ART hound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

Rustic perfection! “J.B. Blunk: Nature, Art and Everyday Life” at Oakland Museum through September 9, 2018

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Oakland Museum’s summer exhibit J.B. Blunk: Nature, Art and Everyday Life, celebrates a creative life many of us fantasize about—small secluded cabin, surrounded by nature, living authentically off the land, all time is dedicated to creative pursuits.  If ever there were a model for this, it is artist James Blain Blunk (1926-2002) who lived and created in Inverness from the late 1950’s until his death in 2002.

Blunk’s work, his home and the poetic appeal of his extraordinary counterculture life are all explored in this survey show curated by OMCA Curator of Art, Carin Adams.  Well worth the trip to Oakland, the exhibit includes 80 of Blunk’s important artworks—large wood and stone works, bronze sculptures, ceramics, works on panel and board, and handmade buttons, belts and jewelry—as well as personal photos from his life in Japan and Marin.  A special video, too, was commissioned that includes intimate interviews with Blunk’s family, friends and colleagues who speak to the seamless integration of his life and creative process.

“This idea of an artist who is completely intertwining art and nature and his life is a very California concept, especially the integration of art and landscape” said OMCA director Lori Fogarty.  “He created the most iconic, memorable and beloved element in our building, “The Planet,” which is really the center of our museum.  Right now, we are so pleased to have Blunk on three levels of the museum: “The Planet” is on first level; another piece is in a natural setting in the alcove outside the History Gallery, and the exhibit on the second floor galleries.”

Blunk’s Life = Art

Bunk’s artistic career began in Japan.  Right after finishing college at UCLA in 1949, where he studied ceramics under Laura Andreson, he was drafted into the Korean war and served in the army.  In 1951, he was able to finagle a discharge to Japan where, fortuitously, he met Isamu Noguchi who was instrumental in steeping him in Japan’s rich ceramic tradition and guiding him to apprenticeships with legendary potters Kitaoji Rosanjin (1883–1959) and Bizen style master Toyo Keneshige (1896–1967).

When Blunk returned to CA in 1954, he worked as potter creating stoneware with a strong Japanese influence.  The show includes a few of these ceramics as well as his later paintings, often done on wood that he went over with a chainsaw and then painted in neutral shades, accentuating the wood’s grain and creating a textured surface that referred back to his beginnings as a ceramicist.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

After a few years in CA, Blunk took on work as a carpenter to support himself.  Noguchi arranged another fortuitous introduction, to the British surrealist painter Gordon Onslow Ford, then living in Inverness on 250+ forested acres overlooking Tomales Bay.  After Blunk built a complex roof for Onslow Ford’s new home (designed by Warren Callister), Onslow Ford asked him to stay on in Inverness and offered him an acre of his land.  Reportedly, Blunk climbed trees on the idyllic property searching for the perfect place to situate his home.  This was at the beginning of the West Marin’s handmade house era that flourished in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Blunk chose a forested ridge facing the gorgeous Tomales Bay and, from 1958 to 1962,  he and his first wife Nancy Waite (daughter of Howard Waite), designed and hand-built their home and studio from lumber and logs foraged near the beach at Inverness.  The Blunk House, considered Blunk’s seminal artwork, has evolved over years from its original 600 square feet to about double that.  Simple, it suits the land perfectly and the land suits it.  It includes a ceramic and woodcutting studio and has become iconic in design circles, touted by the NYT Style Magazine in 2016 as “the perfect meeting of California Craft and Japanese Minimalism”.

Interior Sculpture

Detail, interior of J.B. Blunk’s home. Everything in the house—the sculptures, furniture, floors, wall panels, plates, bowls, even the bathroom sink were made by the artist. Photo: OMCA

It was not only the home, but the way Blunk lived in it with his family that mattered.  He fired cups, plates and bowls he fashioned from clay he dug on his land.  He built his own brick and clay kiln. He hunted or grew most of his food. He made his furniture—a combo of sturdy but elegant stools, chairs, and functional slabs such as his famous bathroom sink of hand hewn cypress with its chiseled bowl— and put his artwork everywhere.  All of this was illuminated by sunlight streaming in from windows overlooking a view of paradise.

Blunk, carved bench, front view, OMCA

A redwood stool, circa 1965, has a distinct Asian flair. Its curved chisel-carved seat communicated with art hanging on the walls and the walls themselves. J.B. Blunk, Stool #1, 28x21x12 inches. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Blunk, shirt, belt, buckle, OMCA

During his early days in Inverness, Blunk hunted deer to feed himself and his family. His deerskin shirt in the background (circa 1955), that he wore often, was most likely made by his first wife, Nancy. He made and wore the belt and buckle (circa 1960’s), in the foreground. Courtesy Rufus Blunk. Photo: Geneva Anderson

During this period, Blunk developed a deep love of wood.  He was attuned to the trees surrounding him and collected the burls that washed up on the beach.  He began creating wood furniture from redwood and cypress which he carved out with a chain saw and finished with an angular grinder and chisel.  His first major wood commission was in 1965 for landscape architect Lawrence Halprin who requested an entire room of furniture.  Blunk responded with benches, chairs and a low table that seem to grow organically out of the walls and floor.

With Halprin’s initial help, Blunk went on to obtain several commissions for large-scale sculptural seating projects:  (1968 UC Santa Cruz plaza seating, 1969 OMCA “The Planet,” 1969 “The Ark”).  These massive sculptures were unique in that they were made to be touched and sat on.  He was included in many craft exhibitions.  His beloved “Greens” installation from 1979—a three ton redwood monolith and a group of chairs and tables cut from a single 22-foot diameter redwood stump of redwood—still serves as the sculptural centerpiece and spiritual anchor for Greens restaurant at Fort Mason Center.

Around the time of the Greens project, Blunk became less interested in furniture and more interested in pure sculpture.  He realized that the huge blocks of wood he had standing around his yard waiting to be cut up into firewood were so beautiful that he couldn’t just cut them up and he was inspired to create monumental forms.

Blunk Mage OMCA

J.B. Blunk, “Mage,” 1983, carved redwood. Photo: Geneva Anderson

In the 1980’s, Blunk moved on to tall twisting wood sculptures created with a chainsaw and to stone carvings. His majestic two-legged redwood “Mage” from 1983 is one the show’s highlights. With its poetic natural gnarls and ripples left intact, Blunk’s transformation of the material is minimal, just enough release the inherent beauty in the material he worked with.  “I am in awe of his wisdom about what to highlight in its natural state and what to dig into and transform,” said curator Carin Adams.  “That’s his genius. It wasn’t always what he decided to do with things but what he decided to let stand on its own.”

Blunk’s friendship with Noguchi deepened over the years.  “I’ve heard stories from his family members and from his long-time assistants about Noguchi’s regular visits and how they would walk through the fields adjacent to J.B.’s studio and home and just look at assembled materials, not really talking, just nodding occasionally and looking,”  said Adams.  “I think they had a long-term, active, vital exchange that was important for each of them.”

Don’t miss Blunk’s “The Planet” in OMCA’s lobby

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In 2019, OMCA celebrates the 50th anniversary of the opening of its historic landmarked building. Designed by Pritzker prize-winning architect Kevin Roche, this jewel is one of California’s most stunning examples of examples of mid-century modernism. The building actually had to be constructed around Blunk’s majestic two-ton, 13-feet-diameter work “The Planet,” carved from the base of a single redwood tree.  The magnificent sprawling piece was commissioned in 1969 and is situated at the heart of the museum on the first level at the entrance to the Gallery of California Natural Sciences. Sadly, the piece’s installation precedes all of the museum’s current employees so no one was able to relate in person the story of this piece’s installation but the exhibit does include several photos.

Free informative Exhibition Tours | J.B. Blunk: Nature, Art & Everyday Life:

Saturday, August 18, 2018, 12–12:45 p.m., inquire at entrance where to meet

Saturday, September, 1, 2018, 12-12:45 p.m., inquire at entrance where to meet

More resources J.B. Blunk:

The wall texts are informative but Blunk is an artist who cries out for a book that can be poured over and treasured. His daughter, Mariah Nielson, who works with the Blunk estate and founded the company Permanent Collection (it sells re-casted originals of her dad’s works, such as Blunk Cups) has just finished digitizing his entire archive and is collaborating on a forthcoming book.

For now, the most complete information on Blunk comes straight from the horse’s mouth—a wonderful 3 hour and 34 minute oral interview Blunk did in 2002 in Inverness with Glenn Adamson for the Archives of American Art’s Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America. Click here to be directed to the interview.

To read more about how J.B. Blunk influenced CA’s fine wood tradition, read ARThound’s  “Family Tree” Petaluma Art Center’s Exceptional Fine Woodworking Show through March 13, 2011

 

Details: “J.B. Blunk: Nature, Art & Everyday Life” is on display at OMCA through September 9, 2018.  General Admission tickets include this exhibit: $15.95, $10.95 seniors, $6.95 Youth 9-17 and free for children 8 and under and OMCA members. As part of Friday Nights at OMCA, on Fridays 5 to 10 p.m., enjoy half price admission for adults and free admission for 18 and under.  Get your groove on with wine, beer, music, featured artists, Off the Grid food trucks and more.

Coming this fall to OMCA “The World of Ray and Charles Eames” October 13, 2018- February 17, 2019.  (This exhibit originated at the Barbican London, 21 October 2015 – 14 February, 2016)

Advertisements

August 10, 2018 Posted by | Art, Oakland Museum of California | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love great conversation, food, farming, family and film? Another screening of the sold-out “Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm” has been added to CAAMFest for Saturday, March 21 in Oakland—SO worth the drive

 

CAAMFest, the Center for Asian American Media’s annual film festival, has added another screening of Jim Choi’s documentary Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm, which has its (sold-out) world premiere on Friday, March 20, 7 PM, at the OMCA (Oakland Museum of California).  The OMCA event, which features a pre-film get together, the film screening and the entire Masumoto family on stage in story-telling and conversation is at “Rush.”  This means it is sold out BUT there may be a few tickets released at the last moment.  The new added screening is Saturday, March 21, at Oakland’s New Parkway Theatre at 7PM and there are ample tickets now but this screening too will most likely sell out.  Mas, Nikiko and Marcy will also be in attendance and a lively Q&A will follow the screening.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Nikiko and David “Mas” Masumoto on Monday evening at UC Berkeley (we’re all alums) and this dynamic father daughter duo touched my heart with their loving connection, positive energy and years of farming wisdom.   I brought along my dear friend, long-time SRJC librarian Karen Petersen, who first introduced me to Mas via Epitaph for Peach, his 1995 lament over the loss of heirlooms.  The public response to Mas’ writing was so encouraging that it essentially led him to re-evaluate the decision to bulldoze his precious heirloom trees.  Our meeting couldn’t have come at a better moment because I’d spent the day, and the previous week, out in the garden paving the way for the plantings to come.  If you’re the type of person who believes as I do that your garden or orchard is a reflection of  who you are, then this is a film and a family that you won’t want to miss.  These famous fourth generation Japanese American farmers are best known for their highly-prized heirloom Sun Crest peaches as well as their tenacious adherence to sustainable practices.  Over years, they’ve reaped a harvest of not only delicious fruits but also dreams, reflections and abiding kinship.   We discussed what it was like to be filmed and the new directions their lives are taking now that Nikiko has returned to home to step into her father’s work boots on their certified organic 80 acre farm in Del Ray (south of Fresno).  That’s 80 acres of organic peaches, nectarines, grapes and a fig tree that all need nurturing, often in grueling heat which it turns out is also the perfect incubator for storytelling.  They’re all highly creative but Mas’ writing on farming and food includes numerous best-selling books which have been lovingly treasured and dog-eared by foodies, farmers and imagined gardeners.

This beautifully shot film, which was funded by CAAM, chronicles the transitions undergone by Mas and his daughter as they lovingly enact the rituals of passing the reins from one generation to the next and reflect back on the family’s WWII internment in a camp near their farm.  Stay tuned to ARThound for the interview.  For more information on CAAMFest 2015, click here.

 

March 17, 2015 Posted by | Film, Food, Gardening | , , , , , , , | 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

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

Not just film, CAAMFest, has super-sized into an Asian American cultural extravaganza—it starts Wednesday, March 13, and runs for 10 days in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland

New York artist Tenzing Rigdol’s poignant installation is the focus of Tenzi Tsetan Choklay’s feature documentary, “Bringing Tibet Home,” screening at CAAMFest 2014, March 13-23, 2014.   Following the death of his father, a Tibetan refugee, Rigdol embarks on a journey to bring 20,000 kilos of native Tibetan soil from Nepal to India. The smuggled soil is laid out on a platform in Dharamsala, the Himalayan hill town where the Dali Lama and many Tibetan refugees are based.  For many, this is a reunion; for some, this the first time that they set foot on their native soil; and for a few, this is probably the last time that they ever see anything of their lost nation.  A powerful portrait of artistic determination that explores homeland, exile and the transgressive power of art.  Image: courtesy CAAM

New York artist Tenzing Rigdol’s poignant installation is the focus of Tenzi Tsetan Choklay’s feature documentary, “Bringing Tibet Home,” screening at CAAMFest 2014, March 13-23, 2014. Following the death of his father, a Tibetan refugee, Rigdol embarks on a journey to bring 20,000 kilos of native Tibetan soil from Nepal to India. The smuggled soil is laid out on a platform in Dharamsala, the Himalayan hill town where the Dali Lama and many Tibetan refugees are based. For many, this is a reunion; for some, this the first time that they set foot on their native soil; and for a few, this is probably the last time that they ever see anything of their lost nation. A powerful portrait of artistic determination that explores homeland, exile and the transgressive power of art. Filmmaker will attend. Image: courtesy CAAM

CAAMFest is 32 this year and no longer just about great film.  The 10 day festival, which takes place between March 13th and 23th , in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland, has long showcased the best and newest in Asian American film.  It got restless when it turned 30 though:  it changed its name from SFIAFF (San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival ) to the shorter CAAMFest , named after its sponsor, CAAM , San Francisco’s Center for Asian American Media.  Under the guidance of Festival Director Masashi Niwano, now in his fourth year at the helm, it also responded to changing times by tweaking its programming.  And growing.  And growing.  It now bills itself as the nation’s “largest showcase for new Asian and Asian American film.”

Music and Food:  In addition to its 121 films and videos, and stellar presentations and tributes, CAAMFest 2014 includes cutting edge musicians and the fusion of great food and film line-up.  Korean and Vietnamese hip hop and rock music, and leading female performers are the focus of the two “Directions in Sound” evenings. On March 22, 23-year-old rapper, singer and songwriter, Suboi (Hàng Lâm Trang Anh), tagged Vietnam’s Queen of Hiphop, will have her U.S. debut at 111 Minna Gallery.

Suboi, the first female rapper to make it big in Vietnam, makes her U.S. debut at CAAMFest.

Suboi, the first female rapper to make it big in Vietnam, makes her U.S. debut at CAAMFest.

Culinary artists like superstar Chef Martin Yan (of PBS and M.Y. China) and award-winning Chocolatier Windy Lieu of Sôcôla Chocolates are the focus of CAAMfeast,” a high-end tasting party/fundraiser, while three fabulous food films celebrate storytelling around Asian food.

CAAMFEST expands into artsy Oakland:  Promising to engage all the senses is “Super Awesome Launch,” an evening at the Oakland Museum of California (Friday, March 7) that includes a sneak preview of its highly anticipated upcoming spring exhibition, SuperAwesome: Art and Giant Robot, along with the chance to meet arts visionary and Eric Nakamura, who curated the exhibition.   What? Never heard of Nakamura? Then you’re WAY WAY behind the times and need a serious CAAMFEST infusion. Twenty years ago, in 1994, Nakamura 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.  You can meet Eric Nakamura and experience the art in person at OMCA, which has become quite the hopping venue on Friday nights. The evening also includes high energy bands from Taiwan, a caravan of food trucks, and a screening of Patrick Epino and Stephen Dypiangco’s Awesome Asian Bad Guys (2013) starring Tamlyn Tomita and Dante Basco.  Easy to see why they call it “Super Awesome Launch.”   And, this year CAAMFEST has its closing night party in Oakland as well (see below), marking what promises to be a sweet partnership with the community’s vibrant arts organizations and galleries.

Big Nights of Film

Opening Night: The festival kicks off this Wednesday, March 13 with the US premiere of Vietnamese American director Ham Tran’s (Journey from the Fall, 2006) romantic comedy, How to Fight in Six Inch Heels, at the historic Castro Theater.  The film was Vietnam’s top box office draw for 2013 and features San Jose native Kathy Uyen as a New York fashion designer who infiltrates Saigon’s high-fashion world to test her fiancé’s fidelity. After the premiere, CAAMFest heads over to the Asian Art Museum for its Opening Night Gala, which features food from local chefs and restaurants, a special presentation by fashion stylists Retrofit Republic, dancing to beats spun by local DJ’s and the Asian’s amazing new exhibition, Yoga: The Art of Transformation.

How To Fight In Six Inch Heels (Âm Mưu Giày Gót Nhọn)  

Select Special Presentations:  Each year, CAAMFest highlights the works of significant media makers and their contributions to modern cinema.  In Conversation with Grace Lee: Award-winning documentary filmmaker Grace Lee will be in conversation at the Castro Theatre on Saturday, March 16, discussing her new documentary, American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs (2013), profiling the extraordinary life of activist and feminist Grace Lee Boggs which screens right after the conversation.  Lee’s narrative feature comedy, American Zombie (2006), screens on Friday, March 14.

American Revolutionary:  The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs

Tribute: Run Run Shaw:  CAAMFest offers a three film tribute to the legendary movie mogul Sir Run Run Shaw, who over the course of nine decades fostered some of the greatest filmmaking talent in Hong Kong, and produced some American classics such as Blade Runner (1982).  The films—The Kingdom and the Beauty; King Boxer (The Five Fingers of Death); and my personal favorite, Come Drink With Me, will all screen at the Chinatown’s Great Star Theater on March 15th..  The Great Star, refurbished in 2010, hosts both Chinese-language film and Chinese opera.

Set in imperial China, Chinese director Li Han-hsiang’s dazzling musical drama “The Kingdom and the Beauty” (1959) consolidated the Chinese operetta’s popularity in Hong Kong.  When  restless Chinese emperor (Chao Lei) disguises himself as a commoner and takes a stroll, he falls in love with a country peasant (movie queen Lin Dai) and promises to marry her after spending one night together—only for their budding romance to be abruptly curtailed. The film is part of a three film tribute at Chinatown’s Great Star Theater to Hong Kong entertainment and media mogul Run Run Shaw.

Set in imperial China, Chinese director Li Han-hsiang’s dazzling musical drama “The Kingdom and the Beauty” (1959) consolidated the Chinese operetta’s popularity in Hong Kong. When restless Chinese emperor (Chao Lei) disguises himself as a commoner and takes a stroll, he falls in love with a country peasant (movie queen Lin Dai) and promises to marry her after spending one night together—only for their budding romance to be abruptly curtailed. The film is part of a three film tribute at Chinatown’s Great Star Theater to Hong Kong entertainment and media mogul Run Run Shaw.

Closing Night: The Closing Night Gala, Sunday, March 23, marks the festival’s expansion to downtown Oakland’s arts district.  The evening starts off at the New Parkway Theater with a screening of Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Marissa Aroy’s documentary, Delano Manongs (2013).  A prescient chronicle of the life of Filipino activist Larry Itliong (1913-77), who organized the 1965 Delano Grape Strike and helped launch the United Farm Workers, the documentary explores the vital contribution of Filipinos to the American Farm labor movement.  Following this screening, the Gala moves one block to Vessel Gallery for a closing party that takes place amongst the art exhibition “Periphery: New Works by Cyrus Tilton and Paintings by Tim Rice.”

CAAMFEST expands into Oakland:

Stay-tuned to ARThound for detailed film picks, which will include:

Anthony Chen’s Ilo Ilo (2013) Winner of the Caméra d”Or at Cannes this May, a mesmerizing portrait of a middle class Indonesian family in crisis that sprang out of the director’s childhood in the Singapore and his nurturing relationship with his Filipina nanny who worked as a domestic helper for his family for 8 years from 1988 to 1997.  (Screens March 15 at 6:30 PM at Pacific Film Archive and March 17 at 6 PM at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.)

Director Yuya Ishii’s The Great Passage (2013), Japan’s 2013 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film about a shy, eccentric young man, who joins the Dictionary Editorial Department of a big Tokyo publishing house to help compile a new dictionary, “The Great Passage” and over the course of years is transformed.  (Screens: March 15 at 2:30 PM at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas and March 16 at 3:30 PM at Pacific Film Archive.)

Tenzi Tsetan Choklay’s feature documentary, Bringing Tibet Home (2013). Following the death of his father, a Tibetan refugee, Rigdol embarks on a remarkable journey to bring 20,000 kilos of native Tibetan soil from Nepal to India. The smuggled soil is laid out on a platform in Dharamsala, the Himalayan hill town where the Dali Lama and many Tibetan refugees are based.  For many, this is a reunion; for some, this the first time that they set foot on their native soil; and for a few, this is probably the last time that they ever see anything of their lost nation. (Screens: March 14 at 5 PM at New People Cinemas and March 19 at 7 PM at Pacific Film Archive.)

CAAMFEST Details:

When/Where: CAAMfest 2014 runs March 13-23, 2014 at 8 screening venues in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland and as well as select museums, galleries, bars and music halls.

Tickets: This popular festival sells outs, so advance ticket purchase is highly recommended for most films and events.  Regular screenings are $12 with $1 to $2 discounts for students, seniors, disabled and current CAAM members.  Special screenings, programs and social events are more.  Festival 6-pack passes are also available for $60 (6 screenings for price of 5). All access passes are $450 for CAAM members and $500 for general.  Click here for ticket purchases online.  Tickets may also be purchased in person and various venue box offices open one hour before the first festival screening of the day.

Unpacking the festival: Click here to see full schedule in day by day calendar format with hyperlinks for film and event descriptions and for ticket purchase.  The official website— CAAMFest 2014.

March 9, 2014 Posted by | Dance, Film, Food, Oakland Museum of California | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

closing soon—”Peter Stackpole: Bridging the Bay,” at Oakland Museum on California through January 26, 2014

Peter Stackpole "Catwalk and Marin Tower," 1936, gelatin silver print, 6.25 x 9.375 inches, Collection of OMCA and OMCA Founders Fund.

Peter Stackpole “Catwalk and Marin Tower,” 1936, gelatin silver print, 6.25 x 9.375 inches, Collection of OMCA and OMCA Founders Fund.

Soaring spans, chilling heights, and candid moments in the daily lives of workers characterize the 22 stunning black and white photographs in “Peter Stackpole: Bridging the Bay,” at OMCA (Oakland Museum of California) OMCA through January 26, 2014.  One of the first photographers to have access to a compact 35-millimeter camera, the naturally agile Stackpole, who was raised in the Bay Area and in Paris, befriended bridge workers and, without official permission, was soon climbing ladders right along with them to get incredible shots of the construction of the original San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and of the Golden Gate Bridge.  His amazing photos eventually captured the attention of the team at Time Magazine, who were in the early stages of publishing a photo journal that would become Life Magazine.  Stackpole’s unique work became so well respected that it launched his career and he was featured in celebrated publications like Vanity Fair, and went on to photograph Hollywood events and celebrities.  This is the first time OMCA’s complete collection of Stackpole’s bridge building images from the 1930s have been publicly displayed since they were acquired. The exhibition connects visitors back in time to the bridge’s first iteration, its amazing engineering and serves as a complement to the Museum’s major exhibition on the San Francisco Bay, “Above and Below: Stories From Our Changing Bay,” which runs through February 23, 2014.

Details:Peter Stackpole: Bridging the Bay”  is on display at the Oakland Museum of California through January 26, 2014.

OMCA Curator Drew Johnson on “Peter Stackpole: Photographing the Bay Bridge”

January 5, 2014 Posted by | Oakland Museum of California | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finding her story in China’s troubled history—artist Hung Liu’s retrospective, “Summoning Ghosts,” at the Oakland Museum of CA, closes June 30, 2013

Hung Liu's work , "The Heroines," from 2012, addresses patriotic stories in Chinese picture books, or "xiaorenshu," from her childhood.  oil on canvas, 96 x 160 inches, Collection of Hung Liu and Jeff Kelley.

Hung Liu’s “The Heroines” (2012), is part of a new body of work that revisits patriotic stories in Chinese picture books from her childhood. Like little graphic novels, these picture books told stories of heroic figures and deeds, with an eerie propaganda supplanting the charming fable. These new paintings can be understood as homages to all the artists who lost their art during China’s revolutionary epoch. (oil on canvas, 96 x 160 inches, Collection of Hung Liu and Jeff Kelley).

The ghosts of the Cultural Revolution, the tragedy of Tiananmen, the horror of the 2008 Sichuan Province earthquake, her mother’s death, treasured images from childhood comics—all these are revived in artist Hung Lui’s first major retrospective, Summoning Ghosts: The Art of Hung Liu at the Oakland Museum of CA (OMCA) through Sunday, June 30, 2013.  Hung Liu, now 65 and newly retired from 20 years of teaching painting at Mills College, is the most accomplished Chinese-born American artist of her generation.  The exhibition explores her creative output from age five through the present.   Together for the first time are 40 of her large-scale portraits of women, children, the elderly, workers—nameless victims of history.  Surrounded by birds and mythical creatures, floral motifs, symbols of past and present Chinese culture, and things an innocuous as bubbles, these vibrant gestural portraits are teaming with spirit energy and copious spills and drips of paint, evoking the blur of fading memories. Hung Liu rescues the disenfranchised from the oblivion of history, celebrating them without diminishing the suffering that has characterized their lives.

Hung Liu was born in 1948 and came of age in Beijing in the repressive era of Mao’s Cultural Revolution.  Her father, an intellectual, was imprisoned and, at age 20, after finishing high school, she was sent to a labor camp in the countryside for four years of “re-education” where she worked with peasants in the rice and wheat fields.  Instead of crushing her, as it did so many, she used these traumatic experiences to fuel a vital inner flame which she kept burning as she resumed life in Beijing and studied and taught art.  Many years later, she was able to emigrate to the U.S. in 1984, at age 36.  She arrived with two suitcases and $20 and pursued an art education on scholarship at Visual Arts Department of UC San Diego.  Within a year, she had connected with Allan Kaprow and was participating in several of his happenings.   Summoning Ghosts, organized by René de Guzman, OMCA Senior Curator of Art, presents Hung Liu’s compelling life story, told through her artworks, as well as the larger human story of the souls crushed in China’s slow crawl to superpower status. It’s an unflinching and remarkably vital story of humanity.

Painted in the aftermath of 9/11, "September 2001"  depicts a traditionally-rendered Song dynasty duck crashing through the face of a young Chinese bride, each image disintegrating into the other. (2001, oil on canvas, 66 x 66  inches.  collection of Driek and Michael Zirinsky.)

Painted in the aftermath of 9/11, “September 2001” depicts a traditionally-rendered Song dynasty duck crashing through the face of a young Chinese bride, each image disintegrating into the other. (2001, oil on canvas, 66 x 66 inches. collection of Driek and Michael Zirinsky.)

"Mu Nu" (“Mother and Daughter”), 1997, is one of several large-scale paintings that addresses Chinese women at work in stooped labor and domestic chores. (oil on canvas, 80 x 140 inches, Collection of Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art).

“Mu Nu” (“Mother and Daughter”), 1997, is one of several large-scale paintings that addresses Chinese women at work in stooped labor and domestic chores. (oil on canvas, 80 x 140 inches, Collection of Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Video Clips of Hung Liu in discussion with OMCA’s René de Guzman (all from the March 14, 2013 press conference)

Early Work: 

In 1968, as part of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, Liu, who had just completed high school, was sent for four years of re-education in the Chinese countryside which entailed manual labor under grueling conditions.  With a borrowed camera, she photographed the peasants with whom she lived and worked in the fields and also drew their portraits.  The film was kept undeveloped for decades until 2010, when she became interested in printing at these images.  She also kept portraits she had made of the local farmers and their families and they are on display.  In the video-clip below, Hung Liu discusses these photos.

Current work:

ARThound’s previous coverage of Hung Liu and “Summoning Ghosts:”  CAAMFest 2013—Jin Dan’s masterpiece “When the Bough Breaks,” examines upward mobility’s downward emotional toll on a Chinese migrant family as days, months, years pass

Special Docent Tours:  each Sunday at 1 p.m., through June 30, 2103, knowledgeable docents will walk visitors through the exhibition, sharing insights about Hung Lui’s processes and artworks.  Meet in front of the Great Hall lobby.   Free with museum admission.

Details:  The Oakland Museum of California is located at 1000 Oak Street, Oakland.  Open Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m, except Fridays when the museum is open until 9 p.m. Admission is $12 general, $9 seniors and students with valid ID.  Parking: Enter the Museum’s garage entrance on Oak Street between 10th and 12th streets.  Parking is just $1/hour with Museum validation. Parking without validation is $2.50/hour. Bring your ticket to the Ticketing booth on Level 2 for validation.

June 11, 2013 Posted by | Art, Oakland Museum of California | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CAAMFest 2013—Jin Dan’s masterpiece “When the Bough Breaks,” examines upward mobility’s downward emotional toll on a Chinese migrant family as days, months, years pass

Two young Chinese girls from a migrant family that has relocated to a big city struggle to earn money to pay for their brother’s schooling and are forced to abandon their own studies, putting their futures in jeopardy in “When the Bough Breaks,” directed by Ji Dan, one of China’s preeminent female documentary filmmakers.  Image: CAAMFest

Two young Chinese girls from a migrant family that has relocated to a big city struggle to earn money to pay for their brother’s schooling and are forced to abandon their own studies, putting their futures in jeopardy in “When the Bough Breaks,” directed by Ji Dan, one of China’s preeminent female documentary filmmakers. Image: CAAMFest

It’s hard to top recent Chinese documentary masterpieces like Ghost Town (Zhao Dayong, 2008, 169 min), Fortune Teller (Xu Tong, 2010, 129 min) or Last Train Home (Lixen Fan, 2009, 85 min).  And yet Ji Dan’s latest film, When the Bough Breaks (2011), maintains remarkable dedication to its difficult subject: a family of five Chinese migrants living on the outskirts of a city, their fragile state worsening with time.  It ebbs and flows with high drama as well, pulling us into a family tragedy involving innocent children that seems informed by the great master storytellers.   

In China today, over 120 million migrant workers have sacrificed everything for a country that barely acknowledges them, gambling all their resources on the dream of a better future. China’s dirty little secret: it’s turning its back on these workers and choosing instead to focus on rapid modernization—at their expense.  To tell this story, Ji Dan focuses on two girls and their brother, all of whom desperately need and want an education and their parents, two trapped and defeated individuals who are unable to provide it.  

Ji Dan is one of the most important filmmakers in China today.  Her past works include Spirit Home (2006), Dream of the Empty City (2007), and Spiral Staircase of Harbin (2008), which won prizes at both the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival and the China Documentary Film Festival.   To create such an intimate portrait of this fractured Chinese family living on the outskirts of Beijing, she spent three years following and getting to know them.  She even took up residence in the teacher’s dormitory of the school they attended.  The film screens today, Saturday, March 23, 2013, at the Oakland Museum of California at 2 p.m. (details here) as part of CAAMFest 2013’s final weekend.

Trash is an active metaphor. The family wades through trash heaps from dawn till dusk and the father collects and sells scrap metal, while family’s three vulnerable children fight against all odds – including their own parents – to continue their education and pursue a better future. But this is no ode to victory at the end of a long period of tribulations, it is instead a compelling examination of how life can leave one with a series of choices that all lead to undesirable outcomes. The parents, especially the disgruntled drunkard dad, do all they can to maintain some semblance of control, while the two pre-teen twin daughters struggle to hold the family’s long-term financial vision, though they too exhibit their father’s impatient proclivity for conflict. As the two headstrong girls try to negotiate a path to independence, security, and adulthood, the film reveals how some children are forced to make their own way in the world, assuming the responsibilities of adulthood long before they should have to.

Here’s what critic Brian Hu of PAC-ARTS (Pacific Arts Movement) said when the film screened at the San Francisco Asian Film Festival —Long, impeccably-shot verbal arguments that seem to into stretch into hours are riveting not so much for the yelling, but for the minutiae, in particular the silence of the son, whose fate motivates much of the conflict. Through it all is a sense of environmental doom: the weather, the military jets, the sounds of firecrackers in the distance. When the film comes to a close following a Lunar New Year unlike any other, a visceral transcendence is achieved that numbs the skin and pounds the heart.

Renowned Chinese artist Hung Liu, who currently has a retrospective at OMCA, “Summoning Ghosts, the Art of Hung Liu” canceled her appearance at today’s post-film conversation, but sent this statement about Ji Dan and her filmmaking—

As a filmmaker, Ji Dan spent a long time working with the family, not just on them. Her film is thought provoking and raises questions about family dynamics, personal and societal relationships, and class issues when people live physically and psychologically on the edge. The film shares a harsh reality and is truly moving. It shows us that there are many families living in isolation on the cusp of society, as if on an island. When the film was screened in Shanghai in 2011, several younger members of the audience asked why the film was long. In response, Ji Dan articulately and eloquently expressed her commitment to the need for longer documentary filmmaking in order to tell the full story. I was compelled to speak up and support Ji’s dedication in the face of Hollywood’s influence to train the viewer to absorb only shorter films. As I shared with Lori Fogarty, the Executive Director of the Oakland Museum of California, I am truly impressed with the dedication of women filmmakers from Beijing who challenge film industry standards with their engaging full—length documentaries. They are bold enough to tell dramatic stories about real life, about real people in the contemporary world. I think we must show that we care about humanity by watching and supporting these female filmmakers coming out of China. Ji Dan made an impression on me, and I hope to bring many female filmmakers and their documentaries to the attention of US audiences. With filmmakers like her, who follow a family for seven years to capture their story, we must respond with support. Hung Liu

Details: CAAMfest 2013 runs March 14-24, 2013 at 8 screening venues in San Francisco and Berkeley. Regular screenings are $12 and special screenings and programs are more. Click here to see full schedule and to purchase tickets online.

March 23, 2013 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Margaret De Patta lecture and curator walk-through on Sunday, March 25, 2012 at OMCA

De Patta's nontraditional use of gemstones and her use of simple lines and structure to create elegant architectural forms are key to understanding her influence on contemporary jewelry design. Margaret De Patta. (American, 1903–64). Pendant, 1959. Collection of the Oakland Museum of California, gift of Eugene Bielawski, The Margaret De Patta Memorial Collection. Photo: Lee Fatherree

Jean DeMouthe, senior collections manager for geology at Cal Academy, will discuss the basics of gemology, focusing on the types of stones used by jeweler Margaret De Patta, followed by a guided tour of Space-Light-Structure: The Jewelry of Margaret De Patta with Julie Muñiz, Associate Curator of Craft & Decorative Art at The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA).   The event will take on Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 2 p.m.

Studio jeweler Margaret De Patta (1903-1964) blended Constructivist principles with Bauhaus design to create miniature sculpture that moved with its wearer.  Based in the Bay Area, De Patta, who studied with Bauahus sculptor Moholy-Nagy in Chicago is credited with starting the American studio jewelry movement on the West Coast.  The Oakland Museum holds the largest collection of De Patta’s work, most of which was donated by her (third) husband Eugene Bielawski after the artist’s untimely death by suicide in 1964.  “Space-Light-Structure” features more than 60 of De Patta’s iconic jewelry pieces as well as ceramics, flatware, photographs, pictograms, and newly released archival material.   The exhibition also features stunning Moholy-Nagy photographs, some never exhibited publicly before.  Space-Light Structure is a collaboration with the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York and is co-curated by Ursula Isle-Neuman, MAD’s Curator of Jewelry.

Discover Margaret De Patta’s work online by exploring OMCA’s online collection of De Patta creations.

Stay tuned to ARThound for coverage of “Space-Light Structure” and an interview with Julie Muñiz.

Details:   The De Patta lecture begins at 2 p.m on Sunday, March 25, 2012.  The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is at 1000 Oak Street, at 10th Street, in Oakland.   General Admission to OMCA is $12.00.

March 24, 2012 Posted by | Art | , , , , , | Leave a comment