Legion of Honor

Pulp Fashion Goes Pop!

The art of Isabelle de Borchgrave is in itself a type of recycling. Inspired by sumptuous costume and textiles from the past, de Borchgrave recreates some of history’s most iconic fashions in the surprising medium of paper. Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave, on view at the Legion of Honor through June 12, displays paper outfits derived from those seen in European paintings, museum collections, photographs, sketches and even literary descriptions. De Borchgrave’s art practice seems particularly relevant in today’s conservation-minded climate in which “recycle and reuse” has become a mantra for artists and fashionistas alike.

Paper fashion was not always associated with such principled objectives. In the late 1960s, when de Borchgrave was just beginning her career, paper dresses captured the cultural zeitgeist not only for their pithy design and novelty, but specifically for their disposability.

Will Work for Art: Steven Correll

"Will Work for Art" takes you behind the scenes to meet the people who make the Fine Arts Museums operate. Steven F. Correll is a Registrar who literally makes the "scene" possible by organizing and tracking artwork as it moves through the Museums. Originally from San Diego, CA and Ponca City, OK, Steve has been with the Museums for 4 years.

RTI Photography of the Red-Figure Pelike

In my last post, I introduced you to the cutting edge photography Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), a technique invented by Tom Malzbender at Hewlett Packard Labs. Here at the Museums, we have been using RTI to gain better understanding of objects in our permanent collection. We have just completed another round of RTI photography of this 5th-century Greek pelike.

Preserving Images of the 1906 Earthquake

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco is home to a unique collection of 167 film negatives taken by photographer Arnold Genthe chronicling the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake and fires. The negatives were acquired by the Legion of Honor in 1943.

Genthe 1

Arnold Genthe (photographer), American, 1869–1942
Untitled (Earthslip on San Francisco's Union Street), 1906
Cellulose nitrate negative
Museum purchase, James D. Phelan Bequest Fund. 1943.407.6.1

On the day of the earthquake Genthe, an established photographer best known for his society portraits and views of old Chinatown, took to the streets of San Francisco equipped with a handheld Kodak camera and pockets full of roll film.

The film Genthe used was composed of a gelatin silver emulsion on a thin plastic support of cellulose nitrate. Cellulose nitrate film was introduced commercially at the end of the nineteenth century and remained in use until the mid-twentieth century. Lightweight, transparent and flexible, cellulose nitrate film freed photographers from the inconveniences of its predecessors, paper and glass plate negatives.

Marvelous Menagerie Unmasked

In 1996 construction workers accidentally uncovered a mosaic while widening a road in the modern Israeli town of Lod, near Tel Aviv. A preliminary excavation immediately conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) revealed that three feet below the modern surface there was a mosaic floor dating to about AD 300. The three most complete and impressive panels from the floor are on view at the Legion of Honor through July 24.

Mosaic floor central panel, Roman, ca. AD 300. Excavated at Lod (Lydda), Israel. Stone tesserae. Israel Antiquities Authority and the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center. Image courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Will Work for Art: Rich Rice

"Will Work for Art" takes you behind the scenes to meet the people who make the Fine Arts Museums possible. Rich Rice, the AV/IT Coordinator, is about as behind-the-scenes as you can get! Originally from Connecticut, Rich has been with the Museums for 15 years (he thinks).

Happy Birthday, Richard Diebenkorn!

Today the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco wish a happy birthday to renowned artist Richard Diebenkorn. The Fine Arts Museums have enjoyed a long relationship with the artist since the Legion of Honor hosted Diebenkorn’s first solo exhibition in 1948. From that point on, the Museums were ardent supporters of the artist and his work. Both the American Art Department and the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts have compiled significant holdings of his work.

Richard Diebenkorn (American, 1922–1993)
Seawall, 1957, Oil on canvas
Gift of Phyllis G. Diebenkorn, 1995.96
© The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn

When the Earth Shakes, Come to the de Young!

In 2009, senior registrar Stephen Lockwood came across a series of ledger books while examining the de Young’s offsite storage facility. These antique books contained detailed records of the weather and daily attendance at the de Young since its opening day in 1895. One entry was particularly interesting:

Another Wave

The Wave, 2005, by Kay Sekimachi

In 2005, Bay Area artist Kay Sekimachi gifted the museum a seminal work, a miniature book—The Wave. The Wave comes from her series of accordion books that were inspired by the Japanese artist Hokusai prints from his own series Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji. Woven in natural linen, Sekimachi used a painted-warp technique to imprint the repetitive pattern of the wave on the book’s covers and pages and a double-weave technique to create the accordion folds. The meditative quality of Sekimachi’s work belies the complexity of her techniques. Her work reflects a combination of influences— from the Japanese aesthetic comes her purity of form and reverence of nature and from her early Bauhaus training the control of geometry and symmetry, as well as, the exploration of the double-weave technique. 

Jill D'Alessandro, Curator, Textile Arts

A Spooky Night at the Legion

Last Friday, ArtPoint hosted a ghoulish costume gala at the Legion of Honor. Hundreds of art enthusiasts braved the Richmond fog to dance the night away in tribute to Halloween and the opening of Very Postmortem: Mummies and Medicine. The exterior columns of the Legion looked spooktacular with purple and blue lighting. As guests made their way to the entrance, creepy music played from the dark corners of the Court of Honor.

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