Thursday, March 31, 2005

Robert Creeley Remembered 1926-2005

donald sultan
Donald Sultan
Spring 1999
"Robert Creeley is an artist’s poet....I think of him as one of the most
 thoughtful poets ever to explore this complex relationship between the eye and the object."
 - Donald Sultan, 1999

"(Battery) There"
Wherever it was, I took this place
To be in mind as well as there
Where persons walked with muffled forms,
Marked by the high sky's yellow glare.

The measured look placed all in squares,
Boxed by a distance fixed in space.
Lampposts blackened against the day.
The shuffled passage of persons faded.

The building, it seemed, they would never
          get to.
Its vertical strips of window reflected
Light from a world they might have heard of,
But, try as they would, they would
          never reach.

- Robert Creeley

From the New York Public Library:
"Over his lifetime Robert Creeley explored the profound connections between visual art and creative writing in collaborations with artists such as Georg Baselitz, Francesco Clemente, Jim Dine, Robert Indiana, Alex Katz, R. B. Kitaj, Susan Rothenberg, Marisol, and Donald Sultan. Since his early years as one of the originators of the Black Mountain school of poetry in the 1950s, Creeley worked with artists from a variety of disciplines. He employed an ever evolving "process" of collaboration through his relationships with artists resulting in a body of work that includes books and portfolios of poetry, art, prose, and criticism in a variety of media."

The poem and image here were originally published in
"Visual Poetics: The Arts of Donald Sultan"
with text by Michael McKenzie

Marcos Fine Arts Contemporary Atelier
201 Nevada Street
El Segundo, CA 90245

Images © Donald Sultan
Poems © Robert Creeley

More on Robert Creeley, his life and work:
  • creeley remembered
  • Events this Weekend at the San Francisco Art Institute

    Speed of Life Study, 30"x22" monotype 2005
    Gregg Chadwick
    Speed of Life Study
    33"x20" monotype 2005
    From the San Francisco Art Institute Art Auction

    The annual San Francisco Art Institute Art Auction will be held Saturday, April 2, at SomArts, 934 Brannan St., in San Francisco.

    Works donated by such artists as Marcel Dzama, Jay DeFeo, Lynda Benglis,Gregg Chadwick, Imogen Cunningham, David Ireland, Annie Leibovitz, Larry Thomas, and Charles Hobson will be offered to the highest bidder. The range in value is expected to be $150 to $15,000 for the works. In addition to paintings, works on paper, photographs, and sculpture, other items to be auctioned include art-related travel tours, restaurant gift certificates, and fine wines.

    The reception and silent auction begin at 5:00 P.M., and the live auction commences at 7:00 P.M. The auctioneer is Malcolm Barber, from Bonhams & Butterfields. SKYY Vodka will sponsor the open bar. Co-chairs of the event are Nicole Fife and Will Wick (Art Auction Committee) and Carol Baker and Linda Fairchild (Art Advisory Committee). The Art Auction benefits the Scholarship Fund at the Art Institute. Tickets are $85 in advance and $100 at the door. For more information and to reserve tickets, contact SFAI Events at 415-749-4569

    The following galleries have contributed artwork to the auction to date:

    Aurobora Press, Andrea Schwartz Gallery, Bobbie Greenfield Gallery, Braunstein/Quay Gallery, Catharine Clark Gallery, Charles Campbell Gallery, Crown Point Press, Dolby Chadwick Gallery, Fraenkel Gallery, Gallery Paule Anglim, Hackett Freedman Gallery, Haines Gallery, John Berggruen Gallery, K Kimpton Contemporary Art, Marcel Sitcoske Gallery, Linda Fairchild Contemporary Art, Paulson Press, Richard Levy Gallery, Stephen Wirtz Gallery, Toomey Tourell Gallery, Traywick Contemporary, Trillium Press

    And at the Institute this Friday:

    guerilla advertising

    Grand Opening of The Offices of the Anti-Advertising Agency
    Friday (this Friday) April 1, 2005 5:30-7:30
    McBean Project Space at the San Francisco Art Institute
    800 Chestnut St. San Francisco, Ca

    Mission Statement from the Anti-Advertising Website:

    Outdoor advertising has become unavoidable. Traditional billboards and transit shelters have cleared the way for more pervasive methods such as wrapped vehicles, sides of buildings, electronic signs, kiosks, taxis, posters, sides of buses, and more. In urban areas commercial content is placed in our sight and into our consciousness every moment we are in public space. Over time, this domination of the surroundings has become the "natural" state. Through long-term commercial saturation, it has become implicitly understood by the public that advertising has the right to own, occupy and control every inch of available space. The steady normalization of invasive advertising dulls the public's perception of their surroundings, re-enforcing a general attitude of powerlessness toward creativity and change, thus a cycle develops enabling advertisers to slowly and consistently increase the saturation of advertising with little or no public outcry.

    The Anti-Advertising Agency co-opts the tools and structures used by the advertising and public relations industries. Our work calls into question the purpose and affects of advertising in public space. Through constructive parody and gentle humor our Agency's campaigns will ask passers by to critically consider the role and strategies of today's marketing media as well as alternatives for the public arena. Our work will de-normalize "out-of-home" advertising and increase awareness of the public's power to contribute to a more democratically-based outdoor environment.

    Our work may result in traditional advertising formats - signs, posters, postcards, and stickers - or more conventional artistic formats - performance, installation, artists books - or some combination of the two.

    Arts Writing and Elitism

    A wonderful discussion is continuing on the place of arts writing and elitism in contemporary art. From Mark Vallen's
  • art for a change

  • "A poet living in Southern California made a few points I’ve been wanting to touch upon. Although the poet practices a discipline apart from that of the visual artist, the two are linked in many ways. When artists malign the public for having ‘bad taste’, or when critics say that ‘art is not for everyone’, they fail to see how this is a problem of acculturation. For instance, in much of Latin America crowds fill stadiums during poetry festivals, while such an event is impossible to envision for the US: “I wish I had been present at the forum because the same thing is happening in the world of poetry. Some academics say that poetry is not for everyone. But how come that is not so in many other countries? I grew up in Persia and poetry was in our blood. In the smallest villages, even the illiterate could recite poetry by heart. In Afghanistan they have resorted to sending a poet to get rivaling clans to talk to one another. This is how much they respect poets and poetry. Yet, in this country sports and television rule. Why? You were right on the dot ... money and attention. Same thing is happening to other forms of art and people like you and me can either shake their heads and say: how sad... Or we can do something about it. Even the smallest contribution is community service and can have a tremendous and lasting effect on the fabric of this country's life and culture."

    The image of a stadium filled for a poetry festival in Latin America is, on one hand a damning indictment of current US culture , and on the other hand a source of immense hope for change. The arts are incredibly powerful and important.

    Gerard Bourgeois at the Sarah Bain Gallery

    Gerard Bourgeois
    Gerard Bourgeois
    Après le Bain
    41" x 54" oil on canvas 2005

    Currently on view at the Sarah Bain Gallery in Brea, California is a new collection of paintings by Gerard Bourgeois. These seemingly Degas inspired images of a woman at the bath are rich in painterly nuance accomplished by a rigorous process of painting, readjusting, overpainting, sanding, scraping down and finishing. Like a frescoed wall eroded over time, the images in Gerard's paintings emerge from the accumulation of paint. The history of the painting, with its ghosts and pentimenti, is the painting.

    Gerard's work is extremely sophisticated, notice the nuances of hip and shoulder, yet these paintings ring true emotionally. Based on intimate moments with his wife, the paintings in this exhibition are not mere exercises involving painter and model, but instead portray an intimacy normally found in the cinema.

    Gerard was raised in the South Pacific on the island of Vanuatu. Like a reverse Gauguin, Gerard left the color and light of the islands for the tans and grays of modern urbanity - first, to Australia and eventually to California. In this new body of work, Gerard seems to have found his voice, distilling the experiences of his background and travels into paintings that move beyond initial impulses into something deeper, more profound and mysterious.

  • gerard bourgeois

  • sarah bain gallery
  • Sunday, March 27, 2005

    Upcoming Lecture - Julie Weiss: “The Bias of Costume Design”

    “The Bias of Costume Design”
    a lecture by
    Oscar & Tony Nominated, Emmy Award Winning Costume Designer
    Sunday, April 3rd, 2005
    6:30 PM
    On The Re-Defining of Beauty Through Costume


    films include:
    American Beauty
    12 Monkeys
    Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas
    and many others

    •The costume as part of the character…or
    •The character as part of the costume
    •Can the costume dress the spirit
    •How does the costume help the written word?
    •The loss of individuality through dress
    •The definition of the veil as privacy or ownership
    •Is a trend without a story nothing more than a blink?

    $5 donation
    RSVP 310/ 397-7449
    Lecture held in ARENA 1 GALLERY
    3026 Airport Avenue
    Santa Monica, CA 90405
    310 397 7449 phone
    310 397 7459 fax

    Saturday, March 26, 2005

    The School of L.A.

    Update: RB Kitaj Exits

    los angeles#20- rb kitaj
    R.B. Kitaj
    Los Angeles no. 20 1990-2003
    Collection of the National Gallery of Australia

    "Don't listen to the fools who say either that pictures of people can be of no consequence or that painting is finished. There is much to be done. It matters what men of good will want to do with their lives."
    -RB Kitaj

    We are fortunate to have Kitaj back in Los Angeles. Much like Alex and Jane Eliot, Kitaj should be declared a living national treasure. Almost thirty years ago Kitaj curated an exhibition, for the Arts Council of Great Britain, entitled The Human Clay.
    Let me be the first to propose a new exhibition incorporating Kitaj's School of London with our new - School of L.A.

    The School of London - School of L. A. connection is a natural one with Kitaj and Hockney working here and inspiring a whole new generation of artists. In the catalog essay for the original Human Clay exhibition, Kitaj wrote, "If some of the strange and fascinating personalities you may encounter here were given a fraction of the internationalist attention and encouragement reserved in this barren time for provincial and orthodox vanguardism, a School of London might become even more real than the one I have construed in my head. " Substitute Los Angeles for London, and the above sentence supports the brave efforts of many, including Caryn Coleman's
    and Mark Vallen's
    mission to encourage the development of a vital art press in Los Angeles.

    As artists, gallerists, curators, writers and collectors, we need to come together and refuse to accept the status quo.
    I hope that this School of L.A. which I have construed in my head, will become real. RB Kitaj - we need you.

    Wednesday, March 23, 2005

    The Looting of Cambodia

    photo courtesy Heritage Watch

    "There is not a single site that is not affected," said Helen Jessup, the founder of Friends of Khmer Culture, describing the looting of Cambodia's artistic treasures. "The Western collectors continue to be as guilty as those who do this."
    -Jane Perlez in the New York Times

    Jane Perlez' New York Times article, on the looting of Angkor Wat, shed light on a growing problem in Cambodia and Thailand - the defacement and looting of national treasures for collector's cash. Hidden in the article, a single photo credit, is the identity of an organization that refuses to accept these events as inevitable. Headed by Dr. Dougald O'Reilly, Heritage Watch is actively promoting a series of measures to combat looting and the international trade in stolen art:

    "The initial phase of HeritageWatch’s projects will focus on education. By targeting a broad spectrum of Cambodian society and visitors to Cambodia we hope to slow the destruction of important archaeological sites. It is hoped that HeritageWatch’s  projects will raise awareness regarding the importance of cultural heritage in all sectors of Cambodian society. This will be followed with training in Cultural Heritage for those in the Culture sector and law enforcement, the creation of a national archaeological register, an evaluation of Cambodia’s heritage laws, and feasibility studies to select suitable sites for museums that would encourage sustainable development through heritage activities. The destruction of cultural heritage is, of course, not restricted to Cambodia and HeritageWatch seeks to broaden its efforts to other countries in the Association of Southeast Asian States where the problem of illicit trade in antiquities is also a problem."

    Contact Information:
    Dr Dougald O’Reilly, Director, HeritageWatch, GPO Box 1395, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Ph. 012 832 160, e-mail:

    Tuesday, March 22, 2005

    Diebenkorn & Kitaj Off Ocean Park

    ocean park 54 - diebenkorn
    Richard Diebenkorn
    "Ocean Park No. 54"
    100" x 81" oil on canvas 1972
    San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

    "There is a kind of light on Diebenkorn's stretch of coastline - mild, high and ineffably clear, descending like a benediction on the ticky-tack slopes just before the fleeting sunset drops over Malibu - that is all but unique in North America, and Diebenkorn's paintings always appear to be done in terms of it. It is part of their signature."
    -Robert Hughes on Diebenkorn, from "Nothing if Not Critical"

    I think of Diebenkorn almost every evening when I step out of my studio for some air and catch the late afternoon light glowing on the horizon. The WWII era hangar at the Santa Monica Airport that houses my studio brings to mind a sense of the American space found in Edward Hopper, who was a major early influence on Diebenkorn. But the sea-light tempers the tight ruled architectural structure with Bonnard-like fluctuations of light and color. Lately, puddles from the incessant rains, mirror and distort the light and color of these moments. The tarmac surface seems to hold past and future paintings for those who have eyes to see. I have been re-reading Robert Hughes essays in "Nothing if Not Critical". And next to my brushes, the book is left open to a page on R.B.Kitaj:

    "Because the museum does nothing if it does not strive toward some ideal of visual literacy. Its mission begins from the belief that learning to see is as important as learning to read, and that seeing is not the property of one class. This literacy - a sense of the thickness of art's layer over an insufficiently named world, a knowledge of what alternative images it contains- is part of Kitaj's essential subject matter."
    - Robert Hughes on Kitaj, "Nothing if Not Critical"

    buddha of ocean park
    Gregg Chadwick
    Buddha Off Ocean Park
    72"x36" oil on linen 2005

    There is as much Kitaj as Diebenkorn in the atmospheres in my recent work. While studying briefly at the Royal College of Art in London I painted in the small studio space that Kitaj used while he was painting there as a student. Often I can sense a bit of Kitaj's combination of American upbringing and open armed embrace of European art and culture in my own work.

    From the catalog of a recent National Gallery, London exhibition:
    "For nearly forty years the American-born painter RB Kitaj played a central role in British art. At the beginning of his career he became associated with artists like David Hockney, Peter Blake and others of the so-called Pop generation, but he also formed lasting friendships with fellow artists such as Frank Auerbach and Lucian Freud.

    Kitaj's Jewish identity in a post-Holocaust world is of central importance to his life and is a theme he has often explored in his work. In 1997 however, three years after the tragic and unexpected death of his wife Sandra Fisher at the age of 47, Kitaj returned to live in the United States and London lost one of its most colourful and influential personalities."

    R B Kitaj
    "If Not, Not"
    60" x 60" oil on canvas 1975-76
    Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh

    Saturday, March 19, 2005

    The Power of Suggestion

    da vinci
    Leonardo da Vinci
    Woman's Head Almost in Profile 

    "Since the time of Pliny the Elder unfinished works were cherished because they seemed to reveal the thoughts of the artist. In the Renaissance, Leonardo honored the sketch as capturing the very instant of inspiration....Inspiration thus was valued as something even more urgent and vital than the conceptual planning of a work of art."
    From Peter Sutton's catalog essay accompanying the exhibition, "Drawn by the Brush: Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens":

    In the past few years, two exhibitions have captured my attention because of the light they shed on the process of creation. "Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman" was on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York during the frigid winter of 2003. The current exhibition, "Drawn by the Brush: Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens", at the Berkeley Art Museum at the University of California continues this theme. Both da Vinci's drawings and Ruben's painted studies are exploratory, yet supremely confident. These sketches allow the viewer to enter into the work and imagine what the fully fleshed out scene would be like.  

    rubens-oil sketch
    Peter Paul Rubens
    Head of a Man

    "C'est parce que, dans ce travail si spontané, nous saisissons sur le vif l'acte de création. Parce que, en tout contemplant, nous semblons prendre part à cet acte, que l'étude de ce esquisses nous intéresse tant."
    "Thanks to the spontaneity of this work, we grasp the living act of creation. The sketches interest us so because in their contemplation we take part in this act."
    —Leo van Puyvelde
    Les Esquisses de Rubens (Basel, 1940)

    The informality of these studies allowed da Vinci and Rubens to depict real people with vigor and appreciation unencumbered by the masks of madonna or moor. In these works we are privileged to step back into time and glimpse the genesis of art as well as encounter faces from the past. I can't help but wonder about these encounters between artist and model. Was there a flesh and blood woman who posed for Leonardo? Or did his immense artistic vision, honed by years of drawing, conjure her out of thin air? And who was the handsome black man who posed for Rubens? The open quality of these studies encourages this mode of questioning.

    What the World Whispers
    Gregg Chadwick
    what the world whispers
    38"x38" oil on linen 2005

    In my own work I am drawn to this world of nuance and suggestion. We are left with questions, mere hints about our time on earth and the thread of history and influence that links us to the past.

    Friday, March 18, 2005

    Goya, Napoleon and Bush

    Contemptuous of the InsultsFrancisco José de Goya y Lucientes, about 1816–1820
    "Contemptuous of the Insults"
    Goya 1816-1820
    From: "A Revolutionary Age: Drawing in Europe, 1770–1820" organized by the Getty as a companion exhibition to the traveling exhibition
    " Jacques-Louis David: Empire to Exile"

    "Sometimes the most determined of invaders, equipped with strong armies and copious intelligence about its enemy can make myopic blunders that later seem close to madness"
    Robert Hughes, from "Goya"- on Napoleon's invasion of Spain

    Two years into our debacle in Iraq it is helpful to turn to art and history for some perspective. Napoleon invaded and occupied Spain from 1808 to 1813 prompting Goya's series of etchings, "The Disasters of War", and a related group of drawings . Currently on view in the Getty is a small, ink wash drawing from this period depicting a modish, probably anti-monarchist Spaniard (note the outfit- no pretensions to court style). He mockingly doffs his hat to two miniaturized French soldiers while expressing disdain with his right hand in response to the soldier's insults. The Getty's notes to the exhibition point out Goya's anti-Napoleonic stance as evidenced in this drawing which illumines Spanish contempt for the Napoleonic forces laying waste to their country. The Spanish people resisted the French occupation with guerilla warfare (Robert Hughes points out in his study of Goya that this is the first use of the now familiar term to describe battle by irregular forces) and eventually defeated and expelled the French forces with the help of the English army.

    One of the important points to bear in mind is the initial hope found by the Spanish middle class in the French Revolution and the possibilities inherent in a democratic society based on the Enlightenment with a separation between church and state. But Napoleon destroyed this goodwill through his own egoism and brutality. Invading someone else's home rarely endears one to the local population.

    While viewing this drawing I thought of our little-Napoleon and his misguided efforts to export democracy by force. His words from two years ago still ring hollow:
    "Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly, yet our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.
    We will meet that threat now with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of firefighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities."
    -George Bush March 19, 2003. From an address to the American people on the start of the war in Iraq. (Note the emphasis on weapons of mass murder and the not so subtle attempt to link Iraq with the September 11, 2001 attacks.)

    Napoleon was kicked out but in many ways Spain was still defeated. The Spanish people continued to suffer under both a puffed up, penniless monarchy, to be followed by the brutality of Franco in the 20th Century, and a fear- driven, reactionary and provincial Spanish church. It was illegal in Spain until the 1970's to declare oneself anything but Christian. This sad coda to an earlier, misguided occupation does not bode well for the people of Iraq.

    Monday, March 14, 2005

    Keeping Artists, Writers and Intellectuals Out

    land of plenty

    "The list of foreign writers, artists and intellectuals who, at one time or another, have been denied entry to the United States on ideological grounds is a long one. It includes English novelist Graham Greene, Italian playwright Dario Fo, and French actor Yves Montand, as well as Nobel-prize-winning authors."
    -Joanne Mariner

    Find Law columnist and human rights attorney Joanne Mariner analyzes the case of Dora Maria Tellez, a Nicaraguan historian and former Sandinista official who was recently denied a U.S. visa. Tellez was barred from entering the U.S. for her purported involvement in terrorist acts, but Mariner argues that the decision to bar Tellez had little to do with national security and everything to do with politics:
  • Playing Politics with Visas
  • Superior Court Judge Rules Against California Ban on Gay Marriage

    photo by Gregg Chadwick

    From Judge Richard Kramer's decision:
    "The state's protracted denial of equal protection cannot be justified simply because such constitutional violation has become traditional. In 1948 California's statutory ban on interracial marriages was challenged as violating the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution. Advocates of the racial ban asserted that because historically and culturally, blacks had not been permitted to marry whites, the statute was justified. This argument was rejected by the court."

    Judge Kramer continues,"Simply put, same-sex marriage cannot be prohibited solely because California has always done so before."

    Monday, March 07, 2005

    Art Speaks

    at the met museum
    photo by Gregg Chadwick

    "In ads, displays, altars, graphic design, fashion, magazines, signage, architecture, television, movies, web sites, on and on we’re being addressed and coddled and seduced and terrorized and we can't talk about it because we don’t have words for it. Visual "language" is a one way communication."
    -David Byrne, entry from
  • david byrne's tour journal

  • I was at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles yesterday and was struck by the tortured language used in the wall labels. As soon as the text moved from historical information - artist, date, place, and provenance- the thoughts grew murky. Some of it is art historical posturing. But part of the difficulty is the lack of a contemporary vocabulary that engages visual communication as well as verbal communication. Yes, we are bombarded with visual stimulii. But the typical response from art critics such as Kenneth Baker, who writes for the San Francisco Chronicle, is to declare that this visual white noise makes certain types of communication impossible for visual artists. That what we are left with is a palimpsest of earlier images. And all we can do is pick through the tattered and effaced clues to search for meaning.

    Contemporary artists can and do use visual language to communicate. We have not given all of this power away to advertising agencies. At times we too, "coddle,terrorize, or seduce." But we also can create a visual field that communicates an idea such as peace or contemplation without verbal clues. This visual communication is powerful,almost shamanistic, and quite wondrous to watch.

    David Byrne is correct in stating that we don't have words for visual language. But, just as importantly, we do not use our sophisticated visual sensors to receive this communication. As an audience, many of us have not developed the slow and careful process of looking deeply at art. In museums and galleries we race by, gobbling up wall label after wall label, without taking the time to stop and let the artwork speak to us.

    One painting spoke more forcefully than any other, yesterday, at the Getty. A Jackson Pollock work from the late '40's, on loan from the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown L.A. hung in a room dedicated to the Impressionists. Pollock's enamel and aluminum paint glittered next to a Monet. I sat and watched as the work stopped people in their tracks. A young girl grabbed her father's arm as he took her close to the painting's surface, almost into it. They spoke quietly and looked. And after a while, the girl stepped back and gently swung her arm in ovals miming the drip of wet paint onto a canvas on a floor.

    Saturday, March 05, 2005

    Temple of the Mind- Upcoming Exhibition

    temple of the mind (for montien boonma)
    gregg chadwick
    temple of the mind
    (for montien boonma)
    60"x28" oil on linen 2005

    Ordinary men hate solitude.
    But the master makes use of it,
    embracing his aloneness,realizing
    he is one with the whole universe.
    Lao-Tzu, Tao-te-Ching

    I am currently gathering a group of paintings together for my next exhibition which opens on May 6th, 2005 at the
    Art Rental & Sales Gallery, Los Angeles County Museum of Art,
    5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036.
    The opening reception will run from 6:30-8:30 and will be held in the Leo S. Bing Center, Lower Level at LACMA.

    These new paintings are appreciations of the deep mystery of life and acknowledge the connection that exists between all existence.

    The exhibition will run from May 6th through June 9th.
    The gallery is open 11am - 4 pm
    Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday

    Closed Sunday, Monday and Wednesday.
    Phone: 323-857-6500

    Stolen Thai Crown?

    thai crownjpg

    An international art incident seems to be brewing this week complete with gold, royalty, theft, smuggling and muck-raking journalism. A gold crown on loan from the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of
  • "The Kingdom of Siam" exhibition, currently at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, appears to have been looted from a crypt in the historical city of Ayutthaya in 1957. It entered the Philadelphia Museum of Art's collection in 1982. After Jom Patch, from the Thai network ITV, reported last week that the crown might have been looted in the '50's from a sacred chamber at the Buddhist temple of Wat Ratchaburana at Ayutthaya, a furor erupted in Thailand.

    From Jesse Hamlin at the San Francisco Chronicle-
    "I am kind of brokenhearted,'' says Forrest McGill, the museum's chief curator, a Thai art scholar who wrote his doctoral dissertation at the University of Michigan on the kingdom of Ayutthaya. "A group of American and Thai scholars has been working together on this for years, produced a major scholarly catalog and an exhibition of material that has hardly ever been seen before. And we can't get the focus on that because, for now at least, the focus seems to be on this one object.''

    Not to worry Forrest- the exhibition continues and the news stories on the crown will focus more attention on the exhibition than it would have received otherwise. The important thing is to use your knowledge of the Ayutthaya artifacts and the initial looting of the site to help trace the path of this one object from Thailand, to a mysterious art dealer named Klejman who acquired the piece in 1965, to Sotheby's from which the Philadelphia Museum acquired the work in 1982.

    Pattaratorn Chirapravati, a California professor and co-curator of the exhibition told ITV that the crown " was probably taken out of Thailand when Wat Ratchaburana was broken into." An interesting note: Pattaratorn is related to the Thai royal family - the great-great-granddaughter of King Chulalongkorn of Thailand.

    There is a precedent for the return of historical artifacts to Thailand- In 1988, the Art Institute of Chicago repatriated a 1,000-year-old stone carving of a Hindu god, which had vanished from northeastern Thailand in the 1960s and later was displayed at the museum. This theft triggered a surge of nationalist sentiment, including lyrics in a hit song by a Thai pop singer decrying the loss and the reluctance of the Art Institute to return the sculpture.

    I was encouraged that in a written statement provided to the press, Philadelphia Museum of Art director Anne d'Harnoncourt took responsibility, "We take the issue of provenance very seriously and would of course be ready to explore any questions about the history of the object with the appropriate Thai officials.''
  • Friday, March 04, 2005

    Monterey Art Museum Benefit - March 5th

    Gregg Chadwick
    Of Sleep and Skies
    33"x20" monotype 1999

    To be auctioned on Saturday, March 5th at the Monterey Museum of Art Benefit
  • MARCH 5

    Art Lovers' Benefit. 6-10 p.m. Saturday, March 5 at the Highlands Inn, Carmel. Food, entertainment and music. A live art auction will benefit the Monterey Museum of Art's educational programs. Tickets are $125 per person. Auction artwork may be previewed and absentee bids can be placed until Feb. 28. The art is in the Buck Gallery at the Monterey Museum of Art, 559 Pacific St., Monterey. Information: 372-5477, ext. 66.
  • Collapse by Jared Diamond


    Jared Diamond's new book, "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" will prove to be as influential for this generation as Rachel Carson's, "Silent Spring" was to the embryonic environmental movement of the early 1960's. In "Collapse", Jared Diamond, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Guns, Germs, and Steel" examines the downfall of some of history's greatest civilizations This is an important book and President Bush better be reading it right now. Unlike most books of the moment, Diamond's "Collapse" is brilliantly written and persuasively argued. Diamond takes an unstinting look at the failures of past societies - from the deforestation and eventually depopulation of Easter Island to the vanishing civilizations of the Anasazi and the Maya and the doomed Viking colony on Greenland. Jared argues that,"environmental damage, climate change, rapid population growth, and unwise political choices were all factors in the demise of these societies, but other societies found solutions and persisted. Similar problems face us today and have already brought disaster to Rwanda and Haiti, even as China and Australia are trying to cope in innovative ways." In one of the book's most chilling sections, Diamond lists the countries around the globe with the most environmental degradation -coupled with unbearable population density- and then ticks off the same as contemporary global trouble spots. Rwanda, Haiti, Iraq and Afghanistan all make the list. Jared argues that change is needed to prevent the future demise of our 21st Century civilizations and that hard, political and cultural choices lay ahead. Jared teaches at UCLA and, lately, whenever I am in the student store on campus, I stop to look at the area devoted to his work and I think of this book's major question,” how can our world best avoid committing ecological suicide?"

    Coming Soon: Opens- May 1, 2005
    The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County presents "Collapse?"
    this exhibition will draw on ideas from Jared Diamond's "Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed".
  • "Collapse?" at The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
  • To Never Forget: Faces of the Fallen Now at Syracuse University

    The exhibition "To Never Forget: Faces of the Fallen" organized by Chester Arnold at the College of Marin has now traveled to Syracuse University.

    faces of the fallen
    Photo by Ashley McDowell

    More than 1,400 paintings of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq since March 2003 line the first floor wall of Syracuse University's Shaffer Art Building.

    The initial “Faces of the Fallen” originated when Chester Arnold at the College of Marin was moved by a story in The New York Times on U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. Faculty and students at the college painted, drew and produced more than 1, 100 portraits of soldiers killed since the war began.

    Stephen Zaima, professor of painting in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, arranged to bring the exhibit to Syracuse University. Students, faculty, staff and Syracuse community members will paint an additional 350 portraits of soldiers who have died since the exhibit began at the College of Marin in November 2004.

    All of the portraits in the exhibition will eventually be given to the families of the soldiers depicted.

    Hours for the exhibit are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; and weekends 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Paid parking is available in Comstock Avenue lots. For more information, contact the Studio Arts department at (315) 443-4613 or

    The exhibition which runs March 3-April 1 is free and open to the public.

    For me, the blank grey panels placed to mark individuals whose images were unavailable remind me of Gerhard Richter's work and give the entire collection an even more poignant presence.

    Wednesday, March 02, 2005

    The Kingdom of Siam

    Currently at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco is the exhibition- THE KINGDOM OF SIAM: THE ART OF CENTRAL THAILAND, 1350-1800

    The Kingdom of Siam

    The exhibition is the first to focus on art from Thailand’s lost kingdom of Ayutthaya, and the first exhibition of classical art from Thailand shown in the United States in more than thirty years. This exhibition is rich in spiritual and artistic inspiration.
    The works are exhibited in chronological order, and according to the curators (classical Thai art authority Dr. Forrest McGill, the Asian Art Museum’s Chief Curator and Wattis Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art and M. L. Pattaratorn Chirapravati, Assistant Professor of Asian Art, California State University, Sacramento): three major themes are explored: the development of a distinct national culture; cosmopolitanism and the importance of trade; and art as an instrument of royal power.

    On the day I visited, the galleries housing the traveling exhibition were crowded, yet hushed. Two Thai monks gazed reverently at the objects on display. The saffron color of their robes added a taste of Siam to the grey San Francisco afternoon.

    asian art museum

    More than neighboring kingdoms, including perpetual rival Burma, Ayutthaya was cosmopolitan and outward–looking. The 1600s and early 1700s were a period of great prosperity and cultural accomplishment, but in 1767 Burmese armies destroyed the capital. These conflicts were dramatized in the recent Thai blockbuster- "Suriyothai", which can be described as a sort of Thai "Gone With the Wind". The human suffering was great, and the loss of artworks and records incalculable. As one peers into the open cavity in the huge Buddha head in the lobby, its original sculpted flame crown torn off by time or battle, the costs of this warfare become clear. In our present era, with forces battling over territory and ideology in Iraq, the calm, internal gaze of the one who became awake provides hope for an alternate path.