Posted by BG Staff // June 21st, 2018
This past April, two fourth-grade music classes from a local elementary school toured our latest exhibition Personal to Political: Celebrating the African American Artists of Paulson Fontaine Press. After their docent-led school tour and a printmaking project, over 30 students headed back in the gallery to further analyze an artwork as inspiration for music compositions they would later compose in class.
David Huffman, Ouroboros, 2007, color aquatint, spitbite, sugarlift and softground etching with blacklight sensitive areas, 46.5 x 36 inches, edition of 35. Courtesy of Paulson Fontaine Press.
The teachers and students chose Ouroboros by Bay Area artist David Huffman, describing the artwork as peaceful and happy. The students also pointed out how abstract and surreal the piece is, with elephants, astronauts, a house, and basketballs all part of the composition. The teacher then posed the question: If this work was set to music, what would it sound like? Students immediately responded with “upbeat,” because of the overall tone and bright colors in the work.
Back in the classroom, the students created three rhythmic compositions based on their tour experience and analysis of Ouroboros.
Personal to Political closes June 24.
Posted by BG Staff // June 13th, 2018
Photo by Liz Payne/Walnut Creek
This May, over 60 volunteers from the greater Walnut Creek community came together to help renowned public artist Patrick Dougherty build one of his signature stickwork sculptures in the city. Located just north of the Walnut Creek Library in downtown Civic Park, Sure Enough is a massive labyrinth of woven willow saplings, inviting visitors to wander through and immerse themselves in its beautiful, natural environment. The dynamic sculpture is made up of six linked structures and stands 17 feet high and 37 feet in diameter.
Based in Chapel Hill, NC, Dougherty has received numerous awards and built more than 250 artworks across the US and the world. His signature sculpting style combines a love of carpentry and nature to create monumental environmental works that invite active participation to install and view.
Most of the volunteers, ranging in age from 16 to 69 and coming from many different backgrounds, had never worked on a large-scale, collaborative project like this before, though several are already active volunteers in the community. Many of them came away with new appreciation for the physical labor and precision involved, plus a sense of pride and close connection with the work.
Photo by Liz Payne/Walnut Creek
“I really enjoyed volunteering for the Public Art project. From the first day of unloading the willow to the final days of the project, the work was physical, but very rewarding. It's fun to go back now with my husband and say, ‘I made that doorway,’ ‘I was up on a scaffold filling in that spot there,’ and ‘See how that line flows? Pat taught the way to push the ends of the branches so it looks natural and organic.’
I was very impressed with Pat and [his son] Sam and how down to earth they were. They were in it with us, getting dirty, and explaining very well how to do the different kinds of tasks. It was my first time working on a project like this and I feel fortunate to have been able to volunteer so many times. I got to learn several different techniques and see the project unfold.” —Fleurette Sevin
Left: Fleurette’s view from the scaffold; Right: Walnut Creek City Council member Cindy Silva works alongside Arts Commissioner Glynnis Cowdery
“It took a great group of volunteers and a very special kind of artist to create Sure Enough. The artist Patrick Dougherty patiently guided the volunteers to create his vision, leaving Walnut Creek with a wonderful piece of public art, built by the community for the community to enjoy.” —Glynnis Cowdery
Volunteers at work. Photos by Liz Payne/Walnut Creek
“It was wonderful to see the sculpture come together before our hands. Patrick was appreciative of us all. I certainly have ownership and glad to share over the next two years. I love Walnut Creek public art!” —Hilary Friedman
Left: Artist George-Ann Bowers at the public opening on May 26; Right: Her niece, Damian Gallatin, taking a break during her shift
“As a textile artist, and having seen some existing Patrick Dougherty structures in other locations, I was excited to participate in his project at the Walnut Creek Library. I enjoyed meeting Patrick and seeing how he coordinates and encourages a large group of unrelated volunteers with varying levels of artistic skill and experience to create a cohesive and dramatic finished sculpture on this scale. My niece and I volunteered together for three shifts, had a great time learning how to work with willow branches and meeting other volunteers, and now feel quite proprietary about the various sections we worked on.” —George-Ann Bowers
Arts Commissioner Jane Emanuel joined the fun with her husband Roger. When asked about the experience of working on the project together, she said, “Togetherness overrated! We got separated in the aMAZing sculpture but enjoyed working along with old and new friends! It was a powerful experience to work on a team and help a project grow from the ground up.” A-maze-ing indeed.
Bedford Assistant Preparator Keyvan Shovir on site every day. Photo by Liz Payne/Walnut Creek
“Pat was so wonderful to work with, he gave us just a little bit of guidance and then let us go. I was surprised how much work and how hard the work was to make these structures. It was such a great opportunity to help make something so magical and beautiful that the community will enjoy, and an experience I'll never forget.” —Sheree Wilcox
Left: Justine Miller at the public opening May 26; Right: Bedford Curator Carrie Lederer and Assistant Curator Christine Koppes get their hands dirty unloading 22,000 pounds of willow for the project.
“I felt really lucky to be a part of this installation. There’s something magical about taking a natural material and turning it into an ethereal structure. I think it shows in the final piece.” —Justine Miller
Sure Enough will be on view in Civic Park for two years, thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Many thanks to all our volunteers for their time, effort, and enthusiasm in building this incredible installation. We’d also like to thank the City’s Public Works staff for all their help with logistics and planning. Stop in the park this summer and explore!
Posted by BG Staff // May 24th, 2018
This spring, Bedford staff and volunteers visited the Paulson Fontaine Press studio to learn more about the artists and process behind the fine art prints in our current exhibition, Personal to Political: Celebrating the African American Artists of Paulson Fontaine Press. Located in a brightly lit space near the Berkeley marina, Paulson Fontaine Press specializes in limited edition intaglio prints. They’ve worked with an incredible roster of over 45 artists, from painters and textile artists to sculptors, and have produced over 500 editions since their first publication in 1997. Pam Paulson, founder and master printer, and Rhea Fontaine, partner and gallery director, work with a small staff of master and expert printers to create each edition.
Upon entering, we were greeted in Paulson Fontaine Press’ industrial-style exhibition space, where they host 5-6 shows a year. Currently on view are prints by Bay Area artist David Huffman, whose work is also in Personal to Political. Quiet, minimal prints by Bay Area weaver and painter Ruth Laskey greet visitors in the adjacent foyer. The workroom itself is a fully functional print studio, complete with etching room and steel facing tank to increase the life and extend the use of their copper plates. A printing press and multiple work tables for inking dot the studio. Its tall ceilings ensure plenty of light and safe ventilation for the myriad of processes conducted each day.
Artful vignettes around the studio
At the time of our visit, we were fortunate to get a sneak peek at a new project with artist Samuel Levi Jones. Paulson Fontaine staff was in the middle of working on his football-motif print, carefully following a template to ink the plates in the right design and colors. Each print will be made up of two half plates.
Samuel Levi Jones foot ball print fresh off the press!
The fine art prints produced in the studio are a true collaboration with the artist. Working closely with the studio’s master printers, the artists may come with early ideas to the project, but they also need to prepare themselves to “let go as well – this is a new work,” says gallery director Rhea Fontaine. Each print is like a translation of an original work, in a different medium, into printmaking—but reverse and backwards. Because the process is labor intensive and there are lots of details to work out (the proofing process alone can take weeks to work out the colors, texture, etc.), Paulson Fontaine Press carefully selects artists not only for the quality of their artwork, but those who are willing to participate fully in the arduous and slow printmaking process as well.
Visiting the studio was a delightful, eye-opening crash course in printmaking. From hardground and softground etching to flat biting and aquatint, intaglio printing can be a challenge and demands careful organization. Studio printers keep meticulous notes, plus the exact formula for color mixtures, so further editions can be made years later. Luckily the inks last for a very long time!
Left: Notes for Samuel Levi Jones’ foot ball print; Right: Master printer Alexander Groshong
A peak into the studio’s print collection was a real treat. Gorgeous bird prints by Bay Area artist Hung Liu and topographic maps by Tauba Auerbach caught our eye. For much of Auerbach’s work, Paulson Fontaine Press had the opportunity to work with new materials and processes, further proving that there’s never a dull day at the studio.
Left: Volunteers looking at McArthur Binion's Potato: Field, 2017, color aquatint, Rives BFK paper, 41 x 65 inches, edition of 40. Right: Lonnie Holley, The Things of Life (to See or Not to See), 2013, color aquatint etching, 19.5 x 39 inches, edition of 30.
For more information on Paulson Fontaine Press, visit paulsonfontainepress.com. They also publish an excellent newsletter called OKTP (which stands for Okay to Print) with interviews and info on all their latest projects.
Personal to Political: Celebrating the African American Artists of Paulson Fontaine Press is on view at the Bedford through June 24, 2018. The exhibition will then travel to galleries and museums around the US through 2022. Complete traveling schedule can be found here.
Posted by BG Staff // April 19th, 2018
Our latest exhibition Personal to Political: Celebrating the African American Artists of Paulson Fontaine Press features fine art prints, paintings, quilts, sculptures, and installation by 14 internationally recognized artists in collaboration with this Berkeley-based fine art print studio. One of the highlights of the show is LIBERATION, a towering pyramid of basketballs by Bay Area artist David Huffman. Standing nearly seven feet tall, the solid pyramid contains 650 basketballs arranged in the colors of the Pan-African flag: red, black, and green. This tri-color flag represents people of the African Diaspora and is generally seen as a symbol of black freedom and liberation. Huffman’s pyramid is also a nod to the Egyptian pyramids, with base layers carefully measured and spaced to hold the weight of the top layers. Each ball was inflated to the same size, ensuring extra stability—enough to hold Huffman’s weight as he placed the final ball on top.
Watch LIBERATION go up—in under 2 minutes!
Born in Berkeley in the 1960s, David Huffman was raised in an activist household during the civil rights era. Art was integral to his family, as both his grandmother and mother were artists, and he learned at a young age that art can be used as a means for social change. His narrative and abstract paintings mix contemporary, historic, and socio-political elements, reclaiming stereotypical African American icons like basketball and watermelon.
David Huffman prints in Personal to Political: Hoop Dreams (2007) and Watermelon Pyramid (2007), courtesy of Paulson Fontaine Press, Berkeley, CA.
Huffman’s early narrative paintings explored the Minstrel figure, which shifted into a cast of explorer/spacemen he calls Traumanauts. He puts them in slightly familiar yet surreal and alien worlds, working through the trauma of “historical homelessness” and stereotypes in a new context—with a touch of humor. Huffman’s been into sci-fi and astronomy since childhood, and he could see the freedom and perspective-shift possibilities in a place like space early on. “Space to me became a ‘reinvention’ of history,” he explains.
From the Bedford show Land of Magic: Artists Explore Make Believe (2011): David Huffman, Dig it, 2008, mixed media on wood, 48.5 x 90 inches, courtesy of Patricia Sweetow Gallery, San Francisco, CA.
"Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about allegory. And history. And David Huffman. Which also means I’ve been thinking a lot about elephants and their bones, astronauts and afros, hoops and spaceships, referees and pinups, Masonic temples and chicken shacks and auction houses, about churches both as places and as a fast-food place that sells chicken. In other words, I’ve been thinking of the nomenclature of America." - Kevin Young, poet and scholar
David Huffman paintings Ginzegi (2016) and Collective Memory (2016), courtesy of Anglim Gilbert Gallery, San Francisco. Installation view at Bedford Gallery.
Personal to Political: Celebrating the African American Artists of Paulson Fontaine Press is on view at Bedford Gallery through June 24. Following its run at the Bedford, the show will travel nationally through 2022. Find out where it’s traveling here. For more of David’s work, don’t miss his solo show ‘Urban Vernacular’ currently on view at Jessica Silverman Gallery in San Francisco through April 21.
Posted by BG Staff // March 22nd, 2018
Have you been looking for that giant yellow head on Main Street? Or a bulldog, waiting at a busy crosswalk with his stylish owner—who also happens to have a bull’s head? Now you can discover and learn about the city’s incredible downtown public art collection via an interactive web map.
The map features both public artworks and artist-designed utility boxes. Clicking on the artwork brings up its precise location, photo, and additional information on the piece, including an artist bio and quotes.
To learn even more about the artwork in the city’s collection, try a docent-led tour. Guided public art walking tours start again this April and take place on the third Saturday of the month at 11am. You don’t need to book in advance - just show up in comfortable walking shoes in front of the Lesher Center. (And bring a friend!)
Public Art Update
New work and public art projects are coming to Walnut Creek this spring. Jason Middlebrook’s newly completed Water Light is a calming oasis set in the public courtyard of the Lyric building on Locust Street. With water jets tracing complex lines and abstract mosaic tile mirroring the sky and street, it’s a lovely respite from urban life. Middlebrook is a mixed-media contemporary artist who works in sculpture, installation, painting, and drawing, and is based in New York.
Coming in April, Shayne Dark’s Intersect in Red will be a beacon at The Landing apartments, currently going up across from the Walnut Creek BART station. The 50-feet-high steel sculpture, reminiscent of tree branches and Dark’s past work with ironwood, will be brightly visible to thousands of motorists and train riders every day and light up at night. The Canadian artist has completed similar public art projects in Toronto and Buffalo, and exhibits widely around the world.
River Vessels installation at Waco Arts Festival, 2010. Photo by Philip Ravenscroft.
This May, world-renowned sculptor Patrick Dougherty will build a monumental woven willow sapling installation in Civic Park, thanks to a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant awarded to Bedford Gallery and the City of Walnut Creek. The public is invited to apply to be a volunteer artist assistant and help Dougherty build this unique artwork, which will be on view in Walnut Creek for two years. Dougherty has received numerous awards and built over 250 large-scale, environmental works across the United States and around the world, including Japan, Korea, Italy, Germany, and the UK.
Posted by BG Staff // March 8th, 2018
Photo by Kimberley Hasselbrink
Portland-based fine artist and illustrator Lisa Congdon’s colorful and intricate paintings and drawings, bold pattern designs, and inspirational hand lettering celebrate life with a warmth and playfulness that’s infectious. She illustrates for numerous clients around the world including the Museum of Modern Art, Martha Stewart Living, and Chronicle Books. She has exhibited her work around the country, including shows at the Contemporary Jewish Museum and the Bedford Gallery. Her passion and fearlessness make her an excellent juror for our upcoming summer show The World of Frida, celebrating the visionary artist Frida Kahlo.
Some of Lisa's work in our shows New Neon (2013) and The Jealous Curator (2014)
With a prodigious career like hers, you might be surprised to learn Lisa didn’t begin her professional art career until she was 40. Previously, she worked as a grade school teacher and then at an education non-profit, but found herself missing the creativity of working with kids. She started painting and drawing for fun, sharing her work online through sites like Flickr (well before Instagram!), started a blog, and opened an Etsy shop. Her vivid paintings and drawings instantly caught the attention of clients and curators, and she quit her job to be a full-time artist in 2007.
Her experience and insight self-starting an art career has proven to be dynamite inspiration for emerging visual artists. She's the author of several informative and motivating books for artists, including Art Inc, Whatever You Are Be a Good One, Fortune Favors the Brave, and most recently Glorious Freedom: Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives – with another book already slated to be published by Chronicle Books in 2019.
Lisa recently received a 2018 Fullerton Artist in Residence Endowment and currently has a solo show at Fullerton College Art Gallery up through April 9. Don’t miss it if you’re in southern CA!
All artwork images copyright Lisa Congdon.
Posted by BG Staff // February 8th, 2018
Easily the Bedford's most involved hard-hat installation to date, Ned Kahn's Seed Vortex is an enormous spinning disc spanning over 20 feet in diameter and weighing thousands of pounds. Visitors have been curious about how we got it in the door, and what it symbolizes. Check out the feature below from Walnut Creek TV to learn more about Ned, how we built Seed Vortex, and why it's a metaphor for human interactions like political and social change. Together with the other works in the show, Seed Vortex exemplifies Ned's lifelong fascination with art and science.
Ned Kahn: Seed Vortex is on view at the Bedford through March 25. And don't miss our Arts + Craft Beer event, featuring art activities inspired by the works in the show, mustard making with local chefs, and complimentary refreshments, including craft beer tasting with Calicraft Brewing. It'll be an afternoon of fun perfect for the whole family to see and make something cool!
Arts + Craft Beer
Saturday, February 24
Admission: $7 Adults, $3 Youth, Free for kids 12 and younger.
Advance tickets available at Eventbrite or at the door.
Posted by BG Staff // January 18th, 2018
Bay Area artist Ned Kahn has been creating kinetic artwork for over 30 years, renowned for merging art, science, and technology in complex and monumental work that mesmerizes and dazzles viewers around the world. Last spring, we visited his warehouse-like studio in Sebastopol for a peek into his process and to prepare for our own massive installation of his work now on view at the Bedford, Seed Vortex.
Driving up to Ned’s studio is like entering a living lab. Outside in the courtyard, several samples for larger pieces were set up to catch the natural elements that are like collaborators in his artwork: wind, light, fog, sand, and water. He and a team of studio assistants study the way the materials respond, and they do extensive research and development testing to ensure the material will function as intended in the final artwork.
“I’ve always been attracted to the idea of making visible things that are invisible… I’m intrigued with the way patterns can emerge when things flow. These patterns are not static objects, they are patterns of behavior—recurring themes in nature.” –Ned Kahn
Inside the studio workshop, the testing and experimentation continues. In the photo above left, Ned demonstrates how to operate the small Seed Vortex, here filled with larger, blonde mustard seeds. After many months and countless seeds scattered on the floor, Ned decided a smaller seed was necessary. The artwork demonstrates granular motion, where rotating mustard seeds influence neighboring seeds, creating pattern changes that in turn influence and restructure the entire system, much like political or social change, says Ned. Pictured right, studio assistant Todd Barricklow stands next to the massive steel beams that support the large Seed Vortex’s spinning disk, showing the effects of granular motion on a grand scale.
Originally from Stanford, CT, Ned earned his undergraduate degree in environmental science before moving to San Francisco in the 1980s. There he discovered and was enamored with the work on display at the Exploratorium, doggedly seeking and securing an apprenticeship at the museum to build exhibits, under the guidance of its founder, physicist Frank Oppenheimer. Conversations with Oppenheimer and his own lifelong fascination with science led Ned to develop kinetic, interactive sculpture for the museum that explored the mystery and wonder of natural phenomena, including versions of two pieces in the Bedford show, Chaotic Pendulum and Cloud Rings.
Since then, he’s completed numerous public and museum commissions around the greater Bay Area and beyond, including projects in the UK, Singapore, Australia, Japan, United Arab Emirates, and throughout the US. He was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2003. Above left, the prototype Ned made for Sebastopol’s first city-commissioned public artwork “Spire,” a 60-ft tower of steel that mimics the reflection of sunlight on water as the outside disks move in the wind. Pictured right, a sample of plastic chainmail mesh developed by New Zealand artist and designer Kayne Horsham for use in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Ned had previously used aluminum chainmail in projects, but found the material too costly. Collaborating with Horsham, he used this lighter material (dubbed "Kaynemaile") in Enagua, a massive tower project in Los Angeles completed in 2015. The tower's Kaynemaile mesh facade moves with a lively grace in the fierce Santa Ana winds coming off the ocean, resembling a billowing fabric.
Discover more of Ned’s work, including great videos of the pieces in action, at www.nedkahn.com.
Ned Kahn: Seed Vortex is on view at the Bedford through March 25.