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San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

A tour of the redesigned San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Moving out of the modestly accessible Veteran's Memorial Building and into the splendid new edifice downtown has transformed San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art--though parking is not without its challenges. We could hardly wait to get inside.

We started with the Mexican Moderns. Diego Rivera dominates the huge central atrium,with an extensive display of drawings made in preparation for his ceiling mural, Allegory of California, 1930. Students of all ages pored over these and held lively discussions.

Among the Jacques and Natasha Gelman collection of paintings, one stood out: a large Woman with Rebozo, by Rufino Tamayo, serene and timeless, alone worth a trip to San Francisco. Several Frida Kahlo self-portraits were familiar, with one distinctive love story showing Diego Rivera in her head.

"Alfred Stieglitz at Lake George" held a few surprises in its 100 or so images, notably the meticulous care he took in composition and technique. Most prints were quite small. Several appeared in series, such as a profound astromonical study, "Equivalents". A row of aging poplars in four technical darkroom expressions emerged as poignant; the studies of women, the intimacy of a single hand of Georgia O'Keeffe, and clad or semi-clad bathers were captivating.

A leisurely gaze at old friends in the permanent collection, "From Matisse to Diebenkorn" drew us down to the second floor before closing time. A Matisse sculpture, Bacchus, greeted us very jovially. Beyond were other well-known Impressionists and deeper inside we found the Berkeley artists: Richard Diebenkorn, ranging across eons; Paul Wonner, such a blue, you can smell the ocean off it; wobble-wheeled David Park; Wayne Thiebaud, ah, those soaring and plunging San Francisco streets in Klieg lights!

Our group reconvened for further impressions and a glass of California merlot in the Caffe Museo. Their menu is varied and cosmopolitan. Service is cafe-style, with cordial personnel, as elsewhere in the museum.

The Steiglitz exhibit ends September 22, 1996; Mexican Modernism leaves SF MOMA on September 8 and will resurface in Miami, October 5 to December 2,at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The best place to park for SF MOMA is at the garage at Fifth Street and Mission, 2 blocks away--or else you may get towed, as we did. Or, take BART to Montgomery St. Station. For further information on exhibits, call 415/357-4000.

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