Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Making of a Masterpiece: Picasso and Guernica

The Art, Music and Recreation Center will present an exhibit “The Making of a Masterpiece: Picasso” on the 4th floor of the Main Library from November 3, 2007 through January 3, 2008. This exhibit marks the 70th anniversary of one of the most powerful anti-war statements of the 20th century. We will feature the library's recent acquisition of a special limited-edition Picasso publication which offers exact facsimiles of each of the drawings rendered by Picasso in preparation of his 1937 masterpiece "Guernica." Each drawing has been reproduced precisely in the same size and on the same kind of paper as the original. Insights into the artist's creative processes will be included, along with historical accounts of the Spanish Civil War which set the works in perspective.

Famed war correspondent George Lowther Steer wrote the following about the aftermath of the bombing by of the town by the German Luftwaffe on April 26, 1937:

“In the form of its execution and the scale of the destruction it wrought, no less than in the selection of its objective, the raid on Guernica is unparalleled in military history. Guernica was not a military objective. A factory producing war material lay outside the town and was untouched. So were two barracks some distance from the town. The town lay far behind the lines. The object of the bombardment was seemingly the demoralization of the civil population and the destruction of the cradle of the Basque race. Every fact bears out this appreciation. . .” (The London Times, 27 April 1937, p. 14.)

Art scholar Christian Zervos wrote of Picasso’s depiction of this atrocity:

In Guernica, expressed in the most striking manner, is a world of despair, where death is everywhere; everywhere is crime, chaos, and desolation; disaster more violent than lightning, flood, and hurricane, for everything there is hostile, uncontrollable, beyond understanding, whence rise the heart-rending cries of beings dying because of men’s cruelty. From Picasso’s paintbrush explode phantoms of distress, anguish, terror, insurmountable pain, massacres, and finally peace found in death. (Cahiers d’Art 12, 1937)

The library offers the follow titles for those wishing to further research Picasso’s Guernica.

Arnheim, Rudolf. The Genesis of a Painting: Picasso's Guernica. (1962/1980).

Blunt, Anthony. Picasso's 'Guernica'. (1969).

Chipp, Herschel Browning. Picasso's Guernica: History, Transformations, Meanings. (1988).

Fisch, Eberhard. Guernica by Picasso: A Study of the Picture and its Contexts. (1988).

Larrea, Juan. Guernica, Pablo Picasso. Introd. by Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Translated by Alexander H. Krappe. Edited by Walter Pach. (1969).

Martin, Russell. Picasso's War: The Destruction of Guernica and the Masterpiece that Changed the World. (2003).

Oppler, Ellen C. Picasso's Guernica: Illustrations, Introductory Essay, Documents, Poetry, Criticism, Analysis. (1988).

Puente, Joaquín de la. Guernica: The Making of a Painting. (1983).

Van Hensbergen, Gijs. Guernica: The Biography of a Twentieth-Century Icon. (2004).

Update: The exhibit will be taken down on January 11, 2008. There is a very simple video documentation of this exhibit consisting of five short videos uploaded to Google video.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Rock Historian Richie Unterberger

On Wednesday October 17th local rock music writer Richie Unterberger will present a follow-up to his very successful 40th Anniversary of Summer of Love program at SFPL's Park Branch. Call it a celebration of "The Indian Summer of Love" or of "The Fall of the Summer of Love,” the program will consist of more rare and classic 1967-era film clips of psychedelic rock, from San Francisco and elsewhere.

No clips will be repeated from the prior program! Footage includes: Big Brother & the Holding Company, with Janis Joplin; Donovan; the Rolling Stones; the Beatles; the Mothers of Invention; the Nice; the Spencer Davis Group; Ravi Shankar; the Youngbloods; the Moody Blues; and several others.

Park Branch
San Francisco Public Library
1833 Page Street.
Wednesday, October 17th 7-9 p.m.
Admission is free

The library has recently acquired Unterberger’s latest book - The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film. This exciting, thoroughly-researched tome aims to document thousands of hours of unreleased recorded material ranging form studio outtakes, live concerts, home tapes, television broadcasts, rehearsals and demos.

To Beatles fanatics the purpose of this book is obvious. The casual Beatles-fan might however ask, why examine unreleased works when there are so many wonderful commercial recordings available? To have a full appreciation of the band’s evolution and creative process the unreleased works are invaluable. Interested in how the Beatles sounded with Pete Best as drummer, or with Stuart Sutcliffe as bassist? Interested in their songwriting methods? Interested in how much they improved in the year between their Decca audition and the release of their first LP, or in how much they argued during the "Get Back" sessions? The unreleased works and Unterberger’s commentary on them will illuminate.

For readers thirsting for more after reading The Unreleased Beatles the library's collection has 80 titles on the band.

The library also has several other Richie Unterberger titles:

Eight Miles High: Folk-Rock's Flight From Haight-Ashbury to Woodstock (2003).

Music USA: The Rough Guide (1999).

Turn! Turn! Turn!: The '60s Folk-Rock Revolution (2002).

Unknown Legends of Rock'n'roll: Psychedelic Unknowns, Mad Geniuses, Punk Pioneers, Lo-fi Mavericks and More (1998).

Urban Spacemen And Wayfaring Strangers: Overlooked Innovators and Eccentric Visionaries Of '60s Rock (2000).

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Nick Drake

The life and music of Nick Drake is under review in San Francisco this week. Between Remembering Nick Drake, the October 2, 2007, City Arts & Lectures presentation co-sponsored by Noise Pop, and A Skin Too Few: The Days of Nick Drake (2000), a documentary showing at the SF Doc Fest on October 3, 9, and 10, locals have had a rare opportunity to learn about this private, enigmatic artist from those who knew him best.

The City Arts and Lecture series included a discussion with local songstress Jolie Holland, Nick Drake’s sister, Gabrielle Drake, and his friend and music producer Joe Boyd (producer of Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left (1969) and Bryter Layter (1970) ). The lecture will be rebroadcast on KQED on November 25, 2007.

The Art, Music and Recreation Department also has two full-length biographies of the singer / songwriter: Darker Than The Deepest Sea: The Search For Nick Drake by Trevor Dann (2006) and Nick Drake by Patrick Humphries (1998). The A to X of Alternative Music by Steve Taylor, White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s by Joe Boyd, The Tombstone Tourist: Musicians by Scott Stanton, and Unknown Legends of Rock 'n' roll: Psychedelic Unknowns, Mad Geniuses, Punk Pioneers, Lo-fi Mavericks & More by Richie Unterberger all include sections on Nick Drake.

The Library's Audiovisual Center has several CDs of Drake's music including Bryter Layter, Five Leaves Left and, Pink Moon. Way to Blue: An Introduction to Nick Drake is a good starting off point that presents representative works off of all of Drake's albums and includes an biographical essay by Joe Boyd.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Philip Glass

(image from the San Francisco Opera)

On October 5, 2007 the San Francisco Opera will present the premiere of Appomattox by Philip Glass. At the library we always try to order scores, librettos, recordings and videorecordings for each opera season. Since none of these are available for a newly composed work, allow us to introduce some books, scores and recordings by and about Philip Glass from our collection.

The library has two books written by the composer: Music by Philip Glass, and Opera On The Beach, Philip Glass On His New World Of Music Theatre. We also own the collection Writings On Glass: Essays, Interviews, Criticism, edited by Richard Kostelanetz. Books like American Minimal Music: La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass by Wim Mertens and Four Musical Minimalists: La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass by Keith Potter place Glass within a wider context of contemporary American music.

In our LP collection (12” long playing records) we have recordings of Glass’s earlier operas Einstein on the Beach and Satyagraha. We have circulating librettos for Satyagraha and Akhnaten.

The library’s score collection includes the following compositions by Philip Glass:

Songs From Liquid Days (songs written to lyrics by Paul Simon, David Byrne, Suzanne Vega and Laurie Anderson)

Solo Piano (consisting of three works: Metamorphosis, Mad rush, and Wichita vortex sutra)

The Piano Collection (a collection of more than 20 short works for piano)

Violin Concerto (a score for violin and piano reduction)

Dance No. 4: For Organ

Melodies For Saxophone

Music in Similar Motion (originally written for three woodwinds and three organs)

Saxophone Quartet

Strung Out: For Amplified Violin

The library’s Audiovisual Center has many CDs of Glass's music. He also wrote the music for several films in our DVD and video collection including The Fog of War, The Hours, Koyaanisqatsi, Secret Window, and The Thin Blue Line.

(Philip Glass signature from "Strung Out" (1967))

Monday, October 1, 2007

Index of American Design

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt instigated programs like the Civil Works Administration (CWA) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in order create jobs for the millions of unemployed. As part of the WPA, the Federal Art Project put America’s visual artists to work. Some local examples of work created by artists of the Federal Art Project include the murals at Coit Tower and works of sculpture by Beniamino Bufano.

While there were many opportunities for “fine artists” no projects were initially devised for America’s commercial artists. Realizing that there was yet no thorough visual survey of American design Romana Javitz, head of the New York Public Library’s Picture Collection and Ruth Reeves, a textile designer and painter conceived the plan for the Index of American Design. It was begun in December 1935 ultimately employed over 300 commercial artists who created primarily watercolor reproductions of traditional American craft. This included every form of craft made from the colonial period through the end of the nineteenth century from works found in museum collections.

The artists employed for this project were taught techniques by a curator from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts who insisted upon strict objectivity, accurate drawing, clarity of construction, exact proportions of objects and faithful rendering of material, color and texture. The exception to watercolor was the use of oil technique for tobacconist’s signs and Pennsylvania German folk art. Objects include ship figureheads, tavern signs, ceramics, coverlets, quilts, glass, tinware, weathervanes, retablos, costume, circus wagons, Shaker furniture, caballero suits, fire helmets, cornhusk dolls, kitchen equipment, etc...

The question begged, “Why not just photograph these objects?” Apart from the intent to employ commercial artists, another reason for not using photography was that the camera, except in the hands of its greatest masters, could not reveal the essential character and quality of objects as well as an artist. At that time color photography was an expensive process and perishable while watercolor remains one of the most durable of artistic mediums.Photography presented problems in distortion and lighting. As Holger Cahill wrote in the book's introduction: "The camera cannot search out the forms of objects deeply undercut or modeled in high relief, match color as closely as the artist, or render the subtle interplay of form, color and texture which creates the characteristic beauty of so many products of early American craftsmen."

The Index of American Design and subsequent expanded edition The Treasury of American Design remain the most thorough visual record of the rich, vast body of traditional American crafts. The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC has a webpage for the Index of American Design which includes an online tour.

Dress, rendered by Julie C. Brush, watercolor, graphite, and pen and ink on paperboard, 53 x 36.9 cm (20 13/16 x 14 1/2 in.) from the Index of American Design