Wednesday, January 25, 2017

art-SITES san francisco

When and how does a reference book become obsolete?

The clearest answer to the question is when the information in it is no longer accurate or is superseded, and more critically, if the inaccuracies in the reference could lead to misinformation or harm.

Often travel guides fall into this category -- hotels, restaurants or attractions may open or close, the prices for attractions and accomodations may have changed.  Yet for the locale written about, obsolete travel guides provide a historic perspective and may even reveal unseen features of a place to the reader.

In San Francisco we are fortunate to have many guides for those interested in the arts.  Even some of the oldest ones remain important, if for no other reason, than they show the persistence of objects, buildings, and institutions over time.

art-SITES: san francisco: The Indispensible Guide to Contemporary Art-Architecture-Design was published almost 15 years ago.  Obviously there have been many changes to the San Francisco Bay Area's cultural landscape over that decade and a half.  Nevertheless, this reference book still opens up locations for artistic exploration that might escape the attention of many of us.

Organized geographically, San Francisco itself takes up about 70 percent of the book's pages.  And those pages are devoted to the usual districts and neighborhoods -- Union Square, Civic Center, SOMA, the Financial District, Pacific Heights / The Presidio and Golden Gate Park. However, this is one of the few books to look at any of the site-specific art work at the San Francisco International Airport.  It also includes the public art in and around the, then newly constructed, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.  Even more helpfully, it details some of the artwork concealed to many of us in hotels and office buildings.

Many of the Geary Street art galleries are listed and described, detailing the artists they represented.  Of course, in the intervening years many of these art galleries have succumbed to market forces and had to close or to move to lower rent districts.  art-SITES: San Francisco does capture that moment for those of us who want to remember that scene.  Imagine the value of this information for someone creating a novel or a film about San Francisco in the 1990s?

Another way this book works as a time capsule is by documenting some of the street art of that moment.  The Luggage Store Gallery gets a nod along with two works of art by a pair of Mission School painters who exhibited there - the husband and wife team of Barry McGee and, our late San Francisco Public Library colleague, Margaret Kilgallen.  Both of these art-works were painted on the building's roll-down security doors at 1007 Market Street.


 "Untitled" by Margaret Kilgallen

"Untitled" by Barry McGee

Both of these works are still documented on the Luggage Store Gallery's webpage.  But a book like this tells us when the works were there and what they meant at that time.  Google Street View only came later and gives us a different view:

1007 Market Street captured in Google Street View February 2014

art-SITES san francisco also has short chapters on the South Bay, the East Bay, Marin County and Napa and Sonoma Counties.  In the chapter on the South Bay I came across art and architecture at Stanford that I was unaware.  On the campus there works of sculpture by Mark Di Suvero, Andy Goldsworthy and Maya Lin.  Additionally I learned about two university buildings designed by James Ingo Freed, the architect for the  San Francisco Public Library's Main Library.

This reference opens with a directory of entry types -- museums, exhibition and performance spaces, galleries, public art, film centers, architecture, architects, urban planning, parks, gardens, plazas, design and bookstores.  It concludes with an index of people, buildings and places.

art-SITES san francisco remains a valuable resource for anyone interested in understanding and exploring the culture of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Most Requested Art, Music and Recreation Center books in January 2017


The top three titles on our current list match well with the nonfiction bestsellers listed in last Sunday's Chronicle.  In the Bay Area, Born a Crime ranks at number 6 and The Princess Diarist ranks at number 4.  Bruce Springsteen's memoir ranks number 3 nation-wide.

Books on hollywood, show business and entertainment in general often do well on the lists of holds.  Memoirs by Anna Kendrick, Lauren Graham, Megyn Kelly as well as the oral history of the Daily Show are all very popular.  In past lists rock and pop music memoirs have also faired well, but only Born to Run and Robbie Robertson's Testimony place on this list.

One slightly surprising title is Walking Through Walls by Marina Abramović.  While Abramović has achieved great renown in performance art circles, she seems out of place among the celebrities of this list.  But, I think the book's popularity reflects San Francisco's readers who have also shown favor towards two books about fine art - How To See by David Salle and a History of Pictures by David Hockney.

Sex sells - even sex from 80 years as Mary Astor's Purple Diary shows.  And anything with the Murakami touch will do well with our readers as can be seen with his book of conversations about music with Seiji Ozawa.

If these books excite you as well, you may have get in line to read them.  Thankfully, the majority of the titles are also available in eBook formats.

Happy reading.


1. Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (Spiegel & Grau, 2016).

2. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (Blue Rider Press, 2016).

3. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen (Simon & Schuster, 2016).

4. Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (Touchstone, 2016).

5. Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, (And Everything In Between) by Lauren Graham (Ballantine Books, 2016).

6. Settle For More by Megyn Kelly (Harper, 2016)

7. The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History As Told By Jon Stewart, The Correspondents, Staff and Guests by Chris Smith (Grand Central Publishing, 2016).

8. The Godfather Notebook by Francis Ford Coppola (Regan Arts, 2016).

9. Kathy Griffin's Celebrity Run-Ins: My A-Z Index by Kathy Griffin (Flatiron Books, 2016).

10. Mary Astor's Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936 by Edward Sorel (Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2016).

11. Testimony by Robbie Robertson (Crown Archetype, 2016).

12. Superficial: More Adventures From the Andy Cohen Diaries by Andy Cohen (Henry Holt and Company, 2016).

13. The Magnolia Story by Chip & Joanna Gaines, with Mark Dagostino (W Publishing, , 2016).

14. Walk Through Walls: A Memoir by Marina Abramović, with James Kaplan (Crown Archetype, 2016).

15. How To See: Looking, Talking, and Thinking About Art by David Salle (W.W. Norton & Company, 2016)

16. Absolutely On Music: Conversations by Haruki Murakami with Seiji Ozawa, translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin (Alfred A. Knopf, 2016).

17. Celebrate Everything!: Fun Ideas to Bring Your Parties To Life, written and illustrated by Darcy Miller (William Morrow, 2016).

18. Harry Potter: The Artifact Vault, written by Jody Revenson (Harper Design, 2016).

19. A History of Pictures: From the Cave to the Computer Screen by David Hockney & Martin Gayford (Abrams, 2016).

20. Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson (Riverhead Books, 2016).

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Longhair Outgrosses Baseball - a headline from the Variety Golden Jubilee issue

Longhair Outgrosses Baseball 
----------------------
Classics, Now a $50,000,000 Boxoffice Bonanza As Against
The National Pastime's $40,000,000 Per Annum -- Symph,
Opera and Ballet Big Middlebrow Draw

This a headline for a Arthur Bronson article on page 467 in the January 4, 1956 special 50th anniversary issue of Variety Magazine.  

The Variety Anniversary Issue was an annual love letter between the entertainment press embodied by Variety Magazine, the primary trade journal for the entertainment industry, and all the people in the entertainment industry who benefited from the magazine's knowledge and reach.  The opening pages of the Golden Jubilee issue are filled with individual full page advertisements taken out by all of the top Hollywood studio executives congratulating the magazine on its longevity.  There are hundreds of other sponsored notes of congratulations from entertainers and corporations throughout this 512 page issue.

The entertainment industry for Variety comprises every sort of performing art, with an emphasis on those that make lots of money.  But the fine arts did have a place within its pages where it was (one hopes affectionately) known as "longhair."  The article below the headline above notes that in 1956 the "boxoffice" for classical music, ballet, opera put together exceeded that of baseball - that certainly gets the reader to stand up and notice.  It goes on to note the importance of the arts in cultural diplomacy, the amount of money spent on classical long playing records and role of film, radio and television in popularizing the arts.  Variety articles are often full of statistics -- this one notes that in 1940, 1,000 American towns offered concert series.  By 1956 the number had risen to 2,600, certainly suggesting a growing interest in classical music.

The Anniversary Issue is full of lists and sidebars.  One includes a list of "actors who have played actors."  There is another list of "remakes of feature films" (by 1956 there had been 3 major releases of both Anna Karenina and Moby Dick).  Gone With The Wind was at the top of the "all-time top money films," but who would have guessed The Robe would come in at number two?  (Adjusted for inflation, Gone With The Wind is still the top grosser).

There is also a chronological chart "50 years of U.S. musical comedy and operetta" listing all the major shows that opened between 1905 and 1956.   Later in the issue there is a table of "Broadway production statistics." This shows the Broadway peaked in 1927-28 with 264 productions throughout the season. It was only natural that the number of productions would taper off owing to the introduction of sound motion pictures and the Great Depression.


Just a year and a half after the Army-McCarthy hearings, this issue has an article entitled "Were You Ever Blacklisted?" subtitled "Variety was - many times, but found friends and special issues kept it going."  This article has a table listing a "chronology of special issues" in Variety magazine over the years.

KRON-TV (the NBC and San Francisco Chronicle affiliate) is among the advertisers, touting a potential 4 million viewer audience and $5,158,223,000 in sales in 1954 (that figure must be for the entire Bay Area).  An advertisement for "The Seven Ashtons," an acrobatic act from Australia notes that they were then performing at Bimbos in San Francisco.

Then there is this provocative headline:


Burlesque -- Its Rise and Demise
-----------------------
Offshoot of Minstrelsy and Extravaganza, Cradle
Of Comedians, Once a Family Amusement, Burlesque
Succumbed to Smut and Strippers

 While today there is a resurgence of interest, in 1956 Burlesque was thought to be on its deathbed.  The article is written by the then 86 year old Barney Gerard, a long time practitioner of the art.  (I cannot find a good biography of Gerard, but he has a number of credits in the Internet Movie Database and a Google Books search brings up myriad articles that show his deep involvement in vaudeville and burlesque).  His article traces the "rise and demise in 60 years" of burlesque.  He many stories including an explanation of the origin of the "hook" used to pull performers who were bombing off the stage.  He even devotes a couple paragraphs to the scene in San Francisco with the Bella Union concert hall in the late 1800s and the Belvedere on O'Farrell Street around the time of the 1906 earthquake.  In the end he laments that burlesque was "strip-teased into oblivion."

As far as I can tell these annual issues have not yet been indexed or scanned online, so they remain a little-known but fascinating on entertainment in all of its forms.  The Library own issues of this annual from 1956 through 1989. 


Variety. Anniversary Edition (Variety, Inc., [1956]-1983).

 Variety. Show Business Annual (Variety, Inc., c1984-1989).

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Feminist Film Theory


I recently checked out Feminist Film Theory and Cleo from 5 to 7 written by Hilary Neroni and enjoyed it thoroughly. Being a fan of the French New Wave cinema movement and movies by directors involved indirectly with the Wave, I had never managed to watch a film by Agnes Varda, who was a part of the Rive Gauche (Left Bank) movement along with Alain Resnais and Chris Marker. Reading the book became the impetus to watch Cleo from 5 to 7 directed by Agnes Varda in 1962. In a refreshing approach and a jargon free language Neroni walks the reader through the arc of feminist film criticism and theory, and then having done so, employs Varda’s classic film examining how a (feminist) female oriented movie operates.

The book informs the reader that feminist film criticism was initially inspired by the second wave of feminism and postcolonial theory. Neroni talks about the influence of Freud and Lacan and conditions under which Laura Mulvey wrote her seminal essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” in 1973 analyzing the “male gaze” and objectification of the female body in classic Hollywood cinema. Later theoreticians criticized Mulvey for only relying on a Eurocentric and heterosexual lens(es). For example, bell hooks, the African American academic, pointed out that black women viewed those films with an “oppositional gaze” instead of identifying with the white male gaze. Other theoreticians asserted, also, that viewers were capable of a “dialectical gaze” and may assert bisexual desires. Lesbian desire and gaze, too, complicate male/female power paradigm. Issues of race, class, and sexual preference have also been layered upon Laura Mulvey’s initial thesis. 

San Francisco Public Library has a very good collection of books on film criticism and feminist film criticism. Interested patrons can also do a Subject search under: Homosexuality in motion picture. In recent times, Queer theory has also gained prominence when understanding the issue of “male gaze”.

For basic reading, we recommend the following titles:

Feminist film theory and Cléo from 5 to 7 / Hilary Neroni

Feminist film theorists : Laura Mulvey, Kaja Silverman, Teresa de Lauretis, Barbara Creed / Shohini Chaudhuri

Chick flicks : theories and memories of the feminist film movement / B. Ruby Rich

Theory of the image : capitalism, contemporary film, and women / Ann Kibbey

The Routledge encyclopedia of film theory / edited by Edward Branigan and Warren Buckland

Paris is burning : a queer film classic / Lucas Hilderbrand

Framed : lesbians, feminists, and media culture / Judith Mayne

Postcolonial theory and Avatar / Gautam Basu Thakur

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Aurora Mandolin Orchestra: Their Annual Performance



The Main Library will be hosting the ever-enchanting, Aurora Mandolin Orchestra on Saturday, December 3, 2016, from 2-4pm, in the Koret Auditorium. 2008 was the first year that the Library hosted the Orchestra, and they've been coming back every year, ever since.Their sound derives from the string-heavy combination of mandolin, mandolla, mandocello, guitar, string bass, accordion, flute and percussion,. They will play a mixture of semi-classical, folk and show tunes - something for everybody! In addition, Susanna Uher Jimenez will sing several songs.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Dorothy Starr interviewed

It has been more than 26 years since Dorothy Starr passed away and more than 25 years since the San Francisco Public Library acquired the stock of her store The Music Stand.

A small amount of personal ephemera came along with the hundreds of thousands of scores and pieces of sheet music. This included a cassette tape of an interview with Dorothy Starr made in November 1986.  The interview covers many bases -- her experiences as a musician, her reminiscences about musicians she had known, her approach to selling music, her musical preferences, etc...  Unfortunately, we have no record of who conducted the interview (If you are out there let us know!)

Please enjoy the words and the wisdom of San Francisco's First Lady of Sheet Music, Dorothy Starr.


The Dorothy Starr Collection database now contains nearly 40,000 entries. Many other scores from Dorothy Starr's stock of scores and sheet music have also been added the Library's circulating and reference collections.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Shock and Awe - Performance by Ethan Rafal, San Francisco Artist and Book Maker


A twelve-year, autobiographical project examining the relationship between protracted war and homeland decay, Shock and Awe is a meticulously crafted image, text, and found object journal that blurs the line between author and subject, and personal and authoritative histories. Completed over countless years traveling the United States, the project pulls from the traditions of documentary photography and writing set on the American road.

The Shock and Awe Book Tour returns the journal to the people and places depicted, bringing author, subject, and viewer into an exploration of the total meaning of the work. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the project, the performance of Shock and Awe is equal parts story-telling, show-and-tell, and group discussion. Books will be sold at this event.

More info about the project: http://ethanrafal.com/

About Ethan Rafal:
Ethan Rafal is an artist and photographer based in San Francisco. His work deals with the individual and collective experience of violence, and the ways in which subsequent representations of violence inform personal and national mythologies. Photography is an essential ingredient in his practice, due to the unique relationship between image and violence, but his work employs performance, installation, video, new-media, and social-practice methodologies. He teaches, mentors, helps run an art space, and collaborates with Art For a Democratic Society in the Bay Area, where he has been based since 2007.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016, 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Main Library - Latino/Hispanic Room, lower level