November 2, 2012
The meaning of ser en dip I ty: The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: “a fortunate stroke of serendipity”.
I recently posted a blog about visiting the Studio Museum in Harlem (NY) to see the Bearden Project (closed Oct. 21, 2012).
2011-2012 has been a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the artist’s birth with museum and gallery exhibitions all across the United States. Bearden was one of the great artists of the 20th century and is best know for his collage paintings. Read about his life and art at the Bearden Foundation.
I knew in advance the exhibition at the Studio Museum didn’t include works by Romare Bearden (1911-1988). It was the 3rd and final installation of the Bearden Project, with paintings, collage, mixed media and sculpture done by mostly young contemporary artists who were inspired by Bearden as they were growing up.
The link to the Bearden Project website allows you to see all the works and read (or listen to) comments about how each artist was influenced by Bearden. It also includes images of works by Bearden each artist selected for the Project.
The trip to the Studio Museum was a bonanza. There were 4 important exhibitions. All the shows closed on Oct. 21, 2012.
The lobby gallery featured postcards by 4 artists in an installation titled Harlem Postcards. Museum visitors were invited to take a card. You can see the cards and send a postcard from the website link.
I kept returning to look at the mixed media work on paper by Ebony G. Patterson, Untitled Species I, 2010-2011 (see above). It’s cut papers and fabric embellished with glitter, 62 x 50 inches. It was fascinating to see the cut-outs, glitter and embellished surfaces.
I also got to see the exhibit titled Illuminations: Expanding the Walls 2012 (photography).
After checking out the Bearden Project on the lower level, I walked upstairs to the mezzanine to see Primary Sources: Artists in Residence 2011-12.
The exhibition catalog says each artist uses appropriated source material and imagery and reinterprets and re-contextualizes content through different media: painting, photography, drawing (and collage). The Museum curator, Lauren Haynes, wrote: “Through their investigations of primary sources, either their own life stories, political histories of nations in flux, historical texts, or images found on the internet, these artists create artworks that will themselves become primary sources about contemporary art in the 2nd decade of the 21st century.
The image by Meleko Mokgosi, seen above, was a grand painting in multiple parts that wrapped around the gallery walls. The artist uses wide-angle perspective and large-scale imagery. Many images are appropriated from wedding blogs, newspapers (from Botswana), magazines and his own photographs. The catalog says Mokgosi is a conceptual painter who uses the language of film and works like a film director to create his large scale tableaux – painted montages with figures, objects, furniture and still lives where his frames, like movie sets, fade one into the other.
The image by Xaviera Simmons, seen above, is a color photograph, titled Index 3 Composition 2, 40×55 inches. In the catalog essay, Luc Sante writes: “Her alchemical touch transforms every kind of rag and bone, variously drab or cold or ponderous or high-hat in both their original states and artistic implications, turning them all into vehicles for adventure…The entire African diaspora is contained in those clusters of pictures and objects clothes-pinned to a tumbling skein…”
I got to view the most amazing collage paintings I’ve seen in years by the artist Njideka Akunyili.
It was a perfect example of serendipity – I went to the Studio Museum to see the Bearden Project, and in the last gallery I visited, I found the collage paintings by Njideka Akunyili.
Her work took my breath away. It is so masterfully done.
The image above, titled Witch Doctor Revisited, 2011, is acrylic, charcoal, pastel, colored pencil, collage and Xerox transfer on paper, 76×51 inches.
In a review, Alex Fialho wrote (Art Fag City, October 17, 2012): “… what makes Akunyili’s work the principal success of Primary Sources (is that) at just 28 years old, Akunyili seems to have already fleshed out a practice that recasts a disparate array of sources and materials into a cohesive aesthetic sensibility.”
He says Akunyili’s work loses much of its tactility and detailed nuance in reproduction. You have to see it in person. I was so lucky to see her work at the Studio Museum. I believe she will be an important artist with a great future.
The image above by Njideka Akunyili is titled Efulefu: The Lost One, 2011, is acrylic, charcoal, colored pencil, collage and Xerox transfer on paper, 40×30 inches.
Rose Oluronke Ojo writes about the autobiographic content of this painting in the Primary Sources catalog essay titled “The Dance.” She says: “Akunyili’s series of multimedia works reference multiple discursive formations, as well as supposed opposites: black African and white American, European painting traditions and traditional African art, conservative African courtship rituals and an interracial couple in coital bliss…This dance of the opposites in Akunyili’s work is reflective of the multicultural, multi-local nature of contemporary African art.”
Njideka Akunyili was born in Enugu, Nigeria in 1983. She received her MFA from Yale University School of Art (New Haven, Ct) in 2011. She participated in the Bearden Project earlier in 2011 at the Studio Museum.
A final review: Holland Cotter wrote about Primary Sources: Artists in Residence 2011-2012 in the NY Times (July 19, 2012). He starts with Njideka Akunyili and mentions the autobiographical content in her large collage paintings. He comments on the political content in Mokgosi’s works, and has a lot to say about Xaviera Simmons, who – he says “has been playing audacious photographic games with the African in African-American, by scrambling categories like ethnic authenticity and historical objectivity.”
Your comments are Welcome
Please let me know if you were able to see the exhibitions at the Studio Museum in Harlem and comment on the artists I’ve written about here.
June 20, 2011
I am a great fan of Calvin Tomkins who writes brilliantly about contemporary art and artists.
His book LIVES of the ARTISTS includes in-depth profiles of Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Matthew Barney, Cindy Sherman, Richard Serra and others.
The book is exciting to read, filled with personal information and critical insight, and would be appealing to everyone who is interested in art and artists.
Tomkins writes: contemporary art is all about choices.
I’m a collage artist. Collage is the most contemporary art medium, accessible to everyone. Collage is all about choices.
I got a phone call from Stephen McKenzie, the manager of Adult Education in the Visual Arts at the Newark Museum (Newark, NJ). He asked me to lead a mini collage workshop this past Saturday for museum members.
I chose to say yes.
I wanted the opportunity to promote two upcoming workshops, and, as always, to promote creativity through collage.
In May I did a very successful workshop titled Possibilities with Paper at the Museum. I am scheduled to teach Possibilities with Paper 2 and 3 in August and in October. There are so many possibilities. Collage is the perfect contemporary media.
The Newark Museum Mini Collage Workshop
I gave a lot of thought to what the Newark Museum mini workshop would include, and wanted to offer a project that would encourage looking and promote understanding visually.
Here are some of the possible mini workshop themes I considered:
Possibilities with Paper
Project: Create variations in papers for collage
Create texture with paint and tools
Combine elements and explore design
Repurpose papers for collage
I will teach Possibilities with Paper 2 at the Newark Museum on August 7, 2011, and will teach possibilities with Paper 3 at the Newark Museum on October 30, 2011. See more information about the 2 workshops.
Project: discover a personal color palette
Explore rich saturated colors in watercolor and pastel
Play with variations in hue, value and chroma
Select magazine images in related colors
Explore complementary colors
I will teach a Colorful Collage workshop on July 17 at the Pelham Art Center.
The Art of Romare Bearden
Project: explore collage as layered imagery
Explore variation in scale
Design with geometric and curved shapes
Play with pattern, surface and line
Last year I taught 2 workshops at the Newark Museum inspired by Romare Bearden. One was titled Caribbean Landscape. Another was titled Conjur Woman: Portrait in Collage. Each full-day workshop is 6 hours – long enough to complete a collage.
A Question of Time
The two mini workshops would each last 90 minutes so the project had to be simple and not take too long to complete. I wanted everyone to be able to start quickly and have enough time to finish.
My top choice was Romare Bearden because this is a special year (the centennial of his birth) and many museums and galleries are honoring him with retrospective exhibitions (including the recent show at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery on West 57 Street in New York City). The exhibition closed May 21, 2011.
See works by Romare Bearden online at the Michael Rosenfeld gallery website.
I wanted people to see and understand how Bearden constructed his collage images. But I was also concerned that it would require more time than was available.
Serendipity and the art of Jean Dubuffet
The day before the scheduled workshop, I discovered an image by Jean Dubuffet (French, 1901-1985) with a fabulous, provocative quote – it was guaranteed to stimulate and inspire. Here’s the quote:
“What I expect from any work of art is that it surprises me, that it violates my customary valuations of things and offers me other, unexpected ones.
Art doesn’t go to sleep in the bed made for it. It would sooner run away than say its own name: what it likes is to be incognito. Its best moments are when it forgets what its own name is.
Personally, I believe very much in values of savagery. I mean: instinct, passion, mood, violence, madness.”
The image above is titled Sylvain. It’s 10×6 inches. It’s a collage made with insect wings.
This is how I organized the Museum mini workshop project:
Provide 12×12 inch construction paper in a deep hue
Provide a free-form profile drawing on 9×12 yellow paper
Provide magazine images of faces, eyes and mouths
Supply scissors, markers, glue, seam rollers and squeegee
Supply magazines for additional collage papers
Everyone got a color copy of the Dubuffet image and the quote.
I read the quote aloud.
I discussed how the image was constructed with insect wings – and also pointed out that there was an eye and teeth that could be on top or below the other papers.
Everyone was instructed to cut out the profile drawing and either trace or glue the drawing onto the larger sheet (and they got to choose where to place it). I did a demonstration on how to apply the glue. I suggested that they notice how Dubuffet limited the range of colors and try to select papers in a similar tonal range.
The rest was up to them. They chose how to proceed and what images, patterns and colors to include.
See samples of their work below. Notice how each one is unique.
I was attracted to Dubuffet’s quote and art and connected both back to a comment by Calvin Tomkins in LIVES OF THE ARTISTS. He described Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst – contemporary art stars – as the reigning heirs of deliberately outrageous art that feeds off the corrupting influences of capitalist glut and entertainment.
Dubuffet called his work Art Brut. He created with common media. His art was not high brow and he created deliberately outrageous art.
See Damien Hirst’s butterfly winged art (done in 2003), and read the review.
Thanks for reading. Please add your comments below.
November 1, 2010
I received a short and sweet comment to my post Late Night Musings on the Value of Art and Why I Paint Squares from kzurc who wrote: Great Post! I love art talk. I responded: Thanks. I love art talk also.
Late Night Musings is basically a review of Don Thompson’s book $12 Million Stuffed Shark the Curious Economics of Contemporary Art (Palgrave/MacMillan, 2008). It’s a great book and a must read if you are interested in who becomes a famous artist and why. I included an image of my geometric collage titled Metro at the start of the post to show I really do paint squares. I see myself as a contemporary artist who has a sense of art history. See the image below.
The $12 million refers to the price for Damien Hirst’s dead shark in formaldehyde titled “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” (1991). It caused a sensation and the haute art world has never been the same since Damien Hirst. But maybe it’s changing. Reality bites.
The economy has hurt the art market for artists at all levels, crushed opportunities and sales. A lot of artists complain that galleries won’t look at their work. I say we have to reinvent the game.
I have a dilemma: I want to write about the art world (it’s a big world and there are so many important issues that intrigue me). I also want to write about the art of collage. I love paper. I teach collage workshops. I say my life is about glue. But I love to talk art talk.
I signed up for Blog Triage with Alyson B. Stanfield and Cynthia Morris to get a handle on blogging. I’ve been following Alyson’s posts, have her book I’d rather be in the studio, and I’m ready to get to work.
Lesson #1 asked us to write a blog: Who are you writing for? (Who do you want to visit your blog?), and asked us to think of a real person we know.
The person I would like to visit my blog is someone like Sylvia (her real name). That’s because she’s smart and interested in contemporary art. Sylvia loves to make jewelry and takes classes. Sylvia has an incredible sense of style and design. Sylvia would be a great patron. She’s not afraid of art. She is a fun person to be with.
Sylvia’s been to my studio and comes to my art openings. I’m not sure she ever will buy my art (maybe she will). She’s very supportive. She is the kind of person I would love to have as a patron of my work.
She told me she likes to read my blog but has never left comments. I wonder if she thinks the posts are too wordy. I will ask her.
Here’s an image of my collage on panel titled Metro. The series is all about geometric abstraction and color. If you are in the Metro NY area, visit my studio at Media Loft to see images in person, or visit me online at nikkal.com.
I just relaunched my collage website Stuff That Sticks. It has a new mission statement with a focus on collage workshops.
I posted a new blog titled Caribbean Fantasy Island Collage the day after the collage website was relaunched (with help from webhost Christina Saj at Muse Design Group). I have 2 workshops scheduled this month. One is titled Caribbean Fantasy Collage. The other is titled Conjur Woman Portrait in Collage. Both are inspired by the work of Romare Bearden (African-American, 1911-1988), one of the greatest masters of modern collage. His work is the inspiration for the two workshops.
At left is his work titled Purple Eden , photo by Carlos Lippai. It’s the first of several Bearden watercolor collage paintings included on the blog.
This painting captures the lush colors of the Caribbean and showcases Bearden’s brilliant watercolor technique.
Toni Ruppert already commented on my blog: Nikkal, Thank you for sharing more about this wonderful artist. I knew of Romare Bearden before, but viewing his work through your eyes was very enlightening. Well done!
I have to reply to Toni asap and say thanks for the nice comments.
I hope more people who love the art of Romare Bearden and the Caribbean will find my post and be inspired by Bearden’s art. I hope many of them will be inspired to make their own collage paintings.
My Blog Triage goal: repurpose the blog to focus mainly on the art of collage with appeal to a broad audience, and, when I want to, tie in themes in the broader art world (like a mixed media collage that can include this, that and some of everything in between!).
Thank you for reading this post. Please add your comments.
October 29, 2010
The image on the left is a collage and watercolor painting by Romare Bearden (1911-1988), titled Purple Eden (1987). It’s 10.5 x 13 inches and is owned by a private collector. Photo by Carlos Lippai. Bearden lived and worked in St. Martin half the hear and created lush landscape paintings in paint and paper like this one.
Have you been to the Caribbean? It’s a tropical paradise with incredible natural beauty, lush plants, exotic birds, fish and wildlife that enchants everyone.
If you can’t be in the Caribbean, you can transport yourself there through art.
Make the memory as a collage, and every time you look at what you created you recreate the experience of being there.
Let tropical images inspire you.
Turn your Caribbean experience or your dream of the perfect vacation paradise into an original work of art – inspired by the art of Romare Bearden (African-American, 1911-1988), one of the greatest of all modern collage artists. His paintings, prints and collages are in museum collections all over the world. You can make a collage with found images in paper and paint. It’s even better than a digital photo, because it’s handmade by you, and can include sketches, souvenirs and photos.
The image at left shows Romare Bearden in 1983 at his home in St. Martin. If this photo was reproduced in color instead of black and white we’d see the lush landscape in the background (Photo by Manu Sassonian).
In the Caribbean, Bearden discovered a love for watercolor, and began to create works in watercolor and collage.
Collage Has History
I love collage media and love to promote the art of collage. It’s the most contemporary and democratic art form. Collage has history. You can make great collage with the simplest materials and the most basic tools. Collage is user-friendly. It’s accessible. If you’re a beginner you can make collage and make progress. If you’re a painter you can explore with collage and work in mixed media. Photographers who work with collage make photocollage. Digital artists who play in layers make digital collage. Printmakers can make collagraphs. 3D collage artists make assemblage.
Romare Bearden called his collages paintings.
I teach a workshop titled Caribbean Fantasy Island. It’s landscape collage where we analyze Bearden’s landscapes and talk about his approach to composition, design, color and black and white. We discuss the media he used and his love of all available technology. We discuss the ways he developed the picture surface: how he overlapped papers and textures to create interest and space, and how he worked with dazzling watercolor paints. I am inspired by Bearden’s art.
In their book Romare Bearden: The Caribbean Dimension (PENN, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA), Sally Price and Richard Price wrote:
“For Bearden, the Caribbean was a kaleidoscope of colors that danced to the sounds of island life…His days began with the bravura of the rooster’s cock-a-doodle-do…His visual collage began with daylight when ”clouds become saffron, then vermillion and then many shades of red, especially a deep cardinal red.”
The painting at left is by Romare Bearden, titled Birds in Paradise (1982). It’s watercolor and collage, 29 x 20 inches, and in a private collection. Photo courtesy of Jerald Mellberg Gallery, Charlotte, NC.
Notice the riot of color. Color is such an important part of Bearden’s Caribbean landscapes.
You can create a riot of color too! At my workshops everyone paints papers in acrylic and watercolor like Bearden. I demonstrate painting papers at the beginning of every workshop. It’s a joyful process and people find the results so satisfying.
What about the papers you use for collage? When Romare Bearden was alive, his choice of papers was tiny in comparison to today. His collage media included just a few magazines, newspapers, his drawings, paintings and recycled prints. But he was amazing and inventive and as technologically savy for his time as anyone is today. He enlarged and reproduced his small collages into large black and white photostats and created bold, dramatic, graphic images. He incorporated his black and white photostat images with his painted papers and flat Color Aid (silkscreened) paper into his collages and made everything much larger. When he worked with cut-outs from magazines, his collages were tiny. When he worked with painted papers and photostat enlarged images, his collages got big. When he supersized his collages as photostats, his work became a whole new media. He called these photostats Projections. They were a sensation immediately and launched his career as a preeminent collage artist!
If you love paper like I do, I recommend NY Central Art Supply in NYC as an incredible resource for all your papers. They have papers from around the world. It’s worth the trip to see the selection, and then you can order online.
All my workshops include demonstration on different ways can you cut, tear and prepare papers and a demonstration on how to glue down papers and what glues (and adhesives) to use. I say my life is about glue. I want all the papers to be secure and lie flat – if they are supposed to be flat – and if they’re not, I talk about how to secure them so they do what they’re supposed to do.
The image at left is by Romare Bearden, and is titled The Intimacy of Water (1973). It’s 32 x 15 inches, includes acrylic and photographic collage, and the flat stretches of black and deep blue color are collaged with large sheets of Color Aid paper. This work is included in the Saint Louise Art Museum.
I’m not sure it’s easy to find Color Aid papers, or if they are still available. I remember the sheets are large and very expensive. I just created matte color paper similar to Color Aid paper on my computer in PhotoShop. I printed it onto InkPress Fine Art Matte papers (8.5x 11 inches). The emulsion on the computer paper creates the matte surface and the same look as the Color Aid papers Bearden used. The difference is that the sheets of paper that Bearden used were about 20 inches wide and my printed paper is 8.5 inches wide (but definitely gorgeous).
The image above shows flat areas of blue and black colors in contrast to photo collage with naturalistic colors and textures. Bearden also made collage paintings with Color Aid papers in grey tones (middle values) because he wanted to control the balance of rich colors with mid-range greys.
My collage website Stuff that Sticks includes a new Caribbean Fantasy Island gallery with collages by workshop students, several images of Bearden’s Caribbean landscape paintings and also a sample of painted paper that was created at a workshop (as a background for the collage).
The image at left is by an art teacher who attended my Caribbean Landscape workshop at the Morris Museum in Morristown, NJ. It’s 14 x 11 inches on Bristol paper, acrylic paint and collage (2009).
Read more about Romare Bearden with information on upcoming shows at the Bearden Foundation.
See a video and hear about “The Block” (a major collage by Bearden in the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection in NY), narrated by Lisa Messenger, Associate Curator at the MMA.
My collage workshops, depending on venue, lasts for 4 or 6 hours. (read about the times and locations for upcoming workshops). We provide glossy magazines, and color and black and white photocopies of a Bearden collage so you can cut out images of tropical birds and fish to use in your collage. Everyone has enough time to explore painting papers, enough time to find and organize collage images, to learn collage technique and to complete their collage.
2 wonderful books about Bearden’s life and work are:
The Art of Romare Bearden (exhibition: 2003-2004), National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (Harry N. Abrams, publisher, New York). Softcover edition is available on line at Amazon.
The 2nd book is titled Romare Bearden The Caribbean Dimension, by Sally Price & Richard Price, 2006 (University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA), also available online.
Thank you for reading this blog. There are probably a lot of people who love the art of Romare Bearden as much as I do. I hope to hear from you.