Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Art of Christo and Jeanne-Claude

With great sadness the world was given the news of Jeanne-Claude's passing at age 74 on November 18 due to complications of a brain aneurysm. Within hours however a heartfelt statement from Christo, the surviving husband and half of the artistic team Christo and Jeanne-Claude, was published on their website. In it he commits "to honor the promise they made to each other many years ago: The art of Christo and Jeanne-Claude will continue."

Best known in California for projects such as “Running Fence” (Sonoma and Marin Counties, 1972-76) and “The Umbrellas” (two 60+ mile spans, one north of Tokyo, the other north of Los Angeles, 1975-85), the artists worked collaboratively for years under the single name Christo, finally changing their artistic signature in 1994 to Christo and Jeanne-Claude. In total, they shared fifty years of collaboration, working 10-16 hour days, turning their ideas for projects of unimaginable scale and beauty into reality.

What began with Christo wrapping small objects, then oil drums, lead to the wrapping of trees, buildings and bridges. Their reputation as people who "wrap" things followed, despite numerous large scale works with little to do with that technique. Take, for example, “Valley Curtain,” “Surrounded Islands,” and most recently “Fences,” which brought millions of visitors to New York City's Central Park during the last two weeks of February 2005. As Vadim Rizov wrote of the two, beyond the wrapping, “a bigger part of their projects was rendering the familiar temporarily strange, whether by covering a bridge's familiar outlines in fabric or by transforming it into an ominous new bulk.”

The San Francisco Public Library has many items related to Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Most unique is an Artists File complete with over a hundred newspaper articles on the artists. Over half relate to 'The Umbrellas' project and include not only SF articles, but a commemorative issue of the Bakersfield Californian, project maps and drawings, as well as the actual material swatches used in the umbrella construction. Also included is coverage of visits to the Bay Area, local lectures, as well as an article speculating that Coit Tower might be used as an installation site.

If interested in learning more about the artists, the library has the following books and videos:

The Running Fence Project by Christo; text by Werner Spies; photographs by Wolfgang Volz; translated from the German by Kathleen Cheesmond. (H. N. Abrams, 1977).

Running fence [videorecording]: Christo's project for Sonoma and Marin Counties, State of California, 1972-76; a film by David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin, & Albert Maysles. (Maysles Films, 1990).

Christo, Running Fence: Sonoma and Marin Counties, California, 1972-1976; photographs by Gianfranco Gorgoni; chronicle by Calvin Tomkins; narrative text by David Bourdon. (Abrams, 1978).

The Accordion-Fold Book for the Umbrellas, Joint Project for Japan and U.S.A by Christo; photography by Wolfgang Volz; foreword and interview by Masahiko Yanagi. (Bedford Arts, 1991).

Christo and Jeanne-Claude: On The Way to the Gates, Central Park, New York City by Jonathan Fineberg; with photographs by Wolfgang Volz. (Yale University Press, 2004).

Christo, Complete Editions, 1964-1982: Catalogue Raisonné and Introduction by Per Hovdenakk (New York University Press, 1982).

Christo: The Reichstag and Urban Projects, edited by Jacob Baal-Teshuva; photography by Wolfgang Volz. (Munich: te Neues Pub. Co., 1993).

Islands [videorecording]; a Carl Flach Jeanne-Claude presentation; a film by David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin, & Albert Maysles. (Maysles Films, 1986).

Two Youtube videos capture the controversy and sensation that the Running Fence project made in 1976.

An excerpt from the Mayles Films documentary, Running Fence.

Super 8 home movie footage of "Running Fence" with still bemused commentary.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Poster Display - Rock Silkscreen Prints by Lil Tuffy

image source:

The rock posters currently on display were donated to the San Francisco Public Library Poster Collection by graphic artist Terrence "Lil Tuffy" Ryan. Most of these works are limited edition, hand-pulled silkscreen prints representing Bay Area music venues and/or Bay Area musicians. The exhibit includes local musicians Chuck Prophet, Digital Underground, The Music Lovers, Cari Lee and the Saddle-ites, Loop Station, Griddle, Magic Christian, Bhi Bhiman, and Tom Heyman among others.

Lil Tuffy’s public biography is brief. After completing studies at Carnegie Mellon University in 1994, he relocated and set up studio in San Francisco where he has specialized in music-related design for over a decade. His reputation now extends beyond the Bay Area clubs, to international shows and large music festivals, such as Reeperbahn Festival, Noise Pop and Bumpershoot.

The Art, Music and Recreation Department attempts to archive the culture of our City. To meet that end, we welcome donations of San Francisco-related music posters, flyers and ephemera. If you have materials you would like to donate, please speak to a librarian at the reference desk.

If you are interested in learning more about the silk-screening process, the Library of Congress Subject Heading to use for searching the SFPL catalog is "Screen Process Printing."

When you visit our department, you can also view the related displays: The Art of Rock - Graphic Sound in the 60's and Punk Graphics.

Monday, November 9, 2009

DIY Holiday Magic!

(image from the Art, Music & Recreation Center picture file)

Just when we think it’s safe to kick back, shed our costumes and put away the pumpkin carving tools, it suddenly dawns on us that more major holidays are right around the corner. For many, this can be a stressful time of year, especially for those who have been hit hard by the recession. Some are wondering how they can share in spreading holiday cheer in this bad economy.
The good news is that the library has books to address this dilemma. Making your own gifts and decorations is a good way to save money and gain a sense of satisfaction from the creative process. Handmade items have a way of saying: “I care enough about you to invest my heart, hands and time in making something one of a kind.”

The following titles are just a tiny example of what the Art and Music department has to check out and take home. Combine the ideas in these books with books on holiday meals and treats (located in the Business, Science and Technology Center on our floor) and you’ll be on your way to having the happiest holidays every.

300 Ways to Make the Best Christmas Ever!: Decorations, Carols, Crafts & Recipes for Every Kind of Christmas Tradition edited by Mimi Tribble (Sterling Pub., 2004).

Christmas Craft Sourcebook by Gail Lawther (Trafalgar Square Pub., 1995).

Christmas Doughcrafts by Elisabeth Bang (Cassell, 1996).

Handknit Holidays by Melanie Falick (STC Craft, 2005).

Holiday Knits by Sara Lucas and Allison Isaacs (Chronicle Books, 2005).

How to Make Christmas Tree Decorations by Petra Boniberger, et al. (Search Press, 1997).

Merry & Bright: 301 Festive Ideas for Celebrating Christmas (Hearst Books, 2007).

Old-Fashioned Christmas Crafts (Better Homes and Gardens Books, 1995).

Papercrafts for Christmas by Judy Balchin and Polly Pinder (Search Press, 2008)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Aurora Mandolin Orchestra at the San Francisco Public Library

Marco de Natale's Green Street Barbershop. "Papa" Gianni Giotta, singing. Nick Sfarzo, guitar. Unknown violinist and accordionist. 1968 (From Mandolins, Like Salami).

The Aurora Mandolin Orchestra will be returning for another performance in the Koret Auditorium, on November 7th, 2009. Some of the songs they may play from their repertoire include "La Cumparsita," "Vienna, City of My Dreams," and medleys from La Traviata and South Pacific, among many others.

As noted in Sheri Mignano Crawford's history of mandolin music in the Bay Area, Mandolins like Salami, the tradition of Italian mandolin music grew in part out of the “musical hub” of the barbershops. Between haircuts there was enough time for barbers to sing and play mandolin. Customers and anyone who was interested could join the music making at any time. For expediency the instruments were actually kept in barbershops – hanging like salami from the ceiling.

In North Beach, a center of this scene, the Green Street Barbershop continued this tradition into the 1970s. When the owner of that shop, Marco de Natale died, the center of the scene changed but the vibrancy continued to grow. The author mentions the Aurora Mandolin Orchestra as one of the groups that enjoyed this renaissance. Gino Pellegrini had played with Aurora in the 1930s, and had also played in other bands up to 1970. When he retired that year he resurrected the Orchestra.

His style of playing called “duo” mandolin was particularly difficult. Musicians using this style, pick the melody while also playing the accompaniment. When he died in 2006, his wife, Jo took on the role of Director and Conductor. The Aurora Mandolin Orchestra continues to flourish, playing a lively mixture of classical, traditional and contemporary pieces. Among the larger venues they’ve played are Davies Hall, the Academy of Sciences at Golden Gate Park, Santa Clara University, and the annual San Francisco Mandolin Festival.