Friday, December 13, 2013

Contemporary Art Center

23rd Annual Members Exhibition
  at Rochester Contemporary Art Center
  137 East Avenue, thru January 12, 2014

Tis the season, so after you go out and see all the art shows you can handle - slow down and find a comfortable place to read a book.  Since I write about art I recommend that you catch up with some favorite writers who make a living doing just that and here are two paperbacks just published  that might be a nice holiday gift to get.  The books are "Pirates and Farmers" by Dave Hickey ( Essays on Taste) and "Words for Art" by Barry Schwabsky.

Dave Hickey is out there, in print with his Henry Miller style lists, and his mea culpas - do we really need to know the kinds and quantities of the drugs he has taken?  When he wants to be, he is a sharp wit, and also sometimes hits the nail on the head as far as the real art goes.  These essays on taste take on the Las Vegas scene, the New York City conundrum of the artist's life,  interesting views of the West-Coast art world, all with aplomb, and zesty zingers on each page.  Dave is entertaining - a jazz artist always with a ready riff from this one time editor of Art in America.

Barry Schwabsky's book "Words for Art" is a series of thoughtful essays on how other writers and thinkers approach contemporary art theory and practice.  Barry is the art critic for The Nation, and a
friend who in this new book has many insights which may require a second reading because they are so finely textured ( especially compared to Dave Hickey ).  One of the most interesting essays in his book "Words for Art" is all about what it means to have a truly American art ( in the piece titled: " Under the Flag" ).  Dave Hickey also tries to concern himself with American art and comes to some interesting conclusions about how you can determine whether the art you are looking at has staying quality.

Robert Marx at RoCo
  23rd Annual Members Exhibition

When we put this into practice, it is really up to the observer of the artwork to make the judgement.

Try this out when you are standing in the Rochester Contemporary Art Center on East Avenue - the 23rd Annual Members Exhibition has opened - go into the gallery and survey the new works that artist members have on view.  Ask yourself about the art you see: "How long will I remember this work?, and if you love a work, how long do you think you would love this art?  Whether or not other people would agree with you is not the point, it is more about feeling and maintaining an open mind to the art experience.

"Bee Hive" by Susan Doran
  at RoCo Members Show

At RoCo you can see a dramatic figurative sculpture from Bill Stewart standing in the corner of the lab room toward the back of the gallery.  My pick for most interesting new work on view is a grey paper tutu titled: "Bee Hive" by Susan Doran which won an Arena Art Group Award.  I also enjoyed seeing Robert Marx's portrait and I like one of our R.I.T. grad students Brad Butler's atmospheric paintings that also  won an award.

Go see this show, there is always a lot to think about and let me know if you enjoyed reading the books I recommend, and happy holidays!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Plein Air Painting

Kurt Moyer
  from: "Contemplating Nature"
  at the Axom Gallery, Rochester, NY

The French Impressionists are important but they weren't the only ones who went outside to paint.

American artists such as Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent wouldn't be who they were without the experience of painting direct from the motif, under the sun and the prevailing winds.

It is true for me that when I went outdoors to paint in the 1970's there were few artists who considered this a worthwhile path to take.  But I had in mind those great artists like Paul Cezanne and Camille Corot who seemingly made magic happen with a portable easel, brushes, paints and a canvas.

In art school, my teacher, Paul Resika brought his entire class out to paint in the countryside but I had already had some experience watching my father create art from nature ( he was a noted wildlife artist ).

There were a few people I knew who painted outdoors including Fairfield Porter, Wolf Kahn and Lennart Anderson that inspired me and I began to develop a passion for finding a place to quietly engage with the sun, space, and my art materials.  I saw some watercolors by Edward Hopper that also looked like my kind of world, so I began to practice with all of these artists in mind.

Rackstraw Downes came to Cornell University when I was there earning my MFA, and he further stimulated me to go out and find new sites to paint- so I would rent a VW bug and went hunting for places where I wouldn't be disturbed ( even though it might be trespassing ).  Two things reminded me of this period of time - the first is that a friend ( James l. McElhinney ) sent me a photo from the summer of 1973 when I was with a group at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine - and I spent three months with my paints each day working outdoors on some larger paintings.  See Photo below.

Summer 1973 at
  Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture.
  faculty included Janet Fish, Paul Resika, William Williams, Mel Bochner

The second thing that reminded me of this interest in landscape painting was an exhibition which just opened in Rochester including the work of four painters titled: "Contemplating Nature" at the Axom Gallery.

What can be accomplished by painting outdoors that straight photography won't match,  has to do with the human nervous system and a test of eye, hand, and brain coordination.  Photography takes in every detail in general and equalizes elements, while painters pronounce their own decisive bias in terms of what they have in their hands - that is to say the part of the painter's equipment that is both internal and physical ( otherwise the painting just doesn't get done ).  Just like no two people are exactly alike, no two landscape painters are alike either.  We can learn from what they show us.

Axom Gallery
  "Contemplating Nature"

Going into the Axom Gallery you will see that most of these landscape paintings are modest in scale. This is important when you stop to think that the canvas has to be movable if you plan to work outdoors and artists have to deal with available light and sometimes discomfort        ( wind, ticks and other disasters like poison ivy ).

Rick Muto
  paints in plein air

The details of the paintings on view vary from classical figures under the canopy of leafy trees, to scrubby shoreline, and nearly abstract art that combines observations of nature and geometry.
Paul Garland has the most experimental artwork, especially a little painting that is set on top of another painting which in turn is centered over another painting.  Kurt Moyer has a touch of Corot in his color and matter-of-fact observations of woodsy scenes from this part of the world.  Rick Muto has a softer more illustrative touch in paintings of an intimate scale.  Connie Ehindero shows work that is spare,
and astringent, the structures are more diagrammatic and colors are more liberated.

Paul Garland
Contemplating Nature
at the Axom Gallery

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Write What You See

"Union Junction"
  a tableau at 1975 Gallery
  89 Charlotte Street, Rochester, NY

An exhibition at 1975 Gallery had as part of their show a little table with some artwork underway and a scattering of simple art supplies, a few used watercolor pans, a brush, some pencils - which inspired ruminations and nostalgia from a visitor.  These humble materials can be transformed by drawing and painting and this activity opens a door for one to walk through, especially if you are a young artist filled with dreams and imagination, the prospect can be both liberating and daunting at the same moment.

Young artists often look for inspiration and kinship perhaps outside of their immediate family.  I grew up in a family of artists, so in order to stake out my territory, I had to go out and find it first, and I did that by looking at everything and by being actively engaged as a student ( I also had the temerity to get into arguments with teachers and older artists as a youth ).

In college, the prevailing styles of Pop Art and Conceptualism gradually overwhelmed the Abstract Expressionists, but somehow I was more involved with figuration having gone to the Art Students League in Manhattan to draw from the model each week from the time I was 14.

Was it luck or by design, that when I was in art school at The Cooper Union - I found a group of teachers who were artists that went against the grain.  If the trends in the artworld went towards minimalism, these artists went towards a more traditional path that grew out of European painting and sculpture.  So, if you walk into the National Academy of Design at 1083 5th Avenue in New York City you will find a show titled: "See It Loud" which features seven post-war American painters - all involved in a representational art which I found fascinating when I was a student.

on view at
  The National Academy of Design
  New York City

The artists from "See It Loud" formed a small society and there were at least two painters missing from this group which I feel would have made a more well rounded argument in the visual sense for the time (Robert DeNiro, Sr. and Louisa Matthiasdottir).  You could say that this group of artists ( the loyal opposition ) humanized an artworld that was increasingly commercial, and also paid respect to the great art ( and artists ) of the past.  What is surprising to find out is that these seven artists ( all of whom I had met ) had studied with masters of abstraction such as Josef Albers or Hans Hofmann, so they willingly made a decision to find value in various forms of figuration and landscape which is in evidence at the show on Fifth Avenue.  Making your art and staking a claim to a part of the visual landscape in the artworld came with a price, in terms of visibility, but this also had its attraction, as I have said, to a younger artist.

Paul Resika recent paintings 
  "See It Loud" at The National Academy 

Take a look around "See It Loud" and you will find paintings by artists who have not had their full stories told yet.  There are surprises to be had, most notably for me in the portraits by Peter Heinemann, and the landscapes of Al Kresch and Paul Resika.  There were also almost bas relief paintings by Stanley Lewis that were engaging, and other works by Neil Welliver, Paul Georges, and Leland Bell.

Paintings by Stanley Lewis
  at The National Academy

Leland Bell, who also had been my painting teacher in years gone by would speak eloquently about Piet Mondrian, Alberto Giacometti, and Andre Derain and you would be forced to take another look at these artist's work - now seen in a new light.  Paul Resika would make a case for studying the relationships found in nature by dragging us ( students ) all out to paint in the country like a modern day Cezanne.  Even Paul Georges stirred some energy into paintings of myth and grand dreams of a new figuration which was also being proposed by more analytical artists like Lucien Freud and Philip Pearlstein.

Balthus at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

So, go and see the show "See It Loud" where you can view the vital, colorful paintings by this handful of artists, and then continue over to the Metropolitan Museum to see their precursors like Balthus, now on view in the show "Cats and Girls" Paintings and Provocations.  Or spend some moments in the new installation from William Kentridge called "The Refusal of Time" - it is worth the price of admission alone.  This Thanksgiving there are many reasons to be thankful, and mindful of family and friends, as we watch the parade and get caught up in the flow of events.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Metal for Dishonor

Artist:  Lynn Duggan at
    The Geisel Gallery at Bausch & Lomb Building
    downtown Rochester, NY

Lynn Duggan, on the faculty at Nazareth College, presents in exhibition a series of artworks titled "Transgressions".  This installation at the Geisel Gallery in the Bausch and Lomb Building in downtown Rochester comes at the end of a long string ( for 18 years! ) of selected art exhibitions by some of the best visual artists in the region.

The space that is the Geisel Gallery leads from the central atrium down a well lit hall full of artwork  to a large room with a recessed exhibition space that provides a focal point.  There on a little pedestal is one of Lynn Duggan's poignant sculptural works - a skeletal amalgamation topped with a pair of old jawbones.  This could be a casualty of war, except that the parts - and the way they align with each other build on visual notions that owe a debt to surrealists like Max Ernst and contemporary sculptors like David Smith ( particularly for his "Medals for Dishonor" ).

"The Sacred and The Profane"
  mixed media,
  by:  Lynn Duggan

I like the narrative possibilities of the bas relief paper construction "The Sacred and The Profane" - this is a kind of collage with a robins nest, an egg, a ladder, a figure and a balancing teacup.  There are also commemorative necklaces for such hot button issues like fracking, and a figure made from an old crutch that gave a different perspective on a jobs program.

"Transgressions" goes from one political statement to another with editorial fervor, but I might say that I most admire her ingenuity to create wall sculpture like her "Flesh and Bone" which may be more effective as a statement due to its simplicity.

The Geisel Gallery

Many thanks to Jean Geisel and her assistant Amy Vena for all the good work they put towards this venue, there are so few places like this for contemporary art that serve this community.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Fabulous Fiber Artists

"De-Constructing Colin"
  "Fabulous Fibers" at Main Street Arts, Clifton Springs, NY

Among the most memorable shows I have seen while I was living in New York City were exhibitions of quilts - on view were Amish Quilts one year, and then several years later at The Whitney Museum they held the show of quilts from Gee's Bend.  The Amish quilts were collaborations, and one can imagine a regular social circle that met to create striking abstract art as important as any Joseph Albers painting.  The Gee's Bend quilters were extraordinary and had such a high aesthetic vision of what could be accomplished with some patches of fabric.

So, I have been influenced by fabric arts going way back into Chinese embroidery, Ikats, Pre-Columbian Peruvian weaving, batik from Bali, printed chintz from India and Japanese kimonos.
I have collected fabric art, so I was interested to see the show called "Fabulous Fibers" from the group known as R.A.F.A. ( Rochester Area Fiber Artists).  As with any show of this size ( over a hundred pieces in the exhibition ) there are always going to be some exceptional things to see, so I thought that I would share this with you.

"Cisne y Pichone"
by Pat Berardi

"Fabulous Fibers" just opened two days ago and it runs to December 29th, 2013, and it is being held at the new gallery - Main Street Arts, over in Clifton Springs, about 35 minutes southeast of Rochester by car.

"Random Windows" by Beth Kelly

On view is all manner of fiber art - from quilts and three dimensional felt pieces, wearable art and other woven surface design.  Among the medium size works on exhibition are two geometric quilts by Beth Brandkamp, an abstract work of curving stripes on a strong magenta field by Pat Berardi, and in the front window was a hanging fabric construction titled "Random Windows" by Beth Kelly.  Most of the artwork on view requires time and precision to make convincing and satisfying use of the dyes and fabrics and needlework necessary. 

 There are a few wearables in the show and one pictorial piece titled "Journey" by Judy Warner which looked like a painting with thick impasto, except everything was made out of whole cloth using ingenious stitching that conveyed a scene out of Alaska with two small figures wearing red hats in a boat.  Just like that.

"Journey" by Judy Warner

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Camera Work

  "Tree as Photograph" 
     by Larry Merrill
      at Nazareth College Arts Center Gallery

Striking new photographic images are on view in the galleries this month, so I went out to look over some shows starting with "Tree as Photograph" by Larry Merrill ( through December 8th ) at Nazareth College Arts Center Gallery.  Once in the gallery, I also see trees on a folding screen, and photographs of trees presented as free standing objects on low pedestals - all of which point towards an open interpretation of the photo as more than just something that sits in a frame on your wall.  In fact, this show does without frames for the most part, and the lustrous color prints are presented with a white border around the image that separates it from the wall in a nice simple fashion.

Larry Merrill has an eye for detail and color, but what I am most struck by is the abstract quality of his compositions which owe something to an almost painterly framing of space like what one might find in a work by the artist Clyfford Still.  The trees that Larry Merrill has in his viewfinder have dynamic organic character and the spaces between trunks and branches are sensitively captured.

Gallery r  at 100 College Avenue has a life lesson for all gallery goers who come in to experience the show titled "Becoming Visible" by Jessica Catherine Lieberman ( there is also a book for sale at the gallery by the photographer ).  The show is on thru November 27th.  This is a test of endurance for the person who has been diagnosed with a lethal disease, and we get to witness this through the documentary quality of the photos that portray gradual stages of treatment along with wall labels ( essays really ) that feature established protocols of pain management.  This is a strong show and the viewer leaves with a deeper respect for the transient nature of our lives on this planet.

Joan Lyons
  at Spectrum Gallery

Next door, in the Spectrum Gallery at Lumiere Photo,  Joan Lyons has a colorful series of sequenced photo montage works on view that create an image in the mind akin to haiku poetry.  Each photo has a little shift in perspective - a composition in her work might have a photo of a painting on the right hand side and then on the left there is a purely photographic image giving the total composition a different meaning.  Is this the activity of metaphor?  This is like this?

I was attracted to Joan Lyon's photos of painted murals on the sides of buildings and the funny dislocation in these images moves me off into a provisional space neither here nor there.  It is into this breach that the feeling of art resides - perhaps it is just the sensitivity of the artist at work and how she captures my attention.

The large Luna moth in one photo makes the space behind it more palpable, while in another photograph across the room decorative coy fish are superimposed on a watery world on a slightly different scale.  There is a wry humor and comparison drawn in another composition where a painted prehistoric jungle bumps up against some scrubby palms in a scene right out of the Everglades.
It is Before and After, similar but different.

Melissa Huang
   at The Arts & Cultural Council
   for Greater Rochester

I want to take a moment to congratulate all of the students who participated in the juried show in the gallery at The Arts & Cultural Council that also opened on November 1st, right around the corner from the Spectrum Gallery.  Local teachers can be proud of students who have the chance to show their artwork and offer the opportunity for us to view these creations by an up and coming generation.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Print Club

Artist/printmaker:  Tom Huck
  at Gallery r 
  100 College Avenue

Each fall for 80 + years the Print Club of Rochester unveils a print it has commissioned and this year the selected artist, Tom Huck, was on hand at the presentation.  He drove in from the midwest and met Print Club members who then lined up to receive their own signed and numbered print as one of the benefits of joining the club in the first place.  The Print Club exists to foster interest in the artform and the printmaking tradition is alive and well, and it is likely we will see more of Tom Huck's work this coming year.  He is even bringing his friends The Outlaw Printmakers who will be showing their renegade art at The Rochester Contemporary Art Center early next year.

The Print Club of Rochester has commissioned fine artists from Rockwell Kent and Luigi Lucioni to Gregory Amenoff and Clare Romano among many others.  All kinds and styles of prints have been made and offered in limited editions to the membership, and the yearly rate to join ($78) is still very modest considering that you get a work of art that would be hard to come by any other way.

The scene at Gallery r on College Avenue, Saturday, October 26th was remarkable for the abundance of artwork that Tom Huck brought with him to acquaint the audience with just a fraction of his output.  He also gave a very entertaining talk about how this self-professed altar boy came to make the prints in his new collection: "The Hillbilly Kama Sutra".  Tom Huck said that his adult anger is directed towards exposing human foibles, while highlighting sex and death in his art, this is also a concentrated graphic medium that tells a story with satire and bite that comes right out of earlier artists such as Goya, Hogarth, and Max Beckmann ( one of Tom Huck's heroes  ).

"BAIT"  by Tom Huck, a commission from The Print Club of Rochester

Prints are still an affordable way to begin or maintain an art collection, and we will see this play out in February at RoCo. I anticipate a bit of controversy because The Outlaw Printmakers subject matter can disturb and stir up an audience.  Take a look at tom Huck's print ( above ) for the Print club titled: "BAIT".  Just what this print is "about" - I will let you decide.

For more information about joining the club e-mail Zerbe Sodervick at:

Friday, October 4, 2013

Signal Achievement

David Chamberlain with
   Melissa Matson at the Geisel Gallery
  Bausch & Lomb Center, Rochester, NY

I was talking with Melissa Matson about her collaborative work with the artist David Chamberlain.  A show recently opened in the Geisel Gallery at the Bausch & Lomb Center in downtown Rochester ( to October 28th, 2013 ), and it is filled with many framed monoprints full of improvised gesture and surprising effects.

Melissa Matson is known here for being the principal violist in the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, but I also know of her artwork - dyeing colorful textiles, and also because of her unique printmaking art she has created with David Chamberlain.

Melissa Matson,
   violist and printmaker

How do you prepare to work on a collaborative print?  Do you talk about how you are going to approach the print?  Melissa Matson say's, "It is like playing a duet - keep your eyes and ears open - and feel the work unfold as if it were music - layers of color and tonality - and telling gestures that complete the print" ( as if they were the final notes in a performance ).

Some of the most unusual prints were hanging at the far end of a long gallery - they were images of dragons - more elaborate than the Chinese dragons you may have seen in a Chinese New Year festival, and somehow they were almost surreal, hanging there on their blue grounds.  Most of the prints on view contain a characteristic bravura stroke or two incised into fresh paint or ink used to make the print - these marks spring forward and create an almost palpable three dimensional space in the images.

  at Rochester Contemporary Art Center

Run down East Avenue, over to the Rochester Contemporary Art Center, and another opening was taking place with four artists who specialize in new media, and this is also the first curatorial collaboration between RoCo and Signal Culture - an organization devoted to some of the latest developments in technology.

Peer Bode, artist with
  Signal Culture at RoCo

The show is called: " Signals_now_" and it contains a variety of artworks - some projected, some hung on the wall, and some of them were woven images of spectacular complexity.  I was intrigued because some of the graphic works on the wall resembles artworks that I have going on in my studio - we have much in common, and I wanted to know more about these four artists:  Phillip Stearns ( Brooklyn, NY ), Joe McKay ( Beacon , NY ), Kristin Lucas, ( Austin Texas), and Peer Bode ( Hornell, NY ).

I want to know how these artists found one another, and they may tell us about this in an artist talk on Saturday, October 5th at 1 pm.  The use of this new technology gives these artists a common core-  a shared language of pixels and a kind of remote or surveillance camera look.  The videos of Kristen Lucas have bold graphic swirls, and colors that look like prints by Andy Warhol.

Phillip Stearns " Heliocentrism"

Someone said of the video presentation in the back by Phillip Stearns that it was like James Turrell with sound - but for me the real draw in the show were the digital woven blankets up front near the exhibition entrance that steal the show.

Connie Mauro in 
  the Hungerford Building, First Fridays Gallery night

As  with other First Fridays, I went around to the studios and came upon bright encaustic paintings by Connie Mauro in the Hungerford Building, and I was also attracted to her prints on maps and other ephemera.

The Print Club of Rochester
  at Gallery r,  100 College Avenue, Rochester

Gallery r has an annual show of printmakers where you can find a wonderful selection of prints that shows a diversity of approach and a very sophisticated knowledge of what a print can achieve.  Among my favorites there were prints by Sue Leopard and Tarrant Clements.  I will have to go back because these prints demand a closer look.  You will want to spend time in this show there is so much to take in.

Prints by Sue Leopard at
The Print Club Annual Members Exhibition,
Gallery r

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Albert Paley's "Soliloquy"
   at The Memorial Art Gallery
   and North Goodman Street

It was a gorgeous morning and I was just driving by today when they were installing the latest Albert Paley sculpture titled "Soliloquy".  Now a soliloquy is often a dramatic speech where a character talks to himself ( or herself ) without necessarily acknowledging an audience.  If you listen to Albert Paley speak about this sculpture ( there was a short interview on the radio) this gets confusing - because you know that public art is there to address those who come to the museum by car or foot, and it would seem that they are the intended audience.  This  "Soliloquy" occupies its own little circle just by the new driveway to the Memorial Art Gallery on North Goodman Street.  Albert Paley has colors - many of them in this work, and they include a bright banana yellow, green leaf green and sky blue, and this work has an electricity that is very jazzy and upbeat.

This is just the icing on the cake, for Albert Paley has been on view in  a big way this summer in New York City with Paley on Park Avenue, and there is a rumor that there will also be a new sculpture installed at R.I.T. in the future.  I think you will enjoy the new art that has come to rest in the sculpture park, here in our community.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Laurie Anderson, John Gurche, and Roald Hoffman: Visiting Dignitaries of Science and Art

Laurie Anderson
  performs "Dirtday" at the State Street Theatre, Ithaca ,NY

Here, in upstate New York we have seen an influx of visiting artists with real star-power.  First, there was a visit from William Kentridge earlier in the week, and now here I am listening to Laurie Anderson giving a solo performance of her work "Dirtday" on Saturday night.

I was in Ithaca to help The Museum of the Earth celebrate it's tenth anniversary, and to bring in a new audience - they also sponsored an artist panel on Sunday to discuss the places where Art & Science mix.  On board for the talk fest was a Nobel prize winner - Roald Hoffman who is a chemistry professor, playwright and poet, also on the dais was John Gurche an artist who specializes in Paleontology and who helped visualize the movie "Jurassic Park", and there to converse with the others was performance artist Laurie Anderson.

Under a large tent just outside The Museum of the Earth, Barbara Mink introduced the guests and had questions prepared.  Barbara Mink has been with Cornell University, she is a painter, and also was the director for the "Light in Winter" festival which I played a part in one year as a guest speaker ( 2006 ).

I have always been interested in the intersection of science and art so I made it my business to listen closely.

from left:Roald Hoffman,
              John Gurche
              Laurie Anderson
              at the Museum of the Earth

Laurie Anderson started with a mention that she was NASA"s first Artist in Residence for a year, and she got to see the trials of the robot Mars Rovers when they were taken for a test drive in Pasadena, California.  It was clear from the start that NASA didn't know what to expect from the performance artist - except that Laurie Anderson will probably use the experience in one of her onstage monologues.

Roald Hoffman thought that scientists had a bad reputation because of their tendency to "dissect the soaring hawk".  Some of Roald's thoughts have been written into a play about ethics in science titled:
"Should've" which will be given a performance in Ithaca this December.

Art by John Gurche

John Gurche is an artist with an astounding ability to communicate just what the dinosaurs looked like and how they behaved way back then.  His art has been seen on U.S. Postage stamps, in the National Geographic, and in a show that is currently finishing its run at The Museum of the Earth.  John Gurche noted in his talk that people often try to simplify things, but in science ( and art ) the product is often much more complex, and that complexity is really indicated by the path of our evolution.

Barbara Page murals
  at The Museum of the Earth, Ithaca, NY

Back at the State Street Theatre, Laurie Anderson was on stage playing her electric violin and posing interesting questions about other worlds out beyond our solar system, and she also voiced her concern for people back here on Earth left out in the cold, living in tent cities     ( here in the U.S. and elsewhere ).
Ending on a poignant note about her pet dog Lolabelle, who was taught late in her dog's life to play the piano.  Her dog had the same spots as the famous RCA logo with a terrier listening to an old victrola that was used on their record label for many years.  Laurie projected a video of her pet who has since passed away, take a look:

Friday, September 20, 2013

William Kentridge: Film, Fit, and Philosophy

William Kentridge
   at the Hartnett Gallery
   University of Rochester

Ten short films projected at the Dryden Theatre in the George Eastman House make quite an impression when they are from the hand and mind of William Kentridge aka Soho Eckstein.  Soho is Kentridge's alter ego and represents in these films a most unlovable aspect of humanity, the villainous capitalist throwing food scraps to the poor.  During the show this past Wednesday there was a special magic in the air because the artist himself was sitting in the audience and we could engage with him in some Q & A after the films.

The images in these ten films seem to be tied together thematically, with one of the major characters being the place - or nonplace - where all the action emerges be it the city of Johannesburg, or a lonely room, or a road to the outback.  Many times Kentridge's images seem to want to penetrate to the core even if this is done in a diagrammatic way, or sometimes a violent visceral way - the audience is engaged and challenged at the same time.  We have to deal with expressed feelings of inequality, evil capitalism, urbanity, the fragility of life, all seen through a poetic prism of the cinema.  Then after the screening we have to hear from the author himself who says he relies too much on the black cat trope.

William Kentridge
  draws himself ( over and over ) at the U of R

The Q & A with Kentridge was most enlightening.  He volunteered that he backed into the role of filmmaker - animator ( he never studied animation ) but that is what his films are all about: movement and the duration of time exemplified by the way he semi-erases an image to indicate forward movement - and we get the partially erased ghost image as the rest of his drawing moves ahead ( this is hard to express in words - you have to see it unfold! ).

If you want to get a good sense of what Kentridge is doing - see the screening this month in the Hartnett Gallery at the University of Rochester, in the Wilson Commons - the films are being projected and even though they are on a smaller scale here than at the Dryden, they are still inspiring!
I have seen clips of many of these films with the exception of the most recent one - and his short films have been made over a period of over twenty years.  During that period he has also been involved as a printmaker, and scenic designer for opera like Mozart's "Magic Flute", and Shostakovich's "The Nose".

"Bird is the Word"
  exhibition at Ock Hee's Gallery in Honeoye Falls, NY

In Honeoye Falls I have the chance to present a little group of my early artworks at Ock Hee's Gallery - which is a wonderful old railroad building with sprawling gardens and outdoor sculpture all around.
"Bird is the Word" is a group show which includes my student Eunice Hur, along with the other artists Jerry Alonzo, Belinda Bryce, Kurt Feuerherm and my father Arthur Singer.  In the 1980's I worked with my father to produce many of the works on view as a true collaboration and the results were published in our book "State Birds" also available at the gallery.

Art by Eunice Hur
  "Bird is the Word" at Ock Hee's Gallery, Honeoye Falls, NY

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Kentridge Visits Rochester

William Kentridge

I almost missed this notice, so don't you miss this!  Coming to Rochester this Wednesday and Thursday is William Kentridge - a most wanted man from the standpoint of the visual arts.  He maybe one of the most interesting artists you will ever see here.  Wednesday at the Dryden Theatre for a showing of a documentary film at 8:00 pm, and Thursday at the University of Rochester.

Here is the link:

Friday, September 13, 2013

Art & Design

Wall therapist:
  St. Monci at work

If you have been engaged by the Wall/Therapy concept, and maybe took some time to go out and look over the products by these outdoor mural activists, you may have come in contact with St. Monci at work in a neighborhood near you.  This month of September, St. Monci comes inside for a showing at 1975 Gallery called "Adventures in Technicolor", and you will see the super-graphics of a colorist and neo-constructivist.

St. Monci: "Wonder Droid"

The little gems on view are mostly paint on paper, but the medium is only part of the game here.  The art can remind one of the Russian abstractionists Malevich and El Lissitzky who a century ago broke open the notion of the artist as suprematist, a kind of radical reductionist that brought art to a common denominator of shape and color.

photo courtesy of Hannah Betts
St. Monci installation at 1975 Gallery

The walls at 1975 Gallery are color coordinated inside to meet and match the smaller artworks framed for presentation.  While Wall/Therapy is big and brash outdoors, inside the gallery these precise abstractions are stimulating - I like to follow the paths of color and the overlaps of colors creating  spatial depth - many of these paintings employ an isometric perspective that makes these works of art look like architecture - once again, bringing the outside in.

Roger Remington,
   celebrated Graphic Design professor at R.I.T.

Roger Remington was showing slides - not to his class, though some were in attendance, but to a collected audience of peers and well-wishers gathered to celebrate Roger's 50 years of dedication to teaching graphic design at R.I.T.   Roger Remington has authored a stack of books on great designers of the modernist era - these are the figures that have created a look for publications, for corporations, and for the media that we have become so familiar with over the years.  It wasn't always thus.

Roger ushered in a wave of education that honors 20th century design history, and also seeks to collect the actual physical sketches, drawings and designs for the archive at The Vignelli Design Center on the campus of R.I.T.

One marvelous image Roger had on the screen above shows designer Massimo Vignelli looking at the building named in his honor that house his collection of artifacts, signs, furniture and much more.  Over the years I have spent as a designer and illustrator I worked on projects that were set in motion because of Vignelli's designs - so I could see the aesthetic in action and the effect it had - very logical, but very intuitive at the same time.

Roger Remington has made all the difference in the world - giving acknowledgement of design as a pursuit of high purpose - and aesthetic substance that helped us form our present culture, and something worthy of respect.  Roger ended his talk with a quote from John Steinbeck:

  " I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few of them as there are any other great artists.  Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit."

Saturday, September 7, 2013

First Friday, September 6th

Seeing:  Carl Chiarenza
  at Axom Gallery,
  and Spectrum Gallery at Lumiere Photo

I started off on my saunter through the Hungerford Building looking at art by Amy Vena and Sara Basher who share a studio overlooking the CSX railroad yard, while the halls of the building began to swell with visitors - it was First Friday Gallery Night - and there was much to look forward to...

Walking over the bridge on Goodman Street, I found a selection of recent paintings by Doug Coffey at the Arts and Cultural Council.  Doug Coffey once owned a gallery in the town of Pittsford and it was years ago that he had last exhibited a large group of his own artwork.  The paintings now on view through this month sometimes mimic the trompe-l'oeil painters of the past, but that is not all.  There are studied landscapes, a self portrait, and many realist compositions depicting corrugated cardboard boxes and a few black crows to animate the scene.

Frank Cost's
  "A Season of Festivals"

Down the block at Gallery r, Frank Cost has a unique showing - a series of panoramic photos printed on a roll of paper stretching around the gallery called "A Season of Festivals".  Frank's panoramas are composed by shooting separate "frames" and stitching them together using Photoshop to form a single wide angle image.  His plan seems to have worked, and we can visit scenes from festivals that begin in May with R.I.T.'s Imagine Festival, we can go inside the tents at The Lilac Festival, and end up in mid-September at the "Greentopia Festival".  I particularly liked the photo made in the later part of the day with the industrial background behind the Pont de Rennes pedestrian bridge - it offered lustrous details that give the gallery goer an idea of the celebrations that draw so many visitors to the Rochester region.

Here is a wonderful video that was posted recently showing the installation for Frank cost's show:

The photography of Carl Chiarenza is the subject of a two gallery presentation - so see both parts! - the first section at the Spectrum Gallery at Lumiere Photo, and the second section upstairs in the Axom Gallery.  This is a feast for the eyes and mind, and will reward prolonged viewing - to take in the textures and the scope of this art form.  The selection of prints on view at Spectrum Gallery reveals many sides to Carl Chiarenza's work.  I was drawn to the depth of the prints that have a look of lithographic plates and other more painterly materials not readily associated with photography.  All of these photos on view have a rich palette for black and white prints, some of which are in the form of triptychs.  The photos are taken of seemingly modest collage materials - torn papers, fabrics, cut ribbons of metal, etc. and they become through the hands of this master a much more engaging form of visual poetry.

Carl Chiarenza at Spectrum Gallery

At the Axom Gallery the show continues with large and medium size prints that can remind a viewer of Chinese landscape painting, or cubist art and maps of various kinds - whole ranges of topographical terrain hinted at in these beautifully produced prints - a wonder!

Downstairs I finish my gallery ramble in the studios of Steve Carpenter.  Viewing the latest products from a host of artists engaged in painting from the live figure model.   I think of how stimulating the evening has been, the wonderful conversations I have had -  and how much more there is yet to reveal...