I was so good to see clothing displayed on mannequins again in the window of the former Sibley’s building downtown. The current show at City Space, an RIT gallery, on the ground floor was curated by Unique Fair-Smith and featured a group of emerging artists living and working in the city. Erin Nesmith’s says her work “is inspired by the natural beauty of the human form.” She recreates historical paintings of women wearing E’rouse (above), her own line of lingerie.
RoCo’s “State of the City” show complimented the City Space show with one overlapping artist, Quajay Donnel. I particularly liked this photo of his.
We walked up to Wegman’s this morning to get another shot, this one to protect against the flu. On the way up there I called Pete to get clarification on his origin verses beginning thesis. In yesterday’s post I mentioned that Pete drew a distinction between the two in similar fashion to the way Mondrian drew a distinction between instinct and intuition. I got a comment from Andrea that asked how you tell the difference. That called my attention to how I fudged the definitions. I am still trying to sort out instinct/intuition and I was not clear on the beginning/origin thing either so I called Pete. He was having lunch with some friends at Rocky’s so he called back once we were home.
When the Jesuits can’t give you a straight answer to a question they say it is all part of the mystery. Pete sees origin as “what caused all this?” He started painting these blobs of Casin paint without knowing what they were. Were they crashing the party, landing on top of or poking out from behind tight line drawings of physical objects? He discovered they were nebulas like the implosions of stars that led to the beginning of the universe.
Pete is forever searching, as any thinking person is, and he is currently illustrating lines from Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.” I was at Woodstock, Joni wasn’t, but she captures the optimistic spirit of the festival better than anyone. I knew this. But I had no idea how deep the lyrics to her song are. “We are stardust.” Not glitter in some hippy’s hair but “billion year old carbon.” “We are caught in the devil’s bargain. And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”
Peter Schjeldahl, writing (still!) in the new New Yorker about Piet Mondrian says, “Intuition was everything for him—versus “instinct,” which he deplored as an ego-inflating snare and came to associate with, among other derangements, the brutally repressive mystique of Nazism. ” Going forward I will pause long enough to make that distinction.
It is alumni weekend at MCC and two graduates are featured in the art show, “Thirty Eight and Eighty,” at Mercer Gallery. Peter Monacelli was a chemist, a life insurance salesman, a factory worker at General Electric before Art Essentials at MCC. He went on too teach art classes at the college for many years. In his half of the artist talk this afternoon, drew a distinction between “origin” as a process and “beginning” as a time stamp. Speaking for Bradley Butler, the other half of a great new show at MCC’s Mercer Galley, Pete said both he and Bradley were getting at the same thing in their work, the origin of everything.
Chemist, life insurance salesman, worked at General Electric at night an$ took Art Essentials at MCC.
Their work, Pete’s drawings and Casin paintings on white paper and Bradley’s rich, dark and moody palette on canvas, worked beautifully together. An eBook version of Peter Monacelli’s “Origins” is available as a take-home piece. Visit the “Artist Books” page for free downloads.
Anne Havens did a series of life-sized plaster heads called “Sleeping Around.” We have one of them on our bookcase. Peggi and I spotted this rock down at the pool this afternoon, I think it may have been used as a door stop for the pump house, and we thought of Anne. She is stuck in Florida for a while so we carry on with our experience of her art as inspiration.
We talked to Anne Havens over the weekend and got her approval on posting some of her books as eBooks. We visit Anne’s website often and are always surprised at how well the technical end of the site is holding up as Anne did it herself with Apple’s long discontinued iWeb app.
Anne did a lot of those Apple Books too, from photos of her work. She did one for each show for awhile and she gave us the pdf files she sent Apple so we could pull the pages out for a slideshow on Colleen Buzzard’s big projector. With all those pages in a folder it was easy create eBooks of her long out of print editions. Five of her eBooks are available here as free downloads.
Peggi took this video of Anne Havens “Recent Prints” show the Little Theater Gallery in 2006. The resolution on her camera has improved since then.
Manifestation is back in boxes. The white walls of Colleen Buzzard’s Studio are singing a different tune this month, “Works on Paper” by Beauty. Although she has been an artist her whole life, this is only Beauty’s second show. I asked her if her clothes really looked like they do in her paintings and she said no. She animates them. In her own words –
“This show was inspired by my wardrobe which feels like it has a life of its own. I am intrigued that even inanimate objects have an essence, a sense of presence, and I find that especially true of my clothes and footwear. It is that unexplained, alive quality in the most ordinary of objects that led me to this work.”
These canvases are the same size but they don’t look it. One is just a little closer to the camera. I like how this photo conveys the simple technique employed by artists to convey a sense of space in a 2D work. You could, for example, make one eye bigger in a portrait and it would appear closer to you thereby adding volume to the subject and depth to your field.
Tomorrow brings a new show to Colleen Buzzard’s Studio, “Works on Paper” by an artist named Beauty, whose work focuses on the inner vitality she finds in familiar objects. Beauty won’t be using the projector in the big hallway so Colleen asked us if we could prepare a disc of slides of Anne Havens’ work, all taken from pdfs of the Apple Books Anne did for her shows over the past two decades. It was pure joy to spend time with images of Anne’s drawings, paintings and sculptures but it was pretty much of bummer to discover more limitations of the Micca Media Player that we’re using to interface with the projectors. You would think you would be able to view both movies and photos if they were in a folder together but it’s one of the other.
I came awake with “Rock Steady” going around in my head. I don’t remember hearing it recently. I couldn’t even remember who did it. Was it a Reggae song? There was a whole genre called Rock Steady. I could hear Aretha Franklin’s song by that name but that wasn’t it. I had to look it up. It was the Whispers from 1987 and the song was produced by Baby Face who is performing here this weekend.
The sun has set on “Manifestation,” my show at Colleen Buzzard’s Studio. Peggi helped me dismantle it last night and Colleen was already prepping the walls for next month’s show. Certainly not everyone who attended the show liked what they saw but I took note when someone liked one of the pieces enough to tell me. For most it was “Los Inmigrantes.” There was plenty of talk about “Passion Play” and “Brief History of the World,” and surprisingly some liked the “For Fritz” pieces the best. For a select few, the most enthusiastic response was to the “Arcadian Forms” and that was rewarding. They are my favorites as well. I plan to mount them on the wall in my studio and find a way to move forward in that direction.
Don’t mind me if I continue to talk about my show at Colleen Buzzard’s Studio. In another ten days most of it will be in boxes. “Los Inmigrantes” are featured on the brightly lit, white wall directly in front of you as you enter the gallery. If you were to turn 270 degrees to your left you would be facing a small black wall with a white pedestal in front of it. I knew this would be the perfect spot for my self portrait and it looked especially good in the daylight when we stopped by the other day.
If Studio 402 hadn’t invited me to participate in their ”Self Portrait” show last winter I probably wouldn’t have titled the piece as such. I was already thinking of the driftwood pieces as bodies, the ones that frequently wash ashore in southern Spain when their overstuffed boats capsize in a desperate attempt to flee poverty. I mounted the more sculptural found pieces, the ones that hold your interest when viewed from all sides, on long finishing nails (like the piece shown above.) And of course that led to creating my own small body.
I picked a piece of oak firewood out of our stack and brought it into the garage. I put in the vice grips and went at it with saws, chisels and files and then drilled a hole in the bottom and mounted it on a nail. I was determined to create a piece as interesting as the ones I found on the beach.
The pieces in this show could easily be read as a disparate collection of work but I get to connect the dots. I think of my “Arcadian Forms” as forms and not shapes even though they are flat colors and two dimensional. The forms are reductions based on the figure, like the self portrait that followed from “Los Inmigrantes.”
Duane lives in Brooklyn but came up for a wedding. He missed the opening so Peggi and I gave him a private showing yesterday afternoon. Colleen was working, adjusting a cloud of steel wool, so the studio was open. We turned on the lights in the gallery and then set up the slideshow while Duane took in the show. It is a little more difficult to get the hallway dark in the middle of the day and I can see in this photo I forgot to temporarily twist that light bulb off but Duane got the picture.
Duane is a camera man by vocation and he helped me, via FaceTime, photograph most of the work in this show. Seeing it in the gallery setting he told me the “Arcadian Forms” were “sexy.” I told him the best thing about the show was moving on from the work. The clean slate is exhilarating. I’ve been stretching some canvases for oils and, of course, I would like to move forward in an orderly direction so I plan to keep the capsualized view of my show (the postcard) top of mind. Like the Guston quote, ”What I’m always seeking is some great simplicity.”
Duane put some serious hours into editing a video he did for Margaret Explosion this summer and he told me when he finished it he was determined to do nothing for while. I can see both strategies. Neither of us have air conditioning and the humidity is thick enough to slow your momentum.
A few days back I posted a picture of one of Jim Thomas’s light sculptures. They rightly belong in a museum but many of them still sit in his home studio. Jim and his wife, Gail, had back to back shows in Studio 402 and and then the Little but they were both experiencing health issues at the time so a small group of friends helped them hang the show. The Thomas’s had the group out to their place in Fishers and then emailed us to thank us for coming out. Mostly he wanted to thank us for talking art with them.
This was all backwards. We should be thanking them. Before leaving their place Jim offered us each one of his pieces, our pick, to take home. The three photos shown here are the pieces we considered before settling on a small oil pastel. They are a feast for the eyes but wall space is a limitation for us.
This last one is our favorite. Peggi sees a deconstructed apple. The colors, nearly flat in most places, look like they were both loosely and confidently applied. Not fussy, it remains fresh and alive. The forms move your attention through the painting and back out, not just clockwise but into the light blue space and then forward through the grey before dropping on your lap. We might have to do a little rearranging.
We were invited out to Jim and Gail Thomas’s place in Fishers where the two artists have their studios, workshop and gallery space. They have had some health issues recently and we helped hang their recent show at the Little. This afternoon’s gathering was their thank you to “the hanging crew.”
Jim started teaching at RIT when the school was still downtown. He and his wife had a gallery on Prince Street in the early 2000’s and Peggi and I bought one of Jim’s large (six foot tall) totemic, figurative, charcoal drawings. Jim’s work, mostly abstract sculpture, painting and drawing is based on the figure and grounded in natural forms. When we first entered his downstairs gallery the only illumination was coming from his light sculptures. I took this photo of a sensational floor standing piece.
Gail showed us the form-fitting, lime green mask she was required wear during her treatments and after a few hours of art talk and cookies Jim invited us into his studio where he offered us each the pick of any piece to take home with us. Peggi and I chose a beautiful oil pastel drawing of two interlocking forms.
Four hours seemed like a ridiculously long time for an opening but just as we turned the projector on people were walking through the door. Most of them were short of breath after climbing four flights of stairs. Gail and Jim Thomas took the elevator. They got off with masks on so we temporarily suited up. I was happy to see them but so surprised considering their recent heath issues. There was a steady flow throughout the evening with a nice lull around 7:30. A few windows were open to keep the Covid away and I’m hoping it did the trick.
I had pictured myself trying to hide from everybody but I was engaged in conversation non-stop, most of it about the work. Everybody had different favorites. Some the slideshow, others Los Inmigrantes, the color fields, the stations or the shapely Arcadian Forms. In fact they were surprisingly the favorites. This is just what I gathered. If they hated hated it all they didn’t tell me.
I talked with George Wegman the longest. Discovered we look the world the same way. George used to play guitar with The Hangmen back in the middle sixties. We bought one of his paintings a while back. Pete and Gloria watched the slideshow until it started repeating. I didn’t think that was possible. Jim Mott helped me move one of the paintings after I told him I wished it was lower and to the right a few inches. Scott McCarney wore a Personal Effects shirt that he designed. A cassette tape was pictured on the front labeled ”This Is It.” But the sweetest thing that happened all night was the call from Anne Havens just before the show.
Before Peggi and I started hanging the Manifestation show in the Anderson Arts Building, Colleen took us in the back room to show her array of tools – everything in its place, laid out on a table like an art installation in itself. Picture a row of needle nose pliers from small to large, the nose of each pair between the handles of the next. They looked like they were going to have sex. She told us she shared a studio with Scott McCarney and learned the organizational feat from him.
She pointed to hammers in all sizes and called attention to one with a felt tip – “for tapping in push pins.” I had never heard of such a thing but days later I used the velvet hammer to hang some last minute additions to the show, six black and white photos taken in 1976.
Peggi and I decided to hang “Los Inmigrantes” first. I’ve had them hanging in my studio for about a year now. I drilled a couple of small holes in the back of each, corresponding holes in the wall and then backed a finishing nail into the holes in the wood pieces. This allowed me to push the piece toward the wall but not but not flat against it. I did this rather organically and started to take measurements of all the holes so I could transfer the piece downtown. Peggi suggested that I take a tracing of the holes, a brilliant idea that she said sprung from her sewing background. We laid the tracing paper out on the freshly painted wall and I drilled right though the paper.
We were so lucky to find a house that that had not been overly mucked with by previous owners and hapless contractors. There were a few real clunkers, the barn wood in the kitchen and the ornate, white wrought iron railing along the opening to our basement. Julio Sanchez Baños designed and installed the hand rail that you see coming at you in the photo above. The heavy red oak, matching our red oak floors (which were milled from trees growing where our house stands today), is supported by thin stainless steel rods and appear to float.
A few years back we found a metal frame in the trash while we were out walking. I carried it home and made a wood top for it. We used it as an outdoor table, under our overhang and near the fire when we sat around with friends during the pandemic. When our neighbor came over with muddy shoes and found nowhere to sit by our door we realized we need a bench there so we brought the table in and started using it as a bench. We use it everyday.
My brother, John, a woodworker/craftsman has made a number of pieces for us – a chair as a wedding present, a coffee table made out of redwood from our old deck and a utility table in our office. We asked him if he could make us a bench that worked with the red oak in our railing. He dropped it off a few weeks ago and we love it.
It looks particularly good with the “For Fritz” paintings. I have sixteen of them and I was planning on hanging the six shown here at Colleen Buzzard’s Studio. The show opens on Friday and I’ve just decided to show a different batch there. This grouping will include the white one.
I was looking for a title for this upcoming show and also kicking around ideas for an album title for some recent Margaret Explosion songs. I found both on two succeeding pages in Musa Meyer’s recent book, “Resilience.”
Writing about her father’s work in the early seventies she described how Philip Guston was dogged by questions about why his work had changed, from abstraction to figurative. One critic complained the “manifestation” was different. Guston answered, “That is our fate. Constant change.”
“You have to keep learning how to play in new ways all the time. It’s always good for the first time. There is a popular Italian song called “Per la Prima” – “For the First Time.” It’s about a love affair, but it’s the same thing. It’s always good for the first time, and somehow, that has to be recaptured, constantly.”
Margaret Explosion improvises. Each song we play is being played for the first time. When we do try to recreate a song it is never as good as it was the first time. “Per la Prima” will be the title of our upcoming lp.
This art show would more accurately be sub-titled “Paul Dodd | Recent Play.”
Opening Reception: Friday, July 15, 5-9pm First Friday Open Studio August 5, 5-9pm Margaret Explosion performance w/ slideshow Friday Aug. 12, 7-8pm Open by appointment July 15 through August 28, 2022
Anderson Arts Building, Studio 401 250 N. Goodman Street Rochester, NY 14607 (Enter behind Good Luck Restaurant)
Exhibit also includes “Brief History of the World” slideshow (detail shown below) ePub book format of “Brief History of the World” is available as a free download at www.popwars.com/artist-books
The projector I plan to use during my show at Colleen Buzzard’s will only read a flash drive formatted on a pc and I only have a Mac. I had Dan, across the street, format mine. But then when I copied my files to the flash drive I found these tiny _files right next to each of my .jpg files and the projector trips over them before moving on. So I put my files in a Dropbox folder and had Dan put them on the flash drive for me.
The slideshow consists of about 500 screen captures from my ”Brief History of the World” series. Ideally I would like the duration of each side to be around 15 seconds so you can both see the images and read the captions but short of writing the slides to a movie file I’m stuck using the closest default setting which 10 seconds. As you might imagine, it is a long history. I’ve been working on this series for 21 years and I currently have 8 of the 21 volumes available as eBooks. At 10 seconds apiece the slideshow won’t start repeating again for an hour and a half.
The spread above is the very first one I did. I like the juxtaposition of the wooden sculpture by a German Expressionist with a musician from Nigeria. And below the Dali Lama and El Greco’s Saint James have the same gesture.
I loved the way flat acrylic paint looked on the plastic panels I found. the material was perfect for my Stations of the Cross. But now that I plan to show them at Colleen Buzzard’s Studio this summer I’m having a hell of a time getting something to adhere to the back of panels so I can hang them.
I loved the plastic panels so much I did another set of pieces with them, shaping the sheets with a jig saw. Pete Monacelli helped me mount a wood frame to the back of those and I caulked around the frame just to ensure they stuck. The frame pushess the shaped panels, called “Arcadian Forms,” off the wall. It took Pete all of of a morning to miter the corners and I spent another gluing and caulking the frames to the panels.
Pete told me a few times, “Don’t use the plastic.” I didn’t want to tell him that I already have twenty small panels in the basement that are in the works.
First, and most surprising, the show was not crowded. In a sane world Philip Guston’s “Now,” at Boston’s MFA would be mobbed. There are silver linings in the madness.
I love the way the curators chose to hang work from different periods of Guston’s life next to one another. He develops an alphabet and then a language and all of it is of a piece, uniquely honest, across time and mediums. Lucious paint application, impressionistic abstracts, the bluntly real at heroic scale, graphic, boiled down charcoal drawings, ink on paper, just a few brilliant strokes.
In many respects the curators, by postponing the show and pushing the racism themes to the fore, do Guston a huge disservice. I’m quite sure he would be horrified at the “Emotional Preparedness” handouts and the deliberate explanation of everything. No artist speaks as eloquently as Guston. No other artist expresses himself as well. And if someone is speaking, shut up. The paintings are about so much more. Humanity, life itself, the giant mystery. Give the guy a break. His put absolutely every ounce of his being into his paintings. He was so open and so giving. Isn’t that enough? The paintings speak for themselves. Long live Guston!
It’s been twenty years since the Metropolitan’s Philip Guston Retrospective, a mind-blowing experience for me, and I have not fully recovered. The new Philip Guston retrospective “Now” has opened in Boston with trauma specialists on duty and contextual source material under wraps. But I’m not complaining. I already did that. I’m thrilled. We have tickets for the show and sat in on a series of Zoom talks this weekend put on by the MFA
Musa Meyer, Guston’s daughter, hosted one of the talks. She has devoted the second half of her life to securing her father’s. legacy as president of the Philip Guston Foundation. I have a shelf full of Guston books and the one she wrote, “Night Studio, A Memoir of Philip Guston,” is one of my favorites. I hope her talk becomes available on YouTube because she is as close as we can get to the mind of Guston.
The painting above is in MoMA’s collection and Ross Feld used it on the cover his book, “Guston in Time, Remembering Philip Guston.” Feld was a poet and close friend of Guston’s. I picked his book up at the MAG and liked it so much I bought extra copies as gifts. Years later I discovered our neighbor was also a close friend of Feld’s, went to high school with him and has a few Guston pieces in his collection.
Guston was inspired by and inspired poets, writers (Philip Roth) and musicians. Listen to Morton Feldman’s “For Philip Guston.” And then go out of your way to see Philip Guston paintings.
In 1975 my father suggested we take a silkscreen class that was being offered by Loretta Murawski at B.O.C.E in Fairport. It was the first class I had taken with my father and I was struck by what a good student he was. He would jump on the assignments, constructing the screens from homemade hinged frames and producing beautiful prints while the rest of us were still trying to figure out what we wanted to do.
The silkscreen above is from a series of prints and I think he also used this image for a Christmas card. My sister, Amy, would remember the details. Leo liked Chesterton and Merton and I often wondered where this phrase came from. I looked it up today and found this excerpt from a 1975 NYT review of a book called, “All The Strange Hours: The Evacuation of a Life” by Loren Eiseley. My father might read the book, he had quite a library, or he may just have read the review. I wish he was still here to talk about it.
I still have the screens we constructed back then in the garage. The ink and screen wash on the market today is far less toxic. We had a few Warhol silkscreens for a while and I love the medium.
I did a silkscreen run of New Math posters but I don’t have a copy. I photographed this one on the wall at the Bop Shop. Peggi and I silkscreened a hundred Personal Effects t-shirts in our backyard. The time is right to get back into this process.