Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

The Magnificent Andersons 

Two local showings of an extensive collection provide an embarrassment of riches

Wednesday, Nov 15 2000
Bay Area art buffs are abuzz with "Anderson Collection" mania. Concurrent blockbusters at two local museums drawn from the celebrated private collection of Atherton residents Harry ("Hunk") and Margaret ("Moo") Anderson are cause for celebration. Not only is the more ballyhooed "Celebrating Modern Art: The Anderson Collection" at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art the largest exhibition in the museum's history, featuring some 330 works by 140 artists, but it also represents SFMOMA's maiden collaboration with the California Palace of the Legion of Honor (where a satellite exhibition of nearly 200 graphic works is on view) -- and, potentially, a preview of future SFMOMA acquisitions.

Although the Andersons' collection of postwar painting, sculpture, and works on paper is widely regarded by art world movers and shakers (curators, critics, and collectors) as one of the finest in private hands, Hunk and Moo themselves are refreshingly humble, gracious, and low-key. (It's "big "A' for Art and small "a' for Anderson," as Hunk puts it.) SFMOMA has nonetheless rolled out the red carpet as it courts the couple in hopes that certain treasures --some of them on display here for the first time -- will one day wind up in the museum's permanent collection. (The biceps-building catalog itself weighs eight pounds in soft cover.)

As viewers wend their way through a motley art mine spread out over three floors, they'll encounter artworks by a virtual who's who of modern and contemporary art: Arneson, de Kooning, Diebenkorn, Duchamp, Giacometti, Guston, Hockney, Johns, Matisse, Moore, Nolde, Oropallo, Picasso, Pollock, Rauschenberg, Rodin, Rothko, Stella, Warhol ....

In an exhibition chock-full of gems, Jackson Pollock's Lucifer (1947) is the crown jewel. A world-class example of Pollock's "drip paintings," this abstract expressionist masterpiece is arguably the finest Pollock not in a museum or public institution. Writhing with multicolored paint flung, dripped, spattered, and shot from a syringe, this 9-foot-long tempest coalesces into a frenetic energy field grounded within a delicate cubist web. Inky rivulets dart and dance over the surface with almost balletic grace.

Nearby, Willem de Kooning's Woman Standing--Pink (1954-55) packs a punch that has lost none of its ferocity or humor over the past half-century. This raw yet refined canvas is a first-rate specimen from de Kooning's notorious brood of bug-eyed earth mother archetypes. Here, the female body is simultaneously caressed and assaulted by fleshy, high-speed collisions generated by smeared, smudged, and lacerating swaths of pulpy pigment.

Frank Stella's figureless universe, meanwhile, gives birth to paintings of an altogether different stripe. An early pinstripe masterpiece such as Zambezi (1959) heralded minimalism, while Polk City's (1963) shaped canvas blurs the line between painting and sculpture.

Deborah Butterfield's delicate paper pulp and chicken-wire Horse (1980) exudes animal empathy like the work of no other contemporary sculptor, while Susan Rothenberg's giant canvases find monumental "figures" swimming in meditative matrixes of minimalist flickering marks. After an hour or two surrounded by such an embarrassment of riches, Bay Area art enthusiasts may get a glimmer of what New Yorkers routinely experience. For this we should tip our hats to the magnificent Andersons.

One of the Bay Area's best painters, David Tomb defiantly traffics in an old-fangled and unhip genre: portraiture. "David Tomb: Diorama" at the Hackett-Freedman Gallery brings together four sensual, life-sized portraits of people near and dear to him. As these unfold into intimate psychological studies, Tomb emerges as a painter's painter -- that is, one who revels in the pleasures of paint itself. Masterfully blending abstract and representational elements, his rich surfaces are slathered with frostinglike furrows while the subjects' meaty faces and flesh rise from voluptuous color shards that reflect the influences of Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon. Susan depicts a bird's-eye view of the artist's raven-haired wife, wearily clutching a champagne glass, against a buttery yellow backdrop. The thin-skeined Steven, an unusually impasto-leeched full-length portrait of performance artist Steven Raspa, is awash in eye-popping electric acid reds and blues. It jumps off the wall 'atcha like a psychedelic Day-Glo dandy (replete with peacock and bubble-blower).

Iranian-born artist Habib Kheradyar's engaging "New Works" mesh painting and sculpture, funk and formalism, retinal and conceptual vision, physics and psychedelics into a quirky, seamless whole. By stretching diaphanous, electric Kool-Aid acid fabrics (bright orange, lavender, pink, turquoise, etc.) over white canvas panels augmented with shaped wire armatures, the L.A. tripster creates vibrant, minimalist-cum-op constructions that generate mind-bending moiré patterns -- patterns that remain in perpetual commotion as the viewer moves through space. Stare at the shrill chartreuse lemon/lime diptych, then look away: You'll see a fuzzy, red aura/afterimage bleeding off the white wall. Yet for all their giddy, sheer sensuality, Kheradyar's abstract hybrids suggest metaphors of art history and politics -- including allusions to the "veiled woman" (pantyhose was once the artist's fabric of choice).

About The Author

Harry Roche


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed
  1. Most Popular


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"