Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mark Rothko and Film

And what is art, if not a world in a frame?
(from David Anfam’s essay)

The library’s most recent book on Mark Rothko, entitled simply Rothko explores works created during the last decade of the artist's life. These works, called the Seagram Murals, are a set of nine large-scale paintings donated to the Tate under the condition that they always be displayed together. Among the essays in this book are two, 'The World in a Frame' by David Anfam and 'Rothko and the Cinematic Imagination' by Morgan Thomas, which reinterpret Rothko's later paintings and their relationship to film, through the lens and language of cinema.

From comparisons between Rothko's forms and the black monolith in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) to the shared thematic concern with identity in John Frankenheimer's Seconds (1966), these essays explore the conversation between these two mediums

This book also reveals direct influences between the painter and filmmakers. In an account involving Michelangelo Antonioni, one learns that the filmmaker, while in New York presenting his L'eclisse, paid a visit to Rothko. For over an hour, the painter brought out his work one piece at a time and was full of anxiety due to Antonioni's complete silence. When the latter finally spoke through an interpreter he stated that they both had the same subject matter: nothingness. Another version has it that the filmmaker said, "Your paintings are like my films. They are about nothing . . . with precision." Antonioni's Il Deserto Rosso was made after his meeting with Rothko and is considered a departure from Antonioni’s signature style of filmmaking.

For more related library materials on Rothko and/or Antonioni please see:

The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art by Mark Rothko; edited and with an introduction by Christopher Rothko.

Mark Rothko, 1903-1970: Pictures As Drama by Jacob Baal-Teshuva.

Mark Rothko: Subjects In Abstraction by Anna C. Chave.

Antonioni: The Poet of Images by William Arrowsmith; edited with an introduction and notes by Ted Perry.

The films of Michelangelo Antonioni by Peter Brunette.

The Architecture of Vision: Writings And Interviews On Cinema by Michelangelo Antonioni.

In addition, for readers with a purely technical interest in Rothko’s Seagram Murals, pages 86-87 of this title thoroughly document the paint and chemical substances used in the ground, field, glaze and figure of each of these nine paintings.

Friday, June 19, 2009

If you missed the exhibition...

San Francisco museums have been lucky to host and to curate world class art exhibits, but it’s not always possible to see every show that passes through. Luckily, San Francisco Public Library has been collecting the catalogs from these exhibits and they are available year-round. Below is a selective list of important exhibits that have originated in or travelled through San Francisco. There are many more in the collection. If you’d like to find others please search the catalog with the keyword search: "exhibition catalog and San Francisco." It is also possible to search for a particular museum or a specific show. Please come to the Art, Music and Recreation Center in the San Francisco Public Library and the knowledgeable and friendly librarians would be happy to assist you.

  • Afghanistan : hidden treasures from the National Museum, Kabul. Afghanistan: Catalog of an exhibition held at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, 25 May-27 Sept. 2008; the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, 24 Oct. 2008-25 Jan. 2009; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 22 Feb.-17 May 2009; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 23 June-20 Sept. 2009.

Masters of bamboo : artistic lineages in the Lloyd Cotsen Japanese Basket Collection. Catalog to accompany the exhibition held at the Asian Art Museum, Feb. 2-May 6, 2007

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009

    Outdoor Sculpture in San Francisco

    Outdoor Sculpture in San Francisco: a Heritage of Public Art is a well-rounded introduction to the sculpture of the City. The authors included work based on artistic merit and historic significance. Other requirements for inclusion were that the sculpture was located in San Francisco, out-of-doors and in a public space. It is organized roughly by chapters based on location or theme, in chronological order. The title not only gives a thoughtful artistic assessment of many pieces, but provides context to the political machinations of the time as it affected the art and its placement. Some background information on individual sculptors and on different spheres of the sculpting world – in California, the United States and Europe is also helpful. Crisp black and white photographs give illustrative detail.

    San Franciscans and visitors to the City will recognize many familiar pieces, and enjoy learning new details. The first chapter discusses the work placed in Golden Gate Park. A monumental piece by James Happersberger memorializing the recently assassinated president, James Garfield, was the first sculpture to be placed here, and many other memorials followed. Douglas Tilden’s Mechanic’s Monument is noted in the second chapter on the downtown area, its dynamism still a defining feature. As the decades progress, readers are treated to works by Benjamin Bufano, Henry Moore, Ruth Asawa and a great number of other important sculptors.

    Back matter includes notes, photography credits, and a directory organized alphabetically by sculptor’s name, giving the title of the piece and location. The bibliography is divided into sections by material type. A brief background on the authors and lastly, an index are also included.

    For other resources on sculpture in San Francisco the exhibition catalog American Sculpture: the Collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco provides a brief biography on featured sculptors and interesting details on some of the works. The Checklist of the Collection lists all sculptors alphabetically by name and title of sculpture.

    For those interested in seeing the sculpture, art and other sights of San Francisco on foot, Cityguides is an excellent way to learn about the history and culture of different neighborhoods of the City. Tours are given by volunteers who do extensive research on their topic and are free for individuals. Group tours can be arranged, (there is a charge for these) and proceeds benefit the San Francisco Public Library.

    A popular outdoor exhibition, Hearts in San Francisco shows the work that could be found in the City from Valentine's Day through November, 2004. Local artists were given a heart shaped form in either steel or fiberglass on which to create a unique work. These pieces were eventually auctioned off to benefit the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation.