Tom’s Garden

Growing by the Bay

Category: art (Page 1 of 2)

Julius Shulman at new Robert Berman Gallery

julius shulman photography at robert berman galleryNot all businesses are contracting in the down economy. Robert Berman, based in Santa Barbara, has opened a new gallery in San Francisco, located at 1632 Market Street. For its inaugural show, the gallery is featuring historical photos (newly printed) of San Francisco by Julius Shulman. Shown is San Francisco Bay Bridge under Construction, 1934.


The Upper Crust

art installation by patrick dougherty

The strange shapes lurching over the pollarded trees of Civic Center Plaza are not homeless shelters — they are an “environmental sculpture installation,” entitled The Upper Crust, by Patrick Dougherty. The eight-foot tall structures are made of  18,000 lbs. of willow saplings interwoven into the sycamore trees. No fastenings were used; instead, the saplings were bent and twisted through the branches.

The installation will run through November.

environmental art installation by patrick dougherty


Ellen Christensen at Cafe 504

A display of Ellen Christensen’s ink drawings will be on view at the 504 Cafe, 504 Wesley Avenue, on the northeast side of Lake Merritt in Oakland, through March 1. It’s worth checking out!

ellen christensen at cafe 504, oakland


Love (now get back to work)

Here’s a belated valentine for back-to-work day following Valentine’s Day and the Presidents Day holiday. For Valentine’s Day Namastenancy linked to Robert Indiana’s Love painting — though a different version than the one featured on the SFMOMA web site, which I won’t show since it carries a copyright notice from the artist (so much for free love).

The sculpture in Philadelphia’s JFK Plaza (“Love Park”) is fair game though. Here’s a photo I took a few years ago.

love park, philadelphia


Maxwell Loren Holyoke-Hirsch


More than one hundred examples of work by San Francisco artist Maxwell Loren Holyoke-Hirsch will be on sale at Tiny showcase at 7:30 EST, July 15. Via San Francisco Art & Design Lover.


Alton Kelley, 1940-2008

alton kelley

Alton Kelley, one of the pioneers of the SF psychedelic graphic arts movement, has died. Kelley and his longtime collaborator Stanley Mouse helped to fashion a style that featured bold colors, play with figure-ground, allusions to art nouveau, and wildly subversive typography. Psychedelic artists like Kelley were forerunners of the more grunge-oriented illegibility movement in graphic design of the end of the twentieth century.

But, as in this poster for a tribute to Chet Helms — despite its brash colors — Kelley at times showed a tendency to restraint and even classical balance in composition. He was one of the people who defined an era in the city, and I’m sorry to see him go.


Victor Arnautoff, Bay Area depression era muralist

city life by victor arnautoff, at san francisco's coit tower

Victor Arnautoff studied at the California School of Fine Arts before going to Mexico, where he worked as an assistant to muralist Diego Rivera; his subsequent work shows a strong Rivera influence. He created several murals in the Bay Area during the 1930s. Above is City Alive, which is located at the base of Coit Tower. Arnautoff was influential in developing the art program for the San Francisco landmark. A close look at his contribution shows the Daily Worker and other leftist papers on the newsrack — but no Chronicle.

Arnautoff also did several paintings for the Roth Building in Palo Alto. Commissioned by a co-founder of the Palo Alto Medical Clinic, the paintings celebrate medical progress. “The Exam,” below is said to have caused traffic accidents when unveiled. Other locations of works by Arnautoff in the Bay Area include the chapel in the Presidio and the library of the San Francisco Art Institute. Arnautoff taught at Stanford University from 1939 until 1963 and then returned to Russia.

the exam by victor arnuatoff, in palo alto's historic center


Source of images: landaz’s photostream and


Vicki Saulls

vicki saulls

Vicki Saulls does interesting ceramic sculpture. The image above is from the North Beach pool and clubhouse in San Francisco. The work was commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission.

I’d like to show you her beautiful California native plant ceramic tiles. But that image is running with a copyright notice, so I can’t. This is why I urge you to consider replacing copyright notices with creative commons licenses.

San Francisco graffiti

graffiti of san francisco

The image is from GypsyRock’s photostream. GypsyRock has been documenting San Francisco graffiti for some time, having amassed a photoset comprising 1110 photos.

What has always struck me about graffiti, throughout the world, is how essentially conservative it is. You might expect that such a transgressive medium would give birth to a chaotic range of expressioin, but in fact there are a few main styles that you see over and over again in different elaborations.

With such a large photoset, the graffiti depicted in GypsyRock’s images vary in quality, but some strikingly original and expressive examples are included.

Gallery 415

Pata Negra, by Luis Luna Matiz of Colombia

Gallery 415, located at 49 Geary Street, features work by emerging and mid career Latin American artists. It’s great finally to see a gallery in the city devoted to this large, diverse, and creative region. I think Gallery 415 will be celebrating its first anniversary this weekend. It is currently displaying work by Claudio Roncoli of Argentina. Shown is Pata Negra, by Luis Luna Matiz of Colombia, from the gallery’s inaugural show a year ago.

I learned about this gallery from Namastenancy.


Bouquets to Art

The Fine Arts Museums presents its 24th annual Bouquets to Art at the de Young March 11 through 15 this year. It’s always a good idea to go early before the flowers start to look a little wilted (prepare for crowds). This year floral arrangers will prepare some 150 bouquets to accompany the museum’s regular artwork.

I posted quite a few photos of the 2006 Bouquets to Art but, although I took photos the next year, I don’t think I ever managed to find the time to put many of them on the web. The light level in museums is always low, and this is a case where a digital SLR would be a real benefit. Instead, I still shoot with my Canon A620 — without a flash of course; it pains me to see people ruining their photos that way! — and then fix the images in Photoshop. Because of the low lighting I keep the aperture wide open and the zoom at the wide extreme (I just move the camera closer if I need to zoom in). Since I can’t bring myself to post raw images, my photo prep work is a little time consuming

Here are a couple of images from last year’s event.

bouquets to art 2007

bouquets to art 2007

San Francisco Ballet: pornography?

san francisco ballet

This year the San Francisco Ballet, celebrating its 75th year, will premiere ten ballets by ten choreographers, including Julia Adam, Val Caniparoli, Jorma Elo, Margaret Jenkins, James Kudelka, Mark Morris, Yuri Possokhov, Paul Taylor, Stanton Welch and Christopher Wheeldon. I was interesting in learning more. But when I looked on Google for the ballet’s website, this is what I found (exactly as I found it, nothing manipulated, except for the addition of the red arrow):

google says san francisco ballet is pornography

In the interest of research, I clicked on the editorializing link, and I was taken here:

stumbleupon's opinion of sf ballet

So what has happened here is a few (presumably) members of StumbleUpon tagged the San Francisco Ballet’s website as a porn site — perhaps they are uptight types who object to images like the one at the top of this post, harmless as it is. (Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith in Wheeldon’s After The Rain, © Erik Tomasson, from the ballet’s website.) And, on the basis of that, Google dutifully passes along the porn tag with its site links. This seems to me a dangerous practice. For example, it would be easy for a dirty trickster to tar an opposing candidate’s site in this way. I wonder if the inclusion of the tag would lock the site down on computers with certain parental controls in place.

With the objectionable images of all kinds that are thrown at us every day, it is discouraging to see a beautiful site like the SF Ballet’s marred with this kind of tag. Again, to be clear, the tag comes from StumbleUpon, not Google — I think you might need to be running the StumbleUpon toolbar in order to see it. But whether it is Google or StumbleUpon that is responsible, is it really appropriate to pass on such tags with search results?


Abstract rhythms

Abstract Rhythms: Paul Klee and Devendra Banhart is the title of an exhibition at SFMOMA that will feature a performance by Banhart. He will perform 8:00 p.m., January 17, in the Phyllis Wattis Theater. The event is sold out, but the museum is selling tickets for a live simulcast of the performance. Banhart will also perform Jan. 19 at Amoeba Records. From the museum’s website:

Music was a consistent source of inspiration for Paul Klee, spanning the arc of his career and informing much of his practice. This exhibition features works by Klee that reveal his affinity for music, as well as new drawings by Devendra Banhart, a musician and visual artist, made in conjunction with his most recent album, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon. Part of an ongoing presentation within Matisse and Beyond, the exhibition highlights the synesthetic relationship present in both artists’ works on paper, drawing on Dr. Carl Djerassi’s gifts and extended loans to SFMOMA of more than 150 works by Klee.

Here is a video of a performance by Banhart.

SF Neighborhoods: another view

san francisco neighborhood map from ork posters

This cool San Francisco neighborhood map is currently sold out from ORK posters, but I assume it will be back in print at some point. It’s much more sophisticated from a graphic design point of view than this version.

The typeface appears to be FF DIN Condensed.

(Note that the map is copyrighted by ORK design and should be purchased from them.)

An alternative to the Fisher Museum?

An alternative proposal to the Fisher Art Museum in the Presidio has been put forward by a group of historians and conservationists. The group supports a smaller museum devoted to the local history. Will the proposal get a fair hearing? Doubtful. The Chronicle reports:

Opponents of Fisher’s museum plan complain that the competition sounds more wide open than it is. The formal request for proposals, for example, says that any new building “should take advantage of roof levels for display of public art,” something that works a lot better for an art museum than a history center.

The trust’s plan “was specifically designed to accommodate the contemporary art museum,” said Whitney Hall, one-time commandant of the Presidio and now a director of the historical association.

Trust officials deny that the art museum is a done deal. The directors will listen to the competing proposals at a Dec. 3 meeting and then make a decision based on what’s best for the Presidio, said Dana Polk, a spokeswoman for the Presidio Trust.

Joseph Cornell exhibition overview

The SFMOMA exhibition page.

Pan American Unity

pan american unity detail one

In 1940, Friday Kahlo and Diego Rivera, who had been divorced for a year, met on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco. Rivera was in town to paint Pan American Unity, a large mural commissioned by the Golden Gate International Exposition.

pan american unity friday kahlo detail

In the mural, Rivera had depicted himself with his back to his ex-wife. In the image he was holding the hand of Hollywood starlet Paulette Goddard. The gesture, Rivera said, symbolized “closer Pan-Americanism.” When the mural was unveiled, Kahlo did not attend the ceremony. “I do not want to meet Paulette and other dames,” she said.

Then, to the surprise of many, Rivera and Kahlo showed up together on December 8 at City Hall. There they were quickly married for a second time. But within a couple of weeks Kahlo — who had married on the condition that there would be no sex between the two and that Rivera would support her financially — left for Mexico, never to return to the city.

At the advent of the war the mural was put in storage, where it remained for two decades. Today it hangs in the lobby of the theater at City College, testament to the midcentury affairs of artists and nations.

For more, see Intersections: True Tales of San Francisco


Fisher Contemporary Art Museum of the Presidio

don fisher, gap founderGap founder Donald Fisher’s announced intention to build a new museum in the Presidio has been widely reported. Namastenancy has posted a good summary. Apparently Mr. Fisher has a fine collection of modern and contemporary art, although it is difficult to tell at this time “whether the Fisher collection has institutional quality, like the Frick, the Barnes, the Hirshhorn, the Phillips, the Mellon (the National Gallery),” as Howard Junker asks, “or whether it will be merely a beau geste like the The Hess Collection (in Napa) or a dreadful provinciality like the di Rosa Preserve (also in Napa).”

But let’s say the collection is world class. There are still some things about this story that I find a little disturbing. First, Mr. Fisher negotiated with both SFMOMA ad the Fine Arts Museums to donate his collection to one of San Francisco’s existing museums that feature modern art. Negotiations in both instances proved fruitless. Maybe the problem was just finding an adequate space for the collection. But it doesn’t sound like that was the biggest stumbling block. Instead, it sounds like Mr. Fisher wanted to dictate curatorial content: what is displayed, when, and how. Money speaks in this town, but should it curate our art in this blatant a manner?

Second, the plans call for a 100,000 square foot museum, with more gallery space than SFMOMA. That sounds great, but the Presidio is a city treasure, and I fear this is another step in its destruction. Isn’t this too large a museum for the location that is proposed, especially considering the massive parking structure that will no doubt come with it?

But there is no effective review process for what is being done to the Presidio. (When the army pulled out, the Presidio was supposed to have become a national park. Instead, it is being given over to enterprises like George Lucas’s private business campus.) The only approval required is that of the seven-member Presidio Trust Board. Guess who was a founding member of the Presidio Trust Board?

Don Fisher (pdf link).

The image of Don Fisher is taken from an interesting article by Daniela Kirshenbaum that appeared on Fog City Journal.

A scholar’s rock by Zhan Wang

Yesterday’s mystery image was a detail from a stainless steel “scholar’s rock” by the contemporary Chinese artist Zhan Wang. The example shown is displayed on the patio near the cafe at the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park; the green colors were reflections of the trees and plants outside the museum.

zhan wang

zhan wang

zhan wang

What is it?

mystery san francisco artwork

It’s a detail from an artwork prominently displayed in an often-visited place in San Francisco. Who can guess what the artwork is? Take a wild stab! Points for artist, style, well, anything really …

Answer tomorrow.

Yoshitoshi’s Strange Tales

a woman protects the nation, by taiso yoshitoshi

The above image fascinates me. It’s from an exhibition of the prints of Taiso Yoshitoshi (1839-1892), currently showing at the Asian Art Museum in the city’s civic center.

Yoshitoshi witnessed a period of great transition in Japan, during which the country essentially went from feudalism to modernism. He works out of the ukiyo-e or “floating world” woodblock tradition, but instead of beautiful pictures of actors and courtesans he prefers themes from folklore and history — as well as thinly veiled comments on contemporary events, despite a prohibition against such subjects. He is often associated with the macabre and unsettling (curiously, like his European and American literary contemporaries Baudelaire and Poe), but this dismissive characterization does him a disservice. Besides his sophisticated design skills, he is a master of psychology, often capturing telling moments when stories devolve on some poignant revelation — the moment of seeing in a mirror that a beautiful women is actually a demon, for example.

This work is called “A Woman Saves the Nation.” The figure in the middle is the shogun Tsunayoshi . He has been duped by a conniving minister, Yanagisawa, and is essentially in the grip of a magic spell. On the left is his wife. With a troubled expression she holds the knife with which she will kill the minister and then commit suicide.The large figure on the right is a woman in the emperor’s dream. The pattern of cherry blossoms and cracked ic on her robe has connotations of sex between a young woman and an older man.

The entire work has an extraordinary decorative quality that is almost Klimpt-like. The blockprint colors are unusually bright and saturated. The planes of the composition are staggeringly complex and assured. I think this is an absolutely brilliant work.

Yoshitoshi at the Asian Art Museum

San Francisco Street Art

A youtuber named Ryan Erickson, whose handle is AlwaysThrowROCK, has posted an interesting video of San Francisco graffiti and street art. The video is “dedicated to those who make San Francisco a city of unbridled love compassion and beauty.” As a local I would have liked to have known the locations of the images; still, it’s an interesting and extensive collection, lovingly assembled.

Summer 2007 Art Exhibitions in the San Francisco Bay Area

I’ve moved this post to a static html page because it wasn’t formatting properly here.  The new location for the summary of 2007 art exhibitions in the San Francisco Bay Area is here.

Page 1 of 2

Some rights reserved 2017 Tom’s Garden. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons (attribution, noncommercial, no derivs: 3.0) License (US), although some of the work this blog incorporates may be separately licensed. Text and images by Thomas Christensen unless otherwise noted. For print permissions or other inquiries please request via