Wednesday, December 06, 2006

California Impressions



This week in San Francisco has been summer in December with spectacular northern light.



I went to the deYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park to see the Ruth Asawa retrospective, but it turned out to be quite awful, either because her art isn't aging very well or she was a second-rate hack in the first place or she hasn't been well-served by the curators of this show.



Kenneth Baker, the art critic in the "San Francisco Chronicle," wrote a sidestepping review where he tiptoed around the subject of Ms. Asawa's legacy, possibly because she is so beloved in San Francisco, by Society Queen Dede Wilsey and Mayor Newsom, among others. Baker wrote the following:
"But walk into the de Young's dramatically lighted presentation of Asawa's sculpture and a deflating impression of work locked into a period asserts itself irresistibly. We cannot help but see a kind of arrested lava lamp peristalsis in elaborately crafted hanging sculptures such as "Untitled (S. 250)" (c. 1955) and the late '60s "Untitled (S. 044), in which translucent globules interpenetrate."



Opening at the same time next to the Asawa exhibit was a show called "California Impressions," which consisted of thirty landscape paintings of California, mostly from 1880-1920, collected by a rich Marin County woman named Wendy Willrich.



When the local fine arts museums present a show based around a collector, it's usually in the expectation of a gift, either in cash or art or both.



Most of these shows tend to be provincial and pathetic, but Ms. Willrich's collection turns out to be the exception to the rule. It's wonderful.



Plus, she came by it honestly, after taking a "personally inspiring" class at the Oakland Museum, with its great collection of California art.



Starting with her first purchase at Butterfield's auction house in 1966, she made an annual purchase of beautiful and undervalued (because they were by little-known West Coast artists) paintings, and the deYoung show is the culmination.



The museum has produced a hardback catalogue of the collection that's only $25 which would be a perfect Christmas gift for anyone nostalgiac for California.



The show, and the walk through Golden Gate Park afterwards, just served as a reminder that this place really is an earthly paradise that hasn't quite yet been destroyed.



Though there are a few people and a number of animals in the paintings...



...there are no cars...



...the bane of California and the wider world.



I walked west and reached Ocean Beach...



...disturbing a seagull...



...on its way back to sea.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great shots. Lucky you to see such nice weather at this time of year and to visit the Museum. What an interesting life you live.. I am envious. I agree, Ruth is no Picasso....

heidi said...

yummy walk in the park. thanks for the pretty pictures and crisp narrative.

janinsanfran said...

That seagull is a fabulous shot. Likewise some of the Park shots.

Great meeting you today. Soon we'll have up very similar pictures! :-)

markleym said...

Mike, this portfolio is breath-taking. You bring home why I love S.F. The gull shot is fabulous - an example of a photo I've been hoping to get for years and haven't yet. I still hope.