Saturday, December 26, 2015

Stepping Out

Emily Bellinger and company
"The Big Picture"
Rochester Contemporary Art Center

Looking towards the year end festivities, for the moment it is quiet here and I can reflect on the year just past.  The pace of life is fast, so it is great to have a moment to recall noteworthy events, and the people who made things happen, and be thankful to be alive on this planet - even with all the really difficult things going on in the world.

I lost a close friend and colleague when Keith Howard passed away suddenly, early this year.  Two art galleries that I frequented ( 1975 , and Ock Hee's  Gallery ) have shut their doors recently.  On the other hand Wall/Therapy is brightening up old industrial buildings in Rochester and creating a re-awakening of pride in the city and artistic entrepreneurship.  Look at all the people who come out for First Fridays - that is a real art constituency - something to develop for our future.

Growing up in New York City into a family of artists, I was shaped by the people around who were always engaged in creative endeavors, so naturally I feel at my best when I am able to join in and stretch my imagination.  "The Big Picture" this year is the Annual Member Exhibition at the Rochester Contemporary Art Center on East Avenue and it will certainly stretch your imagination and satisfy your needs for colors and textures in a variety of art forms.

George Wegman's "Digital Divide #1"

Some of the art on display grabbed my attention right away, and I will share some of my impressions with you.  Once I crossed the threshold, looking at a wall of art that greets you, I noticed Lee Hoag's sculpture with its distinctive shape, and a wonderful painting "Digital Divide #1" by George Wegman.

"Yes or No" by Rose Mary Hooper
Acrylic on canvas

I studied a single head floating in a grey sea of acrylic paint by Rose Mary Hooper and was engaged by the risky business of creating a veil of brushstrokes that cover the face in what looks like anguish or ecstasy.  Paintings weren't the only thing that caught my attention at RoCo, but I was surprised that there were so few serious sculptural works and barely any video or digital productions...

Nick Ruth 
"Say What You Will" Axom Gallery Award Winner

The Axom Gallery Director's Award was given to Nick Ruth for his monoprint "Say What You Will" and this work melds three dimensional illusion with a two dimensional colorfield - and it tends to defeat the normal push-pull of color and composition in a surreal manner making the viewer really work to feel the space that is present. 

Sheldon Berlyn
at RoCo

Nearby, I was attracted to the painting on paper by the artist Sheldon Berlyn who creates his art with a sweep of mixed color that is in a way related to calligraphy ( it is all in the wrist action ), but at its heart it is a carefully improvised abstraction.  Sheldon Berlyn will be featured in the new year in RoCo's next iteration of "Makers & Mentors" coming up in February - so keep an eye out for that!

Two unusual works - "Human Dragon Bike" in cast iron
"Boogie Board"
on exhibition at Rochester Contemporary Art Center

Toward the back of the show there is a striking duo - one piece made out of florescent pink foam ( "Boogie Board" ) and a cast iron sculpture that bordered on being a cartoon ( "Human Dragon Bike" ).
Some of the most satisfying artworks can be found deep into the show including a sculptural piece called: "Shiva Nataraja" or "The Dancing Lord" by Susan Pullman Brooks which had a wood armature covered in detailed metal fragments that communicate something of the devotional deity that is alluded to in the title.

"Vera" by Dan McCormack
pinhole camera work

We have some really interesting photography in this show and one work went back to the basics:  a pinhole camera print called "Vera" by Dan McCormack which has some old-fashioned charm and an unusual distortion that can hold the eye.  I only wish that the art in this show had more space - many of the works seem crowded, but that is the nature of these salon-style exhibitions.  With so many artworks on exhibition you can go and vote for your favorite and I think that is a fine way to celebrate what has been accomplished this year.

"Shiva Nataraja"
by Susan Pullman Brooks
at Rochester Contemporary Art Center
thru mid-January 2016

Saturday, December 12, 2015

In Black and White

Glass Art by Eunsuh Choi
Nazareth College Art Center
Pittsford, New York

At Nazareth College Art Center, I had the chance to shake Garth Fagan's hand and let him know I thought his dancers were giving a stellar performance.  The mini-retrospective that his dance company brought to the stage that Sunday afternoon at Nazareth suggest to me that Garth Fagan should be given some Presidential medal if he hasn't won that yet.  His dance company brought joy to my heart, and gave me a powerful rhythm to propel me toward the future.  Before we went in to enjoy the performance we went in to the gallery to see a fine show of glass works by Eunsuh Choi.  These finely wrought glass constructions remind me of a delicate Sol Lewitt - but with a touch more humor and a bit more pictorialism than Lewitt would allow.

Eunsuh Choi at Nazareth College Art Center

I thought about what it would take to create a fine glass grid, and there was an instructive video playing at the gallery that gave the viewer a window into the creative process.  It is labor intensive, and you have to possess a steady hand with a torch, a strong focus and a patient mind to work the glass strands in such a way.  I am struck by these constructions and how they evolve in this show ( now closed ) which was titled: "Aspirations".

Glass artworks by Eunsuh Choi

We are just back from Philadelphia, where we stopped in to visit the Barnes Foundation, and later stayed with brother-in-law Steve Sears at his Iron Works in Bucks County.  Steve has been involved as an artist and fabricator of large scale public sculpture ( see below ) and decorative iron works, and his foundry has everything you need to be a creative blacksmith.

From: Steve Sears IronWorks
in Center City, Philadelphia

One morning, Steve gave me a tour which included a demonstration of some of the many jigs he has invented to turn metal, and we went to see some of his major metal sculptures he has made for artists in the area, some of which are permanently installed in Center City.

Steve Sears in his shop
Bucks County, Pa.

When we arrived back in Rochester, the second installment of "FLUX" was opening at Gallery r on College Avenue.  "FLUX" is a memorial to Keith Howard - and where the first show dealt with Keith Howard's photo based prints with mulitple colors, this new chapter concentrated on black and white images mostly hand made but still using his Non-Toxic process. 

Keith Howard at Gallery r
College Avenue, Rochester, New York

This is Keith Howard going back to the basics of printmaking - a direct involvement with black and white contrasts, textures applied with a brush on the printing plate, or ink that is crackled like dried mud. His prints on view in this show are more intimate, and they carry a simple message of maybe a circular movement - or restless crossed marks that are very graphic.  Maybe these are demonstrations of his materials and an wry sense of humor about always staying active and moving ahead in his research. I am glad that R.I.T. has had the sense and timing for this memorial set of shows.  Thank You, Keith!

Select prints by Keith Howard at Gallery r
Rochester, New York