Monday, November 13, 2017

Western Where

Western Wear.. at The John L. Whele Gallery
Genesee Country Village & Museum

On my way out of town to deliver a painting that I had borrowed from the John L. Whele Gallery in Mumford, New York.  I had a very fine chat with Patricia Tice who works as the curator and we talked about blue hands and dogs in art among other things.  Patricia was interested in 3D Printed hands that could be used on the models like this one in front of the stage coach - here to show off  antique clothing like this travel ensemble.  The Whele Gallery has one of the finest collections of sporting and wildlife art in the country, and my father's painting of a Lion on the Serengeti has a place in their catalog.  I encourage people to make the trip out to see this museum and I was pleased that they would loan their painting for our show at R.I.T.'s University Gallery.

Bill White and his new gallery in Caledonia, New York

Bill White has recently moved into the area to open his gallery on Main Street in Caledonia called The Village Gallery.  There is a show on now of artwork from the community and I want to support this kind of grass-roots effort to have a cultural outpost for arts and crafts.  I plan to go and take a long look at what is happening there, and if you are nearby - you could stop in to say hello.

I was on the way down the Thruway going towards Niagara Falls to take part in a conference that brought together exhibitors and ornithologists from across New York State and beyond.  My plan was to promote my new book and meet people who stopped in to say hello.  Since our new book on my father's art has been published, we have had large crowds and many sales.  I look forward to a number of presentations I will be giving, like the one that we held last week at Cornell University and the Laboratory of Ornithology.  If you couldn't be there I have  a link to the presentation that my brother, Paul, and I made to the folks in the auditorium, here is the link:

Alan and Anna at our table
Niagara Falls, NY
The NYSOA Conference

Not only were there many birders at the conference but there were some handlers that brought their birds with them.  These are birds that are being rehabilitated, and sometimes returned to the wild. I saw a beautiful owl and a young red-tailed hawk - reminding me of the great book I read this summer: H is for HAWK, by Helen MacDonald.

Barred Owl on the glove

I was pleased to see one of my former graduate students from Rochester Institute of Technology setting up her paintings right at the entrance to the conference meeting room.  Melissa Mance is an active birder and bird-bander, and she has been painting birds for many years and has some of her large portraits out for examination.  She has some finely detailed renderings like snow buntings, but the real eye-catcher are the portraits of hawks she has banded and her new pair of ravens.

Melissa Mance and her paintings...

At Rochester Institute of Technology ( where I have been teaching  for almost 30 years ) we have some really talented students, and some of them take my class in Zoological and Botanical Art.
This is a class that is based on first hand observation and lots of drawing.  Since I am now on a sabbatical I have to begin to formulate my plan for the class I will teach in the spring.  It is really a pleasure to meet students like Melissa, who give their art the time and effort to make something for themselves and for us to enjoy and marvel at.  And it makes teaching very worthwhile!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Close To Home

Autumn and The Falls at Taughannock State Park

Fall colors greeted us as we prepared for a presentation at Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology last Monday evening.  We were invited to hang a selection of images by my father, Arthur Singer            ( 1917-1990 ) in the auditorium of the LAB, and also give a talk that would elucidate  details of my father's career that we cover in our new book: "Arthur Singer, The Wildlife Art of An American Master.  My brother Paul Singer, and I have written an extensive illustrated biography which has been published by RIT Press, and it is now available for sale on their web site.

Paul Singer at the lectern

If you want some further details about the show, and would like to plan on coming to Ithaca, New York, take a look at this link for the news release:

Early works by Arthur Singer on the left,
and a collaboration between my father, Arthur Singer, and myself            ( Alan Singer ) on the right

The illustrious career that my father had during his lifetime took him to wild places around the world and as a family we also would accompany my father on his birding trips to state parks and rugged wilderness.  We spent a lot of time appreciating nature, and those hours outdoors formed the core of my father's studies that allowed him to create marvelous paintings when we landed back at the home studio.

In the 1980's my father and I created a series of US Postage Stamps 
honoring the Birds and Flowers of the 50 States on the left,
and a big Bald Eagle in oil that my father made in the same years.

My brother Paul, designed our new book, which we are both very proud of,  and we are thankful for the opportunity to speak about our father's life and his devotion to the environment and conservation. My father's branch of art is closely related to science, but it also requires a great ability to design and draw, and  much patience to render his feathered subjects.  Since we gave our talk in the halls of 
Cornell University we were very mindful of the presence of Louis Agassiz Fuertes  ( 1874-1927 ), who also painted birds and worked as an illustrator for The National Geographic Magazine, and whose paintings are hanging in the auditorium where we spoke.  My father would have been so happy to know that his art, and the art of Fuertes are there for the viewing, and education of the visitors to the LAB now, and for the next few months.  If you haven't seen the LAB, there are also fabulous murals in the building and many fine works of art in the halls, so I urge you to check it out in Ithaca, New York.

This book is available in the store at the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology
and our show of Arthur Singer's artwork will be up until February 28th, 2018
make a plan to see it before the show moves on!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Satisfy Your Curiosity

"Sacred Curiosities"
at Main Street Arts, Clifton Springs, New York
Joanna Poag on wall at left, and Jacquie Germanow in front on right

In the past week I have visited exhibitions that expand my definition of contemporary art and you might find them interesting too.  There is a very fine group show at Main Street Arts at 20 West Main Street in Clifton Springs, and a strong show that has just opened on College Avenue in Rochester at Gallery r.  Grad students from Rochester Institute of Technology are presented at Gallery r in a show titled: "Forces at Work", and it is up until November 19th - so you don't have that much time to catch up with the latest developments.

Bill Stephens and his drawings in "Sacred Curiosities"

I had a chance to speak with Bill Stephens about his drawings in the show at Main Street Arts and I found out about how he does these intimate gestural works which are presented at the gallery.  When you look at the details you can see that they are not quickly done, that they are a kind of meditation on the nature of experience, and the dialog that the artist has with his materials is very engaging.

Bob Conge, mixed media 
at Main Street Arts

It would seem when we look at the collector cabinets of Bob Conge that he has an eye for the absurd.

These boxes of toys and ephemera owe a great deal to Joseph Cornell, but he updates this vision with a edgy flair.  Dolls, toys, and a curious sense of humor informs the collected work he has on view at Main Street Arts.  There is a theme that runs through the selected works in the show at Clifton Springs, some of it has to do with a color palette that is shared by many of the works of art, another facet is a sense of edgy humor which comes through the sculptures of Bill Stewart and the work above by Jacquie Germanow  called "Hot Rumor".    Juxtaposition is also an operating principle.
Take a look at this composition by Emily Kenas below....

Emily Kenas ( Triptych ), mixed media

Bill Stewart
Sandman Bluebird
Main Street Arts
Clifton Springs, NY

Back in Rochester, at Gallery r, the grad students who are featured in the exhibition "Forces at Work" really step out and begin to have a real presence - they are going to make a terrific contribution to our culture now and in the future.  My choice for most interesting art in this show includes a mixed media work by Chenyang Mu, and this sculptural work includes blown glass, found objects, miniature speakers, and music ( heavenly music ).  The music is composed for the work of art and the art does its best to enhance the music!  Blown glass pipes the music to your ears and this art reminds me of the time I saw the composer and musician Harry Partch at The Whitney Museum of Art in New York City.  

Chenyang Mu
"What We Can See" mixed media and recorded music

Artist here is Kibaek Sung

The pink missile is quite timely considering the news today.  It is both funny and shocking at the same time.  My student Kibaek Sung is making his presence in our area known winning a recent commission which he is working on while doing his Thesis.  I could go on and on about this show - it is a great opportunity to think and see the possibilities that art will take and it will satisfy your curiosity.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Destiny, Considered

Arthur Singer's paintings
The Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology
November - February 28, 2018

For a New Yorker - when you look at it - was it destiny that my father, Arthur Singer - who grew up in Manhattan on Audubon ( named after artist John James Audubon ) Avenue  - would then go on to make his career painting portraits of birds and animals?  What factors come into play when artists reach inside to find and express what is most memorable about themselves and then dedicate their art to the pursuit of that truth?

Arthur Singer ( 1917-1990 ) growing up in the 1920s and 1930s considered himself a loner, but by the time he had entered college at The Cooper Union, he had already distinguished himself through his art which had been published in national newspapers and had caught the attention of museum curators.

Signing books:  Alan on the left and Paul Singer
with their new illustrated biography of Arthur Singer ( 1917-1990 )

This month we move selections of a large show that was held at the University Gallery on the campus of R.I.T. and bring the art to Cornell University and their Laboratory of Ornithology where it will be on view thru February 28, 2018.  My brother Paul, and I will speak about our father's illustrious career at 7pm, this coming Monday, November 6th, and we will be available to sign copies of our new book published by RIT Press.  Our talk will also be broadcast live, and here is the

Moving day: Roberto Bertoia sculptures for
University Gallery at R.I.T.

We moved our show about Arthur Singer, The Wildlife Art of an American Master to Cornell University and now taking shape is a new show of sculpture by Roberto Bertoia, curated by Josh Owen, who is on the faculty at R.I.T. as an industrial designer.  "Bob" Bertoia's sculptures, many of which are made from wood, have a very distinctive constructivist look, and the opening is just days the University Gallery.

Curator Josh Owen with works by Bertoia

There are many art oriented events going on in Rochester, and I was pleased to see that the Rochester Magazine edited by Mark Liu has devoted an issue to the local art market and to some shows that are currently on view  ( including a show of Wendell Castle who is featured on the cover ).  I happen to see a well presented show in the studios of Kathy Clem and Martha Schermerhorn that really is called: DESTINY.  This collaboration included a high tech video projected down to a circular screen on the floor, and there were also dimensional figurative works made of papers, encaustic, and lights that seemed to float.  These dreamlike apparitions were  quite unusual and this installation is on thru December 1, 2017 - so go and see for yourself.

Kathy Clem and Martha Schermerhorn
Anderson Alley

DESTINY is a collaboration between two artists and it seems like this friendly episode has a theatrical aspect in the lighting and positions of each of the "characters".  The little lights embedded in each one of these figurative ghostly creations is very effective.  This is the season for artists to break out of the mold of traditional painting and sculpture and move into new materials and methods of presentation.  It takes a lot to make a memorable presentation, and to make a work of art that has staying power.

Destiny on view until December 1, 2017
3rd floor studios of Kathy Clem and Martha Schermerhorn

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Art of the Heart

Arte Del Corazon
The Dyer Art Center, NTID
Rochester Institute of Technology

The Dyer Art Center on the campus of Rochester Institute of Technology is one of the premier spaces in town to see art of all kinds.  This light filled room has been host to shows of a diverse sort: on one level there is a collection of objects created by Lee Hoag ( "25 Years ) and on the main level there is 
"Arte Del Corazon" ( Art of the Heart ) a show consisting of many works from the Latin Deaf Art Movement.

"Drowning"2005/2017 by Sara Roybal
in the show "Arte Del Corazon"

Teaching at R.I.T. over the years, I have had many students from NTID ( National Technical Institute for the Deaf ) and there were many fine artists among them.  The present show brings examples from Latin countries to help promote a dialogue and bring a broader audience to understand who they are and what they have to offer.  There is a large explanatory panel at the door to the show that gives the visitor clear information about this group of artists.

Latin Deaf Art Movement, explained....

Fine examples from this exhibition represent situations that help define these artists in society and how they deal with their circumstance.  Artists can give you a picture of what it is like to deal with their condition and maintain their integrity.  The viewer coming to this show can feel the intensity of the artworks, and it is said that vision can compensate in part for the lack of hearing and that is especially true when dealing with sign language.

Poetry and Paintings at The Dyer Art Center
from Latinx Deaf Art 

The present show brings up many questions,  one which persists in my mind - is why we here in the United States know so little about what is going on in the countries of Latin America as far as visual art are concerned.  "Arte Del Corazon" attempts to answer back that there is a history and a diverse culture waiting to be explored, so I hope our museums and other institutions follow this lead and help investigate, and open a discussion, and introduce this art to a larger audience.

Lee Hoag "25 Years"
A cornucopia of sculptural objects

Upstairs, the exhibition of artwork by Lee Hoag is a wide selection of objects created that have a machine aesthetic.  The surfaces are refined, the ideas seem to stem from a page on surrealism - because these objects look like they might have a purpose other than one of contemplation. Looking at Lee Hoag's art brings me back to the 1930's when design for the industrial age began to streamline and become more user friendly.  The artworks we see in this show celebrate the look of tools that we use today, and in fact highlight style and design, while still holding some sense of mystery.

Lee Hoag, artworks at
Dyer Art Center
on the campus of R.I.T.

My sense of history reminds me of the art of Picabia, and Marcel Duchamp when I see Lee Hoag's creations.  The forms in the present show seen collectively represent our admiration for fine craftsmanship, while also being very poetic in acknowledgment of their artistic state of being.  There is also a bit of nostalgia in my mind because as a society we are moving away from the hand made, and into an era of  the robot and artificial intelligence.  What will the artists of the future work with and what will their art be like?

A constellation of artworks by Lee Hoag "25 Years"
Dyer Art Center

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Far Out, West

Need a place to stay?  Stinson Beach, California
October, 2017

It is a gorgeous day, and yes, I have left western New York for a week to visit with my son, who is celebrating his 35th birthday, and I also get to party with his wife, and my new little grandson, Oslo.  My son, Nathaniel graduated from UC Berkeley and over the years I have walked the campus and I looked forward to seeing the new museum building designed by Diller, Scofidio and Renfro that houses the art and film archive.

Sather Gate, UC Berkeley

But it is late in the afternoon on a Sunday as I walk through the gate at UC Berkeley and the new museum will close soon, so I head over to see the Phoebe Hearst collection of ethnographic arts. Up the hill there is the iconic tower at the university and the echoes of all the student demonstrations still reverberate in my mind.

Tower at UC Berkeley

The first thing I see when I enter the Hearst Collection is a carved casket from the 26th Dynasty of ancient Egypt.  The sarcophagus is covered with hieroglyphs and a wonderful falcon sits on the shoulder.  This is the beginning of an immersion into world cultures, it is anthropology via art and artifacts.

Ancient Egypt

Inside, a large room is filled with art objects ( only a small portion of the entire collection ) and the show is divided into works whose maker is known, and objects that are "unsigned".  Many of these pieces are from the distant past and would be hard to identify a particular artist as the maker.  The famous Fayum portraits look like they could have been painted by one person, so there is a lot of detective work to find out who that artist was.  Many of these paintings have survived the millennia but was that because of the encaustic medium that was used to create them?

Fayum Portraits, 1st Century, B.C., Egypt

The next thing I come across is a giant red rooster, also a funeral object - a colorful casket for a proper sendoff! This big bird was created by a carpenter in Ghana, and it is a contemporary work of art.  This gets me thinking about the relationship that society has with art objects.

Red Rooster from Ghana, contemporary art

In Ghana, the big show goes on after you are dead!  Maybe this is to celebrate your perceived place in society, and the dead one is remembered by this character ( a big red rooster! ).  What kind of other art objects would they have in Ghana to represent them and do they have a function?  I wonder about the function of the Tlingit storage boxes that I see in this show.  What were they used for?  I just don't know enough about the indigenous people to hazard a guess.

Tlingit Indian storage box, contemporary

Carved objects did have a function, like the arrowheads on exhibit, along with the baskets and ceramic pots.  They have a function but they are also collected now as fine art objects for people's homes.  The clay pots from the artist known as Nampeyo ( 1859-1942 ) stand out for their beauty in form and color.

Polychrome by Nampeyo

The ancient traditions of pottery in the Southwest are outstanding, and I was lucky that my family collected some of these beauties, and I have a few of them through inheritance.  I think they have influenced my own art along the way, so I have a deep respect for these pieces on view at the Hearst collection.  Nearby there were some playful Nazca ceramics including this wonderful flute player.

Nazca, Peru

Painted decorations for ceramic ware reach a high point with the Mediterranean pieces included in this show including the panther painter and the wine cup that is called a skyphos that you see here in the background.

Wine jars, and "skyphos"

Most likely, the classical Greek sculpture from this area of the world has had a more lasting effect because of the figure and what it has represented to our art.  I think the Greeks had an ideal in mind that they brought to their art making practice, and that is represented here in this collection also.

Classical Greek marble carvings

From around the world, Phoebe Hearst bought Chinese robes to wear and in this collection was one that was so well preserved, it looked like it was embroidered only yesterday.  Here again, I have been interested in these kinds of weavings myself, and have a few in my personal collection, although I wouldn't wear mine like I see in the photo of Phoebe Hearst.  So many fine things in this show to see and contemplate.  Thanks to UC Berkeley, and a beautiful day in California!

The Golden Dragons in Chinese textile art
The Phoebe A. Hearst Collection
UC Berkeley

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Building Castles

Wendell Castle Remastered
October 8-December 31, 2017
The Memorial Art Gallery
Rochester, N.Y.

The Memorial Art Gallery hosts "Wendell Castle Remastered" in the voluminous main gallery starting in October and running through the rest of 2017.  There are many of Wendell Castle's recent works, but the theme of remastering calls upon techniques used to bring these sculptural works into existence - and they include robots and digital modeling tools that weren't part of the original process going way back to the beginning of his career.

Wendell Castle in the Memorial Art Gallery

The graphic impact of this current show is intensified through the choice of using dark stained ash for some forms, and I imagine that designing the lighting for this show was very difficult - you want to put the work in a spotlight, but the results of that inclination include the creation of very strong highlights which can cancel out forms.  I imagine an ideal exhibition that would place these artworks in a balanced natural light so the viewer could more easily appreciate the forms and values.

3 stages in the stack construction of "Wide Awake" ( 2011 )

The procedure to make many of the works on exhibit is explained when you enter the show.  A trio of models  ( "Wide Awake" ) suggests the stages, first selecting slabs of wood; and laminating them in stacks, a rough cut to refine the forms, and then the hand finish with a stain or other surface treatment.  This current show is a fine addition to Wendell's exhibitions which I have been following since the 1970's in New York City.  Also, a show that was held recently in our area at the University Gallery at R.I.T. for Wendell's models and drawings helped fill in other parts of his process - if you had the chance to catch that exhibit.

"Remastered" features old and new works
The Memorial Art Gallery

Integrating digital technology to create these large sculptural pieces has augmented Wendell Castle's reach, and added more complexity to the lengthy building process.  This same sort of industrial approach has been used by other sculptors including Frank Stella and Tony Cragg  and many others, and the expertise to get this done, to train the robot "Mr. Chips" involves a deep understanding of engineering principles, hopefully not getting in the way of creativity along the line.

"Fallen and Risen" a bronze by Wendell Castle

Sometimes, I wonder whether the works of art in this show get constrained in the process by the pieces having to be used as a lamp, a table, or a chair.  I know this is an old argument, and the question is heightened here, the "What if?......  I know I was faced with this decision when I was an art student in my first year of Cooper Union when my instructor, Arthur Corwin, set up a proposition to make a form that was sculptural but that you could sit on or in it.  So, is a work of art something that you just look at and contemplate, or is it something that can be functional?  The argument may be moot here.

Wendell Castle signature artworks
at Memorial  Art Gallery
thru December 31, 2017

With all kinds of 3D printing now going on, it won't be long before we start seeing more inventive artwork like the kinds of forms we see in this "Remastered".  Knowing about the possibilities available through new technologies is very exciting, but there is still a learning curve, and also there is the question of the cost of all these new tools.  No doubt that we are at a flexion point, and this exhibition helps conjure up questions while introducing us to the state of the art.