Notes on San Francisco:
* the martin puryear retrospective kicked ass... as with kingstons painting, there was the quasi-literary, or representational quality of the work. shapes and forms (and ideas) that rest in the collective unconcious-- trapped or lost by travel, work, love, life, etc... we lose things and regain them inspite ourselves. in any event, this was sculpture of strength and understanding. as moving a show as one could wish to spend an afternoon in.
* the matthew barney piece at san francisco museum of modern art (martin puryear): this is drawing taken to a certain extreme of risk and intent. this is art taken to an athletic format of daring adventure. this is art, drawing in particular, not to be missed... Barney actually climbed the turret of the museum and while hanging with carabiners, "performed", if you will, the drawing in question on a wall of the turret. and it's a hell of a drawing, regardless of the physical baggage attached. yeah... indeed, as irrelevant as much of barney's work is, there are elements and particular events and objects that cannot be missed or ignored. much of his work (including his failures) move us forward, as artists and viewers. and it must be stated, in the end, he is a gutsy motherfucker. period...
*with the exception of kingstons gallery, dolby chadwick, the spaces in san francisco aren't very impressive. some in fact are downright depressing-- windowless, cramped cubicles.
* in the secondary gallery of dealer, claire carlevaro, i saw a small piece by the artist renata mclean. it was a violently gestural work, the strokes done in heavy, linear motions, seeming to join in the near middle of the the panel. mclean and her husband moved to nyc in 1960 and there is no biographical data since. a tragic mystery. who was this woman?? in the same space there were strong drawings by james budd dixon, frank lobdell and small works by hassel smith and karl benjamin.
the work of the san francisco school always seemed rather playful to me. too much so, truth be told. perhaps this was the experimental nature of the beats and of the city itself. perhaps it was a lack of seriousness, or a certain all-too democratic nature and pursuit of art. in any event, the work, no matter how inspired, generally fell short for me. the exceptions of course, being diebenkorn and various artists in various moments. but, yeah, it never measured up for me. or for history, for that matter. but here was something to bite into. these works, works on paper, wood and canvas were solid, tough expressions of the time and of the tradition. good to see... i just wish i had a few thousand bucks in my pocket at the time.
* if you're in san francisco, don't miss the de young museum. a strong, strong collection and a view from the top that is worth any number of entrance fees. the whole of the city stretched out before you.
*i bought some earrings from a street vendor. she made them herself that afternoon on that very corner. she told me she was a painter and asked what i was doing in san fran. when i told her i was an artist she asked where i was from. when i said new york, she asked if i sold my work. " as often as i can," i said. she looked at me with a straight face and asked, "are you rich?"
* 3 nights i had dinner at la fina stampa and enjoyed the marinated beef heart and broiled tripe, with numerous negro modelos and shots of cuervo. the intensity of these meals cannot be overstated...
* there are men ( and some women, though seemingly far fewer in number) who scurry about the streets in worn clothing and dirty shoes, lacking teeth and bathes and haircuts or shaves or meals, for that matter. they aren't the homeless you see in nyc or LA, in fact, they are (many of them, i'm sure) not homeless. they are the casualties of the 60's and the promises and missteps of a certain segment of a certain part of the american left in a certain part of late 20th century history. they are the casualties of MFA programs and acid, literature and buying into your own (or another's ) romanticism.
they were looking for something.
i hope they remember what it was...