Thursday, May 18, 2017

Max a Minimal

Untitled ( for Obama) © 2012, Ellsworth Kelly and Gemini G.E.L.,LLC
courtesy Deborah Ronnen Fine Art

"Untitled for Obama" by Ellsworth Kelly
lithograph, 2012
 Minimal Mostly, presented by Deborah Ronnen Fine Art
1328 University Avenue, Rochester, NY

A celebration of "less is more" comes to Rochester with a pop-up exhibition, poetry reading, screening of films and a lecture on minimal art at The Memorial Art Gallery to be given in June.  An art form that was gearing up in the late 1960's and early 1970's is here, having a second life with the curated show " Minimal Mostly " staged in an industrial space at 1328 University Avenue by Deborah Ronnen Fine Art.  Some of the artwork on view takes us back to those early days with screen prints by Josef Albers and lithography from Frank Stella.  The minimal art on view that you see is a reaction from some artists against the strains of pop art that was the rage in the art world of that era.

Carmen Herrera is the star of a documentary film
"The Hundred Years Show"

But wait, there is more - the majority of the artwork on University Avenue is recent - and it is a testament to the staying power of an idea about the strength of simplicity.  There are almost twenty different artists in this group show, and it is an attractive selection that hints at the necessity for a re-evaluation of this trend.  Since the birth of abstraction, artists have been drawn to the strength of color ( like the prints on view - here for the first time from Carmen Herrera ) and the very basis of relationships, proportion and rigor.  Talking about Carmen Herrera, I have seen her shows in New York City, and she is the star of her own documentary film "The Hundred Years Show".  It took her a hundred years before her work was recognized - that is the premise of the movie - but really it was a gradual process for her and she lived long enough to enjoy a gradual benefit - now many people know her and respect her art.

Verde y Amarillo © 2017, Carmen Herrera and ULAE
courtesy Deborah Ronnen Fine Art

"Verde y Amarillo" by Carmen Herrera
 In 2017, these are offset lithos and her first prints

The set of Carmen Herrera's first prints are all about color and geometry and they recall Josef Albers book on the 'Interaction of Color" that all artists and art students should know.  This is not art for the feint of heart.  Minimal as a term unfortunately cuts off all development that may have come before - the art we see from a fine painter like Carmen Herrera has been a long story and was only possible because of all the work she did in preparation for this.  The other artists that set the trend from Albers on to Stella and Sol Lewitt - and these new artists in "Minimal Mostly" have all felt the calling to eliminate the anecdote and keep their mode of expression very direct and clear.  These brave, committed people cut away all extraneous material to highlight design and intent - cut to the quick.

Amanda Means " Folded and Crushed"
Silver gelatin prints 2016-2017

As luck would have it, I know one of the " Minimal Mostly " artists pretty well and I was happy to see her work included in the present show.  Amanda Means is a photographer who works directly with photo paper in the darkroom - not by projecting a negative to make a print, but by folding the light sensitive paper over and over again and producing a series of grey tones that look from a distance like trunks of trees or bamboo.

Photo courtesy of Amanda Means

Amanda Means

Amanda Means has just been selected for the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship to experiment further with her process to include toning of prints with chemical baths to change the greys to colors - sepia tones, aubergine, orange and red.  When I first met Amanda years ago she was working with Bernice Abbott, but  now she is on her own road making subtle use of her many talents.

Anni Albers, GR l, 1970
courtesy Deborah Ronnen Fine Art

Anni Albers

Toward the back of the exhibition now on view until June 30th, there is a marvelous silkscreen work by Anni Albers and it glows with an active surface of red and blue calibrated to vibrate together.  This is like some of the textiles she designed while she was married to Josef Albers.  Also in the back of the show there were some small abstracts by Julia Rommel - which I thought from a distance reminded me of Richard Diebenkorn, and his "Ocean Park" series.

Untitled ( Mexico City 4/2/17 ) and Untitled ( Mexico City 3/21/17 ) © 2017
Julia Rommel and Bureau, courtesy Deborah Ronnen Fine Art

Julia Rommel

Many of the artists are working with a spare geometry, whether that might be a set of lines, or a grid as in the colorful work of Spencer Finch.  "Back to Kansas" is a large color aquatint with chine collie
whose colors have an almost random relationship  ( like some of Ellsworth Kelly's earlier paintings ) and the title of the artwork relates to how colors appear in the natural light of day at sunset.

far right: Back to Kansas,  ©  2015, Spencer Finch and Paulson Fontaine Press
courtesy Deborah Ronnen Fine Art

" Minimal Mostly " with Spencer Finch on the right
"Back to Kansas", 2015

If you want to find out more about Spencer Finch you can find him on You Tube, and it is fun to view his work under changing light conditions.  Check it out at:

Minimal Mostly is being held at 1328 University Avenue, - go around the back to Suite B, and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Re-Emerging Artist's Hour

Robert Marx and John Greene
at Main Street Arts
Clifton Springs, New York

Brad Butler, the Director of Main Street Arts welcomed us when we came over to the gallery to see the show of the "Re-Emerging Artists" - Robert Marx and John Greene.  The show is quite extensive and you only have a couple of days to see this impressive show - so put on your traveling shoes!

John Greene and Robert Marx
A beautiful wall of select works

As a culture we are frequently following the next trend and take for granted artists who have been working away in the solitude of their own studios.  Those artists are making their work because of a passion and are following their own path.  Lucky for us that Main Street Arts has allowed these painters to show a bundle of their new things, because you can learn a thing or two from the experience.  Just looking at Robert Marx recent portraits for example takes me back to my student days when I was an engaged portrait painter  - and I respect what he is doing here.  Robert Marx has a relation to artists I grew up with from the 1950's like Leonard Baskin, and Francis Bacon, and even a more obscure artist like the printmaker Bruce Muirhead.

Robert Marx at Main Street Arts
Clifton Springs, New York

The focus on portraiture in the paintings of Robert Marx is not unexpected - he has been at it for decades, and his work is represented in museum collections  and he has shown widely.  John Greene - at least for this viewer - is a new discovery, and I especially like his more dimensional works that jut out from the walls.  This is a new kind of landscape that has a lot of potential and it seems that he is exploring a new bit of territory for a representational art.

Two landscapes by John Greene
jut from the wall of the gallery

John Greene left the business world to pursue his art career and the paintings he has on view are related to the colorfield abstractions of artists like Jules Olitski, but here the works have a more determined point of view that relate to landscape as abstraction.  I think the juxtaposition of the paintings by John Greene and the works by Robert Marx make a fine kind of duet ( both men have known each other for a while but this is the first time that they have had a show together ).

John Greene paintings at Main Street Arts

Robert Marx - in his paintings and the beautiful drawings upstairs explores the effects of pattern for clothes and a kind of scribble that begins to create mass when looking at the faces he portrays.  His people seem to have a purpose and you can find that the titles give you a sense of what the artist is driving at ( see "The Pretender" for example or the drawing " A Little Mad" ).

Robert Marx

On the second floor of the gallery there are a fleet of interesting drawings by Robert Marx that extend the vision of his work, and give you insight about how he develops a face for example.  Talking about faces, there is also walls of little paintings that is part of the young talent that the gallery tries to feature every now and then.  Below is a selection of the young talent.  But young and old have something to offer, so make it your business to see this show and enjoy!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Gallery Night and Day

Taughannock Falls State Park
May 6, 2017

Now, put away that cell phone...nature is still in and around us.  Take a look today at Taughannock Falls coming - or going out of Ithaca, New York, near Trumansburg.  The rushing, thundering water is my key to understanding the moment; right now, - there is so much water coming down...simply amazing!

Marianne Van Lent at Corners Gallery

The falls are evocative and remind me of my experience seeing all this art in a short time on a gallery trek - a veritable gusher of imagery.  I am in Ithaca,  driving up Hanshaw Road to the Corners Gallery to see prints and paintings from Masha Ryskin and Marianne Van Lent in their current show called; "Collision of Realms".  On the Gallery website ( the image that was chosen to represent Marianne's artwork is a collage featuring fungi in a modest mixed media piece. Once I got to the gallery, I saw the paintings she has been working on and they are much stronger in color and texture.  These paintings were recently presented in New York City at The Painting Center, and for me there seems to be a connection to the early paintings from Terry Winters, especially because they had fungi and cellular structures embedded in textured grounds as well. But Marianne Van Lent has a stronger grasp of dramatic color without loosing the organic references entirely.

Marianne Van Lent " Dark Green Glade"

A little trio of paintings had the effect of bringing me back to the waterfalls at the top of this post.
"Dark Green Glade" has also a little touch of Monet with tempting red structures positioned over shimmering blue greens.  

One might think that because this is a two person show at the Corners Gallery that the show title "Collision of Realms" might symbolize two very different points of view on the part of each artist, but in point of fact the pieces from both artists on exhibition work very well together.

Marianne Van Lent at Corners Gallery

I am more familiar with Marianne's part in this show - though I was surprised that many of her paintings featured fresco secco - a hand mixed pigment with an organic binder often used as a wall painting technique.  Marianne was a classmate and neighbor of mine when I was studying painting in graduate school at Cornell University.  Marianne and her husband, the architect Nic Goldsmith lived above Simeon's at 104 North Aurora Street in Ithaca.

Simeon's in Ithaca

It was nice to visit with her and see her new art - this many years after college.  Her paintings were paired with prints and paintings by Masha Ryskin who now teaches at RISD.  The two artists have many things in common.  Masha Ryskin's art is subtle, very quiet also with an eye toward the organic ( see her Red Fossil below).

Masha Ryskin 

Masha has a very fine line that is carried through her art and it looks like lacework through which you might see a color plane.  She also exhibits small paintings like "Turmoil X" that restates some abstract expressionist tendencies toward automatic writing and mark making.

Masha Ryskin at Corners Gallery, Ithaca, NY

Down the high hills of Ithaca, right on State Street is the Ink Shop, opening in the evening with a two person show - paintings, prints and constructions from Scout Dunbar, and paintings by Skye Schirmer.

At the Ink Shop door I am greeted by gallery members and inside I look at the paintings by Skye Schirmer which often include hot color and verbal declarations sometimes etched into wet paint.  This kind of direct assault on your senses has a political ring to it and reminds me of the many thousands  of hand made posters I have seen at a rally or a march.

" Nobody's Baby " by Skye Schirmer at the Ink Shop

The statements from Skye Schirmer have an emotional high pitch which can be angaging in the gallery and I wonder what they might look like if you brought one home with you.  One of her paintings might be in honor of the singer Nina Simone, while the next painting may spring out of a bad dream.

The artist and printmaker, Craig mains with his work above

Hanging over my head is an arrangement of prints and cut paper arranged in theatrical rows featuring a tug-of-war between a large snake and an alligator.  This brush with death happening again and again in the Everglades is the focus of this new work by the artist Craig Mains.

Scout Dunbar at the Ink Shop, 330 East MLK/State Street, Ithaca, NY

On the main floor there is an interesting selection of artwork from Scout Dunbar that plays with forms and color in a very lighthearted manner.  Sometimes there is a repeating pattern that can evoke an African culture, and close by there are constructions that evoke children's toys.
Much to see and do on a Gallery Night in Ithaca, New York.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Printed Ceramics, Mirrors & So Much More

Joe Lee "Assembly Language" 
Bevier Gallery, Booth Building, 
Rochester Institute of Technology

Twenty years ago, with my class at Rochester Institute of Technology, we took a working tour of a facility at Kodak Park where they had million dollar machines that printed out three dimensional prototypes for their cameras; it was truly eye opening!  We were there to design signage and wall decor for a series of rooms in their plant.  Everyone was knocked out by the idea that you could print a dimensional model.  Now, so many years later the notion of printing in 3D has become commonplace, almost anyone with a thousand dollars can buy a "maker-bot".  But there are still surprises in store..I read this month about a printed house you can live in, and there are experiments in printing a working automobile, and then there are the printed guns that shoot.

"Assembly Language"
at Bevier Gallery

This month we can see 3D printing in the service of art, and Joe Lee with his show "Assembly Language" calls upon a 3D Printer to make ceramic objects that have a mathematical precision.  His show comes as part of annual graduate thesis projects that are now on view in the Bevier Gallery.
If you have never seen printed ceramic objects ( I am not talking about print on the ceramics, rather I am talking about creating the forms layer by layer from the bottom up ) now is the chance to catch up.

The artist Xinhao Yang

Mirrors are central to the art of Xinhao Yang, and she creates a faceted mirror ring that you can wear, as well as a mirror cage that you can get into and be rolled around along the halls and walkways as a performance piece.  She says that the mirror links the positive and the negative, both reflecting and amplifying what we see and experience in life to create a balance.

Ryan Florey 

In this same gallery there are colorful larger handmade ceramic pieces by Ryan Florey that also have a mathematical pattern that can be seen in drawings on the walls.  These larger standing ceramic pieces have strong color and strict carved planes which make a distinctive form that can even be used as a bowl to contain water.

 Lingfei Zhao, woodcut 
"Dream 2/21/2017"

Lingfei Zhao is also one of our graduate students engaged in painting and printmaking.  What makes his work distinctive is his graphic manifestation of his dreams for which he keeps meticulous notebooks.  What he has as his vision at night is transformed into a painting or a print.  He is engaged in visual story-telling which we as his audience get to puzzle out.  It is a personal yet universal language he is striving for and he is becoming a very fine painter in the process.

Rebecca Aloisio

Before we leave R.I.T. for our next stop, I wanted to acknowledge the prints of Rebecca Aloisio.
She is working as an independent study in printmaking and her new prints which you see on the table are just gorgeous.  Keep an eye out for her work, it is quite colorful and very attractive.

Axom Gallery opening with
photos by Stephen Reardon

Back in Rochester for an opening at Axom Gallery - we have photographs by Stephen S. Reardon, and this collection - many of which are in color - will remain in your mind for a while.  In one image, a nearly black rectangle reveals a swirl of smoke and then you can gradually make out a hairline, and a silhouette of a face in a photo he calls "Roll Smoke".

Stephen Reardon claims in a wall label that he considers these photos as a form of therapy to get over anxiety he felt approaching strangers and asking to take their picture.  Many people have felt this urge to make a photograph of people they do not know, and maybe it is an invasion of their privacy, so it does take some guts to walk up to someone to ask for this as a courtesy.

Stephen S. Reardon
"Dare To Be Great"

You may have seen some of these images before, and Stephen Reardon has published his work ( in Post Magazine for example ). MK Ultra is one image that comes to mind - that I have seen before.  Some of Reardon's photos are funny, like Adam in his shorts, or the two ladies in their swimsuits in the photo above " Dare To Be Great".  

What I would like to see would be the stories that could accompany these photos - to go another step towards documenting the whole transaction of what was first seen by the photographer, and the dialog that ensued in order to make the photograph.  That way, we as an audience could fully immerse ourselves in the process, and learn along with the photographer - how to get over those anxieties.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

If in Brooklyn, Visit Georgia

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern
to July 23, 2017
The Brooklyn Museum

Georgia O'Keeffe

It is worth going over to The Brooklyn Museum, if you want to see their different perspective on "Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern".  What is surprising about this exhibition is the inclusion of many photographs and written entries by and about Georgia O'Keefe, as well as fashions she designed for herself that are Spartan in a very contemporary way    ( no surprise that Calvin Klein is a main sponsor of this show ).

Georgia finds her voice with shells and shingles

Georgia O'Keeffe ( 1887-1986 ) was born in the mid-west, and educated at The Art Institute of Chicago; she was a student of Arthur Wesley Dow and had an open mind when it came to painting her subjects.  Seeking a career, Georgia moved to New York City where she came under the guidance of Alfred Steiglitz - a renowned photographer and gallery director.  They had a long lasting relationship and Georgia's artwork was promoted at Steiglitz's Gallery 291 ( Fifth Avenue near 32nd street ).

Georgia O'Keeffe's Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Even if you have seen other shows featuring Georgia's paintings this one takes on a different dimension and helps situate her in time, exploring lesser known paintings as well as some of her master works from a very long career.  There is a wonderful catalog for "Living Modern" and  leafing through it you will find that The Brooklyn Museum actually has a very sizable collection of Georgia O'Keeffe's artwork and photos of her as well.  I was surprised to see a painting I did not know that came from The Smithsonian on loan, and it is about "Manhattan" - painted as a model for part of a competitive mural commission in 1932.

Gorgia O'Keeffe's " Manhattan ", 1932
oil on canvas was part of mural competition

The photographs taken of Georgia during her life really remind the viewer of her character, someone who looked like she was in total control of herself and her surroundings.  The photos in this show represent every phase of Georgia O'Keefe's life - from ones taken by Steiglitz through to the photos by Annie Leibovitz and Andy Warhol.

Georgia O'Keeffe out west in the mid 1930's

Everything in her paintings looks considered, restrained, and clear-eyed, some would say "reductive" and they move to the heart of modernism.  The paintings have become iconic, and now influence generations of artists in her wake.

On fifth floor of the Museum I stopped in to see paintings by Marilyn Minter, and found a giant floor projection centered in their arched space, and I saw what I thought were a bunch of melting M&M's, but I could not be for certain...

Top of the museum

Outside is a beautiful day and perfect for a walk in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, so we look forward to seeing the flowering cherry trees.  Sakura Matsuri,  the festival of Japanese culture is scheduled for April 29th and 30th, so if you are in Brooklyn, don't miss this chance to visit the garden when it is free and open to the public.

Cherry Trees in bloom
at The Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Years ago, I worked with my brother, Paul Singer, on graphics for The Brooklyn Botanic Garden - but all that is left of our efforts are descriptive panels in the Bonsai collection.  We still admired the ancient specimens - some go back 260 years - and have been well cared for all along the way.

The star magnolias were in bloom and couldn't help but take a look in on the Japanese gardens and take some photos to remember a fine day.  Then it was time to pack and head back upstate....

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Sunday, April 9, 2017

On A Corner in Brooklyn

Kendall Shaw at his home studio on President Street
Park Slope, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Before I travel back in time with you, I want to shout out to Kendall Shaw who is a painter friend of mine in Brooklyn, New York.  

In the Early 1980's I was settling into a large new studio space on Union Street just down from Fifth Avenue in Park Slope and Ken owned the building then.  Looking back on those years when I was working at this loft building I was really involved in the New York City art scene, and then there wasn't that much going on in Brooklyn to compare to today in 2017.  Still, Park Slope was a terrific neighborhood then and now, where many artists lived along the tree-lined blocks up and down the streets. 

Kendall Shaw ( three layered canvas, mid 1980's )

While I worked on my art during the day, I got into the writing bug and started to have my illustrated essays published in the local newspaper and in magazines like American Artist.  I landed in a nice apartment on Prospect Park with my wife, and the new studio on Union Street sure was better than painting in the back room where we lived.  I was writing a regular feature that appeared in "The Prospect Press" and it all sprang from the fact that as I walked up the slope at night I would see artists working in their apartments ( like I had been doing ) and I was determined to meet these people since I was just settling in.  Soon I was interviewing the artists I met and the timing couldn't have been better.

Lennart Anderson

Up on Union Street near Eigth Avenue there was Lennart Anderson, a superb figurative painter,who's work I had followed since I was a teenager.  I have written about him recently on this blog when he passed away recently.  Back then I was able to introduce myself and write about Lennart's artwork after doing an afternoon interview which was later published.

Kendall Shaw, who was born in Louisiana, still had a bit of a southern accent, but he was really into a kind of painting aligned with the Pattern & Decoration movement that was in vogue at that time.  Ken had a background in chemistry and his paintings had an abstract quality that I think had some influence among his students and fellow artists.  At the top of this blog you see him at work on his large paintings that remind me of Ellsworth Kelly.

Jules Olitski

Across the street in an old bank building was the studio of the painter Jules Olitski, and I would watch trucks come and go, ready to haul away his giant paintings that extended the reach of his color field painting that was championed by Clement Greenberg years ago.

Alex and Allyson Grey

New folks moved in upstairs, and I wanted to meet Alex and Allyson Grey and was overwhelmed by the energy of the artwork they produced.  Alex and Allyson are really interesting people who had just moved down from the Boston area to be part of the new Stefan Stux Gallery, who was also moving down to be in New York.

Alex Grey

Allyson Grey

Both Greys had their own kind of art going on, and I was attracted to their knowledge and interest in all kinds of visual art.  Alex had been trained in anatomy, and Allyson had a series of rainbow hued paintings that evolved slowly from her geometric visions - all of this was very stimulating.

Art critic for The Nation,
Barry Schwabsky
in a photo I took when he came to speak at R.I.T.

Across from the bank building on Fifth Avenue, I found a friend in the art writer and poet, Barry Schwabsky who lived upstairs for a while.  He later became the editor of Arts Magazine when Richard Martin left the publication to work at F.I.T.

So, this little corner of Brooklyn became a powerhouse of artistic temperament, and the young artists of Park Slope had a regular open studio tour in which I took part in helping organize.  By 1984 I had a basement space that I sublet to a pair of artists who happened to be in the midst of a year-long performance piece.  I met Teching Hsieh ( Sam ) in New York City while he was tied to Linda Montano, and they rented my basement.  Imagine, if you can,  the unusual sight of them tied together, walking down the street.  This was truly memorable for many reasons - and they were really great folks.

Performance artists Teching Hsieh and Linda Montano

And what was I doing at that time?  I had completed a series of postage stamp designs with my father, Arthur Singer.  We had a hit on our hands and the U.S.Postal Service issued these stamps in Washington, D.C. and people lined up to get our autographs.  They sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of these little portraits of birds and flowers.  Now that was a time....

Arthur and Alan Singer
"The Birds and Flowers of the Fifty States"