Category: Post

What is Realism?

Realism has meant different things at different times…

Generally speaking, Realism is an intent to portray ordinary contemporary life, with attention to individual and regional eccentricities.

Realism was a movement that was artistic movement. It started in the year of 1850s soon after the 1848 Revolution ended. The Revolution had been dominating literature of the French and the arts from the 18th century whereas Realism with respect to arts was to attempting to represent subject matter in their real form without making use of artificial aspect. Crypto CFD Trader also shows the real trading types.

Modern painters use a direct visual language of current iconography and symbols, inspired by photographic forms – a language easily understood by almost everyone in our culture.

Realism is coming back.

Actually, it never went away, but after 50 years on the periphery, more and more artists are reinvigorating the genre. Today, painters are seeing it as a way to address the experience of living in our complex world, and they are challenging the viewer to consider the forces that are shaping this world, as well as pointing to its beauty.

San Francisco Realism

…has its roots in West Coast Realism, the Bay Area Figurative Movement, and Mural Art. It makes liberal use of humor and frequently employs saturated colors and elements of Pop culture. Its relaxed boundaries encompass the extremes of photographic realism and almost-abstract painterly realism.

“Realism is the foundation of Western Art.
It’ll never go away.
That’s why I went back to it.”
— Dale Erickson

Want to know more?
Ask the artists.
Three Bay Area realist painters will gather at Hang at the Canvas on Thursday, November 21, 2002, at 6pm to talk about Realism, answer your questions, and show their work.

Some Quotes about Realism:

“But to return to the question of the challenge posed by the concept of modernity, for contemporary artists (as it has been across time) it seems not to lie exclusively in the search for new tools and materials, but in the search for expression and idea. At this moment in time a virtually endless range of materials is available to select from to suit the gamut of expressive language, but in the realm of Realism those simple, uncontrived materials which have faithfully served the ineffables of illusionism still stand.”
–Virginia Anne Bonito, revised “Get Real introduction”, April 10, 2000,

“Since the middle of the twentieth century, American abstract expressionism has been celebrated as the art form of the Western world. Some critics have considered such works as the pinnacle of artistic production, calling it “the end of art.” While abstract expressionism has been labeled a uniquely American form, some have re-interpreted it as the culmination of intense European influence over American artists. On the other side of the debate, realism has been called the American artform. Benjamin West, Eakins, and the Ash Can School are seen as the real fathers of American art. In the 1970’s, realism re-emerged in America, but in a manner that paid homage to abstraction. ”
– from the American Abstraction / American Realism: the Great Debate Exhibit at The Susquehanna Art Museum’

Even a part of an object has value. A whole new realism resides in the way one envisages an object or one of its parts. (Fernand Leger)

Some people are still unaware that reality contains unparalleled beauties. The fantastic and unexpected, the ever-changing and renewing is nowhere so exemplified as in real life itself. (Berenice Abbott)

What I want to show in my work is the idea which hides itself behind so-called reality. I am seeking for the bridge which leans from the visible to the invisible through reality. It may sound paradoxical, but it is in fact reality which forms the mystery of our existence. (Max Beckmann)

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away. (Philip K. Dick)

The object of art is not to reproduce reality, but to create a reality of the same intensity. (Alberto Giacometti)

A painting is a proposal about what is real. (Harriet Shorr)

Working Artist’s Journal- Best of Four

April 7, 2004
Recent readings have made me think again about a question I’ve chewed on for years, “Why make art? What is it good for?” I don’t think we’ll ever know. The compulsion to make pictures, sculptures, stories, or music has been part of being human since prehistoric times. What changes are the explanations we come up with to explain or justify our behavior. We have to come up with an explanation that will convince people to leave us alone so that we can keep making art. Or better yet, an explanation that will convince people to support us in making art. But if you dig deep enough, the truth that comes out of almost every artist is, “I have to – I can’t help it.” Maybe it’s some kind of soul virus.

Still, the way we explain it to ourselves influences the way we practice art. I’ve heard hundreds of justifications for making art (tried a few myself) and they seem to fall into three main categories:

1. Inner-directed, process oriented
2. Outer-directed, communication oriented
3. Commodity or goal oriented

Artists can shift between these categories, and hold more than one of these views at the same time (it’s the nature of the creative mind.) But I think the reasons for choosing and defending a particular view of art have more to do with the personality of the artist than the essential nature of Art.

My favorite examples of inner-directed, process oriented artists are Agnes Pelton and Chuck Close. Edward Hopper and Charles Burchfield are less obvious examples of artists who pursue personal visions with little or no concern over “interpretations” by the viewer.

Artists are the best interpreters who can interpret what they want to tell through their art work. The artists are the real creators of the God. Many art exhibitions will be done in many places and the paintings will be available there for sale. Those who want to buy the favorites can get that from there. This makes the artists to earn profit. Everyone wants to earn money in life. Now, there are many ways for that like home based work, ad profit system and trading softwares. There is a software named HB Swiss which works on auto pilot mode. It is one of the best softwares that makes the traders to earn profit by doing trading.

Alice Neel was just as driven and committed to her vision, but she had something to say and she wanted to make sure you understood it. Other examples of outer directed, communication oriented artists are Chester Arnold, Ben Shahn, and Judy Chicago .

Andy Warhol is the obvious first nomination for commodity or goal-oriented (fame!) artist. Others are Salvador Dali, Leroy Neiman, Damien Hirst, and Jeff Koons.

As for myself, I spend most of my time in the first category, with frequent sorties into the second and occasional forced marches into the third. How about you?

Here are a few of my favorite explanations of art-making:

“You ask why I paint? Why do I breathe?”
Joyce Treiman

“Life is difficult, as perhaps everyone knows by now. It is to escape from these difficulties that I practice the pleasant profession of a painter.”
Max Beckman

“I got into this because it was something I had to do. Poetry is a way to drive a wedge between myself and things I find unbearable. To me, success is nailing down some kind of question. Some poets find success in publications, getting reviews, etc. But for me that’s not the purpose. I write poetry in order to live.”
Carl Phillps, interviewed by David Bonetti

“Annihilation is an existential fear; the common fear that some part of you dies when you stop making art. And it’s true. Non-artists may not understand that but artists understand it all too well. The depth of your need to make things establishes the level of risk in making them.”
David Bayles

“I believe that the great masters, with their intellect as master, have attempted to force this unwilling medium of paint and canvas into a record of their emotions. I find any digression from this aim leads me to boredom.”
Edward Hopper

“Whenever I am asked questions concerning my artistic aims I hardly know what to say. When actually painting, the heat of creation may be so intense that the artist’s execution becomes completely subconscious… my chief aim in painting is in the expression of a completely personal mood.”
Charles Burchfield

“A lot of people are funny: they think there’s more money in science than in art, and they are right. It’s absolutely true. The catch is that what drives us is not our rational brain but our whole human arsenal of emotions and thought. And our only way of understanding that is through the arts.”
Margaret Atwood

“It is the function of the artist to evoke the experience of surprised recognition: to show the viewer what he knows but does not know that he knows. Helnwein is a master of surprised recognition.”
William S. Burroughs, about Helnwein

“Although art is fundamentally everywhere and always the same, nevertheless two main human inclinations, diametrically opposed to each other, appear in its many and varied expressions. The first aims at representing reality objectively and the second subjectively.”
Piet Mondrian

“One of the primary motives of my work was to reveal the inequalities and pressures of modern life in the psychology of the people I painted.”
Alice Neel

“The artists role is to create, among people, and to be a bridge or instigator for developing a sense of reverence and beauty. Art is a way of replenishing the soul.”
Satish Kumar

“I believe that people have a great need to understand their world, and that art clarifies reality for them. Artists have two responsibilities. The first is to express themselves and the second is to communicate. If artists don’t communicate, they have either been unsuccessful in thier attempt or they are being self-indulgent by not trying.”
Audrey Flack

“One of the purposes of art is to show the transformative nature of reality. It can empower a person’s capacity to change.”
Alex Grey

“My goal is to tell the truth in such a way that other people might see it and be transformed by it.”
Judy Chicago

“Almost any human activity can be a work of art, provided it’s done in a ritualistic way, with some kind of forethought and some kind of afterthought.”
Ellen Dissanayake

“The fact that artists are workers – a real part of the working class – is much too embarrassing for most of us to acknowledge.”
“My responsibility as an artist is to work, to sing for my supper, to make art, beautiful and powerful, that adds and reveals; to beautify the mess of a messy world, to heal the sick and feed the helpless; to shout bravely from the roof-tops and storm barricaded doors and voice the specificity of our historical moment.”
Carrie Mae Weems

“Great artists need great clients”
I. M. Pei

“As ugly as the work is, no work is so ugly that it can’t be assimilated.”
Leon Golub

“Part of the impulse of modernity is the demand for change. It’s like you’re not a real artist unless you’re attempting to make a radical new statement. It’s part of the whole Zeitgeist of always seeking innovations instead of using older forms that still have good use value; and it’s certainly in the spirit of a capitalist economy, which depends for its survival on constant innovation.”
Richard Shusterman

“The main thing is Americans don’t like art, they won’t pay for art, they don’t deserve art. That’s just a fact. This is a Puritan republic in which nobody gives a shit about art. When I came to the art world, there were maybe 2000 seriously committed people who would do it whether they got payed or not. Today there are about 2000 seriously committed people who would do it whether they get paid or not.”
Dave Hickey, from Zing Magazine
May 16, 2004
Here’s an essay you may find interesting, on the perpetual topic, “Why do we make art?” It’s written by Janet Rosen, a San Francisco artist and Aikido practitioner:

“Painting is how I mediate the world, the process by which I integrate my experience of receiving the world into myself… At a time a number of years ago when the National Endowment for the Arts was under attack, a few of us artists were hanging out in a café and discussing the issue of art’s importance to humanity (yeah, we do that, but not nearly as often as folks think we do; it interferes both with earning a living and with making art). It struck me that the presence of the cave paintings at Lascaux, and how art in every era is produced under conditions that make survival itself a daily struggle, indicate that we are dealing with a truly primal urge. Those who are compelled to make art do so because it is how they mediate reality. This statement is not to say all art is either art therapy or political art, both of which select their content in order to express a particular reality. Rather, the process of creation allows one to integrate the inner and outer worlds, to process the things that come into one’s life and to integrate them in a coherent way. This would explain the strength of the impulse, the fact that those of us with it get incredibly cranky and eventually unstable if deprived of this integrative process, and why for those with the impulse, exhibition is often a secondary concern. While observing art (painting, music, etc.), or making art collectively (music, dance, theater, etc.), can be an incredibly powerful communal experience that can shape a culture, in my experience the first imperative springs from internal need.”
(full text, comparing practice of art to practice of Aikido is at AikiWeb)

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”
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)

telephone 707-967-8623
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)


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:

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
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.)

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.

February 2005

February 9, 2005 (Wednesday) – Robert Bechtle, part 1.
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 Anglimhas 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.

Tomorrow, Robert Bechtle, part 2 (more about the Crown Point Press show)
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February 8, 2005 (Tuesday) – Lisa Dent Gallery.

The Lisa Dent Gallery is directly across the street from the Cartoon Art Museum and the (still under construction) Museum of the African Diaspora (MOAD), just a few doors down from the California Historical Society, and around the corner from SFMOMA & YBCA.

There’s no banner or obvious sign, just “660” on an awning over the door, and a little plaque next to the door buzzer. It’s a secure building, meaning you need to ring the intercom to get in, but the very loud traffic on Mission Street makes it hard to hear the receptionist – it took me three tries to get buzzed in.

Once I was up to the fourth floor, though, I was glad I made the effort. The current show is Robin Ward’s”Otherkin,” light, fun, inexplicable narrative works on paper. Most of these drawings involve animals and they all have that trendy isolated-images-on-a-plain-paper-background look. The drawing is skilled, but I kept wondering about her source photos.

Photos are the important asset for everyone. When we want to look back the old and golden days, we can see the photos which were taken before and have a look at it and enjoy the memorable moments we had. Nowadays, the technology has grown so well. Many cameras with so much of technology options are available in markets now. The lifestyle of the people changes based on the technology. We can earn money from home itself by depositing money in the trading markets. The software named 1k Daily Profit is a trading software which provide consistent and realistic parameters. The minimum deposit amount for this software is $250.

I was really hoping to see some work by Marcia Kure, and they kindly unwrapped several pieces in the back room for me. These are the small framed pieces in the photo at left. This work is also isolated images (Kolanut pigment, ink, watercolor and pencil on white paper.) Each drawing is a unique spirit portrait, in beautiful, rich, reddish yellow-brown Kolanut with delicate, spidery, lines defining and animating the form. Incredible stuff – very powerful. Keep an eye out for this artist. More of her stuff on the web HERE, HERE, and HERE.
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February 7, 2005 (Monday) – How to Ship a Painting.

Lots of people will tell you they use cardboard and bubble wrap, and sometimes you get lucky with that method, but after you’ve spent weeks or months slaving over a one-of-a-kind, never-to-be-repeated work of art, do you really want to protect it with such flimsy materials? I could tell you my horror stories about shipping valuable objects, but I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of your own. If you’re worried about the shipping costing more than the work of art, then you’re not charging enough for your art.

Art museums and people who deal in fine art use shipping crates, usually made of wood. Here’s an example of a custom shipping crate for a painting that I’m sending from San Francisco to the East Coast (photos above and at at right – click on image for larger view.) It’s made of smooth, sanded and varnished, birch-plywood (nothing rough or splintery that might aggravate the delivery people.) The top panel (lid) is held in place with recessed screws. After you (the recipient) have removed the screws, you will notice that the painting is nestled down inside the wooden box, and held securely away from the outer panels by little blocks of wood. The only thing touching the surface of the painting is the four corner pieces, which are padded with felt. The corner pieces are removed by unscrewing from the outside, and then the painting is lifted straight up out of the box.

This is a fairly small, light painting in a simple box. Bigger and heavier paintings may require additional supports, attachments and handles. You may need waterproofing. An experienced and reputable art shipper will know what kind of packing your painting needs.

My shipping crates are made by Mark Grim (415-665-6352). If you’re in some other part of the world, try asking the nearest art museum or large gallery (one that has artists and clients from out of the area) who they use.
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February 6, 2005 (Weekend) – Faces in Marin & Doggie Diner Head moved.

Local artist Chester Arnold (represented in SF by Catherine Clark Gallery) teaches at College of Marin. After seeing the NYT photo-spread of the war’s first 1,000 dead troops, he had an idea for his figure drawing class:

“Contemporary artists are dealing with a lot of narcissistic stuff — people trying to distinguish themselves by doing something unique, something bizarre,” he said. “It struck me that making memorial portraiture, one of the oldest uses of artistic skills, is a way out of that. The students were working on self-portraits, and all of a sudden I thought, why am I having them do that when I could be offering this project up? Here I had an assignment that had to do with the absolute realities of life and death.”

Two weeks later, he drove to a copy shop and enlarged the photos from the New York Times — 16 photographs to a sheet. He went to an art-supply store and bought 1,000 small canvasses; there was no time to wait for purchase orders. Worried that his students might think the idea was a “downer,” he nonetheless introduced his idea at his Friday life-painting class.

“He said, ‘What do you think of the idea of at least attempting to recognize some of these faces?’ ” recalled Tracy Eastman, 22, one of Arnold’s students. “He said the more each person did, the closer we’d get to doing the whole 1,000. He told us it was not meant to be a political statement, and there was no pressure; you could do it or not do it.”
from SF Chronicle story by Janet Somers, full story HERE

The project took on a life of its own and the exhibition, “To Never Forget: Faces of the Fallen,” more than 1,100 paintings, drawings and prints of U.S. soldiers killed in the Iraq war, by College of Marin art students, faculty and staff, is up through Feb. 22nd. Exhibition website here.
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Some folks have been calling me about the Sunset Doggie Diner Head. Here’s the scoop: according to Frank Felice at the SF Department of Public Works, DD was moved to 45th & Sloat, as part of the five-year-old agreement with Sloat Garden Center (owner of the old Doggie Diner property.) There will be a ceremony for the Doggie next Monday, Feb 14th at 11am, at the new location (just up the street from the old spot) at 45th and Sloat Bloulevard. Be there or be square!

I shot the photos above and left last Friday around 11am. Click on photo at left for a VERY LARGE image of the Doggie. Image at right is an old painting of mine, “CAR”, ©2001, 48″x36″. I haven’t painted the Doggie in a few years, but hardly a month goes by that someone doesn’t ask me about it. Here’s a link to some of my old DD paintings, and to the official Doggie Diner Head pages.

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February 4, 2005 (Friday) – Upcoming content (shows and interviews)
This is Dale Erickson and Stevan Shapona in Shapona’s studio. I talked with these two San Francisco figurative painters Wednesday evening, and taped three hours of a conversational interview. It’s going to take me several days to transcribe the tapes and edit it down, but I’ll be posting it next week. Also I’ll be seeing some new shows this weekend, and I’ll have something to say about those shows before I post the interview.

And I hope I finish my taxes early this weekend, as the weather is stunningly beautiful here – gotta get to the beach or take a bike ride. Seeya Monday.

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February 3, 2005 (Thursday) – Barbara Kruger
Thanks to my friend Tipler, who scored the tickets, I attended the Barbara Kruger lecture Tuesday night at the SF Art Institute. It wasn’t really a lecture, more like an annotated slide show. (Real slides! In a carousel projector. Sometimes upside down and backwards.) My first thought was, hey – if someone asked me to give a lecture about my work, god only knows what I’d come up with. A slide show is not a bad solution. My second thought was, it was actually the perfect presentation of her work: a pithy comment or two, followed by silence, then another seemingly random comment. Life imitating art. So, in that spirit, here’s a sampling of Kruger comments from the lecture:

“I’m interested in how language zig-zags between tenderness and violence.”

Referring to to her current work in video:
“One thing about being in L.A. – lots of actors need work.”

“For years, I only used black and white images because I couldn’t afford color.”

“I’m interested in doubt, which pretty soon, in this country, you’re going to get arrested for.”

Talking about the difficulties of doing installation work that is difficult to sell:
“The fact that I even have a pot to piss in, is an amazement to me.”

“The art world is a sub-culture that, compared to the movie or music business, is benevolent. It’s a pile of disavowal, with power circulating throughout.”

About New York Times chief art critic Michael Kimmelman:
“I guarantee I will get a negative obituary from him.”

“I have no complaints except for the world.”

All quotes noted above were spoken by Barbara Kruger at SFAI lecture Feb. 1, 2005

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February 2, 2005 (Wednesday) – photo vs painting
I pass this scene often on my way to SFMOMA. It’s Annie Alley, between Stevenson and Jessie. I’m quite fond of the image and considered making a painting of it. That’s almost always my first reaction when I see something that visually attracts me. Drawing is a way of knowing. But some things make better photos than paintings, and this is one of them.

Now, I have to get back to TurboTax.
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February 1, 2005 (Tuesday) – the business hours of art making
Tax time again… won’t get too much painting done this week. The process of looking over the records for the last year is always an interesting, sometimes educational, process. This time I didn’t need a calculator to tell me that 2004 was a tough year. For some reason, the number I always look to first and tend to fixate on is, how many paintings did I finish? Answer: 22 paintings in 2004, which is well below my usual numbers (35 to 55.) There were good reasons for that – I got diverted from painting by a series of personal crises that were outside my control and ate up a lot of time and energy. On a positive note, they’re all good paintings that I feel good about submitting to juried shows, galleries, etc. Sending out submissions is the other big project this month. Hence the stack of slides and labels on my desk. I just updated my mailing list and image database yesterday, but I still need to do my promotional materials for this year. So this week, I’ll be sitting here with my back to the easels, grinding my teeth, while I get all this loathsome stuff over and done with.