Thursday, September 3, 2009

San Francisco: Day 5 (and final)

So my last "real" day in San Francisco was a 100% vacation day.

Started the morning with a walk to Coit Tower, then down (and way, way up) Lombard Street -- that "really curvy zig-zagy street"... from Lombard I made my way to Fisherman's Wharf where I took my time to people, boat, and seagull watch.

Stopped at In-N-Out for "lunch" although at a brunchish hour. Although they don't officially open until 10:30 (for some reason I remembered 10) they were kind enough to take my order at 10:13. After In-N-Out, I hoped on the cable car -- very touristy, but also a very effective form of transportation and made my way to Union Square... where I walked through the old Emporium building.

Last time I was in SF the building was boarded up and looking very derelict... sad considering it's history. It was interesting to walk through those doors and see the (heavily remodeled, I must assume) interior... The dome, most visible from the upper level is simply majestic.

After deciding against making any purchases I walked down Market, though the Yerba Buena gardens to SFMoMA -- the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I was impressed by the collection, but the galleries-to-price tag ratio kind of put me off. Two special exhibitions for the price of one -- "Georgia O'Keeffe and Ansel Adams: Natrual Affinities" and "Richard Avedon: Photographs 1946-2004". I've discovered that I have a fondness for Adams' photographs, especially of Yosemite, and I don't particularly care for much of Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings. My feelings on Rhchard Avedon are decidedly mixed. Ascherman and Friedlander, I think, are still my favorite photographers.

One of the sad realities, though, of modern art -- modern graphic art -- is that a piece is no longer necessarily unique. I saw at least two pieces at SFMoMA that I am almost certain art concurrently on exhibit at CMA, though perhaps at different sizes. CMA does a better job of explaining both. It was interesting, though, to see a stack of Donald Judd's boxes, virtually identical to those the CMA has presented: In the CMA piece, the boxes are metal-framed with Plexiglas tops and bottoms. The version in SFMoMA's collection appears to be entirely metal, yet the description indicates that Plexiglas is used.

Piet Mondrain's Composition with Red, Yellow, and Blue (1927) has been a recent favorite of mine at CMA for it's simple but definate nature. I enjoyed seeing an almost completely different, larger, Composition with Red, Yellow, and Blue (1935-42) as well as the beginnings of a piece that was unfinished at the time of his death.

After SFMoMA I walked to the Civic Center, paused at UN Plaza, and continued to the Asian Art museum. Lured there largely by the promise of architectural tours of what was formerly the main library building, I was disappointed when I found that not only are they "now" a weekend only thing, the person I asked didn't even think that they were an every weekend thing. Bummer. As for the collection, it is impressive but I wasn't particularly moved by it -- like the African Art I mentioned in my last post, it is largely -- to the edge of being called "almost exclusively" -- earthenware, and sculptural (with a large number of those sculptures being various deities). While they deserve respect and analysis and are certainly of historical value, I have an exceptionally difficult time getting myself excited about that media. Something about the various Jade objects on display, as well as the early Bronze age vessels did catch my eye... There's something about Jade.

Following that, I found myself at City Hall. A beautiful building inside and out, I was primarily interested in revisiting the physical presence of the Museum of the City of San Francisco, which formerly had a relatively modest display in the South Light Court. It seems that that has moved on; all that is left in the space is a small scattering of artifacts relating to City Hall itself. The good news is twofold: First, according to the Wikipedia article, in 2012, the Museum will have a permanent home in the Old US Mint building; Second, I discovered a photographic installation on the lower level of City Hall (10 x 10 x 10) that had some really captivating photographs -- and no admission charge.

Walking back to Union Square, I hopped back on the cable car, and rode to Mason and Jackson where I hopped off to visit the Cable Car Museum... it was, for better or worse, exactly as I remembered it. After contemplating how such a relatively simple concept can be so complex in reality (and how much physical mass is involved) I hopped back out, grabbed the cable car line going the opposite direction until California Street. I hopped the California Street line (I'm fairly sure I've never ridden this line before) Westbound to the end of the line... got off, got right back on and rode all the way to the Embarcadero at the other end of the line. Standing on the running board, wind in my face. It was great. Except for the Italian tourist who kept pressing himself against my back while absent mindedly videotaping. C'est la vie.

Grabbed a burger and fries at Bistro Burger for dinner... eh. It was OK; had I known how much cheese I was going to get I probably would have opted for something other than the Gorgonzola. Based on the number of people I saw trying to order milkshakes, it's probably a good bet that those would not disappoint (sadly, they were out of ice cream... next time I'm in SF...)

Walked back to the hotel, feet killing me -- except for lunch, dinner, and about 5 minutes of the cable car ride, I've been on my feet -- and mostly walking -- since 9:00 this morning.

Tomorrow I fly home. I'm looking forward to sleeping in my own bed, but likewise look forward to returning to San Francisco, preferably sooner rather than later.


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