March 11, 2014
Sunday, March 9, 2014 was the closing day for contemporary and modern art at Armory Week in NYC.
My previous post included images and comments about the opening night for the Hullaballoo Collective at FOUNTAIN (downtown Armory), including links from hyperallergic.com to information about all the Armory Week fairs.
Fountain is located at the 69th Regiment Armory, 25 Street and Lexington Avenue – it’s the site of the original 1913 Armory show.
I didn’t get to see all the fairs but did get to the uptown Armory show at 68th Street and Lexington Avenue, the site for the ADAA (Art Dealers Association of America). Downtown Armory includes emerging artists. Uptown Armory includes national galleries who are ADAA members. Read about the ADAA here.
In upcoming blogs, I plan to write about 2 wonderful artists I met at FOUNTAIN (downtown Armory show), and the galleries I visited and fabulous collage art works I saw at ADAA (uptown Armory show). FYI: I saw 3 Romare Bearden collages at 3 different galleries at the ADAA show. Each one was a museum quality masterwork.
Sunday March 9, 2014
I arrived at Fountain Sunday about 4 pm and saw a crowded booth, crammed with artists and visitors looking at the art and talking in animated conversation.
This image above – the smiling man – is Bernard Klevickas. He organized the Hullaballoo Collective show at Fountain. I say he is the main person responsible for its success. The image is courtesy of Linda Tharp.
This is not the first show for Hullaballoo Collective at FOUNTAIN, and Bernard Klevickas is the point man, the person responsible for initiating and coordinating the project each time. Everyone in the Collective is grateful for his skill, patience and dedication. We applaud him and thank everyone who helped with the show – the curator and people who worked long hours to hang, label, attend and promote the exhibition.
I didn’t get a good picture of Bernard standing next to his sculpture, so didn’t include my photo here. What you see is a group photo with Bernard taken by Linda Tharp.
Linda’s image above shows Bernard looking relaxed with artists and guests in the booth at Fountain. Notice his work on the wall behind his shoulder. It’s the small reflective metal sculpture in the far corner.
See even better images of Bernard’s sculpture here, including larger works – all shiny, contemporary metal and abstract.
What is Salon Style? It’s a way to hang art, used typically for large group exhibitions where the works are arranged side by side and hung one on top of the other. Salon style dates back to the year 1670 and the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture (they crammed in student work in order to include it all). It had never been done before that time. The other way to hang art is call museum style.
At Hullaballoo, the curator mixed and matched two-dimensional works in all different media (paintings, prints, photos, collage, mixed media) with three- dimensional sculpture in all media, and also included floor installation with free-standing sculpture and works on pedestals. The booths had tall walls and generous space so a lot of work could be included.
In the image above you see a view from the Hullaballoo booth to booths beyond. Notice the art is all colorful and contemporary, all hung salon style. Image courtesy of Linda Tharp. See Linda’s work here.
Installation is an art
In my previous blog, I wrote that Marion Callis curated the installation this year, and credited her with an amazing job – placing so many works in the space in a way that was visually pleasing to everyone (artists and guests). I believe installation is an art form. People who do it well have a unique talent.
The image above shows almost everyone in a group photo at the end of the day. Image courtesy of Vincent Tsao.
The image above shows the Hullaballoo booth after the Armory show closed. Artists started to dismantle the exhibition. Notice that many works are removed from walls and pedestals, and artists are preparing to wrap their works to take home. Image courtesy of Linda Tharp.
The image above is another view of the booth and shows Hullaballoo artists wrapping their art as the installation is taken down late Sunday afternoon. Image courtesy of Linda Tharp.
The image above shows artists carrying their work from the Armory to the street after the show closed. Image courtesy of Linda Tharp.
I love all the architectural details in this photo. Notice the bronze number 69 in the floor of the entry to the 69th Regiment Armory and notice the great double doors into the great hallway. How vintage!
I didn’t get to the Pier 92 and Pier 94 Armory shows. They were huge. One was modern art. One was contemporary art.
I decided to go to the uptown ADAA show and thought it was fabulous, for two reasons – I saw works by great artists, many not seen by the public before – and I got to speak with gallery representatives about the artists and the works. Most of the galleries at ADAA show are located in NYC and I plan to visit them more often.
Please tell me if you attended the Armory shows at Piers 92 and 94, and include comments about what you liked and what you saw.
March 9, 2014
Hullaballoo Collective at the Fountain Art Fair, NYC – March 7, 8, 9, 2014
I attended the opening reception March 7th at FOUNTAIN – at 68 Lexington Ave., NYC at 25th Street. I am pleased to show my work again with the Hullaballoo Collective at the 69th Regiment Armory where the first ever Armory show took place in 1913.
Art is Everywhere in NYC
The review at hyperallergic.com, says FOUNTAIN is the go-to Armory Week show if you want to see and buy art that’s more alternative or DIY, less brand-name (and less expensive) than the other Armory shows in NYC. Read it here.
Cultural omnivores – hyperallergic.com prepared Art RX: Your Concise Guide to Armory Week and the Whitney Biennial (March 4, 2014). Armory Week is New York City’s answer to Art Basel Miami Beach in FL in December. Read it here.
Hullaballoo Collective had a curator manage the art installation at Fountain Art Fair.
In the image above I am talking with Marion Callis (I am on the left; she is on the right). She’s an independent curator and representative for emerging and established artists. Callis is responsible for the way the works were placed. Over 75 artists are represented and we think she did a brilliant job. You can read more about Marion Callis here.
Find Hullaballoo in facing booths C-104 and C-204. Get information here.
Fountain hours are:
Friday, March 7th
12 – 7pm: VIP/Press Preview (Open to the public)
7pm – Midnight: Opening Night Reception
Music Lineup: DJ Nick Zinner
Saturday, March 8
12 – 7pm: Open to the public
7pm – Midnight: Saturday Night Event
Music Lineup : THE DEEP!
Sunday, March 9
12 – 5pm : Open to the Public
Opening Night Reception
We were pleased the opening reception drew large crowds through the night – so many people, that you could barely see the works by individual artists (a good thing at an opening). You had to walk up close to see the work you liked.
When the crowds dispersed a little, I took the image above. It shows Marion Callis, our curator, with artist Adrienne Moumin. My eye was drawn to the four bright abstract sculptures in primary colors and the 3 geometric paintings hung vertically, showing delicious primary and secondary colors in wavy horizontal and diagonal stripes. Notice how shapes and colors compliment each other as you look through the sculpture on pedestals to the wall-mounted works from this vantage point. The sculptures are by Edwin Salmon. The colorful paintings are by Richard Timperio.
The image above is my collage, titled DNA, paper and acrylic paint, 29×22 inches. The image below is the Fountain installation view and shows how the collage is placed vertically in a group with other art works in the Hullaballoo Collective.
The image below shows two whimsical sculptures by Suenghwui Koo with pigs and a cat. One is titled No Place To Go. The other is titled Lamborghini. Notice the tall ladder. I took the photo before the Fair opened.
About the Hullaballoo Collective
Our press release says “We are artists who work in all media. We make art and want to share it with you, and are thrilled to return to the Fountain Art Fair at the 69th Regiment Armory.”
It’s exciting to exhibit in a large group show in NYC. I wish I included more images from the installation, and named artists in my images.
Artists in the Hullaballoo Collective Fountain 2014 show include:
Ellen Alt / Sharon Appel / Marianne Barcellona / Beth Barry / Fran Beallor / Richard Brachman / Megan Sirianni Brand / Jo-Ann Brody / Miriam Brumer / Cecile Brunswick / Gülsen Calik / Kathleen Casey / Pamela Casper / Steven Ceraso / Ursula Clark / Barbara Coleman / Yvette Cohen / James P. Dalglish / Colleen Deery / John N. Erianne / Patricia Fabricant / Robin Feld / Karen Fitzgerald / Elaine Forrest / Jerome Forsans / Lynne Friedman / Robin Gaynes-Bachman / Irene Gennaro / Judy Glasser / Beth Giacummo / Peggi Pugh Gottlieb / Norma Greenwood / Aimee Hertog / Eileen Hoffman / Sandra Indig / Suejin Jo / Robin M. Jordan / Bernard Klevickas / Seunghwui Koo / Melissa Kraft / Bernice Sokol Kramer / Enhanced Art Resources / Thea Lanzisero / Iris Lavy / Donna Levinstone / Liz-N-Val / Robert Lobe / Patrick McEvoy / Gammy Miller / Bascha Mon / Sharon Moreau / Adrienne Moumin / Helene Mukhtar / Nancy Egol Nikkal / Walter O’Neill / Nancy Oliveri / Fleur Palau / Sergey Pchelintsev / Cade Pemberton / Arthur Polendo / Jeffrey Allen Price / Elisa Pritzker / Jacqueline Sferra Rada / Julia Rooney / Edwin Salmon / Ann Sgarlata / Joyce Silver / Regina Silvers / Mike Sorgatz / Audrey Stone / Cigdem Tankut / Linda Tharp / Richard Timperio / Patrick Todd / Shira Toren / Marilyn Walter
March 4, 2014
Your comments are always welcome
I am always pleased to receive comments and questions on the blogs I write, especially when they require me to dig deeper and locate information and learn something new in the process.
Duh Chuen Wang Priefnitz commented on the Dec. 18, 2013 post Robert Motherwell and Contemporary Collage, and asked about Motherwell using Japanese rice paper in his collage practice.
It’s true. Motherwell incorporated Japanese rice papers into his collages.
I re-read the exhibition catalog Robert Motherwell Early Collages, especially the chapter by Jeffrey Warda on papers and materials that Motherwell used in the 1940s (pp 55-67) and learned the Japanese papers were called unryu. See an image of the paper below.
Unryu is one of the most popular papers from Japan, and is commonly referred to as mulberry paper. It contains strands of fiber that are added to the sheet to create contrast and texture. Tear Unryu Paper in any shape you desire and you create a soft, feathered edge. The name translates as “dragon paper” and refers to the long fiber swirls that are unpulped, unbeaten kozo fibers. Unryu paper can be tissue thin or thick enough to support a print. The long fibers are typically made of kozo, but can be gampi or hemp. See what the papers look like at NY Central Art Supply.
Motherwell Modified Collage Papers
Jeffrey Warda wrote Motherwell modified his papers with ink and paint – always exploring how the papers changed as he applied new paint or ink layers. Unryu is especially strong and can withstand manipulation with water media.
It made me think about what I saw at the exhibition, and how the surface of the collage papers were wavy and the edges were irregular.
My favorite Motherwell collage (seen above) is titled Pancho Villa Dead and Alive (1943). It includes gouache, ink, oil and pasted German decorative paper, colored paper, Japanese paper and wood veneer on paperboard (size: 71.7 x 91.1 cm – 28 x 35 7/8 inches), collection, the Museum of Modern Art, NY. Image: Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA.
Please notice how Motherwell created a geometric background with rectangles and circles in layers of paint in dusty blue, faded pink. creamy white and yellow with 2 abstract black stick figures painted over. Notice papers on top of papers. See red black and tan paper on the right side. This is his German decorative paper. Motherwell added splotchy dot patterns with pale red, pink blue and black.
In the catalog essay, Warda tells us Motherwell loved to work with fine quality artist drawing papers for their matte appearance and subtle textures. We learn Motherwell selected commercially printed decorative papers for their bright colors because the papers reminded him of long visits to Mexico with artist Roberto Matta. Warda also discussed how Motherwell experimented with Japanese rice (unryu) papers to see the response he got from ink and paint stains he applied to the thinner Japanese papers.
The image above is a detail of the collage Joy of Living (1943) and shows how the green ink puddled and spread. Notice the wavy irregular texture of the green paint. We don’t know how many layers of water media, ink and paint Motherwell applied and reapplied because he wanted to see how the paper changed as it absorbed each new application of ink or paint. Please note also that the colors faded and some changed over the years. Warda shows examples of color changes.
The image above is a full view of Joy of Living (1943). The collage on paperboard includes Japanese paper, colored paper, construction paper, printed map and fabric, ink, gouache, oil, crayon. Collection: the Baltimore Museum of Art. Image: Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA (size: 110.5 x 85.4 cm – 43 ½ x 33 5/8 inches)
The image above, titled View from a High Tower (1944-45), is collage with tempera, oil, ink, pastel, pasted wood veneer, drawing paper, Japanese paper, and printed map on paperboard. Size: 74×74 cm – 29 z 29 inches (private collection). Image: Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA
Notice the torn edges of various collage elements and the wavy, buckled edge of the large light grey paper on the left side. Texture is an important visual element – almost as important as the geometric patterns with straight and wavy edged papers in red, brown, blue, white, yellow, green, black and grey.
The Motherwell image above is titled Blue With China Ink (Homage to John Cage). It’s collage with oil, ink, charcoal, pasted Japanese paper, colored paper, drawing paper and fabric on paperboard (101.6 x 76.2 cm - 40 x 30 inches). Image: Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA. Motherwell love to paint with a light blue and variations on yellow ocher.
Motherwell produced nearly 900 works with collage during his lifetime, and said collage influenced his paintings.
Read the exhibition catalog essays. They give critical insight into how Motherwell began working in collage, and how important it was to his creative practice.
The Guggenheim Museum exhibition was an opportunity to see and share Motherwell’s love affair with paper and collage.
On Feb. 6, 2014 I gushed: I love how Motherwell painted over his media, used patterned papers, painted onto so many different papers…I love how he tore off layers of papers to expose raw paper surfaces below…
I was excited because I had never seen so many Motherwell collages in person before the exhibition.
Please add your comments below. Tell me what you think about the papers Motherwell used. Do you work with Japanese papers? Do you paint your papers for collage?
February 19, 2014
I noticed a familiar image at the beginning of Karen Rand Anderson’s blog–Look/see: A Little Book with a Big Punch.
It was the book – seen below - Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, by Austin Kleon.
It was an amazing coincidence. I planned to write about Austin Kleon in a follow-up blog to the first Be Inspired: Keep an Art Journal.
I took the little book down from the shelf, and began to read.
What I like best about Austin Kleon is he thinks like a collage artist. He says: next time you’re stuck, think of your work as a collage. Steal two or more ideas from your favorite artists and juxtapose them (collage is about juxtaposition). He recommends you keep a swipe file – another term for a notebook or journal.
I opened a favorite link (saved in a desktop file) to his blog dated Feb 10, 2010: 25 Quotes to Help You Steal Like an Artist.
Here are 3 quotes I really like:
Louis Armstrong: “my hobbie (one of them anyway)…is using a lot of scotch tape…My hobbie is to pick out different things during what I read and piece them together and make a little story of my own.”
Dizzy Gillespie: “You can’t steal a gift. Bird (Charlie Parker) gave the world his music, and if you can hear it you can have it.”
William S. Bourroughs: “All writing is in fact cut-ups. A collage of words read heard overheard. What else?”
In case you don’t know about Austin Kleon, he does a fabulous TedTalk.
Keep a Swipe File
Many artists keep a swipe file as a book or in a folder.
Typically, my papers are not pasted into a journal but left in a box. The image below includes swiped papers from recent issues of ARTForum, Art in America, and the March 2014 issue of Harper’s Bazaar that is filled with page layouts that marry fashion and contemporary art. It’s the hot thing now.
Carry a Notebook and a Pen Wherever You Go
Listen to Austin Kleon. He recommends we carry a notebook and a pen with us wherever we go. He says: get used to pulling it out and jotting down observations. Add comments on what you observe, copy favorite passages out of books, record overheard conversations., and doodle when you’re on the phone.
I’ve started to play on Pinterest. It’s a way to collect images into a digital journal. On Pinterest you “pin” images to “boards.” I love it because it’s totally visual. I’ve created boards in different categories like art journals, paper collage, Romare Bearden, mostly red, and black and white. See all the images on my art journal board.
The image above is a lovely drawing and collage on a two-page open notebook by Olenka that I pinned to my art journal board (pinned from sodalicioushop.blogspot.com). I love how the artist played with geometric shapes and calligraphic lines with black ink. I love how the white journal paper was left pristine, and how the artist embellished the drawing with delicate pastel colors, tiny geometric shapes and letters that float inside triangles and circles.
The image above is a painting and collage on 2 pages in an open notebook by Jeffrey DeCosta. I love it because it’s not slick. It’s gritty and painterly. The left page has the block numbers and letters. You see 34 in red, and the word SAVE and the number 0 in black. The opposite page is an abstract painting with smudgy black dots covering a background in red, yellow blue and green. Some of the paint migrated to the opposite page. I was drawn to this journal image because I like the way the painted dots and collage letters communicate with each other.
Find more images at my Pinterest art journal board.
The image above is untitled and no artist is given credit (sometimes a problem at PINTEREST). Handwritten words march across two pages in an open notebook. The text creates a negative space (the white paper) that becomes a large letter B on both sides. The journal pages are created with pen and ink in small and large letters. I see the words: “my lack of understanding” and “help” and the tiny hand-written text on the left is not legible. I wonder if it’s all about the letter B.
See all the pinned images on my Pinterest letters board.
A Simple Idea – Observe, Collect and Comment
Keeping a journal is a simple idea: Observe, collect, comment, make art and learn in the process. A journal is a way to keep track of what you’ve swiped from others.
I do the same thing and tell my collage students to collect images and keep notes. If the image is too large for your notebook, scan or photocopy and reduce in size to fit your page. Take pictures with your camera phone so you include your own images. Put everything in folders, or a ring binder, scrapbook, plain notebook or fancy art journal.
Take notes on why you swiped it, what it means, how you think you will use it.
If you like, you can change your mind, reinterpret your images and rewrite comments.
Austin Kleon says: See something worth stealing? Put it in the swipe file. Need a little inspiration? Open up the swipe file.
I am troubled because I don’t keep a journal. I have journals that are mostly empty. I collect images, make drawings, write comments, but don’t put them into the journals.
An artist who makes journals suggested I create the journal as loose pages and make the pages into a book. I saw an image that showed a book with pages in all different sizes. It was funky and pages were sticking out in all directions. But it was bound and a book – and it’s a definite possibility.
Another possibility is to collect images on Pinterest boards, and translate (interpret) and draw the images onto journal pages. I like that idea. I can pin and I can draw.
What inspires you? Do you keep a journal? Do you pin images at PINTEREST? Please contact me with your comments and share your pins.
January 23, 2014
The Journal as Art
I’m reading the book Drawing from Life: The Journal As Art, by Jennifer New (Princeton Architectural Press, New York).
It’s a beautiful book with text and drawings by 31 artists who keep a journal. Chapters include Observation, Reflection, Exploration and Creation. The preface states: journals are unsung heroes, the working stiffs of creative life.
A journal can be a diary, sketchbook and notebook. It can include anything and everything. It’s a place to play and explore images and ideas.
DO A DRAWING FROM NATURE
At the beginning of the book Drawing from Life, I found the image above – a line drawing of oak leaves with a live twig and oak leaves placed on top of the drawing by Maira Kalman. The artist says she likes to gather information while she walks. She is the author of 13 children’s books and a frequent contributor to the New Yorker magazine. I’m intrigued by her drawing.
I love that you can see through the photo of the leaves to the beautiful drawing below. It’s simple and elegant. I feel the gesture of the lines in contrast to the actual leaves and bark.
In an interview, Kalman says she always has a sketchbook with her and is drawing all the time.
I decided I have to make more time to draw.
So many people say they can’t draw a straight line. Actually – anyone can draw a straight line if they use a ruler. No excuses! If you are an artist or wannabe, I say: get comfortable with drawing because it’s really important.
If you don’t know how to draw something (example: leaves), trace the outline of the leaves and transfer the image onto drawing paper. Another way to approach drawing is find a drawing and copy it. Turn the image upside down and start to draw. You will be amazed at how good your drawing will look when you copy from an upside down image. Your confidence will rise. You can start to draw from what you see - example – a view on a walk, your desk, your room, etc.
Look at something and make an abstract drawing - gestural lines and shapes in response to the image you see. Collect images and make a sketch while you look at the image.
I think it’s fun to doodle with lines, move the pen and watch the image grow. I like to draw from my imagination.
The image above is the 7th drawing in my journal. It’s my favorite drawing so far. The journal is exploring an imaginary fishy world with waves, floating food, and underwater critters. Do you see the snail and the fish in this one?
The journal papers are 10×8 inches. The drawing is small and the collage papers are tiny.
I started the collage with horizontal strips of BFK Rives art paper. I drew with pen and ink on the cut paper and then glued them into the journal. Notice the irregular sides. That’s intentional. I found magazine papers with printed text, tiny dots, a spoked wheel, and stripes. Since the drawings are high contrast pen and ink, I looked for collage papers in a range of grey to black tones. I drew spirals with pen and pencil with softer edges.
I titled the image above White Paper Waves. The cut paper on the bottom of the collage was a scrap leftover from another collage project. I love the pencil outline around the cut out waves. As soon as I found it, I knew I would use it.
I titled the image above Fishy Tails.
Recently I decided I want to cut the collage papers into open shapes with space in the middle. I use a fine scissor. I want the paper to become another line – collage as drawing that can be glued on top. The image below is a cut paper sampler for the next drawing.
PLAYING WITH LINES
I started the journal because I wanted to play with thin and thick, straight and wavy lines. I wanted to create new images that explored the image that came before. My journal is a journey via drawing and collage. I want to see how the images change. It was very important to use certain papers. I discovered I like some papers much better than others. It will influence what I use and what papers I collect.
My journal is spiral bound with a heavy black paper cover and includes medium weight drawing paper. I’m particular about size. It has to feel right in my hand. The pages have to be receptive to pen and ink and bear the weight of glue and papers.
Some artists do a drawing every day. Experts say drawing is good for relaxation, concentration and observation.
If you want to learn to draw, find an online tutorial, a how-to book, or take a class at an art center.
Buy a notebook with blank pages and fill it with drawings. Write comments, keep notes on what you observe. Draw from life. Look at what’s around you. Doodle with thick and thin lines. Create open and solid shapes. Add patterns and stripes. Fill in with cross-hatch lines. If you like – embellish with paint and collage.
Buy pencils and pens. B pencils are softer and darker (2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B). H pencils are harder and lighter (HB, 1H, 2H, 3H, 4H). I do not like H pencils and never use them. I like 3B, 4B and 5B. Higher B pencils (6-8B) are too soft, dark and smudgy for me. Permanent ink pens come with a range of ink tips. I like them all. I especially like the pens with a brush tip.
I love the blog post “the 90 cent solution to becoming organized, creative and successful” by Pat DePuy at Mainstreethost.com (December 18, 2013).
What is the 90 cent solution?
It’s a notebook (a journal) that you buy. Typically it’s unlined papers in a bound book.
Experts say it works best when what you enter is handwritten – when you print by hand or use script/cursive – never mechanical wordprocessing.
Experts say keeping a notebook improves your memory. There’s documented evidence that the ideas you record by hand get acted on and become more successful.
Because your notebook/journal is handwritten, you remember with much more detail when you review what you wrote.
Advice to everyone: keep a notebook. Artists: fill your journal with images you find and drawings you make. Add comments on what inspires you, what you did and why you like it, and what you will do next (what will change, what will stay the same).
Please contact me. Do you draw? If not, why not? Do you keep a journal? Can you describe it? Thank you for reading and your comments.
December 18, 2013
Pancho Villa Dead and Alive
My favorite work by Robert Motherwell is titled Pancho Villa Dead and Alive (1943).
I love the work for the color, texture, painterly surface, the look of the layered papers, and Motherwell’s exuberant approach to his collage practice. It is mixed media to the max. It looks so contemporary.
What a treat to see this and other works by this artist when I entered the Thannheiser Galleries at the Guggenheim Museum (through January 5, 2014) at 1071 Fifth Avenue at 89th Street, NY.
I did not expect to see so many – 50 plus collages and related drawings in ink and paint from the period 1943-1951. I did not know Motherwell created that many works in collage media. Every work is large in scale (especially for collage and drawing).
Pancho Villa Dead and Alive was created with cut and pasted papers, ink and wood veneer on paper board (28 x 35 7/8 inches). Some papers are printed and embellished with more paint. The paints include oil and gouache (opaque watercolors).
Motherwell layered painted papers in the same color family (see the light blue section in the lower center part of the collage). Notice the paint drips.
Motherwell painted his papers in his favorite colors: black and white, ocher and pale blue.
He used flat light blue paint and faded pink paint for his background and some of the overpainted papers.
He painted red and black splotches and (faded) red and blue drips behind the child-like stick figures that imply two bodies (dead and alive) riddled with bullet holes.
Motherwell liked to work with fine-art drawing papers for their matte appearance and subtle color variations. He liked commercial coated papers, especially in bright colors, because they reminded him of the colors he saw in Mexico (during a 6 month stay with artist Roberto Matta).
View from a High Tower (above) was completed in 1944-45. It is 29 x 29 inches, tempera, oil, ink, pastel and pasted wood veneer, drawing paper, Japanese paper and printed map on paperboard (private collection).
I recommend the exhibition catalog for the four excellent essays. The first essay is about Motherwell’s early career with Peggy Guggenheim (titled The Theorist and the Gallerist, written by exhibition curator Susan Davidson). Another essay is about Motherwell’s life-long fascination with themes of violence, revolution and death (titled Bloodstains and Bullet Holes, by Megan M. Fontanella). The third essay is about how he stretched the boundaries and the possibilities of paper as a vehicle for visual ideas (titled Motherwell’s Risk, by Brandon Taylor). The last essay is about his materials (titled Motherwell’s Materials in the 1940s, by Jeffrey Warda).
Jeffrey Warda’s essay (page 56) mentions that all the commercial papers Motherwell used faded and the strong pink is now a pale flesh tone.
Holland Cotter wrote a review for the NY Times (A Painter’s Cut-and-Paste Prequel: Robert Motherwell Early Collages at the Guggenheim, Dec. 3, 2013).
Cotter’s final paragraph asks slyly if Motherwell relinquished his role as sole creator of his work (a defining feature of Abstract Expressionism) because gravity, chemistry and light deserve equal billing as collaborators since the works have changed color, texture and form. My comment: Change is good.
Embellish the Media
I love how Motherwell painted over his media, used patterned papers, painted onto the papers, painted out papers, added lines, dots, drips and splotches. The surface is dense and yet there is incredible freedom in the process, and so much energy in the execution. I love how he tore off layers of papers to expose raw paper surfaces below, and contrasted hard-edge cut papers with soft-edge torn papers.
The image above is titled Jeune Fille (1944). It’s 24 x 19.5 inches, oil, ink, gouache, pasted drawing paper, colored paper, Japanese paper, German decorative paper and fabric on canvas board (private collection).
Motherwell was an explorer – adventurous and exuberant in his practice. Everything in the exhibition looks cutting-edge and even edgy. That is why this show is so important.
Read my comments (below) on how Motherwell got the exhibition that launched his career in 1943 – see FINAL THOUGHTS – Who you know…
Motherwell was a scholar and a founder member (who wrote about) the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1940s – also known as the New York School – and (no surprise!) Motherwell’s collages are filled with the gestural energy prerequisite for Ab-Ex painters.
Read more about Abstract Expressionism at the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History (Metropolitan Museum of Art) website.
The image above is titled 9th Street Exhibition (1951). It is pasted papers with gouache and ink on paper, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, Donazione/Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph L. Tucker, 1963.
Read an excellent overview of Motherwell’s life and career (with images and links) at Wikipedia.
Also see the the humorous (and informed) post about the Motherwell/Guggenheim exhibition (11/13/13) by Ariel at Collage Volupte called How Robert Motherwell Lost His Dada Cred – its about Motherwell’s connection to Dadaism and Surrealism.
At the end of the post, Ariel writes about an old parlor game called Exquisite Corpse – played by Dadaist poets and visual artists in Europe in the period between World War I and World War II.
Motherwell was fascinated with dada, Surrealism, and automatic drawing.
FYI: Roberto Matta introduced Motherwell to a version of the exquisite corpse game at his NY salon. Motherwell attended the salons regularly in the early 1940s. Read more about the history of the Exquisite Corpse.
FYI: As a game, the exquisite corpse can be played by poets or visual artists. Players add words or images (drawings or collages) in turn. The first player writes or draws, folds the paper and passes it on to the next player. The final image or poem is supposed to be a surprise. Usually there are three or four players but, depending on how the paper is folded, the number can be more or fewer players.
FYI: Pancho Villa is an historic Mexican Revolutionary general, celebrated for his extraordinary feats in battles in the Mexican War for Independence. He was never defeated. He was assassinated in 1923 when he tried to run for political office in Mexico. Many streets throughout Mexico are named for him.
WILL YOU BE IN NEW YORK FOR CHRISTMAS?
Try to see Robert Motherwell: Early Collages at the Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue at 89 Street before it closes January 5, 2014.
The exhibition catalog is excellent for the essays, but not for the images. You have to see the works in person. I can remember how bold and colorful the works are. I saw them. I will remember. The catalog colors and resolution is disappointing (it may be because the catalog was relatively inexpensive). The Motherwell exhibition archive and the number of images may change. Best to get to the Museum and see the works in person. If you are a collage artist and if you love collage, you must see this show.
Who you know and how you build relationships with the right people is critically important. It also helps to be a brilliant artist in the right place at the right time.
Robert Motherwell (1915-1991) was an intellectual who wanted to be a painter.
Motherwell got his BA in philosophy and French at Stanford University (CA) and started his PhD in philosophy at Harvard University. He left Harvard, went to Columbia University (NY), met and was mentored by Meyer Schapiro (art history professor with an extraordinary reputation and contacts) who advised Motherwell to quit philosophy and focus on painting.
Meyer Schapiro introduced Motherwell to European emigree artists in NY, including Andre Masson, Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst. It was helpful that Motherwell was fluent in French, had studied literature and philosophy, and had been to Paris.
Motherwell became good friends with Chilean Surrealist artist Roberto Matta who introduced Motherwell to automatic drawing and Surrealism (which influenced Motherwelll’s artistic practice for the remainder of his life).
Matta also introduced Motherwell to Peggy Guggenheim who invited him (with William Baziotes and Jackson Pollock) to create collages for her upcoming collage exhibition at her gallery Art of This Century in New York.
According to Peter Plagens’s Wall Street Journal review (Robert Motherwell and the Exuberance of Invention, Wall Street Journal, Dec 5, 2013), Peggy Guggenheim wanted to juxtapose the work of pioneering European modernists with younger American artists just beginning to push into Abstract Expressionism. She asked the Americans to create collage for the Art of this Century show.
How could the young artists say no – they had to create the work – they wanted to be included in a show with European masters like Jean Arp, Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso.
Motherwell’s collages were a huge success in the Art of this Century show. Peggy Guggenheim organized a solo collage show for Motherwell the following year.
Pancho Villa Dead and Alive was in the second show and immediately purchased and is now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art NY.
Please send me your comments. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.