SF MOMA in 3: Part 2

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Now that we got the essentials out of the way in yesterday’s post, it’s time to see some art! As I previously warned, I don’t suggest you try to see everything in 1 day.  There are 7 floors of art, so I suggest that you pick 3 and spend some quality time with the collections.

With tongue firmly in cheek, I came up three tours depending on what you might like to see:
1.  The Traditionalist
2.  The Naturalist
3.  The Iconoclast
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For those of you who missed the permanent collection on the 2nd floor of the original SFMOMA (the Old SFMOMA), you are in luck because it remains in tact with selections from the permanent collection on view in the old Botta Building.

Mark Rothko, No.14, 1960

Floors 5 & 6 will give you a good overview of the Fisher Collection. The 5th floor features Pop, Minimal and Figurative art, while the 6th has a large collection of German artists.  This floor also has a  stunning 2001 Shirin Neshat video installation called Passage, scored by Philip Glass.

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Sculpture and Photography are the focus of this tour.  I suggest you start off by taking the stairs from the 2nd floor Lobby entrance off Howard Street to the 3rd floor installation of “California and the West”.  This exhibition features photographic works obtained from the Campaign for Art.  My favorites were a series of prints by Jim Goldberg called “Rich and Poor”.  A precursor to the famed Humans of New York, this series cracks the artistic firewall between photographer and subject as Goldberg gave his subjects a voice to tell their own stories of poverty and wealth.  Their observations are raw, personal and surprising.  I was captivated by each photograph.

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Living Wall

The Alexander Calder Motion Lab on the 3rd floor leads to an outdoor sculpture terrace featuring a tall, multi story living wall.  The terrace is a breezy, airy respite from the crowds and the art.

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View of Alexander Calder and the 5th Floor Oculus Bridge

Floors 4 and 5 will provide looks at more sculpture in addition to a robust collection of Ellsworth Kelly.  Be sure to check out the Oculus Bridge for an interesting vantage point of another Calder that hangs above the Botta lobby off 3rd St.

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For those of you who want to start and stop with Contemporary art, head straight to the 7th Floor using the Silver elevators (for some reason there are 2 separate banks of elevators that lead to different floors).  Here you will find works by David Hammons, Glenn Ligon, Mark Bradford, Mark Grotjahn and Jeff Koons.  This was personally my favorite floor because I love David Hammons’ Basketball Drawings.  The Conservation wing tucked into the back of this floor is a large open space with incredible views.  From a curator’s viewpoint, the 7th floor appears to be the most versatile.  Windows can be covered with movable panels to display more art and the architects left the ceiling exposed in an attempt to make the space less formal.

Glenn Ligon’s “Double America”


Mark Bradford, Untitled (“Buoy”), 2014

After the 7th floor, head down to the 5th floor for sculptural works by Anish Kapoor and Richard Long.  This floor also features gallery space dedicated to Andy Warhol and Chuck Close. My 3rd tour ends on the 3rd floor for an immersive, interpretive experience at the Photography Interpretive Gallery which is part of the Pritzker Center for Photography.


After all of that you may need a cortado or an espresso from the Sightglass coffee bar located adjacent from the Interpretive Gallery.  The S.F. based coffee roaster has set up a new outpost here boasting the perfect cup of coffee.

No trip to SFMOMA would be complete without a visit to their museum store and I would highly recommend the newly expanded store on the 1st floor.  I’m kicking myself for not buying a Lumio Lamp!

Lest you think every inch of this museum is sheer perfection, I must admit there were some missed opportunities and some functional flaws in the space that will likely lead to some awkward moments in art…  My 3rd SFMOMA installment will provide you with some caveats and my final thoughts on the new space!


SF MOMA from Yerba Buena

Seasoned arts professionals who visited San Francisco last Thursday for a press preview of the magnificent new Museum of Modern Art also ambitiously popped over to the new Gagosian space, the Wattis Institute or Minnesota St Projects all in the same day.

I am far from seasoned.  After my day at SFMOMA I stumbled into the bar at 111 Minna where I was immediately offered a drink, because I clearly looked like I needed one.

The L.A. Times’ own Christopher Knight tried to warn us all with his deep dive preview published last week:  “SFMOMA’s inauguration is marked by a whopping 18 shows — all drawn from the collection. (I saw all 18 in one day, which I do not recommend.)”  There’s actually 20 shows, but after 3 who’s counting?


Well, I am hard-headed and I tried to see everything; as a result I was stuck on what to write about SFMOMA for a few days.  When faced with a task that is too overwhelming, you can only do one thing. Chunk it down.  So, to prepare you for the museum’s Grand Opening on May 14th, I’ll break down SFMOMA in 3 short posts. I like things in threes and apparently so does the museum; you’ll start to see a trend here… My goal is prevent any other poor souls from spilling into the streets, dazed and confused because there’s a lot, and I mean a LOT to see – so let’s start with some facts.

SF MOMA Expansion by Snohetta. Photo Credit: SF MOMA

SFMOMA closed its doors in 2013 to begin its $305M expansion by Snøhetta .  The existing Mario Botta designed building is now enveloped by a large, snow-white expansion that was designed to mimic the undulating hills, water and fog of the bay. When viewed from the Yerba Buena gardens, the strength of the iconic Botta building remains, while the Snøhetta expansion hovering behind it provides interesting sight lines for a structure that now spans an entire city block. The gallery space is now 3x the size of the original Botta gallery and provides 7 floors of viewable art (10 floors total) in a new building that provides ample room for its 20 exhibitions.  For simplicity’s sake I distilled the 20 shows into 3 collections.  Understanding the differences between 3 three collections is important as you enter the new space.


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The Botta building continues to house the original SFMOMA collection which remains the soul of the museum.  While critics deemed the collection light and limited in scope, for those of us who grew up with SFMOMA, being reunited with the preserved collection was a welcome sight.  Here you will see works by Rothko, Warhol, Lichtenstien, Jasper Johns, Sargent Johnson, Diego Rivera and Rauschenberg.

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The Fisher Collection
Gap founders Doris and Donald Fisher amassed a collection of over 1,100 works between the early 1970’s-1980’s and in 2009 they announced a 100 year loan partnership with SFMOMA.  The collection spearheaded the museum’s expansion and eventually the works will be integrated with the permanent collection.  For the inaugural show and every 10 years thereafter (during the partnership) a special exhibition in the Fisher’s name will be on view.  While their collection spans over 185 artists, their non-curator, non-dealer based blue chip collection concentrated on Calder, Ellsworth Kelly, Lichtenstein, Cy Twombly, Warhol and Serra.  Curatorially, the collection had a few gaps (notably artists of color and women in addition to an anemic photography collection).  This is why the 3rd collection is key.

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The Campaign for Art and the Pritzker Center for Photography
Shortly before MOMA announced its expansion and partnership with the Fishers in 2009, the museum launched a contemporary acquisitions campaign that challenged trustees and curators from across all disciplines to expand the depth and breadth of their respective collections.   The result of their combined efforts expanded the collection by 3,000 works integral to rounding out and harmonizing the existing collection and the Fisher collection.  Among the artists included in the expansion campaign are Cindy Sherman, Eva Hesse, Glenn Ligon, Mark Bradford, Doris Salcedo, Ai Weiwei, Ruth Asawa and Garry Winogrand, many of which are included in the inaugural exhibition.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, “Wedding Portrait”, 2012

This was a crucial piece of information that was frankly lost on me as I initially viewed the galleries at the preview.  I was puzzled by the random placement of a beautiful piece by Njideka Akunyili Crosby  hidden in a back corner gallery on the 2nd floor alongside works by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Alice Neel. I was concerned that diversity started and stopped with these three pieces, but luckily I was wrong. With that said, you have to know where to go, otherwise you will surely miss some of the best features of the new space.  Tours are recommended, but if you are like me and prefer to experience a museum without a herd, I have some tips.

Tomorrow I will give you 3 Culture Shock Art tours that will help you get the most out of your time at the new museum.

Why Are We Asking the Same Questions About Lemonade?

Photo: Slate

I promised myself I was not going to write about Lemonade, but here I am shaking my head.

Why is everyone asking the same questions about Lemonade? 

Who is Becky?
Did Jay really cheat?
Is Beyoncé paying homage to Pipilotti Rist?

Ok that 3rd one is pretty esoteric, but that’s what the art world is asking:

“Is Beyoncé’s Windshield-Destroying Stroll in Lemonade Based on This 90’s Art film?” 



I think it’s rather cute that their only contribution to Lemonade commentary was an observational link between Beyoncé’s bat wielding, Cavalli wearing cat walk and Pipilotti Rist’s fanciful iron flowered frolic down the street in Ever Is Over All, her 1997 dual screen video installation.  Both Beyoncé and Rist, playfully walk down the street clad in beautiful dresses in slow motion, then both proceed to smash the windows of cars parked in the street.  Window smashing is nothing new in video, but the juxtaposition between both artists as “delicate”, “feminine” beings that transform a riotous act into something beguiling was a brilliantly smart commentary on power & feminism. In Lemonade the scene gave Beyoncé’s character a visual arch in telling her story.

1.  Everyone who made that observation just parked the similarities there.  Let me re-park some more:

2.  Rist won a prestigious Golden Lion for that video.  Beyoncé is being called a domestic terrorist that’s calling for race wars.
3.  In Rist’s video a police officer looks on as Rist smashes the window; she gets a salute by the officer.  Beyoncé lies on a sinking NOLA cop car in Formation and she’s criticized for being anti-police.
4.  Commentary on Pipilotti Rist’s Ever Is Over All rests squarely on feminism, yet Beyoncé’s media criticism frequently takes a sharp right turn that veers the discourse far from a lucid artistic dialog.

After the 20th art world luminary in my Instagram feed pointed out the comparison to Pipilotti Rist, I looked at it for myself.  Has anyone thought to ask Kahlil Joseph, the video visionary director behind Lemonade?  If you are familiar with his work, his style is a distinct one, yet you can see his influences in his work.  Joseph’s dual screen presentation of “m.A.A.d”in Double Conscience at MOCA last summer is very similar to Ever Is Over All so it’s clear to me that the team of directors for Lemonade were influenced by many artistic sources.  For those willing to do a little more digging beyond flashy ledes & gossip, you will be rewarded with experiencing something new.  I was.  I’m sure that was the intent of so many that were hell-bent on isolating this one similar element of a visually stunning piece.

Maybe we should be asking ourselves why there’s such a disparity in our reactions to art?

Mural Buffings Confirm Fears of Runaway Development in DTLA’s Arts District

E. 3rd St. Mural by Dabs & Myla and How & Nosm.  Photo c/o:  Mural Conservancy of L.A.

Early on in my career I was given a small piece of advice that dictated how I presented myself professionally:

“Dress for the job you want.”

In the intersecting space between gentrification and street art, developers have applied that age old career advice to the neighborhoods they invest in.  When it comes to street art, they’re dressing buildings for the returns they seek;  in other words, they want to maximize their investment. Good street art is an indicator of investment’s appreciation potential. This not so subtle distinction is an important one when you think about the historic role murals and street art have played in the cultural growth of Los Angeles.

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Photos c/o:  KCET, Downtown Muse (via Instagram)


On April 16th a popular mural on a building in DTLA’s Arts District was whitewashed for its new tenants.  The mural was originally created in 2011 by 4 artists (Dabs & Myla on the left panel and How & Nosm on the right) and was located in the parking lot on the east side of the Neptune building.  For residents and frequent visitors to the Arts District, the mural’s buffing was another stark reminder of the negative impact of rapid change taking place there in the last 5 years. The small neighborhood, flanked by Little Tokyo and Skid Row, contains historic vacant warehouses and manufacturing facilities.  In the late 80’s and early 90’s these abandoned buildings were popular among artists, musicians and creatives who converted many of these spaces into un-permitted live/work lofts.  It was far from an artistic utopia; the deserted area was riddled with crime, drugs and homelessness that spilled over from Skid Row’s 1970’s “containment strategy”.

As street art gained cultural cachet in the late ’00s, the neighborhood encouraged murals and building owners quickly commissioned wheatpastes, stencils and other graffiti art by popular street artists.  The popularity reached its peak with Jeffrey Deitch’s “Art in the Streets” show at MOCA in 2011.  The show and the resulting murals that were imported into area brought the Arts District and other L.A. neighborhoods into focus eventually bringing attention to the residents of this small, connected artistic community.

When the Dabs/Myla and How/Nosm mural was buffed last week, it created an uproar among the current residents and patrons of the Arts District who were not only angered by the lack of notice of the mural’s demise but also by the seemingly clandestine decision making that led to its destruction.  In the court of public opinion (social media) it appears as though few discussions took place among community/arts advocacy groups, the building owner and its new tenants (the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions).  This mural was viewed as a symbol of the dynamic creativity that transformed the Arts District into a thriving, desirable neighborhood.  While the mural was a favorite of many who considered it representative of the present day Arts District, it was not immediately embraced by everyone living there when it was originally painted.

In April 2011 the 4 artists who created the mural were commissioned by the LA Freewalls project to paint the Neptune Building’s east wall.  The mural was a gift to the community that at the time was accepted with some trepidation.  L.A. has a history of mural creation that spans decades including works that represented the cultural richness and diversity of the communities where the murals reside.  When it was painted some questioned if the mural accurately represented the community and the residents within the Arts District at that time.  Even more problematic, leaders within the LA Freewalls project were viewed as polarizing figures in the street art community. They were characterized in the press as cultural opportunists who profited from brokering deals between street artists and building owners to create the murals that pepper the neighborhood.

Flash forward 5 years. The neighborhood is “on trend”.  In addition to the legendary murals, the neighborhood is now peppered with coffee shops, artisanal toast, blue chip galleries and haute (yet eco-friendly) designs.  The beloved 3rd Street mural now accurately represents the history of the community yet in an ironically cruel twist of fate that brief history was erased; perhaps to make room for bigger pockets and newer, “trendier” artists…

In an attempt at some damage control, the LAFPP claimed that they legitimately pursued due diligence in notifying the artists and the community prior to buffing the mural (those claims are still being challenged by arts activist groups).  They also maintain that plans are underway to create a new mural on the blank white wall that sits on the property today.  Sadly, street artists have been forced into an odd game of musical chairs where the winner gets to dress the new building… undoubtedly for the job the owner wants– to maximize their investment.

Art + Practice Re-Visits “Bad” Painting

“Not Bad Meaning Bad, but Bad Meaning Good.”-Peter Piper, Run DMC

Catalog Cover for “Bad” Painting, by the New Museum

In 1978 the New Museum opened “Bad” Painting, an exhibition featuring artists that eschewed conventional artistic practices to create work that challenged precepts of high culture and countered Minimalist/Conceptualist art.

“It is figurative work that defies, either deliberately or by virtue of disinterest, the classic cannons of good taste, draftsmanship, acceptable source material, rendering, or illusionistic representations.”- Marcia Tucker, Curator the New Museum
In A Shape That Stands Up at Art + Practice, Jamillah James expands on the New Museum show with new slate of artists that chose to challenge creative traditions of formality.  The exhibition and the the 15 artists featured in it create a unique space for themselves with a body of work that defy convention in materiality and meaning.  By creating art in the grey space between figuration and abstraction these artists present works that encourage the viewer to consider alternative meaning from familiar objects.

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Reminiscent of Guernica, D’Metrius John Rice’s Ultimatium/Dig Me Out, 2015 features illustrated abstracted body parts that conspire to form a sense of kinetic urgency.

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Shredded t-shirts treated with resin resemble dystopian ghosts brought to life to shed light on their previous lives in Kevin Beasley’s Organ.  

Many of the works take on transformative characteristics when viewed up close.

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Sue Williams’ Democratization #3 looks like an abstracted cartoonish Chinoiserie print, but upon close examination the viewer is confronted with a surreal, comically grotesque assemblage of dismembered body parts and organs with the comical nature of the piece extends the viewers gaze into a disturbing world.

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A Shape that Stands Up is a dense show that merits multiple views. The accompanying exhibit literature penned by Hammer Museum assistant curator Jamillah James is an essential accompaniment to better appreciate the inherent complexities of the work presented in the show.

A Shape that Stands Up is on view through June 18, 2016 at Art + Practice in Leimert Park

Unmentionables: Zoë Buckman at Papillion

Peering through a gallery window at lingerie hanging from the ceiling made me feel like a voyeur.


Catching a glimpse of Papillion while closed was probably the best way to experience their latest exhibit by Zoë Buckman called Every Curve.  In this body of work the artist explores the polarities between feminism and hip hop and the cultural dynamics of both existing within the same space.

Throughout the gallery bras, robes, corsets, garters and stockings descend into view from the ceiling bearing woven lyrics of songs by Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls embroidered onto the garments.

Zoe Buckman: Every Curve.  Image c/o Papillion

Commercial hip hop in the 90’s ushered in a video vixen era that celebrated an increasing level of misogyny in music that has undermined the industry to this day. Juxtaposed with the problematic lyrics, Buckman counterbalances the sexist narrative with positive affirmations of femininity by the same artists.  The hanging garments invite the viewer to pass through them, beckoning them to take in the visual spectacle and the messages whispered amongst the billowing satin, lace and chiffon. After being exposed, the viewer is then left with the shame of confronting the meaning behind them.  Buckman’s choice of lingerie subtly reminds us that misogyny did not start with hip hop; the use of vintage garments places the work in a historical and cultural context.

Zoe Buckman: Every Curve. Image c/o Papillion

Every Curve on view at Papillion until April 30.

The Ghost in the Machine: Mark Bradford & Robert Glasper Combine Creative Forces

Apollo/Still Shining by Mark Bradford & Robert Glasper.  Photo c/o Christie’s 

Art and music collide in a beautifully explosive Steinway & Sons collaboration that showcases the Spirio piano in a new light.

The Steinway Commission pairs visual artists with Steinway musicians to create unique works of art that reflect their collaborative vision and process.  This three year project makes its debut with a Steinway Spirio piano that has been given the Mark Bradford & Robert Glasper touch.  In Apollo/Still Shining the Spirio (a high resolution player piano) undergoes a physical transformation that leaves the piano with the appearance of an instrument set ablaze, singed with flames that lash at the mahogany.  In lieu of the Steinway’s classic black lacquered gloss, Apollo’s surface takes on rich matte finish with a gilded gold tones.

Mark Bradford’s “Apollo” Photo: CultureShockArt

Bradford extends his artistic process by creating chemical alchemy with paper and pigment that imprints the piano with a sepia toned topography that is reminiscent of some of his late 2015 works.  While much of the work he created between 2014-2015 focused on the body, his innovative use of materials and process takes this work in a new direction.  With Apollo, Bradford leaves behind a mysterious shell of a form that begs to be uncovered.

Steinway’s Spirio piano reproduces live performances by capturing fine details in the pianist’s depressions during play. The grand piano automatically replicates and plays back the performance using a high resolution player piano system.  Photo: CultureShockArt

When I saw this piano I knew it had a story to tell.

Apollo is brought to life and given a voice in a melodic tale composed by jazz pianist and legendary producer Robert Glasper.  In Still Shining Glasper guides the listener on an emotional journey through waves of happiness, melancholy and despair.  The movements vacillate between light moments of whimsy to a manic, middle passage where chaotic chords of dissonance eventually give way to light, melodic notes of promise and hopefulness.  It is a cinematically sharp piece that harmonizes with Bradford’s Apollo to tell a complete story that manages to leave room for individual interpretation.  When I see Mark Bradford’s work my view is always heavily influenced by the cultural context that surrounds me at that given moment.

Mark Bradford, “Scorched Earth”

The first time I experienced Bradford’s “Scorched Earth” (2006), I learned about the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921.  When I last saw the same piece at the Broad in the summer of 2015, I was reminded of the anniversaries of the Watts Rebellion and the L.A. Riots of 1965 and 1992. In many respects, the tragic results following each of these incidents remained the same, yet the circumstances, dynamics and characteristics differ. With Apollo/Still Rising, the two artists tap into universal feelings of turmoil, social struggle and the desire to emerge from those challenges stronger and more resilient.  All of these concepts are timeless.

The inaugural Steinway commission is currently on view in L.A. during Christie’s Post War & Contemporary preview from April 8-13 (at UFO-Space on Highland).  On May 11th Apollo/Still Shining will be presented for auction where the proceeds from the sale will be allocated among three museums chosen by Steinway’s CEO Michael Sweeney (MOCA, the Studio Museum of Harlem and the Walker Art Center).  For those of you in New York, Christie’s will be hosting a special event on May 4th featuring Mark Bradford and Robert Glasper which will be hosted by the Studio Museum Director, Thelma Golden.  That’s a creative trio that will undoubtedly deliver on improvisational entertainment & enlightening artistic insight. For additional information on the L.A. preview, please see Christie’s website.