Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

*The following was first posted 5/31/2009

Today is Memorial Day and I'm thinking of my father. Dad served in both the Korean War and World War II. During his time in the service he not only survived the sinking of a ship, he survived when a gun mount he was in blew up - in fact, of all the men that were in the gun mount at the time only my father and 1 other man survived. When his ship was sinking, after he made sure all his men were safely aboard the life boats Dad went, against everyone's wishes, back onto the sinking ship so that he could retrieve a photograph of my mother as he was determined that said photo would not sink with the ship. Dad was a Navy man and retired as a high ranking Naval officer when I was in the first grade, having served 20 years active duty. He then spent another 5 years in the reserves. After that he had a full civilian career from which he retired.

My father and I were always on different sides of the political fence but I still respect how he served his country. One doesn't have to support a war but one can support the men and women who put their lives on the line for their country. I put my life on the picket lines and carry those scars while my dad put his on the battlefield and carried his scars.

My father was proud of his time in the service and, as he neared his death, he shared with me stories that were beyond the pale. When I was young he told me stories but they were stories that were innocuous. Hearing the more damaged situations broke my heart, knowing that he carried those experiences deep within him. Knowing the horrific experiences he endured gave me some insight into why he had certain outlooks. We can never know what a person truly is until we walk a mile in their moccasins. My father had an extremely difficult life growing up - his mother was not a nurturing person and he suffered the effects of her "issues". He also had some adventures though - he actually ran away to join the circus when he was young and he also played minor league baseball - in fact, he was due to be called up to the "majors" when he joined the Navy.

My father died in late February of 2003. On March 3, 2003 I gave a eulogy at his funeral. My eulogy is shared below:

"(name deleted for privacy) was my father and I loved him. When I think of Dad a myriad of thoughts come to mind and I'd like to share just a few. He played semi-pro baseball as a young man. He had quite a varied life and he was a survivor. He survived a ship that was torpedoed, a gun mount explosion and 2 open-heart surgeries.

Dad was a collector of watches. He had more than 15 and wanted each one of us to have one - as if he knew the importance of marking the time we have on earth and how truly short life is.

Memories of Dad - waking up to the smell of a freshly cut lawn on a summer morning. The smell of chlorine and the sound of water as Dad filled the swimming pool for the first time each summer. Sitting on an old-fashioned ice-cream maker while Dad made ice cream (he always got the "paddle" in the middle with the most concentration of the ice cream because "he did all the work"). How when Dad made pancakes on Saturday mornings he always gave the first one to our dog "Laddie". How he was so sentimental and always cried at television shows like Bonanza and at weddings when Mom would sing. How he always wanted to make sure there was plenty of food for the ducks, geese, squirrels and birds at his and Mom's home. How he liked to decorate the front yard at Christmastime with Christmas lights. How he made several trips to the desert in El Centro to retrieve the Pegasus Horse wood sculpture you've all seen in Mom and Dad's front yard (by the way, he was so concerned about it not incurring any damage during the trip from the West Coast to the East Coast that it was placed in its own crate, wrapped by more packing that any piece of artwork hanging in the Louvre, when he and Mom moved back here to Delaware). Dad wasn't perfect - none of us are - we're all human - but he had his ways and he had a big heart. Above all, he was always worried about the safety of his family.

Those are just some of my memories of Dad. There are so many more I could share but time doesn't allow and my heart needs to keep those memories private. I'd now like to share a poem that I think is germane to this occasion. It's called "The Dash" and reads as follows:

I read of a reverend who stood to speak at the funeral of his friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the the end. He noted that first came the date of his birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said that what mattered most of all was the dash between those years. For that dash represents all the time that he spent alive on earth...and now only those who loved him know what that little line is worth. For it matters not how much we own; the cars...the house...the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash. So think about this long and hard...are there things you'd like to change? For you never know how much time is left. (You could be at "dash mid-range"). If we could just slow down enough to consider what's true and real and always try to understand how other people feel. And be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we've never loved before. If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile, remembering that this special "dash" might only last a little while. So when your eulogy is being read with your life's actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say when people recall how you spent your "dash"?

I hope you all know how truly big Dad's life was. He was so very excited every time he spoke of his grandchildren Paul, Christine, Alexander, Channing, Chandler and Dylan. His eyes shone with the love that only comes from a grandfather when he talks about the "babies". Randall and Keith, Dad loved each of us very much and was proud of us. He took joy in the beautiful and gracious adults we've become. Mom, what can I say? You were the love of Dad's life. He was always concerned for your well being and was looking forward to spending many more years with you. You were always in his thoughts.

The best way everyone here today can honor Dad is to live life to the fullest, love to our heart's capacity, and laugh - laugh often.

As for me, I'd like to leave you, the audience, as well as Mom, Randall, Keith, Paul and, most importantly, my father with the following thought. In Shakespeare's play "Hamlet", Horatio, after his friend Hamlet has died, bids him adieu with the following epitaph:
"Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince: and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest".

So, Dad, though your physical body "cracked", I too bid you farewell and good night. May flights of angels also sing you to your rest."

Happy Memorial Day, Dad - I love you.

Alexis at the 2010 flag placing ceremony at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

On a Day like Today, Westminster's Big Ben Rang for the First Time in London

LONDON.- May 30, 1859.- Big Ben is the nickname for the great bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London, and is often extended to refer to the clock or the clock tower as well. Big Ben is the largest four-faced chiming clock and the third-tallest free-standing clock tower in the world. It celebrated its 150th anniversary in May 2009 (the clock itself first ticking on 31 May 1859).

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Long-Unseen Painting by Frida Kahlo Tops Latin America Art Auction

A Frida Kahlo portrait of a pre-Hispanic warrior was the top selling work in a sale of Latin American art, which also set five auction records, including one for Mexican artist Jose Clemente Orozco.

The evening auction at Christie's on Wednesday fetched $16.8 million, its strongest Latin American sale in two years.

"It was a sale full of excitement and surprises with world auction records for key Latin American modern and contemporary artists," said Christie's Latin America art chief.

"We were delighted with the runaway success of Frida Kahlo's "Survivor," which fetched $1.1 million against a pre-sale estimate of $100,000-150,000."

He added that the Kahlo work drew bids from as far afield as Europe and Asia.
Orozco's "The City" also sold for $1.1 million. Both artists' work is scarce in international markets since Mexico bars their export under cultural heritage laws.

An added novelty was that "Survivor" disappeared from public view for 72 years before it was put up for sale this year.

The bidding excitement for the Kahlo recalled Christie's May 2008 auction, when the Latin American art market was at its height. At a rapid-fire pace, "Survivor" drew nearly 50 offers, sparking murmurs of amazement among the well-heeled audience.

The palm-sized "Survivor," which has a standing warrior figure at its center, is a rare Kahlo portrait of a pre-Hispanic idol. It shows an abandoned house on a ridge under a sky which churns with blacks, blues, grays and yellows.

Framed as a religious votive offering, "Survivor" symbolizes Kahlo's gratitude for surviving a suicide attempt, according to Christie's. Kahlo had separated from painter husband Diego Rivera after discovering his affair with her sister.

Like Rivera, Orozco was a monumental muralist, who lived in New York during the Depression. "The City" juxtaposes a towering rust-red shell building with portraits of dejected hard-hat workers. They are separated by a suspicious blue-eyed man, portrayed in sharper detail. Typical of the era's affluent, he wears a top hat.

"Un Trou Sur l'Orange," by Venezuelan Jesus Rafael Soto, whose sculptures embed optical illusions to render vibrations, sold for $758,500, also an auction record.

The 1970 work is a web of nylon and metal set in low relief against an orange wood panel with an oval void at its center. The sculpture produces vibrations and dancing patters for viewers walking past.

The sale also set a world record for Mexican Alfonso Michel, whose oil on masonite, "Naturaleza Muerta" (Still Life), fetched $218,500, nearly quadruple the pre-sale estimate.

Another world record was set when Brazilian Beatriz Milhazes's 2001 "O Beijo" or The Kiss, sold for a top price for her work on paper at $110,500.

Chilean Alfredo Jaar's "The More Things Change" also set an auction record for his 1990 work which fetched $60,000. It consists of three double-sided light boxes with color transparencies displaying surf and sky. Each is topped by a mirror in a gilded frame.

Artwork shown (in order of appearance):
Frida Kahlo - "Survivor"
Jose Clemente Orozco - "The City"
Jesus Rafael Soto - "Un Trou Sur l'Orange"
Alfonso Michel - "Naturaleza Muerta"
Beatriz Milhazes - "O Beijo"
Alfredo Jaar - "The More Things Change"

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

100 Years After Henri Rousseau's Death, the Guggenheim Devotes First In-Depth Exhibition

BILBAO.- One hundred years after the death of the French artist Henri Rousseau (1844–1910), the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is devoting an exhibition to this pioneer of Modernism—the first occasion that Rousseau has been seen in depth in Spain. The exhibition, coinciding with the centenary of the French artist's death in 1910 shows Rousseau's influence on subsequent modernist and avant-garde movements.

Organized by the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in co-operation with the Fondation Beyeler, Henri Rousseau presents a selection of approximately thirty masterpieces that provide a concise overview of the development and diversity of his oeuvre. From his famous jungle paintings in the later stages of his career, to the views of Paris and its environs, figures, portraits, allegories, and genre paintings, the exhibition gives a unique insight into the essential visual world of Rousseau.

A customs official by vocation, Rousseau initially took up painting in his free time and received no formal art training. Many years passed before his art, not academic and long considered naive, found recognition in the Paris art salons.

His importance within art history lies in his groundbreaking compositional mechanisms and painstaking technique, which greatly influenced younger generations of artists. Along with Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, and Paul Gauguin, Rousseau’s visual inventions paved the way for the twentieth-century’s nascent Modernist movement.

A new visual idiom
For his works, which combined highly diverse themes of urbanity and the natural world adapted to his own visual conception, Rousseau mined resources beyond the academic tradition, relying heavily on postcards, photographs, and popular journals. His imaginary dreamlike jungle landscapes also took their inspiration directly from books on botany and his visits to gardens, woods and zoos.

The works included in the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao reveal his unique working method of transferring individual motifs such as leaves and trees, figures, and entire compositional schemes from picture to picture, and combining them to create new visual compositions, painted with a painstaking, naturally refined technique.

Rousseau redefined the picture space by staggering pictorial elements from background to foreground, a method that would later be adopted by the Cubists. This built-up pictorial structure, in the form of painted collage, anticipated the autonomy of the picture plane that would become characteristic of Modernism. Younger artists, such as Pablo Picasso and Fernand Léger, both of whom admired and collected his work, were captivated by his technique.

A tour of the exhibition
Initially, Rousseau painted mostly small-format pictures depicting the French suburbs and the surrounding countryside of his immediate environment. In these landscapes, wilderness is represented by dense wooded areas on the background that the artist used to separate the visual realm by means of either a fence or behind a fortification wall, as in House on the Outskirts of Paris (Maison de la banlieue de Paris, ca. 1905, Carnegie Museum of Art). Gradually, he moved away from this rationally organized civilization toward an unorganized, wild depiction of nature. This passage from the well ordered and familiar to the unknown and alien defined his later work as can be seen in Landscape (Paysage, 1905–10, Philadelphia Museum of Art).

In his famous jungle paintings, Rousseau, who never actually set foot in a jungle, finally succeeded in leaving the sphere of domestication behind for his imaginary wilderness. Now working in a significantly larger format, Rousseau lent these invented landscapes a compelling visual reality. The culmination of the exhibition is formed by a significant assembly of Rousseau’s famous jungle pictures. Of special mention is the monumental painting The Hungry Lion Throws Itself on the Antelope (Le lion, ayant faim, se jette sur l’antilope , 1895/1905, Fondation Beyeler) included on the occasion of Rousseau’s first appearance at the Salon d’Automne in Paris in 1905. In March 1906, art dealer and collector Ambroise Vollard acquired the sensational painting—the first Rousseau ever to enter the art trade—in which the artist’s talent for creating an imaginary new world comprised of various figures set against a stage like environment are shown.

In addition, the exhibition illustrates Rousseau’s well-documented interest in photography for source material. A few of his compositions, such as Old Junier’s cart (La carriole du père Junier , 1908, Musée l’Orangerie) were definitively based on photographs. In the course of transferring the photographic image to the canvas, he created an entirely new visual world, arranging its elements into another image layer by layer in front of his imaginary camera lens.

Yet for all his reliance on photographic realism, Rousseau always strove to keep the depicted world at a distance. This is especially seen in The Wedding (La noce, 1904–05, Musée l’Orangerie), a large-format painting whose distortions of scale and proportions with respect to the original model are immediately obvious. Indeed, the simultaneity of character and dream in Rousseau’s paintings, the flatness and lack of perspective, and his peculiar manner of lighting the picture plane, with both brilliant sun and shadowless figures, all combine to give his images a highly tuned Surrealist quality.

After the Impressionist painters and the succeeding generation created a new way to look at the visible, Rousseau introduced into his paintings a new approach to imaginative vision. His perception of reality was based primarily on observation, imitation and transformation of the visible. In this way, he taught modern artists how the unknown could be constructed using the building blocks of the known. He established a new logic and mechanics of compositional structure that profoundly affected subsequent generations of artists, most notably the Surrealists Max Ernst and René Magritte.

Many renowned museums and collections in Europe and America have contributed to the success of the exhibition by their generous provision of loans. These include the Musée national de l’Orangerie, the Musée d’Orsay, and the Musée national d’Art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, in Paris; The Mayor Gallery, London; Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel; the Nahmad Collection, Switzerland; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York; the Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts; the National Gallery of Art and the Phillips Collection, in Washington, D.C.; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; the Kunsthaus Zürich; and a number of private collections.

The first image shown is Maison de la banlieue de Paris (House on the Outskirts of Paris). The second image is Paysage exotique (Exotic Landscape). The last image is Les joueurs de football (The Football Players).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sotheby's to Sell Rare Inscribed Copy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Debut Novel

LONDON.- In July, Sotheby’s London will auction one of the rarest books of modern times: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, which debuts the most celebrated literary character of all time – Sherlock Holmes. Published in 1887 and written in under three weeks, this work to be offered is one of only two inscribed copies known to be in existence. Undoubtedly the most important book Conan Doyle ever wrote, A Study in Scarlet gave birth to Sherlock Holmes, explained how he and Dr. Watson came to be together and set in motion one of the most highly successful characters - and indeed the first major serial character - in English literature, a forerunner of everyone from Hercule Poirot to James Bond. The novel will be offered on 15th July as part of an English Literature, History, Children's Books and Illustrations sale, and is estimated to fetch £250,000-400,000.

Conan Doyle began writing A Study in Scarlet on 8th March, 1886: despite being an instant success on publication, the work was initially rejected by a succession of publishers, and it wasn’t until November 1887 that it appeared in print, in Beeton’s Christmas Annual – a miscellany published annually since 1867. The issue sold out in fourteen days and was later republished - although Conan Doyle never received a penny more for the work, having given up all the rights to his publisher for the sum of £25.

Speaking of the sale, Peter Selley, Senior Specialist in Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts Department, said: “Holmes is a character so compelling and complex that many were to believe that he was a real person – even as late as the 1950s the English Post Office was still receiving many letters personally addressed to the detective – no such fictional character had ever become so widely known in such a short space of time. With only 31 copies recorded in the most recent census, the Beeton’s A Study in Scarlet has always been regarded as extremely rare and valuable: the last copy made over $150,000 at auction at Sotheby’s in New York in 2007. But no signed or inscribed copy has ever been offered for sale at auction since it was published in 1887, and it is highly unlikely that such a copy will ever become available again. The sale represents an opportunity to acquire the finest copy of the most important cornerstone of any collection of detective literature in the world”.

A Study in Scarlet features Holmes’ classic first remark - uttered on meeting Dr. Watson: “How are you? You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive…”, as well as Watson’s insightful description of Holmes, written on their first meeting: “His very person and appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most casual observer. In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing, save during those intervals of torpor to which I have alluded; and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision. His chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination. His hands were invariably blotted with ink and stained with chemicals, yet he was possessed of extraordinary delicacy of touch...”. The author’s inscription reads: ‘This is the first independent book of mine which ever was published, Arthur Conan Doyle’. It is fitting that this copy of A Study in Scarlet was inscribed - on 9th January, 1914 - at just the time Conan Doyle was composing his fourth and final long Sherlock Holmes adventure The Sign of Four, twenty-six years later.

Over the next forty years after the publication of A Study in Scarlet a total of sixty Holmes stories were to appear, all eagerly awaited by worldwide readership - in fact, Holmes grew so popular, that Conan Doyle feared he would never be known for anything else.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ocean Soul

An amazing piece showing the world's best tow-in/big wave surfer becoming one with the ocean. Watching the grace, beauty and soul of the waves is inspiring and brings tears to my eyes whilst enveloping my entire being. If you have any heart and any soul at all you see how this experience helped Laird "soften some hard corners in his life". We all need to soften our own hard corners and find our peace and who better to help than Mother Nature? We can't all surf those big waves but we can all sit at the ocean's shore and allow those waves to meld into our souls. We can all be peaceful. We can all be gentle whilst walking gently on this planet. We can all be appreciative of what we have. We can all allow our hearts to speak. We can all realize that we deserve to be loved and have the love we give mean something. We can all be human. We can all eliminate the b.s. and just "be".

The clip is from the film Riding Giants.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d'Orsay Opens at the de Young Museum

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco welcomes the United States debut of Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay on view at the de Young Museum May 22 to September 6, 2010. The exhibition includes approximately 100 paintings from the Musée d’Orsay’s permanent collection and highlights the work of William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler, among others. The Musée d’Orsay is lending their most beloved paintings while it undergoes a partial closure for refurbishment and reinstallation in anticipation of the museum’s 25th anniversary in 2011. Birth of Impressionism will be followed in the fall of 2010 by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, and Beyond: Post–Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay. The de Young will be the only museum in the world to host both exhibitions. Tickets go on sale April 6, 2010.

“Each of these two shows brings together masterpieces that, once they return to the Musée d’Orsay, will never again be loaned out for exhibition as a group,” says Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic. “I hope they will excite the interest of the American public in order to strengthen further the links between our two countries.”

“These two exhibitions present a rare and unique opportunity for Americans to see the evolution and incubation of the Impressionist style from the collection of the most important repository of French 19th- and early 20th-century art––the Musée d’Orsay,” says John E. Buchanan, director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “These exhibitions give us the chance to share with visitors some of the most seminal works of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art that they would only be able to see in Paris or in an art history book.”

Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay presents works by the famous masters who called France their home during the mid- to late-19th century and from whose midst arose one of the most original and recognizable of all artistic styles, Impressionism. The exhibition begins with paintings by the great academic artist Bouguereau and the arch-Realist Courbet, and includes American expatriate Whistler’s Arrangement in Gray and Black, known to many as “Whistler’s Mother.” Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Sisley are showcased with works dating from the 1860s through 1880s, along with a selection of Degas’ paintings that depict images of the ballet, the racetrack, and life in the Belle Époque.

“Does Impressionism still have something to teach us about its sources, its beginnings, its transformations, and its links with the period of its first flowering?” Musée d’Orsay curator Stéphane Guégan asks. “This is the challenge taken up by this exhibition which attempts to decompartmentalize the movement by comparing it with art in the 1870s in general.” Notable works in this exhibition include:

• The Fife Player by Edouard Manet (1866)
• Racehorses Before the Stands by Edgar Degas (1866–1868)
• Family Reunion by Frédéric Bazille (1867)
• The Magpie by Claude Monet (1868)
• The Cradle by Berthe Morisot (1872)
• The Dancing Lesson by Edgar Degas (1873–1876)
• The Floor Scrapers by Gustave Caillebotte (1875)
• The Swing by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1876)
• Red Roofs, Corner of the Village, Winter Effect by Camille Pissarro (1877)
• Saint-Lazare Station by Claude Monet (1877)
• Rue Montorgueil, Paris. Festival of June 30, 1878 by Claude Monet (1878)
• Snow at Louveciennes by Alfred Sisley (1878)
• L’Estaque by Paul Cézanne (1878–1879)
• Portraits at the Stock Exchange by Edgar Degas (1878–1879)
• The Birth of Venus by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1879)

The image above shows workers hanging American artist James McNeill Whistler's painting titled "Whistler's Mother".

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Picasso: Peace and Freedom

LONDON.- A major exhibition bringing together over 150 works by Picasso from across the world will be presented at Tate Liverpool from 21 May to 30 August 2010. Picasso: Peace and Freedom will reveal a fascinating new insight into the artist’s life as a tireless political activist and campaigner for peace, challenging the widely-held view of the artist as creative genius, playboy and compulsive extrovert.

This is the first exhibition to explore the post-War period of the artist’s life in depth, and will reflect a new Picasso for a new time. Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the exhibition provides a timely look at Picasso’s work in the Cold War era and how the artist transcended the ideological and aesthetic oppositions of East and West.

The exhibition will bring together key paintings and drawings related to war and peace from 1944-1973, alongside a wide range of contextual materials and ephemera. The centrepiece will be the artist’s masterpiece, The Charnel House 1944-45, marking 50 years since it was last seen in the UK. This remarkable work was Picasso’s most explicitly political painting since Guernica 1937. Monument to the Spaniards who Died for France late 1945 to 31 January 1947 will also feature in the exhibition along with The Rape of the Sabine Women 1962, painted at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis on the verge of Third World War.

Picasso's Dove of Peace became the emblem for the Peace Movement and universal symbol of hope during the Cold War. Picasso’s lithograph of the fan-tailed pigeon, given to him by Matisse in 1948, was selected for the poster of the First International Peace Congress held in Paris in 1949. Picasso later provided variations on the dove for the Peace Congresses in Wroclaw, Stockholm, Sheffield, Vienna, Rome and Moscow. The dove also had a highly personal significance for Picasso going back to childhood memories of his father painting doves kept in the family home. In 1949 Picasso named his daughter ‘Paloma’ – Spanish for ‘dove’ – born in the same month as the Peace Congress in Paris.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was arguably the most influential and prolific artist of the 20th century. After 1944 Picasso, the greatest living artist, became a figurehead of left wing causes. He joined the Communist party in 1944 and it was during this period that the political content of his work came to the fore. His paintings frequently reference and comment upon key historical moments, chronicling human conflict and war, but also a desire for peace.

The exhibition is organised by Tate Liverpool in collaboration with the Albertina, Vienna where it will be shown following its presentation in Liverpool. Vienna hosted the World Peace Congress in 1952, promoted by a poster featuring Picasso’s drawing of a dove surrounded by a circle of interlocking hands.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Arts Commission Presents Zhang Huan's Colossal "Three Heads Six Arms"

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Arts Commission President P.J. Johnston and Director of Cultural Affairs Luis R. Cancel dedicated a new temporary sculpture by celebrated Chinese artist Zhang Huan. Presented in conjunction with the Shanghai-San Francisco Sister City 30th Anniversary Celebration, Zhang’s colossal Three Heads Six Arms (2008) made its world premiere in the heart of San Francisco’s Civic Center, the Joseph L. Alioto Performing Arts Piazza, which is located across the street from City Hall. Three Heads Six Arms, courtesy of the artist and The Pace Gallery, New York, are on loan through 2011.

“The installation of Zhang Huan’s spectacular sculpture in the Civic Center marks a high point in the Shanghai-San Francisco Sister City 30th Anniversary Celebration and a milestone for the San Francisco Arts Commission,” said Mayor Gavin Newsom. “By bringing this incredible work of art to the City, we underscore Shanghai and San Francisco’s bond as two of the world’s most important centers for arts and culture.”

Three Heads Six Arms is part of a series of monumental works depicting the fragmented extremities of Buddhist statues. The series was inspired by Zhang’s discovery of religious sculptures that had been destroyed during the Cultural Revolution for sale in a Tibetan market. He began the series in 2006 shortly after moving from New York City to Shanghai where he retired his performance art practice and embraced a more traditional approach to artistic creation. His recent work is characterized by a more overt relationship with traditional Chinese culture and Buddhist iconography. However, he continues to use the body as a primary vehicle for exploring existential questions and expressing emotions, and it is a common thematic thread through his various artworks.

The first sculptures in the Buddha series included nine large-scale copper fingers, which were based on remains he collected during his visit to Tibet. According to Zhang, “When I saw these fragments in Lhasa, a mysterious power impressed me. They’re embedded with historical and religious traces, just like the limbs of a human being.” The fingers of Buddhist deities are considered highly symbolic because they convey different spiritual meanings through various hand gestures, or mudras. Zhang continued the series with several even larger sculptures combining the legs, feet, hands and heads of Buddhist deities. The artist, having been deeply moved by the sight of the desecrated statues, believes that by recreating these fragments on a grand scale, he is able to alleviate the pain caused by their destruction.

Standing over 26 feet tall and weighing almost fifteen tons, Three Heads Six Arms is Zhang’s largest sculpture to date. He began the sculpture by sketching a few ink drafts of Three Heads Six Arms. His assistants then created a miniature, approximately 5′ x 5′ x 3′ clay sculpture that was based on the ink sketches. Once Zhang approved the clay maquette, his assistants constructed a glass-steel model. He then turned the design over to his copper workshop, which is one of nine specialized workshops that comprise his Shanghai studio complex, to build an enlarged copper construct. The hands and body were enlarged directly in accordance to the glass-steel model. However, the head section presented Zhang with several challenges.

Since the expressions on the faces were so elaborate, subtle changes in detail were especially difficult to realize. In order to overcome these issues, Zhang and his assistants created one large-scale isometric clay sculpture by welding together a steel structure and overlaying it with clay. The forging specialist hammered out the copper skin over the clay head model, and the final head was pieced together after all the individual faces were finished. According to Zhang, “When using pieces of copper to make Buddhist images, I like to keep the original character of the copper and the traces of the welding. For me, pieces of copper are like stitched skin after an operation.”

“The shape of Three Heads Six Arms came from my correlation of it with the Chinese mythological character Nezha, inspiration came from Tibetan Buddhist sculptures. I replaced two of the three Buddha heads with human heads,” said Zhang. Among the sculpture’s three heads is a self-portrait of the artist. In his earlier performances and photographs, Zhang always placed himself at the center of the action. Using his own body as his primary medium, he would subject himself to extreme physical trials and exploits often in front of large audiences. By introducing himself into the Buddha series, he reinstates this practice and draws a parallel between the body of Buddhist deities and his own. Zhang has been quoted in a past interview with curator and art historian RoseLee Goldberg as saying, “To me, the objects that I am making now are still very theatrical. I see them as motionless performance art.” Three Heads Six Arms exemplifies how the layers of ideas explored in his performance pieces have carried through to his more traditional studio practice. “Three Heads Six Arms reflects the changing realities of Chinese people today and also reflects the attitude that humankind has conquered nature and even reflects deeds of volition and hope,” said Zhang.

Zhang chose San Francisco as the ideal setting to debut his sculpture, in part because of the long-standing history being honored between Shanghai and San Francisco during this year’s Sister City Celebration.

“The Shanghai San Francisco Sister City celebration commemorates this important time in the history of our two countries when the exchange of art, culture and ideas between the East and West is marked by openness and mutual appreciation. While Three Heads Six Arms clearly embodies ideas that are rooted in Chinese culture and tradition, it is also about our common humanity. I hope that, while the sculpture is in San Francisco, it will serve as a bridge between these two great cities and that it will continue to foster this sprit of tolerance and appreciation,” said Zhang.

“The Pace Gallery is honored to have been able to facilitate the loan of this monumental sculpture by one of the world’s most important contemporary artists to the city of San Francisco. With his continuing interest in the continuity of Buddhist philosophy Zhang Huan deals with the fragmentation of Chinese society by enlarging a small ruined Buddha to heroic scale. By doing this he illustrates the promise of a new society in which the past as well as the present will co-exist with equal value,” says Arne Glimcher, Founder and Chairman of The Pace Gallery.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Preakness Post Positions drawn and Morning Line Odds assigned

The second leg of the Triple Crown will be run this Saturday. And, in anticipation of that race, shown below is Secretariat's (the greatest thoroughbred of all time) 1973 Preakness race.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Got a few million laying around...

Picasso Sells at Christie's for $106.5 Million, a Record for a Work of Art Sold at Auction

NEW YORK, NY (AP).- A 1932 Pablo Picasso painting of his mistress has sold for $106.5 million, a world record price for any work of art at auction.

"Nude, Green Leaves and Bust," which had a pre-sale estimate of between $70 million and $90 million, was sold at Christie's auction house on Tuesday evening to an unidentified telephone bidder.

There were nine minutes of bidding involving eight clients in the sale room and on the phone, Christie's said. At $88 million, two bidders remained. The final bid was $95 million, but the buyer's premium took the sale price to $106.5 million.

Conor Jordan, head of impressionist and modern art for Christie's New York, said he was "ecstatic with the results."

"Tonight's spectacular results showed the great confidence in the marketplace and the enthusiasm with which it welcomes top quality works," he said.

The striking work of Picasso's muse and mistress Marie-Therese Walter has been exhibited in the United States only once, in 1961 in Los Angeles to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Picasso's birth. The painting, which measures more than 5 feet by 4 feet, shows a reclining nude figure with an image of Picasso in the background looking over her.

The painting had belonged to the late California art patron Frances Lasker Brody, who bought it in the 1950s. It had been kept in her family since then.

Part of the sale proceeds will benefit the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, Calif., where Brody was on the board.

The previous record for a work of art at auction was $104.3 million for "Walking Man I," a sculpture by Alberto Giacometti sold on Feb. 3 at Sotheby's in London. The previous high price for a Picasso work was $104.2 million for "Boy With a Pipe (The Young Apprentice)," attained in 2004 at Sotheby's New York.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Cinco de Mayo

Margaritas and cervezas are the usual adult beverages for quenching the thirst whilst enjoying tacos, tamales, enchiladas, guacamole and other traditional Cinco de Mayo fare. However, if you're looking for liquid that exceeds the "traditional usual" (and you've got the dinero) below are 5 tequilas to celebrate the 5th of May.

Tres Cuatro y Cinco

Asombroso Reserva Del Porto

Rey Sol Anejo

Gran Patrón Platinum

Partida Elegante

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Derby Results

Super Saver wins with Ice Box in the Place (2nd) spot and Paddy O'Prado in the Show (3rd) spot.

Yep, as usual, I won (I have won all my board and exotics bets at the Derby every year for the last 11 years and hope that my streak continues) but the payoffs were quite paltry so no sense in showing them. Congratulates to the thoroughbred and the trainer (Todd Pletcher who finally won a Kentucky Derby after 24 tries) but not the jockey as Calvin Borel is a complete ass.

Now, it's on to the second leg of the Triple Crown, The Preakness, which will be run in Baltimore on May 15th. The field caps at 14 rather than the 20 horse cap in the Derby. Let's see who shows up from the Derby and who the "new shooters" are. Post positions will be drawn and morning lines assigned on May 12th.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

It's Derby Day!

'Tis time for mint juleps...

winning bets... (2005 winner Giacomo shown. Not shown on the tote board were his "exotics" payoffs - $2 exacta paid $9,814,80; $2 trifecta paid $66,567.40 and $1 superfecta paid $854,253.50).

and a garland of roses for the winning thoroughbred (and who better to show than the BEST THOROUGHBRED OF ALL TIME, Secretariat, wearing his "bed of roses")