Saturday, June 14, 2014

Art in Ithaca

Painting by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

We started off in the morning on the way to Sapsucker Woods - that's in Ithaca at Cornell University with the Laboratory of Ornithology.  My in-laws had collected the artwork of Louis Agassiz Fuertes 
(1874 -1927 ) in the middle of the 20th century and I wanted to show them his paintings that hang in the Auditorium of the Lab.  In the Auditorium  ( which doubles as a gallery space ) we also saw the watercolors of Anita Schmidt-Kyanka.  These were small descriptive paintings for her new children's book titled "Sapsucker Blues" in honor of a family of nesting Great Blue Herons that roost on the Lab's property.

The Lab is a repository of art and information about birds, and school groups flock ( pardon me ) to the roomy observation deck and the trails that reveal so much of the local nature of the Finger Lakes region.  Louis Agassiz Fuertes was an artist who worked for The National Geographic and Cornell University starting in 1923, and Cornell has the largest collection of his paintings and sketches.

Wonderful Japanese Garden outside of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art

On the Cornell University campus stands a wonderful building by architect I. M. Pei, and that is the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.  I watched this being built when I was a graduate student at Cornell, and my studio window looked out on the construction as it went on.  They have recently added gallery space to the museum, as well as the Japanese Garden seen above.

Roy Lichtenstein, screen print from 1973

Although the museum was in the midst of a major installation there were a few floors open and I did see an interesting show called "Enticing the Eye / Exploring the Frame" which consists of prints and photos including some icons of 20th century art like the Lichtenstein above.

Lucas Cranach ( 1472-1553 )

On another floor I found one of my favorite classical painters, Lucas Cranach, represented by a painting of Judith ( holding a sword ) with the head of Holofernes - which was pretty strong stuff for the mid 16th century when it was painted.  Doing some research on this painting I found a number of versions of it attributed to Cranach and his workshop - each time the face of Judith was quite different - and not all the versions were as good as the one in the Johnson Museum.

Downtown Ithaca has a few gallery spaces including The Ink Shop which specializes in prints and printmaking workshops.  There I found a large print of ferns by Greg Page and colorful works by Kumi Korf and Pamela Drix among others.  Pamela Drix's print featured relief printing and was a portrayal of orchids set against blocks of color.

Pamela Drix at The Ink Shop

On the Ithaca Commons is the Artspace with a show by artists who have had a residency at The Saltonstall Foundation's art colony.  Artists can apply to spend some time in the country with studio spaces and time to think and develop new work.  My friend Jim Mott has been a resident twice, and made some studies there including the art below titled "Tall Ithaca" in his usual medium of oil on board.

Jim Mott with "Tall Ithaca"
at Artspace

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Art in June

Collage by Judd Williams
Ock Hee's Gallery,  Honeoye, Falls, NY

What can art tell us about life?  It is varied, unexpected, sometimes orderly, often colorful and intimate - art addresses YOU.  I have spent a lifetime looking at art, and I still seek out opportunities to look at something with a fresh eye.  Art tells you a lot about the person who made it, I would say that art is autobiographical, and if the art has integrity it is like listening in on an especially interesting conversation.  Why did the artist choose to do this, why did the artist restrict the color so, why did the artist make the work so large, what was the process used, how has the artists work changed since you last saw it...?

Once a professor of printmaking at R.I.T., Lawrence "Judd" Williams is having a solo exhibition of  two dimensional works on paper at Ock Hee's Gallery this month.  Here you will find some of his recent sandpaper collages, improvised with remnants of sandpapers - some with an interesting turquoise color - alongside some charcoal drawings that have a majestic, playful quality, not unlike the 20th century artist Stuart Davis.  These artworks from Judd Williams are a little more austere than the more sculptural aspect of his recent work that you might be familiar with from other shows he has had.

Sculpture by Dejan Pejovic
Stephen Merritt's studio

It seems that twice a year Stephen Merritt schedules a group of open studio shows at his home in Irondequoit, NY.  Stephen invites other artists to share the spotlight and on a recent visit I found the sculptural art of Dejan Pejovic out along the walk that leads to the indoor portion of the exhibition.  I stopped to talk with Dejan who has recently been working in fired terracotta clay.  The results are rib-cage like structures that hint at something monumental.  I really enjoyed the textures and colors of these fired pieces and with them I am somehow reminded of grand cathedrals in Europe with their flying buttresses.  The delicacy and strength of the "Sagrada Familia" of Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona has some quality that Dejan's work shares - something wanting to soar into space.

Stephen Merritt
in his show "Art in June"

Stephen Merritt took the time to discuss the qualities of reduction firing for his porcelain works, and how a certain red color was achieved on a glaze that he prepared.  I was wondering how such a sharp red could be the result of firing a copper glaze - and I found out that it has to do with the particular physics of the glaze components, where the pot was fired in the kiln, and the temperatures and eddies in the process itself.

Stephen's art has a simple, elegant look to it, and ( full disclosure ) I am very happy with the artwork of his that I have in my collection at home.  Also in the show this week were wood sculpted horses by Dan Malczewski and paper collage by Christina Laurel.

6 x 6 x 2014
at Rochester Contemporary Art Center

At the opening of the 6 x 6 show at RoCo, the joint was jumpin...  Over 6,700 artworks were pinned to the walls in search of new owners.  Director, Bleu Cease is looking for sales of at least 2,500 of these little beauties.  There is something for everyone here, and you can't beat the price!  Twenty dollars for each purchase, and after June 10th you can look at the artworks online and buy what you want.

I donated some work for this cause and so did my students and hundreds of other artists.  It is fun to go in and see if you can recognize the work of a specific artist - though nothing is signed on the front of the artwork.  It is also interesting to see what artists do within the parameters of the six inch square that they have to work with.

"Under The Influence"
1975 Gallery, 89 Charlotte Street, Rochester, NY

I went over to 89 Charlotte Street, to 1975 Gallery now open on a Sunday afternoon, to see a new show called "Under The Influence", which presents the work of two artists - John Perry, and Pen1.
Right at the door I found an interesting small squarish painting titled "Pen One" which is a detailed full color painting of a box car with graffiti spelling out the tag of the artist: Pen One.  This is a rather interesting flip-flop of what you might expect.  In fact the whole show is rather neat, clean, and sharp with an emphasis on design, social messages, and a black and white approach to content.  I was especially interested in the series of paintings "History Teaches Us That Man Learns Nothing From History" and in each painting a different form of weaponry is featured - gripped and brandished for immediate use.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Big Apple

Grand Army Plaza,
  Brooklyn, New York

After my students graduated in late May, I was off to the Big Apple.  First, I walked around Prospect Park in Brooklyn.  I was just across the street from where I used to live on Third Street and the Park, and then just down the path is Grand Army Plaza, the Brooklyn Museum, and Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.  It was a beautiful day to be in the city ( not too hot ) - see some art and hear a concert and visit with the family.

It was here in Brooklyn, that many years ago I began to write about art for the Prospect Press and American Artist Magazine ( now defunct ).  Walking around the neighborhood at night I would see artists at work in their studios, and I would come to meet many of them including Lennart Anderson, Kendall Shaw, Jules Olitksi, Alex and Allyson Grey, and Teching Hsieh.  I would interview them and write a story much like I am doing now.

painting by Alex Grey

The artists I met also began to form my community.  Right around the corner lived Barry Schwabsky who is now the art critic for The Nation.  Upstairs at Union Street, Alex Grey was completing his major work "Sacred Mirrors", and I was working on art for books and exhibitions and the art scene was in high gear.

Today, I am in Manhattan to hear a concert devoted to the music of Arvo Part who will be honored at Carnegie Hall later in the day with a ten minute standing ovation.  I had to go over to see the shows at the Museum of Modern Art including "Metamorphoses" with Paul Gauguin, and a retrospective of Sigmar Polke.  A big surprise for me was also finding the paintings and sculpture of Lygia Clark who was unknown to me until this moment, and I really enjoyed her spare architectural constructivism.

painting by Lygia Clark ( 1920-1988 )

Lygia Clark was born in Brazil in 1920 and died in 1988, spending much of her life in South America. The show at MoMA featured her geometric paintings and sculptural works of flat panels of metal attached by little round hinges so that the sculpture could change it's shape with a little manipulation.
Later in her life, Lygia Clark was a practicing therapist spending some years in Paris making a kind of body art ( fanciful clothing ) and needless to say she was ahead of the curve.

Paul Gauguin is one of my favorite post-impressionist artists, and his show was full of surprises as well. Prominent at his display in the museum were suites of prints and the original woodblocks ( including a block on loan from The Memorial Art Gallery ). Gauguin's paintings on view included one of my favorites - a woman holding a fan from 1902      ( Folkwang Museum, Essen ).  The majority of this show highlighted works from Tahiti, including some of Paul Gauguin's sculpture, a few ceramics, and images from his book "Noa, Noa" Offerings of Gratitude.

Paul Gauguin

Installed downstairs, was a giant retrospective for Sigmar Polke and the last time I saw a show of his that had this kind of impact was at the Brooklyn Museum years ago, but it wasn't this extensive.  Polke should be better known in our country - he was endlessly inventive, but I felt that the show and the way it was hung jumped around too much. and I would have like to have seen more depth for this artist.  Polke has a bit of the angry Pop Artist in him and he seems to have branched out into many different mediums and different directions without making definitive statements.

Alice Aycock "Park Avenue Paper Chase"

Back on the street, Park Avenue to be exact, there were several whirling tornadoes of steel by the artist Alice Aycock.  She has been known for her large scale works, and these very distinctive painted pieces can bee seen at a great distance towering over passersby and the throngs of traffic on the lanes.

The Hudson River landscape from Storm King Mountain

Leaving the Big Apple, we stopped in hopes of seeing the sculpture collection at Storm King Art Center, but it was closed for the day.  Instead we ambled through Woodstock and I checked out the 
shows at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum at 28 Tinker Street. 

 I was happy to see one of my former students ( Ingrid Ludt ) presenting her work in a regional show in the gallery.  All in all this was a productive weekend and a wonderful breather from the world of the university.