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Hardly Strictly Warren Hellman

Born into a prominent California family, Warren Hellman created his own enduring legacy in business, culture, and philanthropy. His fortune largely self-made, Warren was known for his keen ability to identify talented people. He established two of America’s premier private equity firms and aided the creation of a large number of successful alternative investment management firms across the US. He is best remembered for his philanthropy and his iconoclastic approach to life. An endurance athlete who competed in long distance running and horseback riding competitions, he was also a musician and music enthusiast who believed in the importance of community arts. Among a host of business and philanthropic accomplishments, Hellman may now be best recognized for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival (HSB) which he founded in 2001. Held annually in Golden Gate Park, the festival draws more than 700,000 people.

Imin Yeh discusses her artwork, "Paper Mahjong"

To accompany the exhibition Project Mah Jongg, The Contemporary Jewish commissioned artist Imin Yeh to create the work Downloadable Paper Mahjong. The exhibition is on view through October 28, 2014. On September 18, Imin sat down with former Curatorial Associate Jeanne Gerrity to discuss her work.

Paper Mahjong by Imin Yeh
Hand crafted Paper Mahjong set created by Imin Yeh

Can you tell me a little bit about how you came up with the idea for Paper Mahjong?

Growing up, my grandmother had a mah jongg set that I was obsessed with because it was really simple and well-crafted. When I was older and living in China, I was constantly searching for a set as beautiful as this one, but all I could find existed somewhere between fake “antique” sets or commercial glossy new ones. I realized my grandmother’s set was so beautiful because it was so loved and worn, having been touched by hundreds of hands. Underlying many of my more recent projects is this idea of making paper facsimiles of the things you want. That’s the original impetus of this project: instead of being a granddaughter who designed her grandma’s set, being a person whose grandchildren would say, “my crazy grandmother built her own set of paper mah jongg tiles.” When I was working at the Asian Art Museum in their store, many customers had similar goals of really wanting to get this authentic and well-made set. You hear the phrase so often now, “It’s crappy because it was made in China.”  Their design for an exotic and authentic cultural artifact exists in contrast with their contemporary conception of how things are mass produced in countries such as China.   So the idea with Paper Mahjong is that it’s one hundred percent free, but you have to make it yourself, putting the labor back onto the consumer. It’s about the transformation of a free cheap worthless material into something extremely precious because of the investment of hours.

In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art

In That Case collaborator Ron Lynch's "Tomorrow!" the longest-running
comedy, variety, and music show in Los Angeles. Photo by Lindsey White.

Opening at The Contemporary Jewish Museum on October 23, 2014, In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art is based on the Talmudic principle of havruta—the study of religious texts by people in pairs. In That Case encourages learning through fellowship for Bay Area artists, established professionals, museum staff, and the entire CJM community. The root word haver—“friend” in Hebrew—emphasizes the communal nature of learning, and the havruta learning model reflects the Jewish affinity for asking questions and grappling with complex topics, together. Capitalizing on the Jewish perspective inherent to the museum, this program will take havruta and repurpose it for contemporary art. Each local artist invited to participate will be given the opportunity of working with an established writer, scientist, thinker, or academic in a field of their choosing.

Meet Renny Pritkin: New CJM Chief Curator

Renny Pritikin has been a leading figure in the Bay Area arts community for decades, as Co-director of the historic New Langton Arts, Chief Curator of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and Director of the Nelson Gallery and Fine Arts Collection at the University of California, Davis. We interviewed him to see how he is approaching this next phase of his career.

What interested you about working here at The CJM?

My whole career has been about expanding the boundaries of what's permissible and allowed to enter into the world of contemporary art. I said the other day to the Board [of Directors] that it feels at this point like a cri de coeur, a “cry from the heart” for inclusion and expansion of what's possible. The earliest part of my career was spent working at New Langton Arts for experimental art to be taken seriously and then at Yerba Buena [Center for the Arts] it was for the identity movement, people of various heritages, gays and lesbians, political artists, experimental artists and amateur artists, and just to open the door. So it seems obvious that here my own ethnic heritage would be added to that mix. I’ve never literally addressed Jewish issues, my approach has been that inclusion is inherently a Jewish point of view.

Creative Community: Black Glitter Collective

The exhibition To Build and Be Built addresses the culture of the kibbutz—Israeli communal agrarian societies in which life, labor, and pretty much everything else is often shared. This series of interviews explores local collectives of contemporary artists and asks the question, is it better to make art together?

The collective and friends: Persia, Tori, San Cha, Keith, and Jessica Amaya
The Black Glitter Collective, with five core members is creating and producing art collectively and independently with one another. They are Persia, San Cha, Tori, Tyler Holmes, and Vainhein (pronounced “Vane Hane” as in "vanity" and "heinous"). So far Black Glitter Collective has created more art than income, so they all have day jobs. But it would be pejorative to say they are just friends hanging out. They each have separate projects that focus on different artistic directions. And they collaborate on shared projects. Black Glitter is involved in creating music, performance art, style, fashion, attitude, video production, graphic design, and building an active and engaged community.