Wandering SF: Union Square

September 11, 2013 · Print This Article

Last Saturday turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year in San Francisco.  For anyone who doesn’t know, summer doesn’t arrive in this city until after Labor Day.  Cashmere scarves and knit sweaters are all the rage in July, and by September the temperature and trends shift to hot days filled with sangria, tank tops and maxi dresses.  I enjoyed the weather with a stroll through the galleries in downtown Union Square.

Gallery Paule Anglim

A couple months ago I wrote about the 49 Geary building in San Francisco’s Union Square, but the neighborhood is home to other galleries in separate buildings.  After living in this city for several years, I realized that this would be my first time to some of these spaces.  Passing through the hoards of tourists and a peaceful protest for Syria, I arrived at Gallery Paule Anglim.  And what luck I had walking in and up the stairs, as Ms. Anglim herself was walking down the stairs and out, clearly in a rush to get away from the uncomfortable indoor heat this climate change has caused.

Pamela Wilson-Ryckman, Geppetto’s Jacket, 2013. Oil on linen. 40″ x 30″.

Regardless of the weather, which is never a topic of conversation in SF until this very month, it was a delight to see paintings by Pamela Wilson-Ryckman in an exhibition titled GPS.  From the exhibition statement: “Precise knowledge of location gives one the illusion of control but knowing exactly where you are doesn’t necessarily mean you are in a good place. Rather than location it is often the experience of place that matters.  How much information does one need to reconstruct a memory or sense of place?  The answer is – not that much, imagination fills the gap”.  I was most interested in Geppetto’s Jacket (2013) and it’s glaring painterly techniques, creating so much dimension of space for that “imagination”.

Dolby Chadwick Gallery

Guy Diehl, Still Life with Bill Traylor & Robert Johnson, 2012. Acrylic on canvas. 30″ x 34″.

Out the door and on to the next, I visited for the first time Dolby Chadwick Gallery.  As soon as I walked in, the speakers on the gallery desk were playing fun reggae music that fit perfectly with the tropical feeling in the air.  It was a relaxing Saturday in the gallery – if I had to work I would be playing the same music!  Guy Diehl’s awesome exhibition A Dialogue with Tradition sported realist paintings of still lifes that any art nerd could really appreciate.  Some objects include books and postcards of historical works of art.  From the exhibition statement: “…his work is first and foremost “art about art,” the lynchpin of his paintings is their references to other artworks”.  After taking the postcard for the exhibition, I realized that my new favorite thing would be taking pictures of art and its exhibition postcard.

John Berggruen Gallery

Linda Ridgway, But the secret sits in the middle and knows, 2011. Bronze. 24″ x 28″ x 7 1/2″.

And once again, I was off to the next space I had never been to before until that day, the lovely two-story John Berggruen Gallery.  Two shows were up: The Grand Anonymous by Linda Ridgway and the other of Important Works on Paper from the Past Forty Years by Chuck Close.  I fell in love with Ridgway’s But the secret sits in the middle and knows (2011) – a bronze wall sculpture of blackened flowers – for its transcendence above kitsch.  Sadly, it was already sold.

Watercolors by Chuck Close

Chuck Close, Study for “Keith”/4 times, 1975 (detail). Four gelatin silver prints with ink, graphite and tape mounted to foam core. 24 1/8″ x 19 5/8″.

When I walked down to the main gallery level, I felt like I had walked into an old world Soho: 4 giant Chuck Close watercolors.  But I’m a sucker for mixed media collage, so Study for “Keith”/4 times (1975) got me all riled up with excitement.

Caldwell Snyder Gallery

Marta Penter, NY FASHION WEEK – BLUE JEANS. Oil on canvas. 31″ x 75″.

Finally, I stopped into Caldwell Synder Gallery and its ridiculously hip show by Marta Penter.  The space itself goes on for days and it perfectly compliments Penter’s muted paintings of American culture just being alive and chillin’ and laughin’ and lovin’ and wearin’ jeans and listen’ to tunes.  I’m reminded of Levi’s and Gap and wonder if she’s collaborated with either company, as they’ve been headquartered in San Francisco forever.

Like I had mentioned in my 49 Geary post, it’s hard to disassociate the art from the status of Union Square as the high-end shopping district of San Francisco.  Several galleries in the city started off in the downtown area only to later move out to other less commercial areas.  I, for one, love the play between art and commerce and luxury brands and cultural demand.  I don’t mind that my art stroll can be stopped by seeing a fabulous abstract work of art in a window, or a fabulous contemporary Bang  & Olufsen sound system.  In the end, they’re both going to end up sharing space in someone’s living room.