Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Covid Wheel in Golden Gate Park

Fleeing an overheated apartment on Saturday, we headed to Golden Gate Park and found an empty picnic table... a shaded glade that was perfection.
After lunch, we walked to the Music Concourse and were greeted by a 150-foot ferris wheel which had been partially installed at the beginning of the pandemic to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Golden Gate Park.
To our surprise, the installation finally looked complete, though the wheel wasn't turning.
Investigating online, SFist and Ryce Stoughtenborough at the SF Examiner have passed on the PR release from SF Rec & Park that the ferris wheel will be open for paying customers starting this Wednesday, October 21st.
This strikes me as borderline insane, since the traveling SkyStar Observation Wheel from St. Louis doesn't offer traditional swinging seats but tightly enclosed gondolas.
To add insult to injury, it will cost $18 for adults and $12 for kids/seniors, effectively shutting out poor families.
It has taken months to evolve, but pandemic behavior with distancing and masks has become second nature to the vast majority of San Franciscans. That is probably why our ratio of new COVID-19 cases as a percentage of population is so low.
Meanwhile, the rest of the country, according to the daily, color-coded, United States county map at the NY Times, is exploding with new cases again. C'mon, Midwest, get it together and stop listening to the right-wing nonsense machine.

Monday, October 12, 2020

David Park at SFMOMA

With some trepidation, we ventured to the newly reopened SFMOMA on Friday for a marvelous retrospective of the Bay Area artist David Park (1911-1960). At the museum entrance, I was told that my ubiquitous red bandana was not safe enough, so they offered a free, comfortable, SFMOMA branded cloth mask that looked like a psychedelic bikini bottom. (Pictured above: Canoe, 1957.)
The galleries turned out to be blessedly uncrowded and the masked art lovers were unfailingly considerate in keeping their distance from each other.
Born in Boston in 1911, Park moved to California as a teenager, living with a Bohemian aunt in Los Angeles, and then moving to Berkeley where he studied at the SF Art Institute. (Pictured above: Receiving Pay Cheques, 3000 Men Building a Reservoir Near Balboa Park, San Francisco, 1933.)
The young Park worked as an assistant to Diego Rivera when he was in San Francisco, and there are a number of pictures in the exhibit that are heavily influenced by the Mexican muralist's style. (Pictured above: Boston Common, 1935.)
Park, along with his wife and two daughters, returned to Boston in the second half of the 1930s for a teaching stint at a girls' school, and he became fascinated by Picasso, as you can see in the painting above. (Pictured above: Violin and Cello, 1939.)
He soon realized that his close circle of artistic friends and colleagues were in California, so he returned to Berkeley during the 1940s where he painted Abstract Expressionist paintings in the approved style at the time for serious American artists. (Pictured above: Untitled (J), 1948.)
In 1949 he famously took a batch of his own abstract paintings to the city dump and spent the next decade working in an expressive figurative style that looked backward and forward in art history, but was all his own. His friend Richard Diebenkorn was reported to have remarked upon seeing the 1950 Kids on Bikes above, "My God, what's happened to David?"
Instead of shunning Park for his abstraction apostasy, Diebenkorn and quite a few other major Bay Area artists ended up joining him in what eventually become known as the Bay Area Figurative Movement. (Pictured above: Nudes by a River, 1954.)
The vast bulk of the exhibit consists of these paintings of the 1950s, each one as inventive and stirring as the next.
This burst of sustained artistic accomplishment came to an end in 1960 when Park died of cancer at age 49. (Pictured above: Couple in a Landscape, 1959.)
Over the years I have seen Bay Area Figurative Movement exhibits at various museums, and there would usually be a couple of paintings which stood out. Invariably they would turn out to be the work of David Park. This large exhibit, organized by Janet Bishop at SFMOMA, makes clear that his work is not only standing the test of time, but is still influential. (Pictured above: Untitled (Berkeley Figures), 1959.)
In the final room of the exhibit are a couple dozen gouache drawings from his final year, including Male Bathers, 1960. In a fascinating post by artist Robert Borkl entitled “Queering” David Park: Is It Fair to see Homoerotic Subtexts in Park’s imagery?, he writes: "David Park died in 1960, age 49. By all accounts, he was happily married to Lydia Park (later Lydia Park Moore), who was appreciative and supportive of his art, and the father of two daughters...But why must these critics, curators, and biographers place Park on such a chaste, hetero-normative, binary pedestal, as if we were still living in Park’s most productive period—the 1950s? I’ve always been amused and cheered by Park’s rendition of what could be interpreted as outdoor gay cruising scenes, nude boys at beaches, young men walking purposefully in the underbrush, and other same sex groupings. I wouldn’t describe any of his nudes, male or female, as prurient, but they’re not shy either."
On the second floor, there is a companion exhibit, David Park and His Circle: The Drawing Sessions. Bay Area artists started meeting together at each other's studios in 1953 for weekly working sessions, usually with a nude male or female model. Unfortunately, the rooms in these galleries are smaller and too crowded for a feeling of pandemic safety, so we did not stay long.
That's too bad, because it's an absorbing exhibit. Part of the fun is seeing the same model being drawn by different artists. Above is Page Schorer, son of the UC Berkeley literary biographer Mark Schorer, in a drawing by David Park (left) and Richard Diebenkorn (right).
They also drew each other, as you can see from Elmer Bischoff's portraits of Diebenkorn (left) and Park (right). The exhibits are up through mid-January and the museum is offering free admission as part of its safety-enhanced reopening until October 18th. Go to their website and order a timed reservation now.

Friday, October 09, 2020

Drunken Crash and Police Inaction

We heard the crash outside our living room window at 9AM and opened the window shades to see if anyone was badly hurt.
The first signs of life were tall boy beer cans being thrown quickly onto the sidewalk from the driver's side. A passenger, pictured above, jumped out and started yelling hysterically into her mobile while waving at someone down McAllister Street.
From what we could make out, the drunk driver (pictured in the middle above) had made a left turn from McAllister onto Franklin Street and smashed into a legally parked car. Assistance soon arrived in the person of a large man who is the last straggler from a tent encampment which city government swept away a week ago. He yelled at the ladies, jumped into the car, backed up the offending vehicle and drove it down McAllister while the two women stumbled up Franklin Street.
I called the SF Police Department non-emergency line because the parked car had been hit hard enough that it was pushed into the next lane of traffic on a busy one-way street, which made for dangerous conditions. That was at 9:05 AM.
I called again at 9:45 AM and stressed that it was a dangerous situation for drivers, and a police car finally arrived at 10:20 AM.
A new neighbor and I went to the street to tell him what we had seen. "Did you get the license number?" he asked and I told him no. "Then there's nothing we can do," he said. "How about busting the guy who drove the car away? He has a car parked 24/7 down the block. Here, let me show you." (The car is pictured above.) The officer told me that local politicians didn't allow for him to do anything about it, and I couldn't help but say, "Oh, really? Come on."
I thought he was going to arrest me, but we returned to the corner and my neighbor said the guy and the skinny woman from the crashing car had just walked down the street. The poor officer then had to do something so he got in his patrol car and went around the block while we watched the criminal pair leave the War Memorial park, cross Franklin, and walk down Fulton Street.
A tow truck driver arrived around 10:50 AM right after a utility worker had put out orange cones for safety almost two hours after the original crash, while shaking his head at the basic safety protocol ineptitude of the officer. There's a sort of happy ending, though. The owner of the parked car, who worked a couple of blocks away, came by to feed the meter and saw her trashed car about to be taken away to the impound lot. "You're not towing her car away, are you?" I asked, and the driver turned out to be a sweetheart. "No, no. It's going to the garage."

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Voting Al Fresco

Signage has appeared throughout San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza encouraging people to VOTE TODAY.
The directional signs are pointing to the Grove Street side of the plaza...
...where two massive, interlocked tents have been erected by the Department of Elections.
We were concerned that the temporary structures would be air-tight which would defeat the entire concept of a safe public place to vote during the pandemic...
...but there are a few plastic panels in each structure that have been replaced by topiary shrubs and the open air.
The Voting Center is open Monday through Friday 9AM to 5PM, and you can register, change your address, and/or ask for an early ballot.
It will also be open during the last two weekends before the November 3rd election, starting on October 24th.
Best of all, you don't even have to go inside, because there is a staffed, outdoor booth where you can drop off your mail-in ballots which we all automatically received this year in California. (Sorry, Texas and a lot of other Republican-abused states, voting will get better for you eventually.)
After the election, it would be great if the Office of the County Clerk could move in to the tents so San Franciscans can finally obtain a marriage license after months of pandemic shutdown.