Monday, May 30, 2016

Mail Art May

As May comes to a close, it is time to sort through the latest arrivals of mail art that have been waiting for me my P.O. Box.  Some of the recent highlights include:
  1. I can’t read Chinese, but I think Sagerush Moderne’s latest piece includes a medical chart.
  2. Suus in Mokum’s latest mail art awesomeness arrived the other day.  I like how it even compliments the Imaginary Landscape series I have been working.
  3. A new piece of environmental awareness mail art came from Karen Lindquist in New Mexico.  The one is about WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant) near Carlsbad where nuclear waste is being dumped underground.  There have been leaks.
  4. A magical mixed media landscape arrived from Esther Kamkar.
  5. Josh Dellinger sent what he calls Cyber Threat Art.
  6. E. Coles latest piece arrived in another handmade hexagonal envelope with what looks like the map of planet we are yet to visit.
  7. The scan of Hilal Tursoluk’s latest piece from Istanbul doesn’t show off the metallic paint added to the image.  It is even better in person.
  8. Fleur Helsingor’s new piece documented her robot making adventure after a trip to the San Jose Museum of art.
  9. After responding to a mail art call, Eberhard Janke sent a zine with even more for me to do.  As busy as I am, I always can squeeze in another art project.
  10. Finally Nico van Hoorn has sent mail art announcing he will no longer send mail art. 

I can understand how that could happen, it can get a little overwhelming (and expensive) keeping up with mail art.  As I am heading to a period of intense work for my solo show in October, I expect I will inevitably get behind on responding as well in the coming months.  I’ll be sorry to no longer receive mail art from Nico, but I just may send him something now and then anyway.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The San Francisco Postcard Book

Postcards shown include work by Jan Heyneker, Atmos Fiere, Patrick Turner and Glen Scantlebury

On Wednesdays I usually head down to Civic Center to the farmers’ market.  On the way I stop at the Steps of the Library Sale.  The Friends of the SFPL sell off unwanted books that are one step away from the recycling bin.  Everything costs one dollar.  Some weeks I leave empty handed, some weeks I find a book I want to read and I often find tattered, old books that will be used in my own art projects.  This week’s find was a book of ready to use postcards from the 1980s called The San Francisco Postcard Book.
From 1987, shortly before I arrived myself, the now vintage book is a nice time capsule of 80’s graphics art with photography that captures a familiar but much-changed San Francisco in 24 removable postcards.  I found nothing online about the book or the art group behind it, A.R.E. (Artist Revolutionaries in the Eighties).  Of the 12 participating artists I found two have current websites (some other names matched, but I am not certain if they are the ones in the book).  Check out the work of Jo Babcock and Patrick Turner (I particular like his photo postcard of the old Eastern Span of the Bay Bridge).

It is tempting to remove the postcards and start mailing them out – but for now, I am just going to hang onto this piece of 1980s art and keep it in my own personal library.  I got it all for $1.

Embarcadero #2, John Zax

Blue, Glue and Gold, John Grau

Friday, May 6, 2016

Mail All Over the Map

The latest round of mail art to arrive is a reminder that this is a global adventure with mail coming from close by, just over the hill in Noe Valley to all the way from South Africa.  With additional mail from Québec, British Columbia, Germany, the Netherlands, Turkey and Hungary.  As a twelve year old, I had a few pen pals, but it really has all come full circle for me.  Here are some of the latest pieces:
  1. Two pieces from my Remove-and-Pass series came back.  Both used postcards of a map collage I did back in 2003.  There was one from Torma Cauli in Budapest. 
  2. Another arrived from Meral Agar in Istanbul.
  3. A new piece of recycled material from the school kids in the Netherlands.  We are getting ready to plan the second Pink Mail Art show – I am going to be putting these kids to work soon.
  4. A marvelous little booklet with postal history from Pamela Gerard.
  5. Adrienne Mason also sent a great ephemera-filled handmade book as well.
  6. Kerosene (aka Carolyn Oord) sent a map-themed postcard that can even teach me a little French.
  7. Angela Behrendt sent a photo piece commemorating President Obama’s latest trip to Germany.
  8. And finally, a fantastic haul from Cuan Miles.  I love it all, and I need to get myself a Nelson Mandela rubber stamp!

Time to get back to making art and ready for our mail art extravaganza this weekend with the San Francisco Correspondence Coop celebrating its 5th Anniversary.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

New Mexico always recharges my “Art Batteries”

Another series of small (4”x4”), quick studies inspired by my recent trip to New Mexico includes places like Pecos National Historic Park and the ruins in Jemez.  Now it’s time to work on some bigger paintings…

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.