Saturday, September 17, 2016

Visual Studies

Nathan Lyons photographed by Joan Lyons
Nathan Lyons ( 1930-2016 )
Curator and founder of the Visual 
Studies Workshop

The study of photography wouldn't be what it is today without the scholarship and example of Nathan Lyons.  Photography lost a major figure when this man passed away last week, and we can pause to reflect on what he meant for his adopted "image city".

My own study of photography drew great benefits from Nathan Lyon's leadership - way before I had the chance to meet him.  His influence was felt through his own work as a photographer,  through the school he helped build: the Visual Studies Workshop, and through the many photographers and artists who passed through those doors - only to come out richer and better informed.  Nathan Lyons was a gifted writer, curator, and speaker, and his influence is felt by anyone who seriously enjoys collecting photography from some of the major names now in the field.  He argued for photography as a fine art, supported and shown in galleries and museums across the nation, and he worked tirelessly in that effort as a curator at The George Eastman House.

Nathan Lyons signing copies of his books

It was Nathan Lyons who saw value in the American snapshot, and he lent credibility to a diverse scene which included images by people like Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, Duane Michals, Joel Meyerowitz among others.  Nathan Lyons brought photography to the attention of museums and their public around the world, and there were many portfolios and shows that finally garnered the respect and admiration that was demanded.  Photographers began to have their work collected and many books were published that featured their artistry.

Nathan Lyons

One can learn a lot more by reading the recent book edited by Jessica McDonald published by the University of Texas Press - in which Nathan Lyons' essays and lectures are published as a collection. I was lucky to get Nathan Lyons signature on my copy of his book when it went on sale at Lumiere Photo several years ago on College Avenue in Rochester.  Nathan Lyons had a deep impact, his influence is felt, and his presence will be missed, he was 86.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Star of the Southern Tier

Windsor Whip Works
98 Main Street
Windsor, New York 13865

New Show:  "Not Just Alike, But One and the Same"
On Exhibit until October 29, 2016

At the opening came the announcement of the closing.  Just as the party was getting underway, Bill Pesce, co-founder with his wife Johanne, got up to speak, welcoming artists and guests to the opening of a big new show at The Windsor Whip Works Art Center.  "After eleven years", Bill was speaking into his microphone, "..once the new show that runs here through October 29th comes to an end, the gallery would close".

The Windsor Whip Works has been a star of the Southern Tier, and a stop I made numerous times as I drove along Route 17 ( now interstate 86 ) usually as I was coming up from New York City.  They renovated this old building and it was a labor of love.  The two floor space has been the host of many terrific shows over these past eleven years that the gallery has been in operation.  The Whip Works is an art center with drawing classes and special guest speakers doing workshops like my friend Dan Welden, among many others.  The Windsor Whip Works built a community too, so it is to be applauded for all this effort, along with the energy poured out by its board of directors and people like Bryna Silbert who was diligent in putting her curatorial skills to work at the gallery.

Fernando Llosa speaks with Bryna Silbert
at the opening of "Not Just Alike, But One and the Same"

One by one, the artists in this final show were introduced by Bill Pesce to the gallery audience assembled at the opening and the artists all had a few words to say about our shared experience there.  I had juried a show of small works for Bill and Johanne, and my artwork has been featured in the gallery six years ago ( along with my father Arthur Singer, and my brother Paul ), and now again with this present exhibition.  The people I met there along the way included some artists young and old, some with an international record of exhibitions to their credit, and some just getting their feet wet.
The atmosphere at the Whip Works is friendly, not off-putting like the art galleries of the big city.  But will people support what they are doing here?

Bill Pesce making my introduction
at the artist's reception on September 10th, 2016

I think we are still experiencing the downturn of the economy that swept across the U.S. and much of the world almost eight years ago.  People may be nervous about spending money on art which is often seen as a luxury.  As a culture we are also so inundated with images via the internet and our smart phones, that the values and principles of fine art are often questioned and sometimes ignored. The artists are just doing what they love to do, what they are driven to do and are passionate about, and they will have to find ways of supporting their habit.

Artist Kim Schrag
Windsor Whip Works

Back at our show in Windsor, New York, a good crowd has assembled to look over the new artwork, and I was very happy to see how the exhibition was presented.  Surprised to see my big blue painting in the gallery window out front, and nice to see a line up of my prints on the main floor.  I spoke with most of the artists and learned more about Kim Schrag and Treacy Ziegler, both in attendance.

Treacy Ziegler speaks at the opening
"Not Just Alike, But One and the Same"

Treacy Ziegler asked me questions about my printmaking, since she has practiced that too, and I found out about her recent activity teaching and showing her art in prison.  She spoke about writing letters to prison wardens encouraging them to offer inmates this avenue of expression, and she has now been adding this to her busy schedule of shows and creative work.  Many of her pieces on display at Windsor Whip Works are sculpted birds; they embody what we know about birds and their attendant freedom to fly.  There is some irony to this with her dedication to working with the prison population.  If you look at the card that advertised this final show, it is her barn owl that stands out as the only three dimensional work that announces this exhibition.

Three works by artist, Kim Schrag

Kim Schrag actually carves into the surface of her paintings, thereby making them into bas-reliefs onto which she spins a visual narrative.  I thought to ask Kim whether she was related to the artist Karl Schrag whom I met in Manhattan, but her answer was no.

Kim came east from her home in Kansas to attend graduate school at Cornell University, and I found that her paintings not only had facets and carefully orchestrated color, but they also reminded me sometimes of the art of Paul Gauguin.

Fernando Llosa at Whip Works

Fernando Llosa is a powerful artist who was born in Peru, and has a truly international perspective on contemporary art and culture.  The deep dark color of his work on view here has an emotional impact and though the work is nearly abstract it conveys the human presence in a very expressive manner.

Painting by William Benson

William Benson's paintings are more conventional in this show.  Maybe they are more accessible, while incorporating elements of geometry and textures that seem to come right out of impressionism.

The author, Alan Singer, and his painting:
"Playing to the Crowd"

My paintings and prints in  this exhibition stem from my recent activity in my studio where the interaction of color is applied to the visualization of mathematical functions.  What I do is the equivalent of having a color etch-a-sketch.  I am having a great time learning what curves can do, and opening my mind to whole new range of ideas that enlarge my geometric vocabulary.

So, please applaud the artists in this show, and most of all the folks who created this "Star of the Southern Tier".  It has been an honor and a pleasure to be a part of this enterprise.  Thank you, Windsor Whip Works.  Our show continues thru October, so take advantage of this opportunity, it won't last forever.

For information about their hours of operation, call them at area code 607 655-2370

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Art Shows Roll

Announcement card for the 
Windsor Whip Works Art Center
including yours truly!

A wave of exhibitions is about to roll in, and all that energy that has been spent ( on making the art and preparing the shows ) is about to be put to the test.  How will the public respond?

I brought my paintings down the interstate to Windsor, New York to the Windsor Whip Works Art Center for a new show with a few other select artists.  The group show that came before us was still up on the walls and included an old friend from New York City - Anthony Santuoso.  Mr. Santuoso is a figurative artist who I knew years ago, so it was a surprise to see his new sometimes difficult images in this place at this time.  Also on view were the paintings of Melissa Sarat, that I had seen
in other galleries, and her work is very intricate with an underlying interest in voodoo masks and sorcery.  

Artistic Journeys into Mysticism, Mystery, & Spirituality
painting by Melissa Sarat
Windsor Whip Works Art Center

Bill and Johanne Pesce, the couple who own and run the gallery are great, and the art shown in the gallery is interesting and engaging on many levels.  Windsor Whip Works really supports art in this upstate community near Binghamton, and you have to respect their attention to the artists who show there, and the people who come to see the exhibitions and take part in support of their art center.

So, if you are driving along Route 17, stop in and see what they are doing, they have a beautiful building and it is so well taken care of.

Albert Paley and the faculty of the 
College of Imaging Arts and Sciences
Bevier Gallery
Rochester Institute of Technology

Closer to home, for the faculty at R.I.T. our annual show has just opened in the Bevier Gallery and there is also the artwork I reviewed in my last blog post from Wendell Castle.  Both shows are excellent and at the Bevier Gallery, located in Building 7a, the new members of the faculty who now on board have a lot to offer, and to that point, Denton Crawford from the School of Art is having a solo exhibition that just opened at Gallery r, 100 College Avenue in the city..

"Revival"  by Denton Crawford
at Gallery r

Denton creates an environment with one room in this presentation and it is a little bit of a trippy eye test in some sense along with unusual sculpted objects, and graphic wall treatment as part of the show which may challenge your belief systems.  In the first room at the entry there is an unusual shaped painting that includes high key color and a luxuriance of imagery that greets the visitor.  Denton calls his show "Savage Sanctuary" and he remarks in his artist statement that in his " most recent paintings and sculpture he explores the relationships between religious belief, political affiliation, and individual rights and freedoms".  This sounds like it is ripped right out of today's headlines!  For me Denton Crawford shares some compositional energy with the likes of James Rosenquist, so it will be interesting to see how this work develops.

Denton Crawford's inner sanctum
at Gallery r

Down East Avenue at Rochester Contemporary Art Center we have prints on view in a curated show that is a collaboration between RoCo and The Print Club of Rochester.  The show is called "Under Pressure" and it brings together four well known artists:  Ellen Heck, Jenny Robinson, Heather Swenson, and April Vollmer for a wonderful show of works on paper and much more.

April Vollmer presents her new book
on Japanese Woodblock Printmaking
Rochester Contemporary Art Center

I talked briefly with April Vollmer and Heather Swenson at the opening and there were many questions I wanted to ask of them about their techniques.  April presented her new book on Japanese Woodblock printing and Heather Swenson reflected on her education as a printmaker at SUNY Purchase.

A visitor surveys the prints of Jenny Robinson
at the opening of "Under Pressure"

There is much to see at RoCo including some big brave works by Jenny Robinson who uses cityscapes, and roadside architecture as the basis for some of her content.  Ellen Heck was there with her works in series, and she was actively entering into a dialog with the gallery-goers at the opening on Friday night.  I look forward to more great shows developed in this new relationship between the Print Club and Rochester Contemporary, and I plan to go back a few times to look over all the works in the present show "Under Pressure".

Printmaker, Ellen Heck 
"Under Pressure" Rochester Contemporary Art Center