Before and after the Temko memorial, I visited SFMOMA across the street. My goal was to see the 1966 painting by Vija Celmins, “Suspended Plane,” that the museum has just acquired. Neither the members’ desk nor the information desk knew where this was hung—they had zero information about it—so I went looking and found it on the second floor. The collection display on that floor is changed incrementally, a strategy that keeps it fresh.
The painting looks good in the odd manner of Celmins’ 1960s paintings, where an object is isolated on the canvas and painted in realistic style. The foursquare approach brings an interesting aura of thrift store paintings. The Whitney Museum has one of the best of these works, a portrait of the artist’s space heater glowing in a dark space. (By the way, the SFMOMA press release says that “Suspended Plane” is 16" x 20", but 16" x 27" would be closer to the mark.)
Near the elevators on the second floor is a fun video (on loan) by Sam Taylor-Wood, which looks like a still photo for the quarter-second it takes you to notice the cigarette smoke rising, and other movement.
Also tucked away on that floor is a little drawing show with good works by Michaël Borremans, Jay DeFeo, Mondrian, Egon Schiele, and Mark Lombardi (in his sketchy mode). Work by Tim Gardner represents the recent MFA crowd.
On a different floor are two shows delving into Surrealism. One of them gloms onto Alexander Calder. Someday a candid museum will do a show called “Calder the Crowd-Pleaser.” It’s easy to think you’ve seen enough Calder for a lifetime, but actually there are sculptures worth seeing in this show. I liked the following:
• Sphere Pierced by Cylinders (1939)
• Un effet du japonais (1940)
• Bougainvillier (1947)
• The Spider (1940)
• The untitled piece on 3 legs (1938)
• Tightrope (1936).
The other show, called “Beyond Real,” adopts a loose definition of Surrealist practice. In fact, at times I thought I had wandered into a different show. Even if Surrealism isn’t at the top of your list (it isn’t for me), there are many good and/or entertaining works in the exhibition. There was entertainment even in one wall caption: 1974 Warhol Polaroids were described as “dye diffusion transfer prints.” Sounds like Bill Clinton denying sex with Monica. Among the pleasures in this show are works by Man Ray, Joseph Cornell, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Yasumasa Morimura, and Hiroshi Sugimoto (from the diorama series, plus a Fidel Castro waxwork). Small enough to be lost in the crowd is Dora Maar’s little beauty, a photo of a musical instrument store window.