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March 30, 2012

Long View Study No. 19 (Halley I-V)


My latest piece takes the first five iterations of the British Antarctic Survey‘s Halley Research Station for its subject. The base is located on the Brunt Ice Shelf of the Weddell Sea and is well known for its atmospheric studies. The first measurements of ozone depletion in the Antarctic stratosphere were taken here in 1985, leading to the international agreement on banning chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Halley I was founded in 1956 for the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58 by an expedition from the Royal Society. Halley II, III, and IV were constructed over successive decades as the snow surface, rising about a meter a year, buried each of the bases over time.

My image’s vertical arrangement references the resulting stratification of architecture and ice which places Halley I at a depth of 56 meters (184 feet) in 2012, with the whole lot drifting towards the Weddell at the rate of around half a kilometer annually.

Halley V, still in use, was the first of these stations to be built on steel platforms supported by extendable legs to keep it above the accumulating snow for at least a while longer. Building on this idea, BAS introduced new structures mounted on skis to be moved by bulldozers to prevent them from being buried.

The newest step in this direction is the spectacular Halley VI station, which warrants an artwork and blog post of its own. Look for it here soon.

Long View Study No. 19 (Halley I-V) was created using wood, acrylic, graphite and cut paper. It’s the third artwork in my Antarctic research station series (Syowa and McMurdo being the first two).

Filed under: Antarctic Research Facilities,Studies — mbartalos @ 11:36 pm

February 28, 2012

Antarctic Item 040


Antarctic Item 040 comes from a McMurdo rubble pile. The artifact appears to be a conduit connector encrusted with a white sealing agent. While the device isn’t particularly attractive,
it presumably proved useful to scientific research. In this way it’s something of a metaphor
for McMurdo Station itself.

McMurdo is anything but beautiful. Its hodgepodge arrangement of utilitarian architecture describes practical demands and budgetary limitations. As such, it serves its purpose as a
polar research and transit hub but offers little in aesthetic splendor.

That is, until we zoom in closer. Looking beyond the white goo of the conduit fitting,
I marvel at its rust which at close range resembles brightly colored patches of lichen.
Similarly, much of McMurdo’s character resides in its inconspicuous textures, weathered
colors, and stray marks which speak to Antarctica’s environment and history. And that’s
what I look for in the discards I retrieve from the Ice to post here.

Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 10:29 pm

January 6, 2012

Long View Talk in Minneapolis


I’m excited to be giving a talk about the Long View project at Target’s Spark lecture series in Minneapolis on January 26. Each month Target’s creative teams host a speaker with a unique practice or story to relate. Past guests include film director Pete Docter, polar environmentalist Will Steger, and comics creator Stan Lee, placing me in esteemed company.

Big thanks to Target’s Ted Halbur for designing the poster above and to Marsha Trainer for arranging my visit. I’m honored to be the first Spark speaker to be asked back twice!

Filed under: Updates, Events, News, Info, Interviews — mbartalos @ 1:30 pm

December 28, 2011

Antarctic Item 007


Like the previously posted beer cans, this one was recovered from Antarctica’s Dry Valleys across the sound from McMurdo Station. It’s likely the oldest of the lot (note the steel lid,
pre-dating aluminum ends) and certainly the most weather-punished. Its rich textures and
varied colors demanded that both sides of the cylinder be photographed.

Traces of an indecipherable label design appear in the first view. If anyone recognizes its identity, please let me know.

Much thanks to Marble Point camp manager “Crunch” Noring for finding and donating these artifacts to the Long View Project.

Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 10:35 am

December 21, 2011

Antarctic Item 006


This Heineken can appears to have been laying on its side at the mercy of the Antarctic elements for some time, rendering one half quite rusty and the other half thoroughly so.

Oxidation aside, its advanced age is also revealed by a pair of lid piercings. It wasn’t till the early 1960s that discardable pull-rings were introduced, replacing churchkeys as standard can-opening mechanisms.

Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 10:35 am

December 14, 2011

Antarctic Item 005


Similar as this Bud can appears to the previous post, this one proves older on close inspection. In addition to having lost its red pigment, this one’s blue has faded too. Oxidation is more advanced here, particularly on the top and bottom. But the biggest clue is the fully-detachable pull-tab which was phased out in the 1970s. This can’s tab, regretfully, remains somewhere in Antarctica.

Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 10:34 am

December 7, 2011

Antarctic Item 004


I’m back to cataloging more discards that I retrieved from Antarctica to include in my artwork. This month’s featured finds are beer cans.

This Bud can appears to be relatively new, judging by its condition and stay-on-tab design. Still, it languished long enough for the weather to have stripped it of its familiar red markings (red being the most fugitive of printing ink colors).

Resembling a half-completed printing job, the blue-and-white motif appropriately suggests the icy landscape in which the can underwent its transformation.

Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 10:34 am

November 10, 2011

Long View Installation I / Age of Wonder


I’m pleased to be taking part in “Age of Wonder,” a group show around the theme of
art engaged with the natural world. My new sculpture, LV Installation I, marks my first exhibition of The Long View project, which has been in progress since 2009.


Featuring four custom-built shelf units to create a semi-enclosed space, the installation juxtaposes discarded material I collected from Antarctica with a recent series of mixed-media art panels whose diagrammatic graphics reinvent visual codes of scientific and design theory. I’ve combined these objects and elements to create a sculptural narrative describing Antarctic science, history, and environment with the larger goal of examining humankind’s relationship with the natural world over time.


Recycling is a central theme to the piece. I used wood to reference Ernest Shackleton’s repurposing of wooden crates to make Antarctic hut shelving and book covers a century
ago — an early instance of polar resourcefulness. In homage to Shackleton’s Aurora
, the book form appears on every scale of the installation, from the hinged
shelf pairs to the art panel ‘spreads,’ down to the small wooden faux-books between
and throughout.


The well-produced exhibition catalog is authored by Bay Area art writer, critic, and
curator DeWitt Cheng, who wrote of the show:

[The artists] link human survival with the reuniting of reason and emotion, intellect
with spirituality. These artists, so fascinated with the natural world, point the way
toward genuine human stewardship of the planet.

The passage accurately describes what I strove for with this installation and hope to
achieve to a greater degree as the Long View Project progresses.


Age of Wonder runs through December 31, 2011 at the Turtle Bay Museum in Redding CA.

Participating artists are Michael Bartalos, Tiffany Bozic, Mark Brest Van Kempen, Isabella Kirkland, Judith Selby Lang & Richard Lang, Carrie Lederer, Aline Mare & Olivia E. Sears,
Susan Middleton, Rick Prelinger & Megan Prelinger, and Gary Brewer who curated the show.

Filed under: Long View Art — mbartalos @ 7:22 pm

October 19, 2011


My wall installation, RGB-123, is currently on view in “Keeping an Eye on Surveillance,” a group show at the Performance Art Institute in San Francisco. PAI describes the exhibition as ‘a comprehensive look at societal surveillance in the post-9/11 world. Over twenty artists, working in media ranging from painting and photography to new media, will explore the ever-growing encroachment of surveillance enabled by technological advances.’

My piece takes aerial surveillance technology for its subject. The artwork consists of a dense panoply of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) silhouettes arranged to float within a circular shape, as if observed through a viewfinder. This ‘lens’ functions both telescopically to view large satellites and microscopically to depict nano-drones.

RGB-123 grew out of my interest in Earth observation technology that helps scientists monitor environmental changes in Antarctica over time. Fittingly, the imagery includes satellites and super-pressure balloons whose remote sensing apparatus define the cutting edge of high altitude research.


My installation also addresses the intriguing field of micro aerial vehicles modeled after winged animals such as bats, hummingbirds and mosquitoes for monitoring human activity outside of Antarctica. My composition represents this wide array of instrumentation, inviting viewers to contemplate the various uses, motives, and consequences of surveillance.

The title RGB-123 makes reference to satellite naming conventions and video color. While the visible sides of my artwork are black, the back sides are red, green and blue, casting RGB shadows on the wall behind them. This ‘video glow’ serves to address the medium while enhancing the dimensionality of the silhouetted UAV collection.

My installation was created with plywood, acrylic paint, and hardware, and measures eight feet in diameter. It is visible from outside street level as well as from inside, and will remain up through October 26.

The Performance Art Institute is at 575 Sutter Street, San Francisco CA . Tel: (415) 501-0575. Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 12-6 PM. Free admission.

Participating artists: Rosa Maria Alfaro, Michael Bartalos, Guillermo Bert, Lisa Blatt, Jim Campbell, Enrique Chagoya, Antonio Cortez, Allan deSouza, Rodney Ewing, Roni Feldman, Sean Fletcher, Angus Forbes, Farley Gwazda, Taraneh Hemami, Brooke Holve, Justin Hoover, Sherry Karver, Scott Kildall, Barbara Kossy, Tony Labat, Mark Leibowitz, Charlie Levin, Jennifer Locke, Kara Maria, Andrew Mezvinsky, Daniel Newman, Nigel Poor, Isabel Reichert, Tim Roseborough, Roberto Rovira, Elizabeth Sher, and Michael Zheng. Curated by Hanna Regev.

Filed under: Long View Art — mbartalos @ 11:58 pm

September 2, 2011

Keeping an Eye on Surveillance

I’m currently working on a large wall installation for an upcoming group show titled “Keeping an Eye on Surveillance.” My piece, titled “RGB-123,” references airborne observation tech-nology as described in my Long View posts about remote sensing from outer space and McMurdo’s role in high-altitude scientific research.


This photo shows the art in progress on my studio floor. I’m creating and grouping sculptural elements to suggest an array of airborne surveillance instruments within a circular composi-tion measuring eight feet in diameter. The backs of the pieces will be painted red, green and blue, casting RGB (video) color shadows when installed to ‘float’ an inch or so off the surface of the gallery wall.

“Keeping an Eye on Surveillance” opens on Saturday, September 10, 6-9 PM at the Performance Art Institute, 575 Sutter Street in San Francisco. The exhibition runs through October 22 and I’ll be posting pictures of the completed installation here once the show is up.

Filed under: Long View Art — mbartalos @ 6:21 pm
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