It was a dreamy location for a Saturday morning yoga class. A woman who belonged to the Rochester Yacht Club arranged for Jeffery to teach a class there on the deck overlooking the mouth of the Genesee River. And it was open to the public. We were hanging around after class watching young kids learn how to sail when I found this little pocket along the shore of the river where driftwood was getting trapped. I picked up a handful of pieces and brought them home to dry out. I have mounted four of them on pieces of rough cut white pine and am experimenting with a color or stain for the base. If I can’t come up with something better than black, which works but appears a bit heavy, I will paint the other three that color.
The fifth one, shown in the middle above, is not driftwood. I carved it out of a piece of oak firewood. I spent most of a day in the garage with a chisel and hammer trying to create something as organic as a piece of found driftwood. It’s not easy. I found a piece of wood for the base of that one that I am happy with as is. I will report back on this project.
We’ve seen some great art movies lately. “Painters Painting,” “What Remains” with Sally Mann, “Notes on Marie Menken,” but last night’s was my favorite, “Leon Golub’s : Late Works are the Catastrophes.”
Golub opens the movie explaining his process and then demonstrating it. “You can see what a slow boring process painting is compared to photography.” he says. Despite his rough and tumble, monumental paintings of atrocities, the Viet Nam war, El Salvador and Iraq, I knew he would be this lovable guy. Just look at this painting of Franco from Golub’s show at the Reina Sofia in Madrid in 2011.
I had seen his paintings over the years and pretty much dismissed them as so damn messy. But that show in Madrid knocked me out. Maybe it was the setting. Spain knows something about brutal rulers. They revere Goya’s depiction of some of them.
The movie follows Golub through many years and he is another painter who gets better and better right up til the end. He describes his work as sort of political., sort of metaphysical sort of smart ass and a little bit silly. His wife, the artist, Nancy Spero, appears throughout the movie. They shared a studio. After fifty years they grow old. Golub says he still wants his work to be “in your face” but it turns more joyous. “I feel like I don’t have to take on authoritarianism anymore. I’m enjoying letting go.”
The movie will cost you a couple of PayPal bucks on Vimeo. Don’t miss it.
The Post Office got behind during the holidays and didn’t get our copies of the New Yorker out. We didn’t even notice. We were behind as well or in this pandemic time warp anyway. They all came in at once, two issues on the day, and I’m just getting to them.
“100 Drawings From Now” at the Drawing Center in SoHo has closed already but Peter Schjeldahl’s New Yorker review of the show is the best piece I have read on this existential crisis we have all stumbled into. “Drawing seems the most apt medium for expressing the fix we are all in.” The show included an R. Crumb self portrait and this Rashid Johnson beauty in Anxious Red.
“. . . for those of us who have been confined to home, these past months of forced lassitude have given rise to moments that are essentially mystical: temporary losses of ourselves, like existential hiccups, that we would likely not have noticed if we were leading full lives.”
Rochester Contemporary asked if I would talk about the piece I submitted in the annual members show. I was given a ten minute limit and I quit when I found myself saying something for the third time. They typically do these talks in person with the artist standing in front of their work, But this year RoCo plans to assemble a video of the artists who talked and share that online. I will be interested to hear what I had to say. I’m am not sure I offered anything at all.
I entered a large photo print last year. It sold and won the Light Impressions award. So I upped the photo presentation this year by bringing my old iMac downtown, tricked out with black duct tape framing the monitor. It plays a slideshow, called Abstracting Spain, in a big loop. It won the Axom Gallery Award. The 143 photos were all taken in Spain over a ten year period and to me there is a clear pattern. My favorite shots don’t document a monument or people. The best ones are constructions, like modern art paintings. They reference the two dimensional, horizontal grid of a landscape, 4×3 or 3×2 with my later cameras. They are compositions, sometimes before they even announce their subject. And to drive this point home I included my photos of a few paintings in Spanish galleries.
I use a pocket camera, a Sony RX100, and I rarely zoom. I walk up to what I want to photograph, sort of plumb the horizontals and verticals, and compose in camera. I do this instinctively and then wonder if it was done obsessively.
I didn’t prepare any notes for the talk and I didn’t mention the one thing I intended to say – that I pictured people sort of holding their breath as they scooted through the show during the pandemic so I cut the time each photo stayed on the screen down from 20 to 10 seconds. I thought I would just look at the pictures in my piece and talk about them but I don’t remember doing that.
The photo above was taken yesterday. A flattened box in the middle of Hoffman Road with a window cut out of it and surrounded by blue painter’s tape. What is there to say about that?
We used to go to a yoga class at the yacht club right at the mouth of the river in Charlotte. It was a dramatic setting for the Saturday morning class. In the summer we were out on the deck and in the winter we were upstairs in the ballroom. The members’ sailboats are all docked in a sheltered cove and it is right there, where the waterway runs off the river that I found all these pieces of driftwood bobbing in the water.
They were sculpted by nature and are beautiful just as is, so the challenge is how to present them. I tried this experiment this afternoon, cut the base from a piece of rough cut white pine, drilled a hole in the center of it, pounded a nail through the hole from the bottom, drilled the same sized hole in the base of the driftwood and stuck it together.
If we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic and if I didn’t worry I may have been exposed, I would have gone down to my neighbors. They have a drill press in their garage and Jared loves a project. He would have devised a way to secure the organic driftwood while drilling a perfectly aligned, plumb hole. I rolled the piece up in a towel and clamped it to my workbench while I tried to hold the hand drill steady.
I decided the base needs to played down, maybe a half inch shorter in both directions, and it should probably be black.
I took this one apart, drilled out a different, bigger piece of driftwood and put it on this base and then painted the base black. It takes about four days for the oil paint to dry and turn matt rather than shiny. I will evaluate it then and consider mounting some other pieces.
“Art to an artist is a question: Is a series of questions his response?” Eduardo Chillida
Rochester Contemporary’s 30th Annual Members Exhibition opens tonight in the middle of a pandemic. We will stop by by later in the week. I submitted an old iMac with a slideshow on it. My piece is called “Abstracting Spain” and is a collection of photos taken in Spain between 2006 and 2019. It is my love letter to the country.
Cambridge Analytica mined Facebook data to manipulate the swing state persuadables in the last election. Four years later the manipulators are surly more sophisticated. In 3 minutes, 4 seconds Bill Posters and Daniel Howe’s AI synthesized video personas, “Big Dada,” at Rochester Contemporary illustrates the mind-blowing possibilities. You could almost walk into RoCo, hold your breath for the duration and not risk inhaling the virus.
Kota Ezawa “National Anthem” is one minute and thirty eight seconds long. The video installation was one of the stand pieces in the 2018 Whitney Biennial. It will make you weep, both at and for America. The show, “Big Data”Kota Ezawa: Taking a Knee,” is up til November 7th at Deborah Ronnen Fine Art 328b University Ave.
Time to think about what I might enter in RoCo’s upcoming Members Show. I put a photo in last year. It sold and I gave 100% to RoCo. It won some sort of prize too, the “Lumiere Photo Award” chosen by William Edwards, photographer and owner of Lumiere Photo, a $200 gift certificate.” I never saw that either but I am not complaining. Art is a labor of love.
Rain is forecast for tomorrow and that would make three days in row that we have walked in the rain. I feel like we are back in Galicia, completing the Camino de Santiago in October. Our rain gear is boss and the rain only deepens the meditation.
Philip Guston has been my favorite artist for a long time and I don’t expect him to lose that position before I pass but you never know. I always loved the photo of Guston’s studio with the late 60’s small panels on the wall. The photo has been reproduced in many Guston books and David McKee rounded up the small panels for a show at his gallery in 2009. Of course we made it to that show and Duane Sherwood took a photo of us there looking at this painting. We used it for our holiday card.
The 60’s was a turbulent time, at least as turbulent as ours and Guston’s paintings spoke to that directly. As bluntly as punk rock. If you don’t see the absurdity of these buffoons pointing out their next victim while hiding under their sheets no wall tag is going to help you. And he went much deeper putting himself under the hood painting a self portrait. Apparently this is all too much for us delicate pansies today. Or so the bone-headed thinking of four major art institutions goes as they pulled the plug the Guston retrospective, “Guston Now.” Even though the show is already on the wall and the catalog is on my coffee table.
The directors of National Gallery of Art, Tate Modern, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston came up with this explanation.
Philip Guston Now Statement from the Directors
After a great deal of reflection and extensive consultation, our four institutions have jointly made the decision to delay our successive presentations of Philip Guston Now. We are postponing the exhibition until a time at which we think that the powerful message of social and racial justice that is at the center of Philip Guston’s work can be more clearly interpreted.
We recognize that the world we live in is very different from the one in which we first began to collaborate on this project five years ago. The racial justice movement that started in the U.S. and radiated to countries around the world, in addition to challenges of a global health crisis, have led us to pause.
As museum directors, we have a responsibility to meet the very real urgencies of the moment. We feel it is necessary to reframe our programming and, in this case, step back, and bring in additional perspectives and voices to shape how we present Guston’s work to our public. That process will take time.
In a statement sent to ARTnews, Musa Mayer, the artist’s daughter and a scholar who has written extensively on Guston, took issue with the decision and said she was “saddened” by the show’s delay. “Half a century ago, my father made a body of work that shocked the art world,” she said. “Not only had he violated the canon of what a noted abstract artist should be painting at a time of particularly doctrinaire art criticism, but he dared to hold up a mirror to white America, exposing the banality of evil and the systemic racism we are still struggling to confront today.”
Citing Guston’s Jewish ancestry and his family’s history of having fled Ukraine at a time when their people were under attack, she said Guston’s work resonates with contemporary concerns. “This should be a time of reckoning, of dialogue. These paintings meet the moment we are in today. The danger is not in looking at Philip Guston’s work, but in looking away.”
We had not driven anywhere in weeks so everything about the trip down Culver Road was weird. A lot of people, mostly women, were out doing yard work. Peggi and I had been in the basement all day working on art projects. A young couple was sitting in lawn chairs out by the sidewalk, maybe six feet from it. They weren’t wearing masks. They looked desperate for interaction.
A man and a woman were having coffee out in front of Dunkin Donuts. The woman had a mask on. Two twenty somethings with masks on were taking a selfies in front of the Vape Shop. A man on Webster Avenue was moving the lawn with a mask on but we saw quite a few young kids playing and teenagers hanging out without them.
Our mission was a safe drop-off of our RoCo 6×6 entries. We parked in front with our trunk open and Jess came out with a mask on. Ideally she would have picked up the artwork and disappeared but I complicated things because I lost one of my entry forms. She told us to roll down our window and she would come back out with a basket. The basket was hanging on the end of a long stick. I took the form and filled it out and we drove down East Avenue where even joggers were wearing masks. The outing was somewhere between a zombie movie and an acid trip.
All the best stuff is “Untitled.” Todd Beers had a rockin’ opening at Lumiere last night. A dj was spinning old 45s, a mixmaster was serving craft cocktails (I had a can of Genny), and Todd’s mom was there. And there were plenty of red dots on the wall by the time we got there. Todd was showing a wide variety of work and I’m guessing it was from a long stretch of time. Peggi and I used to back Todd up at some of his poetry readings and it was a thrill to see him and his paintings.
We were dog people for a day when the dog sitter next door asked us to cover for him while he went out of town. We got to the corner with Gus after he stopped to smell almost every plant and we came face to face with the big black dog, off lease again. We’ve had several run-ins with the creature but were worried about Gus this time. Gus emptied his bladder by the time we got to the park he surprised us by holding up for a two hour walk. We circle Durand Lake on the trail that hugs the shoreline, one of the prettiest walks in the park.
Heard the trio, Twin Talk, tonight at the Bop Shop. Hit the spot. I came home with a Mingus album, Live in Europe Volume 1, with Eric Dolphy.
Zanne Brunner and Nancy Valle have organized another “Sight & Sound” show (2012 • 2013 • 2016 • 2020) in their studio. It will open the first Friday in February and I was planning to do some abstract watercolors based on a series of photos I have taken in Spain over the years. I spent quite a bit of time culling the photos and then sequencing them and eventually decided to enter the photos themselves. I’m calling it “Abstracting Spain.”
I have them running on an old iMac and will carry that up to their space for the show. I dressed up the grey brushed metal screen frame with some black duct tape. We saw Nancy last night and she was trying to talk me into showing them on their projector but I am concerned the studio won’t be dark enough at the opening.
We made some art stops over the weekend and I came home with a few photos which I just got around to looking at. I took a photo of a big red abstract over at Warren Philip’s Gallery. It was painted by John K. Hansegger in 1984 and was part of Warren’is annual Collectors show. I really like the painting. The big red ball like subject was arrived at by painting into the edges with the ground color. It was painted on paper and under glass so a reflection of my image wound up in the middle of the big red ball.
We stopped by RoCo to see the Member’s Show one more time before it comes down. My piece has sold. We didn’t really get to see the show because artists were giving five minute talks about their work. We were standing in the back talking to Chris Reeg when we we were asked to keep quiet.
Colleen Buzzard’s Studio was our next stop. I has become one of our favorites. She was showing her work this time and the show is a knockout. Colleen has been sneaking color into some of her recent pieces. Not this one. It doesn’t need or want it.
Down the hall on the fourth floor of the Anderson Building Zanne Brunner and Nancy Valle are hosting a self portrait show in their studio. Lots of fun stuff there from some familiar faces.
We were looking at a Giorgio Morandi show at David Zwirner in Chelsea in 2015 when we spotted the tall guy. I tried not to make too much of a fuss but managed to get a few photos. Later I read that Baldessari bought one of the paintings from that show, one of the few paintings he ever purchased. He had great taste. I loved his artwork and was so sad to learn that he passed.
We have run into a few artists over the years and I have a few photos to show for it. I thought I would put a few those shots on Instagram.
We ran into Chuck Close a couple of times. Once at an Alice Neel retrospective where he and the guy pushing his wheelchair were hogging the view of a Neel painting. I was getting upset at how long they were taking and then realized it was Close himself.
In 2002 we were in Chelsea on a Friday night, popping in and out of galleries. Pace Wildenstein Gallery was showing Chuck Close paintings in the main space and Close’s daguerreotypes in a darkened side room. Most of the work was closely cropped faces of his friends and fellow artists in wooden box-like frames on shelves. The show was opening the following day and Close was one of the few people in the gallery. I watched him push the door open a crack and smoke a cigarette. When he wheeled back in I said hi and asked if I could take his photo. I told him his paintings were psychedelic. He sort of ignored that comment and asked what I thought of the daguerreotypes
At one of the Whitney Biennials there was drum set and some sticks in a little room. I had heard someone playing as we entered the show. I went in and played for thirty seconds and came out face to face with Alex Katz. I didn’t get a photo.
We heard John Zorn performing in a Chelsea gallery on Saturday afternoon and Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson were sitting near us. I snuck a photo but felt bad about it. They both looked really tired. The MAG brought Jullian Schnabel up to talk and I went. I didn’t know much about him at the time. In 2016 Peggi and I saw Schnabel walking around the Metropolitan in his pajamas or cargo pans anyway.
Bill Keyser has a few degrees, a mechanical engineering degree from Carnegie Mellon, an MFA in furniture design from RIT where he taught until 1997. That year he woke from a dream with a feeling that there was something very important he needed to do. He transitioned from furniture to sculpture and fine art while picking up another degree, an MFA in painting in sculpture. I met him in Fred Lipp’s painting class at the Creative Workshop. After all that school he told me Fred was the best teacher he ever had.
His show, “Painting and Sculpture 2009 – 2019,” at RIT’s University Gallery is an eyeful. The two paintings shown above are my favorites but the large gallery has sculptures and paintings interspersed with one another all competing for your attention in riotous colors.
Bill’s paintings are sculptural. They efficiently (masterly) animate their own physical space and incorporate the environment they sit in just as his sculptures do. The ideas in his paintings on found metal panels spring from the shape of the panel itself. The cut out corner becomes a beam in “Beam” and the angle in “Look Out” leads to another plane. I was particularly attracted to to his sculpture entitled “Pueblo.” In two milk paint colors it is as elegant as a Chillida. The show runs to December 20th so you have plenty of time.
We worked our way over to the Palacio de Gaviria this morning where four generations of the Brueghel/ Bruegel family were having a show. It goes without saying that Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525-1569) is the master but there was so much life depicted here by the whole family that one can’t be picky. Funny to think the Bourgeoisie bought these paintings because they recognized the joy depicted by real people, the common folk.
The family was able to visualize and depict the four elements, a perfect companion to Joe Henderson’s lp, the virtues and parables as well as the Tower of Babel and the temptation of Saint Anthony.
An additional café con leche at Café Gijon, the legendary literary salon, fortified us for the next stop, “El Sueno de la Razón,” paintings by painters influenced by Goya’s Las Pinturas Negras at Fernán Gómez. It was two hundred years ago that Goya painted the walls of his apartment with his so called black paintings. Everybody from Anselm Kiefler, Robert Longo, Antonio Saura and incredible animations from William Kentridge were included but none landed like Goya’s punch. An acknowledgement and fitting tribute to the master.
Margarita at Antonio Machón Gallery suggested we take a day trip to Cuenca, where the ancient hanging houses are, to see a show of Antiono Tapies’ work. The high speed Ave train to Valencia, whose first stop is Cuenca, was almost completo but we scored the last seats. I wound up sitting in Coche 7 and Peggi was in Coche 8. We were there in no time and inside the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español when they opened their doors at 11.
We have been going to museums for many years, starting long before they got so popular, and I have never seen a museum as beautiful as this one. The setting and art enhance one another and both are astonishing. They made an award winning movie about it.
The museum opened in 1966 when the wealthy artist, Fernando Zóbel, bought the fifteenth century building which just so happens to hang over the gorge of the Huécar. He bought the work of Spain’s best young abstract artists, his friends, in real time and built an astonishing collection. Tápies, Chillida, Muñoz, Millares, Sempere, Torner, Saura and Guerrero.
As a bonus, their rotating gallery featureS exquisite prints from Picasso’s Vollard Suite.
We left the Museo just as they were closing for the afternoon meal. The staff recommended the perfect restaurant for us. We sat outside and had the bast green salad of our whole trip. Baby spinach sprigs, walnuts, mushrooms, goat cheese, a sliver of caramelized ham, cherry tomatoes, and a thick dark vinaigrette.
We have a well worn path in Las Letras section of Madrid and we always stay somewhere close to it. We have our favorite restaurants, cafés, book stores and holy card shops inside the triangle and it is surrounded by museums and art galleries. Cervantes’ home is in Las Letras and poetry from him, Calderon de la Barca and Lope de Vega is written on the sidewalks. There is a statue of Lorca in Plaza Santa Anna. Each visit we venture further out of this historic old section.
After a few cups of coffee we walked up and down Calle del Doctor Fourquet where all the new galleries are. It was a lot of fun but like some visits to Chelsea you sometimes leave hungry.
We had an afternoon meal at a restaurant that is over three hundred years old. Goya worked here while waiting to be accepted at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes and of course Hemingway hung out in the place.
Sara Ramo, a Brazilian artist, who has a show at Alcala 31, does these beautiful tapestries. She showed twenty here and each was a knockout.
António Machón Gallery would be uptown if it was in NYC. We have gotten to know the galley owner there and bought print from her last year. We stopped in and visited this afternoon and she pulled out some stunning pieces from her white flat files. Tàpies, Chilida, António Saura and Jose Guererro. We are no longer hungry.
Even art has an off season and it needs it. September’s First Friday signaled game on. We started at the William’s Gallery in the Unitarian Church where Jim Thomas showed recent pastel drawings of stones as seen through water and then abstracted. They played really well with Don Burkel’s close up photos of the Maine Coast. Jim said he was working on a different project altogether, large abstract paintings like the beauty he had in the recent Arena Group show. Bill Keyser was there and told us he is preparing for a retrospective at the University gallery at RIT. Known primarily as a woodworker, I asked if he was still painting and he said he was still working on a few that he started in Fred Lipp’s class.
We stopped in the RIT Gallery downtown, a show with work from four faculty members, an academic show. Despite having a gallery space downtown I’m always struck by how isolated the RIT scene, the artists, the art and even the gallery visitors are from the city. I wish they would have back downtown.
We fully expected the Anne Havens show at Colleen Buzzard’s studio to be the smash of the evening and it didn’t disappoint. Her work is smart, expressive and most most importantly, pure fun. Anne offered to meet us at the gallery for a guided tour and we plan to take her up on it.
At Warren Philips Gallery, where you might expect to see work experts framed and hung, we found mostly wood constructions on stands, the floor and some on the wall. Kenneth Martin’s work is playful, mysterious and beautiful. I was particularly attracted to this concrete. And mixed media piece entitled “Early Learned.” I asked Ken what his formula was for the concrete and gave it up.
3 parts mortar mix,1 part Portland cement and Acrylic concrete additive instead of water, all available at Home Depot.
We finished the night at 3 Heads Brewery where Bob Henrie and the Goners were tearing it up. Still my favorite band in the city.
We like entering the MAG through the Creative Workshop. We were there to see the the Finger Lakes show but we started with the student show in the Workshop. I’m quite sure Dejan Pejovic is a good teacher. His students’s work rises to the top. This small sculpture was done by Bonnie Graves and it was probably done from a live model. I know Dejan likes to work from life. It is worthy of one of my favorites, Gaston LaChaise.
Pat Pauli, Colleen Buzzard, Belinda Bryce, Nancy Jurs and Lee Hoag all have especially nice pieces in the show. Dejan’s sister, Lanna Pejovic, has a nice four panel treescape oil painting as well. I liked Andrew Zimbelman’s animation and Carol Woodlock’s “Woman Walking” video was beautiful.