Friday, August 18, 2017

Show & Tell


The University Gallery at Rochester Institute of Technology
Presents
Arthur Singer, The Wildlife Art of An American Master


(Show and tell....it is probably that basic...)  This is not kindergarten, but I do have the urge to speak and write about something and it is a natural outgrowth for all of the forethought that I have given the subject.  I am thinking about the book we have just published and the show that is currently on view at the University Gallery at RIT.  This urge hits close to home for me because what my brother Paul and I have been doing is writing a book about my father and then planning this exhibition for his artwork.  The stars have come into alignment and we have had the idea to write this book, get it published, and then try to show the artwork that engenders all this effort.  My brother and I also consider the recent history of a naturalist at work in the field and we would like to see Arthur Singer's artwork find its rightful place.


Arthur Singer on Audubon Avenue

Arthur Singer ( 1917-1990 ) had a prodigious output during an illustrious career, and in our new book and in our exhibition we give some space to his early drawings made at The Bronx Zoo when he was still a teenager.  Was it fate for a boy who was born on Audubon Avenue in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan?  What caught his eye at the zoo were the big animals and the tropical ( colorful ) birds, and his attention was riveted.  Arthur had the skills at a very young age to capture an image of nature that was full of detail, with a nod towards design that always kept things in balance.  Arthur also had the luck of capturing an audience during his teenage years attracting the attention of curators at The American Museum of Natural History where he would visit to see the dioramas which were just being installed.


Arthur Singer's drawing of a leopard at the Bronx Zoo

Arthur Singer, or Artie as his friends would call him, was a jazz fan and he also played handball on the streets with the other kids.  His artistic skills earned him a place in the School of Art at The Cooper Union which was then tuition free for those who could pass the entrance exam.  "Artie" had already published some of his animals in national newspapers, so he felt confident.  Some of his friends from college later became world class designers like Herb Lubalin and Lou Dorfsman.  Judy Goulfine was my father's favorite, and they later got married and started a family.


Arthur Singer's portrait of Judy, circa 1942
in watercolor on paper

During World War ll Arthur Singer was drafted, and later served with a battalion dedicated to deception - later dubbed "The Ghost Army".  World War ll was underway and Arthur brought his paints and paper with him when the men that travelled by sea departed along the shores of Normandy.  Arthur also brought with him a knowledge of camouflage which was actually discovered by another bird artist Abbott Thayer in the early years of the 20th century.  During our exhibition we will have as a guest speaker - Rick Beyer who produced a PBS special documentary on "The Ghost Army" and he will present this film on October 5th, 2017, at 5 pm, in the University Gallery.



Arthur Singer in the 1950's

After the war there was a long period of readjustment to civilian life. My mother had worked during the war as a draftsperson for Emerson Radio and she looked forward to starting a family.  My father went to work during the day as an advertising art director, and at night he practiced his painting in our attic studio where everyone in the family gathered after dinner.  As the 1950's progressed my father  received assignments from publications like Sports Illustrated, the World Book Encyclopedia, and Readers Digest, but the event that changed the course of his career was the publication of a series of eight prints that he made for The American Home Magazine, and they enabled him to have a stable income and busy schedule meeting the demand for his artwork.

If you want to know more about our book, and how to order it, take a look at this link:https://www.rit.edu/press/

If you want to come to our opening in Rochester, see this link:
https://www.rit.edu/fa/gallery/

Thursday, August 10, 2017

New Frontier


Alan Singer
2017
"The High Plateau"
transfer monotype

My interest in Mathematics and Art that I experienced at the recent BRIDGES conference in Waterloo, Ontario has been strengthened.  It was good to see that there were growing numbers of interested practitioners at the conference and that they were so willing to share their enthusiasm.



BRIDGES Conference for 2017
underway in Waterloo University
Waterloo, Ontario

Years ago, I wanted to have geometric shapes in my paintings and I had to go back and remember what the formula was for building a pentagon or a hexagon.  I looked up programs on the computer that could help me and found Mathematica and downloaded it.  Terms used on this site were unfamiliar to me.  Looking over "Implicit Surfaces" attracted me because you could write in your own instructions in the form of an equation and a program like 3D-Xplormath could render an image for you.  Before, I never stopped to think that there was a visual equivalent to a few lines of algebra.



Dan Bach exhibition at BRIDGES 2017

In Germany they had a "Year of Mathematics" in 2008 and the results included the completion of new software to help people like me  visualize mathematical shapes.  One program is called Cinderella and it came as part of a geometry toolbox that you could download for free.  I got hooked on using this program to produce images like the one at the top of this post.

Last week during my visit to BRIDGES in Waterloo, Ontario I had the chance to hear from a wide variety of practitioners of mathematical disciplines and presenters at the conference brought their artwork to show.  In the past, artists like M.C. Escher would use symmetry as a way of creating art that was attractive and thought provoking.  My own art uses symmetry, but I am also interested in the compositional prospect of using geometry in my paintings and prints.


University of Waterloo Art Gallery

I am more interested in an art that has compositional aspects, and too often the artwork that I found at BRIDGES just had an image floating against a blank surface.  True, this allows you to study the object carefully without other distraction, but I like the relational aspect of art and I often want to see a form in relation to other forms, more "natural" if you will.

There were several beautiful pieces in the BRIDGES exhibitions, so I was happy to be part of this experience.  I spoke with one of the founders of the BRIDGES conference, and remarked on how it has grown over the years.  Carlo Sequin is a force in this field of math and art.  He had a very fine discussion that I attended and below is one of his sculptures.


Carlo Sequin

I was very impressed by the UWAG art gallery space and there was a very interesting opening that happened to coincide with the BRIDGES conference.  I particularly like the paintings of Andrew Smith, shown below.  He is onto something unique and very directional.



Painting by Andrew J. Smith


Opening at UWAG
"Passage & Obstacle"

It seems clear to me that there are many new frontiers for an artist to forage for ideas and expression.  I think that the visual aspect of mathematics is just beginning to unfold, and this arena just was not accessible before the era of the computer for most people.  This kind of art is just in its infancy, but there is a considerable amount of energy and interest to be found there.  The Waterloo University is a sprawling campus and full of people making the most of their education, which I found to be exciting and enjoyable.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Construction



"Congruent" at Axom Gallery, Rochester, New York

Before I leave for CANADA, I stop into the Axom Gallery in Rochester to see the show called "Congruent" that includes paintings, furniture, plants and a whole range of vignettes - like stage sets with potted plants that are also reflected in photos strategically placed.  St. Monci is the painter whose work I have admired and this show represents a shift towards theatre and more complex compositions that carry along their own floating panels as an extension of the paintings themselves.  This borrows heavily from the Constructivist movement in Europe ( early 20th century ) where the paintings were reductive and precise with a focus on planes and abstraction.  In this show, St. Monci prepares the architecture of his paintings as if he were planning a small city.



My brother, Paul Singer
at the entrance to the University Gallery at R.I.T.
with our new show:
Arthur Singer: The Wildlife Art of an American Master

I have had a busy month with a new book coming out that I worked on with my brother, Paul Singer, and a new show planned for the University Gallery at Rochester Institute of Technology. Our new show honors the artwork that our father, Arthur Singer, created during his illustrious career.



Arthur Singer's early 20th century works


 And off I go, on my way across the Peace Bridge over the river and through the woods to "BRIDGES" - the conference on math and art in Waterloo, west of Toronto.  Watch out for Google Maps!  They chart my route, but don't seem to know about the construction delays....!  CANADA is so clean!  No wastepaper strewn along the roadside like in the U.S.



BRIDGES - a conference of mathematics and art in Waterloo, Canada


Waterloo University is the host of BRIDGES 2017, and the various college buildings sprawl across a section of a town that was home to the Seagrams brewers way back when.  Waterloo is a top-rated University that reminds me very much of what we do back in Rochester - high tech with a good blend of music and art.  The University of Waterloo has a fine art gallery ( UWAG ) and they staged a show called " Passage and Obstacle".


Math and Model
at 
BRIDGES, Waterloo, Canada

So what is it about art and math - why are they seen as subjects for which you need a bridge to cross over?  Some of the presenters at this conference tried to trace the differences and similarities of math and art.  I just see them both as a human endeavor to achieve some understanding of the universe we live in.  Both have their own languages with their own grammar like foreign countries, and both math and art have their own discipline and practice.  With mathematics I see it as finding ways to measure and calculate, to find a process to analyze what may or may not be physically present.  With fine art you have a practice that often but not always results in a physical manifestation that may not be easy to understand at first because it is primarily often a visual experience.

In my next post I want to look at various aspects of the conference that may resonate with a view towards the future, so stay tuned.....

Friday, July 14, 2017

Looking Ahead


Print by Tony Hexuan
My student at Rochester Institute of Technology


A special issue of Sci/Art Magazine will arrive in August and will feature an article I wrote called: "STEAM Ahead".  This short piece, which will include prints made by my art students at Rochester Institute of Technology  ( see above ) also details how I bring STEAM topics into my classroom.  If you would like to sign up for their blog, or subscribe to their magazine check out this link:http://www.sciartcenter.org

In this magazine dedicated to STEAM topics, there are many approaches but in my class I use printmaking as a vehicle to tackle this topic.  You know what STEM subjects are: ( science, technology, engineering and math ) and we add a capital A ( for Art ) to get STEAM. When I teach my class, we end up making prints that take many directions towards these topics.  Students learn a process, and they filter that through their aesthetic judgement, and come away with substantial artworks which in many cases depend on applied mathematics.



Print made by Rachel Simonson
at 
Rochester Institute of Technology


This month has been a busy one, and in the release of another magazine developed in Chicago by the editor Renee L. Rose - a series of long articles brings art from a wide cross section - to you online.  This issue has an article about my student Rebecca Aloisio who is a printmaker and painter as well as an introduction to my own artwork.  The magazine is called ACS Magazine and it is only available online from this site: http://www.acs-mag.com

Last year Renee Rose published an article about my student Lingfei Zhao who made many paintings in his hometown in China.  So we are very pleased to have this media attention and we look forward to the interest being given to our artwork as expressed in this new online medium.



The artist Rebecca Aloisio
profiled in the new issue of ACS Magazine

A little later in July I will be on the road to Waterloo, Canada, for the BRIDGES conference on Art and Mathematics.  I plan to send you, my readers some information about that - since this conference is of interest to many who follow the STEAM program that I support.

Also,  coming up in the beginning of August will be the show I have co-curated with my brother Paul Singer on the life and career of our father, the wildlife artist Arthur Singer - so stay tuned for more information on that.  We are bringing out a new book published by RIT Press which can be pre-ordered if you want it for a reduced price.  Take a look at the RIT Press website for further information if you want to order a copy.  Here is the link to RIT Press:  https://www.rit.edu/press/authors/paul-singer-and-alan-singer
  


Arthur Singer ( 1917-1990 )
Hummingbirds from his book "Birds of the World "
published in the 1960's


I have spent the last several weeks preparing an exhibition that I have co-curated with my brother and we are bringing out a new book at the same time.  Many details, but we are excited because this is the first time that a real cross-section of my father's artwork has been viewed by the public.  Arthur Singer made his career with illustrations of birds, but it doesn't stop there.  He had a very interesting life, and his work as a master of wildlife is only part of the story.

If you read my blog and you are interested in seeing the show, I will send you an invitation if you send me your e-mail address.  Here is my address: alan@singerarts.com

The University Gallery at R.I.T. is the chief sponsor of the show, and it starts on August 7th, with an official opening on September 8th from 5 pm to 7 pm.  Come and hear my introduction to the art of Arthur Singer.



Friday, June 30, 2017

Uplift


June 29, 2017
Artist Jim Sanborn unveils:
"Argentum: Double Positive
at
The Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, New York

Pause for a moment and think about all the activity that you read about and see around you.  On the political front it can be dispiriting but on the artistic side, your spirits will brighten.  In Rochester, at the Memorial Art Gallery a new installation is happening outside, and inside as well.  The Memorial Art Gallery is reaching out to the community, and engaging in a discussion about how they will position themselves in the coming decade/s.  There are the new projection cylinders by Jim Sanborn out front, and inside there is a mural underway - just the kind of thing to help establish a new dialog with the public in attendance.


Some of the texts cut into the cylinders by Jim Sanborn

Many were present at the moment the spotlights went down and the installation was illuminated from within.  It took a few minutes to warm up but the inaugural lighting called: "Flip the Switch" attracted a crowd on a summer night.  During the day you will see these twin cylinders with texts that have been laser cut to be read in a variety of languages.  At nightfall the lights go on to project these texts onto the ground and the side of the building, and the effect is a drapery of words - sure to start many new conversations...




Sarah Rutherford at work on
"Her Voice Carries"

Inside, along a corridor that leads to the MAG auditorium, I found Sarah Rutherford painting away on that same evening in June; and her mural is taking shape.  On the wall are monumental portraits of women from our community whose stories must be told.  Sarah's project is called: "Her Voice Carries" and it is a key part to larger goal to include murals outside the museum in locations around the city devoted to the lives of women.  This is history in the making.


Painter Sarah Rutherford

Sarah Rutherford's outdoor artwork frequently displays her skills drawing and painting birds, so this new art at MAG represents a shift of focus, and a welcome one that will engage a larger community that may want to follow up by going out to search for the related murals that will be created around the city, making this a destination.  In a way this is an outgrowth of Wall/Therapy - and it has inspired artists to think BIG when working on the sides of buildings in and around Rochester.



CASA Mural by my class at R.I.T. in the Parking Garage at The Court Building on Fitzhugh Street


I remember engaging in this kind of work myself with my class of art students at R.I.T. We received a commission from a group called CASA ( Court Appointed Special Advocates for children ) to create a mural for a downtown parking garage.  This was our first action as painters for a social cause here in the Rochester area, and there would be several more back in the mid 1990's.  A wall mural provided several challenges for my class including how it would be done, and who would design it?  The art materials were donated and the large scale drawings were made with help from a local billboard company.  It was designed and completed in the winter, and all the students in my class took  part in the production.



Allison Saar in "The Female Gaze"
at The Memorial Art Gallery

Back inside the Memorial Art Gallery before they close for the night, I visit a little show in the Lockhart Gallery of  "The Powers of The Female Gaze".  I notice a work by Allison Saar who was a neighbor of mine back in Brooklyn, and she presents a print and a knot that looks like it could be very theatrical.



Elizabeth Catlett's "Harriet" a linocut from 1975


Elsewhere in this show the artist and printmaker Elizabeth Catlett gets into the graphic nature of Harriet Tubman with her gun in hand, leading the people.  The Memorial Art Gallery is a museum that gives you a lot to think about, even if it is only to go upstairs, and contemplate the scenes from the impressionist painters.  Coming out to the museum is one welcome activity that leaves the lights on.



Paul Cezanne at The Memorial Art Gallery
Rochester, New York

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Beautiful Book


Arthur Singer's watercolor  self-portrait in "The Ghost Army"
circa 1944

After a short stay in New York City  ( see my previous post ), I drove back upstate to start working on the details of a new exhibition that we are preparing for The University Gallery at Rochester Institute of Technology.  Our new book ( below ) will have a roll-out along with this comprehensive exhibition of artwork that my father, Arthur Singer  (1917-1990), produced during his long career.



RIT Press introduces: "Arthur Singer, The Wildlife Art of an American Master"

With my brother, Paul Singer, I am co-author of our new illustrated biography that you see here.  My brother, Paul, designed the book, and we are very proud of the production work that RIT Press accomplished in order to bring this published book to our audience.  You might guess that it is a very wonderful challenge to put together a clear narrative for anyone's life, but our father left us a very important trove of artwork and many reviews and notes about what he accomplished.

Now our book is ready to be published and is also available for pre-order from RIT Press. Our book will also be available in Europe through our distributor. If you are curious click on this link to know more: https://www.rit.edu/press/publications/new-and-coming-soon



Arthur Singer on Audubon Avenue, N.Y.C.

I have written about my father before on this blog, but there are so many facets that I haven't had a chance to cover.  In the process of writing this new illustrated biography, I found more materials that we did not have space for.  I would start by saying that our father was a book collector and that he would have been so proud of this new volume.  In the picture above, we have a photo of a very young man in his room         ( still a teenager ) and along the walls in his bookcase are the beginnings of a collection of art books and scrap books he kept for the rest of his life.

Arthur Singer's portrait of a jaguar made at the Bronx Zoo
color pencil on paper circa 1935


People ask - How did a young man growing up on Audubon Avenue in New York City come to love drawing birds and animals?  For Arthur this started at a very young age, and he was a regular visitor to the Bronx Zoo and the Museum of Natural History on Central Park West.



Rick Beyer and Liz Sayles new book on "The Ghost Army"

Arthur Singer studied art at The Cooper Union in downtown Manhattan and later attended The Art Students League.  Arthur graduated Cooper, and was later drafted into the Army during WWll.  He became a member of "The Ghost Army" and you can read about it in our new book, or read  the story written by Rick Beyer and Liz Sayles ( above ).



Arthur Singer's paintings and text by Oliver Austin
published by Golden Press

"Birds of the World" and "Birds of North America" were two of Arthur's best selling books - taking almost ten years to produce.  The Golden Guide ( below) is still in print in the 3rd Edition now almost fifty years since it was first published.  If you are in the Rochester, New York area you can learn more about this and much more if you can come and see our show which will be open from August 7 thru October,  2017.  I would love to meet you there and take you through the show!






Sunday, June 18, 2017

Surprise Party


June 12, 2017
at
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

A week before my birthday,  I drove alone down to New York City.  I had an invitation from my cousins - Diane and Arthur Abbey - who I hadn't seen in quite a while, for a big party.  The invitation was for an art opening that they were having at The Metropolitan Museum of Art!  It seems that they have been collecting Japanese baskets for some years and they were giving this collection as a gift to The MET.  These weren't just any old baskets - this was a high art form, and I had to go see it for myself.


The Guggenheim is just up the street.....

I arrived early so I took a walk up Central Park and stopped in to look at the Guggenheim, and spend a little time in their gift shop.  There is something so iconic about this museum, which I can remember when it was being built.  I have seen many shows there, but there was nothing as important as what I was going to see at The MET, so I walked back down the park.  A very hot day in New York City, I was glad to be back in the air conditioned galleries of The MET.



Funerary Customs for the  citizens of Cypress
in the classical period

The MET is so big, that you can't take it in on any given day.  I looked over the classical statuary along the main hall pausing to look at this tall sculpture from Cypress.  I consider the fact that many works of art in the middle east have been trashed in the last few years, and I am glad for places like The MET and the service they perform by protecting art from a wide variety of civilizations.



Still-life by Cezanne

There are my favorite galleries at The MET, and to visit Cezanne on this day was wonderful just to take a few minutes to observe what he had accomplished in this gorgeous still-life.  Many of my teachers were under the influence of Cezanne, and I could say that I learned the most from Cezanne's method of drawing and measuring and comparing when working up a composition.   I love the space in Cezanne, and the areas where he is directing your gaze.  There is a real tactile sense in his work that tells me that every inch in the painting is discovered and accounted for.

While I waited for the special exhibition to open I surveyed the paintings and sculpture of the 19th and early 20th century and wondered why Rodin would have spent his considerable gifts on a piece that is so close to kitsch in his "Eternal Spring" of 1907 ( see below ). 



"Eternal Spring", 1907 by Rodin

Finally, at 6:30 invitation only guests were allowed to visit the show and promised gift of Japanese Bamboo Art, in the Sackler Wing at The MET.  I was greeted at the door by my cousin, Diane Abbey, and thanked her for this wonderful occasion.  Many of these exquisite creations were made by six artists who are considered living national treasures.  The exhibition will run through February 4, 2018 so you will have ample time to see it should you wish to.  As they write in the press release, the majority of these works have never been presented to the public.



Honma Hideaki "Flowing Pattern", 2014, bamboo and rattan

A marvelous surprise party for their guests, the art that Diane and Arthur Abbey have collected is so interesting, not only for the superb craftsmanship, but also for the forms themselves like this flowing pattern that reminds me of Hokusai's "Great Wave".  Some of these bamboo creations are recent, and some go back a hundred years.  The details are mesmerizing, as some of these baskets are meant to present flowers, and others just stand by themselves as individual works of art.



Japanese Bamboo Art



On the way out of the party I met my brother,  Paul Singer,  and we rode back to Brooklyn together.
We both spoke about the high quality of the art on view, and we were both surprised about the extent of the collection.  Nice to get an invite to the show, this is the first time I had been invited to such an affair at The MET.

The following morning - on the way out of Manhattan, stuck in traffic, I had a second to make this final picture, and it represents the re-birth of New York City.  There is so much building going on in New York City that  you see new projects almost every other block.  Like the signs say, I Love New York!


The new, World Trade Center
2017