Jim Mott amazes me with his ability to capture a scene on a small scale in a rather short period of time like maybe an hour. He paints in oil on cardboard and the finished piece is consistently true to the color in front of him. Nothing in his finished image is overworked yet they are perfectly readable. His paintings remain painterly and fun to look at. But Jim is looking for something else. He wants to make a connection with his work.
He gave a talk, “The Art of Connection: 20 Years of Socially-Engaged Art Projects,” at The Yards at the Public Market and passed a short stack of his paintings around the room as he showed slides. He grew up wanting to be a local artist but found it was impossible to make any money. And furthermore, nobody seemed to really care. He became disgruntled.
In 2000 he placed a small ad in the New Yorker offering to paint pictures at strangers’ homes in exchange for hospitality. He arranged tours that took him across the country and back several times. He estimates he has been to 200 homes and each time the homeowner chose one the paintings he did at their place to keep for themselves. Jim brought the rest home. His presentation contained a bar chart that showed how much more productive he was on the road compared to staying at home. It was dramatic.
Last year he came up with a Landscape Lottery project where locations were chosen by random GPS corordinates. It took him to some strange places like the middle of a parking lot where he found he had to work harder to make a good painting and they were often some of his best.
He told us he is looking for new ideas for his next project so he has us thinking.
Ray Tierney II, my mom’s only brother (she had four sisters) was my godfather. I guess I would have gone to live with the Tierney’s if something had happened to my parents. I had a godmother too, one of my father’s sisters, Aunt Helen, who at the time of my baptism was unmarried. She was my parent’s go-to sitter. Ray already had a family of his own.
My grandfather, also named Ray Tierney, owned a grocery store on North Avenue with two of his brothers. He was dynamo so it was only natural that his son and Ray Tierney III went into the grocery business. I worked there during high school and eventually was in charge of ordering for the dog food and paper aisles. Fellow workers would send newbies out in the dark to take down the flag (there was none) or into the back room for shelf stretchers. They referred to my uncle as “High Pockets.”
I was certain my uncle had left the store when I snagged a banana cream pie and took it in the cooler where I climbed up on the milk crates to work on the pie. I didn’t have any silverware so I was holding the whole pie up to my mouth when my uncle walked in.
I painted this picture of my uncle in 1990 for a Pyramid Arts Center show entitled “The City.” It was one of ten large portrayals of one member of each family in my extended family, a show intended to show the connection between family and place.
“The artist knows what he is doing, but for it to be worthwhile, he must take the leap and do what he doesn’t know how to do. In that moment he is beyond knowledge.” – Eduardo Chillida
Hauser Wirth has been a must stop in Chelsea for years. Their incredible stable of living and dead artists (Guston, Hesse, Golub, Bourgeois and Chillida), their book shop, cafe/bar and their exciting new exhibition space going up next door are all hallmarks of an advancing civilization.
The Shed, a brand new performing arts space at the top of the High Line, is the only sign of an advancing civilization in the former Hudson Yards. It is completely engulfed by piles of new glass buildings and a Neiman Marcus shopping experience. We walked up here for a 5 pm performance of “Reich, Richter, Part” and it was a transcendent experience.
We were studying Richter’s gorgeous tapestries and floor to ceiling Rorschach prints when performers, standing in our midst, one right next to me, began singing Arvo Part’s choral composition, a piece that enriched the visuals. The Shed attendants opened the second gallery where we heard an ensemble playing Steve Reich’s Patterns while an animated, nothing short of psychedelic, Richter film animated one of his paintings.
I went down for the count for a few days. Didn’t have the energy to sit at my computer. We were making the rounds on First Friday and I felt pretty good at Colleen Buzzard’s. I was loving Amy Robinson Gendrou’s drawings, paintings and whatever you pieces that involve string or thread mounted to drawings and paintings. But by the time we got to RoCo for the opening of the Cut & Paste show I felt like I had been beat up. I was so out of it for the next couple days I put my pants in the laundry with my wallet in the pocket.
I am on the mend now and the restorative yoga class Jeffery taught tonight was just the ticket. It would have been a perfect class if he hadn’t read a Yoga Sutra during Savasana. I was thinking about how Suzanne, our old yoga teacher, used to drop a small bean bag on our eyes during deep relaxaton.
Suzanne’s hair spilled down to her waist and some people called her Gypsy. When she did a forward bend she could fold up like a jack knife. She taught class in her living room and the only equipment or props that we used were bolsters, which she had piled up in a corner. We didn’t bring anything, not even a yoga mat. We used to walk down Culver to her house on Vermont Street and then stop and pick up a slice on the way back from Romano’s Pizzeria.
Now, we bring mats, blocks, straps, tennis balls and a towel which Peggi and I use when Jeffery says, “OK, get out your blankets.” Props are for old people.
I submitted a few of my Police Composite collages in Rochester Contemporary’s “Cut & Paste” show and one got in. I’m not sure which one got in but I’m guessing it was this one. The show opens tomorrow night and features collage artwork by over 100 artists. That is one surefire way to get a big crowd at the opening.
I particularily like this acrylic painting by Paul Brandwein at the Geisel Gallery downtown. Entitled “All My Plans,” I read his riotously colorful structure as big enough to claim the plans but too porous to contain them. And a reminder to pick your battles, let some things go and keep a few to kick around some more.
Clifton Springs is only 55 cents away on the NYS Thruway. Our passengers, Pete and Gloria, paid the toll and provided the kind of conversation that makes time fly. The shows at Main Street Arts, in the center of this restored town, are consistently good. “Perception of Time,” a group there now is a case in point. I liked Nancy Wiley’s loose, painterly Generation Z portraits, particularly the second one in from the bottom right. Wiley apparently likes this one too because she shows it in the catalog for the show along with this statement. “I have been struck by the struggle many of them go through to be authentic and honest about who they are as individuals, often challenging old social norms.”
Sam Rathbun, an artist in residence for the month, was working on ideas for an upcoming Glens Falls show in the the studio space on the second floor. She had covered a wall with large, fluid India ink drawings on paper. She told me she grew up on a farm near Naples and is influenced by the equipment her father uses there.
Kurt and Judy Feuerherm have a fun little show up there as well. Kurt was my Fine Arts mentor at Empire State and his work is in the permanent collection of MoMA, Albright Knox and the MAG. The small assemblage sculpture and painting/collage pieces here create an idyllic winter garden.
Rochester Contemporary’s annual 6×6 Show has afforded me the opportunity to push the boundaries of one idea for five years now. Revisiting that idea each year, probing it for new life or attempting to reduce it further. You can see all five year’s pieces here.
I pictured a simple block, something with a third dimension to it like those painted toy building blocks we had when we were kids. Years ago we helped our friends, Pete and Shelley, finish the roof of their Adirondack home and I fell in love the rough-cut pine boards they were using. They came from a local saw mill and they gave us a few. I went out to the garage to cut them into 6 by 6 inch pieces but the boards I found weren’t wide enough. So I put two pieces together, ripping the boards in a pleasing proportion, leaving the rough cut exposed when possible and gluing them together.
They are awkward to hang. I ask that they be hung in a specific order and hope they don’t wind up being separated when the show is hung. The first year I painted the two boards a different color, three colors for the four pieces, all straight from the tube. The second year I toyed with leaving the wood unpainted altogether as the the two pieces were different tones but I chickened out. I let the natural wood show and only used two colors.
Year three I reduced the palette to one color. I ripped the boards in three inch widths this time and painted either a square within the square piece or the space surrounding the square. I played with black and white for the fourth year but decided the white would not hold its own on a white wall so went to this silvery color. If they hadn’t sold each year I would have moved on (RoCo takes 100% as a fundraiser.) This year (shown above) I pushed it and left the blocks au natural. After a few days I decided to strengthen the dark portion of each piece by coating it with a quick drying oil.
Finally, I went to the Rochester Contemporary website to see if they had reduced the number of submissions per artist as I heard they might. Sure enough they are only accepting three this year so one of these will be voted off the island.
We were about four hours early for the opening of Alan Singer‘s new show at Axom Gallery. This gave us plenty of clear shots at the vibrant work and it allowed space for a few of the pieces to jump off the wall. Alan mixes science, art, and mathematics in work that looks tightly controlled at first glance but like LSD it opens up, becomes confounding and ultimately delights. I could look at this piece all day.
It is getting harder and harder to make the rounds on First Fridays. We get bogged down at each stop, mostly in conversation and we wind up running out of time to complete our short list of stops. Jim Mott reminded us that artists are influenced by one another, sometimes in the least obvious of ways. Colleen Buzzard and Dejan Pejovic asked me if I was doing any painting and I answered that I have been organizing my digital life. That response threw both of them and Colleen said, “That doesn’t sound like any fun.”
I love this 2009 Scott McCarney piece, “Married After Gilbert & George.” And it is great to see it out in the open again at Colleen Buzzard’s Studio. Scott has transformed this gallery space with a collection of work pulled from storage. A large paper quilt fills your field of vision as you step off the fourth floor elevator. The show, entitled “Disjecta Membra,” brings Scott’s prints and artifacts together with the bound bookworks of their origin. Married After Gilbert & George” appears here in book form as well. As Scott says, “The private act of turning pages on a horizontal surface can be experienced in tandem with the public viewing of images on a vertical plane.” The show runs through January 12th.
The last time I saw Julian Schnabel he was wearing what appeared to be pajamas as he and his lady friend left the Sculpture Pavilion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I say “the last time” even though I only saw him one other time, when Rochester’s Ingrid Sischy brought him to the MAG for a lecture. This was during his smashed plate phase.
Schnabel’s “Basquiat” was embarrassing. His “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” was beautiful but an awful lot like “Johnny Got His Gun.” His “At Eternity’s Gate” is brilliant. Maybe just because the subject is so. But William Defoe is too. Because the movie was done by a painter I expected a more painterly dialog. Instead we have Van Gogh’s personality, his intense relationship with the world, his social ineptness, his psychological disorders and his glimpses of eternity on full display. Maybe that is what it took to produce such extraordinary art.
There is some choice dialog, probably taken from Van Gogh’s letters. “Paintings have to be painted fast, made in one clear gesture.” There is a scene Of Van Gogh and Gauguin taking a piss and talking about how they have to start a revolution. “The Impressionists are so boring.” And Van Gogh adds “But Monet is pretty good.” But there is a cringe worthy scene near the end of the film where Schnabel’s Van Gogh, comparing himself to Jesus, while talking to a priest, says maybe he paints “for people who are not born yet. Adding “nobody knew Jesus until 40 years after his death.”
Van Gogh essentially had ten years where he continued to get better and astronomically better as a painter. Like a rocket. Schnabel’s depiction of Van Gogh in his coffin (Defoe made up by an undertaker) and surrounded by his paintings was incredibly beautiful.
There are so many reasons to love Madrid. When we passed through here a month ago, on our way up north to finish the Camino, we saw an announcement for a Max Beckmann show at the Thyssen-Bornemisza. It opened last week so it was our first order of business today. We were there when they opened the doors at ten and we spent a good four hours with the fifty or so paintings. We broke for lunch and came back as our tickets were good for the day. We walked slowly through the Beckmann show again and then wandered through their permanent collection finishing right near closing time.
The Argonauts was Beckmann’s final triptych before he died in 1950. Beckmann was a medical orderly in World War I. The traumatic experience shaped his dramatic, expressive style. He was thrown out of Germany by the Nazis for what they called degenerative art. In this final painting the hero as a dreamer or the dreamer as a hero has conquered the nightmarish aspects of life. The young artist paints his model. In the center panel Orpheus and Jason are shown embarking on their search for the Golden Fleece with the old man on the ladder giving them advice. And the third panel shows the all women band in action.
Beckmann has his own set of symbols, some based on the decadent glamour of the Weimar Republic’s cabaret culture. He paints allegories and makes mythologized references to the brutalities of the Nazis. Clowns, circus performers, ladders, swords, horns and eclipses make frequent appearances. I love the way he paints, like Rouault or Marsden Hartley, big and bold and expressive. This show was so much fun to look at.
“Turner presents a didactic deconstruction of the visual semantics behind recognizability of form through a parsing of the grey space of the half-formed, “half-naked” (the name of the show). Do you believe that gibberish? I like these Ray Turner paintings but I couldn’t possibly make it through the description that the Artman Gallery in Chelsea offered us. And rather than just letting us look at the paintings, the staff insisted on trying to engage us in conversation. We had no time for that, the galleries were closing and we still hadn’t made it to Hauser & Wirth.
Back at Duane’s we watched Cher videos on YouTube, her new versions of ABBA songs. Surprised how bad they were. We finished with Tammy Wynette’s. “Don’t Touch Me” and I woke up singing “Ass Magnet,” Sa Zu’s (Ken Frank) incredibly sticky dance hit.
On Saturday Duane offered us a choice of three walks, all loops from his apartment in Brooklyn. “Mother nature, quasi industrial or multi ethnic neighborhoods.” We chose the third and walked down Ocean Parkway, over to Coney Island Avenue and back to Church Avenue. Duane’s world, excellent!
The quickest way to Clifton Springs requires two NYS Thruway legs, a fifty five cent toll. We were there in forty minutes. Pete and Gloria were in the back seat and of course we talked the whole way out. We were at Main Street Arts to see the Upstate New York Drawing Invitational, work from six upstate artists.
Kathy Farrell’s work looked more like painting, maybe drawing with paint with chunks of flat maps. They were attractive and fun. Tricia Butski, from Buffalo, has some strong graphic charcoals that are really impressive. My favorite piece, and one we considered buying if only we could figure out how to light it, is the three dimensional drawing by Colleen Buzzard, pictured above. (And please click on the photo so you can see the whole piece.) It’s called “Origin of Matter” and it is made (drawn) with wire, thread, ink on paper, torn paper and printer’s tape. We have radiant heat pipes in our ceiling so mounting a light to cast these integral shadows would be a challenge.
First of all, like all the photos in this blog, there is an enlargement available if you would like to see the whole picture. In fact, I invite you to look at the whole painting before reading my gibberish. I would like to hear what other people think is going on in this late Cezanne. Fred Lipp first brought it to my attention but as was his way he did not tell me what to think about it.
The painting is in the Guggenheim’s collection and I took the next few sentences from their website. “Cezanne’s work was motivated by a desire to give sculptural weight and volume to the instantaneity of vision achieved by the Impressionists, who painted from nature. Relying on his perception of objects in space as visually interrelated entities—as forms locked into a greater compositional structure. The strangely distorted, proto-Cubist view of the sitter—his right eye is depicted as if glimpsed from below and the left as if seen from above—contributes an enigmatic, contemplative air to the painting. ”
Cézanne is considered the precursor of Cubism. You read this all the time when people talk about Cezanne and I don’t particularly like Cubism but I love this painting. There is so much space in it that I never tire of looking at it. The wood trim on the wall below the sitter’s left elbow is coming at us and it wraps around the sitter. The wall is far from flat. The way the wall is painted it creates real space around the sitter. His left leg is coming out of the painting at us and the right falls away. The left side of his body is turning toward us while the right arm, which is actually closer to us, turns away. The chair under him shown only to his right, accents the turn in his body. With his left eye lower, much lower, than the right his head is almost spinning. His upper body is unusually long, he is way present. Cezanne has created so much volume in this painting with what some people dismiss as distortion.
I think the painting is a marvel. The card players are over the top with spatial illusion. I see aspects of these features in most of his portraits and yet when a new book, Cezanne Portraits from a show that was recently at the National Gallery, arrived there was hardly any spatial discussion. I would like to hear what others think. We will write our own book.
Our neighbor, Jared, thinks we might have another ground hog in the garden. Some of his sunflowers and squash were eaten so we will have to set the trap again. We caught a raccoon in the trap the other night. It was open and but not baited and the raccoon wandered in so our neighbor let it go. We’ve been eating kale, jalapeños, spinach, lettuce and cilantro faster than the groundhogs can, Our tomatoes are just starting to come in so we’ll need to guard the fort.
I never cared much for David Salle’s paintings but I picked up a book he wrote and read a few pages in the store. I had a hunch that he was a more interesting writer than painter and “How To See” confirmed that hunch. The book is a series of short pieces on various artists, some young, some his contemporaries, and some as ancient as Pierro della Francesca. Some of the writing was originally done for magazines like Art Forum and Town & Country but it all holds together and he talks a good game. He opened my eyes.
Salle brilliantly lumps two of my favorite painters, Philip Guston and Marsden Hartley, in the same chapter, saying “They took painting head-on, a little brutally. There’s a truculence in their attitude — why try to hide it. Wrestlers of paint. A painting is something to be grappled with, brought to the ground. It’s a promethean effort. The artist prevails, but at a cost.”
On Sigmar Polke he writes, “Polke’s pictorial inventiveness is so generous, so viewer-friendly makes you feel that, on a good day, you too could do it. His painting gets at something elemental about how we live today., and seems to whisper,’You are not locked into your own story. You could be otherwise.’ The strength of that conviction, the sheer vitality of it – I can’t think of anything more that we could ask for from art. Like all great artists, Polke was in pursuit of ravishment, and he wanted to stun, but only on his own terms. His work asks, ‘Can this be enough? What are you afraid of? Immerse yourself in his art and weep for the diminished spirit of our present age.”
We had tickets to the MAG opening on Saturday night. We talked about going that afternoon and when the time came we completely spaced it out. So we tried backtracking and went over there yesterday. We started with Bill Viola’s video installation, a piece with four monitors, one at each quarter hour devoted to one of the four elements. Called “Martyrs,” Viola says: “The Greek word for martyr originally meant ‘witness.’” (where have I heard that word before?) In today’s world, the mass media turns us all into witnesses to the suffering of others. They also exemplify the human capacity to bear pain, hardship, and even death in order to remain faithful to their values, beliefs, and principles.” It is quite stunning if just a bit too precious.
The summer MAG show features three local artists, a substitution for the old Finger Lakes or Biennial shows. The Nancy Jurs exhibit is fun. The video was unnecessary but the dryer lint piece really drew us in. We took a break for lunch at the Brown Hound. I liked that place better when they had art from the MAG’s collection on the wall instead of all that dog stuff. I don’t find the cheap dog images all that appetizing but the Bistro Salad with Tofu was really nice. After lunch we spent some time with “The Surreal Visions of Josephine Tota.” Her work is small and it would have worked better if someone hadn’t put it in all those loud clunky frames. It was really hard to see the paintings. The white wall tags and signage didn’t help either. The woman has an interesting back story but let us see her work. Her paintings look better online. Larry Merrill’s “Wards of Time: Photographs of Antiquities” could never be as good as the real antiquities but they looked great mounted on the brown walls of the Lockhart Gallery. This poem on the wall in Merrill’s show really struck me. But how does a translator get something this old to rhyme in translation without just rewriting it?
Age is the heaviest burden man can bear,
Compound of disappointment, pain and care;
For when the mind’s experience comes at length,
It comes to mourn the body’s loss of strength.
Resign’d to ignorance all our better days,
Knowledge just ripens when the man decays;
One ray of light the closing eye receives,
And wisdom only takes what folly leaves.
– Pherecrates, about 430 BCE
Richard Cumberland, translation
We needed coffee, both beans and a cold brew cup, so we stopped in Canaltown Roasters and had Pete package up 2 five pound bags of “Rochester Choice.” We took our cups down East Avenue to Rochester Contemporary where the annual 6×6 show was in the last weekend of its run. The San Francisco based, Symmetry Labs, were still installing their sculpture, “Tree of Tenere,” in the garden next door. Inspired by the Hindu legend of the most isolated tree on earth, it was first realized at Burning Man in 2017. The director, Bleu Cease, said Margaret Explosion was on a short list of people to perform under the outdoor tree which is sensitive to sound.
They have finally run out of room over there. Next year Bleu says they will go down to maximum of three per person. I remember when it was ten. I was happy to see that mine had sold. I’ve been using my submissions in an ever more minimal direction. And I was thrilled to find that three small paintings that I liked the most were all still available. That says something about either my taste or everybody else’s. Peggi found one as well. She brought me over to look at it and as luck would have it the artist was standing nearby. Kishan Pandya told us they travelled to South Carolina to see the recent eclipse and he took this amazing photo. It reminded me of a Sol Lewitt.
We plan to watch the World Cup final at our neighbor’s down the street. Two teams with a lot of finesse. We are going down pulling for the underdog, Croatia, but I could easily switch camps and scream for France. I just hope it is a good contest.
I knew Janet was sick but I didn’t think she could possibly die. In my mind she was immortal. Janet was always a delight to see and foremost to talk with. Insightful and funny, each encounter was memorable. She was also my favorite local painter.
I fell in love with a painting she had at the High Falls Gallery, the one with her brother in a vortex entitled “Ooops!” It had a $200 price tag on it and I will forever regret not taking it home. For years I maintained a web page of her paintings. Ten years ago she sent jpegs of her latest batch along with this note. I never got around to posting them.
“The whisk broom and dust pan are from my Primordial Fleamarket Series. I allow one object per canvas, life size. I want them to appear to be in process of being made, like in a geological rather than a manufacturing process, with the varying layers of paint mimicking aeons. The typewriters, lamps, sewing machine and guitar are also in this series. I’m working on a 1896 Fairbanks Banjo at the moment.
Baby Bird’s title is now “Fledgeling” 2007. “Whisk Broom” 2008, “Dustpan” 2008 and “Fledgeling” 2007 are now at the Oxford Gallery Awakenings Show, until May 10. “Embers” and Ted’s Typewriter” 2006. “QWERTY 3” and “QWERTY 4” 2007. They are all 12” x 12.” “Dave’s Guitar: C. F. Martin’s D28 Dreadnought” 40” x 30” 2007
Janet wrote the following introduction to her paintings on the site.
“I seem to always want to paint either my kitchen table, or the view out my window of Pinnacle Hill. Pinnacle Hill has been encroaching upon, interfacing with, and persistently stepping up its allurements to me as an interior artist. I’m taking it one step at a time. I only want to paint it through the windows and ceilings of my house, with all its seas and deserts and nebulae, and its population of cowboys and saints, horses, maybe soldiers, sharks and flying dogs also.
I am allowing my paintings also to “borrow,” shall we say, from the images of other artists. For example: the one of the Sea of Galilee Lapping the Shore of PS 35, shamelessly appropriates from Delacroix. But Lawrence Lazarus’ Battered Blue Cube is in there, also, in quadruplicate. School 35 is a low brick building with seemingly no appeal, yet with 4 or 5, (I really haven’t counted them) blue doors, Battered Blue Cubes! They were painted beige for awhile, a while back, and my heart sank. I was wracking my brain for a way to convince myself that my memory of their blueness would serve me just as well, as an artist who knew something and could brook all obstacles in her path, when they got painted blue again! like a miracle, in answer to a prayer I didn’t dare send up!
The one of the Fight for the Waterhole at PS 35 borrows (HA!) from, as you can guess, from Remington. But, again, the doors of school 35 are DEFINITELY Lawrence Lazarus’ Battered Blue Cube. He probably wouldn’t have seen the point of there being 4 or 5 of them, but that’s how it is.
My latest painting, Pope Cake, is the Pope and my mother at the kitchen table, with a Thiebald wedding cake on the table, and the table holding its own, if I do say so myself! It’s really a picture of my mother’s arms, I think. They express her earthy fretfulness, without giving up a bit of her translucent leaving this earth quality.
We asked Pete if he could recommend someone to take an old metal frame, single pane window out of our basement and replace it with some thermal glass. He recommended himself and me (as a helper). He’s done this before so I should have seen it coming. He has been doing construction, remodeling mostly, for his whole life and he claims to “have never worked a day in his life.” He loves the work and jumped at the chance to hang out. Pete plays drums with the Debbie Kendrick Project, our favorite band, and he is also one of our favorite artists so it was a joy working with him for the last two days.
He brought a couple of books over for us to look at. They were individual sheets in plastic sleeves, collages pairing copies of work by Renaissance artists paired with a modern artist. Chillida was in there, our new favorite Spanish artist. And to complete each panel, he painted and drew over, under and around the collage, all part of an ongoing series entitled, “Looking for Home.” The second day he brought over an old music book of American Songs. He’s working his way through this book painting over most of the pages with Casein paint, an old, milk-based medium. The pages are beautiful beyond belief.