Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category

Enrico Donati Centennial Retrospective at Weinstein Gallery

Thursday, July 15th, 2010
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Several years ago, I had the delightful pleasure of meeting the Surrealist artist Enrico Donati (February 19, 1909 – April 25, 2008). I even acquired one of his abstract pieces. Donati was a contemporary of Duchamp and Breton, but continued creating artwork beyond his Surrealist training into a Constructivist phase in the 1940s and a Spatialism period. Working with surface and texture and combining color with media like dirt and soot, Donati finished his life with an expansive collection of work that is vibrant and tactile in its expanse and breadth. There are monstrously large pieces that are frightening black and gray, decrying depths of destruction and decay. And then there are gorgeously vibrant works of red and teal and orange, but juxtaposed with ground earth tones gravel with textures and shapes.

Walking by Weinstein Gallery on Union Square in San Francisco this gorgeous, sunny afternoon, I sauntered in and was taken aback by the expansive collection on display. I knew they were preparing for Centennial Retrospective, but I was not prepared for how expansive and impressive the entire collection was. Donati passed away shortly after my meeting and there were dozens of paintings which had been in his private collection and had not been seen which is now available, not only for public viewing but also for purchase (in the $25k to $300k range).

Wandering around the three floors of Donati pictures, I was surprised to be completely taken aback by one particular piece. Here I was – among dozens of paintings with shapes invoking urns and monoliths, boulders and conch shells – with a particular piece of two orange walls facing each other, one orange wall with a window, cradling a suspended boulder shape and opposite that, a larger wall with a perpendicular post providing stability and strength. An endless gray sky provides the infinite space behind the stalwart monoliths and a glow below the edifices reflect the magnitude above. What was it about this piece that struck me? I didn’t know, but I sat for nearly 15 minutes, enraptured. I mentioned as such to Travis, who helped me with my acquisition several years ago, and he enlightened me. Take a look at this Max Ernst painting, created two years into the Surrealist movement about when Donati would have met with that brethren.

Donati's Dialogue of Carcassonne II, 1978 Virgin Spanking the Christ Child Before Three Witnesses, 1926
Donati’s Dialogue of Carcassonne II, 1978 Virgin Spanking the Christ Child Before Three Witnesses, 1926

Note the two walls, their relation to one another and on the right-hand wall, the sturdy post which stands in the interior, with the shadow cast diagonally across. View the cut-out window in the left-hand wall with its perspective. And look at the shape of the Madonna’s back, bent over in its act of corporal punishment. It is the same shape as the suspended boulder in the Donati. Enrico Donati has taken Ernst’s basic shapes and transformed them into a powerful statement of force and existence, alluding to its religious progeny.

Weinstein has a number of galleries in and around Union Square, but their main establishment is at 383 Geary Street. Hitchcock fans will note this is famous for being the first opening scene in The Birds building that Tippi Hendren walks by after she has crossed the street is where Weinstein now stands. I suppose that is just another reason I love this gallery.

Want art?

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

_44535827_auctioneer_afp226bAnd can’t afford it?

Move to France…

This is very quick commentary which made me chuckle. As reported in this morning’s BBC news, the French government "says interest-free loans will be offered to ‘modest’
buyers to purchase works and it is expanding incentives for companies
to buy."

I love it. I want to buy art but can’t quite afford it. Full report here, but the gist, under the scheme, is that members of the public will be granted interest-free loans worth up to 10,000 euros ($15,000, £8,000).

Mrs. Christine Albanel, the French Culture Minister, said the idea was "to bring private individuals closer to
this act of buying a work of art" adding that the loan "was the price,
for example, of a flat-screen television".

Brilliant idea – replace very flat-screen television with a great work of art in everyone’s home!

Thar Be Absinthe!

Sunday, December 30th, 2007


Several weeks ago, multiple newspapers made the announcement that Absinthe was legal again. Legal or no, I had been experimenting with Absinthe in various forms for several years; friends who were making their own, other friends who were smuggling it themselves or having it smuggled into the country, and also ordering it myself from Alandia (with nary a hitch!).

During a lovely Sunday afternoon outing, I settled in at the bar at my favorite North Beach restaurant, Rose Pistola, when I spied an Absinthe fountain behind the counter. "Was it just decorative?" I asked our bartender? "Nope," Tom replied, as he reached up to show me the bottle; Distillée au Val-De-Travers, a Swiss-made version. For the record and for anyone who cares to send me gifts, I actually prefer the Swiss-made Absinthes…

Tom was very deft in his assembly, pulling out the appropriate spoons and sugar cubes. Okay, so they don’t have the right glasses. I can overlook that. Taste-wise, the Kübler is very strong with the burning licorice taste which killed the taste buds for the Bolognese I had ordered. Fortunately, I was pretty well sated with the lovely arugula salad and chickpea farinata I had already eaten with an earthy super Tuscan I had ordered, a 2003 Tassinaia. But what fun to have the full ritual of the Absinthe, more than expertly performed! Bravo, Tom!