Thursday, March 30, 2017

Vision Of The Future


"Future View" by Alan Singer
Transfer monoprint on Fabriano paper
My entry for "Made in NY, 2017"
at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center,
Auburn, New York
thru May 21, 2017


Once a year there is a very interesting juried exhibition of recent art mounted at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center in Auburn, NY called: "Made in New York".  This year, the title of the show is "Envisioning the Future" and I was very happy to have my mono print "Future View" selected for this show which seems appropriate for many reasons.  When I think about the future for the visual arts, I think about new techniques coming on board to broaden the search and enliven the map that artists use to find their path.  When I think about the future for the arts, I consider R.I.T., where I teach , and all the new voices coming from all over the world to develop their vision and practice their craft.  It is heartening to see all these young people flocking to the arts, and the show called "Made in New York, 2017" is right on the mark.  I am sure that we will see many new avenues opening up for artist exploration.




Peter Gohringer
" Soft Green Mutant" thermal vacuum formed plastic

When you see this show, you will have the opportunity to view this art in a wonderful space, the exhibition is selected carefully - so as to be not too crowded, and right at the entry there is this bright yellow-green form by Peter Gohringer that certainly has that look of something new and unusual.
This brilliant bubble like appearance, framed in white has a little bit of Pop Art in its genetic makeup but it stands alone in its simple field.  I am reminded of the movie "The Graduate" with Dustin Hoffman, when he receives advice about his future career prospects in:  plastics.  



"Rain Rustler Outfit" by Jennifer Hecker

Right around the corner was another surprise by Jennifer Hecker - a mixed media piece called "Rain Rustler Outfit", it is a costume made partly from worked hot glass along with a welded steel hat and "water pistols" with boots.  Funny imagination here in a sculptural presence that I have not seen before;  I wonder if climate change has driven this artist to think about what lengths we will have to go to deal with the elements.



Sue Leopard's artist book, at "Made in New York, 2017

There were some old friends represented in this exhibition, such as Sue Leopard with her book dedicated to: "This Past Winter ( GLOBAL WARN ( M ) ING - Serious Ill Winds, past & Future".
Sue has been making intricate hand made artist books for many years that include ingenious typography and careful image making on pages here of an ivory sort of paper: the Japanese Kitikata.



  Artist Janet Winkie next to her work " Receiving Blanket"

Janet Winkie who teaches at SUNY Brockport, has a sewn piece on display which she calls: "Receiving Blanket" made of old gym socks and a satin backing.  I was kidding her, but I said that the way her piece was hanging reminded me of marine life, especially the manta rays ( see also Chardin's paintings of ray fish ).  If you go back to the title for this show - "Envisioning the Future" this is in direct relation with a baby's first blanket as they enter the world.  A hopeful sign.

Thoughts about marine life are back again in the swirls of a giant woodblock print by Taro Takizawa.

An image of an giant Octopus on a vintage china plate reinforces this thought by Beckett Wood.  In the description of the work, the label reads that the plate has been fired at 2300 degrees, which I imagine makes the image pretty durable.


"Unknown Landscape" by Taro Takizawa

I was looking for hopeful signs in this show "Envisioning the Future" but more often I came away with the feeling of impending warnings - to be on your guard.  One very simple but beautiful work was a silverpoint image inscribed on a white panel and titled "Standing Stone" by Peter Allen.  This technique takes a long time to accumulate enough value to be visible, and it is hard to photograph but below you will get the idea of what it is all about; I urge you to go see the show and find this quiet piece in the show.


"Standing Stone" by Peter Allen
silverpoint on white panel

Thoughts about the future seem to be very graphic and might involve tumult, and I feel this in the small horizontal composition by Sarah Sutton from Trumansburg, New York. Her painting on panel is called "Delay Line Memory" and it is an engaging little oil that has a variety of  articulated values that tell a story of violent destruction on the man-made landscape. 


Sarah Sutton's painting  "Delay Line Memory"


"Made in New York, 2017 " brings together many people who have been working in the visual arts doing really interesting things in a wide variety of media.  I like Phyllis Bryce Ely's "Field at Risk" which is made with oil stick on top of old draftsman's mylar that still has traces of an engineer's drawing in places, calling our attention, once again to our environment and how we treat it.



Phyllis Bryce Ely's "Field at Risk"

As I leave,  I stop by two large drawings that again hint at the direction we are going. In these works by Donalee Wesley called: " Encroachment l and ll from 2017, we get more of that tumult, and tumbling action when the human population upsets the balance with wildlife, especially powerful predators.  We are all in this together, so be mindful of others as we work towards our future place in the universe....



Large drawing by Donalee Wesley
"Encroachment 1 "
at
"Made in New York, 2017"
Schweinfurt Memorial Art Center, Auburn, New York


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Whitney Bien


Welcome to the Whitney Museum
The Biennial continues through June 11, 2017

A bit of controversy surrounds the new Whitney Biennial because of Dana Schutz's painting of an open casket.  In fact instant death seems to be a factor for imagery that you might find in this museum show.  You might come to feel that reflections on society from these selected artists is a way to face facts, and they are not pretty.  People who confuse art with beauty might walk away from this show shaking their heads.


Painting by Henry Taylor

Henry Taylor's paintings are a case in point.  He does not turn away from making a direct and powerful approach to the kind of violence we read in the headlines, repeated again, and again.  The title of the work above says it clearly enough: THE TIMES THEY AINT A CHANGING, FAST ENOUGH....



Pope.L "Claim" ( Whitney Version ), 2017

Then, there are some funny situations that happen in the Biennial, and I am thinking of Pope.L's "Claim" ( Whitney Version ) from this year, and it is possible to see this as a mockery of formalism - a literal room full of baloney ( though one piece I see was already missing from this display ).  Nothing would stop this artist from realizing this vision - just to see what would happen - and I wonder what Donald Judd would have said...?  Judd would be refreshed if he went out on the balcony and viewed the installation of Larry Bell's "Pacific Red".



Larry Bell's  " Pacific Red "

Also at the Biennial there is a kind of "homage to the square" to use a term from Albers, and this marks a return to the grid, in these wood carvings by Matt Browning from 2016.  These finely carved works all came from carving a solid block of wood to form interlocking bars that would make an artist like Sol Lewitt very happy.



Carvings by Matt Browning ( 2016 )

At the other extreme there are several works hanging in another part of the show that are very large and much more organically organized.  I am thinking about the mixed media sculpture by a pair of artists called Kaya.  The prevailing color is black, and the materials all are reflective, and tend to remind me of the expressive and figurative works that we will visit at the end of this post.



One of a series from Kaya

John Kessler is an artist whose work I have followed in the past and he has two installations on the floor of the Biennial.  "Exodus" is a carousel of kitsch that is under continual surveillance ( projected on a wide screen in real time ), and "Evolution" has figures who seem to be snorkeling in a digital wave pattern projected on screens that mimic the movement of water.



Jon Kessler's " Exodus", a carousel of kitsch

There is so much to see, but I don't have time to wait in long lines that queue up for a virtual reality experience or the many videos playing in darkened rooms.  I was more attracted to the paintings of Shara Hughes, like "We Windy" that seems like a homage to David Hockney.



"We Windy" by Shara Hughes

Painting is also alive  and well in the hands of an artist like Carrie Moyer, and yet the energy in this Biennial can be felt in other ways.  I was very attracted to the show but it is difficult to find a pattern or see any prevailing trends at the Whitney.  Another installation in the Biennial requires a sunny day and you can see that here in the photo of a collaborative work in the windows which project shadows in a unique and interesting manner. 



"Reflections " 2017 from Casey Gollan and Victoria Sobel

On our way out of the Whitney we stopped in front of two paintings that kind of summarize a modern condition and it takes these two paintings in contrast to each other to tell a story.  One floor above the Biennial, in the show called "Human Interest" there are two figurative paintings - one by DeKooning ( see below )



Willem DeKooning, "Woman With A Bicycle" 1952

And then there is another's artist's interpretation of this painting which caused a fuss.  The second version is by the painter Peter Saul who had many shows at  the Frumkin Gallery on 57th Street in Manhattan that I attended going back into the early 1960's.  He is still working away on these really wild works that seem so idiosyncratic, but also so wonderfully wacky.  And that is how it is at the Whitney Museum of Art.



Peter Saul's  1976  Acrylic on linen of
de Kooning's Woman with Bicycle 



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bien


Whitney Museum
Renzo Piano, Architect

We approach the Whitney Museum from the west.  It is a bright, sunny afternoon in New York City and it has been snowing earlier in the week, so we had a brilliant day to drive downtown and park to look around.  The new Whitney has many fine points and the architect, Renzo Piano is to be commended: he envisioned interesting spaces inside the museum and many balconies facing east outside.  We take the elevator to the eighth floor for a show called "Fast Forward" - Paintings from the 1980's.  I was there then, going to shows and hearing from the artists,  and the early 1980's re-established the importance of painting - there was a short lived boom for the art form.  You get a taste for that - stepping out of the elevator to confront Kenny Scharf and Keith Haring in a kind of visual exhortation.


Keith Haring ( 1958-1990 ) ( wallpaper ) and Kenny Scharf ( painting )

So you see a bit of the transgressive behavior of Haring ( defacing subway walls ) most of which is long forgotten, and with Kenny Scharf you get an artist from the 1980's looking back to kid's cartoons and other bizarre mark making .



Painting by Leon Golub ( 1922-2004 )

In "Fast Forward" one of the strongest paintings is by Leon Golub which could have been made yesterday - the subject is so present - the power structures of brutality ( wherever it occurs ) 
- rendered in a style that has a ground-down look because that is what it is.



Painting by David Salle

The irony of juxtaposition is on view in the painting by David Salle that commandeers the magazine layout ethos but drops the easy story in favor of a more obscure symbolic tale told by comparison.

The 1980's also saw the rise of painting by Julian Schnabel where often ceramic dinner plates were adhered to a canvas using Bondo.  One of my early students from R.I.T. was there working with Julian in his studio doing the daily tasks which also included baby-sitting.  Julian's painting on velvet at the Whitney isn't quite as interesting as some of his films - including a movie about Jean-Michel Basquiat who is also represented in "Fast Forward".  We stopped to admire a canvas by Terry Winters before we head downstairs.


Terry Winters in "Fast Forward"
at the Whitney
Going down to the next floor via an outside stairway you come across beautiful views north and south, and an odd sculpture set atop  some poles that looks like a sideways ear of corn with large nails attached and a head with a hole in it.  The label says this work is by an artist cooperative perhaps from the Middle East and their sculpture has the enigmatic title: "Local Police Find Fruit With Spells, 2017".


"Local Police Find Fruit With Spells, 2017"

We then walk around a floor of the new Whitney devoted to portraits from the museum's collection and I stop by a painting by Beauford Delaney ( 1901-1979 ) that I think I have seen before in Michael Rosenfeld's Gallery.  My cousin, Michael, is a strong supporter of art by African-Americans and I am glad to see that this work is included in the present show called "Human Interest" that runs through April 2nd, 2017.


Auto-Portrait 1965, oil on canvas
Painting by Beauford Delaney

On floors five and six we find the main attraction, the Whitney Biennial, and since it is the first day, the show is packed with visitors and this exhibition is an exercise in sensory overload.  If you get off the elevator, you might be greeted by the sight of Dana Schutz's painting called "Elevator", and it is a wonderful work that is part cubist, part figurative, and part Krazy Kat.



Dana Schutz with her painting called "Elevator"

The curators for the Biennial express their point of view through the artwork they have chosen, and they attempt to tackle subjects like inequality, neighborhood politics, student debt, and other life and death matters.


Biennial Curators
Mia Locks and Christopher Lew
from a photo by Pari Dukovic

In my next post I will try to get in close to take a look at some of the featured works in the Biennial so stay tuned...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Women's Work


Ceramics from Andrea Pawarski
at
The Yards

Women's Work is a group show at The Yards, which you can find on the northern edge of Rochester's Public Market.  Open on Saturday from 10 - 2 pm, you go up two flights of stairs to the exhibition space and the little shop called Dichotomy.  The Yards was established several years ago as a collaborative art space and it fills a gap by providing a venue for unusual installations and other media that might fall outside the realm of what a commercial gallery in Rochester could handle.  This location, on the border of the Public Market, in theory could attract a lot of attention; it could become a scene.  Artists who might not be able to find another way to show what they do could get a start here.

You can tell a lot about a person from their mode of expression, and the art on view in this exhibition can act as an opening chapter on the lives of artists that might be new to you.  For this viewer, it was good to catch up with some of these women who have been students at R.I.T. - and see what they are doing now.

Always on the lookout for an artwork that will resonate, I enjoyed the ceramic wallwork ( above ) that looks like rolling waves in the winter, and it reminded me of another artist - Diane Burko who has made many paintings of waterways and glaciers.  The artist in this case is Andrea Pawarski, and she is a young teacher and graduate of Syracuse University and her art is colorful, tactile, and almost baroque in the movement of her forms and details.



Jeanne Raffer Beck ( at right )

An attractive piece from this group show is from Jeanne Raffer Beck who I knew from her presence in the Hungerford Building where I maintain my studio.  Her mixed media piece is called "Traces" and it shimmers like the iridescence of a hummingbird.  Right next to her art is a smallish painting on wood by Judy Gohringer.  She titles her work: "Primal", and it is almost like a primitive shield, carved and painted on old cedar shakes or shingles.  I like the direct color and abstraction here, it reminds me of the Australian aboriginal art I reviewed at the Herbert Johnson Museum in Ithaca last year.


Judy Gohringer's "Primal"


Olivia Kim
"At Sunset", plaster and dyes

Olivia Kim is another artist I know from the Hungerford Building, and here she shows a figurative sculpture in rainbow colors that highlights motion.  This artist has been working with dancers from the Garth Fagan Company in recent past and this work looks like part of that endeavor.



Marisa Nowodworski
"I'm Not Listening"
Acrylic and pen on canvas

Marisa Nowodworski has a painting that is a real statement ( or many statements ).
A portrait is surrounded by what could be lines of grafitti, but is more likely commentary that is heard and felt.  A line of peaches on a shelf at the bottom serves to highlight the irony in the things that people say to one another, especially from parents and others who give caution to self-expression.



Amber Tracy

Amber Tracy is one of our recent grads from R.I.T. and her active little painting turns towards abstraction with a bit of energy and anxiety tied to it.  Across the room, two tagged cows in a field are there to be observed and documented in this drypoint etching by Maria Savka.



Drypoint by Maria Savka

Finally, I wanted to mention delicate wrought works by Sarah Rose Lejeune called: "Tender".
These tiny sculptures appear like ancient artifacts or remnants of life from another century.  They come in a little coffin and are displayed as if in a science museum.  They are imagined skeletons of birds perhaps, or fossils of insects, and they are a peaceful way to engage with this show of art by women at work in a variety of media, thank You!



Sarah Rose Lejeune
with her work called: "Tender"

Friday, March 10, 2017

Art Is My Father


Arthur Singer  ( 1917-1990 ), Self Portrait
circa 1944
During World War ll , in The 
"Ghost Army "


Yes, I write about the visual arts, but Art is my father.  He was also known as Arthur - or if you were really close, Artie.  My dad - Arthur B. Singer knew he wanted to be an artist from his childhood on- and in that capacity he was nurtured by the culture at home on Audubon Avenue in New York City, and also by his friends including some well known artists, and the greatest names in Jazz.



Arthur Singer in his late teens
in
New York City


Arthur's mom, Tessie Singer
circa 1935

Arthur's mom was Tessie Singer, and for years she made expensive doll's clothes on contract to F.A.O.Schwartz.  Arthur developed a sense of the patience and vision that one would need for the creative life.  For someone like him to fall in love with drawing animals, it was a relief to take the subway ride out to the Bronx Zoo and spend the day sketching.



Arthur Singer, ink and wash
late 1930's

Arthur made drawings like these while he was still a teenager and he caught the attention of curators both at the Zoo, and at The American Museum of Natural History.  My father was a collector at heart, and he began to amass a book and record collection, as well as filing cabinets filled with pictures cut from magazines featuring every kind of bird and animal known by the early 1930's.


Arthur Singer's portrait of Cab Calloway
mid 1930's

As a teenager, Arthur was a nifty handball player and he also closely followed the careers of his friends in the Jazz world including Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington.  Artie also like to dance!
Along the way, Arthur made portraits of Cab and Duke out of the names of the songs they had recorded.

Going off to college meant that he had to take the "A" Train down from Washington Heights to The Cooper Union down on eighth street which at the time was one of the only free universities in the nation.  Arthur was enthralled by the talent of the artists he met at college and also deeply engaged in finding his own voice in the visual arts.  For a while he was captivated by cave paintings ( from pre-historic times ).  While in college, he found the double elephant portfolios of birds by John James Audubon - and that changed the course of his study from then on.



At an exhibition of his paintings,
Arthur while in the Army, paints a portrait of Alfred Drake of 
"Tars and Spars"
1945

After graduation, Arthur spent some time in the Army in Europe with the unit known as "The Ghost Army".  "The Ghost Army" waged a war of deception with camouflage and theatrics, and among those who served this branch of the Army were artists like Ellsworth Kelly and Bill Blass and the photographer Art Kane.  Who knew that these young guys would go on to have major careers and help shape our culture?



Arthur Singer finds a mass audience for his wildlife 
art seen here at the start of his career in 1955



Frank Blair introduces Arthur Singer 
on the set of NBC's Today Show, 1961
with his new book "Birds of the World"

These are just a few short notes from the beginning of our new book titled: "Arthur Singer, The Wildlife Art of an American Master", which will be published later this year by RIT Press, here in Rochester, New York.  I am looking forward to sharing with you more about our book, and the marvelous life my father had during an illustrious career.



"Birds of North America"
If you like bird watching you may know my father's Golden Guide
which I helped revise in 1979

Monday, February 27, 2017

Beyond Category


From left: Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn and Willie-the Lion Smith
mid 1960's

Celebration of Black History Month concludes with a whirl of events here in town.  My own way to observe this is to say: what a privilege it has been to come in contact with great artists like these fellows in this blog post.  As an example, I took this photo many years ago after a recording session I attended in Bayside, Queens, N.Y. with the likes of Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn and Willie-the-Lion Smith. I sat down to listen to the musicians and singer Joya Sherill with my father - who introduced me to Jazz and some of the major players and today I am in awe of the talents they possessed.

With a visual arts perspective, you might not know this but Duke Ellington came to New York City, from Washington, D.C. not only to play jazz but to attend Pratt Institute as a visual artist.



Luvon Sheppard being interviewed at The Memorial Art Gallery
February 26, 2017

Fast forward to 2017, and I am sitting listening to my colleague, Luvon Sheppard in a public conversation with Ephraim E. J. Daniels, one of our students from R.I.T.  In this interview, seen against a backdrop of recent artworks on easels - in one of the reception rooms at The Memorial Art Gallery - Luvon speaks of his early teachers, and the environment that he entered when he was a student at R.I.T. and abstraction was all the rage.



Luvon Sheppard's painting in "Memory of Trayvon Martin"

In the many years since that time, Luvon has become a treasured teacher and friend to many in our field, and he has a sensitive approach to his art that now blends a figurative sensibility with something more atmospheric.  In fact, figures do appear in the clouds, especially in paintings that sometimes attempt to deal with national tragedies like the killing of Trayvon Martin.  I would say that Luvon is reverent for life, for hope, and for feeling, especially between the values he places in his art and the people who come to view it, like the audience that gathered for his talk this past Sunday.

I also found a stimulating experience viewing the "chapters" of a visual book in the main galleries at the MAG called "Pax Kaffraria" by Meleko Mokgosi who is a painter originally from Botswana, Africa now living in the New York City area.



Part of the "Pax Kaffraria" by Meleko Mokgosi

A large crowd came to hear the painter Meleko Mokgosi in a "meet the artist" talk also at The Memorial Art Gallery last Thursday evening.  Introduced by Director, Binstock of the MAG, Meleko Mokgosi - who in his mid-thirties comes across as very erudite - is thoroughly grounded in a philosophical dialect known in academic circles as artspeak.  Let me  just say that the approach to talking about his paintings was handled by Meleko on a symbolic level - and not a kind of practical - how-to guide that some in the audience had expected.


Painting by Meleko Mokgosi
" Pax Kaffraria"
at The Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, New York

The paintings on exhibition have a photo-realist look, but Mr. Mokgosi says he is not so concerned with realism.  He does tell stories in his paintings, and they appear to be a series of vignettes - painted chapters of an ongoing story, maybe more symbolic than actual.  He visits, or quotes from social and political history of South Africa, and we are shown images of leaders like Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela that are painted like framed pictures hanging on a wall, all part of his larger opus " Pax Kaffraria".

He asks - How Shall I Portray Black People?  In art school he is taught how to mix a flesh tone for a figure that is not black...  What is it that these people should be doing?  How does he bring his visual dialog up-to-date?  His paintings include livestock and dogs, and pieces of the environment with little attention paid to landscape or place.  Meleko's figures more often float or are barely grounded in their own space.  This is an art of imagination and breadth, and I anticipate great things from this visual story-teller.  He has a style that articulates juxtaposition of dramatic elements, and in his paintings he reminds me of the style of the writer Don DeLillo ( often very dark ).




Meleko Mokgosi paintings also at Rochester Contemporary

Unless you have traveled widely, you might not have the necessary context to fully appreciate these paintings which bring to the forefront cultures and the notion of post-colonialist regions that we know from news reports in our newspapers here in the United States.  We need to know much more, and truly begin a dialog to have a sense of what is being said by an artist "beyond category" - as Duke Ellington, once said.




Meleko Mokgosi at "Meet the Artist"
The Memorial Art Gallery, February, 2017