Posts in Field Notes

Informed observations about exhibitions and events from our contributors; meditations on artistic practice; reflections on art, life, culture

FIELD WORK: Hugo García Manríquez

10.03.2013  |  By

On the occasion of Mark di Suvero at Crissy Field, SFMOMA curator of public programs Frank Smigiel and poet and playwright Kevin Killian co-organized a small chapbook of poetry, beautifully hand-produced by Andrew Kenower and Lara Durback. We are posting selections from FIELD WORK on Open Space throughout the fall.

Pre Columbian, 1965

SECA 2012: Robert Glück on the Neptune Society Columbarium

10.01.2013  |  By

For the first time in the history of SFMOMA’s biennial award program honoring Bay Area artists, the museum has commissioned the four recipients of the 2012 SECA Art Award to create work outside the traditional gallery context. Their site-responsive projects are at several locations throughout the Bay Area. To complement these projects, Open S... More

FIELD WORK: Mark di Suvero at Crissy Field — Poets Respond

09.26.2013  |  By

On the occasion of Mark di Suvero at Crissy Field, SFMOMA curator of public programs Frank Smigiel and poet and playwright Kevin Killian have co-organized a small chapbook of poetry, beautifully hand-produced by Andrew Kenower and Lara Durback. We’ll be posting selections from FIELD WORK on Open Space throughout the fall. Kevin Killian introd... More

New York Art Book Fair

09.24.2013  |  By

Each year the Davids and Goliaths of the art world meet on neutral ground at the New York Art Book Fair, and for at least one weekend they put away their rocks and their swords.

Large galleries benefit from the avant-garde credibility of the event, now in its eighth year, and the small presses and publishers benefit from the huge audience that come... More

SECA 2012: Josh Faught on BE BOLD For What You Stand For, BE CAREFUL For What You Fall For

09.24.2013  |  By

For the first time in the history of SFMOMA’s biennial award program honoring Bay Area artists, the museum has commissioned the four recipients of the 2012 SECA Art Award to create work outside the traditional gallery context. Their site-responsive projects appear in a number of locations around the Bay Area; Josh Faught‘s work is at th... More

New York Just Elected a Museum Director to the City Council

09.11.2013  |  By

Watch out — New York just elected a powerful museum director to their City Council.

Not only that, but she beat out her closest rival, Ede Fox, by nearly ten points. Although the New York Times had endorsed Fox, a former top aide to City Council Member Jumaane Williams, the Times also called Cumbo “an impressive cultural leader.”

Despite her arts background, she is hardly a newcomer. In the late 1990s Cumbo was an NYU grad student when she decided to turn her thesis project into a full-fledged museum. It became the Museum of Conte... More

Welcome! Fabulous fall season in store

09.09.2013  |  By
Filed under: 151 3rd, Field Notes

It’s been a curious summer around the SFMOMA offices this year: with the museum closed for expansion daily trips into the galleries are a (temporary) thing of the past, and from the bank of windows in our Minna street offices we’ve watched the deconstruction of the back end of the Botta building. It’s been jaw-dropping more days than not. Here’s the view this morning:


Crissy Field Notes: Dogs on di Suvero

08.26.2013  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

While some have argued that cats have taken over the art world this summer, I’m happy to report that here in San Francisco SFMOMA has gone to the dogs with Mark di Suvero at Crissy Field!

It has been rewarding to see people enjoying the di Suvero sculptures with their canine companions during visits to Crissy Field. While checking out the Instagram photos people have shared from their visits to the exhibition, I fell in love with one group of particularly wind-blown, glamorous canines whose perfectly posed portraits were hard to overlook. W... More

Should SFMOMA Sell Off Its Art Like Detroit?

07.26.2013  |  By
Filed under: Back Page, Field Notes

If you had asked the New Yorker a few days ago, they would have said yes. So why not sell SFMOMA’s Matisse paintings, the Mark Rothko, and the Magritte? Why not pack up the Clyfford Still room and the Warhols and the Ansel Adams photographs, then when it’s all finished, sell off the valuable land? Why not? Just think of the MILLIONS!!!

... More

Developers Destroy 5,000-Year-Old Pyramid in Peru

07.09.2013  |  By

What a shame. Sometimes you just have to wonder how people can be so irresponsible, so blind.

In case you missed it, a few weeks ago developers used bulldozers and heavy equipment to completely demolish and then remove a five-thousand-year-old pyramid near Lima, Peru. Afterward they covered the site with trash and burned it to conceal what they did... More


07.02.2013  |  By

These collaged meditations on “teenage visual dynamics” are by Norwegian artist Are Mokkelbost. In the last few you can also see the back side of the pages he glues together.

I’m thirteen and have just learned, through a news broadcast at a party, about the Jim Jones massacre. A friend of our family—a woman who was close with my mom, and who was one of my first teachers—joined The People’s Temple some years ago. The television shows fields of dead bodies, and the anchor says something about how they cannot confirm yet if there is an... More

Mark di Suvero’s Friendly Giants

07.02.2013  |  By
Filed under: 151 3rd, Field Notes

Approaching Crissy Field at San Francisco’s northern edge, currently the site of eight monumental sculptural works by Mark di Suvero, early on a chilly, fog-enshrouded Saturday morning, I felt the anticipation associated with encountering something big and awe-inspiring—how I might feel before seeing a blue whale at sea, the Grand Canyon, or the spherical mass of a planet through a high-resolution telescope. A pair of joggers passing by didn’t share my excitement, mumbling something about “these monstrosities . . .”

A quick Internet ... More

Snapshot Poetics

06.24.2013  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

The Queer Cultural Center and the Contemporary Jewish Museum recently collaborated to produce a performance event, “Snapshot Poetics Now: Queer Encounters with Allen Ginsberg,” inspired by the CJM’s current exhibition Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg. Qcc and CJM invited six San Francisco Bay Area artists and scholars (including me) to engage with Ginsberg’s candid photographs. We used the photographs as portals into Ginsberg’s milieu.

I was drawn to this image.

Ginsberg didn’t focus his camera, o... More


06.20.2013  |  By

The Ghost of Flight 401 (shown in the post “1976”) is an open-hallway of a film. All that space was a gallery waiting to happen, and the inspiration for a three-part exhibition called Psychometry that I curated (at Exile, Arratia Beer, and Right Window) in 2009–10. Artists created responses that, in a way, sat like furniture within the ma... More


06.14.2013  |  By

Flight 401 was the plane I mentioned that went down in the Florida Everglades in 1972.

There were human survivors of that crash, but also parts of the plane itself were salvaged and reused.

In 1974, Airport 1975 was released (pictured below). This was the first sequel to the successful 1970 film Airport. It starred Karen Black as a stewardess who is forced to pilot a Boeing 747 after the flight crew are all either killed or injured severely in a head-on crash with a twin-engine piston aircraft.

Encouraged by the success of the Airport films, th... More

Amanda N. Simons on Marriage (In)Equality and the Media

05.26.2013  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Amanda N. Simons wrote this commentary in response to an assignment in my Visual & Critical Studies dual-degree seminar at California College of the Arts. I invited Amanda to share her perspective with the readers of Open Space.


On February 8, 2013, feminist author and blogger Jessica Valenti announced via Twitter that had screwed up.

Three days earlier, published the article “To be happy, we must admit that women and men aren’t ‘equal,’” by Suzanne Venker. A demonstrative image ... More


05.19.2013  |  By

In Sacramento, one of the girls who stood vigil outside a Los Angeles courtroom waiting for her “father to be released” in 1969 makes headlines again six years later. Charles Manson follower Lynette Fromme attempts to assassinate President Gerald Ford in a gesture that she claims is in defense of the Redwood Forest.

“I stood up and waved a gun (at Ford) for a reason,” Fromme says. “I was so relieved not to have to shoot it, but, in truth, I came to get life. Not just my life but clean air, healthy water and respect for creatures and c... More

What We Do Is Secret: Sydney Cohen

05.17.2013  |  By


Lately I’ve become obsessed with the paintings of Sydney Cohen, the Oakland-based artist who is also an adjunct painting/drawing professor at California College of the Arts. We met there last summer teaching painting in the Pre-College Program on the Oakland campus. She is warm and unpretentious, and we became fast friends commiserating... More

San Francisco Art Invades New York

05.15.2013  |  By
Filed under: Back Page, Field Notes

Sometimes in New York this thing happens—you are going out and suddenly you find yourself surrounded by folks you know from San Francisco. After a while you might pause, stare up at the sky, and ask to nobody in particular, “Where are they all coming from?”

Even when you talk to complete strangers—if you talk with them long enough, ... More

Notes on The Clock

05.10.2013  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

In many ways the clocks are the least of it.

Take away the clocks and you’d still have a complex, and maybe more mysterious, work.

See the north side of the Bay Bridge in an old film noir, before its current animated lights; we can’t not juxtapose it with a recollection of the current bridge, now with the light array. One of the clock’s basic units: world war once, as in “the war between now and what once was.”

The early morning hours are dominated by people being awakened over and over and over by alarm clocks—often being alarmed themselves because they’ve overslept—and they or the camera then turn to and gaze out of windows.

It’s a kind of narrative that involves cumulative repetition. It’s musical in that the downbeat is the appearance of the clock. The fill is human biological and cultural behavior, the making of a metanarrative that might be called “how/when/where we sleep.”

As in: This bit of narrative is over, and it’s marked by the appearance... More

Did Occupy Really Change Contemporary Art?

05.01.2013  |  By
Filed under: Back Page, Essay, Field Notes

I almost spilled coffee on myself yesterday when I read this bombastic headline in the New Republic: “How Occupy Changed Contemporary Art.” Then I laughed out loud.

It’s just that I die inside a little bit more each time when I read yet another “art review” written by someone purporting to be an authority on the subjec... More


04.30.2013  |  By

A 747 crashes due to rough weather conditions northwest of Washington, D.C., killing all 92 people on board.

A bomb in the cargo hold of a TWA flight leaving Athens explodes 18 minutes after takeoff and sends the plane crashing into the Ionian Sea; 88 people die.

All 346 people aboard a DC-10 bound for London perish when the flight crash-lands in a woods north of Paris. The destruction is so severe that only 40 of the bodies are identifiable. Turkish families on vacation, English rugby players, British fashion models, Japanese management traine... More

Calder Yates Reviews Stairwells’s Field Trip #3

04.24.2013  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Calder Yates wrote this review of Stairwells’s Field Trip #3, conducted by Sarah Hotchkiss and Carey Lin, in response to an assignment in my dual-degree seminar at California College of the Arts. I invited Calder to share his perspective with the readers of Open Space.

Calder Yates
Compulsive activity comes in many forms: counting specific t... More


04.22.2013  |  By

On Saint Patrick’s Day, at Travis Air Force Base in California, an aircraft nicknamed the Hanoi Taxi lands with twenty POWs aboard. There are more than four-hundred family members there to greet them, and journalists ready to capture the moment. Slava Veder snaps the shot (at the bottom of this post) that brings this reunion home in a single image. In the far left, Lt. Col. Robert Stirm has his back to the camera; his back to the war you could say. In front of him, his fifteen-year-old daughter, Lorrie, rushes towards him with open arms, ... More

An Artwork Made in Cambridge, MA, at the Public Library

04.19.2013  |  By
Filed under: Back Page, Field Notes

In light of the insanity that has gripped Boston for the past few days — the bombings at the marathon’s finish line, the manhunt that resulted in two deaths, and the final capture of one of the bombers — I thought I would share an art piece I made back there in 2009 but never showed anyone.

I was walking on the grounds of the public lib... More


04.18.2013  |  By

The measuring of time is fine-tuned in accuracy down to the leap-second, on New Year’s Day of this year. The epoch of this scale, however, goes back to midnight, January 1, 1970. The scale also measures time before 1970, but in negative numbers. At 15:30:08 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), on Saturday, December 4, in the year 292,277,026,596... More

Happy Birthday, Open Space

04.16.2013  |  By
Filed under: 151 3rd, Field Notes

Open Space turned 5 today. And what a fantastic 5 years it’s been, thanks to the more than 400 people who have written, produced, or talked something into being with us, including our 45 columnists, 5 guest editors, and 3 developers; along with countless designers, interns, staff, and helpers of all kinds; and the more than 1 million people w... More

New NEWS for Open Space

04.15.2013  |  By
Filed under: 151 3rd, Field Notes

I am delighted today to announce that we have three NEW COLUMNISTS getting started this week! Please welcome artist and writer D-L Alvarez; poet Anne Lesley Selcer; and Dana Cohen, who has been working with us on the blog behind the scenes for several years.

In addition to this crew, Open Space alum Tess Thackara is rejoining us, this time in embedded-reporter fashion, writing specifically about SFMOMA as we move forward toward the next phase of museum life, which begins in earnest when the current building closes for expansion on June 2.

As al... More

A slinky, waterworks, and some wires

04.12.2013  |  By

Over at our crowd-sourced Tumblr project we are running a new experiment related to Slow Art Day, asking our fast-moving internet audience to slow down and spend ten uninterrupted minutes looking at something, anything, and write about it. The submissions over there are a lot of fun, and we’ll share some of them here too. We’d love to see what you might do. Submit!


Leora Lutz Reviews OPENING, Curated by Taj Robinson and Nikki Mirsaeid

04.05.2013  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

Leora Lutz submitted this review of the exhibition OPENING, curated by Taj Robinson and Nikki Mirsaeid, in response to an assignment in my dual-degree seminar at California College of the Arts. The ALTAR projects she discusses were on display at Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist in San Francisco, February 1 through 28, 2013. I invited Le... More