Wednesday, November 10, 2021

The Magnificent Joan Mitchell Painting Show Currently at SFMOMA

I spent three hours viewing this dramatic and superbly presented exhibit recently. The great American artist, Joan Mitchell (1925-1992) is honored with a show of 80 distinguished paintings from her large body of work.

I was moved by the bravura scale of her works, and engaged by the beauty and exquisite color sense of these large-scale canvases. I’ve been thinking about them ever since—their vibrant expression, the artistry, the mystery and her physical involvement with paint and pastel and color. My wish upon departing: that I could return with a small tent and supplies and live in the galleries among her paintings for a few days! 

It is thrilling. Highly recommended.

Joan Mitchell in her studio at 77 rue Daguerre, Paris, 1956; photo: Loomis Dean/The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Joan Mitchell, City Landscape, 1955; Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Society of Contemporary American Art; © Estate of Joan Mitchell; photo: Aimee Marshall

Joan Mitchell, La Ligne de la rupture, 1970–71; private collection; © Estate of Joan Mitchell; photo: Clint Jenkins

Joan Mitchell. A sense of place imbues Mitchell’s paintings, from remembered vistas of Chicago, New York, Paris and the Mediterranean coast, to the pastoral hills of Vétheuil, the village outside of Paris where the artist eventually made her home.

With its world premiere at SFMOMA and presentation through January 17, 2022, Joan Mitchell is a comprehensive retrospective.

In addition to rarely seen early paintings that established the artist’s career, the exhibition includes colorful large-scale multi-panel masterpieces from her later years.

SFMOMA’s presentation includes 10 paintings not traveling to other venues, several from the museum’s own holdings. These works demonstrate Mitchell’s ability to create powerful paintings in widely different scales and her propensity for using bold experimentation to find her way from one major body of work to the next. 

Joan Mitchell, Bracket, 1989; The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © Estate of Joan Mitchell; photo: Katherine Du Tiel

Joan Mitchell, No Rain, 1976; collection The Museum of Modern Art, New York, gift of the Estate of Joan Mitchell; © Estate of Joan Mitchell

Joan Mitchell, Untitled, 1973; Private collection, New York; © Estate of Joan Mitchell; photo: Brian Buckley

Joan Mitchel lived and worked in Chicago, New York, Paris, and the South of France. The transnational nature of Mitchell’s existence is yet another way she defies easy categorization. Over the years, both New York and Paris claimed her, and each city incited vividly different perceptions of her work in the U.S. and France. Joan Mitchell examines these diverging views and reconciles them into a cohesive portrait of a complex individual and the outstanding art she produced. 

Joan Mitchell, To the Harbormaster, 1957; AKSArt LP; © Estate of Joan Mitchell; photo: Tony Prikryl

Joan Mitchell, Ode to Joy (A Poem by Frank O’Hara), 1970–71; University at Buffalo Art Galleries, gift of Rebecca Anderson; © Estate of Joan Mitchell; photo: Biff Henrich, ING_INK, Buffalo, New York

Joan Mitchell, Petit Matin, 1982; Private collection, Toronto; © Estate of Joan Mitchell; photo: Ian Lefebvre

With suites of major paintings, sketchbooks and drawings as well as an illuminating selection of the artist’s letters and photographs, Joan Mitchell opens a new window into the richness and range of the artist’s practice and reveals the significance of her artistic achievement.

I recommend that art lovers and visitors spend time viewing the white vitrines in each gallery. Some have home movies, while others display her paints and brushes, and others show diaries and letters and photography that all illuminate this exceptional artist.

Joan Mitchell, Rock Bottom, 1960–61; Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, gift of Mari and James A. Michener; © Estate of Joan Mitchell

Joan Mitchell, The Bridge, 1956; Fredriksen Family Art Collection; © Estate of Joan Mitchell; photo: Kris Graves

Joan Mitchell, Untitled, 1992; Komal Shah and Gaurav Garg Collection; © Estate of Joan Mitchell

Joan Mitchell, Vétheuil, 1967–68; Private collection, New York; © Estate of Joan Mitchell; photo: Brian Buckley

Co-organized by SFMOMA and the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA), the exhibition is grounded in more than two years of archival research and extensive firsthand review of Mitchell’s works conducted by co-curators Sarah Roberts, Andrew W. Mellon Curator and Head of Painting and Sculpture at

SFMOMA, and Katy Siegel, BMA Senior Programming & Research Curator and Thaw Chair of Modern Art at Stony Brook University. After its presentation in San Francisco, Joan Mitchell will be on view at the BMA from March 6 through August 14, 2022.

A version of the exhibition will open at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris in Fall 2022. 

Joan Mitchell, No Birds, 1987–88; private collection; © Estate of Joan Mitchell; photo: Kris Graves

“Joan Mitchell’s glorious paintings radiate with the vitality, feeling and sweeping color we usually experience only in the natural world. On a grand scale, she contended with and remade the possibilities of abstraction, personal expression and landscape,” said SFMOMA curator Sarah Roberts. “After so many months of restriction due to the pandemic and the limitations of art online, Mitchell’s subtle surfacesand moving color will visitors a transporting visual experience and remind us of the irreplaceable and overwhelming power of seeing art in person.” 

About Joan Mitchell 

Joan Mitchell (1925–1992) was an American artist whose career spanned more than four decades in the U.S. and France. Best known for her large, abstract oils on canvas, Mitchell also created smaller paintings, as well as an extensive body of works on paper and prints. Born in Chicago and educated at the Art Institute of Chicago, Mitchell moved to New York in 1949. In 1955, she began splitting her time between Paris and New York, before moving permanently to France in 1959.

In 1968, Mitchell moved from Paris to Vétheuil, a small village northwest of the city, while continuing to exhibit her work in Paris, New York and around the world. In Vétheuil, not far from Monet’s Giverny, Mitchell began regularly hosting artists at various stages of their careers, providing space and support to develop their art. When Mitchell passed away in 1992, her will specified that a portion of her estate should be used to establish a foundation to directly support visual artists. 

The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue published by SFMOMA in association with Yale University Press that offers an inspiring scholarly account of Mitchell’s career and the transatlantic contexts that shaped her work as an artist based in the U.S. and France.

Chapter essays authored by co-curators Roberts and Siegel, and in-depth essays by scholars Éric de Chassey, Jenni Quilter and Richard Shiff present new historical models for understanding Mitchell’s work in relation to mid-20th-century painting in Paris, poetry and 19th-century French Romanticism. Presenting groundbreaking research and a variety of perspectives on her art, life and connections to poetry and music, this volume also includes artistic and literary responses to Mitchell’s work by writer Paul Auster, composer Gisèle Barreau, poet and essayist Eileen Myles, artist Joyce Pensato and painter David Reed in dialogue with conservator Jennifer Hickey.

The first major scholarly publication on Mitchell in decades, this book is an essential reference for Mitchell’s admirers and for discovering her work. The publication comprises 384 pages with 350 color and black-and-white illustrations and four gatefolds of her art. 

The new SFMOMA, view from Yerba Buena Gardens; photo: © Henrik Kam, courtesy SFMOMA

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the United States and a thriving cultural center for the Bay Area. The in-depth collection of painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, design and media arts is housed in an LEED Gold-certified building designed by the global architects Snøhetta and Mario Botta. In addition to seven gallery floors, SFMOMA offers 45,000squarefeet of free, art-filled public space open to all. 

The new SFMOMA, view from Yerba Buena Gardens; photo: Jon McNeal, © Snøhetta

Snøhetta expansion of the new SFMOMA, 2016; photo: © Henrik Kam, courtesy SFMOMA

Snøhetta expansion of the new SFMOMA, 2016; photo: © Henrik Kam, courtesy SFMOMA

Julie Mehretu, HOWL, eon (I, II), 2017 (installation view, SFMOMA); commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, gift of Helen and Charles Schwab; © Julie Mehretu; photo: Matthew Millman Photography

Approaching American Abstraction exhibition at SFMOMA; photo: © Iwan Baan, courtesy SFMOMA

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 
151 Third Street 
San Francisco, CA 94103 

Visit or call 415.357.4000 for more information.

All images courtesy SFMOMA used here with express permission.  

Joan Mitchell, My Landscape II, 1967; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., gift of Mr. and Mrs. David K. Anderson, Martha Jackson Memorial Collection; © Estate of Joan Mitchell

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Congratulations to Architect Andrew Skurman and Skurman Architects in San Francisco for Winning the Arthur Ross Award from the Institute of Classical Architecture

A brilliant and internationally recognized architect, Andrew Skurman is renowned and admired for his focus on classical architecture. 

The award celebration was held in New York earlier this month.

The prestigious Arthur Ross Awards were created to recognize and celebrate excellence in the classical tradition for architects, painters, sculptors, artisans, landscape designers, educators, publishers, patrons, and others dedicated to preserving and advancing the classical tradition.

Bravo, Andy. This international award recognizes your many years of practice, and many years of honoring classical architecture in projects around the world.

The Citation

The Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA) is pleased to announce that the Arthur Ross Awards 40th Anniversary will properly honor the winners of the 2020 Arthur Ross Awards for Excellence in the Classical Tradition. The awards represent a diverse set of talented architects, designers, artists, and academics, including Skurman Architects, Bob Christian Decorative Art, Hyde Park Mouldings, Hollander Design Landscape Architects, Charles Miers and Rizzoli New York, as well as John F.W. Rogers, and Michael Lykoudis.

In his address to the Institute of Classical Architecture awards event attendees, Andrew Skurman said:

“I must add that none of this achievement would be possible without our firm’s extended family of visionary and steadfast clients: modern day patrons of the classical building arts.

We have been fortunate to work with so many gifted designers, contractors, consultants and artisans, all of whom are instrumental to our success. I owe a special thanks to Suzanne Tucker of Tucker & Marks for decades of outstanding collaborations.

But, beyond our work, and the wonderful network of individuals who make our work possible, tonight, we celebrate Classical Architecture itself. The language of Classical Architecture originated in antiquity, and since then has continuously evolved. We invigorate this language by inventing new combinations and variations of it for each project, by teaching it to the next generation of architects and artisans, and by supporting and encouraging our fellow practitioners.

To be a Classical Architect is not only to preserve this language, but also to add to its beautiful vocabulary. That is the raison d’etre of my life’s work.

Thank you." 

Andrew Skurman is inspired by a broad range of classical architecture, from Greek and Roman, to French, Italian, Georgian English, and perhaps above all by Palladio.

City apartments, a colonial country house, a chic Paris apartment, an Italianate lakeside villa, a French Renaissance house, and a Norman-style carriage house are all in his vocabulary. He is currently working on classical residential projects in Japan, India, Paris, and locations in California.

“Today, we practice our appreciation of classical architecture with a light touch,” he said. ‘Today, heavily ornamented rooms look old-fashioned, and we love to exercise restraint,” he said. “These are residences that will endure, for decades, perhaps centuries. They have a timeless quality. They’re elegant, comfortable, balanced, and rich with light and air. I sometimes wonder about the future of my houses, asking myself what will become of them as time passes. I hope that the children who grow up in them will recall their childhood homes as places of beauty and comfort. I hope that the families that dwell within will be remembered for having lived there in happiness.”

“There is a dramatic interdependence between the austere and the voluptuous in Skurman’s work. His experiments with materials and collisions of style are reflected in his selections, fabrication, and placement of works of art, objects and materials. His approach to the issue of cultural memory and the challenge of historic precedent in architecture is uniquely embodied in his process.” – Diane Lewis, a fellow student of Skurman when they attended Cooper Union in the Seventies

The Architectural Aphorisms of Architect Andrew Skurman

Each architectural period has its measure of ornament. Today, too much is too much, too little is boring; we are in a time of balance.

* * *

In an ideal architectural world, it takes three to tango: The client, the interior designer, and the architect.

* * *

Based on European philosophy, science and arts, this country built its own culture. What I am doing is quintessentially American: I'm bringing the splendor of European architecture to modern America.

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Classical architecture is like European languages: there are many. The more fluent you are in several, the better you express yourself.

* * *

What is the most important architecture? It is the one that moves people the most, today and over the centuries.

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The great British architect Quinlan Terry believes that architecture is of divine origin. Some scientists believe that the laws of physics and mathematics are of divine origin.

* * *

When I see great art and architecture, it brings about the feeling of transcendence.

* * *

Some patrons treat architects like part time servants, others like admired artists. It says little about the architect, a lot about the patron.

* * *

We see how admirable the architecture of the past was, but we forget that only the exceptional has remained. This leaves room for the architecture of the present and the future. I would like to come back in a hundred and again in a thousand years, to see what is left.

* * *

Each artist has an intimate evaluation of his own work. I'm convinced that Palladio, Michelangelo, Mozart knew that we would continue to celebrate their glory hundreds of years later, and that their names would be unforgettable. 

Architects Speak: Andrew Skurman’s Favorite Quotes on the Meaning, Ideas, Magic and Work of Architecture

“Design is not making beauty, beauty emerges from selection, affinities, integration, love.”— Louis Kahn

“We are searching for some kind of harmony between two intangibles: a form which we have not yet designed and a context which we cannot properly describe.” — Christopher Alexander

“Architecture is an art when one consciously or unconsciously creates aesthetic emotion in the atmosphere and when this environment produces well-being.” — Luis Barragan

“I think that the ideal space must contain elements of magic, serenity, sorcery and mystery.”— Luis Barragan

“Architecture is a visual art, and buildings speak for themselves.” — Julia Morgan 

“My buildings will be my legacy... they will speak for me long after I'm gone.
 — Julia Morgan

Andrew and Françoise Skurman in their Nob Hill apartment.

Biography of Architect Andrew Skurman

Architect Andrew Skurman founded his firm in San Francisco in 1992. As principal and owner of Skurman Architects, he focuses on superbly crafted custom residences that are logically planned to the specific requirements and wishes of his clients. His expertise lies in the elegant and refined expression of Classical architecture and the interpretation of French, Georgian, and Mediterranean styles.

Skurman recently received the honor of being named a Chevalier of Arts & Letters by the Minister of Culture of France.

He is an appointed member of the prestigious Council of Advisors of the National Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America.

Skurman is currently designing projects in Japan, Northern India, Northern and Southern California, New York, Nevada, France and China.

Skurman received his Bachelor of Architecture in 1976 from Cooper Union in New York City. He began his design career apprenticing with the New York firm of I.M. Pei & Partners from 1976 to 1980. He worked in the San Francisco office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and later as a Studio Director at Gensler and Associates in both San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Residences designed by Skurman Architects have been featured in numerous publications. Work by the firm is also included in San Francisco Style (Chronicle Books) by Diane Dorrans Saeks. In 2010 Skurman received the title of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters, from the French Minister of Culture. 

About the Institute of Classical Architecture and the Arthur Ross Award

The Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA) is a nonprofit membership organization committed to promoting and preserving the practice, understanding, and appreciation of classical design.

To do so, the ICAA offers a broad range of educational programs. These include intensives for architecture and design students, introductory programs for middle school students, lectures and walking tours for the public, continuing education courses for professionals and enthusiasts, travel programs to visit classical masterpieces, the publishing of original and reprinted books, and an annual journal entitled the Classicist. Through the annual Arthur Ross Awards, as well as other national and regional award programs, the ICAA also honors contemporary leaders of classical design and the related fields.

The ICAA is a national organization, with 15 chapters across the country and headquarters in New York City. Each chapter organizes its own local programming to reflect the unique members and architectural traditions in its region. The ICAA’s membership represents the diverse and dynamic cross-section of all those involved with the building arts, from architects and designers, to patrons and artisans. These members benefit from the robust network of local and national programs and networking opportunities. Likewise, the organization is continually enriched and inspired by responding to the needs, interests, and passions of its growing membership base.”

For more information:


Andrew Skurman | Skurman Architects
3654 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, California.
INSTAGRAM: @andrewskurmanarchitects


Images courtesy of Andrew Skurman, used here with express permission of the architect.

Images of two apartments on Nob Hill — designed by Skurman Architects — by Lisa Romerein. Used with express permission of the photographer.

Lisa Romerein Photography
INSTAGRAM: @lisaromerein