Friday, September 28, 2012

Orifice, Ours: Every other Tuesday......

Elliptical Drawing #59, 2011
I have a real reclusive bent.  Going out on the street and chatting with folks is pleasurable for me for sure, rare as it happens. 
In order to socially engineer more meaningful social interactions, I am instituting a program of regular outings for myself.  Starting this coming Tuesday, October 2 and every other Tuesday hence, I will be making myself socially available for an hour or two beginning at 7:30 pm at Bank Square Coffeehouse. Sort of like holding office hours - but not, in the service of pleasurable conversation and camaraderie-making.
Conceited as it sounds - for me to announce that the general public will be granted access to my person for a specific, recurring window of time - it's certainly not meant to be....more, it's a concerted effort to get myself out of the house, away from projects and into interactions I've been not having in very recent years.
So, aside from work or travel related conflicts, you can count on, if you choose, knowing where to find me every other Tuesday eve - and if I won't be able to make it on any given Tuesday, I'll post a notice to that effect on the calendar to the right.


Transplant: Sept 15, 2012

Angelika floated the idea of having an end of the Summer get together which would also entail asking some artists to create or install works in and around the garden - as we did for our Kamp Maykr shindig in 2008.   

I had this in mind while on Norton Island in July and wanted to recreate the island's buoy trail - a path around the island marked by buoys -  in our yard.  The notion of transpositioning, transplanting seemed a suitable loosely applied theme around which the works could be organized.  What more better or more obvious strategy for an exhibit in a garden?  But transposition and transplantation of ideas, of environmental details, and the disjunction of placement, in general, can be immediately pleasing.  Not to mention the broader allusion that most of us of an art persuasion in this communities are ourselves transplants.

The notion of transposition or transplantation was galvanized after a visit to my pal's place in Brooklyn. [story ensues...]  The men's room Beacon's now closed Piggy Bank sported an alluring...and one (I) might say refreshingly invigorating photo of a chorus line of nude 20's era females.  This photo was a refreshing perk to visiting the WC.   Doug, the owner, told us that a mother had demanded he remove the photo after her young son used the facility...and was undoubtedly scarred by it.  So, my Brooklyn pal, after seeing the photo in the Piggy Bank's men's room on a visit to Beacon several years ago, ordered a copy of it for his own bathroom -which is where it has stayed, until this Summer when I decided to repatriate the image to Beacon.  The Piggy Bank now being closed, I decided to repatriate this sliver of Beacon's visual heritage - to my own bathroom.

So a bit of  Beacon's Piggy Bank was transplanted, via Brooklyn, for the gathering.  By a stroke of visual fortuitousness, I installed the photo very close to the already hanging dog and donkey piece by James Westwater.  There's a crazy synergy chromatic and figurative synergy between the two pieces.

Here are some views of the garden with works by Eleanor White, Karlos Carcamo, Jill Reynolds, Kirsten Kucer, Sara Mussen, Peter Iannarelli, Michael Koch, Susan Walsh, Rene Kildow, Angelika and myself.
Peter Iannarelli, Untitled, zip ties

Karlos Carcamo, Untitled (hand cuffs, cast cement
A future archeologist might take castings to track the habits of a society in conflict - or are these urban fossils?
Karlos Carcamo, Untitled (knife), cast cement
Eleanor White, Untitled, synthetic hair (blonde and curly)
The photo above by Angelika shows Eleanor's piece shortly after installation.  The images below show the work in the following days.

Kirsten Kucer  Forest Air, glass vessel, transported air.

Our neighbor Michael  Koch played with transplanting words in a prase

This drawing found by Michael outside of the new Dim Sum place on Main St was a ready companion for any lonely folks who needed one.

Susan Walsh, Overheard, twine, plastic bags

 The speckling of black scales on the fence interacted nicely with the arabesques of the thread.

Jill Reynolds, Catenary, twine

photo by Angelika

 Jill said to think of this piece as a spider meeting Fred Sandback...maybe a bit of Johns too.

Angelika Rinnhofer, Untitled, video
 Viewable through the window, a slice of Times Square relocated right into the shed. 

Sara Mussen, Untitled, wood, rawhide lace.
Sara Mussen's untitled pirate ship of a sculpture can portend a global scale of transplantation, and she herself is the ultimate embodiment of transplant, having, just over a month ago, donated a portion of her liver to her infant nephew.  In direct sunlight, her surgery scar vibrated with the fuscia of her blouse.

Sara's scar, photo by Angelika.
a work contributed anonymously, obviously transplanted from the tree to the ground.

The following images are of the various things I fiddled with.

Platform, wood, derelict fountain

I utilized a few pieces originally created as part of my ]twenty-six paces[ project for last year's Windows on Main St.  Above, two mobiles consisting of latex pant "oven mitts", and below, one of an edition of wooden sculptural replicas of the rigs I used to locate the anchor points of the great Main St "spanning" string.

Points, 2011, wood.

The constraints of time prevented me from recreating the bouy trail as I had wanted.  Instead, I settled for a last minute de-contextualized display of paper mache buoys. 
Buoys, paper-mache, cardboard
A few of Norton Island's trail marking buoys.
Half Breed, paper, wood, three legged carrot
Finally, on the morning of the shindig, I picked a prodigious carrot which spawned a vision in my head....Such is the bounty of nature.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A mission to view

I made some precision art viewing strikes in the city last Friday.  It was a great day to just indulge in walking and seeing through Manhattan.
First up was Edouard Vuillard: A Painter and His Muses, 1890-1940 at The Jewish Museum which ends tomorrow.  In candy bar parlance, Vuillard, in my estimation is a Snickers.  His early work are all inclusive and loaded with an abundance of tasty nouga, AND peanuts And caramel, not to mention chocolate.
A recent Art News column presents the case of the influence Vuillard has had on a range of current artists, including Lisa Yuskavage who gave a talk on Vuillard

I've long admired Vuillard's works for all the attributes he's known for: dense, heavily patterned expanses that collapse space along with his figures that fuse with the background.  The weird Victorian psychadelia he creates is trippy and magical.  As much as I treat viewing his works as happening upon dark muddy jewels, I've never sought to learn more about his career.  The exhibit frames the arc of his career with the influence three women had on him in different stages of his life.  For me, the exhibit was a let down - at least after the first third of the show.  Not that the exhibit itself was lacking -  but in my new exposure to this artist's trajectory.  A trajectory that begins at a visionary, damn great place and then winds its way into convention -  a highly competent, perhaps masterly convention, but an illustrative, even compliant convention just the same.

The works that represent the meaty part of the stew for me were created early in his career in the late 1800's.  And there are a few gems of his brilliant massaging of hues and bizarre tweakings of space.  These works in particular demand a prolonged look in order to really read what's going on.  For me, these instances offer up some of the best examples of works that brilliantly ride that fine edge between abstraction and representation.  The Drawer from 1892, in the exhibit is a prime example.  It's a kind of ecumenical approach in coalescing these two poles that I appreciate and strive for, in a way, myself.  I see the artist as fully present and porous to the process and subject matter at hand in paintings of this time.
Edouard Vuillard
The Drawer, c. 1892
Oil on canvas
18 7/8 x 14 1/4 in. (48 x 36 cm)
V. Madrigal Collection, New York

For me the real beaut in the show are the 12 lithographs in the Vollard Portfolio.  Created in 1899, these "Landscapes and Interiors" as they are often known are Vuillard at his mishmash best.  The colors, particularly the rosey to orange reds feel very very fresh and the slightly out of register fine filigreed wallpaper in a few works read as very contemporary.

Interior with Pink Wallpaper I (Intérieur aux tentures roses I) from Landscapes and Interiors (Paysages et intérieurs)1899. 

Lithograph from a portfolio of twelve lithographs and lithographed cover, composition: 13 15/16 x 10 15/16" (35.4 x 27.8 cm); sheet: 15 7/16 x 12 1/16" (39.2 x 30.7 cm). Publisher: Vollard, Paris. Printer: Auguste Clot, Paris. Edition: 100. Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

The additive process of multiple plates in print making accentuates the undercurrent of weird-making brilliance of Vuillard.  Each constituent form exists as it's own abstracted self, fending off every other discreet shape even as they tenously hold together in the service of the overall composition.

The Avenue (L'Avenue) from Landscapes and Interiors (Paysages et intérieurs)1899. 

Lithograph from a portfolio of twelve lithographs and lithographed cover, composition (irreg.): 12 1/4 x 16 5/16" (31.1 x 41.4 cm); sheet: 12 5/8 x 17 5/16" (32 x 44 cm). Publisher: Vollard, Paris. Printer: Auguste Clot, Paris. Edition: 100. Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

I'd really like to see this suite of prints exhibited alongside Thomas Schutte's large scale "wood cut" prints of interiors. Chromatically speaking, and in terms of the treatment of surfaces; patterning and texture, this could be very interesting...and easy to do since MoMA holds a set of each.

As the exhibit progresses, the paintings - the portraits, anyway- begin to read as more conventional representations - representations intended to comport to the sitter's conventional appearance....There's no doubt that Vuillard expertly imbued these works expertly with his penchant for complex, rich compositional and textural environments and the technical prowess is certainly present.  But there's definitely a vibe of the artist's vision tamed - almost neutered- in the service of representing members of the high society.  I began thinking of Warhol's late celebrity portraits before fully recognizing what I was seeing in the works before me; a similar work for hire kind of ethos.  Ken Johnson's review of the exhibit argues that such response to the show as mine sell short these later paintings.  He's probably right.  There's no less care taken in the production of these portraits set in interiors....perhaps there too much.  The few landscapes of this period, including some of the slightly earlier decorative mural panels escape the cringe component I found in the portraits.  There are moments of brilliance, like in the portrait of the Kapferer brothers in their dining room.  The red carpet almost insidiously envelops the space, then continues into an adjacent room receding on the right side of the painting and bleeds into what can be supposed to be a blood velvet settee.  The crimson of this recessed backroom overpowers that of the foreground, giving the sense of a potent spirit lurking - and twisting space in that familiar Vuillard oxygen vanquishing compression. (The image of the painting at the other end of this link does not do the painting's chromatic lushness justice.)  What can be said for these portraits is that they really capture the mode and aura of the time rather well, although it veers just a little too close to the commercial illustration of the sort one sees in magazines and adverts from the early part of the 20th Century.

I think my reaction stems primarily from the distance the later portraits reside from his earlier treatment of such works, and that in a quirk of technical handling, Vuillard's paint treatment embellishes the scenes with a touch of preciousness.  I don't think I'd have the same reaction to society portraits painted by Manet (this is a thought procurred from seeing a recent Two Coats of Paint post.)  But Manet doesn't exhibit the suspicious shift in manner or mode that I'm seeing in these Vuillard portraits. 

Several weeks back I was at the library at MoMA collecting information about Alberto Giacometti's time spent in Geneva during WWII.  I read James Lord's Giacometti biography when I was in Geneva during the Summer of 1992.  I was particularly affected by the account of his moment of artistic crisis that spanned his three years in the city as well as by an earlier panicked episode in Venice.  The phrase "stinking water" has lived vividly with me all this time.  While doing this research, a memory was stirred of being introduced to the work of Ferdinand Hodler at the Musee d'art et d'histoire and other institutionsi in Switzerland.  This Swiss contemporary of the Viennese Secessionists appealed to the allegorically centered artist I was at the time.  I remember his touch was light part in terms of coloration and draftsmanship.  I found no Hodler related books in MoMA's library.

In an uncanny quirk of chance, an exhibit of Hodler's paintings opened at the Neue Galerie last week.  Ferdinand Hodler: View to Infinity was the second of my viewing stops on Friday.

Two Women in Flowers
Oil on canvas
Archäologie und Museum Baselland

A symbolist painter who spent the greater part of his life in Geneva, Holdler was the Swiss equivalent to the Viennese Secessionists and enjoyed a good standing in the eyes of Klimt and Schiele.  Seeing this work in NY was very much like a preemptive departure ahead of my return to Geneva, happening at the end of November.  Hodler's works characterized my repeated visits to the Musee d'art et d'histoire, though lost in time, viewing his paintings at the Neue Galerie triggered a kind of muscle memory.   Some of the works I had seen in Geneva are in the Neue Galerie exhibit, like "Woman in Ecstasy" and "Lake Geneva with Mont Blanc and Swans" from 1918  Did I notice back then the discordant yellow auras of painted and unpainted postures of the swans?  I don't know.  I notice them now, though. The lightness of his Lac Leman landscapes in both touch and luminescence, are welcome familiarities, and it's a thrill to see them now.
The synchronicity of this exhibit opening just when I began recalling my brief relationship with Hodler's works is suspiciously coincidental.  Fortuitous, though, and I'm happy for it.

Ken Johnson also penned a review of this exhibit.  Here is another situation in which I my involvement with an artists work has not translated into learning about his life.  This exhibit relates a compelling narrative of this man's experience and how that experience was processed through his artwork to profound effect.

From the Neue Galerie, I dropped into the Mark Grotjahn exhibit in Gagosian's Madison Ave gallery, and made an aborted attempt to gain entrance to a crowded Whitney to see the Kusama exhibit.  I dropped that idea and headed directly to the Morgan Library for Josef Albers in America: Painting on Paper.  Albers is a respectable, influential and honorable chap, but I've never been able to gain access to his work.  He was dealing with a profoundly focused effort, but it often strikes me like a cold, hard edged beautifully colored dead fish.  This is an exhibit of works on paper and his preliminary working studies for his Homage to the Square paintings.
Here too in these galleries, a formative Swiss experience advanced to the fore.  In July of '92 I visited an exhibit of Picasso's Rose and Blue Periods at the Kunstmuseum in Bern.  This was the first such "substantial" art exhibit I had ever seen, and this period of Picasso's work was right up my alley.  The take away for me that day was as much as I enjoyed seeing the finished works, I was most struck by Picasso's preliminary sketches.  Comparatively speaking, these were the objects that were most full of life and vigor.   And as moving as the paintings were/are, I felt something was lost in the translation from one format to the other
This long felt reaction was in my mind upon entering the Morgan Library.  This exhibit of Albers' preparatory works promised a rare view into expressive nature of the process behind his works.
I had two blockages here.
First, I'm just not convinced by the product of Albers' reductive mode of working.  I can respect it, but it doesn't do much for me.  Holland Cotter, on the other hand has been moved by Albers' paintings.
Sure, the Homage drawings presented embodied the loose, searching quality of a working drawing - and artifacts like this are generally quite fascinating to see as they offer a glimpse into an artist's mind, but my reaction to many of these are that they're so mechanical and dry that they amount to so many dry color charts.  I felt as though these things were never meant to be seen, and although many such things can offer a reward to the viewer if they're made visible - even if against the artist's intentions - I don't think they stand up to their fetishized presentation.  A gallery on the floor below is currently featuring examples of Winston Churchill's letters and other written artifacts.  I went in to  and after the first couple items, I left.  I just didn't have the patience for any of that...and I had the same kind of impatience in viewing the Albers exhibit.  There were some early sketches of interlocking forms which promised something interesting and then there was a selection of studies based on the form of a Mexican Adobe house.  The static composition of these pieces so aggravated me - and multiply so with the repetition of the form in alternatively irritating color variations, I just couldn't stomach them.    Of all the artists residing in the Albers household, I guess I just feel more of a resonance with Anni's works.
I'm all for fetish-izing of peripheral material, but I really had a blockage here.  I wasn't put off by it persee, but I didn't have a feel for all but a few of the early sketches in the show.  I forced myself to sit and spend more time looking.  I sat thinking of Picasso in Bern and trying to visualize a context in which I might be transfixed by these informal studies....In an exhibit with far fewer examples?  In an exhibit with fewer studies set amongst resolved works?  Stacked in a drawer as if happened upon by chance.  Mounted on the walls, unframed and less rigidly installed?  Perhaps.

Sometimes our own failings can not be immediately overcome to reach that place we feel might exist...then again that place may just exist in our own desires and the claims of informed others. 

It's true

The simplest of things produce the purest joys. 
And my mind is a constant font of such joys.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

In the studio today

Geneve Journal: Riding in the middle class

The Nabokov quote in the previous post comes at the very beginning of his autobiography, Speak, Memory.  Reading it immediately brought to mind the lyric of Lyle Lovett's and I wanted to bookend the two together with interpretive illustrations of each.   I'm lumping these posts in with the Geneve Journal posts not because they deal with the Geneva project directly, but that they very much resonate with this moment of  hitting forty and reflecting on being IN the middle.  Or in THE middle.  One response I received from a friend and supporter of the Kickstarter project (thanks to everyone who pushed it over the top, btw)  suggested that forty is hardly middle aged...50 is the new 40 and such...but I figure that at this point, I'll be mighty lucky to make it much passed 80.  Shoot.  I'll feel ever so fortunate to make it to that round, temporal punctum of four and twenty years -as the French phrase it- and I'm boldly claiming this position, smack in the middle and banking on the full downhill ride.

The Lyle Lovett lyric is part of the song  I Think You Know What I Mean, which is on his 1994 album I love Everybody.  If I recall, this album was released shortly after the break up of his marriage to Julia Roberts.  However, the songs gathered on the album (If I'm able to further recall) date from very early in his career.  I love Everybody is a power-pack of very short Id-oriented expressions, catchy, frothy, somewhat un-p.c., and together are a satisfying release of pent up thoughts and personally held truisms.  I've just recently started listening to the album again after several years.  the brevity and sharpness of the tunes move one along handily.  My favorite part of the song in question comes near the end and is yet another visual rhyme on the theme of the inexorably linear conveyor on which we find ourselves:

But it's springtime in Texas
And my memory grows faint
As the bluebonnets dance
With the indian paints
The highway is lonesome
But the highway is straight
And some things are heavy
But they ain't worth the weight

Geneve Journal: Stuck in the middle with you

The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existance is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.  Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for.
                                                                             Vladimir Nabokov - "Speak, Memory"
Nighttime Painting, 2012, acrylic, reflective beads on canvas 11"x14"

He said the hallway is lonesome
And the hallway is long
And one end is shiny
And one end is gone
And the middle burns brightly
With the color of night
And the doors are all open
But no one's inside

                                                             Lyle Lovett - "I Think You Know What I Mean"

Nighttime Painting, 2012, acrylic, reflective beads on canvas 11"x14"

Sunday, September 09, 2012

In the studio today

The kittens disappeared for several hours yesterday.  Assuming they were in their customary napping places, I was surprised to find they weren't there.  I was stymied, looking around for them intermittently throughout the afternoon.  A couple hours more passed when, as I was working at my drafting table, I discerned a sigh.  The two of them have carved out a little sanctuary at the confluence of various pieces of furniture and a stack of large paintings.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

A long, lean biscotto and a fart of smoke

The Kamp Maykr menage doubled in number this past week with the addition of two young kittens (2 humans + 2 felines).

It's been a year and a half that we've been without percussive paw patter on hardwood and the olfactory signals of a litter box in use.

The kittens, both around 2-3 months old are part of a family of cats rescued by Nicole Ganas of the Community Cat Coalition around Bloomingburg, NY.  

After the death of Icci, I wanted to wait at least a year before undertaking another feline relationship.  We also felt that when we were ready to take in another cat, we'd actually take in two so as to provide a more socially fulfilling environment for both.

It took a week for the two of them to settle in with each other in our space.  They're still a bit skittish in relation to us, but the two of them are quite comfortable with each other.

The pastel male is the older of the two and from their arrival was the more elusive and skittish.  Named Ziggy Stardust by Nicole, Angelika has rechristened him Biscotto.  He's also the one that captured Angelika's heart.  Carole King is the grey female and she had me suckered from the start.  A bit more precocious in some ways, she's definitely the younger sister of this duo, following her brother as he's begun feeling comfortable enough to explore the feline wonderland that is our art studios.
Her coloring is sublime.  She is shadow.  She is smoke.  I'm working on what to call her.  Carole doesn't really fit her personality - particularly at the moment...I've perused anagrams of Carole King and really like Clarion Keg, but that's not working- so we'll see.  I'm just mesmerized by absorbent coloring.

Update 9/3/12:  I just realized that her coloration harkens back to my memory of the scene in 101 Dalmations when the puppies are rendered grey in a disguise of coal dust.   I've only just glancingly considered grey in the past, although I have been struck at times when the color exhibits itself in such a way to embody the very same heavy elusiveness this kitten carries.  It transcends the issue of surface.  In fact, the "right" grey speaks to substance rather than surface.  There's that certain grey that I've seen many times on the Audi TT model.  The "deadness" of the color belies the elusiveness and dynamism of the hue.  I'm thinking now of the Jasper Johns exhibit of grey paintings at the Met some years back.  A decent exhibit, but I don't recall if that work captured any of the dynamism of grey.  My memory is that grey was the predominant character of the show - but as if the chromatic knobs were tuned such as to subdue, if not exclude, all other colors. I'll have to re view James Kalm's video of the exhibit to refresh my memory.  

 It's something to think about and something to play about with.

Nicole stopped by yesterday to check in on the kids with another ailing kitty in tow - one of a three week old litter that will be available for adoption in another month and a half.  Unfortunately that kitten, Stevie Nicks, which was highly malnourished and stunningly weak when we saw her died over night.  On her blog Nicole chronicles all of her activities of trapping, spaying/neutering feral cats and generally releasing the adults back to the wild while working to find adoptive homes for the kittens.....and she has some real heart breakers looking for homes....It's particularly touching to witness and read of Nicole's dedication and devotion to the cause and the individual cats she's working to help.

We greatly respect the work that Nicole does, along with her network of fellow rescuers, to staunch the rampant growth of feral cat populations while seeking out mutually beneficial home situations for adoptable cats.

And we're grateful to her for giving us this opportunity to give these two young'uns a loving home.

There's obviously no shortage of cats - or dogs - in shelters and situations of all kinds who could benefit - and be beneficial - in a responsible adoptive home.  CCC is always looking for foster homes for kittens in transition from rescue to a permanent home, if you're in the Hudson Valley area, and might be interested in helping in this capacity, please contact Nicole via website or the CCC Facebook page.