Friday, February 20, 2009

de Young

A sunny Friday afternoon in San Francisco, and I could not go straight home after finishing at the library because this was one of the cleaning lady's days. Wandering into Golden Gate Park along solitary sunlit paths was the obvious way to pass the time. The recent rains have caused tall fresh grasses to grow where there had been nothing much for many months. And trees keep coming into bloom, following the same sequence as every other year, but since I have never really learned that sequence, each one arrives as a surprise.

While passing the de Young I remembered that a new show had opened on Valentine's Day, one called Warhol Live. So I decided to check it out – not expecting much beyond the usual celebrity portraits in silkscreen – and was consequently amazed at the complexity and beauty of the show. It was produced by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in partnership with the Andy Warhol Museum. Fresh and lively, full of music and film and pithy quotes plastered all over the walls, artifacts, ephemera, tchotchkes, and one whole room devoted exclusively to Mick Jagger. I suppose someday there will be a Mick Jagger Museum, and that will be nice too.

Later, in the contemporary galleries I saw Al Farrow's 2007 cathedral made from gun components and ammunition. It is called The Spine and Tooth of Santo Guerro.

Also in the contemporary galleries, an untitled piece from 1998. The curator explains: Colombian-born sculptor Doris Salcedo uses a common household artifact to register the loss of human life to political violence in her native country. Encasing a side chair – an index of the body – in rebar and concrete, she transforms a familiar object into a disturbing record of the people who have disappeared, a haunting reminder of those citizens who have suffered the effects of civil war and government corruption. Although she has eliminated references to blood and corpses in her work, Salcedo registers her protest just as vividly through her juxtapositions of humble, domestic artifacts and brutal building materials.

And finally, a close up of a very late canvas by Willem de Kooning. He was well into his Alzheimer's period by this time. There is huge debate over the value of his post-rational output, but I plump down firmly on the side of the endorsers.