Archive for July, 2009

Visitor Flickr Photo of the Week

07.31.2009  |  By
Filed under: 151 3rd

Shades of Blue! photo by SFMOMA visitor Rob Reich

I liked this fabulous image of  Alexander Calder’s Big Crinkly (1969), now on view in our Rooftop Sculpture Garden. Photo by Rob Reich.

Thanks Rob!


Art is a Gamble

07.30.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Last week, I went to see Inventing Marcel Duchamp: The Dynamics of Portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. In light of my ongoing ruminations on the economy’s effect on artists, one work especially stuck in my mind. In 1924, Duchamp proposed a project in which he invited investors to contribute to a fund, which he would use to play roulette in the casinos of Monte Carlo.

Monte Carlo Bond bears an image of the artist as the Roman god Mercury, photographed by Man Ray. His hair is whipped up with shaving lather to resemble the messenger god’s winged helmet. The print is designed to look like a roulette table. Along the right edge is a row of stamps, each denoting an investor in Duchamp’s gamble. The work is an overt comment on speculation in the art market, a phenomenon which benefited Duchamp both as speculator and as artist.

In the Bay Area, where the market for contemporary art is slow even at the best of times, artists have often turned to var... More

New Langton Arts In Crisis

07.29.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

One of the country’s longest-running nonprofit arts centers has just announced that its “continued existence is in serious financial jeopardy.” While dispiriting announcements like this are common enough during the current economic recession, this loss promises to be particularly devastating. Founded in 1974, the organization has been a center of the San Francisco arts scene for the last three decades and more; it has served in that time as a vital laboratory for conceptual art, poetry, installation and performance – whi... More

No More Posters! Let’s See Action!

07.28.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Adjacent to the live/work loft building where our studio occupies the main storefront space is a large fenced-in parking lot used by the PG&E employees that work in the area. Last week I stepped out to take a personal phone call and noticed that the barricade facing Harrison had been tagged every 50 feet with small, orange metal plates emblazone... More

The Day Michael Died

07.26.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Last week a friend, the poet Joshua Clover, asked me to be a call in guest on his radio program at UC Davis and read Frank O’Hara’s poem “The Day Lady Died,” as it was exactly 50 years ago that Billie Holiday died and O’Hara wrote his famous surprise elegy for her. In his poem O’Hara links fandom to, well, death in a luminous and memorable way. When you listened to Billie Holiday “live” (a telling term), he recalls, “Everyone and I stopped breathing.” Naturally this made me think of how we all heard about Michael Jackson’s death, and I offered that somebody somewhere is writing “The Day Michael Jackson Died,” and Clover asked why didn’t I write such a poem. Maybe this is it.

I flew out of SFO on the day Michael died (and Farrah Fawcett). I loved both of them probably for the same reason, they were both striking and glamorous stars who came to us cursed as though by jealous gods. At the Virgin America terminal, Virgin had transformed Gate 12 into a disco, th... More

Visitor Flickr Photo of the Week

07.24.2009  |  By
Filed under: Back Page

This pretty snapshot, taken by SFMOMA visitor Jeanee Chung (and scooped  up from Flickr), shows  a portion of Damien Hirst‘s painting Pray (2003)  and, in the reflection of the glass, one corner of a gallery in our current fifth-floor contemporary exhibition, Between Art and Life, organized by Gary Garrels.  On the left side of JeaneeR... More

Public Art and Improvement, Part 2

07.22.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Back in April I posted a blog entitled Public Art and Redevelopment that looked at the new condominium building currently under construction on the corner of Valencia and 18th Street in the Mission District and more generally, raised the issue of the role of public art within the context of redevelopment. Today I’m focusing again on the Mission District and specifically, the impending public art project that is folded into one of the many city sponsored improvement plans.

The Valencia Streetscape Improvement Project was initiated and sponsored by the San Francisco Department of Public Works. In 2006, the Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) received an Environmental Justice Grant from Caltrans to create a Pedestrian Safety Plan for Valencia Street and for the past three years this plan has slowly been in the works to improve the commercial corridor between 15th and 19th Streets.  Improvements will include widening the sidewalks, removing the striped medians, creating curb exten... More

Blonde on a Bum Trip

07.22.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Prompted by my colleague Traci Vogel and her admiring review in SF Weekly I took myself down to Triple Base Gallery, deep in the heart of the Mission, to check out the concurrent exhibitions by Hilary Pecis and Elyse Malouk, artists new to me, sort of, except when I saw these shows I realized each must have been operating for some time, just under my radar. Hilary Pecis takes up most of the front room at Triple Base, with her “Intricacies of Phantom Content,” sizable collage-based works of mind-blowing complexity. (more…)


“I am always on the outside, trying to look inside…”

07.21.2009  |  By
Filed under: 151 3rd

“I am always on the outside, trying to look inside, trying to say something that is true. But maybe nothing is really true. Except what’s out there. And what’s out there is constantly changing.” –Robert Frank

Two photography shows currently on view at SFMOMA provide an intriguing point of departure from which to consider the r... More

One on One: Apsara DiQuinzio on Andrea Zittel

07.21.2009  |  By
Filed under: One on One

[Alongside our weekly in-gallery curator “One on One” talks, we post regular ‘one on one’ bits from curators & staff on a particular work or exhibition they’re interested in. Follow the series here. Today’s post is from assistant curator of painting and sculpture Apsara DiQuinzio.]

I have a growing obsession for ... More

Art History as Added Value

07.20.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Last month Joseph Del Pesco and I wrote about the new initiative by Artforum and e-flux (under their collaborative Art & Education site) which aims to serve as a database of scholarly essay on the history of art. Titled “Call for Art Historical Knowledge,” that post put forward speculations about the new archive, and mentioned that ... More

Is Poetry Fifty Years Behind Poetry? Is Art Fifty Years Ahead of Art?: The Shocking and Unexpurgated Truth … Told Here for the First Time

07.20.2009  |  By

[Charles Bernstein responds to recent discussions about his review “Is Art Criticism Fifty Years Behind Poetry?” in last winter’s Parkett. –SS]

Suzanne Stein has asked me to make some comments on two posts on Open Space, one by Kevin Killian and then Julian Myers’s response (to which several responses were subsequently posted). Both Killian (whom I know for many years) and Myers (whose name is new to me) focused at least in part on a review I wrote for Parkett magazine of Lytle Shaw’s Frank O’Hara: The Poetics of Coterie, titled “Is Art Criticism Fifty Years Behind Poetry?“. I wrote my review of Shaw’s book in December 2008 and it was published by Parkett this past winter.

In his post, Killian gently chides me for not giving the original source of my ironic title, which I guess I took for granted. But the sentiment has become a kind of received wisdom, removed from the specifics of Brion Gysin’s original remark:

Writing ... More

Seize the (Chicago) Day (with apologies to Saul Bellow)

07.19.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

(Author’s note: While not required to parse or argue with the sentiments expressed therein, having a copy of Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March at hand may help in the further enjoyment of this post. Since I feel ill-informed to really contribute to the discussion of Charles Bernstein’s Parkett piece initiated by Kevin an... More

Money…it’s a drag.

07.17.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Another topic that’s been playing on all our minds is the economy. Artists and arts organizations are hard-pressed to make ends meet in the best of times. What are they doing to survive the current downturn? I’ll be looking for examples of innovative strategies as I travel to the East Coast this week. I hope to dig up some bright ideas that non-profits, for-profits, individual entrepreneurs, collectives and educators are hatching to survive the lean times. Meanwhile, I’d welcome any and all input in the comments.



07.14.2009  |  By
Filed under: Miscellany

A few weeks ago, a discussion began in the comments of my post about NIAD.   Though that conversation was specifically about mentally and physically disabled artists, it has prompted me to consider more broadly how the categories of “insider” and “outsider” might apply to the current climate for art and visual culture. Since there are many possible ways to approach this topic, I’m going to address it from different angles in a series of posts over the coming weeks.

Initially, I want to address the question of whether and how the disabled artists served by organizations like NIAD and Creative Growth are marginalized from the contemporary art establishment. Most are not represented by traditional art galleries or collected by art museums — though SFMOMA does have a work in its collection by the late Judith Scott, a Creative Growth artist with severe Down’s Syndrome. In fact, Creative Growth artists including Gerone Spruill and William Scott (no... More

Collection Rotation: Mads Lynnerup

07.13.2009  |  By
Filed under: Projects/Series

Our monthly feature, Collection Rotation: some wonderful guest organizes a mini-exhibition from our collection works online. This month’s guest-curator is the artist Mads Lynnerup, whose work is included in the current Media Arts exhibition The Studio Sessions. Mads lived and worked in the Bay Area for several years, now he’s moved on to even more urban pastures. Thanks Mads!
After exploring the permanent collection of SFMOMA both in person and virtually I became curious about the number of artworks in the collection which are “untitled.” While accumulating all of the “untitled” works from SFMOMA’s website, which lists many of the permanent collection online, I started thinking about why so many artworks end up without a title. ... More

Mario Garcia Torres

07.12.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

I went to the Wattis Institute at CCA (California College of the Arts, in San Francisco) on Tuesday to see the opening of the latest installment of the “Passengers” exhibition, which seems to have been up for years now without ever losing any of its ungraspability and alterity. Someone must have a map of how “Passengers” works (possibly lean, saturnine supercurator Jens Hoffmann, b. 1974) but as for me, I’ve never understood it except that it’s modular, like the furniture in an old IKEA ad. It’s been up so long that now it’s known (jocularly?) as the “Exhibition Formerly Known as Passengers.” Anyhow there’s always something new going on, and this time around it’s both new and old at the same time.

Mario Garcia Torres (b. 1975) is a Mexican-born, Los Angeles based artist and writer with a healthy interest in interrogating the myths of conceptual art as they grow and twine in the shadow of specific time-based practices.  (You can read Chri... More

On Bernstein and Art Criticism

07.09.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Following on Kevin’s post, I have to ask: Just what is Charles Bernstein going on about in that Parkett article (“Is Art Criticism Fifty Years Behind Poetry?”)?

Published earlier this year, his essay responds to the dismissal of Frank O’Hara’s art criticism by Clement Greenberg, and damns by association a “monological an... More

What We Leave Behind: New narratives in a queer archive

07.08.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

As the first artist-in-residence at the San Francisco GLBT Historical Society, EG Crichton adopted the role of a matchmaker of sorts.  After spending hours researching in the archives she had the idea to personally match a living person with a dead person’s archive, extending a unique invitation to ten people to create a response to the experience of exploring a stranger’s life through what they have left behind.  Crichton’s matchmaking was largely intuitive and sometimes inspired by shared demographics. The results of this matchmaking is a dynamic and comprehensive exhibition entitled Lineage: Matchmaking in the Archive that includes both the contents of the archive itself, as well the creative responses to them. The exhibition features visual artists, musicians, poets, and performers including  Elliot Anderson, Dominika Bednarska, Troy Boyd, Luciano Chessa, Crow Cianciola, Lauren Crux, Bill Domonkos, Tirza Latimer, Maya Manvi, Camille Norton, Gabriella Ripley-Phi... More

Film as a Battleground: Shirley Clarke’s Portrait of Jason

07.07.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

“I started out that evening with hatred, and there was part of me that was out to do him in, get back at him, kill him,” Shirley Clarke said in 1983.   In 1967, when Clarke’s documentary Portrait of Jason hit the theaters, it was undoubtedly a shock. While gay films of the exuberantly campy, fantastical variety had been bubbling... More

Charles Bernstein Visit

07.05.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Charles Bernstein is a poet, professor and theorist, and he co-edited the influential journal of poetics called L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E back in the heroic age of Language Poetry (1978-81). Recently he got the art world up in arms when he published a provocative article in Parkett magazine, the spring issue with Zoe Leonard, Tomma Abts, Mai-Thu Perret. Bernstein’s article asks, “Is Art Criticism Fifty Years Behind Poetry?” and pretty much says, yes, indeed it is, or more so. This question may sound vaguely familiar to some of you out there, for it is a reversal or takeoff on Brion Gysin’s remark that “Writing is fifty years behind painting. I propose to apply the painters’ techniques to writing; things as simple as immediate as collage or montage.”

Beneath the impudence of its trappings, Bernstein’s essay is a review of a recent book by New York-based poet and art writer Lytle Shaw, his 2006 monograph Frank O’Hara: The Poetics of Coterie (Iowa). Shaw’s subjec... More

Happy Independence Day

07.04.2009  |  By
Filed under: Back Page

Ch-ch-changes in the East Bay

07.02.2009  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

In recent weeks, two long-standing East Bay non-profits have relocated to new digs. Kala Art Institute in Berkeley has just expanded into a new space in the H.J. Heinz building on San Pablo Avenue, where their printmaking facilities have resided for 30 years. Pro Arts Gallery in Oakland has merged with the Oakland Art Gallery, moving from the galle... More