Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Looking Forward at the SFMOMA

The long wait is over and the new, expanded San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is back.  And, in keeping with the word of 2016, the museum is HUGE!  With the addition added to the existing building, the museum is about three times as big as it was before – making it one of the largest art museums in the country.  Yesterday I was able to get a preview visit before the grand opening on May 14th.
First, let’s talk architecture – last week the Guardian ran a hit piece that was hilarious and whiny in that way only the English can complain.  As amusing as it was, I suspect the reviewer might have only looked at the architectural renderings.  The new building is great – sure one could go through and nitpick with any new building, but overall it is really good.  The museum is spacious, natural light is allowed in and there are additional and welcome terraces where visitors can get some fresh air when they need to take a break.  Fortunately, the Tuesday afternoon preview was not crowded, but even on busy days, the space seems well prepared for crowds to flow through.
It’s the spaciousness that is the key.  A major shortcoming with the old museum was its lack of what I call “vista walls.”  Large, modern pieces need those rooms and galleries where visitors have a nice long approach to the big work.  The new museum has no shortage of clean, open rooms.  And, with plenty of space, many artists are given their own gallery.  There are few modern art museums that can dedicate so many rooms to individual artists. 
The SFMOMA retains its “top-down” plan where the logical approach is to ride the elevator to the top floor (7) and work one’s way down via the stairs.   The museum is so large now, that it has reached the size of “too big to see in one visit.”  Again, the terraces to pause for a rest are welcome along with the extra café areas.  I never see the need for multiple museum gift shops, but I do enjoy having a break and a coffee in the middle of a museum trip.

As you work your down the stairs you find a remodeled third floor focusing on photography.  It’s always been a strong point of the SFMOMA’s collection and the third floor could be a museum in itself.  The second floor becomes familiar as the galleries retain the feel of the older building and include the original collection.  And for all the new, the second speaks mostly to my personal taste — I like the second floor best of all.
As the museum has grown with the addition of the Fisher Collection and plenty of other newly acquired works, what is missing in the massive institution becomes painfully obvious.  There is that persistent, disappointing under-representation of California artists.   Sadly, the SFMOMA remains reluctant to showcase what all Californians should be proud of – our art.   This is why I steer out-of-town visitors towards the Oakland Museum or on to the Crocker in Sacramento and the di Rosa Preserve up in Napa.  While the collection of German modern art is excellent at the SFMOMA, if you have come all the way from Hamburg or Berlin, is that the art you want to see in California?
And of course, unsurprisingly, works by women and artists of color still can be a challenge to find.  One could make a sad scavenger hunt seeking out diversity.  This is a job for the Guerilla Girls! 

The new SFMOMA is a forward-looking building and a great start, but it now needs to grow into the 21st Century and represent a broader cross-section of modern art and artists.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Last week in Santa Fe

I’ve been visiting New Mexico for 20+ years and have reached a point where it feels like a second home to me.  Most trips include some time in Santa Fe to catch up with old friends and see some art.  My Santa Fe is not the one of jewelry shops and galleries catering to high-end tourists.  My Santa Fe is about visiting artists I know and enjoying one of the best collections of museums anywhere on the planet.  And of course some great green chili-smothered food. 

Last week’s trip included a return to the Museum of International Folk Art (a perennial favorite).  The current special exhibits, particularly Flamenco: From Spain to New Mexico are excellent.

One of the best parts of my trip was going to the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts.  Forward, an exhibit/installation of Eliza Naranjo Morse’s work (see above) is something I could like form a purely aesthetic point of view.  But, when an artist’s work is set in a context of family tradition and it reflects the role we all play in the continuum of time, well that makes it magical and a goal I strive towards myself as an artist. Or in her own words:
“Perhaps we yearn to make our lives good and find balance because even when we are completely challenged there is the unrelenting proof in each of us that we are survivors, that we are the result of our ancestors histories and that eventually we will become ancestors.”

Seeking out Eliza Naranjo Morse’s work will always be on my agenda for future trips to New Mexico. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Exchanges and Returns

Mail art goes out and mail art comes in.  Quite a few responses have been arriving in recent weeks, including these:
  1. Jemma Pine completed a mail art exchange form New Zealand.
  2. Some collage fish and colored fibers on a piece from Meral Agar in Istanbul.
  3. A photo collage from Marina Salmaso in Denmark.
  4. Pia Zaragoza sent a piece that features a Michael Jackson and Priscilla Presley rubber stamp.
  5. Jane Gravois is participating in a global “heart exchange.”
  6. Dean Marks (aka Artist-in-Seine) feels sorry for getting carried away.  There is no need to apologize for too much art.
  7. A piece from my Remove-and-Pass series went around the world.  First to Greece and then to Taiwan where William Mellott added an envelope of collage fodder and some nice ATCs before sending it all back to me in San Francisco.
  8. And finally, R.F. Côté participated in my Remove-and-Pass series and returned a piece.  I can’t wait to finds out where the rest of it went.

Thanks for all the fun stuff, soon more mail art will be on its way out.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Creeks and Dunes 16

Last Friday a friend and I took a little drive to Pescadero and back. I love how you can get just minutes south of Pacifica on Route 1 and quickly feel like you have driven hours and hours away from a big city.  Pescadero has always been a favorite quick escape. The purpose of this trip was some photography or an ongoing project.   In the meantime I could not resist another quick series of 16 4”x4” paintings using the photos.  They include places like San Gregorio Creek and Pescadero Marsh.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

April Mail

It’s been a college-o-rama in recent days arriving in my PO Box.  Here are some of the latest arrivals:
  1. Returns have been coming back from my Remove-and-Pass series, Jennifer Utter’s was the first to arrive.
  2. Angelique Evan’s spring greeting incorporated a peep – you can never go wrong with peep-art. 
  3. Kerosene’s sturdy piece made its way across the continent from Québec.
  4. Diane Keys sent a new add-n-pass as well as this piece featuring the windy meats.
  5. Leap Year Mail from Dean Marks the Artist-in-Seine.  It’s always a challenge to find the actual postage stamp that was used for this piece.
  6. Angela Behrendt responded to my Remove-and-Pass series with some beer and, are those hops-based costumes, dancers.
  7. Bad Wolf Mail Art from Amy Barstow.
  8. Julie Crossman sent a postcard about her art installation at the Exploratorium in San Francisco.
  9. Brooke Cooks sent some mail art about Greg and a dog.
  10. Carol Thomas sent an envelope full of goodies that included a response to the  Remove-and-Pass series on one side and a fish with a hidden fortune on the other side. 
  11. Designer Cliff Roxburgh sent some one of his mini-polaroid postcards featuring some “public art I found in NYC” with the hope I would have a way to improve on it.
  12. And finally, Robin Sparrow sent a postcard from New Zealand.  It included a slide of some vintage Kiwi school kids.  Is one of them Robin?  After it got dark I realized the postage stamp featuring a glowworm cave – glows in the dark! Just another reason why New Zealand is awesome!

Thank you everyone for the mail, more going out soon….