Russian River, 3 p.m.

May 10, 2017 § 2 Comments

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Mary Robertson | Red Canoe

THIS IS, OF COURSE, the Russian River the casual tourist never sees. He’s in the middle of the damn painting, for one thing. For another, he’s got his eyes closed, soaking up the pure, unreflected heat. He’s too preoccupied, meditating, suspended weightless between water and sky. If he wasn’t on his day off, he’d probably notice the atmosphere is positively luminescent. Pass the Stroh’s, willya?

This is the world as seen by Mary Robertson. “For me, it’s always three in the afternoon, summer,” says Robertson. “No evenings, no mornings.”

Working from photographs, she paints the vacationers and their accoutrements as they float past her vantage point. “It seems to me as though the same swimmers, the same summer people, are always there,” says Robertson, who works with oil on linen and Masonite, not trying to capture the glow of the smogless afternoons but capturing it just the same. This is no small achievement; her work has been compared to Winslow Homer’s, Edward Hopper’s and especially, in its understanding of light, water and timeless human presence, to the Charles River paintings of Thomas Eakins.

“After my first show, somebody pointed that out to me, so I studied him,” says the artist. “It was a little embarrassing, really, for I hadn’t made the connection. To tell you the truth, I just paint what I see.”

The river itself is changing. “Last year,” she says, “They started releasing water upstream. The water is getting clearer. It’s also getting harder to paint. You can see the bottom — it’s like painting gin instead of pea soup. I’m afraid that what Gordon Cook [the painter] said about me is true — that I have a marvelous feel for algae.”

— MELVIN MARCUS

Artists and influences

April 24, 2017 § Leave a comment

BAY AREA ARTISTS Kim Frohsin and Sandy Ostrau discuss the Matisse/Diebenkorn exhibition, the Bay Area Figurative Movement and other influences on their work, in conversation with the Smithsonian Institution’s Paul Karlstrom.

In the studio with Kim Frohsin

February 19, 2017 § Leave a comment

Q & A | KIM FROHSIN

What is the creative process like for you?
To date it’s one in which one series or interest will somehow, in a deeply intuitive and subliminal way, lead naturally into the next work. To me, it seems like an innate flow and natural transition typifies my modus operandi over the last 29 years. There have certainly been times when my art is directly influenced by life circumstances or my reaction to those circumstances. Life on a personally intimate scale or on a large scale — for example, the death of my dog, or my reaction to 9/11. The art can serve sometimes as documentation, therapy or an emotional necessity for self-expression; the art simply emerges, life translated into imagery.

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Christo calls it off

January 26, 2017 § Leave a comment

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Drawings of Christo’s “Over the River” in the shrine to his work in Valley Ford.

CHRISTO HAS CALLED OFF “Over the River,” a project long in the works for a pastoral stretch of Colorado, as a protest against the new national landlord. But preparatory drawings already hang in the pantheon of Christo’s work in a small and unlikely museum: the off-the-path country post office in Valley Ford, California.

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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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The 4th

July 12, 2016 § Leave a comment

The ambiguities of pleasure

March 4, 2016 § Leave a comment

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Pierre Bonnard | Les danseuses

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.

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