A show of Renaissance Prints. may not sound all that exciting but just imagine being alive in the early 1500s when images of the ancient myths and religious miracles were mostly in your imagination. The Judgement of Paris, The Massacre of the Innocents, and The Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence , where Larry asks his tormentors to “Turn me over, I’m done on this side,” are just some of the fantastic stories depicted in the Memorial Art Gallery’s current exhibit of Renaissance Prints. The show is mind blowing.
MAG Curatorial Assistant Lauren Tagliaferro did a Zoom talk for MAG members the day the show opened and it is now up on YouTube. Peggi and I just watched it a second time. Lauren is a dynamo and she brings art history to life. How we created a beautiful Christ, even eroticized him and the saints to sell the concept, suffering in peace for eternal salvation. How we depict the old as ugly because we are afraid of dying. Tagliaferro is drawn to ugliness as much beauty and she admits a lot of her ideas come from “On Ugliness” by Umberto Eco. She is an adjunct professor at RIT. They should give her tenure now.
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’re so proud of our friend and neighbor. Just her second competition and she brings home a medal from the USA Power Lifting Championship in Florida. Go Sierra!
Still haven’t got over to the MAG to see the Bill Viola piece in the Media Art room but we were thrilled to hear the Memorial Art Gallery plans to commission three works by international artists inspired by the City of Rochester, New York. “Reflections on Place” will feature Javier Téllez (Venezuela, b. 1969), Isaac Julien (U.K., b. 1960) and Dara Birnbaum, (U.S., b. 1946). We’ll have to wait til April 2018 for the first of those exhibitions.
Tonight marks Phil Marshall’s fourth performance as a Margaret Explosion member. We are thrilled to have him in the band working his magic. Before he joined he sat in with us on many occasions. Here he is on live track from the Little Theatre Café in 2009.
Cathleen Chaffee, Senior Curator at Albright Knox Art Gallery, gave a lecture at the Memorial Art Gallery on Sunday afternoon on the topic of minimal art. Although the minimal aesthetic is easily applied to most art-making she concentrated on 1960 to the present, artists like Robert Ryman, Sol Lewitt, Agnes Martin and Dan Flavin. But she started back in the 1800s with a French woman who did illustrations of an all white painting, an all green painting and an all black painting. That joke about a blank canvas being a painting of a polar bear in a snowstorm has been around awhile.
1914 was to be a pivotal year with Marcel DuChamp the master, Kazimir Malevich making some of their strongest work. Ad Reinhardt and Rauschenberg did solid color paintings in the fifties as they fought their way out of Ab Ex. And John Cage’s silent “4:33” piece was a response to that. Art does not exist in a vacuum.
This lecture was in conjunction with Deborah Ronnen’s sensational “Minimal Mostly” show at R1 Studios on University Avenue. Her show features some of these same artists along with Ellsworth Kelly, Annie and Josef Albert, Carmen Herrera and Frank Stella. The pop-up show is up til the end of June so do yourself a favor and find some time to visit it.
Saturday night’s opening for Meleko Mokgosi’s installation of large paintings from his Pax Kaffraria series was a happening affair. His knockout paintings tell the complicated story of Colonial Africa. I’m hoping his artist’s talk at 7 p.m. on Thursday February 23 will tie the pieces together and I’m looking forward to revisiting the show without the people.
The bands for the opening were great – the young Julian Garvue trio in the Atrium and the professional funk band Shine in the auditorium.
There are always plenty of reasons to visit the MAG but this is an especially good time. Robert Rauschenberg’s silkscreen prints from his “Making History” series are on display in the Lockhart Gallery. Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder’s installation/sculpture/mechanical performance piece, “Light Spill,” is on view in the Media Arts gallery. It is in its active state for 60 seconds every 30 minutes on the 1/2 hour. And the Brown Hound Bistro is serving the best green salad we’ve had in a long time.
The Memorial Art Gallery has an exciting new Media Arts space, a gallery devoted to the moving image, a three year project that will feature different work every three months, work by major artists. They even plan to commission three pieces for an upcoming show. The inaugural exhibition, “Bodies in Space,” features work Nam June Paik (“Experiments with David Atwood, 1969”) and Bruce Nauman, key artists from the early years of video art, alongside more recent work by Sondra Perry and Takeshi Murata. The gallery plans to purchase the work and eventually assimilate it in their collection.
On Sunday afternoon John Hanhardt, MAG’s new Curator of Media Arts, gave a lecture on the work and media arts in general. Hanhardt worked in the department of film and video at the Museum of Modern Art, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and from 1974 to 1996 he was curator of the film and video department at the Whitney Museum of American Art. He was the senior curator of film and media arts at the Guggenheim from 1996 to 2006 and he joined the Smithsonian Museum’s staff in 2006 as a senior curator of film and media arts.
Hanhardt curated both the Whitney and Guggenheim retrospectives of Nam June Paik. He recently arranged for the Smitsonian to house the Nam June Paik archive, eight tractor trailer trucks worth. Hanhardt convinced Warhol, when he was still alive, to let him preserve his film archive. He knows his stuff. He is a Rochester native and we are glad to have him back.
We dressed warmly for Ossia’s outdoor, noon performance in Highland Park this Sunday. I wore gloves for the first time in months. It was the world premiere of Eastman faculty composer Robert Morris’ “Four Gardens” for mixed instrumental and vocal ensembles. Their website said the piece was “designed to be played outdoors, overlooking the reservoir in Rochester’s Highland Park.” We should have read that more carefully because we assumed the performance was to take place in the grotto that was pictured on their website. We went there first and then drove through the park for a half hour or so before we found the groups (four gardens) performing simultaneously around the overlook where the old Pavilion was overlooking the reservoir. I wish we had been there for the entire performance because what we heard was beautiful.
My mother was always rearranging the furniture in our house, sometimes even swapping the functions of the rooms. I remember her taking the dining room table out of the dining room. She has a great eye and her rearrangements often invigorated our home. Sometimes they just didn’t work but they still managed to liven up the place.
The MAG, under the direction of its new steward, Jonathan Binstock, has rearranged its collection while calling attention to some great new acquisitions. I especially like the Beaufort Delaney “Charlie Parker” portrait shown above. And the new Mickalene Thomas portrait, “Qusuquzah” almost steals the show in the new portrait gallery (just beyond the admission desk). Her spacial, almost cubist play with the figure’s head is sensational. Walt Kuhn’s “Clown” is still more compelling. Robert Lee MacCameron “New Orleans Man” looks great and it is nice to see the Pieter Jansz Pourbus’ “Portraits of a Husband and Wife” out again. They were missing in action for a few years
The cluster of portraits doesn’t really work for me though. I’d rather engage with them one on one. They would be better in that long hallway on the side of the auditorium where that flowery mural over the fake fireplace is. It’s a good thing they don’t let me loose in that place. The 1935 Calder “Standing Mobile” looks great. Can’t imagine where that has been hiding. And they have a little trove of Gaston LaChaise statuettes. I wish they had one of his more expressive pieces. “Ouch” to the Condo and the polka dot lady!
Jacob Lawrence’s “The Legend of John Brown” portfolio of silkscreen prints looks fantastic in the newly painted Lockhart Gallery. And they have removed the center island in that room so can really take in the graphic intensity. You have to get over there to see that.
We gathered today in our usual painting room at the Creative Workshop of the MAG. Most of us are long-time students of Fred Lipp’s and our week revolves around Tuesday’s class. A good percentage of the day class were there and our night class had a respectable showing but our teacher wasn’t there. He’s quite sick and we were meeting for two reasons: to discuss a tribute show in his honor and secondly, to determine how to carry on. I specifically did not say “carry on without him” because the gifts he gave us are ours to use.
As the group dispersed a few us were standing around taking about Fred’s teaching method. Bill Keyser was telling my father how he would have a list of things he was about to do and Fred would come by and say, “Forget about your plan. Look at your painting right now.” This in fact may be Fred’s most important point. Always stay open to what is on the page right now. “Painting is not a destination. It is an adventure.” Step back and look at the work. “Always address the worst first.” When the “worsts” are gone, your painting may be done.
I’ve searched my past posts and collected some of the lessons I am still learning from him. I find these truisms apply to most disciplines, certainly music.
The class was not about Fred’s work. In fact he rarely showed. The first thing I saw by him was a sculpture/installation in a Finger Lakes show, ripped open pieces of re-tread tires spewing at you from the corner of the gallery. It was sensational and it went on to the statewide exhibit in Albany. His class is called “Advanced Painting” and students work in collage, watercolor, acrylic, oil, drawing or sculpture. His methods are the same for all mediums.
There are no assignments. He rotates around the room addressing individual students as they work and pretty much says the same thing to each. He does not want you to talk first when he gets to you. “Don’t talk it. Show me.”
His stock of grey paper is his primary teaching tool. With this neutral grey he would cover parts of your work to show you what currently works. He’ll sometimes cover three fourths of your painting and tell you, “There’s your painting.
Many of Fred’s students say “he taught me how to see.” More importantly, I think he teaches us to trust our eyes. We already know how to see but we don’t trust it. If you have doubts about something in your painting that would be your eye talking. “If the question comes up, the answer is yes.”
Fred can be brutal. In many sessions the first class was the last we would see of a new student. He was brutal because he was honest and painters who did not want to learn left.
We visited Fred in the hospital last week and I asked him if any of his students had brought their paintings up to his room. He got a good laugh out of that one. A painting was never done until Fred pronounced it “done.” And it was just as often sooner rather than later than you expected.
Learning is a lifelong process. I’ve pulled these thoughts from my posts over the years. This link will take you to a page with all the posts on Fred.
There is no replacing Fred Lipp. He is one of a kind. He has been a mentor in every sense of the word and I am not alone. He packed the lecture hall at the MAG last summer with his presentation on spacial constructs, a comparison of three paintings from the MAG’s collection by Hans Hoffmann, Josef Albers and John Koch.
His daughter wrote that Fred is “the essence of art.” His ideals will live forever.
I like this Lynette K. Stephenson painting from the Rochester Biennial at the MAG. Great paint handling and a mysterious, confrontational pose. I liked Richard Hirsch’s “Paintings of Nothing” too. They look like big, heavy slabs of clay hanging on the wall but are encaustic, clay, minerals and dry pigment on foam.
I thought about art quite a bit during the World Cup. It was full of surprises for starters. We got stuck on certain teams and then had to admit their opponent was better just as you do when you’re constructing a painting. We changed allegiances in the middle of a few matches and went in exactly the opposite direction. The marvelous, master craftsman, artistry of Messi and Neymar of course. The announcer, Ian Darke‘s” colorful play by play was peppered with literary, artistic phrases. He could almost be describing a painting as it unfolds. “Lovely ball, brilliant touch.”
But mostly I am struck by the exhilerating composition of the game, the way players move into space in order to advance the ball. They draw my eye as they try to get open. They draw players to them when they have the ball and create more openings. It is very fluid at all times and the entire pitch is involved in the composition the way a painter must keep the entire canvas in mind with every stroke.
And how about this whole concept of minimal art, maximum bang from minimal means. 120 minutes in the World Cup final with only one goal! I thought about Peggi’s childhood friend and her husband who had a heart attack at a Detroit Red Wing game. His doctor told him he couldn’t watch hockey games anymore. You have to keep things in perspective. Brazil taught the world the beautiful game, rate futbol, and now it belongs to us.
It seems I’m posting something related to the MAG everyday. We were there for two different movies and then last weekend’s art opening. Tomorrow I’ll be downstairs in the Creative Workshop for painting class. The Lockhart Gallery in the MAG has an interesting show about the Watson family’s contribution to the Memorial Art Gallery’s collection. I absolutely love this 1931 pencil drawing by the renowned Maine artist/sculptor, Gaston Lachaise. The drawing, like a lot of his sculpture, one of which is on display in the main gallery at the MAG, was inspired by his wife, Isabel Dutaud Nagle.
The printmakers’ world is rather archaic. There are so many rules as to what is technically a numbered print, one in a series where each is the same, and what is either an “Artist’s Proof” or a mono print, a print which cannot be in a series because it is slightly different from the next in the series. But all that is breaking down and the new show, “Redefining Multiples: Contemporary Japanese Printmakers,” at the Memorial Art Gallery pretty much puts those old ideas to rest. How the heck does the artist who squeegees ink on sheets of glass, and then layers those sheets in a single work, produce a multiple? I gave up trying to figure it out and that is exactly how it should be. So forget about the title of the show and enjoy it.
You can’t improve on nature but you can grab a pretty cool film loop if you fly around a cloud. Toshinao Yoshioka’s “Guidepost 6,” a 2001 dvd is stunning. Not sure how he made that. Naruki Ushima’s inkjet photos are beautiful and would really dress up a corporate boardroom. Gallery visitors are reflected in the glass on his photos and the photos themselves are as much about reflections as the subject of the photos. An interesting play. And I enjoyed watching Judd Williams and Todd Smith check out Junji Amano’s minimalist acrylic, graphite screen prints.
My favorite part of the evening was the Japanese prints that the MAG pulled out of its collection. Tokio Miyashita’s orange woodcut with aquatint, a 3d tour de force, and Hiroyuki Tajima’s “Good Evening” woodcut print. It looked like a primitive hologram. The Johnathin Wintringham saxophone quartet playing Philip Glass in the auditorium and the string duo in the courtyard were both outstanding. We had so much fun at the opening we stayed until the guards started packing up.
The Memorial Art Gallery has a really interesting show to celebrate their Centennial. The staff picked local artists and invited them to reinterpret works from their collection. The new work in “Art Reflected” is for sale and it is scattered throughout the gallery, positioned next to or in front of the work of inspiration. This arrangement encourages you to wander into rooms you normally whizz by. Like an Easter egg hunt the show is full of surprises. It reinvigorates the collection.
My brother, John, has a really nice piece here but as a celebration the show is a bit stuffy. One hundred artists for the one hundred years would have added to the merriment. If they had asked I would have given my reflection of this beautiful Mayan, stucco “Fragment of a Head” from the eighth century.
Funny how we have not yet outdone mid-century modern. You’d think we’d be pushing it as far as it can go instead leaving it behind as retro. “Crafting Modernism: Midcentury American Art and Design” at the Memorial Art Gallery touches on the art in design of that period and has quite a few pieces that I wouldn’t mind bringing home. If they had just mass produced the work in the show and turned the main gallery space into the gift shop it would have all made sense.
“Modern Icon : The Machine as Subject in American Art’, next door in the smaller Lockhart Gallery is where the art is. Robert Frank’s “Trolley Car, New Orleans” from his Americans series, a beautiful John Marin etching called “Downtown New York”, A Thomas Hart Benton ink and watercolor drawing and this wonder from Buffalo artist and visionary, Charles Burchfield. You can almost hear the telegraph.
Most portraits are really self portraits or at least the goods ones are. And collectively the outdoor show of local self portraits, submitted as jpegs to the D&C and printed on durable plastic and tie-wrapped to the fence surrounding the Memorial Art Gallery’s grounds, work as a portrait of the city. I generally lean toward the most expressive painting in a show like this but my favorite was Matt Whitmeyer‘s photographic self portrait. I love the dead pan generic quality, the grey environment and minimal color. I love the calm but deliberate delivery, the cool but intense stare. He appears to be looking right at you but when I looked back at him I found he he wasn’t really looking at anything and then after five minutes or so our eyes connected and I moved on. I looked down at the ground and found this bag of stones, a construction worker’s self portrait.
We sent our next Margaret Explosion cd off for duplication and I submitted the new tunes to CDDB through iTunes. I had to pick a category for the type of music it is before it would allow me to submit so I chose “Jazz” from the short list. In the iTunes application however you have a much longer list and you can even make up your own categories. I don’t usually think about describing our music until I’m in situations like this. I found a category in there called “Psychedelic Jazz” and pretty much works. I didn’t know there was such a thing.
There is a student show up over at the Creative Workshop and the director asked us to write a short blurb about what it is that inspired us to paint whatever it is we painted. Most art types balk at describing their work because the work is supposed to do the talking. Some people, though, love “Artist’s Statements” and long descriptions or histories of the artists. At many shows these days the placards next to the painting severely detract from the work.
That being said, I did spend some time thinking about why I paint what I do. And I came up with a succinct, two word statement of my inspiration. “Human Nature”. I am interested in exploring why I am drawn to the subject matter of my choice. I am interested in creating a dialog about this subject through the work and then I’m interested in how people around me react to what I put down.
They didn’t use my artist statement and that’s fine.
Here’s Pete LaBonne’s track “Artist Statement” from his Earring Records cd entitled “Glob”.
Detail from Philip Guston “Web” 1975 on view at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, NY in “Paint Made Flesh” show. Click photo for full painting.
“Paint Made Flesh” originated at the Frist Center in Nashville and then stopped at the Philips Collection in DC before arriving at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester. It features an all star lineup of top-shelf painter’s work from 1952 to 2006. I was asked to make some short comments on the painting of my choice. The MAG sent me the tiniest jpegs of the collection and I spotted Philip Guston’s “Web” painting in there so I claimed it. I had seen this painting at the Modern when they had their sensational Guston retrospective a few years back. I was given a brief opportunity to preview this show at the MAG (It opens this Saturday) and it will be an overwhelming treat for painters.
I used my smoothest delivery to record these comments for their audio tour. It can be accessed at the show with your cell phone.
I’m Paul Dodd and I’m happy to say a few words about Philip Guston’s painting entitled “Web”.
After a very successful run as a painter of gorgeous abstracts, Philip Guston decided that he wanted to “tell stories” and he returned to the figure. These late paintings are blunt, humorous and dark. Here he depicts himself face down on the ground, his monstrous, bloodshot eye has looked too much or seen too much yet he is still looking, eye wide open. He poured his entire life into painting and and he confronted it head on. He recognized the absurdity of it all and had the graphic skills to express it, often painting about the act of painting itself.
You have to move back a bit to take in the scope of this landscape, the dramatic advance of the spiders capitalizing on the artist’s inertia and the blood pool that stops abruptly and floats in transparent space while his wife, Musa, his life-affirming source, pops up at his side.
I find Guston’s late work to be heroic in its openness and thrilling in its directness. I hope you enjoy it.
Anne Havens is one of our favorite artists. We recently helped her with a few computer issues so she invited us over for dinner last night. She said we would know which apartment was hers by just by looking and we did. Everywhere you look you are surrounded by art and most of it is Anne’s.
We sat out on their deck while Stuart cooked trout on the grill. Peggi and I marveled at his nonchalant barbecue style and we knew the trout would be done to perfection. Anne made a real Ceasar’s Salad and roasted potatoes. We listened to Ornette Coleman and Duke Ellington and had a marvelous time. Anne proposed a toast to Ornette, our cat, and we got to talk about how special he was. The Ornette synchronicity has been non-stop around here. When David Greenbergger was here he had a Wire Magazine with Ornette on the cover and this morning Marc Weinstein emailed us a link to an Ornette Coleman clip from 1974 with James Ulmer Blood on guitar.
We offered to help Anne with an audio file that she plans to put in her concrete box sculpture, “Box of Sighs” which will be featured in the upcoming Rochester Finger Lakes show. Anne’s studio mate commented on how Anne sighs while she works so Anne recorded her sighs and put them in this box. She showed the piece at Studio 354 in 2008 but she wasn’t happy with the sound quality so we rerecorded the track today in our bathroom. The sighs were barely audible behind the closed doors and were so quiet that I had to really boost the input levels. As a result we wound up with a hum on the track. We traced that to the refrigerator on the other side of the bathroom wall so we unplugged it and got a perfect track. Anne was really in the zone. We were telling her that what we needed was a “whisper room” like they have out at Sutro Sound in San Francisco and she liked the sound of that.
There is a drawing show at the Memorial Art Gallery now. Margaret Explosion played the opening. We scanned the show during our break and intend to get back over there before it leaves. I take a painting class with Fred Lipp at the Creative Workshop in the basement of the gallery. They have just put up a drawing show of students and teacher work. The kids drawings are the best.
I had a class last night and came away with another one of Fred Lipp’s fundamentals. Fred suggested that I start with what attracted me to the piece.
He asked, “What about the source material makes you want to paint it?” I didn’t have time to reply. He said, “I’m assuming you don’t just paint them because they are there”. I’m not entirely sure about that assumption. I have a high tolerance for the mundane. He was suggesting that I paint what it is that attracts me to the source. “Start with what it is that attracts you to this subject. Get that down first. And then ask what it is that the painting needs.”
This might be obvious to some people but I know I don’t do that. I ususlly start by trying to place the head on the page in the right proportions. And I certainly am not attarcted to a source because it has the right proportions. Turns out I’m getting in the way of my own paintings.
Peggi’s mom gave us a subscription to Smithsonion Magazine and January’s issue had a great article on the Metropolitan’s Van Gogh “Night Vision show. The author tells how Van Gogh, the best drawer ever, was kicked out of an early drawing class and he quotes Van Gogh telling a friend, “I aim to paint with such expressive force that people will say, I have no technique.”
Turning from abstraction to storytelling, the work Philip Guston created in the last ten years of his life was roundly criticized as being clumsy, crude, artless, cartoony, affected and klutzy”. Guston is quoted as saying, “I got sick and tired of all the purity.”
Musa Mayer, writing in her memoir of her father, recaps a talk Philip gave to a group of students at the University of Minnesota in 1978. He ended his talk with the following remark. “Isaac Babel gave a lovely ironic speech to the Soviet Writer’s Union and ended his talk with the following remark, ‘The party and the government have given us everything, but they have deprived us of one privilage. A very important privilege, comrades, has been taken away from you. That of writing badly’.”