Treasure Island Music Fest – Day 2 Detour

First there was a detour. I was on my way to the festival, I had just stopped and gotten my mocha at Peet’s, not the half dozen Starbucks I had passed to get to an open Peet’s, and the next block was San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art. I had already seen that a Richard Avedon exhibit was on display, and had been trying to figure out when I could make it to see it, perhaps Monday after the cleaning part of my volunteering for the festival was over. It wouldn’t give me much time, but I could see it and the rooftop sculpture garden, with a Louise Nevelson piece up there. When I got to the museum, there were people milling about, and obviously something was happening. Me, and my sign reading rather than people asking skills, figured out that it was a Target sponsored family day, and the museum was free, except for the Richard Avedon exhibit. And even that was subsidized, as it would only cost me $5 today. No decision to make at that price, in I went. Now what to do with the piping hot mocha it would take me at least an hour to consume?

I asked the coat check girl if she would check my coffee, and she agreed. Along with my backpack, which also wasn’t allowed. And off I happily went to see Richard’s photographs!

It was a retrospective. The final area was a commissioned series he did of Western workers, like coal miners and oil riggers, waitresses, children, snake skinners, carneys and drifters. Some of these were the most riveting of all the photos in the exhibit, I found. The one of the drifter was amazing, not only for the obvious exposure to the elements etched in his skin, but how charismatic and piercing his eyes were. Was he in person? Had he once been someone, or had he always been anonymous and easily dismissed?

Then there was the continuing series he had of famous folk, frequently artists, musicians and writers in the New York City area. I liked the fact that many of the writers and composers looked completely like anybody else’s grandparents, old and having lived life. Dorothy Parker was a huge shock to me. She looked sad and fatigued. The artists and actors more often took better care of themselves, even as they aged. The well maintained appearance and look of slight haughtiness of Willem de Kooning did not surprise me, given his angry paintings of women struck me as painted by a man who thought highly of himself, but the Robert Rauschenberg portrait took me a bit to figure out why it threw me. He was clearly happy, and had dry cleaning slung over his shoulder while standing on a snowy sidewalk, with another artist whose attention was on Robert. I have only ever seen interviews and movies of Robert Rauschenberg looking extremely serious, and all his most famous works, the combines like Monogram and his painted quilt, had to do with how desperately poor he had been as an artist, and used anything on hand to create. Obviously he could now afford dry cleaning, and thus must not be poor, was what had confused me.

Off to the next floor, where the sculptures and new works were laid out. A tall stack of plastic white brains was one piece, pink stretchy fabric making a private see-through tent another, next to a round, white, thing that looked like it could be an apple, or made of tapioca. And a video of a performance of an artist who had been trained as an economist, who began his piece as if lecturing, stringing together scientific words complete with drawings, but made to mean nonsense.

And to the sculpture garden. The Louise Nevelson piece did not disappoint. I am used to her wooden boxes, but it was her machine I saw at a Washington, D.C. exhibit, that seemed like merely two enormous pipes, one inserting in the other in a tight, darkened room, with a pneumatic something moving the pipe, filling the room with sudden noise, but instead was made to be understood as a rape or molestation that got me fascinated by her. It was the experience of the piece that had you understand how a pipe moving could be a rape.

So this sculpture was a spider, made of metal, and larger than life. Much larger than life, thank goodness. It was not malevolent, but still managed to be creepy in a well-lit, sun filled room. It was as if it were a giant elephant in the room that no one really wanted to talk about. “Oh, you know, Bob and I are doing fine,” conversed neighboring wives catching up at a cocktail party, all the while ignoring the enormous spider standing on 80 legs in the corner. Yes, 80, not the standard 8. Perhaps that was what made it creepy.

Louise Nevelson Sculpture

Louise Nevelson Sculpture

Out on the actual rooftop, more pieces abounded, but the one I liked best was the one the children immediately played in and around. It was two parallel pleated rusted iron walls, and the children decided it was great to play hide and seek with, or just run through like a tunnel. None of adults did any such thing, and merely stood around and observed the static rusted walls, as if we knew that was the appropriate thing to do. But I think the kids had it more right: what’s the point of something so immovable and static if you can’t add some movement to it?

Accordian Pleated Metal Standing Sculpture

Accordian Pleated Metal Standing Sculpture

And oh this roof! So here you can see through glass walls into the pavilion that had Louise’s spider, and a couple other pieces and a cafe, and through to the other side was a small narrow outdoor seating area, complete with some greenery. Above the greenery were the towering buildings of downtown San Francisco, whatever was more than five or six floors high on that side. On another side of the rooftop section was a raised gallery portion of some more, indoor sculptures. The third side was a wall. But the fourth? Was an enormous building of some age, perhaps the turn of the 20th century, ornate and stately, and looking far down to the roof of SFMOMA, perhaps sneering at the David Smith and other sculptures. It was a wonderful contrast.

There were more photos in another exhibit, on another floor, from China, Japan and Korea, while there were the classics of modern paintings further down, with at least one piece from my favorites, Yves Tanguay, de Chirico, Magritte, Mondrian, Clyfford Stillwell, Franz Kline, Motherwell, Rothko, among others.

And down on the ground floor, the entire time I was there, four dancers were doing yoga moves and dance movements on a small mat, and various parents and their children in strollers formed a circle around the dancers, and other onlookers gazed down from the various floors and staircase landings that had openings that overlooked the main foyer. Working my way down, they just finished when I reached their floor, just in time to easily cross and retrieve my cooled down mocha, to continue my walk on to the shuttle bus to the festival.

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