We get chicken mushrooms at the base of this tree every year. When I took this photo there flies and insects crawling all over them. I thought they were past prime. Later looked down as someone stopped his car and picked the lot. Peggi speculated that he might have taken them for the spores.
The opening of “Portals & Planes” went well. You get a bunch of artists and musicians and friends together and they talk like crazy so you can’t miss. But it went well because I spent most of the two hours talking about the photos, taking pictures, textures and composition. I some collector card sized versions of the photos to give away at the opening. It seemed some people like those better than the large prints. Scott McCarney took an extra set and told us he plans to rearrange the sequence, maybe as a little book. I had to quiet the room down so Peggi and I could do a couple songs at the midpoint. The full band plays the café on Wednesday. That’s not exactly true. We plan to do the gig without a bass player as Ken has another engagement.
The title image, the one I’m using to promote my photo show at the Little Theatre Café, is a picture I took on my way to Editions Printing where Peter was making Giclée prints of the the images I had chosen for this show. Funny how that worked. It fit the thread of the theme I was working with perfectly. It encapsulated it. I was running back and forth to his State Street print shop and taking different routes each time when I stumbled on this warehouse on Hudson Avenue.
I carry a camera with me at all times, not a cellphone but the best Sony that will fit in my pocket. I had a lot of photos to look at before selecting and plenty of time to think about what my favorites have in common. It is the picture plane. I like to flatten it and square up my subject matter. Point blank. I’m not opposed to centering the subject. I keep my wide angle lens wide open. I never zoom. I walk up to the subject and compose the shot by repositioning my body. I don’t crop my photos either. The composition is done in camera.
“Portals & Planes: Pictures by Paul Dodd” is at Little Theatre Café for the month of September. The opening reception is Sunday afternoon, September 10, 2-4pm. There will be a short musical performance by Peggi and me at some point and I have some giveaways! Hope you can stop out.
Every year we talk about visiting Storm King, the outdoor sculpture museum in the Hudson Valley. Some friends of ours were just there and they loved it. I love Calder, Serra, Noguchi, Chillida and Moore but I have a hard time with steel beams and cute stuff. I’m thinking of the items that litter the grounds at the MAG. And then Storm King is so close to Dia Beacon, the citadel of sorts for minimalist art. We stopped in Beacon once and spent the day in there. How can you compete with that? We found this spring, shown in the picture above, while walking down Pete and Shelley’s dirt road in the Adirondacks. It is the centerpiece of our outdoor sculpture garden.
When Peter at Editions Printing asked when my show was I was almost embarrassed to tell him “September.” It was so far off. What artist has their work all ready to hang months before a show. Well, now I’m just weeks away and I have five more Giclée prints to frame before I can think about which walls to hang them on and in what order. I changed my mind on a few after having them printed because I was still honing in on my theme. This was not as simple as picking my favorite photos.
I decided on Tuesday when I was told I had to get an artist statement, image of my work and the title of my show to City Newspaper. I’ve created a web page with the twenty one photos I plan on showing. I created a two hour playlist for the opening. And I had I set of 100 mini versions of the photos printed on 16pt uncoated matte stock, same size as baseball cards. I plan to give those away at the opening.
Peggi and I plan to play a short set as a duo at the opening and we have a Margaret Explosion date before that so found some time between rain showers to spray paint my drum dampeners black. They will match the black heads that I bought a garage sale last week.
We met our neighbor, Jared, at the mailboxes. He pulled a pamphlet from “In Touch Ministries” out of his box and gave it to us. He told us he didn’t know why he got these and he said he had sent them an email to ask them to take his name off their mailing list. An avowed atheist, he said, “I think the world would be better off if they banned all religions.”
Our friend Pete is attracted to the spirituality in art and his art certainly has that as a foundation. I came across a couple of passages I thought he would like so I texted them to him. He called a few minutes later to say he loved the statements and we arranged to meet in his hospital room today at one.
When we got to the front desk, a woman was checking out as we were checking in. She told the woman behind the desk that she had been visiting Peter Monacelli. I told her we were on our way up there and I asked how he was doing. She said, “He has lots of stories.” We were thrilled to hear this. That is the Pete we know.
We found his new room and shouted in to him. He told us we had to suit up with the baby blue gowns and dark blue gloves that were sitting by the door. And while we did he sang the first verse of Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue.”
He has been in the hospital long enough to see the division between life inside, where the focus is on healing, and outside where the focus is on . . . here he let us fill in the blank. I was thinking “Partying? Peggi said “Living?” Pete offered “Fixing things.” Imagine if we focused on healing on the outside.
Below are the two statements I sent Pete.
Chillida – “I am a religious man. Questions of faith and my problems as an artist are closely linked. Naturally my conception of space has a spiritual dimension, just as it also has a philosophical dimension. My continued rebellion against the laws of gravity has a religious aspect.“
Kiki Smith – “It’s one of my loose theories that Catholicism and art have gone well together because both believe in the physical manifestation of the spiritual world, that it’s through the physical world that you have spiritual life, that you have to be here physically in a body. You have all this interaction with objects, with rosaries and medals. It believes in the physical world. It’s a thing culture.“
“It’s also about storytelling in that sense, about reiterating over and over and over again these mythological stories about saints and other deities that can come and intervene for you on your behalf. All the saints have attributes that are attached to them and you recognize them through their iconography. And it’s about transcendence and transmigration, something moving always from one state to another. And art is in a sense like a proof: it’s something that moves from your insides into the physical world, and at the same time it’s just a representation of your insides. It doesn’t rob you of your insides and it’s always different, but in a different form from your spirit.”
Dia Chelsea is an oasis of sorts. Not only do they have great art shows, they have a bathroom and a bookstore. We were there to see the Chryssa show but I spent some time with this book on the Chicago Art Institute’s collection of Ray Johnson work, mostly collages and mail art. The book feels like the original Whole Earth catalog, one foot in the recycling bin, but the more I looked, the more I wanted to see.
Born in Detroit the same year as my parents, he doesn’t fit neatly into any movement but he heralded several simultaneously. A pop artist, earlier and more fluid than Warhol, a performance artist before the category existed and certainly a conceptual artist. He made fun of them all. A queer street artist well before Keith Haring. His collages looked like the best of the punk era a decade before they were born. He made fun of it all. He blew up a deal with Gagosian when he priced his collages at one million each.
At ease with appropriation, Johnson was quick to make connections between everything. As a student at the legendary Black Mountain College, his art was in dialog with his teachers, Joseph Albers and Robert Motherwell and his friends John Cage and Jasper Johns. He lived like a monk and made art with magazines, Xerox machines and the post office. In the sample spread above he spoofs the intellectual Abstract Expressionist, Barnett Newman.
Most of all I see my friend Rich Stim’s work in the humor. And the post cards that Pete and Shelley sent us over the years – rectangular pieces of cereal boxes with cryptic messages for the mailman to decipher before we tucked them away.
“Some people just didn’t get it, and other people like me thought he was an absolute genius,” said the painter James Rosenquist, with whom Mr. Johnson corresponded for years, often asking him to forward mailed artworks onto Willem de Kooning. “Sometimes I did what he asked and sometimes I just couldn’t part with them,” Mr. Rosenquist said, adding: “I really miss him because I accumulate all these strange things that I’d like to mail him, but I can’t because he’s not there.”
We couldn’t leave the house until the Atletico/Cadiz match finished so we got a late start on First Friday. Our first stop was the Wilder Group opening at Lumiere on College Avenue. George Wegman had sold about half of his beautiful pencil shaving drawings before we even got there. Pete Monacelli was having some repair work done so he wasn’t able to attend. His drawings on digital prints of his work added yet another dimension to his dynamic work.
We headed over to the Anderson Building and ran into a couple that had just come from Lumiere show standing beside their Hyundai. The passenger side glass had been smashed but nothing was stolen. They surmised the thief had been scared off. The sun was still up and their car was scheduled to get the theft protection software upgrade in two weeks.
We loved Ann Punzi’s paintings at Colleen’s. Her show, called “Current Events” features gorgeous abstracts based on environmental disasters. In her statement she says, ” While researching information on climate change I discovered information on Blue Carbon Ecosystems and this presented a hopeful direction for this series.
Twelve years ago we stumbled onto a Hermann Nitsch performance at Pace Gallery in Chelsea. This wasn’t one of his bloody crucifixion performances, this was a musical performance of Hirsch’s composition for strings inside Pace Gallery where Nitsch’s paintings were on display. Nitsch, himself, sat in a chair in front of the quintet.
Last week, while popping in and out of galleries in Chelsea, we stopped in at Pace, just as they were turning off the lights for the day. It was six o’clock and we were cramming in as much art as we could digest. They turned the lights back on and we discovered we were at another show of Kitsch’s. He died last year and his paintings looked particularly somber but even more beautiful. His altar installation in the back of the gallery knocked me out.
I love the fact that Mark Bradford gets all his art making tools at Home Depot. I love our local outlet as well, even though the owner supports the T-man and they don’t take Apple Pay. The place is full of art supplies. We saw his show in Chelsea last week and I particularly like “Manifest Destiny,” above. The idea that the United States is destined by God to expand and spread democracy and capitalism across the entire North American continent is so bloated it is laughable. But then here we are. Underneath Bradford’s piece is a large billboard for a Los Angeles entrepreneur that reads, “Johnny Buys Houses.”
Earlier in the day I took the photo below as we worked our way through TrBecCa.
Dia Chelsea’s two large spaces are currently filled with big work by the Greek artist Chryssa. Her light sculptures were in the first dark room and her large newspaper like pieces are hanging in the the light filled space. I love her little plaster, terracotta sculptures from 1955.
Gerhard Richter has stopped painting for now but he is still working at the top of his game. His show at David Zwirner in Chelsea is a showstopper. In addition to some some of his last paintings there are rooms of pencil drawings, ink and wash drawings and watercolors. Peggi and I spent quite a while in front of this one (his third drawing from September 12, 2022) marveling at how he layers abstract textures and then dramatically plays with the space by adding ink lines.
We had tickets for a Broadway play in the old Studio 54. The building was originally an opera house and I can’t imagine how the space ever worked as a club. The play was a matinee so we I made a short list of Midtown galleries to check out before the show. We struck gold in three of them, I don’t remember the fourth and we discovered the fifth had closed permanently. The John McLaughlin show was fantastic (above.) Had never heard of Markus Lüpertz but the picture in Time Out drew us to his “Et in Arcadia ego” show and we loved his funky, luscious paintings. And at Hauser Wirth we discovered Winfred Rembert‘s dye on carved and tooled leather work, a revelation.
The play went deep into family relationships. Just three actors, all great, performing a script developed from the text in photographer, Larry Sulton’s book, “Pictures From Home.” That text is mostly transcriptions of dialog with his parents as he involved them in a series of photos of them in their home. He turned the tables on his parents who documented him as he grew up. What he uncovered was rich and moving as his parents pushed back on the “art project.”
We helped Pete hang his recent show at the Little Theatre. The show was a mini retrospective and it included large paintings from the 60’s and 70’s so Peggi and I helped him move the lot. We left one item behind, a plaque given to Pete in honor of his work in creating the space that is now the café. Pete’s Renaissance Man resume includes rehabbing half the city as owner of Monacelli Construction. Pete’s sculptures line the shelves of his storage space and “Rock of Ages” (above) caught my eye.
Rochester Contemporary’s annual 6×6 Show provides an opportunity to revisit the small format. So many of the show’s parameters are fixed, the size (36 square inches), the $20 price, the 100 per cent take by RoCo (a donation) and yet there are so many possibilities. I particularly like working in multiples, letting my four submissions play off each other. And beyond that I enjoy competing with or complimenting my pieces from earlier 6×6 shows. Win/Win and all that.
It was SRO all afternoon at the Little Theatre Café for Pete’s opening. Zanne Brunner visited Pete’s downtown warehouse space and curated a mini retrospective of his work entitled, “Thread – Art of Seven Decades.” The pieces she chose spanned 56 years a period of non-stop creation for Pete Monacelli and he is by no means done. Anybody who know Pete knows he is a dynamo. And everyone, it seems, knows Pete. He connects us to one another. He is the glue that holds our community together in Rochester.
Pete only misses a Margaret Explosion gig if he has one himself. If he wasn’t the man of honor yesterday his band would have been working the room. We were honored he asked Margaret Explosion to perform. It may have been the loudest room our quiet band has played but it was a treat.
It wasn’t until we were back home, looking at my pictures, that I realized how similar these two paintings are. Both artists were Abstract Expressionists but Gottlieb’s painting was done in 1946, before that movement had been established and the Guston painting was done after Guston had moved on. Both artists, of course, took what they had learned with them as they broke barriers.
Gottlieb called the pieces he was doing in the forties “pictograms.”Almost like a box of curiosities, the elements interact and tell a story. Guston calls the elements in his paintings “forms.” His piece is more three dimensional than Gottlieb’s but his forms are pushed to the surface. They are in your face.
Both paintings continue to tell stories long after they were completed.
The first thing Colleen said to us was, “This is the first time I’ve seen you here without masks.” We didn’t think we were being that cautious. She was standing by the door of her studio on First Friday and we were there for the opening of Madeline Coleman’s show, “In The Room Over.” Oddly, at that moment I was in the incubation period of a case of Covid. The place was packed when we played on Wednesday so I probably picked it up there. Peggi has escaped so far and I’m just coming up for air.
A young man and woman handed us a pamphlet as we entered Colleen’s studio. I assumed the woman was the artist but I don’t like having to read something before I look so I didn’t take one. The couple turned out to be the artist’s parents so that was understandable. And I’m so happy Peggi took a booklet. Rather than explaining the pieces we looked at, the pamphlet was an additional treat, sketches, poetry and more questions. I hope you can get up to see this show, it is sensational on many levels.
Joyce’s “Dubliners” was referenced in something I was reading this morning so I downloaded a public domain copy and read most of the first story. The eBook library on my iPad is stocked with books I have only partially read but I have devoured the artist’s books in my collection. My favorites are are from friends, Anne Havens and Pete Monacelli. Strangely, they were both born on the same day in the same year.
Anne Havens is in the habit of making an exhibition book for each of her art shows. The printed versions are long out of print so she gave me pdf copies of the original files for seventeen of her books. I converted them to ebooks and they are available as free downloads here. In Anne’s “Graceland” book there is a statement from her that points to why I like her work so much. “I borrow from biblical themes, and play with the BIG questions in my quest for Beauty and Truth – and usually find my resting place on the fence between the sublime and the ridiculous, the priest and the jester.”
The wind storm last week took down a huge pine tree on Zoo Road. The core of the trunk was slightly discolored so maybe it was compromised. It snapped off at the base throwing large pieces of wood in all directions. I found this piece, carried it home, put a couple of wood screws in the back with a short wire and hung it on the wall. It is my first art piece of 2023.
A beaver felled this tree with his teeth and left it for us to marvel at. Interesting that he or she started gnawing at the trunk nearer the ground and then moved up a bit. Once the trunk was down the beaver stripped the bark off the top side for food. They usually topple trees nearer the lake in hopes of damning the outflow but this one is quite a ways from the shore. It is a striking art piece, an installation in the woods.
We called Brad and he had a joke for us, just like in the old days. But this one was pretty bad. Brad plays drums (he taught me everything I know and that is not much) and he favors musician jokes. “Why did the trombone cross the road?” We gave up. “To get to the other slide.” He told us he gets his jokes from Alexa now. I picture that as a bank of generic jokes. An artificial intelligence joke app is just around the corner.
Ken Frank has been fooling around with AI art sites. He picks styles, dictates a description, sits back and asks it to generate an image. He did a mind-blowing, surreal version of the stations of the cross for me. And last night he sent along portraits of Margaret Explosion’s band members. Here’s what the drummer looks like.
Kurt Ketchum walks a fine line well. His fine art work comes right out of his advertising work and engages you like a good ad but leaves you with questions rather than answers. To me this feels very comfortable, a space where everything around you could be an art piece. He has a finely tuned sense of color and uses it sparingly. White, he uses loosely and liberally. His show is up at Colleen’s until the end of the month.