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 a beautiful catalog. Even if you’ve seen his paintings, you may be surprised, as I was, 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.

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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.

Two from the neighborhood

March 12, 2017 § Leave a comment

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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.

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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.”

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Ed Ruscha’s gas stations

September 11, 2016 § 2 Comments

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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.

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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.

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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.

Bye Bye, Dede — or not?

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.

WILSEY

MORE from The New York Times: “No quiet exits

STILL MORE: “The defiant socialite

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UPDATE: “After power struggle, Dede Wilsey prevails

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.”

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Two from the Wild West

July 14, 2016 § 2 Comments

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Francis McComas | Taos Houses (circa 1910-20)

HALF OF THE two-part show of iconic western images now on view in San Francisco is at the Legion of Honor. It’s called Wild West: Plains to the Pacific, and is intentionally a mixed bag. Two paintings stand out.

Taos Houses, a “watercolor with wiping” by Francis McComas, one of California’s early tonalist painters, is a beautiful painting that manages to be both tonalist and alive with color.

Hanging around the corner in the same golden palette is an early Maynard Dixon, Corral Dust, from 1915.

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Maynard Dixon | Corral Dust (1915)

 

MORE: An interview with the curators

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