Saturday, July 27, 2013

Quality Shows

Gareth Fitzgerald Barry
  at AXOM Gallery, 
  176 Anderson Ave., Rochester

Several years ago I circulated a petition to get more coverage for the visual arts in our local newspaper. The D & C responded finally by devising a regular feature that allowed artists to submit a picture of their art and a short interview for publication.  They have since dropped this regular space but the coverage of the visual arts has improved a bit, especially for Wall/Therapy - which has caught the public's eye for the moment.

In the galleries this week there have been some noteworthy shows recently that have attracted attention, and one hopes that there will be buyers who will further stimulate this nascent art scene.  The arts are worth the investment here in Rochester and they make this town a better place in which to live  or visit,

Look around and see how strong the audience is for the visual arts.... At Rochester Contemporary during the annual 6 x 6 show over a third of more than 6000 works on display sold! - and that is unheard of...  Gallery goers can come out and investigate the young sculptor Gareth Fitzgerald Barry in his new show at AXOM Gallery called: "Pour Quality".  The funny title refers of course to the pouring of molten metal into forms - castings of which then get spruced up for exhibition.  Gareth Fitzgerald Barry is a recent graduate of R.I.T. and he has used his time wisely to create an engaging show that includes photos and found objects, castings and concrete.

"Sebby", steel and mirrored glass,  by
   Gareth Fitzgerald Barry

The lighting and staging for sculpture is all about space and the installation is beautiful.  A pair of cast shoes quietly occupies a corner while larger pieces loom.  I kept thinking of the phrase - "Put yourself in my shoes" while I looked around to another sculpture identified as "Sebby".  Talking with Gareth, he mentioned that the title refers to family members and this shed new light on the character of his work.  His art has a direct appeal and like a young David Smith - he has loads of potential.

Down to 100 College Avenue, at the student run Gallery r there is a wonderful exhibition that was spearheaded by Karen Sardisco ( of M.C.C ) and Tom Lightfoot ( of R.I.T.).  Their idea was to ask faculty from ten surrounding institutions of higher learning to lend some new artwork and create an ad hoc community.  The result is the "Regional Faculty Invitational" which just opened July 26th.  I was there a day early when A.E. Ted Aub was unpacking his plaster sculpture, and he said that, "I put sculpture back on its' pedestal".  He was referring to his figurative work "thUmbs dOwn" which does a headstand in the main gallery.

"thUmbs dOwn" by A.E.Ted Aub

At the opening you could catch up with artists from our local colleges, and these folks are a mainstay in our larger community - many of them professionals who have been working for years with budding talents - helping them towards realizing their vision.  If you are a prospective college student and you want to study fine arts, what better way to meet the people who will advise you along your path?

Karen Sardisco,
  helped curate the "Regional Faculty Invitational"

At Gallery r there is a rich mixture of sculpture and two dimensional art including some photography and some trends may stand out - one of them being humor- exhibited in A.E. Ted Aub's piece and other works as well.  A.E.Ted Aub teaches at Hobart and William Smith College along with Nick Ruth and Phillia Yi who are both represented in the show with recent prints that they have made.  The point of this show is all  about the diversity of media and materials that the faculty use and the way these media are employed for expressive purposes.

Athesia Benjamin of M.C.C.
   with a woodcut print by Phillia Yi

If you spent enough time inside, then you might want to find a map and visit the various sites where the Wall/Therapy sessions are underway.  I went out looking and there are some surprising exploits to be seen in person.  Having just come back from my visit in Los Angeles, I can attest to the fact that these urban murals can attract attention, maybe even become a destination... anyone in the Tourism Bureau

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Words and Deeds

The Visual Art Worker is a dialog about visual art.  I concentrate on galleries and museums in western New York, but this week we go much further west to Berkeley,  California to be exact.

University of California at Berkeley
Museum of Art

On the campus of UC Berkeley there is a wonderful museum, so let's go inside!  Unusual for an art museum - we are greeted by musical outbursts!  Today, a demonstration is being conducted for an audience of about a hundred children, to use their imagination to think up unique ways of making music and noise on common everyday household objects..

Away from this cacophony and up the stairs we found "Deities,Demons & Teachers", a showing of Tibetan and Nepalese arts going back to the 13th century.  Presiding over the ceremonies - a larger-than-life gold Shakyamuni Buddha sits, cross legged, in the act of attaining enlightenment and inner peace (just what we need these days!).

Gilt, bronze, Tibetan 14th century

I don't know that finding inner peace was any easier in 14th century Tibet than it is today.  The art of Tibetan Buddhism is not afraid of ritualized emotions, or the acting out of various characters in the hopes that people can identify with the agency of human interaction and practice mindfulness and compassion.

Wrathful Deities of Bardo, Tibetan - 18th century
color, pigments on cloth

The demons were also out in full force, and these very detailed paintings ( tankas ) serve as a visual reminder to not transgress or else!  In a side room a dancing Devi attracts my attention, she is all voluptuousness and movement.  Meanwhile across the room stands Lokesvara, a lord of wealth under a tree of jewels and playful monkeys.

Nepal, 19th century, Gilt, Bronze

Down the corridor, an exhibition of figurative art titled "A Ballet of Heads" attracts your eye with a strategy to effect the emotional stability of the viewer.  From the School of Lucas Cranach, we see a portrait of Lucretia who is about to take her own life - as a result of her being violated, and next to that is a painting of Judith with a sword and the head of Holofernes...  Elsewhere are theatrical studies by Rubens, and the American artists Marsden Hartley and Romare Bearden.  A late Philip Guston honks at you - a funky cartoon automobile filled with hooded Klansmen picks a trail toward mayhem in an urban setting. 

Along the next incline is a gallery filled with sensuous color in the abstractions of Hans Hofmann.
During the 20th century, Hofmann was among the most influential teachers of painting and drawing, and artists flocked to hear him speak, and take his classes in Provincetown and on eighth street in Greenwich Village.  Many of my teachers were students in the Hofmann School and so I feel a strong relationship to this artwork.

Hans Hofmann, 1960  "Goliath"
oil on canvas

Hans Hofmann had to flee his native Germany, and the school he had there during World War ll and initially he was teaching a summer session at Berkeley, this was back in 1940.  "Rectangles" is the title for the show we were looking at in the museum, and three paintings stood out for me:  "Goliath " from 1960,  "Sanctum Sanctorum" from 1962,  and "Equinox" from 1958.  I took extra time to look over the surfaces of these paintings which have held up remarkably well over a half century - this art has staying power!

Finally,  if you want to have fun, seeing this short video brings Rembrandt to life:

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Finger Lakes

In a matter of a few days on a summer weekend some interesting exhibitions and a new gallery have opened - now isn't that a show of optimism and affirmation in the face of all the news of the week?

Bradley Butler, an R.I.T. graduate student has gone on to be the director of a new gallery in Clifton Springs called Main Street Arts.  The newly renovated space promises to be a lively spot with a big group show that opened Saturday, July 13th.  Check out their little promo video for the show titled "Locality".

Join the Print Club of Rochester, today!

On Sunday afternoon, I was in the auditorium of the Memorial Art Gallery, giving an illustrated talk about The Print Club of Rochester, a non-profit group dedicated to fine art printmaking.  A nice cool place to be on a hot afternoon, we had a good time talking about prints and the process of making them and then I went on a run through the 64th Finger Lakes Exhibition.

Sometimes with a juried show you can get a sense of the Juror's aesthetic inclinations - but not on this occasion.  I was glad that one of my current students - Joseph Tarantelli had a print accepted into this show, and there were certainly many people in the main gallery whose work is familiar to me.  But I think that the selections were all over the map so hanging this show must have been very engaging.

David Dorsey

Earlier this year, I had the chance to see a  detailed painting of a skull by David Dorsey at The Oxford Gallery in a show I reviewed from the spring titled " The Four Humors".  It was good to see this painting and more works from this artist.  Among other people whose work I have followed and reviewed - a shimmering abstraction near the entrance to this show -from Jeanne Beck was very attractive.

Jeanne Beck

Stephen Merritt has a ceramic construction that is very bold and Asian in its stance and statement.  For a bit of poetry try the artist's books of Sue Huggins Leopard - just taking the time to slow down and enjoy this tableau - I think you will agree is very soothing.

Dewey Fladd has a series of black and white mug shots ( in a grid of nine images ) that reminds one of Chuck Close, and there are are some wonderful three dimensional works in this  juried show worth a mention.

Lee Hoag

Sculpture and found objects are put together in an assemblage by Lee Hoag that looks like a tool for Goliath.Something about this object and its cousin on the next pedestal that I found interesting in its' shiny simplicity.

There is much more to this show - paintings, photos, sculpture, and collage - something for every taste. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Frack Less

Gloria Betlem, pastel
  "Canadice Spring"  at St. John Fisher College

Like a canary in the proverbial coal mine, Gloria Betlem describes herself being diagnosed in the late 1990's with acute reactions to pesticides, solvents and other chemicals.  This can prove to be difficult for an artist who uses paints and thinners as a painter or printmaker -  and so one has to alter their practice and keep in mind the strictures put in place because of health concerns.  It is also this sensitivity that makes one more aware of dangers in the environment - and dangers to the environment - and once again if you are an artist - this could become the theme of your artwork.

"The Finger Lakes: Above and Below" is the result - a show of primarily pastel paintings and mixed media that highlights the beauty of the Finger Lakes region, and at the same time their vulnerability in the face of natural gas exploration and exploitation.  An interesting tableau - a map really - to the individual lakes as seen from above - is juxtaposed with a view below ground that features the famous shale formations in which natural gas is found - this is all part of a new exhibition that just opened July 10th in the Patricia Ross Art Gallery in the Joseph S. Skalny Welcome Center at St. John Fisher College.

Small and medium size pastel paintings from the past seven years have brought Gloria Betlem, who is a teacher and graduate of R.I.T., some notoriety - especially since people are waking up to the fact that their environment may be changed irrevocably if the petroleum industry gets their wish.  Look at this art, and then look around you - this art heightens our awareness of what could be lost, and for that reminder Gloria deserves our thanks.

In another part of town, on West Main Street, in the historic Susan B.Anthony district, my colleague Luvon Sheppard has re-opened the Joy Gallery and I look forward to seeing the shows at this new location.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Painting is Alive and Well

Ryan Bubnis
  paintings  at  Gallery 1975

As one show departs the other one begins, and this is to say that PAINTING is alive and well in Rochester galleries this summer.  In the Gallery 1975 this past Sunday, I looked over the work of two artists who developed a concept for an exhibition with a limited choice of colors ( Black and Blue ).  Their show included paintings and collage and there were several interesting aspects, the first of which is their collaboration.  I am seeing much more of this kind of cooperative effort among pairs of artists ( in this case Lucas Irwin and Ryan Bubnis ), and even collectives that are challenging our ideas of authorship and seemingly also challenge the art world and its structures of commerce.

'Black and Blue" sounds a bit down for the title of a show, but it is accurate to the artwork chosen for display.  The painted abstractions by Lucas Irwin have a strong design sense and they work well as a group on the walls of this gallery.  The paintings are very linear- playing with our sense of depth perception - and this is also part of the charm of Ryan Bubnis' artwork which has a faux naif quality.  I enjoyed the ensemble of decorated objects on a little shelf, and his (#48) "Black and Blue Landscape".

Belinda Bryce
   paintings at Gallery r

A few blocks away, at 100 College Avenue, the invitational show "New Work" will open this week at Gallery r.  Five artists associated with R.I.T. are showing selected recent paintings in this handsome student run gallery.  The show is open through July 20, 2013, so go and check out the artwork.  Belinda Bryce has a new set of larger scale paintings ( for her ) with some refreshing textures and patterns to create a visual dialog amongst themselves.  Texture and wordplay is on view in the paintings of Elizabeth Coyne and her paintings share a palette of subdued color with another one of the artists in the show: Bradley Butler.  Mr. Butler has an impressionist/expressionist message to offer about atmospheres and landscapes that are just far enough away to be out-of-focus, so they hang on the wall and vibrate ever-so-slightly.

Bradley Butler
  paintings at Gallery r

Jose  Enrique Portas has studied painting at R.I.T., but he also brings over from his native Spain a love of the surreal and a knowledge of the local landscape of the mind.  Some of his figurative pieces involve a test of the integrity of the body - so one can identify with their vulnerabilities.  Vincent Massaro rounds out the cast of characters at Gallery r, with his framed small scale works that could be studies for sculptures - like a pile of legos that want to be manipulated into a larger form - except they are all in a painted place.

Summer flowers outside Gallery 1975