Fernando Botero’s series, “Abu Graib” demonstrates the continuing power of painting to go where photography and film do not. It’s a show painters should see.
I went to the exhibition fearing that Botero’s signature style, the inflated balloon figures, would undermine the intent of the paintings. How could a style so apt for caricature, become a vehicle for empathy? And yet in these paintings, the style does become a vehicle for empathy.
Botero has studied Uccello’s interlocking flat figural compositions. The largeness of the Abu Graib prisoners gives them classical weight. Their large, flat shapes are articulated with anatomical detail and caught in a flattened space. Dark prison bars drawn from edge to edge push-and-pull the bright colors—vermillion, viridian, burnt sienna, aqua—of human flesh, hoods, gloves and dog’s teeth. Torturers’ kicking legs and feet coming off the painting’s edge get weight and thrust from that edge.
Unlike the moving images of film, something like a dream state, painting’s stasis, painting time, opens a window into empathy, where we join the painter in experiencing the subject.
The exhibition remains at the University of California’s Doe Library, Room 190 through March 23. It was brought to the university by a collaboration between the Center for Latin American Studies, Boalt Law School and Doe Library.
If you have somehow missed seeing Jane and Louise Wilson’s Stasi City in the last decade, now would be an opportune time: it is at SFMOMA through Sunday, and is hauntingly relevant to us now. Phil Collins video project is in the same category, and in addition is a testament to the power of countercultural influences, as well as being fun to take in. Also through Sunday, January 21.
Jane and Louise Wilson
Stasi City (still), 1997
Four-channel color video installation with sound; 29:00 min. loop
dunya dinlemiyor , 2005
Single-channel color video installation with audio, 58 min.
A Rose Has No Teeth: Bruce Nauman in the 1960s is an exhibiton of Bruce Nauman’s early work, the work he did while he was a graduate student at U.C. Davis and then, between 1966-68, teaching at the San Francisco Art Institute. The exhibition opens at the Berkely Art Museum January 18. Go.
The exhibition, curated by senior curator Constance M. Lewallen, includes early films, videos, neon “signs,” sculpture, photographs and drawings. Lewallen delineates Nauman’s relationship to Bay Area experimental art of the 1960s. Several significant pieces are exhibited here for the first time.
In the midst of California’s macho art culture, at the height of the Vietnam War, pre-dating1970s feminist performance art, Nauman went into the studio and made Art Make-Up, a 16mm color film to be projected on the four walls of a room. It is projected on four walls so that, standing in the center of the room in the bright white light of the screens, a viewer is absorbed into the process and boundaries are erased between performer and audience. The sound of four projectors whirs overhead.
In front of a stationary camera, Nauman paints his torso, a tall, lean male body, the 1960s ideal, first white, then pink, green and, finally, black. He is an Abstract Expressionist painting, a classical bronze sculpture, a male person revealing, very seriously, his vulnerable side. If you look closely, you will see the poses of classical sculpture and female and drag fashion.
This existential performance is one of covering, concealing, withdrawing from public view. The film addresses the mutability of the self and the question of what is concealing, what revelation. It addresses the social construction of the self, of color, of gender.
In Art Make-Up, Nauman uses the process of concealment, painting himself out of the picture, to reveal an essential human need, to protect the innermost self.
Last night in West Oakland, local cat Howard Wiley on tenor sax, New York cat Jaimeo Brown on drums and bassist Devon Hoff blew through Bird, Trane and Ornette in a wild improv night. Wiley will be at Intersection for the Arts next month. Go.
In its inimitably enlightened cultural policy, the City of Berkeley let Beanbenders improv music club close on downtown’s Shattuck Avenue to be replaced by a much-needed Kinko’s. Yoshi’s jazz club moved from Claremont Ave. to Jack London Square, transmogrifying from a rare listeners’ and musicians’ spot to the usual drinkers’ paradise. Is anyone listening? Can anyone hear?
Whether or not the Bay Area’s renowned improv music scene made or makes a pile of money, it earns the Bay Area world-wide admiration and recognition. Coincidentally, it educates its listeners instead of patronizing them. If either Oakland or Berkeley actually had an enlightened cultural and social policy, those cities would fund or help raise funding for an improv music club.