Saturday, April 22, 2017

Printed Ceramics, Mirrors & So Much More

Joe Lee "Assembly Language" 
Bevier Gallery, Booth Building, 
Rochester Institute of Technology

Twenty years ago, with my class at Rochester Institute of Technology, we took a working tour of a facility at Kodak Park where they had million dollar machines that printed out three dimensional prototypes for their cameras; it was truly eye opening!  We were there to design signage and wall decor for a series of rooms in their plant.  Everyone was knocked out by the idea that you could print a dimensional model.  Now, so many years later the notion of printing in 3D has become commonplace, almost anyone with a thousand dollars can buy a "maker-bot".  But there are still surprises in store..I read this month about a printed house you can live in, and there are experiments in printing a working automobile, and then there are the printed guns that shoot.

"Assembly Language"
at Bevier Gallery

This month we can see 3D printing in the service of art, and Joe Lee with his show "Assembly Language" calls upon a 3D Printer to make ceramic objects that have a mathematical precision.  His show comes as part of annual graduate thesis projects that are now on view in the Bevier Gallery.
If you have never seen printed ceramic objects ( I am not talking about print on the ceramics, rather I am talking about creating the forms layer by layer from the bottom up ) now is the chance to catch up.

The artist Xinhao Yang

Mirrors are central to the art of Xinhao Yang, and she creates a faceted mirror ring that you can wear, as well as a mirror cage that you can get into and be rolled around along the halls and walkways as a performance piece.  She says that the mirror links the positive and the negative, both reflecting and amplifying what we see and experience in life to create a balance.

Ryan Florey 

In this same gallery there are colorful larger handmade ceramic pieces by Ryan Florey that also have a mathematical pattern that can be seen in drawings on the walls.  These larger standing ceramic pieces have strong color and strict carved planes which make a distinctive form that can even be used as a bowl to contain water.

 Lingfei Zhao, woodcut 
"Dream 2/21/2017"

Lingfei Zhao is also one of our graduate students engaged in painting and printmaking.  What makes his work distinctive is his graphic manifestation of his dreams for which he keeps meticulous notebooks.  What he has as his vision at night is transformed into a painting or a print.  He is engaged in visual story-telling which we as his audience get to puzzle out.  It is a personal yet universal language he is striving for and he is becoming a very fine painter in the process.

Rebecca Aloisio

Before we leave R.I.T. for our next stop, I wanted to acknowledge the prints of Rebecca Aloisio.
She is working as an independent study in printmaking and her new prints which you see on the table are just gorgeous.  Keep an eye out for her work, it is quite colorful and very attractive.

Axom Gallery opening with
photos by Stephen Reardon

Back in Rochester for an opening at Axom Gallery - we have photographs by Stephen S. Reardon, and this collection - many of which are in color - will remain in your mind for a while.  In one image, a nearly black rectangle reveals a swirl of smoke and then you can gradually make out a hairline, and a silhouette of a face in a photo he calls "Roll Smoke".

Stephen Reardon claims in a wall label that he considers these photos as a form of therapy to get over anxiety he felt approaching strangers and asking to take their picture.  Many people have felt this urge to make a photograph of people they do not know, and maybe it is an invasion of their privacy, so it does take some guts to walk up to someone to ask for this as a courtesy.

Stephen S. Reardon
"Dare To Be Great"

You may have seen some of these images before, and Stephen Reardon has published his work ( in Post Magazine for example ). MK Ultra is one image that comes to mind - that I have seen before.  Some of Reardon's photos are funny, like Adam in his shorts, or the two ladies in their swimsuits in the photo above " Dare To Be Great".  

What I would like to see would be the stories that could accompany these photos - to go another step towards documenting the whole transaction of what was first seen by the photographer, and the dialog that ensued in order to make the photograph.  That way, we as an audience could fully immerse ourselves in the process, and learn along with the photographer - how to get over those anxieties.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

If in Brooklyn, Visit Georgia

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern
to July 23, 2017
The Brooklyn Museum

Georgia O'Keeffe

It is worth going over to The Brooklyn Museum, if you want to see their different perspective on "Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern".  What is surprising about this exhibition is the inclusion of many photographs and written entries by and about Georgia O'Keefe, as well as fashions she designed for herself that are Spartan in a very contemporary way    ( no surprise that Calvin Klein is a main sponsor of this show ).

Georgia finds her voice with shells and shingles

Georgia O'Keeffe ( 1887-1986 ) was born in the mid-west, and educated at The Art Institute of Chicago; she was a student of Arthur Wesley Dow and had an open mind when it came to painting her subjects.  Seeking a career, Georgia moved to New York City where she came under the guidance of Alfred Steiglitz - a renowned photographer and gallery director.  They had a long lasting relationship and Georgia's artwork was promoted at Steiglitz's Gallery 291 ( Fifth Avenue near 32nd street ).

Georgia O'Keeffe's Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Even if you have seen other shows featuring Georgia's paintings this one takes on a different dimension and helps situate her in time, exploring lesser known paintings as well as some of her master works from a very long career.  There is a wonderful catalog for "Living Modern" and  leafing through it you will find that The Brooklyn Museum actually has a very sizable collection of Georgia O'Keeffe's artwork and photos of her as well.  I was surprised to see a painting I did not know that came from The Smithsonian on loan, and it is about "Manhattan" - painted as a model for part of a competitive mural commission in 1932.

Gorgia O'Keeffe's " Manhattan ", 1932
oil on canvas was part of mural competition

The photographs taken of Georgia during her life really remind the viewer of her character, someone who looked like she was in total control of herself and her surroundings.  The photos in this show represent every phase of Georgia O'Keefe's life - from ones taken by Steiglitz through to the photos by Annie Leibovitz and Andy Warhol.

Georgia O'Keeffe out west in the mid 1930's

Everything in her paintings looks considered, restrained, and clear-eyed, some would say "reductive" and they move to the heart of modernism.  The paintings have become iconic, and now influence generations of artists in her wake.

On fifth floor of the Museum I stopped in to see paintings by Marilyn Minter, and found a giant floor projection centered in their arched space, and I saw what I thought were a bunch of melting M&M's, but I could not be for certain...

Top of the museum

Outside is a beautiful day and perfect for a walk in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, so we look forward to seeing the flowering cherry trees.  Sakura Matsuri,  the festival of Japanese culture is scheduled for April 29th and 30th, so if you are in Brooklyn, don't miss this chance to visit the garden when it is free and open to the public.

Cherry Trees in bloom
at The Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Years ago, I worked with my brother, Paul Singer, on graphics for The Brooklyn Botanic Garden - but all that is left of our efforts are descriptive panels in the Bonsai collection.  We still admired the ancient specimens - some go back 260 years - and have been well cared for all along the way.

The star magnolias were in bloom and couldn't help but take a look in on the Japanese gardens and take some photos to remember a fine day.  Then it was time to pack and head back upstate....

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Sunday, April 9, 2017

On A Corner in Brooklyn

Kendall Shaw at his home studio on President Street
Park Slope, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Before I travel back in time with you, I want to shout out to Kendall Shaw who is a painter friend of mine in Brooklyn, New York.  

In the Early 1980's I was settling into a large new studio space on Union Street just down from Fifth Avenue in Park Slope and Ken owned the building then.  Looking back on those years when I was working at this loft building I was really involved in the New York City art scene, and then there wasn't that much going on in Brooklyn to compare to today in 2017.  Still, Park Slope was a terrific neighborhood then and now, where many artists lived along the tree-lined blocks up and down the streets. 

Kendall Shaw ( three layered canvas, mid 1980's )

While I worked on my art during the day, I got into the writing bug and started to have my illustrated essays published in the local newspaper and in magazines like American Artist.  I landed in a nice apartment on Prospect Park with my wife, and the new studio on Union Street sure was better than painting in the back room where we lived.  I was writing a regular feature that appeared in "The Prospect Press" and it all sprang from the fact that as I walked up the slope at night I would see artists working in their apartments ( like I had been doing ) and I was determined to meet these people since I was just settling in.  Soon I was interviewing the artists I met and the timing couldn't have been better.

Lennart Anderson

Up on Union Street near Eigth Avenue there was Lennart Anderson, a superb figurative painter,who's work I had followed since I was a teenager.  I have written about him recently on this blog when he passed away recently.  Back then I was able to introduce myself and write about Lennart's artwork after doing an afternoon interview which was later published.

Kendall Shaw, who was born in Louisiana, still had a bit of a southern accent, but he was really into a kind of painting aligned with the Pattern & Decoration movement that was in vogue at that time.  Ken had a background in chemistry and his paintings had an abstract quality that I think had some influence among his students and fellow artists.  At the top of this blog you see him at work on his large paintings that remind me of Ellsworth Kelly.

Jules Olitski

Across the street in an old bank building was the studio of the painter Jules Olitski, and I would watch trucks come and go, ready to haul away his giant paintings that extended the reach of his color field painting that was championed by Clement Greenberg years ago.

Alex and Allyson Grey

New folks moved in upstairs, and I wanted to meet Alex and Allyson Grey and was overwhelmed by the energy of the artwork they produced.  Alex and Allyson are really interesting people who had just moved down from the Boston area to be part of the new Stefan Stux Gallery, who was also moving down to be in New York.

Alex Grey

Allyson Grey

Both Greys had their own kind of art going on, and I was attracted to their knowledge and interest in all kinds of visual art.  Alex had been trained in anatomy, and Allyson had a series of rainbow hued paintings that evolved slowly from her geometric visions - all of this was very stimulating.

Art critic for The Nation,
Barry Schwabsky
in a photo I took when he came to speak at R.I.T.

Across from the bank building on Fifth Avenue, I found a friend in the art writer and poet, Barry Schwabsky who lived upstairs for a while.  He later became the editor of Arts Magazine when Richard Martin left the publication to work at F.I.T.

So, this little corner of Brooklyn became a powerhouse of artistic temperament, and the young artists of Park Slope had a regular open studio tour in which I took part in helping organize.  By 1984 I had a basement space that I sublet to a pair of artists who happened to be in the midst of a year-long performance piece.  I met Teching Hsieh ( Sam ) in New York City while he was tied to Linda Montano, and they rented my basement.  Imagine, if you can,  the unusual sight of them tied together, walking down the street.  This was truly memorable for many reasons - and they were really great folks.

Performance artists Teching Hsieh and Linda Montano

And what was I doing at that time?  I had completed a series of postage stamp designs with my father, Arthur Singer.  We had a hit on our hands and the U.S.Postal Service issued these stamps in Washington, D.C. and people lined up to get our autographs.  They sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of these little portraits of birds and flowers.  Now that was a time....

Arthur and Alan Singer
"The Birds and Flowers of the Fifty States"