Sunday, September 3, 2017

Fine Art in the Finger Lakes

Mitchell Messina
at Main Street Arts
Clifton Springs, NY

You can learn so much by taking a little tour, for example I start out in Ithaca, New York at The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art where I was introduced to the expressionist art of Robert Richenburg, and I wonder to myself - Why haven't I heard about this artist before?  The paintings are elemental, like building blocks leading the way toward a new kind of geometry - a painterly look at minimalism - that was practiced by another artist like Jennifer Bartlett who is in the next room, or by the sculptor Carl Andre.  Below is a typical work from the show now on thru September 10, at The Johnson Museum.  I was living and studying at Cornell while Robert Richenburg was teaching in Ithaca College, yet I never came across these paintings... so it is nice to see them here...finally!

Robert Eichenburg  ( 1917-2006 )
oil on canvas

At the Johnson Museum on the Cornell campus you can find  artworks by artists that were collected widely and have come to be known as the touchstones of the mid 20th century, so it is interesting to see how Robert Richenburg fits into that landscape.  Right next door you can see works by John Chamberlain and Andy Warhol and make some judgements for yourself about values and what society has come to praise for a variety of reasons.

John Chamberlain and Andy Warhol
The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art

The art season is off to a fresh start and people come out in numbers for Gallery Night so I go off to investigate what is happening at The Ink Shop.  One can't help but notice the new construction in Ithaca, New York on this late summer evening.  I walk into the corridor of the CSMA Building and find the etchings of Anna Pausch in a show she calls simply "Muse".  Anna credits Rembrandt for her initial inspiration and her intaglio prints demonstrate a terrific patience and skill at rendering in line the intimate landscapes she favors. Rocks, trees and branches merge into compositions that can go from the simple to the very complex.  One of the large plates that she made en plain air, offers a certain time of day with the light hitting everywhere ...just so.

Intaglio print by Anna Pausch 
The Ink Shop, 330 East State Street, Ithaca, NY

Upstairs, the second part of this two person show at The Ink Shop, I find a selection of prints, often in color, by Andrew Kosten who hails from the Dakotas.  His prints often had a dose of humor and cultural critique- related to political cartoons one might find in the Atlantic magazine.  Here, as with Anna Pausch downstairs, you find an artist with a fine touch, delicate almost - creating characters in his own satire on modern living.

"Little Toot Toot" by Andrew Kosten
The Ink Shop

Driving up from Ithaca I stop into Main Street Arts located on 20 West Main Street in the cozy town of Clifton Springs.  On view in the main gallery is a selected show: "Painting Invitational" that features some of the best artists in our area.  Among my personal favorites is a large painting by Kurt Moyer that has an energetic deep surface full of texture, and structured mark making that is nuanced and filled with light.  The subject is the abstraction of the forest floor and the time of day would seem to be in an early morning when the light is very even.  Here the materials are handled in a very expressive way, quite tactile, but without loosing the reference points needed for a dose of realism.

Kurt Moyer at Main Street Arts, Clifton Springs

At Main Street Arts, some of the paintings that caught my attention weren't on the scale of Kurt Moyer's canvas, some of the intimate size works could also be quite enigmatic including the jazzy abstract works from Sarah Sutton, and the outdoor studies from Jim Mott.  I think that the portraits by Mike Tarantelli are only getting better ( I remember him when he was one of our students at R.I.T. ) and the colors he works with are almost translucent ( how does he achieve that effect? )...

Mike Tarantelli at Main Street Arts

Upstairs, Mitchell Messina has a show titled: "Fuse" and it is a grouping of figure studies in a variety of situations like the image at the top of this post that can bring a certain level of discomfort to a viewer.  These sculptures provide situations for figures that look to be compromising without being overtly uncomfortable, and the artist hints as much in his statement about the use of clay in the making of molds for these sculptural situations.

From the show "FUSE" by Mitchell Messina
at Main Street Arts

Finally, back in Rochester, I stopped into the Brown Hound for lunch at The Memorial Art Gallery and a conversation with the Director, Jonathan Binstock.  What a vital cultural region we have, and Director Binstock has done a lot to re-vitalize the presence of the visual arts along with new curatorial initiatives including the mural downstairs that has just been finished by Sarah Rutherford. Each of her portraits defines a character; these are different souls who are contributing to the fabric of our community, and Sarah Rutherford is to be given due credit for bringing these paintings to life here in the museum.

Sarah Rutherford presents her mural "Her Voice Carries"
celebrates five women of our city...
-More to come-