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Sam Whiting


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.

Artist’s graphic-style views of the night city

Wed, 12 Jul 2017 21:28:58 UT

[...] she knows it when she sees it — a neon sign burning late at a liquor store or a motel, in Chinatown, the Mission, and through the fog in the Outer Sunset where she lives. From that image, she creates a vibrant painting, a process that involves five colors at most, to create the effect of a vintage cartoon or comic book. “I’m trying to create a style that evokes a sense of nostalgia and familiarity,” says the 25-year-old artist. “Liquor stores and corner stores, motels — things like that — are a facet of every city and town,” she says. The liquor stores and corner stores there are in strip malls, but she loved them just the same. In the crush of humanity, she started taking pictures and later combined them into a painting of a man eating a hot dog in front of a liquor store. Above the liquor store is an apartment building with clothes drying on a fire escape. The pieces in the 111 Minna Gallery show are as large as 5 feet square, which means more signs, more people and more streetscape.

Gray Reisfield, niece and confidante of Greta Garbo, dies at 85

Tue, 11 Jul 2017 23:11:17 UT

Gray Reisfield, niece and sole heiress to the estate of the reclusive Swedish screen star Greta Garbo, has died. “Kata (family nickname for Garbo) taught my mother to swim in the Pacific Ocean,” said Derek Reisfield. At about the time she was meeting stars with her aunt, she changed her name just as her aunt had done, from Ann-Marguerite to the easier to handle Gray. From Los Angeles, the family moved to the Santa Fe artists community, and Mrs. Reisfield rode a horse 3 miles or more to Santa Fe High School, from which she graduated in 1950. Always academic, she went east for college at Bryn Mawr and advanced from there to Yale Law School, where she was among three women in her class. [...] Garbo (born Greta Lovisa Gustafson), was still considered one of the great screen goddesses of the 20th century, but she hadn’t made a film since the comedy flop “Two-Faced Woman” in 1941. Garbo turned her back on Hollywood and was trying to turn her back on her public in New York City, where she took refuge. “Kata would come visit us fairly often, either by car and driver, and very often she took the bus,” said Derek Reisfield. “She was quite canny,” said Reisfield, a management consultant, technology investor and co-founder of MarketWatch, the financial news and information site. The estate closed in 1994, but Mrs. Reisfield continued on as the unpaid guardian of the Garbo legend. Mrs. Reisfield did interviews, was featured in a television documentary and was an adviser to Garbo museum exhibits in New York and Santa Barbara.

50 years of protest photos in 50-year-old gallery

Fri, 7 Jul 2017 17:24:09 UT

Nobody loved the draft, and while national news photographers were looking for hippies with flowers their hair on Haight Street, Berkeley documentarian Nacio Jan Brown was shooting a protest against the Vietnam War at the Oakland Induction Center. The exhibit of 63 images covers just about every protest, from antiwar rallies at San Francisco State through the Black Panthers, People’s Park in Berkeley, the United Farmworkers March, Greenpeace, AIDS activism, Chinatown rent strikes, Black Lives Matter and through to the Women’s March last winter. For every gathering of resistance, there seemed to be at least one photographer, and the 33 photographers in the show amount to “the ones who we could find their negatives or their digital files, ” says Ken Light, professor of photojournalism at UC Berkeley, who curated the show along with his wife, Melanie Light, a photography appraiser and archivist. When word got around about the project, photographers started sending the Lights digital files, hundreds of them. The Lights turned a home office into a “Resisters Room,” and papered the walls with thumbnail prints attached by pushpins. “We had too many pictures of policemen beating up people and protesters holding signs, which were kind of boring,” Light says. Sam Whiting is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Resistors: 50 Years of Social Movement Photography in the Bay Area:

Most of a Mexican Museum collection fails authentication

Fri, 7 Jul 2017 16:53:12 UT

Most of a Mexican Museum collection fails authentication Almost all of the artifacts described as the oldest in the permanent collection of the Mexican Museum are either forgeries or cannot be authenticated to display in a national museum. According to the report, only 83 of 2,000 artifacts from the pre-Hispanic, or pre-Columbian, era could be certified as museum-quality by an independent team of museum curators who came from Mexico City to conduct the test. The other 1,917 are considered “decorative,” and will probably be given to schools or smaller museums before the museum moves from its temporary Fort Mason site to a permanent home in a luxury condo tower being constructed near SFMOMA. The $80,000 report was undertaken as a requirement of the Smithsonian Institution, which accepted the Mexican Museum as an affiliate in 2012. The recognition by the Smithsonian took the Mexican out of the realm of small community museums, where it has operated since its founding in 1975. All of the items studied, both fake and real, were donated to the museums, and no tax deductions were given to donors without independent authentication, Kluger said. [...] hand-me-downs cannot be part of any museum that offers parts of its collection on loan and accepts artifact loans from the Smithsonian. According to the museum’s website, the pre-Hispanic Collection goes back 2,500 years and represents 2,000 pieces encompassing Mesoamerican, Central American and Peruvian cultures. The items include vessels, tools, ceremonial objects and body ornaments from Teotihuacan, Mayan, Zapotec, Nayarit, Colima and Peruvian Incan civilizations. The 83 items that were authenticated include male and female figurines, jars, bowls, vases and necklace ornaments. According to Chávez, who has taught a course in art and culture in Latin America at the Berkeley journalism school, the report and the board’s response to it are positive signals.

Bill Evers, SF environmentalist and attorney, dies at 90

Fri, 7 Jul 2017 01:42:05 UT

During a long and distinguished career, Mr. Evers switched between private practice and public service. An activist in eradicating urban blight, he chaired the Citizens Committee for Sign Improvement, which successfully fought to get free-standing billboards removed from residential neighborhoods in San Francisco, in the 1960s. Mr. Evers was involved in the opening of the Alpine Meadows ski area, which opened in 1961, and Boreal Ridge, which opened in 1964. On his mother’s side, the Dohrmann family owned and operated the Emporium department store. Among his designs was the long-gone Hamm’s Brewery, noted for its twinkling sign of a glass filling with golden beer. Mr. Evers soon took a position as a legal assistant with the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington. By the end of the dinner, they had shaken hands to form the Tahoe Improvement and Conservation Association. By the late 1970s, Mr. Evers was involved in public policy, and in 1977 he served as president of SPUR, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association. In his later years, he became involved in the Gladstone Institutes, a nonprofit medical research institution in San Francisco. Mr. Evers was a founding member of the President’s Council and served as chair of the Stem Cell Science Team.

Light show to wash Park Conservatory in psychedelia

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 23:22:23 UT

On Wednesday night at 9:15 p.m., he will find out, along with an expected 10,000 spectators, when his installation “Photosynthesis” flashes to life as the pinnacle of the “Surrealistic Summer Solstice” free concert in Golden Gate Park and probably the peak moment in the citywide celebration surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. The show, which involves a series of psychedelic flowers and insect patterns projected onto the white glass exterior of the Conservatory, will run nightly from sundown until midnight through Oct. 21, funded privately through the San Francisco Parks Alliance. Anticipation is high for the Grand Lighting of the Conservatory, and it will build through a three-hour jamby a band of ’60s survivors at a stage set up along John F. Kennedy Drive near the Conservatory. “Photosynthesis” will run in sequences of 15 or 20 minutes then start up again, with the lighting effect created by 10 projectors built into the refreshment kiosks outside the Conservatory. The artwork is a collaboration between Davis’ nonprofit studio, Illuminate, and Obscura Digital, known for lighting big structures like the Sydney Opera House.