Saturday, September 17, 2016

Visual Studies

Nathan Lyons photographed by Joan Lyons
Nathan Lyons ( 1930-2016 )
Curator and founder of the Visual 
Studies Workshop

The study of photography wouldn't be what it is today without the scholarship and example of Nathan Lyons.  Photography lost a major figure when this man passed away last week, and we can pause to reflect on what he meant for his adopted "image city".

My own study of photography drew great benefits from Nathan Lyon's leadership - way before I had the chance to meet him.  His influence was felt through his own work as a photographer,  through the school he helped build: the Visual Studies Workshop, and through the many photographers and artists who passed through those doors - only to come out richer and better informed.  Nathan Lyons was a gifted writer, curator, and speaker, and his influence is felt by anyone who seriously enjoys collecting photography from some of the major names now in the field.  He argued for photography as a fine art, supported and shown in galleries and museums across the nation, and he worked tirelessly in that effort as a curator at The George Eastman House.

Nathan Lyons signing copies of his books

It was Nathan Lyons who saw value in the American snapshot, and he lent credibility to a diverse scene which included images by people like Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, Duane Michals, Joel Meyerowitz among others.  Nathan Lyons brought photography to the attention of museums and their public around the world, and there were many portfolios and shows that finally garnered the respect and admiration that was demanded.  Photographers began to have their work collected and many books were published that featured their artistry.

Nathan Lyons

One can learn a lot more by reading the recent book edited by Jessica McDonald published by the University of Texas Press - in which Nathan Lyons' essays and lectures are published as a collection. I was lucky to get Nathan Lyons signature on my copy of his book when it went on sale at Lumiere Photo several years ago on College Avenue in Rochester.  Nathan Lyons had a deep impact, his influence is felt, and his presence will be missed, he was 86.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Star of the Southern Tier

Windsor Whip Works
98 Main Street
Windsor, New York 13865

New Show:  "Not Just Alike, But One and the Same"
On Exhibit until October 29, 2016

At the opening came the announcement of the closing.  Just as the party was getting underway, Bill Pesce, co-founder with his wife Johanne, got up to speak, welcoming artists and guests to the opening of a big new show at The Windsor Whip Works Art Center.  "After eleven years", Bill was speaking into his microphone, "..once the new show that runs here through October 29th comes to an end, the gallery would close".

The Windsor Whip Works has been a star of the Southern Tier, and a stop I made numerous times as I drove along Route 17 ( now interstate 86 ) usually as I was coming up from New York City.  They renovated this old building and it was a labor of love.  The two floor space has been the host of many terrific shows over these past eleven years that the gallery has been in operation.  The Whip Works is an art center with drawing classes and special guest speakers doing workshops like my friend Dan Welden, among many others.  The Windsor Whip Works built a community too, so it is to be applauded for all this effort, along with the energy poured out by its board of directors and people like Bryna Silbert who was diligent in putting her curatorial skills to work at the gallery.

Fernando Llosa speaks with Bryna Silbert
at the opening of "Not Just Alike, But One and the Same"

One by one, the artists in this final show were introduced by Bill Pesce to the gallery audience assembled at the opening and the artists all had a few words to say about our shared experience there.  I had juried a show of small works for Bill and Johanne, and my artwork has been featured in the gallery six years ago ( along with my father Arthur Singer, and my brother Paul ), and now again with this present exhibition.  The people I met there along the way included some artists young and old, some with an international record of exhibitions to their credit, and some just getting their feet wet.
The atmosphere at the Whip Works is friendly, not off-putting like the art galleries of the big city.  But will people support what they are doing here?

Bill Pesce making my introduction
at the artist's reception on September 10th, 2016

I think we are still experiencing the downturn of the economy that swept across the U.S. and much of the world almost eight years ago.  People may be nervous about spending money on art which is often seen as a luxury.  As a culture we are also so inundated with images via the internet and our smart phones, that the values and principles of fine art are often questioned and sometimes ignored. The artists are just doing what they love to do, what they are driven to do and are passionate about, and they will have to find ways of supporting their habit.

Artist Kim Schrag
Windsor Whip Works

Back at our show in Windsor, New York, a good crowd has assembled to look over the new artwork, and I was very happy to see how the exhibition was presented.  Surprised to see my big blue painting in the gallery window out front, and nice to see a line up of my prints on the main floor.  I spoke with most of the artists and learned more about Kim Schrag and Treacy Ziegler, both in attendance.

Treacy Ziegler speaks at the opening
"Not Just Alike, But One and the Same"

Treacy Ziegler asked me questions about my printmaking, since she has practiced that too, and I found out about her recent activity teaching and showing her art in prison.  She spoke about writing letters to prison wardens encouraging them to offer inmates this avenue of expression, and she has now been adding this to her busy schedule of shows and creative work.  Many of her pieces on display at Windsor Whip Works are sculpted birds; they embody what we know about birds and their attendant freedom to fly.  There is some irony to this with her dedication to working with the prison population.  If you look at the card that advertised this final show, it is her barn owl that stands out as the only three dimensional work that announces this exhibition.

Three works by artist, Kim Schrag

Kim Schrag actually carves into the surface of her paintings, thereby making them into bas-reliefs onto which she spins a visual narrative.  I thought to ask Kim whether she was related to the artist Karl Schrag whom I met in Manhattan, but her answer was no.

Kim came east from her home in Kansas to attend graduate school at Cornell University, and I found that her paintings not only had facets and carefully orchestrated color, but they also reminded me sometimes of the art of Paul Gauguin.

Fernando Llosa at Whip Works

Fernando Llosa is a powerful artist who was born in Peru, and has a truly international perspective on contemporary art and culture.  The deep dark color of his work on view here has an emotional impact and though the work is nearly abstract it conveys the human presence in a very expressive manner.

Painting by William Benson

William Benson's paintings are more conventional in this show.  Maybe they are more accessible, while incorporating elements of geometry and textures that seem to come right out of impressionism.

The author, Alan Singer, and his painting:
"Playing to the Crowd"

My paintings and prints in  this exhibition stem from my recent activity in my studio where the interaction of color is applied to the visualization of mathematical functions.  What I do is the equivalent of having a color etch-a-sketch.  I am having a great time learning what curves can do, and opening my mind to whole new range of ideas that enlarge my geometric vocabulary.

So, please applaud the artists in this show, and most of all the folks who created this "Star of the Southern Tier".  It has been an honor and a pleasure to be a part of this enterprise.  Thank you, Windsor Whip Works.  Our show continues thru October, so take advantage of this opportunity, it won't last forever.

For information about their hours of operation, call them at area code 607 655-2370

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Art Shows Roll

Announcement card for the 
Windsor Whip Works Art Center
including yours truly!

A wave of exhibitions is about to roll in, and all that energy that has been spent ( on making the art and preparing the shows ) is about to be put to the test.  How will the public respond?

I brought my paintings down the interstate to Windsor, New York to the Windsor Whip Works Art Center for a new show with a few other select artists.  The group show that came before us was still up on the walls and included an old friend from New York City - Anthony Santuoso.  Mr. Santuoso is a figurative artist who I knew years ago, so it was a surprise to see his new sometimes difficult images in this place at this time.  Also on view were the paintings of Melissa Sarat, that I had seen
in other galleries, and her work is very intricate with an underlying interest in voodoo masks and sorcery.  

Artistic Journeys into Mysticism, Mystery, & Spirituality
painting by Melissa Sarat
Windsor Whip Works Art Center

Bill and Johanne Pesce, the couple who own and run the gallery are great, and the art shown in the gallery is interesting and engaging on many levels.  Windsor Whip Works really supports art in this upstate community near Binghamton, and you have to respect their attention to the artists who show there, and the people who come to see the exhibitions and take part in support of their art center.

So, if you are driving along Route 17, stop in and see what they are doing, they have a beautiful building and it is so well taken care of.

Albert Paley and the faculty of the 
College of Imaging Arts and Sciences
Bevier Gallery
Rochester Institute of Technology

Closer to home, for the faculty at R.I.T. our annual show has just opened in the Bevier Gallery and there is also the artwork I reviewed in my last blog post from Wendell Castle.  Both shows are excellent and at the Bevier Gallery, located in Building 7a, the new members of the faculty who now on board have a lot to offer, and to that point, Denton Crawford from the School of Art is having a solo exhibition that just opened at Gallery r, 100 College Avenue in the city..

"Revival"  by Denton Crawford
at Gallery r

Denton creates an environment with one room in this presentation and it is a little bit of a trippy eye test in some sense along with unusual sculpted objects, and graphic wall treatment as part of the show which may challenge your belief systems.  In the first room at the entry there is an unusual shaped painting that includes high key color and a luxuriance of imagery that greets the visitor.  Denton calls his show "Savage Sanctuary" and he remarks in his artist statement that in his " most recent paintings and sculpture he explores the relationships between religious belief, political affiliation, and individual rights and freedoms".  This sounds like it is ripped right out of today's headlines!  For me Denton Crawford shares some compositional energy with the likes of James Rosenquist, so it will be interesting to see how this work develops.

Denton Crawford's inner sanctum
at Gallery r

Down East Avenue at Rochester Contemporary Art Center we have prints on view in a curated show that is a collaboration between RoCo and The Print Club of Rochester.  The show is called "Under Pressure" and it brings together four well known artists:  Ellen Heck, Jenny Robinson, Heather Swenson, and April Vollmer for a wonderful show of works on paper and much more.

April Vollmer presents her new book
on Japanese Woodblock Printmaking
Rochester Contemporary Art Center

I talked briefly with April Vollmer and Heather Swenson at the opening and there were many questions I wanted to ask of them about their techniques.  April presented her new book on Japanese Woodblock printing and Heather Swenson reflected on her education as a printmaker at SUNY Purchase.

A visitor surveys the prints of Jenny Robinson
at the opening of "Under Pressure"

There is much to see at RoCo including some big brave works by Jenny Robinson who uses cityscapes, and roadside architecture as the basis for some of her content.  Ellen Heck was there with her works in series, and she was actively entering into a dialog with the gallery-goers at the opening on Friday night.  I look forward to more great shows developed in this new relationship between the Print Club and Rochester Contemporary, and I plan to go back a few times to look over all the works in the present show "Under Pressure".

Printmaker, Ellen Heck 
"Under Pressure" Rochester Contemporary Art Center

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Revealing The Creative Process

Wendell Castle Imagined
University Gallery
in the Vignelli Design Center
Rochester Institute of Technology
August 22 - November 11, 2016

Widely recognized as the father of the Art Furniture Movement, Wendell Castle is being celebrated with a late summer exhibition that has just been mounted in the University Gallery within the Vignelli Design Center on the campus of Rochester Institute of Technology.  This show is called "Wendell Castle Imagined", and its focus is on working drawings and models made in support of some of his signature pieces from recent years as well as a nod back to the 1960's and 1970's.

Wendell's 'Wolf'
at the University Gallery

I became aware of Wendell Castle's work early on because it bridged a gap between the Fine Arts, and Craft traditions, and boldly his works were making their way into museum collections and galleries.  Wendell's forms became part of my research when I was making my first sculptural "chair" as a student in a class at The Cooper Union.  I saw Wendell Castle's works in galleries in New York City, and later when I came to teach at R.I.T. he was one of the first people I was introduced to, and I am sure that he has made a lasting impression on his students in classes at R.I.T. where he was enlisted to teach from the early 1960's onward.  Back in the 1960's and 1970's the art furniture movement found its footing and patrons and we still feel the impact of that today, especially with this presentation.

"Suspended Belief"
working models by Wendell Castle

There is no doubt in my mind that these working drawings in the University gallery represent the work of a master.  The imagination and intense devotion to form is on view here in a very meaningful way.  You get to see how this artist thinks with pencil to paper.  What I know of Wendell's early works - are primarily forms of laminated wood with fluid shapes that contrast sharply with the rectilinear expectations that we have for wood work of the recent past ( think Bauhaus modernism ).  The art of Wendell Castle has had a cumulative effect, maybe as important as Frank Lloyd Wright was to architecture, or Brancusi in sculpture.  Wendell's work must have influenced other artists along the way like Tony Cragg and Martin Puryear, and these two artists in turn have contributed greatly to our cultural thinking.

Wendell Castle drawings in his new show
at R.I.T.

Seeing these drawings gives you insight to the working process, and how the forms are developed.  Many of the forms have an organic look, and needless to say they have a sensual aspect and reveal interesting silhouettes, certainly not what you would expect.  I really enjoyed seeing all the models and next to many of them are wire frame drawings that look like they are plotted by a computer.

Wendell Castle's 10 Adopted Rules

On a back wall in the gallery there is a big poster: Wendell Castle's "My 10 adopted rules of thumb".  This is great for R.I.T. students to read and understand ( If you hit the bullseye every time, the target is too near ).  These insights may have been passed on from generations of craft workers and they will still be relevant today in the arts.  In this show you will find that Wendell's pencil drawings are mostly modest in size but not in ambition, and I hope that this collection of working models and drawings finds a home where they can be seen by a wide audience.  

The reception will be held for the artist on Friday, September 9th from 5 pm to 7:30 pm.  Call the gallery for more information at 585 475-2866.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Symbolic Forms

Juan Carlos Caballero-Perez
The Geisel Gallery

in the former Bausch & Lomb Building
downtown Rochester, New York

The School for American Craft has been a part of Rochester Institute of Technology for many years and recently  Juan Carlos Caballero-Perez has provided leadership to this segment of the institution, and as well as being a Professor, he is also a professional - in the sense that he is actively making new sculpture - and you may have seen his large work outside Edibles on University Avenue.  I have seen that Carlos can work large and small, in fact there have been delicate works he has produced and sold as jewelry in the shop at The Memorial Art Gallery.  Now a recent group of his sculptures that he calls "Symbolic Forms" is creating a strong impression in the Geisel Gallery for the month of August.

Carlos' large scale art on University Avenue
Rochester, New York

The Geisel Gallery this month has a robust show of sculpture from Carlos, and I had a chance to talk with him about these works on exhibit.  I wanted to know how he made some of these pieces, they all seem to have been completed recently, does he have assistants who weld the pieces together? How does he manage to make the steel look like lace?

Juan Carlos Caballero-Perez
Geisel Gallery
this August

The parts of the sculpture that look like lace are cut with lasers from computer files that power tools that are extremely accurate.  If these are symbolic forms - what is it that they can be symbols of? 
Is this the circle of life?  I like the centralized openings in Carlos' works, and many of them depend on graceful curves that encompass this opening, and the sculptures seem to breathe and articulate his ideas about the spirit of the object.

Juan Carlos Caballero-Perez

The forms he chooses to work with are simple and evocative.  At the end of the gallery is a large standing work that has a figurative presence but still maintains its abstraction.  Many of the welded pieces in this show have a surface that is buffed in a certain way as to reveal what look like brush strokes.  We have seen this before in the art of David Smith.  Sometimes a work from Carlos can recall Smith, at other times I see an echo of the art of Brancusi or even the Russian artist Naum Gabo.  I only wished for a bit more space in this exhibition - maybe even a chance to see one of these works outdoors, and see how it interacts with daylight.

Here is the artist himself working at the bench, below.

Juan Carlos Caballlero-Perez

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Blue Ribbon

At Image City Photography Gallery
Announcing the Winner!
Giving the Blue Ribbon 
photographer,  Stephanie Albanese

Image City is a photographic gallery and it also happens to be the way that people identify the place that this gallery calls home: Rochester, New York.  Home of Kodak and Xerox and many other corporate tag lines, this town was built on the making of memorable images.  The engineering talent that made cameras, film and printers in and around Rochester is astonishing and there is a deep interest in finding beautiful photography that highlights all the technical wonders.  So with the advantage of all the inventions, chemistry, and electronic magic that is necessary to bring us modern photography, we still need the human eye, mind, and nervous system to know when to click the shutter and make the picture.

What constitutes a portfolio of photos that can win a Blue Ribbon?  Well, if you are one of the jurors who gets to select the photos, you will know a great portfolio when you see it.  What I was looking for ( as a juror ) was consistency in a series of eight photos from each photographer who submitted a portfolio.  I also look for something that resonates with me - some subject that engages my attention, and also photos with fine technical values as well as a strong point-of-view.

Stephanie Albanese
Image City Photography Gallery
in August

Howard LeVant and I sat down and compared notes after looking over eighty portfolios submitted for this exhibition opportunity.  Now, looking over the actual prints on the walls in the gallery on University Avenue, I feel very strongly that we picked some winners.  Stephanie Albanese took first prize, the Blue Ribbon, for unusual, nearly abstract images of a golden ball in a variety of settings.  While boiling the photos down to their essence - formal shapes, there are still textures to marvel at, and color to grab and hold your attention.

Photographer, Ed Stone
Image City

Each photo print in this show demonstrates something to the viewer that can be part of a much larger story presented by the artists who make the photos in the first place.  Ed Stone tells a story about a form of agriculture rarely seen outside of South East Asia - these are rice paddies and they form a mesmerizing topography that is also close to pure abstraction were it not for the houses and other evidence of the farmers who work the land.

I was surprised, when I reviewed the portfolios that there were so few images that deal directly with other humans.  Not many portraits of people or even action photos of friends dong wild and crazy things to get our attention.  We found sober, quiet situations of gradual decay in factories and deserted buildings in the works by Amanda Chatham and David Soderlund.

Photos by Alexandra Latypova
at Image City

Maybe most surprising to me were the still life photos of Alexandra Latypova who has studied paintings from Dutch masters and has re-created table top tableaux that so closely resemble this fine art of the past.  Her photos celebrate the intimate interactions of colors and textures found in paintings from the 1600's from artists like Pieter Claesz, and de Heem ( there is a beauty in the collection at The Memorial Art Gallery just down the street ).  The still life is set against a dark background and our attention is taken by Latypova's lighting effects which are purely anecdotal, they reveal and conceal at the same time.

Nancy Ridenour
at Image City

Sometimes lighting effects in the age of Photoshop can be overdone, and we saw portfolios that had a gimmick that in the aggregate was not a turn on.  Nancy Ridenour makes close up portraits of individual flowers taking the ideas expressed in Dutch painting once again, but giving her photos a modern powerful statement with natural color found in the dahlias and lotus flowers she likes to portray in her portfolio.  The only note that I was not sure about here was that the prints of her photos were made on canvas, and they begin to resemble paintings and not photographic prints ( but I am being picky ).

Boris Keller has a portfolio he calls "folktography".  The highlight of his work is folk art and it is reflected in the imagery he captures, whether it is an old truck filled with pumpkins, or a brace of geese in the farmyard.  Keller's photos are so sharp, and their colors are subtle, yet intense.  There really is an art to the production of these images.

For my eye, the elegant photos of wind mills from Steve Malloy Desormeaux are the most sensual, in that they are taken in the middle of winter and you can feel the snow, sense the cold temperature, almost see the wind, and as photo prints go - these images are all different degrees of white.  There is a defined landscape in this portfolio that looks familiar yet alien in the same frame.  I am captivated by his work, as I am with all the photos we selected for this show.  I hope you get to see it.  I know you will enjoy the stories being told on these walls.

Photo by Steve Levinson
Juror: Alan Singer with photos by Stephanie Albanese
Image City Photography Gallery
August, 2016

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Where Were You?

"9/11 Project, Reflections and Memories
Gallery r
100 College Avenue, Rochester
until August 21, 2016

If you are as old as I am ( 66 ), you will remember the day and what you were doing when you heard that John F. Kennedy was shot dead in Dallas, Texas.  But, if you are of a younger generation you may remember what was happening when you learned that jet airplanes ran into the World Trade Center towers in a terrorist plot just fifteen years ago.  All of those recollections come rushing back when you visit Gallery r this month.  What you will see on the walls of the gallery will no doubt bring back memories, and engender a lot of discussion.

Headlines from the collected newspapers
Gallery r

The newspapers that deck the walls of Gallery r were collected by Eric Kunsman and his students after the horrific events of 9/11.  Eric was teaching a course that day in Applied Photography and was involved in a class discussion about how photography might help shape history- and this was when the crashes took place in lower Manhattan.  Eric asked his students to go and collect their hometown newspapers and bring them to class for a dialog.  Eric kept all these newspapers ( 121 of them ) and they are now on display along with some of the discussion that he recorded with his students.

"The Day America Cried"
Gallery r

What were you doing when the planes hit?  I can recall that morning because I was teaching my class, and I happened to go out to the library where someone had rolled out a TV cart and the news was flashing about the events in New York City.  Needless to say, I was shocked, and I thought about what I should tell my students about what was happening - if they didn't know already.  The pictures of the smoking building is etched in my memory.

Eric Kunsman and his class collected headlines
Gallery r

The newspaper headlines tell you a lot about the national mood, and everyone was stunned by the photos and the events that day would begin to change our international policy.  The country reacted by canceling all flights for days, all planes were grounded and the sky grew quiet.

You can read all about it on the walls of this exhibition which is a necessary one to remind us of those days, and it also gives you a perspective for what is going on today in places like Syria and Libya.  The role that photography plays in this case not only documents history, but also can shape how events play out in the public realm.

Art you can live with
paintings by Belinda Bryce
at Axom Gallery

Down the street in a much calmer milieu, I visited the Axom Gallery to see the kind of art you can feel at home with.  This art blends well with your decor, and the show on now features many artists you may already be familiar with including painters like Belinda Bryce ( above ) and Kurt Moyer.
I found works of interest by Isaac Payne and Matthew Langley ( his "Blue Veil" (see below).

Axom Gallery
Rochester, New York