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


Saturday, June 17, 2017

West to East


Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
on the campus of Cornell University

June, 2017 is turning out to be a most enchanting month, and I have been on the road ( literally ) from western New York sites like Niagara Falls to the eastern metropolis of New York City.  As we stayed in Ithaca, New York overnight after a wonderful visit in the Finger Lakes region we wanted to take our Swiss visitors up to the Cornell University campus to see the panoramic view from the fifth floor of the Johnson Museum.


Olive Tjaden Hall houses Fine Arts 
as part of the 
College of Architecture, Art, and Planning at Cornell University

We paused for pictures outside of the museum, and I notice that the building where I earned my MFA had not changed much at all over the years.  Then we went up to the Johnson Museum and took the elevator up to see the panorama.



Our view up Lake Cayuga, from the Johnson Museum

When we got off the elevator we checked out the view and some ancient cuneiform tablets and Tibetan thangkas.  I was also attracted to art from Java: shadow puppets with intricate cut patterns and almost comic characters made out of buffalo hide and pigments.



Shadow puppets from Java, Indonesia


19th century Japanese Screen

A dramatic screen painting from Japan caught my eye, it took up most of one wall and depicted a dragon, known to live in the water - creating wind and waves.  Similar images could be found on ceramic plates and vases. On the way down we stopped to look at a painting by Roger Shimomura called: " Desert City" painted recently in 2010.  This is part of a series and this painting, made in the style of 19th century woodblock prints, presented an ideal view of an internment camp like the ones created in the U.S. for Japanese American citizens who were detained during World War ll.  This brought a dose of reality to us and prepared us for what we would see downstairs.



Roger Shimomura's "Desert City", 2010
Acrylic on canvas

Some truly striking portraits of young people who suffer from autism became a focal point for the show in the lower gallery of the Johnson Museum.  The photos were made by Amran Malik Hakim and the show features his portraits and nine other contemporary photographers.  These photographers are heavily invested in the social ramifications of their art form, and they do their best to document the family life, the people, and social consequences of when and where they live.  Amran Malik Hakim lives in Jakarta, Java, Indonesia and became interested in autism when we was working as a teacher after graduating the Jakarta Art Institute.



Portraits by Amran Malik Hakim

The art that we saw at the Johnson Museum in Ithaca was a dress rehearsal for what would follow in Manhattan for me later the next day.  I received a surprise invitation to come to an opening at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I would have to get dressed up to go to the show of a collection of Japanese baskets that my cousins Diane and Arthur Abbey were giving to the museum.  I was thrilled to get the invitation and find out more about this gift to The MET.



"Leda and the Swan" 
by 
Cornelis Bols   ( ca. 1540 )

Before we left for New York, we saw a collection of prints being shown at the bottom floor of The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, that took us back in time, to Europe in the 16th century.  I was interested in the Flemish print by Cornelis Bos of Leda and the Swan, and also a print of a landscape by an artist from the Netherlands - Hieronymus Cock.  It just so happens that years ago I bought a similar print by the same artist, and I was really enjoying the luck of seeing this print at the end of our day.


"Mercury with the head of Argus in His Hand"
by Hieronymus Cock
etching,  1558


In my next post, read about my journey in the museum world of Manhattan.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

I Love New York


Niagara Falls, New York
June,  2017

A marvelous month now, with the start of my sabbatical from R.I.T. - I have been able to travel from one end of New York State to the other.  With our Swiss friends we happen to journey over to Niagara Falls on the most beautiful day and enjoyed mild temperatures and sunny weather.  The parkland around the falls has been improved since we last visited - with great trails; we walked everywhere.  Even though I write about visual art - the falls are in a class by themselves - and have inspired many generations of artists.  I forgot my paints, but we did some photography.



Anna and the author of this blog

I am in the middle of making preparations for a large scale exhibition of my father's artwork which will take place at The University Gallery later this summer in Rochester, at R.I.T.  It is difficult to take some time away, but on a day like this we couldn't help but be outdoors.  We are also looking forward to later in the summer becoming grandparents ( a shout out to Nathaniel and Tabi )!



Frontispiece for our new book
on the career of Arthur Singer
"The Wildlife Art of an American Master"
published later this summer by RIT Press

Before we hit the road to Niagara, another marvelous event happened - I held in my hands an advance copy of a book  that my brother Paul and I have co-authored.  I was thrilled to now have the chance to page through  and check out our project - almost two years worth of work to put it together with the help of RIT Press.  This was a labor of love, and this book will be also distributed in Europe, so if you read my blog in that part of the world, take a look for this publication.



A page from our new book
featuring our US Postage Stamps
"The Birds and Flowers of the Fifty States"

The title of this book gives only a hint of what we think is a very interesting life story.  My father was indeed a master wildlife painter, but he was so much more - in fact he had a very long career, and our book and exhibition showcase many facets of his artwork not known to the general public.  We call this an illustrated biography, and it really is a stunning art book soon available from the publisher in the middle of summer.

I am very proud of the fact that this month I was given a lifetime achievement award from the publishers of the Marquis Who's Who.  Here is a link if you want to know more about this award, and also more about my biography and why I was selected.  Here is the link: http://www.24-7pressrelease.com/press-release-service/439176



Blowy Hill


We ended the day on top of a hill in Brooktondale, just before you get to Ithaca, New York.  We have some property in one of the most beautiful settings you can imagine in New York State.  When I get to write the next part of this blog, I talk about another unique thing that just took place in New York City - which meant that I had to dress up for an opening at The Metropolitan Museum of Art - so it is on to Manhattan and the art world.....

Monday, June 5, 2017

Art Can Change Your Life



I guess I will have to admit it - I am an art addict.  For me, just the process of looking at art in a gallery or museum engages me in a deep way.  I look at the works of other artists, and it is like reading a letter that was addressed to me.  Even when the art is as plain as day, it can do the job it was sent to do.  Artists have intent, and they want to connect.



Cathleen Chaffee, PhD
at
The Memorial Art Gallery
speaking on Minimal Art

Cathleen Chaffee, PhD. gives a good lecture at The Memorial Art Gallery on the trend toward minimal art in the 1960's and 1970's.  At the top of her welcoming screen it says: "The spare and shocking developments in abstraction" and she then goes on to show examples from a series by French artist Alphonse Allais with witty titles that for a viewer in 1882 must appear like some kind of joke, except that is not how things worked out in the long run.



Kazimir Malevich, "Black Square" 1915


Malevich wasn't making a joke when he presented his all black painting to the public in 1915.  However minimal art can seem to be funny if you are not aware or involved with art at all - it can seem like the ne plus ultra of the artistic conceit - like there is no there, there!  I like to think of the trend towards minimalism as a form of meditation - and I think I remember that the late Agnes Martin said something to the effect that geometry can be seen to be in the service of the spirit.



Agnes Martin at work

Listening to a long talk on the artists associated with Minimalism, you begin to see that this is a long range trend, and we have yet to really grapple with it.  For many - it is an acquired taste, and for others it may be just right.  Some artists stress that the trend towards minimal art was a kind of political stance against vulgar commercialism.  What minimal art had were strict rules that artists seem to follow- mainly about what not to show: no anecdote, no kitsch, no model posing.. instead there were limits and repetitions.  The things that were left out of minimal art are whatever the artist thought was superfluous.  Get things down to the bare necessities and deal with it.



It is that time again!  6 x 6 , 2017
at RoCo

Right down East Avenue after the lecture, I venture into The Rochester Contemporary Art Center for my first look at 6 x 6 , 2017.  Step right up and buy some art.  Help yur local art center. At this show there is something for everyone - and the price is right.



Purchase your favorite at 6 x 6

This is truly a democratic approach to an exhibition of myriad artworks.  Probably the sculptors feel slighted as there is not much in the way of dimensional works.  Maybe there will have to be a 6 x 6 x 6 show next year.!!!



Memorial for Edith Lunt Small
She passed away recently and will be missed....

So, go over to RoCo and support your local artist, you just might come away with something that might change your life!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Contributing Artists


Alan Singer's watercolor works-in progress 
2017

After a glorious morning sitting out in the yard painting a watercolor, I took a break to go out and see what other art works.  I am going over to the University Gallery at R.I.T. to confirm my plans for an exhibition of my father's artwork coming later this summer.  When I arrive, I am totally surprised by the new show of paintings that is hanging everywhere in the gallery that is part of the Vignelli Design Center, and I get to meet the artist - Steven W. Justice!



Steven  W. Justice opens soon at the University Gallery, R.I.T.

Steven Justice is a congenial man with a terrific verbal and visual wit, and his paintings have a distinct style that is part pop and comic book, and part social critique.  He has lived in various parts of the world and he brings his social telescope with him to find unique points of view about people who become the subject of his paintings.  Looking around at all the paintings in this show it becomes clear that Steven Justice loves contemporary music.  Charlie Parker plays his sax and out pops another musician.  Duke Ellington sits at his piano and works out a composition.  Then there is so much more.  His show runs through July.



AS Above, So Below
Paintings by Steven W. Justice

After a pleasant conversation with Mr. Justice I went off to see a copy of our new book being published soon by RIT Press, and I am sure to write something on that topic soon.  Along with the new book that I worked on with my brother, Paul Singer, we are working on the exhibition that will follow in the roll out of our book.  Our show will be at the University Gallery later in the summer so stay tuned...!

Also, I want to mention an online  publication that will publish an interview with me and also Rebecca Aloisio.  Check out ACS Magazine online only for the July-August issue coming soon.



Sculpture by Albert Paley at The Hungerford Building
1115 East Main St.
Rochester, NY

At the Hungerford Building in Rochester, we visit Warren Phillips and see the new show that he has mounted with abstract art by William F. Sellers.  It is an interesting show that could be the cousin of the Minimal Mostly show that I wrote about last month.  William Sellers is an artist who has been working in this area for quite a while and his paintings include hard edged geometry, something with which I am quite familiar.  Less familiar to me is the sculptural works of Mr. Sellers made in cast metal which for the most part are in a medium grey color that look like they have been fashioned from miniature engine blocks.



Sculpture made of cast metal by William F. Sellers
at
Warren Phillips Fine Art and Frame



At The Hungerford Building
Warren Phillips is showing the paintings and sculpture of
William F. Sellers



George Wegman explains this painting by William Sellers

George Wegman was talking about the paintings with me and I found them engaging and well crafted.  I had to tell Warren and George that I just read in an e-mail about the passing of Edith Lunt Small, an artist well regarded in our city for her art and her character.  Since it was First Friday, I was on my way to another opening at The Geisel Gallery but I was happy I had the chance to see the show by William F. Sellers.


Jill Gussow at work on Scio Street, Rochester, NY

I saw that Jill Gussow was working on one of her mosaic murals when I drove by, and I had to stop and take a look at what she was in the middle of doing - putting up these large panels on the parking garage on Scio Street.  Jill and I shared a studio space when we were in college, so I have a long association with her, and watched her work for many years.  Just like me, Jill grew up in a very artistic family, and she is a seasoned pro.



Jan Agati Abbarno
Soliloquy: Recent Drawings
at
Geisel Gallery, second floor of the Legacy Tower
Rochester, NY

Down the way, Jean Geisel told me about the new show in the gallery that bears her name.  She had seen the works of Ms. Abbarno on her web site and was so impressed she arranged this exhibition.  Many people came over from Buffalo to see these intricate paintings - some of which had been sliced or torn as part of the creative impulse.  It helps to know that she calls her show: "Soliloquy: Recent Drawings", and you can imagine the discourse she has had with herself as she discovers new things in her art as her process evolves.  Here is an expressionist at work, with a poetic grasp of a delicate evolution of images that can engage the eye and mind in equal order.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Artists Double Down





"Doubles and Doppelgängers" at The Oxford Gallery
267 Oxford Street, Rochester, NY
thru June 17, 2017

We have a show by a pair of artists, and we have another show where a group of artists focus on "Doubles and Doppelgängers".  Either way - we double down in this month of May.

In the back of my mind I have been thinking about whether you can draw a line between illustration and fine art.  Does such a distinction still exist?  When I was a student in college, illustration was considered strictly "commercial" - in other words if you were a real artist you didn't "sell out".  Back then the student artist had  leverage to go against commercial imperatives.  Still, that left open the question of how an artist could make a living - you know - pay your bills!    Society was different during my student years, or my perspective when I was younger was more of an idealist.  I wonder whether younger artists feel the same way about how their art is perceived today.??



Rachel Cordaro and Cordell Cordaro at The Geisel Gallery

There is much more pressure from the global marketplace to have the skills to make  your art, but also promote your art and still have it please enough people in the social networks that we have  subscribed to.  I want artists to survive, but I also want them to push harder on the norms to create something truly unique.

Going around to gallery shows, I see many artists are responding to themes put forward by their galleries, giving artists something to think about, and bounce their ideas and concepts off of.  Maybe for some artists this limits their freedom, while other artists need an anchor in the real world of discussion and decision.  So this is what  I was thinking about when I went to look at shows.  We can begin with the Geisel Gallery, at the former headquarters of Bausch & Lomb in downtown Rochester, New York.


"France", Rachel Cordaro

Cordell Cordaro and Rachel Cordaro have a show of paintings that balances the light and lively with a view towards the life of "La Boheme".  There is a bit of the fashion world, a nod towards interior design, there is a touch of nature both botanical and human, and some form of hybridization as well. Both artists have an idiosyncratic way with paint, with Cordell's art you get a sense of a modern day Lautrec or Manet and with Rachel you get a modern painterly approach that is somewhat decorative with Van Gogh in the background and a wink to the  eccentric Florine Stettheimer.


"Night Out" by Cordell Cordaro


What you see in this art is a personalization of a painterly skill set that can on one hand illustrate Cafe Society - and I would love to see a greater development of the environment here, and on the other hand there is a characterization that hints at a deeper emotional content.  I think there is an implicit challenge here to go further and dig deeper, that the language of painting can stand the scrutiny and we are all looking for an image that "moves" us.



Daniel Mosner at the Oxford Gallery

The Doubles and Doppelgängers show that is now on at The Oxford Gallery, is filled with surprises and it also has some works that take the theme literally ( as in a pair of paintings by David Dorsey at the top of this post )  In the analysis of this show I am looking for poetry not prose.  Faced with the theme of "Doubles and Doppelgängers" some artists show that there are different ways to interpret  their theme by delving into mirror reflections and other forms of doubling.



Sue Leopard's " Day and Night Owls "

The theme is rendered more abstractly in the sculpture of Bill Keyser and the carved marble of Ray Colaruotolo.  Amy McLaren goes direct to the figurative resemblance while a mixed media piece by Margery Pearl Gurnett creates a stacked image, an architecture of yin and yang.



Barbra Page's Varanasi 8:00 Am and 8:00 pm

Other surprises were found in the mixed media work of Barbara Page which incorporates pieces of broken mirror.  I also liked the straight forward approach to watercolor that  Phil Bornarth took with his tree and reflection.  David Dorsey goes for the double your pleasure principle by creating a painting in duplicate with a flowering still life on  a table top.  You have to look closely to see the difference, and that is the driving force in this show of "Doubles and Doppelgängers".

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Max a Minimal

1.
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
at
 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.

2.
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.


3.
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.

4.
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.


5.
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
in 
"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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaZEcur8NTU

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