Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Gorges in August

Ithaca Falls in August, 2017

Taking some well deserved time off, I drive over to the falls ( don't dare swim there! ) to take a photo or two.  The temperature is just right, and the view is great.  I want to go up to see what it looks like at the Herbert Johnson Museum of Art out on the Cornell Campus, so off I go...

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
on the Cornell campus

I want to see a view of the lake from the floor that houses the Asian Collection, and while I am there see a few highlights that I have missed before.  The view down the lake is impressive, but I really came in to see the art, and I am not disappointed.

My photo of Lake Cayuga

My monotype of Lake Cayuga

Play a game of compare and contrast, I think about a print I made in my studio last week which reminded me of a view of my favorite Finger Lake.  I use a mathematical formula that I created in my studio, and with my program called Cinderella, I can render the image that I then made into a print on my  etching press.  Even though it is mathematics, it still requires selection, control, skill, and aesthetics of design and composition - plus the good luck of having the print turn out fine.  And like any art this requires practice, practice, and more practice.

Tibetan art at The Hebert F. Johnson Museum

In the Asian Collection I have always admired the Tibetan arts that I see from time to time. Often they represent Tibetan deities, with remarkable clarity and sense of purpose.  These are powerful images and today this painting had the same clouds that I had just seen out the window!  The strength of that vision was cast in a light of strong belief, which is also carried through in other Asian arts, like the painting I found on the lower level titled: " A Symptom of the World's End " by the Taiwanese artist Wu Tien-Chang that you see below.  The painting had elements of Picasso and Jean-Michel Basquiat.  The images in this work imply difficult journeys that the artist took on the path to self-expression.

Wu Tien-Chang
oil on canvas, 1986

Downstairs, on the first floor, I also found a painting that had some of this same angst, and that was Philip Guston's work called: "Key, Wall, Sea".  The Guston had the same condensed space, and the conglomeration of bricks, and horseshoes seems like a self inflicted imprisonment, rather than the effect of a government sponsored crusade that one might expect as a result of Martial Law.

Philip Guston

It is such a lovely day outside, but here inside the museum I find the images haunting.  And then I come across the big wall work by Lee Bontecou, and that seals the deal.  One giant dark eye looking out from the wall which has a resonance with what I have been feeling this month, especially about the mood of our country.  This is an appropriate sign for our times....

Lee Bontecou
An appropriate sign for our times.....

But to end this post on a more positive note
I return to contemplate nature, especially in the simple direct 
way that a flower can attract your attention and respect,
for something so fleeting in life.
Here are the Morning Glories!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Show & Tell

The University Gallery at Rochester Institute of Technology
Arthur Singer, The Wildlife Art of An American Master

(Show and is probably that basic...)  This is not kindergarten, but I do have the urge to speak and write about something and it is a natural outgrowth for all of the forethought that I have given the subject.  I am thinking about the book we have just published and the show that is currently on view at the University Gallery at RIT.  This urge hits close to home for me because what my brother Paul and I have been doing is writing a book about my father and then planning this exhibition for his artwork.  The stars have come into alignment and we have had the idea to write this book, get it published, and then try to show the artwork that engenders all this effort.  My brother and I also consider the recent history of a naturalist at work in the field and we would like to see Arthur Singer's artwork find its rightful place.

Arthur Singer on Audubon Avenue

Arthur Singer ( 1917-1990 ) had a prodigious output during an illustrious career, and in our new book and in our exhibition we give some space to his early drawings made at The Bronx Zoo when he was still a teenager.  Was it fate for a boy who was born on Audubon Avenue in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan?  What caught his eye at the zoo were the big animals and the tropical ( colorful ) birds, and his attention was riveted.  Arthur had the skills at a very young age to capture an image of nature that was full of detail, with a nod towards design that always kept things in balance.  Arthur also had the luck of capturing an audience during his teenage years attracting the attention of curators at The American Museum of Natural History where he would visit to see the dioramas which were just being installed.

Arthur Singer's drawing of a leopard at the Bronx Zoo

Arthur Singer, or Artie as his friends would call him, was a jazz fan and he also played handball on the streets with the other kids.  His artistic skills earned him a place in the School of Art at The Cooper Union which was then tuition free for those who could pass the entrance exam.  "Artie" had already published some of his animals in national newspapers, so he felt confident.  Some of his friends from college later became world class designers like Herb Lubalin and Lou Dorfsman.  Judy Goulfine was my father's favorite, and they later got married and started a family.

Arthur Singer's portrait of Judy, circa 1942
in watercolor on paper

During World War ll Arthur Singer was drafted, and later served with a battalion dedicated to deception - later dubbed "The Ghost Army".  World War ll was underway and Arthur brought his paints and paper with him when the men that travelled by sea departed along the shores of Normandy.  Arthur also brought with him a knowledge of camouflage which was actually discovered by another bird artist Abbott Thayer in the early years of the 20th century.  During our exhibition we will have as a guest speaker - Rick Beyer who produced a PBS special documentary on "The Ghost Army" and he will present this film on October 5th, 2017, at 5 pm, in the University Gallery.

Arthur Singer in the 1950's

After the war there was a long period of readjustment to civilian life. My mother had worked during the war as a draftsperson for Emerson Radio and she looked forward to starting a family.  My father went to work during the day as an advertising art director, and at night he practiced his painting in our attic studio where everyone in the family gathered after dinner.  As the 1950's progressed my father  received assignments from publications like Sports Illustrated, the World Book Encyclopedia, and Readers Digest, but the event that changed the course of his career was the publication of a series of eight prints that he made for The American Home Magazine, and they enabled him to have a stable income and busy schedule meeting the demand for his artwork.

If you want to know more about our book, and how to order it, take a look at this link:

If you want to come to our opening in Rochester, see this link:

Thursday, August 10, 2017

New Frontier

Alan Singer
"The High Plateau"
transfer monotype

My interest in Mathematics and Art that I experienced at the recent BRIDGES conference in Waterloo, Ontario has been strengthened.  It was good to see that there were growing numbers of interested practitioners at the conference and that they were so willing to share their enthusiasm.

BRIDGES Conference for 2017
underway in Waterloo University
Waterloo, Ontario

Years ago, I wanted to have geometric shapes in my paintings and I had to go back and remember what the formula was for building a pentagon or a hexagon.  I looked up programs on the computer that could help me and found Mathematica and downloaded it.  Terms used on this site were unfamiliar to me.  Looking over "Implicit Surfaces" attracted me because you could write in your own instructions in the form of an equation and a program like 3D-Xplormath could render an image for you.  Before, I never stopped to think that there was a visual equivalent to a few lines of algebra.

Dan Bach exhibition at BRIDGES 2017

In Germany they had a "Year of Mathematics" in 2008 and the results included the completion of new software to help people like me  visualize mathematical shapes.  One program is called Cinderella and it came as part of a geometry toolbox that you could download for free.  I got hooked on using this program to produce images like the one at the top of this post.

Last week during my visit to BRIDGES in Waterloo, Ontario I had the chance to hear from a wide variety of practitioners of mathematical disciplines and presenters at the conference brought their artwork to show.  In the past, artists like M.C. Escher would use symmetry as a way of creating art that was attractive and thought provoking.  My own art uses symmetry, but I am also interested in the compositional prospect of using geometry in my paintings and prints.

University of Waterloo Art Gallery

I am more interested in an art that has compositional aspects, and too often the artwork that I found at BRIDGES just had an image floating against a blank surface.  True, this allows you to study the object carefully without other distraction, but I like the relational aspect of art and I often want to see a form in relation to other forms, more "natural" if you will.

There were several beautiful pieces in the BRIDGES exhibitions, so I was happy to be part of this experience.  I spoke with one of the founders of the BRIDGES conference, and remarked on how it has grown over the years.  Carlo Sequin is a force in this field of math and art.  He had a very fine discussion that I attended and below is one of his sculptures.

Carlo Sequin

I was very impressed by the UWAG art gallery space and there was a very interesting opening that happened to coincide with the BRIDGES conference.  I particularly like the paintings of Andrew Smith, shown below.  He is onto something unique and very directional.

Painting by Andrew J. Smith

Opening at UWAG
"Passage & Obstacle"

It seems clear to me that there are many new frontiers for an artist to forage for ideas and expression.  I think that the visual aspect of mathematics is just beginning to unfold, and this arena just was not accessible before the era of the computer for most people.  This kind of art is just in its infancy, but there is a considerable amount of energy and interest to be found there.  The Waterloo University is a sprawling campus and full of people making the most of their education, which I found to be exciting and enjoyable.

Sunday, August 6, 2017


"Congruent" at Axom Gallery, Rochester, New York

Before I leave for CANADA, I stop into the Axom Gallery in Rochester to see the show called "Congruent" that includes paintings, furniture, plants and a whole range of vignettes - like stage sets with potted plants that are also reflected in photos strategically placed.  St. Monci is the painter whose work I have admired and this show represents a shift towards theatre and more complex compositions that carry along their own floating panels as an extension of the paintings themselves.  This borrows heavily from the Constructivist movement in Europe ( early 20th century ) where the paintings were reductive and precise with a focus on planes and abstraction.  In this show, St. Monci prepares the architecture of his paintings as if he were planning a small city.

My brother, Paul Singer
at the entrance to the University Gallery at R.I.T.
with our new show:
Arthur Singer: The Wildlife Art of an American Master

I have had a busy month with a new book coming out that I worked on with my brother, Paul Singer, and a new show planned for the University Gallery at Rochester Institute of Technology. Our new show honors the artwork that our father, Arthur Singer, created during his illustrious career.

Arthur Singer's early 20th century works

 And off I go, on my way across the Peace Bridge over the river and through the woods to "BRIDGES" - the conference on math and art in Waterloo, west of Toronto.  Watch out for Google Maps!  They chart my route, but don't seem to know about the construction delays....!  CANADA is so clean!  No wastepaper strewn along the roadside like in the U.S.

BRIDGES - a conference of mathematics and art in Waterloo, Canada

Waterloo University is the host of BRIDGES 2017, and the various college buildings sprawl across a section of a town that was home to the Seagrams brewers way back when.  Waterloo is a top-rated University that reminds me very much of what we do back in Rochester - high tech with a good blend of music and art.  The University of Waterloo has a fine art gallery ( UWAG ) and they staged a show called " Passage and Obstacle".

Math and Model
BRIDGES, Waterloo, Canada

So what is it about art and math - why are they seen as subjects for which you need a bridge to cross over?  Some of the presenters at this conference tried to trace the differences and similarities of math and art.  I just see them both as a human endeavor to achieve some understanding of the universe we live in.  Both have their own languages with their own grammar like foreign countries, and both math and art have their own discipline and practice.  With mathematics I see it as finding ways to measure and calculate, to find a process to analyze what may or may not be physically present.  With fine art you have a practice that often but not always results in a physical manifestation that may not be easy to understand at first because it is primarily often a visual experience.

In my next post I want to look at various aspects of the conference that may resonate with a view towards the future, so stay tuned.....