75 Reasons to Live: Joseph Becker on Giovanni Pintori

Joseph Becker  is SFMOMA assistant curator of architecture and design. He’s talking about Giovanni Pintori’s 1949 poster for the Olivetti company, made at a time when Olivetti was pursuing a new, integrated approach to industrial and graphic design.

Street Jizz

If you were lucky and in Kansas City last Friday night, you were watching a special screening of Boy, the first feature film produced by Cody Critcheloe and SSION.  I want to describe SSION as a sort of contemporary art factory in the Midwest with Critcheloe playing the Andy Warhol part; but in truth the atmosphere of this project feels far more collective, its content is profoundly collaborative.  I don’t have an insider’s knowledge of the process, but the appearance suggests that Critcheloe is directing a vast ensemble of talented artists who actively shape the piece, as actors, musicians, designers, performers, visual artists.

The obsession of Boy is celebrity. The way this obsession manifests contains a critique, but that critique is always an embrace. You know how the word “glamour” etymologically preserves notions of magic and enchantment? It’s as if the enchantment of fame and the limitless fun that’s part of fame’s pitch are privileged here over the gloomy and grungy music of the 1990’s which perhaps has been processed, finally. The self-loathing and abjection which marked grunge, the false modesty and myopic pain of shoegaze and emo, the part of punk that’s funless rage, the nihilistic nostalgia of contemporary prog indie: these are the forms antithetical to SSION’s devotion:  the bright light of everything good/nasty. Critcheloe’s totemic leather jacket has one big word written in white on the back: WHATEVER. And, sure, there’s some preserved stoical apathy in that “whatever,” but there also seems to be a promise of continuous anticipation for what’s coming next. Whatever it is.


The Grass is ALWAYS Greener

Anthony Aziz. Drawing SFMOMA from Memory. 2010

The Grass is ALWAYS Greener AND that is OKAY

In February of this year, Renny Pritikin posted Artist Who’ve Left Town and 97 comments followed, confirming that this topic is one many find pertinent. Most of the discussion offered insight from those who have moved, those who have stayed or those who have considered either option, while other responses concluded that some (either participating in or following the arts) will often have similar complaints without offering productive means to achieve solutions.

In the post, Pritikin listed 60 artists who left town and 60 artists who have stayed. I was interested in the list of artists who left, not due to their departure, rather the varying level of successes I perceived within the group. Were all of these artists successful? Were successes a result of their move, and did it matter?

I attempted to contact several of those who left and offered the following assignment; draw the SFMOMA from memory. My interest for this assignment reflected how we relate to basic memories from our past  (and where we come from), and how images change or become distracted over time. I contacted approximately twenty from the list, and a few responded. Anthony Aziz was the first to send his drawing (above). Melissa Pokorny followed with her slightly abstracted staircase drawing (below).

The assignment was intended to be mundane, and it served no conclusion to the conversation at hand as I had found no real conclusion in Pritikin’s post and the discussion that followed. And what interested me most was this contradiction. The topic is extremely compelling and elicited so much conversation, yet no real resolution surfaced as to how the Bay Area could find the tools to support its own arts community while also seeking an unclear external validation from other important art centers. And how is this validation defined by those seeking it? And is validation needed?

I wanted to reflect on some of the conversation that occurred:

Zachary Royer Scholz was first to comment on the post stating “The problem seems not to be staying or going, but how each is done.” He continued, “Abandoning the Bay Area like the small town you grew up in and want desperately to forget is dysfunctional, but so too is pretending that the rest of the art world doesn’t exist.”

Others offered personal perspectives on their experience and Pritikin responded, reminding them that his desire was to obtain fact-driven responses, and that his goal was to “address the conventional wisdom about certain assumptions”

Anthony Discenza responded with “Assume though that we can marshall such data–what is the goal? In what way do you envision the information obtained by such research would be used to effect change? This is in no way intended as a hostile question, I’m just curious. What do you hope to find?”

Melissa Pokorny. Drawing SFMOMA from Memory. 2010

Pritikin did find such data, and posted them: Facts, for a Change. Ironically, by the terms of these results, Bay Area artists fare well compared with artists in other cities. So is the essential question: Where do we fit in within the rest of the art world? Or is it How do we relate to the rest of the art world and do others take us seriously? And how can these questions be addressed when the data states we fair well in comparison? And with these facts, what can be achieved now?

I’d like to offer another perspective that was mentioned briefly in the discussion following Pritikin’s post; this conversation takes place behind closed doors, in studios, bookstores, galleries, cafes, and bars (more shit talking than conversation here) around the city, and not only within the Bay Area but elsewhere, and often the conversation occurs between individuals from other art centers. That is to say that within pockets of the Bay Area art community, artists are having critical conversations that relate to their peers in other art centers. Intimate small connections exist across geographical regions, and the ease to participate beyond your locality given the Internet should possibly be a priority for future collaborations as most of the conversations result in productive outcomes.


75 Reasons to Live: Larry Rinder on Lebbeus Woods

Larry Rinder is the director of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and is speaking here about Lebbeus Woods‘s San Francisco Project: Inhabiting the Quake (1995). I’ve been posting these talks out-of-sequence per their anniversary-weekend chronology, however it’s worth mentioning that Larry gave the 75th talk of the weekend. Thanks so much, Larry! A direct link to Woods’s blog, here.

75 Reasons to Live: Renée Green on On Kawara

Renée Green is an artist, writer, and filmmaker, and her fantastic talk is on On Kawara‘s  MAR. 16, 1993, from the “Today” Series (1993). “What is life anyway? A series of repetitions, but not exactly?” Thank you, Renée.

75 Reasons to Live: Henry Urbach on Ewan Gibbs

Henry Urbach is Helen Hilton Raiser Curator of Architecture and Design at SFMOMA. In 2009 he commissioned a new work from U.K. artist Ewan Gibbs; the result is San Francisco, a portrait of the city in 18 drawings. Urbach describes how Gibbs achieves ethereal atmospheric effects through an extremely systematic method.

Wild Grasses

Sometimes during my tenure as blogger, I will go see Hollywood blockbusters with artists and document, in impressionistic fashion, our experience. This is episode three.

I went to go see Wild Grasses (2009, dir. Alain Resnais) with the artist and curator Margaret Tedesco at the Clay. We both got there a little bit early so took a short stroll around the neighborhood. Margaret showed me where Cottage Industries Painting Studio is and explained that right above it was where Jay DeFeo lived! We talked about how the neighborhood where the Clay is and where Jay DeFeo lived is weird. We saw the movie. Then we rode the 22 Fillmore to the Mission and had a glass of wine.

In Wild Grasses, George (played by Andre Dussollier) finds a wallet belonging to Marguerite (played by Sabine Azema) and their lives are changed forever. We talked about the power of an object and how driven one can become because of this curiosity. We talked about how being driven can also become just plain old stalking.

We talked about how we weren’t sure about George. We talked about how the film almost seemed like it could be his fantasy. We wondered about George’s frequent references to his own criminal past, his fantasies of murdering young women, his sudden paranoia at the police station. But we weren’t sure whether we believed that George had ever done anything criminal or really wanted to murder anyone. We talked about how masculine desire and violence are always happening simultaneously in the films of Resnais. While we were talking about that part “Pscyho Killer” came on at the bar.

We talked about how the film was inflected by the history of cinema. About how the colors seemed to reference the Technicolor age of movies and how the music was melodramatic and often times totally inappropriate. We talked a lot about the terrific scene in which we see George being drawn backwards into a movie theater from which he has just left. We tried to remember the line for my notebook but just had to paraphrase: “you should never be surprised by anything that happens after you leave a cinema.”



At the all-staff meeting this morning, just after giving us the news that Snøhetta will build the new museum, SFMOMA director Neal Benezra provided an extra helpful bit of information: keyboard shortcut for typing that funny little Ø.  (ALT+ 0248) Thanks, Neal!

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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This article is about the Scandinavian letter. For other uses, see Ø (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Slashed zero or Empty set.

Øminuscule: “ø“, Norwegian pronunciation: [øː], akin to /ə/ (debate) with protrusion as in /ʒ/ (vision) — is a vowel and a letter used in the Danish, Faroese and Norwegian languages.

The name of this letter is the same as the sound it represents (see usage). Though not its native name, among English-speaking typographers the symbol may be called a “slashed o” or “o with stroke”. Although these names suggest it is a ligature or a diacritical variant of the letter o, speakers of languages which use the letter ø hold that it is not.[citation needed] That is, emically they perceive it as a different letter entirely. In Norwegian and Danish, it is alphabetized after “z” — thus z æ ø and å.





Truly thrilling news. Snøhetta will collaborate with SFMOMA to design our expansion. Take a look at what else they’ve built, or are building, and just think what we might be bringing home to the bay. Absolutely stunning:

The National Opera and Ballet, Oslo:

Snøhetta, National Opera and Ballet, Oslo, 2007; photo: Jens Passoth; © Snøhetta

Snøhetta, National Opera and Ballet, Oslo, 2007; photo: Jens Passoth; © Snøhetta

Hamar Town Hall, Hamar, Norway:

Snøhetta, Hamar Town Hall, Hamar, Norway, 2000; photo: Damian Heinisch; © Snøhetta

The September 11 Memorial Museum at the World Trade Center site:

Snøhetta, National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion at the World Trade Center site, New York (rendering), due to be completed in 2011; image: Squared Design Lab, courtesy Snøhetta; © Snøhetta

Snøhetta, National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion at the World Trade Center site, New York (rendering), due to be completed in 2011; image: Squared Design Lab, courtesy Snøhetta; © Snøhetta

The Bibiliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt:

Snøhetta, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt, 2001; photo: James Willis; © Snøhetta

Snøhetta, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt, 2001; photo: James Willis; © Snøhetta

Snøhetta, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt, 2000; photo: Gerald Zugmann; © Snøhetta

The Lillehammer Art Museum, Norway:

Snøhetta, Lillehammer Art Museum, Norway, 1994; photo: Jiri Havran; © Snøhetta

These are the people:

Snøhetta firm portrait; photo: Snøhetta; © Snøhetta

And these are the other people, the principals (dining at a neighborhood joint near you, sometime soon, wouldn’t you think?):

 Snøhetta principals (R-L) Craig Dykers and Kjetil Thorsen; photo: courtesy Snøhetta; © Snøhetta