Distance: 1. 3 miles 2. 2 miles
|SFMOMA Lobby and Stairway|
*Not to blow her horn too loudly, Ciwt is quite sure she is the only person in the Bay Area - other than possibly SFMOMA curators - who can and does give such a tour.
Okay, so much for self-accolades and promotion. She does need to report that one of the first questions from a group member as we walked up the main stairway was "Who is the artist who did the stairway painting?" Looking at the picture above, you, dear reader, can see the painting he was referring to as clearly as he did. It's Very obvious.
Except to Ciwt. Her answer: "I don't know. It is a woman artist, I know that. The painting is relatively new and got quite a bit of publicity when it was installed, but I don't recall her name."
He was cool with that answer, so Ciwt dared to go ahead. "It always strikes me as decoration, and I walk right by." He seemed cool with that as well, and it is true. The colors and overall style of the two part painting blend so perfectly with the colors and feeling of everything around it they come across (to Ciwt) as wallpaper.
Maybe anything you hang there would do the same because most people (including Ciwt) are so busy arriving and climbing the jagged stairway they don't particularly notice there's art around them. The young man on Ciwt's tour was the first person who has ever asked her about the stairway art (or she would have been ready with an answer).
But Ciwt considers this particular art choice to be peculiar, and it prompts questions for her. Did the artist just paint without knowing what the colors at the site looked like? Did she know her work was going into a lobby and would be hung miles high? Does she, too, feel her work blends in too well? Is she disappointed? Hasn't SFMOMA noticed this 'wallpaper' effect? If so, why isn't there more prominent/attention getting signage?
Anyway, now Ciwt has the young man's answer: The artist is Julie Mehretu, an artist currently in international demand. It's actually two paintings, each 27' x 32.' And, since Ciwt also learned Mehretu was paid $5M by Goldman Sacks for a similarly sized lobby work, she assumes SFMOMA must have come in with something around that for this work. The paintings are titled “HOWL eon (I and II)” which suggests Mehretu's somehow equating her paintings to the famous, wildly controversial Beat poem "Howl." (Allen Ginsberg wrote it in 1955 while living on Montgomery Street in San Francisco).*
Howl, the poem, is ferocious, moves at breakneck speed, penetrates, stuns. If that type of impact was Mehretu's intention for her SFMOMA paintings, and if she actually succeeds, how could anybody know it? The location and surroundings suck out all energy the paintings might contain, and we are left with 'lobby art.' Or, as Ciwt told her client 'decoration.'
* Ciwt suggests press this link and (re)read Howl; it is so good/bad.