Monday, December 9, 2019

Really Cool

Rochester Contemporary Art Center
137 East Avenue, Rochester, New York
now thru January 12, 2020

Our community benefits from a vibrant collection of artists and there is the facility to organize and present exhibitions of quality like the new 29th Annual that just opened this week at Rochester Contemporary Art Center.  Congratulations to Bleu Cease and to the artists whose support during these years has made this venue so necessary.  My hopes extend to the new County Executive, Adam Bello, who I think has heard from the arts community and should make every effort to engage and deliver for this constituency.

Emily Bellinger and her fabric arts at RoCo

When I first moved here 30 years ago from New York City, I found an active Arts & Cultural Council -but this entity does not seem to represent the many visual artists here today that could benefit from the support that they are due.  I hope the needs of the arts community don't get lost in the shuffle and I know that the current political climate does not help much at all.  When I stopped in to see the 29th Annual Member show at RoCo I am so thankful that there are so many visual artists on a creative streak.  This exhibition shows that there is something for everyone, every taste and talent, and it takes some time to see the real diversity not only in the use of materials but in the use of the collective imagination.

Bold colors from Judy Gohringer

Over the years I have been going around to see exhibitions I have gotten to know a portion of the folks whose artwork is presented here and I like to do my part to get the word out.  Some of my students have their new visions up for me to look at like Emily Bellinger, whose art greets you at the door.  Some of the other artists in this show are themselves teachers, and with their guidance a community can grow.  Below is a work by a colleague of mine from R.I.T. and that is Bill Keyser.

He had a long career teaching in the School For American Craft with a specialty in woodworking, and he then retired to study painting at R.I.T. where he earned his MFA.  He was recently honored also with a exhibit of his work in the University Gallery.  At RoCo he has an unusual work that is part colorful painting and thoughtful sculpture.

Artwork by Bill Keyser at RoCo

It is a pleasure to look around the gallery in this 29th Annual Member's show, and you can vote for your favorite art.  Some of the pieces have already been sold, just in time for gifting during the holidays.  I saw that there were some red dots going along with the green stickers that people put up as a vote for their favorite work.  One of my choices might be a little painting by Phil Bliss which you can see below:

Phil Bliss, and his little painting has sold already..

Try to match up the works you see with people you may know.  Having been to many shows over the past twenty or so years, you can see how people evolve- or at least how their artwork changes.  In visual art how you work is as important as what you work with - paints, ceramics, wire, paper...whatever.  I also try to find something for my collection.  Maybe it would be the sculpture by Tarrant Clements ( see below )...

Sculpture by Tarrant Clements at RoCo

As in years past I always am looking for interesting sculpture.  With this new show there are a wide variety of materials being used including photography, and mixed media like the piece called: "Chill Raid Stream" by Shane Durgee, you see below.  I had the good fortune of including some of Shane's printmaking in a show I curated this past summer called: Process & Purpose.

Mixed media print by Shane Durgee

There are over three hundred artists represented in this show, so take some time and bring an open mind to the gallery and you are bound to be engaged by the experience, now thru January 25, 2020!

29th Annual Member Show at Rochester Contemporary Art Center

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Creative State

Alan Singer: Work-in-progress
"Who In The World"
oil on circle canvas

I am in the creative state.  There are no classes for me to teach today, so I am in the studio at work on my circle project.  In a little while I will go out and see the new shows which have recently opened in this last week.  It is almost time for the holidays, and I have grades to post for my semester at Rochester Institute of Technology, and I can predict a few more hours of work on this painting which is almost like a quilt though it is all in oil paints!

R. Roger Remington

Rochester Institute of Technology and the College of Art & Design would not be what it is today without the efforts of Roger Remington.  He is a graphic design scholar and author, and has been deeply involved in the modern history of graphic design and this season he is being celebrated through January 25, 2020 in the RIT CITY Art Space.  On view in the gallery is a host of artworks  by Roger Remington, which may come as a surprise to many who did not know that he is also a printmaker, and a creative hand who enjoys the art on display -now in the heart of downtown Rochester, New York.

Roger Remington
Typographic forms in collage

In the mid 1960s The Print Club of Rochester commissioned a print by Roger Remington for their subscribers and you can find that and similar works in the new show at RIT CITY Art Space at the Liberty Pole in the old Sibley Building.  Along with many prints there are other fascinating collections of materials that Roger has put together.  A panel of seashells for example may be on view near a collection of toy airplanes...!

Airplane Identification in miniature by Roger Remington

Informative poster for the show that celebrates 60 years of works by R.Roger Remington

R. Roger Remington is my colleague, and he is the man responsible for the Archive that is housed in the Vignelli Center for Design Studies.  It is rare that we get a chance to see this body of artwork that now include sculptural installations as well as the  more traditional art forms like the prints in this exhibition.  

A print by Roger Remington at RIT CITY Art Space
thru January 25, 2020

Before I go journey farther down the road, I need to acknowledge the passing of two men from our midst, and they would be a Rochester personality you see below, who was honored by being included in a show called: "Makers & Mentors" at Rochester Contemporary Art Center - and that was Kurt Feuerherm.

Kurt Feuerherm  ( 1925-2019 )
in studio

Kurt was a well-loved teacher and artist who sometimes made me laugh because of the humor I found in these little ceramic birds that he made in recent years.  Kurt also was a painter  and a gifted artist in many ways, and he always had something to say about the art scene near and far.

Kendall Shaw  ( 1924 - 2019 )

In a recent article published in the Huffington Post, painter and teacher Kendall Shaw posed with his new large abstract paintings and talked about his career as an artist in the New York City scene which he called home.  Ken Shaw also was the owner of a great big old loft building on Union Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where I went one day in the late 1970s to rent a studio.  Also at that time, Ken Shaw had an affiliation with the Pattern & Decoration movement in art that had a brief fling in the spotlight. In any case, I had many good conversations with Ken Shaw, and thought he had an amazing intellect.  He may not be well-known in this part of the state, but he was well respected,  and well-represented downstate.  

The contributions of these two men will certainly be honored in years to come.  They were leaders in their field, they will be missed...

Friday, November 22, 2019

Urban Innovation

A Star is Born:  RIT's CITY Art Space
features:  "Images from Science 3"
a juried show

It is almost the first year anniversary for the RIT CITY Art Space in the center of downtown Rochester, New York and I have just emerged from the gallery after looking over "Images from Science 3 " that is on view until November 24th, 2019.  This show is built on the idea that there are striking images that can "explain" elements in science that really strengthen the notion that a picture is worth a thousand words.  This current show is the result of a jury process where entries from over a dozen countries were selected for their visual impact and their timeliness in how they add to our understanding of facts revealed through a scientific process.

"Radiolaria", a cyanotype by Nathan Ely

This show was of interest to me because as an artist many of my early works had a lot to do with science, and I currently am teaching a course in Zoological and Botanical art in the College of Art & Design at RIT.  In fact I saw at least one of my past students had their artwork juried into this present show, so I am very proud of their achievement!  The images selected for the current iteration of this exhibit, presented in the same  format run the gamut from astronomical to molecular, and several RIT faculty had their work cut out for them as they had to sift through hundreds of entries to find just the ones that spoke to our audience.

A robotic assisted operation illustrated by Hannah B. Ely

There are many questions that are raised by this exhibition, and they revolve around how much of the images in evidence are influenced by art?  Are the colors arbitrary?  I thought also that it is hard to get a grasp of the scale of many of the images in the show, is there any way to give a viewer a sense of the measurements,  in this work?  A photo of a solar flare for example could look to the average person like the fuzz on a peach.

Photo by Danny Radius
at RIT CITY Art Space

The RIT CITY Art Space was nominated for an award given by the Community Design Center which has its office in the Hungerford Building where I keep my studio on 1115 East Main Street.  As far as buildings are concerned, the Sibley Building which houses the RIT CITY Art Space is going through a renaissance, and it is part of the resurgence of interest that people are having when it comes to finding a place to live, a place to congregate.  I was very happy to be part of this first year's schedule this past summer with a presentation of a show I curated called: "Process & Purpose", a Printmakers Invitational. The visual arts  have been a vital part of the biennial show "Current Seen" that is just coming to an end in and along East Avenue,  and we can look forward to new selections in the next version of this showing.

At the William Harris Gallery, Gannett Building, RIT

Back on the RIT campus, there are other shows worth a mention including one in the William Harris Gallery called: TBD.  The exhibition features installations where up-and-coming student curators are asked to use found materials to create this group exhibition, and there are some striking results.

TBD at William Harris Gallery
Gannett Building 7b
Rochester Institute of Technology
Henrietta Campus

The precarious situation of seeing a wheel chair perched over a pile of broken glass highlights a dilemma faced by people with disabilities.  I thought of this looking out at this installation, and remembering what my student Shwanda Corbett who is wheel chair bound had said when 
she related her story of getting a flat tire, with no one around to help.

TBD exhibition at RIT for student curators

To put this exhibition together each student had to use found materials, and this practice is becoming more common when you go around to look at art gallery shows, including those in New York City.
Each student also had to spell out their premise for the materials that they chose and why they wanted to make this kind of statement.  Here are some examples:

 Student Curator's statement

Abandoned art near the South Wedge

A prompt for the selection of images from Yajing Yan

Provocative imagery from Yajing Yan
William Harris Gallery
Rochester Institute of Technology

Saturday, November 9, 2019

You Have To See This

Nocturne by Pat Wilder

Once or twice a year I have the opportunity to let my students at R.I.T.    ( in the School off Art ) draw from live birds brought to my classroom by the volunteer group in Mendon called: Wild Wings.  After reading Helen Macdonald's book H is for Hawk  I had a whole new appreciation for birds of prey that have been trained to hunt and sit on a glove by their keepers.

Read this book!

Rosalie, visits my classroom at R.I.T.

Drawing from life also gives an artist    ( whether you are a student or not )  - a first hand experience of nature, comprehending all the details, and taking into account the "personality" of the bird itself.
So the artist observes a bird and is observed in turn.  I also have to give credit to the volunteers like Deb  -seen here with Luna, a Screech Owl, because these folks really bond with the feathered creatures in their care.

Wild Wings volunteers

In Rochester this week there are openings  for exhibitions that you have to see.   At the top of this post you can find a deep blue evening sky in Pat Wilder's "Nocturne".  This is just one of a set of photographs she presents at the 1570 Gallery on East Avenue - called "elements" , now through December 8, 2019.  This show of her early work is also dedicated to a kind of color  printing process called "Ilfochrome" that Pat Wilder used in the studio to make lustrous colors come alive.  Also called: "Cibachrome" ,  and due to the influx of digital prints - this process is no longer available!

"Wet Ferns" by Pat Wilder at 1570 Gallery, East Avenue, Rochester, NY

I think that Pat Wilder's color work is a must see.. she has a reductionist aesthetic that really lets her subjects speak for themselves.  Her photo called: "Wet Ferns" also reminds me of the color photos by Eliot Porter, an attractive approach to the details found out in the landscape.  Sometimes the subject is very suggestive as in the photo called "Curvature"  ( is it a body or a hillside? ).  Pat Wilder travels to see what she can see, and sometime her gaze is fixed upon the ephemeral - perhaps parts of posters plastered up on a wall ( see below )...

Pat Wilder presents: " elements" at 1570 Gallery, Rochester,  New York

Pat Wilder remarks in her handy catalog that a primary influence on her work is the abstract expressionist movement because of these artist's generous use of bold color, space lines, and compositional relationships and you can really see that in the photos below:

"elements" by Pat Wilder at 1570 Gallery

I am always excited to see students of ours from R.I.T. having their first shows and really taking off.  That is the case with Victoria Savka in her show called: "Not Your Average Menagerie" that just opened at the Geisel Gallery.  Her artwork is a blend of drawing, printmaking and collage.  Her artwork has a focus on animals, mainly farm creatures like cows and sheep and she adds to this cut and torn papers and bold gestures of pure color.  Each image tells a story.

"Not Your Average Menagerie" by Victoria Savka
Geisel Gallery, Rochester, NY

Victoria Savka in her prints and drawings makes it all look easy.  Her work: "Apricot Valley Indian Runner Ducks" - a drypoint monoprint has splotches of orange paper on top of the drawings of a menagerie of running birds - you can just hear them on the move...

"Apricot Valley Indian Runner Ducks"
Victoria Savka

I spoke with Victoria on the night of the opening and said that her artwork would make a terrific book project.  Children and adults would enjoy these pieces, and she could just write a few words to support each image.  Also at the opening I was able to thank Jean Geisel for whom this gallery is named for her work in establishing a space for up-and-coming artists like Victoria to get her work out in front of an audience.   This kind of positive recognition for artistic achievement is necessary in this environment where often  creative people can be overlooked....  Thank you for all you have done - Jean Geisel!

Jean Geisel at left and Victoria Savka on right
at Geisel Gallery in downtown Rochester, New York
November 7,  2019

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Fall: Fancy That

Glorious Fall Weather in Ithaca, New York

A drive along Route 89 in the Finger Lakes reveals the height of fall colors and an opportunity for me to hit the Art Trail.  It's a glorious day in Ithaca, and I am here to attend Gallery Night and the opening of a group show called: "20/20 Hindsight" at the Ink Shop on State Street.  The Ink Shop is a gallery and a printmaking studio and they celebrate twenty years involved in the arts community with their dedication to an art form that is very much alive.

Craig Mains and his print about a cluster of fracking wells

I talked with printmaker and Ink Shop member Craig Mains about the art on the gallery walls and about plans for spreading the word about the Ink Shop and I found out that they are planning a show that will open in France for Ink Shop members.  Craig also said that a show of Japanese prints from the Tokyo University of Fine Art just ended at their gallery, so they are building international connections.

etching by Zevi Blum  ( 1933 - 2011 )

The show was opening at the Ink Shop and as I came in the door I recognized a piece by one of my old teachers when I was a student at Cornell University ( see above )  and that was by Zevi Blum.  Over the years I have met many of the folks associated with the Ink Shop and recognize their artwork.  Next to Craig Mains print I saw one by Pamela Drix that seemingly has parts of postage stamps interspersed with renderings of drilling rigs - on a large scale piece that is very dramatic.

Print by Pamela Drix

"20/20 Hindsight" is a group effort and there are posters, and prints that exhibit a broad range of techniques and approaches to making prints from large woodcuts to artist's books and much more. My friend Kumi Korf has some abstract images and there is a strong figurative work by Kay Walkingstick in the present show.

Print by Kay Walkingstick at The Ink Shop
Ithaca, New York

The following day I drove up to Clifton Springs to see what was happening at Main Street Arts and chat with Brad Butler who is the Director of the gallery.  Brad was coming up to my class at R.I.T.  to do a presentation to my students about his own artwork, and about his job as the Director of a contemporary art gallery.  In the main floor of the gallery there is now a show of another printmaker from Ithaca, and that is Sylvia Taylor.  Her show is called: "The Time Between the Dog and the Wolf" and it will be up through November 15th.  Her show includes relief prints, paintings and drawings that remind me of children's stories and her images could jump right out of a book for young readers.

A work by Sylvia Taylor: "Flying Fish"

Sylvia's subject matter revolves around animals which are often pictured in groups that can become more texture and pattern.  In this show there is one wall that has a mass of small portraits on red that hang together like a family and all their relatives.

Animal portraits by Sylvia Taylor
at Main Street Arts, Clifton Springs, New York

Upstairs at Main Street Arts there is a landscape show called Ontario Pathways, and there I found a fine painting by my colleague Bill Finewood that shows the shimmering surface of a stream found along the trail.  Bill really took his time rendering the reflections and the colors of the trees as they trend towards autumn.  Each one of the artists took to the trail to find their own way with subject matter.  It is not only what you see that is important, but how you see it, how you compose it and make it your own.

Painting by Bill Finewood
in the Ontario Pathways exhibition
Main Street Arts

Back home once again, I found that men were moving the giant Albert Paley sculpture that had been a feature outside my Hungerford Building art studio.  The Hungerford had the benefit of hosting this colorful steel sculpture for a while now, and I hope that there will soon be a replacement for this work which really lent some character to this old factory building.

Albert Paley is on the move... from the Hungerford Building to Europe!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Here's The Scoop On Art Writing

In Rochester:
RoCo Director, Bleu Cease introduces the Art Writers
Thursday, October 24, 2019
photo by Alan Singer

A dilemma:  The current capitalist system allows payments for goods and services as a way of making a living, and artists and other creative types ( like writers ) have to accept this fact and learn to deal with it.  Just try to find a market for what you like to do!

In past years I was paid to write about art by editors of magazines and other publishers - but that was long ago.  Now I write because I am free to do so,  and this is another way of saying that I self-support my  creative impulse.

Another dilemma:  At R.I.T. when I teach, I often bring with me reference books to share with my class, but my students rarely show the slightest interest - preferring just to google it. If you once made a living writing for a newspaper or publishing a book once in a while, it is getting much harder to sell your product to the publishers and to your intended audience,  hence some publishers go out of business.

Where there is no visible means of support, is there a way forward for creative folks?  We will find out.....

At Rochester Contemporary Art Center this past Thursday evening I attended a panel discussion on the current state of Art Writing.  In the photo above Bleu Cease introduced the invited speakers who are from left to right: Colin Dabkowski, Karen vanMeenen, Rebecca Rafferty, Robin L. Flanigan, and Sarah Webb.

The stage was set and each panelist had a few minutes to share their background stories and bring us up-to-date on what was happening in the media.  We learned from Colin that he recently left the newspaper business in Buffalo after years as an art critic who was re-assigned to the sports desk.  From Karen we heard the story that afterimage would be published now by the University of California under her leadership.  Rebecca Rafferty told the audience that CITY Newspaper has been acquired by WXXI and that hopefully arts coverage would continue to flourish.  Robin L. Flanigan spoke about how difficult it has become to pitch a story related to the visual arts at the Democrat & Chronicle, and Sarah had some reflections on "Current Seen" - a biennial show presented by many small venues in Rochester that is currently drawing attention.

Our cultural scene needs art writers to inform a public about what is happening and why, especially now when the field of visual art is so diverse.

Then there was the question from the audience about whether the art writer provides criticism or is it just promotion?  Writing about art in a way is like translation, one is trying to put into words - something that is primarily a visual experience, and it is not that easy!

A Must Read!  new collection by Peter Schjeldahl

Along those lines a new collection from the critic Peter Schjeldahl would be a must read for aspiring art writers...not that you have to agree with every opinion you come across in this book.  I just think his way with language, the poetry of it, is worth the price of admission.  From my experience we have gone through many seasons of reading books by art writers.  When I was in grad school I had the opportunity to sit down at the dinner table with Clement Greenberg and Friedl Dzubas in Ithaca, years ago.  I listened as the eminent critic Greenberg disparaged so many artists that it made me a very nervous guest at the table.  I learned a  important lesson in that moment to not rule out so many paths to take.  Later, as an art teacher at R.I.T. my practice is to leave the doors open and not close them down, and the practice of being an artist is not such an exclusive club as Greenberg had once imagined. 

In the face of a dilemma the creative person will be just that - creative.  You have to go with what works, and if you select this direction for your life, stay with it!  You are in good company....

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Seasoned Pros in Autumn

Entrance to The Memorial Art Gallery
500 University Ave.,  Rochester,  New York

On Sunday, I was in attendance for an interesting interview after the opening of the Alphonse Mucha ( 1860 -1939 ) exhibition at The Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, New York.  I had noticed when I was at the member's preview that some of the Mucha images on view came from the private collection of Frances and Albert Paley.  Up to that moment it had not occurred to me that the Paleys were collectors of Art Nouveau.  Getting back to the interview - it was conducted by R.Roger Remington with Albert Paley on stage in the MAG Auditorium.  Both Albert and Roger have a long association with R.I.T. ( Roger has been with R.I.T. for over fifty years! ) and I gathered during the stage presentation that this is not the first time that Roger has interviewed Albert.

R. Roger Remington on left, and Albert Paley on right
at the Alphonse Mucha exhibition held at The Memorial Art Gallery

Art Nouveau artist/genius:   Alphonse Mucha

R. Roger Remington is a Professor, a graphic design historian and printmaker who has a deep connection to leaders in the field of design such as the late Massimo Vignelli.  Roger is responsible for the Vignelli Design Center at R.I.T. which holds a vast archive of design work going back through the mid-20th Century.  Roger is also a noted author, and had some interesting questions to ask Albert Paley about his relationship to Art Nouveau, and it suddenly dawns on me that certain Paley sculptures have a wavy line of sorts that could be a look back to that prior era.

Albert Paley sculpture at R.I.T.

Just at this moment there are several shows of artwork from seasoned professionals that have contributed SO MUCH to our experience of the arts here in Rochester. As far as Albert Paley is concerned,  I don't think that our experience of Rochester would be nearly the same without his gates and towering sculpture and the like.  Along with Albert and Roger Remington we now have a new exhibition at the R.I.T. University Gallery  of the paintings and sculpture of William ( "Bill") Keyser.

Paintings and Sculpture by William  "Bill" Keyser 2009-2019
at University Gallery
Rochester Institute of Technology

Bill Keyser  also has had a long association with R.I.T. having taught there in the School for American Craft and later as a student earning a Master's degree in painting in the School of Art.  I had the pleasure of working with Bill on his MFA and had the opportunity to watch his work unfold from the more practical applied art of making furniture to the more experimental work that he is now involved with.

Laminated wood sculpture "Little Pretzel" by William Keyser

Mr. Keyser seems to have an insatiable taste for experiments in his art that range from the colorful abstract paintings he makes to the equally engaging sculptures that  we find in this large and impressive show.

William Keyser's painting called; "Romulus and Remus"

As autumn begins to roll in I also have had the chance to take in a show of three women who have been making really interesting prints for decades, and this is all brought out to the public in their exhibition now ending a long run in the Geisel Gallery in downtown Rochester.  The emphasis is on a vision of a landscape that is evocative, poetic, and enigmatic - all at the same time.  There is striking color - like the encaustic work that greets a visitor at the entrance to the show by Constance Mauro.

At the Geisel Gallery:
Art by g.a.Sheller, Constance Mauro, and Elizabeth Durand now thru October 30th, 2019

"Delta Blues" by Constance Mauro

So, take the voyage "From Here to There" and check out the roomful of artwork - many multi-media prints and works on paper by these three artists who have had a long friendship and have really contributed to our community!  Fine Works to see, so check it out!

Print by Elizabeth Durand
The Geisel Gallery
Rochester, New York