Sunday, December 30, 2018

Famous Artists

"Electrical Storm"
Alan Singer

It is the tail end of December and the stock market is going crazy.  The political climate is so un-nerving and the grey weather here is nothing to celebrate.  I wonder how this all will affect the arts?
Like many, I can seek solace in the act of creation - see my new painting above - and I am planning the opening of my solo exhibition which is going to be at The Axom Gallery in mid- January so I am filled with questions....

Given the chaotic nature in our society these days, I also wonder what my students expect from me to help them prepare for a career?  What is the likelihood that they will get to use their skills in the visual arts to help them get off the ground?  I remember when I was a student in college that we were shaken by the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy.  There were riots in the streets, so I knew I was going into an uncertain future, but my life-long interest in the arts actually helped me all along the have faith!

CAP ArtSpace, Ithaca Commons

Art is my passion and it leads me wherever I go.  I live in upstate New York with my wife and the visual arts create an environment that I have worked with and written about for almost 50 years.  I can watch a town evolve - like what Ithaca, New York is going through now with multi story buildings going up in town that will forever change it's character.  We walk down the Commons to check out the CAP Artspace.  

Photos by Chris Walters at CAP ArtSpace
Ithaca, New York

When I was a student in college with the likes of critics and teachers like Walker Evans and Roy DeCarava, the idea of a blur in a photo would have been an anathema.  Clarity and sharp focus was the goal for many of us camera-buffs.  Now many years later,  the photos by Chris Walters exploit this notion of movement and how that event can be celebrated in a photo that is framed and part of his show.

Chris Walters - photo from: "Out of Time"

The notion of performance art is woven into the fabric of these photos.  The movement of an arm or  just  a person running can add visual interest to a photo and that gesture used to be avoided, but here it makes the point of being lively and in and of the moment.  The performative aspect of art should not be overlooked and in this case it adds character and a kind of universality to an image.

Chris Walters photography at CAP ArtSpace, Ithaca, New York

Since it is the end of a year, I want to be sure to thank you if you have followed my posts to this blog. I enjoy writing these posts and it insures that I get around to see things in my neighborhood.  I don't have to go far in Rochester to find an art event.  At the Hungerford Building, 1115 East Main Street, I frequently go into the Phillips Fine Art and Frame company.  This coming January 1st, they will have an opening of COLLECTORS SHOW & SALE #7...! Just a taste here for what you might find there.  You may know many collectors of James D. Havens color prints, but did you know that he was also a gifted painter?  Here are two of his landscapes from Maine, very modestly priced at that!

Phillips Fine Art & Frame
The Hungerford Building
Rochester, New York

The fun to be had in a show like this is  seeing the works that you didn't know about before, and that you can see artists you have not heard of before mixed  in with the most famous.  Many people know the painting "American Gothic" by Grant Wood, but have you seen the print in this show where Grant Wood seems ready to accept his diploma?  Go and check it out - January 1 - thru February 2, 2019.
And have a happy NEW YEAR!

Phillips Fine Art & Frame
Rochester, New York

Saturday, December 15, 2018

What It Means

By Alan Singer

Jarrett Earnest
David Zwirner Books, New York City

In the evening I am deep into a new book that has been recently published through David Zwirner Books by the author and art critic Jarrett Earnest.  I have read his work before in "The Brooklyn Rail" but  this new book ( above ) is a collection of interviews with other writers who specialize in their opinions about contemporary art.  At my home I have book shelves devoted to art and art history but this is the first time I have purchased a volume where the author is interested in why the writers he interviews write art criticism and what their take-away is from this contemporary enterprise.

Recently published by Jarrett Earnest

My own curiosity about art critics was sparked many years ago - as I read the weekly news from John Russell and Hilton Kramer in the New York Times, and later Gary Indiana in the Village Voice.  When I was a student at The Cooper Union, I lived next door to the art critic Dore Ashton - whom I later studied with as well as the TV personality and Art in America editor, Brian O'Doherty.

I began my own art writing in the 1980's, first publishing in a local Brooklyn Newspaper ( Prospect Press ) and then in Arts Magazine and then in American Artist Magazine.  I used to get paid to interview artists, so it was a way of broadening my own scope as a painter and printmaker to go and see art and write about what I found.  If you are reading this blog, you can see that I am still doing what I love.  Coming back to the book of interviews - I really enjoy knowing more about some of the critics whose work I follow like Barry Schwabsky ( in the Nation ), Peter Schjeldahl ( in The New Yorker ) and Jed Perl, but here I am also introduced to several names that are new to me.  If you are interested in knowing more about why they write, look for this book and enjoy!

Rochester Contemporary Art Center
December, 2018

While we are talking about what it all means, take some time to go and view the new Member's Exhibition at RoCo.  I was over there for a while looking over the largest show they have had - with over 350 entries, hung salon style.  At first the show is a bit bewildering - so many interesting individuals, and then I found myself drawn closer to inspect the art on view - sometimes you have to kneel to get a better look.  There were several awards given out and then there are the yellow labels that indicate a popular vote is in progress.

Sometimes you have too kneel... to see a work by
Charles Baldwin & Becca Heurtley

Sometimes you have to kneel down to get a better look at a work, but I really have a problem with the art that is hung way on high.  Even with the new space at RoCo, this show is crowded.  Like many group shows the weaker works just get overlooked.  Still, there is great diversity on view and I suggest that you go with no preconceived notions for what you find -  it is like a treasure hunt!

"Hand Over Foot" by Tom Lightfoot

Since I have been in this area for a while I know many of the artists represented here, yet I am always surprised by what I did find in the show.  For example, there is a strong piece from my old colleague at R.I.T. - Tom Lightfoot which is all about human forms and  how they can be collaged together to create something very dynamic.  My student Melissa Mance has a very delicate black and white bird skull right above a peaceful landscape by Phil Bliss.

A wall of works:  Melissa Mance and Phil Bliss

It helps to have a sense of humor looking over all the art especially some of the table-top pieces.
There is fun to behold in a little work like: "Hope Springs Eternal" by Susan Mandl.  There are more than a few artworks in this show that have a Pop sensibility.

"Hope Springs Eternal" by Susan Mandl

Another popular teacher, Todd Stahl is featured here with a different kind of collage that has a different kind of Pop feeling. Several works in this show have a Wow! factor - like this.

Todd Stahl:  " Liberation"

There are famous artists like Robert Marx in the present show and many emerging artists. Like many group shows that are the focus for the holiday season, there is usually something for everyone, just take the time and go see for yourself.

Robert Marx at RoCo

To top it all off, I have some artworks on view in a different venue along with some other artists who you may know, and we have our exhibition on at The Axom Gallery, 176 Anderson, in the heart of the arts district of Rochester.  Come out and see the art and support your local artist and art scene, it is very vibrant at this moment!

Axom Gallery,  176 Anderson, Rochester, New York

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Come Gather Round

Julian Schnabel directs: "At Eternity's Gate"
new film about Vincent Van Gogh

I am looking forward to seeing Julian Schnabel's new film about
 Vincent Van Gogh, called: "At Eternity's Gate".  As an artist Julian has a fine eye for his filmmaking and if anyone could tell the story of a painter, I'll bet Julian can.  I met him many years ago when he first came back into the New York City area, and I was living on Beekman Street.  Later, one of my students at R.I.T. went to work for him at his studio - maybe taking care of his kids as he built his paintings with broken plates and Bondo.  Starting with his film about Basquiat, Julian has developed a unique style and a way with film that is personal and universal - I have great respect for his take on things.

Light up the night by
Liberty Pole
at the new RIT City Art Space

Just in time for the holidays, there are many events and openings  especially important to the city scene - the fact that people are moving back to the heart of Rochester and some evidence of that is the new commitment R.I.T. has shown by opening the new City Art Space.  I was there to congratulate two colleagues who kick off the festivities with an exhibition of their recent photography, sculpture and painting now on view.  Leonard Urso has several new paintings and some of his large figurative sculptures, and Willie Osterman has a focus on photographic process and purpose - together their show is called: "Emergence" and will be on view through January 20th, 2019.

Leonard Urso - left
Willie Osterman - right
Artists featured in the new City Art Space

The Sibley Building is the center attraction here and provides ample space for renewal via the visual arts.  Previously,  Gallery r was hidden on the old College Avenue behind the Memorial Art Gallery.
The folks came in to the new space to take a look at the art and enjoy each others company.  City Art Space can show off a wide variety of artworks and in evidence are large painted metal works like this large head from Leonard Urso.

Sculpture by Len Urso
at RIT City Art Space

Willie Osterman

Leonard Urso's large scale head has the quiet power of those gods of Easter Island.  His scale and solemn quality give his work a quiet distinction.  The photo process that Willie Osterman uses to create his art harks back to an earlier period - from removed from our digital universe.  Willie has an interest in tribal arts that look as if they came from the islands of Indonesia, and he creates totemic forms that seem to have a deep historical reference point.  I can see how these two professors from RIT would strike up a dialog and this show would be the result.

Holiday preview:  Group Show at Axom Gallery, Rochester, NY

This season there are many reasons to be thankful and to cheer each other up during a time of political distress, I often turn to the arts for some quiet consolation.  During the week I delivered some artworks to the Director,  Rick Muto and we stopped in to see how the big group show was looking.  Rick looked like he was in his element - obviously enjoying the composition he was creating with the artworks on the wall.  Rick stopped to discuss his early work in ceramics and his mentor Paul Garland - who has a handful of small paintings now part of the holiday event at the Axom Gallery.

Axom Gallery Director and artist Rick Muto

So if you get a chance go out to see the art events in our area.  The Axom Gallery is at 176 Anderson, up one flight of stairs.  Some very engaging art is available for viewing and maybe you need to purchase a gift for someone..  this is the time of the year to think towards the future and shake off the cold weather.

Axom Gallery Holiday Show

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Full Circle

read the signs on the West Side Highway, in New York City traffic....

Our artistic family has yet another generation coming along, and while we were in the New York City area we had dinner with Akiko and her daughters, and I got to see the images of portraits they have made of each other.   The gallery at 128 Rivington Street downtown will host an exhibition called: "Phase" which will feature art by mothers and daughters, and also a father and son pairing.  We couldn't stay for the opening on the first of December, but we wish them all success- and let's see many more shows like this.  Below is Mia's drawing of Janet Scherer - my sister-in-law (  Mia is thinking about college since she is still in high school ).  This drawing is a strong likeness too!

Mia and Akiko Yamamoto are included in PHASE

Gallery show at 128 Rivington, NYC

Before I left The MET after taking in the show of Eugene Delacroix, I stopped to look over contemporary Japanese ceramics currently on view in the Main Hall.  From time to time I collect pieces like these and the art on view at The MET captured my attention.  There is a marvelous piece called: "Flow" by Fujikasa Satoko that is made of stoneware and it appears to defy gravity.  It reminds me of some of the stacked forms that Tony Cragg has made recently.

Fujikasa Satoko, 2011
Sand-glazed stoneware

Also in this same area I found a big blue jar  being presented by Tsujimura Yui - a Japanese potter who works with the aesthetics of an older stoneware tradition including his use of a natural ash glaze that creates stripes, because the pot was fired on its side.  The substantial form reminds me of the colors I sometimes see in the new pieces of ceramic art that come from the studio of Stephen Merritt here in Irondequoit.

Contemporary Ceramics by Tsujimura Yui, 2005
at the MET

We recently visited Stephen in his studio to see his latest work, and I really enjoyed his new pieces.  If you haven't been up to his studio, Stephen regularly opens it for viewing and there you can see the work he does - as he carries on in  a tradition that is closely related to the ceramics we saw at The MET.

Stephen Merritt studied in Japan in the late 1960s and early 1970s with a Living National Treasure - Inoue Manji.  So Stephen carries on ancient traditions but with new color and form, that can liven up your life.

Stephen Merritt's work in a studio setting

Before we draw this circle to a close, I just wanted to give a nod to The Axom Gallery which will present a group show during December, and then I will be having a solo show there in January.
It is a busy time of the year, but I want to invite you to come by Axom Gallery on 176 Anderson in Rochester,  to take a look at the many good things they have to offer.  I will be showing paintings and prints, and many of them could be given as gifts, if you choose.  Below is a smallish acrylic gouache I made on board last year.  It is one of my favorites, called: " 3D "...

Alan Singer, 2017, Acrylic gouache on board

Friday, November 30, 2018

New York City Journal

NYC: Fifth Avenue walk to the MET

Walking over to The Metropolitan Museum of Art on the weekend after viewing Hilma af Klint at The Guggenheim, I was not prepared for the crowds - literally waves of humanity packing into the entrance to the museums.  At The MET they have a new mechanical ticket booth where they scan your credit card, and the line was backed up.  Once upstairs, I wanted to go and commune with Eugene Delacroix and along the hallways leading to the show I stopped to look at a new print by Kara Walker - which was kind of monumental in it's own right.  Kara Walker you will know from her silhouettes in black that depict situations for African-Americans based on the deeply disturbing racism that is part of our national heritage.

Kara Walker and "Patronage"
at The MET

Kara Walker's trio of images recall the idea of "Patronage" and the central panel shows people erecting a large statue of an African-American woman in some classical landscape of the imagination.  This acts as something of a mental wedge against all the mythology that tends to be the highlight of other prints and drawings found in this hall, and Kara Walker makes her point.  If you like this powerful print,  I saw a copy of it in the MET store which can be purchased for 24K.

Eugene Delacroix "Young Tiger Playing With Its Mother

This is also a rare moment to see the show of paintings and drawings collected now by Eugene Delacroix ( 1798 - 1863 ) at The MET.  It is not often that his artwork could be seen in such a massive show which on the day I visited was packed with onlookers. 

When I was a student, I read The Journal of Eugene Delacroix and I have studied his paintings and I am always interested in how his art was generated - and who he was - given the history and the important role of painting in 19th century France.  Delacroix is a flex point in painting even though the standards of art are still wrapped up in history and allegory.  Delacroix's art begins to look towards other regions so he travels abroad to find inspiration.

Eugene Delacroix's "Women of Algiers"

I have admired his painting "Women of Algiers" and that carries through today.  There is a timeless quality in his handling of light and the care taken with each character; the details of the room, the gestures and so on.  I think that this painting represents a period of contemplation - maybe about these women's lives - and it attracts my attention.  When I was a younger artist I spent many hours painting portraits, so I am aware of the power of paint and how it can structure emotion in a work of art.

Delacroix ( 1798 -1863 ) at The MET

Delacroix also conveys the nature of power and conflict in his animal portraits, and the image above gives a portion of the tumult he can convey in a composition - the abstract forms seen in a study for this painting could step right out of expressionism which would arrive many years later.  There are not too many people who want to portray the struggles that Delacroix imagined, and I think they represent something of his own psychology in these attempts at dealing with violence.

Delacroix's drawings of ancient coins

As with any large retrospective there are always going to be some surprises.  The present exhibitions show selections from a collection of drawings, and I found this drawing of coins to be kind of unusual.  This is Delacroix looking back to ancient history through symbols and scenes that evoke a certain respect for institutions.  I think  Delacroix was torn in his respect for governments while still maintaining his own freedom and integrity.

Delacroix and his "Lady With a Parrot"
at The MET

Going back to The Journal of Eugene Delacroix he takes a moment to quote a friend saying "what characterizes a master is his recognizing of the essential thing in a picture, the thing that must absolutely be reached.  Mere talent thinks only of details:  See Ingres, and David.....

Delacroix may not have been the supreme master, but he was well aware of his ability and his work is a flex point moving towards a modern era of painterly expression.

Study: Death of Sardanapalus by Eugene Delacroix
at The MET

Monday, November 26, 2018

Coney Island On My Mind

On the boardwalk, Coney Island
November, 2018

In Brooklyn, I am standing on the boardwalk looking out to sea on a cold clear fall day having just left the nursing home where my aunt has been living for the past few years.  She failed to recognize me and threatened to call the police!  Quickly, we left with a lasting impression made for this Thanksgiving Day!

Inside The Guggenheim

We were going into the city to see the museums and I was looking forward to going up to The Guggenheim to view the art in a new show called: "Paintings for the Future" by Hilma af Klint.

So, you say you have never heard of this artist- Hilma af Klint  ( 1862-1944 ) - so why is she being given a retrospective now - almost 75 years since her death?  Well, the art history books will have to be re-written - especially when it comes to notions of abstract art for which Hilma af Klint will be forever known.

Paul Singer steps in to get a closer look
"Paintings for the Future"
Hilma af Klint ( 1862-1944 )

From the moment we stepped out of the elevator, and worked our way down the spiral of The Guggenheim, we knew we were seeing something entirely engaging and nearly overwhelming in its simple approach to our heart and mind.  This is a moving experience, as the critic Ann McCoy has written in the Brooklyn Rail.  Credit also has to go to painter  R.H.Quaytman - who is given her own exhibition at the top of the museum - she has championed Hilma af Klint by arranging early shows in the U.S. of her work.  However, R.H. Quaytman is overshadowed by the present situation - quite a challenge for an artist, when her predecessor is so strong.

R.H. Quaytman on view at The Guggenheim

Hilma af Klint was really out ahead of the curve as they say.  Born near Stockholm in 1862, she never marries, but she did go through art school training and she produced traditional paintings ( see below ) that were sold to the public.  She also created another body of work which she held in private - hoping that one day it would be housed in a temple of her own spiral design ( which was never realized ).  Tracey Bashkoff, the curator for this show at The Guggenheim does get to realize this dream, and we can all participate until mid-February when the show must come down.

"Summer Landscape", 1888
by Hilma af Klint

Hilma af Klint:  The Ten Largest ( 1907 )
Tempera on paper

Run, don't walk to The Guggenheim Museum of Art to see this art in the perfect setting!  We enjoyed reading the stories  that accompany this exhibition which represent only a portion of her accomplishments.  She kept copious notebooks that outline her progress as an artist who was profoundly moved by visions she had during her meditations on art and life.  She was a mystic, but not beyond contemplation among the roots of life, involving the sciences, religious teachings, and an artful approach to mathematics and physics.

Hilma af Klint
"Evolution", 1908
oil on canvas

If one reads a traditional chronology of abstraction in art, there is the inevitable descriptions of the pioneers such as Kandinsky,  Malevich, and Piet Mondrian - perceived to be the ones worthy of reverence when it comes to the "invention" of abstraction. That honor should now go to Hilma af Klint, and this show is the proof that makes the necessary argument for her elevation into that sphere of real mastery for a new language in visual culture.

"The Swan", No. 9, 1915
oil on canvas
Hilma af Klint

Working our way through the exhibition her later works become more acute towards the 1920's.

She looks for graphic ways to transform volume into light and back again.  Her major series of ten foot tall paintings ( Tempera on paper ) give the soul an uplift, just what we need in this climate!

Hilma af Klint has the uncanny ability to invent an abstract language for us to consider.  Spirals may represent movement of opposing forces - day and night- or yin and yang.  Colors can represent the male and female sex, or the gravity of push and pull - to use a modern term for painterly movement.

Hilma af Klint, 1907
Detail:  Tempera on paper

Group IX/UW, The Dove, No. 1, 1915
oil on canvas
"Paintings for the Future"
The Guggenheim Museum of Art

This is your opportunity to visit with an artist's work that changes the course of a dialog about modern art, and  the "Paintings for the Future" really gives you something to dream about and enjoy in the here and now.