Seeing light

June 7, 2018 § 1 Comment

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Ruth Bernhard | Doorknob (1973)

Seeing light is a spiritual experience for me. I saw the exciting sprays of light from the glass doorknob in my apartment. Here I was with a perfect subject and the light would change before I could do a picture. The following day was overcast, and so was the next. The sun finally shone, but not on the doorknob.

Determined, I decided to mark the calendar for one year from the date when I “saw” the photograph, the 11th of May. A year later I was ready and everything happened as planned. I couldn’t have been happier.

— Ruth Bernhard

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Coming: a Joan Brown retrospective

May 20, 2018 § Leave a comment

Gazette

Joan Brown | Self-Portrait With Fish and Cat (1970)

JOAN BROWN met SFMOMA painting and sculpture curator Janet Bishop in 1989, while helping mount a show of Bay Area figurative art at the museum. It included paintings by Elmer Bischoff, who had mentored Brown at what’s now the San Francisco Art Institute and inspired her to follow her instincts, and other works from second-generation practitioners like Brown and her second husband, sculptor Manuel Neri.

“I was struck by the incredible vitality and freedom in her work,” says Bishop, who’s planning a Brown retrospective that SFMOMA intends to present around 2021.

In the pictures that brought Brown acclaim at 22 — when she had her first New York gallery show and was featured in the Whitney Museum’s prestigious “Young America” exhibition — “she just loaded the brush and the canvas with paint,” Bishop notes. “They have an intense physicality that was very much her own. Later on, in the ’70s, when her work becomes more flat and graphic, I think she emerged as a truly distinctive voice. That work is still underappreciated.”

SFMOMA has 29 Brown works, several acquired in recent years.

— Jesse Hamlin in the Nob Hill Gazette

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Joan Brown | Woman Waiting in a Theatre Lobby (1975)

Feasting with the Staprans

April 23, 2018 § Leave a comment

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Ilona and Raimonds Staprans with his biographer, Paul Karlstrom, at left.

I FOUND MYSELF in the lucky seat between Ilona and Raimonds Staprans at an intimate and artsy dinner party down the peninsula the other night. They are two fascinating people. She’s a scientist at UCSF. He’s one of California’s preeminent painters, still going strong in his 90s, and an eminent playwright in their native Latvia, where they spend a part of every year.

Raimonds Staprans is getting some of the recognition he richly deserves, with an exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Art through May 20 called “Full Spectrum.” It was seen last fall at the Crocker Museum in Sacramento, which organized the exhibition and published a beautiful catalog. Even if you’ve seen his paintings, you may be surprised by the breadth of his work over the past six decades. And the paint and light and color are luscious.

In a talk in San Jose, he described how his work flows out of his daydreams.

Thanatopsis — Aeterna

April 16, 2018 § Leave a comment

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AETERNA VOLK IS DEAD. She did not pass! She did not fall asleep! She did not go to the great beyond! Aeterna Volk just died. She was never afraid of death, for if you are afraid of dying, you cannot love to live.

Aeterna Volk does not need a memorial or funeral service to convince herself that she truly is dead. The people who have known and loved her will memorialize her in their hearts. Those who never understood her philosophies will not be moved because she has expired.

— Final entry in a book of poems left behind by Carol Aeterna Volk

Precisionism at the deYoung

March 31, 2018 § Leave a comment

A WALK THROUGH “Cult of the Machine: Precisionism and American Art” with curator Emma Acker. The exhibition continues at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco from March 24 to August 12, 2018.

My first brush with art

March 4, 2018 § 1 Comment

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Sarah Segrest | Persimmons

SARAH SEGREST TAUGHT 7th grade English and Holmes County French. She was the first touch of culture that came into my young life as a country kid growing up in the backwoods, and my first brush with art.

At the rear of her room she had a display space for her flower arrangements, usually featuring camellias in the winter from her garden. She was an artist, and an ever-changing show of her paintings lined the walls. Plus, she had an air conditioner when no one else did — no small attraction in our farm town in the heart and the heat of the Florida Panhandle.

Mrs. Segrest was just the right combination of nurturing and challenging for 7th graders, no longer in elementary school but not quite teenagers yet. When I got to 9th grade and had her again for French class, her elevated aesthetic sensibilities became ever more obvious. French! With a southern accent.

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Maybeck’s Roos House changes families

February 11, 2018 § Leave a comment

Acclaimed Bay Area architect Bernard Maybeck designed the Roos House in 1909.

IN THE dwindling days of December, an historic Presidio Heights Tudor sold for the first time — ever — making it the biggest single-family home sale of 2017 in San Francisco.

Bernard Maybeck’s Roos House, at 3500 Jackson Street, sold for $11 million, down from its original asking price of $16 million. Since its construction in 1909, the home had been passed down through family members, making this its first-ever sale.

“Architecture is Life-Poetry,” Maybeck once said, quoting Louis Sullivan. The house Maybeck designed in 1909 for the Leon L. Roos family “was definitely Life-Poetry,” wrote Sally Woodbridge in her definitive book, Bernard Maybeck: Visionary Architect.

Woodbridge wrote of the Roos House:

In Mrs. Roos, Maybeck had a client whose interest in theater paralleled his own. The house was a wedding present from her father, Morris Meyerfeld, who was a partner in the Orpheum Theater Circuit company. He had taken Elizabeth Leslie with him when he traveled to Europe in search of talent, and these tours gave her a lasting enthusiasm for the theater and for theatricality. When she heard that Mr. Maybeck designed theatrical houses, she rejected the architect her father had chosen and hired Maybeck.

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The skylit entrance hall of the Roos House.

At about 9,000 square feet, this is Maybeck’s largest San Francisco residence. It has two distinct sections: a two-story front part with dining room, entrance hall, kitchen and service spaces on the ground floor and bedrooms above; and a back part with only one floor but nearly the same height as the front part. The back part contains the great two-story living hall, the largest room in the house. Though difficult to ignore for other reasons, the house does not immediately reveal its considerable size. Instead of the grand entrance typical of mansions of the time, the front door is at the end of the loggia on the east side of the house, and it is not visible from the street.

The Roos family entertained frequently and formally. Their guests would approach the house through the loggia, which serves as an open foyer, and enter the low-ceilinged, skylit entry. From this point the sequence of spaces along the lengthy north-south asix is visible. The passage from the dining room at the front to the secondary living room, or alcove, at the back is also a progression from the closed and private street side to the more open garden side. The low-ceilinged alcove is a setting for contemplation of the view through the large window overlooking the Presidio grounds and Marin County across the bay.

For all its grandeur, the living hall never dwarfs its occupants.

While the guests proceeded into the living hall, the hosts would descend from the upper floor by means of a stair hidden behind a wall and appear on a stagelike landing to greet those assembled in the hall. The landing, raised four steps above floor level, forms one end of a cross axis anchored on the opposite side of the room by a caststone fireplace that rises to the ceiling. After making an initial appearance, the hosts would usually stand by the hearth and receive their guests less formally. Dr. Jane Roos, who inherited the house in the late 1970s, recalls that she first saw her mother-in-law dressed in a tea gown, standing by the fireplace.

The Rooses had a wonderful time living a baronial life. Leon Roos, who was an owner of Roos Brothers, one of San Francisco’s major men’s furnishing stores, designed a family crest and commissioned furniture from Maybeck to complement the pieces they purchased in Europe and elsewhere.

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Maybeck’s presentation drawing of the Roos house, with the family crest.