Saturday, March 30, 2019

Spring Arrives

Art House Press, 2019
Cordell Cordaro & designer Marco Fesyuk

I met the artist Cordell Cordaro once and enjoyed chatting and seeing his artwork but I didn't get a chance to thank him for the work he does to publish the yearly installments of Art House Press.  This year I found a copy in the Hungerford Building of the new Art House Press ( see above ) and right away I saw that this issue was different!  Gone were the select portfolios of images by our local artists, and in its place are essays including a long one by Amy Vena who is a graduate of our program at Rochester Institute of Technology.  Amy has been working hard now at Bausch & Lomb dealing with their archive as well as giving thought and care to their art program for their headquarters and for the Geisel Gallery downtown in Rochester.

Amy Vena has written a thought provoking essay on the health and well-being of the visual arts in 'Rochester and what we can and should be doing to maintain and improve our situation.  There is a whole discussion of the political and economic ramifications of the arts in our area, and considering that there are many forces involved, community support for this sector of the country is essential.

Other essays in Art House Press provide a stimulant for the up-and-coming art collector, enumerating the benefits by the purchase of the perfect thing for your home or business.  For the artists this show of support can mean a great deal and it helps justify all the time and effort that they put into their calling.

Alan Singer's print "Enigma" at MuCcc 
142 Atlantic Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607

If you want to belong to a group that is connected to the fine arts in Rochester, try the Print Club! Now the Print Club of Rochester is dedicated to educating the public about printmaking and each  year it commissions an artist to create an edition so that each member will receive that print as one benefit of being part of the club.  During the month of April, the Print Club is hosting an exhibition at MuCcc - located at 142 Atlantic Ave, and the show will be on thru April 28th.  If you want to know more about The Print Club - check out their website:

 Graduate artist Marcia Liu
Now at the Bevier Gallery, Rochester Institute of Technology

Each spring the graduate MFA candidates at Rochester Institute of Technology put their art on view to the public and this semester we have a series of shows that has just begun in the Bevier Gallery.  Just for starters we have dimensional design, sculpture, prints and even whirling furry objects that are hard to classify!  Come out and take a look at the imagination at work!

Graduate Thesis shows at Bevier Gallery
Rochester Institute of Technology

Talking about the places that visual art can take you, stop into the Geisel Gallery this month for a look at the paintings and drawings of artist Paul Brandwein.  His art is engaging and colorful, and you are not likely to have seen anything like this before unless you have dreams about microscopic life in technicolor.  Right at the door to his show we have a poster that proclaims the territory that Brandwein has discovered for himself.

Paul Brandwein at the Geisel Gallery
in the former headquarters of Bausch & Lomb
downtown Rochester

The welcome is an unusual one - a torus covered with a pattern that could be a virus of some sort!

Inside,  the show has a dazzle of color, and finely tuned and detailed workmanship.  At the end of a long hall there seems to be a very colorful surf-bord beckoning...

Paul Brandwein at Geisel Gallery

The paintings in this gallery are very imaginative and show is called:  "Forces at Play". 

 Each one of these works looks like Mr. Brandwein put a lot of attention to every square inch.  He writes that the paintings might suggest planetary orbits, embryonic life or even sub-atomic particles.  Even if you are not interested per se in science, these paintings might inspire you to think differently!  Check out his show this will be glad you did!

Paul Brandwein
March - thru April 27, 2019
Geisel Gallery
Rochester, New York

Friday, March 29, 2019


Alan Singer, "Self-Portrait", oil on linen, 1974

During my college years at The Cooper Union, School of Art - my ideal painting subjects were portraits and poses from live models I had been drawing since I was a youth.  I got started early ( my parents were both artists ) and my practice carried me through graduate school at Cornell University.  At this same time Pop art was happening and conceptual and minimal art would soon follow.

I remember an important show of Robert Smithson's came to Cornell while I was attending and it piqued my interest in how the landscape could be incorporated into art with its own sense of history.  I was further urged on as a student to blend my figurative art with the landscape and I pursued that while getting my MFA.  The trends in Fine Art did not always look favorably on painting the figure or for representational art in general ( been there, done that ).  There were practitioners whose paintings I admired from Henri Matisse all the way up to the present which for me included Alex Katz and my own teachers - Leland Bell and Paul Resika.  I had not yet been introduced to Lucien Freud but that would soon change.  

Thomas Insalaco drawings of L. Freud

Why do I ramble on about the past?  I thought of my own evolution as I was inspecting the paintings and drawings now on exhibit at The Oxford Gallery here in Rochester.  This show called: "Legacy" is in honor of Thomas Insalaco who has influenced a figurative movement in this area and is a major figure who founded a painting program at Finger Lakes Community College.

Thomas Insalaco at Oxford Gallery

A triptych greets visitors to this show and when you read a description of the artworks you find that the paintings were done over a period of 44 years!  The style is along the lines of photo-realism, taking into account  light and shadow, and reflections that introduce the viewer to a world of detail.

As part of my own teaching at Rochester Institute of Technology, I regularly insist that my students draw from the live model and it still is one of the most rewarding subjects for drawing and painting.  If you work from observation - it is different than working from a photo, and very different than working from your imagination, or from a set of rules like the minimalist artists of the past ( see Donald Judd ).  

Thomas Insalaco

"A Cupcake for Wayne Thiebaud" takes a tasty subject that became a focal point for the west coast painter - especially because his paint quality mimicked the application of frosting on this treat.
Some other artworks in the Oxford Gallery show diverge from the figurative norms into the realm of  pure landscape in the paintings of Jean Stephens as seen below:

Jean K. Stephens

I think we have emerged from a time where the art world looked down on forms of representation.

We are in the present at a time when there is no dominant style, and almost anything goes, so it is nice to see a show with art of a high quality that can appeal to a broad demographic.  It is also fitting to have an exhibition that takes the contribution of local artists seriously, as we have here at the Oxford Gallery.

Bill Santelli at Oxford Gallery
thru April 20th, 2019

Sunday, March 24, 2019

In Context

Keith Haring and his art ( 1980s )

Keith Haring's images have been recognized worldwide.  But back in the mid 1970s you might have only seen his memorable artwork on the walls of the subway stations in New York City where he lived.  Graffiti!  

I used to say hello to Haring in his studio in the Cable Building on Broadway and Houston Street because I worked for publisher Jason Schulman who had an office next door.  Over the many years since Haring's death from AIDS, our society has changed considerably and an audience for Haring's brand of creativity has grown exponentially.  This is all featured in one of the essays in a new book by Ingrid Sischy.

"Nothing Is Lost" by Ingrid Sischy

Ingrid's father, Dr. Ben Sischy developed a noted radiology department here  at Highland Hospital, but both he and his daughter have now since passed away - so  there is a local connection.  I am reading the essays in "Nothing Is Lost" and many of them have been previously published in magazines she edited such as Artforum, and Interview, and she also was a contributor to the New Yorker Magazine among others.  She was an important figure as a writer as well as editor, and these select essays take you back to a time when.... things were different.  I bring this up because so much of the art world depends on context.

If you are an artist just starting out the decisions you make in your work and life can help you stand out, or on the other hand you may just want to fit in.  From my point of view I would choose the former position, to take the risk, and try something new..  In the classes I teach at R.I.T. my recommendation is to take the drawings that you do by hand and translate them into a different medium.  For many students today - that means something digital - so we are at a turning point where the education of the artist needs to take into account the effects of technology, to use the new tools as best we can.

Steff Geissbuhler at R.I.T. University Gallery thru April 20, 2019

If you are a graphic designer your very business interests have depended on technology all along, and for many of my design students my class is one place where they can actually see and feel the benefits of drawing by hand.  I bring this up because there is now a wonderful show of designs by Steff Geissbuhler at the University Gallery, and it is certainly worth your time to see his work.  You already know what he does in part if you watch NBC television  -he designed their new logo!

NBC Logo by Steff Geissbuhler

Posters for New York by Steff Geissbuhler
on view now at University Gallery, R.I.T.

My brother, Paul Singer studied with Steff Geissbuhler at Philadelphia College of Art, and I can see how a teacher can influence a student.  The design work by Geissbuhler is strong, good in color, and not only is attractive, but it is effective!  Take a look at his poster below:

Poster by Steff Geissbuhler.

Even with the ubiquity of modern design, we often don't know how it is done, so it may be worth your time to go and hear from the artist himself - he will be doing a presentation at R.I.T. in the University Gallery on April 5th from 4:30 in the afternoon to 6:30 pm.

Friday, March 15, 2019



March 11, 2019  Oakland, California

Down by Jack London Square there is a bold monument of a young woman holding a torch perhaps riding alongside an eagle, and this sculpture is called "Cheemah, Mother of the Spirit Fire..  She points the way and  is installed right by the entrance to a weekend farmer's market and I was surprised to observe that no one stopped to look - she is taken for granted - maybe even ignored!
This is the problem for visual art - in order to be regarded - the art has to grab your attention which gets harder when everyone has their eyes on  their cell phones.

Cheemah is a kind of a symbol, and because the work of art represents a powerful woman figure it becomes an illustration of leadership by example, something we really need in our lives right now given the national political situation.

Henry Raschen ( 1854-1937
"California Miner With a Pack Horse", oil on canvas, 1887

We are on break now and on my way to California I am reading a book called 1491 by Charles C. Mann that outlines what was going on here in the Americas before ( and during ) the period of European exploration ( and exploitation ).  Charles C. Mann attempts to sketch out who did what to whom - how the West was won - and it is not a pretty picture.  The "New World" held out so much promise!  But perhaps several million people lived in North and South America, and over a few decades they would be ravaged by disease that came off the boats  of the explorers.

California Gold by Nathaniel Currier

The explorers came looking for treasure and they found it in America.  In the Oakland Museum of Art just a few blocks away from Jack London Square, I saw a unique work on paper ( above ) where a man sits under an open umbrella that is planted on a hill of gold which in turn is being  towed out to sea by a spouting Sperm Whale.  California in the past did have its Gold Rush, but todays bounty may be found in the acres of oranges grown along the highways, or the high tech firms of Silicon Valley.

Orange groves in Central Valley with snow-covered High Sierra in the distance

At the Oakland Museum of Art I was introduced to several large scale works like the bulky ceramic sculpture by Peter Voulkos ( 1924 - 2002 ) called "Solano" made in 1959.  The  label explains that Voulkos had a wish - he regarded the mythical aspect of breaking through the old traditions of art.  I have high respect for those artists who take those chances, and for Peter Voulkos he developed an entirely different way for a potter or ceramic artist to cultivate a career.

Peter Voulkos'  Solano

The museum experience should include some surprises and I found one by Carlos Villa  ( 1936-2013 ) near the entrance - a painting by an artist I had not known of and his acrylic painting had some movement implied, and interesting color application  ( air brush ) and dimension.

Acrylic painting by Carlos Villa

We headed out into the daylight and drove south and then east towards the parks along the high Sierra Mountains.  We could see them from many miles away - snowy peaks shimmered in the sun, and we looked forward to going out of the city and into the fresh air.  Staying at Three Rivers, CA,  we went into parks and enjoyed the changing views of big sky country.

Kaweah River  creates a lake in California

We packed a lot of activity into a short period of time.  We drove thru the Central Vallery, towards Los Angeles and then on to fly out of Palm Springs.  Our short vacation comes to an end but we can rest a while and absorb some sun rays as we wait for our departure.

Palm Springs, March 2019

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Sentinel West

General Sherman
Sequoia National Park, California

Meet General Sherman!  On a "must see" list, I can introduce you today to the world's largest tree!

Not the oldest, nor the tallest tree ( which resides many miles up north of here ).  We met General Sherman on March 12th up in the Sierra Mountains where Sequoia National Park is located.  Let me tell you that everything you have ever heard about giant sequoias is dwarfed by the REAL thing!

To get up the mountain we had to try three times - who knew that these trees were in the snow?? - and we were told that we would need chains for our tires so we turned around and went down the mountain.  The next morning we found a tire chain rental place and learned how to put them on, and back up the hills we went.  When we got to the level where it becomes mandatory to have the chains on ( 7000 feet above sea level ) we found that the chains we rented were too small!  Back down again... our frustration mounting!  Finally,  found a place that had chains for our tire size, and we roared back up the mountains.  The only way to get around in the Sierras - you need snow tires and a four wheel drive vehicle..

Anna Sears presents General Sherman

When I was practicing my botanical art for the National Geographic Book Division, I did some illustrations of the Sequoia, but I had never seen the giants in person ( in the 1980s they did have a sequoia in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden - maybe twenty five feet tall which  I used as a model)

The neighborhood is in Oakland, California

To backtrack a bit for my readers, we have flown out west for a break; to visit family, and to see the sites.  We started out from Oakland, California where my son is building his first house.  His wife is expecting their second child, and we all got in the car  to drive over to the Oakland Museum of Art which overlooks a reservoir on Park Boulevard.

Family outing Oakland Museum of Art

Ceramic by Viola Frey

When you walk upstairs to the museum you are greeted by a larger-than-life ceramic figure created by Viola Frey - who if I recall correctly was represented in New York City by Nancy Hoffman.  I have to say,  that once inside the Oakland Museum - it works very well for young children - if you have a family.  My grandson was very entertained by many of the installations and he is not quite two years old!

Painting by Bay Area painter, David Park

Looking around the museum you see right away that the layout is not chronological - but rather there are pockets of artwork for various eras.  A good space is open for the Bay Area painters, so we have David Park, and Richard Diebenkorn for example.  There are some interesting abstracts on view, and other areas devoted to things like scale models and dioramas.

Towards  the back of the exhibition space there is a hall that features dinosaur bones, and painted charts of where to find hoards of great fossils ( hint: around Bakersfield !)   The museum has documentary photos, and a wide variety of craft items on view, some very startling...

Crowd Pleaser in Oakland

Saying goodbye to family, we left Oakland and headed for the hills - and in between got a wide view of California's Central Valley which really is the breadbasket for our nation.  So many rows of blooming trees - we forgot that it is early spring here, since when we left Rochester, New York we still had many inches of  snow on our lawn.

Dry Creek Road near Three Rivers, California

I did have a chance to drive through ranch land, and found a sea of California Poppies blooming away on the hillside.  Such a warmth of color out there!  You have to see it for yourself!

Saturday, March 2, 2019


The artist Sunyoung Kwon
Joy Gallery 
498 1/2 West Main Street
Rochester, New York

At the Joy Gallery,  in the heart of Rochester, New York, there is a new presentation by artist Sunyoung Kwon who studied as a grad student at Rochester Institute of Technology over twenty years ago.  Sunyoung recently came back to RIT to give Luvon Sheppard's class some tips on watercolor painting and life lessons as an artist.  She keeps her artwork on a small scale, perhaps to make it more portable, and she often paints these small portraits of people she knows and along with the brushwork she adds a little sentence or at most a paragraph about the person she portrays.

Ms. Kwon's portraits at Joy Gallery

Sunyoung told me that she now has hundreds of these miniature portraits and this is the first time I have seen this portion of her collection.  She concentrates on the face, often giving her subject some emotional sensibility that you can feel in the painting to which she adds her writing which is often matter-of-fact.  She has painted her friends and mentors and I found a portrait of Luvon, and then one of David Dickinson who was the one who originally hired me to teach at RIT.  There was even a little portrait of me in  this show, and then Sunyoung came over to show me the reference photo she had taken of me when I was younger and I was still wearing the same winter coat that I had on then, when that photo was made so long ago!

Sunyoung Kwon watercolor portraits

This is the kind of exhibition where you can spend a fair amount of time looking and reading the stories.  All of the paintings are presented flat - on a table for you to see up close, and up a few stairs on the next level at the gallery there is a video presentation that gives you a stop-action story of her technique.  You can watch her painting quickly develop, and this answers in part that question that comes along with her art - How did she do it?

Before the evening was over I wandered back over to the Axom Gallery to see their new show, which features many paintings by the artist Lin Price.  The art is bold, even though the size is modest.  Maybe the largest painting is set above the couch in the main room ( it features some big  steamer boats perhaps on one of the Great Lakes).

The artist Lin Price at Axom Gallery
Rochester, New York

Talking with the artist she made a remark about the pacing of the show and pointed to a series of smaller works that alternate between a direct sort of realism and a more poetic approach to representations.  The people that you find in her paintings are often surrounded by wide open spaces suffused with color and texture.  She speaks of the memories she had painting some of these scenes  which often portray experiences that can be thought of as very symbolic like the painting below - which  she calls " River".  A person bends over on a little driveway in the middle of a hot orange sea of color to look in a little mailbox- there on a post.  It could be a dream, as their horse runs away...

Lin Price " River" at Axom Gallery

In the artist statement she writes about her paintings which represent fleeting moments of contemplation.  Themes that rise from her paintings are experiences of desire, regret and joy...
I think when you see them you will have your own ideas, some may be funny, while some paintings are puzzles for you to try and figure out.

Lin Price at Axom Gallery

Lin Price

Rising Stars

Above: Art by Dongyi Wu
Below: portrait of Dongyi Wu

Nice to meet and get to know some of the many new faces in the art world, which is now so diverse!  Also good to see one of our students from Rochester Institute of Technology pictured above, who has created beautiful artwork -and is beginning to be recognized for her contribution!  The online magazine called ACS ( out of Chicago ) has just published a lengthy interview with Dongyi Wu and featured her sculpture  and wearable art in their new issue.  You can read about it - and here is the link: 

Just Opened: Just Folks
at RIT CITY Art Space
Rochester, New York

Out for Friday, Galleries Night, I am just part of the big crowd at the show called: "Just Folks", and what a show it is!  This is the brainchild of Erich Lehman and the exhibition celebrates some of the artists associated with Wall/Therapy and Erich's 1975 Gallery ( which I really miss! ).  Here is Erich  enjoying the sense of a large family gathered together to talk art and other things.  This city needs this kind of energy, and the art is not too bad either!

Erich Lehman at the opening of "Just Folks"

Erich has been a guest speaker in my class where we talk about the business of art, and his activity as a gallerist, and also as a promoter for Wall/Therapy - among other things, he has been an essential part of the art scene here in Rochester.  He is able to get the youth motivated to come out and contribute to the cultural scene and provides a nexus of energy and determination through his efforts. Some of the striking examples of this movement can be seen on the gallery walls.  A dramatic painting by Sarah C. Rutherford is just one part of a larger statement that she is making with her new television special "Her Voice Carries" soon to be seen over the PBS Broadcasting system.

A huntress by Sarah C. Rutherford

I wonder how the young artists that I see featured in this show deal with the new realities.  Do I see some of this reaction in the little painting here called: "Daily Damage Report"?  The arts are going through a period where there are so many directions to take, how does one follow it at all?  Luckily this is also a very democratic moment, and  if you have the skill and the stamina, you can make a statement.

Dan Pendleton's  "Daily Damage Report"

I know from talking with Erich that he got started on this road to the art gallery by being a collector. He also has this renegade spirit that comes from the art that he saw and made for the roller boards that skaters created to give their boards personality.  So it was a bit of surprise to find surfboards in the show and why were they parked in a little corner?  Since a surfboard has a real dimension to it  why not feature that?  There is also some relationship to the tattoo artist in some of the work featured in "Just Folks", and I can imagine making  a bigger point being made for that.

Art by Mike Ming

Art by Sarah Blood at "Just Folks"
RIT CITY Art Space

There is so much to see in this exhibition and there is a convenient list to look at for the titles and prices.  Looking over the list there is a real surprise to see how much each artist is asking for their work.  Some of these talented artists whose work I have seen before are really maturing and getting better.  I found some beautiful portraits, and wonderful abstraction at this show - so you must go and see it!

Portraits by Brittany Williams

Abstraction by St. Monci
at RIT City Art Space
March 1 - 23, 2019