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"