Archive for the ‘Experiencing Art’ 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.

Discovering Art

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

For the past several weeks, during the “time of transition,” I have been taking very long walks around the city of San Francisco. Beloved friend, Joan, came and stayed with me for a while and we expanded our horizons of walking explorations. In preparation for my housewarming party, I suggested we stock-up on sausages and cheeses from my favorite European market and since it is so far out on the Avenues, we decided to incorporate the trip with a walk on the beach. Arriving near The Cliff House restaurant, I saw a trail lead off on the right and suggested we walk that way. What I did not realize at the time was that we were on the Land’s End Trail.

It is a beautiful walk, in and out of woods, on a sandy trail, up and down stairs… All these were slightly expected as the walk is adjacent to the Golden Gate Park and The Presidio. What was not expected and entirely delightful, were bits of art. The first we found was on a log stump — a face cajoling and laughing at us in jest. I was thrilled and pointed it out to Joan, “See,” I exclaimed, “You know never know when you are going to stumble on some art!” It was a great beginning. We walked down a dark, meandering path so that I could touch the ocean and found a series of standing stones. A small cluster were grouped on a large piece of driftwood and larger groupings were scattered throughout the rocks. I was getting giddy. Continuing the walk, yet another creation — or should I say recreation? — of the Chartres Labyrinth in rocks.

What a fabulous day and what a fabulous way to explore the city and get inspired for the adventure which awaits me!

Enrico Donati

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

I am not sure what I am more sad about; his passing, or the fact that it happened in April and I am just learning about it the passing of Enrico Donati, who was the last surviving Surrealist.

NY Times Obit ~ April 26.

He apparently was in a taxi-cab accident last July which contributed to his death. This is disheartening to me as I actually me him last July during his sojourn to San Francisco for the DeYoung exhibit. He was having a huge retrospective and being newly represented by Weinstein Gallery, where I bought one of his later pieces. There was a gala dinner held at the DeYoung on the 17th of July and it must have been shortly after that he returned to New York and was in the accident. The picture below is our second meeting — I have another pic that is a print-only of me holding the artwork, Arrival of Alyssa, standing next to Donati at a smaller, private reception the night before the DeYoung dinner.

I am so oddly depressed and crying as I write this, but so happy I got to meet him and thrilled to have the opportunity to talk (a little) about his days with Breton and Duchamp. He was incredibly kind with still a sparkle in his eye and a quick wit despite some hindered movement in his legs. The piece I acquired was from the 1960s and came from a time where he worked with multi-media in Abstract Expressionism; utilizing ground sand, coffee grounds, and “stuff from his vacuum cleaner.”


Urasawa – Los Angeles

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Shame on me for not writing this up sooner. My birthday present to myself this year was a trip to Los Angeles to see old friends and to finally dine at the mythic Urasawa. There was as much anticipation in approaching this meal as there was in going to the French Laundry for the first time; so much has been written about it and its masterful chef, that one can almost anticipate disappointment. I mean, how special and remarkable can ultra-expensive hunks of raw fish be after all? Suffice to say, that nary a meal in my past can surpass what I experienced at the hands of Hiro Urasawa. Yep, its true. It is the best meal I have ever eaten in my entire life, bar none. No mis-steps, every taste a revelation, every offering better than the last.


Liberty of the Seas – Ship Art

Friday, May 9th, 2008

I am an admitted snob in that I prefer to have my vacations centered around old cities, good restaurants, and museums with lots and lots of art. It was surprising then that I found the Royal Caribbean’s® Liberty of the Seas ship to be studded with some fairly decent art. The ship has two main stairwells both starboard and aft; the starboard side goes twelve floors and the aft side of the ship spans fourteen decks. On the wall in between each deck is a different piece of artwork – all two-dimensional (no multi-media, sculptures, textiles, etc.) There are acrylic paintings, watercolors, photographs, and digital art – and much of it is very evocative, which is good when you are trapped in a stairwell waiting to depart the ship for an excursion.