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Since last Sunday (after my performance at the Y2K8 Looping Festival), visual art as taken over. October is Open Studios in San Francisco, where artists open up their studios to for public visits. I took advantage of the opportunity to get acquainted with local artists, mostly in the neighborhoods in walking distance, and the local art scene.
Taking in so much art and so many artists in such a short period of time is quite overwhelming, and I will only be able to describe a small fraction of what I saw. What makes a particular artist memorable and noteworthy is not only the quality of his or her work, but the conversations and personal connections. In some cases, I remember artists whose work may not fit my own aesthetic, but whose meeting was memorable. It was also the setting, and how their work fit in with my vision and sense of the neigbhorhoods.
Potrero Hill, The Mission District, and Bernal Heights
My first day out was last Sunday during which I visited several large studios in the Potrero Hill and Mission districts. The first stop was Art Explosion Studios. Here I met and had a change to talk with Amy Seefeldt; and Victoria Highland, whose large city-scape on a hill in front of a bay (where have I seen that before?) was one of the better large-scale paintings I saw. Heidi McDowell had an interesting large-scale painting featuring a young girl at Lassen National Monument, which I visited last year. The recent work of Melisa Philips is perhaps closer to my own interests. One of her paintings featuring stenciled text is shown to the right. I have discussed here on CatSynth in the past my interest in text within visual art, and whether the words and letters are simply visual elements or retain their meaning. Melisa Philips and I had an interesting conversation about this topic. Additionally, her earlier work includes some of the more interesting female figures I encountered on this particular day.
It is hard to tell specifically where Potrero Hill ends and the Mission begins, and many of the venues on this particular trip sit in that ambiguous area of old industrial buildings dotted with lofts and art spaces. Within these spaces, I encountered not only traditional fine art, but other media as well, some which would have been traditionally classified as “craft.” There were several jewelry makers, for example – there is a fuzzy dividing line at which things like jewelry become art, perhaps when they become more an item to collect and display, rather than to wear. There were the chandeliers by “adventurer” Derek E. Burton, which were quite intricate and intriguing, and although they are completely opposite of my personal style and the style of CatSynth HQ, I enjoyed hearing Derek’s story and his passion for his work. Aliza Cohen presented mix-media art, but it was her wool pillows that caught my attention. I did also encounter more traditional media, such as the photography of Christine Federici that incorporated some architectural and space details, as well as a mixture of natural and artificial textures.
Interestingly, it seemed that “modern” art, which is my main interest, was a distinct minority among the works encountered on this first trip. Certainly, there were many artists working with abstraction, but overall it did not have the stark geometric or textural qualities that I have come to expect.
When searching for “abstract” on the main website, the work of Pauline Crowther Scott showed up on the list. Her works features images of cats. Cats and abstraction seem like a good combination, so I made the trip out to her home studio in the Bernal Heights neighborhood. The trip to the narrow and sometimes vertical streets and older houses in this neighborhood in the southeast of the city, on a somewhat chilly late afternoon, was an interesting experience in itself. Scott’s work was much less abstract than I had expected (she was in fact surprised by the designation), but she did have several works featuring cats that were added to earlier (and indeed somewhat abstract) images. One example was Three Cats on a Bedspread.
South of Market and Mission Bay
This weekend featured open studios the South of Market (SOMA) area, which is my own neighborhood. Overall, the works I encountered were decidedly more modern, and often seemed to take inspiration from the industrial and urban surroundings. Indeed, the mixed media works of Rebecca Kerlin draw upon the highway overpasses, such as I-80 and the approach to the Bay Bridge, that I have featured in many posts here at CatSynth, such as in this Wordless Wednesday post. Her work incorporates photos of familiar landmarks and details into mixed media pieces.
One of my longer pieces about walking in SOMA included this photograph featuring an onramp to the Bay Bridge over Bryant Street, near the landmark Clock Tower:
It turns out that building in the foreground contains several artist studios. Among the artists at this locations was Paule Dubois Dupuis. Her work includes large abstract modernist paintings, the type of art I am currently quite interested in. Some of her pieces also included stenciled text, another common theme among works that draw my attention. In addition to the art itself, her studio is in quite a location, with windows that look out onto the bay, the industrial/office buildings and the highway supports, depending on the direction of one’s gaze. I was inspired to take this photo:
At Clara Street Studios, I encountered the work of Jerry Veverka, whose work involves plays on architecture and geometry, with some surrealist elements. I had seen an example at the SomArts exhibit, and was particularly drawn to his “Impossible Cities Series,” an example of which is displayed to the right. (Click on the image for a full size version at his website.)
Two other photographers I also encountered at included familiar sights from both New York and San Francisco in their work, and I had fun identifying and discussing them. I have unfortunately misplaced both photographers’ contact info (and I cannot find them on the original list. Hopefully, I will be able to get in touch them soon.
Back at Soma Artists Studios (same location as Rebecca Kerlin), I saw an interesting progression the work of Flora Davis. Her early work featured oil paintings of cats, while her more recent work involves sheet metal. They were quite separate, indeed they were displayed in two separate studios. However, I think it would be interesting to place one or two of the smaller cat paintings next to her multi-panel metal works, and considering them as a unit. Indeed, it would summarize my experience as modernism, abstraction, geometry, and cats.
After an exhausting but rewarding walk around the neigbhorhood, I did have to time for a brief excursion south to some studios in the Mission Bay area, which includes much of the old industrial waterfront.
The view behind the studios at 1 Rankin Street onto the Islais Creek Channel were quite inspiring, even without the presence of art. Fitting with the environment, this studio featured metal sculptures. The large sculptures of Béla Harcos greeted visitors. No matter how much I am supposed to be looking for prints and paintings, I am still drawn to abstract metal sculpture. Rebecca Fox also had large works on display, and I able to glimpse her workspace and her collection of metal waiting to be used. The “artist blacksmith” Wolf Thurmeier has some smaller, even “miniature” abstract metal sculptures (what I would consider “apartment-sized”), forged from recycled metal.
The Anderson Collection
Quite by coincidence, I also had the opportunity this weekend to attend a private tour of the Anderson Art Collection. The collection is located in Menlo Park (south of San Francisco, near Stanford University), and features late 20th century and early 21st century American art. It includes over 800 works, spanning about five decades and several notable styles and schools, including color fields, minimalism, the New York school of the 1950s and 1960s (e.g., Jasper Johns and Robert Rauchenberg). There were also recent computer-assisted works by Chuck Close, as well as emerging artists that the Andersons are supporting. One interesting discovery for me was Frank Lobdell. I will have to look for him on the outside. I found it interesting how some of his work resembled the Jasper Johns’ prints featured in the collection (especially the reductions in the very detailed brochures).
This visit to one of the premier private collections was an interesting contrast to many local independent artists over the past week. I would to think that my art experiences will continue to include both.