October 15, 2008

Collection Rotation: Heidi De Vries

Our regular feature, “Collection Rotation“. Once a month I invite a local guest to organize lists, groupings, or ‘exhibitions’ from our permanent collection. Our guest this month is KALX DJ and local blogger Heidi De Vries, who has spoiled us with a very personal look at some of her favorite works. She includes notes about her selections along the way. Thanks, Heidi! P.S.! Heidi! Thanks!

LINER NOTES: For my Collection Rotation I picked artworks that I remember from my countless visits to SFMOMA over the last decade as having strong emotional resonance for me, and then linked those pieces to music tracks that summon similar feelings. The Janet Cardiff and the Christian Marclay (below) have their own integral soundtracks already, so those I left “blank”. Otherwise while I explain below why I selected a particular piece of art, I’m just going to let the accompanying music speak for itself.

It was in Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture garden in St Ives, England, at the very end of my teenage years that I truly connected to modern art for the first time, in a moment that was nothing less than epiphany. I still get a residual thrill down my spine every time I run into one of her pieces:

Barbara Hepworth, Landscape Sculpture, 1944/1961

Barbara Hepworth, Landscape Sculpture, 1944/196. Bronze and string. Collection SFMOMA

Sigur Rós: “Glósóli” from Takk…, Geffen 2005

My awesome and super-smart physicist grandfather worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II, and since I’ve been old enough to reason I’ve been aware of the moral ambiguities surrounding what he was asked to do by his government. Chris Burden nails the horror and confusion of the birth of the atomic age at the same time that he tries to set some order to it. Victory is in there, but it’s pretty darn close to the bottom:

Chris Burden, The Atomic Alphabet, 1980.  Photoetching, soft-ground etching, and watercolor on paper. Collection SFMOMA.
Crystal Castles: “Untrust Us” from Crystal Castles, Last Gang 2008

I can relate to the worried faces of McGee’s sad sack characters, and as someone who loves to roam city streets the references in his work back to his roots in graffiti and street art make me very happy. His wife, the late Margaret Kilgallen, is also my favorite artist ever.

Barry McGee, _Untitled_, 1996. Mixed media.

Barry McGee, Untitled, 1996. Mixed media installation. Collection SFMOMA. 
Tom Waits: “Widow’s Grove” from Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards, Anti 2006

Marclay brings together three of my great passions: music, art, and film. And with some devastatingly good editing too. It almost seems cruel to include this one on a blog where you can’t see it in motion or hear it, so next time it goes on display I highly recommend making a special trip. In the meanwhile, there’s an unauthorized bootleg shot at Tate Modern over at YouTube.

Christian Marclay, _Video Quartet_ 2002

Christian Marclay, Video Quartet, 2002. Four channel video projection with sound. Collection SFMOMA

I very much admire Hesse’s fearlessness, especially in her use of unconventional (and dangerous!) materials, and I love the metaphors she draws between architectural forms and the body. She is an absolute inspiration:

Eva Hesse, _Sans II_, 1968

Eva Hesse, Sans II, 1968. Fiberglass and polyester resin. Collection SFMOMA.
Magazine: “A Song from Under the Floorboards” from The Correct Use of Soap, Virgin 1980

Another piece to be experienced in person, Cardiff leads the listener into an immersive and wonderfully disorienting mini-tour of SFMOMA using her voice and a video camera as guide. I’ve done it many times and my heart still stutters during the part in the employee stairwell, as menacing footsteps approach…

Janet Cardiff, The Telephone Call, 2001; digital media; audio and video walk through the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, dimensions variable; Collection SFMOMA, Purchase through a gift of Pamela and Richard Kramlich and the Accessions Committee Fund: gift of Jean and James E. Douglas Jr., Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein, Patricia and Raoul Kennedy, Phyllis and Stuart G. Moldaw, Lenore Pereira-Niles and Richard Niles, and Judy and John Webb; © Janet Cardiff

Janet Cardiff, The Telephone Call, 2001. Audio and video walk through the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Collection SFMOMA.

Nota Bene: Janet Cardiff’s piece will be available again as part of the upcoming Art of Participation exhibition, starting Nov 8–SS

The voyeuristic aspect of watching Kiarostami’s film of a sleeping couple is completely seductive to me, as in real time they move together and then apart in a rhythm uniquely their own. Simultaneously sexy and sweet, part of the allure of the piece comes from the fact it is projected onto what looks like a bed, right on the floor of the gallery:


Abbas Kiarostami, Sleepers, 2001. Single channel video projection on white thin rubber, tarp, or sheet. Collection SFMOMA. © Abbas Kiarostami
His Name Is Alive: “Where Knock Is Open Wide” from Mouth by Mouth, 4AD 1992

Everything Richter does is amazing to me, both his photorealistic paintings and his more abstract work. One of my cats is named Richter after him (the other one is named Cardiff after Janet):


Gerhard Richter, Lesende (Reading), 1994. Oil on linen. Collection SFMOMA
Angels of Light: “Kosinski” from Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home, Young God 2003

A fellow Dutchwoman, Dijkstra’s photos of young people on the beach reference the lighting and poses of Renaissance painting at the same time that they capture that totally awkward moment between childhood and modern adulthood. My godchild Sophie is rapidly approaching this moment herself, so I’ve been thinking a lot about how best I can help her through:


Rineke Dijkstra, Hilton Head Island, SC USA, June 24, 1992, 1992. Chromogenic print. Collection SFMOMA.
Caesars: “Fun and Games” from 39 Minutes of Bliss (In an Otherwise Meaningless World), Astralwerks 2003

No actual body here, just the imprint of Mendieta’s form. Her work always makes me think of the intangibility of what we leave behind after we’re gone:

ana mendieta

Ana Mendieta, Untitled, from the series Silueta Works in Iowa, 1978. Gelatin silver print Collection SFMOMA.
Wire: “Ahead” from The Ideal Copy, Mute 1986

Time marches inexorably forward as Miyajima’s long line of LED-light counter numbers roll over, some fast and some very slow. You know what number will follow another number but not necessarily when, and it is totally my personality to stare at a particularly stubborn counter and will it to move:

Tatsuo Miyajima

Tatsuo Miyajima, Counter Line, 1997. 224 red LEDs, 6 aluminum rails, 6 transformers, and connecting wire. Collection SFMOMA.
k-os: “The Love Song” from Joyful Rebellion, Astralwerks 2004

This video consists of a single shot of a cat drinking a bowl of cream, absolutely brilliant in its simplicity. I don’t remember a soundtrack beyond perhaps a gentle lapping of milk; I thought here it would be OK to add a little Trenet. The first time I saw the piece there was a small boy in the room watching with me, and as soon as the cat finished its bowl he threw his hands up in the air and declared happily: “All done!”

Peter Fischli

Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Busi (Kitty), 2001. Single-channel video with sound. Collection SFMOMA.
Charles Trenet: “Boum!” from Y’a D’la Joie, Chanson Francaise 1997

Heidi De Vries works in media production by day and spends all her extracurricular time soaking up art and culture in the Bay Area and cities around the world. She is also a volunteer DJ at KALX Berkeley 90.7fm and is currently on the air Sunday afternoons 3-6pm. You can also find her at her blog, Engineer’s Daughter.

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