Saturday, October 24, 2015

Proud Nation

G. Peter Jemison
( in deep blue with red headdress )
smiles with friends at the opening of 
Seneca Art & Culture Center

After years of development, with the help of public and private funding, we now have a new destination, the Seneca Art & Culture Center at Ganondagan in Victor, New York.  We made our way over to the new building on a grey day  in October to celebrate the opening of this large gallery devoted to telling the story of the Haudenosaunee cultures as they are today, and as they have evolved with other native people in this region over centuries.  There is a rich complex history told thru artifacts and personal testimony which promises to be a very important teaching tool for the young and old alike.

A diorama of the original settlement at Ganondagan

There was a very good turnout for the opening - and if you go - stop in to see the "Iroquois Creation Story" which is an animated short film and it will provide some orientation for you in regard to some major symbolic figures from Native American mythology.  This is a unique project from Ganondagan, Garth Fagan Dance, and R.I.T.'s School of Film & Animation, all spearheaded by G. Peter Jemison who is an ardent supporter and prime mover of the Seneca Art & Culture Center.

A cutaway model of the Longhouse
in the main exhibition gallery

G. Peter Jemison is a fine artist and he has promoted this idea of having a new building to house a collection which could be used to express the history of native peoples in upstate New York, and he has realized his wishes to put this institution on the map.  When you step into the exhibition area, you have a story that unfolds about the clans that the French called: "Iroquois".  You get a sense for what they needed to survive in a difficult time just after Europeans began to settle in what were then tribal lands.

Informative graphics on exhibition

The Seneca Art & Culture Center is a museum and gift shop, it is a meeting house, and an education center, there is an Auditorium, and all of this exists to promote understanding and respect for a shared history.  

There is also a wall devoted to a controversy that engaged popular attention over native American Lacrosse players traveling on native passports to attend a championship match in Europe, and the denial of their ability to play because their sovereign nation issued passports weren't recognized.

Recent skirmish for Lacrosse players
is documented here

A large section of the exhibition space is dedicated to a model of a Longhouse, and a visitor can go for a walk outside to see a real Longhouse with commanding views of the hills around Victor, New York.

You can get a real feel for the land around here, and for a first visit there is much to see and learn.  One is urged to read more about this place, and come back to see how they have truly realized this dream.

An important milestone is reached with the opening of the
Seneca Art & Culture Center

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Arcadia in Brooklyn

Lennart Anderson recent photo courtesy Huffington Post
at home in Brooklyn

Reading the notice that Lennart Anderson passed away yesterday has left me with a great sadness.  I followed his work from the time I was a kid after seeing his paintings in an art magazine.  He was an influential teacher at a time when everyone was gaga over abstract expressionism and then it took lots of guts and determination to paint as a perceptual realist.  In some ways Lennart continued in the spirit of Edwin Dickinson, and in fact Lennart kept a marvelous Dickinson painting in his living room when I would visit him in the 1980's.

Lennart Anderson portrait of Barbara S.

I interviewed him for the Prospect Press and he was very generous with his time and had me come upstairs to look over his studio where we had a chance to talk.  He was working on one of the big figure compositions that occupied him for years at a time.  His Arcadian bacchanals cling to the tradition of painting's golden years - that of Giorgione, Titian, Poussin and Veronese.  This is a tough act to follow, made even more difficult by our current skittishness, and lack of a central core of belief when it comes to Fine Art.

Painting in Lennart Anderson's studio when I visited

The passing of a painter like Lennart Anderson, not only makes me recall my past, but also calls into question where we are today, and how far afield mainstream art has moved in the past 30 years or so when I lived in Brooklyn and visited his Union Street home and studio.  Lennart said of his attempt to follow in the footsteps of Poussin, "The subject is not just classical, it is air, flesh, and sky; the stuff of great art.  I want people who stand in front of my paintings to feel joyful."

Saturday, October 10, 2015

All Hallows Eve

Here Lies 1975
89 Charlotte Street, Rochester, NY

Here Lies..1975... the gallery closes this chapter of its existence with this new show at 89 Charlotte Street across from what remains of the Inner Loop.  Erich Lehman and his guest artists celebrate the season with this summary show of modest sized artworks, and when I visited it toward the end of the first week, many of the pieces had been sold.  Erich was on the radio the day before talking with Evan Dawson and his guests about a quandary facing Rochester, which is sometimes referred to as Image City - this city steeped in the arts is having a difficult time finding people who can step up to support the visual artists who keep these traditions alive.

"So We Beat On" by Sarah Rutherford
was among the works sold from the 1975 Gallery show "Here Lies"

I am sure that Rochester is not alone in this predicament.  Rochester does have a very lively arts scene and there are more things on view on a regular basis than ever before, yet galleries close and their traffic ebbs and flows.  There is an appreciation for the arts, but it is fragmented.  Erich had a terrific idea with 1975 Gallery - to have a place that had a special eye towards garnering a young audience and the prices for pieces in the gallery reflected the fact that this younger demographic has less disposable income to spend on works of art.  His was a labor of love and devotion, and I am sure that it will prove to be an inspiration to others who share his vision.

It takes a while for the visual arts to sort out what will be valuable, and as the saying goes, " You don't miss your water, 'til the well runs dry".  With the Spectrum Gallery at Lumiere Photo now closed, and the Ock Hee Gallery in Honeoye Falls set to close in December, and with this closing of 1975, we are seeing a trend.  Will there be more traffic going to Anderson Alley, to the Memorial Art Gallery? to the Hungerford Building?  Probably.  But, how will artists survive in this new climate?

David Jung at The Mercer Gallery
Monroe Community College

Some galleries are operated under the auspices of the academic institutions, and I think of the University Gallery which is part of The Vignelli Center at R.I.T., and the Mercer Gallery at MCC.  The Mercer Gallery with the help of Kathy Farrell has been bringing a wide variety of visual arts to our community for almost thirty years, and this month the show is devoted to artworks by notable alumni
of MCC.

The high polish resin on birch plywood paintings by David Jung grab your attention and their method and subject matter recall advertising from forty years ago, as well as the wavy lines of a television monitor.  A toy giraffe is presented in each one of the encaustic paintings by Jack Hellaby, and I have to say that I am mystified by the painting with the hypodermic needles.  What are we to infer from this image?  Are toy giraffes an addiction?  Or an inoculation?  This alumni show is a bit of a curiosity cabinet especially with the selections by the artist Matte.

Matte  at Mercer Gallery on the campus of MCC

Keep an eye out for interesting shows at the venues like the Mercer Gallery, whose show of works by Alumni runs through to November 6, 2015.  It will be worth you while to go and see the art and support the galleries in any way you can.

Mercer Gallery at Monroe Community College

Saturday, October 3, 2015

No Ideas, but in Things

Cecily Culver 
at Gallery r
100 College Avenue, Rochester, New York

This came to mind when I was listening to Cecily Culver speak about her artwork, and it is a quote from the poet William Carlos Williams       ( No ideas, but in things ) and it sets in motion an appreciation of everyday objects seen through the discerning eyes of the artist.  These objects ( light bulbs, plastic bags, paper cups ) made in mass quantities become generic, taken for granted, and it takes the gaze of the artist to return to the object some individuality, some particular situation or esthetic context.  It is also an effort to deal with reality, in a heads-on fashion, to really notice what surrounds us, what awaits us, and what probably will be there in some form or another for the time being.

Cecily Culver's art includes sculptural work often seen together with a video component that places the object in a theatrical, but minimally invasive setting.  You are drawn to her work through curiosity, and through a willingness to put your past associations aside, and just deal with what she presents to us.  She treats her objects directly, and the effect is poetic, sometimes with a touch of melancholy.

The artist Cecily Culver
at her opening of "New Sense" at Gallery r

Speaking with the artist after her talk in the University Gallery at the Vignelli Center at R.I.T. I commented on how there were similar concerns in her art that she shared with the sculptor and video artist, Sterz Imrie, who was my neighbor for many years.  Cecily Culver helped take care of Sterz while he was recuperating from the effects of brain surgery, and I am sure she absorbed important lessons during that period of time while she was an undergraduate student in art at R.I.T.

"Warehouse Dance"  ( cast bronze, pipe, whiskers, motor and electronic components )

Now,  she has come back to Rochester to put on an exhibition of her recent sculpture, she has also earned her Master's degree, and won a prestigious prize from the Daedalus Foundation which allows her to spend a year in the New York City area practicing her art.

Balloon  (  cast aluminum, water, reflected light, TFT screen with digital video )

Taking a look around Gallery r on College Avenue in Rochester, we see the gallery space is very spare, and the audio elements from her work are hard to hear over the thrum of conversation.  People are looking around for the art - it just seems like there are just a few old bits of plastic piping and a metallic balloon; so we look at bit closer..

Cecily Culver presents her art at Gallery r

On the floor are some cast pieces of concrete, and what looks like a sewer drain with an old palm leaf stuck in the drain.  Then, the leaf moves back and forth and everything is still again.  This reminds me of a story from New York City where I grew up.  While I was still very young you could go and see the circus once a year, where they had for sale alligator eggs which you could buy and take home.  You watch as the baby alligator pops through the shell and gradually grow.  The parents, alarmed, wonder what to do with a growing alligator in the apartment and throw the creature down the toilet, where it ends up in the city sewer system, and who knows when it crawls back out of the drain to attack...

So, Cecily sets up dramatic encounters that may revolve around objects and physics ( sound and vibration ), reflection - images that bounce off of one another, and movement like the dancing antennas of a roach caught in a drain pipe.  All of this is deliberate and understated, so we are entering a mindset of contemplation, and wonder.  Anything that gets us to slow down a moment to notice that things are a bit different is a welcome attitude in a world of hype and spectacle.