Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Picking Up Where We Left Off


                                        Photo by Sue Weisler

                                        My Class at R.I.T. drawing from life! 

                                        Birds by Wild Wings

I haven't been out-of-touch!  It is just that it took so long to adjust to the new circumstances!  This is my last semester teaching my art classes at Rochester Institute of Technology, and since I am ancient, I qualify for teaching from home, remotely.  There is so much to learn, doing ZOOM meetings all day, and then having to keep everything in order!  I am very thankful for not having to venture onto campus considering the spike in COVID cases here in Monroe County!

This new semester has been stressful for my students who are worrying about going home for Thanksgiving, after getting all their work done for the fall.  I had never given a critique before over  the computer.  I am not a big fan of having the art at arms length, much less in another  part of the country, but if that is what it takes to get the job done....

Work in progress at my studio in the Hungerford Building

I can celebrate the season with a new canvas in my studio that I have been planning for a number of months.  Earlier in November I stretched this and got started - it is like a painted quilt, all little squares of bright colors.  Hopefully the effect will be  striking!  We will see....  I am working with the notion of accumulation and a kind of colorful graph of where we stand at the present.

During my hiatus from this blog I must  acknowledge the passing of a most notable artist in our area Robert Ernst Marx who captivated this writer with his style of portrait painting that verged on editorial caricature.  

Robert Ernst Marx 

Another artist who made very attractive photographs that I have reviewed in the past, was Pat Wilder who sadly is also no longer with us.  I first came across Pat and her work  on a summer day at an art festival held at the Sonnenberg Gardens in Canandaigua, NY.  Pat had a colorful kind of minimal approach to her image making that was very refreshing.  Below is an undated photo of her in her booth at an art show; she was always on the trail of the outdoor venues, and I was always interested to hear where she planned to have her next show.

Pat Wilder and Friend

So,  looking forward, I plan to resume writing my blog, and saying a few things about our community and the kinds of art that one could go and see.  Mostly I have been doing some necessary reading and enjoying a free moment ( often at bedtime ) when I can quietly assess the scene...  In a health crisis the likes of which I have never before endured, it is something of a test!  For anyone interested in sculpture in the mid-20th century, a new book on Alexander Calder is well worth the time to read.  Jed Perl is the author who has done exhaustive research and plunged deeply into the life of his subject here.

Jed Perl's new book on Sandy Calder

Writer, Jed Perl

Like many who know Calder's work, I was attracted by Calder's Circus which could be found in the entry level of the Whitney Museum when it was located up on Madison Avenue in Manhattan.  In fact I remember seeing Calder outside of the Whitney talking to people in front of the museum one day in the 1970s.  You don't forget that sort of thing!

Jed Perl I know, having brought him upstate to do a talk at The Memorial Art Gallery - now over ten years ago!  Jed publishes his writing often in The New York Review of Books, and I have followed his writing with great interest especially now that he has chronicled Calder's development and great success  as a sculptor and artist who had a unique place in the art world of the 20th century.

This is just to say Thank You if you are reading this, and in this season of lock-downs, I will pick up where we left off and try to be informative and engaged once again!

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Black Artists Matter

Black Artists Matter

At a time when there are demonstrations  in the streets, our cultural institutions need to step up to the plate and invest their resources to correct years of neglect for African American artists here in this country.  At this juncture, it should be clear that our country is much more diverse and efforts must be made to heal the wounds of the past and present  by acknowledging the contributions of artists who have not enjoyed the support of our cultural institutions and this has got to change!

Portrait  of Cab Calloway made by my father, Arthur Singer in the 1930s

Here in our local neighborhood of Rochester, New York, I write from the birthplace of Cab Calloway - jazz star of mega-proportions - but where in town is any recognition of his star power that shines through popular music?   A proud Rochester mayor should use this knowledge to connect to a wider population and instill in a younger generation a purpose that would lift people up, give them something to celebrate!

Luvon honors the life of Frederick Douglas at RoCo

I share an office at R.I.T. with Luvon Sheppard, an artist who has made a difference in this same community.  So why isn't there one of his paintings on view at The Memorial Art Gallery for other generations to see and contemplate?  Here, in Rochester, Luvon runs the Joy Gallery on West Main Street, and he has taught legions of students at Rochester Institute of Technology - and through his efforts he has inspired so many others - and is an inspiration to me when we can share our views about life!

William T. Williams and his recent work

The art scene is diverse but artists of color have often faced hurdles that comes from an embedded bias, so it is time to acknowledge this and move forward.  Demonstrations in the streets can have helpful repercussions if we welcome the efforts and acknowledge the work of the many artists who need our support.  I was reminded of this yesterday when I listened to an online presentation from the Museum of Fine Art in Houston, Texas.  My cousin, Michael Rosenfeld has a gallery in New York City that has championed the works of artists such as William T. Williams ( above ) , and Betty Saar among many others.  Michaels' gallery let me know that the Museum of Fine Art in Houston has an important exhibition up now, and that there was going to be a online discussion featuring William T. Williams, Mel Edwards, and Fred Eversley.

William T. Williams

I myself studied with Mr. Williams at Skowhegan in the summer of 1973.  His bold abstractions pushed me into a new direction in my own painting.  His  instruction was a very personal approach that had a lot of appeal with its bold color and edgy geometry, and he was not alone.  At the Cooper Union School of Art where I studied, there were several artists of color who I studied with including the photographer Roy DeCarava, and the painter Jack Whitten.  I was recently very involved in reading Jack Whitten's " Notes From The Woodshed" , a kind of diary he kept that involved all  kinds of notes about his art productions.  Also at Cooper Union in that moment was Bob Blackburn who ran the printmaking studios.  All of these folks were very influential!

Jack Whitten
Read his "Notes from the Woodshed"

Bob Blackburn ran printmaking studios and so much more

I was very lucky to hear the online presentation this Saturday, August 1st hosted by The Museum of Fine Art, Houston with the artists William T. Williams, Fred Eversley and Mel Edwards.  Mel spoke of those times in the past when his fellow artists were just breaking into the art scene.  I remember meeting Mel Edwards once at a sculpture show that took place in Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn over 30 years ago.  Since those times his art has really taken off!  His sculptures "Lynch Fragments" are very strong and evocative.  They have now become part of the fabric of our art world, our society.

Mel Edwards in his studio

Mel Edwards "Lynch Fragments"

For those who have the power and influence, it is beyond time to open the doors to the creative vision of a much more diverse population and see what new light shines on a path we have yet to take.  It is ABOUT TIME!

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Hope Springs Eternal

The sky outside my studio window
The Hungerford Building
Rochester, New York
July 19, 2020

I am writing this, today, and it is July 19th in Rochester, New York.  Last month on June 19th we learned about a political rally planned for Tulsa, and about a terrible event that happened there in Tulsa in 1921.  We can't undo the events of the past, but we certainly can recognize them and learn from them - and I am just puzzled as to why it has taken so long for this message to get out to the general public!  Juneteenth as it has come to be called was a staggering Catastrophe.  I can only hope that our community is strong enough to resist the forces that try to divide us as a nation, to disenfranchise citizens and deprive them of equal justice under the law.

This year, 2020, is one for the history books, AND it is still a work in progress!  During this period of lockdown and quarantine we here are still working on our own projects and for me that means unpacking because we have just moved.  I now have to deal with my inventory and trying to find a place for everything including my rather extensive library.

Work-in-progress on the studio work table...

As the hours slip away I work in the studio and I am looking forward to a time when it is safe to go to an opening or see an exhibition with a friend.!  And there are exhibitions that are beginning to happen that I am involved with including one at the Oxford Gallery in Rochester, and a Print Club show where my work will go on view later in the summer.  The Print Club is a great organization that will hold their annual exhibition at Main Street Arts in Clifton Springs in August and September of this year.  My print called: "Romeo" will be on view ( see below ).

"Romeo", transfer monotype on paper by Alan Singer

My print works are hand pulled in my studio on my etching press.  Images like the one above are actually visual compositions that I have made using traditional tools and digital programs like "Cinderella"  - which is a method for mathematical visualizations on the two dimensional plane of Fabriano paper that I select for my prints.  It is really interesting that I can use geometry to tell a story, or show something new that I had not experimented with before.

In any case the studio is a haven for me - at least for a few hours each day, and then I can come back home to deal with the events of the "real" world.  I have to continue with my college teaching assignments for R.I.T., which means that I have to prepare for my classes which will be mostly online.  I hope that my ZOOM account is up to the task!  Anyway - Good Luck to you, and STAY HEALTHY, Stay Strong!..

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Engage Anew

Alan Singer Studio 432 Hungerford Building 
Wall, June 2020

Emerging from a lockdown mode is wonderful, if still a bit un-nerving! 

During this viral wave, we washed our hands frequently and donned our masks, keeping our social distance which is becoming second nature in this crisis.  Left to our own devices, we search out fresh air from the porch of our new home and marvel at the woods all around us up in the Egypt Hills.  Luckily, I have my art studio in the Hungerford Building in Rochester, so I can escape and work on a painting or a print when the time allows.

Before the pandemic hit I had the chance to send off some images to a publication called SciArt.  They have a special initiative to engage with a community of artists online and present a gallery in this new issue that is dedicated to art and algorithms.  Artists like myself are trying out new avenues to construct an artistic expression which is very liberating and also very challenging.  Take a look at this site which is a blend of science and art and see what we are up to.  Here is a link:

In many ways the paintings by Mondrian and the art of Ellsworth Kelly and Sol Lewitt inform me and in the studio I can build on the path they set using geometry to enter a new world of composition that stresses color and pattern.  A concept I use to construct my new work depends on the notion of a cellular automata - this started out as a mathematical construct that would show how the aggregation of  matter ( atoms or cells ) can create structure and intelligence.  In some ways it also reminds me of building blocks or Legos and the miracle of how things fit together.

"Coming  Home" Oxford Gallery
Amy McLaren, Three Women,Three Animals"
Acrylic on canvas

Another way to engage anew is to go out and find artwork to look at and enjoy.  Here, in Rochester, I have that opportunity now that some business is beginning to re-open - and in fact I went over to visit the Oxford Gallery for the first time in many months.  "Coming Home" is the name of their new show and it couldn't be more apt a title for an exhibition.  Timing is everything and I am happy to say that one of my watercolors is part of this show along with about fifty other artists and their work.

One of my students from years past - Amy McLaren has her painting ( above ) in this new show which will run into September.  Amy has painted an allegory - as a story about women and how they present themselves - so in the gallery their is her painting and you have to read the wall label!

The ideas behind the show "Coming Home" can be very different for each artist, and you will find this show very entertaining when you go.  Think about the collections of things you might have had as a kid ( I collected baseball cards and models that I built by hand ).  David Dorsey has an oil painting of a collection of monopoly tokens in a glass jar that  can remind you of your childhood and his painting has an uncanny ability to be both very abstract and very literal at the same time.

David Dorsey at Oxford Gallery

In this time of social unrest, with demonstrations in the streets, the notion of home can be really tested as it is in the  little painting by Carolyn Edlund which she titles: "When Home Won't Let You Stay".

Carolyn Edlund, oil on panel
"When Home Won't Let You Stay"

There are always surprises with a big show like this one.  For example there is Bill Keyser's unique abstract  painted blue shape and a corrugated piece of rusty metal.  Considering the title of this show "Coming Home" - how does his artwork align with the theme of the show?  Bill's art is certainly strong, and I wonder what his take is on the message this sends....?

Bill Keyser's "Long Story Short"
at Oxford Gallery

Putting a show like this together you get many kinds of art in juxtaposition.  You can play one off the other.  A gallery visitor ( I was alone in that regard ) has the freedom to make choices of a work that they could live with.  Jim Hall told me of a comment made about my painting - that a viewer thought that  "Our Home" was the best painting of a house they ever saw!  Isn't that interesting?  I can enjoy this conversation with Jim because I can learn so much more about the artists that he has invited to exhibit their work, and considering the fact that there are not too many galleries open around town, this was indeed a delight....

Left and Right =Paula Crawford with "welcome Home" and Alan Singer with "Our Home"

    Engage Anew with photos courtesy of  Jim Hall from Oxford Gallery