Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Slice of Life

A new book from
  Alan Singer, with essay by Anne C. Coon

In 2007, at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York, I was engaged by Professor Nitin Sampat to help his students embark on a project that had at its core a great digital program to identify and print accurate color from scans of artwork.  I was the artist who loaned a handful of paintings and prints which later became a handsome bound book titled "Selected Works"
which was printed at R.I.T. - and I must thank Professor Sampat and his students for doing a great job.  For that volume I had the great luck to include an essay written by the late Bill Zimmer, who had been an art critic for the New York Times, as well as the Soho Weekly News.

Now, seven years later I am publishing my own new book of selected artwork and I call the book "Slice of Life" and it includes not only my art and my introduction, but also an essay by writer Anne C. Coon.  I wanted to work with Anne because she has the unique ability to understand and write about the visual arts and the people who engage in this endeavor.  Anne interviewed me in my studio and this is because my art has to be seen in person, and also because I have an unusual process for making many of my most recent prints and paintings.  My process now begins with an exploration of mathematics, more precisely, I write equations that are translated into imagery through the software programs on my computer.

"The Golden Purse"
Transfer Monoprint on Fabriano paper

Maybe you are among the people who feel that art and mathematics should never be seen on the same block together, and years ago I might have said that too.  Rather than being on opposite sides of the same coin, I found art and math very compatible when I experiment with the programs that can create forms based on some simple commands that I write ( code that the computer can follow ).  The equations I write really are a pattern that can be graphed out, and rather than doing this on a flat two dimensional surface, I write the commands to conform to three dimensions ( 3D ).

The reasons I got involved with digital art are simple: computers are ubiquitous, especially in the university where I work, and I wanted to know how the computer did its job, so I could do mine better.  Since there are many programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop available, I started to work with them and then I branched out.  I added my computer skills to what I had worked with before - printmaking techniques, watercolor and oil painting - all of which I love and have practiced for years.

Transfer Monoprint on Fabriano paper

The digital environment is one of applied mathematics.  When you employ a program like Photoshop, you are working with a precise mathematical grid.  Photoshop has recently added a 3-D component which allows the user to bring in models created with other programs like the ones I use that are called Strata, 3D-XplorMath, and K-3Dsurf    ( now called MathMod ).  What I like about these programs ( aside from the fact that many are free ) is that I can sit down and work right away and explore the world of mathematical form-building using examples provided by the developers.  That is just the beginning - take a look through my new book and see samples of my art made in this fashion, it may change your opinion about the geometry class you didn't pay attention to when you were in school!

If you want more information about my new book "Slice of Life", e-mail me at

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Season Opener

Ron Klein at Rochester Contemporary Art Center
137 East Avenue
Rochester, NY 14604

Large scale installations have taken the place of graffitti, large size paintings, and sculpture in this most recent iteration of "State of the City" now open at RoCo.  Artists are making artful arrangements of materials that may only last the duration of the show - and then are never seen again (maybe the parts are re-cycled? ).  One of these aggregations is poignant and moving, while the other is purely decorative, a curiosity full of detail and found objects.

Laura Quattrocchi's "Lost Collection"

I was not prepared for the impact of the hanging articles and tags in Laura Quattrocchi's installation.  Why would all this lost ( now found ) material matter much at all?  I guess for me it is the connection to the people whose things these were, that is so moving.  Maybe I get to worrying about all the lost gloves and hats as colder weather sets in, and I connect that feeling to the people who lost things, somewhere in the course of their daily lives.

I enjoyed watching the short video in the round viewing room of a treasure hunt in the rainforest of South America.  I remember being in similar places and noticing how alien I felt among all the sharp pointy thorns on the trees, and how I had to watch out for the fire ants, the army ants, and all manner of other creatures on the ground.  There, Ron Klein finds seed pods, husks, shells and much more to take back to his studio.  These forest artifacts make it onto the wall of his large installation at RoCo and it curls around figure eights in an arabesque of cast-offs, dice and other ephemera.

Unlike the previous "State of the City" shows - this one was quiet and subtle.  The performance video from the SHUA Group was a bit hard to watch, only because all of those empty water bottles present a dilemma - what to do with all that trash!  Especially difficult to watch the bottles falling on the poor woman at the center of the screen...

Francesca LaLanne presents "Metropoliticoncious"
at Axom Gallery

Once in the door at Axom Gallery, I found small wall mounted pieces in welded metal that have been covered with super-shiny lacquer - this was a trio of Monads which the dictionary defines as indivisible units or single-cell microorganisms.  These nearly abstract shapes are the essence of the figure that is the common denominator in much of Francesca LaLanne's artwork.  Francesca is a recent grad from Rochester Institute of Technology and since leaving R.I.T. her work has gotten more colorful, even incorporating pieces of stained glass and bright paint.  There is even a pencil self-portrait on plywood that includes her figurative forms in a kind of symbolic narrative structure. One of her sculptural works in a corner has a recorded dialog going on and this figure looks like a diver with pressurized headgear.

I spoke with the artist about her work on plywood, the self portrait surrounded by other figures made of shiny metal with elevator boxes in the distance letting people off to do their thing. At the center of the painting the large figures are crowded together, maybe they are trying to crowd out the artist who is all buttoned up - call this an allegory of the artist and society.