A very pretty show

December 13, 2019 § Leave a comment

tissot

James Tissot | The Circle of the rue Royale (1866)

“ONE LEAVES THE Legion show with a deep sense of disappointment,” writes San Francisco Chronicle art critic Charles Desmarais in his review of the Tissot exhibition at the Legion of Honor, while acknowledging Tissot “was a skillful painter who left us intimate glimpses into the styles and customs of wealthy France and England in the 19th century.”

More to the point are Desmarais’ comments in his weekly newsletter:

“James Tissot: Fashion & Faith,” at the Legion of Honor, is the kind of exhibition we had once come to expect from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco: uncritical, untethered to the issues of today, and very pretty to look at. Then things changed, we thought.

I chose not to go down that critical road in my review. I think the museums are still shaking off the decorative flourishes of the Buchanan/Wilsey years, and in a big institution that doesn’t happen overnight. I’m willing to cut the new team some slack as it works through the deep investments made in the backlog of long-planned projects. And “Tissot” is, after all, a very pretty show.

REVIEW: “A story more of love than of art

Wonner-Brown estate to the Crocker

March 30, 2019 § Leave a comment

wtb

William Theophilus Brown | Standing Bathers (1993)

THE CROCKER ART MUSEUM in Sacramento has received more than 1,800 works of art by Paul Wonner and William Theophilus “Bill” Brown and established the Paul Wonner and William Theophilus Brown Endowment Fund.

In accordance with the artists’ wishes, the fund will support museum projects relating to emerging artists or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning and intersex artists.

By 2023, the Crocker Art Museum will use the fund to mount an exhibition of the work of Wonner and Brown — the most comprehensive show of the artists’ body of work ever presented — and produce an accompanying catalogue.

“Paul Wonner and Bill Brown were trail blazers, both individually and as a couple,” said the museum’s associate director and chief curator, Scott A. Shields. “It is wonderful that their legacy will live on, not only through their own art, but though their forward-looking support of other artists. It is what they wanted, and everyone at the Crocker is honored to be able to realize their vision.”

Read more from the Crocker Museum

Making it precise

July 6, 2018 § 2 Comments

Gerald Murphy_Watch_1925

Gerald Murphy | Watch (1925)

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

 

Feasting with the Staprans

April 23, 2018 § Leave a comment

staprans-pk

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.

Two from the neighborhood

March 12, 2017 § Leave a comment

monet-ellison

Claude Monet | Adolphe Monet Reading in a Garden (1866)

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.

monet-getty

Claude Monet | Boats in the Port of Honfleur (1866)

 

Ignored, and relieved

January 9, 2017 § Leave a comment

Bruce Conner | Breakaway (1966)

Bruce Conner | Breakaway (1966)

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.”

« Read the rest of this entry »

Ed Ruscha’s gas stations

September 11, 2016 § 2 Comments

ruscha_proof

Ed Ruscha | Standard Station (1966)

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.

ruscha_amarillo

Ed Ruscha | Standard Station, Amarillo, Texas (1962)

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.

ruscha_1963

Ed Ruscha | Standard Station, Amarillo, Texas (1963)

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.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Museums category at Art Matters.