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Preview: SFGate: Sam Whiting

Sam Whiting


San Francisco finally gets its hillside sign

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 20:41:28 UT

Hollywood has its name stamped into the hillside, and so does South San Francisco. The city itself, however, has gotten by without a mark of delineation — until now, with the installation of the word “DREAM” in shimmering capital letters on the east-facing slope of Bernal Hill. The public art, to be officially unveiled in a ceremony Friday, Sept. 22, is by Ana Teresa Fernández, but the concept is not original. For years Fernández has driven by “DREAM” in repeated graffiti on a building at the bottom of a hill near the Alemany freeway merge. That piece is derivative from the tagging of the late Oakland graffiti artist Mike “Dream” Francisco, who was shot and killed during a robbery in 2000.

Preview of Salesforce sculpture at Hosfelt Gallery

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 17:51:41 UT

The tallest piece of public art on Earth, a nine-story electronic sculpture in the round by Jim Campbell, is coming to the top of Salesforce Tower. Its opening keeps getting delayed by construction, and it probably won’t light up the sky until the end of the year, but anxious viewers can see it on a smaller — and closer — scale at Hosfelt Gallery. “You can get the feel of the presentation that will be on Salesforce at the Hosfelt Gallery,” says Campbell, adding that one can also get a feel for how his art is assembled and how it works in a way that is nearly impossible once installed at Salesforce, where the work will be 61 stories up.

US shutters Russia’s San Francisco consulate in retaliation

Fri, 1 Sep 2017 02:59:49 UT

The diplomats at the Russian Consulate in San Francisco have been known to bring plates of delicacies and vodka shots to neighborhood block parties and, for the last few years, inflated a big snowman out front at Christmas. The gestures of goodwill, though, will be sidelined amid escalating tension between the U.S. and Russia. The Trump administration, in a move reminiscent of the Cold War, ordered the shutdown by Saturday of the stately brick building on Green Street in Cow Hollow. The closure, the latest in a series of tit-for-tat retaliations, carried clear symbolism but will also limit Moscow’s operations in the U.S. and deprive Russians in the Bay Area of the support of consular staff.

A photographic chain of inspiration as mentors’ work influences mentees

Wed, 30 Aug 2017 21:00:58 UT

Within every documentary photograph lies an earlier documentary photograph that influenced it. That’s the nature of the medium, and now influence itself is the topic of a unique group show and catalog at SF Camerawork. Documentarians Kevin Kunishi of Oakland, McNair Evans of San Francisco and Amanda Boe, formerly of San Francisco and now in New York, decided to be up front and flatter their role models by inviting them into a collaboration that evokes a photographic “chain letter.” The result of this two-year cross-Pacific adventure is “Begin Anywhere: Paths of Mentorship and Collaboration,” which opens Thursday, Sept.

SF arts commission gallery farewell delayed because of counterprotest

Fri, 25 Aug 2017 18:46:05 UT

Due to the counterprotest scheduled for the Civic Center on Saturday, Aug. 26, the farewell ceremony for the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery at 155 Grove St. has been postponed. The event, a free public performance and procession from 155 Grove St. to the new SFAC Main Gallery in the Veterans Building will now be held Sept. 30. The Grove Street gallery has been in operation for 47 years. Its closing exhibit, a site-specific window display by acclaimed graphic designer Martin Venezky, will be unveiled Saturday as planned, but the goodbye party with performance and procession by Cliff Hengst will not take place until Sept. 30, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Making it big at SFMOMA with dramatically scaled new painting

Thu, 24 Aug 2017 16:03:54 UT

The largest painting ever to be hung at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art arrived Wednesday in the Haas Jr. Atrium, where it was unrolled by 10 installers on the granite floor as if they were a field crew rolling out the tarp for a rain delay. The monumental piece by New York abstract painter Julie Mehretu is in two pieces, each 27 feet by 32 feet, and flanks the staircase inside the Third Street entrance. Commissioned by SFMOMA, it is free public art in the lobby and will be on view in its unframed and unlighted form starting Thursday and for years thereafter.

Stanford’s Cantor museum hires new director

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 07:01:00 UT

Susan Dackerman, a German Renaissance scholar, will be named Friday as the John and Jill Freidenrich Director of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, as the university museum is formally known. Dackerman, 53, comes from the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, where she has worked for two years, following 10 years as curator of prints at the Harvard Art Museums. “I want to figure out ways to connect the museum to the technology community both on campus and in the area,” Dackerman said Thursday by phone, while at Harvard to research a book. While studying at Bryn Mawr she secured an internship at Harvard Art Museums, “which convinced me I wanted to have a museum career rather than an academic career,” she said. Dackerman starts Sept. 18 and plans to commute by bicycle to work from faculty housing at Stanford West on Sand Hill Road, near Stanford Shopping Center.

Taking a citywide census of Benny Bufano sculptures

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 19:00:00 UT

At the far back corner of the Stanford Court Hotel grounds sat a stone statue of a penguin, lonely as lonely can be for 40 years at least. Nobody knows how it got there, and nobody knew it was there until an early Saturday morning in July when it was lifted off its perch behind a stone wall by crane, to the amazement of passengers on the Powell Street cable car line. Hauled into the light, the penguin was revealed to be guarding her two chicks, the hallmark of Beniamino “Bene” (Benny) Bufano, the 5-foot-tall patron saint of San Francisco sculptors. A prolific employee of the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression, Bufano believed that public art should be “big enough to belong to everybody.” “He was a tiny man who conceived of his art in gargantuan proportions,” says Mary Serventi Steiner, curator at the Museo Italo Americano, which owns 46 Bufano pieces including sketches.

Ebony McKinney, tireless arts organizer, dies

Sat, 5 Aug 2017 19:48:11 UT

Ebony McKinney, a determined and energetic cultural advocate for artists and social justice, died suddenly July 29 at the age of 41. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Ms. McKinney graduated from Chatham University and worked as the manager of programming and outreach at Kelly Strayhorn Theater, before moving to San Francisco with her then-husband, Davu Flint, a musician and poet. [...] in those years, she co-founded two crucial organizations — Emerging Arts Professionals San Francisco Bay Area (EAP/SFBA) and Arts for a Better Bay Area (ABBA). ABBA, founded in 2014, is a coalition of more than 500 arts workers, including composers, curators, administrators, grant makers and artists of all disciplines. A connector of people, Ms. McKinney first made her mark by starting an informal group called ExperiMentors, which endeavored to build diversity and leadership. “She was interested in the future of cities and how they could be shaped by the arts,” said Adam Fong, executive director of the Center for New Music and the co-founder of EAP/SFBA. In addition to her work for EAP/SFBA, she and Leifheit formed ABBA to build public goodwill and increased funding for the arts. “One of Ebony’s signature moments for ABBA was organizing more than 30 people to give public comment at City Hall during the budget hearings in 2015,” Leifheit said. More than 100 people came to share stories in the exhibition space currently showing The Black Woman is God: At the heart of everything, she was deeply compassionate and peaceful and wanted to help people.

S.F.’s Opera Plaza Cinema may be going dark

Thu, 3 Aug 2017 22:04:47 UT

The Opera Plaza Cinema, a cozy four-screen movie theater known for its independent and documentary programming, appears headed for closure. Opera Plaza LP, owner of the commercial property at the 13-story condo tower in the Civic Center, has filed a request with the city to convert the ground-floor space from a movie theater to 6,000 square feet of retail sales and service. “Opera Plaza Cinema is no longer economically viable — and has not been for a long period of time,” said Nathan Nishiguchi of Urban Pacific Properties, managing agent for Opera Plaza. The operator (Landmark Theatres) and the landlord have arrived at the decision that closing the theater is the most appropriate next step. [...] Ted Mundorff, president of Landmark, a Los Angeles chain that runs the cinema, wrote in an email that he had met with the landlord this week and was under the impression that negotiations were ongoing. Landmark does not comment on its lease arrangements, but in an email statement, property manager Nishiguchi said the cinema has been on a month-to-month lease for eight years. The complex covers a square block between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street, Golden Gate Avenue and Turk Street, a short walk from the War Memorial Opera House it is named for. When Landmark took over the cinema in 1991, its ads stated “in the screening rooms” as code for indie and foreign movies the cognoscenti would be willing to search out. “When a film finished doing well at the Bridge or the Clay, we would move it over to the Opera Plaza,” said Gary Meyer, a co-founder of Landmark and now a consultant to film festivals and art-house cinemas.

Len Herzstein, original Giants balldude, dies at 93

Thu, 3 Aug 2017 03:21:36 UT

Mr. Herzstein was a retired retailer and college math instructor before he spent 18 seasons happily clodhopping after foul balls. While still in the service he was enrolled at the University of Notre Dame and then transferred to Stanford University where he earned his bachelor of science in electrical engineering in 1948. While at Stanford, he met a fellow student, Ruth Allan, and they married while still undergraduates. After the children were raised, Mr. Herzstein was divorced and moved to the hills of San Bruno to be near Skyline College, where he became an instructor of mathematics and business. Every member of the volunteer foul ball shag team wears a jersey with the word “Balldude” stitched on the back, but Mr. Herzstein customized his by having his name added to it. After a World Series victory in 2010, Mr. Herzstein slapped manager Bruce Bochy a high five and somehow lost his glove in the process. Giants President Larry Baer wrote a letter to Mr. Herzstein on his 90th birthday stating he served as a model and inspiration for many others who longed to be ‘just like Len.’ In retirement, Mr. Herzstein served on the San Mateo Community College District Foundation Board, and the California High School Certification Board. A scholarship fund in his name is endowed at Skyline College. In lieu of flowers the family asks that contributions be made to the Len Herzstein Scholarship Fund at Skyline College.

Famed Little Princess 109 light show to pulsate again in Newark

Wed, 2 Aug 2017 19:25:52 UT

[...] as a psychedelic light show, the group passed an audition for Bill Graham’s Fillmore West and became a six-man lighting act. The 1960s flamed out, but on Friday, Aug. 4, LP’s signature images will flicker and pulsate again for its Little Princess 109 50th Anniversary Light Show at Swiss Park in Newark. Two bands, classic rockers Eddy and Jukers, and the Grateful Dead cover band Dead Guise, will attempt to re-create the San Francisco psychedelic ballroom era in the East Bay dance hall, as the surviving members of LP — David Hillis, Kirk Linstrum, Jerry Radcliff, Gary Lawrence and Jacque Asbury Reynolds — mix the lights the way they did in 1968. The band, which had included the now late Rollin Lewis and Chris Mickey, did four or five original numbers, including one written by Hillis called “Keep Your Virginity,” and were met by charitable applause by the gathered student body in the auditorium. LP started out on the junior high school dance circuit, but within a year they’d grown from six members to nine. Eighteen hands were operating 14 slide projectors, three movie projectors, three overhead projectors, two black lights and a strobe light. “We thought we’d died and gone to light show heaven,” says Hillis, who never left his regular job, making ketchup at the Hunt’s cannery in Hayward. Among those who played to a backdrop provided by LP were the Band, the Byrds, Joe Cocker, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Santana, Sly and the Family Stone, the Youngbloods, and Frank Zappa, according to Lillis. After the Fillmore West closed, LP tried to transition to Winterland but there wasn’t enough work in it, and the collective finally folded after a Cow Palace gig on New Year’s Eve 1977. Three years ago, the lights were brought out of the dark by Radcliff, who had not been in the original jug band but was there when LP transitioned into a light show group (accepted despite being a student at rival Tennyson High School in Hayward). There will be a one-hour rehearsal for the other five members to practice the liquid projections, which involve an upside-down glass clock face in each hand. Colored water and mineral oil are poured in and delicately swirled to form the amoeba shapes that are projected onto a screen.

Sites Unseen activating public art in Yerba Buena alleys

Wed, 26 Jul 2017 19:11:21 UT

Sites Unseen activating public art in Yerba Buena alleys The mission of Sites Unseen is to activate the Yerba Buena alleys with permanent public art. The colors alone will make a brilliant unveil, but Sites Unseen always livens things up with side shows — this time they’ll feature a Crochet Jam hosted by Ramekon O’Arwister and an art zine being made on-site by Fallen Fruit, an arts duo from Los Angeles.

Aleshia Brevard, SF drag star and transgender pioneer, dies at 79

Tue, 25 Jul 2017 00:25:21 UT

Aleshia Brevard, a Marilyn Monroe impersonator at Finocchio’swho went on to transgender surgery and a career in television and movies, died July 1 at home in her apartment in the Santa Cruz County town of Scotts Valley. The cause of death was pulmonary fibrosis, said Joyce Nordquist, Ms. Brevard’s landlord and friend of 60 years. “Within a year of that life-changing surgery I was balancing a showgirl’s headdress at the Dunes Hotel,” she wrote. “Aleshia was a true pioneer who never lost her zest for life,” said Stryker, who featured Ms. Brevard her in the Emmy-winning 2005 documentary Screaming Queens: In the film, Stryker said, Ms. Brevard described what life was like in the Tenderloin before there was an organized movement for transgender rights. Dreams of stardom were never mentioned, and the only venue for performance were school talent contests. “I was proud of her as a brother,” said her younger sister, Jeanne Cauble She was not the typical teenage boy. Though Ms. Brevard was taller and slimmer than Monroe, she could pull off the body language and the voice in the days before lip synching. A year or so later, she moved back to Los Angeles to have gender reassignment surgery. Ms. Brevard’s most prominent film role was in “The Love God?” with Don Knotts, in 1969. “Limousines whisked me from one press party to the next, and at each exciting stop I held court as the honored guest,” she wrote of that experience, on her website. When the roles dried up, Ms. Brevard returned to Middle Tennessee State University, where she earned a master’s degree in theater arts. Ms. Brevard is survived by her sister, of Midland, N.C. A private memorial service will be held in Scotts Valley.

Chronicle art critic Charles Desmarais wins major national award

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 17:37:34 UT

Chronicle art critic Charles Desmarais wins major national award San Francisco Chronicle art critic Charles Desmarais has been named a winner of the Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Prize for outstanding performance in visual arts journalism. “This is an extraordinary honor for a man who has spent his career in visual arts administration before joining The Chronicle as our visual art critic a year and a half ago,” said David Wiegand, assistant managing editor, features. Charles has brought a keen eye, a wealth of experience and, most of all, an appreciation for the importance of art in our world to his job as the Chronicle art critic. The Rabkin Prize is funded by the estate of abstract painter, folk art collector and Manhattan real estate investor Leo Rabkin, who died in 2015. Entries were judged solely upon their submission, by a three-person jury comprising readers of the arts press.