Thursday, October 14, 2021

Back To You


My strawberry in the morning...haha!

The strawberry in my morning cereal was smiling and then it was sticking its tongue out at me!

This reminds me that when I last spoke with my grandchildren they were using the new Animoji that recognizes facial structure and super-imposes a moving emoji cartoon where their real face was a moment ago.  Then as if that weren’t enough, the CBS show “60 Minutes” has a segment on “Deep Fakes” where  the interviewer Bill Whitaker looks like he is thirty years younger – all using facial recognition software.  We are definitely moving into a new phase of the digital revolution!

Alan Singer's "Bird Bills"  - my transfer mono print from early this year

I am concerned about this in regard to this blog on visual art  (that I write on occasion) because it begins to look like we are handing off something important to the authors of artificial intelligence.  I have to deal with this all the time because at least half of my artwork is  constructed on my computer first, and that human touch is buried in the work product.

So, when I reason with myself, I come down to the fact that even though I use a machine ( my MacBook Pro ) to help me compose a painting or a print, I still am putting in my thoughts and feelings in and about the art as it progresses, and it HAS to meet my standard, and it has to show me something about where we are today and what is required of art and in part this may shake things up for some people.  Art always has that potential....!

Yes, I realize that we are all in a creative field and our goals are not all the same.  I can go into the studio and take up where I left off, and now that I no longer teach my classes at R.I.T. my central question revolves around how well my artwork represents who I am now.  Where do I want to be with my art and how will the artwork I make now be seen by any audience ( and in a pandemic what will that audience consist of? ).

Headlines in the Pittsford Post, October 2021

Something quite out of the ordinary has happened here in our new neighborhood.  The local newspaper, the Pittsford Post published this week’s issue with a headline about  a local art gallery and a show of artwork by an artist whose name  was not a familiar one for me, so I guess I will have to go and see what this is all about....!

Stewart Davis painted birds in flight

When I am not in my studio I may want to see what other people are  creating, and go where they are  showing.  One of my favorite places to visit is RoCo and a few weeks ago I went over to see a memorial exhibit  for Stewart Davis.  Stewart was one of those guys I really enjoyed chatting with and I was shocked to learn that he had passed away!  I know that he was a great supporter of the arts, and this memorial had artwork that he had made in recent years, and that was a surprise too because I didn’t know he practiced art making as well!

Joshua Enck and his sculptural expressions

Since I was out and about I stopped in on the last day of a show at the RIT CITY Artspace to view sculpture by Joshua Enck and Prints by Sarah Kinard.  I didn’t know Joshua or his sculpture before and it has a kind of constructivist reliance on geometric simplicity and in some of his pieces there is a flow that resonates with the prints of Sarah Kinard, who I do know. Sarah sometimes works with woodcuts – relief printmaking and she has so much energy!

Sarah Kinard, printmaker

Sarah’s graphic imagery dances before you, it does somersaults and mixes movements that have an emotional power and punch. An interesting facet of showing your work in some gallery spaces is that they frequently now have a code on each label which allows you to use your smartphone to  see more details about the artist which means  that you can watch a short video and pick up some valuable information about the artist on view.  This show had that feature!


I go back to the studio thinking about this and maybe wish that the imagery I am working with had some of that dance energy.  Well, I got to get back to my work. Now, and  ... Back to You.. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

A Round Of Applause


         Matthew  Retzlaff,  "HUFFY" at   Burchfield Penney Art Center

Surviving the pandemic, & having some time in the studio to think about my life, I have to stand and give a shout out to the many artists whose dedication to their art and to their audience I have shared.  In our part of the country I see many outstanding paintings, prints and installations and it is hard to keep up with all this creativity!  A couple of weeks back we were in Buffalo and we stopped into the Burchfield Penney Center before driving back to Rochester, and there were many folks from our area with their art on view in this museum!  Across the street from this museum is another huge construction project at The Albright Knox Art Gallery which looks like the galleries will double in size!

Bill Stewart's " A Shaman's World"  on view at The Burchfield Penney Art Center

Let me say that the Burchfield Penney  Center  is devoted to the art of Charles Burchfield who I have written about previously on this blog.  The current exhibitions on view at this venue include groups of crafts people and individuals like the late Bill Stewart who created ceramic figures that have an impact - mixing cartoons with idol worship, so quirky that you have to laugh. 

Bill Keyser

You might want to spend more time with the survey of American crafts that brings you artists like my friend Bill Keyser who spent many years in woodworking and in this instance brings the audience a stripped down edgy piece that has a minimalist aesthetic.   Having just seen a show of paintings and drawings by Elizabeth Murray, I was surprised to see the wall mounted sculptures by Paul Brandwein.  His constructions seemed to cross what Elizabeth had pioneered with an almost scientific composition that seemed to symbolize something familiar that might appear in a dream.  And around the corner was a very large work that has the look and impact of a  window in a cathedral  topped off with a grand butterfly. 

Paul Brandwein

Big Butterfly

Christine and Paul Knoblauch have created a beautiful and delicate kind of gate (“Heaven’s Sake”) that has a decorative quality and as an installation is quite unique. There are birds and flowers in the  composition and intricate metal work in this substantial piece.  I can’t imagine how many hours were spent trying to get the forms of all these things just right!

Christine and Paul Knoblauch

Upstairs there were a number of small paintings made “At the Water’s Edge”  by Mildred C. Green ( 1874-1951).  Mildred found her specialty with the steam boats on the Great Lakes and she was a stickler for detail!  Some of her paintings remind me of Edward Hopper and his keen eye and I really enjoy the compositions that are found in this show.

Mildred C. Green ( 1874-1951 )

Joseph Piccillo

Joseph Piccillo is an artist who works with charcoal, and looking at the large scale drawings in his room, I am attracted to his big horse and the portraits hanging alongside.  I was wondering how he got the smooth effects using charcoal – it was like the values were rubbed on, or built up very slowly, the drawings had quite an effect.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Back In Town


Elizabeth Murray at University of Buffalo Anderson Gallery
Buffalo, New York
thru October 3, 2021

I met her coming off the airplane at the airport in Rochester, New York, and promptly drove Elizabeth Murray over to meet with my students at Rochester Institute of Technology.  The year was 2002.  Just a few weeks earlier she had been close at hand in her studio in lower Manhattan to witness the crashes and catastrophe of 9/11.  I wondered how those days might have affected her and influenced her thinking and her artwork.  We talked about this in the car as we approached R.I.T.

Elizabeth Murray visiting my painting class at R.I.T. in 2002

Now, almost twenty years later, one could get a better picture of how Elizabeth's art had changed when viewing the show " Back in Town" that is on for the rest of this month in Buffalo, N.Y.  The artist has passed on but her artwork survives, and this show mounted at the University of Buffalo Anderson Gallery is powerful and allows one to evaluate her influence on artists since her heyday in the later part of the 20th century.

Elizabeth Murray's early work at U of B Anderson Gallery

I thought of our conversation about 9/11 when I was visiting  the Anderson Gallery and caught sight of the toppling of the Empire State Building in her early work on exhibit.  She must have had a premonition of some sort!  In this present show there are several of her earliest works that mix a kind of cartoon style with textures and nervous colors like you see here ( above ).

"Back in Town" harkens back to a period in Elizabeth Murray's career when she was a teacher in Buffalo and was just setting out her subjects and her materials.  She only stayed in Buffalo two short years and then it was on to the Big Apple!

"Flying Bye" oil on canvas by Elizabeth Murray,  1982

I had been following her work since I first found it in the early 1970s at the Paula Cooper Gallery in SoHo in lower Manhattan.  Elizabeth took her interest in abstraction and married that to imagery taken from comic books and symbolism. Ingenuity  in form and color, Elizabeth Murray's art took painting and moved it closer to a sculptural presence.

"Sandpaper Fate", oil on canvas, 1992-93

This show is on until October 3rd, 2021 and it covers the two floors of the Anderson Gallery with artwork that runs through a robust period of nearly thirty years, with drawings and prints right up to her last paintings.  If you haven't seen this show - DON"T Miss It!  I thank the curators and the family trust that holds many of these works.  I am inspired by the energy Elizabeth brought to her task, and one can follow along with her development through the inclusion of drawings for this painting above called: "Sandpaper Fate".

This artwork indeed must have gone through many stages.  Just developing the stretchers for her paintings is a challenge for a carpenter because the edges curl around giving this painting a real dimensional form that juts off the wall.

"Riverbank", oil on canvas , 1997 in the collection of The Albright Knox 

In Murray's art there is an active sense of humor and movement as maybe a coffee cup spills over, or  a face that looks like crinkled lettuce has a word or two to say.  This is an interesting engagement  that Elizabeth Murray has with her audience, she is always giving you a zetz.

Bill Alley, lithograph in several parts by Elizabeth Murray

Upstairs, at the U of B  Anderson Gallery, there is a survey of Elizabeth's artwork in printmaking.  Here the visitor is greeted with a lithograph that really circles back to the comics - trying to tell a story using form and color linked to shapes that may have a symbolic resonance.  Many of the prints on view here relate rounded shapes that can serve as suggestions for paintings that would arrive later in her life.

When I brought Elizabeth to  speak to students back in 2002, I did not know then that she had health struggles, and I also did not know that she would be given a full scale retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in 2005, just a couple of years before her death.  At least she got to participate then and I expect that her art will have greater impact on viewers as the years go by...she was a true master, and this show gives us a chance to watch her development - and see how she broke the rules and made paintings her way!

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Finger Lakes Connections


Shayna Kiblin  "Touch Me"  hand tufted rugs, and plywood
The Artist Invites Patrons to interact with this piece

Rochester/Finger Lakes Show

The Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, New York

Even during a pandemic there comes a time when - if you are feeling well - you just have to go and see for yourself and find out what is going on in the art world.  We have had our anchor down for so long, we need to allow ourselves a bit more space for our imagination to roam and ruminate.  So, I invited my brother Paul to accompany me and go out to see The Memorial Art Gallery and tour the new show that has just opened celebrating the visual arts here in the Finger Lakes.  This is the 67th Rochester/Finger Lakes juried show and it fills the central Docent Gallery in the museum now through October 17th, 2021.

Amanda Chestnut selected the artwork on view and I would say that this show strives to have something for everyone.  Margot Muto writes an introduction to Amanda Chestnut: "As a curator and artist, Chestnut's work focuses on social justice issues around race and gender identity."  Many of the 112 pieces in this show address contemporary topics and these subjects form the core of the show she has mounted at the MAG.

Zane Leo "Destructive Hope",  a cut paper collage

I like to think that a show like this one at the MAG will help in making connections between news items and our own understanding of the times we presently live in.  Maybe a piece of art will resonate with us and remain in our field of vision as a force for change or at least something to contemplate.  Please....don't rush through this show!  Give the art some time to sink in.  Take a look at a work like "Destructive Hope" by Zane Leo.  What is the significance of this ( painful ) image?  The struggle of the human hand and the dying flowers becomes a symbol, but how does this relate to the title of the work?

"Forget Me Not" by Portas
at The Rochester/Finger Lakes show

Religious imagery can often instill hope, and in the little painting from Portas, we see beetles, and bees and flowers and fruit, and it could be viewed as a passage from the Bible.  Then we can also reflect on the news that insect populations worldwide have been drastically reduced because of global environmental damage.  The title "Forget Me Not" is not only the name of a flower but also a reminder to care for the nature from which we all spring and eventually return to.

Painting of Dandelions by Emily Glass

I am acutely aware of the connections one can make between people in our community, and having been a Professor in the College of Art & Design at R.I.T. for so many years, I am pleased that the present show includes some of my teaching colleagues and very happy to see some of our students who have been selected for this new exhibition.  There is a realist work by Emily Glass who now teaches painting at R.I.T. and you can admire her ability to understand and render the effects of cool light on the dandelions in her still life ( above ).

"Burn The Binding" painting by Athesia Benjamin

Finger Lakes connections include strong portraits by artists I know like Athesia Benjamin and Unique Fair-Smith.  You have to commend their way of capturing the human presence.  These artists galvanize your attention and they are at a flexion point in their careers.  Ms. Benjamin captures a look and feeling of this moment especially in light of the social movement we have witnessed here with Black Lives Matter.  Attitudes can change and artists can help make that happen.  We have to look seriously at our own behavior and work out ways to address inequality.  This also goes for the art world which has to be ready to engage and move forward.

Painting by Unique Fair-smith at The Memorial Art Gallery

Certain works stand out for me in this show like the decorative rugs that announce "Touch Me" on the boxy sculpture by Shayna Kiblin that greets you at the  entrance.  "Touch Me" could have been the title for this show!  Artists selected for this exhibition have stories to tell.  One of the stories is about "Death in the Pressroom", a kind of installation that seems to sum up the situation for the printed newspaper in our country.

"Death in the Pressroom" 2021
at The 67th Rochester/Finger Lakes Exhibition

The physics of imagery really stands on its head in the dimensional work by Ryann Cooley.  We begin to see the lens effect at work and it must have taken some real experimentation to find the perfect spot to   mount the little glass sphere so that we can view the portrait of Rosa.

"Rosa" by Ryann Cooley
Dimensional artwork in glass, wood and digital pigment print

So my brother and I enjoyed the show and went down the hall to see some of the other features of the museum.  We stopped to look at the large painting by Jerome Within, and also saw that there is a new mural installation going on in the hall on the way out.  I wasn't familiar with the artist called Salut, and later found out this mural was by Bradd Young.  The imagery  has a bit of a children's book look to it and  I was not sure that the art was in the final form, maybe it is still in development...

Painting by Jerome Within at The Memorial Art Gallery

New Mural by Bradd Young 

Your community extends around you, and I was reminded of this by a painting I saw on the way out of the Finger Lakes  show.  My student Beverly Rafferty has a brisk landscape/seascape painting from La Jolla, California included in the show.  Several years ago I was on the walkway around that beach just  enjoying the stroll on a beautiful day, and I nod my head to Rochester's Albert Paley who passes by me.  You never know who you will meet and greet halfway across the world, and I am thankful for my Finger Lakes Connections!

The Beach at La Jolla, California, by Beverly Rafferty
at The Memorial Art Gallery
Rochester, New York

Friday, August 6, 2021

Longevity and Maps for Tomorrow

 I spent some time today, here in my first month of full retirement from teaching at Rochester Institute of Technology, and lo and behold - I found my way back to the Bevier Gallery to see the show from the Arena Art Group " 70 Years In Making".  If you don't know the Bevier Gallery it is found on the ground floor of Booth Building at R.I.T.  The show closes soon, so you should get in your car and get ready to rock and roll!

Painting by Zanne Brunner of 
The Arena Art Group show
"70 Years In Making"

You have to celebrate a group that has been involved in the visual arts here in Rochester - especially a group with such longevity!  I have become familiar with many of the artists, and at the show there were many pleasant surprises.  Just for this past year the Bevier Gallery had been occupied as a studio/classroom, so it is nice to see that it has returned too its original purpose.

Paintings by Jim Thomas "Flow" and "Contain #2"

When I came to teach at R.I.T. in 1988, one of the artists I met and worked with on the faculty at R.I.T. was Jim Thomas.  Jim is represented in this new show with two large abstract paintings full of color and movement.  We actually taught a drawing class together when I first came to Rochester.  I was glad to see Jim's new pieces and happy that he is up to the challenges that we face in the studio.

Richard Harvey with his ceramic collages of "Main Dog" and "This Side Up"

When I left the New York City area to move up to Rochester, I didn't know what  I would find at R.I.T. having only been familiar with a few university programs such as the one I attended at Cornell University. I remember there that the faculty had a difficult time with one another at Cornell but I found the opposite at R.I.T.  In fact, the working environment at R.I.T. was so supportive that the faculty actually worked well with each other and this made for an enjoyable transition for me and my family.

Courtney Gruttadoria paints the "Devils Bathtub"
in Arena Art Group Show

I started out writing about art when I was living on Park Slope in Brooklyn, NY.  Back then in the early 1980s I was paid by magazines to publish my articles on art, but now in the 21st century I write this blog for free  because I get a great deal of enjoyment and connection to this community of artists here in western New York.  I like to follow the exhibitions and it is great to see the Arena Group in this present show.

Paintings by Steven W. Justice including a portrait of Greta Thunberg "I Told You So"

Artists and their artworks evolve, and some have a signature style and purpose.  Stories can be told through artwork which can show great character..  Take a look for example at the paintings by Steven Justice, or the painting that introduces this show on the postcard by Zanne Brunner.  Steve Justice paints a portrait of activist Greta Thunberg whose hair here resembles heavy chains.  Zanne Brunner mates the Horseshoe Crab with a lens on the Finger Lakes in a reminder of how precarious the natural world may seem in these days of a global pandemic.

"Orange Is The New Black" painting by Sherry Tulloch

Even seemingly abstract work such as the one painted by Sherry Tulloch we are again confronted with signs of the times.  "Orange is The New Black" is the title of her work and the painting asks you to sort out what you are seeing - are those handcuffs and restraints?  This heavily textured acrylic painting is made by an artist who was in one of my first classes that I gave at R.I.T.  It brings me satisfaction to see one of my students going on to make a really powerful statement!

The Community of artists represented in the show at the Bevier Gallery gives you some idea of how vital the arts are in our region.  The show lets us know that this group is "70 Years In Making"  from 1951 to 2021.  And to think I was only one year old when they started up!  I take my hat off to them!

Maps for Tomorrow is the name of a printed book I picked up later at Shop One on the campus at R.I.T.

I understand that the artists who made this beautiful product ( Cecily Culver, Rebecca Aloisio, and Sarah Kinard ) also staged a show of their work which unfortunately I did not know about.  I have been following the art by these three women who are painters, printmakers and sculptors and they really deserve a much larger venue for their achievement.  A local museum should take this cue and put together a new show for them that traces a new trail for art to take.  I expect to see much more from this group!

"Maps For Tomorrow" features art by Sarah Kinard, Cecily Culver and Rebecca Aloisio

Friday, July 23, 2021

Stillness Movement Chaos

 The Print Club of Rochester at RIT City Art Space

Rachel Shelton at RIT City Art Space

The Print Club of Rochester and the RIT City Art Space host a wonderful show of artworks from printmakers here and abroad which you have to see.  It is not often that we get a chance to view the works by so many artists that  are new to this area, and all of the original art chosen for this show has been selected by a guest curator Jenny Robinson.  This show unfortunately will end soon, so try to get to the gallery which is right at the Liberty Pole in the center of Rochester.  The RIT City Art Space will be open Thursdays thru Sundays.

You can also go online to visit You Tube and hear the curator speak to you about this show.  She speaks of her process and the submissions by artists suggested a theme to her as she organized her thoughts putting this exhibition together.  You can also go around the show in person, and scan QR codes for statements from the selected artists.

QR Code for the statement from Jenny Robinson
about her selections 
"Stillness Movement Chaos"

It is not often that you visit a printmaker's show to find a three dimensional work but here it is in this present show.  The print ( see above ) has an effect like that of architecture ( with windows ) and for some reason the work reminds me of  the  sculpture of Donald Judd.  Here the artist is Rachel Shelton and her work in this instance includes a shelf-like presentation with dark etchings and fine thread dangling down.

Print by Nick Ruth ( "Watch This Space" )

Many of the printmakers featured in this show are working artists and printmaking teachers including Nick Ruth from Hobart William & Smith College.  Nick has been working with this kind of imagery for a while - his print has a grouping of billboard-like sculptural elements along a severe horizon but there is no overt message to find there - you have to fill in the blanks yourself!

"Butterfly Dancer" by Linda Whitney

The Print Club of Rochester is a membership organization and you pay a modest annual fee to become a member who could then participate in their yearly shows,, and members also get an original print for their own collection.  This past year there was a great work offered by Linda Whitney, the artist above.  She has an amazing control over the mezzotint technique which is  similar in some ways to the "Butterfly Dancer" in the present exhibition.

Beth Dorsey's  80 x 42 Permutations

I found Beth Dorsey's print called  " 80 by 42 Permutations 1"  very interesting.  The image is a grid on top of another grid and this print has an unusual aspect that presents a kind of depth - though it is not in three dimensions like Rachel Shelton's work.  The title of this show: "Stillness Movement Chaos" is all about states of being.  The grid like structure suggests stillness but the depth can initiate a feeling of movement internally.

Jonathan Barcan's print "Billions and Billions"

I enjoyed Jonathan Barcan's print ( above )  titled: " Billions and Billions" with his combination of intaglio, line etching and aquatint with drypoint.  It is a fine work that exhibits a variety of printmaking techniques with an engaging subject matter that will cause you to think quite deeply!

There are many fine points to consider in this select show, so put this on your list of things to do over the weekend!

Friday, May 21, 2021

At Your Service


Across the road on the upper left
Artist David Hammons 
Installation of a ghostly sort...of sculpture

Lucky for us, we can spend some time out in the world, going to see some art now at my local museum.  It was just a couple of weeks ago that we were in New York City, and we walked into the new Whitney Museum of Art down along the west side of Manhattan.  Looking out from a top floor window of the new Whitney, I see a sculpture that is actually mounted out in the Hudson River, where old piers once stood.  The installation looks complete, but the work is like a contour drawing of one of the old warehouse buildings that once lined this section of the waterfront.  The artist in charge is David Hammons, and I wondered about the kinds of strings that had to be pulled in order for the city to allow this kind of "building" where heavy freighters once tied up along the docks.

David Hammons art is very evocative, even ghostly.  This kind of site specific work reminds me so much of what Robert Smithson would write about in his essays that would recall "monuments" of an era past.  I often walked down this stretch of road when I was a teenager, to photograph and sketch, never stopping to think what the future would hold for this place.  Now, when we come back into Manhattan I almost can't recognize the city where I was born!

Archie Rand's "613" at The Memorial Art Gallery

Closer to where we now live in upstate New York, the cases of Covid have been dropping mercifully and people can feel more apt to want to be outside and enjoy the warmer weather.  Having had a vaccination may lessen the anxiety a bit but we still don't go out to a crowded restaurant and rarely to a show.  I do wonder how a gallery can stay in business under these circumstances.  When I visited The Memorial Art Gallery recently, I did find a few people out to see the new show of Archie Rand's paintings he calls "The 613".

Archie Rand and his "613" paintings

When I go out to see contemporary artist's work, I often recognize their style from having seen a show of their's before, and that is certainly the case with Archie Rand who is a painter I have followed over my years in New York City, and I also remember that Rand was a teacher at Columbia University when we lived downstate.

"613"  is a series of paintings that illustrate more than the ten commandments

The publicity and essays about Archie Rand always mention that he is thought of as something of a renegade by not following trends in the artworld.  "The 613" follows in that regard in that the paintings 
illustrate teachings found in the Torah - a holy book which I once held open during my Bar Mitzvah!  Archie Rand's paintings are all based on the "dos" and don'ts of the Jewish faith.  When looking at this show I right away thought about my own relationship with religion and the standards that I stood for.  Beyond my 13th birthday I neglected religious teachings and sought out other avenues that I found more to my taste.  My teachers in synagogue tried to have me speak in Hebrew, but I didn't have an ear for the language and quickly forgot the letters of that alphabet!

Archie Rand: Between the Comic and the Tragic

Now, when I am faced with the Hebrew in Archie Rand's paintings at the MAG, I will admit it is a struggle!  Certainly the paintings are more than the language and they present an image that is often a kind of comic or cartoon.  I think Archie Rand tries not to be too pedantic in his interpretations of what the commandments may mean.  His style sums up in an image what might cross your mind when you can interpret the painting at all in the first place.  Some of his images stand out- or else I remember them because they are a scream - a man puts his head in a vice, or a woman has her eyes sunk deep in her head and you can see out the other side!  The paintings ( hundreds of them ) are lined up along the walls and you can take your pick of the ones that really register....

John Ahern at The Memorial Art Gallery

Once I step away from Rand's artwork and I come out into the next gallery I find a sculpture by my friend John Ahern - it is of a woman looking skyward, patiently waiting there with her hose and watering can.  This  art  features a figure cast in plaster representing a  " real person".  We get away from that feeling found in Archie Rand's paintings that are sort of funny in that they look like 1950s cartoon strips.  

Jackie Kennedy by Andy Warhol

Art can move you, and it also can bring you very much back to an enhanced reality.  We can see that for certain in the grave way Andy Warhol treats with respect the image of Jackie Kennedy mourning the passage of her husband, the President.  For me the Warhol has the kind of impact I miss with Archie Rand, though I do admit that Rand can be engaging and entertaining!