Artblog Celebrating 20 Years!   Support Us Today!

City of neighborhoods, San Francisco


After our great chat in her studio (see post), painter Anna Conti and I hopped the “Muni” (trolley) and traveled from her neighborhood, “The Avenues” to downtown San Francisco to see her work at Newmark Gallery and to check out a few more venues. It was cloudy in “The Avenues” near the bay but bright and sunny just a few miles away. Did I mention in that other post that midway through our talk in Conti’s studio the city’s tsunami warning alarm went off? It sounded like a typical firehouse fire alarm or one of those Civil Defense warning sirens. Apparently every Tuesday at noon they sound the warning. Conti said, “I’m 85 ft. above sea level,” and shrugged, not too concerned about being swept away.

DiRosa Preserve

On our way over, the artist told me about the DiRosa Preserve a Barnes in the Bay-area kind of place. Rene DiRosa is a collector of contemporary California art. Like Barnes, Conti said, DiRosa’s installations of the art are according to his own system of what goes with what. and he doesn’t believe in wall tags because you’re supposed to look at the art, darn you, not read the wall text. Conti says that “90% of Northern California’s famous and non-famous artists” sit side by side on the walls. Di Rosa goes to open studios events, Conti said. And he loans out work to local museums for shows. I asked if her work was in the DiRosa collection and she said no. That’s an oversight.

I looked around the Di Rosa website a little and want to say that the whole thing reminds me of a kind naturalist’s Visionary Art Museum. In addition to some beautiful grounds, the virtual gallery tour turned up this nice “Rhinocar” by David Best (pictured at top) and a bunch of other work that’s in the visionary mold.

Newmark Gallery’s group show “San Francisco Cityscapes: Contemporary Visions of our City” includes work by four artists. In addition to Conti, there’s Larry Morace, Paul Madonna and Toru Sugita. Conti hadn’t yet seen her work installed and the show was so fresh that while we were there, Larry Morace came in to do some last minute tweaking on one of the frames of one of his works. (image above is Conti‘s “PG&E on Dolores”)


The exhibit is full of wonderful insider views of the city. No bridge or bay views that I recall but houses and streets, infrastructure and simple cafes that are beloved by the artists. My absolute favorite is Conti’s “PG&E on Dolores,” the blue truck looming in the left like a beautiful invader. The work sits next to a similar street scene by Morace and Conti, who knows the artist, said “Larry and I live in the same neighborhood and we both use photos.” And while their painting styles differ — Conti is a realist and Morace is more of an expressionist, she said “Larry and I agree on almost everything.” (image above is Morace‘s “Drive Home”)


Morace “Drive Home” which shows a steep hill from the top looking down has a similar background to Conti’s “PG&E.” “That’s Market St. They moved some palm trees,” he said, explaining what street it was. Conti knew it well.

Conti said that while she works from photos she often edits. Sometimes, as in her parking garage rooftop scenes, she edits out an object, building or something. She removed an HVAC box from one scene, she said. (image is above Conti‘s “Hotel Pickwick from 5th and Mission” ).

And she feels free to edit color to suit her compositional needs. “I base the color on my memory and on intent,” she said.

Her “Gordo’s” (image above) is also sweet. The little couple sitting side by side on the table humble and waiting are just lovely and depicted so lovingly. The painting reminded me that Conti is also a still life painter and that this is in her tradition of still life setups.
Apart from Conti and Morace’s works what stood out for me in the show were Paul Madonna’s plein air watercolor paintings from North Beach area. Making extraordinary what might be considered ordinary, the works are beautifully-cropped street scenes with exquisite light. (above is Madonna‘s “Guerrero”)
The little rooftop scene “Guerrero” especially caught my eye. It’s on the verge of being a cartoon. And the sense of personality each building implies captures perfectly the condition of living in an urban neighborhood cheek by jowl so to speak.
(image is Madonna‘s “North Beach”)

Japanese-born artist Toru Sugita had some prints of the city in the show. They held their own in the crowd but the work seemed less unexpected than the other works.

Gallerist Mark Wladika and his assistant Jessica Van Hulle were excellent hosts when we visited. Enthusiastic, smart and, boy, they know how to hang a good show. The gallery walls, by the way, are painted complicated shades of grey-green and grey-ochre and other nice warm dark colors. That worked well with the mostly small-scale paintints, prints and drawings.

I’ll get to the rest of what we saw later today I hope. I’m sorry to be so slow on the upload here.