Friday, October 31, 2014

Keep In MInd

" See For Yourself "
"My Visual Life" in paintings and prints by Alan Singer
The Spectrum Gallery in Lumiere Photo
100 College Avenue, Rochester, New York

I frequently write about artwork I have seen ( a result of the many invitations I get to go see gallery shows ) and then sometimes I write about my own progress in the field.  Think of it - we as a people have come a long way - from the cave painters thousands of years ago to the digital realm today - and all of this art making activity is a form of communication involving image making.

Maybe we lose sight of the reasons for the art to exist in the first place - and it is not because it fits nicely over the couch, or will sell for a million bucks someday.  The art we make comes from an exploration of our personal visual space, and there is always some element of our art that tends towards the self-portrait, even if the art is abstract - the challenge is to "read" the image, whether it is the artist's intent or not.

The paintings and prints in my new show, which opens the first Friday of November ( 7th ), 2014 at the Spectrum Gallery in Rochester, are influenced by mathematics - and this art would not exist if it were not for that ubiquitous tool, the computer.

"The Odd Man Out" monoprint by Alan Singer

My art might have been different, if I had not come to teach at a school for technology ( R.I.T. ).  But I don't look back, I go forward, and part of this movement is working with the tools at my disposal.
Years back, when I made all of my work by hand, I wanted certain shapes  that a computer could help me draw quickly and accurately.  Once you use a tool as complex as a computer, you need to stay with it ( as with any other technique ) to understand and realize the potential it may have to offer.

Our lives are shaped in part by our culture and at this point things move fast, and making art gets us to slow down a bit.  Painting is a slow sport, and like the slow food movement it is much more nourishing in many ways.  But, I don't always have time for the lengthy process of painting, and yet I still need my creative playtime, and now I often opt to spend my energy at the computer.  I know I am not alone in that.

I will sign books with Anne C. Coon
at The Spectrum Gallery
November 13th, 2014

My artwork began to change because the computer as a tool allowed me to do things I couldn't have dreamed of before.  The digital realm is really an application of mathematics, and so I began to investigate properties of geometry, especially after I found a site called "The Geometry Junkyard".

So a door has opened, and I walk right through and the art that you will see in this new show is the result of a few years of intense focus and exploration.  I really look forward to the new things I can discover and bring into my art, and now you can see for yourself.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Buffalo Shuffle

Charles Burchfield
"Wind Blown Asters", watercolor, 1951
The Burchfield Penney Art Center
Buffalo, New York

Today, I travel west down the Thruway to Buffalo to see what I can see, and also do some work for my school at R.I.T.  I want to start out early and get to the Burchfield Penney Art Center to look at the shows - then walk over to the Albright Knox Art Gallery since I promised that I would represent the School of Art in the search for young talent.  Maybe I will see a friend, the Director of the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Anthony Bannon, but sadly, he is out of town.

Down on their main floor, there is some construction going on, I think they are creating a replica of a barge found on the Erie Canal - anyway there is a lot of hammering and sawing, so I am not going to stay too long.  On the ground floor there is an intimate show of "Burchfield's Botanicals" - something right up my alley.  I was hoping for some of his sunflower compositions but I found a large watercolor of some fanciful asters in the wind.  Burchfield may have spun some wonderfully gothic tales in the paintings that he made, so I was surprised to see the delicate botanical portraits on view in this select show.  Also included were some samples of his wall paper designs which echo the art nouveau styles that the culture was just taking leave of when these were made in the early 20th century.  Pattern design is part of the Burchfield story, but my sense is that we hold him in higher regard for his large scale watercolors that represent times of the year ( like "Retreat of Winter" ) - and he even goes so far as to try to represent the sounds of the meadows and fields that he loved so much.

Photographer Marion Faller in collaboration with Hollis Frampton
captures a falling watermelon

Just opposite the Burchfield Botanicals ( now until November 9th ), there is a large retrospective of the photographs of Marion Faller          ( 1941-2014 ) and the show is titled: "Inquisitive Lens".  Along the first wall I found some structurally cinematic black and white photos that she made in collaboration with one of my old teachers from Cooper Union, the esteemed art film maker, Hollis Frampton ( Marion Faller's husband ).  This brings back memories of the years I spent studying film and the work of artists like Ernie Gehr, Paul Sharits and Frampton himself.

Marion Faller " Road to Oklahoma "
Collage of color copies, 1979

Marion Faller's photos in the show are mostly in color and they celebrate the American scene, a whole wall of photos document food signs.  Another part of the show featured her collages of color Xerox copies pieced together like an American quilt.  I especially liked her " Road to Oklahoma " from 1979 pictured above.  I had seen these works when they were relatively new in a show in New York City, but I can't remember the gallery now.  I read that she attended the Visual Studies Workshop ( in Rochester ) where she no doubt studied with Nathan Lyons, and she also had a credit from the University of Buffalo.

Cambodian artist Sopheap Pich
"Cycle", 2011

After a walk across the street to the Albright Knox Art Gallery I found a dynamic construction made out of bamboo reeds, wire and glue that has an almost mathematical perfection that attracted me.  The artist is Sopheap Pich, the work is called "Cycle" and it is BIG.

Clyfford Still "October" 1950

The Albright Knox has a new hanging of Clyfford Still's paintings that gives them a different space to live and breathe in, and there was a special showing of works by Lucas Samaras.  I am constantly reminded when I am in the Albright Knox that they have a very active program that highlights new artists and new acquisitions and the visit to the gallery is always rewarding.

Tacita Dean "The Friars Doodle" 

Down a dark hall you can also stop and see a black and white film from Tacita Dean one of my favorite artists working today.  Her film is called "The Friars Doodle " and it is a minute - inch-by-inch cinematic study of a black ink drawing that takes in every cursive movement of the hand, and every recurve reminds me of a dream, or a regret, or a furtive emotion that I have felt....what else can I say?

Paul Feeley retrospective

Upstairs, at the Albright Knox, there is a retrospective for the painter Paul Feeley ( 1910 - 1966 )
and these big colorful abstractions edge towards and away from a minimalist position, strong in color and design -from the early 1950's through the early 1960's - and they leave a lasting impression.
While I was taking notes about Paul Feeley, I met the new Director of the Albright Knox - who I nearly bumped into - Dr. Janne Siren, who smiled, shook my hand, and was pleased that someone was paying so much attention to the art!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Golden Years

Artist Richard Scarry
The Memorial Art Gallery
in the exhbition
Golden Legacy

At the Memorial Art Gallery I went around to look at the new show with docent Margaret Cochran.

We went to see the children's book illustrations from Golden Books, which has been a mainstay in America from the 1940's onward.    I had an intimate view of the show ( and the artwork is all small scale so you have to get in close to appreciate what the artists have accomplished ).

Golden Book of Birds ( not in this show ) by Arthur Singer

As I said to Margaret, I grew up with Golden Books - in part because my father, Arthur Singer, was under contract as a book illustrator with Golden which was associated with Simon & Schuster
and the company was later absorbed into Western Printing and Publishing.  The people that started the company included Georges Duplaix, and Albert R. Leventhal with editor Lucille Ogle.

Artist Tibor Gergely's " The Great Big Fire Engine Book

I later worked with Albert Leventhal and Lucille Ogle, when they went out on their own to establish Vineyard Books.  My book ( which put me through Graduate School at Cornell University ) was called "The Total Book of House Plants" and I diligently worked on the art until it was published in 1975.  Lucille Ogle was a visionary and it was largely due to her energies that the Little Golden Book came into existence, and her company prospered.  Over their lifetime, the authors, illustrators and company people associated with Golden sold over 500 million books ( and artist Richard Scarry alone sold over a hundred million copies of his books!  Not too shabby! ) My father, Arthur Singer, published a number of books with Golden, and was an art director there for a while during the 1960's.  His books were more oriented towards science - with birds and animals -  and they sold well also.

Artist Gustaf Tengren
illustrations for " The Lion's Paw " (1959 )

So, what was the secret to their success?  A clearly written short story, engaging realistic illustration, beautiful color printing, and a very low price.  In short, this is the kind of book that has mass appeal, and the books were carried by every bookstore that had a children's section - and every library and school across the country.

I also had a chance over the years to meet some of the illustrators who published under the Golden logo.  The art on view in the Memorial Art Gallery does give a visitor a sense of middle America in the 1950's - 1970's and beyond.  The Golden Books franchise changed hands over the years, as many institutions do and was gradually sold off in pieces and a lot of the artwork for their books was lost ( I heard a rumor that most of it was put in a dumpster - can you imagine that!? ).  In any case I am glad that someone had the foresight to save the art that we see - some of these pages bring back bright memories from childhood, and what could be better?

Japanese wood block artist Yoshitoshi

Down the hall at the Memorial Art Gallery, you can find in the little Lockhart Gallery a beautiful selection of prints from the 19th century artist Yoshitoshi.  If you like printmaking and you like arcane drama, don't miss this opportunity to see this portfolio of great prints by a real master.  Just take a look at the blind embossing that creates a texture on what this fellow is wearing - these prints are the forerunner of the manga - full of operatic sci-fi....

Also check out the Infinity boxes, just stick your head in and have a look around..  A Coney-Island of the mind..  Have Fun!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Shop One

William "Bill" Keyser's  "Fowl'
The Bevier Gallery
Rochester Institute of Technology

"Shop One", and exhibition open from October 17 thru November 8th, 2014

At the top of their craft, the artists presenting at Shop One in mid-20th century, represent the germination of a seed that was to spread far and wide on the strength of their individual yet collective vision.  Shop One was a location - a destination really - but more than that it was an oasis where the utilitarian met on equal terms with the aesthetic and formal qualities of modern art.  Upstate New York had deep traditions of Roycrofters, the Oneida silversmiths, and glass from Corning, but all these handmade artifacts were more aligned with commercial and industrial design for utilitarian wares that also happened to look good.  The Shop One folks in some ways were idealists, and they believed they had a mission to elevate the craft traditions, move them into the modern era, and take on a leadership role in American art.

Silver service, by John Prip

Back in the early 1950's when Shop One had its beginnings, Americans were just starting to feel a new wave of prosperity, and the building of massive numbers of new homes opened up many possibilities for beautiful objects to be collected and integrated into new households.  People began hunting for the unique object, and at the ready were artists like Tage Frid, Ronald Pearson, John Prip and the other founders of Shop One - a new kind of emporium.  There weren't many other galleries of this sort in the country - it was a cooperative effort to bring forth new designs, hand made works in wood, ceramics, and silver, tables and chairs, jewelry and metalwork of all kinds, plain and fancy.

"Firebird",  2013, gilded fiberglass
by Wendell Castle

In the exhibition that has just opened at the Bevier Gallery, the curators - Wendy Marks and Betsy Murkett - should be justly proud.  This show of over eighty objects would really justify a museum enlarging on their concept and introduce the wider public to this vein of gold founded right here in our neighborhood.  That R.I.T. should host this exhibition is the right thing to do as we are standing only a few feet away from the studios of the School for American Craft, on this Henrietta campus.

Albert Paley in the exhibition for Shop One
Stainless Steel, wood and copper

At the end of World War ll, after many people had fled from Nazi Germany and set on new paths here in America, there was a blossoming of spirit and culture that led to the creation of places like Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina.  Artists like Frans Wildenhain brought to our shores great skills from schools like the Bauhaus and all this new energy coalesced into making new objects that extended modernism deep into the craft traditions.   These artists were risk takers who had a vision of what could happen with the right materials and the time to pursue a dream.

Tarrant Clements  and  Kurt Feurerherm

When you visit this show at the Bevier Gallery, it is like opening a dictionary on the state of American craft. From the early 1950's through 1976 Shop One offered innovations in American craft, and modeled itself on the success of America House, in New York City.  Gorgeous silver work is there, many ways of working with metals, wood, ceramics and so much more it is thrilling!

Go SEE this show!

Shop One at Bevier Gallery, Booth Building 7a
Rochester Institute of Technology
through November 8, 2014

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Ted Talks 2 Me

Objets Irreal
sculpture by
A.E. Ted Aub
Nazareth College Arts Center Gallery

This is a conversation that I like to come back to and pick up where I left off.  Art is a dialog with those who are present ( to engage an audience ), and Art also gives a hint towards the future ( if you can read the subtext ).  Artists! - owe a debt to the past and sometimes consciously maintain ties with art history; social history, and much more.

Ted Aub is one of those artists who delights in the family resemblance of his sculpture with the work of the past, and as I mentioned to him at his opening ( and he agreed ) his pieces have a real correlation to the figurative art of Elie Nadelman.

art by Elie Nadelman

There are also popular cultural artifacts to contend with here and Ted Aub does not demure.  Bobble-heads and toys of the past come to mind, as does the Laurel and Hardy presence of Ted Aub's most recent creations: the two large works titled: "More is Less" and "Less is More" in the center of his new show which opened at Nazareth College this past Friday ( Friday, October 3 - thru October 31).  Both of these figures could rotate and wobble on their curvy bottoms ( but they are secure in one place for this show ).  It is not a coincidence that Ted Aub talked about enjoying the Jeff Koons show in the Whitney Museum in Manhattan.  The two artists share some similar concerns, and a certain irony.

A.E. Ted Aub talks with visitors

Somehow Ted Aub's portraits have a bit of the New Yorker Magazine character in them, and a lot of Brancusi.  Just take a look at the hand made pedestal in "Thumbs Down" - isn't that a quote from "The Endless Column"?  And what about the heads?  Some of the shock of those little heads by Brancusi echo in the sculpture of Ted Aub - but then there is the disarming title: "Dammit I'm Mad"

art by Brancusi

Other figures in this show titled "Objets Irreal" are deliberately off balance -and on their topsy-turvy way to another state entirely.  I am also struck by chords that harmonize with some Art Deco concerns that inform some of the stylizations here as in the black head of a women titled: " Muse euM. She greets you at the door, and she is a dark bronze that can look from a distance like the letter C.

Muse eu
bronze, 2004
A.E. Ted Aub

Around the corner from the sculpture gallery with Ted Aub is a show of paintings by Michael Bogin.

This presentation is in the Colacino Gallelry until October 18th, so you only have a week or so to catch up with it.  This suite of paintings on paper is titled: "Galapagos" and while they are all abstracts they celebrate these Pacific Islands with shimmering color and what appear as glints of light as if your glance was bouncing off water.

painting by Michael Bogin in "Galapagos"
at Colacino Gallery
Nazareth College