Monday, June 6, 2011

City Arts Gallery

After viewing art in both open studios run by artists and museums run by curators, we wanted to see how contemporary art is shown in different types of venues. One gallery that we had heard about various times was City Art Gallery, located on Valencia in the extremely fruitful Mission district. We went to City Lights with no expectations, for we had no idea how it, or any other galleries for that matter, were ran.

As soon as we entered, we were shocked by the way the gallery was laid out. Instead of just having the work of one artist displayed, there were about 5 or 6 that we were able to see out of the gate. Each wall would be sectioned off for a certain artist, complete with their name and about 6 or 7 of their pieces, depending upon the size. The different artists all made art with different themes and out of different media, and each one was able to stand strongly on its own, yet work together with those around it.

We decided to interview Beka Brayer, an artist who was working at the gallery when we visited. Beka explained to us that City Art was a co-op gallery owned by about 200 artists or so, in which each artist would work 2 sets of 4.5 hour-days per month. In order to join the gallery, an artist would have the opportunity sit in front of a jury of around 7 artists once a month, in which they would display their art and explain why they should be a part of the gallery. Once accepted, an artist is only allowed to show in the gallery 9 months per each year, so that everyone has a chance to show their work.

The exhibits at City Art are changed every month, and the gallery closes down for 2 days. Everything about the gallery changes, for example the walls are painted and the setup of the gallery is changed, so that 26 new artists are able to show their work on a fresh and new background.

Because the gallery is recognized by the city and has been awarded each year for it's excellence, City Art is able to attract many buyers for it's artists. Thanks to the gallery's recognition and cheaper prices, huge amounts of the artwork shown there gets sold. There are some months that the gallery has sold $100,000 worth of art, Beka claimed.

In addition, Beka also explained to us how the gallery was different than other galleries. Because the artists owned and ran this gallery, they gave more money to the artists themselves than to the gallery. Regular galleries split the price of art 50-50, the gallery keeps 50% and the artist keeps the other half. City Art, and other co-op galleries are different, in which the gallery gets 10%, the selling artist gets 10%, and the artist who created the work gets 80%. We both loved this fact, for it seemed extremely fair. Emma and I are both avid supporters of an equal art business world, in which all artists have the chance to sell their works to everyone and keep all the money they sell it for. We feel that it is extremely unfair for a gallery to take 50% of the money made by the artist, when all they do is hang the works of art. Because of this, Emma and I were extremely intrigued and interested in the gallery, and we believed many others were as well.

Lastly, we talked to Beka about the differences between art collectors and art buyers for homes, and how they act when they come to buy at studios. Beka explained to us that art collectors are much easier to sell to, for they come into the gallery knowing exactly what they want. Art collectors want the works of art to speak for themselves, for they recognize that the viewers won't get the chance to learn the background information about the work. Because of this, Beka claimed that art collectors don't like to talk or hear from the artist, and instead just buy art solely on it's looks. Buyers, on the other hand, were more interested in forming a personal connection with the art that went just beyond the way it appeared.

All in all, Emma and I very much enjoyed our visit to the gallery and will definitely return soon!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Open Studios: Hunter's Point Shipyard (cont'd)

Jim Hutchinson
Jim Hutchinson's art cannot be ignored. His vibrant colors and abstract designs caught our eye and he soon became one of our favorite artists of the day. Meeting him was an even more vibrant experience. He is shockingly blatant, and answered our questions in a surprisingly honest manner. When asked what he thought the next art movement will become, he claimed that contemporary art is "wide-ranging," and that all artists are seem to be doing a different thing.

Hutchinson, like many of the other artists we spoke to at the open studios, claimed that he makes art not to sell, but because he loves to do it. Artwork that is being sold these days, according to him, is "so simple and tame," causing it to even turn into its own industry. He claims that artists who make art only to sell it are "getting involved in the whole machine," and that is not his style.

We both loved not only his artwork, but his style of creating it and also his mentality. Hutchinson's art was comprised of both smaller and huge pieces, many of which were comprised of even smaller ones. His art was extremely detailed and time-consuming, with him spending almost everyday of two years working on one piece of artwork.

Unfortunately, Jim Hutchinson has no website, and he even claimed that "if [he] had any brains, [he'd] be on the internet, but [he's] not because [he] is busy working instead."

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Banksy. The Legendary Street Artist

“Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city were everybody could draw wherever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a party where everyone was invited, not just the estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall ––it’s wet.”- Banksy

Banksy is one of the most famous street artist today. Most of his work is in London, but his witty, humorous, influential street art can be found all over the world. When researching Banksy, I read his book, Wall and Piece.  He starts off his book by claiming the importance of street art. His intro is too good to abridge.

 He says,

“I’m going to speak my mind, so this won’t take very long.

Despite what they say graffiti is not the lowest form of art. Although you might have to creep about at night and lie to your mum it’s actually one of the more honest art forms available. There is no elitism or hype, it exhibits on the best walls a town has to offer and nobody is put off by the price of admission.

A wall has always been the best place to publish your work.

The people who run our cities don’t understand graffiti because they think nothing has the right to exist unless it makes a profit, which makes their opinion worthless.

They say graffiti frightens people and is symbolic of the decline in society, but graffiti is only dangerous in the mind of three types of people; politicians, advertising executives and graffiti writers.

The people who truly deface our neighbourhoods are the companies that scrawl giant slogans across buildings and buses trying to make us feel inadequate unless we buy their stuff. They expect to be able to shout their message in your face from every available surface but you’re never allowed to answer back. Well, they started the fight and the wall is the weapon of choice to hit them back.

Some people become cops because they want to make the world a better place. Some people become vandals because they want to make the world a better looking place.”

His book was full of photos of his work, and his own thoughts or comments that accompanied his works. I found the book to be very smart, witty, and clever. His thoughts and stories also helped illuminate the importance of street art.

For example, his mural on the train bridge over Portobello Road in West London shows the revolutionary figure, Che Guevara eventually getting wiped off the page.  

Banksy said he was trying to poke fun at the market, which sells Che Guevara items every Saturday. He was “trying to make a statement about the endless recycling of an icon by endlessly recycling an icon.” This sarcastic, cynical message from simple street art is what intrigues me about Banksy. There is also more to his art than the image that appears before the viewer. It’s one example of when the artist’s intentions can help develop a work. One of my favorite quotes relating to this piece is, “People always seem to think if they dress like a revolutionary they don’t actually have to behave like one.” I believe that Banksy is not only dressing like a revolutionary (being a street artist is revolutionary in itself because of the legal dangers involved), and he is acting like one because his street art is provocative.

And in addition to his work being provocative, most of his street art is plain funny. He claims that, “tourism is not a spectator sport,” so to voice this opinion he created these works.

The photo in his book exhibiting his Big Ben Clock tower in London is a photo of a group of tourists taking a photo in front of his graffiti. If the work wasn’t already funny enough, this photo is a complete satire on the characteristics of tourists, and proves Banksy’s dislike for tourism.

Another reason why I love Banksy’s work is that if it’s not humorous or intelligent, it strongly represents something he believes in. For example, he describes the wall between Israel and Palestine as horrid: “Palestine is now the world’s largest open-air prison and the ultimate activity holiday destination for graffiti artists.” When Banksy sees something he doesn’t like, his immediate thought is to go there, and voice his opinion despite the dangers and what other people think.

Here are some photos of his work on the Palestine Wall.

This last work is my favorite on the Palestine Wall because it shows a human struggle to fight this wall and what it represents, and that freedom and peace can be seen on the other side. Thus through great human effort and coalition, justice, freedom, and peace can be possible. This piece just seems very hopeful to me.

And if defacing the separation wall between Palestine and Israel wasn’t ballsy enough, Banksy also recants a story of breaking into the Central Park zoo in Barcelona. He was successful in leaving his mark, but unfortunately got no pictures. The next morning the zoo had erased or covered up most of his work. He finishes this story by saying, “It’s frustrating when the only people with good photos of your work are the police department.” If I could ask Banksy one question it would be, “How does it affect you when your art is erased or covered up after you spent so much time on it, and took the enormous risks to produce it?” I have no idea what he would say, but if I ever get the chance that is the one question I would ask him.

While I find most of Banksy’s work intriguing and I applaud it, he does take it too far at one point. He says, “If you grow up in a town where they don’t have subway trains you have to find something else to paint on.” Well Banksy, animals should not be victim to spray paint.

You would never spray paint a human, so why should these animals have to exhibit your thoughts and work? I also found that even though he was trying to be funny, some of his most offensive work was on these animals. I found all of his work on animals to be offensive and crossing the line.

This photo to me was the most offensive. While I can see that Banksy may have been trying to be ironic, satirical, and funny. It just seems inappropriate to have a message like, "Fuck Pigs" on an actual pig. The pig had no choice in displaying this negative message about its own kind. It just makes me feel uncomfortable. However, I'm sure Banksy would say something like, you're taking this too seriously. But regardless, his work is inciting a negative feeling from me, and I don't like it.

Some would also say that his work of spraying over already existing paintings is offensive too. This I don’t have as much of a problem with however because it’s very representative of the modern mindset of art today, which tries to break all possible boundaries. Sure it’s a little offensive to but the baby Jesus and Madonna with a suicide bomber pack strapped to them, but it’s also very modern because it breaks down the traditional Madonna and Child paintings and strives to provoke a reaction from its viewers.

Suicide Bombers just need a hug

My favorites of these types of Banksy’s paintings were:

Silent Night

Mona Lisa with a Smile

I liked both of these because they simply made me laugh. Sometimes art is purely about the experience one has with it.

Some more of Banksy’s work, that I liked simply because of a chuckle or an intriguing thought that the work inspired, are…

You told that joke twice

I Fought the Law and I Won

Edgeware Rd, London 2005 (Lasted six days)

Vandalized phone box, soho square, London 2006

McDonalds is stealing our children  (Lasted Nine Hours)
This work entailed a blow up doll being hung from a McDonalds Balloon, which was fastened up in the air. This was placed over Picadilly Circus for everyone to see. It was a criticism of how McDonalds is stealing the lives of children through obesity and other health issues.

Banksy has forever brought street art to life for me. Before I would pass it and awe at the vibrant colors or the cool letters or the composition as a whole, but now I look for deeper meanings, secret messages, and most importantly the humor and experience I get from seeing street art. Banksy is the articulate street artist that is keeping this type of art alive. Banksy, no matter how offensive or provocative some of your art is, you are doing a good deed. Keep up the good work.

The last quote of your book is, “People either love me or they hate me, or they don’t really care.” I find that Banksy does care about a lot of issues and ideas in the world, and he is strong enough to do something about it by voicing his opinions through spray paint and design.

For more information about Banksy please click here.

For additional information please view Banksy's documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop.

Interview with Kenneth Baker

Kenneth Baker is one of San Francisco's most famous art critics. He writes a column for the San Francisco Chronicle, and has been an influential voice in San Francisco's art scene. He was a friendly, articulate man, who was more than happy to help us out with your project! We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview him, so here goes it.

Z + E: As students who have taken Art History, we were wondering how did you decide to major in Art History and how did you decide it was something you wanted to do for the rest of your life?

KB: Well I was a failure as a mathematics major..... And I said 'What the Hell. I might as well become an Art History major!.. I might as well have dessert all the time.' I was actually the first Art History major at Bucknell University. 

Z+ E: We interviewed an artist in North Beach last week and she said that being an artist is about 50% artistic ability and about 50% marketing yourself. What do you think about this? Do you think this degrades art today or it’s just naturally a part of the art world?

KB: Well there’s nothing natural about a market. You know markets are human contrivances. And the art market is completely unregulated. It’s like the wild west still. As dealers like to say, ‘A work of art is only worth what someone is persuaded to pay for it.’ But the reason people pursue this difficult way of life is that there are nonmonetary values that works of art embody and support in the culture and people care about that… some people care enough about that to deal with the 50% of marketing. I don’t think you can put a ratio on it at all. For some people its effortless, they get discovered and swept up by some aggressive dealer, and they don’t have to give it a thought again, they just do what they do and the money showers down on them. There’s a few lucky people like that who rise to the top, not without gifts necessarily, but luck really plays a big part in it.

Z+E:  One thing we’ve noticed about Art History is that many art historians try to incorporate the artists’ intentions into their analysis. What are your opinions on this and do you do this with contemporary art? If you do, do you infer the artists’ intentions from visual details, researching the artist, or asking the artist?

KB: You can’t avoid the question of intention. It’s central to your own questions, or anyone’s questions about what is this and why would someone make this…When it comes to a showdown between artist and critic, the artist can speak for his work in a way that a critic can’t….I try not to over invest in the notion of intention because people do that. They want so desperately to know what someone intends that they put an exaggerated focus on that. And when you make a work of any kind, it enters a field of efforts of the same sort in which intentions ricochet. …. Even if an artist has strong and well defined intentions and knows what they are, that’s not going to be the whole story because once the work leaves the artist’s hands it is subject to these other influences and opinions that he or she won’t have any control over. The artist’s intention is never irrelevant, but it’s never the whole story. Or if it is the whole story then it’s probably not a very good work. … It’s only when intention meets some sort of resistance, friction of a medium itself or some sort of competition or it meets the resistance of interpretation.

Z+E: So as far as deciding which artists you follow or which shows you attend, how do you go about choosing them?

KB: It’s shockingly arbitrary. There are events and artists of such importance and celebrity that they can’t be ignored, so there’s a level of journalistic duty... It’s really only in my gallery column that I have complete discretion over what I write about… It comes down to what I have something to say about. I see lots of perfectly respectable work that I just pass on because I have nothing interesting to say about it.
Sometimes the writing process is not about saying something you have to say, but about figuring out what you want to say. And that’s a gamble.

Z+E: Do you have a favorite contemporary artist or type of art?

KB: No. I have favorite artworks, but not a favorite artist…. It’s unrealistic to expect an artist to be that consistent, and most artist aren’t…. no one hits the target every time, and no one can.

Z+E: How does being an art critic differ from being an art collector?

KB: I wouldn’t know I’m not a collector. (Chuckles to himself). I’m a fantasy collector, like fantasy football or something. I could put together a collection spending no more than three figures per object because I’m constantly seeing new work that’s at the bottom of the market, and I’m constantly seeing things that I could imagine living with, but I don’t spend my resources that way.

Z+E: Where would you suggest I go to collect art for my home?

KB: I suggest you go to the bottom of the market. To galleries that are either non profit or act like non profits.

Z+E: What do you think the next art movement is?

KB: I haven’t a clue. I don’t even know what the last one is. It seems as though we are in a post movement phase, which may never end. It’s pluralism that has made this happen. When I started out in New York there really was a main stream, you were either in it, on the edges, or completely out of it. And then everything got blown open by feminism, identity politics, and the globalization of the art market. The art market had already been globalized, but it became unignorable. I don’t see that ever changing, so I don’t think there can be a global art movement anymore…. I just think we’re in a post movement phase now. There’s a kind of nostalgia in looking for the next movement, and I don’t think there’s going to be one, and if there is it’s going to be a little sprint that will peter out. People should give it up, but they won’t.

Z+E: As an art critic are you ever worried about offending people?

KB: Constantly, but I get over it quickly. I still get hate email occasionally. You know it’s just a part of the job. However, I’m not really interested in negativity. It’s a law of nature: anything can be made to look bad.  Not everything can be made to look good. I’d much rather talk about something constructive.

For more information about Kenneth Baker click here.

For Kenneth Baker's weekly column click here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is a museum known by many to hold some of the greatest contemporary art in the city. It itself is an architectural masterpiece, letting all those who pass by know that it is not just an average building. As soon as you step inside, the splendor of the building does not ware off, for the high ceiling creates an environment of openness and magnificence.

First off, we decided to visit the Koret Visitor Education Center on the second floor, where we were bombarded with books about modern art and the museum itself. We browsed through the books and were delighted with what we saw, so we decided to just head out into the museum and look around for ourselves.

We decided to stay on the second floor, which contained an exhibit of (obviously) various works from the 19th and 20th centuries. We found many pieces of artwork in which we absolutely would love to have in our homes, but hardly any of them would fit in our budget, for both the conservative budget and the larger budget. Here are some of the works of art in which we adored, but don't think we would be able to have as our own.
Arshile Gorky- Enigmatic Combat (1936-1937)
Mark Rothko- No. 14 1960 (1960)

Franz Marc- Gebirge (1911-1912)

Josef Albers- Homage to the Square: Confident (1954)
Roy Lichtenstein- Mirror #2 (1970)

Andy Warhol- Self-Portrait (1967)

Then, there were many more pieces of artwork that we would love to have in our home and decided that we would spend the extra money in our budget to own them. Most of these works are either more modern or made by local Bay Area artists, which we enjoyed very much.

Joan Brown- Noel in the Kitchen (1964)
Joan Brown, a Bay Area Figurative artist commonly paints works of art that are more personal than those of other artists within her genre. "Noel in the Kitchen" is a painting that depicts her son in her home and studio on Saturn Street, close to Twin Peaks in San Francisco. This painting combines vivid colors with rich textures in order to create a piece of art that is both rhythmic and chaotic at the same time. We would definitely buy this work of art for our home, for although it not as abstract as the others, it still contains some mystery to it. Though the dogs, child and kitchen furniture are all easily decipherable by the viewer, they still have some abstraction to them. In addition, the background of the kitchen and floor are not painted in a realistic way, for they both turn into blobs of different, and seemingly contrasting colors and textures. This painting is definitely one that we would have in our home with a larger budget.

Robert Rauschenberg- Collection (1954)
 This painting is incredibly unique, for it is made not only with oil paints and a paintbrush but also with newspaper, paper, fabric, wood and metal. Rauschenberg once claimed that "a pair of socks is no less suitable to make a painting with than wood, nails, turpentine, oil and fabric." In a similar manner as Pollock, Rauschenberg created his paintings with everything he could find, and used a collection of items to create his work (his painting is extremely appropriately named) and ended up with an eclectic masterpiece that somehow works out perfectly in the end. The art is both appealing to the eye for it is extremely intricate and very detailed, and yet it is simple enough to not pain the eye when looked at.

Anna Parkina- Common Field (2011)

Clyfford Still- Untitled (1960) 
Mary Heilmann- Fire and Ice Remix (2006)
 This oil on canvas is very interesting, for although made of two square canvases, it is much more interesting for the viewer to look at than just that. The artist is able to create almost an illusion for the eye in order to keep the viewer interested, as well as pleased. We also love how although the work appears so simple at first, it is more detailed than you may notice. The red has various different shades to it, as does the white.
Joan Mitchell- Untitled (1960)

Amy Silman- U.S. of Alice the Goon (2008)
Tacita Dean- Beauty (2006)

Richard Diebenkorn- Berkeley #57 (1955)

Overall, I am critical of the Museum as a venue for modern art. For viewers who don't have knowledge of Art History, an impersonal museum viewing of modern art can be overwhelming. Because modern art is so vague in its shapes, designs (or lack of design), and colors, modern art needs more explaining. A venue like a street fair or artist open studio is much more conducive to viewers understanding and enjoying modern art because there is an artist who can explain their work and it seems more personal, which is especially necessary for viewers of modern art. 

Also as a fantasy art collector, visiting SFMOMA was frustrating because if we found a piece of work that we would purchase for our home, most likely it was unreasonably priced. But why? Is the art selected to hang in a formal setting such a SFMOMA really better quality modern art than modern art you might find at a street festival? Visiting SFMOMA may be an aesthetically nice way to spend a free afternoon, but in terms of purchasing art, it is not my first choice.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Open Studios: Hunter's Point Shipyard

Today we went to Hunter's Point Shipyard Open Studios. This is a chance for local artists to exhibit their work to the public. Open Studios moves to different neighborhoods of San Francisco and different towns around the Bay Area. This was our first visit with an Open Studio and we had a great time talking to different artists.

If you are interested in Open Studios or exploring the artists we interviewed in more depth click here.

Rab Terry

The first artist we interviewed was a man named Rab Terry. Rab moved into the Hunter’s Point Shipyard studios because of his friend who had a business there, and decided it would be a good place to make and showcase his art. At one point he claimed he only paid $200 for the entire basement per month, but now since the city has taken over the Shipyard, the rate has increased exponentially. The work place is good, for it allows him to make a mess, which is what he needs to make his art. Terry’s panels take a lot of work for he builds them, then applies colored plaster, and then sands them down to make them appear as he wants.
The overall affect is a misty, almost cloud like blocks of color.

Terry realizes that his art is not extremely out there, but he realizes that it is what people want for their homes.

Rab Terry’s work is showed through out the US and in his gallery in San Francisco, Sudio Gallery.

For more information about Rab Terry visit his website here

Celeste Chin

Celeste Chin is an artist who embodies a true artist mentality when she says, “I don’t give a shit about selling while I’m alive.” Through out her career she’s realized that you can’t spend your whole life trying to make money, and if you do, being an artist isn’t the career for you. To make money, Chin claims, you have to be making what people want to buy, and that doesn’t always match with what you want to make. Chin for example creates art in order to create more than just a pretty picture; she creates it to make a statement. In all of her artwork, she tries to look for wild areas from nature still remaining in the city in order to remind people of what they don’t normally see.

We loved Chin’s art mainly because of her environmental implications and her unique color blocks on the outer edges of her paintings. Chin embodies her own environmental opinions by not wasting any paint. All of her extra paint she puts into a bar of colored squares on one side of her painting. This also is ideal because it sets her landscapes apart from other artists’ landscapes.

 For more information about Celeste Chin click here

Ed Handelman

Ed Handelman has lived through a lot because he is a Korean War Veteran, which has manifested in his arts. When he started he, “wanted to make it big,” but now just has the goal of getting up to paint every day.


Most of his paintings included the vague outline of a person, with either dripping or exploding colors coming from the silhouette. Knowing Handelman’s biography of being a war veteran, helps bring his art to life. The vague silhouette parallels the lack of identity a soldier has in the military. The contrast between the silhouette and the background shows the contrast between conformity in the military and the desire to express one’s individuality. The splashes and 
drips of bright colors is reminiscent of blood and wounds that would be gotten on the battlefield. Handelman blends the silhouette and the drips of color to show that a warrior is never capable of forgetting their wounds, and the horrors of war will forever be imprinted on the soldiers.

For more information on Ed Handelman click here