Sunday, September 30, 2018

Capital A for Art

Albany, New York,  September 29, 2018

   Capital A is for art, but also Albany, which is where we find ourselves on this breezy morning.  It is a beautiful day outside our hotel window and we are here to survey a room at The New York State Museum for a possible showing of my father's artwork.  We went up to the imposing building to check out the exhibitions on view, and came away saying WOW!

New York State Museum, Albany, NY

Temporary Exhibition Room

We had the guards open up the temporary exhibition room for us to walk around and were impressed by the high ceilings and generous proportions for a show.  This museum is devoted to history, nature, and art and with our show we hope to fit right in!

Birds of New York State

Now on view, a large segment of floorspace is given over to dioramas that tell a visitor a lot about what you can see in New York and also about the history of the people of New York - going all the way back to the Ice Age to reconstruct a setting from the past - and then on to more recent times  with attention paid to indigenous peoples like the Iroquois.

Ice Age hunting in upstate New York

Looking at the Long House we had to stop and listen to recordings telling the stories of  life  among Indian people -  shining a light on their history and their situations.  The setting here in the Museum of New York is very engaging, and we could spend hours reading the wall placards as we walk through the halls.

The Long House

In another section of the museum we can see the many facets of building The Erie Canal.  A revealing sign calls it "Clinton's Ditch", where you can read that the canal has been built and reworked three times since its inception in the early 1800's.

A History of the Erie Canal

The New York State Museum has something for everyone.  One of the most galvanizing exhibits on view has to be some of the remains of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, September 11th.  Bent steel girders from the building and a smashed fire truck attest to the horror which was compounded for us by a first person narrative from our security guard who had witnessed the destruction first hand.  He was in Manhattan doing his police duties escorting a woman when the planes hit the twin towers and the conflagration forced everyone to evacuate.

Crushed Fire Truck from 9/11

Bent Steel collected from site of 9/11
World Trade Center, NYC

Across from the lobby of The New York State Museum, you can walk downstairs and along the grand concourse to find an art collection that Nelson Rockefeller had commissioned years ago.  I found the large murals there by artists like Al Held and Al Loving, Jr. to be aging well.  This is a dramatic space under a park where political rallies often occur.  The paintings  by artists like Morris Louis and Jack Tworkov remind me of my years in college, when demonstrations seemed to roil the 1960's.  We are not to far away from that same feeling today.

Morris Louis' Aleph Series, 1960

Al Loving, Jr.
"New Morning", 1973

Peter Voulkos, "Dunlop" 1967

Monday, September 17, 2018

New York State of Art

New York State 

In Brooklyn,  I delivered my two monotypes for the show "Hand Pulled Prints" at SITE:BROOKLYN in an industrial district just west of Park Slope.  I could feel the energy of the neighborhood I used to call home.  Around the gallery the framed prints were not yet mounted on the walls, but  I can see that this is an interesting group and I think my artwork will stand out.

Alan Singer: "Importance of Light"
Monotype on Fabriano paper, 2018

This Brooklyn gallery has been open for five years, and I talked with the director, Denise Amses who is also a working artist.  We spoke about how much the neighborhood has changed since I moved out of this district in 2005.  So many new buildings in NYC!  I almost don't recognize it, as I drive around Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Taking shape:  "Hand Pulled Prints" for SITE:BROOKLYN

I won't be able to stay around downstate as I have to go back to my classroom, and teach at R.I.T.

So, I get up at sunrise to get to Rochester Institute of Technology and up in the sky is a work of art: someone was skiing in the clouds - or so it seems...

Sunrise, September 17, 2018

At the Bevier Gallery the teachers in the College of Art and Design       ( CAD ) are being presented in a faculty art show, and I can take a look around at my leisure.  From above the piece that Len Urso has on view seems very minimal in a sublime geometry of metal-work.  If this piece is formed by hammering away on the form - then that is a lot of work - also quite different than the heads that we have seen from him as of late.  The form - but not the color - reminds me of the world's largest flower  - the Rafflesia, which I think is found in Borneo.

Sculpture by Len Urso

Close by there is a tall sculptural work by Andy Buck that reminds me of art by Martin Puryear, and another sculpture being presented from Albert Paley.

Earlier Paley had sent out a letter  that detailed his interest in scaling back his operations - running huge sculpture studios and developing large public sculpture in far-flung places - it has got to be very exhausting.  

Work by Albert Paley

Dan DeLuna has some very colorful and attractive abstraction on view.  His teaching assignment here at R.I.T. is in the popular Visual Communication Design area.  I am sure that the paintings on view in this exhibition show increasing depth, and I would love to see more by this teacher.

Painting by Dan DeLuna

There is a striking portrait duo by Amy McLaren which reveals an interest in character development and also has a strong resemblance to the portraits of Robert Marx, one of Rochester's best known artists.  Amy has a lot of great energy and a real zest for her figurative pieces, that combine acute observation and a wonderful wit.

Portrait by Amy McLaren

So, I urge you to take a visit to the Bevier Gallery to check out all the artworks - too many to comment on here.  I have to go back to work - and take my students out to the Lamberton Conservatory to draw the plants for their next assignment.  On a warm grey day, we spend the afternoon studying nature - not too bad an idea!

Student at work on her drawing
at the 
Lamberton Conservatory


Sunday, September 9, 2018

Fall Semester

Lamberton Conservatory, Highland Park
Rochester, NY
September 8, 2018

The real thing takes your breath away... and this is just one visit to a local park to do some research for my class this fall semester.   I take my students to the conservatory to work on their art, and maybe paint a portrait of this hibiscus.  In my studio I am preparing new art myself - for exhibitions.. and just to see what happens.  I can invent forms, but nothing so spectacular as this flower above.

My monotype: "Tropical Radiance"

One thing I have found out, working with imagery derived from mathematical functions - there really is some strong similarity to the forms found in nature and those that are derived or rendered from a numerical matrix ( just look at the color burst in the center of the flower).

Before I go down to Brooklyn this weekend to drop off my prints for a show at SITE:BROOKLYN in Park Slope, I check out some shows in our area, including one collection of paintings by John Ruggles at The Geisel Gallery in downtown Rochester.  

I know John from R.I.T. and welcomed this opportunity to see what he has been doing lately.  It is also interesting for me because I have been reading a book by the author Leonard Shlain titled:  The Alphabet Versus The Goddess - this non fiction book published in 1998 recounts a history of the written word and how it is often in conflict with imagery.  John E. Ruggles takes letters from the Hebrew alphabet and illuminates them in his paintings, often taking the viewer on a mysterious journey. 

Pey: Mouth of Fire
by John E. Ruggles

An interesting thing about the book by Leonard Shlain is that he goes back through the history of the written language and spends some time to explain the origins of the letters that are the subjects of John Ruggles paintings.  Of course you don't have to read the book before you go and see this show, but it is a remarkable experience to see what can be done to create a painting based on calligraphic strokes and the ornamentation that is the result of a painterly manifestation of literacy.

John E. Ruggles 
Letters on the Wind

One letter per canvas is the starting point in this show, and John provides a little cheat sheet if you don't know the names of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet.  John writes an artist statement that begins with his orientation:  "I work in the space that exists between ideas, or objects, and the paths we forge through them".  That is the job of the visual artist as he sees it - walking through the doorway to a new set of possibilities using his paints and brushes to shed some light on this new path.

The next day I attended an opening for the artist Nate Hodge at Axom Gallery at 176 Anderson Avenue in Rochester.  His show is called: The Blues, and has examples of his latest paintings and drawings on view through October 13th, 2018.  When I think of the blues - I think of music, but when I see the artwork of Nate Hodge - I may reconsider that.  His show does have blue as a major color factor, but  I would say that this artist is in love with a kind of hand made architecture.

The installation brings his drawings to life and gives the visitor a lift.  Take a look first at the wall of intimate drawings and paintings - there is an obsession with a fine line that is  multiplied many times over as it builds upon itself.  

Nate Hodge working drawings

Nate Hodge: installation

We were prepared for this show after seeing paintings by Nate Hodge in the Hall of The Memorial Art Gallery, and also on view outdoors  in a mural he painted in 2015 for Wall/Therapy.  Stopping to chat with Nate Hodge we asked how long it took to paint the mural down the street - and we were amazed to learn that it took him ( alone ) a week to do the job.  His is a form of improvisation, paint a portion, going back to fix something, make it better and continue on, so here my thinking about music returns, because his description is very much what I feel when I listen to modern jazz - so maybe it is the return of the blues....

Nate Hodge is industrious....

Giving form to feeling is the motivation here.  The need to express oneself is important, and maybe it is carried through your life if you are an artist of some sort, and have the skills and the staying power to keep at it.  New directions are being forged, new paths are being built upon in visual arts that may not be so easy to grasp at first,  but keep trying, because it is worth the effort .

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Art Workers

Rick Muto and Roz Goldman
Axom Gallery, Rochester, New York
celebrates Cathal O'Toole

This past Saturday at the Axom Gallery, a group of folks gathered to hear from Roz Goldman and Rick Muto, Michael Thomas and Katherine Baca-Bielinis about the life and art of Cathal O'Toole ( 1904-1991 ).

On a beautiful afternoon I began to learn a lot more about the artist whose work I had admired in a fine show of paintings and prints.  The opportunity to hear from these people who had looked so  closely at the works on view in the gallery was really refreshing.  There were some surprises as Rick Muto brought out some of Cathal O'Toole's artworks that had not made it onto the walls of this particular show, including a portrait of the actress Helen Hayes ( see below ).

Cathay O'Toole's portrait of Helen Hayes

During the discussion at the gallery we learned that the artist had exhibited his paintings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and that sales of the art from the Axom Gallery would go to help support Cathal O'Toole's wife who is presently under care in a nursing home.  I couldn't help but think of all of the artwork this artist must have made during a lifetime, and we are only seeing what was left of his estate in this show of a very high quality.

Later in the week I spent some time watching a wonderful video  on TV about the life and work of Eva Hesse, an artist whose work I followed in New York City when I would go around to galleries as a teenager.  ART 21 is the series being  shown on PBS and this week they will broadcast a special about the art and life of Elizabeth Murray, which I am looking forward to seeing.

Elizabeth Murray visits R.I.T.

Almost fifteen years ago, I invited Elizabeth Murray to come and speak to my students in the painting studio at Rochester Institute of Technology.  She later gave a public talk about her art at The Memorial Art Gallery that was well attended.  It was only a few years after that, when Elizabeth passed away ( too soon ).  Luckily she lived long enough to see her retrospective exhibition held at The Museum Of Modern Art.  But when she was here to visit my students at R.I.T. she gave their work her full attention.

Elizabeth Murray will be featured in a video presentation
from ART 21
check your local listings

While Elizabeth Murray   ( 1940-2007 ) was alive and exhibiting often at Paula Cooper Gallery, I would go and see what she was doing, and it almost always gave me something to think about, and enjoy.  My own painting was influenced by what she accomplished, especially from the point of view of working with different shapes.  I place a very high value on the people behind the artwork, and on the way out at the airport, bringing Elizabeth Murray back to her plane to New York City, I couldn't help but be amazed by her stamina in the face of all the work she had yet to accomplish.