Archive for the ‘art & design’ Category

What Defines Me?

I just discovered a colleague’s very stylish blog, and was inspired by her post asking What Defines You?,” and her subsequent personal list. As a bit of a Top 10 List addict, I was fast on my way to rounding up my own. I’ve left jcm off the list, as it’s eminently clear that this blog defines me, but that’s just too easy, eh? Here they flow, in random order:

My 7th Birthday Photo

This photo (May ’77, Cincy, OH) conjures up the warm, sentimental feelings of uncomplicated youth, and a loving connection with my family. Although my folks aren’t pictured here, their nurturing presence is all around (and on the other side of the camera). The Winnie the Pooh cake was likely by my special request. I love the retro feel of the old square prints, with rounded corners.

There is a simplicity to my memories of childhood, and of these such moments…no crowded party, or branded birthday theme (seemingly requisite these days), just closeness and joy. I’m so thankful to have the foundation that my upbringing provided me. Funnily enough, CJ has a photo that is almost exactly the same (parallel lives?). Now, just two months from my 40th bday, I suppose I’m a bona fide “adult”!?

“Peristeriona” Ceramic Vase

This vase holds all the memories of CJ’s and my beautiful around-the-world journey together…Hong Kong to Greece to Senegal. It was something I had dreamt of doing for decades, while I racked up frequent flyer miles!

We purchased this in a charming little shop on Sifnos, an authentic, less touristy Greek Island option that we both long to return to one day. The yellow and black colors call to mind the brilliant glow of the sun, and the contrasting shadows, on the traditional white structures and breezy hillsides.

CJ and I have the gift of travelling very well together, and our time on this island was one of our most special yet…divine food, a white-knuckle scooter ride through the hills, and lots of R&R by the sea.

Continue reading post —>


Olympics Pictograms Through the Ages

The NY Times presents designer Steven Heller, as he traces the evolution of these iconographic Olympic symbols, since their first appearance in Berlin in 1936. (This is the perfect follow-up to mySeeing Whistler stats icon illustration from my last post!)

Enjoy this fascinating overview:

Kudos go to: Lance Wyman (Mexico, ’68); Roger Excoffon (Grenoble, ’68); Otl Aicher (Munich, ’72); Sussman/Prejza & Company, Inc. (LA, ’84); The Image & Identity Department (Athens, ’04); and BOCOG (Beijing, ’08).

Sending you love on this day.

On Valentine’s Day ’06, I  came home to the most wonderful, creative, and beautifully simple gift. My partner had gathered up all the coins in our piggy bank (well, really, just two mugs), and fashioned a message on our dresser.

It still resonates to me as the most memorable loving gesture, because it cost nothing (well, no more than $7.50 anyways), and was so truly sweet in its ingenuity. I share it with you now, to send out love to you on this day, however contrived by greeting card companies Valentine’s Day may be…or, even if you begrudgingly consider it Singles Awareness Day (S.A.D.).

I wondered, is this too personal to share? Should I just keep it as a special memory only for us to share? Nah!…because, perhaps it’ll give you your own ideas of how to use loose change to craft a special message or artistic idea, OR inspire you to come up with other inexpensive/free gestures of love…which are really the best and most memorable in my book!

Here’s another free gift for this day, Arleen Auger’s beautiful recording of Donaudy’s love song O del mio amato ben.”

Sincerely, jcm

The Best Things in Life Are Free

(No, contrary to this title, this is not a post about Janet Jackson’s 92 hit.)

I have since discovered that in the blogosphere this is hardly news, but as we sat on our couch, and watched one of our weekly favs, CBS Sunday Morning, it was news to us. I was quickly swept away by the warm, fuzzy possibilities of it…a vision of society rapt in mutual love and celebration. It was as if the participating cities were joining together in one big Coke-like I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing “Be-In”. Being an idealist, this is just the sort of thing that tickles my fancy (or ivories…read on).

San Francisco had hearts, Cincinnati pigs, and Chicago cows. I have always supported and been drawn to these sorts of large scale, outdoor, public art exhibits…but this takes the cake! Leave it to the Brits to show us up, and come up with the winningest idea.

The What

Introducing: Play Me, I’m Yours, a pretty radical idea…one part interactive art, one part sociology study, in the form of a fleet of street pianos. I’ll let the well phrased deets (in quotes) from the Cow Pianowebsite speak for themselves.:

“Street pianos are appearing in cities across the world. Located in skate parks, industrial estates, laundrettes, precincts, bus shelters and train stations, outside pubs and football grounds, the pianos are for any member of the public to enjoy and claim ownership of. Who plays them and how long they remain is up to each community.”

The Why

“The pianos act as sculptural, musical, blank canvases that become a reflection of the communities they are embedded into. Many pianos are personalised and decorated. Questioning the ownership and rules of public space ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’ is a provocation, inviting the public to engage with, activate and take ownership of their urban environment.”

It’s no surprise that placing a free-to-use musical instrument smack dab in the middle of a busy civic setting is a welcome gift that can be a balm to soothe (or annoy the periodic grump), a spark to connect, or even just a momentary diversion to amuse. It all depends on the musical offering of the player…the receptiveness of (a) likely passer(s)-by…and the mingling of their two or more spirits! Or, a lone player on an empty street can enjoy a rare stolen moment.

The Where

“The first pianos appeared in March 2008 when 15 pianos were placed into the streets of Birmingham, UK.”

More recent sites have included Sao Paolo (’08), Sydney (’09), Bury St Edmunds (Suffolk, England: ’09)…and currently London (check out the piano map)!

Photo: Oli Scarff, Getty Images

Photo: Oli Scarff, Getty Images

The Who

It is an arts project by Luke Jerram, a self-described “colour blind installation artist, who fuses his artistic sculptural practice with his scientific and perceptual studies.”

Lighting London on Fire: More Proof

I now leave you with this classic, which Londoners rightfully own.:

Hopefully the next stop will be SF, so we can all gather ‘round and sing “Go West”, by the Village People. What song, in your current hometown would you most want to hear/play/sing-along with on a street piano?

Art in the ‘Nati

A trip back to the midwest to visit family and friends over the Easter weekend turned into a veritable feast of art, beauty, and culture. In Cincinnati? Who’d-a-thunk-it?!

Contemporary Arts CenterFirst stop: Contemporary Arts Center. I was fortunate to have been in design school at the University of Cincinnati, College of DAAP when the infamous Mapplethorpe exhibit (1990) opened in the old CAC location.That controversy embodied the art vs. obscenity argument. In hindsight, the indictments and trial were a good thing, as they raised consciousness about our First Amendment rights (the ones we clearly can’t assume are always protected), and connected people to their deep, but perhaps latent opinions about art and its role in our society.

Ken Moody and Robert ShermanI still have etched in my psyche particular pieces from that exhibit. The image of the black and albino man (Ken Moody and Robert Sherman, ’84) is practically an icon for a generation. And, I will never forget the sexual charge, and accompanying social implications of Man in a Polyester Suit, an image of a black man with his ample willy freed. I had never seen such potent imagery in a museum context. Thanks to conserv- atives labeling his work “dirty pictures”, it was able to find a much larger audience.

I recall when CAC’s new building was announced with much fanfare, and then completed in 2003. The selected architect, Iraqi Zaha Hadid was a somewhat controversial choice. This would be her first American work. Its raw concrete and desconstructivist forms offer a much needed freshness to the downtown civic landscape. Once inside, the criss-crossing black stair ramps, which can be followed all the way to the top floor, cut across each open atrium like shafts of night sky, and offer precarious and exciting vistas on all sides to the floors below.

Tara Donovan

CAC has no permanent collections, only rotating ones. The current gem of their collections is the work of Tara Donovan (open til May 3rd). She was born just a year before me (’69), and is clearly capitalizing on the hot botton issue of all the trash we create as a society, and our need for a greater consciousness around sustainability and refuse reuse. In this she also elevates the ordinary to art. However, unlike any work I’ve seen before using such materials, it stands on its own, even apart from its meaning, as visually impactful and singularly beautiful.

Untitled, 2003: Styrofoam Cups, Hot Glue: 6'(H) x 20'(W) x 19' 2"(D)

Untitled, 2003: Styrofoam Cups, Hot Glue: 6'(H) x 20'(W) x 19' 2"(D)

Since I have young nieces and nephews in Cincinnati, I was sharing with my sibs that this exhibit has easy appeal to all ages, and would provide a great opportunity for a young person to be really provoked and fascinated by contemporary art. I really believe that about Tara’s work. (Not to mention the UnMuseum which occupies the entire top floor, and was created for children.) Even more than most artwork, her work must been experienced in person to really be absorbed, and believed! The subtlety of it relies so heavily on the contextual lighting, and subtle spatial and tonal shifts. The scale of some pieces is so grand that photographs just can’t do them justice.

Mylar: Tara Donovan

This is especially true with the wall of drinking straws, which in person looks like a portal to another dimension, a wall of haze and smoke, a suspended cloud, but upon further inspection reveals the true media.

Each of the pieces seems to call to mind something familiar in nature: a coral reef, a bacteria colony on an agar dish (that was one of my mom’s fabulously memorable interpretations!), an animal egg colony, or natural terrain or topography. And, all of this conjured up with scotch tape, styrofoam cups, adding machine tape, mylar, and other odd industrial materials. The monolithic cubes of silver pins, wooden toothpicks, and green sheets of glass were held together by gravity alone, NOT any internal filler or binding, as you might suspect. Amazing!

Untitled (Plastic Cups), 2006, approx.: 4' x 54' 5" x 49' 8"

Untitled (Plastic Cups), 2006, approx.: 4' x 54' 5" x 49' 8"

Donald Sultan’s “The First Decade” was notable for the use of the linoleum floor tiles that I remember so well from my grade school floors. Yes, that mundane, ordinary, industrial material has been turned into something truly beautiful in his work.

Donald SultanHe employs the “less is more” approach, creating workers in a field (in Cantaloupe Pickers), a single Streetlight (at left), or smoke stacks out of a few simple forms, and often using gestalt concepts. The inherent patterns in the media become a part of the visual story (ie: ripples of water, or clouds). He also uses black tar in his work, creating rich matte black voids, often to contrast the colorful linoleum, or the smooth purity of white plaster.

Carlos Amorales’ “Discarded Spider” hit closest to home for me, as a graphic designer. He uses overlapping digital silhouettes (ie: black lines, and connective vector anchor points), Carlos Amoralesso familiar from Adobe Illustrator, as the art itself, creating essentially simple forms of spider webs, skulls, birds, and nudes. He draws from inspiration in the urban environment of his Mexico City home and studio. From stark black prints to giant physical structures that reached from floor to ceiling, this is the sort of art that triggers the familiar “why didn’t I think of that?” reaction. Each piece, although based on the same elements, feels as if it’s a unique and custom expression all its own.

Next stop, I’ll blog about the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Nude for a Prude

How fortunate I felt when Fernando Reyes accepted my request for a visit to his Oakland East Bay art studio, to experience more of his work, and see his creative setting. What a great opportunity to see the technique and true color of some of the pieces I had admired on his website. Particularly his Scape Above series (including Dusk, and Blue Skies), as well as Red Pair D’anjou. Jeff, my friend who was my portal to Fernando’s work plans to join me for the adventure.

Scape Above: Blue Skies

Scape Above: Blue Skies

This is an extension of my recent self-guided gallery hops, with the aim of finding an original piece for our prominent family room wall. What is always so wonderful about an artistic quest or creative journey is that it’s often the unexpected that ends up being most meaningful and memorable. That would proove to be true on this day.

The Visit

We pull off 580 into Fernando’s studio neighborhood, and are immediately immersed in the strong visual character of Jingletown, as it’s called. Rustic, distressed, and still remaining (at least visually) true its industrial roots. It has a bit of the SF Hunter’s Point/Mission bay vibe. Clearly, the area is now largely inhabited by artists, unlike the gentrified live/works in SOMA. We pass multiple mosaics, along the road, liberally applied to the building walls, and then, not surprisingly pass the Mosaic Institute and Studio Supply. I really want to explore this place, but we have somewhere to be, so I table it for later. Thankfully, CJ finishes his East Bay tax meeting in time, and meets us out front.

Analysts on Ford Street, Oil on wood panel, 14 x 11 x 1 3/4

Analysts on Ford Street, Oil on wood panel, 14 x 11 x 1 3/4

Fernando buzzes us in, and we enter the grounds of the very interesting multiple studio building he inhabits. There is a garden of potted plants and cacti just outside his entrance. It already feels very welcoming and homey. The moment we set foot in his studio my eyes land on a piece that is sitting on his easel, near the entrance. Is it kismet? I gasp (yes, out loud), as my reaction to it is so visceral. The piece is called Details III.

Details III

I first respond to its overall palette and balance. The colors are vastly appealing and very much in “my” palette: mustard, warm greys, dusty blue, dark rust, etc. Slowly, the subject emerges before me, an amazing collage of deconstructed male nudes.

Fernando shares that all the segments are crops from his drawings, and woodblock prints. I immediately recognize the 2 largest pieces, from Les Hommes, which Jeff had recently purchased a print of. They include the back of a head, and a large, expressive hand that tells a world of stories. There are also more sensual parts captured, a beautiful lower back and butt, and muscular arm and chest crop. And, there is the elbow (top row, 3rd segment from right), which makes visual allusions to much more (a nod to Georgia O’Keefe?).

"Details III": Collage (Block Prints, Etchings & Drawings), 24.75" x 17.5" x 1"

"Details III": Collage (Block Prints, Etchings & Drawings), 24.75" x 17.5" x 1"

I realize that despite having gone to his studio with a nature or still life in mind, I was really drawn into this piece and its style. He shares with us that he had just created these pieces, mostly for the 14th Annual Erotic Art Fair Weekend in Los Angeles/West Hollywood the following week. It’s a new style and approach for him. He uses the good parts of existing drawings, and prints that are otherwise not ideal, sellable or usable. This particular piece is of all male subjects. But, he also has one which is all women (Details I), and a smaller, square one (Details II). I have to literally fight my preferential instinct towards square formats. My Bauhaus design background haunts me in this way.

Taking a break from this wonderful surprise, we peruse his studio, as he pulls out countless drawers with countless drawings and stories to accompany each. What I thought would be a 20 minute visit, balloons into a wonderful 2 or so hours… and were it not for an afternoon appointment, he would have had to give us the boot. Fernando enjoys talking about his work, and does so eloquently and passionately. Amazingly, he used to be a banker, but left that career to live as an artist. The upside of that is that he has as clear a grasp on the left brain perspective of his industry as the right.

Jingletown series: Oil on wood panel

Jingletown series: Oil on wood panel

He also has some smaller urban paintings of Jingletown. They are very clean, with minimal paint application visible, and appear almost photographic from a distance. I love them, but they were not of the scale I want for our wall. (They will be my next purchase someday, if they’re still around and I have any dough left.) In the corner we see some pieces that look almost like multi-colored fish scales, which are made up of VERY thick oil strokes. Fernando shares that they are made out of the remaining paint daubs from his actual process. How beautifully random!

Afterwards we grab a bite at Tiki Tom’s. It’s perfectly eccentric. Painted surf boards line the ceiling, and it sits right on the river/inlet. Think edgy Jimmy Buffett. Their BBQ pulled pork and french dip sandwiches are redonculous! GO! Now!

Long story short-er, Fernando allows us to enjoy Details III in our home for 2 days “on approval”, to make sure it works in our intended space, and to “sleep on it”. Since he intends to take it to LA, we know we have to make a quick decision, lest it be purchased by someone there, and lost to us forever. We realize how special it is that both of us love the piece so much, and appreciate how unique it is. So, I make the purchase…my first substantial, original piece of art. It is truly one-of-a-kind, as are all of the drawings included.

Literally, each day I discover something new in it…a texture, image, or color. I also jokingly renamed it 10 Nipples, since that there are! This is all quite ironic, considering I recently shared that I didn’t really care for “nudes” in my home, and yet this piece that we so love just happens to be. Funny how that works. And, there are plenty of squares in the design to keep me happy, even if the overall format is landscape.

Clearance, from the Sex Sells print series

Clearance, from the Sex Sells series

Upcoming Open Studio

East Bay OPEN STUDIOS 2009

June 6 & 7 – 13 & 14, ’09
11:00am – 6:00pm
Over 25 artists exhibiting

Fernando Reyes Fine Art
Ford Street Studios
2934 Ford Street, Oakland, CA 94601

An Aside: Galleries to Visit

(These recommendations augment those already profiled here.)

Arthaus, @ 411 Brannan St.
Director James Bacchi was very helpful, and gave me a passionate, engaging tour.

Artist’s Gallery at Fort Mason, Building A
A vast array of “museum quality” artists. Don’t miss their auction later in the year! And, if you go, check out the amazing map collages by artist Tofu.

Hang Art, @ 556 Sutter St
And, be sure to check out the annex across the street.

Studio Gallery, @ 1815 Polk St.
Showing works by favorite Carol Aust, among others.

The Hottest Fan Sign in Staples Center

The hottest fan sign in Staples Center!

A Hip “Hop”: In Search Of

Wednesday, March 11th, 2:00pm… my work for the day completed, the sun beaming through the window… I have to get outside. But, where to?

The answer… a self guided gallery hop! So, I head off on feet, via the Panhandle, down to Hayes Valley. A few galleries I visited in the past were in that hood, so it seems like the ideal jumping off point for learning and seeing more. Thankfully, I was right.

Sweet Dreams I, by Fernando Reyes

Sweet Dreams I, by Fernando Reyes

But, let’s rewind for a moment… for a few years now, a dear friend of mine has amassed quite a collection of fine art, primarily paintings by local artists. Each time I visit his home a new piece has found its way onto his walls. I enjoy seeing what kind of work appeals to him, as it is quite different from my own taste. But, I can more clearly now see the vision he has, and what speaks to him. He is often drawn to nudes, a subject that I am not as drawn to, at least not for showcasing in my home. Am I a prude, I worry? No. But, I think there’s only room in my home for two naked bodies. Or, perhaps there’s just something too raw, real and vulnerable for me about nudes in my home setting… still a midwestern boy at heart, as much as I fight that label.

I’ve always been more drawn to woodcuts, silkscreens, and prints, but something about seeing the fine work in my friend’s home and the pleasure that collecting has clearly brought him has opened me up more fully to appreciating what an artist’s vision on raw canvas can inspire. There is certainly something more visceral and immediate about experiencing such art, rather than prints behind glass, and in a frame.

Simultaneously, I have painted a few rooms in our apt. home. The family room is now a nourishing avocado green. One wall, which used to be occupied by a collage of family images, is now waiting for that perfect piece of art. (When I repainted, I was horrified to discover how many holes I had put in our walls over the years to hang artwork, so now I’m aiming to float all of our art from the moulding… no nails!). Problem is, that piece hasn’t shown up yet, or I haven’t realized it if it has, so the wall waits patiently. This does change the nature of my “hop”… giving it more of a purpose than pure enjoyment. Being a graphic designer, I’m periodically tempted to create something of my own, but each time I talk myself out of it, remembering that I would love to be a small-time (even a one-time) collector and own my own first real piece of “art”.

I find that I’m generally drawn to more literal subjects, rather than abstract. I also want something that’s going to offer some levity, or light to my life, and make my heart sing when I see it. Although “edgy” is generally more celebrated in my urban demographic and profession, I want something more buoyant. If it’s going on the most prominent wall in the house, and I’m going to live with it 24 x 7, I have to love it. I suppose that raises the bar pretty high. Once I break the seal on buying art, I don’t think it’ll be such a tall mountain to climb. I’ve found it’s easy to find aesthetic styles I like, but not as easy to find subjects I like, and nearly impossible to find the nexus of the two!@#$

Cloud Watchers, by Carol Aust

Cloud Watchers, by Carol Aust

So, back to my hop… I started with a return visit to Zonal, where I again admire the work of Carol Aust. She offers an ideal combo of style and subject. Her work is very warm and human, with an expressive sense of style and beautiful use of color. She is a great visual storyteller, and I especially love that quality in her Cloud Watchers, Front Porch Hug, and the painting of a jumping man (for which I don’t know the name) that is hanging in the Zonal basement. Enjoy her own “Painting a Day” blog here.

Next up, I return to Reaves Gallery. A few months back I was fortunate to attend a showing there with my friend which featured work from the Lost Art Salon, as well as work by Fernando Reyes. Fernando’s recent work is stunning, large-scale nudes, male and female, with vibrant, unexpected color choices (earth tones/neutrals combined with nearly day-glo oranges, for example). Some of the pieces present the nudes in a camouflaged manner, as subjects in stained glass window, where each pane of glass is a different color. He has a very clear vision of who is as an artist, and how he sees the world and the human figure.

Sharon R. Reaves, owner of the gallery gives me a preview of her further collection/consignment out back as well. She also VERY kindly maps out the other, nearby local galleries that I may also visit on my hop. I was so appreciative of her brief “primer”. Consequently, she and her gallery offer ARTaboutTOWN, a 1/2-day-long limo’d event which educates and empowers collectors of all levels. It includes brunch, lectures, gallery tours, (incl. artists’ private studios+), and more. Hmmm… that might be just what my upcoming b-day ordered!

Collage by Christopher Stokes

Collage by Christopher Stokes

Then I’m on to Bucheon Gallery, on Grove, near the heart of the classical performing arts quarter. (I’m beginning to think dog as pet is a gallery requirement!) It appears they are between shows, so my visit is very brief, but I enjoy the diversity of work there. I again peruse the wonderful mixed media collages by Christopher Stokes at Inside Modern. He uses collected graphics and random paint splotches, graphic rules, and shapes to create very textural, layered, but minimal collages. I love his work, and am inspired by it. I pass by Fecal Face Dot Gallery, but they aren’t open. However, I can see through the window a amazing, dimensional mural installation “The Ambush”, by SF-based artist Jeremy Fish.

Then, on to two galleries directly across from Zuni Cafe. Lincart is featuring wood sculpture by Richard Haden and paintings by Jeff McMillan, who both offer shows that are highly conceptual in nature. They have a great studio space, formerly occupied by the great cacti store (was it called “Red Desert”?). Robert Berman Gallery (a dealer up from Los Angeles), next to Lincart, doesn’t officially open until April, but I am able to sneak a peek. His studio features a giant atomic bomb cloud image made up of thousands of tiny paintings, serving as “pixels” to create the larger image. I have seen this technique used a lot digitally, but hadn’t seen such a stunning, hand painted, physical embodiment of the same concept. Each of the smaller paintings is of a plant or flower, which makes for quite a stark contrast conceptually to the larger image, of course. And, finally, the Market Street Gallery, which features in “Icons That Last” vibrant coffee house paintings by Richard L. Perri that evoke a simpler time. This time I am greeted by two cats. So, it seems it’s just pets in general are a gallery must. Me likes! All this in one neighborhood, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. I love SF!

Next time I have the opportunity to “play” like this for an afternoon, I’ll be heading off to Art Haus (4th & Brannan), and Hang (Sutter), both of which were given a thumbs-up.

Woods #1, by Laurie Sverdlove

Woods #1, by Laurie Sverdlove

On a different note, while passing through the hallway at the UCSF hospital recently, I discovered the work of Oakland artist Laurie Sverdlove. They have posted there some of her small gouache paintings. I was immediately drawn to their graphic, and almost charmingly primitive style, some with a touch of whimsy. On her website I love her oils on canvas, particularly “In the Woods: Black & Green” and “In the Woods: Flowers & Rock”.

I just might attend ArtSpan Benefit Art Show and Auction this saturday to enjoy the offerings and people there.

YSL & Warhol @ the de Young

Never in the 15 years that Golden Park has been my backyard do I remember the de Young Museum offering TWO shows that were of such great interest to me, and also so relevant to one another: Yves Saint Laurent, AND Warhol LIVE. (In 1972 Andy Warhol painted four portraits of Saint Laurent.) YSL is only showing for another month, so be sure to catch it before it closes.

YSL drawingYSL was a revelation for me. I had no prior knowledge that his initial intention and chosen path was to become a costume designer. However, Dior helped nudge him down the path of haute couture, and he became his apprentice, and then upon his too early death (at 52 years old, in ’57) found himself (at the age of 21) the head designer of the House of Dior. In 1964 YSL designed costumes for the theater including The Marriage of Figaro and Il Faut Passer par les Nuages (You Have to Go Via the Clouds) by the Renaud-Barrault Company, so he didn’t turn his back entirely on actual costume design, but it is by no means his greatest legacy.

The de Young exhibit is beautifully paced and displayed, as one would expect. Walking through the museum space is both like walking through the decades, as well as through exotic places. You can almost smell the spices of, and hear the sounds of an African setting, through the ’67 “Raffia” collection. I found myself gathering poise as I experienced more of the collection… as the bar for elegance is so high one begins to wish they were on the runway themselves (well, maybe not everyone, but at least this gay boy did).

AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere

AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere

As with any experience of fashion or art, favorites began to emerge. Pieces that spoke to me on that higher level. Ones that I wished to linger on longer, or marvel at the construction of even further. They included a ’65 Evening Cocktail Dress, after Serge Poliakoff (ie: see purple, red and charcoal dress in picture to right), an ’81 black Taffeta evening gown (crisp layers of all black fabric), and a ’67 Evening Ensemble with a suede tunic, bronze sequined knit sleeves and wool jersey (the sequins were otherworldly looking, almost like a modern chainmail, but still feminine). My tastes, at least for haute couture, are probably just right of center. I tend to like clean lines, and restraint. I’m sure this is due to my graphic design training, but also just personal leanings.

Out of the more flamboyant pieces, I most enjoyed the Picasso (triangular jester patterns) and Matisse (blue and white ruffles) inspired dresses.

Walking amongst his masterpieces at the de Young, the theatrical influence and inspiration were readily apparent. I dreamt of seeing operatic productions based on these creations, where they would serve as costumes. It would not be a stretch to craft from these collections productions of Turandot, Ariadne (ie: the Picasso dress noted above), Lulu, Les Pêcheurs de Perles, Don Giovanni (ie: the ’81 black Taffeta favorite noted above), Carmen, and more.

In the Imaginary Voyages section the de Young shared that he rejected the traditionally viewed and favored way for designers to gather their new inspiration: travel. Instead, he felt that images of the exotic and far lands, or experience of their art was enough for him. Perhaps his birthplace of Oran, Algeria offered even some exotic memories to draw upon. The Body Revealed section showed how YSL used cut-outs in the dress fabric to create new shapes and lines, and sensual peeks. The image used for the museum marketing features the most distinct of these, in the shape of a lyre.

Photo: Alexandre Guirkinger

Photo: Alexandre Guirkinger

And, yes, there were quite a few gawdy, garish, pieces which CJ imagined would be chided if they were seen on Project Runway today (even if you separated out the issue of changing taste of fashion through time). The Van Gogh sequined jackets (aka Alexis Carrington) were just one step away from your mom’s favorite Christmas sweater. Perfectly crafted, but overwrought.

“Nothing is more beautiful that a naked body. The most beautiful clothes that can dress a woman are the arms of the man she loves. But for those who haven’t had the fortune of finding this happiness, I am there.” — YSL (1983)

“He died on June 1, 2008 of brain cancer at his residence in Paris. According to The New York Times, a few days before he died, Saint Laurent and (Pierre) Bergé were joined in a same-sex civil union known as a ‘civil pact of solidarity’ in France.” — Wikipedia

Warhol LIVE:

Warhol’s worship of and effect on pop culture is well known, and still lives on. However, I was happy to discover his lesser known passion for opera and classical music, and his earlier work that directly dealt with those arts. In the ’50s he designed/illustrated covers for Opera News. In ’65 he attended the legendary Metropolitan Opera Norma, with Callas. He was a big fan of La Divina’s.

La Forza del DestinoThe de Young had an extensive, and broadly displayed collection of Warhol’s own LPs and tapes (pirate and studio). They included more popular fare like Judy Garland, Elvis, The Shangri-Las, and Rosalind Russell’s Wonderful Town, but also Price’s La Forza del Destino, Crespin’s Der Rosenkavalier, Callas’ Mexico City Traviata pirate, and more. And, of course he designed up to 50 record covers himself, for such artists as The Stones, Blondie, Aretha Franklin, etc.