Where Creation and Destruction Collide

The upcoming TechnoCRAFT exhibition at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts explores the blurred line between designers and consumers in a world where consumers are increasingly turning their backs on mass produced products or at least want the illusion that they are able to do so by being given some degree of creative autonomy in the making of a product by a designer and manufacturer.Judging by the advanced materials I've received about the exhibition, the two most interesting objects that will go on display when the show, curated by … [Read more...]

A Statement of the Obvious

Yesterday, as we were standing in the vestibule/store at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art (MoCFA) in downtown San Francisco, the museum's director, one of its curators and I found ourselves admiring a striking view.An old Catholic church with its severe grey masonry and red brick, a high-rise apartment block decked out in gleaming aqua colored glass and steel girders and the Contemporary Jewish Museum's hulking black cube structure looked like three conspiring figures, almost blocking out a jigsaw puzzle-shaped piece of blue sky."When I look at … [Read more...]

How To Play Chamber Music

It's hard to get the right balance with community music-making. As an oboist, I've played in groups which take themselves far too seriously and others which don't take themselves seriously enough.The too serious groups usually produce a higher quality product, but you don't have much fun in the process of creating it because the leader or conductor (who tends to view the ensemble as a sort of reflection of his or her inflated ego) spends too much time haranguing the players about every last detail. The not serious enough groups are full of … [Read more...]

Coco & Igor

Jan Kounen's mostly insipid, exposition-laden feature film about the relationship between the 20th century's greatest couturier and composer, Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, is worth seeing for two reasons:1. The first scene which reconstructs the opening night performance at the Theatre des Champs Elysees in Paris of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring on May 29 1913. Although I find it very unlikely that the choreographer, Vaslav Nijinsky, would have given such basic rehearsal instructions to his Ballet Russes dancers as "follow the rhythm" … [Read more...]

Wandering SFMOMA with a GAP-ing Mouth

Yesterday, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) held a press preview for its inaugural Fisher Collection exhibition -- "Calder to Warhol: Introducing the Fisher Collection" -- which opens to the public on Friday.The exhibition is big news because it marks the start of SFMOMA's collaboration with the Fishers, the founders of the GAP clothing chain and the owners of one of the world's most enviable private contemporary art collections. In February, SFMOMA announced a partnership to house and display the collection of Gap founders … [Read more...]

Chasing Facebook

Is it better for a grant-making organization to dole out funds to arts organizations as a result of a closed-door decision-making process in which a panel of "experts" decides which organizations are most worth supporting or to let the public decide by leveraging the power of a popular social networking tool?The latter sounds way less mysterious and more democratic. So why am I feeling so ambivalent about Chase Bank's use of Facebook to help its community giving department distribute charitable donations?A couple of days ago, I received a mass … [Read more...]

Mariana Sadovska

The Garden of Memory walk-through music event at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland is, as far as I am concerned, one of the highlights of the Bay Area arts calendar.One reason for this is to do with the location -- the Julia Morgan-designed columbarium with its maze-like nooks and crannies, fountains, fragrant courtyard gardens and beautiful light. Another reason is for the music. The organizer, Sarah Cahill, coopts the talents of about as diverse a range of artists as you can imagine from the throat singer Ken Ueno and the alt-folk string … [Read more...]

Die Walkure

After the snoozefest that was Faust, the San Francisco Opera redeemed itself at least partially in my eyes over the weekend with its production of Die Walkure. The main reason for this was the extraordinary casting. I was utterly captivated by a great many of the performances including Christopher Ventris as a passionate yet psychologically restrained Siegmund, a rampant and brooding Raymond Aceto as Hunding, Mark Delevan's splenetic Wotan, Eva-Maria Westbroek's sincere Sieglinde and Janina Baechle as a conniving Fricka. I was especially taken … [Read more...]

Joana Carneiro Wins Helen M. Thompson Award

The League of American Orchestras has bestowed its Helen M. Thompson Award on Joana Carneiro, the fabulous young artistic director of the Berkeley Symphony.According to information from The League, the award "recognizes Carneiro's commitment to expanding the community base of the Berkeley Symphony and furthering the orchestra's tradition of presenting the works of composers of our time. In only one season, Carneiro's exceptional talent has inspired the musicians of the BSO and raised their performance level. Her appointment of composer … [Read more...]

Not Go(un)od Enough

The San Francisco Opera's strategy these days seems to be to throw all its cash behind big name stars and put on a bunch of either heavy duty or crowd-pleasing operas in a very traditional manner.I can see why General Director David Gockley is adopting this approach: in these economically tough times, bums on seats are what counts. You certainly don't want to give the predominantly aging, white and monied audience any reason not to splash out on those premium orchestra seats by rocking the boat with any minimalist set designs, experimental … [Read more...]

Chez Frankie’s

Yesterday afternoon, I spent a wonderful hour or so at Frankie's (aka 21 Club). Frankie's is a dive bar in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco at the corner of Turk and Taylor Streets. Few tourists venture there. I was at Frankie's at the invitation of Elvin Padilla, Executive Director of the Tenderloin Economic Development Project, who encouraged me to pop in and meet some of the old-timers who work (or once worked) on the local arts and entertainment scene and have been coming to the bar for decades. Frankie's is considered to be … [Read more...]

Is “Ethnic” A Pejorative Term? Is Ballet an “Ethnic” Dance Form?

Now in its 32nd year, the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival raises some fascinating questions about what constitutes "ethnic" dance. According to the festival's executive director, Julie Mushet, the term "ethnicity" causes contention every year.130 companies and soloists from northern california auditioned for 37 performance slots at this year's festival, which runs till June 27, the largest number of applicants the festival has ever seen. … [Read more...]