Fine Art, San Francisco, CA


Open Studio Artists – Artists and Their Influences

Pucusana, Oil, Claudio Talavera-Ballón. Courtesy of the Artist.

By Lydia Chávez and Laura Wenus Posted November 1, 2014 9:15 am

More than 100 artists will open their studios today and Sunday for the third weekend of Open Studios to show and sell work that includes everything from textiles to photography and ceramics.

In addition to the Mission, the map of open workshops stretches from Upper Market to Glen Park and as far West as the Castro.

Open Studio season comes this year in the midst of a new exhibit Fertile Grounds: Art and Community in California at the Oakland Museum that also draws on SFMOMA’s collection to look at four different art communities in northern California.

That show, open through April 12, focuses on the mural and public art that Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo inspired with their 1930s visit to San Francisco; the abstract expressionists of the 1940s and 50s nurtured at what is now the San Francisco Art Institute; the ceramists at UC Davis in the 1970s and 80s and the so-called Mission School of the 1990s.

The latter included artists such as Barry McGee and the late Margaret Kilgallen who drew on graffiti, cartoons and  “a do-it-yourself, folk-style” in their work.  “They didn’t want to stretch canvas,” Renny Pritikin, who is now chief curator at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, told Mission Local in 2010. Instead, they preferred to use found objects.

The impact of the four communities explored in Fertile Ground continues to be felt in today’s studios, but other art trends here and abroad have also influenced the work of artists in the Mission.

A theatrical DNA infuses the culture at Project Artaud,  one of the oldest art cooperatives in the Mission. Founded in 1971 when a group of artists moved into an abandoned American Can Company site, the collective of 70 members is named after the avant-garde playwright, director and actor Antonin Artaud who died in 1948.

Javier Manrique, Artaud’s current president, said he came into the cooperative 14 years ago as a photographer’s assistant.  The mix of artists, filmmakers, dancers and actors living at the Alabama site continues to reflect the theatrical passions of its namesake, he said, and there is a lot of crossover in the community.

Manrique’s work at 499 Alabama began in photography and moved to print making, collages and frescos. He now considers himself a landscape painter, impacted less by the Mission and more by his frequent trips back to Mexico and the work of Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo and Uruguayan artist Joaquín Torres García.

Wendy Way Gilmore, also a member of Project Artaud, started out as a former theater designer. Recently, she said, she has moved to textile art. For her, the move was economic – there was simply less work in theater design. She’s been inspired by others in the theater as well as her mother, artist Joan Gilmore.

Calixito Robles, who will show at 661 Castro with his wifeAlexandra Blum has lived and worked in the Mission for the last 28 years and came out of a group of artists at the Mission Cultural Center’s Mission Gráfica.

Robles started there as an assistant to the exiled Chilean artist Rene Castro and was surrounded and affected by such Mission artists as Juan Fuentes, Patricia Rodriguez and Yolanda Lopez. “I don’t know if we were part of a group but we did a lot of political work,” he said. “We did work that made people think.”

Claudio Talavera-Ballón, who will have his studio open at 3712 25th St. was born in Peru and was shaped by the two years he spent studying with the watercolorist Luis Palao Berastain in Calca, a small town in the Sacred Valley outside of Cusco.

“In that town I learned so much about these people,” said Talavera-Ballón. “I was living in a bubble, in another country, another world. I realized the way of sharing among the people. I realized that poverty was a state of mind, and that these ‘poor’ people share everything. They are so connected with nature and they enjoy their lives every day.”

Talavera-Ballón now works primarily in oil, documenting immigrant workers in urban and rural settings. In the Mission, he said, he found the sons of the farmers from Peru and his portraits of Mission Latinos are not unlike the broad and beautifully rounded portraits of peasants done by Diego Rivera in the 1930s. “I want them [immigrants] to be seen,” he said. “I want their presence to be noticed because they are the men behind the scenes.”

Leila Noorani, who was raised in Northern California will have her Bernal studio open at 621 Moultrie. She said she’s been inspired by other realist landscape/urbanscape artists including “Kanna Aoki, Eileen David, Sarah Newton, and Kirsten Tradowsky, who also happens to be my roommate.”

While she doesn’t consider herself part of a school she said that Richard Diebenkorn’s reach “is still pervasive among a lot of Bay Area painters today” and her work, she said, is no exception. There is also something of Wayne Thiebaud in the muted tones and singularity of objects in her oils of diners and laundry mats.

Inspiration, Noorani said, comes in travel and keeping “an open mind mind to the moment –some architectural detail or object will jump out at me as beautiful and unique, possessing both design appeal and emotional impact. That’s when I’ll snap a photo or jot down a quick sketch. It’s hard to say why a particular subject works as a painting –it just does (sometimes).”

A list of all the artists and their work showing this weekend can be found here.