Drawing the past and present

The lights are dim, and some of the images require bend-in, squint-close viewing. Magnifying glasses hang on the walls here and there. We’re grateful to find them.

It all makes sense when you reflect that we’re looking at fragile drawings on paper from hundreds of years ago. Can chalk and graphite really live this long? If the conditions are right.

Now at the Cantor Arts Center, the Blanton Museum’s “Storied Past” show of French drawings may not be the most dynamic of exhibitions, but up-close viewing has its rewards. Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s delicate “Arms of a Girl Holding a Bird,” carefully drawn in red chalk on cream paper. Nicolas Lancret’s barely-there “Study of a Man” in black and white chalks. The subtlety of everyday life in a medium we’ve all tried our hands at.

Striking bright spots emerged where the artists used white chalk as highlights: on faces, figures, sparks of sky. In Theodore Rousseau’s 19th-century “A Marshy River Landscape” (pictured above), the glints of chalk in charcoal feel like hope on a dark day.

Local art of the day: “Poppies With a View,” a bright oil painting by Menlo Park artist Alice Weil. It’s the polar opposite of the view I see outside my office window right now: gray rainy day, with a distant panorama of the brown summer California hills. Wish we could combine the rain with the green.
The artist is a third-generation Californian who loves to paint under the oaks. And, really, who doesn’t. Her work is in a show at the Portola Art Gallery through the end of the month, together with a group exhibit on sunflowers.
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Local art of the day: “Poppies With a View,” a bright oil painting by Menlo Park artist Alice Weil. It’s the polar opposite of the view I see outside my office window right now: gray rainy day, with a distant panorama of the brown summer California hills. Wish we could combine the rain with the green.

The artist is a third-generation Californian who loves to paint under the oaks. And, really, who doesn’t. Her work is in a show at the Portola Art Gallery through the end of the month, together with a group exhibit on sunflowers.

Well, not in here at the moment. Classes at the Palo Alto institution known as the Pacific Art League are being held ‘round the corner at 227 Forest Ave. while the building undergoes major renovations. Exhibits are there, too. During this time, it’s strange to peer into the venerable old Ramona Street building and see a wide open space instead of a gallery, folks painting and framed art. Space busy with construction workers and equipment, that is.
I strolled ‘round the corner this morning and visited animal-themed art in the big group exhibit. Instead of being a dedicated gallery, the large room was displaying its shows on the walls while housing an ongoing art class in the middle of the room. The ambiance was noisier than at a gallery, but cheerful. I like an exhibit with a creative buzz.
In the adjacent foyer gallery the artist Duan Zhaonan is displaying portraits of Chinese opera singers, heavy on the reds, with swift-looking brushstrokes.
Construction is scheduled to finish next April.
Pictured: The Ramona Street facade of the Pacific Art League, currently under construction. Photo by Rebecca Wallace.
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Well, not in here at the moment. Classes at the Palo Alto institution known as the Pacific Art League are being held ‘round the corner at 227 Forest Ave. while the building undergoes major renovations. Exhibits are there, too. During this time, it’s strange to peer into the venerable old Ramona Street building and see a wide open space instead of a gallery, folks painting and framed art. Space busy with construction workers and equipment, that is.

I strolled ‘round the corner this morning and visited animal-themed art in the big group exhibit. Instead of being a dedicated gallery, the large room was displaying its shows on the walls while housing an ongoing art class in the middle of the room. The ambiance was noisier than at a gallery, but cheerful. I like an exhibit with a creative buzz.

In the adjacent foyer gallery the artist Duan Zhaonan is displaying portraits of Chinese opera singers, heavy on the reds, with swift-looking brushstrokes.

Construction is scheduled to finish next April.

Pictured: The Ramona Street facade of the Pacific Art League, currently under construction. Photo by Rebecca Wallace.

Quick. Who do you see in the top image?
I focused on the glasses lens and saw Lennon right away, but peer in and McCartney’s there too. Mountain View artist Jay Hill likes to shake things up, and not just with his cans of spray paint. He calls his works “Dangerous Paintings,” shooting them with blasts of color.
This week, Hill’s work makes a welcome return to Palo Alto (I wrote about his show at Gallery House last year). He’s teaming up with another of my favorites, sculptor Ryan Carrington, who teaches at San Jose State. Their exhibit, “Gravity Ltd.,” is at New Coast Studios, which just announced it would stop hosting exhibits and focus on providing services to artists. Fortunately, another show made it in, and the New Coast folks say that other artists will also be able to self-curate exhibits in the future.
Hill always had art aspirations but started painting seriously only in the last couple of years. His garage studio is a vivid place, with slabs of wood and face masks and cans of paint. Paintings are filled with stylized letters and faces that are hard to look away from. As a longtime Pink Floyd fan, I especially enjoyed his tribute to Syd Barrett.
Carrington and I also had a great chat last year when he was showing work at CSMA. Construction materials such as work gloves, sledgehammers and electrical wire make powerful statements throughout his art; Carrington has a background in construction and likes to tip his artist’s hat to the working man.
"Gravity Ltd." has an opening reception tomorrow, June 8, from 6 to 8 p.m. at New Coast at 935 Industrial Ave., and then is up until June 22, Tuesday through Saturday. Check it out.
Pictured: Top: “Beatle Reduction #1, Come Together,” a 2013 digital morph-mashup of Lennon and McCartney, by Jay Hill. Above: “Heavy Routine,” by Ryan Carrington.
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Quick. Who do you see in the top image?

I focused on the glasses lens and saw Lennon right away, but peer in and McCartney’s there too. Mountain View artist Jay Hill likes to shake things up, and not just with his cans of spray paint. He calls his works “Dangerous Paintings,” shooting them with blasts of color.

This week, Hill’s work makes a welcome return to Palo Alto (I wrote about his show at Gallery House last year). He’s teaming up with another of my favorites, sculptor Ryan Carrington, who teaches at San Jose State. Their exhibit, “Gravity Ltd.,” is at New Coast Studios, which just announced it would stop hosting exhibits and focus on providing services to artists. Fortunately, another show made it in, and the New Coast folks say that other artists will also be able to self-curate exhibits in the future.

Hill always had art aspirations but started painting seriously only in the last couple of years. His garage studio is a vivid place, with slabs of wood and face masks and cans of paint. Paintings are filled with stylized letters and faces that are hard to look away from. As a longtime Pink Floyd fan, I especially enjoyed his tribute to Syd Barrett.

Carrington and I also had a great chat last year when he was showing work at CSMA. Construction materials such as work gloves, sledgehammers and electrical wire make powerful statements throughout his art; Carrington has a background in construction and likes to tip his artist’s hat to the working man.

"Gravity Ltd." has an opening reception tomorrow, June 8, from 6 to 8 p.m. at New Coast at 935 Industrial Ave., and then is up until June 22, Tuesday through Saturday. Check it out.

Pictured: Top: “Beatle Reduction #1, Come Together,” a 2013 digital morph-mashup of Lennon and McCartney, by Jay Hill. Above: “Heavy Routine,” by Ryan Carrington.

Facelift for Stanford totem poles

Outdoor art needs special treatment, even when it’s made out of trees. Stanford’s two totem poles carved and painted by Pacific Northwest artists recently got respectful facelifts by two fellow artists trying to preserve the original spirit.

Art Thompson’s “Boo-Qwilla,” which has stood in Dohrmann Grove since 1995, and Don Yeomans’ “The Stanford Legacy,” near Crown Quad since 2002, both needed cleaning and repainting. Enter the Cantor Arts Center, which detailed the project on its "Cross-Sections" website.

The Cantor’s Elizabeth Saetta cleaned the towering artworks and added preservatives to keep insects away. Then came artists and husband-and-wife team John Livingston and Maxine Matilpi. Livingston was a longtime friend of the late artist Thompson, and he and his wife clearly have great respect for the art of the totem pole. The pair were careful to use only paint that matched the originals.

Above are before-and-after photos of “The Stanford Legacy,” a totem pole that incorporates figures representing the Leland Stanford family. What do you think of the results?

To read more about the project, check out this Stanford Report article.

Photo from the Cross-Sections site.

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