Thursday, March 20, 2008

Modernism, the gallery

James Hayward

While in San Francisco, I was able to spend some time in what is the Holy Grail of art galleries for me, Modernism. This is a gallery that sings its own song, plays by its own rules. They have one of the strongest visions of any gallery in the States.

That vision might not be for everyone. After all, it’s not called Modernism for nothing. But I am trying to think of even one show I did not like in the 28 years I’ve been going to this gallery. Can’t think of one.

Glen Baxter
And again, when I was there for their last opening, there wasn’t one work I didn’t like. They had three rooms filled with art: a solo show by Mark Stock, a group show of West Coast Abstraction and then a back room filled with high-end glories like a painting by Mel Ramos.

Mark Stock

When I visited San Francisco in 1980 to check out the Goodman Building, which would house my first solo show, I came across a poster on Market Street: Modernism Presents the Russian Avant Garde. Wherever I was going, I forgot. I made a u-turn and found what would become my holy grail.

It’s rare to find a gallery which gives a home to both history and contemporary art, and does it so flawlessly. They’ve shown Hannah Hoch and R. Crumb, Kasmir Malevich and John Register. Plus they make the best catalogues I’ve ever seen: Martin Muller personally loaded me up with enough art propaganda to lust over for several months of late night reading.

A few years ago he also opened Modernism West, an exhibition space located within Foreign Cinema in the Mission. I checked out that space too – once again, a couple of rows of drop-dead gorgeous works - not one weak placement. It was like bang, bang, bang. The minds reels at the possibilities.


MP3 e MP4 said...
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Calvin Ross Carl said...

Modernism exhibits the work of Gottfried Helnwein, an amazing photographer and hyper-realist painter. They certainly are a unique gallery, and it still shocks me that they are in San Francisco, and not in LA. But who wants to be a part of the LA art scene right now? :)

Anonymous said...

Hey CRC, I got a big book put out by Modernism on Helnwein that will blow your mind.

Actually I wanted to keep on driving to LA but it's too much in one trip. The pickings are probably better down there...

Calvin Ross Carl said...

I've got a huge book about Helnwein, but I believe it was made by Konemann, a German publisher. Lots of nice big images from his whole career.

I'll have to look into the Modernism made book.

Someday we can compare the awesomeness of the two books. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm going to post this anonymously, since I live in the neighborhood, and I have very little good to say about Modernism. It is a cold, chilly place. Practically every time you go in there a new person is sitting up front. The people in charge of the gallery are unfriendly and rude. Arrogant. More than once I have been in the gallery looking at a painting and the gallery owner, Martin Muller, will walk right in between me and the painting without saying excuse me. He walks around the gallery scownling. Helnwein sucks- really, look close- he has a small bag of tricks. James Hayward is OK. Glen Baxter has been making the same cartoon for twenty years. Honestly, I'm very surprised at how postive this post is- Modernism is stuck. Much of the work is plastic looking, bright colors, falsely expressive, clever- they don't really have a serious exhbition program. They are dealing in pale blue chippers. C'mon, Eva, you can do better than this gallery.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate this post, whoever you are, anonymous. Thank you. You speak from another viewpoint, one more day-to-day. But just about every gallery I've liked - well, someone ignored me there! Including Modernism, who had a frosty prototype for the "gallerinas" we know today. I also agree that they tend to run in their own universe and some of that universe seems exclsuive....

But I just couldn't get over the Hannah Hochs they had shown, the John Heartfields, the Russians... that kind of work. Somehow in my demented fantasies, I felt I belonged there. And I still do. I may have to die or get really old (not a ton of women on the walls) but for some reason I just can't give up. It might be an old emotional attachment.


Anonymous said...

Same anonymous here- Eva, your work may belong in Modernism (seriously- some of the old stuff is great, and the gallery should be sympathetic to your work). I would be that if Martin Muller took you on he would treat you wonderfully, because, after all, since he noticed you, you must be special. That's the kind of gallery it is- they can't say hello, the people up front look half-scared, and Helnwein, Stock, and Baxter, while all clever, are still just clever schlock, IMHO. BTW, you know me, but I'm not going to blow my cover here.

Anonymous said...

Hey anonymous who I know,
I tried so many times to write a response here which I would then cancel... Maybe someday we can get into it more.