Saturday, August 17, 2019

Educate the Artist






I am entering my 31st year teaching art at Rochester Institute of Technology, and I think of the social impact of this and understand how important it is to the person who self-selects to first try to be an artist, and then to help understand the choices and pressures it places on that student.  I grew up in a family of visual artists, so there were role models right at home.  My parents also had many friends who were in the arts, and that seemed natural - for they all supported one another and from what I could see as a youngster - they all made a pretty good living doing what they loved to do.

It is important to say that I grew up in the New York City area at a time in the 1950s when the visual arts was just coming into its own in the U.S. - and being an artist ( who could make a living ) was not always in the cards!  You had to really work at it!  So, from the time I was a young teenager I hung out in the museums and galleries, I went to openings and talked to other aspiring artists.


Yayoi Kusama at The Memorial Art Gallery


Now, when I walk into The Memorial Art Gallery here in Rochester, and look at the giant polka dot sculpture of Yayoi Kusama, my mind travels back to a time when I was at her opening at the Howard Wise Gallery on 57th Street in Manhattan when there were just a handful of people there, and I talked with the artist ( back in the 1960s ).


John Ahearn's sculpture at The MAG


I was at The Memorial Art Gallery to go back and see the Finger Lakes Juried Exhibition.  Even before i walked in to see the show, I found a life-size plaster sculpture by John Ahearn which I had never previously seen before.  John and I were students at Cornell University in the early 1970s and it has really been interesting to see what he has accomplished so far.


Sam Gilliam at the entry to the galleries at MAG


At the entry to the galleries, where the salon style hanging of portraits used to be, there is now a group of artworks by Sam Gilliam, another artist whose work I have followed for years.  In fact, I brought Sam Gilliam up to Rochester to speak to my students almost 15 years ago.  He even made a presentation to visitors in the auditorium of The Memorial Art Gallery then, so I am glad to see that his art is finding an appreciative audience now.

What I am driving at here, is the fact that we live in a social world even though the artist often spends most of their time working alone in a studio situation.  Sometimes you can feel like you are all alone on the moon!  So I encourage people who are interested in the arts to step up their education and not only learn the skills to express themselves, but also engage with other artists who have this special thing - this vision of what they can and hope to create.


Watercolors by Karal Ann Marling


Grafitti in a painting by Karal Ann Marling



Right down the hall from the Finger Lakes show is the Lockhart Gallery which is now filled with intimate watercolors by Karal Ann Marling. Her focus is the local territory she now inhabits of downtown Rochester.  She takes us on a tour of places - not the most famous landmarks, but many of the spots that you may have just passed by.  It could be a shady street, and someone's porch, or it could be a painting of the little store on the corner.  Karel Ann Marling is actually a scholar and a writer, an art historian, so these paintings come as something of a surprise...  She delights in giving us a nostalgic look at Rochester - she finds a kind of abstract collage of images that make up the subjects for each of her framed works on display.  These are paintings made with love and care and a very personal touch.




Kathryn Rehrig at Main Street Arts, Clifton Springs


Speaking of that, I was out in Clifton Springs recently at Main Street Arts, in their upstairs gallery looking over a show called: "Undercurrents" featuring landscape paintings by Angelia Salerno and photographic prints by Kathryn Rehrig.  Kathryn's artist statement could be applied to some of Karal Ann Marling's artwork too when she writes, "Architectural salvage is ripe with potential for the discovery of "Faded Beauties".  Paint peeling, rust, algae, and vessels filled with water, present a striking palette of colors and unique abstract vignettes that tease the imagination.  The images represent an evolution of nature that challenges one's perspective to see beyond the obvious".


Paintings by Angelia Salerno
at Main Street Arts
Clifton Springs, New York

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sticker Shock




"On The Great Lakes", acrylic  gouache on board
by
Alan Singer


I like to support our local arts institutions and in turn be supported by them.  Such is the case with organizations for which I am a member.  In this particular case, each year I join the Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn because they have a yearly show called: "Made in NY".  To be selected for this show, you have to become a member and so that is what I do.  Their show is a bit like the  66th Finger Lakes Exhibition that is now on at The Memorial Art Gallery, it is a great show to be juried into.  If you travel to Auburn, drive around and look at the wonderful old houses, and enjoy the Finger Lakes.

My little painting ( above ) was accepted this year so I drove over to Auburn to deliver the goods.  In the gallery I found works from Kathy Farrell and a show of dimensional art that really packed a surprise!  The artist who is featured in the main gallery is Abraham Ferraro, and he creates works of art from cardboard boxes which he cuts and shapes, and then ships.  He sends  his boxes through the mail system with tons of stickers surrounding the packages.  It all started out with a very innocuous shaped box which was taped together as you can see below.



Art by Abraham Ferraro

Then things got a bit wild.  Here is a form of correspondence that I will bet they didn't teach you in art school!  The effect is like a zinger - the images zip across at you and you can wonder how it all fits together...  The room becomes one giant standing sculpture, and the labels or stickers serve as directions and coloration for the objects.  This is fun - and funnier when you stop to think that these things actually went through the mail, and they served a purpose - a greater purpose than the usual bills and flyers that pass each day through the same channels.



Art by Abraham Ferraro

Here is a dimensional Pop Art that will really give you sticker shock!  All of these pieces are very portable, the sum total of which must be considered a work-in-progress.  Who knows how large this idea could grow!


Abraham Ferraro goes POP


Abraham Ferraro at Schweinfurth Art Center

In the surrounding galleries, other artwork looked tame by comparison.  I stopped to look at silk screen prints made by Landon Perkins in this show called: Made and Remade: Re-Imagining Industrial Systems.    The prints by Mr. Perkins reminded me immediately of the prints by Nick Ruth that I included in our show "Process & Purpose, 2019" that I wrote about recently.  Landon Perkins  has a technological grasp with a fine technique to render the machines of the past - or maybe they are  made up to look old.  There is even a sense of humor in these images...



Landon Perkins at Schweinfurth Art Center


Silk Screen images by Landon Perkins

Another artist in the show is  Sherri Lynn Wood and her big piece hanging in the Main Gallery had a touch of the crafts from Gee's Bend that have been so popular.  There is also an echo of the paintings by Peter Halley in this art.



Sherri Lynn Wood


Peter Halley  ( not in the Schweinfurth Art Center show )

When you first walk in to the galleries at Schweinfurth Art Center, it might be easy to pass by the show of drawings by our own Kathleen Farrell.  It was just a few weeks ago that she presented black and white drawings with her friends Peter Monacelli and George Wegman that I wrote about on this blog.  This new set of drawings has more color but keeps the idiosyncratic sketch style and invention that she is known for.  Her show is called "Presence of Silence", and I can imagine that she whips out her drawing materials every time there is a lull in the action happening all around her.  



Kathy Farrell at Schweinfurth Art Center ( for the next seven days! )

Kathy Farrell has a great wit, and she is a sharp observer of humanity - and she gets it all down in this art that comes close to caricature and cartoon.  I just wonder if she would care to work in a medium that might last a bit longer..I worry about the permanence of marker rendering.



Kathleen Farrell and her characters

Later in the day I drive down to Ithaca, to our garden, and take a moment to go out in the back to smell the roses.  This has just been the busiest and most rewarding summer so far, and I am amazed that the weather is so  dramatic!  Enjoy!











Sunday, August 4, 2019

Printmaker and Painter




"Process & Purpose, 2019"
Curated by Alan Singer
for 
RIT City Art Space
Liberty Pole Plaza, Rochester, New York

I am a printmaker and painter and it has been a very busy time for me, - now it is August and I must begin to prepare my classes at Rochester Institute of Technology.  Before I get down to that task I can report that we had a very fine artist reception on August 2nd for a show I have curated called: "Process & Purpose, 2019".  This new exhibition is dedicated to printmakers and features eight regional artists with over thirty prints on display in this rather spacious gallery right near Liberty Pole Plaza in the heart of Rochester, New York!



"Razzle Dazzle"  by Sarah Kinard

Of the eight artists, including Eileen Bushnell, Sarah Kinard, Shane Durgee, Kumi Korf, Craig Mains, Nick Ruth, Minna Resnick, and myself, a few artists are just starting their career like Sarah Kinard seen above.  Others like myself have been at it for over fifty years.  We get to see a variety of techniques put to work in the service of artistic expression.  In our present show I prepared wall labels that allow each artist to say something about how they develop their images; what their process is and this helps inform a visitor who stops to see the artwork and may not know what goes into making a print.



Red Back Yard by Alan Singer

I found out from Minna Resnick that her process might include lithography and use some images that are in the public domain.  In one of my own prints ( above ) included in our show, I blend a photograph I made through a red filter with some mathematical forms I built on my computer, and then under the pressure of my etching press a transfer print was made which I hope leaves a good impression!


"Process & Purpose, 2019" at RIT City Art Space
thru August 24th, 2019


Our show runs through August 24th, so you have time to see our exhibition if you have not ventured into the city recently.  Also on view - another show featuring prints from a wider selection of artists - "The Art of the Print" now at Phillips Fine Art and Frame, 1115 East Main Street in the Hungerford Building.  Warren Phillips selected these prints and there you will find gorgeous art from Japan, with woodblock prints by Toyokuni across from classics by American, John James Audubon.



"The Art of the Print" at Phillips Fine Art and Frame
1115 East Main Street, Hungerford Building
Rochester, NY


There is a fine group of prints here including one from Wassily Kandinsky that was originally published in an issue of VERVE Magazine that came out of France in the mid- 20th century. Next to that is a rather rugged Picasso from late in his career.  I was standing in the gallery when another print - a beautiful Nicolas De Stael was sold to a collector..



Colorful print by De Stael

"The Art of the Print" will continue at Phillips Fine Art & Frame through August 27th, so this is a good time to consider prints and printmaking as a valuable art form.


On my reading list:  by Jack Whitten ( 1939-2018 )

This summer I have been reading "Notes from the Woodshed" by Jack Whitten, - a painter  who I met years ago when I was a student at The Cooper Union School of Art.  Jack was teaching painting then and there, and I would see him from time to time at Cooper.  Had I known more about him, I might have taken his class!  Now we have his published journals to read, and it is worth your time and effort to find this gem.


Painter, Jack Whitten in his studio

Jack Whitten was an African American and his writing is all about his philosophy and his progress in the New York City art world when there were few opportunities for people of color to move forward with their artwork - in a commercial sense.  The competition has always been fierce - to have your work recognized - and at least Jack Whitten attained some stature in the field, and this is a good cause to re-evaluate his art if you are not familiar with it.  Take a look for this book, and check out his art online!