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Richter 858 – Frisell, Richter – Part 2

These really are extraordinary works. Frisell plays the classicist. His jazz roots are the underpinning, but the compositions defer strictly to late 20th century classical "New Music". Frisell is no stranger to that world. In 1995 he World premiered Steven Mackey's "Deal" with the Los Angeles Philharmonic's New Music Group as part of the Green Umbrella concert series, a legacy of Esa-Pekka Salonen, music director and principle conductor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1992 to 2009. It is interesting to note that Richter 858 pre-dates The Tristan Project, another phenomenal pairing of "Art" (Bill Viola) and composition (Richard Wagner). And while The Tristan Project is firmly embedded in both the pioneering worlds of video art and … [Read more...]

Richter 858 – Frisell, Richter – Part 1

Richter 858 is an extraordinary collaboration between the painter Gerhard Richter and musician/jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, first released on CD as part of the limited edtion book RICHTER 858, published by The Shifting Foundation/SFMOMA (San Francisco 2002), ISBN 0-9718610-0-5 In 2002 Bill Frisell was commissioned by producer/poet David Breskin to create the music for an elaborate art book project on the great German painter Gerhard Richter. The book, RICHTER 858, was published in connection with a comprehensive US retrospective of Richter's work, although it focused entirely on a recent series of eight small abstract paintings numbered 858 1–8. There were poems, essays, superb reproductions of the works, and Frisell's music on an … [Read more...]

Sitting with Anselm Kiefer’s Angel of History and ZimZum (1989)

  At the National Gallery of Art, April 2009 There is the airborne escape mechanism which is the airplane, or the effective instrument of destruction which is the war plane. Anselm Kiefer's The Angel of History is a poetic antithesis of both forms, fabricated of lead, its wings laden with books of beaten lead sheets. The lack of utility makes it not only about art, but a sublime object with which to contemplate the idea of the plane, one of the great icons of the war years of the 20th century. Like all icons its pragmatic uselessness makes it sacred in an areligious way. Its payload of leaden manuscripts piled on the wings, pages stuffed with dried poppies, the better to fuel an auto-da-fé, is a righteous Dada juxtaposition. … [Read more...]

Taking Shape

Taking Shape: Finding Sculpture in the Decorative Arts March 31-July 5, 2009 Decorative art has never held my attention much beyond its obvious cosmetic appeal and nod to a seemingly more gentile societal behaviors, but the show Taking Shape: Finding Sculpture in the Decorative Arts, mounted  by the J. Paul Getty Museum and Temple Newsam House has changed all that. I now find myself knee deep pondering craft. These impressive objects, dislocated from their original context, leave behind their supporting role and occupy the art arena as autonomous sculpture. Distraction This is the underlying premise of Taking Shape. But this context of autonomy, as somehow a more potent or significant, higher purpose for sculpture feels like a … [Read more...]

The Giver of Fearlessness

The sign that we have encountered truly great art is the sense we get that the work is experiencing us rather than the other way around. I'll give you an example. When I was in my teens the MOMA book on Marcel Duchamp showed up around the house. Mona Lisa with the little mustache was on the cover and inside you could see most of Duchamp's work along with essays by writers like Andre Breton and Octavio Paz. Looking through the book, casually at first and then with greater absorption, I experienced for perhaps the first time the transgressive elation produced by the Great Art Encounter. It was a bit like loosing my virginity only less hectic, and that little piece of ecstasy, that release from weight, is still there for me whenever I … [Read more...]


There has been much said about the satire and punster atmosphere of the work of Adrian Saxe. But when asked point blank "What interests you about your work?" Saxe responds without pause, "the space, how you operate it... you know, how you drive the car." Like most, I have have focused on the shear visceral and astounding technical prowess of Saxe's ceramics. His mastery of historical appropriation played against tongue in cheek post-modernism is what catches our attention, but for Saxe it is covert feasibility that keeps him up at night. Saxe's vessels are operational. His ewers pour, maybe only for the most rarified of ritual, but that is up to the collector's discretion. “...operation … [Read more...]

Richard Serra Serves His Goddess

By Guy Zimmerman In various spiritual traditions it's common to hear the feminine identified with some version of open-ness or space, while the masculine is identified with form or substance. In Buddhist iconography, for example, wisdom is viewed as a quality of open space and as a feminine attribute. The womb, with its potential for birth, is evoked as an image. But in certain esoteric tantric disciplines Shiva, the masculine principle, is identified with root awareness - the ground out of which experience arises - and his consort Shakti is identified as...well...everything else. The feminine here is the profusion of all that can be experienced. A recent encounter with two sculptures by Richard Serra underscored for me what this shift … [Read more...]

Martin Puryear Installation SFMOMA

I was in San Francisco in October 2008 visiting SFMOMA where I was astounded by the Brought to Light, Photography and the Invisible, 1840-1900. It was an exhibiton that highlighted early photographic work exploring micro and telescopic investigation. Delicious. When I emerged I was a witness to the installation process of Martin Puryear's Ad Astra (2007), a 63-foot-tall work that rises to the museum's fifth-floor bridge. I hope these photographs give you a good sense of the shear scale. This is SFMOMA's Haas Atrium and the crane that you see extends 2 floors. The title derives from: Ad astra per ardua, meaning “to the stars through difficulty,” and Ad astra per aspera, which translates as “to the stars through rough things or dangers.” … [Read more...]