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Preview: SFGate: Kenneth Baker

Kenneth Baker





 



‘Keeping an Eye Open: Essays on Art,’ by Julian Barnes

Fri, 18 Dec 2015 18:14:08 UT

The challenge for anyone who writes about the static arts is to make the mind of the reader move in imagined (or recollected) response to them. [...] a novelist such as Julian Barnes, celebrated author of “Flaubert’s Parrot” and “Arthur and George,” among other fictions, and of a cluster of nonfiction books in moods ranging from bemused meditation to still-stinging grief, ought to enjoy an advantage when he turns his attention to visual art. The first segment in the anthology, devoted mainly to French and British art and ordered chronologically by the artists’ birth dates, reproduces the centerpiece of Barnes’ narrative-juggling 1989 novel “A History of the World in 10½ Chapters”: a gripping forensic and interpretive account of Theodore Gericault’s “The Raft of the Medusa” (1818-19). Reaching to the roots of the painting’s history in political scandal and human disaster — cowardice, betrayal, mutiny, cannibalism and legal redress — Barnes ends with an existential reading of Gericault’s epochal image of castaways desperately calling for rescue that brings it home to the present: “We don’t just imagine the ferocious miseries on that fatal machine,” he writes of the “Raft,” we don’t just become the sufferers. More than chronology justifies this essay’s priority: it forewarns us of Barnes’ critical severity, as well as his recognition that every account of an artwork is an elaborate story, with many sources to draw upon. See his spirited defense of Edgar Degas against accusations of misogyny by feminist critics’ and the facile orthodoxy they seem to have spawned. At times, Barnes persuades, even prevails, as I believe an art critic must, by sheer evocative force of description, as when he writes of Pierre Bonnard: These French interiors, with heat outside and languor within, these meals, this fruit, those fat-bellied jugs, the window, the view from the window, the blood-red under-tablecloth, the propped-open door, the fat radiator, the appealing cat — doesn’t this look like the platonically ideal gite from Vacances Franco-Brittaniques? A recurrent theme, along with Barnes’ dislike of art governed by concept or prescriptive taste, is his disdain for the marketing uses of bits of artists’ biographies. The book’s disappointing surprise, especially following a vehemently ambivalent assessment of the vaunted Lucian Freud, is Barnes’ oddly stuttering appreciation of Howard Hodgkin, whom he knows well and collects. A few remarks about the art, such as that Hodgkin’s painting “burns,” regardless of its palette, hit home. From time to time, sitting in a bar, looking across a piazza, relaxing in a restaurant, he will say, with a delivery poised between self-satire and true contentment, ‘I feel a picture coming on.’



‘Night Begins the Day’ thrills but falls short at Jewish Museum

Fri, 10 Jul 2015 21:03:56 UT

Rethinking Space, Time and Beauty — the first collaboration of Renny Pritikin and Lily Siegel, the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s new senior and junior curators — is a stirring exhibition that never achieves the focus it needs. The project tries to get its arms around central contradictions of our historical moment: the coincidence of triumphant technology and human-engineered ecological crisis; how our probing of nature’s secrets confirms the cosmic insignificance of our vaunted progress; our frustrated drive — the root of much sadism and violence — to account morally or theologically for our own existence. The curators try to link this vision, whose emotional key is mingled awe and dread — de-divinized in late 18th century aesthetic theory as “the sublime” — with threads in contemporary art, entwining them around themes of space, time and beauty. Klea McKenna’s coolly lyrical black-and-white photograms of fallen rain similarly connect intensity of observation with openness to the beauty of phenomena, including the photochemical phenomena of her image-making. Light rephotographed declassified Defense Department archive images of aboveground nuclear weapons tests: pictures of human technology’s most perverse bid — so far — to marshal the destructive power of nature. With the projected videos of David Crooks and Masood Kamandy, the frame of reference narrows from the ecological and apocalyptic to the social and mundane. Crooks offers a long street-level tracking shot, his camera sighting down numerous alleys and other urban passageways, his editing having collapsed the enclosing architecture into razor-thin facades that occlude passersby, making them appear and disappear, phantom-like. Kamandy’s low-flying aerial imagery, projected downward onto a white floor-level platform, describes sprawling suburban Southern California neighborhoods, dimmed digitally, except for the many swimming pools among them, which glow like phosphorescent amoebas. Static art objects sit at a disadvantage among the spellbinding video works, but 80 paintings by Peter Dreher, from a series ongoing for more than 40 years, stand out by the demands they make on viewers’ attention. Each 8-by-10-inch canvas depicts the same empty drinking glass from the same vantage point, variations arising only from the changing lights of different times of day and seasons and from nuances of color and touch that Dreher needs to render them.



J.M.W. Turner at de Young: seeking meaning within the momentous

Sun, 21 Jun 2015 17:32:19 UT

[...] even an abridged survey of this British romantic artist’s works on paper and canvas presents ample, and in these parts rare, opportunities to delve eyes-on into a protomodernist’s vision. The de Young exhibition owes the impression of richness that it leaves both to a spacious and beautifully lighted installation and to a signal quality of Turner’s art. Turner was a man of his time in wanting to update “history painting” — edifying visions drawn from vaunted sources — by portraying momentous events that he had witnessed, leaving their consequential meaning up for debate. The 1841 watercolors here describing “Fire in the Grand Storehouse in the Tower of London” and the arresting oil painting titled “The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, 16th October 1834” even have some of the possibly unseemly magnetism of present-day disasters witnessed through mass media. With mild discomfort, we may recognize in Turner’s romantic sensibility the swings of mood and belief that sweep through present-day culture, powered now by means of transmission of which Turner never dreamed. The immensity and irresistibility of natural forces fascinated him, as they did many artists of romantic temperament, and even in the pictures he devoted to whaling, steam power and other markers of accelerating industry, nature looks indomitable. The intimate scale of Turner’s watercolors and his oil paintings’ prizing of almost cinematic effects above depictive detail activate fully the resilience of a viewer’s imagination. Studying Turner’s art, the engaged eye seems to bound from one plane of focus to another, from visionary sweep and novelty to odd marvels of paint-handling that seem sometimes to have distracted Turner from his larger pictorial ambitions — eccentricities in which painters and public would eventually see genuine creative freedom and authority inscribed. The tendency of such pictures to equate ambiguity with content makes as much sense to our eyes, sighting from the aftermath of modernism, as does their undisguised delight in their own materiality. [...] visions of ultimate things have far more immediacy for us than do the renderings of mythic or Biblical themes that explicitly preoccupied Turner, such as “Dawn of Christianity (Flight into Egypt)” or “Europa and the Bull” (c. 1845?), never mind the maunderings of his own verse that Turner appended to many pictures, which a number of wall labels dutifully excerpt. The exhibition materials say little about Turner’s life, other than that, as a painter, as a personality and a highly influential member of the Royal Academy, he was a controversial figure. An exhibition might be built around Turner’s life, as Anthony Bailey, his most recent biographer, suggested when he wrote, To us the trade of hairdresser may seem humble enough, but to a small child it would have been fascinating: jugs of hot water brought up from the kitchen range, soapsuds and froth and steam ... the strong smell of unguents, bay rum, cologne.



An antidote to irony at Fraenkel Gallery

Sat, 13 Jun 2015 00:52:19 UT

Consider Fraenkel’s exhibition “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” an episode in the creative community’s search for antidotes to the cynical strategy and humorless irony that taint much of 21st century art. The gallery invited one of its artists, Bay Area photographer Katy Grannan, to serve as guest curator, though Fraenkel’s principals took part in the final selection and design of the exhibition. The signature of many of Grannan’s selections, as of her work, is the sort of tense ambiguity at the core of Carson McCullers’ 1940 novel, “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,” whose title the exhibition borrows. The narrative voice of McCullers’ novel, plainspoken as a fairy tale, ranges freely across the confines of subjectivity and context that keep her characters mostly sunk in loneliness and the discomfort of knowing or believing themselves misunderstood by one another. Elizabeth Bick’s large portrait photograph, “Ela in November” (2013), leaves us wondering whether it was posed or candid, whether the woman it portrays, enveloped in darkness, caught gesturing with eyes closed, is singing, praying, engaged in dialogue or lost in a fugue state. On the adjacent wall hang several black-and-white photographs by Bryson Rand, two of which exemplify the sort of juxtaposition frequently found in anthology shows at Fraenkel. Among the pieces most resonant with the themes announced by the title “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” are two mixed-media sculptures — what else to call them? — by the late Judith Scott. Born with Down syndrome and incapable of explaining anything she did, Scott cocooned seemingly random objects in colored yarn, producing things that exert a sort of primal magnetism on the imagination of those who see them. With wordless immediacy, they evoke contradictory associations of bondage and shelter from harm, of helplessness, even interment, and complete self-sufficiency. The three-minute “All Up in Your Bloodstream” (2014) has Miner in jacket and tie, seated facing the camera, looking like a Christian cable news reader — do they exist? — reciting at top speed, without affect, the lyrics of Busta Rhymes’ rap video “Gimme Some More.” An Exhibition Commemorating Paule Anglim (1923-2015) and Her 50 Years of Collaboration With Artists does not claim to solve the question, but it offers to those who knew her a lively remembrance of Anglim as tastemaker and a history lesson for those not fortunate enough to have tracked for some years her extraordinary record of exhibitions and artistic advocacy. Hung salon style, encompassing works by artists ranging from Wallace Berman, Bruce Conner and George Herms to John Beech, John Zurier, Annabeth Rosen and Clare Rojas, in every medium you can name, and some you can’t, it celebrates the exhibitor’s often underestimated role in art’s reception.



Artist John Meyer: Explicit and elusive at the same time

Fri, 15 May 2015 20:26:29 UT

The term “abstract” fails to evoke the unforgiving rigor of the paintings by San Franciscan John Meyer (1943-2002) that George Lawson has just brought back to light after many years in storage or in private hands. Many people have little tolerance for artworks that resist viewers’ projections of narrative or emotion onto them, as Meyer’s do. Meyer’s late paintings, especially the black and white diptychs here, plus a sleek, large all-black pair, mark an extreme of cold objectivity, displaying more affinity with, say, the metal sculpture of Donald Judd (1928-1994) than with the asperities of paintings by Ad Reinhardt (1913-1967) or Agnes Martin (1912-2004). Formalist critics, especially Clement Greenberg (1909-1994), made much of perceived flatness as one of the qualities through which modernist painting distinguished its claims on our attention from those of all the other contemporaneous arts. A viewer bent on interpretation might sense a Manichean impulse behind Meyer’s black and white diptychs, a mystic inclination to halve the real into domains of light and darkness. In conversation he claimed really not to know, beyond the barest material definition, what constitutes a painting as an object of interest. The installation at Lawson permits visitors to see that the incidence of light on the paintings’ surfaces matters crucially to their definition, or self-definition. Yet even the surest perception of such aspects, under what seem close to ideal viewing conditions, feels tentative, subject to vagaries of changing daylight, viewing angle and our common incapacity finally to see as others see. Explicitness and elusiveness converge in Meyer’s work with an intensity we seldom see in contemporary art, irrespective of style. In recent canvases at Brian Gross, former California, now New York painter Teo González appears to take a step back from the complete abstraction of his earlier work, but a careful look corrects that impression. The technique may bring to mind Chuck Close’s manner of fleshing out a grid into an image with dollops or dashes of color, but González leaves the grid implicit. In “#687” particularly, among the works on view, an observer has to strain to see, or believe — because it is true — that the red delineating the tiny cells and occupying their centers remains consistent as the array showers down over the changing ground colors.



MoAD’s new show expands what 'Portraits’ mean

Fri, 8 May 2015 21:50:43 UT

Visitors to the Museum of the African Diaspora may enter its just-opened exhibition, “Portraits and Other Likenesses From SFMOMA,” confident of recognizing a portrait when they see one, and leave with that confidence shaken. A sympathetic image of a dressed-up young man trying to act natural while holding an apparently artificial flower shows him sitting before a backdrop of floral-patterned fabric. The exhibition includes a Nick Cave “Soundsuit” (2009), an elaborate costume with Afro-Caribbean aesthetic roots that conceals a wearer’s identity but makes attention-getting sounds with every motion. The work looks nothing like Cave himself, but it and others he has made define a professional identity and serve as an autobiographical marker in that he first made one right after the Rodney King beating by Los Angeles police in 1991, thinking of it as a suit of armor. Thinking of contemporary painting at the time, John Berger remarked more than 50 years ago that the social function of a portrait had devolved to mere certification of a privileged sitter’s position in a social hierarchy. Painter Kehinde Wiley plays upon that inkling ironically in a characteristic work such as “Alexander the Great” (2005), which decks out a young black man — who happens to be a nephew of Mickalene Thomas, an artist prominently featured here — in contemporary dress and the trappings of traditional European dignitary portraiture. The idea of portraiture as a matter of self-styling, borrowing the equipment of the ambient culture, gets a thorough going-over in the work of Thomas, by means of an elaborate, living-room-like installation and several carefully staged photographs. A moving projected video documentary devoted to her mother provides an anchor of genuine feeling to Thomas’ ensemble of works. Lorna Simpson’s cluster of photographs and framed text, like that of Carrie Mae Weems, represents a conceptual extreme in “Portraits and Other Likenesses,” though they demonstrate, like Glenn Ligon’s suite of prints, that conceptual strategies need not drain works of emotional power. Through a hole in the chair’s seat, drops of red pass and puddle on the floor, making a sort of material allegory of the violent injustice implicit in socioeconomic extremes of high and low and the rationales, racist and otherwise, offered in excuse.




Richard Misrach’s photos at Fraenkel Gallery

Fri, 1 May 2015 19:38:08 UT

Berkeley photographer Richard Misrach has consistently drawn attention to humanity’s impact on the natural environment, always implying that even unpeopled photographs count as traces of that impact. A recently printed black-and-white exposure from 1976, “Self-Portrait at Night, White Sands, New Mexico,” has him dead center, as a shadowy silhouette, possibly a nod to founding father William Henry Fox Talbot’s definition of photography as “the art of fixing a shadow.” With giant close-ups of dense thickets of dry brush, he produced photographic counterparts to the greatest “drip” paintings of Jackson Pollock (1912-1956). “Night Fishing, Near Bonnet Carré Spillway, Norco, Louisiana” (1998/2015) belongs to a series Misrach devoted to an area of the Deep South so lethally polluted by the petrochemical industry as to have earned the name Cancer Alley. The link with Northern Romantic tradition, which not every viewer will make, hints at the idea of recreation, of organized leisure, as a culturally available defense to keep life’s terrible finitude out of mind. The panoramic “Playas de Tijuana #1 (Crowded Beach), San Diego, California” (2013/2015) registers first as a long row of dark verticals through which flashes of color wink, initially reminiscent of stripe painting in the key of late ’60s abstraction. Again, art mavens may think of Christo’s “Running Fence” (1972-76), which created a temporary border that crossed Sonoma and Marin counties before descending into the Pacific. Misrach’s border fence picture proves once again his remarkable ability to make topical content and photography’s formal power converge in images that leave a viewer feeling that visionary perceptions await all around for those properly prepared to experience them.



Ruth Silverman, photographer, curator and dealer, dies

Thu, 30 Apr 2015 00:00:50 UT

Ruth Silverman, a respected photographer, curator and dealer in photographs, died at her Berkeley home on April 10 from complications of Parkinson’s disease. Ms. Silverman arrived in the Bay Area in 1990 with a distinguished career in the photography field already behind her. Taking a cue from her, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art later hosted retrospectives of camerawork by Daido Moriyama and Shomei Tomatsu, two outstanding artists whom some Americans in the field regarded as her discoveries, although they were well known in Japan. The U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity commissioned work by her, and she enjoyed a brisk business as a portrait photographer in Washington, D.C. Women curators at arts institutions were comparatively rare then, but Ms. Silverman justified her mentor’s confidence by initiating or participating in the organization of more than 100 exhibitions, including surveys devoted to Bernice Abbott and to dance photography. [...] no less characteristic were the “Dog Grids,” arrays of color images of objects pertaining to dogs, for which she had a passion.



Ireland, Haynes and Zecca: three creative postures

Fri, 24 Apr 2015 20:06:18 UT

[...] the Telegraph Hill Gallery brings an unfamiliar selection of Ireland’s frameable works, mostly from the 1990s, into public view from the estate of one of the artist’s siblings. Critics cite Ireland (1930-2009) as a leading figure in Bay Area conceptual art. Several other pages, layered with black and white enamel, bring to mind the abstract meanders of painter Brice Marden, until a viewer notices that the initials D and I slowly, but wryly, unignorably begin to obtrude as armatures of Ireland’s ostensibly non-signifying features. Ireland liked to toy with the convention of the artist’s signature, especially because his initials were an anagram of “I.D.” — all-but-universal slang for identity. Several beguiling monotypes pay homage to Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), an acknowledged hero of Ireland’s, apparently having been made by dropping pigment-soaked strings onto a page or plate, letting the physics of their falls dictate what we perhaps strain to see as composition. A single sculptural work betokens the opposite pole of Ireland’s creativity: the exercise of extreme discipline to achieve a desired degree of impersonality. Small, coolly brushed abstractions, consisting of little but gradations of hue and value that produce illusions of fugitive light, they seem to whisper of the depth of studio experience that lies behind them. Studying “Yesterday (from the 'ma’ series)” (2013-14), a viewer can sense the pressure of the brush on the surface, gauge its load of pigment where first and last touches show for what they are, feel their micro-level merger with strokes already laid down: sensations that not even the most faithful reproduction can simulate. With contemporary culture’s ceaseless crossfire of digressions as background, that sense of abandonment within the merely real can produce, at least for a moment, something like the auratic engagement Benjamin (1892-1940) imagines as possible, even modal, before the camera age. Zecca has long relied on the unpredictable optical effects of unnumbered pigmented ink lines ruled on surfaces with straight edges. Methodical to a degree that most studio practitioners would probably find maddening, Zecca’s abstractions have continued to generate results that, at least occasionally, must surprise him as much as anyone else. Yet it was never merely a look but the expression of an iron commitment, and some quotient of compromise seems to threaten pieces that seem too arbitrarily varied. Collaging segments of striated sheets has worked for Zecca in the past, and does here in a piece identified merely by “2015 32 x 28,” whose faceted tiers of inked chevrons flicker between stark abstraction and visions of a cityscape of crystalline inhumanity.



Mildred Howard at Richmond Art Center: Wide range of moods

Fri, 17 Apr 2015 20:13:06 UT

Recent events have forced mainstream media to pay unprecedented attention to the jeopardy that African Americans, especially men, face at the hands of the criminal justice system. The backbeat of social injustice has always made itself felt in Howard’s art, though she has seldom let social concern outweigh the specifics of viewers’ encounter with artworks’ at-hand reality. Howard has studded two walls of the corridor entrance to the Richmond Art Center with embedded shell casings in floor-to-ceiling grids to form an installation titled “Ten Little Children Standing in a Line, One Got Shot and Then There Were Nine” (2015). Howard has frequently worked by repositioning ordinary objects and materials so as to generate unforeseen meanings and force, and “Ten Little Children” counts as a pure instance of her methods. A piece such as “U.S. Savings Bonds and Westside Court 3” (1981) typifies her use of old photos and other documents to evoke the inextricability, and perhaps irrecoverability, of social and personal history. Howard mingles this homage with another, to Marcel Duchamp’s second life as a chess adept, staging a confrontation across a fur-lined chessboard of pieces consisting of salt and pepper shakers. Racial politics and Dadaist feminism filtered through modern art legend in a key of worldly-wise humor — who but Howard could do that? Works from Brady’s ongoing “Language Series” command attention here, despite being some of the smallest pieces on view. The analogy has to work — and it does — only to the extent of prolonging viewers’ attention to the objects until the appeal of their structural invention and masterly aesthetic finish can make itself felt. Several large wall pieces in wood have almost the stamped-out aspect of some of Ellsworth Kelly’s wall sculptures, though Brady is more willing than Kelly to insinuate references to architecture, costume and common objects such as a comb and a bell. In three large standing pieces, the most powerful titled “Bode” (2015), Brady returns to the creature narrative implicit in some of his earlier work. Bode” describes — though “describe” may be too strong a word — a network of eel-like fish locking jaws and tails in an open cycle reminiscent, in its hint of human symbolism, of the madcap macabre of Samuel Beckett’s “How It Is.



Can Fine Arts Museums replace Colin Bailey?

Fri, 17 Apr 2015 17:31:24 UT

The departure of Colin Bailey, director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco since June 2013, to become director of the Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan. throws FAMSF back into a quandary, if not a crisis, of leadership. FAMSF took more than two years to replace the late John Buchanan (1953-2011), its previous director, known more for audience expansion, and internally for punctilious administration, than for intellectual standing. Bailey, an internationally recognized scholar of 18th century French art and of 19th century Impressionist Auguste Renoir, began to restore it from the moment of his appointment. [...] the choice of a new director cannot be rushed, but at least a faint shadow of embarrassment will fall on the FAMSF if it remains leaderless when the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Berkeley Art Museum, both shuttered at present, reopen in 2016. Most museum directors who change jobs in less than two years’ time leave under a cloud of dissension or discontent, but Bailey told The Chronicle by phone that he had not been looking for a job elsewhere. A couple of those conversations were occasioned by small exhibitions he had arranged built around a single object, such as the “Schiava Turca” by Parmagianino (1503-1540), thanks to a reciprocal loan agreement with the Galleria Nazionale di Parma. “I’m happy for Colin because I know (the Morgan position) is his dream job, but sad for our institution,” said Diane B. Wilsey, chair of the FAMSF board, also reached by phone. Yet it is one of the Northeast’s pre-eminent cultural treasure houses, on the intimate scale of the Frick Collection, where Bailey served as a senior curator. Asked about the prospect of future collaborations between the FAMSF and the Morgan Library, Bailey said “that would be fantastic,” and mentioned the depth of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, the FAMSF’s prints and drawings department. The Morgan Library has great riches of graphic arts, in addition to the epochal collection of rare books and musical manuscripts on which J. Pierpont Morgan founded the institution in 1906.



Bruce Conner’s many editions of self in San Jose

Tue, 7 Apr 2015 20:07:43 UT

The Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles was a force in the early ’60s renaissance of editioned graphic arts as media of fresh creative invention. [...] knowing that finger marks on a plate were signs of insufficiently skilled effort to the master printers of Tamarind, Conner produced an edition consisting of his thumbprint off center on a sheet otherwise empty, except for a second thumbprint at the lower right corner to serve as his signature. [...] that was the case at the time: Punctuating the exhibition are some of the psychedelically detailed abstract ink drawings Conner made that sealed his preference for commercial over fine art printing technology. The latest work on view from 2003, Magnolia Editions’ stunning translation of a 1987 collage-based etching into a jacquard tapestry, attests to Conner’s never-ending restlessness in shuffling productive media and traces of personal artistry. Conner was miffed to find that June Wayne, Tamarind’s founder and guiding spirit, was away on other business during his stint there, so he made another print that reproduces in blue letters on black the sign posted at her vacant, dedicated parking spot: “This Space Reserved for June Wayne.” The show includes one of his most famous images, “Bombhead” (2002), an inkjet print in which a mushroom cloud appears seamlessly grafted into a photograph of him in nondescript uniform, replacing face and head. In related works here based on stills from his anti-nuke film “Crossroads,” Conner digitally worked in faint images of some of the collaborative photograms he called “Angels.” Among the most famous and visually arresting examples are the suites of etchings titled “The Dennis Hopper One Man Show,” based on collages Conner made from 19th century magazine engravings, those collages heavily indebted to predecessor works by Max Ernst (1891-1976).



Appreciation: The irreplaceable Paule Anglim

Fri, 3 Apr 2015 20:30:04 UT

Gallery proprietors will characteristically greet a visitor with expressions of enthusiasm for what they happen to have on show, but in this respect Paule Anglim was different. Her enthusiasm, though voiced quietly, would purr with commitment to the work she presented and the artist behind it. Such conviction might have come easy had Anglim confined herself to showing artists with a solid market history or whose work had obvious eye appeal. But she perennially sponsored work by artists such as David Ireland (1930-2009), Paul Kos and John Meyer (1943-2002), that might baffle casual gallery goers.



Jacob Lawrence teems with social vision

Fri, 3 Apr 2015 19:03:18 UT

Lawrence (1917-2000) was the first African American artist to show at New York’s canon-defining Museum of Modern Art, which this week unveiled an exhibition centered on “The Migration Series,” Lawrence’s most famous ensemble. [...] nobody else’s art combines the flat edginess of Lawrence’s forms — so sharp at times they seem to threaten the probing eye — and a deployment of color so confident as to prolong the attention of impatient viewers until the subtle intensities of his social vision sink in. A bright blue Pool Parlor sign dominates the composition, its color rhyming with the uniform of a policeman passing, or pacing, below, clutching a nightstick. The policeman appears to be African American — or is his face in shadow? — while the white of his single visible hand might merely represent a glove or the white establishment’s assignment of permission to use violence on its behalf. The black pool players seen through the open door, a view whose space aslant almost makes it read as part of the signage, look paradoxically sheltered, confined, relaxed and exhausted, suggestive of the social pressures and contradictions impinging on African American city life. The Great Depression had brought an end to the so-called Harlem Renaissance by the time he arrived, but many of its personalities — including the sculptor Augusta Savage, a major influence on Lawrence’s life — and flashes of its spirit remained. Savage, in whose studio he met his future wife Gwendolyn Knight, helped Lawrence become a beneficiary of the Works Progress Administration arts program, a lifesaver for countless artists during the Depression era. By the 1970s, he had been acclaimed as one of the country’s great living artists, reflected in numerous teaching stints — he got tenure at the University of Washington — and prestigious commissions, including the 1977 silkscreen at the Cantor, “The Swearing In,” part of a portfolio commissioned by the Presidential Inauguration Committee of Washington, D.C. Yet under leafless trees against a sharply mottled sky, the winking shapes of hands and faces also suggest windblown leaves, an intimation of mortality chilled further by thought of lynching stirred by faces and figures positioned among the tree limbs for a better look. During the gaining years of the civil rights movement, its overtones were both easier to hear and to tolerate than they are against a background of a 21st century America that likes to think of itself as “post-racial.” Once noticed, Halawani’s work makes most of the other pictures on view look slight, though some of them entailed risky defiance of women’s prerogatives in Muslim societies.



Longtime S.F. gallery owner Paule Anglim dies

Fri, 3 Apr 2015 01:17:43 UT

Longtime S.F. gallery owner Paule Anglim dies Paule Anglim, a leading dealer of contemporary art in San Francisco, died Thursday morning in the city. “She was very well connected to both the old postwar community of artists of the 1930s and young artists in the Bay Area,” said the painter Robert Bechtle, reached at his San Francisco studio. Bechtle, famous for his painting of the common station wagon, has been represented by Ms. Anglim for 25 years. Ms. Anglim discovered some key artists at the outset of their careers, such as John Beech, Nayland Blake, Vincent Fecteau and John Zurier, all of whom went on to build international reputations. “Paule was a no-nonsense person, but at the same time very generous,” said Gay Outlaw, a San Francisco sculptor represented by Ms. Anglim for 15 years. After graduating with a degree in sociology, she was hired by Catholic Social Services to be a social worker in San Francisco. In 1982, Gallery Paule Anglim moved to 14 Geary St., and it soon became an address around which much of the rest of San Francisco’s art business seemed to pivot, as galleries moved into and out of downtown with fluctuations in the Bay Area economy. A long-term understanding with the owners of the two-story building, whose second floor her business occupied, allowed Ms. Anglim to ride out the instabilities of the region’s art economy. Kenneth Baker is The San Francisco Chronicle’s art critic, and Sam Whiting is a Chronicle staff writer.