July 6, 2018 § 2 Comments
A MAGICAL THING sometimes happens when an unexpected door opens. The excellent Precisionism exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco starts off with two of the few surviving paintings by Gerald Murphy. Who?
Gerald Murphy’s introduction to painting began in September 1921 when he happened in Paris to come upon some paintings by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris. “I was astounded,” he said. “My reaction to the color and form was immediate. To me there was something in these paintings that was instantly sympathetic and comprehensible.”
He began immediately to take lessons from the Russian painter Natalia Goncharova, and in the next seven years he completed 14 paintings, of which only seven have survived, and it is on these seven that his reputation rests.
It is said that although the artist chooses his subject, at times it seems rather that the subject has chosen the artist. Such was surely the case with Gerald Murphy. Outwardly his life on the Cote d’Azur was the essence of gaiety and vitality. It was not the bright colors that surrounded him on every side that he chose for his canvases, but the somber tones, the 14 shades of gray in Watch (1925) that overwhelm the watch’s gold encasement. His greatest paintings depict with great objectivity and precision the triumph of time and death.
— William Jay Smith in Making It New
April 23, 2018 § Leave a comment
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.
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.
March 12, 2017 § Leave a comment
“MONET: THE EARLY YEARS,” the new exhibition at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor, provides convincing evidence that Claude Monet had special talent from an early age — even if many of the paintings don’t rank among his greatest hits. Two standouts come from local collections: a painting of the artist’s father reading in a garden from the Larry Ellison Collection, and boats at rest from Ann and Gordon Getty.
January 9, 2017 § Leave a comment
REVIEW | JEROME TARSHIS
During the early and middle ’60s, when I was thinking about moving from New York to San Francisco, one of the inducements was that Bruce Conner lived here. My avant-garde film friends thought his first film, A Movie (1958), was an instant classic, followed by one success after another.
The objects he made — assemblage sculptures — were being shown at major galleries in New York, London, Paris, Rome and Mexico City. He was in great collections on both sides of the Atlantic. Not bad for a 30ish artist born and brought up in Kansas.
A more complicated Bruce Conner is the subject of “It’s All True,” his fullest retrospective so far, almost worshipfully received earlier this year at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and now at SFMOMA through January 22.
In 1965, Conner wrote to his poet friend Michael McClure that he had “a feeling of death from the ‘recognition’ I have been receiving. I feel like I am being catalogued and filed away.”
Unlike New York, San Francisco offered him an art scene in which very little avant-garde work by serious artists was sold. The artists could complain they were being ignored and, at more or less the same time, feel relieved they were outside what Conner referred to as “the art bizness.”
September 11, 2016 § 2 Comments
ED RUSCHA WAS 18 when he drove a 1950 Ford sedan from Oklahoma City, where he lived, to Los Angeles to attend art school. That 1956 trip was the first of many in which he roughly followed the fabled Route 66 through western Oklahoma, northern Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and the California desert.
The architecture and symbolism of the gasoline station — that archetypal element in any modern vision of the American West — has long fascinated Ruscha. He brought a camera on successive trips and decided to record in photographs the many stations he encountered.
For his book Twentysix Gasoline Stations, Ruscha photographed gasoline stations between Los Angeles and Oklahoma City. One of these, a Standard station in Amarillo, Texas, intrigued him more than the others and launched a major series of paintings, prints and drawings. “There was something new and clean about it. That gas station had a polished newness that I just had to draw and then paint,” he later recalled.
For his first painted rendition of a Standard gasoline station, Ruscha employed one-point perspective to emphasize its angular architecture. The compositional device provided “a zoom quality” that, with the addition of roving searchlights, visually projected the building out of the night sky and into the viewer’s space, situated below the pumps as if encountering the scene from a car on the roadside. Painted in this way, the station became Ruscha’s iconic symbol of the new, brash culture that was emerging from the western United States.
In early versions the station most often appears as a sleek, modernistic red-white-and-blue symbol of the new American West, robust in the age when gas was cheap and great highways connected the land. Ruscha’s more recent renditions suggest meanings of change and obsolescence, whether they depict the station as a dark abandoned building, in a fiery haze, or as a ghostly apparition.
The exhibition “Ed Ruscha and the Great American West” continues at the de Young Museum in San Francisco through October 9, 2016.
July 30, 2016 § Leave a comment
VIDEO | Dede Wilsey recalls how she helped bring treasures from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris to San Francisco.
THE BOMBSHELL many people had been expecting — and some had been hoping for — came last Sunday when a pair of crack Chronicle columnists reported that longtime president Dede Wilsey was stepping down from the helm of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
The story was picked up by The New York Times and others, including an extensive report by KQED.
But it appeared to be news to Dede Wilsey herself. On Facebook, one of her friends posted a message she’d sent:
Dear Ann, thank you so much for your kind words. In actual fact I have not resigned from the museum board. I am still the president and I expect to be president for a long time. That whole article is pure fabrication and I have my attorney working on it. Please spread that word, if you would, because I am on the East Coast and can’t really defend myself from here. Much much love, Dede
By the end of the week, the Chronicle’s new art critic took his turn in a story headlined, “Dede Wilsey pile-on isn’t fair.”
Stay tuned. This could get interesting.
MORE from The New York Times: “No quiet exits”
STILL MORE: “The defiant socialite”
Embattled philanthropist Dede Wilsey, who waged an all-out campaign to stay on as head of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco amid probes into whether she improperly spent the institutions’ money, has won approval to extend her reign as the city’s queen of culture — although with a new title and possibly less power.
Wilsey called the changes “minimal — none — and mostly at my request. I’m delighted.”