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Preview: SFGate: Sam Whiting

Sam Whiting


Modernism on the move again, 37 years later

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 04:23:36 UT

When Martin Muller arrived from Geneva by way of Little Rock, Ark., to open a San Francisco art gallery in 1979, he was too new to know not to put it upstairs in a lighting warehouse South of Market. Modernism, as he called it, turned out to be the first commercial art gallery in SoMa. [...] Modernism is pushing the frontier again, having come to rest wedged between an SRO hotel and an auto body shop on Ellis Street. “I find it personally exciting, as someone in the world of culture, to be a pioneer in a neighborhood where I feel I can have a meaningful contribution,” says Muller, who laces his formal English with a French accent. When asked the precise name of this neighborhood, he is unashamed to summon his gallery director, Danielle Beaulieu, to tell him where he is sitting. Pioneer though he is, Muller is not the first art dealer to stake a claim on the raggedy side of Ellis. Jessica Silverman opened her gallery in a vacant corner store at Ellis and Leavenworth three years ago and “it’s been fantastic,” she says. The door is locked, and if you press your nose against the glass you can see an oversize painting of a young girl holding an assault rifle. Anyone enticed enough to find out can press the buzzer for admittance through a heavy metal door. “In 1979, people were calling the (SoMa) gallery asking if it was safe,” Muller says. Bohemian clubbers and nightclubbers stood shoulder to shoulder to see Gottfried Helnwein’s paintings of children smeared in blood, wrapped in bandages and pointing automatic weapons at them. During gallery hours on a sunny day, the north side of Ellis is a good place for people to warm in the southern exposure, often while lying down on the pavement. The commotion that bothered him the most was a rent increase he describes in his typically overheated way as “dramatic and exorbitant, to the tune of doubling.” In response, he sent his broker to follow the art gallery wagon train south to Dogpatch and the Do Re Mi (Dogpatch, Potrero, Mission) Arts District.

Park Commission says no to Summer of Love anniversary concert

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 18:07:22 UT

A City Hall rally followed by two hours of impassioned testimony that included a man on his knees begging and a sing-along to “Give Peace a Chance” failed to convince the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission that it should allow a free 50th anniversary Summer of Love concert in Golden Gate Park. By a unanimous vote Thursday, the commission upheld a staff decision to deny promoter Boots Hughston a permit for his planned June 4 event at the Polo Field in Golden Gate Park. Because of concerns over public safety, traffic, lack of organization and a wildly fluctuating crowd-size estimate, Hughston was advised to find a partner with more concert promotion experience and submit a new application. Hughston said he has spent nine months on the event and planned to pay the $200,000 city cost out of pocket. Because he had put on a 40th anniversary Summer of Love celebration in the park, he believed his permit probably would be granted and announced the concert a few weeks ago. Performers were to include Eric Burdon and War, and the original rhythm section of the Santana Blues Band. [...] his permit application had not been approved, and on Feb. 7 Rec and Park sent Hughston a terse rejection letter. Michael Carabello, conga drummer with the original Santana band, read about the show in The Chronicle and called to say, “This is the first I’ve heard of it.” On Facebook, Burdon’s wife and manager, Marianna Burdon, wrote: This world is full of deluded characters spreading false information for their own opportunistic purposes. ... After the rain, about 100 flower children — yes, they still exist — carried placards to the steps of City Hall. Many of the speakers, who overflowed into a secondary room, took their full two minutes just to give their Summer of Love credentials, though none could top Buell’s own.

Huge Robert Frank pop-up show to open at UC Berkeley

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 21:52:44 UT

Books and Films, 1947-2016, is so comprehensive that it requires two galleries in separate buildings on campus. The Reva and David Logan Gallery for Documentary Photography, at North Gate Hall, will show “The Americans,” along with the original contact sheet for every image in the book. “His work is revolutionary in showing an America that was not seen, but also creating a way of seeing in photography that was new, powerful and charged,” says Ken Light, professor of photojournalism at Cal’s Graduate School of Journalism. Steidl plans to stay longer than one day this time, to attend Friday’s opening and give a lecture at the already sold-out event, “Gerhard Steidl: ‘Print is not dead — The Beauty of Analogue Media in a Digital World.’” After the exhibition ends March 3, the work will be removed by students and either destroyed or transformed into collages and hats by the students. All that will remain is a $5 catalog printed on broadsheet, like a 60-page edition of the New York Herald Tribune. “Robert’s prints have become so valuable now that this is a more democratic way of showing it, which is what he wants,” says Light. Sam Whiting is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.

Carmella Scaggs, socialite and ex-wife of singer

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 01:07:33 UT

Carmella Scaggs, who was drawn to San Francisco from Seattle by the music scene in the 1960s, married Boz Scaggs and joined the San Francisco social swirl, died Friday. “She was lively and funny and vivacious and a joy to be with,” said Jann Wenner, editor and publisher of Rolling Stone, who stood as witness when Boz Scaggs and the former Carmella Storniola were married in Aspen, Colo. Among the heads she turned was that of Boz Scaggs, a tall and skinny guitarist who came from Texas with the Steve Miller Band. With her Sicilian American good looks and fashion-model figure, she was able to charm her way into the right rooms on the right nights. The couple took a ski trip to Aspen with Wenner and his then-wife and got married on a whim. Gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson was recruited to be the wedding photographer, but he was too loaded to remember to put film in the camera. With her husband and without him after their divorce in 1980, Mrs. Scaggs attended opening galas and was a regular at Stars, a fraternity house for the glitterati operated by Jeremiah Tower in the heart of the Civic Center. Mrs. Scaggs appeared frequently in the column of the late Chronicle society editor Pat Steger and was also a favorite of the late columnist Herb Caen. Once when Caen was covering a society cruise on the Nile in Egypt, Mrs. Scaggs made a dramatic arrival from Naples in the company of a movie producer. Once her boys moved out, Mrs. Scaggs moved from Presidio Heights to a house on Russian Hill, and became a dealer in rare books and antiques.

Free Summer of Love concert canceled by city

Thu, 9 Feb 2017 01:31:25 UT

In a blistering three-page letter citing “numerous misrepresentations of material fact,” the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department denied a permit for a free Summer of Love 50th anniversary concert to be held June 4 at the Polo Field in Golden Gate Park. Event promoter Boots Hughston was sent a rejection letter Tuesday, less than two weeks after he had made a public announcement about the concert, telling The Chronicle that the city department had given him the date and go-ahead for the event, with a permit all but assured. In her letter, Diane Rea, manager of permits and reservations for Rec and Park, stated that after nine months of work, Hughston had still failed to supply adequate information about how security and crowd control would be handled. “This is a character assassination on me all the way down the line,” said Hughston, 68, who claims a long history of putting on peaceful free tribute concerts in Golden Gate Park. The golden anniversary concert was to have been a major focal point of a Summer of Love celebration that involves all the major museums and cultural institutions in San Francisco and Berkeley. Hughston said he’d lined up Eric Burdon and War, the original rhythm section of the Santana Blues Band, and Country Joe McDonald, as well as remnants of the Jefferson Airplane/Starship, Moby Grape, Sons of Champlin and the Youngbloods. The Summer of Love was a cultural event that changed the world,” Hughston said, “so for them to want to stop it blows my mind. Outside Lands, the mega music festival produced by Another Planet Entertainment and Superfly Productions, paid the city more than $3 million for its music festival in the park last year, according to Rec and Park. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, a free festival, paid $176,000 — but it does not use the Polo Field, an athletic field that requires extra care.

Chris Hellman, dancer turned philanthropist, dies at 83

Wed, 8 Feb 2017 00:47:17 UT

Chris Hellman, a British ballerina who made her mark as a tireless board chair, fundraiser and confidante to dancers for the San Francisco Ballet for more than 30 years, has died at 83. Mrs. Hellman, wife of the late investment banker and bluegrass benefactor Warren Hellman, had been out of the public eye for many years while suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. “There are no words to express how much Chris Hellman has meant to SF Ballet and to me personally,” San Francisco Ballet Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson said in a statement. During that time, she oversaw the company’s exodus from the War Memorial Opera House and its return in 1998, after a two-year seismic upgrade. A year later, she stepped down as board chair but still served as honorary co-chair of the ballet’s 75th anniversary celebration in 2008. At the age of 10, Mrs. Hellman started training at the Royal Academy of Dance, riding the train for an hour to London. While sailing home from an American tour aboard the Queen Elizabeth, Mrs. Hellman met Warren Hellman, who was an undergrad at UC Berkeley, on his way to walkabout in Europe. After graduating from UC Berkeley in 1955, Warren Hellman, great-grandson of Wells Fargo Bank owner Isaias Hellman, joined the U.S. Army as an officer. Upon his discharge, Warren Hellman entered business school at Harvard. [...] it wasn’t just money. Because Mrs. Hellman had been a dancer, she knew exactly when exhaustion would take over during a performance run, and in the long Christmas grind of the “Nutcracker,” fruit baskets and food would always arrive, courtesy of Mrs. Hellman. In at least one contract dispute while she was board chair, Mrs. Hellman was able to step in and bridge the gap between dancers and management. Mrs. Hellman retired from the board of trustees in 1999 and was awarded the Lew Christensen Medal, the highest honor the Ballet bestows. A private family memorial will be held Sunday, and a public celebration of her life is pending.

SF Art Institute opens archives to public

Wed, 1 Feb 2017 21:30:32 UT

The handwritten minutes of the board meeting of the San Francisco Art Association dated 1878 show approval being granted for one Mr. Muybridge to use its gallery to debut his motion picture project. Film historians consider that event on Pine Street to be the first-ever movie screening, thus making the heavy ledger book that describes it a marquee attraction to a one-of-a-kind show at the San Francisco Art Institute. The Art Institute, which opened as an association in 1871, was the first art school in the West, and now for the first time it is opening its archives in a free and improvisational exhibition called “Ghosts of the Tower.” “It’s that primary-source thing,” says Jeff Gunderson, the institute’s special collections librarian and archivist, as he lifts the bound volume marked March 21, 1871, to Aug. 29, 1889. “Ghosts of the Tower” is not an art exhibition, per se, because most of the collection will remain in cardboard boxes on racks in the Walter and McBean Galleries. Upon request, a curator will pull a box off the shelf to access an exhibition catalog for visitors. There will also be a rotation of posters and pictures, letters and memorabilia displayed on a table. In addition to visual arts, there are tapes to listen to, like Angela Davis’ classroom lectures and John Cage’s befuddling answers to questions.

John Knoop, filmmaker and daredevil, dies

Sat, 28 Jan 2017 21:00:00 UT

Mr. Knoop succumbed to lasting impairments from a horrific nighttime bicycle crash in Golden Gate Park that left him temporarily paralyzed from the neck down in 1997. “His instinct was to go to the drama, no matter how dangerous,” said filmmaker Gaetano Maida, who once watched Mr. Knoop grab his camera and run toward gunfire, not away from it, while filming a story in Bangkok. In 1975, Mr. Knoop co-founded the Film Arts Foundation, an important resource and support group for independent filmmakers in the Bay Area. In his memoir, “Faultline: A Nomad Filmmaker’s Journal,” published in 2013, Mr. Knoop recounted how he escaped the farm by learning to fly airplanes, having earned his private pilot’s license at age 16. Five years later he left the goat farm for good and moved to a flat on Waller Street, with his wife and two young kids. Hired as the Western editor for the Farm Quarterly, he pitched the idea of a documentary about farming, even though he had never made a film. Once the home office saw the finished product it was agreed that he would leave the Farm Quarterly. In January 1997, he got funding for a film project about the children of the “disappeared,” people who were executed by the military dictatorship in Argentina. Survivors include sister Janet Kurtz of Arlington, Mass.; brothers Christopher of Cincinnati, Rudolph of Mendocino County and Anthony of Occidental; and children Tanya of Oakland, Michelle of Cotati, Geoffrey of El Cerrito, Hennessey of Sausalito and Savannah of Brooklyn.

Summer of Love 50th Anniversary concert announced

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 22:57:06 UT

The event, to be announced at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 25, will include Eric Burdon and War, the original rhythm section of the Santana Blues Band, Country Joe McDonald, and remnants of the Jefferson Airplane/Starship, Moby Grape, Sons of Champlin and the Youngbloods. In all, there will be 21 bands and 25 speakers, along with Tibetan monks and American Indian rituals. “The anniversary is being produced by the actual people who worked on the original free concerts, which caused the spark that made San Francisco the epicenter for creating the most positive association that has happened in 100 years,” Hughston said. [...] as now, the concert will be promoted by psychedelic posters being drawn by Stanley Mouse, Victor Moscoso and Wes Wilson, pioneers of the genre.

Ciel Bergman, Berkeley-born painter and art professor, dies

Sat, 21 Jan 2017 21:38:25 UT

Ciel Bergman, a Berkeley High School yell leader who once modeled for a Norman Rockwell painting, then later became an acclaimed postmodern landscape painter in Santa Barbara and Santa Fe, N.M., has died at 78. The cause of death was lung cancer, said her daughter, Bridgit Koller. The gallery had represented Ms. Bergman since a show called “The Last Sunset of the 20th Century,” for which she made a painting of nearly every Santa Fe sunset of 1999. A human response to the world of nature, said Peter Selz, professor emeritus for the History of Art department at UC Berkeley. The adjective ‘beautiful,’ abhorred by most contemporary critics, identifies her work. Once a registered nurse who worked in a hospital psychiatric ward, Ms. Bergman was a struggling single mom of two when she couldn’t resist the pull of her art. Upon graduation, she became a lecturer in painting and drawing at both UC Berkeley and California State University Hayward (now Cal State East Bay). In 1975, she got a SECA Award in painting from SFMOMA and was also featured in the 1975 Whitney Biennial, an exhibition of contemporary American art hosted every two years at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. Ms. Bergman had been appalled by all the litter on the beach, so she and her students went out and collected enough trash to fill seven garbage bins and installed it at the Santa Barbara Contemporary Art Forum. While on the faculty at UC Santa Barbara, Ms. Bergman traveled to China, where she had an epiphany to only make paintings of beauty from that point on. In 1956, she graduated from Berkeley High School where she was head varsity yell leader, which led to a brief stint as an art studio model. “I have strived to create work that is sensuous, luminous, alive with emotional heat, honest and transcendental,” Ms. Bergman stated on her website,

50th anniversary tributes to Summer of Love

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 15:00:00 UT

Human Be-In 50th Anniversary Celebration: A multimedia event put on by the Unity Foundation and the 17th Digital Be-In. Highlights will be the 50th Anniversary All-Star Band, made up by veterans of the San Francisco scene, performing a “Jam for Peace.” The show, sponsored by the San Francisco Arts Commission, will be on the ground floor and in the North Light Court through spring. Three contemporary artists — Sarah Hotchkiss, Kate Haug and Deborah Aschheim — will re-examine the Summer of Love through a series of posters in bus kiosks along Market Street, between Eighth Street and the Embarcadero. The Struggle for Utopia: A major exhibition of the art, architecture and design of the counterculture in the 1960s and ’70s opens Feb. 28 and runs through May 21 at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). An exhibition highlighting the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender participants in the 1967 Summer of Love opens April 7 and runs through Sept. 27 at the GLBT History Museum in San Francisco’s Castro District. An exhibition of rock posters, photographs, ephemera, light shows and avant-garde films opens April 8 and runs through Aug. 20 at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. On display will be 150 items from the permanent collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. On the Road to the Summer of Love: A comprehensive overview of the cultural upheaval that brought on the hippie mass migration opens May 11 and runs through Sept. 8 at the California Historical Society on Market Street in San Francisco. Summer of Love Ballet: A dance tribute by choreographer Trey McIntyre makes its world premiere at Smuin Contemporary Ballet, as part of “Dance Series 02” on May 5 through June 3 at various Bay Area locations. The American Conservatory Theater will open a stand-alone production of the Broadway musical on June 7. The San Francisco Public Library will showcase images and literature focused on the Summer of Love from June 15 through September in the Jewett Gallery at the Main Library.

ArtHaus celebrates 20 years keeping it small

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 21:53:48 UT

Before it was illegal, Carolyn Meyer would take iPhone images from her car window while driving from Sausalito to San Francisco, where she directs the painting department at the Academy of Art. ArtHaus, owned and operated by James Bacchi and Annette Schutz, represents just 18 artists, 80 percent of whom have been with the gallery since the day it opened in Bacchi’s one-bedroom apartment on lower Nob Hill. “Because ArtHaus has so few artists, they (Bacchi and Schutz) are able to spend time getting to know each artist,” says Meyer. When Bacchi was fed up, he invited his fellow gallery director Schutz for a drink at the Red Room, a suave single-colored saloon on Sutter Street. ArtHaus was going strong for nine years, until Bacchi got an eviction notice for running a business out of a rent-controlled unit. Whether clients walk in as corporate collectors or as individuals buying their first artwork, they all deal directly with Bacchi and Schutz. The gallery is divided into three exhibition spaces, and every quarter there is a group show and a solo show. Since driving while photographing was made illegal starting Jan. 1, Meyer has switched her approach. Sam Whiting is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.

North Richmond documentary to screen in Richmond

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 00:27:02 UT

Past Present and Future, a 90-minute documentary by Doug Harris that’s scheduled for a hometown premiere Saturday, Jan. 14, at the Richmond Museum of History. Harris, 56, has built an award-winning career as a documentarian of the African American experience in the East Bay, where he grew up and still lives. Made partly by at-risk teens from North Richmond under Harris’ direction, “North Richmond” depicts the resilience of residents who have faced down gun violence, the drug trade, chemical spills and refinery fires. “This is a hot-button film,” says Harris, who will join several Richmond residents from the film in a post-screening discussion.

Bob Castaneda, pilot of famed Radio Fiyer art car, dies

Thu, 5 Jan 2017 01:04:38 UT

Bob Castaneda, a Vietnam veteran and art car creator known for driving around in an oversize Radio Flyer red wagon powered by a 350 Chevy engine, died on the day after Christmas. Mr. Castaneda suffered a heart attack at the Alameda home of his longtime partner, Joy Davis. “When a person would see a giant Radio Flyer wagon going down the street it transcends their fantasy into reality,” said Blank. The wagon was street legal, and Mr. Castaneda drove it to the grocery store and yard sales. In one infamous episode on “Home Improvement,” TV host Tim Allen was put at the controls and was to surprise viewers by driving the Radio Fiyer out of a garage. Mr. Castaneda toured the Radio Fiyer around the country, and wherever he made a paid appearance he would also make a free one at a hospital for children. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and was stationed at an ammunition depot in Danang during the Vietnam War. In an interview for the Chronicle feature “My Ride,” published in 2011, Mr. Castaneda described how he built the wagon, in the secrecy of a cousin’s garage in Davis, and debuted it at Andy’s Picnic, a hot rod show, in 1996. Though it looked and rolled like an art car, it also had a polished chrome engine to match its wheels, and brassy exhaust pipes.

Market Street quick-draw shooter gets a solo show

Wed, 4 Jan 2017 20:40:57 UT

Among the crush of morning commuters walking along Market Street, Troy Holden is disguised in his hoodie, hands in its pouch. To get a truly candid image, Holden has to be able to pull out the camera, slide open the lens cap with his thumb as he raises it and press the shutter button all in one motion with one hand, before the moment is lost. “I do try to be fast, either to get an absurd moment or an interesting interaction or gesture,” says Holden, 41, who is best known on Instagram as @troyholden. The show’s title, “Colorful Streets,” derives from the fact that Holden has switched to color from black-and-white to better match the colorful characters who catch his eye. To get the 25 images for the show, Holden worked six days a week for a year, which is a squeeze because he is still an amateur, self-taught. During his morning commute, Holden is at the intersection of Fourth and Market streets, where, hustling along the sidewalk, he crashes into people emerging from the BART station. First posted on Instagram, the image got 1,600 likes. [...] his followers are only viewing the photo on a tiny screen.