Thursday, February 26, 2015

San Francisco: Contemporary Jewish Museum

On my extra day in San Francisco after Dad 2.0, I went to visit a couple of museums that were near the hotel, and that seemed like they'd be right up my alley.  And since I had some friends from Argentina that are living in San Francisco, it seemed like a great idea to hook up with them, see some museums and have some fun.

I used to live in San Francisco for a bit in 1992 and visit quite a bit throughout the 90's.  I worked in a theatre in the Tenderloin. The downtown has changed dramatically since then, but the smell of Market St (the smell of stale urine) has not changed, nor has the homeless problem.  I saw hundreds of homeless people in my time there, living on the streets.  I'm not sure how to solve the problem, but it's not good for tourism, it's not good for the city itself, and it's certainly not good for the men and women that are homeless.

I met my friends from Argentina (and their 16 month old son) at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, a former Power plant.  The architecture of the building is beautiful, (Read an article) and it seemed very inviting.  We walked in, and discovered that it was Family Fun day, which meant it was free for families!  Lucky for us we brought a kid!

Mr. Lunch Takes a Plane Ride book
MR. LUNCH available on Amazon!
An exhibit that looked super interesting was an exhibit about the work of J. Otto Siebold and Mr. Lunch. Siebold was a bay area resident, and a pretty well known children's book artist/illustrator.  The exhibit was colorful, it had a room full of oversized props that the young child could crawl on and around.  It had a little information about the artist, and a spot where you could read books to your kids. Over all, a promising opening to the museum.  This closes March 8, so see it while you can!

The main exhibit (Letters To Afar , which was created in collaboration with awesome Klezmer band The Klezmatics (listen to Klezmatics on Amazon) was sadly just about to open.  So we didn't see that.  I'm a big fan of the Klezmatics- their songs are wonderful and witty and a little caustic, as the titles of two of their albums will attest: (You can click the albums to see them on Amazon)

On the second floor was an ongoing exhibit about a donor to the museum who died in 2011 and liked to play the banjo-- while it was interesting, it was a little disappointing.  It had a costume on display, a single wall explanation and a video of his work.  It looked like a program room.

There was also another exhibit which seemed very blah-- In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art. It's an interesting idea of pairing up artists and scholars to work together, but in reality the  art produced seemed banal and obvious to me-- in this art they put together recipes which included such tidbits as (Chop the onions.  As you chop, think of all the atrocities committed against the Jews and the Indians.  Keep crying when you finish.  Or something like that.)  Just not profound enough to rate the museum, in my opinion (and artists, if you are reading this, I'm sorry, your work didn't read or speak to me.  I wish it was the opposite. It's not personal.)  And it's in a case in the hallway, so it's not very large either.

Another exhibit (which my friends didn't realize was an exhibit) was a twitter feed of 6 word memoirs about Jewish life.  It manifested in a scrolling sign which didn't scroll often enough.  It looked like it was just an advertisement for admission.

There was a playspace for kids that we didn't go to, even though they had real live puppy dogs for kids to pet.  There's also a Jewish deli attached to the museum, but it's not kosher.  My friends had salads and a Reuben with cheese.  I had an old fashioned egg cream (which had neither egg nor cream--- it was more like Chocolate Milk with Seltzer.  pretty tasty!)

In general, I'm hoping we caught the Jewish Contemporary Museum on a bad day.  It looked fabulous from the outside, but was disappointing on the inside.  Part of that was despite the giant building, it seemed like a small tiny percentage of it was used for exhibits, and most was used for... offices, I guess.   They also seem to have a lot of programming happening.  They seem to have more exhibits coming up, and we missed the main exhibit, so I'd probably go back, especially if it were free.

But if that's the state of Contemporary Jewish art right now, it looks like we Jews have another thing to pray for!

We also went to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, which I'll write about at another time.

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