Thursday, May 18, 2017

Max a Minimal

Untitled ( for Obama) © 2012, Ellsworth Kelly and Gemini G.E.L.,LLC
courtesy Deborah Ronnen Fine Art

"Untitled for Obama" by Ellsworth Kelly
lithograph, 2012
 Minimal Mostly, presented by Deborah Ronnen Fine Art
1328 University Avenue, Rochester, NY

A celebration of "less is more" comes to Rochester with a pop-up exhibition, poetry reading, screening of films and a lecture on minimal art at The Memorial Art Gallery to be given in June.  An art form that was gearing up in the late 1960's and early 1970's is here, having a second life with the curated show " Minimal Mostly " staged in an industrial space at 1328 University Avenue by Deborah Ronnen Fine Art.  Some of the artwork on view takes us back to those early days with screen prints by Josef Albers and lithography from Frank Stella.  The minimal art on view that you see is a reaction from some artists against the strains of pop art that was the rage in the art world of that era.

Carmen Herrera is the star of a documentary film
"The Hundred Years Show"

But wait, there is more - the majority of the artwork on University Avenue is recent - and it is a testament to the staying power of an idea about the strength of simplicity.  There are almost twenty different artists in this group show, and it is an attractive selection that hints at the necessity for a re-evaluation of this trend.  Since the birth of abstraction, artists have been drawn to the strength of color ( like the prints on view - here for the first time from Carmen Herrera ) and the very basis of relationships, proportion and rigor.  Talking about Carmen Herrera, I have seen her shows in New York City, and she is the star of her own documentary film "The Hundred Years Show".  It took her a hundred years before her work was recognized - that is the premise of the movie - but really it was a gradual process for her and she lived long enough to enjoy a gradual benefit - now many people know her and respect her art.

Verde y Amarillo © 2017, Carmen Herrera and ULAE
courtesy Deborah Ronnen Fine Art

"Verde y Amarillo" by Carmen Herrera
 In 2017, these are offset lithos and her first prints

The set of Carmen Herrera's first prints are all about color and geometry and they recall Josef Albers book on the 'Interaction of Color" that all artists and art students should know.  This is not art for the feint of heart.  Minimal as a term unfortunately cuts off all development that may have come before - the art we see from a fine painter like Carmen Herrera has been a long story and was only possible because of all the work she did in preparation for this.  The other artists that set the trend from Albers on to Stella and Sol Lewitt - and these new artists in "Minimal Mostly" have all felt the calling to eliminate the anecdote and keep their mode of expression very direct and clear.  These brave, committed people cut away all extraneous material to highlight design and intent - cut to the quick.

Amanda Means " Folded and Crushed"
Silver gelatin prints 2016-2017

As luck would have it, I know one of the " Minimal Mostly " artists pretty well and I was happy to see her work included in the present show.  Amanda Means is a photographer who works directly with photo paper in the darkroom - not by projecting a negative to make a print, but by folding the light sensitive paper over and over again and producing a series of grey tones that look from a distance like trunks of trees or bamboo.

Photo courtesy of Amanda Means

Amanda Means

Amanda Means has just been selected for the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship to experiment further with her process to include toning of prints with chemical baths to change the greys to colors - sepia tones, aubergine, orange and red.  When I first met Amanda years ago she was working with Bernice Abbott, but  now she is on her own road making subtle use of her many talents.

Anni Albers, GR l, 1970
courtesy Deborah Ronnen Fine Art

Anni Albers

Toward the back of the exhibition now on view until June 30th, there is a marvelous silkscreen work by Anni Albers and it glows with an active surface of red and blue calibrated to vibrate together.  This is like some of the textiles she designed while she was married to Josef Albers.  Also in the back of the show there were some small abstracts by Julia Rommel - which I thought from a distance reminded me of Richard Diebenkorn, and his "Ocean Park" series.

Untitled ( Mexico City 4/2/17 ) and Untitled ( Mexico City 3/21/17 ) © 2017
Julia Rommel and Bureau, courtesy Deborah Ronnen Fine Art

Julia Rommel

Many of the artists are working with a spare geometry, whether that might be a set of lines, or a grid as in the colorful work of Spencer Finch.  "Back to Kansas" is a large color aquatint with chine collie
whose colors have an almost random relationship  ( like some of Ellsworth Kelly's earlier paintings ) and the title of the artwork relates to how colors appear in the natural light of day at sunset.

far right: Back to Kansas,  ©  2015, Spencer Finch and Paulson Fontaine Press
courtesy Deborah Ronnen Fine Art

" Minimal Mostly " with Spencer Finch on the right
"Back to Kansas", 2015

If you want to find out more about Spencer Finch you can find him on You Tube, and it is fun to view his work under changing light conditions.  Check it out at:

Minimal Mostly is being held at 1328 University Avenue, - go around the back to Suite B, and enjoy!