Archive for February, 2011

Patrick Dougherty’s Environmental Sculpture

Posted by erin on February 22nd, 2011


Patrick Dougherty’s monumental environmental sculpture takes shape on the grounds of the Palo Alto Art Center.

by Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

While the Palo Art Center undergoes a closure and renovation, presumably for modernization, the grounds in front of the Center are the site of a Patrick Dougherty construction, made of willow saplings in his now very recognizable magical style.  By using materials easily accessible in nature, with a natural lifespan, and raised in the tradition of community building, Dougherty evokes an historic time when both art and habitations were more essential and integrated, had a regional style, and a low carbon footprint.  Driving along Newell Street, the zigzag sculpture is startling and inviting, with multiple entries and windows.  It arches, lilts, inclines, and weaves, both literally and figuratively, from the lawn upwards to the spiraling points that engage the branches of the sycamore trees above.  Its effect is both a delight and a reminder of our current environmental challenges.

At the Museum of Contemporary Art in Honolulu, Dougherty’s  Na Hali o’Wahili


Lynn Powers Contemplates the Great Mysteries

Posted by erin on February 14th, 2011


by Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Lynn Powers’ Time Wheel Mandala, 1999

Lynn Powers paints the great mysteries.  Sweet Obsession is a selection from twenty years of painting and relief assemblages that represent Powers’ fascination with essences of spiritual and alchemical truths. In her pursuit of harmony and balance, there are reflections, an ongoing interplay between the macrocosm and the microcosm, presence and absence, the known and unknown, the finite and infinite through geometry and between foreground and deep space.  Fundamentals like the line, square, circle and oval conspire to suggest a symmetry or formula, only to be broken by an asymmetrical element appearing in our peripheral vision and throwing our initial assumptions into question. Powers likes the orbs of outer space and poses them against an infinite number of patiently developed textures, mostly in earthy mineral colors, that look like multiplying cells examined through a microscope, or cross sections of earth, or the weathered surface of a long treasured domestic object.  Some of her pregnant ovals are quite literally eggs; sometimes they are more precisely an ellipse in the context of geometry, mathematics or numerology.


Extreme Make-over at Cantor Arts Center

Posted by kfunk on February 7th, 2011

The Rewards of a (Not So) Extreme Make-over

It’s easy to believe when you visit a museum’s modern and contemporary art collection that you’re seeing an art world consensus about what is important in the art made in recent decades. The reality is hardly so simple.

A visit to any of the San Francisco Bay Area’s rich bounty of contemporary art venues yields decidedly different takes on what to exhibit. The San Jose Museum of Art for a time seemed to want to forge a duel identity as a home both for technology-based art, and the overlooked post-war and contemporary art of Northern California. The Oakland Museum of California embraces a broader time and geographical frame for modern and contemporary art of California, back to the Society of Six plein air painters of the 1920s, Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era photographs, and a strong collection of Bay Area Figurative artists. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art plays on a national stage, and is amassing a collection particularly strong in the proto-Pop art of Robert Rauschenberg forward, a significant commitment to new media art, and a world-class photography collection.

The Arab by Alice Neel

"The Arab," 1976, by Alice Neel. Museum Purchase made possible by the Robert and Ruth Halperin Foundation, Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University.

In short, modern and contemporary museum collections are pulled in various directions by the sizes of their budgets, their missions, the taste of their patrons and, of course, the eye and interests of their curators. All of which brings us to “Extreme Makeover: A Fresh Look at the Cantor Art Center’s Contemporary Collection,” which opened last month along with a companion show, “Go Figure,” a look at figurative art that is dominated by sculpture.



Posted by erin on February 6th, 2011

San Jose ICA Retrospective Reveals an Intimate Relation of Life to Art

by Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Installation view of Old Technology, including a structure evoking Tony May’s well known T. House and the Variable Construction Bookmobile on loan from the San Jose Museum of Art

Old Technology, the extensive exhibition of painting, sculpture and installations from forty years of Tony May’s work, including many new pieces, opened on November 13, 2010 at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art. Indeed, Tony May is a world-class artist who imprints an indelible stamp on the Silicon Valley art scene with public art, his unmistakable and charming art, life and persona, these frequently folding almost seamlessly together. Insightful writers that spin words more deftly than myself have written a good deal about the Tony May 40 Year Retrospective.  I refer the reader to an informative and entertaining catalogue essay that includes wonderful biographical details, by Renny Pritikin, currently Director of the Nelson Gallery at UC Davis, and reviews by Ben Marks for KQED Arts, and Laura Cassidy Rogers for Art Practical. From the moment the show opened it has generated a buzz, with those who attended on opening night jamming the ICA galleries to the point that few really saw the show. Many who have seen it once come back twice or more.  Folks immediately bombarded me with email asking if I had seen it, declaring it the best “museum” show in decades, and extolling the artist as a rare local hero.

So yes, it is an important show by an important artist who offers us an example of the irrepressible drive that animates an artist whether or not his work becomes heralded on the world stage.  (At the risk of belaboring an issue of minor importance, I am nevertheless quite taken with the question posed by Italo Scanga, and explored further in Renny Pritikin’s article, “Why Aren’t You Famous, Yet?”). This is not to say that Tony May’s reputation, as an artist, does not reach beyond Northern California, because it does and he has shown some of his best and signature works in venues abroad.  May’s Thai Inspired Portable Display Unit, which emerges from a small suitcase that carried the entire installation to an exhibition at Silpakorn University in Bangkok, is a perfect example.  The display unit is an amalgam of previous displays featuring May’s diminutive realist paintings that typically document the artist’s notable inventions, repairs or discoveries in a quotidian environment, and the recurring art-in-a-suitcase theme.  This work took the exterior form of a building with steeply pitched roof, like a Thai house, and also bore features that evoked Thai temples and other traditional Asian constructions.  From the roof, panels of black canvas are suspended symmetrically to create four viewing stations, one on each side.  The painting featured in each niche then reveals some connection to the Buddha found in his travels in China or around May’s home in San Jose, as in the vision of a Buddha in soapsuds in a washpan in his kitchen sink.  The entire Thai Inspired Portable Display Unit is presented as rising from its open suitcase/carrying case.

Tony May’s Thai Inspired Portable Display Unit



Posted by erin on February 2nd, 2011

Sophisticated paintings and flowing charcoal drawings give us a whimsical look at life’s everyday heroics as it archives a personal history.

By Andy Muonio, MFA

Recently on view at The Mohr Gallery, in Mountain View’s Community School of Music and Arts (CSMA,, were the works of Norm Rosenberger, entitled: Pancakes, Coffee and Heroic Actions, Paintings and Drawings by Norm Rosenberger. This Oakland based painter gives us a look at his life through ten charcoal drawings and ten acrylic paintings.

Each charcoal drawing is made with confident and powerful strokes. The marks flow, maintaining the gestural ease of their execution, yet each image is carefully composed.  The drawings include both bold, thick and thin black lines as well as a softer touch creating a range of value. Line is important to these works, as value drops back, to a careful limit of marks defining objects. The viewer is first drawn to the boldness of the lines, but the subtlety of the drawing’s entirety, moves them about the entire space.

Snail Parade 11.17.07, 2007