SF May 13 Part 2: Picasso and American Art, and Brice Marden

i]As described in Part 1 of this series, I had an opportunity to visit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), and view two exhibits that were going to close shortly thereafter. The first of these was Picasso and American Art, in which the influence of Picasso on American artists of the 20th century by placing works side by side. For example, several of Picasso's iconic Cubist works were displayed alongside works of Max Weber that they inspired. My favorite of the Picasso works in the exhibition was The Studio (1928):

This work is considered an example of Synthetic Cubism. Compared to earlier Cubism, this style is typified by more abstract shapes and simple lines, along with brighter colors. Picasso's Synthetic Cubism had a strong influence on several prominent American artists, including tuart Davis, Willem de Kooning and Arshile Gorky. Below is Gorky's Organization (1933-1936), which is quite clearly influenced by (and indeed a response to) The Studio:

Artists such as de Kooning and Gorky were influential in creating the American art movement Abstract Expressionism, and their interest in Synthetic Cubism can be seen a direct predecessor along with other abstract styles. I also see works such as Organization as a bridge between Synthetic Cubism and the Surrealist work of Spanish (Catalonian) artist Joan Miro, and then through Surrealism back to Picasso's later work. Miro is among my favorite artists, and I did have an opportunity to visit the Joan Miro museum in Barcelona in 2005. I found many works with a similar (yet quite distinct) combination of sparse geometry and bright colors:

Actually, I had seen this same exhibition in New York last November at the Whitney Museum. It was interesting to see how the two museums presented the same exhibit. The main difference was the galleries themselves, SFMOMA was more light and open, while the setting at the Whitney was more intimate and somehow “quiet.” Additionally, the Whitney made the audio tour available at no additional charge. I usually don't do audio tours, but since it was “free” I decided I would sample specific parts and thus it influenced my visit.

Additionally, I found myself more drawn (during both visits) to the earlier works, mostly before 1960 (up through an including Jackson Pollock), and less interested in the pop art and 1980s styles in the last section. That being said, I do like many artists from the 1970s and later, and this is a good segue to the retrospective of Brice Marden. Marden began in the 1960s as Minimalist painter, and I think most viewers would agree with that characterization. His early work is primarily large monochromatic fields, often arranged in diptychs and triptychs, as in the Grove Series and D?apr├Ęs la Marquise de la Solana (1969):

The Guggenheim collection, which includes the above work, describes it as ” a response to Goya?s portrait of the Marquise, which Marden saw in the Louvre.” With that in mind, here is a computer-generated work in the spirit of Marden's early Minimalism using a photo of Luna as the source for a triptych of color fields:

All fun aside, I did find the large monochromatic works interesting in the context of the full retrospective, especially when several large examples were placed around one of SFMOMA's spacious galleries. The retrospective also gave the opportunity to see Marden's remarkable transition in the late 1970s and early 1980s with his interest in Asian calligraphy and his adoption of more complex images filled with organic curves. He continus to use this style to this day, as in the recent 7 Red Rock 2 (2000-2002), shown to the right. He did have an interesting digression in his work into complex series of crossing lines, such as the 4 and 3 Drawing, shown below. This was probably my favorite from the exhibit:

I suppose I don't really have a “conclusion” to draw here, except that as usual I walk away both appreciative and a bit overwhelmed and bewildered by major exhibits, and always go back for more.

San Francisco May 13 Part 1: Highways, Mothers Day, Music and Art

I definitely needed to get out of town today. A change of scenery and activity was in order, plus Santa Cruz becomes a complete tourist trap on sunny weekends like this. So north to the city we rode…Of course, before leaving, I called my mom in New York, and got the change to wish both her and my grandmother a Happy Mothers Day. I hope you all had an opportunity to do the same.

Our main routes into San Francisco are highways 1 and 280, which together form the Junipero Serra Freeway upon entry into the city. This is an amazingly scenic freeway, traversing the largely undeveloped valleys along the San Andreas fault south of San Francisco. 280 splits off to the right to become the Southern Freeway, as illustrated in the map below (pay no attention to the “official” names that no one actually uses).

Usually we take the 280/Southern Freeway route, which crosses highway 101 and empties out in downtown. This time, we stuck with highway 1, which continues north as the Junipero Serra for a few meters before becoming 19th Avenue in the Sunset distrcit. Big mistake. We got stuck in traffic all the way to Golden Gate park. Interestingly, the highway 1 freeway was originally supposed to continue all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. The stub of the highway 1 freeway and US 101 / Golden Gate Freeway (Doyle Drive) does in fact exist, but is disconnected from the highways in the south of the city:

But they have nothing to do with today’s story. Instead we left highway 1 at Golden Gate Park and headed to the Haight district, home of the Haight/Ashbury neighborhood of 1960s fame, and more recently of Amoeba Music, San Francisco. Amoeba is one of the best brick-and-mortar music retailers left, at least here in California, and they do carry and extensive experimental-music selection. I was there to make sure that my CD Aquatic was part of it. Such is the life of the independent recording musician, I have to physically bring my CD to the stores and get them to take a copy or two. Amboeba did accept it, though there terms are, well, the are what they are.

We also paid a visit to Streetlight Records in the Castro district. I have sold a few CDs at Streetlight Records in Santa Cruz, so why not in San Francisco as well? They took a couple of CDs on the same consignment terms as the Santa Cruz store, which unfortunately reminds me I need to check in with the local shop and see how things are going. While in general these things work out OK, it is the sort of chore that makes me think about signing up with a small indie a label (or a small indie label bigger than my own). Of course, that has its drawbacks as well, not the least of which is being able to do things like the current CD benefit for TeaCup’s family.

In addition to trying to peddle my own music, I always take the opportunity in SF to see other people’s art. Galleries are mostly closed on Sunday, but I did have a few exhibitions I wanted to see at the SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art[/url]. The two main exhibitions were a juxtaposition of works by Pablo Picasso with those of American artists inspired by his work – I had actually seen this exhibition in New York last year – and a retrospective of American artist Brice Marden (who is still very much alive). My critiques the exhibitions there deserve a separate article, which I will probably post tomorrow. The other galleries will probably have to wait until June for another visit…


Again, we usually exit the city at the Sixth Street terminus of 280, but because we were coming from Streetlight in the Castro, we ended up using the 101 / Central Freeway ramp at Market Street and Octavia Blvd. This stub of a freeway used to continue north of Market as the Central Freeway until Oak and Fell Streets heading towards Golden Gate Park. Indeed, all the freeways, except for I-80 to the Bay Bridge all seem to empty out onto city streets.

The tiny bit that remains of the Central Freeway (the section north of Market was recently demolished and converted into Octavia Blvd, see this article at SFGate) was originally designed to connect up to the Golden Gate Freeway (also highway 101) shown in a previous illustration. This, along with the highway 1 freeway (Juniperro Serra extension / Park Presidio Freeway) and the now defunct highway 480 (Embarcadero Freeway) were all supposed to connect to the Golden Gate bridge, but all were cancelled in the 1950s/1960s due to opposition. You can see some of the early plans for San Francisco’s freeway system at California Highways and kurumi. At least one connection between the south, the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate would have been good, but there really isn’t any way to do that without a nasty tearing apart of neighborhoods along the lines of the Cross Bronx Expressway in New York (one of the freeways in the previously blogged Bruckner Interchange, it just keeps coming back). To bring things back to Mothers Day, my mother grew up in one of the neighborhoods in the central Bronx that was rent asunder by the construction of the Cross Bronx.