ART hound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

The 19th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival—ganz frisch German language film, starts Thursday, January 29 at the Castro

It’s ironic that 58-year-old German Wolfgang Beltracchi looks like Alfred Durer.  Beltracchi masterminded one of the most lucrative art scams in postwar European history. For decades, this self-taught painter, and self-proclaimed hippie, passed off his own paintings as newly-discovered masterpieces by Max Ernst, André Derain, Max Pechstein, Georges Braque, and other Expressionists and Surrealists from the early 20th century.  His wife, Helene Beltracchi, along with two accomplices, created convincing backstories and sold the paintings for six and seven figures through auction houses in Germany and France, including Sotheby’s and Christie’s. One fake Max Ernst hung for months in a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  In 2004, Steve Martin purchased a fake Heinrich Campendonk for $860,000 through a Parisian gallery.  Arne Birkenstock’s “Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery” (“Beltracchi: Die Kunst der Falschung,” 2014), features the larger than life Beltracchi sharing his secrets; those he duped sharing their dismay; and those who caught him taking about the painting that blew it all up.  This fascinating Lola award winning documentary screens Sunday, Feb. 1, at 11 a.m., at the Castro Theater at the 19th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, (Jan 29-Feb 3) which showcases over twenty of the newest and best German language films at the Castro and other select Bay Area venues.  Image: Arne Birkenstock

It’s ironic that 58-year-old German Wolfgang Beltracchi looks like Alfred Durer. Beltracchi masterminded one of the most lucrative art scams in postwar European history. For decades, this self-taught painter, and self-proclaimed hippie, passed off his own paintings as newly-discovered masterpieces by Max Ernst, André Derain, Max Pechstein, Georges Braque, and other Expressionists and Surrealists from the early 20th century. His wife, Helene Beltracchi, along with two accomplices, created convincing backstories and sold the paintings for six and seven figures through auction houses in Germany and France, including Sotheby’s and Christie’s. One fake Max Ernst hung for months in a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 2004, Steve Martin purchased a fake Heinrich Campendonk for $860,000 through a Parisian gallery. Arne Birkenstock’s “Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery” (“Beltracchi: Die Kunst der Falschung,” 2014), features the larger than life Beltracchi sharing his secrets; those he duped sharing their dismay; and those who caught him talking about the painting that blew it all up. This fascinating Lola award winning documentary screens Sunday, Feb. 1, at 11 a.m., at the Castro Theater at the 19th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, (Jan 29-Feb 3) which showcases over twenty of the newest and best German language films at the Castro and other select Bay Area venues. Image: Arne Birkenstock

One film festival stands above most for consistently awesome programming—the annual Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, which features the best new films by German, Austrian and Swiss directors and the crème of the crop of international collaborations from directors working beyond these borders.  The focus is German language cinema but it’s the exceptional storytelling, intense drama and highly cinematic nature of the films, and the complete abandonment of Hollywood special effects, that make this festival a stand-out.  The 19th Berlin & Beyond kicks off Thursday evening, January 29th, with a dazzling roster of tributes and special guests onstage and screenings of 20 feature length films and 4 shorts, including a healthy number of premieres.  Festival director Sophoan Sorn, at the helm for his fifth year now, has collaborated with Festival president Sabine Erlenwein to select films that showcase this year’s theme “In Search of Truth”—cinematic journeys that connect us with life-affirming and thought-provoking stories on life, love, loss and memory.

It all begins Thursday evening at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre with a tribute to the legendary Bavarian actress Hannelore Elsner, Germany’s Catherine Deneuve, who has delighted film, television and theater audiences for the past 50 years.  I was introduced to her in 1994, when I was in Köln, and became addicted to the popular tv detective series, Die Kommissarin (The Inspector), where she played the brash and bruised by life Inspector, Lea Sommer, becoming the first female to play the role of a police inspector on German television.   Berlin & Beyond 19 will present Elsner with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Acting, celebrating her extraordinary career.  A special tribute program will lead the Opening Night screening of her latest film To Life! (Auf Das Leben, 2014).  Following the screening, the festival kicks off with an Opening Night Party at Tank18, one of the City’s finest wine bars.  The festival closes at the Castro venue on Sunday with Doris Dörrie’s The Whole Shebang (Alles Inklusive, 2014), with both Elsner and Dörrie in attendance.

German director Uwe Janson’s feature “To Life” (“Auf Das Leben,” 2014) has its US premiere Thursday evening when it opens the 19th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival. German actress Hannelore Elsner will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Elsner stars as a Jewish cabaret singer, down on her luck, in an unlikely love story with Max Riemelt, who plays Jonas, a 29-year-old on the run who arrives in Berlin just in time to save Ruth’s life. The film is an adaptation of Stephen Glantz’s “If Stones Could Cry.” Hannelore Elsner closes the festival too, with Doris Dörrie’s “The Whole Shebang” (“Alles Inklusive” 2014), an offbeat modern comedic romance set in Spain where Elsner plays an aging free-spirit recouping from hip surgery who decides to return to the Spanish beach where she spent the Summer of Love, 1967. Image courtesy: Berlin & Beyond

German director Uwe Janson’s feature “To Life” (“Auf Das Leben,” 2014) has its US premiere Thursday evening when it opens the 19th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival. German actress Hannelore Elsner will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Elsner stars as a Jewish cabaret singer, down on her luck, in an unlikely love story with Max Riemelt, who plays Jonas, a 29-year-old on the run who arrives in Berlin just in time to save Ruth’s life. The film is an adaptation of Stephen Glantz’s “If Stones Could Cry.” Hannelore Elsner closes the festival too, with Doris Dörrie’s “The Whole Shebang” (“Alles Inklusive” 2014), an offbeat modern comedic romance set in Spain where Elsner plays an aging free-spirit recouping from hip surgery who decides to return to the Spanish beach where she spent the Summer of Love, 1967. Image courtesy: Berlin & Beyond

“I Am the Keeper” (“Der Goalie Bin Ig”), the winner of four 2014 Swiss Film Awards, including Best Film, screens 4 PM Saturday, at the Castro, with director Sabine Boss in attendance.  Set in the late 1980’s, hedonist Ernst (Marcus Signer, 2014 Swiss Film Award Best Actor), whom everyone calls “Goalie,” returns to his small hometown of Schummertal after a year in prison. He wants a new start, this time without drugs. He looks for a job and falls in love with Regula (Sonja Riesen), a waitress who has a stabilizing impact.  But just as this strong-willed and somewhat naïve man seems to have gotten on the right track, his past catches up with him and the claustrophobic atmosphere of this small town closes in to suffocate him.  A dark comedy, rich in nuances, the film is an adaptation of Pedro Lenz’s award-winning 2010 novel of the same name. The film is spoken in Bernese German, the dialect of High Alemannic German spoken in the Swiss plateau (Mittelland) part of the canton of Bern and in some neighboring regions.

“I Am the Keeper” (“Der Goalie Bin Ig”), the winner of four 2014 Swiss Film Awards, including Best Film, screens 4 PM Saturday, at the Castro, with director Sabine Boss in attendance. Set in the late 1980’s, hedonist Ernst (Marcus Signer, 2014 Swiss Film Award Best Actor), whom everyone calls “Goalie,” returns to his small hometown of Schummertal after a year in prison. He wants a new start, this time without drugs. He looks for a job and falls in love with Regula (Sonja Riesen), a waitress who has a stabilizing impact. But just as this strong-willed and somewhat naïve man seems to have gotten on the right track, his past catches up with him and the claustrophobic atmosphere of this small town closes in to suffocate him. A dark comedy, rich in nuances, the film is an adaptation of Pedro Lenz’s award-winning 2010 novel of the same name. The film is spoken in Bernese German, the dialect of High Alemannic German spoken in the Swiss plateau (Mittelland) part of the canton of Bern and in some neighboring regions.

This year, German actor Ronald Zehrfeld will be honored with the first-ever Berlin & Beyond Film Festival Spotlight Award in Acting and three of his latest films will be screened—Inbetween Worlds (Zwischen Welten, 2014), The Kings Surrender (Wir Waren Könige, 2014) and Phoenix (2014).  The Spotlight Award will be presented on Friday, January 30, at the Northern California Premiere of Inbetween Worlds, at the Castro.

Berlin & Beyond continues to bring rare gems to its audiences, including the first-ever international screening of Marcus H. Rosenmüller’s Best Chance (Beste Chance, 2014), and the North American premiere of the four-time Swiss Film Award winner, I Am The Keeper (Der Goalie Bin Ig, 2014) with director Sabine Boss in attendance.   Also lighting up the screen are highly-anticipated works from the festival circuit: Austrian auteur Jessica Hausner’s Cannes selection Amour Fou (2014); Swiss filmmaker Peter Luisi’s Locarno Audience Award winner, Unlikely Heroes (Schweizer Helden, 2014); Oscar-winner Caroline Link’s return to Africa with the father-and-son journey film, Exit Marrakech (2014) as the festival Centerpiece. Samuel Schneider, who plays 17 year-old-Ben will be in attendance.

In addition to the main Castro Theater venue, there are additional screenings on Feb 1-2 at the Goethe-Institut SF (530 Bush Street), Feb 2 at the Aquarius Theater, Palo Alto, and Feb 3 at the California Theatre, Berkeley.

For more information and tickets, browse the festival’s official website and stay tuned to ARThound for additional coverage.

In German filmmaker Caroline Link’s finely crafted “Exit Marrakech” 17-year-old Ben (Samuel Schneider) travels to Marrakech during the summer holidays in order to spend time with his divorced father Heinrich (Ulrich Tukur), a celebrated director who is staging his latest play there. Ben, who has the suite of attitude issues accompanying his age, is fed-up with his father and strikes out on his own with two members of Heinrich’s local crew only to connect with a young prostitute, Karima (Hafsia Herzi), in a seedy nightclub.  He accompanies her to her remote village in the Atlas Mountains where her conservative family does not take a liking to him.  While Ben is out exploring, Heinrich grows increasingly worried and comes looking for him.  What ensues is a father son road-trip, as much an emotional journey as a captivating declaration of love to the smells, music, colors and moods of Morocco.

In German filmmaker Caroline Link’s finely crafted “Exit Marrakech” 17-year-old Ben (Samuel Schneider) travels to Marrakech during the summer holidays in order to spend time with his divorced father Heinrich (Ulrich Tukur), a celebrated director who is staging his latest play there. Ben, who has the suite of attitude issues accompanying his age, is fed-up with his father and strikes out on his own with two members of Heinrich’s local crew only to connect with a young prostitute, Karima (Hafsia Herzi), in a seedy nightclub. He accompanies her to her remote village in the Atlas Mountains where her conservative family does not take a liking to him. While Ben is out exploring, Heinrich grows increasingly worried and comes looking for him. What ensues is a father son road-trip, as much an emotional journey as a captivating declaration of love to the smells, music, colors and moods of Morocco.

The Line-up for the 19th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival:

CASTRO THEATRE

Thursday, January 29, 2015

6:30 pm Opening Night Film: TO LIFE!

8:30 OPENING PARTY @ Tank18

9:15 pm STEREO

Friday, January 30, 2015

10:00 am RUN BOY RUN

1:30 pm MACONDO

4:00 pm MY SISTERS

6:30 pm INBETWEEN WORLDS

9:15 pm THE KINGS SURRENDER

Saturday, January 31, 2015

11:00 am ALPHABET

1:00 pm THIS LOVELY SHITTY LIFE

4:00 pm I AM THE KEEPER

7:00 pm EXIT MARRAKECH

10:00 pm DARK VALLEY

Sunday, February 1, 2015

11:00 am BELTRACCHI – THE ART OF FORGERY

1:00 pm UNLIKELY HEROES

3:30 pm AMOUR FOU

6:00 pm BEST CHANCE

8:30 pm THE WHOLE SHEBANG

GOETHE-INSTITUT AUDITORIUM, San Francisco

Sunday, February 1, 2015

1:00 pm MISSION SPUTNIK

3:00 pm MIND TRIPS Shorts 2015

5:30 pm VULVA 3.0

Monday, February 2, 2015

6:00 pm CONCRETE LOVE – THE BÖHM FAMILY

8:00 pm MY SISTERS

CALIFORNIA THEATRE, Berkeley 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

5:00 pm BELTRACCHI – THE ART OF FORGERY

7:00 pm BEST CHANCE

9:15 pm INBETWEEN WORLDS

 

January 29, 2015 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Closing soon and well worth the drive—“Roads of Arabia,” exquisite and new archaeological discoveries from Saudi Arabia, at the Asian Art Museum through January 18, 2015

A child’s gold funerary mask, 1st century CE., from a royal tomb discovered in the summer of 1998, outside the city of Thaj, in northeastern Arabia.  It belonged to a young girl, about 6 years  old, who had been buried in  royal manner; her body was covered with gold, rubies, and pearls. The funerary objects buried with her, all datable to the first century CE, were decorated with Hellenistic motifs, which must have been imported.  This magnificent mask is one of 200 precious artifacts in “Roads of Arabia,” at the Asian Art Museum through January 18, 2015. Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 2061.

A child’s gold funerary mask, 1st century CE., from a royal tomb discovered in the summer of 1998, outside the city of Thaj, in northeastern Arabia shows the influence of Greek culture on Northeastern Arabia. It belonged to a young girl, about 6 years old, who had been buried in royal manner; her body was covered with gold, rubies, and pearls and she was laid out on a Greek bed. The funerary objects buried with her—jewelry and adornments, all datable to the first century CE, were decorated with Hellenistic motifs indicating that not only trade but certain customs too traveled to Thaj from Greece, evidence of what an important cultural crossroads the Arabian Peninsula was during the first millennium. This mask is one of over 200 precious artifacts in “Roads of Arabia,” at the Asian Art Museum through January 18, 2015. Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 2061.

 

Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” closes Sunday, January 18, at the Asian Art Museum (AAM).  Present day Saudi Arabia is a distant land shrouded in mystery to most Westerners. Likewise, the history of ancient Arabia prior to the rise of Islam in the seventh century CE, is something we’ve heard virtually nothing about because there has been such scant evidence on which to construct a reliable narrative.  Recent archaeological discoveries from the Saudi Kingdom’s glorious past, combined with a desire on the part of the Saudis to share their cultural heritage with the world, has led to this stunning exhibition. Arabia marks new territory for the Asian but there’s a profound connection to Asia.  The Arabian Peninsula, with its unforgiving deserts, lush forests and exotic oases, is revealed as a once thriving cultural crossroads between Asia, Europe and Africa, vital in early human cultural development and bearing witness to the complex interactions of all those who travelled through.

Ranging in date from pre-historic to the present, the 200-plus artifacts in Roads of Arabia hail from remote sites all across present-day Saudi Arabia and include colossal figurative sculptures and funerary stele, dazzling gold jewelry, intricate metalwork, and elegant calligraphies in over a half dozen languages.   Most of these exquisite artifacts were found along the ancient incense roads that originated in southern Arabia and were caravan routes for the transport of precious frankincense and myrrh—the oil of its day—throughout Egypt, Mesopotamia, Iran, and the Mediterranean world.  The advent of Islam in the seventh century CE gave rise to the development of pilgrimage roads that crossed through Arabia to Mecca.  The exhibition also addresses the formation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

 

Anthropomorphic stele, 4000–3000 BCE. Saudi Arabia; Qaryat al-Kaafa site, El-Maakir city. At the entrance to Roads of Arabia, at the Asian Art Museum, three anthropomorphic sandstone steles (vertical slabs of stone used for commemorative purposes), greet visitors.  Dating to some six thousand years ago, they appear quite modern, simple and abstract but exert a very mystical, almost hypnotic, pull on the viewer.  The three figures on display are part of a group of several dozen steles, all with distinct clothing and appearance, found in an area that extends from present-day southern Jordan to Yemen.  Scholars propose that they were probably associated with religious or burial practices. Courtesy: National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 998.

Anthropomorphic stele, 4000–3000 BCE. Saudi Arabia; Qaryat al-Kaafa site, El-Maakir city.
At the entrance to “Roads of Arabia,” three anthropomorphic sandstone steles (vertical slabs of stone used for commemorative purposes), greet visitors, evidence of early human settlements that have been identified across the Arabian Peninsula. Dating to some six thousand years ago, they appear quite modern, simple and abstract but exert a very mystical, almost hypnotic, pull on the viewer. The three figures on display are part of a group of several dozen steles, all with distinct clothing and appearance, found in an area that extends from present-day southern Jordan to Yemen. Scholars propose that they were probably associated with religious or burial practices. Courtesy: National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 998.

Fine markings around the muzzle and shoulder of this fragment of a stone horse suggest an early bridle. Some archaeologists have dated it to approximately 7000 BCE and have proposed that the domestication of the horse may have occurred far earlier than the commonly accepted 3500 BCE in Central Asia.  More research is needed, however, to determine the precise date of this intriguing find, which is 1 of over 200 rare objects in “Roads of Arabia.”  Part of a horse, possibly 7000 BCE. Saudi Arabia; Al-Magar site, Neolithic period (approx. 8000–3000 BCE). Stone.  Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 3172.

In 2010, a camel herder digging for water on his ancestral grazing lands in southwest Saudi Arabia unearthed a menagerie of stone animals in the sands. The largest, and the most significant, of more than 300 artifacts found so far at al-Magar is a sculpture fragment whose head, muzzle, nostrils, arched neck, shoulder, withers and overall proportions suggest a horse, though it may be an ass, an onager or a hybrid. Eighty-six centimeters (34″) long, 18 centimeters (7″) thick and weighing more than 135 kilograms (300 lbs.), it has fine markings around the muzzle and a ridge down the shoulder that suggest an early halter or bridle. Based on tools also unearthed at the site, some archaeologists have dated this fragment to approximately 7000 BCE, making it roughly 9,000 years old, and have proposed that the people at al-Magar (present day Saudi Arabia) may have been domesticating horses up to 2,000 years before anyone else in the world, challenging the commonly accepted data of 3500 BCE in Central Asia. More research is needed, however, to determine the precise date of this intriguing find. This is just one of over 200 rare objects in “Roads of Arabia.” Courtesy National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 3172.

The AAM is the exhibition’s last stop on its two-year tour.  Having debuted at the Louvre in 2010 to rave reviews, it started its U.S. tour at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in 2012.  This is the latest in a run of increasingly exhilarating world class exhibitions that AAM director Jay Xu, who came on board in 2008, has brought to the Asian.  Just as the stunning 2008 exhibition “Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul” brought a selective and previously unseen group of 20th century archaeological finds from an Afghanistan enmeshed in Taliban rule, “Roads of Arabia” sheds light on an equally exotic land that most of us will never visit.  And, aside from the visual draw of the artifacts themselves, you’ll come away from “Roads” with a sense of the interconnectedness of the ancient world.

As the demand for incense declined around the first century, and maritime routes across the red Sea competed with land routes, previously vital incense roads were slowly replaced by pilgrimage roads converging on Mecca, Islam’s spiritual center.  From the rise of Islam in the 7th century, pilgrimage trails led from major cities—Damascus, Cairo, Baghdad—to Mecca. This large incense burner (1649), with its delicate inlaid floral motif, was commissioned by the mother of the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV (reigned 1623-40), one of the most powerful royal women of the Ottoman dynasty.  Iron, gold, and silver, 14 cm H x 38 cm W. Courtesy: National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 2999.

As the demand for incense declined around the first century, and maritime routes across the red Sea competed with land routes, previously vital incense roads were slowly replaced by pilgrimage roads converging on Mecca, Islam’s spiritual center. From the rise of Islam in the 7th century, pilgrimage trails led from major cities—Damascus, Cairo, Baghdad—to Mecca. This large incense burner (1649), with its delicate inlaid floral motif, was commissioned by the mother of the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV (reigned 1623-40), one of the most powerful royal women of the Ottoman dynasty. Iron, gold, and silver, 14 cm H x 38 cm W. Courtesy: National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 2999.

 

The massive wooden gilded silver door of the Ka’ba, over 11 feet tall and nearly 6 feet wide, is one of the largest artifacts on display in “Roads of Arabia.”  The door was created by the Ottomans nearly 400 years ago and donated to Mecca by sultan Murad IV (reigned 1623-40).  A tenth-century poet relates that the door at that time was “covered with inscriptions, circles and arabesques in gilded silver.”  It bears evidence of centuries of pilgrims touching its surface. Image: courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 1355/1–2.

The massive wooden gilded silver door of the Ka’ba, over 11 feet tall and nearly 6 feet wide, is one of the largest artifacts on display in “Roads of Arabia.” Created by the Ottomans nearly 400 years ago and donated to Mecca by sultan Murad IV (reigned 1623-40) as a sign of devotion, the door stood at the entrance to the interior of the Ka’ba, Islam’s holiest sanctuary, until about 1947, when the door was replaced by a new one. With the birth of Islam in the 7th century, vital pilgrimage routes passed through Arabia that connected diverse peoples making the annual hajj or journey to Mecca from major cities such as Damascus and Baghdad. A tenth-century poet relates that the door at that time was “covered with inscriptions, circles and arabesques in gilded silver.” It bears evidence of centuries of pilgrims touching its surface. Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 1355/1–2.

Curator talk, Friday January 16th:  “Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”—Join exhibition curator Dany Chan for an insightful talk about recent and remarkable archaeological discoveries along the Arabian Peninsula.  “Monumental” is how I would describe much of the exhibition, Roads of Arabia, with its colossal stone sculptures to the massive gilded doors of the Ka’ba, putting the small things at risk of being missed,” says Chan.  “I also want to draw your attention to the pint-sized artworks that, though small, testify to the Arabian Peninsula’s role as a cultural crossroads over the thousands of years that this exhibition covers. Friday, January 16 at 12 PM at the Commonwealth Club: 595 Market Street, San Francisco.  The Commonwealth Club is offering Asian Art Museum members a special rate of $8 per ticket (regularly $20).   To purchase tickets, select “General Admission: Nonmember” and be sure to enter promo code specialchan to redeem your member discount.

 

Necklace with cameo face pendant (1st century CE), Thaj city, Tell al-Zayer site, Saudi Arabia. Gold, pearls, turquoise, and ruby.  Image: courtesy National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 2059.

Necklace with cameo face pendant (1st century CE), Thaj city, Tell al-Zayer site, Saudi Arabia. Gold, pearls, turquoise, and ruby. Image: courtesy National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 2059.

Details:  “Roads of Arabia” closes January 18, 2015.  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.  NO surcharge for “Roads of Arabia,” Admission:  $15 adults; $10 seniors over 65, students and youth 13-17; Thursday nights $5.  For more information, visit http://www.asianart.org

January 2, 2015 Posted by | Art | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pounce! Tickets on sale today for the next SoundBox event—SF Symphony’s new space for musical experimentation

The atmosphere Saturday night at the opening of SoundBox, San Francisco’s Symphony’s new experimental space for music.  Ravel’s “Introduction and Allegro” performed by Alexander Barantschik, Dan Carlson, Jonathan Vinocour, Amos Young, Tim Day, Carey Bell, Doug Rioth.  Video projections by Adam Larsen.  Photo: courtesy SFS

The atmosphere Saturday night at the opening of SoundBox, San Francisco’s Symphony’s new experimental space for music. Ravel’s “Introduction and Allegro” performed by Alexander Barantschik, Dan Carlson, Jonathan Vinocour, Amos Young, Tim Day, Carey Bell, Doug Rioth. Video projections by Adam Larsen. Photo: courtesy SFS

Christmas started early for ARThound when a dear friend invited me to Saturday night’s unveiling of SoundBox, MTT’s (Michael Tilson Thomas’) and San Francisco Symphony’s (SFS) newest venture.  SoundBox was designed to fill a gap in Bay Area music scene by providing an experimental space where anything musical can happen and to engage a younger, hipper audience with SFS and serious music.  Judging from Saturday’s thrilling reception which enthralled its sellout crowd of 450, Soundbox will do all that and more.  It also seems poised to give our brilliant but nerdy MTT some street swagger, the kind of coolness cred that he’s been aching for while collecting all those Grammies for classical recordings.  If you haven’t heard, SoundBox is a huge refurbished music space at 300 Franklin Street (in San Francisco). Formerly known as Zellerbach A, it was one of SFS’s most dour on-site rehearsal spaces, ironically renowned for its dead sound.

With generous patron funding and the board’s desire to revision SFS’ audience outreach, the cavernous space was entirely revamped.  Berkeley’s Meyer Sound was engaged to install its patented multi-speaker “Constellation” system, transforming the space into a virtual sound lab.  Now, with the push of touchscreen button, the venue can seamlessly tweak its acoustics (reverberation and decay times) for various pieces in a performance allowing otherworldly sounds to emerge from its tremendously talented SFS musicians and choral members.  Add state-of-the-art video projection capacity, making for an incredible visual experience, sleek quilted leather ottoman and low tables (even the furnishings will be tweaked with each performance), a fully-stocked bar serving thematic cocktails and innovative cuisine—wella! SoundBox has the grit of an European art house, the verve of a sophisticated nightclub, the acoustics of a world class concert hall, and, as if it needs to be said, the world’s best musicians playing tunes exquisitely curated by MTT.

Combining the excitement of an art happening with the verve of a sophisticated nightclub, the acoustics of a world class concert hall, and adventurous music spanning ten centuries, Saturday night’s opening of SoundBox will be long remembered. Photo: courtesy SFS.

Combining the excitement of an art happening with the verve of a sophisticated nightclub, the acoustics of a world class concert hall, and adventurous music spanning ten centuries, Saturday night’s opening of SoundBox will be long remembered. Photo: courtesy SFS.

On Saturday, 7:45PM, the crowd was already lining up on Franklin Street.  The buzz: no one knew exactly what to expect but we were all excited by the program we’d read about online and the promise of road-testing something completely new.  The pre-concert hour was dedicated to John Cage, who believed that every sound can be music, and featured a musical feast of his “Branches,” featuring electronically amplified giant cacti, and “Inlets” which coaxed sounds from shells filled with water that gurgled when moved and from amplified burning pinecones.  As people entered the darkened foyer of Soundbox and were confronted with Cage’s music, they passed by a curious gallery space, specially curated by MTT, that included beautifully lit minimalist arrays of  live cacti, a table of sea shells in a pool of water and colorful huge multi-layered projections of cacti.  Wow…felt like entering one of those East European art happenings I’d covered in the 1980’s.  Once we passed through a closed black door,  we entered the spacious main hall, which offered a hip but relaxed atmosphere—two low wooden platforms served stages and lots of low leather seating that could be easily re-arranged.   People were free to amble about and get a drink or just settle in and get busy with their phones and texting.

The inaugural run, called “Extremities,” kicked off dramatically with “Stella splendens in monte,” a brief anonymous Spanish work (local composer Mason Bates contributed the percussion arrangements.)  The SFS chorus, in flowing robes, entered from the back of the hall, and made a dramatic procession to the stage, their lyrical voices swelling to fill every corner of the space.  As they passed by each of us, we got a sampling of each singer’s individual voice.  From there, it only got better—a very well-thought sonic and visual feast was about to unfold and we were ravenous for it.  The audience snapped their fingers, clapped, yowled and tossed their exquisite locks…and the musicians beamed with pride.  A glowing MTT looked like he’d dropped a decade as he engaged with the audience in a very heartfelt way, talking about musical choices and the potential of the space.

Steve Reich’s “Music for Pieces of Wood,” performed by members of the SF Symphony Percussion Section at SoundBox.  From L to R: Tom Hemphill (from Sonoma County), James Lee Wyatt III, Victor Avdienko, Jacob Nissly, Raymond Froehlich. Photo: courtesy SFS

Steve Reich’s “Music for Pieces of Wood,” performed by members of the SF Symphony
Percussion Section at SoundBox. From L to R: Tom Hemphill (from Sonoma County), James Lee Wyatt III, Victor Avdienko, Jacob Nissly, Raymond Froehlich. Photo: courtesy SFS

Highpoints for ARThound:  Steve Reich’s minimalist “Music for Pieces of Wood” featured five SFS percussionists with tuned hardwood claves creating a pulsing bed of rhythmically complex continuous sound.  This reminded me of the miraculous frog concerto I am treated to in my pond in Sonoma County every time a serious storm blows through.  After 8 minutes of this mesmerizing sound, which was accompanied by projections of Adam Larsen’s images of a New York skyline, we were all in trance mode.  When it ended, and everyone stopped playing, we were left with a very perceptible silence, a void in the acoustic atmosphere that left us all profoundly aware of the power of sound to inflate and deflate the psyche.

Ravel’s exquisite “Introduction and Allegro” (1905) shimmered and glowed when played by a small ensemble of seven SFS musicians including principal harpist Douglas Rioth and concertmaster Sasha Barantschik whose beloved 1742 Guarnerius del Gesù (“The David”) cast a spell over the audience, some of whom swept away tears.  The chamber piece showcased the space’s ability to tease out nuances in the contrasting sonorities.  The velvety woodwinds, the percussive harp and the warm resonance of the strings were all so clear, so distinct, that I felt I was getting a personal introduction to the possibilities of these instruments.

One of the evening’s hip visuals was the Nordic visual art pioneer, Steina’s (Steina Vasulka’s), seven minute video, “Voice Windows” (1986), featuring the voice of Joan La Barbara.  The short engrossing film was co-presented by SFS and SFMOMA and points to the limitless possibilities for future collaboration in a space like this.  Since the early 1970’s, Steina, in collaboration with Woody Vasulka, has explored intricate transformations of vision, space and sound, through digital technologies, mechanical devices and natural landscape. “Voice Windows” was an exquisite and haunting example of her artistry in manipulating digital and camera-generated images and layering that with “real” and altered sound.

Beaming MTT (Michael Tilson Thomas) conducts members of the SF Symphony and Chorus in Monteverdi’s “Magnificat” (1610) from “Vespro della Beata Vergine.”  Photo: courtesy SFS

Beaming MTT (Michael Tilson Thomas) conducts members of the SF Symphony and Chorus in Monteverdi’s “Magnificat” (1610) from “Vespro della Beata Vergine.” Photo: courtesy SFS

After two intermissions, the evening closed with Monteverdi’s glorious “Magnificat” (1610) from Vespro della Beata Vergine.  It is one of the eight most ancient Christian hymns and is taken directly from the Gospel of Luke where the Virgin Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth who is pregnant with the future John the Baptist.  When Elizabeth praises Mary for her faith, Mary sings the “Magnificat” in response.  Talk about immersive—the 19 minute piece featured soloists, the chorus and orchestra, all in rapturous splendor with gorgeous golden-hued projections of a Venetian church enhancing the mood.

Details: The next Sound Box performance, “Curiosities,” is January 9 and 10th, 2015.  Doors open at 8 PM and performance starts at 9 PM.  Tickets on sale now: $25 for open seating.  The space accommodates 450 and will sell out quickly.  The SoundBox website is not working correctly. Call the SFS Box office (415) 864-6000 to purchase tickets.  SoundBox is located at 300 Franklin Street, San Francisco, CA.  Parking: (is hell) Performing Arts Garage (360 Grove Street) or Civic Center Garage (between Polk, Larkin, Grove and McAllister).

December 15, 2014 Posted by | Art, Chamber Music, Classical Music, Jazz Music, SFMOMA, Symphony | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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