Sunday, February 26, 2006

Thoughts On the Last Day of an Exhibition: Drawings From Leonardo to Titian at the Getty

Jacopo Bassano
"Christ Driving the Money Changers From the Temple"
17 3/16" x 21 3/8" black and colored chalks on blue paper circa 1570
Getty Collection

Jacopo Bassano's "Christ Driving the Money Changers From the Temple" is a remarkable drawing. Rich, swirling masses of colored chalks are rubbed and shaded onto a colored sheet of paper defining a light filled atmosphere as much as a biblical scene. The freedom of execution in this preliminary study seems to speak directly to the Venetian love for complex coloristic effects.

Jacopo Bassano learned much from Titian. Titian's oil paintings are richly layered with unique pigments from around the world that were readily available because of the Venetian Republic's long maritime reach. With access to these powders, which would be ground with linseed oil to form paint, Venetian artists such as Titian and Giorgione were able to lay out singular colored atmospheres. In essence Titian at his finest was thinking in color.

In this drawing Bassano is applying Titian's painting technique to chalk on paper. Rich oranges, saffrons and ruddy browns define the interior of the Temple and evoke an impression of crowded warmth. Pearly greys mark the architecture and frame the cool blue patch that recedes into an image of distant sky. Blurred, shadowy figures rush from the warmth into this singular blue.

Intended as a study for a religious work, the drawing is not entirely abstract. Within its swirling color fields, what Huston Smith has termed "a universal grammar of religion", speaks to us across the centuries. The story of Jesus in the Temple is not truly an indictment of usury but instead a call for a new world in which animal sacrifices would no longer be needed:

"Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the Temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords and drove all from the Temple, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables."
(John 2:13-16)

In Bassano's drawing, ghostly figures flee from the warmth of their dated and violent practices of sacrifice into an open spiritual space that demands respect for life.

*The exhibition From Leonardo to Titian ends today at the Getty Museum.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Chácara do Céu: Art Heist in Rio

Brazilian Dancers

A brazen armed robbery of paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Monet and Dali marked the opening of the Carnival in Brazil on Friday. Gunmen burst into the Chácara do Céu museum in Rio de Janeiro and made off with their most valuable paintings and a book by Picasso.

Sources in Brazil say that the stolen paintings were Pablo Picasso's "The Dance", Claude Monet's "Marine", Henri Matisse's "Garden of Luxembourg" and Salvador Dali's "Two Balconies". Museum director Vera de Alencar told reporters that at least four men brandishing firearms had been involved in the heist - including one holding a hand grenade.

Art lovers inside the museum were also relieved of their wallets, cameras and cellphones during the robbery. The assailants rushed out of the museum into the cobblestone streets of the Santa Teresa district and disappeared into a crowd following a Samba parade.

With its steep, almost precariously tilted streets, cable car line, and bohemian atmosphere - Rio's neighborhood of Santa Teresa is almost a Carioca version of San Francisco. With a post modern mix of gabled Victorians, modernist dwellings, alpine-style chalets, and distant views of the slums (favelas) on the hills beyond, Santa Teresa is a richly creative district.

The Chácara do Céu - a collection of mostly modern works was donated -along with the hilltop house that houses it - by one of Rio's greatest arts patrons, Raymundo de Castro Maya. Included are originals by 20th-century masters Picasso, Braque, Dalí, Degas, Matisse, Modigliani, and Monet.

Salvador Dali
"Two Balconies"
Chácara do Céu Collection, Rio de Janeiro

The museum director said the robbers knew exactly what they were taking.

"Dali's picture, for example, is the only one by him on public exhibition in Latin America."

Opening Tonight at Santa Monica Art Studios

City of Desires
Gregg Chadwick
City of Desires
(Cidade dos Desejos)
72" x 96" oil on linen 2005

Opening tonight at the Santa Monica Art Studios
from 6 to 8pm is the exhibition:

February 25 – April 9, 2006
Opening Reception Saturday, February 25, 6-8pm

ARENA 1 A project of Santa Monica Art Studios
3026 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA. 90405
Directors: Sherry Frumkin and Yossi Govrin

My studio will also be open.

Monday, February 20, 2006

A Day With Sergio Arau and Yareli Arizmendi at CSU Monterey Bay

Sergio Arau and Yareli Arizmendi

This Tuesday, February 21st at Cal State University, Monterey Bay, Sergio Arau and Yareli Arizmendi will be leading a lecture and discussion on "Images of Latinas/os in Film and Media".

The husband-and-wife team will lead the free event at 7 p.m. in the University Center ballroom.

Together they wrote the screenplay for the film "A Day Without A Mexican." Arau also directed the movie; Arizmendi is the star.

In today's Monterey Herald, Marc Cabrera reports that "were it not for the couple's shared vision, the surprising indie hit "A Day Without A Mexican" would have just been a funny idea that Arizmendi had shared with her husband, who was also the film's director."

"There is some competition when it regards whose idea was that," said Arizmendi over the phone from a Los Angeles studio, where she and her husband are working on individual projects. "I was the one who said the line, 'What California needs is a day without a Mexican.'

"I can't say that I thought of it all," she clarified. "But it's very nice because he gives me credit all of the time for that moment."

Arizmendi gives a preview of Tueday's lecture: "There's going to be a lot of interaction with the audience. When all things are said and done, people want to ask a lot of questions," she said. "When you're watching the film, obviously it'll bring a lot of humor, but there are also a lot of questions that are brought up. This is going to be the time to ask them."

"Images of Latinas/os in Film and Media" by Yareli Arizmendi and Sergio Arau, co-writers of "A Day Without A Mexican" • When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21 • Where: University Center Ballroom, CSU-Monterey Bay •
More info at:
"Images of Latinas/os in Film and Media"

Barbara Guest: The Blue Stairs

Cover by Helen Frankenthaler

"Her placement of words was like the placement of paint on a canvas," said her daughter, Hadley Guest.

Modernist poet and art writer, Barbara Guest died on February 15, 2006 in Berkeley, California. During the 1950s, she created collages that later became covers for her books, and along with her poet colleagues in the New York School wrote for Art News magazine.

In her recent collection of art writings, "Dürer in the Window", gathered from a lifetime of looking, thinking and creating, Barbara Guest describes her experiences as a poet among painters and sculptors in a time when there was no "recognized separation between the arts."

Her poems are crisp and visual with a taste for color and painterly image. "The Blue Stairs" inspired by a stairway in the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art in Amsterdam is a good introduction to her work:

"The Blue Stairs"
by Barbara Guest

There is no fear
in taking the first step
or the second
or the third

having a position
between several Popes

In fact the top
can be reached
without disaster


The code
consists in noticing
the particular shade
of the staircase

occasionally giving way
to the emotions

It has been chosen

To graduate
the dimensions
ease them into sight

republic of space

Radiant deepness
a thumb
passed over it

as one who executes robbers

Waving the gnats
and the small giants


How to surprise
a community
by excellence
somehow it occurred

living a public life

The original design
was completed
no one complained

In a few years
it was forgotten


It was framed
like any other work of art
not too ignobly

kicking the ladder away

Now I shall tell you
why it is beautiful

Design: extraordinary
color: cobalt blue

secret platforms

Heels twist it
into shape

It has a fantastic area
made for a tread
that will ascend

Being humble
i.e. productive

Its purpose
is to take you upward

On an elevator
of human fingerprints
of the most delicate


Being practical
and knowing its denominator

To push
one foot ahead of the other

Being a composite
which sneers at marble

all orthodox movements

It has discovered
in the creak of a footstep
the humility of sound

Spatially selective
using this counterfeit
of height

To substantiate
a method of progress

Reading stairs
as interpolation
in the problem of gradualness

with a heavy and pure logic

The master builder
acknowledges this

As do the artists
in their dormer rooms

eternal banishment

Who are usually grateful
to anyone who prevents them
from taking a false step

And having reached the summit
would like to stay there
even if the stairs are withdrawn

Note: The Modern Museum in Amsterdam has blue stairs.

Barbara Guest in Italy, 1968

Originally published in The Blue Stairs (New York: Corinth Books, 1968)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Blakes on the Block: Getty to the Rescue?

William Blake
"Death of the Strong Wicked Man"
watercolor on paper 1805

William Blake
"The Grave Personified"
watercolor on paper 1805

The recently rediscovered William Blake watercolors to be sold at Sotheby's in the spring should be bought by the Getty and the Tate jointly so both institutions can make the works available for scholars and the public. In Carol Vogel's piece on the rediscovered Blakes in the New York Times, Martin Butlin, a Blake scholar, expresses that breaking up the collection and selling them one by one at Sotheby's is "absolutely philistine. The seller has no regard for the integrity of works of art, only for money. As a group they tell a story."

The nineteen artworks are from a series of 20 watercolors that Blake originally created as illustrations for the poem, "The Grave," by the Scotsman Robert Blair.

With luck the William Blake watercolors could be showcased in an exhibition that moves between Los Angeles and London with a stop in Newhaven to reunite the collection with the missing 20th image which is now at the
Yale Center for British Art.

*Images from Sotheby's New York

Edward Winkleman is livid about the Blake affair. See Blake and the Bottomfeeders

Anna Conti also is upset about the breakup:
An Artist's View of the Blake Breakup

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Intelligently Designed at the Lisa Coscino Gallery

The Stillness Between
Gregg Chadwick
The Stillness Between
48"x48" oil on canvas 2006

Supreme Art by gallery artists:
Johnny Apodaca, Aleah Koury, Anita Hilton, Bud Gordon,
Kevin Flynn, Dianna Cohen, Gregg Chadwick,
Brian Behnke and Richard Newman

18 February - March 2006
Reception: SATURDAY, 18 February 4-6pm - (note different time!)
Hope to see you there.

LISA COSCINO GALLERY / 216 Grand Avenue / Pacific Grove / CA / 93950 / 831.646.1939

* More on the Getty

Monk & Rembrandt
Monk & Rembrandt at the Getty

* In response to a few questions sent my way, I would like to clarify my thoughts on the Getty's future. I hardily agree that the Getty should think big but I consider Kimmelman's idea of a merger with MOCA to be in the category of "loony" ideas that Christopher Knight suggests will occur during an open period of brainstorming.

I do think that the Getty has shown it can collect and exhibit contemporary photography very well and that an expansion on their own into contemporary painting and sculpture could be quite interesting.

Happy Valentine's Day

At the Castro Theatre, San Francisco, Before A Screening of "Wings of Desire"

Monday, February 13, 2006

Viewing the Getty From Above

The Getty Collection

Tyler Green at Modern Art Notes and Christopher Knight at the Los Angeles Times have been following the events at the Getty closely and it is my opinion that their combined efforts were a major factor in Barry Munitz's decision to step down. Who says that the press is irrelevant?

Now Michael Kimmelman in the New York Times joins in and poses the question ,"Why doesn't the Getty think big?"

Kimmelman's ideas are welcome as the Getty deals with the aftermath of its curatorial carcrash (Marion True) and presidential trainwreck (Barry Munitz).

Kimmelman advises the Getty to focus on the art and to "broaden the collection. Los Angeles doesn't have Byzantine art to speak of. It also doesn't have a place with enough room and firepower to import landmark exhibitions like the Met's Byzantine extravaganzas. The Getty could provide both."

Sunbrella at the Getty

Kimmelman concludes his piece by suggesting "an all-out merger with the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, which while using the Getty's deeper pockets would provide a perch downtown ... MoCA's collection, exhibitions and expertise would instantly add luster and zip to the Getty and move it decisively into the 20th and 21st centuries of art.
* (My thoughts on this idea)
It's a start. A fresh one."

And before anything else, Christopher Knight suggests that the Getty needs to listen:

"And I doubt the board has a clue as to the deep vein of anger felt within the L.A. art community toward the Getty, or the inchoate sense of monumental disappointment over what might have been — and might never be.

So I make this small proposal to the Getty board. Convene a town hall meeting. Invite Los Angeles in. Have no agenda and no plan, except to listen. I suspect you will get an earful. It will be informed, maddening, insightful, loony, counterproductive, funny, critical and inspiring. Most of all it will be passionate about art, which is what has gone missing from the Getty mission."

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Spirit in the Night - Springsteen Live

by Gregg Chadwick

On February 8, 2006 in Los Angeles at the Grammy Awards, Bruce Springsteen roused the audience with his solo acoustic performance of the title track to his 2005 album, "Devils & Dust." Springsteen's haunting rendition was the most intense performance of the evening and offered the only political commentary during the show. Springsteen added a coda to his song, about a soldier in Iraq, by declaring, "Bring 'em home."

"Springsteen makes me keep faith in America."
-Billy Bragg

Bruce Springsteen is a man who takes risks with his music and his politics. On May 3, 2005 in Hollywood at the Pantages Theater it seemed that Springsteen let everything ride musically in a last chance to save America's soul. In two numbers culled from his Reagan era album "Nebraska" - "Reason to Believe" and "Johnny 99" - like numerous blues artists and Bob Dylan before him - Springsteen howled the lyrics through a bullet shaped harmonica microphone, amplifying his voice into a guttural roar, “Lord won't you tell us what does it mean/ At the end of every hard-earned day you can find some reason to believe." These two songs were re-imagined as twenty first century blues for America.

photo by Gregg Chadwick

Springsteen grew up in New Jersey, in the shadows of both Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. In this new tour supporting his album "Devils and Dust", the words inscribed at the base of the statue, "give me your tired and hungry and poor" are seen as an American responsibility as deep as the themes of parenthood that run through his new songs.

In Springsteen's world, we bear responsibility for the living because there is nothing more precious nor more fragile than life itself. In Springsteen's world, an imaginary line that runs on maps between countries does not alleviate one from caring for the humanity of those, who by chance alone, were born on the other side. "America needs to do something soon about its immigration policies" Bruce lamented before sliding into "The Line".

photo by Gregg Chadwick

My companion at the concert was a University professor who studies the strength factors in immigrant women from Mexico and was visibly moved by the nuances in Springsteen's songs/stories/poems. Bruce's attention to the moment allows his music to weave tales with a minimum of detail. The music critic Greil Marcus explains:
"It's amazing how much Springsteen can do in just a few lines ... you know exactly where you are and you can follow the story."

And Springsteen is not afraid to create music with deep spiritual roots. “I was brought up Catholic -"Jesus is my home boy", Springsteen exclaimed to the audience at the Pantages - then gently moved into "Jesus Was an Only Son".

The great religious historian, Huston Smith said something similar to me when he professed his deep admiration for the wisdom traditions of the East yet described his spiritual practice as rooted in his childhood upbringing as the son of a Protestant missionary family in pre WWII China. Springsteen seems to echo Huston Smith's thought that spirituality can quickly become mush if time has not been given to one's own history. Only by knowing who we are and where we come from can we understand that the beauty of religion, and life, is found in inclusion not exclusion.

Springsteen's full band concerts are almost like spiritual revival meetings - ecstatic, emotional and group oriented.

Bruce's recent series of solo-concerts are more introspective. By going out there alone with just a guitar and his deep, rich and at times ragged voice, Springsteen seems to be imploring each one of us to take back our country. The responsibility is ours.

"Fear is a dangerous thing... It will take a God filled soul and fill it with devils and dust”; Springsteen sings each night on this tour. It is this fear more than any outside threat that we really need to combat before we are left with an empty, soulless country filled with devils and dust.

* Springsteen Live

"It took me a long, long time to decide that I was going to be a songwriter myself, but 'Thunder Road' started the process."
Damon Gough, "Badly Drawn Boy"

Released this week is the newly remastered audio disc from Springsteen and the E-Street Band's 1975 dates at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. (Available on iTunes, Napster, Rhapsody , and Connect).

What's next for Springsteen?
Bruce should soon record and release a Norteno influenced remix of his recent work including the song "Matamoros Banks" but sung in Spanish.

More on Springsteen:

* Nic Hornby, author of "Hi-Fidelity" and "About a Boy" on Bruce

*Hopper and Springsteen

Edward Hopper
"Nighthawks" (detail)
Art Institute of Chicago

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

LACMA's New Director Calls the Museum "A Sleeping Giant"

Michael Govan

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art's new director Michael Govan called the museum "a sleeping giant" in the Los Angeles Times.

After a period of intense recruitment, which included a phone call from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Michael Govan signed on last week.

In LACMA's official press release Michael Govan expressed:
“I am so honored to lead LACMA at this great time of transformation. Tremendous opportunities exist to build upon the successes of the past four decades."

"Already, LACMA plays an important role in the region’s unique and vibrant communities. Many extraordinary artists are based here. They are both members of the larger community and great resources for it. I champion their deeper involvement with the museum. Working with them, and others, we’ll make it possible for our visitors—from the region or from around the world—to experience art in fantastic new ways.”

LACMA Underground

Christopher Knight in today's Los Angeles Times sees the addition of Govan as a bid to position LACMA "as the only major encyclopedic art museum in the United States to make a full commitment to contemporary art."

Knight goes on to explain that the quality of LACMA's diverse collections is "far better than is usually acknowledged. But because the museum has been without effective artistic leadership since the departure of Earl A. Powell III in 1992 — an extraordinarily long time — the depth and breadth of those collections might be the museum's best-kept secret."

More on LACMA's new director:
Artblogging L.A. on Michael Govan

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Moment & Memory

between moment and memory
Between Moment and Memory at the Julie Nester Gallery

Almost back in Los Angeles after a stint in the mountains of Utah. Traveled without a laptop. No email. Spotty cell phone connections. Snow falling, almost covering our steps as we walked.

Kelly & Chinese Sky
Kelly Colbert Baynham and "The Chinese Sky"

Of course the Sundance Film Festival was raging nearby - in Park City. And that too was rich in moments and inspiration.

New paintings are forming in my mind. New images emerging as if from a dream. Back to the studio this evening. More soon.