Monday, August 6, 2018

Celebrated Artists Sometimes

Gorges, just Gorges
August, 2018

Spending a day in the Finger Lakes, taking in the sites ( see above ) and thinking of the future.

For this writer,  I go back to my teaching schedule at Rochester Institute of Technology and I think about opportunities to show my recent artwork - with a exhibition going on in Los Angeles at LACDA ( see below ) and also one in Poughkeepsie, New York which I wrote about in my last posting.

LACDA ( Los Angeles Center for Digital Art
August 9th thru September 1, 2018

I am in Ithaca, New York for a visit to the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art on the campus of Cornell University, and I visit a couple of shows there that gave me a good feeling of time well spent looking at their art.  I am at a point where I am making plans to teach, and I am looking outside of myself for inspiration, and I find it in other people's art at the present.

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
Cornell University campus,
Ithaca, New York

The show "Shifting Ground" is a survey of landscapes - mostly mid-20th century that come from unexpected sources.  Where you might expect to see Fairfield Porter, or Neil Welliver, instead there is Karl Schrag and Alan Sonfist.  The ideal here is to introduce artists that are not familiar names and give the viewers a chance to evaluate their contributions to the notion of "landscape".   This is not a show for plein air painters, matter of fact this is much more conceptual in nature.

Karl Schrag, 1970
"Land,Sea,Sky " color intaglio print

Alan Sonfist
"Gene Bank of New York City", 1974
Photographs and vials of forest elements

Karl Schrag ( 1912-1995 ) was an artist who may be better known for his coastal watercolors and a style that is close to Charles Burchfield.  He taught printmaking at The Cooper Union just before I entered that art school for my BFA degree.  Alan Sonfist is an artist who has worked in a number of genres, and here is represented by a wall size series of photos of New York's Central Park and bottles of samples taken from the forest floor.  This more conceptual approach to image making has a point:  these samples may be needed to recreate the forest, should society need to undertake that project.  

The benefit of walking through this exhibition is to get the viewer to think about landscape beyond the prosaic, and look at it fresh with new eyes.  This leads me to the second show ( "The Touch of the Butterfly" ) that is arranged on the lower floor that opens a door to the artist Whistler and his inspirations and influences.  This is primarily a show of prints, and it begins with beautiful little images from Rembrandt's portraiture and brings to our attention not only Whistler, but the artists of which he is associated.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler ( 1834-1903 )
Intaglio etching of Drouet, 1859 

Wonderful direct etchings from Whistler like the portrait above, made this museum visit worthwhile, and there were so many more prints of interest including his Asian influence felt in the work of Hiroshige ( see below ).  I happened to be in the museum with a friend, Geoffrey Oliver who is a Japanese Print dealer, so we talked a lot about the art form and how Whistler was influenced by the Orient.

Hiroshige, from the show " Touch of the Butterfly"

Closer to my home in Rochester, I had the chance to go to the opening of a show of artwork by Cathal O'Toole ( 1904-1991 ) who was also a painter and printmaker - born in Ireland, spent time living in New York City, and came to teach here in Rochester.  I knew his printmaking from the time I was the President of the Print Club of Rochester, and we had commissioned a print from this artist for our subscribers.

Cathal O'Toole  ( 1904-1991 )

Now at the Axom Gallery, you can go and see a collection of works that span most of Cathal O'Toole's career, including landscape paintings, and abstractions and so much more.  One has to be thankful for the opportunity to look over these artworks which are modestly priced - it is like getting a rare look at the artist's inventory.  Cathal O'Toole had skills, and he was an artist who deserved your attention.

"The Visionary Works of Cathal O'Toole
Axom Gallery
176 Anderson Avenue, second floor
Rochester, New York