All month I’ve been highlighting African American Art in various forms. One of the California artists I learned about through this process is assemblage artist Betye Saar. Saar was born and raised in Los Angeles/Pasadena, graduated from UCLA and taught art at both Otis and the University of California.
Her influences in assemblage began when she witnessed the erection of the Watts Towers by Simon Rodia between 1921 and 1954; her work has evolved into diverse assemblage expression from postbellum/Jim Crow era racist iconographic collectibles, to spirituality, folk traditions and explorations into her heritage and familial influences. There’s a series of fascinating videos on YouTube about her background and her process, but of all her works, I particularly like contemplative qualities of “In My Solitude”.
Keith Haring died 22 years ago today and I’ve been reflecting on what he was able to accomplish in his 13 year career as an artist. His work has always had a profound influence on my perception of art. His SF MOMA retrospective in 1998 was the first show that I attended on my own and I was captivated by the vibrance and energy of his art. Haring is one of those artists who was able to reach the masses with his work which had a decidedly playful and innocent feel, yet at the same time he was able to deftly speak to social issues in a very perceptive and emotional way. According to Haring, “An artist is a spokesman for a society at any given point in history. His language is determined by his perception of the world we all live in. He is a medium between “what is” and “what could be”.
It was during a trip to London where I learned more about how music played such a vital role in Keith Haring’s life, especially when it came to the Paradise Garage (I found a rare copy of Larry Levan’s last performance at Paradise Garage in 1987-album art was by Keith Haring). The Garage was a NYC nightclub that served as a refuge for young gay men in the 80’s; for years DJ Larry Levan held court on the turntables at Paradise Garage whose innovative sound system was equally legendary and served as a blueprint for today’s dance clubs. Haring, through his close relationship with mentor Andy Warhol met a muse and a canvas in Grace Jones, whose body he would regularly paint at the Paradise Garage, and the collaborations and inspiration continued. I have never forgotten the beautifully epic dress /canvas that Haring designed for one of my favorite Grace Jones videos in 1986. In reading his diaries it was touching to see how much of a profound impact that Paradise Garage had on him, especially when it closed in 1987.
Haring’s work inspired a new generation of street artists who sought to use innovative mediums to express themselves in public art. I can’t help but pause when I think about this iconic mural done in 1986. Such a sad reminder of Whitney Houston’s battle with addiction.
I have never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day, but I will say the one thing I love about the occasion is the licence to enjoy CHOCOLATE with reckless abandon. My co-workers all know that at around 4:00 I must nosh on a single small bite of chocolate. You could set your watch to my craving, and it is the one thing I would really have a hard time giving up. For my daily fix, any old chocolate would do, my favorite being a Hershey’s nuggets milk chocolate with almonds and toffee, quickly followed by a miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
When I really want to indulge in fine chocolate (which is always paired with a nice glass of champagne), we splurge on these utterly magnificent chocolates.
This was the chocolatier that introduced me to artisan chocolate. Years ago my cousin suggested I try their chocolates when I was looking for a vendor for my wedding favors. We gave our guests the “Ginger Heart”, which bears a symbolic resemblance to Jim Dine’s “Blue Clamp” at SF MOMA (MOMA will forever hold a special place in the hearts of my husband and I).
I ADORE their chocolate to this day. They make an amazing salted caramel and their champagne truffles are divine. Michael and his wife Jacky are truly passionate about what they do and the passion comes through in the chocolate they produce (they have a great blog too). http://www.recchiuti.com/index.html
John Kelly Chocolates
Love Truffles? Fiend for Fudge? Let me introduce you to John Kelly. This Hollywood chocolatier located just off Sunset specializes in “Truffle Fudge”, these heavenly creamy, bars that are meant to slice and share. Their chocolate is truly decadent. My favorites are the vanilla with walnuts and their Dark Chocolate with French Gray Sea Salt. We enjoyed their chocolates for New Years and they were a hit! http://www.johnkellychocolates.com/index.php
I don’t think a poor chocolatier exists in Paris, but I will say I was smitten by this shop in the 1st arrondissement on la rue St Honoré.
While the chocolates were sublime (my favorite being the pure Hazelnut Praline), I adored their macarons and pates de fruits. In early 2010 they opened a storefront on 5th Ave in NYC. http://www.chocolatmichelcluizel.com/francais/index.php
Mast Brothers Chocolate
Speaking of New York, specifically Brooklyn, THIS shop is on my radar for my next trip back east (which is hopefully for the Armory show-I’m trying to manifest this trip for real). The Mast Brothers specialize in craft chocolates. I stumbled upon their site after seeing an amazing blog post by Garance Dore, but it’s this purely epic video that crystallizes the transcendent properties of the cocoa bean.
What all of these chocolatiers have in common is a clear passion for producing quality product and they each have such a unique artistic point of view too that they have transformed the confection to an art form. When you can be both a feast for the eyes and palate, that is a beautiful combination!
What about you dear readers? If you love chocolate as much as I do and have a fave, let me know!
Now that the holidays are behind us and the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday is slowly coming to an end, my mind starts to drift toward thoughts of my next mini-vacation. Thanks to an article I read on HVW8 Gallery’s Facebook page, I’ve been inspired to travel around some of the shows highlighted in Complex Magazine’s 25 Most Anticipated Art Shows of 2012. They noted some great exhibitions; among my “must sees” are:
1. Os Gemeos @ Prism in West Hollywood, 2/25/2012-3/24/2012
2. Keith Haring @ the Brooklyn Museum, 3/16/2012-7/8/2012. I saw Keith Haring’s show at SF MOMA in 1998 and I’d love another chance to see more of his work.
3. Cindy Sherman @MOMA 2/26/2012-6/11/2012. When BCAM first opened in 2008, there was an entire gallery dedicated to Sherman (Eli Broad has one of the most comprehensive collections of her work). Can’t wait to see this retrospective.
4. Art of Video Games @ the Smithsonian 3/16/2012-9/30/2012. Leave it to Complex Magazine to include this one! For anyone who has a gamer in their life, this show sounds interesting.
For those of you in the Bay Area that are lucky enough to enjoy a day off today, the Yerba Buena Center for the arts is holding “Sustaining the Dream Through Community and Service” at the Yerba Buena Gardens this afternoon, and local museums (MoAD and the Contemporary Jewish Museum) are offering free admission today. The event is being held at one of the most beautiful monuments I’ve ever seen and is the crown jewel of the Yerba Buena Gardens.
I was enamored with this fountain before I realized it was a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. So if you can’t get to Yerba Buena today, this fountain is a must see for visitors to San Francisco, or for natives who think they know the fountain but haven’t scratched the surface beyond it’s aesthetically beautiful facade.
The fountain is a cascading wall of water descending from the upper level of the Yerba Buena Garden’s plaza down to the park. Behind the wall of water lies a series of glass encased pannels featuring quotes of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. The sound of the wall of water is deafening and adds a living, breathing dimension to the words on the wall. The entire cultural center is flanked by MOMA, St. Patrick’s, the Contemporary Jewish Museum and MoAD; it is literally my favorite square block of real estate in the entire world.