Thursday, April 29, 2010

SFMOMA's 75th Anniversary 2: Focus on Artists

On the fourth floor, there are a series of rooms ranging from claustrophobic to expansive, each featuring a single artist.

I was attending the museum as a guest of my friend Patrick Vaz, above, in front of a Robert Ryman painting. We happened to be sharing the room with a cluster of people experiencing the museum with a docent, who was asking them in her best schoolmarm voice, "And what quality is the same in every one of these paintings?" Patrick shot me a warning, evil eye to prevent me from blurting out, "THEY'RE ALL WHITE!" until we had moved into the next room. (I couldn't help myself.)

We went through the Richard Serra room (me: "hate him," Patrick: "I usually understand what he's trying to do, and it's interesting, but I'm not sure that's enough.")

One of the largest rooms was dedicated to Frank Stella, whose work doesn't seem to be aging very well.

Patrick confessed to loving the Sigmar Polke painting above the first time he saw it, but on the second time through the exhibit, it struck him as uncomfortably close to being a documentary rendition of a dirty oven, which reminded him of his own dirty oven at home, and all aesthetic pleasure was taken away.

We stumbled into another one of the exhibits, dedicated to multi-screen art movies by the recently deceased Bruce Conner.

Patrick was fighting a low-level migraine, and the quickly flashing images were threatening to set off a Pokemon level seizure, so we didn't stay long.

In a 1954 paean to Grace McCann Morley in "Time" Magazine, of all places, there is the following wonderful quote:

"But in trying to make San Franciscans bigger art buyers, Director Morley has run into one unmovable obstacle. "San Franciscans are spoiled by the view." she explains. "If they buy less than people in Cleveland, it is because they need it less. I only own a few pieces myself."


Nancy Ewart said...

Stella and Ryman - OH you are SO on the money there. I have always wondered why Ryman is so famous but maybe it's all the white! RICH White boys just luve that white! There are some wonderful things in that show but you have to go past a lot of mediocre stuff to see it. If you have time, I can get you in with my "press pass" and show you the great exhibit on the 2nd (?) floor. It's in back of the educational center and it's a display of a lot of the promo and graphic design that the museum produced in the last 50 or so years.

Peteykins said...

Frank Stella not aging well?


Civic Center said...

Dear Peteykins: It may just be that the Frank Stella paintings/constructions that SFMOMA has as part of their collection are not his best work. That's true of a lot of their permanent collection. Let's just say that these particular pieces were looking pretty ghastly.

And I love the word "Pshaw!"

Unknown said...

SFMOMA should look at other contemporary museums around the world and start from scratch. This was stale.

There is no creative pulse at SFMOMA and it's just plain sad if the main attraction now is standing in the abhorrently long line for Blue Bottle coffee in the sculpture garden.

They should conduct pitches from aspiring curators who can bring modern back to the SF art scene instead of recycling the collection into an insulting Anniversary event.