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

Photo Of The Day: Red Stairway

Red Stairway at the new Berkeley Museum of Art and Pacific Film Archive
Red Stairway at the new Berkeley Museum of Art and Pacific Film Archive

The new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is opening this weekend and this morning I got to take a look around the new building. More about that later.

I couldn’t resist the redness of this composition, red being one of my favorite colors.

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

Out Of The Archives:
Photo Of The Day: Chairs At The Rodin Museum

Three chairs at the Rodin Museum
Three chairs at the Rodin Museum

Sit down and relax. Open your sketchbook, take out a pencil, and sketch any one of the sculptures that surround you. Rest your feet and just absorb the fact that you are sitting in the Musee Rodin. In Paris.

About a century before I started to visit the Rodin Museum, Rodin lived and worked in this house. Every window in the museum had some sort of chair, or a few chairs, sitting in front of it, inviting one to sit down. As if the chairs had just been pushed aside to make room for the sculptures. Sit in one direction and muse out the window. Sit facing inward and contemplate the sculptures.

I like all of the lines in this photograph – the straight lines of the chairs and the shutters, and the lines of the floor. I like the whiteness of the paint, mixed with the combined earthiness and elegance of the real parquet floor. I like that the outside is overexposed and also contributes to the whiteness of things.

The French are really in to sitting for awhile and taking in their environment. Don’t ever hesitate to sit and take a moment to mellow out, to think, to observe where you are. That’s what all the chairs in Paris are for.

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.