We had just left Rick Muto’s art studio on Anderson Avenue when these windows caught our eye. Faux windows, I should have said. Someone carefully executed this deceptively simple attraction, dressing up the boarded up warehouse windows in this row of buildings along the tracks in Rochester. We are not usually here in the daylight but have attended many art openings in Axom Gallery’s space on the second floor of this building. It is one of our favorite gallery spaces in the city. Rick, one of Rochester’s premier landscape painters, curates the gallery and also creates faux finishes to order.
Archive for the ‘Notes On Painting’ Category
Margaret Explosion returns to the Little Theater Café for the month of March. But because it is not a leap year our first performance will be on Tuesday, February 28 and the we’ll slide back into our regular Wednesday night slot for the next four Wednesdays. This Tuesday date also happens to be Fat Tuesday, last chance to party down before giving up candy for Lent. Actually, the real reason for the Tuesday gig is the opportunity to perform on the same bill as Jim Mott and Liz Durand. Their month-long art show closes in the coming days and the two artists will present artist’s talks between sets.
Jim is showing 24 paintings from his 2010 Rochester Tour plus along with some of his downtown canvases and Liz has some beautiful recent prints. I’ve talked about Jim’s Itinerant Artist Series before. One of of his stops was in our home where he did the painting above. There are usually four chairs there but Jim was using one for a table for his paints as he stood in our yard painting this picture. There are two or three other paintings that he did here in this show.
Jim Mott, Liz Durand, Margaret Explosion Artist Talk/Performance. Tuesday, February 28th at the Little Theatre Café. 7-9pm. Admission is free.
Saturday night’s opening for Meleko Mokgosi’s installation of large paintings from his Pax Kaffraria series was a happening affair. His knockout paintings tell the complicated story of Colonial Africa. I’m hoping his artist’s talk at 7 p.m. on Thursday February 23 will tie the pieces together and I’m looking forward to revisiting the show without the people.
The bands for the opening were great – the young Julian Garvue trio in the Atrium and the professional funk band Shine in the auditorium.
There are always plenty of reasons to visit the MAG but this is an especially good time. Robert Rauschenberg’s silkscreen prints from his “Making History” series are on display in the Lockhart Gallery. Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder’s installation/sculpture/mechanical performance piece, “Light Spill,” is on view in the Media Arts gallery. It is in its active state for 60 seconds every 30 minutes on the 1/2 hour. And the Brown Hound Bistro is serving the best green salad we’ve had in a long time.
In a dimly lit space, eight small holograms cast a mysterious red glow. The diorama-like images — a little-known body of work produced by Louise Bourgeois in 1998 feature familiar motifs from the French artist’s lexicon. Chairs, beds, and bell jars seem to float just in front of the frames, the ghostly 3-D effect rendering her assemblages more nightmarish than usual. A sculpture rests on the floor in the middle of the room: a dollsize bed and two pairs of disembodied feet, which are entwined like lovers’. It offsets the intimate scale of the other vignettes, while echoing the very Bourgeoisian psychosexual situation of one of them, in which the artist positions the viewer as a voyeur, crouching dangerously close to the action at the foot of the bed. This was our favorite show of the day, a day devoted to wandering without an agenda back and forth on the streets of Chelsea from 18th to 26th Streets between 9th and 10th Avenues.
The Aline Kominsky-Crumb & Robert Crumb “Drawn Together” show at David Zwirner was fantastic but we didn’t hang around long. The work is just as fantastic on the page and seemed like a waste on white walls. Steve Wolfe, in a show called “Remembering Steve,” copied iconic books and records (iconic to our generation) like the Pocket Poets Series edition of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” 45, the John Cage book “Silence” and Kerouac’s “On The Road.” These actual size reproductions looked almost exactly like the real item. Willys de Castro, on West 24th Street, painted small, playful abstracts, some three dimensional. I would have taken one of these home if the price was right.
I am not a “process” guy. I like looking at visual art without being setup. And I don’t find talk of “process” very interesting after the looking. One eighth of Meleko Mokgosi’s “Pax Kaffraria” panels is currently on view at Rochester Contemporary. The artist was present at the opening last night and I overheard a gay ask him how he gins. “Where do you get your ideas?” Mokgosi said he begins his work with the title. The show is being jointly hosted by the MAG and RoCo. The MAG’s director, Jonathan Binstock, was there last night and he told us they were unable to to find a facility in Rochester big enough to display the eighth panel. They actually found a place downtown that was big enough but the doors to the place were not big enough to get the package in. Considering how big his paintings are it was surprising to hear the title came first.
The show is sensational. Mokgosi is also showing some drawings at RoCo, the first time he has shown his drawings and I like the drawings best. Especially the one above. The Botswana-born artist’s figures are life size and they are usually pushed to the front of the picture plane, almost like the figures painted on the wall of the building in his black and white drawing above. His drawing technique is a tour de force.
Micheal Harris “Works on Paper” also opened last night in the Lab Space and Michael told me he nodded to my work with one of his pieces called, “Open and Shut.” The mono print included three small mugshots from the Sunday paper. 180 degrees from Mokgosi’s method of starting with the tile, Micheal explores a longstanding attraction to unconscious ideas. He takes his work to a poet friend and she names them. “Open and Shut” and “Disturbances in A Minor” were two of my favorites.
Kurt Moyer has a great new show at Axom. Mostly landscapes from the woods near his home in Mendon but also some more of the Arcadia paintings that he showed at Axom a few years back. I love those and I love the look and feel of his paint. There is only one word for it. Lucious.
We finished our gallery hop with Kathy Farrell’s show in Colleen Hendrick’s space. Looking at Kathy’s show was the most fun we had all night. Her yoga block abstracts are mini worlds where all is right.
We skied up to the lake this morning and the conditions were prefect. Just enough fresh snowfall to refresh the trails. Along the way I kept thinking, “what can we do?”
I keep hearing that now is the time to get active. See something, say something. Peggi went to a meeting at the Universalist Church downtown, something sponsored by Metro Justice, and she took notes but she was really surprised that people there, representatives of politically active groups, had no practical first steps that lay people can take now. So we’re left to stew. And the stewing is unhealthy. Our friend, Pete, stopped by for a visit this afternoon and he told us he was at his doctors and someone mentioned Trump and his blood pressure soared. I simple change of thoughts brought it back down where it belonged.
We drank coffee and talked about art and eventually wound up looking at the pile of watercolors my father did. I took a painting class with him for twenty years and so many of them were worked on in class. Constructions, corrections, emphasis and direction were all worked out in the open and now I have the privilege of revisiting that, of learning by looking, again. I’ve am almost finished photographing and cataloging them and have decided to organize a show of them somewhere. They aren’t for sale so it would have to be a not for profit space. They are beautiful as paintings and a marvel of draughtsmanship but I think they would be of real interest to anyone who who has lived here for some time.
My father loved to get out with his paints. He’d bundle up and sit down near a construction site, moving closer and closer as the crews got to know him. He was featured in the paper when the Can of Worms was being being rebuilt. Bausch & Lomb bought a bunch of the paintings he did outside their headquarters when it was being built downtown. The construction of the O’Rorke Bridge and the new Freddy Sue are thoroughly documented. The Charlotte lighthouse held a special fascination with him and he painted it many times each time quite differently. I plan to get them all online soon and I will find some place to show them.
I had to tell my mother again that her mother had died. She asked me where her mother was. She cried again. My mother was always very direct and she would not want me to lie to her even though she is suffering from dementia. I showed her a few photos of her mother and she liked them but she wasn’t sure who the baby was in this one.
My father started taking Fred Lipp’s painting class with me in 1995. My father called it “therapy” and there were many rough exchanges. Neither one of them were direct and they didn’t know what each other was talking about for the longest time. My father who was immensely talented had some rules that lived by. Fred claimed he could break any rule he wanted. He trusted his eye and his eye, developed by trust, was immensely talented. It took a some time for their relationship to mature and I was privileged to watch the whole thing develop.
I photographed my father’s paintings every four or five years and put them on his website. When he died last year I brought a huge pile of them here and I’ve been working my way through them. It is a huge project but I’ll eventually have them all on line. Fred helped my father a lot. I can spot the before and afters butFred help everybody – if they were open to being helped. Surprisingly some people would take the class who did not want to budge. Fred claimed his students helped him more than he helped us but I didn’t buy it. On Fred’s death bed he told me, “You’re father is a trip.” We both laughed at this ultimate compliment.
We walked up to Wegman’s and stopped by our bank to get some cash. We bought a Ritual Trio cd last night and that cleaned me out. We are not yet living in a cashless society but we are headed there. We needed basil for an Asian soup recipe but when we got home we discovered we needed broth as well so Peggi made another trip. I continued my ongoing project of photographing the watercolors that my father left in his flat file cabinet, the flat file cabinet that is sitting right behind me as I write this. This scene above, from a walk the other day, is something my father would have painted. I’d like to try that, “en plein air.”
On First Friday we stopped by Axom Gallery and looked at their new show. We bought a owl from their home furnishings section. Robin Muto runs that. And while we stood in line to pay Peggi asked if they owned the adjacent loft space. Robin told us that was Rick’s space. She said they call it “the abyss.” We had to see that. Rick showed us a wall of en plein air paintings that he had done and they were beautiful, much nicer than this photo above.
I set both the clock radio alarm and the one on Peggi’s iPhone to ensure a 7:30 awakening. Pete Monacelli had asked me to talk to his commercial art class at Monroe Community College. Pete is a fine artist and carpenter as well as a teacher and he told me he thought his class would be interested in what I had to say about the connection between fine art and commercial art. How do you make both work?
I pulled into the parking lot on time but I wandered around campus before I found the art department and then I had trouble finding his room until I heard his vice and his unmistakable laugh. The kids, most just under twenty or so, were pretty unruly and all talking among themselves when I walked in. Pete introduced me and I started by saying I don’t have the strongest voice and Pete jumped in in with, “So shut the hell up.”
Pete had a computer connected to a projector so I planned on working from the links on my Popwars homepage. I called up a slideshow of some recent photos and talked over that about my background. I dropped out of school when I was about their age (around the same time my friend, Dave Mahoney, dropped out of this very school). I fooled around for a few years, met my wife, worked construction framing houses, came home exhausted, had to find an easier job and started doing commercial art at ad agencies. I worked at one for five years and noticed that the free lancers, who were hired when we got too busy or took on a new client, were getting paid more than me. So I started freelancing for almost every agency in town and slowly collected work that I could do at home. The Mac II came out, enabling us to set type output film, my wife quit her teaching job and I never left the house again. Some twenty-five years later we retired.
I interrupted the slideshow at this point and showed them some of the logos I did over the years for some of the companies we worked for and talked about the business cards, brochures and websites that went along with the log. I took a quick detour into how to get paid. Make sure you do a simple proposal acceptance form before you start a job and get the client to sign it, preferably with half down to begin. I told them the logos were fun, the work was fun but the most fun was doing my own stuff which I keep completely separate from the commercial work.
I brought up some of paintings and told them how I liked painting the local wanted guys. The room came alive when I clicked on my source material. I showed them some paintings of priests and the basketball players and they really reacted to this drawing from the silent film, “Passion of Saint Joan.”
I was going to mention my blog but I forgot. I finished with my Funky Signs site and they loved that. I was thrilled. There were questions throughout and plenty of students came up to talk after class. School seemed a lot more interesting than it did in my day.
Margaret Explosion played a Friday happy hour gig at the Bug Jar for almost three years in the late nineties. Casey, one of the three owners of the Bug Jar brought in vegetarian Indian food and Rolling Rocks were a dollar. In 1999 Casey got out and he and his brother bought an old building on Alexander Street. They rehabbed it and opened as Mex, a hip, mostly vegetarian, Mexican food place with a few bars scattered about the building.
Casey asked me to paint a mural on the winding staircase that led up to the restaurant and I worked on it for three or so weeks. I used acrylic paint with a little bit of retarder because the stuff dried so quickly and I mixed the colors right on the wall using two, one inch brushes. I still had whole sections to do when they were getting ready to open so I asked my father for some help. He painted the Marigolds that the Mexican woman is selling right by the door as you come in. They were part of the early East End resurgence and the area got so hot it was eventually Mex’s downfall. A group of us used to sit out on the patio Friday evenings and watch people parade by. Their last day of business will be November 1, the Day of the Dead. Peggi and I stopped in there over the weekend. We didn’t know a soul but we ordered a Margarita and wandered about the place one last time.
It has been a few years since we have seen new work from Anne Havens. The time lapse only heightened the drama of walking into Colleen Buzzard’s studio and seeing a gallery full. Anne’s work is always engaging, and most of all, inspirational. It makes you want to do art because it looks like so much fun. But Anne, like Philip Guston, makes it look easy and I know it is not.
When we were on the island of Mallorca earlier this summer I kept trying to imagine how anyone could get anything done in the heat and all that sun. We had just seen a show in Madrid by the Mallorcan artist, Bernardi Roig, and we knew that Miró lived and worked here for many years. All over the world the art scene slows down in the summer, even the commercial galleries in Chelsea. First Friday here in Rochester was proportionally quiet but we did find two very rewarding shows.
Pete Monacelli’s “Tribute to Miles Davis” features a series of recent drawings. Pete carefully rules horizontal lines in playful free association. And he contrasts that with loosely scrubbed india ink or gouache washes. Each piece is named after a Miles song and for a fan of the master this brings the drawings to life. Looking at a piece named after a track on “Bitches Brew” I was reminded of the time Pete invited me over to his studio to look at his work while we listened to that album on 16rpm. It was a mind-blowing experience.
Anne Havens was at Pete’s opening and we learned she is preparing for a show at the end of this summer. Although she has finished enough for a lifetime it has been far too long since we have seen new work from her. This is exciting news.
R Gallery, an RIT student-run joint on College Avenue, has a strong graphic show mounted on its walls. The front pages of newspapers from around the country. In class on 9/11/2001, Eric Kunsman, Applied Photo Art I instructor, asked his students to contact family and friends and ask them to collect their hometown newspapers from the days after the 9/11 attack. Three weeks later, the class spread out the 121 unique newspapers collected to begin a discussion of the different representations of the photographs, headlines, and articles. The sensational pages are framed and mounted here and with some distance they read as powerful reactions to that incredible event rather than reporting on the act.
I am always attracted to Gaston Lachaise’s work and his “Standing Woman 1912″ at the Metropolitan is fantastic. I don’t usually read wall tags in a museum but I sometimes photograph them and read them at home. I can only take in so much art before my senses are dulled so I look at the work and skip the reading.
The wall tag for this piece reads; “Lachaise was working in Paris in 1903 when he met his lifelong muse, Isabel Dutaud Nagle, whom he later married in 1917. Responding to Nagle’s voluptuous figure, the sculptor created a powerful archetype of womanhood; “Standing Woman” is almost a modern fertility goddess. Swelling and undulating with elegant strength, she perches delicately on her tiptoes, seeming nearly to levitate despite her evident weight. Her closed eyes enhance her detachment from the realm of the viewer, whom the sculptor invites to marvel at her extraordinary body.”
You certainly don’t have to read the tag to get the impact of his sculpture but I thought the text does a good job. Click on the photo for an enlargement.
The Guston show at Hauser & Wirth is thrilling. Featuring paintings from 1957 to 1967 you can see him find a way out. This painting in particular, in an almost comic way, delivers a figure or form abstraction.
We stopped for coffee at the bottom of Skaneateles Lake. We were on our way to the big city to see the Philip Guston show at Hauser & Wirth in Chelsea, a big survey of the work he did between his abstract and figurative periods and it closes next week. I’m really excited about this show. It was such an exiting time. Pop was breaking out and the abstract expressionists were splitting into color field and gestural and Guston found his own way out of the whole mess.
This sign, across the street from the coffee shop looks like a flat version of of one of Guston’s paintings from this period where he pulled his forms into subjects. I will post one of the paintings when we get to the gallery.
El Prado is magnificent. But it is too big. There are too many paintings here. It is a struggle to preserve your visual energy for the great stuff and not wear yourself out on the mediocre. Not even every Goya is great but most are.
We tracked down our favorites, the sculptural Rogier van der Weyden’s “Descent from the Cross”, Durer’s “Adam And Eve”, Quinten Massys’ “Christ Presented to the People” and Raphael’s “Portrait of a Cardinal.” All these were primers for Zurbaran, Velázquez, El Greco and finally Goya’s “3rd of May,” his giant portrait of the royal family (shown above) and his incredible “Pinturas Negras.” The best Goyas are by no means stuck in time. They are so full of life, they make you laugh. They remain contemporary because no one else can paint like him.
I guess there is some sort of logical progression in the artists I drift toward over the years. Andy Warhol, Alex Katz, Alice Neel, Rodin, Kirchner, Robert Irwin, John Baldessari, Matisse and Philip Guston (from the moment I laid eyes on him.)
I liked Chuck Close for a while and ran into him at one of his shows in Chelsea. I took his photo and still intend to paint a portrait of him.
A few posts back I mentioned a Baldesarri project. I came across the full entry while soaking my leg last night and have reprinted it here.
From “More Than You Wanted To Know About John Baldessari”
A written piece called, “The Backs of All the Trucks Passed While Driving from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, Calif., Sunday Jan 20″
“I was intrigued by how much the backs of trucks resembled paintings I had done – basically a rectangle broken up into an infinite variety of possibilities, that is, variety with a standard shape in dialog with the edge. My painting investigation was merging with my work in photography.”
I continued a riff on my entries into last year’s 6×6 by doing pretty much the same thing with different colors. The rough cut boards I used, given to me by Pete and Shelley, are not quite six inches wide so I ripped a few pieces and sued them together. I planned to paint the two parts of each piece different colors but I could only paint one color at a time because I panted them while hold them. This was a nice sensation. I put them in a window to dry and grew to like the bare wood so they were “done” just like that. I never thought anyone would buy last year’s but they did. This may be pushing it.
I know I have my dates all mixed up here but I’m guessing Greg Highlen did this art work around 1971. He was an art major living rent free in his painting studio instead of a dorm when I met him. He was a legendary figure around Bloomington Indiana. He rode a bike so he was always around. He worked at H Salt, a fish and chips place in the college town, and he’d bring bags of fried fish and chips by the trailer where a bunch of us were living.
I remember watching him make this piece one afternoon as we sat around the table. It took about ten minutes and I taped it to the wall when he was done. We tracked Greg down a year or so ago, living on the lower east side. He is still making art and promised to show it us next time we visit.
There was an article in this morning’s paper about Matthew Klein, a NYC police sketch artist. They referred to his his occupation as a throwback trade but went on to detail cases where his sketches were instrumental in solving the crime. There are only a hundred full time forensic artists left in the United States.
One of them is Suzanne Birdwell from the Texas State Police. She says, “Forensic art is not about creating something beautiful; it’s about documenting an intangible piece of evidence. When we start a project we have no idea what we’re drawing. And we never know it’s right. Imagine drawing something you have never seen before.” I like that.