Work of Creative Growth Artists Selected for Venice Biennale

The work of Judith Scott and Dan Miller will be shown at the Venice Biennale this summer. Both artists did this work at Oakland’s Creative Growth Art Center, which provides studio, gallery and management for artists with developmental, mental and physical disabilities.

Scott, a fiber artist who died in 2005, had developmental disabilities and was institutionalized for 35 years before being released and starting a career that brought her worldwide acclaim. Miller’s work is in the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian. The curator who selected the two for the Venice show is Christine Macel of the Pompidou museum in Paris.

Their work is featured, too, in “Vive L’Art,” an exhibition that celebrates their inclusion in the Biennale. It opens March 2 at the 836M Gallery in San Francisco. You can watch the artists work in videos of Scott ( and Miller (


By Leah Garchik

February 22, 2017 

836M Gallery Mounts Without Lonesome George and the Last Martha From RAWdance

Evolving-in-real-time exhibit inspired by French Natural History Museum’s La Salle des Espèces Menacées et Disparues (gallery of endangered and extinct species) will feature Wendy Rein and Ryan T. Smith, founders of RAWdance in collaboration with noted scenic designer/engineer Sean Riley and will feature a company of six dancers.

Live Weekly Installations/Rehearsals begin March 15 and continue each Tuesday/Thursday 5-7pm, Friday 12-3pm and culminate with a final and finished performance June 3, 2016.

March 1 San Francisco CA – Following recent exhibitions that have included a restored Banksy as well as sculptures from internationally renowned French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel, 836M Gallery transitions to a living laboratory of artistic incubation for resident artists Wendy Rein and Ryan T. Smith, founders of RAWdance.

Drawing inspiration from the French Natural History Museum’s La Salle des Espèces Menacées et Disparues (gallery of endangered and extinct species), this performance installation from RAWdance and their collaborators will mine the tales of creatures from the natural world now lost, and reflect on the passing of a generation of groundbreaking dance makers. Among other notions it asks: How do we keep their essence alive?

The gallery itself—with its huge street facing and ground level window framing the action—becomes an immersive space and stage for this evolving-in-real-time collaboration with celebrated scenic designer/engineer Sean Riley. It will include a company of six dancers in a project that advances a set of physical and visual responses to questions of extinction and de-extinction, loss and legacy.

The title Without Lonesome George and the Last Martha refers to Lonesome George, the last Galapagos turtle; Martha was the last carrier pigeon named after the country’s initial first lady, Martha Washington.

Live weekly installation and rehearsals begin March 15 and continue each Tuesday and Thursday from 5-7pm, Fridays from 12-3pm, with a final and finished performance June 3, 2016.

WHAT: RAWdance @836: Without Lonesome George and The Last Martha
Tuesday and Thursday from 5-7pm, Fridays from 12-3pm, with a final and finished performance June 3, 2016
WHERE: 836 M Gallery located at 836 Montgomery Street

Founded in 2004 in San Francisco, RAWdance is an award-winning contemporary dance company known for transforming theaters and public spaces with intellectually and emotionally layered performances. Through the unique partnership of Co-Artistic Directors Ryan T. Smith and Wendy Rein, the company has earned a reputation for its visually striking, kinetically charged works that consistently push into exciting territory. SF Weekly dubbed the company’s work “edgy, sexy inventive fare designed to speak to audiences.” Critical Dance has described it as “experimental work done brilliantly.”

Sean Riley has a 20-year career combining suspension, kinetic movement, and design into unique performance environments. Concentrating his design for performance on sitespecific and experimental work, Riley has created scenic and lighting installations in collaboration with a spectrum of accomplished artists. Being known for his bold and often surprising use of space and for large-scale movement, Riley’s installations commonly reflect his life long obsession with gravity and physics.

836M is a nonprofit gallery founded in 2014 to highlight Francisco’s vibrant and growing arts community. It is a cultural and artistic endeavor designed to leverage the city’s diverse interests and audiences and looks to discover and showcase those who go beyond themselves, push boundaries, and create stellar work that has the capacity to surprise. Throughout the year, 836M offers a carefully curated selection of art, conversations and events to private and public audiences alike in modern, contemporary and warm space. Seeking out not only stellar living artists but also “coup de Coeur” projects, gatherings at 836M are simple and fun, and always include a glass of wine! Banksy@836M was the first exhibition of an internationally acclaimed artist in the new gallery space. 836M is located at 836 Montgomery Street in San Francisco. 

Sara Canalís
Treat of Versailles: Jean-Michel Othoniel

From the Bay Lights' whimsy to the bronze monstrosities that grace the plazas outside a corporate skyscraper, public art can be polarizing. San Francisco should count itself lucky that French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel — who recently opened Les Belles Danses, the first permanent installation at Versailles in several centuries — has not one but two pieces up, and each is lovely to see.

CHARLES MAYER - Jean-Michel Othoniel and "Peony, the Knot of Shame."

CHARLES MAYER - Jean-Michel Othoniel and "Peony, the Knot of Shame."

Peony, the Knot of Shame is a large-scale, multi-colored work at 836M near Jackson Square, while La Rose des Vent, a kinetic piece bedecked in gold leaf, stands like a friendly sentinel outside the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. Peony, although the less visible of the two, is nonetheless well-positioned, changing aspects as you move around it. As Othoniel guides me to his ideal mark in the gallery, he points out how for passersby on the sidewalk,Peony will appear as a geometric abstraction, while for people looking head-on from inside the gallery, it will reveal itself as a flower.

Othoniel loves the peony for its royal associations — in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was a court favorite, having only recently been imported to France from China — but also because it's the "flower of shame."

"I have to be proud of my own shame," he said, laughing, "and make it flamboyant."

The idea for La Belle Danses (for which 836M has a scale model and a video of a site-specific dance performance) came from some notations in a book Othoniel found in Boston that described baroque choreography from the reign of Louis XIV. It gave him the idea to build a sculpture in a fountain at Versailles that had once been a grove for royal dances. By shooting water out of jets in a specific way, it could look "like the king is dancing again."

"And when the fountains aren't working, it's like a reflection," Othoniel told me, pointing to the model. It sits on a mirror made to resemble the reflective surface of the water when the fountain is turned off.

Othoniel employs several large teams to execute his vision. La Belle Danse's 2,000 beads were hand-blown and then covered in gold leaf to hide the water pipes, while Peony is only slightly less elaborate. With so much time and attention lavished upon them, these pieces could certainly be considered haute couture, but they're also technical accomplishments. The automatic pumps that run La Belle Danse had to be adjusted to follow the rhythm of the dance.

While fidelity to the past, and making a royal space accessible for 21st-century citizens of La Republique, was important, Othoniel made some modifications for modern audiences, chiefly in the dances themselves.

"I wanted to give a vision of what baroque dance could be," he said. "But I didn't want a real baroque dance, because it takes hours, and it's very boring, and I think people of today — maybe three specialists will love it but otherwise, very boring."

Public art must delight people, it is true. And while the gaudiness is eye-catching, Othoniel's work is more than surface. In terms of color and scale, there is some overlap between his sculptures and those of Jeff Koons, who Othoniel admires for his joyfulness and the beauty of his work. But Koons' calculated materialism turns him off.

"I want something for the people, to bring hope and joy in a very sincere way," he said. "There is no irony here. I try to bring people to the wonder of the reality and not to make a discourse about it."

Although La Rose des Vent's placement on the walkway leading to the Conservatory will lend the grounds a regal cast for the next nine months, installing it in a city known for NIMBYism was nothing like dealing with Versailles' mandarins and their resistance to change. As the first permanent project since the reign of Louis XVI at Versailles — once the seat of the Ancien Régime and now a complex of some 5,000 state employees charged with maintaining one of the most identifiable repositories of French history — La Belle Danserequired a great deal of delicate ego management. And indeed, the bureaucrats there are always skeptical of contemporary art, Othoniel said. He built the sculpture on-site to "make them proud" of it.

"For the people who run the fountain, they've never stopped," he said. "It was the same family and company. With the Revolution, two wars, May '68, nothing stopped Versailles. They are always running the fountain. For them to run something high-tech was quite a shock, but now they are very proud, because now they can operate the fountain with their iPhones."

By Peter Lawrence Kane

Sara Canalís
French Artist Jean-Michel Othoniel Is The Man Who Is Modernizing The Gardens Of Versailles

It’s been more than 300 years since the last permanent commissioned artwork in the gardens of the Château de Versailles, originally designed by legendary royal landscaper, André Le Nôtre. Amidst the succession of terraces, pools, parterres and perspectives that comprise the French formal gardens which provide the perfect outdoor counterpoint to the architecture of the historic landmark built over multiple centuries lies the poetic, fairy tale-like Water Theater Grove, once the venue for parties, performances and concerts during the reign of King Louis XIV. Closed to visitors since 1990 after a devastating storm, last May saw its grand reopening after a major makeover orchestrated by respected landscape architect, Louis Benech, and contemporary glass artist, Jean-Michel Othoniel, following their winning entry in an international competition launched in 2011, with construction work beginning in May 2013.

The Beautiful Dances, The Bourrée of Achilles, 2015, fountain sculptures for the Water Theater Grove in the gardens of the Château de Versailles (Photo Thomas Garnier / Courtesy of Château de Versailles)

Breathing new life into the 1.5-hectare fountain-filled wooded grove, the pair delved into its storied past and infused a contemporary feel into a location where the spirit of the Sun King still remains to this day. He was a king who was well ahead of his time, perpetually calling on the skills of the greatest craftsmen and artists to create the monumental work that is Versailles – a hotbed for creativity and creation – in a proclamation of his glory. Othoniel was adamant about paying homage to the past while celebrating the present in a continuation of history, saying, “What’s important is to show how it is possible for an artist today to create a link with the past, rather than working on the idea of fracture. I’m an artist who takes inspiration from the past and brings a new form to it.”

A work of epic proportions, Othoniel’s three massive gilded fountain sculptures for the grove’s ponds – his most extensive and challenging artwork to date – comprise 1,751 bowling ball-sized blown-glass orbs (where each orb weighs from four to eight kilograms and took five days of work), 22,000 sheets of gold leaf and custom-made piping and nozzles, and required 14 months of production. Entitled Les Belles Danses (The Beautiful Dances), they feature loops and arabesques composed of these blue and gold glass spheres evoking the body in movement, amplified by water jets, directly inspired by the ballets put on by Louis XIV, the calligraphic floor pattern notations in the book L’Art de Décrire la Danse (The Art of Describing Dance) written by Raoul-Auger Feuillet in 1701 to help the king remember court dance steps and Le Nôtre’s famous embroidery parterres echoing the king’s garments.

When contemplating Othoniel’s sculptures, the Sun King thus appears to be dancing on water. The artist notes, “The figure of King Louis XIV is really the subject of the whole garden, depicting his power and evoking his divine dimension. But this king is not merely an abstraction, he is King Incarnate. He is recognizable, even through allegory. In my work, I often evoke the body, a symbolic absent body. Here, the only body required is that of the king. My imperative is to speak of Louis XIV in a contemporary manner, rather than of my own obsessions. The formal relation between the ways dance and gardens are written about appeared to me to be an obvious source of inspiration. There is the evocation of a joyous, leaping dance, a triple-meter dance with convolutions and ricochets. I redrew these elements to stage the king’s body. It seemed natural to place my sculptures on the water, as Louis Benech’s pools are a contemporary evocation of the theater stage in the ancient grove.”

View of the permanent commission, Le Kiosque des Noctambules, 1996-2000, Murano glass, aluminum and ceramic, Place Colette in Paris (Photo © Othoniel / ADAGP, Paris, 2014. Courtesy of Galerie Perrotin)

View of the permanent commission, Le Kiosque des Noctambules, 1996-2000, Murano glass, aluminum and ceramic, Place Colette in Paris (Photo © Othoniel / ADAGP, Paris, 2014. Courtesy of Galerie Perrotin)

Depending on the sky, Les Belles Danses metamorphose from dramatic, like a monster emerging from the sea, to meditative, like a pagoda on water. The sculptures were the result of the expertise of a team of 70, including glassmakers, metalworkers, engineers and gilders, just as Versailles was built as a collaboration between the greatest architects and artists in a true dialogue among numerous creative disciplines. Having previously worked on projects with architects Tadao Ando, Jean Nouvel and Kengo Kuma, Othoniel discloses, “I love that as an artist, you can get in touch with other artists and do projects together. For the unveiling of the Water Theater Grove, we worked with French choreographer Benjamin Millepied, who created a special ballet for the opening and I designed the costumes. I also work with writers to illustrate their books. It’s important for an artist today to connect with other artists in different fields.”

No stranger to installing his works outdoors, whether giant necklaces suspended in the gardens of the Alhambra in Granada, the Villa Medici in Rome or the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Othoniel’s works form an intimate bond with nature, becoming one with the colors, shapes, scents and seasons. Nonetheless, he also enjoys exhibiting in galleries and museums. He explains, “I love both and I try to connect with different people and cultures, like with my installations in Korea, Japan, Singapore and the US. It’s not just about the French talking to the French. My work is very personal and unique, but it is able to talk to a large public. That’s a big goal today for an artist: to be local and global. This is the big change that has happened in less than 10 years in the art world: globalization. You have to be really unique and also spread your ideas to different cultures.”

Sara Canalís
Conservatory Of Flowers' 'La Rose Des Vents' Removed For Restoration After 6 Months
Photo: via Liam Passmore

Photo: via Liam Passmore

If you've passed the Conservatory of Flowers this week, you'll likely notice something missing: "La Rose Des Vents," the gilded "rose of the wind" sculpture installed back in the fall.

"La Rose" is the work of French sculptor Jean-Michel Othoniel, the first artist in 300 years to install a permanent sculpture at the Palace of Versailles. It was brought to San Francisco in cooperation with 836M, the San Francisco art gallery also responsible for bringing back the Banksy rat.

The sculpture was slated to remain on the Conservatory lawn until June 2016, at which point it was hoped to find a permanent home elsewhere in San Francisco. So what happened?

Liam Passmore, spokesperson for 836M, said the sculpture was out temporarily for re-gilding, following a disagreement with El Niño.

"It turns out El Niño and gold gilding don't actually get along so great," he said. "The type of gold gilding process they used ... was not up to the unceasing rain of January, because the varnish protecting the gold weather began to peel."

The new gilding should be weatherproof, Passmore said. It's being executed byAteliers Gohard, the French-based company that's done work on the Statue of Liberty, the Dôme des Invalides in Paris and the roof of Versailles.

The tentative re-install date is March 11th, Passmore said, and the city is still working on finding a permanent home for "La Rose" after its tenure at the Conservatory ends this summer.

Article taken from Hoodline