Category Archives: Museum Exhibitions

Stuart Davis: In Full Swing at the de Young, San Francisco


The Mellow Pad, 1945-1951, by Stuart Davis. Oil on Canvas. de Young Museum, San Francisco.

Stuart Davis: In Full Swing, at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, includes over 75 works created from the 1920s through 1964, the year of the artist’s death. Davis was born in 1892 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where his mother was a sculptor and his father was a graphic artist and the art editor of the Philadelphia Press. Inspired by the artistic environment at home, he began formal art training at age 16 with Ashcan School leader Robert Henri in New York (1909-1912). Davis began working as a magazine illustrator, but turned to painting after experiencing the groundbreaking Armory Show of 1913.


Owh! in San Pao, 1951 by Stuart Davis. Oil on canvas.

The exhibition introduced him to European modernist styles, which greatly influenced his subsequent work.  Around the same time, he became a passionate aficionado of jazz, which he found to be the musical counterpart to modernist abstract art. With bold colors and simple forms, he incorporated the techniques of Cubism, Expressionism, Surrealism and other avant-garde movements in his work, along with the syncopated, improvisational rhythms of jazz.  His inventive, energetic style bridged the Cubist innovations of Pablo Picasso, Fernand Leger and Henri Matisse and the Pop Art of the 1960s with its embrace of mass media and commercial advertising.


Blips and Ifs, 1963-64 by Stuart Davis. Oil on canvas.

Art writer Charles Desmarais described the influence and importance of Stuart Davis in his recent article for the San Francisco Chronicle: “Between the Cubists of the early 20th Century and the Pop artists of the 1960s, there was Stuart Davis… It would not be fair to reduce the proudly independent Davis to a mere link between two of the most important movements of modern art. He was also…an art theorist, a proselytizer for the acceptance of abstraction and a social activist. He synthesized — naturalized — ideas born on foreign soil and made them proudly American.”

The exhibition covers 43 years of the artist’s work, from his early paintings of tobacco packages in the 1920s to the WPA murals of the 1930s and the distinctive work of his last two decades.  A hardcover, 288-page catalog of the Stuart Davis:  In Full Swing is available at the Museum.  Wonderful audio recordings describing the background of selected paintings in the show, including The Mellow Pad and Blips and Ifs, can be found online at the National Gallery of Art website.

The exhibition was co-organized by Harry Cooper, Curator and Head of Modern Art at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC and Barbara Haskell, curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.


Stuart Davis seated in front of Summer Landscape, Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum. Photographer unknown.

Stuart Davis:  In Full Swing is on view at the de Young Museum, San Francisco from April 1 through August 6, 2017.  The de Young is open Tuesday-Sunday, 9:30 am – 5:15 pm. Call for information, 415-750-3600.







Agnes Martin at the Guggenheim Museum, NYC

Friendship, by Agnes Martin. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Friendship, 1963, by Agnes Martin. Gold leaf and gesso on canvas. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

The Agnes Martin exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York is a comprehensive survey of the artist’s career from the 1950s through the early 2000s.  Previously shown at The Tate, London and LACMA, the exhibition includes an extraordinary collection of paintings, works on paper and ephemera.


Untitled, 1965,by Agnes Martin
Watercolor, ink and gouache on paper.

For more than forty years, Agnes Martin (1912–2004) created subtle, evocative striped and grid-patterned paintings influenced by Asian belief systems including Taoism and Zen Buddhism. She was one of the few female artists who gained recognition in the male-dominated artworld of the 1950s and ’60s, and she lived and worked in New York. She moved to New Mexico in 1967 in search of solitude and silence, and continued to make her extraordinary paintings there for over three decades until her death in 2004.

Martin’s spare style was informed by her strong belief in the emotionally transformative power of art, and she said that appreciating her work fully requires quiet contemplation.  “Anyone who can sit on a stone in a field awhile can see my paintings,” Martin wrote.

Falling Blue (detail), 1963, by Agnes Martin. Oil and graphite on linen

Falling Blue (detail), 1963, by Agnes Martin. Oil and graphite on linen

The utter beauty and ineffable sense of calm created by her work envelops the viewer who takes the time to sit and look. For me, the exhibition was a serene oasis and much needed respite from the political turmoil in the country today.  “I would like (my pictures) to represent beauty, innocence and happiness,” Martin said. “I would like them all to represent that. Exaltation.”  She succeeded.

Agnes Martin, c. 1953 Photograph by Mildred Tolbert

Agnes Martin, c. 1953
Photograph by Mildred Tolbert

For more on Martin’s life and process, read Holland Carter’s excellent review in the New York Times:  The Joy of Reading Between Agnes Martin’s Lines.

guggenheimThe Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is located at 1071 Fifth Avenue (between 88th and 89th Streets), New York and is open from 10 to 5 daily. The Agnes Martin exhibition will be on view through January 11, 2017.

Border Cantos at the San Jose Museum of Art


Richard Misrach’s “Wall, Near Los Indios Texas” (2015)


Guillermo Galindo’s Metal Piñata, with shotgun shell casings found on a Border Patrol shooting range.

Border Cantos, an exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Art through July 31, 2016, is an artistic collaboration between landscape photographer Richard Misrach and experimental composer Guillermo Galindo which documents the human reality of the US-Mexico borderlands. Misrach has been photographing the 2,000-mile border between the US and Mexico since 2004, and his sweeping, panoramic photographs explore border issues by focusing on isolated personal possessions found abandoned in the border zone: shoes, broken jewelry,  a torn-up copy of the Spanish-language edition of Dr. Zhivago.  The images are large, more than 6 feet high, and visitors can imagine walking right into them.  For the music, Galindo uses discarded items to build unconventional instruments that are inspired by indigenous traditions from around the globe.

The exhibition brings a humanitarian perspective to the heated political debates that surround the subject of immigration today.  Whether or not Border Cantos spurs debate or leads to social and political action, it certainly meets SJMA’s Executive Director Susan Krane’s goal of creating “a shared space for civic engagement.”  (Robert Taylor, East Bay Times.) 


For videos and more information, visit the Border Cantos project website.

The San Jose Museum of Art is open Tuesday-Sunday, 11 am – 5 pm, and 11 am – 8 pm on the third Tuesday of the month.  110 south Market Street, San Jose, CA  408-271-6840

David Park/Contemporary Figuration at the Richmond Art Center

David Park, Man in a Rowboat, 1960 <br>Photo courtesy Hacket | Mill, San Francisco

David Park, Man in a Rowboat, 1960 Photo from the San Francisco Chronicle, courtesy Hacket | Mill, San Francisco

In celebration of its 80th anniversary, the Richmond Art Center is presenting two exhibitions that trace the development and evolution of the figurative movement in Bay Area art.  David Park: Personal Perspectives consists of 35 works on paper in various media executed from the 1920s through 1960, the last year of the artist’s life. The exhibition is drawn from Park’s estate and private collections, and some of the pieces are exhibited to the public for the first time.  Park was instrumental in the development of the Bay Area Figurative movement, now considered the area’s key contribution to 20th Century American art. The show was organized by the RAC’s Director of Exhibitions and Curator of Art, Jan Wurm, who noted in an interview with Oakland Magazine that the exhibition “will look historically at the absolute individual vision that he had—his commitment to the figure and humanism—and how that inspired and changed a whole direction of Bay Area art from Bay Area Figuration into the next generation of painting, sculpture, photography, video, and performance, right up through to the present.”

A companion exhibition, The Human Spirit:  Contemporary Figuration as an Expression of Humanism, explores Park’s legacy of presenting the human figure as vehicle in paintings, sculpture, photography, video and performance by over 20 contemporary Bay Area artists including Elmer Bischoff,  Joan Brown, Enrique Chagoya, Kota Ezawa, Viola Frey, Richard Misrach and Lava Thomas.

Photography is not permitted in either of the galleries; however a beautifully illustrated catalog of the David Park exhibition with an essay by Jan Wurm is available for purchase at the RAC.

David Park, Seated Man, c. 1955-59

David Park, Seated Man, c. 1955-59

The Richmond Art Center, founded in 1936 and located since 1951 in the Richmond’s Civic Center complex, has operated continuously for 80 years and is the East Bay’s oldest and largest art center.  Tues – Sat, 10 am – 5 pm, Sunday, noon – 5 pm. 2540 Barrett Avenue, Richmond, CA.

The exhibitions are on view through May 22, 2016.

The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky at the Met

Lakota Eagle Feather Headdress, c. 1865

Lakota Chief Eagle Feather Headdress, c. 1865

“The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art features 130 objects on loan from more than 50 international collections, ranging in age from pre-contact to contemporary pieces.  It has been called “one of the most completely beautiful sights in New York right now”  in Holland Cotter’s review in the New York Times.

The early Plains people had no written language, and they recorded histories and cultural and spiritual meanings through utilitarian and ceremonial art. They combined materials from the natural world to evoke the spiritual powers of animals, and later, incorporated goods acquired through trade with Europeans.  In his audio introduction to the exhibition, Curator Gaylord Torrence explains that while there was no word for “art” and no special class of “artists” in Plains Indian culture, the creators of these works were extraordinary individuals who were known and honored among their tribes and sometimes beyond.

The geographical area of the Plains cultures extended from Texas to Canada and from the Mississippi River to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.  Nations represented include Osage, Quapaw, Omaha, Crow, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Lakota, Blackfeet, Pawnee, Kiowa, Comanche, Mesquakie and Kansa.


Woman’s Dress, c. 1855

The masterworks in the exhibition include an array of forms and media:  painting and drawing; sculptural works in stone, wood, antler and shell; porcupine quill and glass bead embroidery; feather work; painted robes, richly ornamented clothing and ceremonial objects.  Many of the works were collected centuries ago by French traders on their travels through America and ended up in French, not American, museums–particularly the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, where the exhibition originated in 4/14.  It then traveled to the Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City and was shown there from 9/14 – 1/15 before coming to the Met.

Pawnee Ghost Dance Drum, c. 1891

Pawnee Ghost Dance Drum, c. 1891

For more background on the exhibition and its major pieces, listen to the Met’s accompanying audio guide by curators Gaylord Torrence and Judith Ostrowitz, artists Edgar Heap of Birds and Dana Claxton, along with narration by Cheryl Crazy Bull, president of the American Indian College Fund.  All of the exhibition objects are illustrated and described on the Metropolitan Museum’s exhibition website. Click on any of the images in this post for a direct link to the Met’s description.


Girl’s Dress, c. 1900


The Plains Indians:  Artists of Earth and Sky continues through May 10, 2015.  The Met is open 7 days a week:  Sun-Thurs, 10-5:30, Fri-Sat:  10-9 & closed on major holidays.  1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street) New York, NY 10028  Phone: 212-535-7710.

Arnold Newman at the Jewish Museum, San Francisco

Pablo Picasso, 1954

Pablo Picasso, Vallaurise, France, 1954

Arnold Newman:  Masterclass is on view at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco until February 1, 2015.  The retrospective exhibition includes 200 of Newman’s most famous portraits, as well as rarely and never-before exhibited still lives, architectural studies, cityscapes and early portraits.

Based mostly in New York, Newman was one of the world’s best known and most influential photographers. He worked as a freelancer for Life and other magazines and traveled the world to photograph artists, architects, authors, composers, scientists, fellow photographers and politicians.  Newman found his vision in the empathy he felt for artists and their work, and his photographs demonstrate complex layers of emotional, psychological and cultural significance.  In a press release about the exhibit, the Contemporary Jewish Museum wrote that “Artists delighted in sitting for Newman, knowing that he would find a way to convey their sensibility in a forceful, yet always appropriate, fashion.”

Salvador Dali, 1951

Salvador Dali, 1951

Newman created powerful studio shots, as exemplified by his famous portrait of Pablo Picasso in Vallaurise, France, 1954 (above, left).

His signature style, however, was ‘environmental portraiture,’ in which he captured the essence of his subjects by showing them in their personal surroundings using strong, graphic, black and white imagery to give insight into what made his subjects so successful.

“Every artist is a different human being, a different kind of person, a different kind of personality, a different kind of psyche, and all of this the photographer should reflect,”  Newman is quoted as saying in the exhibition catalog.  The surroundings had to add to the composition and the understanding of the person.

Igor Stravinsky, 1960

Igor Stravinsky, 1960

Newman was a master at composition and was meticulous about his work. In the beautiful, black and white portrait of Russian Composer Igor Stravinsky  (above),  the composer was seated at a grand piano which was strategically silhouetted against a blank wall to create the illusion of the lid as an abstract musical note.

Marc Chagall, 1956

Marc Chagall, 1956

“Whenever I want to photograph someone, I read about them. I read biographies. If they are painters or scientists, I know their work. This is all good. It prepares me to observe.” – Arnold Newman

Newman’s work can be found in major museums and private collections worldwide.  The Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission Street, San Francisco is open Thursday – Tuesday (closed Wednesdays) 415-655-7800


Arnold Newman

Art Appraisal San Francisco – Lauder Cubism Collection at the Met

Fernand Léger, Composition (The Typographer),1918-19), by

Fernand Léger, Composition (The Typographer),1918-19), by

Cubism: The Leonard A Lauder Collection now on view at the Metropolitan Museum in New York is considered one of the most important assemblages of Cubist art in the world.

The collection consists of 81 paintings, drawings, collages, works on paper and a few sculptures by Cubism’s four giants: Georges Braque (1882-1963), Juan Gris (1887-1927), Fernand Léger (1881-1965) and Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). Most of the work dates from 1907 to 1918, and the Met has posted images of each of the pieces here.  The trove of signature works is valued at more than $1 billion.

New York Times art writer, Roberta Smith states in her comprehensive review that  “the work outlines the genesis of the modernist movement that set the stage for almost all others.”  Accompanying her article is a 13-image slide show of the work in place.

Georges Braque, Still Life: "2ᵉ étude, 1914

Georges Braque, Still Life: “2ᵉ étude, 1914

The collection raises the Met’s profile as an institution for modern and contemporary art considerably, since its holdings in that area were very limited before. Thomas Campbell, the museum’s director said that “In one fell swoop this puts the Met at the forefront of early-20th-century art.  It is an unreproducible collection, something museum directors only dream about.”

Leonard A. Lauder, philanthropist and chairman emeritus of Estée Lauder, amassed the collection over a period of 40 years.  The Met has posted a video in which Lauder talks about his lifelong interest in collecting, from picture postcards and posters to Cubist works of art.  He said that when he discovered Cubism, “I found something I was really able to relate to, and I liked the concept of looking in depth at a moment in time.”

Lauder bought his first piece of Cubist art in 1976:  a Léger. In her review of the exhibition, New York Times art writer Carol Vogel reports:  Mr. Lauder said that “nobody wanted” Cubist art for the first 20 years he collected it, so it was still affordable. And early on, he knew that one day he would donate the collection to a museum. He said, “Before buying something, the question I always ask myself is this: If it were going to a museum, would it make the cut? If the answer is yes, then that’s what I buy.” The collection he put together now rivals that of major museums worldwide.

Juan Gris, Still Life With Checked Tablecloth, 1915

Juan Gris, Still Life With Checked Tablecloth, 1915

The Lauder Collection exhibition continues through February 16, 2015.  The Met is open 7 days a week:  Sun-Thurs, 10-5:30, Fri-Sat:  10-9 & closed on major holidays.  If you go, get there early — best, right when it opens — because the exhibition gets crowded very quickly.  1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street) New York, NY 10028  Phone: 212-535-7710

Leonard A. Lauder

Art Collector Leonard A. Lauder





Thomas Hart Benton’s epic “America Today” at the Met

ThomasHartBentonAmericaTodayMETThomas Hart Benton’s 1930’s epic  “America Today, Mural Rediscovered” is on display at the Met for the first time since acquisition in 2012.

The 10-panel, wrap-around mural cycle was commissioned in 1930 for the boardroom of Manhattan’s New School for Social Research and is one of Benton’s most famous works. It depicts a panoramic sweep of rural and urban American life on the eve of the Great Depression and shows everyday people in scenes of life during that time–flappers, farmers, steel workers burlesque dancers, Wall Street tycoons and more.

Lance EsplundBenton of the Wall Street Journal called the mural “A roiling, illustrative melting-pot nearly 8 feet tall…it serves up the good, the bad and the ugly in equal measure.”  Read the rest of his article for further description and history.

The Met is displaying the massive seven-and-a-half foot tall murals in a faithful replica of the 30-by-22-foot boardroom for which the piece was originally created. On view in an adjacent gallery are Benton’s studies and sketches for the mural.  Painter Jackson Pollock was Benton’s student during this time and he served as a model for several of the mural’s figures. Here’s the Met’s video curatorial overview of the installation.

Thomas Hart Benton (1989-1975) was born in Missouri, studied in Paris and lived in New York for more than 20 years before returning to the Midwest to live and work.

Thomas Hart Benton industrial“Thomas Hart Benton’s ‘America Today’ Mural Rediscovered” is in the Met’s American Wing, and will remain on view through April 19, 2015.  The Met is open 7 days a week:  Sun-Thurs, 10-5:30, Fri-Sat:  10-9 & closed on major holidays.  1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street) New York, NY 10028  Phone: 212-535-7710

Thomas Hart Benton portrait

Thomas Hart Benton, Ken Burns PBS photo

Mildred Howard: Collective Memories Exhibition Opens


Island People on Blue Mountain I, 2013 Chine collé with pochoir and silver leaf

Mildred Howard:  Collective Memories opens at the Fresno Art Museum on September 26 and will be on view through January 4, 2015.  Mildred Howard was  awarded the Distinguished Woman Artist Award for 2014 by the Museum’s California’s Council of 100, an organization devoted to recognizing outstanding women in the arts.  The artist will give a free public lecture about her work 11 am – noon on October 4, and that afternoon will attend the Distinguished Woman Artist Award Ceremony and Luncheon.

The exhibition, curated by Dr. Lizzetta LeFalle-Collins, includes thirty-five of Howard’s mixed media works which explore African American folk customs and traditions of the American South.  “Howard’s works are a constant interchange between formalism and content as she becomes more committed to the process of retrieval—selecting and working with repurposed materials to capture and peel back the layers that form her ideas and inform the embedded stories that she pushes forward, conscious of the layering of time and how time brings historical perspective to life.” ~ Fresno Art Museum


Artist Mildred Howard

Mildred Howard is a Berkeley-based artist, activist and teacher who is known for her sculptural installations and mixed media assemblages. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, including an NEA Fellowship in sculpture, two Rockefeller Fellowships to Bellagio, Italy (1996 and 2007), the Adeline Kent Award from the San Francisco Art Institute, the Joan Mitchell Foundation CALL Program Artist award and a  California Arts Council Fellowship. Her work has been exhibited internationally including recent shows in Berlin, Cairo, and Bath, England.  She is represented by the Paule Anglim Gallery in San Francisco.

Howard’s work is included in the collections of the de Young Museum, Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, CA; the Oakland Museum of California; the San Jose Museum of Art, CA; the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT; the International Museum of Glass and Contemporary Art, Tacoma, WA; the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA; the Washington State Art Commission and the San Francisco Arts Commission.

Paule Anglim Gallery has published a wonderful on-line catalog for the exhibition on issuu:  Mildred Howard: Collective Memory.