Friday, August 30, 2013

Street Talkers

 Moondog, circa 1966

This is a short follow-up to my last posting.  Today, in the Friday,  New York Times there is a wonderful cross-section of street art found in and around New York City.  Since I grew up there I was aware of the risk these street artists faced.  Read about it and see the accompanying video at:

Monday, August 26, 2013

Kind of Street-ish

Kurt Ketchum
  painting at Rochester Contemporary Art Center

After stepping inside the exhibition "State of the City: Street-ish"
 I realized how difficult it is trying to put this subject into a box the size of a gallery.  It wants to BUST OUT!  So, Rochester Contemporary Art Center will present part of this new show outside during the coming Fringe Festival ( last week of September, 26-28th, 2013) in the form of a sound sculpture "Sun Boxes" by Craig Colorusso.

Street art began way before TAKI 183 ever put his tag up all around the five boroughs of NYC.  An artist I knew, Tehching Hsieh spent a year living out on the street with no visible means of support. I also remember a long running performance piece ( in the 1960's ) by the composer Moondog, who used Sixth Avenue as his stage - I frequently came across him acting like the door guard for the Carnegie Delicatessen - he even held the door for me - yet few people knew of his musical compositions then, - he was a real performance ( and endurance ) artist.

Moondog circa 1966

How bizarre and almost shocking to see Moondog dressed as a Viking there in all kinds of sweltering weather, rain and snow in mid-town Manhattan.  So it was no surprise coming across the kind of head gear that Irvin Climaco Morazan has invented for his part of the show here in Rochester.  I actually had to chuckle because it was part Pee Wee's Playhouse and part Chinese New Year, and I half expected fire crackers next....

It is difficult trying to sum up street art in one show of this size.  There are just too many artists of importance to my mind - but at least RoCo is giving it a try and has invested time and energy - introducing the public to what they may have already witnessed ( out on the street ).

Kurt Ketchum at RoCo

I enjoyed looking at the paintings of Kurt Ketchum, and the details looked great.  These are very stylish mid-sized paintings incorporating bits of typography and texture.  Ideas are re-cycled, and that is certainly the case with Karlos Carcamo's paintings and sculpture.  The "Hard Edge Paintings" -at least have pleasant color choices, but the concepts of a gesture over-layered with some solid blocks of color - this idea has been around the block more than once ( see Irene Rice Pereira for example )

Another example is the parody of Richard Tuttle - in this exhibition there is a shoe lace pinned to the wall - it re-enacts the gestures found in the neighboring painting.

Karlos Carcamo at RoCo

It may be that a problem I have with the street art as presented is that I have seen this all before, there is no new ground being broken here - it is all context - it is entertaining, OK, but it isn't going beyond documenting sociology for me.  What I could be looking at here, is a break from the strictures of the marketable art object against the backdrop of an artworld as I once knew it - to a more festive - radical view of the art experience - something that is more transitory and ephemeral - and that would be just like life on the street.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Effect of Photography on Abstract Painting

John Pfahl, 1993
  Bone Marrow Transplant Unit
  at The Albright Knox Art Gallery

A couple of weeks ago in Buffalo, I was reacquainted with some photographs that had a definite influence and impact on my painting concepts.  At The Albright Knox Art Gallery I came across, once again, some photographic prints that John Pfahl made in 1993.  Pfahl is known for his landscape images - photos made out of the proverbial window - that also reference landscape painting and art from the past.

At the Nina Freudenheim Gallery -in the early 1990's I came across these photos for the first time and they moved me.  These images were made when the photographer was in the hospital and I imagine that he had the time and circumstance to contemplate his life and there is something poignant about these simple semi-abstract images that he took with his camera through the blinds in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit.

Alan Singer,  "About Time"
   oil on linen, 1994

At the time I first saw his images, I didn't know that I was conciously looking for a way to move my painting forward, but I did relate to the imagery, and I soon found a way to use the slight diagonals in my paintings to great effect.  In John Pfahl's photos I liked the sense of palpable space just beyond the slats that beckon the viewer - a taste of freedom just beyond reach.

My respect for John Pfahl's work runs deep, and I think in general photography has had this effect on my painting over the years in a profound way.

Alan Singer,  "About Time Too"
   Pastel on paper,  1994

Monday, August 12, 2013

At Your Leisure

Main Street Arts
  20 West Main Street, Clifton Springs

Off exit 43 on the Thruway I came across a pretty town, Clifton Springs,  with a newly restored building housing a gallery called Main Street Arts that recently launched on its maiden voyage.  "Locality" is the title of its opening show with more than 30 artists participating on two floors.  This inviting space is airy, has good lighting and is being manned by a former R.I.T. graduate: Bradley Butler - who is also an exhibiting painter.

Lanna Pejovic
  at Main Street Arts

Putting a new gallery together from scratch in a town like Clifton Springs is a vote of affirmation in the life of the arts for this region, and while I was there I had a chance to see works by artists I know, like Lanna Pejovic and Kathy Calderwood, as well as many others I have not met before.  New life is coming to towns as people re-invest in their properties and in the arts which will stimulate tourism.

The Phelps Art Center

This weekend I was doing my part by spending some time in galleries and tasting some wines along the trail in the Finger Lakes.  Down the road a few miles I drove to the Phelps Art Center, where I found balloon constructions honoring Fragonard under construction by Airigami, and also the world's record holder for toothpick construction - towering skyscrapers of toothpick art (or is that obsession?).

Skyscrapers of toothpick art
            at Phelps Art Center

I frequently stop into see the Herbert F. Johnson Musuem on the Cornell University campus, and a new show has just opened that highlights the effect that Japanese art - specifically woodblock prints - has had on European and American design.  In a vitrine in the Johnson Museum show there is a set of the original woodblocks used by Hokusai, the world class Japanese artist from the 19th century, and you could see the direct ( and indirect ) influence that his work has had on artists like Arthur Wesley Dow ( the teacher of Georgia O'Keeffe ) and on designers like William Bradley.

Hokusai woodblock print
   at The Herbert F. Johnson Museum

Upstairs at The Johnson Museum is a picture window that looks out at the extent of Lake Cayuga in the distance, and there on the fifth  floor you are surrounded by Asian art of diverse kinds.  I was attracted to the architectural baskets, and ceramic art and calligraphy.  Downstairs, a wonderful sculpture by Giacometti dominates the European art galleries.

Alberto Giacometti,
  with Dubuffet and Leger in the background

On the way home I take a look at the waterfalls - Ithaca is Gorges after all.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Left For Buffalo

Robert Therrien  at
  The Albright Knox Art Gallery,  Buffalo, NY

Because of the kinds of art I produce, I can sometimes feel as if I am working on the moon - far away from the practical concerns of most people.  It then becomes important to dialog with other artists and to some extent gain some re-assurance that what I am doing has some strength and substance -  so I kind of compare my art to what I see on the walls of museums and galleries.

Another thing for me is that among contemporary artists on view, I actually know some of them in real life - and no, I don't put them on a pedestal - they are just working at what they do best!  There is some competition for bright ideas expressed in visual art and I want my stuff to be in that mix.

Robert Therrien's Card Table and Chairs

To check in with what is happening, I go down the pike to The Albright Knox Gallery in Buffalo, to see and get the feel of art by Robert Therrien, and also to look at another show of images from the Pop Art era.  Robert Therrien is not a household name but he is an artist whose work I have followed for MANY years.  Why?  Because of the awkward poetry of his forms, and in fact I have come closer to his work and understand it more than I once did - maybe because my art     ( as Therrien's work does ) deals so much with shapes that seem to grope for a new psychological space in which to exist.

Therrien's sculpture is interesting - especially when it sets you up for a change of perspective -  as his giant folding card table and set of chairs has the tendency to turn you into a two year old - looking up to the adults in the room.  If I had any criticism of this work - it would be that maybe his forms are too perfect.  You know the Rene Magritte painting of the giant green apple in a room - seems to squeeze out all available space - and Therrien sometimes has that muffling effect.

Nicholas Krushenick " Iron Butterfly", 1968 screen print suite

I grew up at a time when Abstract Expressionism had reached its peak and was challenged by the Pop Artists, and a number of them are on view in "Sweet Dreams Baby" The Life of Pop also at The Albright Knox.  Again, I am attracted to Krushenick's suite of screen prints, and I am also a fan of Roy Lichtenstein's sculptural translation of his cartoonish imagery.

Andy, Roy, and Andy

The Pop Artists challenge Kitsch on its own terms and sometimes go way over the line ( Mel Ramos ).

I hold Andy Warhol responsible in part for the celebrity worship that his paintings have come to represent - and in Buffalo I had a chance to compare Warhol's  Marilyn - with photos of said movie star across the street at The Burchfield Penney Center for the Arts.

Douglas Kirkland gets his shot, and heeerres Marilyn!!!!

Douglas Kirkland presents a photo session with Marilyn Monroe, and we get to see the behind-the-scenes activity - and artifice in the studio - you get an idea of just what it takes to get the pictures.  The Burchfield Penney Center moves ahead in all manners of artwork from photos, to prints, to paintings, to videos, and the art center  includes a life size recreation of Charles Burchfield's studio.

Xu Bing " A Case of Transference", 2005

While I was there I was also re-acquainted with the works of Andrew Topolski which I recommend, and some rather earthy images from Xu Bing.  There is of course some watercolors and drawings from Charles Burchfield, and I share his enthusiasms for giving the local scene some character and depth.

Charles Burchfield  "EarlySpring",  detail 1966-1967
watercolor and charcoal on paper

Now, I can leave Buffalo with some confidence, now I know I am on the right track.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

See Art Speak

Jeanne Raffer Beck
  award winner at
    The Arts & Cultural Council for Greater Rochester

At the Arts & Cultural Council gallery, artist Jeanne Raffer Beck has tales to tell.  Little phrases are silk screened onto many slips of fabric that flutter - set up in a large grid with one end attached and the rest free of restraint.  The result is a moving, shimmering pair of artworks that remind me of Jasper Johns alphabet paintings with a bit more fashion and flair.  Jeanne was one of the award recipients in the recently opened juried show for artist members of the Arts & Cultural Council for Greater Rochester.  Sarah Lentini, director of the Arts Council announced the award winners and welcomed  people who
attended the opening.

This showing of select artworks from the Rochester region attests to the health and viability of the visual arts community and also to the juror's tastes.  The jury consisted of two museum directors - Grant Holcomb from the Memorial Art Gallery, and Anna Tobin D'Ambrosio from the Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute, and one distinguished professor of design - Roger Remington from R.I.T.

Other awards were bestowed on artists Bill Keyser, and Shamira Nicholas.  The styles of artwork in this exhibition run from highly detailed natural subjects thru to the abstract - most of the art being two dimensional and a few sculptural works on pedestals.  I was happy to be selected for the show, and on either side of my little print - were artists who I knew from our graduate program in Fine Arts at R.I.T., - so we must be doing something right!

Juried Members Show at The Arts & Cultural Council gallery

Just down the block on College Avenue another opening is underway for Carol Acquilano. There at the Spectrum Gallery - we have a select group of paintings made over a period of three years, and a beautifully produced catalog "Sketchbook of Cortona" available for purchase.  Carol this past year ( 2012 ) created a print edition for the Memorial Art Gallery ( Patron Print ) as well as working there to prepare frames for the works going on exhibition at the museum.

Carol happily greeted visitors to her show, and when you see these medium sized works you will find that the color is very active, many of these paintings were made directly from the scene - as they say - en plein aire.  Carol's art is very buoyant and expressive, and speaks about where she has been and the impressions these places in Italy     ( and here in New York at Linwood Gardens ) have made on her.  As many artists have done before, Carol is attracted to the architecture in Italy, and the sense of history found in that country - and it begs to be painted..  Cortona is a feast for the eyes and the senses, and this is quite eloquently stated in Carol's paintings and watercolors now on view - so extend your summer - visit Cortona through the eyes of an engaged and engaging artist.

Carol Acquilano's paintings on view at Spectrum Gallery, Lumiere Photo