Thursday, May 30, 2013

I Care at Bausch + Lomb

On a recent bumper sticker it said "Artwork Is Work!" and I couldn't agree more..

Trying to dig into the summer and spend some time in my studio, it is good to know that there are people out there who will appreciate the results.  Having a place to show this art to the public is the major follow-through for the artist - trying to make that all important connection with a viewer. Otherwise you could feel like the man-on-the-moon.

At the Bausch + Lomb Building in downtown Rochester, the Geisel Gallery offers a wonderful place to exhibit artwork and welcome the public.  Bausch + Lomb is responsible for the support of the galleries and this is a very rare thing to find in this city.  The recent news that a Canadian firm has purchased Bausch + Lomb throws this into high relief - will the new parent see this gallery as an asset or just another expense to be dispensed with?

Jean Geisel in the gallery
  that bears her name.  
  Painting by Paul Garland

Jean Geisel has the vision and the administrative capacity to make this gallery space work and for that she deserves some applause and recognition.  At the moment she has selected a show of art by the painter Paul Garland (who has over forty years of experience as a creative professional).  Last year I saw many small works by Paul Garland at The Axom Gallery, so this is a nice follow-up.  I should also mention that The Axom Gallery is currently having a retrospective showing of abstract art by Paul Garland from the 1980's and both of these shows will continue until June 22, 2013

Paul Garland's show at Bausch + Lomb is called "Confluence" which is an apt title since many of the paintings on view at the Geisel Gallery join landscape imagery with abstraction, and these elements will sometimes mingle in the paintings but they often occupy their own different visual territory - imagine a leaf form in the middle of a Josef Albers painting - square within a square.  Paul Garland's art is one of juxtaposition in his paintings which he calls "Junctures".  In one painting ("Understatement")  a suave gesture - a colorful brushstroke - might comment on a more illustrative rendering of a tree, or the rushing water of a stream might be placed over a geometric diagram that really defines the word "confluence" in purely visual terms.

"Understatement" by Paul Garland

There is a certain poetic bent to Paul Garlands work if not his titles:  going counter-clock-wise around the show, I took note of the titles: EASE, Urgency, I Have Seen It, Prior To, Understatement, Sure But,  Most Of, And Now, Somewhat, Looking Ahead, In Accord,  Each,  Tandem,  That's All, Think About It, So,  Just That,  Factors,  A Sense Of,  Straight Forward,  Close.

You can read the paintings too:  gestures float in clouds of color, sometimes anchors of geometry press their case, other times it is all mixed up.  The paintings are sometimes decorative, sometimes somber, but always they are about color and a lively dialog with nature, human and otherwise.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Good Humor

"Melancholy Mind Map"
   oil on canvas by Doug Whitfield
   at The Oxford Gallery

Walk downstairs to The Oxford Gallery to see the exhibition now on display ( this show ends June 1st).

"The Four Humors" is the premise and title for the show and it is based on ancient theories by early practitioners that link temperament with bodily fluids.  The "humors" are also linked to the Four Seasons, so that Spring is matched with Air and Blood ( hence the title Sanguine); Summer is linked with Yellow Bile and Fire ( under the rubric: Choleric); Autumn is linked to Earth and Black Bile ( certainly Melancholic), and Winter is defined by Phlegm and Water, and indeed it is truly Phlegmatic!

People were said to have a temperament associated with one or more of the humors, and you can find descriptions  in writers like Emerson that call upon these kinds of dispositions in prose and poetry.  Of course there were medical procedures to bleed a patient to address an imbalance, and only with the onset of modern medicine do we begin to see changes in the approach to social and physical well-being that we value today.

So, it is a throwback to have artists address the notion of "The Four Humors" - but that was the challenge raised by Jim Hall, the owner and director of The Oxford Gallery.  Over fifty artists responded with a diverse range of images ( most but not all paintings ) and within this group there is a great diversity of approach, material, size and color.

Archival print by Cynthia Beth Rubin

Four vultures by Ray Easton greet you at the entrance on the right - but don't worry there is still time to see the show (but these big birds do look hungrily back at you!) and there are many interesting approaches to the humors - although not every artist composes with all four humors in mind.  There are some big paintings here by Thomas Insalaco ( reflections in a store window with male and female mannequins ) and also Doug Whitfield ( see above - Melancholy Mind Map ) as well as medium size works like "Humor Squared" by Todd Chalk and even miniature sized artwork like the collage by Barbara Page called "Doctor Root's Garden".

Some of the interesting works include digital prints like "Medieval Plankton and the Four Humors" by Cynthia Beth Rubin, and a strong solid yellow sculpture by Bill Keyser titled "Flying Down to Rio" and a wonderfully cool rendition of " High Falls After Blizzard" by Phyllis Bryce Ely.

So, check out this show before it is gone, - go humor yourself!

"High Falls After Blizzard"
oil on linen
by Phyllis Bryce Ely

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Applied Mathematics

"Fact or Fiction?"
   art by Alan Singer at The Little Theatre Cafe Gallery

I am taking a moment to write about some new artwork on view at The Little Theatre.  This gallery space is in the cafe of the famous movie theatre complex in Rochester which was conceived of by the artist and construction man Peter Monacelli, and it is now a curated space by Kathy Farrell from The Mercer Gallery at MCC.  Both of these individuals have had a lasting effect on the visual arts of this city, and they are true advocates for the arts, helping many people along the way; they deserve recognition for the roles they have played.  Along these lines I would also like to recognize the work that Sally Wood Winslow has done over the years at The Center for High Falls, and the gallery she directed for so many years - a local resource for artists of the region - now slated to be closed!

And back at The Little, I have had many chances to observe the art shows in the cafe gallery, and while it may not be the best of circumstances to see artwork, it has the advantage of being a place where people congregate - so it is not so bad to expose your artwork to a public that might not go off to a gallery as their first choice in entertainment.

My show is called "Fact or Fiction?" - it is hanging in the gallery until May, 24th.  Many of the pieces in this show are watercolors that I have made en plein air,  and the rest are prints that I make in my studio - and it is these prints which I want to say something about.  They are transfer prints - and this is a method that I stumbled upon by accident - part hand made, and part digital.  My images are derived from applied mathematics.  The major software that I work with (Photoshop or Illustrator) on the computer enforces this approach.  The methods are driven by data - with Photoshop it is a grid or raster, and with Illustrator it is a vector or a measurement from point A to point B.  There is also a three dimensional function which plots curves on a three dimensional graph.

When you think of mathematics and forms, you mostly think of the kinds of geometry you learned in school.  There are the standard or primitive forms like the sphere, the cube, the pyramid and so on.  I go ahead and invent my own forms by writing equations and have my computer map out the results, which then can be tweaked.  This can be very addictive - inventing forms just to see what you can get.  There is a whole range of dimensional forms which are new to art - especially my art.  So, it is not that I go out of my way to make my art surreal, it is just that I am in the midst of discovering shapes that didn't exist before, and putting them into a more natural "context".

Below is another example of a print, now on view at The Oxford Gallery as part of the show "The Four Humors", through June 1, 2013.

"In Circulation"
  transfer monoprint by Alan Singer
  at The Oxford Gallery, Rochester, NY

Monday, May 6, 2013

Materialism or Immaterialism?

Axom Gallery
  presents art by Henry Avignon

Immaterialism is a metaphysical doctrine that denies the existence of matter and it might call into question our appreciation of art - what are we seeing?  Maybe everything is sheer energy, and what we experience are vibrations - a cosmic chord structure with which we resonate?  We need a physicist to shake out the distinctions here, or should we just relax and enjoy the art?

But hold on - the art gets us to question what we are seeing, and how we feel after what we have seen.. What is the lasting impression?  Standing in front of the art at Axom Gallery, we find a suite of prints as a memorial to those whose lives were lost at Newtown, CT a few months ago.  This show by the artist Henry Avignon is very eloquent, and has the healing capacity that time and color can bring to those who seek it out.

Is it ironic that great heat has shaped what we are seeing in this art?  The act of galvanization -  applications of a torch to plates of copper - bring out a variety of colors and also forms that seem to appear and recede as part of the process.  That process is documented by making photo captures of the surface of the copper plates and then reproducing those images - and this series of prints is the result.

The copper plates continue to oxidize and gradually turn a greenish brown, and are not part of the show except as the momentary image - a canvas on the way through some major changes - just like life.

Henry Avignon
    with the Newtown Collection - A Gift of Hope

This spring there is a lot to see, and not all shows get this kind of recognition, but Henry Avignon's artwork found on a front page story in the Democrat & Chronicle brought out many people who might not seek out contemporary art otherwise.

So if you continue to look for subtle inspiring artwork, go off to the LBJ Building on the campus of R.I.T. - and into the Dyer Art Center, walk up the circular stair and visit "Satori" .  Fahan "Sky" Mcdonagh is the artist, and the afternoon I visited this show my eye was caught by the wall work - a glass drawing - where fine rods of glass have been shaped ( once again with heat ) and suspended in front of a white plane.  The lighting creates slanted shadows which help create the drawing - so unusual!  All the art in this show was influenced by natural forces and seems to have an autumnal character ( maybe it is the dry leaves on the floor piece that make that lasting impression).

Artwork by Fahan "Sky" Mcdonagh
   at the Dyer Art Center, R.I.T.