Category: Blog

Greatest Drawing Ever Made

Guy Diehl kindly sent me a copy of Lawrence Weschler’s recent article about David Hockney. It appeared in the June issue of Harper’s magazine, and was titled “Vanishing Point, David Hockney’s Long and Winding Road.” He covered the whole projection controversy, of course. But Hockney has moved on. Most people missed his point anyway, which is that “pictures influence pictures.” Or, seeing images with a particular perspective influences the viewer’s perception of future images. Anyway, he’s back to painting and sketching from life.

Hockney paused for a moment, his eye drifting about the studio. “Take that picture over there.” Hockney pointed at a blowup of figure 1466 from the Benesch edition of collected Rembrandt drawings. (He had similar blowups of the same image pinned to walls all around the house.) “The Single Greatest Drawing Ever Made,” he declared flatly. “I defy you to show me a better one.”

A family grouping: mother and older sister holding up a toddler boy child as he struggles to walk, tottering toward his outstretched crouching father, a milkmaid ambling by in the background, balancing a brimming bucket.

Drawing is an ability to produce images on floors or surface with paper and pencil. It is just a rendition of objects in the visible world. Drawing is an end product of a continuous effort made by the creators. Likewise, Trading is an art of getting profits after facing any losses. The traders should not come down once they fail to get profit. Business will have both the profits and losses. Crypto CFD Trader is a software based on auto pilot system which will do the work on behalf of the traders. It has many special features in it. The speed matters a lot in Crypto CFD Trader. The internet connection should be very stale and fast to know the trends about the trading markets.

“Look at the speed, the way he wields that reed pen, drawing very fast, with gestures that are masterly, virtuoso, calling attention not to themselves but rather to the very tender subject at hand, a family teaching its youngest member to walk. Look, for instance at those whisking marks on the head and shoulders of the girl in the center, the older sister, probably made with the other side of the pen, which let you know that she is craning, turning anxiously to look at the baby’s face to make sure he’s okay. Or how the mother, on the other side, holds him up in a slightly different, more experienced manner. the astonishing double profile of her face, to either side of the mark. the evident roughness of the material of her dress: how this is decidedly not satin. The face of the baby: how even though you can’t see it, you can tell he is beaming. this mountain of figures, and then, to balance it all, the passing milkmaid, how you can feel the weight of the bucket she carries in the extension of her opposite arm. Look at the speed, the sheer mastery.”

(Quotes from June ’05 issue of Harper’s Magazine, article by Lawrence Weschler
Images by Rembrandt van Rijn, from British Museum)

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June 29, 2005 (Wednesday) – Art at the hospital

I had to spend some time at SF General Hospital yesterday and I amused myself by checking out the art. There’s a surprising amount of high quality original art on the walls and on the grounds. These two paintings are hanging, side by side, in the adult outpatient waiting room. They’re covered with hideous (although undoubtedly necessary) plexi-glass boxes, so it was nearly impossible to get good photos of them.

Both paintings were gifts to the hospital from Dr. Leo Eloesser (1881-1976), a pioneer of thoracic and orthopaedic surgery and lifelong friend to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. He was responsible for getting them back together again after one of their breakups, by convincing them both that it was necessary for Frida’s health.

Frida Kahlo’s portrait of the doctor (at left) was given to him after he treated her in 1930, for leg problems she developed during a trip to San Francisco (it was only 5 years after her life-altering bus accident.) The model sailboat in the background is a reference to the yacht he sailed on San Francisco Bay.

The Rivera painting (at right) is a classic motif for him, but I wasn’t able to find any more information about this particular painting.

In the low-grade chaos of a county hospital waiting room, I was cheered and transported by these works of art. I stood for a long time, in the dim fluorescent light, with my nose just inches from the plexi, trying to read the signatures. I knew who made these paintings when I first set eyes on them here several years ago. But it never fails to give me a thrill when I see the signature of the artist. It’s like a momentary glimpse of the fourth dimension. When I finally stepped back and started fishing in my bag for my camera, a few other people came up to the paintings, I guess to see what I’d been staring at so intently. Art in public places… it’s good.

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June 28, 2005 (Tuesday) – Summer Plans

If I seem distracted lately, not really paying as much attention to this space… well, I am. Distracted, that is. It’s just temporary. I have some great ideas for this blog, but nothing much is going to happen until after I finish a few other projects. Here’s a rundown of the events I’m participating in (if you’re in SF, come on by):

“City Streets” show at Studio Gallery, 1718A Polk Street (between Clay & Washington), up now through July 17th. It’s a group show of 11 artists; I have 6 pieces on the back wall.

Artist’s talk at Studio Gallery, “Another Way to Look at the City”, Sunday, July 10, 2005, 3:00pm – 4:00pm Studio Gallery, 1718A Polk Street, SF

Artist’s talk at the library, “A Painter’s Use of Color”, Wednesday, July, 20, 2005, 7:00pm – 8:30pm, SF Public Library, Parkside Branch, 1200 Taraval Street (at 22nd Ave.)

“Cityscapes” show at Newmark Gallery, 251 Post, Suite 412 (Between Stockton and Grant), opens Tuesday August 2nd, reception Saturday August 13th; up through end of September. It’s a group show of 2 painters and 2 artists who work on paper; I’ll have 10 paintings there, most of them brand new (as in, I’m still finishing them.)

Artists slide show and lecture at Four Seasons, “Two San Francisco Painters, Larry Morace and Anna Conti discuss their work”, Thursday, September 1st, 2005, 7:00pm – 8:30pm, Four Seasons, 757 Market Street.

So, I’ll be busy here all summer, but if you’re still looking for someplace to go and something to do, a friend of mine is leading a “Travel Atlas Workshop” to Coatepec, Mexico in August. This travelers’ workshop is for writers, photographers, and visual artists interested in combining image making with writing, found text, and local iconography. Marianne Rogoff has been teaching writing and literature at California College of the Arts since 1994, where students are always experimenting with the boundaries and connections among the visual and writing arts. It sounds like a pretty cool trip. From Marianne’s email:

“Coatepec has preserved much of its historic character and in 1995 was added to Mexico’s architectural historic preservation zone. Broad avenues, cobbled stone side streets, high tiled roofs, soaring portals framed by carved lintels and columns, legendary bridges, ornate wrought-iron balustrades, and interior gardens given to orchid cultivation grace this quiet town in the lush highlands of Veracruz State. Doña Marisa Moolick Gutierrez has invited the group to visit her home, the Hacienda de Pacho. Pacho is one of the oldest agricultural estates in the region, having begun as a sugar plantation in the 1590s and shifting to coffee production in the 19th century. The Gutierrez family has owned and run the estate since the 1840s. Marisa will lead us to an abandoned hacienda, Hacienda Almolonga, which figured prominently in the region’s lively social life in the late 19th century. Other local sites of interest include the village of Xico, a quiet town renowned for its mole xiqueño, a slightly sweeter version of mole poblano, and the nearby pristine waterfalls at Texolo. ”

Email Marianne for more info.

Speaking of traveling artists… these two artist-bloggers have taken off for the summer and it’s been great fun to follow their day-by-day stories:

Carolyn Zick at DangerousChunkyNotebook has left Seattle for Cullowhee, North Carolina to teach art to MFAs, but she’s keeping up on all of us, too. Scroll down to read about her adventures in wig stores, southern cooking, and drive-through liquor stores.

Alanna Spence at AngryPirate left San Francisco to make and see art in England and France. Today she’s visted Jim Morrison’s grave and the Musee d’Orsay.

(Image is an older painting of mine, “Shadow” – it’s the old de Young Museum, with earthquake buttress.)

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June 27, 2005 (Monday) -down the line of influence

“The blank concrete walls and steel constructions of modern industry, midsummer streets with the acid green of close-cut lawns, the dusty Fords and gilded movies – all the sweltering, tawdry life of the American small town, and behind all, the sad desolation of our suburban landscape. He derives daily stimulus from these, that others flee from or pass with indifference.”

Edward Hopper wrote the preceding words about Charles Burchfield, but he might just as well have been writing about himself…

by Mark Strand, From “Poets on Painters”, ISBN 0-520-06971-4

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June 24, 2005 (Friday) -Radio interview with sculptor, Bruce Beasley
Bruce BeasleyYesterday I heard a great interview with sculptor Bruce Beasley on our local independent radio station, KALW. Beasley has a retrospective show at the Oakland Museum of California now, through July 31st. Alan Farley conducted the interview. Here are a few excerpts:

BB: I went to high school in Los Angeles and I took metal shop and wood shop and all that. I took those classes, but also took college (prep) classes, which kind of confused the college counselors, so I got tunneled off to college with the idea of going into rocket engineering. I quickly realized that engineers sat in cubicles with slide rules and made things on paper, but I wanted to make things with my hands. I took one drawing class and… I don’t know what possessed me but I asked the professor if I could make three dimensional models instead of drawings for the final exam. He let me do it and I discovered that I could make things with my hands from my imagination, that were new shapes, that somehow said something emotionally, and it was just exhilarating to me. I said, “This is it,” and I’ve never looked back.

AF: So what did you do then?

BB: Well, I looked around the country and in 1959 there were only two degree-giving colleges that had more than one sculptor on the faculty. A degree-giving institution was a requirement for continued family support. One of those was UC Berkeley and I very happily transferred there in 1960.

Beasley graduated with a BFA, but declined to pursue further academics because he wanted to dive right into making art. His first show was successful enough to keep him going until the next one, and he says, “It’s continued that way for 45 years.”

BB: Every year supported the next year, but I’ve always been prepared to support myself in other ways. I never looked at sculpting as a good business opportunity. It’s a wonderful spiritual opportunity, it’s a wonderful life… I love being a sculptor, and I’m grateful it’s supported me, but I never expected it to.

Allen Farley asked Beasley about his studio in West Oakland, and Beasley described his first impression of the abandoned two-story brick building as “the perfect building in the most run-down part of town.” He decided that was preferable to a less desirable building in the “right” part of town, so he bought the building and worked to improve the neighborhood.

AF: Well, what were those first pieces that you made?

BB: They were welded sewer pipes. I was in a junkyard in West Oakland, looking for a piece of steel to build a table. I saw this pile of broken iron shapes. I didn’t realize that there was any iron that would break. The contrast of the broken edges, in dialog with the cast forms, I found fascinating. They were just a pile of shapes. I bought a pickup truck full of those for a penny a pound, and it was like discovering a vocabulary. And then the issue became, could I tell a story with that vocabulary.

Beasley continued to describe his search for a “richer” vocabulary in various materials…

AF: I was most fascinated by your work in acrylic – you’re a pioneer in that medium.

BB: I actually invented the process for the massive casting of acrylic. At one point, I was literally having dreams about transparent sculptures. I was fascinated by what would happen if the eye didn’t stop at the surface, but was drawn into and through the sculpture, so that the eye was actually teased a bit about where it would stop. I quickly found out that glass wasn’t practical at that scale. And people kept telling me that the only material that was that transparent was acrylic, but you couldn’t cast acrylic more than 3 inches thick. I started making some models on the 3 inches thick size. The state had a competition for a big piece of sculpture for Sacramento… I entered and won with one of the smaller models I’d made, telling them of course, that there was no problem with enlarging it. When I got the contract, I went back to the manufacturers of acrylic, explained to them that I now had a contract and needed some help with making it 15 feet high, 13,000 lbs, and 4 feet thick. They said, “You can’t do it.” I said, well I’ll just have to figure out a way, so I convinced them to give me a generous supply of the materials to experiment with, and I just started doing basic research. I finally put a view-port in the autoclave (where the acrylic is cured) not knowing what I would learn, but knowing that I learn visually. With a lot of observation, I was finally able to see the exact moment when the cracks and bubbles appeared… once I observed it, I immediately understood a completely new way to cast it.

Beasley’s technology breakthrough made possible the creation of an all-transparent bathysphere in 1976 for underwater exploration and the large clear walls in today’s aquariums (there’s good info about these on Beasley’s web site.) He continued to work in acrylic for another ten years and then returned to metal. He said sculpture is the “language of shape” and the job of the sculptor is to make “poems of shape.”

(Image above, a photo of Bruce Beasley, is from his web site.)

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June 23, 2005 (Thursday) -Becoming a Painter
I’ve been working with a new student lately and it made me think about what it takes to become a painter. Leaving aside the issue of talent (which may, or may not exist) it boils down to three essential skills:

1. Learn to see like a painter. The average contemporary person, walking down the sidewalk of any major city can identify 20 to 50 colors in their environment. a visually oriented person (someone interested in fashion or design, for example) might be able pick out (and name) 200 to 300 colors. An experienced painter can recognize (and recreate) thousands of colors. Value, tone, line, form… each one has an infinite catalog of variants. Painters become intimately familiar with these variants. They see more. If you can’t see it, you can’t paint it.

2. Learn to use a painter’s tools and materials. Pigments, mediums, binders, grounds, surfaces, brushes, sticks… different tools have different purposes, different gifts and liabilities. Knowing which combination of tools and materials can produce the desired effect, will help you create what you see in your mind’s eye. If you don’t know your tools well enough, that image will stay locked in your head. Worse yet, if your tools are limited, your vision may become limited (you’ve heard of the guy with a hammer, who saw everything as a nail?)

3. Build muscle memory. Learn how to hold a brush so that minute movements of your fingers, wrist, elbow and shoulder create the different visual effects you’re attempting. Then do it over and over and over again, until it’s automatic. Until you just think of the image and it appears on the canvas.

Most people who come to me for instruction want to know all about #2. They think the only thing that’s keeping them from success is some magic trick that I’m hiding from them, and if they keep at me long enough, I’ll finally reveal it. I think the most important thing is learning to see. I tell that to everyone, up front. For free. Hardly anyone listens.
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June 22, 2005 (Wednesday) -Bird of Truth

Just a picture today… I finished this little painting last night (started it last week, but I’ve just been working on it in the cracks of time between other projects.)
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June 21, 2005 (Tuesday) -Painting in the studio
Today is a painting day… as soon as I finish here, I’m turing off the computer and going over to the easel for the rest of the day. Just a few thoughts before I do:

The SF Chronicle started a culture blog yesterday.

Tyler Green curated a show.

Mark Barry wrote an interesting review of Baltimore’s Artscape Festival:

“The theme has great potential and this exhibit makes a fair, however uneven attempt. Where do we fit into this world? What is my place on this planet and how does that shape my individuality? It’s a simple premise which asks for very complex responses. It’s the luck of the draw: where you are born, where you live, and what culture you identify with will have everything to do with your perceptions.”

What would you do if your studio burned and all of your work was a sodden mess?

Happy mid-summer… praise the light!

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June 20, 2005 (Monday) -High school art teachers
Flipping through Robert Crumb’s new book, “The R. Crumb Handbook,” (image at left is detail from back cover) brought back an avalanche of memories from the bad old days in high school. I’d heard before, but forgotten, that Crumb attended Dover High School, in Dover Delaware, a few years ahead of me. We both had Kunkle and Ferranto as art teachers. I had a somewhat higher opinion of them than Crumb did.

Mrs. Kunkle was the Junior High art teacher (her husband taught at Milford High, a few miles south of Dover.) Mrs. Kunkle’s persona was impressive, and I’m sure it’s the reason for my vivid memories of her. First of all, up to that point, I’d never seen or heard of a woman who lived and worked as an artist. Secondly, she looked like Barbara Stanwyck and drove a red Corvette convertible. Believe me, in a backwater like Dover in the early 60s, this was a revelation. But it was her teaching style that was the real shock to my system. She had a fanatical devotion to perfect mathematical proportions. Every time I drew a figure, she’d whip out the calipers, measure the head and then mark off the rest of the body to see if I’d gotten it right. Never mind the fact that I was surrounded by human specimens who were far, far removed from Greek statues. They weren’t worthy of her acknowledgment. I wanted to be worthy, so I applied myself.

By the time I came under Mr. Joseph Ferranto’s tutelage, I was too obsessed with classical perfection. It took him most of the first year to crack that obsession. His mantra was, “Loosen up, Anna, you’ve got to loosen up.” Imagine Michelangelo’s Moses with less hair (and no horns), in a suit and tie. That’s what Mr. Ferranto looked like. He spent the next two years getting me to explore different mediums, encouraging me to see real art in Philadelphia and Washington, and trying to convince me to attend his alma mater, Philadelphia College of Art. He got me into the summer programs for high school students at PCA (and I did get a scholarship to PCA, but didn’t attend art school. That’s another story, for another day.)

Mr. Ferranto’s art class was my refuge from the insanity of my so-called real life at that time. I even talked the administration into assigning me to the art department for home room and study halls. I practically lived there. The worst thing about Dover High School is that it was in Dover, Delaware. Before moving to Delaware, I had lived in both rural and urban areas of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Florida, Texas, California, and Hawaii (before it was a state.) Living in so many different cultures taught me one true thing: there is no one true thing. Also, the more ugly and backward a place is, the more the residents are convinced that their way is the best way. We moved to Delaware in the summer, and the moist, mosquito-choked heat was more oppressive than anything I’d ever experienced at lower latitudes. They still had a whipping post on the Town Green. The guy next door to us had a hobby of trapping rabbits, then torturing them to hear them scream. Public bathrooms were marked, “Men”, “Women”, and “Colored.” Women who wore pants in public were considered “loose.” One Monday morning, when I asked one of the participants of a weekend cross-burning why he did that, he started laughing hysterically and told me that it was a “harmless joke.” As Robert Crumb said about Delaware, it was “socially backward, extremely racist and mean… The locals seemed willfully and aggressively ignorant.”

I kept on moving after I left Delaware, trying out even more versions of the “best way to live,” before settling on San Francisco in 1987. Maybe the best thing about San Francisco (besides the weather, and the light, and the food) is the room for multiple points of view. Sometimes the different communities and juntas in the art world remind me of the many places I’ve lived. Even in the worst of them, you can usually find someone with a higher vision. For me, in 1965, in Dover, Delaware, that person was Joe Ferranto.

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June 17, 2005 (Friday) -calendar triage

OK, I got the new canvas. Now it’s time for calendar triage. For the next four weeks, do not even think about inviting me to any events. I’m talking major, dawn-to-dusk studio time here. I have a few more paintings to finish for an upcoming show (“San Francisco Cityscapes,” August 2nd to Sept 30th, Newmark Gallery.) The reason I’m doing this last minute paint-a-thon is that I’m also in another show (“City Streets,” now through July 17th, Studio Gallery) and everybody seems to want urban scenes right now.

As far as this blogspace is concerned, I’ll be writing more inwardly focused, studio based things for a while. No artist interviews and no exhibit reviews (well, maybe one or two.) It’s a happy coincidence that Tyler Green just visited San Francisco – he checked out some galleries when he was here and has some news about the de Young (next week.)

If any of you working artists out there would like to write about the SF art scene, or pretty much any other art related topic, send me an email. As long as you’re willing to use your real name and contact info, I’ll publish it.

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June 16, 2005 (Thursday) -painting as a life

I just discovered the interview with Marja-Leena Rathje, that was posted on ChandraSutra last month! It’s a great interview, with a photo of MLJ, too. Where have I been, you may ask? In my own little world, as usual. There are so many interesting art & culture blogs out there now that if I tried to read them all, on my dial-up connection, I’d be stuck here at the computer for 2 or 3 hours a day. Can’t have that – there’s too much painting to do. Blogging is just a hobby. Painting is life.

I was thinking about that yesterday while talking to an old friend. He’s wanted to be a chef for as long as I’ve known him (30+ years) and a few years ago he finally quit his corporate job and went to culinary school. Now he’s working as head chef at a place in the Philippines. He works in the kitchen from 9am to 10pm everyday (7 days a week) with “a couple of days off at the end of each month.” Frankly, it sounded like a living hell to me, but you should have seen him when he described sending a dish out to the dining room and peeking through a window from the kitchen to watch the diner’s face when they took the first bite. He loves it.

And today is Plein Aire Day for me…. heading out to the park shortly, to paint some trees and water, and then to the art supply store to get some more canvas. It’s my life, and I love it.

(image is “Couple” – an older painting of mine that sold last year to another chef)

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June 15, 2005 (Wednesday) -Truth

I needed to start another painting. I like to have at least two going at any given time, and the only canvas I had on hand was a few of these little pre-stretched 8″x10″ pieces. I’m getting more canvas on Thursday, but after a whole day of working on a painting of concrete and rain, I needed to switch to something else for few hours, so I dug around in my curiosity cabinet to see if I could find something to illustrate “Truth.” I found some old glass marbles and sparrow-shaped salt dish, made of desert glass. On a white sheet of paper in the morning sun, they throw one of those wonderful, variegated shadows, full of bursts of light. The salt bird represents indestructible spirit, carrying the jewels of insight… everything is transparent.

Thinking about yesterday’s post, where Gombrich pointed out that most people will not understand the artist’s intent (not a surprise to most artists) I wonder again if viewers need to know the artist’s intent… and I still think not.

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June 14, 2005 (Tuesday) -more on intent in painting

This is from “The Essential Gombrich” – a book on my shelves I hadn’t looked at in a while. I was inspired to browse it again after seeing a mention of another Gombrich book on DC Art News.

Many readers will know the painting by Van Gogh of his humble bedroom painted in Aries in 1889 (at left – upper image:”Bedroom at Arles” by Vincent van Gogh, lower image: “The Night Cafe” by Vincent van Gogh.) It happens to be one of the very few works of art where we know the expressive significance the work held for the artist. In Van Gogh’s wonderful correspondence there are three letters dealing with this work that firmly establish the meaning it held for him. Writing to Gauguin in October 1888 he says:

“Still for the decoration [of my house] I have done … my bedroom with its furniture of whitewood which vou know. WelI, it amused me enormously to do that interior with nothing in it, with a simplicity ‘a la Seurat: with flat paint but coarsely put on, the neat pigment, the walls a pale violet … I wanted to express an absolute calm with these very different tones, you see, where there is no white except in the mirror with its black frame”.

A letter to his brother Thea confirms his intention and explains it further:

“My eyes are still strained, but at last I have a new idea in my head. .. This time it is quite simply my bedroom, colour alone must carry it off, by imparting through simplification a grander style to things, it should be suggestive of rest and sleep in general. In other words, the sight of the picture should rest the head, or rather the imagination. .. The walls are pale violet, the floor tiles red. .. the doors are green, that is all. There is nothing in the room with the shutters closed. The squareness of the furniture should also express the undisturbed rest. .. The shadows and modelling are suppressed, it is coloured with flat tints like the Japanese prints. This will contrast, for instance, with the diligence of Tarascon and the Night Cafe.”

Here we have an important clue. Van Gogh had written of The Night Cafe that he wanted to show that it was a place where one could go mad. To him, in other words, his little room was a haven after the strain of work, and it was this contrast that made him stress its tranquillity. The manner of simplification he adopted from Seurat and from the Japanese print stood for him in clear opposition to the expressive graphological brushwork that had become so characteristic of his style. This is what he stresses in still another letter to his brother. ‘No stippling, no hatching, nothing, flat areas, but in harmony’. It is this modification of the code that Van Gogh experiences as being expressive of calm and restfulness. Does the painting of the bedroom communicate this feeling? None of the naive subjects I have asked hit on this meaning; although they knew the caption (Van Gogh’s bedroom), they lacked the context and the code. Not that this failure of getting the message speaks against the artist or his work. It only speaks against the equation of art with communication.”

Images and text from The Essential Gombrich (Part II, the Visual Image: its Place in Communication.), published in 1996 by Phaidon, ISBN 0 7148 3009 7

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June 13, 2005 (Monday) -intent in painting

More Photography vs Painting thoughts from reader (and artist), Kris Shanks:

“I appreciate your blog a lot. Thanks for putting it out there. I’m a painter working plein air mostly cause I don’t have a studio space separate from my house and I like working in oils. I took a trip up to the Shasta area this last week and did a lot of painting, and this question about why painting and photography are different kept running around my head. I think the difference for me is that everything in a painting is intentional, or at least is there by the specific intent of the artist. A photograph, even one as staged as Marilyn Minter’s, has as its starting material the physical objects which must be mechanically captured. She is limited by the physical objects in her environment. But in a painting, the artist starts with nothing except a blank flat surface, and the illusion, in a representational painting, is created by the process of making one choice after another about where to put pigment. Of course as a painter, it’s the process of communing with the landscapes I paint that makes painting so much more interesting than photography to me.”

More on this topic from reader Aaron M. Brown (May 30th), and my original post (on May 25th.)

Image is © Kris Shanks, “Rainy Day Near Two Rock”, 8″ x 10″, oil on board

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June 10, 2005 (Friday) -That’s the Art of it

Earlier this week I was working overtime on an art-for-hire project, which I just managed to finish about an hour before the client came to pick it up. Good thing I work in acrylic. So the next morning I got up early and dived right into a couple of paintings that I’m doing for myself. (Images above: the two paintings currently on the easel. The one on the left is almost done, the one on the right has a long way to go.) I feel a certain amount of urgency about finishing them because a curator is coming by the studio in few weeks to pick out work for a fall show. And of course, as usual, the only paintings that seem worthy are the ones that I’m still working on, or haven’t started yet.

The painting itself is going very easily. I think I’ve been putting in enough daily hours, over enough years, that it’s finally paying off. I don’t think too much about the painting while I’m doing it. Whatever I can imagine painting, I can paint. And yet, there’s still visible improvement every few months. But that’s just the “craft” part of the equation.

What about the “art?” Not only is that harder to define, it’s harder to evaluate. But I know this much – the “art” doesn’t happen while I’m painting. It can happen when I’m watering the back yard and start thinking about the life cycle and travel itinerary of a single water molecule. It might happen at the bus stop, when I notice that the kid with the baggy jeans looks like he just stepped down from a Mayan stele. It sometimes happens at 3am, when I’m staring at the moon glow coming through the window blinds. “IT” is a sudden revelation that connects the dots between disparate incidents like those, and one of the zillions of images in my head.

Will anyone else get it? Who the hell knows. I’ve given up trying to influence anyone else’s thinking. It happens anyway, and more often than I’d expect. I work in series and maybe it’s easier to catch the drift when you see a bunch of these paintings together. Take this group, for instance:

See any common thread? Need a hint? Think of Plato, or Jose Saramago. This is one of those open-ended series, or themes that I keep working over and over, looking for the perfect image that says it all. To me, each one of these could stand alone, and they all say the same thing.

Sometimes though, I get an idea for a series that really needs to hang together. Like the “Trickster” series that I did 2003. I have two more of the hang-together projects planned. One of them is 10 paintings, and the other is 49 paintings. They’re all researched and sketched out… I even have little gouache color studies for the series of 49. There are more ideas like these floating around in my head and waiting in sketchbooks. That’s the art.

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June 8, 2005 (Wednesday) -Is It Art or Craft?
I’m totally swamped today, with a painting project that needs to be finished in a few hours, so to give you something to reflect on, here’s a quote from David Bayles & Ted Orland, on Art vs Craft:

“Yes, there is a difference between art and craft – it’s just that both terms are so overgrown with fuzzy definitions that drawing a clear distinction between them is close to impossible. We’ll settle here for a fuzzy distinction.

Think of craft and you think of furniture shaped by Sam Maloof, of handmade clothing flaunted at Renaissance Faires, of everything made before the Industrial Revolution. Think of art and you think of War and Peace, a Beethoven concerto, the Mona Lisa. Both disciplines obviously yield good things, valuable things, sometimes tangibly useful things, and at first pass the distinction between them seems perfectly clear.

But is the Mona Lisa really art? Well then, what about an undetectably perfect copy of the Mona Lisa? That comparison (however sneaky) points up the fact that it’s surprisingly difficult, maybe even impossible, to view any single work in isolation and rule definitively, “This is art” or “This is craft.” Striking that difference means comparing successive pieces made by the same person.

In essence, art lies embedded in the conceptual leap between pieces, not in the pieces themselves. And simply put, there’s a greater conceptual jump from one work of art to the next than from one work of craft to the next. The net result is that art is less polished -but
more innovative-than craft. The differences between five Steinway grand Pianos – demonstrably works of consummate craftsmanship – are small compared to the differences between the five Beethoven Piano concerti you might perform on those instruments.

A work of craft is typically made to fit a specific template, sometimes a painstakingly difficult template requiring years of hands-on apprenticeship to master. It’s staggering to realize that nearly all the truly great violins ever produced were made in the course of a few years by a few artisans living within a few blocks of each other. All this in a remote Italian village, three centuries ago. The accomplishments of Antonio Stradivari and his fellow craftsmen point up one real difference between art and craft: with craft, perfection is possible. In that sense the Western definition of craft closely matches the Eastern definition of art. In Eastern cultures, art that faithfully carries forward the tradition of an elder master is honored; in the West it is
put down as derivative.

Yet curiously, the progression of most artists’ work over time is a progression from art toward craft. In the same manner that imagination gives way to execution as any single work builds toward completion, an artist’s major discoveries usually come early on, and a lifetime is then allotted to fill out and refine those discoveries. As the Zen proverb suggests, for the beginner there are many paths, for the advanced, few.

At any point along that path, your job as an artist is to push craft to its limits – without being trapped by it. The trap is Perfection: unless your work continually generates new and unresolved issues, There’s no reason for your next work to be any different from the last. The difference between art and craft lies not in the tools you hold in your hands, but in the mental set that guides them. For the artisan, craft isan end in itself. For you, the artist, craft is the vehicle for expressing your vision. Craft is the visible edge of art.

from “Art & Fear – An Artists Survival Guide”, by David Bayles & Ted Orland; ISBN 0-88496-379-9
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June 7, 2005 (Tuesday) -de Young update
They’ve started landscaping around the de Young, and building walkways. The stretch along JFK Drive is really looking nice. The photo at left shows a walkway from JFK up a slight hill to the “back porch” of the museum (cafe area and Osher Sculpture Garden.) The reddish thing at the end of the walkway is the James Turrell “Skyspace” installation.

From the de Young press release:

This “skyspace,” titled Three Gems, is the first work by Turrell to enter the museum’s collections. It is a subterranean installation that will feature a view of the sky altered by L.E.D. lighting effects, and that highlights changing light and weather conditions outside. Viewers will walk through a short tunnel cut into the hill, and then enter into a cylindrical space carved out of the hill. The retaining walls of this cylindrical space will be white concrete and the floor will be red stone. At the center of this cylindrical space will be a rough-hewn, black basalt stupa form. Entering the round stupa through a door, viewers will sit on a stone bench that runs around the circumference of the skyspace and view the sky through an oculus cut in the roof of the chamber. Viewers’ perceptions of the sky color will be subtly altered by an L.E.D. lighting system inside the chamber, and by changing light and weather conditions outside the chamber.

(Smaller image at upper right is the Turrell installation in progress – click on image for a larger view.)
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June 6, 2005 (Monday) -Hall of Flowers show

I dropped by the Hall of Flowers this weekend to see the Sunset Artists Annual “Art in the Avenues” show. (David Neri’s paintings above.) It’s an non-juried show, and a mixed bag of hobbyists and more serious artists. Some of them, like Ann Eby had gallery representation, and others are still working on it.

I think Leigh Radtke should be in a gallery. Actually she’s in a museum, but hasn’t tried to crack the gallery barrier yet. Her body of work is hard to describe, in terms of medium (everything, including painting, printmaking, collage, assemblage, sculpture) but whatever she does it’s witty, pointed, original, and well made. That’s her image above, called “Ballons.” And her “Spawn of Satan” is at right. No web page yet (still working on that, too.) Email her for info on her next show.

There were fewer exhibitors this year, but the show looked a little more professional to me. For instance, I noticed that Voula Sideris had a great-looking booth set up (standing in front of her watercolors, above.) She didn’t try to bring hang everything she’d ever done – she just focused on her new work, a few large, same-sized pieces. They really looked sharp.

Adele Shaw had some more of her signature bathtub series – large encaustics (Adele in her booth, above.) She has a fascinating bio, and Adele is another person I think is overdue for good gallery representation.

All-in-all it was a good show, and should be even better next year, as the group is learning how to put these shows together.

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June 3, 2005 (Friday) -Budgeting time

This morning the Sunset Artists are coming to pick up the show panels from my garage. They’re trucking them over to the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, for the annual “Art in the Avenues” show this weekend. (10am to 5pm, Sat. & Sun. It’s at the corner of 9th of Lincoln, next to Strybing Arboretum. Free. Good artists. Go see it.) I had planned on showing with them, but changed my mind. These do-it-yourself shows are an unbelievable amount of work, and it was really cutting into my painting time. Sometimes it seems like the universe is conspiring to keep me away from my painting time. But as my good friends have pointed out, it”s my own fault for saying “yes” too often, when I should be saying “no.”

… more later – I think they’re here with the truck…

 

… and they’re off. Anyway, as I was saying, about budgeting time. It’s a struggle to balance how much time to spend on my own projects and how much time to spend on helping other people. To be a greedy selfish bastard or a whimpering selfless martyr? Maybe something in between, eh?
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June 2, 2005 (Thursday) –
Eyes and hands driving the car

I’ve been deeply, deeply into painting lately. I mean, even more than usual. I think it’s partly due to the increased light (longer days.) Each morning, as I pick up the brush, there’s a sense of joy and of being on the right path. And the whole world pretty much drops away. I have very little interest in the “news.” A friend loaned me some CDs of Dylan Thomas reading his work, and I’ve been listening to them off and on, but mostly I just listen to the birds and neighborhood sounds that come in the studio window. There’s very little conscious thought. It’s all eyes and hands working together… I’m just along for the ride, sitting in the back seat, looking out the window, watching the changing scenery.

(image is nasturtiums in my backyard)

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June 1, 2005 (Wednesday) – Calendar’s Up!

OK, I just added a few more things to the June calendar. It’s a surprisingly lively month around here, considering that this is when things usually start to get sleepy, arts-wise. For whatever it’s worth, my picks for this month’s must-see shows are:

Meridian Gallery:
“Works in Ink and Light” June 3rd to July 2nd
Miniature Etchings by David Avery and Video Installation by Ruth Eckland with sound design by Matt DiFonzo. Opening Reception Friday, June 3rd, 6-9pm
I’ve been to David Avery’s open studio shows, and his work is the most amazing etching I’ve seen by a living artist. Bring a magnifying glass.

Hackett-Freedman Gallery:
June 2nd – July 30th
“Still Lifes & Narratives”, new paintings (symbolic, representational) by Richard Ryan. This is my favorite kind of painting: deep, rich colors, thoughtful compositions and use of symbolism.

Asian Art Museum:
June 12th through July 31st
“Tibetan Painting Demonstrations” – Watch artist Jamyong Singye create Tibetan-style sacred paintings (thangka.) Gouache is a seductive medium that often tempts me away from acrylic. Tibetan and Persian paintings are the reason why.

Studio Gallery:
“City Streets” – June 15th to July 17th
Group show of San Francisco cityscapes, includes paintings by Brandon Smith, Anna Conti, Brian Behnke and Nobuhito Tanaka . Reception June 18th, 4-8pm
(How could I not include this one?)

Artist As Subject

There is saying that every war going fighter would have heard that is; “Safety rules were written with blood.” However, we will not be something that is as risky as lives of a human being but when someone loses Bitcoins that are very costly by some mistakes while trading is for sure not funny. Firstly what one should know to do proper trade is that it needs a lot of attention and 100% focus. The second thing to keep in mind is that making trades is not meant for every individual. Here are some tips that will help the traders to avoid making mistakes that can easily be avoided. Bitcoin Code also helps reduce losses.

  • When one decides to begin to start entering every trade, they must be having a reason to do so. The trader must start trading only when they know why they must start trading so that they have planned a proper strategy for later stages. Not every trader makes profits from doing trading as it is a zero-sum play, meaning every time someone gains profits there is someone else losing it. The market for Altcoins is also operated by the same market that is accountable for placing a big block of Bitcoins that are in hundreds in number on the order book. So the market is waiting for small traders to make one small mistake so that they get gains while the other loses therefore, it is smart move to not do anything and not earn anything rather than rushing into something, not in your favor and losing all the coins.
  • Make sure they keep and target and end at that particular target when you begin trading. In order to gain more profits, it is advised that for every trade one must have a proper target so that they take profits and even more important is to set a stop-loss level so that you cut down on losses. Stop-loss: It is nothing but the level of loss is set after crossing which the trade will close. There are many factors that one need to consider when choosing a stop-loss level properly.
Erling Henry Wold II by Lynne Rutter
“the second earl of wold”
2002
oil on panel
16 x 18″
From Lynne Rutter:

“a slightly off-topic portrait. no he has not painted me but he did dedicate a small piece of music to me once.
painted after da vinci’s girl with an ermine, but kind of in the style of vermeer, but more like lynne doing vermeer doing da vinci.”

Interview with Charles Ware

March 30, 2005 (Wednesday) – I brought my friend Dale along on my last interview, with Stevan Shapona, and that was such a success, that I jumped at Dale’s suggestion that I interview his friend, Charlie. We stopped at the J&E Cafe to pick up some Chinese takeout and then headed over to Charlie’s place on one of those killer hills in the Bernal Heights section of San Francisco. When we got there, we each filled a plate with food and then sat around Charlie’s kitchen table to talk while we ate.

From his chair at kitchen table, Charlie has almost everything he needs within reach. A box of pencils and papers is under the table, and a small bookcase holding his journals and notebooks is sitting on the right side of the table. Portfolio cases are stacked on the floor around his chair. Cans of spray paint, tubes of oil, jars of glue, stencils, scissors, papers and other art making materials are covering every available surface. He works on writing and artmaking every day and every room of his house is filled with his work. I started out asking him about his early life.

Writing and painting are the excellent talent many persons have with them. Writing is something innovative and it should be grammatical error free and the vocabulary can be improved when a person starts thinking and write on his own. Painting in computer system is a type of game for the children of this century who are born with the technology. There are many softwares developed for playing, writing and earning money by trading. Qprofit system is an example for this. Many people invest their money in this software and start trading to achieve profits.

Charles M. Ware was born in 1921, in Santa Rosa, California. He grew up there, on the family ranch, Ladera Verdes. “We did a lot of hard physical labor in those days,” Charlie remembers. He said the 580 acre ranch had, “300 head of sheep, 100 head of Angora goats, 3 or 4 thousand chickens, 7 milk cows, a couple of draft horses… we had a whole pile of stuff. We even had Peacocks!” But Charlie wanted to be an artist, not a farmer. “My dad wanted me to be a farmer, of course. But he very graciously helped me to go to school and he was overcome when I won that scholarship (to the California School of Fine Art , now known as the SF Art Institute.) I remember he took a little jump in the air when I told him. But I think it hurt his feelings, too. Because there went the dream of the ranch.” His father sold the ranch and livestock for $40,000 while Charlie was in Europe during World War II.


Charlie wasn’t well suited for military service, and spent some time in the stockade for drinking and going AWOL. He says his sister had browbeaten him into leaving art school and enlisting in the Army, because she said, “You’re no better than anybody else.” When he returned to California after his military service, he was a changed man.

A: What did you do when you came out of the service?

C: I went back to school briefly. My mother had to really light into me. I didn’t want to go back. There was a change of faculty. I only lasted about a month and a half. The day I was quitting, Bruce Balfour was quitting the same day and I went over and met his wife and family. He told me about this bar… Bruce was a fantastic artist. He’s still alive, he’s in his eighties, about my age. He used to be in show business, a tap dancer, he had a whole act…

D: See, what happened was, after the war, Clifford Still and Mark Rothko came into the Art Institute and basically that’s where the conflict came in, and Charlie quit.

A: What made you want to quit?

C: I didn’t care for the philosophy in regards to life drawing and things… they sloughed over the drafting end of it, and a lot of them were lousy draftsmen. It requires a hell of a lot of discipline.

A: Where did you go after you left school?

G: We hung around the “Artists Club.” It was a bar. A real dive, I’m telling you. It was in North Beach, on lower Pacific. In those days the “International Settlement” was still there. Don Eldred had quite a few artists that were bringing stuff in there, so I moved in, and I lived there, in a tiny room above the bar. Bruce was there too, for a while. The Hell’s Angels used to ride their motorcyles right into the place. I used to do a lot of portraits in those days, to try to make a few bucks. It was mostly by candlelight. They had these crazy setups with these tables made from large barrels and they used small barrels for the chairs. They had paintings all over the place… this was about 1949.

D: Charlie did a lot of sign painting then, too.

C: Yeah, here’s some of my stuff (shows me his photo album of North Beach signage from the late 40’s & early 50’s.) I did a lot of stuff for Big Al, including 22 portraits of Italian singers. Those places are all gone now, including the Hippo and the Black Cat…

Charlie spent some time in New York in the 50s, married a woman named Marjorie, continued sign painting, portrait work, and making his own work, which he describes as, “Mostly subjective things, romantic pieces.” Eventually, he split up with Marjorie and came back to the Bay Area.

A: What happened when you got back here?

C: My mom met me at the airport. They were living in Cupertino at the time. I got a job working for a sign painter. They didn’t know I had a drinking problem, but I was really in full swing then. I finally bought a car for $75. But I got into a wreck in San Jose – I was drunk. Got thrown in the can for several months. That jail in San Jose, is a very tough jail, let me tell you. About a month after getting out of jail, Harry Anastos called and he wanted to open an art gallery. He was always very enthusiastic about my work. We ran the Elysian Gallery for a couple of years. It was on upper Grant, near Green, next to a ravioli factory.

I’d gone to the Jean Turner Art Center with Harry. It was on Geary street – a little art community there… Jean Turner was a commercial artist, and she had some pretty outstanding people on her faculty. J. Paget-Fredericks, who was influenced by those early American pen & ink people, .. Louis J. Rogers, who was a western illustrator and Jim McDonald, who was a calligrapher. I’ll never forget J. Paget-Fredericks – he was a good teacher, but I disregarded him… I’d been through a lot at that point and just wouldn’t put up with much anymore.

The first time I ever saw Max Ernst’s work was there – they were giving him a one-man show. Come to think of it, that was before Jean Turner’s opened up, but it was in the same area. Was I ever impressed! Ernst has such imagination, he’s a wonderful painter.. the textural qualities, surface qualities… all of it. Fantastic mind. He’s one of the really great ones. Some of them were… lucky, in my opinion. There’s a lot of the surrealists that are psychotic. But he’s one of the great ones.

D: I told Anna that I associate your work more with the Symbolist and Pre-Raphaelite movements than with the Surrealists. I think, like… Arnold Bocklin, Max Klinger, and John Henry Fuseli , those people…

C: Yeah, that’s right. I love Bocklin., And I like Ernst Fuchs, the Austrian. He’s a tremendous painter, and magnificent mind, you know. He was the head of the school of… magical realism?… what was the name of that movement? I have the catalog from his show around here someplace. I went and saw that show when I was about 45, and my eyesight was terrible then. It was before I started to wear glasses. When I saw that work it excited me, but at the same time it depressed me because I knew I couldn’t do it. Until I got glasses, and realized, I can do this after all.

A: At what point did you start painting the kind of work that you would consider your mature work?

C: Well I think I started doing my best work about the time I stopped drinking, in 1965. Marjorie had passed away on Thanksgiving day in 1964 and I was very upset by it. I stopped drinking then, but exactly one year later, on Thanksgiving day, I remember Floyd Patterson boxed Ingemar Johanson, for the second time and got knocked out that time. I was in Nevada, with my friend Al, doing paintings for a nightclub, imitating some popular artist who was selling like mad. I didn’t want to do it, but I did it. That was the last job I did drunk. During that boxing match, I got carried away, threw a few punches myself, and I ended up on the floor and I hit my head. I had a scab in the middle of my forehead that looked like a third eye. And that was my last drunk. Bruce Balfour started taking me to Alcoholics Anonymous. Once, when I went to sign in, my hands were shaking so bad, I had to hold the pencil with two hands.

D: So, AA helped you get off the booze?

C: Not very much, no. You know what those guys sounded like to me? They sounded like they were bragging… about their capacity for drinking and about their hallucinations, and stuff. I figured that they didn’t hold a candle to me for hallucinations. I had hallucinated so much and had conversations with beings and creatures that weren’t there, you know?

D: Did the drinking affect your fantasy writing and your art? Did any of that imagery stick with you?

C: Possibly – I think I had brain damage from it. I really do. My capacity for pictorial dreaming, and nightmares is very limited now, compared to what it had been.

D: Yeah, but your memory is perfect…

C: My mind rambles. I go from one subject to another, as you probably noticed.

D: Oh, everybody does that, I don’t know if you had any brain damage, or not.

A: Well, what happened after you stopped drinking? You’ve talked a lot about the time before that.

C: Well, I started to produce an awful lot of work. And I lived I the Stella Hotel at the time, in the 60’s. The Stella was loaded with derelicts and young people on dope. Arnold Roseval, who ran a silk screen studio on Clay Street, he told me about the Temple Hotel on Pine Street. He said it was peaceful, so I moved in there, but it was a neurotic place, too. Not as bad as the Stella. After I was into painting pictures, I took up sign painting too, because I wasn’t making nearly enough from the paintings. I had the rent to contend with all the time. Finally, I really started to do pretty good with the sign painting and I opened a place at the corner of Pine and Kearny. Right next door to Jim McDonald, the calligrapher. It was just a room, was all it was. It got so that I slept there, too. I moved out of the Temple. I think it bothered Jim – he could pick up on it, you know. They had a little tiny elevator there, just about enough for two people. Jim told a story about how he got stuck in that elevator with Benny Bufano, and they were there all night. He happened to have a bottle of wine on him, and they proceeded to get a little high from it. I wouldn’t want to be stuck in an elevator with Benny Bufano. He was kinda snooty. I tried to talk to him several times, you know. He just pushed me aside. His work was interesting, yet I used to say, it reminds me of a piggy bank without the slot. He used to be pretty good with young classical heads, though.

D: Oh jeeze, you know, there’s one in the Oakland Museum of his mother. In clay, it’s not terra cotta, but it’s beautiful, and I don’t know why they don’t keep that out.

C: He was good with textures and mosaics and stuff like that. But he was a hell of a politician, and he pushed the hell out of Benny Bufano, you know?

Dale and Charlie talked a bit about other local artists who excel at self-promotion. Then Dale asked Charlie to talk about meeting his wife Linda and the photographer and printmaker, John Morita.

C: Well, I met Linda around 1969 or 70. She was working at the Bank of America. I was living at the Hanson Hotel then. And John Morita came out of the woodwork around then. He came over to photograph us. He was there until 2 in the morning one time. Took a picture of me in the bathtub…

D: Yeah, when he did that print of you in the bathtub, I was working at the Art Institute, in the print room, and he comes up and says, “why don’t you just put it on the plate four times?” So we printed four images, in different states, on the page.

C: That’s quite a remarkable process that he used, in making those plates. And he explained that whole thing to me, twice. And it just went in one ear and out the other.

D: Well, when he was at San Francisco State, photo imagery was in vogue. Robert Bechtle , John Ihle and Dennis Beal – they would take the photograph, they would put it on the plate, and they would hardly touch it once they photoengraved it. They would just print it like that. John would come in, he’d put the photograph on the plate, then come in with a scraper and burnisher and drypoint the hell out of it, and then scrape it…

C: Well he was given some good shows. That show he had at the SFMOMA, when it was at the War Memorial…

D: Yeah, he had a lot of collectors in Germany at that time, because of the darkness of his material.

A: Did John Morita get you into printmaking, or were you already doing it by then?

C: Oh, I was already into it by then. when I was in New York, I was fascinated by all of the graphics, the lithographs and etchings, and engraving processes – the whole thing. When I’d gone to California School of Fine Arts, before the war, I’d taken lithography from Ray Berkerns. But I could never print any of them myself. I made some of the drawings right on the stone, but the printing process… I couldn’t remember which came first. Somebody else had to print it for me. But the etching process interested me a lot, and relief printing. It’s more direct. What you see is what you get. Last month the California Society of Printmakers had this event, for the senior artists, and it was all the way over in Oakland. My neighbor had to drive me over there. I had to give a speech… oh, god I felt like a jackass. I felt like a rustic bum in the middle of an embroidery circle.

I asked Charlie to show us some of his work. He pulled out examples of relief prints, done with an electric engraver on masonite, many of them completed with in the last few months. He also started showing us ink drawings, pencil drawings, prints made from cardboard plates, etchings, woodcuts, plate rubbings, scratchboard, stencil paintings, collages and prints. Later we toured the house and he showed us his oil paintings, casein paintings, and mixed media works.

A: Can you tell me a little bit about the Christ imagery in a lot of your work?

C: I’m not a Christian any more, I believe more in reincarnation than transcendence. But it’s a marvelously powerful image. The crucifixion and all the rest of it. And of course, there’s enormous room for satire. (He shows us a couple of last supper images – one with a bottle of Jack Daniels in front of the Christ and another with some Sprite.)

A: Some of these prints are fairly recent – where do you do them – is there a studio here in the house?

C: I do them right here (he points to the press sitting between the refrigerator and kitchen table) and there’s another press in the bedroom.

A: These round etchings are interesting…

C: I was lucky in my early days of printmaking and I got a whole bunch of these brass disks and I made plates out of them. Every one of those had a spot right in the center where they used the scribers, so I had to obliterate that with a little bit of aquatint.

D: Oh yeah, you can get rid of that, no problem. Brass is a hard thing to etch, though. It’s harder than zinc.

C: Well, yeah, it is, but it isn’t. It breaks down faster. I was amazed. It was my favorite metal. I used cold-rolled steel also.

D: Yeah? When Durer started etching, that’s what he used. The thing is, it corroded so fast – that’s the problem with steel.
… You need some more light in here, Charlie.

C: I need a new lease on life. There’s no audience for this, now. If you’re a ballplayer, you can make zillions. If you’re an artist, you can’t even pay the goddamn rent. These days, people keep talking about the beautiful galleries and the magnificent museums we have, but they’re completely gutless. About buying art. Absolutely gutless. I’ll tell you the gods-honest truth: even with all the drinking I did, I don’t blame myself as much as I blame people… I mean the attitude. I’m telling you, people are weird. They come over here, and you think you’re making a transaction, and then… nothing.

A: That happens to me, too. It happens to all of us, Charlie.

D: Yeah, they come over and make you haul out everything on the planet, and they look at it, and then they don’t buy anything.

We returned to the kitchen, where he showed us his notebook journals with daily entries written in pencil, and every few pages covered with a collage or spray-stencil painting. “I just make it up as I go along. I don’t try to relate the picture to the writing. It’s all me.”

One exception was his entry on Sept. 11, 2001. He read that entry to us, and showed us the picture, of a statue-of-liberty figure, surrounded by flag stamps. That prompted me to ask him about the tattoo of an American flag on his left forearm. He said, “Well, I was drunk. I was in the army. I was down in Alexandria, Louisiana. The guy that did the tattoo work was a bouncer for the place, and he had to get up before he finished it and bounce somebody. I’ll tell you, he made a mistake… see, he put the red out here. I wanted him to put a ship on, but they didn’t have any more ships left.”

The notebooks are regular spiral bound student books, and the collages are made with spray paint and paste-ups of many materials, including newspapers. Charlie said, “The beauty of using newspaper is that you can let some of the text show through and create a sense of irony, or use the symbolism. I use bristol paper for the stencils and then I can incorporate them into a collage. I get wallpaper paste from the hardware store – it works beautifully.”

The books, even the older ones, seem well preserved. Maybe it’s all the paste and paint covering the paper, or may it’s because they’re stored out of the light. In any case, I found these books of Charlie’s to be more interesting, and more original than a lot of the artists’ books I’ve seen in the FAMSF Logan or Achenbach collections.

Charles Ware lives in San Francisco, is married to Linda Ware and has two children. His son Gabriel lives with him and his daughter Laura lives in New York. He does not currently have gallery representation, but he can be contacted by telephone at (415) 282-7153

Some other mentions of Charles M. Ware on the web:

from an article about William Wolf in the Journal of the California Printmaker, written by Louis Girling:
“Art Hazelwood, known to many in the San Francisco Bay Area for his paintings and relief prints boiling over with social criticism and post-modern intercultural synthesis of artistic ideas, has spent a good deal of his time working for Bill Wolff in his home and studio since 1996. Such intimacy between an older and a younger artist cannot fail to yield fruit. Steeped in Wolff’s imagery, in the fall of 2000, Art began a major public muralcommissioned by the Fetterly Gallery in Vallejo, California. Featuring a 110-foot-long tableau of figures in settings combining architectural elements of the Renaissance with the moving perspective of David Hockney, Art’s mural celebrates the arts from painting to music to architecture. Viewers may recognize California Society of Printmakers artists Dan Robeski and Charles Ware as the models for the figures of architecture and painting, respectively.”

about the California Society of Printmakers’ Senior Artists event:
“The invitees, skilled in hand-pulled printmaking techniques such as etching, relief prints, lithography, handmade books, monotype and mixed media, gathered at the large Oakland studio of artist and CSP board president, Benny Alba. San Francisco’s Charles Ware, 84, awesomely skilled at drawing, carried a notebook of fantastic, surreal colored pencil drawings.”

a mention by Dave Archer in his “memoir in progress”:
“Vic (Big Al) played off celebrity connections. The man knew everybody. My painter friend Charlie Ware, one of the founders of the San Francisco Visionary School — therefore always in need of rent — painted oils of the “Rat Pack” for the club. Sinatra, Dean Martin, plus others like Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, Vic Damone and Tony Bennett. Each canvas hung in the club with a portrait light over it to impress the tourists.”

Clars Auction Gallery, has a listing for a Charles Ware hand tinted litho, “St. George and the Dragon”

Charles Ware is listed with San Francisco Online Arts, but there’s no link or images

Mystical Unicorn Gallery has an image of Ware’s “The Unicorn’s Glade”

Charles Ware is listed as illustrator for a Pomegranate Press book:
IN PURSUIT OF THE UNICORN, author: Bradley, Josephine, Publisher: Pomegranate Artbooks Corte Madera, CA 1980. unpaginated, maroon cloth covered boards w/stamped gilt lettering & deco, black slipcase w/stamped gilt deco, prev owner’s bookplate on ffep. A book w/art from various artists depicting unicorns. First unicorns appeared in written account in Greece. The art of the following artists are in the book: Dale Rutter, Kirwan, Jay Burch, Ascian, Sandy Stedronsky, Marjett Schille, Susan Seddonboulet, Charles Ware, Stewart Daniels, Irene McHugh Belknap, Erin Gamble, Vaclav Vaca, Jacquelyn Sage, Niki Broyles, Kristen Moeller, Wolfgang Grasse, & Sheila Rose. Special Edition No Jacket/Very Good Slipcase HB Very Good+ 4to (11-13 Inches tall)

GERALD SAUER FINE ART
telephone 707-967-8623
gsauer@comcast.net
Charles M. Ware,”Song of the Minotaur”, $300 – An etching with handtint signed in pencil lower right and dated 1976 in the plate. It is an artist’s proof and titled “Song of the Minotaur” In a gold wood frame with a silk mat and gold bezel.It measures 24″x17.5″ [image]; frame 38″x31″. In fine condition.

Channeling Raoul

Painting outdoors, with watercolors is a lot different from painting in my studio, with acrylics. “No kidding,” you’re thinking, “What’s the point?” It’s the act of kicking myself out of my usual routine that’s important. The different materials and location also force a different style – looser, more improvisational than the way I usually work. And I’m NOT very good at this kind of painting. I’ve found that the way to get the most out of the experience is to focus on the experience. Call it practice. Not making a painting. Yesterday, before heading out, I looked for inspiration in a little book in my library of watercolors by Raoul Dufy. They’re lovely little drawings, with simple lines and colors… I’m still aspiring to this level of simplicity, but I got a lot closer today than I had in the last few weeks.

There is a proverb “practice makes a man perfect”. This is applicable for every businessmen working in any field. No people is there without seeing failure in their life. So, by practicing and doing again and again will lead to a success one day. This is for painters, dancers, singers, teachers and everyone. We all start painting from our childhood. But not everyone shines in painting. Painting is an art of creativity. Those who are innovative will become painters. It describes both the act and the result. It is a common trade among builders. Trading is investing money on stocks, commodities or assets. Trading can be done with the help of many broker softwares. The broker softwares will help and guide us the way to become a successful trader. There are many softwares which can work on any trading platform like smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops. The Ethereum Code is an auto-pilot binary options trading robot software which provides a customer support team for the users. The users can reach them for any queries or enquiries at any time via phone calls, email and live chat.

Ethereum Code allows its traders to register free. There is no registration fee. The traders can directly deposit a minimum amount and start doing trading. The profit rate is so high and the traders can easily withdraw the profit amount with the monetary amount deposited.

Photos at right are my painting companions yesterday: David Neri and Pam Heyda.

Image above is my watercolor view of North Lake, on Chain of Lakes Drive, in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

Images below are from “Raoul Dufy” by Claude Roger-Marx, published 1950, in France, (no ISBN)

Graffiti

Steve Winn of the SF Chronicle has written an interesting four-part series on graffiti.Graffiti is nothing but painting on walls or surfaces by scratching, scribbling on the surface. Graffiti can either be some form of art or writing as well. These are done to be viewed by everyone. It can even consist of huge paintings and these have been present since ancient days. Some example we can consider as markings in Egypt, Greece and Roman Empire unlike Crypto Code that has come into existence just recently. Yesterday’s article covered the “is it art?” question. He talks about the ancient origins of graffiti (Italian for “little scratching”) and its constant presence, just like the constant presence of corporate street advertising:

“Besieged, resilient and curiously resistant to stylistic changes, graffiti is an urban fixture, as solid and integral to the street scene, in some ways, as the utility poles, retaining walls and street signs it adorns. The battle to wipe it out is built on the vision of a city sublimely free of the snaky scrawl and pieces flung up on improbably high walls, a web that spans the city from border to border. That’s hard to imagine, in San Francisco. Without graffiti, we might not recognize the place. ”
rest of story here

I’ve been annoyed when graffiti showed up on my house, even when I agreed with the sentiments (“Bush Sucks”.) But I’ve missed it when I’ve been to cities or suburbs without it. The best kind of graffiti, in my book, is by the Billboard Liberation Front. But I always get a laugh from the wry and subversive commentary written in little black letters on bus shelter posters (on an ad for the drug of the month: “Better Living Through Chemistry.”) It leaps out at me as a reminder that I’m not the only one who sees most advertising as inscrutable messages from an alien world.

Today, in the second part of the series, Steve Winn writes about how graffiti shapes the public space. What about graffiti that appears on murals? What about sanctioned graffit murals? Winn quotes Laurie Lazer, co-director of the Luggage Store Gallery on Market Street, who recalls “two different occasions when outdoor graffiti art projects commissioned by one city agency were removed by another without advance notice.”

Image above is from the dungeon on Alcatraz, which was occupied from 1969 until June 11, 1971 by Indians of All Tribes, Inc. (Example of graffiti protected and preserved by the Park Service.)

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March 7,2005 (Monday) -Busy Weekend: cranes, spirals, bumblebees & artists
On Saturday morning I watched the Sheedy Crane guys move the Kirkham earthquake shacks from the outer Sunset to a temporary work site at the SF Zoo. It was spectacularly entertaining to watch as they wrapped each shack in a wood-and-chain girdle and then lifted it into the sky and swung it (in a very tight arc, avoiding other houses and power lines) onto the back of a very big truck. These guys worked with exceptional poise, good cheer, and efficiency, in spite of all the clueless spectators, who were standing all over the place. After I got home, I checked the Sheedy web site and noticed that they’re the guys who lifted the Emporium Dome, over at San Francisco Center. It occurred to me that this kind of work would require not only physical strength and an impressive amount of technical knowlege, but a real knack for creative problem-solving.

I wonder if any of them are also artists?

Saturday evening was the opening for the “Delicious” show at Studio Gallery on Polk street. It’s a small gallery and the place was packed – good thing the weather has been gorgeous all weekend, so the crowd could spill out onto the sidewalk. The show was hung salon-style and it worked well for these smaller pieces.

Sunday morning I wanted to go to the beach to see Jim Denevan create one of his large-scale beach drawings, but I had to head to the opposite end of the park, Kezar Stadium to be exact, to meet with Team Bumblebee (to start getting in shape for the Bay to Breakers.) It was actually hot in the city, with barely a hint of a breeze, and flat blue skies overhead… but the fog horns and ship horns were blowing most of the day, and I heard that the bridges and the East Bay were socked in. Late Sunday evening I googled “Denevan, spiral, Ocean Beach” to find news or blogger reports about how the beach drawing went, but couldn’t find anything – it may be online by the time you read this.

Here’s a photo (at right) from Denevan’s site, of a previous Ocean Beach spiral. This beach drawing is in conjunction with the “Big Deal & Blow Up” show at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Sunday afternoon I hosted an artists meeting at my house… six of us are going to show here during the annual October Open Studios event, so we had to hash out who gets how much wall space, how to divide up the publicity chores, and so on. (More about this at a later date.)
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March 4, 2005 (Friday) – Sui Jianguo: Sleep of Reason
Yesterday I went to the Asian Art Museum to see “Sui Jianguo: Sleep of Reason.” It’s been there for awhile, although I just got to it. The show is up through April 24th. Sui Jianguo’s work was new to me, but he’s apparently one of the best-known sculptors in China today. The work is funny, colorful, well-crafted, and thought-provoking. The title is by guest curator Jeff Kelley, and refers to Goya’s famous etching “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters.”

Out in front of the museum is a giant, cherry red dinosaur, shaped like one of those little plastic toys you see in dime store bins. “Made In China” is stamped on the dino’s belly. Dinosaurs and Mao suits are recurring themes in Sui Jianguo’s work. In the main court of the museum (before entering the room where most of Sui Jianguo’s work is installed) are a couple of vaguely familiar sculptures… classical Greco-Roman and Renaissance figures, writhing around in … Mao suits!

Once you enter the main gallery, the first thing you notice is COLOR. Thousands of little brightly colored plastic dinosaurs cover a low platform in the center of the room. They swirl about in discrete herds, forming an abstract storm, and all marching toward the center, where the sleeping figure of Mao lies under a flowery blue blanket. More, larger dinosaurs line the walls of the room, along with multicolored, hollowed Mao suits. These multiple empty suits are all titled, “Legacy Mantle.”

The press release for this show says, “Sui Jianguo was born in 1956 in Shan Dong province, and currently lives in Beijing where he holds a position as a Professor at the Central Academy of Fine Art, and is Chair of the Sculpture Department. He has held solo exhibitions in Australia, India, Paris, and throughout China. He has also participated in group exhibitions in Osaka, Hiroshima, Barcelona, Hong Kong, Singapore, Paris, Lyon Biennale, and Korea.”
Link to SFGate story about the show, and interview with the artist by Jesse Hamlin. .
Traveling Exhibition of Sui Jianguo’s Sculpture Works, “Marx in China” and “Jesus in China”
Some of Jianguo’s older work at absolute Arts
Photo of Jainguo’s version of the Discus thrower

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March 3, 2005 (Thursday) – Geography and Culture by David Byrne
From David Byrne’s blog entry about a recent stint in San Francisco. He visited the shows at Yerba Buena Center (wrote an interesting review), played a gig at the Fillmore, and described some after-hours events as like, “entering a chaotic and somewhat sexy utopia.” He then went on to muse about the connections between geography and culture:

“Why do scenes like this develop here? Maybe there’s something in the weather, in the water, the light, the unstable land?

What is it about certain cities and places that fosters specific attitudes? Am I imagining this? Do people who move to LA from elsewhere lose a lot of that elsewhere and eventually end up making LA type work? Does creative attitude seep in through peer pressure and causal conversations? Or is it in the water, the light, the weather? Is there a Detroit sensibility? Memphis? New Orleans? (no doubt) Austin? (certainly) Nashville? London? Berlin? Dusseldorf? Vienna? (yes) Paris? Osaka? Melbourne? Bahia? (absolutely)

Does New York foster a hard as nails no nonsense attitude? Not exclusively, but maybe a little bit. Here creativity is a career, a serious business, something that can be achieved only by absolute focus- and sometimes by what seems like paradoxical means- silliness, sloppiness and studied anti-seriousness can all be serious pursuits.

Is it in the layers of historical happenstance that make up a city? The politics and local laws? The socio-ethnic mix? The evanescent weight of fame and glamour that weighs upon all of LA mixed with the influence of the Latin and Asian populations that are fenced off from that zone – that and the hazy light on skin might make certain kinds of work more appropriate. Yes? No? Maybe?

Maybe in some cases, but not all, this is a bit of a myth, a willful desire to give each place its own aura. But I think every myth at least stems from a kernel of truth…which might be as slight as the need for that myth to exist. The myth of urban character and sensibility exists because we want it to exist- in order to lend meaning and order to a sometimes senseless world.”
Rest of the story HERE

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March 2, 2005 (Wednesday) – “Delicious” group show at Studio Gallery

Proof that a good website works for an artist: a few weeks ago a gallery owner called me to ask if they could include some of my work in an upcoming show. Jennifer at Studio Gallery said she’d found my work on the web. Better yet, the work she was interested in showing was my “Sideshow” stuff. The opening is this weekend:

Delicious
A show of culinary art
March 2nd – April 3rd, 2005
reception: Saturday, March 5th, 4 – 8 pm
Studio Gallery, 1718-A Polk Street (near Clay), San Francisco
(415) 931-3130

It’s a body of work that I never expected to have any commercial success, so I only work on it now and then, when I’m not painting commissions or my regular cityscapes and narrative series. With this work I feel free to indulge in experimentation (mainly with materials) and quirky subject matter. This work tends to be both darker and funnier. A lot of it is watercolor on paper and most of it has never been posted on my web site. But about two years ago I started collaborating with another artist, L. Maude Kirk on these “bean paintings” so I felt some responsibility to promote them.

I had started doing a series of Sunset Kitsch Icons (Doggie Diner, Laughing Sal) in acrylic on panel and I wanted something that would push them over the top. Maude does amazing work with beads on ostrich eggs so I asked her if she would consider doing some beadwork on my panels. At first she said no – she said it would cost too much, in time and materials. But I kept after her and eventually convinced her to try it with beans instead of beads. Considering the subject matter, beans are more appropriate anyway. The first several bean paintings have been portraits of Laughing Sal and the other animated figures at the Musee Mechanique (which used to be out at the Cliff House, but is now making yuks at Fisherman’s Wharf.)

We keep making field trips to the Musee for inspiration and to take photos. We take turns coming up with the idea and sketch for the image, and then we trade the panel back and forth several times, each of us painting and gluing things to the surface. Maude glues dried beans, lentils, corn, seeds and rice. I glue ink jet prints on watercolor paper. The images are from digital photos I’ve taken at the Musee. I completely cover the paper with acrylic paint and UV varnish, sometimes obliterating the photo, sometimes letting it show through. Occasionally one of us will paint over what the other has done, but we agreed at the beginning that we would allow each other complete freedom when it was our turn with the panel. The panel is done when neither of us can think of anything else to do to it. We’ve been talking about branching out into circus side show territory next.

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March 1, 2005 (Tuesday) – Lunchtime Browsing

When I first started stumbling around the internet, there was no web. Computer screens were black and white (or green and greener.) There were bulletin boards – remember those? You had to literally dial a separate phone number to reach each bulletin board server out there. This was pre-AOL. No graphics – everything was text-based. There were almost no women, and no artists. (There were a decent number of writers and book people.) It doesn’t seem like that long ago. I know this observation is a cliche, but the pace of change is astonishing.

I think the change has been mostly good. The wealth of art news and information has increased to the point where I no longer cruise the internet looking for any scrap of art news. Now I need to be selective, or I’ll never have time for painting. I often read blogs and other web sites during my lunch break. A lot of other people must do the same thing, because my site stats show a big increase in traffic between 9am and 2pm, Pacific (covers the lunch period as it rolls across the continent.)

If you’re looking for 15 minutes of interesting browsing during your lunch break, check these out:

Tyler Green at Arts Journal – still the best. Has a long list of intriguing bits in his just updated “Around the Blogosphere” feature.
Roberta Fallon and Libby Rosof’s artblog never fails to deliver a view of the world as seen in and from Philadelphia.
ionarts – a blog about “Music, Art, Literature—the good stuff”, but they rarely let their hair down.
Modern Kicks, where, “it is the firm policy of this website that no one can have too much Dutch painting in their lives.”
And last but not least, there’s a new artist on the sidebar: Carol Es – a hardworking, curious visual/installation artist (and poet) from Los Angeles

Interview with Stevan Shapona

February 2, 2005 (Wednesday) – I first met Stevan Shapona (photo at right) in October 2004, during San Francisco’s annual Open Studios event.He works in San Francisco’s Excelsior District and that is not where his studio is, he works outside. Neither does he have an Internet connection nor email id and he still manages to get through and survive and as a result of his life in isolation he has given a lot of great and gracious series of nude female portraits. Unlike HB Swiss which was created using internet. His work intrigued me but it took me months to set up an interview with him. Finally I met Shapona and another local figurative painter, Dale Erickson (photo below), at Shapona’s home studio, on Feb. 2, 2005. We talked for three hours – it’s taken me three weeks to get the tapes transcribed and edited.

I was getting bored hearing myself ask the same old questions in these interviews, so I decided to start bringing another artist into the mix. Dale’s an old friend of mine, so he agreed to come along as my first co-interviewer. As I mentioned in October, Shapona’s studio is in the basement/garage of his house, but really the whole house is an artist’s gallery and workspace. We started in the back room upstairs:
(A:Anna, S:Stevan, D:Dale)

A: Can you talk about your subject matter and style?

S: I’m a representational oil painter and the female figure is my preference. My general aim is to take a concern for formal values (abstract values) in one hand and a humanistic representational concern in the other. My hope is to harmoniously combine these two intentions. There is a quality in 19th century art that has almost disappeared from the earth in our time – I believe that this quality derived from a reverence for the art of the past and reverence for nature. Somehow we’ve lost these feelings. I think we’re a society disconnected with the natural order. There is too much that is artificial in contemporary life. We’re like sponges – we soak up all that we come in contact with. When we go to express ourselves we wring out what was soaked up. I think my approach to painting is a kind of experiment. Can I, a person living in the the 21st century recapture some of that quality? Keep in mind that this is my analysis only after having followed my natural impulse, not a calculated move.

A: Do you consider Poussin to be an influence on your work?

S: Yes, he’s actually a real favorite of mine.

A: Who else would you think of that may have influenced your work?

S: Whistler, Arthur Matthews, Ingres, Sargent, Hammershoi… when I say influence, I mean I admire them, I’m fascinated by them, it’s not to say that I can do that.

D: I never thought much of Whistler, but then when I went to the Musee d’Orsay, I was knocked over by his work. The scale, and the subtlety of the paintings never came through in reproductions. You know, you can reproduce Matisse, but…

A: Your techniques and style are very classical. Do you ever wander from this traditional path and experiment with other styles?

S: Yes, I’ve explored many avenues from tonal impressionism to expressionism and abstraction. (We move to a back room with some of Shapona’s older work on the walls.)

A: Can you describe your process – how you build a painting?

S: What I do, is come up with a kind of color scheme, like a mural painter would. For instance, this one is a green and gold…. I could do it on a thousand different color schemes and that’s what fascinates me. Some of them are not as successful in that regard, but that’s what I’m trying to do.

D: I can see the way you worked the tonality of the skin color in with background color.

S: Yeah, that’s what I’ve been discovering. I can take the background color and use it to model the figure and harmonize it. Like this one here is really just black and white with a little yellow and red.

D: I like the simplification of the hands… is this on board?

S: I paint on masonite that I have covered with high-quality watercolor paper. I defend the back of the watercolor paper with Shellac and then use “Yes” glue. I just like the surface texture of the paper.

D: Wouldn’t acrylic medium be better to mount that?

(Several minutes of discussion about various kinds of painting supports and art supply places.)

A: Have you ever thought of your work as abstract?

S: Yes, I’m constantly trying to strike some sort of balance between the representational and the formalist (abstract) issue. There are artists who had a high degree of both. These are my heros. Theophile Gaultier once said in reference to Puvis that “a too lively reality of color would deprive the nudity of its virginal abstraction.” This has always meant a lot to me. History painters were seeking an “other world” quality. This appeals to me very much. Later painters like Whistler seem to have sought this other world quality in a poeticized vision of the contemporary world.

D: I like this double figure. I’ve done things like this… get two poses in life classes, make a slide of the two drawings and put them together in a painting.

S: Yeah… I’ve tried that too. I find that I burn out on the painting when I do two of them together, I don’t know why… I like just the one.

D: Do you feel one figure is a composition, two figures is a story?

S: I don’t mind that idea. Actually I think narrative would be a great thing to get into. I just wish I had a little more willingness to stay with the painting…

A: Is that why you work small?

S: I don’t know, maybe, yeah. Working big is a whole lot harder, because you’ve got to take, like in the painting of a hand, in a small painting its a couple of stokes, but if you do it bigger then you’re really getting into the darn hand, and each joint, you know.

D: I think it’s just temperament. I can’t work small.

S: Yeah, I did some big ones, one was about 50 inches wide and it turned out pretty good… it was a back pose, a great big back, a bigger gal and everything… and I sold it, but it was kind of like, well I felt like I was out in the middle of the ocean with a little boat…

D: Are these your drawings? More figure studies?

S: Oh, those are earlier drawings.

D: This is almost like a Vuillard. I can see the influence in the tonality.

S: Yeah…. I wish.

D: It’s interesting to see the development in your work.

S: In that regard you’re right, I just kind of got more … I guess I wanted more highly crafted things like you see in museums. I had a teacher who was that type of an artist and at the time I got in with him I was starting to move toward this broader approach you know, like this kind of thing here. He was much more academic, almost Bouguereau-ish..

D: Poor Bouguereau, he’s gotten the short end of the stick.

S: He did, didn’t he? But you know, there’s a big painting by him at the Legion of Honor right now. Have you seen that one? It’s a Pieta?

A: Yeah, I saw it.
D: Oh yeah, I’ve seen it.

S: That’s owned by Mel Gibson – did you know that?

A: You’re kidding me.
D: Mel Gibson, who’s that? Oh, OK…

S: So when people like that are buying these things, it makes you think a little bit. And Steve Martin collected modern paintings, but he just sold his whole collection.

A: So, he’s getting into something different?

S: I don’t know, but he’s selling his collection so what’s that tell you? I’m just saying it’s a well-kept secret but modern painting? The prices are plummeting.

D: Well, the prices were so inflated, Jesus… it’s not based on aesthetics at all. It’s based on concepts and speculation. It’s not based on the intrinsic value and the beauty of the object.

S: Yeah, but it also seems to me that it’s based on hype. Kinda like Tom Wolfe’s “Painted Word.”

(We move downstairs to the basement studio area.)

A: Stevan, did you paint the icons in the East Bay Serbian Orthodox Church?

S: How did you know about that?

A: I looked you up on the internet before coming over here.

S: Well, actually, I did do that, but I didn’t do all of the work in there. I did the work on the frame between the altar and the congregation. Somebody else did the murals in there. The person who did the murals was a trained iconographer, and you can tell. There’s a real difference. I did an artist’s version of iconography. They way they do it, man, it’s the most rigid system and everything is symbolic… it’s almost like you’re copying someone else’s stuff.

D: Did you use egg tempera?

S: No, I used acrylic. It’s not about creativity, but working within a strong tradition.

D: Yeah, the monks who originally did it, had no individuality. They were like servants.

A: So… where do you work, Stevan?

S: Right here (indicating wall easel) and here is where I work on studies (indicates standing easel a few feet away.)

A: Say, this is an interesting easel…

S: Oh, I don’t know, it’s old…. I acquired it from my father, who did art too. I had the wall easel made so I could work on the icons and bigger work. It used too have wing nuts here, but I found it works just as well with clamps.

D: I rigged something up, pretty much like this, and I found that clamps worked better, too.

S: Yeah, it’s perfect.

A: I’m really interested in the formal way that you go about it …

S: I can show you those little sketches that I do… It’s not big news to most of these art students who come by…

(We all look at a table with a selection of Stevan’s color-band panels, and tiny figure studies)

D: It looks like a study of musical harmonies.

S: This is a study for a bigger painting. Here I’ll show you (he collects corresponding studies and places them on easel side-by-side.) This gives you some idea…

D: I would expect you to work with natural light, but you really don’t.

S: I probably should…

D: No, I think you’re doing fine with this… you’ve got a combination of warm and cool light here, with the neutral walls and floors.

(discussion among the three of us about different types of light bulbs and lighting systems and the color of the light they cast, then about basement studios and dehumidifiers. Then we go back upstairs to sit in living room.)

A: Stevan, how did you become an artist? When did you know you were an artist?

S: You know, I was one of those kids who did art and drew, like pretty much everyone else did, but I just never stopped. All along I loved art. It goes way back, as far as I can remember. My father did art, too. Actually my father was a sign painter. He had quite a lot of confidence in himself. In fact, he did a lot of icon painting, too. But he, like me, was not a trained icon painter.

D: Does you father still paint?

S: You know, unfortunately, he doesn’t do much. He’s very retired.

A: I met him at your open studio. He was a nice guy, acting as the host. He said he did all the signs for your studio.

D: That’s a lost art, sign painting. I really have a lot of respect for that profession. We had a sign shop right across the alley from me in Rockford, Illinois. Those guys were really good.

A: Stevan, at the time you were going to school, you wouldn’t have received much support for the kind of work you wanted to pursue…

S: I studied with a particular teacher at San Jose State, Maynard Dixon Stuart was his name. He was very academic. Much more so than I could ever be. I have a book that he wrote, called “The Language of Painting” – the guy was amazing. Yes, he was named after Maynard Dixon, who was a friend of his father, a regional painter from Utah.

A: Did you grow up around here?

S: I was born in San Francisco, and went to grade school here, then we moved to Alamo, then Serramonte, then Millbrae. I came back to San Francisco when I was about 25, actually into this place here. I got this house then.

D: That was a good move.

(The inevitable San Francisco real estate discussion goes on for quite a few minutes.)

A: Stevan, do you think getting your house so early has enabled your painting?

S: Without a doubt, yeah. I mean, I’m still living on a shoe string, but you have to have something like this to make it, unless you’re a great business person, which I’m not.

A: So you’re pretty committed to being in San Francisco?

S: Well, I wouldn’t necessarily mind living somewhere else, but I’m dependent on being here for Open Studios, and proximity to galleries. But things are getting so hectic and congested in San Francisco.

(Dale and Stevan grumble about traffic, and lack of support for the arts in California.)

D: You’ll do fine if you paint California landscapes, plein air style, but heaven forbid if you do figurative work. I have an art consultant who reps some of my work, and she won’t take any nudes. You can’t even have a hint of nudity.

S: Yeah, I’ve been kept out of certain shows because of the nude thing… I guess you have to try to figure out how to position the pose so that it’s not showing much. Even the galleries that do carry my work, they back off on the ones that are more explicit.

D: They’re probably afraid Ashcroft is going to come down on them.

A: What was your subject matter when you first started painting?

S: Right off the bat I was interested in comic books. I was really fascinated by Marvel comic books, especially the covers. And it dawned on me later in life that those things are based very much on Renaissance values. The Michelangelo, exaggerated musculature, heroic figures, you know? Everything is anatomical and some of the effects are very striking. And then, I looked to American Illustration and Baroque art. We had those kinds of books around because my father liked to read about that stuff. He used to do copies of Winslow Homer.

D: That was when American Illustration was so strong. I came in on the tail end of it, in the 50’s. But the magazines that used them, kind of fell by the wayside. I used to go to my grandparent’s house to look at the “Saturday Evening Post.”

S: Yeah, I was just dazzled by Norman Rockwell. American Illustration… was a great time period. Hopper started out in that era, and Homer, Remington… and most of the so-called fine art guys did a certain amount of illustration.

D: Well, computers have taken over that realm now and things done by hand are becoming rare. So many of the students I work with don’t have the interest, the concentration, or the skill to do this work.

A: So, do either of you think you’ll see the day when hand-made illustrations are revered again?

S: I think they ARE revered, and I tell you what – some of that stuff is profoundly expensive.
But there’s a difference between what collectors revere and the opinions of critics and historians.

D: Well, the big battle was when abstract expressionist came in. Figurative work was just degraded.

A: Well, you know, I’ve seen a lot of young artists, for instance the “Beautiful Losers” show they just had at Yerba Buena Center – they’re drawing and painting the figure. They’re doing narrative work… it’s not classical or academic, but it’s really interesting stuff.

S: Yeah, the Academy of Art here in SF – if you went to their Spring Exhibition years back, when I was a student, it would have all been abstract expressionism. Now it’s all representational. It’s a really talented group of people. Especially the Chinese and Russian painters, who seemed to have held on to their academy traditions.

D: There’s a lot of contemporary art coming out of China as well. And there was always contemporary art being done in Russia, but it was just suppressed. The artists starved. Actually it’s similar to the situation here and now. Unless you’re certified by the “state” (the curatorial staff at the museums) you’re not going to be able to get your art out.

A: Yeah, but there’s this whole parallel art scene happening… people like Thomas Kinkade, Bev Doolittle, and George Sumner – they’re ignored by the museums, but they’re not starving.

D: Well, they’re making a living, but they won’t become famous and they won’t go beyond a certain wage scale.

A: I don’t know about that… I think some of them make a lot of money, and are known by more people than a lot of the artists in museums.

S: Yes, some of these artists are doing pretty well, but they’re not going to be shown at the MOMA – forget about it. But think about it – whatever art was produced prior to the 19th century is pretty much put forward by the art historians as representative of that time and place. Then the 19th century comes along and all of a sudden they become very discerning about what’s acceptable… it’s like all the critics get together and agree that this movement is cool and this one is not. What is that all about? Because they’re the ones who point the fingers at artists and claim that we’re bigoted, narrow- minded, and they’ve got the catholic tastes… uh-uh, that’s a farce.

D: But the Avant-garde at the turn of the century had to have something to rebel against. That’s the reason for its existence, to rebel against academic standards. Renaissance art was a rebellion against the Gothic that came before it. And within the Academic tradition was the seeds of the Impressionist movement that grew out of it. It’s just recently that artists like Gerome are being brought out of the basement.

S: I can remember having an art history class and as soon as he put up a slide of Gerome, the class would break into laughter. Now that didn’t happen initially. When he first put up the Gerome slide, they were looking at it and enjoying the painting. But he instilled this idea that we’ve decided this is bad art. Gerome was tremendous. He was a phenomenon.

D: Yeah, there’s a beautiful Gerome in the Legion, the Turkish Bath. I know it’s camp, but…

S: It’s an astoundingly beautiful painting. To relegate these guys to the dust bin is an absurdity. I can remember an art Professor at San Jose State when I was there, her husband was a real big shot at Stanford, and this was a brilliant lady, and she said that Bouguereau couldn’t draw! She had a big book on Matisse and she said Matisse could draw. My mouth just hung open, I mean…..

A: How do you feel about what’s going on in the art world right now?

S: I don’t actively seek to know. Most of my inquiry is backward in direction. What I do see is a lot of photography. The S.F. Academy of Art is returning to representation. Manet’s impressionism seems to dominate. Plein Air painting has become a fad as of late. Some of it is very good. But the bandwagon is crowded at the moment which can dilute the quality on the surface of it. I’m still waiting for an art critic / historian to write about the academic art of the 19th century with intelligence and sympathy. Gammel’s book, “The Twilight of Painting” is on of the best on the subject. Also Albert Boimes, “The Academy and French Painting in the 19th Century.”

D: It’s an exciting time now, in SF with the new deYoung Museum and all the other art museums being built… if only the people here in SF would buy more art.

A: I was under the impression that SF was one of the better places for the arts…

D: Well, there’s a lot of interest in building museums, and there are plenty of galleries here, but that doesn’t mean people here are buying art. A lot of the galleries have clientele from outside the city, both national and international. So the galleries might be doing well, but the local artists are dependent on the local economy, unless you’re connected with one of those galleries.

S: I’m connected to three galleries, but they’re not, I guess the kind of gallery you’re talking about. At this time I’m represented by Thomas Reynolds Fine Art (SF), Tiburon Fine Art (Tiburon), and Chemers Gallery (SoCal). The business side of my work is constantly being neglected, as is most everything else in my life. Generally I paint the study I want, frame it, and maintain a blind faith that at some point I will find a buyer for it. I’m convinced that there are a lot of things we should keep at a distance. If you’re thinking about business you’re not thinking about art and nature and that brings us back to the sponge idea. What you soak up you will wring out.

About Robert Bechtle

February 14, 2005 (Monday) – I went to the Robert Bechtle show at SFMOMA on Friday and again on Saturday.Robert Bechtle was born on May14th of 1932. He is an American painter. He got his bachelor’s degree in 1954 that is Bachelor of Fine Arts and his master’s in the year 1958 that is Master of Fine Arts from the California College of Arts and Crafts. He has served in military as well in Germany after which he lived rest of his life in the Bay Area. Crypto Wealth will serve in trading. And you know, I just don’t think “photorealist” is a particularly accurate description of his work. Maybe at one time (in the 70s) it made some kind of marketing sense, but it doesn’t really describe the majority of his work.

He’s a realist. Period. Like most realist painters, he focuses on images of the real world, his real world. He paints his family, his house, his neighborhood, his cars. As he moves about in his world, he captures sketches of things that he might want to paint later. He uses his camera as a sketching tool. He sets up many of the scenes he intends to paint, photographs the scene, and then manipulates the photos (cutting and splicing different photos together, or just adding and eliminating elements.) There’s a few display cases showing Bechtle’s source photographs, and preliminary sketches for some paintings, including, “Potrero Table”,1994, show above left.

Between SFMOMA and the other two venues showing Robert Bechtle’s work in SF this month, there are about 140 of his paintings, drawings and prints on view. Only about 3 or 4 of those could fairly be described as “copying a photograph.” His earlier work is flattened and pared down to a point approaching minimalism. The later work is very painterly, almost impressionistic. In neither case does it look like a photograph, at least when you’re standing in front of it. It does reproduce like a photo, however. Both in print, and on the web, almost all of Bechtle’s paintings look like photographs.

So, I highly recommend a personal visit to these shows, if you want to understand the buzz about Bechtle:

SFMOMA, through June 5, 2005
Gallery Paule Anglim, through March 5, 2005
Crown Point Press, through April 2, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 10, 2005 (Thursday) – Robert Bechtle, prints at Crown Point Press

Robert Bechtel, Sunset Intersection, 1983, color soft ground etching in three panels on one sheet of paper.
Paper size: 32-1/4 x 59-3/4; image size 22 x 49-1/2″, printed by Lilah Toland at Crown Point Press.

Yesterday I talked about Bechtle’s charcoal drawings at Gallery Paule Anglim. Another Bechtle show opened in San Francisco last week, at Crown Point Press, which is located just south of SFMOMA. Bechtle has been making prints at Crown Point Press since 1967, and they have a great selection in this show, from some 1967 hard ground etchings to his most recent soft ground color etching, finished in October 2004.

Some of these images were familiar to me, as the FAMSF has many of his earlier prints and the Oakland Museum has a few of his paintings. Bechtle tends to recycle favorite images, in different formats, again and again. In 1983 he made a huge color soft ground etching of a Sunset intersection (not far from my house – image of the print above.) I’m sure I’ve seen an oil painting of this image somewhere, probably in New York, but I can’t find a mention of it on the web. The print is in three panels, on one sheet of paper, 32-1/4 x 59-3/4″. I can understand the technical reasons for the three panels, but I think it detracts from the image. Nevertheless, it’s a great print.

I was hoping to see a copy of the color woodcut print, “Potrero Houses – Pennsylvania Avenue”, and I wasn’t disappointed. I had read about this print in Kathan Brown’s 1996 book, “Ink, Paper, Metal, Wood” (ISBN 0-8118-0469-0). Bechtle had painted the scene on silk, using Chinese watercolors. Then he and Brown went to Beijing to have it printed at a Chinese woodcut shop. They were happy with the printing, but not the mounting:

“When we received the edition prints of “Potrero Houses – Pennsylvania Avenue,” the printing was consistently good. But in the mounting, lots of brush hairs and bits of dirt and straw had been caught between the print and the heavier sheet on which it was mounted. The dirt showed clearly through the silk, especially in the wide expanse of the street in the print. when we complained about this to Mr. Sun at Rong Bao Zhai, he was surprised at our concern. ‘No one sees that,’ he said. His tone implied a simple statement of fact, not an excuse, and I realized that in china, people have learned not to see what they consider unimportant. We ended up throwing away the worst of the flawed prints, settling for a smaller edition than we had wanted (and paid for). I decided in the future, we should do the mounting ourselves.”
from Kathan Brown’s “Ink, Paper, Metal, Wood” (ISBN 0-8118-0469-0)

The edition was only 38, but the one they had framed at the show looks very good – actually, it looks like a watercolor at first glance.

The most recent print is the one that Crown Point Press is using on the postcard for this show, “Texas and 20th Intersection.” It’s a soft ground etching with aquatint, Paper size 31 x 39″; image size 22 x 30-3/4″, printed by Catherine Brooks. A car slants down the hill to the left with sunlight glaring off the windshield. That glow coming off the windshield is an awesome tour de force. Kathan Brown wrote,

“This is a large print for Bechtle, whose work is labor intensive, his largest except for the famous “Sunset Intersection” of 1983. He spent three weeks in October, 2004, working every day on it, drawing five 22 x 30 copper plates in soft ground and adding a sixth for aquatint. In soft ground etching, the artist draws on paper laid over a plate coated with a soft wax. The pressure of the pencil picks up the wax, and the texture of the paper is etched into the plate. That texture provides the tooth that holds ink and gives a soft ground line it’s quality.
quoted from Winter 2005 edition of “Overview,” the Crown Point Press newsletter

February 11, 2005 (Friday) – Robert Bechtle, in print, in the press and on the web

Amazingly, the SF Chronicle assigned Jesse Hamlin, instead of Kenneth Baker, to review the Robert Bechtel show. Now we won’t have to read how realism is dead and painting is on life support. It’s a good article (check it out.) He interviews Bechtle in front of some of his early work at SFMOMA. Bechtle talks about being tuned into the “hum of ordinary things,” and he describes how he saw California with new eyes after returning from a trip to Europe. Hamlin mentions the surprising painterly quality in Bechtle’s work – you really don’t notice that in books or on the web – you have to be standing in front of the painting itself.

I’m a fan of Bechtle’s work, and it’s not only his command of technique that impresses me, but the California aesthetic, also expressed in the work of Chester Arnold, John Register, James Doolin, Robert Arneson, Edward Ruscha, and William T. Wiley. On Monday I’ll wrap up this series with a personal report on the SFMOMA show. Until then, here’s more info on Robert Bechtle:

Robert Bechtle’s Artist’s statement from 1999, OK Harris Gallery:

I am interested in how things look; I am also interested in painting that is based upon how things look. I like to see things the way they are rather than thinking how they can be changed. The richness and range of the visual world constantly thrills and amazes me. I am most particularly interested in using the part of our world which we seem to notice least…that is, our everyday surroundings as we live day to day. Thus, I have painted friends and family, familiar houses, streets and neighborhoods. The paintings are on one level, about middle class American life as experienced in California. On another, they are about reconciling that subject matter with concerns about formal painting issues (the use of color and light, design, and the kinds of marks one must make to replicate appearances). They are, in that sense, a part of a long tradition of European and American painting which has sought to find significance in the details of the commonplace.
– – Robert Bechtle, 1990

Web sites that feature Robert Bechtle’s work:

Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York (new work)
SFMOMA Bechtle Retrospective Exhibition February 2005 show
FAMSF : de Young Museum, Bechtle prints
Oakland Museum, about Oct. 2000 show
Hunter Museum, Bechtel pages
CrownPoint Press Bechtle pages page
ArtBusiness review of Bechtle openings
Gallery Paule Anglim, Bechtle page
OK Harris Gallery
Traditional Fine Art Online, Review of Bechtle show
Seavest Collection
Hyperealism.net
Bechtle’s AskARTpage
Bechtle images from art-in-context
ArtCyclopedia list of Bechtle web sites
Brauer Museum Bechtle page

Books that mention and show Robert Bechtle’s work:

Robert Bechtle, A Retrospective
by Janet Bishop, Michael Auping, Jonathan Weinberg, Charles Ray, Joshua Shirkey; 2005 UC Press, ISBN 0520245431
This is the recent SFMOMA show catalog.

Ink, Paper, Metal, Wood
by Kathan Brown, 1996, Chronicle Books, ISBN 0-8118-0469-0
(pages 212 – 215: story of Bechtle’s woodcut on silk prints, images of Bechtle’s “Potrero Houses – Pennsylvania Avenue” and “Albany Monte Carlo”)

Super Realism
by Edward Lucie-Smith, 1979, Phaidon Press, ISBN 0-7148-1971-9
(page 37: Bechtle’s painting, “Santa Barbara Motel”)

Contemporary American Realism since 1960
by Frank H. Goodyear, 1981, New York Graphic Society, ISBN 0-8212-1126-9
(page 199: Bechtle’s painting, “58 Rambler” and a little bit of copy about him)

Made In California: Art, Image and Identity, 1900 – 2000
by Stephanie Barron, Sheri Bernstein, Ilene Susan Fort, 2001, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, ISBN 0-520-22764-6
(page 206: Bechtle’s painting, “67 Chrysler”)

Photorealism at the Millennium
by Louis K. Meisel, 2002, Harry N. Abrams, ISBN 0-8109-3483-3
(pages 39 – 50: images of 59 paintings by Bechtle, most of them from the ten years before the book was published.)

Realism
by Kerstin Stremmel, 2004, Taschen, ISBN 3-8228-2942-0
(page 13: Bechtle’s painting, “Marin Avenue – Late Afternoon” and a quote form Bechtle: “When I’m photographing a car in front of a house I try to keep in mind what a real-estate photographer would do if he were taking a picture of the house and try for that quality.”)

Realism in 20th Century Painting
by Brendan Prendeville, 2000, Thames & Hudson, ISBN 0-500-20336-9
(pages 152, 169 – 171, image of Bechtle’s painting, “20th Street – Early sunday Morning”, and a small amount of text about his work)

Robert Bechtle: California classic (Centric 58)
by Marina Freeman, 2000, California State University, Long Beach, University Art Museum, ISBN: 0936270403
(show catalog – out of print)

Why Draw a Landscape?
by Kathan Brown, Bryan Hunt (Illustrator), April Gornik (Illustrator), Joan Nelson (Illustrator), Anne. Appleby (Illustrator), Slyvia P. Mangold, Jane Freilicher (Illustrator), Pat Steir, Ed Ruscha, Robert Bechtle, Tom Marioni
(1999) Crown Point Press, ISBN: 1891300113
Kathan Brown proposes that the best artists reflect issues of their times in their work and suggests that in life and art engagement is replacing coolness.

January 2005

Friday night was the member’s party for SFMOMA’s Tenth Anniversary Celebration. Plus the opening of the SECA awards show. I met some friends downtown after they got off work and we hung out at Stacy’s and Mel’s until the lower-level members were allowed in the door. Outside, it was quite festive. Inside, it was too crowded for my taste, but the mob was mostly confined to the lobby. It reminded me of when I used to go backpacking in Yosemite or King’s Canyon… the valley is hot, and jammed with people, but as soon as you start climbing, the air cools, the crowds thin, and it gets much quieter. Upstairs at SFMOMA, surprisingly few people were looking at the art. I spent a little time in the room that holds Jackson Pollock’s “Guardians of the Secret”, flanked by a couple of Philip Guston paintings: “White Painting I” on the left and “The Tormenters” on the right.

Travelling is a great experience for each and every one from children to adults. We will become so thrilled when we think of it. Travelling will educate us with many things like the climate changes, famous things about the place, history of the place, etc.… As we love travelling, we will be enthusiastic to know about the places. Likewise, trading also develops an interest in it among the traders when they yield profits at least once. To know more about trading, just click Crypto VIP Club.

These paintings are really growing on me. I’ve been coming back here, since SFMOMA reorganized the permanent collection, and I’ve become very fond of them. Before this encounter, I never liked any of Guston’s work and only a few early Pollocks. But I think I may be finding a way into their other work through these three paintings. (More about the SECA show in a day or two.)
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January 21, 2005 (Friday)

All day Thursday I worked on this painting, and I think it’s just about done. It’s a good description of my state of mind these days… heavy clouds lifting, light on the horizon (but sun is setting.) Anyway, I’m still trying to decide whether to paint in the power lines or not. Unfortunately this is not one of those times where you can just say, “What the heck, paint it – if you don’t like it, paint over it.” No, in this case, if I screw up the lines, or just don’t like the way they look, it would mean practically repainting the entire thing. Hence my hesitation. So, I’ll just set it to the side and work on one of the other paintings that are in progress. Sooner or later I’ll know which way to go with this one.

Tonight is the member’s party for SFMOMA’s Tenth Anniversary Celebration. Plus the opening of the SECA Awards show. Depending on how the painting is going, I might go downtown for that.

I got an email from local artist David Holmes about the SF International Art Expo, which I’m sharing with his permission:

Just wanted to say great job for your blog review of the SFIAE. It’s nice to hear an artist’s perspective.

I too was at the show Friday. Two of my pieces were on display at the Larry Evans booth. I agree that the show had some nice work, but overall it felt a bit half-hearted. One point worth mentioning is that fewer people attended the opening night gala because it was the same night as Michael Tilson Thomas’s big birthday bash. That apparently was the social event of the season, and siphoned off many of the art lovers and well-to-do.

I have one small correction for your review: The Sandow Birk painting was titled “The mocking of Jesus”, not Christ. I believe that makes a big difference though, since it’s meant to be a joke on the name of the wheelchair victim.

In other news, I went to New York in December for my first show there, at the DFN Gallery. It was a lot of fun, and I got a good response to my new painting “Broadway Hustle” (see attached). It is my biggest painting to date, 80″ x 32″.

My next scheduled show is in LA at the Keller Green Gallery (April-May). I’m trying to finish a new painting in time.

Keep up the good work!

David Holmes

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January 20, 2005 (Thursday)

For some reason, I couldn’t get online yesterday morning, and had to leave early, so I’m posting both Wed. & Thurs. entries now.

Today I’ll be in the studio painting all day. This means I turn the phone off, don’t answer the door, don’t turn on the computer. This is partly because I didn’t get to paint yesterday and I’m trying to make up that time. But mostly it’s because I have a constant sense of urgency about not “wasting” whatever time I have left. Last March I started a “reverse calendar” to remind myself of life’s brevity. I marked off a canvas with a grid of tiny boxes, each one representing one day, with enough “days” to last 20 years, which is about how long the insurance company thinks I’ll live. Each day, I paint in a box. The act of painting that box forces me to think about the best use of my time and/or energy… about what’s really important. Here’s what it looks like so far:

Hope you spend time on what’s important to you today, and I’ll be back tomorrow.

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January 19, 2005 (Wednesday)

Got two new paintings started, got a gallery that wants to see my work (taking a few pieces down today,) and suddenly people are buying my paintings… things are definitely looking up.

I have to leave the house today before the sun gets up (way before I’m usually moving) and go pick up some paintings from a coffee shop venue, take them to the gallery venue, and then take some paintings out of storage over to the coffee shop. Then I have to go see a guy about making a packing crate for shipping a painting back east. All on public transportation. So who knows when I’ll get back to the studio, but I’ll probably be too tired to paint. So I’ll paint twice as long tomorrow.

’till then, remember this:

“Ars longa, vita brevis.”

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January 18, 2005 (Tuesday)
Rupert Garcia (painter, printmaker):

“I went to San Francisco to become ‘an artiste’. I say it that way because that’s the image I had. You’re supposed to make drawings, somehow get discovered, have a show, and become rich and famous. Well, that was certainly a myth. I went to San Francisco, and I became a dishwasher at a restaurant in the Mission District. My roommates were going to San Francisco State. They had money to do that. I didn’t have any money whatsoever, so going to school was out of the question. I made drawings in our apartment, and I had no idea what you’re supposed to do to get representation. I didn’t even know you’re supposed to get representation. I just thought you go to San Francisco and things fall from the sky. I wound up joining the air force to get a job. I spent four years in the military, a year in Southeast Asia, and got out in May of ’66. When I got to San Francisco State, the anti war movement was developing, and no one knew I was a vet from the Vietnam war. I kept my mouth shut. When the strike occurred we had a big meeting with faculty and students to discuss what we could do to support the strike, which was going on as we were meeting. Posters seemed to be the answer for us. If the strike hadn’t occurred, I would not have made silkscreens. I stopped making easel paintings, because it didn’t feel connected to what was happening on and off campus. I became a full-time screen printer.”

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January 17, 2005 (Monday)
On Friday I spent about 5 hours at the San Francisco International Art Exposition. There didn’t seem to be as many art viewers as last year, but it maybe it’s just me. If the numbers are actually down, it might have something to do with the fact that some of the advertising (for instance, the ad in Gallery Guide) did NOT list the location of this show. Also, I noticed that when we entered the Ft. Mason complex, there were signs for the big print show, the book sale, and other events, but no banners or signs for the art expo, which was located in a building way, way in the back (not visible from the entrance or parking lot.) If I had been an out-of-towner, it seems unlikely that I would have found my way there. Luckily I live here, assumed it was the same building as last year, and knew how to get there.

Other than attendance, my general impressions of the show, as a whole:

Way more representational work, and I know I said that last year, but it seems to be increasing each year, which probably makes Kenneth Baker very unhappy (here’s his review of the show.)
I’m noticing a trend in figure painting toward fleshy nudes, choppily painted with square brushes, creating a pixilated effect, and I’m tired of it already.
Glossy color photos on the business cards are out – letter press business cards are in.
I didn’t notice too many out-and-out bad paintings, but there were too many third-rate Dali, Picasso, Warhol, and Toulouse-Lautrec prints.
What was the deal with that strange booth full of “antiquities” (terracotta stuff from archeological digs?)
I don’t usually see a lot of artists attending this show, but I did notice Guy Diehl, Chester Arnold, and Brian Goggin strolling the aisles.
There were a significant number of craft-like items, made from buttons, bows, embroidery, textile arts, painted furniture and the like (see button portrait below.)
Name/materials connections were popular. For instance, the Forum Gallery’s David Mach used matches to make animal head sculptures (“Golden Rhino” above right) and the Maxwell Davidson Gallery’s Darren Lago used Legos to make “paintings” (Mondrian series below.).

The local galleries looked great – Charles Campbell, Hackett Freedman, Catherine Clark, Paul Thiebaud, and Edith Caldwell collectively had an impressive collection of work by Bay Area artists from 1950 to 2004. That alone was worth the price of admission. (Photo of Charles Campbell booth at left and Edith Caldwell at right – click on either to see bigger image.)

Catherine Clark had a huge new painting by Chester Arnold – a self portrait of the artist working in his studio. It reminded me of the self-portrait series he did about a year ago, a wall full of tiny little jewels, each painting no bigger than 3″ square. I wanted to buy one of them, but had no money then, and no sign of any on the horizon. Remembering those paintings now, and feeling a little better funded these days, I asked the gallery staff if any of those little portraits were left, but no such luck.

Catherine Clark was also showing a Lisa Kokin portrait of a man and woman made from buttons and dental floss. (Photo at left – click for larger image.)
Julie Baker Fine Art, from Grass Valley, CA had some of the most amazing encaustics I’ve ever seen. Matt Duffin uses mostly black encaustic wax on a white board, with a modified scratchboard technique to make funny, eerie images. (Photo at right.)

Renee Bott (at left) from Paulson Press, in Berkeley, CA showed Chris Ballantyne’s prints (far left) as well as work by John Cage, Richard Diebenkorn, Judy Pfaff, Pat Steir, and Wayne Thiebaud Trillium Press was here, too. These places allow the artist to just do the drawing and they handle the technical and craft aspects of the printing.
Koplin Del Rio gallery from, West Hollywood, CA had a Sandow Birk painting, “The Mocking of Christ” (image at left.) He’s still working on his big Divine Comedy series, but took time out to for this painting. A traveling exhibition of Birk’s Divine Comedy will begin its run at the San Jose Museum of Art later this year.

Tim lowly is another Koplin Del Rio artist, a painter with dark, repressed tone that reminds me a bit of Andrew Wyeth. (Images at left, below Birk.)a
Steve Albert (also Koplin Del Rio) painted a beautiful refrigerator interior that looked like stained glass (image at right.)

There was actually lots more to write about and pictures to show, but it’s late, I’m tired and I want to start painting early tomorrow, so that’s all you’re getting for now.
ADDENDUM: Excellent coverage and photos of this event by Alan Bamberger at Artbusiness.com

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January 14, 2005 (Friday)
It’s sunny today and I should be painting, but I’m heading over to Ft. Mason to see the SF International Art Expo, which is a puffed up name for a collection of galleries that mostly hail from San Francisco (23), New York (13), and Chicago (5). There are 19 other US galleries. The “International” refers to the 3 galleries from Seoul, 1 from Berlin, and 1 from Calgary. But whatever they call it, I usually have a great time – lots of art, mostly West Coast and Pacific Rim influences, all in one place. Report on Monday.

Meanwhile here are a couple of thoughts for the weekend:

A couple of days ago I heard SF Opera conductor Donald Runnicles say that one of the reasons they had “Marriage of Figaro” on the upcoming schedule is that the musicians needed a regular dose of Mozart. He described it as being “like taking your car in for a tune up.”

I’ve been thinking of Plato’s cave for the last year. And Saramago’s cave. But it occurred to me yesterday, when the sun returned after a long absence, that we can’t look directly at the light. At least not while we inhabit these bodies. It would be physically harmful and cause blindness. The best we can do is focus on reflected light. And I’m wondering…. are reflections all that different from shadows?
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January 13, 2005 (Thursday)
Varnish Gallery was the site of the Laughing Squid party last night. (left – the Doggy Diner heads and art cars parked in front of the gallery.) I ran into a lot of people I know because so many artists host at the Squid. (photos below- yours truly with Bern Rauch, Phil Deal and Pam Heyda — I bumped into Betsy and Jerry from Little Fluffy Clouds on the way in, but didn’t get a good photo of them.) All the big squids and some of burning man was there.

This is a terrific gallery space. It’s a little old brick building on an alley behind SFMOMA – looks like it might have been a firehouse or garage at one time. It has a full bar, lots of seating, big skylights that look out on the taller buildings all around it. It was kinda trippy looking up through the skylights into the office windows of skyscrapers, with people still working … guys in lab coats and silver cowboy hats handed out magnetic flashing light party favors… good food & drink, good music, good conversation, free t-shirts, plus great art – what more could a person want?

The gallery is currently showing new work by Laurenn McCubbin. The opening reception is tomorrow (Friday the 14th) with a reading by Michelle Tea from her book, “Rent Girl,” which McCubbin illustrated. I noticed the book in the window of the Cartoon Art Museum as I was walking to the party. McCubbin’s work is installed in the ground floor main gallery, and the second floor balcony/loft holds work by a selection of other artists. Sculpture is all over the place, and it’s the focus of the gallery, but I tend to notice only the paintings when I’m here. I’ve noticed a high percentage of female artists here, and most of the work is representational, in the comix, graphic, illustration mode. More photos of the party below.
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<– left, above – yours truly with Bern Rauch and Phil Deal; left, below – Phil Deal and Pam Heyda

January 12, 2005 (Wednesday)

There’s an interesting and unique show at the California Historical Society now. “Poetry and its Arts” is a collaboration between the California Historical Society and the Poetry Center at SF State. The show is about collaborations between visual artists, musicians, and poets in San Francisco. There are over a 100 works of art jammed into this space, and as you might expect, many of them are text-rich. The paintings, drawings, photos and prints are hung within inches of each other, plus there are wordy wall-tags squeezed in between them. When I first started looking, I was having trouble telling the difference between the historical annotations, the translations of imbedded poetry, and the art. It was making me a little anxious, so I finally said the heck with it, and just ignored everything but the paintings. After the first go-round, I was able to go through again and check out some of the text, photos, posters, and book art. There are a couple of installations as well, including a messy room full of tapes and papers called “Collective Memory.” Besides the original art, there are posters and photos of cultural events from the 50’s and 60’s. You could spend a good long time here, if you planned to look at everything. Only three bucks admission – includes comfy chairs to sit in when your feet get tired. “Poetry and its Arts” will be up until April 16, 2005 (and it’s across the street from the Cartoon Art Museum.)

“Poetry and its Arts”
December 11, 2004 – April 16, 2005.
at the Poetry Center at the California Historical Society
678 Mission Street, San Francisco, California
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January 11, 2005 (Tuesday)

I finally finished that commission, and got started on a couple of my own paintings, so I’m feeling pretty chipper in spite of the continuing rain (extra lights help.) I managed to slip out during a short break in the deluge to attend a local artists’ meeting. Benny Shaboy, the publisher of studioNOTES and Art Opportunities Monthly was giving a lecture on “Finding and Winning Art Opportunities.” It was all good information, but nothing I hadn’t heard before. It occurred to me that this kind of advice, along with advice on “How to get into a gallery” and “How to make a living as an artist,” is similar to information on how to lose weight… we keep listening to new versions of the same old advice because we keep hoping there will be some easy magic step that make it happen.
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January 10, 2005 (Monday)
Judy Chicago (painter):

“When I was in graduate school, Billy Al Bengston came to teach. I used to follow him around, much to his amusement, and I really learned from him about what it means to be a serious artist. I went to his studio and I saw the seriousness with which he approached his work and the integrity: nothing else is important except art. Making money didn’t figure in at all. Being takens seriously as an artist was what it was all about. He taught me the “something is going to happen” philosophy. How do you live when you don’t have a steady job? Well, something’s going to happen. And if something didn’t happen, you were really up shit’s creek. You had to pay your rent.”
From book, “State of the Arts, California Artists Talk About Their Work,” by Barbara Isenberg, ©2000, William Morrow, ISBN 0-380-81072-7

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January 7, 2005 (Friday)
Continuing the train of thought from yesterday… as Marja-Leena Rathje and others have said, “Artists have embraced the internet as a tool that helps them create, promote, and sell their work.” Well, sort of. I look around at the community of artists here in the backyard of the dot-com phenomenon, and it seems to me that a minority of (visual) artists are even computer literate, never mind the internet. Of course, that could be an age thing. Most of the painters I’m friends with are in their 40s to 60s. Most of the artists who are using the internet effectively are in their 20s. But there are plenty of exceptions, and the internet helps me find them.

It also helps me recognize those aspects of the collective unconscious that show up in my work. For instance, my recent short rumination on “death in art” was a harbinger of my next series of paintings, and I would be tempted to blame it on recent events in my personal life, but then I see that Roberta Fallon and Libby Rosof have done a few entries on Goth and the Grotesque in art shows they’ve seen (“Both confront death and horror, and they both have room for spiritual agendas.”) And artists like Mark Barry have written (regarding the recent tsunami) “how events creep into our thoughts and have a permanent effect on us in every way, from here on.”

I know there’s a connection between these things. The nature of that connection is hard to put into words but easy to put into painting. If only I didn’t have these other paintings to finish first. Now that I think about it, that could be the main advantage of verbal/written language: it’s quicker.

Which is where the blogosphere shines – it’s quick. In the last few days I’ve learned about Franklin Einspruch’s Drawing Project, Todd Gibson’s subway wrapping proposal, Charles T. Downey’s reflections on a 17th century artist/poet (These lying pigments facing you,with every charm brush can supply,set up false premises of color to lead astray the unwary eye; Here, against ghastly tolls of time, bland flattery has staked a claim, defying the power of passing years to wipe out memory and name.),Rachael B’s thoughts on “People Got hurt,” and Chris at Zeke’s Art-Not listings (thanks, Chris).

… which as Mark said, creeps into my thoughts and will have a permanent affect on my perceptions and renditions of the universe.

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January 6, 2005 (Thursday)
The art news I get from other bloggers may be personal, quirky, prejudiced or even inaccurate, but it’s always timely, usually interesting, and sometimes educational. I realized recently that I hardly look at the art magazines that arrive in my mailbox anymore. One quick flip-through to look at the pictures, and I’m usually done. So I’ve decided to let my art magazine subscriptions lapse. Except for “Modern Painters.” Even they seem to be going down the tubes, but I still have hopes that their good writing about PAINTING (you think? maybe?) will return. I certainly don’t need the print journals to keep up on who’s showing where, or what the show was like – the web is way out in front on that one. It seems like the print journals would have an advantage if they offered thoughtful, well researched articles, copiously illustrated. In the meantime, they have almost nothing to offer me.

Actually, I’m finding that some non-art publications (like Believer and Shambhala Sun) are running interesting art stories now and then. So it looks like it’s back to browsing bookstore magazine racks, looking for the occasional good story, whatever journal it happens to run in.

Jesse Hamlin of the SF Chronicle wrote a story yesterday about an art collector whose “hobby” is collecting work that can’t be sold. Steve Oliver, chairman of the board of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, has commissioned seventeen site-specific works from artists like Richard Serra, Bruce Nauman, Andy Goldsworthy, Ursula Von Rydingsvard and Martin Puryear. The works are installed on his 100-acre ranch north of San Francisco. Cool story – read it here.

Speaking of art collectors, Tyler Green uncovered a new collector-blogger, Misti Hickling from Seattle. Here’s hoping she lasts longer than Paige West. I added Misti Hickling to my sidebar, which in case you hadn’t noticed, gets updated at least weekly. So, take a look now and then, eh?

One of the new features in the sidebar is a calendar of SF Visual Arts events. Miguel Sánchez mentioned that, “just looking at these lists makes me woozy from thinking of the effort involved.” Thanks, but it’s really not a big deal to copy and paste press blurbs from the gallery and museum sites I visit anyway, and putting them all in a single document makes it easier for me to keep track of the shows I want to see, so… I thought I’d share. It’s in no way a comprehensive list of everything there is to see in San Francisco.

More tomorrow about what I get from other bloggers (and for anyone who’s interested: sadly, no, I’m still not done with that painting.)

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January 5, 2005 (Wednesday)
I can’t believe I’m still working on this same (big commission) painting, but I think I can finish it tomorrow, if my arm holds out. Just a few more details to clean up. For inspiration and encouragement, I have another painting, just barely started, sitting next to me on the other easel in the studio. It’s a subject I really want to paint, and it’s at the fun stage. So far, I’ve only painted a loose line image – haven’t even done the transparent orange ground yet. It sits there, beckoning to me…. but I’m going to need a day or two of rest before getting back to it. My right arm is really getting wrecked – now the elbow is aching. Maybe I can start the underpainting for the next canvas with my left arm/hand. Years ago I read somewhere that writing and drawing with the non-dominant hand created additional neural pathways in the brain (why, exactly, that’s a good thing, I forget.) Anyway, just for the hell of it, I started to practice drawing and writing with my left hand on a regular basis. It’s an interesting process, and I could see real improvement after a while, but it’s not good enough for finished work.

OK, back to work…
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January 4, 2005 (Tuesday)
Last Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle ran a pink pages feature, called “2005 Critics Choices Forecast,” to report on “what looks good” on the local arts scene in the coming year. This included three film columns, two music columns, and one column each for dance, theater, architecture, and “pop culture.” Not a single word on on visual arts. So, in an attempt to light a candle rather than curse the darkness, here’s my 2005 San Francisco Arts Prevision.

January 2005
Fraenkel Gallery:
“Irving Penn” Opens January 6 – through February 12.

Varnish Gallery:
“Rent Girl” illustrations and other art by Laurenn McCubbin, January 11 to January 29.
Reading by Michelle Tea (author of “Rent Girl”)at the opening on Friday, January 14th, 2005

Ft. Mason:
San Francisco International Art Exposition from January 14 – 17.
Featuring more than 100 international galleries representing more than 2,000 artists, the usual eclectic collection of modern and contemporary artwork.
also at this same time & place:
“Prints San Francisco 2005” from January 14 to 16.

Asian Art Museum:
“Sui Jianguo: The Sleep of Reason” from January 14 to April 24.
An exhibition of about a dozen large-scale works by one of the best-known sculptors in China today, Sui Jianguo. A highlight of the exhibition will be a large red sculpture of a dinosaur (I heard a rumor that this will be installed out in front of the museum?)

Newmark Gallery:
“Dutch Masters Now” opens January 18th
Four exceptional Dutch abstract artists – Hans Vanhorck (1952,) Sjer Jacobs (1963,) Paula Evers (1942,) and Theo den Boon (1944).

SF Arts Commission Gallery:
“Reflecting Buddha: Images by Contemporary Photographers” from January 19 – January 29.

Legion of Honor:
“Bonjour Monsieur Courbet!” from January 22 to April 3.
The Bruyas Collection of 19th-century French Realism from the Musée Fabre, Montpellier. Master-works by Courbet, Corot, Delacroix, Gericault, Millet, and Rousseau.

Cartoon Art Museum:
“Small Press Spotlight featuring Garret Izumi” from January 22 to April 16.
Garret Izumi has been self-publishing since the early 1990s. His work includes photography books, comics and letterpress books. Each book has focused on varying themes ranging from memories to suburbia to life in the nuclear age. In 1994, Izumi received the Xeric Grant to self-publish Strip Down. Izumi’s latest book, Three Grey Women, is a letterpress accordion-style book. Three Grey Women is the retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Perseus and Medusa. The story explores sight and vision and how our world is defined by what we see.

February 2005
San Jose Museum of Art:
“Girl Power!” from February 5 to June 5.
Bay Area artist Laurie Long, investigates the construction of female identity, and the implications of female performance within societal codes—in a lighthearted and easily accessible manner. This exhibition will feature work from a number of series including, Becoming Nancy Drew in which she physically transformed herself into the famous girl sleuth from children’s literature and placed herself in photographic tableaux based on engravings from the books; Dating Surveillance Project, where Long wore a coat rigged with a concealed miniature video camera and microphone to record her dates; and The Secret History of Goddess Sites, which documents places in Europe where female deities were worshipped.

SFMOMA:
“Robert Bechtle: A Retrospective” from February 12 to June 5.
A 40 year retrospective of San Francisco resident painter Robert Bechtle. A photorealist, Bechtle painted streetscapes, family scenes, portraits of cars, many scenes of residential SF life.

also at SFMOMA:
“Jeremy Blake: Winchester” from February 19 to August 14.
The Winchester Mystery House, in San Jose, is the inspiration for Jeremy Blake’s suite of digital animations, “The Winchester Trilogy.” Employing handpainted imagery, film footage, vector graphics, and sound in a process the artist calls “timebased painting,” Blake offers an empathetic experience of Winchester’s madness. Representational images morph into kinetic inkblots and back again. Traditional modes of storytelling are questioned, as are the relationships between reality and simulation. Shown together for the first time, Winchester (2002), 1906 (2003), and Century 21 (2004) are presented as a triptych in three adjacent projections.

Asian Art Museum:
“The Kingdom of Siam: The Art of Central Thailand 1350–1800” from February 18 to May 8.
Classical art from Thailand, features 87 rare works from collections in Thailand, Europe, and the United States. Includes stone and bronze Buddha images, sculptures of Hindu deities, figural and decorative wood carvings, temple furnishings, illuminated manuscripts, jewelry, and textiles. Among the highlights are gold ceremonial objects from a temple crypt sealed in 1424, a full-sized temple pediment, a 12-foot-tall preaching throne, and sections of royally commissioned temple doors with inlaid mother of pearl.

Southern Exposure:
“5th Annual Monster Drawing Rally” on February 18th from 6-10:30 pm
A live drawing and fundraising event featuring over 100 artists

March 2005
Legion of Honor:
21st Annual “Bouquets to Art ” from March 8 to March 11.
Features the work of more than one hundred noted Bay Area florists and designers. Each participant selects a work of art from the Legion of Honor in advance, and creates a floral tribute to that painting or sculpture.

Cantor Center at Stanford:
“Guardian of the Flame: Art of Sri Lanka” from March 2 to June 12
First major exhibition in the United States to present the entire history of Sri Lankan art, from the Anuradhapura Period (269 BC–993 AD), up to the conquest of the Kingdom of Kandy by the British in 1815. In addition to fine images from the classical period of Sri Lankan civilization (400–1235), Guardian of the Flame highlights the artistic achievements of the Kandyan period (1597–1815) with superb masterpieces, dispelling the popular belief that no great sculpture was produced in Sri Lanka after the fall of Polonnaruva in 1235.

April 2005
Oakland Museum:
“Plant Portraits: California Legacy of A.R. Valentien” from April 9 to August 14.
In 1908, artist Albert R. Valentien was commissioned to paint a series of California wildflowers. For the next 10 years the project became his life’s passion as he traveled throughout the state. While not trained as a botanist, Valentien created remarkably accurate and detailed illustrations, which also convey a striking freshness and spontaneity. The exhibition features approximately 80 works selected from the more than 1,000 watercolors Valentien completed.

also at the Oakland Museum:
“Sculpture by Bruce Beasley: A 45-Year Retrospective” from April 16 to July 31.
Retrospective of work by Oakland artist Bruce Beasley. The exhibition, covering more than four decades of his abstract sculpture, includes approximately 75 works in cast iron and aluminum, cast acrylic, cast and fabricated bronze and stainless steel. A tableau of the artist’s studio, with examples of his collection of animal skulls and other source material, is also on display.

May 2005
SF Contemporary Jewish Museum:
Invitational show “Scents of Purpose” from May 04 to Sept 05. Artists interpret the spice box. This exhibit will be at the current, interim, building on Steuart Street The new building, by Daniel Libeskind, which has been under construction for four years, is still in progress at the site across from Yerba Buena Gardens.

Hunter’s Point Artists Studios:
“Spring Open Studios” May 7th and 8th (weekend)
Annual group show at the old Navy base, which has housed artists’ studios for many years. A huge housing project is going to be built there and it starts this year.

June 2005
Sunset Artists Society:
“Hall Of Flowers Show” June 4th and 5th (weekend)
Annual group show in Golden Gate Park, at the SF County Fair building next to Strybing Botanical Gardens.

July & August:
Some galleries shut down, others hold “Staff Picks” group shows, and some do “Introductions” shows. Good time to do some aimless browsing.

September 2005:
Cantor Center at Stanford:
“Revolutionary Tides: The Art of the Political Poster 1789-1989” from Sept. 14 to Dec. 31.
Posters from New Deal America, the Soviet Union of Stalin’s Five-Year Plans, China’s Cultural Revolution, the protest movements of the 1960s, and Ayatollah Khomeni’s Iran. The exhibition features work by world renowned graphic artists such as John Heartfield, Gustav Klutsis, Xanti Schawinsky, and Norman Rockwell and includes art ranging from works by the Italian Futurist Sesto Canegallo to a pair of Andy Warhol’s 1970s silkscreened portraits of communist leader Mao Tse-Tung. The exhibition is organized into three broad areas—Figures, Numbers, and Symbols—each of which surveys a particular graphic convention, iconographic element, or theme.

October 2005:
San Francisco:
SF Open Studios – An all-month-long, city-wide art event. Artists open their studios on the weekends and a giant group show is held at the SomArts Gallery.

M.H. de Young Museum:
The museum finally reopens on October 15th in a new $202 million building designed by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. First show: “Daughter of Re: Hatshepsut, King of Egypt” from October 15, 2005 to February 5, 2006.
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January 3, 2005 (Monday)

Hey! One year (plus) of blogging and I’m still alive. Actually, I started this thing in Oct. 2003, but the first few months I was groping in the dark, and only posting once or twice a week, so I’m not counting that time. It’s been more fun than I’d anticipated, and useful too, in terms of exercising the part of my brain that was getting dusty and creaky from lack of use.

So, I’m planning to keep at it, posting 4 to 6 times a week about things I’m working on, shows I’ve seen, art issues that come to mind. And interviews, more interviews! Those were a blast, and I have have lots of ideas for interviews I’d like to do.

This blog has replaced the journal writing that I used to do in sketchbooks and notepads. But the blog is not as personal as the sketchbooks. I seem to be self-censoring, for obvious reasons, but maybe I can loosen up a little bit – I’ll try.

I’m disappointed that I’m still wrangling this thing with an HTML editor (GoLive.) I was hoping I’d be posting in PHP by now, or at least using some kind of blogging software. I’ve tried Blogger, Movable Type, Squarespace, Bloxsom, iBlog, and a few other programs, leaving nascent test blogs scattered all over the virtual landscape. For a variety of technical reasons, none of them worked for me. Next week I’ll be seeing some of the Laughing Squids – maybe they’ll have some advice for me.

Painting in 2004 was about hiding out from the Trickster. I didn’t paint any figures this year (except for one incognito self-portrait.) But that’s about to change. 2005 is going to be about Space,Time, and Humanity, personified. It’s a relationship story. The planning and photography are almost done and the painting commences any day now. It will take most of the year to paint, and I have no idea where to exhibit it… which is another project for my spare time this year: get on the stick about finding another gallery.

And that’s as close as I’ll ever get to New Year’s resolutions.

Mark Grim

A few days ago, I mentioned Mark Grim’s show at the Soularch Gallery. I finally got a chance to interview him yesterday. We met at the Corner Cup coffee shop, and were already talking before I dug out my tape recorder. We finished the interview down at his studio, a few blocks from the ocean, in the outer Sunset district.

ALC – So, you were saying something about floating images and color fields…

MG – Yeah, I’m challenging myself here, because if I say I do this, then I’ll try to find ways I don’t do it … I’m not a purist in any way. Color field painting is still a viable way to approach painting, or at least start the process rolling. But when I do use images, they’re separate from one another on a field, and they’re not recognizable – they’re abstract signs. A lot of what I do is subconscious, but it seems to flirt with the idea of images coming into being.

ALC – What do you mean by the phrase, “abstract signs?”

MG – Well, they’re like things that are real, but the “sign” part of it has to do with being seen as connections to our visual references in the world. For instance, in one of my paintings I did a kind of a proscenium or stage-like form, and I needed a shape on the stage. I had a palette knife and I liked the way the blade, when turned at an angle, had an interesting shape so I copped that shape. So it’s a sign that’s both abstract and flirts with things around me. I still think that you can draw on your environment to make paintings that are both visually cognitive as well as abstract.

My early work was based on what I really saw, and I admire people who do that, but I found that for me, temperamentally, I kept wanting to “mess it up”, experiment with this or that… So I realized, in a sense, I was… I hate to use the word “abstraction” because it sounds like nothing’s there, but I’m more interested in modes of building pictures. When I use the word abstraction, it sounds so empty. It doesn’t give people an idea. The way I’ve started to see it is that painting can be more inclusive of different styles and approaches, rather than exclusive.

ALC – Do you see abstract art as exclusive?

MG – No. I see the term “abstract” as exclusive. It doesn’t really encompass what I’m interested in. It doesn’t really tell people anything about what you do. It almost sounds adversarial in terms of realism, and I don’t buy that. To me, all the kinds of mark making, building surface, creating light, comes from my experience of painting realistically. Yet, I’m interested in applying that to other things. Taking all of those ways of creating surface, form and depth and explore with it, from the subconscious. But still with a rigorous kind of training so that you don’t just do whatever the hell you want, but that it’s based on looking at what the materials are doing… what if I put this color over that, what if I scumbled this, or dry brushed over that… what kind of relationships am I going to start to set up… then stand back and consider the options… bringing all these painterly attacks to a more personal, exploratory kind of painting.

I paint fast, but I’m a slow digester, so that’s why I work on a lot of things at one time. I keep rotating them. I can’t always see it while I’m working – I need to get some distance on it. It’s interesting to me, to tinker with it until it gets lop-sided and weird and then, if you work on it long enough, it comes back to a kind of universal familiarity. It doesn’t always work and very often I repaint things. But the best way for me to work, so that I get out of my head, is to keep working on a lot of things. I need to keep working, otherwise… When I was younger, I used to freeze, and I would go through these periods when I couldn’t work.

For a long time, when I was younger, I didn’t really trust my intuition. I was really a formalist. I tried to learn, for years, how the Dutch painters did it. Here are a couple of pieces from about 30 years ago, when I was just trying to pare it down to the bare essentials (still life at right, and head at upper right.)

ALC – Don’t you think that’s appropriate for a young painter?

MG – It is… but at the same time, it came out of my lack of trust in what I had to say, and in always being critical about learning it right. I think I could have benefitted from letting go a little bit more. For a long time I was bogged down, feeling I had to learn how Cezanne did it, I had to learn how Matisse did it. It was so hard… you know, you look at the great painters and you feel like a minnow. So now, I’m in a place where I have the balance… I have this knowlege I can bring to bear on image-building. It’s like you have to earn your right to express yourself, in that way by learning all this stuff ahead of time, and sort of forgetting it as you paint. But it’s still all there – the awareness of depth, light, tone, the weight of color… all that formal stuff we all have to learn. You have to be honest with yourself and express yourself, and I wasn’t able to do that until 15 or 20 years ago. I read this quote by Al Held and he was talking about trying to make paintings that were both subjective and objective. He wanted the subjectivity of Pollock and the objectivity of Mondrian. He said, “If it’s going to be shit, I’m going to dot the i and cross the t.” And I thought, OK, if you’re going to do something, go for it, no matter what anybody says.

ALC – So what finally inspired you, convinced you, or gave you permission to go ahead and express yourself?

MG – I think I just reached a point where I was getting older. I knew I had to do it. I don’t know what it was… I think it was around the time I moved in with Carol, and that helped stabilize me. My early work was very no-nonsense, nothing romantic or ornamental – just what needs to be there. For me, there was a lot of wrestling with certain emotional issues around making art. When I was kid, I could draw, and it was such a huge part of my life. My father and I had a difficult relationship and the only way I could be accepted by him was to be special in that way. And then when I got older I wanted to shed that idea of associating making art with needing acceptance. I thought that if I did a terrible painting that I was terrible. So that’s why I didn’t trust myself to let go. But I was in therapy for a while, and dealt with it and finally one day I realized, “hey – I’m doing this for myself.” This is just what I do.

ALC – Do you know anyone else who paints the way you do now, with that mixture of the real and abstract?

MG – Yes, there’s Thomas Nozkowski – he was a big influence on me. I had the good fortune to meet him at a show in New York. We had a good talk. Gary Stephan and Jonathan Lasker are also big influences. They’re all New Yorkers… and they all influenced me with this idea of merging abstraction and recognizable images.

(Peter Schjeldahl wrote about Gary Stephan: “Stephan practices what Clement Greenberg called, apropos abstract paintings with suggestive elements, “homeless representation.” Another epithet comes to mind, Marianne Moore’s definition of poetry: “imaginary gardens with real toads in them.”)

MG – I like some of David Salle’s things, but I’m not so much into the recognizable image. You know, I think it’s just temperament – we don’t know why we do these things… Jasper Johns once said he wanted to find out what was impossible not to do. He wanted to do only what he had no choice but to do. So then art becomes a process of therapy or a spiritual pursuit. Like Nozkowski said, at a lecture he gave at CCAC (a couple of days after a show he had at Stephen Witrz Gallery) … he said he was walking with his son in the woods and saw some apples that had cracked open from freezing. They had this marvelous white jagged flesh sticking up through the red – it was a remarkable image and he actually used it one of his paintings. so he said to his son, “look at this!” But his son said, “that’s alright, Dad, but look at that sunset!” Different people are turned on by different things… I’ve noticed with my stuff, that the things that are more tonal, more Dutch-based, with more recognizable atmospheres and that sort of thing, people gravitate to. But I’m convinced that it’s largely because of the visual cues that I give them. It’s part of my nature to find out what people want and then subvert it – maybe it’s a bit of the Trickster in me..

For instance, take this piece… it’s more tonal, it’s a more 17th century palette and I think there’s certain serenity in that. A lot of my pieces are a little more raucous. The one in particular that everyone is drawn to is at the gallery – it’s called the “The Frequency of Light” (a triptych of paper on board, image at left, lower painting ) and it’s full of atmospherics. They also seem to like this one over here called, “Sweet Twist” (below, right.) You’ve got these warm tones coming through, and these segues to all the stuff behind and in front of… it’s kind of a mixture of Cezanne and the Dutch painters. It’s really a traditional painting – I mean, it’s figure/ground. I sort of flattened it out, on purpose, but it’s just this thing on an atmospheric ground. So I guess what I’m saying is, it’s OK that people like it, but now, do I want to make 40 more of them? So I experiment with things that have more to do with surface and flatness. I like experimenting with wet-into-wet candy-colored paint, and mixing it up with a little bit of trompe l’oeil with meticulous glazes, and then globby modeling paste… I’m always conscious of figure/ground, I use rhymed forms, I use a sort of code I’ve made up… but it’s all improvisational.

This one, called “Karaoke For Experts” was a real turning point for me. It’s small painting, but it really meant something to me at the time. This form on the upper left was a linear drawing – it didn’t have the modulation of form or color. Then I started to see possibilities for telling quasi-narratives in abstract. In other words, you see this form floating on a field of stripes. this drawing had both spacial recession and it was flat, at the same time, because of the overlapping lines. Then I flipped a copy of it horizontally and hid the bulk of it behind some of the stripes. So, it’s not a story-telling kind of narrative, but it does say something about how I use these elements like characters in a play.

ALC – What can you tell me about these two? (image at right, upper paintings)

MG – I was working on this (on the left) as an underpainting and I liked the way it felt, so I stopped, and after a while I realized it was finished. The one on the right is called “Winter’s Edge” – it’s two panels. Sometimes I think about the two panels as foils to each other.

ALC – How do you work with these multi-panel pieces?

MG – Well, it depends. They develop in different ways. Sometimes I have the idea of doing a multi-panel piece and I’ll rotate the panels democratically as I work on them. Then other times I’ll do one panel and then think, “This is nice, but it seems like part of of a bigger whole.” This one is an interesting example. This inset was done first and then I saw possibilities for it being part of a bigger composition, so (shows me the back) it kind of grew organically… I added the other panels and then had to re-work the first panel because the relationships had changed.

ALC – What does color mean to you?

MG – Well, it’s a component. One of the things about painting now, is that color has fallen out of favor. A lot of the art magazines devalue it these days. It’s a fashion thing. Obviously I like color, but it’s just an aspect of my work. I do like “sweet and sour” color combinations. I don’t mind of a painting’s little bit over the top, a little out there, in terms of saturation, as long as it works, as long as it’s cohesive.

I question why it always has to be about beauty. In northern California, there’s a huge emphasis on beauty, because of the wealth here. It comes from the French school, mostly. Germanic painting, for example, which is like reading Tolstoy or something, is about the horrors and trials of hard life. It’s not accepted here because people are so full of their beauty… but it’s OK to do things that ungainly and strange. Pull it back from the brink and try to make something of it. My motto is, “Clash the particles, then go in and edit it the debris.”

ALC – What are you working on now?

MG – Well, here are some things in progress… I’ve been doing these little ones, This is “Klaatu Barada Nicto” (lower right.) It’s from the movie, “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” This one is called “Colonial Life” (upper right) and it reminded me of this odd little head thing, but it isn’t really that. This reminded me of a scarf, but it isn’t really a scarf. The light is naturalistic, around the form with warm and cool buildup… but what is it? So again, it’s giving people clues, but then taking it away. Can’t it be about the mystery of things? Does everything have to be so literal all the time? Can’t painting be a parallel to the mystery of life, the mystery of existence? Can you try to shoot for that? Is it worth trying to put on canvas?

Mark Grim is planning on getting a web site, but in the meantime you can reach him by phone (415)665-6352, or email him or visit the Soularch Gallery at 4033A Judah @ 46th Ave, San Francisco. (see below)

November 30, 2004 (Tuesday)
“Real Symbols for Virtual People”
paintings by Mark Grim
at Soularch Gallery
4033-A Judah @ 46th Ave.
Mon – Fri: 10am-5pm
Sat: 12-5pm

This little gallery is in my neighborhood, in fact I walk by it on my way to the beach. It’s one of those narrow, old-fashioned, little store front places with a window in the front and back. This one is between a Thai restaurant and a dog-washing outfit. It’s actually an architect’s office, but the office space only takes up the back third of the space, so the architect has kindly converted the front to a gallery.

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I first met Mark Grim a few months ago when he came to one of my shows. He said he painted in acrylics and he had studied with Robert Bechtle, although he wasn’t doing representational work any more. This show at Soularch was the first time I’d seen his work. Mark’s a fun painter to talk with, so I asked him if I could do an interview with him sometime, and I think we’re going to do that next month. Here’s a review of his previous show in this space.

Mark’s work is painterly, and very appealing (to my realist eyes.) It’s absolutely abstract, but I keep getting the sensation that I’m seeing something representational out of the corner of my eye… but then, when I focus on that area, whatever it was vanishes. I took a lot of photos, which I’ll post with the interview – (see top of page.)

Sachiko Nakamura Memorial Celebration

Saturday, Nov. 20, 2004
(Send in your stories and photos about Sachi’s memorial, to be posted in this space – email to Anna at anna@bigcrow.com)

Saturday, November 20, 2004 –
A few hundred members of the San Francisco Bay Area artist community gathered to celebrate the life of Sachiko Nakamura: avant-garde dancer, choreographer, theater group founder, teacher and student of the performing arts. At her memorial celebration, everyone entering Project Artaud Theater was handed a piece of bubble wrap. At various times during the films, the snapping, crackling sound of audience participation drowned out the sound track.

An altar was set up in the theater lobby, and a gallery space next to the lobby held paintings of Sachi. Musicians Eth-Noh-Tec (Robert Kikuchi & Nancy Wang) and then Phil Deal performed on a small stage in gallery area for about 45 minutes before Phil, playing his bamboo flute, led everyone into the theater.

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The emcee, Avotcja let everyone know that this was not a funeral but a celebration of a life. She had us all shout “SHACHIKO NAKAMURA” three times to invoke Sachi’s spirit. Then the films began.

Benji Young did a great job finding, editing, and compiling the sequence of films from Sachi’s career. There was an hour’s worth of clips, including some of her very early works. As one person told me afterwards, “It’s hard to remember now, but people were much more conservative then (the 60’s.) Her work from that time still seems edgy, but it must have seemed completely insane to some people at the time.”
Fans of Sachi’s work, familiar with her jokes and favorite lines, still laughed in all the right places. Like the scene where Sachi, recounting the times she went to Japanese movies as a kid, imitates Toshiro Mifune as a samurai – snarling, stomping, scratching, and then addressing the audience, she says, “This is how we learn Japanese.”

Lydia Tanji, one of Sachi’s favorite costume designers said,”Sachi was, in essence, an avant-garde vaudevillian. I loved designing for Sach. She was always open to anything that caught her eye or ear, and her conceptual process was more sophisticated and intellectual than her comedic choreography let on.”