Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018
 

Fall preview: Art museums

Fine Arts


"The Thirteenth Labor of Hercules: Official Poster for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition" (1913-14), color offset lithograph poster by Perham Wilhelm Nahl. Collection of Donna Ewald Huggins. Photo: Courtesy FAM-SF
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Fall offerings at the museums may seem a little thin compared to years past, as we await 2016 and the arrival of the expanded and renovated SFMOMA and the reopening of the Berkeley Art Museum in its new digs. In the meantime, the South Bay continues to strengthen its presence, and major players in the city present shows worth checking out, as you'll see below.

"Palace of Fine Arts and the Lagoon" (ca. 1915), oil on canvas by Edwin Deakin. Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, long-term loan from the California Department of Finance.
Photo: Courtesy FAM-SF

de Young Museum: Between Life and Death: Robert Motherwell's Elegies in Bay Area Collections, a small exhibition by a giant of Abstract Expressionism, showcases "At Five in the Afternoon," one of 13 works from Elegies to the Spanish Republic, a series inspired by a speech about the Spanish Civil War delivered by philosopher/novelist Andre Malraux at a 1937 rally in San Francisco. The conflict and the moral issues it raised remained close to the artist's heart for the rest of his life, and inspired some 250 paintings and works on paper. Sept. 5-March 6.

Jewel City: Art from San Francisco's Panama-Pacific International Exposition, with its strong local angle and exhaustively researched, well-written scholarship by curator Jim Ganz, promises to be a highlight of the season and a lot of fun. This year is the centennial of the ambitious exposition, which spanned 76 city blocks and celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal, reconstruction following the 1906 earthquake, industrial advancements and achievements in the arts. A century ago, 11,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, murals, monuments and photographs were shown there. Oct. 17-Jan. 10.

Legion of Honor: Breguet: Art and Innovation in Watchmaking focuses on Abraham-Louis Breguet, the Parisian clockmaker par excellence whose company, beginning in the late 1700s, developed technical innovations that transformed the nature of timekeeping taken for granted today, such as the self-winding watch and first wristwatch. Known for their ingenuity, portability and reliability, the elegant timepieces, status symbols for the European elite, were worn by the likes of Napoleon, Tsar Alexander and Queen Victoria. Sept. 19-Jan. 10.

"Illumination Waqf" (2013) by Ahmed Mater. Gold leaf, tea pomegranate, Chinese ink and offset X-ray film print on paper. Photo: Courtesy of Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

Asian Art Museum: The second of two exhibitions centered on modern art (the sterling 28 Chinese being the first), First Look: Collecting Contemporary at the Asian features the institution's acquisitions over the last 15 years. This show attempts to connect art-historical traditions and subject matter – landscape, nature, spirituality – to contemporary ideas expressed in mediums ranging from photography, animation, video and sculpture to Korean ceramics and Chinese ink paintings. Sept. 4-Oct. 11.

"Postman Joseph Roulin" (1888), oil on canvas by Vincent van Gogh. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Gift of Robert Treat Paine.
Photo: MFA, Boston

Looking East: How Japan Inspired Monet, Van Gogh, and other Western Artists In the 1850s, after years of isolation, Japan opened itself up to more than trade with the West, setting off a frenzy among European and American artists, designers and collectors. That fascination is explored in this show, which consists of over 170 works, including Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces exemplifying the Japonisme phenomenon that inspired Mary Cassatt, Monet, Degas, van Gogh, Gauguin and others. Oct. 30-Feb. 7.

Museum of the African Diaspora: Alison Saar: Bearing Utilizing found objects like suitcases, mops and buckets, glass and tar, and touching on burdens borne by the body and the weight of history, African-American artist Saar merges the legacy of slavery, womanhood and racial discrimination in installations such as Undone, where a black female figure seated on a chair hung from a wall seems to float overhead; her translucent white gown, its edges stained with blood, cascades 16 feet to the ground. Nov. 11-Apr. 3.

Oakland Museum of California: Don't know what to do with that old pair of jeans, discarded toy or tattered strip of rug? Yo-Yos & Half Squares: Contemporary California Quilts supplies a potential answer in the form of 20 quilts, dating from the late 1980s through the early 2000s. Made of unconventional materials sewn into asymmetrical designs by five locally based women, the seemingly spontaneous creations of Angie Tobias, Arbie Williams, Mattie Pickett, Rosie Lee Tompkins, and Sherry Byrd reflect each crafter's idiosyncratic taste and style. Sept. 12-Feb. 21.

Contemporary Jewish Museum: Trimpin, a German-American artist, was commissioned to create Pour Crever, a new lobby installation that marks the 75th anniversary of the mass deportation of Jews from the South German hamlet of Efringen-Kirchen to France, and then to their final destination, Auschwitz. Suspended water tanks release sheets of water spelling out the names of the town's victims that vaporize before they reach the pool below. Sept. 24-Ongoing. NEAT: New Experiments in Art and Technology looks at the Bay Area's leading role in integrating digital tools with fine art. Oct. 15-Jan. 17.

A quartet of shows opens simultaneously at Stanford University on Sept. 9. The Anderson Collection's Constructive Interference: Tauba Auerbach & Mark Fox showcases the work of a pair of Stanford grads who investigate process and an array of materials in their prints, drawings, paintings and sculpture. Sept. 9-March 21. Just across the way at the Cantor Arts Center, Artists at Work examines the nature of inspiration, creativity in the context of art history, the impact of technology, and the contribution of place in works by Edouard Manet, J.M.W. Turner, Edward Weston, Trevor Paglen and numerous others. Sept. 9-Jan. 18. A jumping-off point for the latter exhibition is the Cantor's recent acquisition of 29 Richard Diebenkorn sketchbooks, which offer intriguing clues to this California artist's practice, and are displayed along with "New York Corner" (1913), a painting by Edward Hopper, whose canon helped shape the budding psyche of Diebenkorn when he matriculated at Stanford. Sept. 9-Feb. 8.

San Jose Museum of Art: In Artists Including Me, William Wegman, who made his bones on humorous photographs of his Weimaraners, waltzes through the annals of art history, cracking visual puns at the expense of the masters and major art movements, from the Renaissance to Pop Art. Those works share the stage with the irrepressible pups. Oct. 3-Feb. 7.

 






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