Monday, October 20, 2014

Who is Dieter Haack?

23.3.1982, oil on canvas, 35.5” x 557”, 1982

I am always on the lookout for “new” artists – making discoveries of art and artists that are new to me.  I constantly am striving to improve my own, personal, art education.  I see the occasional show, stumble across an artist online, get a tip from a friend, etc.  Rarely do I find such a treasure that is virtually unknown in my circle.  I would be surprised if any of my American readers know the work of Dieter Haack.  Okay, stop reading and just go to his website ( and take a look.

Dieter Haack is a contemporary of Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter, but unlike those two well-known German artists, Haack is somehow overlooked in the United States.  I suppose the art smarties in New York, the gallerists and critics, and their circle of collectors, the ones that sit on boards of directors and open doors to American Museums, all have missed Haack.  I find that shocking.

I learned about Dieter Haack from some of his major collectors.  I feel honored to have some of my work in the same private collection with Mr. Haack. And now, it’s been a long time, but I need to get back to Germany for an art tour and see what else I have been missing….

Friday, October 17, 2014

The SFMOMA comes to the Oakland Museum

I made a visit to the Oakland Museum today.  I was aware they were having a special exhibit where they had borrowed work from the SFMOMA while that museum is closed and under reconstruction and expansion.  I assumed it was work I had seen before and was not expecting anything special – oh how silly of me.  Once again, the Oakland Museum has done an amazing job.  They have integrated their own work and included rarely seen work from both museums’ collection.  Some of the work has never been exhibited before. 

The exhibit, titled Fertile Ground: Art and Community in California is the big don’t miss museum show in the Bay Area right now.  There are four components to the show.  It begins with the 1930’s including WPA art, murals and political work influenced by the San Francisco General Strike of 1934.  The SFMOMA’s Frida Kahlo portrait of her and Diego Rivera looks better than ever and is finally show in context.  After the first section, you pass into the postwar years.  You cross over from Telegraph Hill to North Beach and are immersed in the world of the California School of Fine Arts, Rothko, Diebenkorn, Cunningham et al.  Next it’s up to UC Davis circa 1970 when that little agriculture state university became the epicenter of contemporary art in the Western U.S.  The final component of the show takes viewers to the 1990’s and includes an emphasis on political activism.  There is a series of videos of different demonstrations and political actions back then.  The videos got me all excited when I realized I was at many of those demos.  I have to go and watch them again and look for myself on the walls of the museums.  I already spotted a few people I know.

The show runs through April 12, 2015 and I’ll be back to look a few more times before then.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Moon over Yerba Buena

One evening last week, a few nights after the Full Moon, when it was just beginning to wane, I saw an amazing moonrise from a deck on Telegraph Hill.  The moon was like a big, golden, flaky biscuit as it glowed through the fog and rose dramatically over Yerba Buena Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not), on Saturday I found this piece of mail art from E. Coles in Wales waiting for me in my P.O. Box.  She clearly was channeling some San Francisco energy when she did this one.  And what I also love is its simplicity.  Collage is not as easy as it looks, and sometimes the simplest collages are the hardest to get right.  A simple collage can show when an artist is truly skilled with color and composition – this one is a good example of when it works.   It arrived untitled –  we’ll call it Moon over Yerba Buena Island. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Reflecting Collagescapes?

Some more recent pieces in the mailbox. These ones (maybe I am reading a bit too much into them) seem a bit inspired by my own work.  Not that I would mind that.
  1. Katerina Nikoltsou from Greece sent an envelope of Greek Time with strips of color and packing tape – we all seem to be using packing tape today.
  2. Meral Agar in Turkey sent the The Red Cat 1 - you can never go wrong with cats.
  3. And from Denmark, Marina Salmaso sent a very tactile piece (the scan doesn’t do it justice).

Thank you all, it’s always good to walk up to the post office and have things waiting for me

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Venice 1973

Venice 1973 is a series of 25 pieces of mail art commemorating my grandmother, Dorothy Nykiel.  She would have turned 95 years old this week (October 10).  Each piece includes an image of grandma in her Jackie O sunglasses and smart, faux leopard fur coat visiting Venice in February 1973.  This was no vacation, but one of many overseas business trips.  As a child I thought it was nothing out of the ordinary that my grandmother was a buyer for the china, glassware, lamps and gift departments of a large department store.  She travelled often to New York and annually to Hong Kong and Europe.  This was in an era when a trip to California was still “exotic” for many people.   My grandmother also did the “traditional” grandma things like baking amazing apple pies and spoiling us properly for birthdays and holidays.   It was not until I was an adult, that I understood how remarkable that it was for a woman of her generation to have the career she had and that my grandmother was somewhat of a pioneer.