ART hound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

Not just art, Napa’s Hess Collection, also has film—the “16th Annual Animation Show of Shows” screens new shorts from all over the world this Sunday, September 21, 2014

A still from “FEAST” (2014) a delightful DISNEY short from director Patrick Osborne about a Boston terrier named Winston whose diet changes dramatically when his single owner gets a girlfriend.  “FEAST” will screen Sunday, September 21, 2014 at the Hess Collection in Napa as part of the “16th Annual Animation Show of Shows.”  The program of film shorts will be moderated by Ron Diamond, founder Acme Filmworks, L.A., who personally selected the films as outstanding examples in animation.  Image: ©DISNEY.

A still from “FEAST” (2014) a delightful DISNEY short from director Patrick Osborne about a Boston terrier named Winston whose diet changes dramatically when his single owner gets a girlfriend. “FEAST” will screen Sunday, September 21, 2014 at the Hess Collection in Napa as part of the “16th Annual Animation Show of Shows.” The program of film shorts will be moderated by Ron Diamond, founder Acme Filmworks, L.A., who personally selected the films as outstanding examples in animation. Image: ©DISNEY.

Napa Valley’s Hess Collection not only offers an unparalleled collection of contemporary art amassed by Swiss wine connoisseur, Donald Hess, it also has exceptional film programing in its on-site theatre organized by collection curator, Rob Ceballos. A visit to the striking two story stone museum and grounds on Mt. Veeder, is always a treat— the art works on display are frequently rotated and there’s a tasting room pouring Hess’ world class wines —but when combined with a special film event that includes a knowledgeable speaker, it’s even more rewarding. On Sunday, September 21, 2014, at 2 p.m., Ron Diamond founder of Acme Filmworks animation studio in Los Angeles and Animation Show of Shows curator will present the fantastic “16th Annual Animation Show of Shows” film shorts program. The 100 minute program will screen nine award-winning animated short films selected from major worldwide animation film festivals, and includes a reception before the screenings, and a Q & A session with Diamond after the viewing.

Diamond created the annual Animation Show of Shows in 1998 as a way of bringing the year’s best shorts, both studio and independent films, from around the world, to industry professionals and audiences who might not otherwise have an opportunity to see them. The 16th Annual edition features both studio and independent films from the US, Canada, Norway, France, United Kingdom, Poland and Russia, some of which have not been officially released. A few of shorts screening Sunday include:  Disney’s FEAST (2014) from director Patrick Osborne that accompanies their full-length animated feature Big Hero Six (November 2014) and Disney-Pixar’s musical short, LAVA (2014) directed by James Ford Murphy, (which will run in front of Pete Docter’s full-length animated feature, Inside Out, (out June 2015)).  Also featured is Greg and Myles McLeod’s 365, composed of 365 one-second films chronicling a year in filmmaking, day-by-day.  Other films include legendary Disney animator Glen Keane’s directorial debut with DUET (2014), produced at Google’s ATAP unit, along with Mikey Please’s stop motion tour-de-force MARILYN MYLLER (2014), fresh from its Grand Prix win at the 2014 Hiroshima International Animation Festival.  The entire program runs approximately 100 minutes.

Details: “16th Annual Animation Show of Shows” is Sunday, September 21, 2014, at 2 PM at the Hess Collection. The Hess Collection Winery is located at 4411 Redwood Road Napa. A $20 fee covers the food and wine reception as well as the film program. Patrons are invited to remain and enjoy selected tastings of interesting new release wines in the historic Hess Visitor’s Center. Seats are limited. Purchase tickets here. Online ticket availability ends Friday, September 19, 2014.

September 16, 2014 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Arts of the Islamic World”―engrossing lectures by the world’s experts, Friday mornings at the Asian Art Museum, through December 5, 2014

Helen C. Evans, Ph.D., the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Mary and Michael Jaharis Curator for Byzantine Art will speak at the Asian Art Museum on Friday, September 12, 2014 on “Assimilation and Conquest: Byzantine Sources for Islamic Art.”   Her lecture is part of the "Arts of the Islamic World" fall lecture series organized by the Society for Ancient Art.  Dr. Evans installed the Met’s Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries of Byzantine Art, the first galleries dedicated to Byzantine art in an encyclopedic museum in 2000, and she expanded them in 2008.  She has curated three landmark exhibitions on Byzantine Art—“Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition (7th – 9th Century)” in 2012, “Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261-1557)” in 2004, and “The Glory of Byzantium: Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era (843-1261) in 1976.  Photo: courtesy Tulane University

Helen C. Evans, Ph.D., the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Mary and Michael Jaharis Curator for Byzantine Art will speak at the Asian Art Museum on Friday, September 12, 2014 on “Assimilation and Conquest: Byzantine Sources for Islamic Art.” Her lecture is part of the “Arts of the Islamic World” fall lecture series organized by the Society for Ancient Art. Dr. Evans installed the Met’s Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries of Byzantine Art, the first galleries dedicated to Byzantine art in an encyclopedic museum in 2000, and she expanded them in 2008. She has curated three landmark exhibitions on Byzantine Art—“Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition (7th – 9th Century)” in 2012, “Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261-1557)” in 2004, and “The Glory of Byzantium: Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era (843-1261) in 1976. Photo: courtesy Tulane University

Last Friday morning, you could have heard a pin drop in the Asian Art Museum’s Samsung Hall as Freer & Sackler chief curator of Islamic Art, Massumeh Farhad, gave an overview of the rare treasures from Saudi Arabia that await us in the “Roads of Arabia” exhibition opening October 24, 2014.  Farhad gave an insider’s profile of recent archaeological discoveries in Saudi Arabia, including news of an inscription in Nabatean Arabic, the very first stage of Arabic writing, unearthed by a French epigrapher near Narjan (near the Yemeni border) that is an important link in tracing the origins of the Arabic language.  She also talked of exquisite artifacts found along the ancient incense roads that originated in southern Arabia and were caravan routes for the transport of precious frankincense and myrrh throughout Eqypt, Mesopotamia, Iran, and the Mediterranean world.

A week earlier, on August 29th, David Stronach, Professor Emeritus, Near Eastern Studies, University of California at Berkeley gave an engrossing survey of the art and architecture of Pre-Islamic Iran and Central Asia.  One of the world’s leading experts on ancient Iran, he told of the excavations he had participated in and illustrated his talk with stunning aerial photographs of sites and monuments taken by Swiss photographer Georg Gerster.  He speculated about ancient Persian garden design and entertained us with an anecdote about Agatha Christie whom he met at an estate in Iran in the 1970’s when he was the Director of the British Institute of Persian Studies in Tehran.

These distinguished speakers are part of a wonderful new 15-part fall lecture series, “Arts of the Islamic World,” organized by the AAM’s Society for Ancient Art, every Friday at 10:30 a.m. though December 5, 2014.  The series is designed to provide a broad overview of both pre-Islamic and Islamic art and includes a roster of renowned scholars and curators, several of whom hail from Oxford and the British Museum.  Their talks are substantial and run roughly two hours. The series sold-out almost immediately but a number of seats―$20 each―are made available each Friday morning for walk-ins.  I have attended the last two lectures, arriving when the museum opens at 10 a.m. and have gotten a seat.  Coffee, tea and assorted pastries are offered for sale before the lecture and at intermission.  Here are descriptions of the remaining lectures―

September 12:   Assimilation and Conquest: Byzantine Sources for Islamic Art (Study Guide), Helen Evans, Metropolitan Museum

September 19:    Is there an Image Problem in Islam? Materials for the History of an Idea (Study Guide), Finbarr Barry Flood, NYU

September 26: Persian Painting: The First Golden Age (1300-1500), Robert Hillenbrand, University of Edinburgh

October 3:   Seeing and Being Seen in Isfahan: Expanding Gaze for an Early Modern Capital, Renata Holod, University of Pennsylvania

October 10: Chinese Influence on Islamic Glazed Ceramics, Oliver Watson, University of Oxford

October 17:  Building Types in Islamic Architecture, Santhi Kavuri-Bauer, San Francisco State University

October 24:  The Visual Culture of Islam in India, Alka Patel, UC Irvine

October 31: “Ex Oriente Lux: Luxury Textiles and Oriental Carpets, Carol Bier, Textile Museum, Washington D.C.

November 7:  The Art of Islamic Calligraphy: A Journey through Time, Maryam Ekhtiar, Metropolitan Museum

November 14:   Seek Knowledge Even as Far as China: East-West Cultural Transmissions in Post Mongol Iran, Ladan Akbarnia, British Museum

November 21: Modernism and Islamic Art, Iftikhar Dadi, Cornell University

November 28: No Class, Thanksgiving break

December 5: Imagining Europe at the Persian Court in the Seventeenth Century (1590-1720), Amy Landau, Walters Art Museum

Details:  The September 12 lecture, delivered by Dr. Helen Evans of the Metropolitan Museum, will be the fourth in the series.  There is a two-hour “Arts of the Islamic World” lecture every Friday at 10:30 a.m. in Samsung Hall through December 5, 2014. (There is no lecture on November 28, 2014).  Fee: $20 per lecture drop-in (purchase at the door, after Museum general admission, subject to availability).   The Asian Art Museum is located at 200 Larkin Street at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco.  Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.  Admission:  $15 adults; $10 seniors over 65, students and youth 13-17; Thursday nights $5.  For more information, visit http://www.asianart.org

 

 

September 10, 2014 Posted by | Art, Asian Art Museum | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Honoring the legacy of Luther Burbank―a new exhibition of botanical drawings by Sonoma County artists opens at Sebastopol Center for the Arts on Thursday, September 11, 2014

French hybrid lilac (Syringa vulgaris hybrid)© Vi Strain.  All rights reserved.

Luther Burbank hybrid French lilac (Syringa vulgaris hybrid) by Vi Grinsteiner Strain. Colored pencil on Dura Lar, 9 x 12 inches, 2013-14. © Vi Grinsteiner Strain. All rights reserved.

Framed in my room, I have a Victorian card with lovely hand-drawn lilacs inscribed “You are like a fragrant bouquet of lilacs. The thought of you, however far I stray, brings me back to my childhood hours.”   How delightful to learn that Sebastopol artist Vi Strain has created a hand-drawn lilac that will be exhibited at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts as part of their “Legacy of Luther Burbank” exhibition opening Thursday, September 11, 2014 with a reception from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The exhibition features fourteen Sonoma County botanical artists who have created glorious colored pencil drawings of plants they selected from the Luther Burbank Experiment Farm in Sebastopol and the Luther Burbank Home & Gardens in Santa Rosa.  Botanically accurate portraits of fruits, vegetables, flowers and trees created through Burbank’s experiments all combine as a wonderful florilegium of Burbank’s important and enduring work in Sonoma County. By chance, I had the good fortune of meeting Vi Strain at the recent opening of Schroeder Hall and jumped at the chance to ask her about her work.  Here is our conversation―

How long have you been doing botanical drawing?

Vi Strain: Since about 2006, when I took Nina Antze’s “Drawing Nature” class in Sebastopol, where we used colored pencil. I’ve always drawn though and it started when I was a kid in Wyoming. At Montana State University, I studied commercial and fine art, and I was on scholarship for my first two years. I was drawn to botanical drawing because I’ve always found wonder in nature and plant life. Over time, I’ve worked in almost every medium there is.  I really like colored pencils because you can get every color you want and they aren’t messy, like oil paints are. I work primarily on Dura-Lar and use oil-based pencils. Faber Castells and Carn d’Aches are my favorites. They are very smooth, so I can easily do very detailed work with very rich and accurate colors.

What did you learn about Luther Burbank in the process of creating your lilac?

Vi Strain: In researching Burbank’s legacy, I read Jane Smith’s book, The Garden of Invention  and I visited the Sebastopol Experiment Farm and also the Burbank Home & Gardens in Santa Rosa. I found that he brought plants from all over the world and would take those various strains and, through cross-breeding, create a new plant ideally suited to our region, where it does not freeze in the winter time. His lilac is a hybrid French lilac (Syringa vulgaris hybrid).  I’ve always loved lilacs and, when I went there and saw his blooming, I knew immediately that I had to draw them as I have such a long history with them.

The amazing color is what grabbed me in this lilac, it’s really multiple colors–it starts as a tiny, almost black, deep purple bud which opens into a red-violet and then turns into a reddish lavender flower.  As they start to go, they fade into this white lavender. I enjoy taking it from the bud stage all the way to the spent blossom.

Tell us more about your technique.

Vi Strain: I work exclusively in colored pencils, some are wax and some are oil, on Dura-Lar drafting film. I do all my preliminary compositions and drawings on tracing paper. Once I settle on what I like, I outline it in ink on the tracing paper and put the Dura-Lar directly over that and start working directly on that. Each one takes hours and hours. In this case, I took the lilac all apart and really examined it, trying to find how the blossoms are attached to the stem and how the stem is attached to the branch and how the leaves are shaped and how their vein structure works. I study all of this and then connect all the dots from there. I also create a whole study sheet on just colors. I take a lot of close-up photos too because lilacs don’t last long and I will work on a drawing for months.

Your favorite lilac fix?

Vi Strain: The one at the patio of the Union Hotel in Occidental. It is ancient and a beauty.

Details: Opening Reception for “The Legacy of Luther Burbank” is Thursday, September 11, from 6 to 7:30 PM. The exhibition runs in Gallery II from Thursday September 11 to Saturday, October 25, 2014. Concurrently running is “Big Ideas 1950-1970: influences in modern ceramics,” which focuses on the evolution and contemporary re-interpretation of earlier groundbreaking ceramic works by 13 seminal artists. Sebastopol Center for the Arts is located at 282 High Street, Sebastopol, CA. Phone: 707 829.4797

September 9, 2014 Posted by | Art | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Gorgeous”—gritty, edgy, beyond beautiful—SFMOMA and Asian Art Museum’s exhibition asks you to figure out what “gorgeous” means, just three viewing weekends left

In “Gorgeous” at the Asian Art Museum through September 14, 2014, Mark Rothko’s “No. 14, 1960,” one of SFMOMA’s most visited artworks, shares a small gallery with an exquisite 17th century Chinese bronze Buddha, whose robes seem blown by a soft breeze, and a 17th century Tibetan Buddhist mandala, all of which encourage very slow looking—the full extent of their gorgeousness is experienced through reflection over time.  “Gorgeous” presents mostly Western modern and contemporary works from SFMOMA in conversation with artworks from AAM that span 2,000 years and many different cultures, opening up whole new ways of experiencing all of these works very much in the present moment.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

In “Gorgeous” at the Asian Art Museum through September 14, 2014, Mark Rothko’s “No. 14, 1960,” one of SFMOMA’s most visited artworks, shares a small gallery with an exquisite 17th century Chinese bronze Buddha, whose robes seem blown by a soft breeze, and a 17th century Tibetan Buddhist mandala, all of which encourage very slow looking—the full extent of their gorgeousness is experienced through reflection over time. “Gorgeous” presents mostly Western modern and contemporary works from SFMOMA in conversation with artworks from AAM that span 2,000 years and many different cultures, opening up whole new ways of experiencing all of these works very much in the present moment. Photo: Geneva Anderson

An evocative Mark Rothko painting shares a gallery with a richly-colored 17th century Tibetan mandala and an immovably calm bronze Buddha; a voluptuous 16 to 17th century  stone torso is placed next to a hot pink neon sign that reads “Fantastic to feel beautiful again”; an ornately embossed and gilded 19th century elephant seat, a symbol of status, is near Marcel’s Duchamp’s iconic factory made urinal; John Currin’s confounding portrait of a meticulously-painted nude that combines the physique of a Northern Renaissance master with the grinning head of a corn-fed mid-Western girl shares space with a number of other portraits that provoke discomfort.  They’re all part of Gorgeous, the inventive collaboration between SFMOMA and the Asian Art Museum (AAM), a mash-up of 72 artworks (39 from SFMOMA and 43 from the Asian), spanning 2,000 years, that asks the viewer to decide what ‘gorgeous” means.  Artwise, it’s one of the summer’s highpoints that grows on you with each successive visit. There are just three viewing weekends left as it closes on Sunday, September 14, 2014.

“ ‘Gorgeous’ just clicked right away, hitting all the marks in terms of an exhibition that really had the potential to offer something fresh and provocative and to approach a mash-up of two very different collections,” said Janet Bishop, SFMOMA’s curator of painting and sculpture.  Bishop oversees SFMOMA’s “On the Go Program,” in place at various sites all around the Bay Area while the building is closed for reconstruction and expansion through early 2016. (The excellent “Photography in Mexico” exhibition hosted by the Sonoma County Museum  in September 2013 and about to open at the Bakersfield Museum of Art was one of SFMOMA’s first of the On the Go shows.  The next On the Go project is Fertile Ground: Art and Community in California (Sept. 20, 2014 – April 12, 2015) in partnership with OMCA (Oakland Museum of California).  In the works since the fall 2011, Gorgeous is co-curated by Allison Harding, AAM assistant curator of contemporary art, Forrest McGill, AAM Wattis senior curator of South and Southeast Asian art and director of AAM’s Research Institute for Asian Art, Caitlin Haskell, SFMOMA assistant curator of painting and sculpture and Janet Bishop.

“A lot of our shows fall into art history where we attempt to clarify things for the viewer” said the AAM’s Allison Harding, one of the lead curators. “This is more art appreciation, where we want the viewer to enjoy themselves as they try to figure out what they think about this subject.  It’s meant to be very fluid and engaging.”   And fluid it is—the show extends over four galleries and into the expansive North Court.  The artworks aren’t easily categorized but embracing their resistance to classification is the essence of the project.

It almost seems as if Harding and McGill free-associated about their perspectives on gorgeous to come up with the categories they’ve grouped the artworks into—Seduction , Dress Up, Pose, Reiteration,  Beyond Imperfection, Fantasy, Danger,  In Bounds, Evocation, On Reflection.  Interesting wall texts elucidate their personal perspectives and possible juxtapositions amongst the artworks.

Having visited the show five times now, I see most of the associations as interchangeable—the more time you spend looking, and the more you understand what drives your own attraction and revulsion with various works, the more you get to the heart of your own personal gorgeous.

Gorgeous often seduces through the allure of the extreme.  Jeff Koons’ “Michael Jackson and Bubbles” (1988), rendered in gold glazed porcelain 1988, is a mainstay of SFMOMA’s collection.  In addition to being on view in “Gorgeous,” another edition of the sculpture is currently on view at the Whitney’s Jeff Koons’ retrospective.  SFMOMA curator Janet Bishop notes that the iconic piece captures “a very real moment in the pop star’s obsessive personal pursuit of gorgeousness.”   Collection SFMOMA, ©Jeff Koons.

Gorgeous often seduces through the allure of the extreme. Jeff Koons’ “Michael Jackson and Bubbles” (1988), rendered in gold glazed porcelain 1988, is a mainstay of SFMOMA’s collection. In addition to being on view in “Gorgeous,” another edition of the sculpture is currently on view at the Whitney’s Jeff Koons’ retrospective. SFMOMA curator Janet Bishop notes that the iconic piece captures “a very real moment in the pop star’s obsessive personal pursuit of gorgeousness.” Collection SFMOMA, ©Jeff Koons.

Certainly central to the exhibition’s immense popularity is that its combination of Asian and Western, ancient and modern, and seeing familiar works in a new context is a fabulous catalyst for spinning out ideas on something as sassy as gorgeous.

In the opening Oscher gallery, a real icon of SFMOMA holdings—Jeff Koons’ “Michael Jackson and Bubbles” (1988)—is right across from a set of twelve 17th century hanging scrolls by Chinese artist Hua Yan who was famous for his strong personality and rejection of  orthodox conventions of painting.  The expressively painted screens depict a villa ensconced in a sweeping panoramic mountainous landscape on a luxurious golden background.   Near-by is a jewel-encrusted alms bowl from Burma (1850-1950) and also close by is Chris Olfili’s “Princess of the Possee” (1990) and Jess’ monumental drawing “Narkissos” (1976-1991).  I was revolted by the gaudy excess of Bubbles when I first saw it at SFMOMA’s reveal press opening years ago.  Now, 16 years after its creation, I marvel at how it perfectly captures banality of the 1980’s and how its lustrous gold porcelain finish has a magical interplay with Hua Yan’s shimmering scrolls and sweeping hills and with the gilding on the ceremonial alms bowl, a highly-ornate ritual object.

One can’t speak of gold without mentioning Felix Gonzalez-Torres “Untitled” (Golden) (1995), a deeply alluring shimmering gold-beaded curtain—the only interactive work in the show—that seems to produce a smile on the face of everyone who walks through it.  Conceptually, it functions as a portal and is installed as a passage between two thematically different galleries; it even grabs the limelight from a nearby Mondrian.

(Left) Torso of a female deity, 1400–1600. Southern India. Stone.  Courtesy of Asian Art Museum, The Avery Brundage Collection, B63S3+.  (Right) “Fantastic to Feel Beautiful Again,” 1997, by Tracey Emin. Neon. Collection SFMOMA, © 2014 Tracey Emin.

(Left) Torso of a female deity, 1400–1600. Southern India. Stone. Courtesy of Asian Art Museum, The Avery Brundage Collection, B63S3+. (Right) “Fantastic to Feel Beautiful Again,” 1997, by Tracey Emin. Neon. Collection SFMOMA, © 2014 Tracey Emin.

An Indian stone female torso covered with intricate carving, dated 1400-1600, which has been on view at the AAM for over a decade, was easy to skip over.  Freshly installed in Asian’s North Court, with a different pedestal that exposes what remains of its legs and beside British artist Tracy Emin’s hot pink neon hand-written sign “Fantastic to feel beautiful again” (1997), the stone work is suddenly re-contextualized.  Ermin’s confessional epigram highlights what is absent in the stone work—presumably she was once a complete figure but the centuries have robbed this lush beauty of her of her head, arms, legs—in short, the ability to think or move. “Recovering our awareness of her losses only broadens her allure,” says Allison Harding. “Her acquired cracks and fractures suggest the collision between idea beauty and the world of time and nature.”

“Lawrence Weiner’s ‘Pearls roll Across the Floor’ in the Lee Gallery is a text piece that was installed a number of times in the SFMOMA’s Botta building but is presented here in the Lee Gallery in a new diagonal configuration and a new palette which, for me, really changes its dynamic and the mental images that it evokes,” said SFMOMA’s Janet Bishop who happily admitted “this experience has really changed the way I see objects.”

I imagine like many, I came to Gorgeous with the notion that concepts of gorgeous and beauty were somewhat synonymous.  And, as an art writer who’s been at it 25+ years, I was expecting more of a conversation about beauty and where it stands today, a topic that engaged the art world and philosophical discourse in the 1990’s when there was an active rejection of beauty as a creative ideal.  As Allison Harding explained, “Gorgeous is meant to be distinct from art historical discourse and precise definitions; it’s more about viewers defining for themselves what gorgeous means. …The works in this show are more than beautiful and they all have aspects about them that push beyond conventional beauty to the max, to the zone where tensions exist beyond what is familiar or comfortable.”

Is posing your five-year-old child so as to capture innate sexuality crossing a border, or, is this silver gelatin portrait “gorgeous” because it so sensuously captures an honest slice of childhood?  Sally Mann’s “Jessie at 5” (1987) brushes up against social boundaries that are fluidly defined but perfectly illustrate the tensions in the SFMOMA-Asian Art Museum exhibit, “Gorgeous.” @Sally Mann. Courtesy: Gagosian Gallery.

Is posing your five-year-old child so as to capture innate sexuality crossing a border?, or, Is this silver gelatin portrait “gorgeous” because it so sensuously captures an honest slice of childhood? Sally Mann’s “Jessie at 5” (1987) brushes up against social boundaries that are fluidly defined but perfectly illustrate the tensions in the SFMOMA-Asian Art Museum exhibit, “Gorgeous.” @Sally Mann. Courtesy: Gagosian Gallery.

Sally Mann’s “Jessie at 5” (1987), hung in the Hambrecht Galley, is a silver gelatin portrait of the artist’s 5 year-old daughter, nude from the waist up and posed sexily with her hip jutting out. It strikes a number of disconcerting chords.  “The power of this image lies in ability to confound boundaries,” says  Harding. “The confining square here could be the acceptable borders of childhood, femininity, sexuality; the improvisation is the captured moment and its endless interpretation.”  The modern portrait shares wall space with a set of hanging scrolls from the Asian’s collection from another era, Chobunsai Eishi’s  “Three Types of Beauties in Edo,” approximately dates 1798-1829.  In one screen, a geisha ( erotically?) twists her hair pin with her delicate white hands, her forearm revealed when her sleeve is raised.  In Eishi’s time, too, there was a fascination with ranking types of beauties by the coding is fuzzy to our modern eye.

One of the great things about Gorgeous is the feeling that you’re actually meeting the curators, as their wall texts, written in conversational language, are much more personal and engaging than usual.   Of a red-lacquered wood chair for the imperial court which is carved with amazing narrative scenes, Forrest McGill writes “Looks uncomfortable and impractical, but who cares when displaying wealth and power is the goal, right?” and “contains narrative scenes that someone with a thorough knowledge of Chinese literature might have been able to identify.  But who would have had a change to get close enough to them for long enough to figure them out?”

(Left) “Miss Blanche chair” by Shiro Kuramata (1988), plastic, artificial flowers, aluminum. Collection SFMOMA. @Estate of Shiro Kuramata.  (Right) Chair for the imperial court, approx.. 1750-1850.  China. Lacquered wood.  The Avery Brundage Collection, B60M28+.

(Left) “Miss Blanche chair” by Shiro Kuramata (1988), plastic, artificial flowers, aluminum. Collection SFMOMA. @Estate of Shiro Kuramata. (Right) Chair for the imperial court, approx.. 1750-1850. China. Lacquered wood. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60M28+.

This regal lacquered chair is comically paired, in the Oscher Gallery, with Shiro Kuramata’s “Miss Blanche chair” (1988), a see-through modernist acrylic chair that has wonderful floating roses and is said to have been inspired by the corsage worn by Vivien Leigh in the role of Blanche Dubois in the movie version of A Streetcar Named Desire.  These two chairs, neither made for sitting, loudly shout-out to the ornate gilded Indian elephant seat (howdah) in the Asian’s North Court which, in turn, dialogues nicely with Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” (1917), a touchstone of conceptual art, which has been installed adjacent it.   It’s quite unexpected to find a factory made urinal in the AAM’s elegant North Court, perhaps as surprising as it was when the original urinal was first designated as art in the 1917 SIA (Society of Independent Artists) exhibition.

DetailsGorgeous closes on September 14, 2014.  The Asian Art Museum is located at 200 Larkin Street at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco.  Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.  Admission: Gorgeous is covered by general admission AAM ticket—free for SFMOMA members; $15 adults; $10 seniors over 65, students and youth 13-17; Thursday nights $5; free admission for all on Target Sunday, September 7, 2014 .  For more information, visit http://www.asianart.org/.

August 29, 2014 Posted by | Art, Asian Art Museum, Oakland Museum of California, SFMOMA, Sonoma County Museum | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Hess Collection is screening great art documentaries on select Sundays—Jeremey Ambers’ “Impossible Light” screens August 10

Artist Leo Villareal tests the lights for his fantastic installation “Bay Lights”— 25,000 LED lights on the side of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge—touted to be the world’s largest LED light sculpture, which officially opened on March 14, 2014.   Filmmaker Jeremy Ambers tracked Villareal as the dream became a reality and his feature length documentary, “Impossible Lights” (2014), screens Sunday, August 10, at Napa’s Hess Collection.  Image: courtesy Jeremy Ambers

Artist Leo Villareal tests the lights for his fantastic installation “Bay Lights”— 25,000 LED lights on the side of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge—touted to be the world’s largest LED light sculpture, which officially opened on March 14, 2014. Filmmaker Jeremy Ambers tracked Villareal as the dream became a reality and his feature length documentary, “Impossible Lights” (2014), screens Sunday, August 10, at Napa’s Hess Collection. Image: courtesy Jeremy Ambers

“The Bay Bridge was the first thing I saw the day I moved to San Francisco, driving down Route 80 in a U-haul Truck,” recalls filmmaker Jeremy Ambers who was awestruck when he met Ben Davis, the driving force behind the seemingly impossible idea to transform San Francisco’s Bay Bridge’s western span into a light sculpture and one of the world’s largest art installations. Ambers’ acclaimed documentary, Impossible Light (2014), follows Davis and renowned American artist Leo Villareal and their team of designers, along with entrepreneurs, philanthropists, art enthusiasts and Bay Area optimists, as they set out to install 25,000 LED lights on the side of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge for an abstract dancing sculpture known as The Bay Lights. This impressive feature length doc, which captures the heart, soul and intense drama behind this $8,000,000 installation—to date, not paid for—is screening this Sunday, August 10, at 3 PM at Napa Valley’s Hess Collection as part of their wonderful summer series of art film screenings, presented in partnership with the Napa Valley Film Festival (Nov 12-16, 2014).   Hess Collection Chef, Chad Hendrickson, will provide wine and appetizers, one more reason to see this amazing contemporary collection and take in the film. Click here for tickets and for more information, contact Hess events manager Ashley Cox 707 255-1144 x226.

August 5, 2014 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Opening Saturday, August 2—Dana Hooper and Douglas Cruickshank at Toby’s, Point Reyes Station, and Joseph McDonald and Murray Rockowitz at Aqus Café, Petaluma

Sonoma County artist, Dana Hooper spontaneously paints animals and things bathed in gorgeous light.  "Cowgirl," 24 x 36, acrylic on canvas.  courtesy: DanaHooper.com

Sonoma County artist, Dana Hooper spontaneously paints animals and things bathed in gorgeous light. “Cowgirl,” 24 x 36, acrylic on canvas. courtesy: DanaHooper.com

Saturday, August 2nd from 1 to 4 pm, Toby’s Gallery—artist reception “Inspired by Patterns” with Petaluma  artist, Dana Hooper, showing paintings inspired by rural Sonoma County, AND Douglas Cruickshank, photographer, columnist and Salon.com editor, and showing “Photographs of Point Reyes woods and water”   Toby’s Gallery is located at 11250 Highway 1, Point Reyes Station, phone 415.663.1223.   “Inspired by Patterns” runs through September 2, 2014.

"Rock Printing:, portrait of Sam Rockowitz," father of Murray Rockowitz.  2104 marks Murray Rockowitz's 25th year in business as a photographer.  Of course, he's been a photographer most of his life.  Image: courtesy Murray Rockowitz

“Rock Printing,” portrait of Sam Rockowitz, father of Murray Rockowitz, in his print shop, an old iron front building, in downtown Rochester, adjacent the Genesee River. 2014 marks Murray Rockowitz’s 25th year in business as a photographer. Of course, he’s been a photographer most of his life. 15.25 x 15.25 inch Selenium toned gelatin silver print, 1981, twin lens Rollei. Image: courtesy Murray Rockowitz

Saturday, August 2nd from 3 to 5 pm, Aqus Café — artist reception for Petaluma photographer and Digital Grange guru, Joseph McDonald, showing recent work, and Petaluma photographer, Murray Rockowitz, showing “People and their Work.” Aqus Café is located at Petaluma’s Foundry Wharf, 189 H Street, Petaluma, phone 707.778. 6060.

 

August 2, 2014 Posted by | Art | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

rockin’ artifacts— The OMCA (Oakland Museum of California) is grooving with “Vinyl,” its homage to pressed gems, ending on July 27

“Pearl,” the second solo album by Janis Joplin, is just one of dozens of lp’s that can be seen, touched and played at “Vinyl,” the Oakland Museum of California’s homage to listening to, collecting, and sharing records.  “Pearl” was released posthumously on Columbia Records in January 1971 and was the last album that had Joplin’s direct participation.  Its recording sessions ended with Joplin’s death on October 7, 1970.  Soon after its release, it hit  #1 on the Billboard 200 and held the spot for nine weeks and was certified “quadruple platinum” by the Recording Industry Association of America. “Pearl” is the only Joplin album recorded with the Full Tilt Boogie Band, her final touring unit.  The album cover, photographed by Barry Feinstein in Los Angeles shows Joplin reclining on her Victorian era loveseat with a drink in her hand.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

“Pearl,” the second solo album by Janis Joplin, is just one of dozens of lp’s that can be seen, touched and played at “Vinyl,” the Oakland Museum of California’s homage to listening to, collecting, and sharing records. “Pearl” was released posthumously on Columbia Records in January 1971 and was the last album that had Joplin’s direct participation. Its recording sessions ended with Joplin’s death on October 7, 1970. Soon after its release, it hit #1 on the Billboard 200 and held the spot for nine weeks and was certified “quadruple platinum” by the Recording Industry Association of America. “Pearl” is the only Joplin album recorded with the Full Tilt Boogie Band, her final touring unit. Photo: Geneva Anderson

If you haven’t visited OMCA (Oakland Museum of California) lately, July is a great month to do it.  Vinyl: The Sound and Culture of Records closes Sunday, July 27th, and is a fascinating interactive show with a gallery of guest-curated crates of lp’s set up in listening stations that will delight, inform as they take you way down memory lane.

I was eleven when Janis Joplin’s “Pearl” was released, so seeing feather-haired Janis on the album cover sitting there on that velvet love seat, drink in hand, immediately brought back that 5th grade summer that we played  “Me and Bobby McGee” over and over trying to understand as children what it all meant —”Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”

I reunited with “Pearl” by cruising through rock historian Sylvie Simmons’ curated “girl crate” featuring female rebels, like the Shirelles in the 1960’s (“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”) through the singer-songwriters of the 1970’s to Punk divas of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.  Yeh, ARThound isn’t only an opera lover…as a toddler, I cut my teeth on Peter, Paul and Mary and “Puff, the Magic Dragon” and proudly scrawled my initials all over both my and my brother’s albums and would sing it, at the top of my lungs, to whoever would listen.  Vinyl is the kind of the show that brings all of that to the surface, so do  bring a friend along to share it all with.

OMCA Senior Curator of Art René de Guzman has done a superb job of pulling together some very rare lp’s too.  I grew up loving “Star Trek” but had no idea that Leonard Nimoy had actually cut several lp’s and that he sang (and pretty decently) on some of them.  Guzman is particularly proud that he was able to find some rare Nimoy lp’s in Europe and bring to Oakland for the show.

OMCA Senior Curator of Art René de Guzman holds a rare copy of Nimoy’s hit lp “Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy,” (Dot Records, 1967)  that features tracks —“Highly Illogical,” “Spock Thoughts,” “Follow Your Star,” “Once I Smiled.”   Listening to Ninoy talk/sing is a thoroughly eyebrow raising listening experience, courtesy of “Vinyl” at OMCA through July 27, 2014.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

OMCA Senior Curator of Art René de Guzman holds a rare copy of Nimoy’s hit lp “Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy,” (Dot Records, 1967) requested by best-selling Pulitzer author, Michael Chabon, for his “Discography of a Nerd” lp crate. The album features tracks —“Highly Illogical,” “Spock Thoughts,” “Follow Your Star,” “Once I Smiled.” Listening to Nimoy talk/sing is a thoroughly eyebrow raising listening experience, courtesy of “Vinyl” at OMCA through July 27, 2014. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Final “Talk and Play”:  On Saturday, July 26th,  from 1-2:30 p.m., OMCA will host the last installment of its weekly “Talk and Play” sessions which have accompanied its 3 month long tribute to vinyl.   The series, which is different every week, features guest participants from DJs to music journalists, record collectors to experimental musicians.  The focus is always vinyl—from pressing it, to its history, it remarkable resurgence and its collectability—and  listening to specially-curated music sets.

The final session, “Every Record Has a Story,” features David Katznelson (record producer, president, Birdman Recording Group), Steven Baker (former president, Warner Brothers Records), Britt Govea (founder, Folk Yeah Productions) and Josh Rosenthal (founder, owner, and president, Tompkins Square Records).   You can be sure this group of talent will share some mind-blowing stories from their own collections as well as divulge some of the biggest secrets behind some of the greatest albums of our time.

Click here to listen to David Katznelson’s (record producer, president, Birdman Recording Group) curated playlist on Spotify.

Also ending soon (July 27) is SuperAwesome: Art and Giant Robot, OMCA’s smart nod to arts visionary Eric Nakamura, whom in 1994, founded Giant Robot, Los Angeles’ Little Osaka based store, magazine, art gallery that became an uber-destination for Asian and Asian American popular culture and art.   Nakamura and OMCA associate curator Carin Adams have thoughtfully curated this joyful blast of multimedia art from 15 contemporary artists who were early and contributors to this edgy scene.

Mural Magic!  So-Cal husband and wife duo, “kozyndan,” love oceans, nature, bursts of bright color and working together.  "An Ode To California" is 17 feet tall and 36 feet wide, and covers the floor of the space where it is has been lovingly installed.  The mural is part of OMCA’s “SuperAwesome: Art and Giant Robot” which explores recent works by California and international artists affiliated with “Giant Robot,” the influential magazine that brought Asian, trans-Pacific culture to the masses.  Artworks in the exhibition represent a range of mediums, including mural art, sculpture, illustration, portraiture, large-scale installations, graphic novels, photography, and more.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Mural Magic! So-Cal husband and wife duo, “kozyndan,” love oceans, nature, bursts of bright color and working together. “An Ode To California” is 17 feet tall and 36 feet wide, and also covers the floor of the nook where it is has been lovingly installed. The mural is part of OMCA’s “SuperAwesome: Art and Giant Robot” which explores recent works by California and international artists affiliated with “Giant Robot,” the influential magazine that brought Asian, trans-Pacific culture to the masses. Artworks in the exhibition represent a range of mediums, including mural art, sculpture, illustration, portraiture, large-scale installations, graphic novels, photography, and more. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Details:  OMCA, the Oakland Museum of California, is located at 1000 Oak Street, Oakland.  Detailed directions are available on OMCA’s Directions page.   Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Fridays when the museum is open until 9 p.m. Admission:  $12 general, $9 seniors and students with valid ID.  Parking: Enter the Museum Garage on Oak Street between 10th and 12th streets.  Parking is just $1/hour with Museum validation.  Parking without validation is $2.50/hour.  After 5 p.m., there is a flat $5 fee. (Bring your ticket to the Ticketing booth on Level 2 for validation.)

 

 

July 22, 2014 Posted by | Oakland Museum of California | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pounce!—The Getty Villa just released additional tickets for “At the Byzantine Table”—a four-course feast grounded in ancient traditions—at the Getty Villa, this Saturday, July 19, 2014

Despite a shortage of tangible information, the diet of the Byzantine Period is a topic of endless fascination to those interested in gastronomy.  On Saturday, July, 19, the Getty Villa hosts “The Byzantine Table,” a four-course feast inspired by the foods of ancient Greece and the flavors of Rome, set outdoors against the backdrop of the Getty Villa and accompanied by live music. Pictured:  The Romance of Alexander the Great (detail), A.D.1300s, Trebizond, Asia Minor; tempera, gold, and ink on paper.  Courtesy of the Manuscript Collection of the Hellenic Institute of Byzantine and Post—Byzantine Studies, Venice.

Despite a shortage of tangible information, the diet of the Byzantine Period is a topic of endless fascination to those interested in gastronomy. On Saturday, July, 19, the Getty Villa hosts “The Byzantine Table,” a four-course feast inspired by the foods of ancient Greece and the flavors of Rome, set outdoors against the backdrop of the Getty Villa and accompanied by live music. Pictured: The Romance of Alexander the Great (detail), A.D.1300s, Trebizond, Asia Minor; tempera, gold, and ink on paper. Courtesy of the Manuscript Collection of the Hellenic Institute of Byzantine and Post—Byzantine Studies, Venice.

Here’s a heads up for those of you who are impulsive and able to get to Malibu to the Getty Villa this Saturday (July 12, 2014).   You can indulge in the unique culinary splendors of Byzantium with a dinner inspired by foods of ancient Greece and flavors of Rome, against the gorgeous backdrop of the Getty Villa.  Greek musicians Mario Lazaridis, Dimitri Mahlis, and Toss Panos will perform music derived from ancient Greece and transformed and embellished during the Byzantine Empire. Noted historian Andrew Dalby will set the stage with a lecture on the distinctive cuisine of this distant empire.  Afterwards, participants can tour the Villa’s summer exhibition, Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections, which traces the development of Byzantine visual culture from its roots in the ancient pagan world through the opulent and deeply spiritual world of the new Christian Byzantine Empire.
5:30- 6:45 p.m.—LECTURE: The Real Taste of Byzantium: Textures, Flavors, and Aromas of a Distant Empire Historian Andrew Dalby begins his exploration of Byzantine cuisine by tracing its ancestry through the symposia of classical Greece, the royal luxuries enjoyed by Hellenistic Greek dynasties of Syria and Egypt, and the increasing sophistication of the late Roman Empire, which was nourished by the trade in spices and aromatics from the distant corners of the ancient Mediterranean world. Dalby reveals how this unique culinary culture can be approached from many perspectives, including texts, paintings, and antiquities, as well as the observations of medieval travelers—whether diplomats from East and West, Crusaders, pilgrims, or Viking mercenaries—who expressed in their own words how Byzantium tasted. Byzantine cuisine looked to the past, yet it sought new flavors, never ceased to innovate, and increasingly accepted Muslim and Eastern influences.

7 -9 p.m. DINNER: The Global Fusion Cuisine of the Byzantine Empire The evening continues in the Inner Peristyle garden with a four-course dinner inspired by the many cultures and traditions that converged during the Byzantine Empire (A.D. 330-1453). This culinary melting pot was founded on classic Roman cuisine—as depicted in the fourth-century A.D. cookery book Apicius—and combined with traditions inherited from Greece. Due to the millennium–long span of the empire and its continuously evolving borders, the cuisine of the Byzantines is characterized by the adaptation of the foods of other peoples with whom it came into contact and by the propagation of new fruits and vegetables. Menu highlights include lamb served with oinogaros sauce, a synthesis of ancient and medieval tastes combining fish sauce, wine, honey, Mediterranean herbs, cinnamon, clove, pepper, and costus, a culinary spice also used in perfume. Eggplant—one of several vegetables first introduced to the Romans from the Middle East—is grilled and served with shaved bottarga (salted mullet roe) called ootarikhon by the Greeks. Rice pudding, the original “food of angels” and a favored dessert of the Byzantines, is garnished with exotic ingredients introduced from faraway places: cherries from Pontos (northern Turkey), and candied citron, a fruit originating in Burma and arriving in Constantinople through Persia, also the source for sugar, a luxurious commodity for the elites of the later Byzantine Empire. Download the full menu (PDF, 1pp, 227 KB) (Menu items subject to change without notice) The evening’s meal will be prepared by Bon Appétit’s culinary team Chef Mayet Cristobal and Chef Fernando Cayanan in consultation with food historians Sally Grainger and Andrew Dalby.

9- 10 p.m. PRIVATE EXHIBITION VIEWING: Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections (April 9-August 25, 2014). This splendidly curated exhibition features mosaics, icons, frescoes, sculpture, manuscripts, metalwork, jewelry, glass, embroideries and ceramics drawn from Athens’ Benaki Museum, the National Gallery of Art and the Getty’s own collection.

 

Details:

Date: Saturday, July 19, 2014

Time: 5:30 p.m.-10:00 p.m.

Lecture begins at 5:30 p.m. with dinner following at 7:00 p.m.

Exhibition viewing 9:00-10:00 p.m. Guests must arrive no later than 6:45 p.m.

Location: Getty Villa, Auditorium and Inner Peristyle

Admission: Tickets are $175 each (includes wine).  Complimentary parking.  Call Getty Visitor Services at (310) 440-7300 or click here for online ticket purchase.  If you want to go, don’t dally, as of 5 p.m., there were just a few tickets left.

 

More about Andrew Dalby:  Andrew Dalby is an historian and linguist with a special interest in food history. He collaborated with Sally Grainger on The Classical Cookbook (Getty Publications, 2012), which explores the culinary history of ancient Greece and Rome and includes recipes adapted for the modern kitchen. His book Tastes of Byzantium (2010) investigates the legendary cuisine of medieval Constantinople. Dalby’s other publications include The Breakfast Book (2013), a wide-ranging history of the most important meal of the day; light-hearted accounts of Bacchus and Venus (Getty Publications, 2003 and 2005); and a new biography of the Greek statesman, Eleftherios Venizelos (2010). His latest translation, Geoponika (2011), brings to light a forgotten primary source on food and farming in Roman and Byzantine times. Dalby studied classics and linguistics at the University of Cambridge. He now lives in France, where he writes, grows fruit, and makes cider.

More about Sally Grainger:  Sally Grainger trained as a chef in her native Coventry, England, before developing an interest in the ancient world and taking a degree in ancient history from the University of London. Combining her professional skills with her expertise in the culinary heritage of the Greek and Roman world, she now pursues a career as a food historian, consultant, and experimental archaeologist. Grainger’s recent projects include Roman food tastings at the British Museum in conjunction with the Life and Death in Pompeii exhibition, and a Roman feast at Girton College in Cambridge, England for the Cambridge Classics Society. Grainger acquired an M.A. in archaeology and is researching the extensive trade across the Roman world of the fermented fish sauce known as garum. With her husband, Christopher Grocock, she published a translation of the Roman recipe book Apicius (Prospect Books), a companion volume of recipes, Cooking Apicius, and collaborated with historian Andrew Dalby on The Classical Cookbook (Getty Publications, 2012).

 

July 14, 2014 Posted by | Art, Chamber Music, Food | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Interview—The Fillmore Jazz Festival turns 30 this weekend and ARThound chats with its legendary poster artist, Michael Schwab

Michael Schwab created the poster for this year’s Fillmore Jazz Festival, his third for the legendary free music festival.  Schwab is an internationally-renowned artist whose latest commission is the logo design for the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee for 2016.  Image: courtesy Michael Schwab

Michael Schwab created the poster for this year’s Fillmore Jazz Festival, his third for the legendary free music festival. Schwab is an internationally-renowned artist whose latest commission is the logo design for the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee for 2016. Image: courtesy Michael Schwab

You’ve seen them across San Francisco— striking posters and banners featuring a wavy haired female vocalist in silhouette against a fiery orange background.  Her arms are outstretched and beckoning.  Less obvious is an old-fashioned gray stand microphone that runs up from the floor to her heart, reinforcing a strong vertical.  Behind her, blazoned across the top in a hand-lettered, earthy cream custom font is “Fillmore Jazz.”  The message is simple, transcendent—jazz is here.  The artwork was created by Marin artist Michael Schwab, one of our country’s leading graphic artists.  His dynamic posters, images and logos for the Golden Gate National Parks, Major League Baseball, America’s Cup, Robert Mondavi, Peet’s Coffee, San Francisco Opera, Muhammad Ali, Nike, and others are icons of our lifestyle.  Schwab’s signature visual groove lends itself perfectly to jazz—large, flat areas of color, dramatic perspectives, and bold images of archetypal human forms.  He created his first Fillmore Jazz poster in 2006—a standing base player in silhouette against an intense teal.  His 2010 poster of a trumpeter playing up into a blue night sky journeyed right into the roots of jazz.  Both artworks became classics.  I caught up with Michael earlier this week to discuss his third poster and his creative process.

What makes a really effective poster?  And, why are so many posters today so bad?

Michael Schwab:   Simplicity.  There’s way too much visual noise out there.  Graphic messages are conveyed much more effectively when the design is simple, bold and efficient.

You’ve had a long involvement with this festival.  What is it about jazz lends itself to visual expression? 

Michael Schwab:  I love all kinds of music but jazz in particular inspires me.  I love this project because I’ve had complete freedom do whatever I want, provided it worked on banners.   The base player I created eight years ago was my first Fillmore Jazz poster and I envisioned him as a Ray Brown-like bass player.   If you’re driving down the street, you’ve only got a second or two to get the message, so I wanted to evoke the romance and history of Fillmore Street Jazz.  Four years later, they called me again.  At the time, I was really into Miles Davis and was playing Ascenseur pour l’échafaud, his soundtrack for the Louis Malle film, a lot.  I made a Miles Davis-esque horn player.  I wanted a really cool color so I went with a deep blue that evokes that late evening jazz atmosphere that’s so special to Fillmore Street.  Now, four years later, I realize that I’ve been slowly creating my own jazz band here and it was time for a singer and a woman.

What was your conception for this year’s festival poster?

I was inspired by the great romance of Billie Holiday.  Initially, I had just the singer there in silhouette and then I realized that she needed a microphone, which was the last element I added.  That old-fashioned microphone, which harkens back to the 1940’s and 50’s, really pulled it all together.  It often happens that way—that adding something relatively small becomes very important.

What types of source materials do normally you use?  Also, since this year’s festival is all about women of jazz, who do you listen to for inspiration?  

Michael Schwab:  When appropriate, I work with models—human or otherwise.  I pose and shoot my own photos myself.   In this case, there was a model I’d used a while back and I was able to piece together a few polaroids and work from that.   I wanted the hands to be special and they are actually my wife Kathryn’s hands.  As for female vocalists, it doesn’t get any better for me than early Diana Krall.

And what about your bold colors, how did you decide what to go with?

Michael Schwab:  Not all jazz is blue and cool.  This time, I wanted a color that complimented the other two posters and this bold orange red represents the hot side of jazz.  The flat color tones make the images, which are already abstracted by the silhouette, seem mysterious, almost two-dimensional.  I wanted all three to become a triptych and to work well together.

There is a romantic/nostalgic aspect to these images as well, harkening back to old woodcuts.  I get that sense from their color, strong line and overall energy. 

Michael Schwab:  Several of my heroes were Japanese woodcut and old European poster artists——Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and A.M. Cassandre, from France, and Ludwig Holwein, from Germany, and the Beggarstaff Brothers from England.  There’s a lot of graceful movement as well as drama in those works.  I was never very painterly in my style.  I enjoy working with big bold shapes and challenge myself to get a message across using as few shapes and colors as possible.  I’ll keep working with the colors, combining them and fine-tuning, until they’re right to me.  Then, it’s a matter of getting the image and text to work together effectively.  I really enjoy these jazz posters because I can get very dramatic with them.  Speaking of old-school, I begin each project with a pencil and paper and use a Rapidograph pen and ink to create the line work.  In the end, tough, it becomes a digital file so I’m speaking the same language as everyone else.

What’s the first poster you made and what are a few of your personal favorites?

Michael Schwab:   My first professional poster was for Levi’s, back in 1975, for creative director, Chris Blum.   I’ve been a graphic artist now for almost 40 years and I’ve had a few home runs. The images for the Golden Gate Parks and Amtrak are favorites. I feel very good about some of the logos—the Robert Mondavi corporate logo, Pebble Beach, David Sedaris. I love all of the Fillmore Jazz and San Francisco Opera posters. Frankly, my current favorite is always the one I’m working on, it becomes my child.

What are you working on now?

Michael Schwab:   I just finished the logo design for the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee for 2016.   It’s a gold seal design—a silhouette of a football and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Michael Schwab’s current Fillmore jazz poster can be purchased at the festival. His posters for the 2006 and 2010 festivals are available at www.michaelschwab.com.

The 30th Fillmore Jazz Festival is Saturday, July 5 and Sunday, July 6th, 10AM to 5PM on San Francisco’s historic Fillmore Street between Jackson and Eddy Streets.  This year’s theme is “Celebrating Women of Jazz & Beyond.”  For information about the line-up, which unfolds on three separate stages, click here.  A more expansive version of this interview with Michael Schwab appears on the Fillmore Jazz website.

July 4, 2014 Posted by | Art, Jazz Music | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dark, Thrilling Opera—San Francisco Symphony’s “Peter Grimes” runs Thursday, Friday, Sunday at Davies Symphony Hall

 

Michael Tilson Thomas leads over 200 members of the SF Symphony, the SFS Chorus in three semi-staged performances of Benjamin Britten’s  opera, “Peter Grimes,” which features engrossing panoramic floor-to-ceiling video projections by cinematographer/filmmaker Adam Larsen, directed by James Darrah.  Heldentenor Stuart Skelton sings the title role.  With this opera, Britten reinvented the possibilities of musical language—sea breeze, gull in flight, tempest and glittering dawn.  This is SFS’ first performance of the complete “Peter Grimes.” Photo: courtesy SF Symphony.

Michael Tilson Thomas leads over 200 members of the SF Symphony, the SFS Chorus in three semi-staged performances of Benjamin Britten’s opera, “Peter Grimes,” which features engrossing panoramic floor-to-ceiling video projections by cinematographer/filmmaker Adam Larsen, directed by James Darrah. Heldentenor Stuart Skelton sings the title role. With this opera, Britten reinvented the possibilities of musical language—sea breeze, gull in flight, tempest and glittering dawn. This is SFS’ first performance of the complete “Peter Grimes.” Photo: courtesy SF Symphony.

Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) conclude the 2013-24 season and their celebration of the centenary of British composer Benjamin Britten with three semi-staged performances of his thrilling opera “Peter Grimes” (Thursday, Friday, Sunday) and a special concert, Four Sea Interludes (Saturday), accompanied by a video installation by Tal Rosner which is paired with excerpts from Britten’s exotic The Prince of The Pagoda Suite.

I’ve never heard Britten’s music performed live and I am very visually oriented, so I am looking forward to the enlivening projections which will add meaning of their own.  I first heard the name Benjamin Britten in a Keynesian macroeconomic theory course at Cal.  John Maynard Keynes, the influential British economist, thinker, and member of the Bloomsbury Group, was very keen on culture.  In the early 1940′s, he proposed (and chaired) an “Arts Council” that established the initial foundation for a system of permanent State patronage of the arts.  As you may recall, the premise behind Keynesian theory was that increased government spending (and lower taxes) would stimulate demand and pull an economy out of a Depression.  The Arts Council initially gave over half its money (grants of public funds) to music, especially classical music and opera.  Benjamin Brittan’s now famous opera, “Peter Grimes,” was first funded through a generous grant given to the Sadler’s Wells theatre to support its emergence as a national opera house charged with embodying the British national character and producing operas that were more accessible than prewar grand opera had been.

“Peter Grimes” had its premiere in June 1945, between VE Day and VJ Day, and the audience’s enthusiastic approval was taken for a political demonstration, so the curtain was brought down early.  The opera, which is based on a poem by George Crabbe, captured something new musically while depicting the epic psychic struggle of a man against his own destructive potential and the bitter sting of alienation, themes that became very familiar in Britain in the years to come.  How appropriate that Britten, who wrote for the people, and was somewhat under the radar before WWII, shot into the limelight with this story of a fisherman at odds with society.  The opera went on to immense success and Britten, as a result, became quite wealthy. The issues (from a macro theory perspective) were that Britten was part of the creation of a new state-funded system of arts patronage and he went on to invest his considerable personal earnings outside the country.  In researching Britten, this vivid memory surfaced.  Of course, SFS promises a revolutionary production of “Grimes,” dazzlingly staged—a grim but rapturous experience.

Sneak Peek of Peter Grimes with the SF Symphony

New Ground for SFS—Video projections, now commonplace in fully staged opera, are also trending in symphony halls across the country. The term “semi-staged” is not synonymous for “projection-based,” however, and “Peter Grimes” marks SFS’ first foray into an opera performance that combines video projections with minimal set staging.  Los Angeles-based director, artist and costume designer, James Darrah and New York-based artist, projection designer and filmmaker, Adam Larsen promise dramatic staging like a “big curved sail with scenes that capture the setting of an old-world fishing village and volatility of the sea.” The video will be projected onto a panoramic floor-to-ceiling scrim that encompasses the stage which has been extended and floated over a few rows of center seats to allow for extra performance space and proximity to viewers.

Darrah and Larsen collaborated in SFS’ January 2013 production of Henrik Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt,” creating vivid projections that evoked the vast Norwegian landscape and served to counterbalance the smaller stage which accommodated the orchestra and singing cast, one of whom was a dancer. The relative placement of the orchestra, singers and set props vis-à-vis the projection screens are just one issue involved in the production.  New York Times music critic Zachary Woolfe gives a very readable accounting of the state of semi-staged opera in “Giving a Semi-Hearty Cheer for Semi-Staged Opera,” NYT, June 13, 2014.  Attending a flurry of recent performances across the country led him to ponder where the drama is located in an operatic performance and what kind of production brings it out most effectively.  He asks, “Does paring a work down to the bare score make it more potent, or do theatrical trappings enrich the experience?” On numerous occasions, MTT has enthusiastically affirmed his commitment to using new technology to enliven performances. It all makes sense provided he can maintain his sensitivity to the music-making as people begin to factor in the look as well as the sound of a performance.

Timelapse video of the installation of immersive sets and panoramic video screens for Peter Grimes at Davies Symphony Hall

Performance Details:  Peter Grimes: A Multimedia Semi-staged Event is Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 8 PM; Friday, June 27 at 8 PM; and Sunday, June 29 at 2 PM with  a pre-performance talk by Peter Grunberg one hour before each performance.  Purchase tickets online here or phone SFS Box Office at 415.864-6000.

Britten: Four Sea Interludes with Video by Tal Rosner is Sat, June 28, 2014 at 8 PM with pre-performance talk by Laura Stanfield Prichard at 7 PM.  Purchase tickets online here or phone SFS Box Office at 415.864-6000.

Getting to Davies:  Davies Symphony Hall is located at 201 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street, in San Francisco’s Civic Center, just across the street from City Hall.  The main entrance is on the south side of Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street.  Driving to San Francisco and Parking: Be sure to allow ample time when driving into San Francisco on the weekend and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge—there is frequently congestion from Sausalito through the toll-plaza.  Arrive early at your parking garage of choice because those also fill up on weekends.  Recommended Garages:  Two garages are very close to Davies— the Performing Arts Garage (1/2 block)(Grove Street between Franklin and Gough Streets) and Civic Center Garage (roughly 2 blocks) (McAllister Street between Polk and Larkin Streets) (both have flat $15 pay cash as you enter policy on performance nights)

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Art, Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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