Archive for Alexander Calder

Venetian Red: SFMOMA Presents the Fisher Collection

Posted in Bay Area Art Scene, Contemporary Art, Fine & Decorative Arts with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2010 by Liz Hager

Editor’s Note: On occasion, Venetian Red invites guest writers to contribute to these pages. Today Nancy Ewart, whose posts appear on ChezNamasteNancy and Examiner.com, covers the debut of the Fisher Collection as SFMOMA. VR has a long-standing interest in the Fisher collection; for other posts on this topic, click here.

By NANCY EWART

Anselm Kiefer, Melancholia,
(courtesy of SFMOMA)

I was out of town last month so I missed the press preview. However, one of the first things I did on my return was to get over to SFMOMA and see what all the shouting has been about. The museum is celebrating its 75th year and obtaining this collection gives them another reason to break out the champagne. This sweeping exhibition, entitled “Calder to Warhol: Introducing The Fisher Collection,” offers an extraordinary preview of the depth, breadth, and quality of the Fisher holdings, with works by Alexander Calder, Chuck Close, Sam Francis, Philip Guston, Anselm Kiefer, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Brice Marden, Agnes Martin, Joan Mitchell, Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra, Wayne Thiebaud, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, and many others—160 works by 55 artists, a tasty amuse-bouclé indeed!

Roy Lichtenstein, Reflections
(Courtesy of SFMOMA)

Even if the museum had the resources of the legendary King Midas, there is there is no way it could have bought even a fraction of these pieces. While it is difficult to get accurate figures on the sales of contemporary art, a 2005 Artnet article reported that the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC paid $4.5 million for one of Serra’s pieces. Richter’s auction high is the $5.4 million paid for the “Three Candles” and Twomby’s key works from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s have exceeded $10 million. The collection is rich in works from artists below the top-ten echelon. According to a recent (May 1010) article in the Huffington Post, artists such as Chuck Close, David Hockney, Ellsworth Kelly, Anselm Kiefer, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Ryman, and Wayne Thiebaud, sell for prices in the $2 million to $4 million range.

Chuck Close, Agnes Martin
(Courtesy of SFMOMA)

Agnes Martin, well represented in the exhibit, sells for around seven figures; her prices are probably higher by now. So, while the dollar value of the collection is into the stratosphere, the artistic value to art lovers and the museum is beyond price. Anybody who has followed the saga of the Fisher’s and their art knows about the long and acrimonious battle over his wish to have a museum at the Presidio. Conservationists and wiser heads prevailed to stop it. It wasn’t just a case of NIMBY but involved serious issues over questions of traffic, a huge footprint and, frankly, some distrust of what would happen “after” all the shouting died down. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors were anxious to keep the collection in the city and passed a resolution in 2007 to that effect. Nevertheless, the ultimate fate of the collection was unknown until the Fishers finally announced that the collection would to go the museum, by means of a 100-year renewable loan. Maybe it was astute behind-the scenes talks or perhaps an intimation of mortality that made Don Fisher agree to this for he passed away a few days later.

Andy Warhol, Nine Multicolored Marilyns
(Courtesy of SFMOMA)

It is said that you gain immortality through your children; in a very significant sense, his art collection was one of Fisher’s children and now, it’s been gifted to us. The collection is a huge addition to SFMOMA’s collection and puts the museum on the map as a major destination for lovers of modern art. With few notable exceptions, the pieces are huge, bold and brassy, with a focus on the blue chip artists of the last decade or so. It’s beautifully organized and hung, thanks to curator Gary Garrels and the rest of the museum staff. The entire fourth and fifth floors of the museum, including the Rooftop Garden, present a distillation of the sculpture portion of the collection. The Fifth Floor gallery is full of light and airy Calder mobiles. One of the pieces, a charming freestanding sculpture evokes the aquarium of the title with a few witty twists and scrolls of wire. Calder could have given lessons to any minimalist sculptor on elegant simplicity. Major works by Serra, Richter and Kiefer, Lewitt and Bourgeois are also on display.

Alexander Calder, Double Gong
(Courtesy of SFMOMA)

After all that, you will need a big cup of Blue Bottle coffee to tackle the rest of the show. The Ellsworth Kelly pieces are textbook examples of his statement that paintings should be the wall, art as a geometric idea and not an emotion. The Kiefer pieces will be another wonderful addition to the museum’s existing one. I am a fan of this enigmatic and philosophical artist so I lingered in front of his Sulamith” with its evocation of the Holocaust. Kiefer’s enigmatic and emotional pieces display an evocative Teutonic angst combined with an awesome list of painting materials (oil emulsion, wood cut, shellac, acrylic and straw on canvas).

Anselm Kiefer, Sulamith
(Courtesy of SFMOMA)

Throughout the exhibit, Garrel’s has intelligently paired pieces against one another—a thickly textured Sam Francis (Middle Blue, 1959) matched with the more open brushwork of a 1989 Joan Mitchell; Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park #67 on a wall where it visually leads to the gallery full of Agnes Martin’s pieces. One of those paintings, (Wheat) with its subtle rectangles of cream, parchment and a glaze of creamy yellow, is possibly one of the quietest and most beautiful pieces in the show. The fourth floor is too full of good pieces to list but one in particular—a great Oldenburg Apple Core—adds a much needed taste of wit to the more ponderous pieces in the collection. SFMOMA has announced plans for a vast addition to the museum. Two hundred and fifty million of the needed $480 million has been raised by “friends of the museum” and the board is currently looking for an architect. When the new wing opens in 2016, it will include a 60,000-square-foot Fisher Wing and allow a far more extensive display of the collection.

Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park #67
(Courtesy of SFMOMA)

“At this momentous time in SFMOMA’s history, we are not only celebrating 75 years of accomplishments and innovation, we’re also looking forward to a new era of growth and community service that will be greatly enhanced by the museum’s presentation of these outstanding works of art from the Fisher Collection,” said SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra. “Our collaboration with the Fisher family will give visitors access to some of the finest modern and contemporary masterpieces, placing SFMOMA among the greatest museums for contemporary art and elevating the cultural profile of the city as a whole.”

Claes Oldenberg, Apple
(Courtesy of Civic Center Blog)

As the first unveiling of Doris and Don’s incredible gift to the city of San Francisco, this exhibition will introduce the public to an incomparable group of iconic works that will inspire and educate generations of visitors in the years to come.” I think that Grace McCann Morely, the museum’s first director would be well pleased.

“SFMOMA: From Calder to Warhol.” On display through September 19.

Wider Connections

More on the Fisher collection from ChezNamasteNancy
Kenneth Baker weighs in

Next Generation Post Minimalism—Ranjani Shettar at SFMOMA

Posted in Bay Area Art Scene, Contemporary Art, Female Artists, Fiber Arts, Liz Hager, Printmaking, Sculpture with tags , , , , , , on April 16, 2009 by Liz Hager

By LIZ
HAGER

ranjani-shettar

Ranjani Shettar, Sing
Along
, 2008-9, steel, muslin, kasimi, tamarind kernel
powder paste, shellac, and lacquer, dimensions variable. (Photo ©
author.)

Though consisting of only six works, Ranjani
Shettar’s current exhibition of recent works at SFMoMA shows off
the depth and range of her capabilities. The sculptural
installations and prints on display demonstrate her considerable
technical agility. But it’s her wondrous imagination with its
complex references to art and the world around her that really
impresses. These references are often subtle to the point of
abstruseness. Luckily, though, initial enjoyment of the
pieces doesn’t require a knowledge or understanding of all the
references. The lacy Sing Along consists of
half a dozen or so wrapped wire pieces, all of which protrude from
the gallery walls or hang from the ceiling. Hanging is a Shettar
conceit. In Just a bit more (2005), the
artist used bee’s wax and thread dipped in tea to express the
beauty in humble materials; in Sun-sneezers blow light
bubbles
(2007-8) she first used the materials in Sing
Along to contrast the fragility of bubble forms with the strength
of the underlying armature. Shettar has remarked previously that
the purpose of hanging a work is to engage gravity in its ultimate
shape (downward tension dictates). Still, in regard to
inspiration for hanging sculpture, one can’t help thinking of Calder‘s
wire figures. The Sing Along grouping beckons
viewers into its space; it creates an active environment with the
gallery room, which promotes viewer exploration (rather than
passive gazing) of the work. In this and other regards, Shettar
carries on in the tradition of many post-minimalist artists, which
though not linked together tightly enough to form a movement, have
concerned themselves with incorporating the handmade with the
repetitive, mechanicalness of traditional Minimalist work. Among
those post-minimalist practices which Shettar adheres to are the
use of every day objects (Tom
Friedman
), a focus on the sheer tactile beauty of an
object (Anish
Kapoor
), as well construction of abstract forms through
the hand-made “touch” (Eva
Hesse
, Martin
Puryear
). Shettar typically mixes industrial materials
with traditional craft techniques, although she downplays too much
meaning of the latter in her work. In an interview last year
with John
Eastman
, she remarked: ” I am constantly observing
materials around me and looking at possibilities. For me my
materials do not have to always come from an art supply store, they
could be from anywhere. I often look at craft material and also use
craft techniques as they are generations old and refined. I use
materials that can convey and add to my idea. . . Every
material has uses and associations that are particular to each one
of them and so they bring in their own meaning into works.” In the
case of Sing Along, a wire armature is wrapped
with muslin coated in tamarind paste, a glue used both in textile
printing in India and in painting wood by the toymakers of Kinnala.
Shettar made a special pilgrimage to this village to learn the
technique. The textile element is subtle; without a close look at
the piece, the pieces might be mistaken for iron or patina bronze.
Sing Along takes its inspiration from the
koel, the long-tailed cuckoo common in SE Asia and Australia,
which, no doubt because of its distinctive call, was at one time a
popular Indian cagebird. The koel is referred to as a “brood
parasite,” because the female usually lays her single egg in the
nests of other birds, sometimes removing existing host eggs
beforehand. The host bird raises the fledging along with her
chicks, apparently no one ever the wiser. Other than the
black finish of the sculpture, which mimics the male bird’s coat,
there is nothing that overtly references this particular bird.
Armed with deeper knowledge, one wonders what about the bird
specifically inspired Shettar—was it the female’s speckled coat,
its parasitic nature, the call? No matter, birds generally
are in evidence throughout the piece. Once the source of the title
is clear, feather shapes and spread wings abound.

ranjani-shettar-1

Ranjani Shettar, Sing
Along
(detail). (Photo © author.)

Truth be
told, however, this viewer walked away from Sing
Along
obliviously satisfied in the belief that the
installation referenced salmon swimming arduously through glinting
rushing streams toward their spawning grounds. Therein lies the
clever beauty of Shettar’s pieces; no matter what your frame of
reference, they still speak to you. Note: Don’t miss Shettar’s
Me, no, not me, buy me, wear me, have me, me, no, not
me
piece on SFMoMA’s new rooftop garden.
Wider Connections More Ranjani
Shettar
Holland Carter—Art
in Review: Ranjani Shettar
Shettar at the Museum
of Modern Art, Dallas

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