Thursday, August 22, 2019

Middle Ground at the Main Library

Yesterday's visit to the Steps Sale  at the main library was also my first chance to check out the Exploratorium's new installation/exhibit Middle Ground: Reconsidering ourselves and others.  
Art, community engagement and I found a tattered, but serviceable first edition of a work by Brendan Behan for the sum of $1.  

Monday, August 19, 2019

Three Museum Weekend

Any visit to Southern California offers a huge choice and variety of art museums to see.  I got a look at four excellent shows this weekend in three museums.

Proyecto Queer Icons, Gabriel Garcia Román

Long Beach’s Museum of Latin American Art  was the first stop.  This summer the entire museum is devoted to Gráfica América, a comprehensive showcase including artist collectives, print shops and publishing houses.  The exhibit features work by over 100 U.S. and Latin American artists.   It’s an opportunity to get a sampling of a wide variety of print work ranging from historic and traditional print methods to digital processes.  The only regret was, in many cases, that I wanted to see more work from some of the artists shown.  I was snapping photos of prints and museum labels with my phone for the purpose of looking up many of these artists online.  Of course I was excited to see map themed prints from artists like Lorena Pradal   and Maria Villanueva  and the final gallery offers print making opportunities for visitors that include making postcards (yay!).

Self Portrait, Patrick Angus

I enjoyed all the shows I saw over the weekend, but the one that blew me away was the Patrick Angus retrospective at the Long Beach Museum of Art.  I was unfamiliar with Patrick Angus until this past Saturday.  He was a painter’s painter with work that is unmistakably Californian in light, style in palette.  His life was sadly cut short when he died from AIDS in 1992.  The two New York cityscapes shown are something akin to California meets Hopper.  The influence of many artists from Diebenkorn to Picasso to Hockney comes through in his work.  The work is far from derivative but shows an artist with an observant eye who makes each painting his own.  The Galerie Thomas Fuchs has a good sampling of Angus’s work on their website.  I wish this exhibit was going on tour after it closes — Patrick Angus’s work needs to be seen.

Bob Mizer, historic costume

There was a smaller show of Bob Mizer’s work at the same museum.  From books, film and the internet I am no stranger to Mizer’s work.  But what made this show special, beyond the photography, was the collection of props, costumes and memorabilia — oh the stories those jockstraps could tell.  I really want to see it all find a home in the Smithsonian.
Sunday afternoon found me wandering the historic heart of Los Angeles with a visit to La Plaza de Cultura y Artes.  After some L.A. history, it was time to explore Linda Vallejo’s large solo exhibition Brown Belongings.  Her mandala-like and graphic pieces seem straightforward and stand alone on their visuals but look closely and read the labels and see each one is embedded with meaning and statistics documenting Latinx demographics and culture. In these times, it never hurts to remind us we live in multicultural and diverse society.  The second floor included many pieces from her Make ‘Em All Mexican series with the latinxafication of many of cultural and historical icons.  With some brown paint and pigment, you get a revised perspective on everyone from Marilyn Monroe, to Bob’s Big Boy, to George Washington to “Mateo” Damon.   The pieces have a serious message, but they are great fun.  It’s the sort of show that would trigger the deplorables — but they would not even get out of their cars if they found themselves in that part of L.A.  The ceramics are safe.

Make ‘Em All Mexican series, Linda Vallejo

A weekend with three museums reaffirms why Los Angles (and environs) is one of the world’s great art cities.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Play Money or Play with Money?

Are collages made from play money a better investment than cryptocurrency?  
Today a new series of mail art is on the way around the world. Each collage is made with play money including dollars, pesos, pounds and euros.  And how about some play bitcoin?  A printer and circular hole punch and voila!  Little paper coins featuring some of the people who are destroying our world.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Not Your Grandma’s Chandeliers

July in San Francisco is typically a cold month, the fog and wind keeps us in the 60’s.  As pleasant as that might sound if you’re sweltering in the rest of the country, we start to miss the warm weather.  But just a quick trip down to Palo Alto and it was 84° and sunny yesterday.  The destination was the Cantor Arts Center down at Stanford.

When I previewed Josiah McElheny’s Island Universe  on the website, I was not particular excited. At quick glance I saw photos of what looked to me like bunch of retro chandeliers.  Maybe it is the damage of working in the world of interior design for 10+ years.  Well, McElheny is doing something far more amazing than pretty baubles to dangle over dining tables.  It is art, it is astronomy and photos can’t do it justice.  And once again I am reminded why, given the opportunity, you always need to see art in person.

I always enjoy the juxtaposition of old and new at the Cantor and after wandering past the Rodin horde, I encountered Do Ho Suh’s The Spaces in Between– this alone is worth a trip.   Now this is a chandelier!  When you enter the room, you don’t realize it is made up of plastic action figures.  The same for the colorful screen.  I didn’t immediately realize the wallpaper was part of the installation.  It appears to be some sort of 1970s grass cloth pattern until you step closer and realize it is a grid of teensy yearbook portraits (magnifying glasses provided).  Art that is not what it appears, color, grids and color.  I was in heaven and reminded once again that one day I must visit Korea, if just to see contemporary art.   
To finish off the visit one has to get lost in the Richard Serra and imagine they are in some canyon in the Desert Southwest. 

Friday, July 12, 2019

Remembering the VW Beetle

It saddens me that Volkswagen has decided to cease production of the Beetle. I have lived in San Francisco for nearly 30 years without owning a car.  But I have fond memories of zipping around in that orange, 1973, VW Super Beetle during college.  That car was so fast.  I actually have dreams where I still drive that car.  After a trip to Europe, I plastered the back of the car with stickers in various languages, mostly anti-nuclear.  Some were even bought in the gift shopof an occupied building in Kiel, Germany.

To commemorate the Beetle with some mail art, I am mailing out an add-n-pass where the recipients can sticker a VW and, eventually, return these to me.

I you are a mail artist and would like to participate, you can even download a PDF  version of the add-n-pass, print it out, add something, and then mail it to the next artist.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Post-Vacation Summer Mail

I returned from a trip to Mexico to find a post office box stuffed with fun things.  Including some zines that will force me to work even more on my Spanish.  I truly appreciate the way Valdor compiles the mail art he receives and sends out these zines.  It’s a lot of work, not to mention the cost.  Kathy Barnett continues to outdo herself with these interactive, moveable pieces.  The most recent is like a school cafeteria lunch at the aquarium. The latest characters from the Museum of Unclaimed Ephemera arrived, they were a bit roughed up by some postal machinery.  And some of my Surreal Baseball pieces are returning to me with some re-working.  This Summer’s mail art (so far) includes the following:
  1. Dori Singh – California 
  2. Gregg Biggs – Museum of Unclaimed Ephemera – California
  3. Lorella Castagnini – Italy 
  4. Fleur Helsingor- California 
  5. Carolyn Oord (aka Kerosone) - Québec/Canada 
  6. Bonniediva – Illinois 
  7. Debra Mulnick – Idaho
  8. Orlando Nelson Pacheco Acuña  – Chile 
  9. Sagebrush Moderne – California 
  10. Kathy Barnett – Missouri
  11. Peter Müller – Germany
  12. Valdor – Catalonia/Spain
  13. Serse Luigetti – Italy
  14. Mindaugas Žuromskas – Lithuania 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Back to Richmond, California

Sometimes I come across an old postcard that is so unique, it is too good to cut-up for my art.   This postcard booklet of Richmond, California is an example of one that was just special. It was given to me by a friend who had pile of her late Uncle Bill’s postcards. He had saved them for decades.  
In July 1945 Helen Ausenbaum was in Richmond and working for the Red Cross when she mailed this to her brother Bill who was stationed in Europe. By that time Captain Ausenbaum had fought across Europe.  A year before he landed at Normandy in a glider.  He was at the Battle of the Bulge and with the 82nd Airborne when they liberated the Wöbbelin Concentration Camp.  Uncle Bill was awarded both the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
Last year I contacted the Rosie the Riveter WWII Homefront National Historic Parkand asked if they wanted the postcard booklet for their collection, which they did.  Recently it was added to one of their exhibits.  I wonder what Helen and Bill would say about this simple postcard coming back to Richmond, 74 years later, and being an historic artifact in a national park museum.

If you have never visited the Rosie the Riveter National Historic Park, I highly recommend it.  It honors the thousands of women and men who contributed to the war effort at home during World War II while presenting a fascinating chapter of history.  It also serves as reminder for the present.  Reminding us what we can accomplish if we all come together, work hard and are willing to make sacrifices for the common good.  The park offers a lesson plan for the fight to combat climate change.