to surpass previous cultures. It’s very dark in that gallery, so photos are nearly impossible. I tried… the one at left is a “Man’s Mantel” from the Ivory coast, dated 1900-1950, made of raffia woven cloth with oblique interlacing, and stitch-resist dyeing. Even if you were unaware of how difficult it would be to make these designs using that process, it’s still an incredible visual art piece. Nearby were a couple of delicate grass “skirts” (only about 12 inches long, so I guess we’re talking mini-skirts) that were tie-dyed to look like animal pelts. There was a muti-layered, felted, quilted chief’s costume that must have taken hundreds of thousands of hours to make – it was impressively scary, even without the chief inside. There was the monkey skull crown adorned with boars’ tusks and painted black – it would look right at home at Burning Man. As I moved through the gallery, I kept thinking this was the most amazing thing I’d seen – and then I’d see something even more impressive. Good thing they have benches in there.
permanent link to this entry

December 1, 2005 (Thursday) – de Young Modern & Contemporary
Just to the right of the Ed Ruscha triptych is an electronic installation piece by local artist Rebeca Bollinger. Somehow I walked right past it on my way into the modern & contemporary galleries, but it’s straight in front of you on the way out.

Called, “The Collection (descending)”, it’s a wall projection digital animation loop, 24 minutes long, of one hundred thousand works from the permanent collection.

Dozens of images are lined up on the wall and they scroll downward like a giant microfilm reader. Mounted on a wall near the projection is tiny monitor showing the same images, one at a time, in a rapid slide show. One of those odd-shaped benches that they have all over the museum is placed at just the right spot for seeing both of these pieces. (Image at right is the view from the bench.)

Inside the modern & contemporary galleries are all my old favorites, plus some new surprises. I was glad to see they had one of Agnes Pelton’s paintings up (“Challenge”, 1940, oil on canvas, image at left) and there was a wonderful John Langley Howard painting I’d never seen before (“Embarcadero & Clay”, 1935, oil on canvas, image at end of this entry.) Howard was a Bay Area social realist, who contributed to the Coit Tower murals.

Generally speaking, I like the way the work has been curated and installed in these rooms. My only real complaint is the big Mark Di Suvero sculpture in a too-small room, or maybe it’s just that they roped off such a big area around it that you can only walk the perimeter of the room. Which would be fine if the paintings in that room were small, but I kept wanting to get back away from a large painting of the Watts riots, and couldn’t. The situation forces the viewer to stand either a few feet in front of the painting, or on the other side of the sculpture. (Image at right.)

My favorite new piece, in the contemporary gallery, was Berkeley artist Mildred Howard’s “Switchin’ in the Kitchen” (2001, Cast Plaster, 78rpm records, images at left, and below.)

It was a row of mounted plaster casts of her hands holding “race records” from the 1920s and 1930s. “White” hands, black records… an abundance of emotion, history, symbolism and allegory in these simple elements. It worked on a purely visual level, too. Be sure to check out the spectacular shadows under each hand (can’t see the shadows in these photos – sorry.)

Below – John Langley Howard’s painting, “Embarcadero & Clay”, 1935:

permanent link to this entry

Previous entries:
November 30, 2005 (Wednesday) – A Particular Kind of Heaven
November 29, 2005 (Tuesday) – SF Artists take note
November 28, 2005 (Monday) – just thinking….
November 24, 2005 (Thursday) – feast day paintings
November 23, 2005 (Wednesday) – Ruth Asawa sculptures at de Young
November 22, 2005 (Tuesday) – de Young Sculpture Gardens
November 21, 2005 (Monday) – More about new de Young director
November 18, 2005 (Friday) – de Young News; more about Nursing & Art
November 16, 2005 (Wednesday) – Hawkesworth on Painting
November 15, 2005 (Tuesday) – Odds & Ends
November 14, 2005 (Monday) – Chemistry, Nursing, and Art
November 10, 2005 (Thursday) – Interview with collector, Amanda Janes
November 9, 2005 (Wednesday) – Jennifer Ewing at Cafe Ajatea
November 8, 2005 (Tuesday extra) – Jed Perl in town
November 8, 2005 (Tuesday) – Shooting Gallery
November 4, 2005 (Friday) – The Story of A Painting
November 3, 2005 (Thursday) – The Postcard Sells
November 2, 2005 (Wednesday) – The Inspired Heart
November 1, 2005 (Tuesday) – Interview with artist Laura Ball