On the art trail
Off on another day trip with the Oakland Museum Art Guild. We met up with 40 or so of our friends at the Museum, piled on to the bus (piloted as usual by the redoubtable Pete), and headed to the City.
The first cool thing we saw was the new Bay Bridge–sitting up high on a bus, riding in the right lane, we had a spectacular view of the nearly finished construction. I wish I’d had my video camera ready, it was so great. The new bridge will be beautiful, as it certainly should be after the 24 years it is taking to build.
Our first stop was the high-rise apartment of Elizabeth Barlow, a painter. If you have ever wondered how the rich live, it is in huge apartments with 10 foot coffered ceilings, views of 3 bridges and a bedroom directly looking at Alcatraz. She paints good, too. Not really my style–still lifes of lipsticks and shoes and girly things, but the work is excellent and we enjoyed our visit. No photos were allowed, so I can’t show you anything.
Next up, the reason I signed up for this trip without a second thought, we visited Pier 24, the finest exhibition space devoted solely to photography in the US, if not the world. Pier 24 is a labor of love creation of internet zillionaire Andy Pillara, and we are lucky to have it here in the Bay Area.
There were almost 1000 photos on display in the 24000 square feet hall; I’ll show you the two that stuck with me from today.
Gail liked this one enough to wonder if there were more prints available. Since it is from the 1930’s, I suspect that the price is more than my car, so we won’t be getting one. It’s only about 12 x 12, but it has such a large presence it still stands out in a room full of great photography.
This next photo is one of the most enigmatic things I have ever seen. It is hanging in a room featuring various Chinese artists, but I don’t know anything else about it. Pier 24 believers that art, like food, should be enjoyed from the gut, so there are no labels on the photos. No artist, no title, no date, nothing. You can find a docent and track some information down if you really want to, but in general you just absorb everything visually, not cerebrally.
What’s going on here? Why are everyone’s eyes closed? Why is the boy in back all in shade? Why is the girl naked? Is this photo even legal in puritan California? The man seems to be in an army uniform, is that important? What is the subtext here? I spent a long time looking at this, and have no answers and more questions keep bubbling up.
The space is so extensive you could spend hours here (and you can go online and make an appointment and do just that), but we had to hit the road for our next stop–lunch. We went to Delancy Street, and had a pretty decent lunch considering how hard it is to feed a group of 42. I had the salmon, Gail had the pasta, we liked it. We would have liked it more if the waiter could have brought Gail a glass of wine, but they insisted that we somehow squirm out our very cramped space and make our own way over to the bar. Such is life.
After lunch, we headed to the home of a collector/gallerist couple. I’ve sometimes said to Gail that there was not need to worry about our house getting too full of art, there is always room for more. This house proved to me that I was wrong–there was entirely too darned much art there, you couldn’t really appreciate any of it for the overwhelming mass of all of it.
Lastly, we went to the Contemporary Jewish Museum, on Mission between 3rd and 4th. Getting into the museum is like trying to get into the airport–two guards, metal detectors, they found it necessary to impound my little pocketknife. Then they came around to our group with stickers we had to wear to identify us as the tour group we most obviously were. Gail had an opinion about that:
The exhibit we saw was interesting, to say the least. A man named Kehinde Wiley has been touring the world, creating paintings to explore/show the influence of black American culture on the world culture. This being the Jewish museum, the paintings on display were the ones he made in Israel, of Ethiopian Jews and others, who are part of the hip-hop culture. His large oil paintings are very finely wrought, with very complex backgrounds, added in by assistants, which appear both behind and in front of the figures. Unlike most artists, Wiley also frames his work in custom frames which are specific to the nation in question and relate to the paintings. While I don’t covet ownership of this work, it is certainly worth going to see.
Finally, we trekked once more to the bus and let Pete bring us back to the Museum. By tradition, cookies (or in this case, biscotti) were handed out on the trip home. A very full day of art thoroughly enjoyed.