The Berkeley Art Museum And Pacific Film Archive’s New Home

In Berkeley, one of the most anticipated events of the new year is the opening of the new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive building.

Let me say upfront that I loved that old, brutal, concrete building that used to house the museum. But going forward, the new building will present a beautifully designed museum, at a more perfect location downtown, juxtaposed between the Berkeley Arts District and the main entrance to the UC Berkeley campus, and just one block from BART.

That said, the focus of this opening is the new building that was designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro – everything about the architecture is a dance between oppositions and things coming together: The old and the new – combining the Art Deco style of the former UC Berkeley printing plant and the “supple body of the new structure, draped between the original 1930s orthogonal buildings and snagged on their sharp corners” – quoting architect Charles Renfro – which creates a dramatic public spine that connects the historic structure with the new theater. The performance space uses the wood from the trees that were cut to make way for the theater to create the seating and steps. White walls with deep red recessed areas. A maze of galleries. The bringing together of both visual art through the Berkeley Art Museum and film through the Pacific Film Archive. A celebration of art as well as a place of study.

The layout of the building is a maze – it is a space to get lost in. The front of the building is full of light with large windows lining the front of the museum. The first thing you see when entering is the performance space and the Art Wall, that will display temporary murals changing every six months, created by artists from around the world. The flexible galleries weave in and out creating space for contemplation of the exhibited works.

Of course every museum has a cafe and Babette, named after Babette’s Feast, has made the move from the old to the new museum. On my visit, the friendly husband and wife proprietors Paul Hooker and Joan Ellis were still working on fine tuning the inner sanctum of the cafe. Babette serves a rustic menu that emphasizes fresh and locally sourced produce and meats for lunch and dinner, and lovely morning pastries and coffees. It will be open 9am to 9pm Wednesdays through Sundays and you don’t need to pay admission to the museum to go there. Swig’s Lounge will occupy the very front of the cafe from 3pm – 9pm on the same days and will offer beer, wine, and small plate items for people visiting the galleries or coming in to see a film.

One of my favorite features of the building is the community facing outdoor screen. It’s a thirty foot wide, high definition outdoor LED screen that faces Addison Street that will display digitized films and videos from the museum’s collection and commissioned works of art along with feature length films.

The opening exhibition, The Architecture of Life, will feature over 250 artworks by international artists. The exhibition is on view from January 31 to May 29, 2016.

The Pacific Film Archive will screen Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal as its first film in the beautiful Barbro Osher Theater on February 3, 2016. The Pacific Film Archive hosts programs 52 weeks a year and honors the art of cinema.

Opening Day to the public is all day onSunday, January 31, 2016 from 11am to 11pm and is free to the public.

Berkeley Art Museum And Pacific Film Archive :: BAMPFA
2155 Center Street
Berkeley, California 94720

Hours: 11am to 9pm Wednesday to Sunday

J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free: At The de Young

My first experience with Turner in the wild was in 1986 at the Tate Museum in London on my first journey out of the United States. I specifically made London the first stop on my trip just to see the Turners – and the Rothkos – at the Tate Museum. They did not disappoint and have affected my own work throughout my art career.

The exhibition at the de Young also did not disappoint. The show was made up of many paintings that he had done from 1835 until his death in 1851 – some of his last works. They were presented in a way that surrounded each piece with a lot of space, on dark walls which allowed all focus to be on the work. Because I was so familiar with Turner’s larger oil paintings, albeit, not the ones in this show, the draw here for me was his watercolors. Light washes of color, with little details drawn in with graphite – many done as “sample work” to be presented when seeking commissions, and most done while he was traveling to places like Venice or Switzerland. They were definitely inspirational and almost awe-inspiring.

Below are images from this morning. The galleries were crowded and somehow I thought the people would make interesting subject matter for photographs. The ocean image used as the feature image came from a wall sized (life-sized) video that was the first thing I saw as I walked into the exhibition space. It gave the sense of a moving Turner painting, or maybe a sense of how Turner saw the world. It was mesmerizing and I’m sorry that I did not catch the credit for that piece.

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) was one of the greatest British artists of the nineteenth century. His paintings are revered for their spectacular effects of light and color, and have influenced generations of artists. His late work, created between 1835 and 1850, articu­lated a radical vision that was heedless of public reaction, and explored such themes as the rise and fall of civilizations, the natural and industrial worlds, and religious and cultural mythology. — de Young

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J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free
Dates: Up until September 20, 2015

The de Young Museum
Golden Gate Park
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
San Francisco, CA 94118

Yo-Yos & Half Squares: Contemporary California Quilts At The Oakland Museum of California

Unfinished (red velvet and embroidery) quilt pieced together by Rosie Lee Tompkins

My Grandmother made quilts.

My time spent in her home was surrounded by Bible stories and piles of remnant fabric left over from sewing our lives together. We cut the oddly shaped remnants into squares and triangles and rectangles and pieced them together to make large geometric patterns, mostly squares next to squares in straight Germanic lines, with the most complex pattern used being a pinwheel. I still have a single sized quilt that I made by myself on her treadle sewing machine when I was nine-years old, and another, that I made on the same machine, which had an electric motor added to it by my Grandfather somewhere between the two, when I was thirty-four.

Quilts in my childhood were not art. They were functional and belonged on a bed, or folded up along the foot of one. Most of Grandma’s quilts were not even handed down to family members. The only reason I even have two is because I made them myself with her guidance. All of Grandma’s quilts went off to the orphans in Africa, sent there by her and her Lutheran Church-Lady friends. After my Grandmother passed away, I saw a documentary on PBS about an orphanage in (I think it was) Zimbabwe. The camera scanned one of the simple and clean dormitory rooms and on each well made bed was a handmade quilt. I had wondered if my Grandmother had made any of them – they were made in her style.

Yes, quilts have styles.

In the same way that you can guess the name of a painter just by observing the subject matter of a painting or observing how the paint was used, or a a photograph by how a photographer used their camera, quilters often create their own style by using familiar and similar fabrics from quilt to quilt and have a way of cutting their shapes, stitching things together, and tying off of their finished quilts, that make them uniquely their own.

"Black Yo-Yos on Green Hanging (Stevie)", quilted by Irene Bankhead and pieced together by Rosie Lee Tompkins
“Black Yo-Yos on Green Hanging (Stevie)”, quilted by Irene Bankhead and pieced together by Rosie Lee Tompkins

During this fall and winter, the Oakland Museum of California has brought together a small grouping of modern, contemporary quilts dating from the late 1980s and early 2000s. These quilts highlight the large collection of Oakland resident Eli Leon, who traveled the country in the 1980s on a Guggenheim Fellowship, collecting the stories of quilters and the quilts. The exhibition features twenty contemporary quilts that expand the notion of craft through their individual artistic expression.

This exhibition features quilts and stories from Northern Californian quilters Angie Tobias, Arbie Williams, Mattie Pickett, Rosie Lee Tompkins, and Sherry Byrd. As most women who quilt do, the featured quilters learned their craft from their mothers and grandmothers, for whom quilting was both a necessity and creative outlet. The exhibition also features the collaboration in which these quilts were made by noting who had done the piecing and who had done the quilting.

Looking at these 20 quilts is like entering a different world—one that is asymmetrical and tactile. We hope the exhibition alters your idea of what a quilt can be. — Carin Adams, Associate Curator of Art and Material Culture

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Yo-Yos: These are made from circles of fabric, with the edges turned and stitched onto the top of the quilt.
Half Squares: Triangles of fabric quilted together to form a square.

Yo-Yos & Half Squares: Contemporary California Quilts
Exhibition Dates: September 12, 2015 – February 21, 2016

Oakland Museum of California
1000 Oak Street @ 10th
Oakland, California

Image: Unfinished (red velvet and embroidery), quilt pieced together by Rosie Lee Tompkins

Keith Haring At The de Young

Keith Haring

The afternoon in 1977 after Keith Haring saw the Pierre Alechinsky exhibition at the Carnegie Mellon Museum in Pittsburgh, he paced my living room in excitement. That kind of excitement that an artist feels when they’ve connected with someone else’s work. Truly connected. He had actually been looking for our friend J., but she wasn’t home and my apartment was half a block away and he needed to talk. Badly. Not finding J. meant that anyone would do – and so there we were, me sitting in a chair having tea and Keith pacing from the living room, through the French doors to the dining room, back and forth, back and forth. All the while talking about Alechinsky’s work. At times like those one doesn’t think to record the moment in any serious way, just put the bits into RAM and that’s pretty much what I did. I often think that Keith animatedly pacing in my living room was a turning point in his meteoric launch, but we all know that’s not the case.

Keith also talked a lot about the Jean Dubuffet sculpture, The Free Exchange, that sat in the entry hall of the Sarah Scaife Galleries at the Carnegie Mellon Museum. Every time I went to that museum, which was almost every Saturday that I lived in Pittsburgh, I would stop in front of it and wonder what the attraction was for him. It’s obvious now, but back then I was still muddling around with my work, finding my voice, sorting it out, and it would be a couple of decades before I would connect with another artist like he did when he was eighteen. Keith was already pretty sure of where he was going.

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Everyone in the Bay Area has been raving about the Keith Haring exhibition that is currently being shown at the de Young museum, out in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco – Keith Haring: The Political Line. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go. I’ve seen his work in his studio and at the Pop Shop when I was passing through New York back in 1986, and in a few gallery exhibitions when I was traveling in Europe after he had passed away. His work is still everywhere and I wasn’t exactly sure what I would see, or feel, when viewing this exhibition, other than a feeling of paying homage to a teenage friend that I had nicknamed Sweetpea.

One of the words being used to describe this exhibition is powerful. I soon discovered that this was an understatement. For as much of his work as I have seen, I had never seen this much or these particular pieces grouped together before. This exhibition brought together a collection of his most political work, some of his iconic pieces, as well as documentation of his life as an artist.

In the second room of the exhibition there is a display table with a number of Polaroid photographs in it, Keith with Andy, Madonna and a few others. Standing in front of it, I could feel my eyes well up. Maybe because of the connection, but maybe more because of the great loss we all feel when we realize how young he was and how long he’s been gone.

Keith used his work to fight injustices around the world, from apartheid in South Africa to the growing AIDS crisis which eventually took his life. Much of his work deals with issues that we are still dealing with today – some twenty four years later. He questioned and considered and tried to boldly wake people up. At the end of the exhibition I can probably safely say that everyone leaving the museum felt a little uplifted, intensified, a little awestruck, and had a lot to think about.

The exhibition is on view until February 16, 2015.

If you’ve seen the exhibition and have something to share, or just have a comment, add it below in the comments area.