Saturday, November 28, 2015


The author of this blog in front of Ellsworth Kelly
at the new Barnes Foundation,

On a crisp day in late November, we walked toward the entrance to the new Barnes Foundation in the center of Philadelphia and we stopped to admire a lightning bolt that was frozen in place by Ellsworth Kelly anchored at the foot of a reflecting pool alongside the museum.  Made of stainless steel, this was a new addition to the Kelly oeuvre completed in 2012 when this most recent incarnation of the Barnes opened for business.

In Philadelphia: Barnes' door

The Barnes now has two locations, the old site in Merion, Pennsylvania and this new building designed by Tod Williams and Billy Tsien, that we are about to enter.

"Strength and Splendor"
at The Barnes Foundation

We had been to the old location a number of times, and now we're going to see the collection on the new campus which is essentially a building inside a building.  The new large central meeting space has a wonderful wood floor, and a show of fancy iron work on loan from a museum in France.  "Strength and Splendor" consists of many wrought iron works: elaborate door handles, hinges, hooks and locks from the skilled hands of a long lineage of fine craftsmen.

American Indian pottery 
at the Barnes Foundation

There are three levels at the new Barnes Foundation which we looked at starting in the basement next  to the gift shop where we found marvelous ceramics from the American west in a tall glass case, and right away we were faced with the task of trying to identify what we were looking at because there are no wall labels in the Barnes, only numbers.  In each room you have to look for the printed paper guides for each ensemble if you want the details, later you can go online and visit their website for more information.

Matisse, Seurat, Cezanne, Renoir, and so much more..

When the Barnes Foundation decided to move, there was a lot of controversy, but I tried to put those thoughts away as we all paused to look over the new building under an enormous skylight.  The old building proportions from Merion remain intact in each of the rooms, and for paintings like the three lunettes that make up the Matisse "The Dance" - that was absolutely essential.  There were other critical factors that came over from the original building including lighting and even the wall coverings.  Your eyes adjust to the lower light levels that provide a softer impression of each artwork which you find inside and not the bright spotlights one expects to find in a modern art gallery.

Cezanne at the Barnes Foundation

What a marvelous museum!  Absolutely engaging collection of paintings, sculpture, metalwork and more that Dr. Barnes has preserved.  The artists featured here are mostly Europeans, but I did notice a few works by the American Horace Pippin and tribal carvings from Africa and even Polynesia.  In the main room are major masterpieces from Cezanne ( cardplayers ), Seurat ( the models ), Matisse (The Dance), and some endearing smaller works from Corot, and Chardin and then you can go to the right or the left and discover riches in either direction.

Dr. Barnes by Giorgio DeChirico

There are so many pieces of art in the Barnes collection it is a wonder the man had time for anything else.  When we visited, the whole neighborhood around the Barnes Foundation seemed to be under construction, and the city center certainly is growing and looking very prosperous.

Barnes Foundation building by Tod Williams and Billy Tsein

The new Barnes Foundation building is a long rectangle, and I understand that Frank Gehry has been commissioned to create a new wing for the Philadelphia Museum of Art right across the boulevard, so this is going to be a great destination.  Back inside, we studied each room for paintings and drawings that we didn't remember from our last turn around the collection.  Thinking about today, I wonder who has the intense passion for collecting modern art that Dr. Barnes had.  I also wonder what collections of the art being done today will tell people a hundred years hence.  The images we have seen in the collection here let us view what life was like for some at the turn into the 20th century and a bit beyond.  There are a few glimpses into abstraction where Picasso's influence has been felt, but very little along that line.

Modigliani at The Barnes Foundation

For this trip there were too many paintings by Renoir, and every Cezanne I studied seemed fresh and still amazing.  If you go, prepare to spend the entire afternoon there, because it takes you that long to go through each room, and you still won't have time for everything!

Barnes Foundation entrance
Ellsworth Kelly

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Give Thanks

Dean Justice at the Opening: "FLUX" The Legacy of Keith Howard
Bevier Gallery, Booth Building 7a at Rochester Institute of Technology

It is important to let those people around you know how much they mean to you.  Thanksgiving this year has a backdrop of distress around the world, with no easy fix in sight.  The timing was also appropriate to celebrate the legacy of an influential colleague of mine at Rochester Institute of Technology with a show titled: "FLUX" in memory of Keith Howard who passed away suddenly earlier this year.  On hand for the opening was our Dean, Lorraine Justice who introduced Keith's widow, Bernice Cross.

The prints that Keith made are reminders that along with his character as an inventor, there was also a gifted artist who had a very wry sense of humor which is present in the images now on view.  The plates for these prints are often quite large and they reflect his expertise in color intaglio printmaking.

In December a companion show will open at Gallery r on College Avenue, so  a visitor will have a greater chance to see the work that Keith made especially since during his lifetime he didn't show this artwork in our area.  Keith did have an exhibition of his Eve paintings at Axom Gallery a few years back, but I know he made over a hundred of these works, and published many of the best ones in a hard bound book form.  We are only just now beginning to see the depth that he achieved in his art.

Bob Heischman in "Winter Harvest"
at Ock Hee's Gallery
Honeoye Falls, New York

We drove down to Honeoye Falls, to go and see "Winter Harvest" at Ock Hee's Gallery, and this is her final group show that is the capstone to a ten year run as an art gallery and gift store.  My colleague, Bob Heischman was there to greet people, and share a set of his new gouache paintings, and he was one of seven artists featured in this show.  Included in this line-up were sculptors Olivia Kim and Jason Tennant, and some colorful quilt pieces by Bette Rogers.   Ock Hee was given a wonderful send-off in the Democrat & Chronicle this past week, and she will now devote her time to gardening and garden design.  She really provided a strong sense of the value of visual art and her gallery will be missed, I am thankful to have been among the artists she promoted in her gallery space.

Melissa Matson  and her Poetry Pocket 
and Olive Simple Vest
at The Mill Art Center
Honeoye Falls, New York

Since we were in Honeoye Falls, we drove a little ways to The Mill Art Center, to see the Annual Member Show, and there are some unique items in this current exhibition.  I was taken with the fun portrait of Wendell Castle by Edith Lunt Small and also some landscapes including a painting by Phyllis Bryce Ely with a slashing surf along the coast of Killarney.  My favorite works were two vests made from printed materials by Melissa Matson who is also the chief violist for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.  These two pieces are beautifully put together and the textures and details are worth the drive over there.

Edith Lunt Small
Portrait of Wendell Castle
mixed media
at The Mill Art Center

Thank you to all the artists who gave me so much pleasure, and also something to think about during the year.  I enjoy writing about what I see and hope to continue to do more of the same in the coming year, if you enjoy this blog, share it with a friend... THANKS!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Keith Howard and His Legacy

Keith Howard

Printmaker, artist, inventor, teacher
family man

Flux: Keith Howard and His Legacy
Bevier Gallery,
Building 7a, Rochester Institute of Technology
Opening: Friday, November 20th 5-7pm

Gallery r
100 College Avenue
Rochester, NY 14607
Opening:  Friday, December 4th  6-9 pm

I met Keith Howard in 1997 up in the Alberta province of Canada, in the town of Grande Prairie to be exact.  Keith held his workshop there during the summers for printmakers from all over the map and as I had been getting mailers from him for years I decided to go and see what all the fuss was about.  I had a week to immerse myself in Keith's new methodology, making plates to print with a substance called ImagOn - a light sensitive film that is adhered to metal or plastic.

Keith Howard in a printmaking workshop

Keith had experimented with other forms of printmaking for years and had suffered from over-exposure to chemicals that had a lasting impact on his health.  Acids, kerosene, cancer causing rosins, toluene - these are just some of the materials to avoid in an old-fashioned printmaking studio and Keith wanted to clean up and get rid of these hazards.  He wanted to create his art, and didn't want his art materials to kill him in the process.  Did I mention that Keith thought through his process like an inventor, checking and testing all aspects of the work he was doing and finally writing books on the subject including "Non-Toxic Intaglio Printmaking", and "The Contemporary Printmaker: Intaglio-Type & Acrylic Resist Etching".

By the year 2000, Keith had moved from Canada to Rochester, New York to set up his School for Non-Toxic Printmaking at Rochester Institute of Technology, and with my recommendations he had been offered a place in the art school faculty and he settled in.  As an artist, Keith was making new images, especially large scale prints which are going on exhibition in the R.I.T. galleries in November and December as a way of celebrating his achievements after his untimely passing this past February.

Keith Howard"s  "Pause, Fast Forward, and Play"

Visitors to the Bevier Gallery will see his set of prints called: "Pause, Fast Forward, and Play", and these images are built on the skills and interests that Keith had over many years of experimentation. Along with prints there will also be on view some select paintings from his recent series on the many guises of Eve.  Working with a model, Keith would photograph her in outdoor settings, and then the photos would be translated through Photoshop, and ultimately given to a painter         ( Mr. Linn ) to finalize as a vision on canvas.  People who visit the Bevier Gallery, and Gallery r will get to see a small portion of the many aspects of Keith's production after he came to Rochester to teach.

The majority of these prints originate in the photos that Keith would make and they sometimes are right off of the television screen and they are designed to look like the latest breaking news on channels like CNN.  Many times the images in his prints feature people Keith knew well, and the typographic commentaries are often ironic and humorous.

Keith Howard in conversation with Alan Singer and Friedhard Kiekeben at R.I.T.

Included in the show at The Bevier Gallery is a tribute portfolio of print images sent in by artists who knew and worked with Keith's printmaking methods and benefitted from knowing this remarkable man. A visitor can see a variety of approaches to see how Keith Howard's ideas on printmaking have been disseminated.

Keith Howard, artist, and influential printmaker

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What Michael Amy Will Say About Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons

Michael Amy: “Jeff Koons, Sculpture: 1979-1992”.

A lecture on behalf of the School of Art:

Thursday November 12th at 5:00 pm in Carlson Auditorium (room 1125),
Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science (building 76,
between the Booth building, 7A, and parking lot F) 
Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY 14623. 

Free and open to all. 

Inline image 1

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Elusive Images,Paintings, Prints, and Mixed Media

"The Elusive Image"
an exhibition of 3 artists:
Bill Santelli, Jan Hewitt Towsley and Tony Dungan
at Oxford Gallery
267 Oxford Street
Rochester, New York 14607

No, they are not silkscreen prints that Bill Santelli is showing at the entrance to the show at the Oxford Gallery.  The pair of images - views that maybe a grasshopper would relate to - appear to be about blades of grass each drawn with a sharp Prismacolor pencil.  The background sky in these drawings might be a beige or light blue-gray and it has been worked so hard the surface shines.  Are these drawings freehand, or does he use a stencil? The questions continue when a viewer contemplates a series called: "In Zen Mind".  Are these corporate logos worked out on a grid?  How is that effect with the gold leaf created?  What relationship do these images have to the big paintings?

Artist: Bill Santelli
acrylic on canvas
Oxford Gallery

Although the larger paintings have an affinity to Stuart Davis and other artists of American Modernism,I think Bill Santelli is at his most original in the smaller scale works, and for me they are the most engaging. 

 Another painter in the show is Tony Dungan, and his work is a vigorous blend of figuration and abstraction that can remind me of the 1950's work of Bill DeKooning when he was deconstructing figurative realism.  Tony Dungan uses forms from abstract expressionism like a scaffolding around the figure, and then in some paintings he dispenses with the figure altogether.  His paintings have an aura of expressive and improvised brushwork and palette knife that gives this art a chunky look.  I like this one painting that looks like a person playing an instrument - take a look:

Tony Dungan "Octave"
acrylic on canvas
at Oxford Gallery

Jan Hewitt Towsley takes a fine copper wire and makes a mesh!  Actually her weaving sometimes makes a perfect screen effect, around which she sometimes builds a recognizable image of maybe a musical instrument or a still life.  I am attracted to the color of these reflective objects, and I am struck by the amount of time it must take to work the materials that make this effect.  After seeing Ms. Towsley's art I pause to think about how the grid as a tool has been used to organize space even in small compositions like #15 "Late Autumn".

Jan Hewitt Towsley
at Oxford Gallery

Around Rochester, there are a number of new shows opening and with the recommendation of Amy Vena, I made my way over to The Geisel Gallery to see the exhibition by Jacquie Germanow.  First of all, there are her portraits, and they have a presence that is idiosyncratic in that they reveal an emotional bond that has developed between the artist and her sitting model.  The artist surveys the model's face and begins to track her impressions on paper or canvas.  This is not a photographic process as much as a personal one, and Jacquie in her art stresses the communicative value of color and gesture in a painterly yet precise manner.

Jacquie Germanow's show at The Geisel Gallery
includes this portrait

With Jacquie Germanow her sculptural works often include found wood elements ( branches and trunks ) or iron work and then there are the cast glass pieces that create a highlight along with paints to augment a form or two.  There is a pronounced sense of play in this art, while still creating something that is symbolic and resonant.

left to right: Jacquie Germanow's "Forgiveness", "Passion", "Vision"
Cast glass, wood, iron, bone

There is a rich choice of exhibitions to see, and I can recommend one for you that offers you the opportunity to see what is being done in the field of printmaking, and it is the "84th Annual Members Exhibition" of the Print Club of Rochester.  I am proud to be in the company of so many gifted artists, who present their work each year.  An award was given out to Bob Conge for his Dry Point called "Poolside".  Other prints that caught my attention included a large expressive work by Kathleen Sherin that she titles TFMM, and a colorful geometric image by Tarrant Clements.  I put two of my recent transfer monoprints in the show, and I am working on a whole new series of images that render mathematical equations in a visual way.  The show has just opened at Warren Phillips Frame and Gallery over at the Hungerford Building,  so - go and see the results!

Bob Conge's " Poolside "
award winner

Kathleen Sherin
TFMM, Collagraphic Monoprint

Tarrant Clements collagraph

Alan Singer at Warren Phillips Gallery and Frame Shop
84th Annual Print Club Member's show

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

In Retrospect

Merlin C. Dailey 1931-2015

Prompted to look back, I am thankful for having a chance to get to know Merlin Dailey who passed away this October.  For many years I had an interest in Japanese prints, so when I moved upstate to Rochester, from New York City, I made it my business to visit the East West Gallery in Victor, NY.

Meeting Merlin Dailey in his gallery, I was struck by the quality of his exhibitions and the depth of his knowledge - also I came to know that he was an artist in his own right and knew printmaking inside and out.

Later, I had the opportunity to invite Merlin to speak to my students at R.I.T. and give them information about curating shows, working to mount exhibitions and developing a client base.  Through his years doing research on prints, and with his scholarship and business sense, this helped him establish one of the most interesting - and long running galleries in upstate New York.

Philip Glass, memoir
"Words Without Music"

This week I am reading a memoir from Philip Glass, a composer who grew up in Baltimore, MD, then moved and came to represent a new wave of composer/performers in New York City around the time I was in college in the late 1960's.  Many of his early works were performed in galleries and lofts around SoHo, and I remember the stir that was caused when "Einstein on the Beach" opened uptown.  His music was radical and mesmerizing, and at first difficult to listen to, but then I got what he was presenting after hearing it a few times and buying the records.  It helped that he was into Indian Raga music and I like that kind of thing myself.

Philip Glass was welcomed by the art world in New York City and his programs for operas like "Satyagraha" really captured my attention.  When you read his story you see that it coincides with the rise of careers in the arts by people like Chuck Close and Richard Serra, and we get a behind-the-scenes look at how Philip Glass earned his living    ( as a plumber and moving man ) to keep food on the table and to enable him to spend at least some time each week with his music.

Ravi Shankar, and Philip Glass
work on the music for "Chappaqua"

Philip Glass writes in his new memoir about meeting and working with Ravi Shankar, composing and recording music for the Conrad Rooks film "Chappaqua".  This meeting of two strands of music - the classic Indian Raga, and the new wave exemplified by Philip Glass, becomes a turning point.  Glass writes about the impact working with Ravi Shankar had on his compositions from then on.

The coincidence for me was that I went to the premier of this film at The Carnegie Hall Cinema ( which no longer exists ) - because I was acquainted with one of the actors in the film.  Each Saturday for many years I would attend figure drawing classes at the Art Students League which is right across the street from  Carnegie Hall.  There were a few actors who also liked to draw, and one of them - Herve - was a friend and we would talk sitting on the steps of the League on 57th Street in Manhattan.  Herve told me that he was going to be in this film, so when it opened, we went across the street for the premier screening.  Also in this film was Moondog ( I wrote about him before in this blog ) and writers like William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, as well as other luminaries .

The movie was really like a trip - part nightmare and part fairy tale.  And there was Herve Villechaize, just like he promised.  Reading the Philip Glass book takes me back in time to a New York City when anything was possible.  Downtown where I lived, was becoming SoHo and Philip Glass was working as a plumber right across the street from where I had my first performance at the Flats Fixed Gallery.