Bob Matheny uses the alley behind his house as a way to poke fun at the art world.
The longtime San Diego artist has been mounting art on his back fence facing Brindisi Street in Sunset Cliffs for a few years now.
He’s been giving away his friends’ paintings, plus some of his own sculptures. A sign on the fence informed neighbors and passersby that they could take the work for free.
Matheny said he needed to clear out some of the art in his personal collection so he could make room for the new art he makes in his home studio every day. But more importantly, he’s also a provocateur who loves knocking art off its fancy pedestal.
At his solo show at Bread & Salt in Logan Heights earlier this year, for example, he let another artist pick out one of his paintings and destroy it with a hammer. Also this year at Bread & Salt, Matheny invited the public to watch as he claimed to bury a real Willem de Kooning painting a few feet underground.
Matheny’s become known for his acts of anti-art, and for continually wagging his finger at the pretension of the fine art world.
But a few months ago, Matheny stopped giving art away for free in his alley gallery. He said he couldn’t keep up with the demand. Now he displays just one piece of art in the alley at a time.
He says the small sculptures he mounts on the fence are actually models of proposed public art pieces for San Diego.
“I’m hoping the Port of San Diego will come by and replace ‘The Kiss’ statue with one of mine,” he said.
He’s half joking, of course, but Matheny said he really does despise “Unconditional Surrender,” better known as “The Kiss,” a sculpture of a World War II sailor and nurse kissing that stands 25 feet tall on San Diego’s downtown waterfront. The Port of San Diego agreed to have it permanently installed at the Embarcadero in 2013, even though its own public art committee voted against the idea because of the statue’s lack of artistic merit.
“I hate it,” Matheny said. “It’s just too kitschy for me.”
Matheny joins longtime San Diego art critic Robert L. Pincus and other vocal critics in his dislike of the sculpture. Many feel it’s derivative, or even a giant act of copyright infringement since the sculpture is clearly a copy of Alfred Eisenstaedt’s iconic picture “V-J Day at Times Square.”
Matheny’s alley project, now called the Flash Brindisi Gallery for Public Art, is not his first venture into the gallery world. He founded the art gallery at Southwestern College in 1961, he ran a gallery on Third Avenue downtown for a short time in the 1970s and, more recently, he curated a series of shows at the Not An Exit gallery inside Bread & Salt.
“Odd and eccentric art and artists,” Matheny said. “That’s what I like.”
Lemon Grove Contemplates a New Arts District
Lemon Grove could eventually be known for more than just its giant gaudy lemon when it comes to public art.
City planners are working on updating a plan for approximately 245 acres of downtown. At public workshops in August and December, community members suggested creating a new arts district to help attract people to the area.
“I think we’re looking to energize the downtown and create a destination in the city,” said David De Vires, the city’s development services director.
The arts district is being proposed for one of two areas; on Broadway between Massachusetts and Lemon Grove Avenue, or along a chunk of Lemon Grove Way, east of Lemon Grove Avenue.
De Vires said the city could kickstart an arts district by requiring art as part of new private and public construction projects in the area, and by commissioning new public art as city funding allows.
The proposed art district is just one aspect of the downtown plan expansion. The other big element is a pitch for a new park along Broadway, east of Lemon Grove Avenue.
De Vires said the next step is getting the plan approved by the City Council in 2017.
A Refugee Artist-in-Residence Project, Saving the Starlight Theater and Other Arts and Culture News
• The San Diego Symphony’s Our American Music festival will be a month-long celebration of music made in and inspired by America. The Huffington Post talked with the symphony’s manager of community engagement about the January festival, which includes performances by Rosanne Cash and Talib Kweli alongside symphony performances of iconic pieces by composers like Leonard Bernstein and George Gershwin.
• As VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt reported early this year, Balboa Park’s once-beloved Starlight Theater is now falling apart. There’s a new group working to restore the theater and get it up and running. And now there’s the Save Starlight Band, which will play music at a food truck fest in Balboa Park Wednesday while educating passersby about ways they can help save the iconic theater.
• The New York Times rounded up the best photo books of the year, and the list includes “Estamos Buscando A” (“We’re Looking For”), a self-published book by San Diego photographer and educator Paul Turounet.
• A story about the history of Chicano Park popped up on LinkedIn. The piece includes an update to how close the park is to being officially designated as a National Historic Landmark.
• Celebrate Kwanzaa and get a sneak peak of the new African History Museum at the World Beat Cultural Center in Balboa Park this week. The museum is scheduled to officially open in February of next year. (U-T)
• KPBS dropped by the Leichtag Foundation’s farm and wrote about its experimental refugee artist-in-residence project.
• I went on KPBS last week to talk about the first season of VOSD’s Culturecast podcast.
• Kraig Cavanaugh was not impressed by the “Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture” exhibition showing at the San Diego Museum of Art. (San Diego Story)
• Check out this glowing review and photos of artist Dani Dodge’s exhibition and installation at HB Punto Experimental in Barrio Logan. (Diversions LA)
Food, Beer and Booze News
• The city of San Diego wants to make it easier for breweries to expand. (U-T)
• Filipino food is the next big thing, say big-time foodies, so the U-T found some local Filipino chefs who are infusing menus with their favorite childhood recipes.
• The Reader’s Ian Anderson rounded up the biggest beer stories of 2016.
• Carnitas Snack Shack in Del Mar is closing, so the restaurant is hosting one last hurrah.
• Hard cider is coming to Scripps Ranch. (Reader)
• Craft cocktails and boozy milkshakes are coming to Hillcrest. (Eater San Diego)
• White Labs, the San Diego-based yeast-production company, is opening a new location in Asheville, N.C., in January.
Kinsee Morlan is the engagement editor at Voice of San Diego. Email her at email@example.com. Want to recommend this culture newsletter to someone? Share this sign-up link.