Afternoon visit to Jeff Koons studio in Chelsea thanks to my new friend who is Koons assistant, realist painter James Seward.
Walk in to this brightly lit space and see dozens of assistants buzzing to complete sales from the Gagosian “Hulk Elvis” show in London.
At night, Grey Gardens the musical with tix bought at the half price booth at 6pm. Both Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson won tony awards for their roles. The 1975 movie of the same name revolutionized the genre of documentary film making.
7.25.07 First a quick visit to the Frick to see my favorite painting there, Manet's Bullfighters, but it was not on view! The Fragonard Room is being updated with a new state of the art lighting system so the East Gallery tenants have been moved into storage to accommodate the houseguest Progress of Love panels.
And finally... Richard Serra at MOMA! Not crowded on a Wed. afternoon. We felt dizzy walking through the curved labyrinths and involuntarily leaned to the side as the steel walls loomed over us at 60 degree angles. Definitely worth the trip! On display through September 10th if you are in town.
Last today saw Louise Nevelson at The Jewish Museum. This poignant show is coming to the DeYoung in October (10/27/07-1/13/08) so you'll be able to see it too. Nevelson (1899-1988) made totemic sculpture of found wood objects painted uniformly with a matte coating of black or white paint (never mixing the two in the same piece). After making art for forty years she was "discovered" in 1969 when she was selected to participate in a MOMA show called Sixteen Americans. Her first white piece, Dawn's Wedding Feast, was featured along side work by youngsters Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Rauschenburg and Frank Stella (whose show of recent work is down the block at the Metropolitan right now).
Nevelson's work is heavily influenced by her identity as an Eastern European Jewish immigrant and a dissatisfied society housewife who left her husband in order to pursue her art. Her delicate minimalist Holocaust memorial pieces from the end of her career were my favorite. We are lucky to have a piece of public art by Nevelson in San Francisco. On your next lunch hour take a walk to Three Embarcadero Center to see Sky Tree, a soaring structure of black Corten steel set in a reflecting pool.
7.24.07 Museums closed on Tuesday. Dinner at Lever House Restaurant in the famed Gordon Bunshaft/Skidmore, Owings and Merrill building: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lever_House. Evening performance of Nixon/Frost with Best Actor Tony Award winner Frank Langella as Nixon.
7.23.07 Monsoon. Today because of the deluge all we could handle was one museum and chose to see Klimt's Adele Bloche Bauer at the Neue Gallery. Much different in person than we expected. The gold is softer. We think she has a resigned look in her eye that indicates she knows what's in store for Austria. Tonight we met a friend of a friend, Suzi Matthews, at her studio in Greenwich Village. http://www.suzimatthews.com/ She does collage landscapes that look alternatively terrestrial or underwater. Letters and numbers of varying size and shape and color create that patterns that form her compositions.
Stark Guide is on hiatus for the remainder of the month, traveling to New York to see the Richard Serra retrospective. Like Matthew Barney's "Cremaster Cycle" at the Guggenheim in 2003 and Christo's "Central Park Gates" in 2005, this is another once-in-a-lifetime show that cannot travel, for obvious reasons. A typical steel Serra sculpture can weigh up to 100 tons!
Back on the beat in August...
Heather Marx and Co-Director, husband Steve Zavattero, are early adopters of a nascent art world trend that is described in Adam Lindeman’s new book, Collecting Contemporary. In this confectionary book that proclaims itself "the most talked-about art book of the year," we learn that galleries are collaborating with collectors to curate shows.
At 50,000 feet, Dakis Jannou, Greek tycoon who funds the Deste art foundation in Athens and Jeffrey Deitch of flashy Deitch Projects in New York’s Soho district, are the most high-profile example of this trend.
Closer to solid ground, this new twist on the traditional buyer-seller relationship actually makes the otherwise mysterious if not chilly art gallery more egalitarian. Far from a cold biz-dev tactic, this trend in practice will bring more people to the world of art appreciation. Collector aquires a new skill and experience, feels a greater connection with gallery owner and as a result of the show that they curate together, introduces his own circle of friends to the gallery, expanding the customer base. A win-win situation.
HMG’s current show, Ominous Atmosphere, is co-curated by local collector Jeff Dauber. Dauber is an Apple exec whose hip art gallery- er…, home- was featured in the February 2007 issue of Dwell magazine. Berkeley architect Thom Faulders even made the ceiling into a work of art.
Once or twice a year HMG puts on a group show featuring artists they don’t necessarily represent. Heather and Steve knew Jeff would be perfect to help with this edgy show. According to the press release, “the conceptual nature of fear and the undefined ways in which we sense or unleash fear” is the focus of this exhibition. Dauber is known for taking chances on interesting local artists and his collection includes challenging pieces by Hung Liu and Rigo. In fact Dauber purchased the most important piece in the 2005 HMG/ David Hevel show titled "It's Official...Britney's Pregnant!"
Dauber was an active participant in the process, recommending artists that fit in with the theme but that HMG had never worked with before such as Christoph Draeger and Al Farrow. One innovative contribution by Dauber was the placement of Paredón (Firing Squad) by Jeanette Chávez. Installed horizontally on the wall at chest level are six bronze rifle barrels. Jeff suggested placing this work directly opposite the entrance to the gallery space in a place that is actually part of the office backroom. “We live in this space and he saw it with a fresh eye,” said Marx.
When I arrived, Heather was walking through the gallery with a Chicago-based art consultant who they had met at the 2003 Scope New York art fair. Heather and Steve’s commitment to promoting the gallery outside of San Francisco has paid off. Three to four art fairs each year are an important part of their business and are well worth the effort both from a sales standpoint as well as an intellectual one. They use this time to cultivate relationships with art professionals from all over the U.S. Next Pulse Miami (one of several satellite fairs of Miami Basel, the crown jewel in the U.S. art fair circuit), all of the dealers who are their friends and colleagues will stay in the same hotel and throw a collective cocktail party inviting artists, collectors and curators to thank them for their friendship and patronage.
Despite this jet-set lifestyle, Marx and Zavattero are refreshingly low-key. Heather is warm and outspoken. Her curvy yet petite frame sported a chic DVF wrap dress. Square red frame glasses give her the art dealer “look” even though she has the resume in spades. Many a first-time visitor mistakes her for a “gallerina” instead of the eponymous proprietor.
Heather’s strong academic background in art history (B.A. and M.A. from U.C. Santa Barbara) is combined with business savvy acquired working in the gallery business for many years before going out on her own. Her undergrad focus was on Le Corbusier and her grad work was on the 19th C. British Pre-Raphaelites. “I have a strong, feminist theoretical base that can be seen in my choices,” she says with a big smile and a cheerful laugh. “But I chose to leave academics because I wanted to be out there making art history, not studying it.”
In between college and grad school Heather worked for Los Angeles' Mark Moore Gallery and there learned the ropes: bookkeeping, installation, and the complex social relationship between the gallery and artist. During grad school, Heather worked for the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.
Heather and Steve met sixteen years ago, a few years after college, and were married in 1996. They settled in San Francisco because he’d moved a few times for her career and it was his turn to pick. He’s a third generation San Franciscan and was ready to move home.
Heather got a job working with Hackett Freedman Galleries and there she learned how to sell. As Associate Director of Sales, she balanced out her skill set, mastering the art of P.R. and working with the press. After nearly six years she went out on her own.
Zavattero is a talkative, energetic guy who plays an important role in setting the tone of the gallery. With a combined degree in social sciences and communications from the University of Southern California’s prestigious Annenberg School, Steve brings an interesting current events perspective when the two are curating shows.
“We choose work that reflects our personality and interests.” Work that continues the dialogue of art history, “has an academic foundation, shows a strong attention to craft and contributes something to the world around us.” Political commentary, social issues, humor, and sexual themes all show up in their artists’ offerings.
Steve is also in charge of marketing, PR, the website, and much of the logistical planning that goes into the gallery’s participation in the art fairs. He has a Before-Art background in radio and television and was a part of “web 1.0,” he says jokingly. He recently began a podcast reporting on the San Francisco art scene. His reporting style is conversational and is just as much about the personalities of the artists and gallerists as the art. (See Stark Guide link under San Francisco Bay Area Contemporary Art Journalism.)
The couple is candid about the challenges of being small business owners. In 2001 the team opened HMG in the wake of the dot-com crash and 9/11. “We had signed the lease a few months earlier. When 9/11 happened, we were in the middle of demolition. We had to keep going.” It took them about three years to hit their stride as a business, not out of the ordinary for any entrepreneurial one-shop retailer.
HMG is the feisty baby of the 77 Geary family. In fact, HMG is more alternative than most of the downtown galleries, but Heather thinks the neighborhood is appropriate because she’s just as serious about her business as her neighbors are.
Heather and Steve are good friends with Greg Lind, Steven Wolf and Catharine Clark, fellow gallerists with a similar flair who feature emerging/mid-career artists. In fact they have such a strong relationship that the gang sometimes staggers their opening receptions so visitors don’t have to choose which event to attend.
Catharine Clark was the pioneer of the bunch and they were a little sad to see her move south of market to her new museum district location (Stark Guide 6/5/07). Steve does some dee-jaying in his spare time and helped out by providing the music at Clark’s opening party. Another example of their relationship, HMG borrowed two pieces (by Draeger and Farrow respectively) from Catharine Clark for the current show.
Note to collectors: Libby Black is the rising star in the HMG stable. Black creates hand made paper sculpture of coveted luxury goods like Louis Vuitton trunks, inspired by the materialism she observed while growing up in the susburbs of Dallas. She even replicated a complete Kate Spade store in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 2005 show, “Bay Area Now 4.” Black was a finalist for the 2006 SFMOMA SECA Award and was recently named the "Artist to Watch" by San Francisco Chronicle art critic Kenneth Baker in the July issue of Art+Auction magazine. Mark your calendar for Black's second solo show with HMG September 6-October 27, 2007. Opening reception September 6, 5:30-7:30.
Ana Teresa Fernandez is hitting a nerve and is being noticed for it, having received just the latest in a string of awards and grants this spring from San Francisco Arts Commission and Headlands Center for the Arts.
There is a lot going on in her paintings. The eternal Mexican-Catholic polemic of woman as whore/Madonna is augmented by the contemporary themes of illegal immigration, the high-class problem of illegal domestic help, and the universal dissatisfied homemaker who is slave to the never-ending cycle of cleaning up after others. Fernandez’s current show, Pressing Matters at Braunstein/Quay, is a comprehensive survey of this young artist’s work
Fernandez is a modern-day Betty Freidan. Her work is a haunting commentary on the role of women in the family, workplace and home. Beyond the overt sexuality of supermodel-shaped characters bending provocatively over ironing boards, there is hard-hitting social commentary. Her message resonates because it is softened by her velvet brush. The figures are round and sculptural, wrapped in fabric like the Greek goddesses in the frieze of the Parthenon. Long afternoon shadows make the would-be docile scene more dramatic and lazy at the same time.
The images you see in Pressing Matters are not a figment of her imagination- anymore. Fernandez stages performance art pieces that are recorded by a photographer. The brown skinned women in their little black dresses up-to-here pose like fashion models, extending their legs and arms like ballet dancers while… cleaning bathrooms. It is surprising to learn that the protagonist in every piece is Fernandez herself. In real life this scrubbed looking post-grad looks every inch the hipster art student in frayed layered tees, jeans and a heavy leather belt. Her youthful beauty is masked by angular black resin glasses frames and long brown hair tied back in a loose unruly ponytail.
Fernendez had not heard of Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, but why would she have? Growing up in small town Tampico, Mexico, all the women in her life were domestics of one sort or another, either paid by wealthier families or unpaid by their own. Ana had not yet developed career aspirations at the age of eleven when her cardiologist father moved the family to San Diego in order to further his career and provide a better life for his family.
While Ana was growing up in Tampico and San Diego, her mother was a traditional stay-at-home mom. Though Maria Teresa Fernandez was a happy wife and mother and is still married to Ana’s father today, Ana observed her mother’s unrealized potential and this later became an important theme in her work. Ana's intuition was true. In the last ten years Maria has become an accomplished documentary photographer in her own right. She has spent countless hours documenting the San Diego-Tijuana border and the destitute neighborhoods that buffer it, inspiring another important theme in her daughter's work.
Fernandez was plucked from the obscurity of the San Diego Community College system the day the San Francisco Art Institute came to call. When asked to show her portfolio, the greenhorn art major didn’t know what that meant but quickly assembled snapshots of her work for the school rep’s review. She was offered a scholarship on the spot.
While an undergrad at SFAI her advisor convinced her to put aside her first calling, sculpture, and try another medium. It was during this time that Ana asked her mother to collaborate with her on the border performance-art series. No Puedo Pasar (Performance Documentation 2005, oil on canvas, 60”x72”) is made all the more impactful when you learn that the corrugated metal border fence pictured was made from recycled Gulf War airport runway strips. The border as graffiti-etched wailing wall is a character in the painting in its own right and proclaims: “I can’t stand to be indifferent amongst the pain of so many people.”
When Ruth Braunstein of Braunstein/Quay was at Fernandez’s MFA show and saw “Untitled 2,” a record of a performance art piece which took place at the border in 2006, she offered her a gallery show on the spot. “I haven’t done something like that in twenty years,” said Braunstein.
And the recognition and awards flow. After the four year undergraduate program at SFAI she was awarded another scholarship to make the MFA program possible. While doing her graduate studies, her work was shown and placed in many Bay Area juried shows. Earlier this year Fernandez received the San Francisco Arts Commission Cultural Equity Individual Artist Award Grant which recognizes artists from historically underserved communities. And the most recent is a biggie: the prestigious Headlands Tournesol Award recognizes one innovative emerging painter each year. The studio facilities granted to all Headlands’ artists-in-residence is topped with an anonymously funded $10,000 grant.
All signs indicate Fernandez has only just begun her ascent.
This show: $1600-$10000
Of course, the Oakland Museum has been there forever, quietly and articulately chronicling the history of California art. Cal and Mills graduate fine artists every year. But a recent groundswell of art-making and art-selling has been fueled by several serendipitous factors: the late-nineties dot-com exodus of San Francisco artists in search of more affordable rents, former mayor Jerry Brown's revitalization of the downtown area, and the relocation of Pro-Arts, the non-profit that sponsors Oakland's open studios events, to Jack London Square.
In 2005, Svea developed a business idea to take advantage of all of these trends. The concept is ingenious: gallery space in the front of the building and 11 individual income-generating studios sharing common resources in the rear. The 24/7 accessible space is affordable ($250-$580 per month based on size) and even includes insurance and wifi. Swarm Studios attracts a gregarious tenant because this communal, visitor-friendly workspace is a lot different from the normally solitary lifestyle of studio work.
Despite that beehive (pun courtesy of Svea) of activity in back, the front of the house is the draw. The west-facing glass-fronted gallery is exposed to dazzling natural light, an effect most museums try in vain to replicate. A former ironworks building servicing waterfront industry, the structure underwent major surgery for its second life. The hum and chug (and bleat) of trains just a few blocks away is a comforting and charming reminder of the neighborhood's industrial roots.
But that's not all. Swarm Project Space is a small gallery off the main gallery and features installations, video pieces and conceptual works focusing on the constant shaping and reshaping of the city of Oakland.
Svea has been an insider of the brewing East Bay art scene for many years. She was an intern in the Oakland Museum's Department of Photography in 2000. Then after receiving her Masters in Museum Studies from John F. Kennedy University in 2001, she moved to Pro-Arts. Her tenture there as the Director of Exhibitions and Programming concluded in 2004, just before that outfit moved from downtown to the waterfront. From 2003-2005 she was the Arts Editor of Tea Party, a non-profit arts & culture magazine. Swarm opened in early 2006 and then she was appointed to the Alameda County Arts Commission.
Swarm shows mostly emerging artists and Svea spends a lot of time tracking down new talent. In fact she's so busy that she's hiring a co-director whose identity is a secret for now but will be revealed soon. She keeps track of the annual deluge of MFA grads, finds new talent on the web and asks artists whose work she admires for their recommendations.
Svea’s arts management expertise and friendly rapport caught business partner Merritt Sher’s attention when she was still working at Pro-Arts. In addition to having the ultimate made-in-Oakland name, Sher is a leading real estate developer with a staggering resume (Terranomics, Metrovation) who is known in his industry for his innovative approach. (Sher may have been hanging around the gallery and neighborhood because he played a key role in the transformation of Jack London Square.) Together they picked some buildings that had the potential to be Swarm and the winning location happened to be next door to the new Pro-Arts.
Svea keeps current on the San Francisco museum scene through friends Tim Burgard, Curator of American Art at SFFAM and Apsara DiQuinzio, recently promoted Assistant Curator of Painting and Sculpture at SFMOMA. Svea is also a member of a gallery owners' collective called Quorum. In San Francisco, the list of galleries she admires includes Catharine Clark (see Stark Guide 6/5/07), Steven Wolf, Triple Base and Electric Works (see Stark Guide 6/12/07).
The current show is called "ZONAL CONFLUENCE: Merging Perspectives on Land and Environment from four California College of the Arts MFA Graduates." For this show, Svea picked artists who are wreaking havoc with the traditional genre of landscape art.
Walk in the door of the gallery and you are almost blown over by Renee Gertler's towering Funnel Cloud- a 10'+ sculpture tornado traveling through the gallery. While the work looks like it was made for this space, it was part of Gertler's contribution to the CCA MFA show in May. Gertler had quite a graduation present this Spring- her work was featured in the San Francisco Arts Commission Window Installation Site (155 Grove) in May and June. The work presented there was another natural disaster; over the course of one month Gertler turned a slow leak into a flood. The artist uses model-making materials and techniques to create fantastical versions of natural phenomena such as waterfalls, tornadoes and meteors.
The other artists included in this Swarm show, David Gurman, Jessalyn Haggenjos, and Elizabeth Mooney, are also showing their best work from the CCA MFA show.
This show $450-$7000
June 23 - August 5, 2007, Swarm Studios + Gallery, 560 Second Street, Oakland, CA 94607, Tel/Fax 510/839-2787 (ARTS), firstname.lastname@example.org, Tuesday - Sunday, 12 - 6 PM and by appointment
*Note Swarm is open this Friday, July 6, but Swarm Director, Svea Lin Vezzone won't be there. She'll be back next week but call first if you want to make sure she is there when you want to visit.
First Fridays Free Shuttle Sponsored by the City of Oakland
Shuttle runs 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Last loop starts at 10 p.m. Be at your stop by 10p to ensure
pick-up. Shuttle arrives at each stop approximately every 30-45 minutes
First Friday Shuttle Schedule:
BART: Exit at the 12th Street/City Center Station. Ride the 72R or 72M to 2nd Street just before Jack London Square. Swarm is two blocks west of Broadway at Clay Street. Walking from the 12th Street BART station takes 10-15 minutes. Following Broadway to Second Street, turn right and walk two blocks to Clay Street. (http://www.bart.gov/index.asp)
FERRY: Take the Alameda/Oakland Ferry from San Francisco, board either at PIER 41 or the Ferry Building. Walk 3 blocks west to Clay Street and 1 block north to Second. (http://www.eastbayferry.com// or 510-522-3300)
General Oakland-SF public transportation info:
Mapquest to Swarm:
AC TRANSIT: Ride the 72R or 72M to Jack London Square. Swarm is two blocks west of Broadway on Second at Clay Street. (http://www.actransit.org/)
AMTRAK: Jack London Square is home to the award winning C.L. Dellums AMTRAK station located just one block from the center of the Square on Alice Street and the Embarcedero. Once you deboard the train, walk 3 blocks west to Clay Street and 1 block north to Second. (http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=Amtrak/HomePage%00)