Archive for June, 2011

Robert Mapplethorpe: Portraits

Posted by kfunk on June 19th, 2011

From Truman Capote to Laurie Anderson: Mapplethorpe’s Portraits at the San Jose Museum of Art

Twenty-two years after the controversial show at the Corcoran Gallery of Art closed-or actually never opened, Mapplethorpe’s work is celebrated world-wide without a blink of hesitation. The controversy is just a blip in the cultural memory of the late 1980s – early 1990s culture wars that created famous verbal spars between artists like Karen Finley and political leaders like Senator Jessie Helms. The obscenity wars shaped a generation and our memory of American life in the last part of the 20th century.

Robert Mapplethorpe, Iggy Pop, 1981, gelatin silver print, Courtesy of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation



Kenna Moser, Observe at Grover Thurston Gallery

Kenna Moser performs a whimsical play with stamps, botanical drawings, postmarks, precise and studied handwritten names and addresses, and collage paintings of diminutive people cut out of old dictionaries They come together to say something about the essence of human endeavor: we strive for the same things, we play the same way, we make the same mistakes, we are guilty of the same follies, we love the same things through the ages. Like a lost letter that arrives at its destination one hundred years later, her small juxtapositions of imagery buried in encaustic, are a surprise and a delight.   Each is an intimate reward for the viewer’s attention, not intended to be monumental, but rather very personal, perhaps like a confession to a dear friend or a narrative of everyday life from a distant relative. Moser works on top of small wooden box forms that give her paintings a sculptural dimension and the sense of containing artifacts as much as being art.  A short story, a few precious antiques, small, collaged historical elements and detailed botanical paintings executed by the artist herself, all are embedded in the carefully prepared wax environment that makes each jewel-like work seem a glimpse into history.

Feat by Kenna Moser

It helps to know the titles.  To some of these tiny narratives we will say, “How true!” Others will make as laugh as we discover visual puns and silly connections between names and objects.  Observe features a tiny woman in a diving posture that, when attached to a bright orange nasturtium, makes her appear to be hang-gliding.  In Feat, we see a tiny track and field competitor leaping feet first over a large hydrangea-like blossom.  Direct shows a small figure conducting life’s symphony with an enormous green fern. Life‘s challenges and vicissitudes go on.

Enrich by Kenna Moser

Kenna Moser used to live in Palo Alto, as ARTSHIFT readers will recall, and in 2004 she moved to the Pacific Northwest. She now creates her meticulous little miracles in a studio on Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound.  She is represented by the Gail Severn Gallery in Idaho and the Sue Greenwood Gallery in Laguna Beach, California as well Seattle’s Grover Thurston Gallery where her work was featured in the month of May.  The works can still be viewed in the Grover Thurston Gallery through June, 2011.


Posted by erin on June 4th, 2011

Graduate Work Soars in University of Washington Shows

by Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Parts of Kirby vacuum cleaner, early aircraft technology and bat wings lift Gustavo Martinez’ fantastic creature upward to emerge from the clay earth.

Over a period of years, we have watched Gustavo Martinez use ceramics to track his own life path from his roots in Mexico as he traveled north to Central California and his mixed media installations at San Jose State University, where metaphors for movement forward from an historic culture included railroad tracks and pots and potsherds.  Most recently, investigating symbols from native cultures throughout the Americas, Martinez has focused on animals — possibly taking off from the Quetzalcoatl story — that particularly embrace the concepts of rebirth, transformation, and flight. Finally, flight itself as a concept seems to have drawn the artist into the present, allowing for meditations on what our human journey is all about and why we want to fly to the heavens.

The wings of Martinez’ untitled creatures expand with their shadows.

In his graduate work at the University of Washington, the earlier pieces seemed to grow upward from the earth on spindly apple wood legs.  They embraced androgyny; a creation god with a pregnant belly, has large hands ready to work, but it is still hiding behind a MesoAmerican mask.  An awkward bird creature, full-figured with feminine contours but whose wings have yet to spread, drags its prodigious feathers behind.

In Euphoria, at the Henry Gallery, Gustavo Martinez allows his flying form to draw energy from the clay and minerals of the earth.

As his tenure in the graduate program draws to a close, Martinez’ final work truly breaks through to another level of confidence and takes off.  He revisits his love of line and the drawing he had worked into the surfaces of his ceramic sculpture, and takes it a step further into constructs of welded aluminum tubing, weaving a network of struts, ribs, veins and claw-like fingers into his hybrid creations.  In two of the three galleries where his last works are shown, these lacy forms cast a drama of shadows on the white walls, forming a continuum from the silvery aluminum to the space that dissolves into and beyond the walls.  The viewer will see references to bird wings, bat winds and dragon-fly wings. In my favorite piece, a Kirby vacuum cleaner part becomes a bird’s head that emerges from a ceramic ruff that contains three old style aircraft cylinders as might be situated around the propeller. There is alchemy working hand in hand with technology. The entire creature is rising from the earth, a well-worked, mighty mound of clay that is the artist’s source.

Martinez’ birdlike hybrid ceramic creature is still dragging its plumes.

Martinez supports his large sculpture and its relationship to line work with some interesting drawings in one of the student galleries.  The most informative is probably a giant, yet crude, green architectural form, rendered in expressive brushwork that appears to be a Tower of Babel.  Indeed, using whatever means and technology available, we are determined to get closer to the heavens. We envy and emulate the life forms that fly.


Posted by erin on June 4th, 2011

Taking a Peek at the Way Our Neighbors Celebrate the Visual Arts

By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Signe Mayfield, Kathyrn Funk and Kenna Moser at artMRKTSANFRANCISCO

What better excuse to take Artshift, San Jose to San Francisco, than three art fairs on one weekend?  What is an art fair anyway?  Who will be there?  How will our Silicon Valley artists be seen? Kathryn Funk, Artshift’s Editor, and I headed up the peninsula with a lot of sweaters and coats only to discover San Francisco was sunny and warm. Beautiful!  Our first stop – the artMRKTSANFRANCISCO – a “contemporary and modern” art fair in the Concourse Exhibition Center, at 7th and Brannon.

The artMRKT production was a pretty professional affair. Like many a convention, vendors  – galleries in this case – set up their displays in temporary booths.  Sixty seven sites provided a wide range of well-presented art, some of it very elegantly and some in salon-style, with dealers succumbing to the irresistible desire to cram as much art as possible into a small space.  The range of bars and food options, not available at the other fairs, were welcome to foot weary viewers.

Dionece Sandoval of San Jose’s  Zero1 Festival and Kathryn Funk confer on the scene at artMRKT.