When I was an architecture student in Pittsburgh 20 years ago, one of the first vanity monographs I bought was about Morphosis, the Los Angeles firm started by Thom Mayne and Michael Rotondi (who moved on to found Roto Architects in 1991). Their fractured forms, rendered in meticulously inked drawings and gritty models, were eye-opening to us budding designers studying in a city not known for its architectural adventurousness.
Archive for August, 2009
I’m old enough to remember the race between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle for who would hit 60 homers in a single season, and the crushing disappointment I felt as a child when Maris won, and after that happens, nothing ever feels that bleak again, but also, nothing really interested me ever as much about baseball. But on the other hand my brother, Tim, is super into baseball and on a recent visit from his home in Cooperstown, New York, came to town and we went on a tour of the hidden treasures of the ballpark here in San Francisco. I kept one eye cocked for examples of visual culture in the Bay Area.
My sister Nancy was there too and I took this picture of the two of them at the entrance to the park, they call it Willie Mays Plaza. This statue is by William Behrends (b. 1956) and is probably the most photographed work of art in the Bay Area. Because Mays’ number was 24, they have completely fetishized the number down at AT&T Park, and there are subtle reminders of “24”... More
While I was traveling earlier this month, I was thinking about a conversation that transpired on this blog between Adrienne Skye Roberts and Julian Myers. It was sparked by Adrienne’s post about the Federal Building in San Francisco, and a question I asked her about humanizing green architecture. By “humanizing,” I mean creating spaces that are scaled to promote human social interactions. The Federal Building’s public areas fail to do this because their design encourages rapid passage through them, rather than prolonged engagement or interaction.
What are some better models for public green spaces that encourage visitors to engage with one another and with the natural world? One that comes to mind is the museum garden, where art and botany are presented side-by-side. SFMOMA’s Rooftop Garden is a great place to escape the noise of the city and sneak in a few quiet moments of contemplation. It’s not exactly an example of green building itself, but li... More
When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast four years ago, on August 29, 2005 Lewis Watts was two thousand miles away in his home in Richmond, California. He was a few days shy of beginning a residency at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art at the University of New Orleans where he planned to continue an eleven year project of photographing the city and its residents. Needless to say, his plans for a residency were interrupted and Watts, like many of us, observed the natural disaster of the storm and political disaster of the governments failure to respond through the mediation of television sets and news broadcasts.
Watts’ relationship to the South began as an informed visitor and has, over time, evolved into a participant, witness and documentarian. Watts was born in Little Rock though he was raised in Seattle, Washington and for the past forty years has lived in the Bay Area. As a child his summers were spent in his grandparents’ houses in Georgia and Arkansas. In 1994 Watts... More
Earlier this summer Miriam Bale asked if I might contribute to a weeklong compendium of comedy criticism under the title Comedy v. Criticism—this leading towards a screening of Elaine May’s film Ishtar at DCTV in New York on August 31st. (Richard Brody’s blurb on it here.) Miriam and I have talked about May for years, and this seemed ... More
[This Sept 1 is Free Tuesday (first Tues of the month = FREE) & for the special noontime program, experimental filmmaker (and SFMOMA’s own head projectionist) Paul Clipson screens high-art takes on low subjects.]
Have SFMOMA’s gatekeepers taken leave of their senses? Inviting subversion into any institution portends a slippery slop... More
When last I was in New York, the artist Fia Backström and I had a conversation about Sherrie Levine, by way of both “The Pictures Generation, 1974-84″ — an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum, of the early practice of Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, Sarah Charlesworth and others — and some thinking I’d done on some of Levine’s works. I planned to return to New York the following month, and we promised to re-engage our converstion then. But my plans changed. So around the date when I’d intended to be in New ... More
In May, Joseph Del Pesco and I posted a critical reading of the Art and Education Papers archive, which had then just been announced. In it, we contrasted that project with a site whose constitution we liked better, called AAAARG. AAAARG is many things, but is probably known best these days as a kind of digital library and radical public amenity, ... More
This weekend I fell in love with San Francisco again. On Sunday I rode my bike from the sunny Mission District into the fog of the Inner Sunset for the San Francisco Zinefest. I joined a small crowd of independent press connoisseurs for the second day of an all weekend event that included workshops and panel discussions on all things related to zine-making and doing-it-yourself: how to screen-print, bind books, and how to gouache paint. I meandered slowly through the tables, skimming zines and roaming back to the certain delicately crafted booklets that caught my attention—that I had to flip through at least six times before I made the decision to buy them. Among the booths were the local favorites in radical small press publishing, AK Press, Slingslot Collective, and independent press shops such as 1984 Printing, as well as lots of independent artists and writers with tables full of one of a kind or limited edition zines, pamphlets, crafts, t-shirts, buttons and on and on.
My firs... More
During the New Langton Arts debate a few weeks ago, Renny Pritikin, who with his wife Judy Moran directed the organization in its first decade and more, mentioned to me an essay he’d written that elaborated some of the early ideas behind the institution. I asked him to send it my way, and a week later it arrived by mail. Called “The Port Huron Statement and the Origin of Artists’ Organizations,” the essay connects the student movements of the 1960s — in particular, ideas of participatory democracy espoused by the Students for a Democratic Society in 1962 — with the impulses and modes that defined Langton’s founding and first decade. You can find the original essay here; what follows below is a dialogue about the essay in retrospect. Renny is Director of the Richard L. Nelson Gallery and the Fine Arts Collection at the University of California, Davis.
JM: So, thanks again for this document. It’s interesting, and I think the reading you put fo... More
I went down to the Artists Shop at Right Window on Friday evening and bought two pictures by San Francisco painter Scott Hewicker. He is one of my favorites and oh! So cheap! The artists’ shop is a project of the video artist Karla Milosevich and runs this weekend and next down at 992 Valencia Street. Lots and lots of artists, everything very reasonable, and 100 per cent of the $$$ goes to the artists themselves.
First I bought this little piece which I call, “Red Sun.”
Then I fought off several other would-be buyers to lay my hands on this great picture (below). Can you see it or can you not see it? It is like that old etching of Vanity looking into her mirror and canny viewers see a big skull, Or like that old optical illusion Wittgenstein wrote about where it looks like a duck and it looks like a rabbit. Well, look again, and you will see two black cats aping the viewer’s gaze and staring, like yourself, into the severely luscious weather conditions only Hewicker kn... More
For the past seven months, a copy of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s black and white print of a bird soaring through a cloud streaked sky has hung on the wall above my desk. This wall is opposite my bed which means that the print is usually one of the first things I see when I wake up in the morning. I took two copies of Gonzalez-Torres’s print from SFMOMA’s The Art of Participation exhibition last January, carefully rolling them and tucking them in my bag as I biked home. I tacked one above the various photographs, postcards, and notes that have gathered on the wall above my desk and the other I gave to a friend who had just moved into a new house.
During The Art of Participation these prints, known as Untitled 1992/1993, were placed one ontop of another in a stack placed on the floor of one of the galleries. The description of the print lists the printing method, offset lithograph on paper, and then includes this important detail in paranthesis: (endless copies). Visitors w... More
[Ian Padgham, our marketing and communications assistant, with a fantastic story about the elevator girl in Robert Frank’s famous photo…and do come down if you’ve yet to see Looking In: Robert Frank’s “The Americans”— it closes Sunday.]
“Robert Frank, Swiss, unobtrusive, nice, with that little camera that... More
[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 actually a little bit two-on-one: Jill Sterrett, SFMOMA director of conservation and collections, &... More
Jacob Dahlgren missed the 60s entirely (he was born in 1970) but some of it came with him as he was born, trailing wisps of glory, to judge by his efforts at Steven Wolf Gallery during his recent presentation there.
I met with the artist several weeks ago and asked him about the body of work up on view. First let me describe it to you, it looked like about forty of fifty small paintings nailed to sticks to form placards, the kind you see whenever the union goes on strike, only they seem made of stiff paper at best. Market Street was frozen for 30 minutes yesterday while hundred of members of Local 2—the waiters union—stormed the sidewalks and traffic lanes agitating with Jacob Dahlgren-esque posters. Half the crowd shouted, “We—are!” while the other half took up the refrain, “Local—Two!” I thought of Dahlgren’s colorful signs, stacked salon style against the far wall of Wolf’s welcoming and capacious gallery, many with their sticks (handles?) in the air, or tipp... More
Our monthly feature, Collection Rotation: some wonderful guest organizes a mini-exhibition from our collection works online. This month’s guest-curator is is SFMOMA’s very own Jefre Cantu, musician in life, and long-time operations tech and resident yoga instructor by SFMOMA day. Thanks Jefre!
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about home. These thoughts travel from my recent curatorial endeavors, to my involvement with tenants rights in San Francisco, to my unrelenting personal investigation into my role as a young, white artist in the Mission District. Of course, the housing crisis and economic recession has everyone thinking about home and property; whose homes are valued and therefore protected, and consequently, who is valued. (There is much more to be said about this and recent local legislation that exposes the vulnerability of renters, however this may not be the place). To consider home as solely attached to the built structure of a house is a limiting definition. Home means to belong to a people as much as it does to place. It is the accumulations of actions and experiences in one place. It is also a contested site; a place many people must distance themselves from and a destination we are often searching for.
In this post I briefly discuss five artists—some i... More
This is Tammy. Has this ever happened to you?
I was passing a casual afternoon in the SFMOMA sculpture garden the other day, sipping a glass of fresh tap water and soaking up some much needed vitamin D in my San Francisco summer attire , when I realized that my helmet with its tundra down lining resembled the Thought Screen Helmets ... More
These are some articles I’ve been reading as I think through the question of what, if any, responsibility for supporting local art practices ought to be borne by large, internationally-focused museums.
The Museum Bubble: Ben Davis points to some disturbing statistics that demonstrate the disproportionate resources going to the very biggest museums. I don’t always agree with his tone or with his conclusions, but I do think what he says regarding the concentration of resources in the field bears noting. We all acknowledge the fact that our treasured alternative spaces are struggling. Davis argues that many of the bigger institutions are equally mismanaged, but that disproportionate funding is propping them up nonetheless. If all of the funding is going to encyclopaedic, multi-national museums, how can any regional art scene survive?More
Hidden in the back of the San Francisco Mission neighborhood mainstay, Adobe Books, is “Sustained Decay,” a collaboration between Andy Vogt and Joshua Churchill. “Decay” revels in its cavernous setting, transforming the bookstore’s long-rotting back office into a glorious mausoleum. Vogt has been working with salvaged wood lath for years now, moving slowly from small to mural-sized trompe l’oeil assemblages. His 2007 piece, Barren Echelon, that was reinstalled this past March at Four Barrel Cafe, is a wonder ... More
This October Performa 09 and SFMOMA will mark the centennial of the publication of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto, in many ways a defining document of a certain sort of modernism, with a number of different events: some critical, others celebratory.
Much as I’d like to see the re-created Luigi Russolo noisemakers, I won&... More
Chris Perez at Ratio 3 on Stevenson Street in San Francisco crafted the perfect summer show out of unwieldy materials—I’m glad I caught “Safe Word” before the controversial exhibit came down this past weekend. It’s not only that the subject was porn that made the show so difficult, but the particular fetish sort of porn it meditated on is always divisive and often combustible.
It was one of those shows that, I guess, just had to happen, ever since the extreme bondage studio Kink.com took over the San Francisco Armory around the corner from Ratio 3 on Mission and 14th. This Mission landmark has puzzled plenty for ages—a vast, cheerless ziggurat of a building, it hailed from an age in which people were seriously worried about getting the shit blown out of them by enemy bombs, or perhaps invasion of the sort that would call for a huge arms depository right smack in the middle of what was then a white collar Irish neighborhood. You look at the building and you feel... More
Surely if you’ve been in the building anytime in recent months, you’ve taken a look at our latest Haas Atrium commission, Kerry James Marshall’s monumental pair of murals called Visible Means of Support. Last February a team of painters from Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center, a community mural organization based in San Francisco̵... More
I was walking down Market Street on Saturday just taking in the day with my sometime colleague Bradford Nordeen. He and I have co-authored a groundbreaking article on “The Cinema of Whitney Houston” that is supposed to appear in the October issue of L.A. based art and culture magazine Animal Shelter. So there we were fresh from shopping when we saw this classic car parked on Market Street. (Wait, I forgot to say that if you are interested in bargains, get yourself down to “Agnes B.” on the first block of Grant, they are going out of business and everything, everything is 70 per cent off!) It’s a shame they are going out of business but now their prices are sort of in the Ross Dress for Less category. Well back to the car.
Tourists from dozens of nations saw a photo op and brought out state of the art Leicas, Panasonics, Nikons to do it justice. (more…)More
In response to my recent post “This land wasn’t made for you and me”, my fellow columnist, Anuradha Vikram asked me for examples of humanizing green building projects to compare to my critique of both the San Francisco’s Federal Building’s “public” plaza and the houses built by Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation (MIR) in New Orleans that I wrote about back in June. Over the past couple of days I’ve been trying hard to think of green building projects in the Bay Area that incorporate a functional shared public space. Due to my lack of expertise in architecture, I’d like to open up Anu’s comment as a question for others to respond to: What are good examples of humanizing green building projects in the Bay Area?
In contrast to building projects previously discussed, I’d like to briefly mention The Heidelberg Project started by Tyree Guyton in Detroit, Michigan. Back in 1986, East Detroit struggled to recover fro... More
Julian Myers’ post on the recent turmoil at New Langton Arts gave rise to a robust and very necessary discussion about the state of contemporary art in the Bay Area. Looking beyond the immediate issues at Langton, I’d like to address the perceived conflict between the local and international art worlds. In the Bay Area, we have many world-class museums, universities and art colleges. We have the benefit of some of the world’s foremost artists, curators and critics, having chosen to work here. We have a wonderfully tight-knit and innovative arts community, full of experimentation and creative risk-taking. The smallness of our region allows for incubation of new ideas in an interdisciplinary context. Our location at the nexus of the East and the West gives us an unusually international perspective for such a small community. In theory, this should be the ideal place to be an arts worker. Yet there is an underlying tension here, too often expressed in buzzwords like R... More
Taking inspiration from Robert Frank, Damaso Reyes has spent the last few years documenting social changes in the European Union for his project, The Europeans. Reyes is an artist and photojournalist who studied photography at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, honing his craft as a reporter for the New York Amsterdam News and other major news publications. The son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Reyes grew up in a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
As a Spanish-speaking, first generation American and a black man, Reyes, like Frank, grew up feeling he was both part of and outside of his community. That ability to be both insider and outsider is what allows him to move freely with his camera through worlds most people never see. As immigrants, Reyes’ parents were able to find a sense of civic belonging in the United States which, he has observed, continues to elude immigrants to the European Union. For this re... More