Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Heating Up The Cool Down

design by
Bruno Monguzzi
for the Musee d'Orsay
Paris, France

Fall is the season and the leaves begin to turn colors and mount up on my lawn, but I put away my rake to join a social swirl at art gallery openings...and there was so much to see!

You had to be there!   Must see exhibitions around Rochester this month include a sterling poster collection by the Swiss-Italian graphic designer Bruno Monguzzi.  I had the pleasure of talking with Mr. Monguzzi whose work I have known for many years, and I thoroughly enjoyed an illustrated talk he gave to an audience at R.I.T.

Years ago, I taught graphic design and Bruno Monguzzi's signage - particularly for art museums- has stood out at the pinnacle in a world of fast paced visual communications.  Those of you who are lucky enough to be in Paris, France would know his graphics for the Musee d'Orsay.  (see above )  The unlikely inclusion of J. Henri Lartigue's photo of a manned glider plane getting off the ground is an integral part of the poster for the grand opening, and creates a wonderful parallel in the renewed life of the museum.  You will find this all over Bruno Monguzzi's design work - a deep level of communication and pleasure reaching to achieve a harmony with a viewer.  These big posters are at the Bevier Gallery, and in the Vignelli Design Center and they can be seen this month at R.I.T.

Brand new gallery space in Rochester is hard to come by but this season there are several major openings, and I found marvelous new art by the New York City mixed media artist Mark Fox at the redesigned Culver Armory.  The building is being completely overhauled for offices and retail space and for this month alone go see this exhibition presented by Deborah Ronnen Fine Art.  The physical gallery space reminds me of Chelsea where open bays harbor shimmering cut paper works that on first appearance look like scrims of pale vegetation, and on closer inspection become a mesh of written words cut out of paper and suspended over armatures, or hung from metal pins.

Hiding in an entry hallway are grids of silver color in an "Elegy for Jane Jacobs", from 2010, which I saw first, quickly followed by a ingeniously hallucinogenic "Wraith", which is made of large sheets of cut paper suspended in front of mylar sheets that wavered in a slight breeze that made the whole room quiver.  The "Elegy", was especially apt as the grids call to mind Jane Jacobs writing about cities and neighborhoods, and the silver grids certainly attain a symbolic reckoning.

Mark Fox was the star of his own movie being projected on one wall, and we can learn a lot more from this interview with the artist.  Many of his pieces call to mind the tough wire works of Alan Saret, and also the artist Richard Tuttle.  Mark Fox settles somewhere in between - the art is literate, conceptual and not particularly colorful.  Mostly, the colors are turned away from the viewer, and they begin to represent (for me) a psychological state of introversion or introspection.

Frances Paley, this month
at the Spectrum Gallery

On a block past the Memorial Art Gallery, around the corner from the Arts & Cultural Council on College Avenue is a nondescript building housing new gallery spaces for R.I.T. 's Gallery r set to pop open in a few weeks, and Lumiere's Spectrum Gallery now open in its new location.  On the walls are large pigment on paper prints by Frances Paley, with a emphasis on fashions and reflections.  The albino peacock is a key image here, as are the numerous costumes and storefront images which remind me of window shopping on Madison Avenue in NYC, and they are a little disorienting.  Here is an art that is quite baroque, with feverish color that blurs the boundary between layers of reflections, so it is hard to pin down just where you are when you look them over.

In another gallery that was new to me, at the Skalny Welcome Center- on the campus of St. John Fisher College  I found a quiet reminder of the private vision of smaller scale artwork that has an intimate pull on the eye and mind.

Most of the art in "Interpretation of Site" revolves around landscape traditions that go back a few hundred years to the moors and sky of Constable and Turner.  The three featured artists: Constance Mauro, G.A. Sheller, and Elizabeth King Durand have enjoyed travels in Europe, and come home with sketches and reflections on those voyages.  Inventive use of printmaking and painting techniques abound in this art as does a light touch with color and atmosphere which encourages gentle contemplation.

A final note to commemorate the passing of yet another artist, friend and teacher - Julie Furlong Williams.  Recently, she has had shows of her work both at Rochester Contemporary Art Center, and The Memorial Art Gallery, and her wit and wisdom will be missed.

G.A.Sheller in the Ross Gallery, Skalny Welcome Center, St. John Fisher College

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Graffiti With Punctuation

Some wag said blogs were "graffiti with punctuation".  While this might initially get a laugh - blogs do what print journalism seemed to miss, especially when it comes to the visual arts in our community, and that is to get around to see more of what is going on and to address a response that was more than regurgitating a press release.

When traditional newspapers fail to cover openings of shows, or give spotty coverage at best - they cut the links to everyone except the most dedicated gallery goers.  If you were an artist who worked on materials for a show for a couple of years, you would want to be recognized.  Today, it is all-out competition for your attention, and at the moment the sports-entertainment industry seems to be winning, so why take pot shots at bloggers?

Years ago, I was paid to write about the visual arts, but now I do it on my own - for free- with the help of the First Fridays site as a sounding board.  Content providers in the arts are often working on their own- nobody commissions this work, and I hasten to add artists of all stripes say they do it for love, and because they cannot not do it.  When questions are raised about how long one can keep this up, I say as long as I am able..