Friday, July 23, 2021

Stillness Movement Chaos

 The Print Club of Rochester at RIT City Art Space

Rachel Shelton at RIT City Art Space

The Print Club of Rochester and the RIT City Art Space host a wonderful show of artworks from printmakers here and abroad which you have to see.  It is not often that we get a chance to view the works by so many artists that  are new to this area, and all of the original art chosen for this show has been selected by a guest curator Jenny Robinson.  This show unfortunately will end soon, so try to get to the gallery which is right at the Liberty Pole in the center of Rochester.  The RIT City Art Space will be open Thursdays thru Sundays.

You can also go online to visit You Tube and hear the curator speak to you about this show.  She speaks of her process and the submissions by artists suggested a theme to her as she organized her thoughts putting this exhibition together.  You can also go around the show in person, and scan QR codes for statements from the selected artists.

QR Code for the statement from Jenny Robinson
about her selections 
"Stillness Movement Chaos"

It is not often that you visit a printmaker's show to find a three dimensional work but here it is in this present show.  The print ( see above ) has an effect like that of architecture ( with windows ) and for some reason the work reminds me of  the  sculpture of Donald Judd.  Here the artist is Rachel Shelton and her work in this instance includes a shelf-like presentation with dark etchings and fine thread dangling down.

Print by Nick Ruth ( "Watch This Space" )

Many of the printmakers featured in this show are working artists and printmaking teachers including Nick Ruth from Hobart William & Smith College.  Nick has been working with this kind of imagery for a while - his print has a grouping of billboard-like sculptural elements along a severe horizon but there is no overt message to find there - you have to fill in the blanks yourself!

"Butterfly Dancer" by Linda Whitney

The Print Club of Rochester is a membership organization and you pay a modest annual fee to become a member who could then participate in their yearly shows,, and members also get an original print for their own collection.  This past year there was a great work offered by Linda Whitney, the artist above.  She has an amazing control over the mezzotint technique which is  similar in some ways to the "Butterfly Dancer" in the present exhibition.

Beth Dorsey's  80 x 42 Permutations

I found Beth Dorsey's print called  " 80 by 42 Permutations 1"  very interesting.  The image is a grid on top of another grid and this print has an unusual aspect that presents a kind of depth - though it is not in three dimensions like Rachel Shelton's work.  The title of this show: "Stillness Movement Chaos" is all about states of being.  The grid like structure suggests stillness but the depth can initiate a feeling of movement internally.

Jonathan Barcan's print "Billions and Billions"

I enjoyed Jonathan Barcan's print ( above )  titled: " Billions and Billions" with his combination of intaglio, line etching and aquatint with drypoint.  It is a fine work that exhibits a variety of printmaking techniques with an engaging subject matter that will cause you to think quite deeply!

There are many fine points to consider in this select show, so put this on your list of things to do over the weekend!

Friday, May 21, 2021

At Your Service


Across the road on the upper left
Artist David Hammons 
Installation of a ghostly sort...of sculpture

Lucky for us, we can spend some time out in the world, going to see some art now at my local museum.  It was just a couple of weeks ago that we were in New York City, and we walked into the new Whitney Museum of Art down along the west side of Manhattan.  Looking out from a top floor window of the new Whitney, I see a sculpture that is actually mounted out in the Hudson River, where old piers once stood.  The installation looks complete, but the work is like a contour drawing of one of the old warehouse buildings that once lined this section of the waterfront.  The artist in charge is David Hammons, and I wondered about the kinds of strings that had to be pulled in order for the city to allow this kind of "building" where heavy freighters once tied up along the docks.

David Hammons art is very evocative, even ghostly.  This kind of site specific work reminds me so much of what Robert Smithson would write about in his essays that would recall "monuments" of an era past.  I often walked down this stretch of road when I was a teenager, to photograph and sketch, never stopping to think what the future would hold for this place.  Now, when we come back into Manhattan I almost can't recognize the city where I was born!

Archie Rand's "613" at The Memorial Art Gallery

Closer to where we now live in upstate New York, the cases of Covid have been dropping mercifully and people can feel more apt to want to be outside and enjoy the warmer weather.  Having had a vaccination may lessen the anxiety a bit but we still don't go out to a crowded restaurant and rarely to a show.  I do wonder how a gallery can stay in business under these circumstances.  When I visited The Memorial Art Gallery recently, I did find a few people out to see the new show of Archie Rand's paintings he calls "The 613".

Archie Rand and his "613" paintings

When I go out to see contemporary artist's work, I often recognize their style from having seen a show of their's before, and that is certainly the case with Archie Rand who is a painter I have followed over my years in New York City, and I also remember that Rand was a teacher at Columbia University when we lived downstate.

"613"  is a series of paintings that illustrate more than the ten commandments

The publicity and essays about Archie Rand always mention that he is thought of as something of a renegade by not following trends in the artworld.  "The 613" follows in that regard in that the paintings 
illustrate teachings found in the Torah - a holy book which I once held open during my Bar Mitzvah!  Archie Rand's paintings are all based on the "dos" and don'ts of the Jewish faith.  When looking at this show I right away thought about my own relationship with religion and the standards that I stood for.  Beyond my 13th birthday I neglected religious teachings and sought out other avenues that I found more to my taste.  My teachers in synagogue tried to have me speak in Hebrew, but I didn't have an ear for the language and quickly forgot the letters of that alphabet!

Archie Rand: Between the Comic and the Tragic

Now, when I am faced with the Hebrew in Archie Rand's paintings at the MAG, I will admit it is a struggle!  Certainly the paintings are more than the language and they present an image that is often a kind of comic or cartoon.  I think Archie Rand tries not to be too pedantic in his interpretations of what the commandments may mean.  His style sums up in an image what might cross your mind when you can interpret the painting at all in the first place.  Some of his images stand out- or else I remember them because they are a scream - a man puts his head in a vice, or a woman has her eyes sunk deep in her head and you can see out the other side!  The paintings ( hundreds of them ) are lined up along the walls and you can take your pick of the ones that really register....

John Ahern at The Memorial Art Gallery

Once I step away from Rand's artwork and I come out into the next gallery I find a sculpture by my friend John Ahern - it is of a woman looking skyward, patiently waiting there with her hose and watering can.  This  art  features a figure cast in plaster representing a  " real person".  We get away from that feeling found in Archie Rand's paintings that are sort of funny in that they look like 1950s cartoon strips.  

Jackie Kennedy by Andy Warhol

Art can move you, and it also can bring you very much back to an enhanced reality.  We can see that for certain in the grave way Andy Warhol treats with respect the image of Jackie Kennedy mourning the passage of her husband, the President.  For me the Warhol has the kind of impact I miss with Archie Rand, though I do admit that Rand can be engaging and entertaining!


Saturday, May 15, 2021

Remembering Printmaker Keith Howard


Artist and Printmaker:  Keith Howard ( 1950-2015 )

At this stage of my life, I am grateful for those individuals who have made a deep impression on me as an artist and as a friend, and it is in this manner that I honor Keith Howard.  Looking back, Keith had an impact on me and our printmaking community and his influence is felt by many to this day.  His most relevant efforts to support Non-Toxic Printmaking and to bring his knowledge and expertise to Rochester is a story to be told, and it is something one will never forget.

Keith Howard at work in his apron

How did this come about?  Years before I actually met Keith, I was getting his mailings about the workshops he held at his home turf then in Grand Prairie, up in Alberta, Canada.  I decided to take his summer class and it changed my life - and I guess that decision changed his life too - but we would not know this at that time in 1995.

By the mid 1990s I was teaching at Rochester Institute of Technology and taking night classes there to get up to speed with the latest digital technology.  I was making prints the old-fashioned way with etching plates and acid.  In the printmaking studio at R.I.T. I would leave at the end of an evening with a headache, even though I made some nice color etchings.  There had to be a better way!  I got on a plane one summer and found my way to Grand Prairie - up near the border with Alaska.

Keith Howard's book on Non-Toxic Printmaking

Keith Howard had published his first book about Non-Toxic Printmaking and it sent shock waves through the print community - slowly but surely.  It is hard to shake up this sector of the art making world, especially because the techniques artists use to make etchings and lithography are centuries old!

A couple of years after I took his summer workshop, I asked Keith if he would like to come to Rochester to give a guest lecture and after we did that R.I.T. then asked him if he would like to have a position  teaching here in the States.  His answer was positively yes, but this then tore his family apart!
Keith actually came to live with us in our home on Elmwood Avenue as he adjusted to life in the States.
Keith set up his school for Non-Toxic Printmaking at R.I.T. and started a new chapter in his life.

Keith Howard  lays out his work for us in the studio at R.I.T.

Keith travelled widely to promote his techniques, and the work he made also gradually changed although for many years it was based on photographs he would make.  Keith eventually remarried and they set up their own home in Rochester but he continued to travel and expand the reach of his research.  At some point he also had the thought to translate his visual ideas into paintings, and thus began an unusual chapter in the work of this  ground-breaking printmaker.

Keith Howard's images at Axom Gallery in Rochester, New York

Keith would bring his model Michelle out on location and make panoramic photos which would then be translated into paintings.  Keith would team up with a  gifted painter in China who would take the composition through the steps of making a carefully constructed  verbatim painting of the image.

Keith would unroll the work in our living room and we would all find the artwork remarkable!  What a surprise!

Now it is more than five years since Keith suddenly passed away, and we all miss his ground breaking vision, his humor, and his expertise!  May he rest in peace!

Saturday, May 1, 2021

A Skyline By The Highline


Skyline By The Highline
Photo from the deck of the Whitney Museum

There comes a point when you feel that it is time to come out of your shell, and you cross the bridge to see the sites.  Due to the pandemic we have been in self-imposed lockdown for months and we needed to break the spell after our vaccines and head for New York City ( by car ).  We have made this trip many times and immediately we were in a wave of traffic going into Manhattan and because people are fearful of getting on the subway the roads are packed.

Alan and Paul Singer at The Whitney Museum, New York City

Just try to park your car around The Whitney Museum in the old meat packing neighborhood on the West Side Highway!  Once we found our timed tickets we proceeded to enter the museum and luckily there was not a long line there waiting for the elevator.  The Whitney has eight floors, and we won't have time to see everything, actually all we will do is a few shows and then it is off to Brooklyn for dinner.

Mary Frank, "Swimmer", earthenware 1978

The main reason why we are in the city is to see an exhibition by the artist Julie Mehretu.  Before we see her show we are on another floor of the museum where there is a select group of artists that represent a blend of art and craft.  Here is a work by Mary Frank in red earthenware.  I would see her work at Zabriskie Gallery years ago and my brother Paul Singer, curated an exhibition of her art for a gallery that was close by to the Central Park Zoo.

Why the split between the arts and crafts exists at all is a mystery, and one that would require a lengthy inquiry.  I respect all of the arts and the inclination to devote your life to a creative pursuit is very high in my estimation.

Betty Woodman on the pedestal

Betty Woodman was someone who I met years ago when I would circulate around the art galleries in Manhattan.  I think the painter, Helen Wilson introduced me to her.  In any case Betty Woodman for a time had her ceramic work in the entry of The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and that was a major step forward.  Betty Woodman had an artistic family too with her husband the painter George Woodman ( he had a solo show at The Guggenheim Museum of Art ) and daughter photographer Francesca Woodman, and a cousin the sculptor Tim Woodman who I met when we both studied at Cornell University in the mid 1970s.

The artists in this select show use a range of materials from clay and threads to sequins and even a decorative kitchen that seems to glitter.  Liza Lou creates a statement with found objects and so much more ( seen below ) as a commentary on a woman's place in the home!!

Liza Lou, "Kitchen"  1991-96

Finally we are onto the show of Julie Mehretu, and she does  have a great  ambition!  She sweeps you up into a maelstrom of energy and movement even though some of her subject matter comes from linear studies of stable architecture.  Impressive are her large works which combine drawing with ink on canvas painted with acrylics.  She uses levels - really layers of imagery that creates depth with detail and gesture.  It is moving to see such an outpouring from  this artist!

Julie Mehretu at The Whitney Museum of Art

Julie Mehretu is a Ethiopian born artist, and her family moved to the USA from Africa when their government began to fall apart in the 1970s.  As a student of the visual arts, Julie employs printmaking techniques and drawing by hand as well as the computer, and the textures in her work develop from maps and diagrams, and even blurry photos and a fascinating amount of detail can be seen when you move in close. Don't miss her show!

Catalogue / Book for Julie Mehretu at The Whitney

Don't want to miss her show!

And now we can fight the traffic and find our dinner!  Hope to see you soon, Stay Well!


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

What Goes Around


photo: Sue Weisler

Alan Singer teaching a class in Zoological and Botanical Art at Rochester Institute of Technology via ZOOM in the fall of 2020

Recently a World of Warhol in Rochester, New York

      ON  a  bright note, let us celebrate Spring, but not forget those of us who have lost a family member or relative in this pandemic.  I have had the vaccine twice ( applause ), but I know there are many who have not, or choose not to ( and I guess they have their reasons! ).  Now, I am in a transition away from being a Professor in the College of Art & Design at Rochester Institute of Technology, and I have some time to reflect on this season, as well as write about artists and their artwork again.

We are looking for inspiration as the weather trends towards warmth and daylight hangs around a bit longer.  We can still wear a mask in a public space and we hope to return to "normal" soon.  One can even allow oneself to venture into a museum or art gallery.  While I have been sequestered working on my new art book, it will soon be published under the title of: "WheelHouse", and I will have more to say about that in a future post.  Creating a book like this has been a four year project, and it will contain a selection of my paintings and prints from the last dozen years or so.

MY new art book coming soon!

Before the most recent exhibition closed at The Memorial Art Gallery, I did have the opportunity to see this show of Andy Warhol's art, as well as a special selection of work by G. Peter Jemison.  Peter is probably best known in this area for his role in establishing the Ganondagan Historic Site in its current iteration.  He is a true cultural leader of indigenous American ways of life and I have been very lucky to have had the chance to have him come and speak to my students at R.I.T.  Peter has been making art for decades, and he once worked for a time at David Davis - my favorite art supply store in New York City when I was just getting my feet wet in the artworld of the late 1960s.

                                  "AT THE BORDER"    painting by G. Peter Jemison at MAG

Curious timing of these shows at the Memorial Art Gallery.  Peter Jemison's images sometimes are on canvas but also often they are artworks presented on a paper bag.  This is also how I first came to know Peter's art - also while I was living in New York City - Peter had presented art on this form - the paper sack and I found his art to be illustrative  and capable of telling a story or presenting an idea like he does in the current show with an image on a bag that declares NO! to Fracking...  I enjoyed seeing the birds he paints and even his Skunk Cabbage seems to be speaking.

G. Peter Jemison at Memorial Art Gallery

When I first came across Andy Warhol's art he was drawing shoes in line work that had an illustrative style, so it is a kind of coincidence that I thought about when I was in the museum.  The first show I saw of Warhol's featured his Brillo boxes and Campbells Soup Cans that presents a cross-over to commercialism and consumer culture.  Warhol knew he was pressing people's buttons when he embarked on this facet of his work as a Pop Artist.

Andy Warhol at The Memorial Art Gallery

I was aware of Andy's crew - often seeing them at Max's Kansas City, the popular restaurant with the art crowd in New York City.  Not far away was  Andy's Factory where he made the editions we are seeing today on the walls of the gallery.  What a great time to be involved in all the arts - just breaking into the art scene with so  much raw talent!

Endangered Species by Andy Warhol at MAG

You can feel nostalgic looking at these Warhol prints - it is interesting that he took the silk screen method of printmaking to a new more popular dimension when he had his team making editions at the Factory.  Also it was interesting to see the collaboration between Andy and Keith Haring in the early days of graffiti art.  I would often see Keith Haring working in his studio in the Cable Building on Broadway - while I was working for a publisher next door.  Both Warhol and Keith Haring  became icons at a time when we were then experiencing another pandemic - this time of AIDS. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Picking Up Where We Left Off


                                        Photo by Sue Weisler

                                        My Class at R.I.T. drawing from life! 

                                        Birds by Wild Wings

I haven't been out-of-touch!  It is just that it took so long to adjust to the new circumstances!  This is my last semester teaching my art classes at Rochester Institute of Technology, and since I am ancient, I qualify for teaching from home, remotely.  There is so much to learn, doing ZOOM meetings all day, and then having to keep everything in order!  I am very thankful for not having to venture onto campus considering the spike in COVID cases here in Monroe County!

This new semester has been stressful for my students who are worrying about going home for Thanksgiving, after getting all their work done for the fall.  I had never given a critique before over  the computer.  I am not a big fan of having the art at arms length, much less in another  part of the country, but if that is what it takes to get the job done....

Work in progress at my studio in the Hungerford Building

I can celebrate the season with a new canvas in my studio that I have been planning for a number of months.  Earlier in November I stretched this and got started - it is like a painted quilt, all little squares of bright colors.  Hopefully the effect will be  striking!  We will see....  I am working with the notion of accumulation and a kind of colorful graph of where we stand at the present.

During my hiatus from this blog I must  acknowledge the passing of a most notable artist in our area Robert Ernst Marx who captivated this writer with his style of portrait painting that verged on editorial caricature.  

Robert Ernst Marx 

Another artist who made very attractive photographs that I have reviewed in the past, was Pat Wilder who sadly is also no longer with us.  I first came across Pat and her work  on a summer day at an art festival held at the Sonnenberg Gardens in Canandaigua, NY.  Pat had a colorful kind of minimal approach to her image making that was very refreshing.  Below is an undated photo of her in her booth at an art show; she was always on the trail of the outdoor venues, and I was always interested to hear where she planned to have her next show.

Pat Wilder and Friend

So,  looking forward, I plan to resume writing my blog, and saying a few things about our community and the kinds of art that one could go and see.  Mostly I have been doing some necessary reading and enjoying a free moment ( often at bedtime ) when I can quietly assess the scene...  In a health crisis the likes of which I have never before endured, it is something of a test!  For anyone interested in sculpture in the mid-20th century, a new book on Alexander Calder is well worth the time to read.  Jed Perl is the author who has done exhaustive research and plunged deeply into the life of his subject here.

Jed Perl's new book on Sandy Calder

Writer, Jed Perl

Like many who know Calder's work, I was attracted by Calder's Circus which could be found in the entry level of the Whitney Museum when it was located up on Madison Avenue in Manhattan.  In fact I remember seeing Calder outside of the Whitney talking to people in front of the museum one day in the 1970s.  You don't forget that sort of thing!

Jed Perl I know, having brought him upstate to do a talk at The Memorial Art Gallery - now over ten years ago!  Jed publishes his writing often in The New York Review of Books, and I have followed his writing with great interest especially now that he has chronicled Calder's development and great success  as a sculptor and artist who had a unique place in the art world of the 20th century.

This is just to say Thank You if you are reading this, and in this season of lock-downs, I will pick up where we left off and try to be informative and engaged once again!

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Black Artists Matter

Black Artists Matter

At a time when there are demonstrations  in the streets, our cultural institutions need to step up to the plate and invest their resources to correct years of neglect for African American artists here in this country.  At this juncture, it should be clear that our country is much more diverse and efforts must be made to heal the wounds of the past and present  by acknowledging the contributions of artists who have not enjoyed the support of our cultural institutions and this has got to change!

Portrait  of Cab Calloway made by my father, Arthur Singer in the 1930s

Here in our local neighborhood of Rochester, New York, I write from the birthplace of Cab Calloway - jazz star of mega-proportions - but where in town is any recognition of his star power that shines through popular music?   A proud Rochester mayor should use this knowledge to connect to a wider population and instill in a younger generation a purpose that would lift people up, give them something to celebrate!

Luvon honors the life of Frederick Douglas at RoCo

I share an office at R.I.T. with Luvon Sheppard, an artist who has made a difference in this same community.  So why isn't there one of his paintings on view at The Memorial Art Gallery for other generations to see and contemplate?  Here, in Rochester, Luvon runs the Joy Gallery on West Main Street, and he has taught legions of students at Rochester Institute of Technology - and through his efforts he has inspired so many others - and is an inspiration to me when we can share our views about life!

William T. Williams and his recent work

The art scene is diverse but artists of color have often faced hurdles that comes from an embedded bias, so it is time to acknowledge this and move forward.  Demonstrations in the streets can have helpful repercussions if we welcome the efforts and acknowledge the work of the many artists who need our support.  I was reminded of this yesterday when I listened to an online presentation from the Museum of Fine Art in Houston, Texas.  My cousin, Michael Rosenfeld has a gallery in New York City that has championed the works of artists such as William T. Williams ( above ) , and Betty Saar among many others.  Michaels' gallery let me know that the Museum of Fine Art in Houston has an important exhibition up now, and that there was going to be a online discussion featuring William T. Williams, Mel Edwards, and Fred Eversley.

William T. Williams

I myself studied with Mr. Williams at Skowhegan in the summer of 1973.  His bold abstractions pushed me into a new direction in my own painting.  His  instruction was a very personal approach that had a lot of appeal with its bold color and edgy geometry, and he was not alone.  At the Cooper Union School of Art where I studied, there were several artists of color who I studied with including the photographer Roy DeCarava, and the painter Jack Whitten.  I was recently very involved in reading Jack Whitten's " Notes From The Woodshed" , a kind of diary he kept that involved all  kinds of notes about his art productions.  Also at Cooper Union in that moment was Bob Blackburn who ran the printmaking studios.  All of these folks were very influential!

Jack Whitten
Read his "Notes from the Woodshed"

Bob Blackburn ran printmaking studios and so much more

I was very lucky to hear the online presentation this Saturday, August 1st hosted by The Museum of Fine Art, Houston with the artists William T. Williams, Fred Eversley and Mel Edwards.  Mel spoke of those times in the past when his fellow artists were just breaking into the art scene.  I remember meeting Mel Edwards once at a sculpture show that took place in Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn over 30 years ago.  Since those times his art has really taken off!  His sculptures "Lynch Fragments" are very strong and evocative.  They have now become part of the fabric of our art world, our society.

Mel Edwards in his studio

Mel Edwards "Lynch Fragments"

For those who have the power and influence, it is beyond time to open the doors to the creative vision of a much more diverse population and see what new light shines on a path we have yet to take.  It is ABOUT TIME!