May 10, 2016 § Leave a comment
SO WHAT ABOUT San Francisco’s extravagant new Museum of Modern Art?
Well, it’s big, that’s for sure. And there is much to recommend:
• Photography gets respect. There are hundreds of photographs in dozens of galleries — almost the entire third floor and more. The “California and the West” exhibition is terrific.
• California art gets greater prominence, including a three-part “Art of Northern California” inaugural exhibition.
• The highlights of the permanent collection — Matisse! Rivera! — still have pride of place in the still-grand second floor galleries.
• Unlike much of the Fisher Collection, which will appeal to some more than others, the Calder sculptures are a delight, especially in front of the living wall.
Mostly the new building works. It is a huge cruise ship beached between the Mario Botta building (a relic from all the way back in 1995) and Timothy Pflueger’s magnificent Art Deco backdrop from the 20s. But it is functional — and it has beautiful wooden stairs and windows framing views of the city.
Two complaints about the architecture:
• Botta’s beautiful entry has been eviscerated and replaced by a vast empty space with the kind of lean-to staircase that might take you over the dunes onto the beach. A crime.
• And the magisterial enfilade of galleries marching across the front of the second floor has been blocked off to create separate spaces, presumably. Surely this is not permanent.
Go and visit. There are much worse things than another new museum in town.
MORE: “Transforming SFMOMA“
April 13, 2016 § 1 Comment
IT TOOK PLACE in a church, but the first part of the remembrance of life weekend for painter Ken Auster was a decidedly irreverent affair — featuring a rock band, a ukelele interlude, and a freeform string of raucous tales from his fraternity brothers and surfing buddies.
One who’d shared a college ornithology class remembered the final exam, which showed only the legs of several birds and asked for their identity. Ken and his pal thought it was ridiculous and stood up to walk out.
“Hey, wait a minute,” shouted the professor. “You can’t just walk out. Who are you, anyway?” With that, Ken pulled up his pants leg and replied: “You tell me.”
MORE: The perfect “Ken moment”
April 12, 2016 § 1 Comment
LAGUNA BEACH – Those who knew Ken Auster say Sunday’s celebration of his life was the perfect “Ken moment,” combining his passion for the things he most loved – art and surfing.
The event – held by the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association – included a morning paint-out at Main Beach and an afternoon paddle-out from Heisler Park’s Picnic Beach.
“This is the best of the best,” said Paulette Martinson Auster, his wife, before heading out at Picnic Beach for the paddle-out near Bird Rock. “It’s a beautiful remembrance of his life. He loved art. He was a waterman.”
MORE: The perfect “Ken moment”
March 4, 2016 § Leave a comment
REVIEW | JEROME TARSHIS
When I first read that the Legion of Honor in San Francisco was going to have a Pierre Bonnard show, I looked forward to an hour or two or three devoted to simple pleasure. “A happy painter of happy pictures” was the idea I’d been carrying in my head.
What’s more, I had a memory to go with the idea. Many years ago the Museum of Modern Art in New York had a Bonnard show on the same floor as a show of Robert Motherwell’s sad paintings collectively titled Elegies to the Spanish Republic. (By sheer chance, I trust, San Francisco’s De Young Museum opened a small show of the Elegies last fall.)
At MOMA, all those years ago, the Motherwell galleries were empty and the Bonnard galleries crowded with people who wanted happy pictures. And so, looking at the title of the current retrospective, Pierre Bonnard: Painting Arcadia, I thought I was in for another “happiness wins, elegy loses” comparison, on a large scale. The exhibition was organized jointly by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Musée d’Orsay, in Paris, which has the world’s leading Bonnard collection, and the Fundación MAPFRE, in Madrid.
Nothing so simple. There are enough outwardly happy pictures to be going on with, but my overall impression was that the subtitle could have been and possibly should have been Painting Arcadia, or, the Ambiguities of Pleasure.
March 3, 2016 § Leave a comment
MOST OF THE paintings now on view in Pierre Bonnard: Painting Arcadia at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco traveled from international destinations — many from the d’Orsay Museum in Paris.
But not all. Two from the Ann and Gordon Getty Collection only had to travel across town. Above, at left center, Bonnard’s The Two Carriages is pictured before the exhibition began in its usual place in the Gettys’ living room.
MORE: “Inside the Getty mansion“
January 30, 2016 § 19 Comments
WE ARE SAD to share the news that the artist Ken Auster died yesterday, January 29, 2016, at his home in Laguna Beach, California. He was 66, and had been battling metastatic prostate cancer for a decade.
Auster burst onto the resurgent California plein-air scene in the mid-1990s and became one of the country’s most respected location painters. Within a few years he had won nearly every major plein-air painting competition and had successive sold-out gallery exhibitions.
“My life in art started when I was a kid,” he wrote in his 2011 book, Intellect and Passion. “I can remember being yelled at for drawing surfers screaming down humongous pen and ink waves at the top of my homework assignments.”
He grew up near the water in Long Beach and surfing was a major part of his life. During his college years at Long Beach State University, he combined his interest in art and surfing and began silkscreening T-shirts. Eventually, after living in Hawaii, he established a successful surf art business and his work was seen around the world.
Despite his success, he decided at mid-career he wanted to be a fine artist.
“A lot of artists start by trying to be painters, then de-evolve into commercial work to make money,” he said. “I started with surf art on T-shirts and worked my way up.”
Painting on location was his breakthrough.
“One day I was invited to go out with a few friends and paint on location at a local beach,” he wrote in his book. “I set up and started painting what I saw. The experience was a turning point in my life. Here was the bare bones of art — no process and minimal equipment, just a burst of passion and paint, with immediate results and gratification. It just happened and it was beautiful.”
Auster’s first exhibition was presented by the Thomas Reynolds Gallery in San Francisco in 1997. It sold out. So did his second and third. His work was widely published, and he went on to exhibit at galleries nationwide. He was also a natural as a teacher, offering workshops around the country and a series of videos.
“Ken Auster was the real deal,” said Reynolds. “He was a terrific painter, a great teacher and a wonderful human being — and he always made it fun, from his clever titles to his endless one-liners that seemed to flow without effort. The world has lost a great artist.”
He is survived by his wife, Paulette Auster. An aloha style celebration of his life is being planned.