Thursday, December 26, 2019

The Main Library's Barn

In our vertical file of newspaper clippings file for the San Francisco Public Library we have an article reviewing the architecture and construction from the California Construction Link newspaper.  It's from the May 31, 1996 issue and is entitled "Main Library: San Francisco's Newest Landmark Opens."

The article includes an intriguing paragraph about our James Ingo Freed designed building: 
The library's contemporary facade is dominated by a 71-by-31-foot rectangular "barn"-like structure called the "House of the Book." This structure includes a public auditorium on the basement level, part of the Children's Library on the second floor and the City's History Center under the vaulted ceiling at the top level. Built to parallel the angle of Market Street, which it faces at the corner of Hyde and Grove, the structure's self-enclosed walls extend from the basement to a point above above the main roof line, where they are topped by a free-standing lead coated, copper barrel-shaped vault roof.
 photograph by Susan Lowenstein, from California Construction Link May 31, 1996 

When invoking a "barn," the article's author is describing the shape of the roof at the right of the library when viewed from U.N. Plaza.

This "barn" effect is even more evident in a Google Earth 3D view.

Much like the structural circular columns on the east and west sides of the atrium in the public areas of the library, this barn footprint extends from the Library's Lower Level to the top of the building.  Like the Periodical Reading Room on the Library's 6th floor it is angled according to Market Street and the South of Market grid.

In fact, the eastern edge of the barn nearly parallels the eastern curb of Eight Street to the south.

But the dominant angle is that of Market Street to the south.

Having looked at the "barn" from the outside, we will look at how its form has shaped the interior spaces of the Main Library.  Although much of the barn is an interior space that is not open to the public, housing collections and staff work spaces, it also helps some of the public space.

Previous entries about the architecture of the San Francisco Public Library Main Library:

The Altes Museum and the Main Library (March 6, 2019)

Rotunda Resonances in the San Francisco Main Library (March 25, 2019)

 Labrouste's Libraries, Structural Columns and the Main Library (May 9, 2019)

Main Library Columns, pt. 1 (June 13, 2019)

Main Columns, pt. 2 (July 18, 2019)

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Most Popular Art, Music & Recreation Center Books At The End Of 2019

As usual books by celebrities and entertainers dominate the most borrowed books in our subject.  There are new titles by Howard Stern, John Waters, Chelsea Handler, Patti Smith, Tan France, Elton John, Jonathan Van Ness, and Ali Wong. Perhaps most remarkable is the enduring popularity of Trevor Noah's memoir Born A Crime which appeared on our previous lists of January 2017, November 2017 and May 2018.  It was the most borrowed book of all by far.

Hamilton: The Revolution continues to be a sensation.  New Yorker critic Emily Nussbaum's essay collection I Like To Watch is also a popular read. Michael Shnayerson's Boom, an exposé of the contemporary art market, has also found a wide readership. An older title like Barbarian Days, William Finnegan's surfing memoir has had steadily high circulation for four years.

A couple of more than titles that are more than 40 years old are also on this list.  A Pattern Language is still considered to be revolutionary approach to architecture and design.  We recently reordered multiple copies of Jim Bouton's baseball classic Ball Four and its return to many branches has been welcomed by San Francisco readers.

Happy reading.

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

Howard Stern Comes Again (Simon & Schuster, 2019).

Hamilton: The Revolution: Being The Complete Libretto Of The Broadway Musical, with a true account of its creation, and concise remarks on hip-hop, the power of stories, and the new America by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter (Grand Central Publishing, 2016).

Mr. Know-It-All: The Tarnished Wisdom Of A Filth Elder by John Waters (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019).

Life Will Be The Death Of Me: ... And You, Too! by Chelsea Handler (Spiegel & Grau, 2019).

Year Of The Monkey by Patti Smith (Alfred A. Knopf, 2019).

Naturally Tan by Tan France with Caroline Donofrio (St. Martin's Press, 2019)

I Like To Watch: Arguing My Way Through The TV Revolution by Emily Nussbaum (Random House, 2019.

Me by Elton John (Henry Holt and Company, 2019).

Over The Top: A Raw Journey To Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness (HarperOne, 2019).

Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice For Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong (Random House, 2019).

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan (Penguin Press, 2015).

Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers, And The Rise Of Contemporary Art by Michael Shnayerson (PublicAffairs, 2019).

A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, with Max Jacobson, Ingrid Fiksdahl-King, Shlomo Angel (Oxford University Press, 1977).

Ball Four: The Final Pitch by Jim Bouton (Turner, 2014).

Sunday, November 24, 2019

readybox: Live Music by Philip Greenlief & Thomas Dimuzio

Pairing the extended techniques, multi phonics, and circular breathing of saxophone virtuoso Philip Greenlief with live sampling and processing pioneer, Thomas Dimuzio, readybox transforms the power of reeds and real-time musique concrete into soaring new realms. Two masters of their instruments forming an elemental core where air meets electronics. 

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019
6:30pm - 7:30pm
Koret Auditorium, Main Library


Promulgator of live sampling and real-time sound manipulation, San Francisco-based Thomas Dimuzio transforms the techniques of the recording studio into a real-time digital musique concrete machine. Augmented by his flair for improvisation and an ardent musical approach, Dimuzio's sonic transformations recontextualize live sound sources from ambient microphones, shortwave radio, field recordings, MIDI-controlled-feedback, self-oscillating circuits, to live sampling of musicians, DJs and even entire bands. A veteran of live concerts, Dimuzio has performed solo in the USA, Canada, and Europe and with collaborators including Joseph Hammer, Chris Cutler, Fred Frith, Illusion Of Safety, Nick Didkovsky, Matmos, Negativland, Wobbly, Due Process, David Lee Myers, Elliott Sharp, Voice of Eye, Alan Courtis, and many others. “His work has a narrative, filmic tug that will draw you into its dark corners, ears alert… brilliant and rarely less than entertaining.” —Peter Marsh, BBC

Since his emergence on the west coast in the late 1970s, Evander Music founder and saxophonist Phillip Greenlief has achieved international critical acclaim for his recordings and performances with musicians and composers in the post-jazz continuum as well as new music innovators and virtuosic improvisers. He has performed and recorded with Fred Frith, Meredith Monk and They Might Be Giants; albums include THAT OVERT DESIRE OF OBJECT with Joelle Leandre, and ALL AT ONCE with FPR (Frank Gratkowski, Jon Raskin, Phillip Greenlief). Recent residencies have included Headlands Center for the Arts and from 2012 to 2014 he was the curator at Berkeley Arts, a home for progressive music. He is the recipient of a San Francisco Bay Guardian Goldie Award. "The Bay Area's do-it-yourself ethos has produced a bevy of dazzlingly creative musicians, but few have put the philosophy to work as effectively as Phillip Greenlief." – Andrew Gilbert, San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Aurora Mandolin Orchestra

The San Francisco Public Library is pleased to host the Aurora Mandolin Orchestra for their 12th consecutive performance in the Koret Auditorium on November 10, 2019 at 2pm.

The original Orchestra played in the 1930s. Gino Pellegrini was a member then and restarted the group, as its Director in the 1970s. After his passing in 2006, Gino's wife, Jo took on the role.
The Orchestra  consists of more than 30 members with professional and amateur musicians playing mandolin, mandola, mandocello, guitar, string bass, accordion, flute and percussion, who travel from various parts of the Greater Bay Area for a weekly rehearsal. Their repertoire includes creative arrangements of folk music, semi-classical Italian, Spanish, Russian songs, popular "oldies", contemporary pieces (some taken from familiar musicals), excerpts from operas, and classical orchestra compositions written specifically for mandolin.

In addition, Belle Sorella, the soprano duo, Susie and Nova Jimenez will also perform.

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Painted Over City - Die bemalte Stadt

Die bemalte Stadt: Initiativen zur Veränderung der Strassen in USA; Beispiele in Europe by Horst Schmidt-Brümmer and Feelie Lee from 1973 is a study of street art -- both mural and advertising art. In English the book's title would The Painted City: Initiatives to Change The Streets in the USA; Examples in Europe. It is richly illustrated with photographs from that time, most from California. A good number of the images are from the Bay Area.

The authors present these visual examples from the United States to encourage their European audience to enliven their public spaces.They delight in what they describe as an everyday, colloquial visual language on American streets.  One of the subject headings for the volume is Urban beautification -- United States.

Even through the German text may not be welcoming to many of our readers, the book's photo-documentation is a treat and features a few dozen images of San Francisco scenes, mostly of artwork that disappeared long ago.

One example is an image of the Shandygaff restaurant at 1760 Polk Street (at Washington Avenue).  This establishment was a trailblazer in the health food movement.  According to Inside the California Food Revolution, Shandygaff was where Mollie Katzen of Moosewood Cookbook fame received her training.

The immense lettering on the business's exterior also caused a sensation. Herb Caen remarked:
Shandygaff, that wild-looking new restaurant at Polk and Washington -- the name is in letters about 10 feet high, wrapping around the corner -- is owned by Atty. Rubin Glickman, who let Graphics Designer Marget Larsen really do her eye-popping thing.
The letters actually look like they are 15 feet tall.  Marget Larsen had been the art director for the Joseph Magnin stores and is considered along with Barbara Stauffacher Solomon to have been one of the earliest designers of "supergraphics."

There are other available images of Marget Larsen's design.

For instance from the San Francisco Chronicle of June 27, 1971.

Or through the Design Library Image Collection at North Carolina State University.

The image in Die bemalte Stadt is very clear and well-framed and is a welcome documentation of this significant work of graphic design.

Shandygaff Health Food Restaurant - Vegetarisches Restaurant, Polk St., San Francisco

By 1974 the restaurant replaced Larsen's design with a colorful Timothy Jenk mural depicting nineteenth century agrarian life. The space is still a restaurant today, but it sports a far less audacious copper and orange exterior.

While many of the examples in Schmidt-Brümmer and Lee's book are of commercial graphic art, there are also many instances of community-based murals.  Co-author Feelie Lee also published a photograph of a mural at the Hunters Point No. 2 Elementary School in the California Living Magazine of March 1973.

She contributed a fuller black and white image of the mural in Die Malte Stadt.

Hunters Point II Elementary School - Volksschule, Kiska Road, San Francisco

This untitled artwork was created by Dewey Crumpler in 1972 not long after completing his mural studies in Mexico. He was eager to undertake this project because he had attended this school growing up in Hunters Point.

The work depicts a young man and woman (left and right sides) absorbed in books.  Behind them are images from colossal books of important African-American figures like W.E.B. Dubois, Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King and Muhammed Ali.  Further in the background are sheltering wings of elders who guard this knowledge. Crumpler wished to communicate the "importance of education and wisdom gained over time" (personal communication).

There are young people at the foreground of the mural that regard these volumes and historical figures with awe and reverence.  The photograph from Die bemalte Stadt supplements those painted children with the children of the school. While enjoying their time learning and at play they can also appreciate these inspirational figures.

The Hunters Point II School (image source: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection)

The Hunters Point II School was originally called the Ridgecrest No. 3 School and opened in 1944.  Like the neighborhood itself, the school was constructed quickly and cheaply to serve armament workers how moved to San Francisco in large numbers from the South.  It was reconstructed in 1953 but was ultimately closed and torn down in 1975.

This work was not mentioned in A Checklist of San Francisco Murals from 1986, but Crumpler does include it among the commissioned works listed on his online resume.

Die bemalte Stadt is valuable to us today because it documents a visual medium and a visual landscape that is frequently destroyed or lost.  Both the Marget Larsen and Dewey Crumpler works discussed here were gone after only a few years, but learning about these works increases our understanding of these artists and of San Francisco society and its art world at that time.

Anderson, Judith, "Murals: A New Way To Dress Up Buildings," San Francisco Chronicle (September 2, 1974).

Caen, Herb, "Just Foolin' Around," San Francisco Chronicle (November 18, 1970).

A Checklist of San Francisco Murals, 1914-1986, edited by Tim Drescher and Victoria Scarlett. (J. Paul Leonard Library, San Francisco State University, 1986).

Goldstein, Joyce and Dore Brown, Inside The California Food Revolution: Thirty Years That Changed Our Culinary Consciousness (University of California Press, 2013).

Isenberg, Alison, Designing San Francisco: Art, Land, and Urban Renewal in the City by the Bay (Princeton University Press, 2017).

Lee, Feelie, "The People's Art Gallery," San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle California Living Magazine (March 11, 1973).

Resume, Dewey Crumpler [website].

Schmidt-Brümmer, Horst and Feelie Lee, Die bemalte Stadt: Initiativen zur Veränderung der Strassen in USA; Beispiele in Europe (DuMont-Schauberg, 1973).

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Photo Ark

The Photo Ark: One Man's Quest to Document the World's Animals, with photographs taken by Joel Sartore, displays endangered animals in a unique way. Animals are placed in front of either a black or white background with nothing else to distract the viewer. The captions on one facing page or both, identify the animal, and give a rating abbreviation from Extinct (EX,) to Least Concern (LC.)  The key to these ratings is on page 33, directly preceding chapter 1. Introductory writing includes a Forward written by Harrison Ford and the story of how the concept of the book began, by the author.

The first chapter named "Mirrors" shows similarities in very disparate animals. There is a sense of humor in the juxtaposition of the animals on a 2 page spread. One side may be a mandrill with very distinct red and white coloring on its face. On the other page, a beetle with similar coloring on its thorax. In another set of photos a King Vulture faces inward toward the center of the book, a red bump giving it an unusual profile. Directly across from the bird bump is the protuberance of a rhinoceros.

This long chapter of animals "facing off" is broken up by brief explanations entitled "Behind the Scenes" or "Heroes." Four other chapters follow with similarly playful pairing. Back matter includes a brief explanation about how the animals were photographed, with a before and after Photoshop example. Notes on the continuing effort to photograph these animals, about the author and contributors, acknowledgements, and finally an index of all the animals by page number, giving the zoos and locations where the animals are housed, with a URL for curious readers are included.

The photo ark: one man's quest to document the world's animals / Joel Sartore ; foreword by Harrison Ford ; introduction by Douglas H. Chadwick. Washington, D.C. : National Geographic, [2017.]   779.32 Sa773p  

Monday, October 7, 2019

10 Years of the SFAC Galleries Passport Event

The San Francisco Public Library is thrilled to be working with the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) Galleries to present an exhibition celebrating 10 years of SFAC’s annual outreach event, Passport. Launched in 2009, Passport was a family-friendly, art focused, scavenger hunt that fostered an innovative way for artists and the public to interact outside of a gallery setting. The annual event, which has now sunsetted, provided an interactive and affordable way to collect art, raise awareness of the SFAC Galleries and their programs, and use the arts as an economic driver to support small businesses across the city. Over the years, thousands of Passport participants visited vibrant neighborhood venues and collected artwork from over 150 emerging and established artists, as well as works from the estates of Bay Area legends such as Ruth Asawa, Richard Diebenkorn and Roy De Forest. The Library is honored to share with our community SFAC’s display of passport booklets filled with original artist stamps.

Passport was produced by the SFAC Galleries and supported by the SF Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

Banner image: Passport exhibition at the SFAC Main Gallery, 2018. Photo: Phillip Maisel

Currently on view in the Art, Music & Recreation Center
4th Floor, Main Library
Saturday, 9/14/2019 - Thursday, 1/02/20

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Rova Saxophone Quartet LIVE!

The world-renowned Rova Saxophone Quartet has been inspiring and challenging audiences for over 40 years. They are a pioneering avant-garde ensemble that explores the dual paths of composition and collection improvisation. Their music defies genre, exploring post-bop, free jazz, avant-rock and contemporary classical music. The San Francisco Public Library is honored to present a concert of new works by the Rova Saxophone Quartet -- Bruce Ackley – soprano saxophone / Steve Adams – alto saxophone / Larry Ochs – tenor saxophone / Jon Raskin – baritone saxophone. The concert will conclude with a Q&A with the audience.

Saturday, 9/28/2019
3pm -5pm
Koret Auditorium, Main Library

To learn more about Rova, visit the Art, Music & Recreation Center to access Rova Saxophone Quartet's vertical file that houses a variety of articles, program flyers, letters, etc.

                                         Image preview

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The New Romanian Cinema

At the beginning of 2019, San Francisco Public Library’s Art, Music, and Recreation Department launched World Cinema Time, a program featuring foreign films with English subtitles. The screenings happen once a month on Tuesday evenings in the Koret Auditorium.

Tonight's screening at 5:30 PM will be Romanian director Calin Peter Netzer’s film Child’s Pose, the winner of the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival in 2013.

Although cinema arrived in Romania at the end of the 19th century, the nation has only begun to make award-winning films in the 21st century with the so-called New Romanian Cinema.  The Death of Mr. Lazarescu directed by by Cristi Puiu which won the Un Certain Regard award at the Cannes Film Festival in France in 2005 opened the floodgates for Romanian films to bag 28 international awards by the end of 2018.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (dir. Cristian Mungiu) became the first Romanian film to win Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2007, and caused a controversy when it didn’t make the Foreign Language Film shortlist for Oscars. This film perhaps remains the Romanian film with the strong reputation.
Scholarship on Romanian cinema is scant by international standards. But a basic keyword search (Romanian cinema) in databases such as Art Full Text and Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text will yield a wealth of information on various aspects of Romanian cinema.

We can recommend the DVDs in our collection:

 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days (2007)
Child's Pose (2013)
Beyond the Hills (2012)

The way I Spent the End of the World (2006)
Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005)

12:08 East of Bucharest (2006)

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Main Columns, pt. 2

One of the principal design elements of James Ingo Freed's Main Library building are cylindrical columns located on the east and west sides of the atrium.

A previous entry looked at the positioning of these columns on the west side of the Main Library building.  This entry will look at them on the building's east side.

Columns 6, 7, 10 and 11 extend from the Library's Lower Level and parallel the ceremonial staircase to the west of the atrium.

Only column 11 is visible from the Lower Level, located just outside the door to the restrooms.  The other columns cannot be seen on the Lower Level because they are incorporated into interior walls. It remains visible as it extends to the 1st floor.  On the 2nd floor column 11 is incorporated into the south wall at the entrance to Children's Center

On the 1st floor, columns 7 and 6 are located on both sides of the self-return machine.

Column 10 is placed further back in the sorting area with a metallic covering to protect it from the impact of book trucks.   (Column 11 on the outside of this space).

On the 2nd floor, columns 7 and 6 mark the beginning of the ceremonial staircase.

Columns 11 and 10 are just outside the windows at the entrance to the Children's Center.  Column 11, as noted above is incorporated into the outside wall.

On the 3rd floor, columns 7 and 6 are placed parallel at the rear of the ceremonial staircase.

Columns 10 and 11 behind them are positioned behind a bookcase and in front of the study rooms.

Viewed from the 4th floor phonodisc collection, columns 8 and 9 stand parallel to the staircase and columns 10 and 11 stand close behind computer terminals and in front of the study rooms.

On the 5th floor, columns 6 and 7 are enclosed within a foyer at the top of the stairs.

Columns 10 and 11 stand between a desk and a card catalog and the study rooms.
Here is a view of columns 7, 6 (behind glass) and 10 on the 5th floor facing the staircase.
On 6th floor, columns 10 and 11 have a metallic exterior and line the windowed wall to the Rooftop Terrace.

Their partners, columns 6 and 7 are spaced within the 6th floor's Rooftop Gallery.

Columns 8, 9, 12, 13 and 14 will be discussed in a later entry.

Previous entries:

The Altes Museum and the Main Library (March 6, 2019)

Rotunda Resonances in the San Francisco Main Library (March 25, 2019)

 Labrouste's Libraries, Structural Columns and the Main Library (May 9, 2019)

Main Library Columns, pt. 1 (June 13, 2019)

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

A Date with Lucky: a musical documentary and performance

Join us for the short award-winning documentary Getting Lucky and a set of live music. Private Eye by day, singer and artist by night -- that’s how Mr. Lucky rolls!

Directed by Oscar Bucher, Getting Lucky is an offbeat musical documentary about Pierre Merkl III, a.k.a. “Mr. Lucky”, a man of many faces and San Francisco’s most eccentric private detective.

Driving around The City in his 1961 New Yorker, Pierre recalls his days as investigator and conceptual figurative painter, alongside his nights under the stage lights as Mr. Lucky, performing punk to eclectic to jazz— at venues from Burning Man to Lincoln Center to Bimbo’s 365 Club to Windows on the World and beyond.

A love song to San Francisco, Getting Lucky is also a bittersweet warning that the great city is slowly losing its eccentric characters, and with it, its bohemian soul. Getting Lucky isn’t about luck-- it’s about the hard work, unrelenting confidence, and idiosyncratic creativity that it takes for an offbeat character like Lucky to exist at all.

Following the screening of the film (along with bonus shorts) Mr. Lucky & the Cocktail Party will perform live on the Koret stage.

Co-presented by the Art, Music and Recreation Center and the San Francisco History Center’s S.F. Punk Archive.

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019
6:00pm - 7:30pm

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Main Library Columns, pt. 1

A previous blog entry on the influence of Labrouste's libraries on the James Ingo Freed designed Main Library discussed the prevalence of circular columns, especially around the building's atrium.

This entry will focus on the five circular columns on the atrium's west side (toward Larkin Street), numbered 1 to 5.

Paired columns 1, 3 and 2, 5 lie on an imagery vector from the building's center at the Larkin Street side to the atrium itself.  Column 4 falls within the line between columns 3 and 5, and at an angle that parallels Market Street outside (a design feature that also positions the Periodical Reading Room on the 5th floor).

These columns extend from the Library's Lower Level to its roof.  Incorporated into walls, they are not visible on the Lower Level, but they emerge into the open in the Fiction / Browsing Collection of the First Floor.

Columns 2 abuts a book shelf and Column 5 is positioned near the Mary Louise Stong Conference Room.

Columns 4 and 5 on the first floor mark the end of the marble floor surface.

The second floor presents these columns in a more open manner.  Viewed  from the Talking Books and Braille Center, Columns 3 and 1 (left to right) are at the foreground straddling the bridge across to the Center. In the background columns 4 and 2 frame the entrance to The Mix.

From the Larkin Street entrance Column 1 follows the line that extends from the building's center and is a tangent to the circular atrium (Column 3 is just behind it along the same line).  A little bit of the First Floor is visible below.

Column 4 backs the stand announcing Library events visible to patrons entering from Larkin Street.  Column 5 is paired with it inside The Mix.

Another view shows column 2 is positioned just outside the Mix / Teen Center, while column 5 is captured within.

Column 5, isolated at the entrance to The Mix helps form a small nook.

Columns 4, 5 and 2 on the third floor break up sections of desks and shelving.

On the fourth floor, Columns 5 and 2 wedge a table of internet computers.  Column 5 directly support the Periodical Reading Room above, while column 2 abuts it.

Columns 2 on the fifth floor is directly outside the glassed in Periodical Reading Room, while Columns 4 and 5 fall along a diagonal line bisecting the room.

Column 2 rising continuously from the fourth floor to the roof supports Alice Aycock's Cyclone Fragment sculpture (column 4 is visible in the distance inside the Periodical Reading Room).

Aycock's other sculpture, Functional and Fantasy Stair envelopes Column 3 at the other end of the room.  Column 1 (normally paired with Column 3 does not extend into the Fifth Floor).

On the Sixth, Columns 3, 4 and 5 resolve into a line that guides the railing that extends above the Periodical Reading Room.

The columns on the opposite side of the atrium (on the building's Hyde Street side) will have a different story to tell in a later entry.

Previous entries:

The Altes Museum and the Main Library (March 6, 2019)

Rotunda Resonances in the San Francisco Main Library (March 25, 2019)

 Labrouste's Libraries, Structural Columns and the Main Library (May 9, 2019)