Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Artists Double Down

"Doubles and Doppelgängers" at The Oxford Gallery
267 Oxford Street, Rochester, NY
thru June 17, 2017

We have a show by a pair of artists, and we have another show where a group of artists focus on "Doubles and Doppelgängers".  Either way - we double down in this month of May.

In the back of my mind I have been thinking about whether you can draw a line between illustration and fine art.  Does such a distinction still exist?  When I was a student in college, illustration was considered strictly "commercial" - in other words if you were a real artist you didn't "sell out".  Back then the student artist had  leverage to go against commercial imperatives.  Still, that left open the question of how an artist could make a living - you know - pay your bills!    Society was different during my student years, or my perspective when I was younger was more of an idealist.  I wonder whether younger artists feel the same way about how their art is perceived today.??

Rachel Cordaro and Cordell Cordaro at The Geisel Gallery

There is much more pressure from the global marketplace to have the skills to make  your art, but also promote your art and still have it please enough people in the social networks that we have  subscribed to.  I want artists to survive, but I also want them to push harder on the norms to create something truly unique.

Going around to gallery shows, I see many artists are responding to themes put forward by their galleries, giving artists something to think about, and bounce their ideas and concepts off of.  Maybe for some artists this limits their freedom, while other artists need an anchor in the real world of discussion and decision.  So this is what  I was thinking about when I went to look at shows.  We can begin with the Geisel Gallery, at the former headquarters of Bausch & Lomb in downtown Rochester, New York.

"France", Rachel Cordaro

Cordell Cordaro and Rachel Cordaro have a show of paintings that balances the light and lively with a view towards the life of "La Boheme".  There is a bit of the fashion world, a nod towards interior design, there is a touch of nature both botanical and human, and some form of hybridization as well. Both artists have an idiosyncratic way with paint, with Cordell's art you get a sense of a modern day Lautrec or Manet and with Rachel you get a modern painterly approach that is somewhat decorative with Van Gogh in the background and a wink to the  eccentric Florine Stettheimer.

"Night Out" by Cordell Cordaro

What you see in this art is a personalization of a painterly skill set that can on one hand illustrate Cafe Society - and I would love to see a greater development of the environment here, and on the other hand there is a characterization that hints at a deeper emotional content.  I think there is an implicit challenge here to go further and dig deeper, that the language of painting can stand the scrutiny and we are all looking for an image that "moves" us.

Daniel Mosner at the Oxford Gallery

The Doubles and Doppelgängers show that is now on at The Oxford Gallery, is filled with surprises and it also has some works that take the theme literally ( as in a pair of paintings by David Dorsey at the top of this post )  In the analysis of this show I am looking for poetry not prose.  Faced with the theme of "Doubles and Doppelgängers" some artists show that there are different ways to interpret  their theme by delving into mirror reflections and other forms of doubling.

Sue Leopard's " Day and Night Owls "

The theme is rendered more abstractly in the sculpture of Bill Keyser and the carved marble of Ray Colaruotolo.  Amy McLaren goes direct to the figurative resemblance while a mixed media piece by Margery Pearl Gurnett creates a stacked image, an architecture of yin and yang.

Barbra Page's Varanasi 8:00 Am and 8:00 pm

Other surprises were found in the mixed media work of Barbara Page which incorporates pieces of broken mirror.  I also liked the straight forward approach to watercolor that  Phil Bornarth took with his tree and reflection.  David Dorsey goes for the double your pleasure principle by creating a painting in duplicate with a flowering still life on  a table top.  You have to look closely to see the difference, and that is the driving force in this show of "Doubles and Doppelgängers".

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Max a Minimal

Untitled ( for Obama) © 2012, Ellsworth Kelly and Gemini G.E.L.,LLC
courtesy Deborah Ronnen Fine Art

"Untitled for Obama" by Ellsworth Kelly
lithograph, 2012
 Minimal Mostly, presented by Deborah Ronnen Fine Art
1328 University Avenue, Rochester, NY

A celebration of "less is more" comes to Rochester with a pop-up exhibition, poetry reading, screening of films and a lecture on minimal art at The Memorial Art Gallery to be given in June.  An art form that was gearing up in the late 1960's and early 1970's is here, having a second life with the curated show " Minimal Mostly " staged in an industrial space at 1328 University Avenue by Deborah Ronnen Fine Art.  Some of the artwork on view takes us back to those early days with screen prints by Josef Albers and lithography from Frank Stella.  The minimal art on view that you see is a reaction from some artists against the strains of pop art that was the rage in the art world of that era.

Carmen Herrera is the star of a documentary film
"The Hundred Years Show"

But wait, there is more - the majority of the artwork on University Avenue is recent - and it is a testament to the staying power of an idea about the strength of simplicity.  There are almost twenty different artists in this group show, and it is an attractive selection that hints at the necessity for a re-evaluation of this trend.  Since the birth of abstraction, artists have been drawn to the strength of color ( like the prints on view - here for the first time from Carmen Herrera ) and the very basis of relationships, proportion and rigor.  Talking about Carmen Herrera, I have seen her shows in New York City, and she is the star of her own documentary film "The Hundred Years Show".  It took her a hundred years before her work was recognized - that is the premise of the movie - but really it was a gradual process for her and she lived long enough to enjoy a gradual benefit - now many people know her and respect her art.

Verde y Amarillo © 2017, Carmen Herrera and ULAE
courtesy Deborah Ronnen Fine Art

"Verde y Amarillo" by Carmen Herrera
 In 2017, these are offset lithos and her first prints

The set of Carmen Herrera's first prints are all about color and geometry and they recall Josef Albers book on the 'Interaction of Color" that all artists and art students should know.  This is not art for the feint of heart.  Minimal as a term unfortunately cuts off all development that may have come before - the art we see from a fine painter like Carmen Herrera has been a long story and was only possible because of all the work she did in preparation for this.  The other artists that set the trend from Albers on to Stella and Sol Lewitt - and these new artists in "Minimal Mostly" have all felt the calling to eliminate the anecdote and keep their mode of expression very direct and clear.  These brave, committed people cut away all extraneous material to highlight design and intent - cut to the quick.

Amanda Means " Folded and Crushed"
Silver gelatin prints 2016-2017

As luck would have it, I know one of the " Minimal Mostly " artists pretty well and I was happy to see her work included in the present show.  Amanda Means is a photographer who works directly with photo paper in the darkroom - not by projecting a negative to make a print, but by folding the light sensitive paper over and over again and producing a series of grey tones that look from a distance like trunks of trees or bamboo.

Photo courtesy of Amanda Means

Amanda Means

Amanda Means has just been selected for the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship to experiment further with her process to include toning of prints with chemical baths to change the greys to colors - sepia tones, aubergine, orange and red.  When I first met Amanda years ago she was working with Bernice Abbott, but  now she is on her own road making subtle use of her many talents.

Anni Albers, GR l, 1970
courtesy Deborah Ronnen Fine Art

Anni Albers

Toward the back of the exhibition now on view until June 30th, there is a marvelous silkscreen work by Anni Albers and it glows with an active surface of red and blue calibrated to vibrate together.  This is like some of the textiles she designed while she was married to Josef Albers.  Also in the back of the show there were some small abstracts by Julia Rommel - which I thought from a distance reminded me of Richard Diebenkorn, and his "Ocean Park" series.

Untitled ( Mexico City 4/2/17 ) and Untitled ( Mexico City 3/21/17 ) © 2017
Julia Rommel and Bureau, courtesy Deborah Ronnen Fine Art

Julia Rommel

Many of the artists are working with a spare geometry, whether that might be a set of lines, or a grid as in the colorful work of Spencer Finch.  "Back to Kansas" is a large color aquatint with chine collie
whose colors have an almost random relationship  ( like some of Ellsworth Kelly's earlier paintings ) and the title of the artwork relates to how colors appear in the natural light of day at sunset.

far right: Back to Kansas,  ©  2015, Spencer Finch and Paulson Fontaine Press
courtesy Deborah Ronnen Fine Art

" Minimal Mostly " with Spencer Finch on the right
"Back to Kansas", 2015

If you want to find out more about Spencer Finch you can find him on You Tube, and it is fun to view his work under changing light conditions.  Check it out at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaZEcur8NTU

Minimal Mostly is being held at 1328 University Avenue, - go around the back to Suite B, and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Re-Emerging Artist's Hour

Robert Marx and John Greene
at Main Street Arts
Clifton Springs, New York

Brad Butler, the Director of Main Street Arts welcomed us when we came over to the gallery to see the show of the "Re-Emerging Artists" - Robert Marx and John Greene.  The show is quite extensive and you only have a couple of days to see this impressive show - so put on your traveling shoes!

John Greene and Robert Marx
A beautiful wall of select works

As a culture we are frequently following the next trend and take for granted artists who have been working away in the solitude of their own studios.  Those artists are making their work because of a passion and are following their own path.  Lucky for us that Main Street Arts has allowed these painters to show a bundle of their new things, because you can learn a thing or two from the experience.  Just looking at Robert Marx recent portraits for example takes me back to my student days when I was an engaged portrait painter  - and I respect what he is doing here.  Robert Marx has a relation to artists I grew up with from the 1950's like Leonard Baskin, and Francis Bacon, and even a more obscure artist like the printmaker Bruce Muirhead.

Robert Marx at Main Street Arts
Clifton Springs, New York

The focus on portraiture in the paintings of Robert Marx is not unexpected - he has been at it for decades, and his work is represented in museum collections  and he has shown widely.  John Greene - at least for this viewer - is a new discovery, and I especially like his more dimensional works that jut out from the walls.  This is a new kind of landscape that has a lot of potential and it seems that he is exploring a new bit of territory for a representational art.

Two landscapes by John Greene
jut from the wall of the gallery

John Greene left the business world to pursue his art career and the paintings he has on view are related to the colorfield abstractions of artists like Jules Olitski, but here the works have a more determined point of view that relate to landscape as abstraction.  I think the juxtaposition of the paintings by John Greene and the works by Robert Marx make a fine kind of duet ( both men have known each other for a while but this is the first time that they have had a show together ).

John Greene paintings at Main Street Arts

Robert Marx - in his paintings and the beautiful drawings upstairs explores the effects of pattern for clothes and a kind of scribble that begins to create mass when looking at the faces he portrays.  His people seem to have a purpose and you can find that the titles give you a sense of what the artist is driving at ( see "The Pretender" for example or the drawing " A Little Mad" ).

Robert Marx

On the second floor of the gallery there are a fleet of interesting drawings by Robert Marx that extend the vision of his work, and give you insight about how he develops a face for example.  Talking about faces, there is also walls of little paintings that is part of the young talent that the gallery tries to feature every now and then.  Below is a selection of the young talent.  But young and old have something to offer, so make it your business to see this show and enjoy!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Gallery Night and Day

Taughannock Falls State Park
May 6, 2017

Now, put away that cell phone...nature is still in and around us.  Take a look today at Taughannock Falls coming - or going out of Ithaca, New York, near Trumansburg.  The rushing, thundering water is my key to understanding the moment; right now, - there is so much water coming down...simply amazing!

Marianne Van Lent at Corners Gallery

The falls are evocative and remind me of my experience seeing all this art in a short time on a gallery trek - a veritable gusher of imagery.  I am in Ithaca,  driving up Hanshaw Road to the Corners Gallery to see prints and paintings from Masha Ryskin and Marianne Van Lent in their current show called; "Collision of Realms".  On the Gallery website (www.cornersgallery.com) the image that was chosen to represent Marianne's artwork is a collage featuring fungi in a modest mixed media piece. Once I got to the gallery, I saw the paintings she has been working on and they are much stronger in color and texture.  These paintings were recently presented in New York City at The Painting Center, and for me there seems to be a connection to the early paintings from Terry Winters, especially because they had fungi and cellular structures embedded in textured grounds as well. But Marianne Van Lent has a stronger grasp of dramatic color without loosing the organic references entirely.

Marianne Van Lent " Dark Green Glade"

A little trio of paintings had the effect of bringing me back to the waterfalls at the top of this post.
"Dark Green Glade" has also a little touch of Monet with tempting red structures positioned over shimmering blue greens.  

One might think that because this is a two person show at the Corners Gallery that the show title "Collision of Realms" might symbolize two very different points of view on the part of each artist, but in point of fact the pieces from both artists on exhibition work very well together.

Marianne Van Lent at Corners Gallery

I am more familiar with Marianne's part in this show - though I was surprised that many of her paintings featured fresco secco - a hand mixed pigment with an organic binder often used as a wall painting technique.  Marianne was a classmate and neighbor of mine when I was studying painting in graduate school at Cornell University.  Marianne and her husband, the architect Nic Goldsmith lived above Simeon's at 104 North Aurora Street in Ithaca.

Simeon's in Ithaca

It was nice to visit with her and see her new art - this many years after college.  Her paintings were paired with prints and paintings by Masha Ryskin who now teaches at RISD.  The two artists have many things in common.  Masha Ryskin's art is subtle, very quiet also with an eye toward the organic ( see her Red Fossil below).

Masha Ryskin 

Masha has a very fine line that is carried through her art and it looks like lacework through which you might see a color plane.  She also exhibits small paintings like "Turmoil X" that restates some abstract expressionist tendencies toward automatic writing and mark making.

Masha Ryskin at Corners Gallery, Ithaca, NY

Down the high hills of Ithaca, right on State Street is the Ink Shop, opening in the evening with a two person show - paintings, prints and constructions from Scout Dunbar, and paintings by Skye Schirmer.

At the Ink Shop door I am greeted by gallery members and inside I look at the paintings by Skye Schirmer which often include hot color and verbal declarations sometimes etched into wet paint.  This kind of direct assault on your senses has a political ring to it and reminds me of the many thousands  of hand made posters I have seen at a rally or a march.

" Nobody's Baby " by Skye Schirmer at the Ink Shop

The statements from Skye Schirmer have an emotional high pitch which can be angaging in the gallery and I wonder what they might look like if you brought one home with you.  One of her paintings might be in honor of the singer Nina Simone, while the next painting may spring out of a bad dream.

The artist and printmaker, Craig mains with his work above

Hanging over my head is an arrangement of prints and cut paper arranged in theatrical rows featuring a tug-of-war between a large snake and an alligator.  This brush with death happening again and again in the Everglades is the focus of this new work by the artist Craig Mains.

Scout Dunbar at the Ink Shop, 330 East MLK/State Street, Ithaca, NY

On the main floor there is an interesting selection of artwork from Scout Dunbar that plays with forms and color in a very lighthearted manner.  Sometimes there is a repeating pattern that can evoke an African culture, and close by there are constructions that evoke children's toys.
Much to see and do on a Gallery Night in Ithaca, New York.