Monday, April 28, 2008

Asawa Shadow

I couldn't restrain myself from snapping a few illicit photos at the Ruth Asawa show a few weeks ago. Shadow play like this is irresistible. To see her work gracing the spaces inside our own Sonoma County Museum was an unequivocal pleasure. Her work stopped me in my tracks when I first saw it at the De Young in San Francisco last year. Stunning, elegant, organic, fractal beauty.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Won't Watchovia

This photo captures a compounding of a couple of peeves I have: the vinyl sign and the shady financial institution. I can't resist a rant here.

I'm an aspiring optimist with an distinct aesthetic orientation so I maybe I'm more challenged by the plague that is modern advertising than many. Most of it is oppressive visual garbage to me. A depressing din. I steel myself just to drive around town. In fact, I have such a revulsion for "Buy This!" ploys that I've developed a bit of blindness that actually doesn't serve me when I'm really in the market. So I have this lament about the uglification that happens in a consumer culture. Forget elegant understatement or letting things speak for themselves. These days the cry to consume is mostly a ruthless take-you-by-the-throat affair and I have to stay positive by giving thanks that there aren't ads on the moon...yet.

Everyday the yellow-orange plastic fast-flashing hook-you info cram gets a bit more intense and I find I've
developed a new peeve, nagging for attention like a nasty little dog. I must continually and pointedly look away, sighing with irritation but that does nothing to ease the problem I have with this ubiquitous eyesore: the saggy vinyl sign. I suppose the small business needs a cheap sign to make a go of it and maybe I'm the only one who thinks these sad plastic wonders are really suited only to the brand new or the temporary. A grand opening or an event, OK. They shouldn't hang perpetually in every nook and cranny of town, flapping like lame birds.

Here's where I get really riled. These lame birds should NOT be used to entice customers into banking.
I have really been bugged by the plethora of banks in town with a wrinkled banner as their main tag. Nothing says fly-by-night like a floppy sheet of landfill hastily lashed to some recently empty building and I just have to shake my head in wonder. That a bank should be housed in a structure of solid foundation, with thick walls and preferably some large columns, is basic. It should exude security. That was focused-grouped like a hundred years ago, right? I am able to let that one go. But at the very least there should be strong permanent signage, securely affixed. Made of gold metal even.

Anyway, a wimpy banner does not bode well for a bank and a sly punny name is worse. When I first caught sight of the Wachovia sign here in town I experienced a slight wave of disgust. How patronizing is that? It came off so flip and condescending. Oh, yeah, we'll watch over ya (snicker). I figured I was just in a mood, reading too much into it. Turns out, my gut reaction was telling. Headline: Feds Look At Watchovia In Drug Money Probe (!) Scamming seniors, accepting unsigned checks and other practices questionable for a large financial institution. Rather disturbing really.

I don't enjoy the feeling I sometimes have that my hometown has morphed into a Pottertown with fast food huts, bong shops, seasonal crapstops and tattoo parlors. (Do we really need one on every corner?) Now questionable banks plastered with cheap vinyl. I pine for the old days when my Grandpa lettered the shop shingles and painted ads for Clover milk on the walls of neighborhood stores, by hand and with skill. When signs really attracted and banks looked like banks to be trusted.

End of rant.

Sound of Rain

I find this brilliant and beautiful. It appeals to my love of words and forms. Onomatopoeic sculpture by Japanese artist Atsushi Fukunaga who (literally) takes sound effects into the third dimension. It helps that the Japanese characters for giongo are themselves so comely.

From Fukunaga's website:

"I am interested in how to give form to something that is formless. Formless things have many qualities, among them sound, movement, atmosphere, taste, light and shadow, and I am particularly interested in sound, There are many ways to interpret sound, My first step being to translate the sound an onomatopoeic word. My own country of Japan has many onomatopoeic words. Furthermore, the Japanese katakana alphabet is used to communicate foreign words by breaking them down into their constituent syllables. These ‘translated’ foreign words are unique to the Japanese language. I believe there is a universal communicative quality to sound as opposed to language. In Japanese, onomatopoeic words are often used to describe events which have no sound, thereby creating an imaginative link between language and reality. I am interested in investigating ways of communicating to as many people as possible through sound, In the visual language this would be akin to road signs, traffic signals, toilet signs, and hazard patterns. I am also interested in describing sound through visual language. For example, in Japanese manga comics a loud sound is often signified by larger, bolder letters. I am currently exploring this idea further."

Image by Atsushi Fukunaga,
Ame no oto (Sound of Rain)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Grace Hudson Museum

A nice fat stack of these slick mailers just arrived via snail mail announcing the Northern California Visionary Art show that I will part of at the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah, California. I was impressed with the quality and pleased to see Illumination reclining in ease and prominence. (It is originally a tri-fold jobbie that I condensed here for posting) The copy reads:

In the late 1960s the San Francisco Bay Area became the focal point for a new art movement labeled Visionary Art. It materialized against a background of Vietnam War protests, campus riots, a new idealistic counterculture, Far Eastern spiritual influences, underground comics, psychedelic music and poster art. It was a time of mind altering drug experimentation and free love. Massive numbers of youth were fleeing their middle class upbringing to seek other paths of consciousness and utopian dreams. Concepts of ecology and a back to the land movement were beginning to flourish. The first television generation was seeking new realities.

A nucleus of artists developed on this wave of rising consciousness. They were influenced by Surrealism, Jungian universal archetypes, personal dream awareness, ancient art symbols, and non-Western religious philosophies. These Visionary Artists expressed new alternate realities in their detailed dream-like images.

This exhibition germinated from the large number of Visionary Artists who are now located in rural Northern California. This selection of works follows the traditions of personal dreamscape, utopian landscape, spiritual awakening and apocalyptic visions as originally manifested in early California Visionary Art. Both original and recent artworks by some of the founders of this movement are represented. Also included are paintings by artists who have immigrated here from afar or are younger painters who represent a second Visionary Art generation.

It is clear from the powerful artwork that California Visionary Art remains an important contemporary, creative and idealistic force.It continues to offer alternative spiritual realities and serves as an ecological conscience, even a seer
of doom, for the competitive materialistic world. For all, Visionary Art offers a plethora of intriguing epiphanies to ponder.

Marvin Schenck, Curator
Grace Hudson Museum