August 31, 2012
2011-2012 included many, many museum and gallery exhibitions all across the US honoring the centennial birthday for Romare Bearden (African-American, 1911-1988).
See the Romare Bearden Foundation site for updates and information.
Read about The Bearden Project (August 16-Oct 21, 2012) now at the Studio Museum of Harlem (144 W 125 St., NY).
The Bearden Project shows work by 100 contemporary artists who have all been influenced by Bearden’s genius. Each artist was asked to create a work of art inspired by Bearden’s life and legacy.
The image above, is titled Summertime (1967), collage on board, 56×44 inches, image courtesy Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, NY.
In the collage Summertime, Bearden employs the rectangular geometry of window and door frames in a way that explores inside and outside space. We are looking in. Who is looking out? Notice the face and eyes of the Dan mask set within the upper-right tenement window (and the eye seen behind the pink gingham curtain in the window nearby). Bearden’s figurative elements included African masks. Are these reminders of lost African ancestors?
In an earlier post, I wrote about an August 5, 2012 Newark Museum workshop I led titled Conjur Woman: Portrait in Collage. The post included many images by participants in the workshop. This post includes more images created at the workshop. See their images below.
See the upcoming exhibition Romare Bearden: Urban Rhythms and Dreams of Paradise at the ACA Gallery (529 W 20 St., NYC). The exhibition runs November 3, 2012-January 5, 2013. Reception date TBA.
The image above by Romare Bearden is titled Conjur Woman (1964). It’s a small collage, only 9×7 inches and was created with snippets from newspapers and magazines like Ebony and the Saturday Evening Post. She is looking at us. See her hands. One holds a leaf – to make a potion? Notice the window in the upper right corner. Are we looking out at the full moon?
See more Bearden images in a post I wrote on January 15, 2011 titled Romare Bearden: Conjur Woman and Collage.
Looking At Collage Looking At You
Bearden’s is a radically inclusive artistic vision.
We can’t help but participate. He draws us in.
We are viewing and we are viewed.
The Bearden image above is titled Carolina Morning (1974). It’s mixed media collage on board, 30×22 inches. The work was included in the Southern Recollections show that travelled to the Newark Museum.
We see a woman holding a baby. Is she in a doorway or on a porch? An older woman with a young child is in the distance. Are they approaching – or departing? We are caught in the woman’s gaze and have to wonder what she is thinking about.
CONJUR WOMAN by Workshop Participants
Here are additional images by people who attended the Conjur Woman workshop at the Newark Museum August 5, 2012.
Now, I look at the art and notice how it is looking back at me.
Mansa Mussa sent me a close up view of his collage, seen above. Notice the face of Romare Bearden (a photo he took when he met the artist in person). Bearden is playing drums. Notice the saxophone player in the foreground. He’s looking at you. This work is all about jazz music. Bearden was a great jazz fan and knew all the greats.
Joan Alleyne-Piggot sent me her image titled “Without Limits, seen above. It’s a collage with text and magazine papers. Notice her emphasis on mouths. She wrote:
What the eyes can’t see, the ears will hear
What the ears can’t hear, the nose will smell
What the nose can’t smell, the lips will taste
What the lips can’t taste, the hands will touch
Everything is without limits if one fails to try,
She wrote: “I was inspired by Romare Bearden’s work after attending the premiere at the Newark Museum and decided to take the workshop. It was very inspiring.”
Dorothy Meissner sent me an image of her collage titled The Conjurer, seen above.
At the workshop she built her collage with black and white stripes (the piano keyboard all around), and skyscraper imagery. She finished the collage at home after the workshop when she found her skyscraper magazine images. She wanted the skyscraper image to capture the energy of the big city.
I will visit the Studio Museum in Harlem and write soon about the The Bearden Project show before it closes on October 21st. I will also visit the ACA Galleries and write about the upcoming Bearden show Urban Rhythms and Dreams of Paradise.
Thank you for reading this post and thank you for your comments about all the exhibitions this year that honor the creative genius of this great artist.
August 3, 2011
Last week I drove by car for a late-morning appointment in NYC.
The highway route from Westchester took me along the Hudson River by way of the Henry Hudson Parkway.
The view was spectacular. The sky was bright blue and filled with round, puffy clouds – the kind children draw.
The clouds seen in the image above are called cumulous clouds.
As I drove along the highway, the clouds marched in a stately parade across the sky, white against brilliant blue. There was a ribbon of green grass along the highway with a blacktop pathway for cyclists and runners, and the grey blue green waves of the Hudson River were lapping along the water’s edge, reflecting sunlight from above.
The clouds reminded me of the clouds I saw in a collage painting by Romare Bearden (1911-1988), on view recently at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in NYC (the show Romare Bearden: COLLAGE, A Centennial Celebration, closed May 21, 2011).
The online exhibition is worth a look. I’ve included a link to the Gallery press release that says “The works in this exhibition reflect the artist’s belief that art is made from other art. This idea is literally present in the act of collage-making –- taking images, colors and forms out of one context, altering them, and juxtaposing them with other pre-existing images, colors and forms to create something new. Read more…
The work by Bearden I remember so well was titled “The Train Whistles” seen above (image the Internet).
It’s a large work compared to most works by Bearden, 31×40 inches, and a masterful mix of painterly passages, papers and striped and patterned fabric.
I saw the show twice before it closed.
I kept returning to see the Train Whistles and look again at how Bearden used his papers, and how he created his clouds.
I check the Internet and learned that a cloud is a visible mass of water droplets suspended in the sky above the surface of a body of land or water, and the droplets are so small and light they can float on the air.
The shape of a cloud depends on the moisture content in the air. The clouds are white because they reflect the light of the sun.
Bearden used different papers to create his clouds, combining multiple, subtly different shades of white with some torn edges against cut edges, layered with just the right spaces along the edges in between the papers to suggest depth and mass.
The image above is another Bearden collage in the recent Michael Rosenfeld Gallery exhibition. This one, titled “Watching the Good Trains Go By” (1969) is mixed media collage on board and is 9 x 12 inches. (image the Internet)
Like many of Bearden’s works, it contrasts strong, bright colors against black and white magazine and newspaper images in shades of grey. The colors are green and blue in paper and paint, and red and white patterned polka dot and red and cream in gingham checked fabric.
There’s a single cloud in the deep blue sky against a bright emerald green ground.
It was such a treat to see the works at the Michael Rosenberg Gallery exhibition. See more images online.
I hope you also got to see the show at the gallery.
A BEARDEN CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION
If you want to see more works by Bearden and are in NYC, please contact the Romare Bearden Foundation to find out about the ArtCrawl Harlem: The Strivers Garden Gallery (300 West 135th Street at St. Nicholas Ave.) that will present “Bearden at 100” (August 4th – October 9th, 2011).
See “Spiral: Perspectives on an African-American Collective (July 14th – October 23rd, 2011) presented by The Studio Museum in Harlem (144 West 125th Street).
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (515 Malcolm X Boulevard) presents Romare Bearden: The Soul of Blackness/A Centennial Tribute (July 15 – January 7, 2012).
As I got closer to my highway exit at 26th Street, the traffic slowed to a crawl. I had to drive crosstown to 6th Avenue.
I was listening to the Pachebal Canon on classical radio and wasn’t troubled by the delays and traffic. It seemed I had all the time in the world.
And the advantage of the traffic (advantage of traffic?) was that I was driving and stopping. It allowed me to take some photos from the car when I had to stop for a traffic light.
The image above is from my car. I am looking north on 6th Avenue. I was at 26th Street. The uptown view almost doesn’t look like a city street in NYC – but it is and you get to see the clouds against the city buildings.
Today I will drive into the City again – even though I prefer to take a train to Grand Central Terminal in order to avoid traffic.
I hope it’s another beautiful day with another amazing view along the way.
Questions for You: Are you a fan of collage and Romare Bearden? Did the information I shared about his work inspire you? Please add your comments below. Thanks for reading this post.
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.
April 3, 2011
I was going to title this post FLOWER POWER.
At a Bloomfield College workshop I led last month, I taught basic tips on collage to young adults. The workshop included a demonstration on how to place papers, and how to apply glue.
The plan was for students to create a landscape collage of a beautiful place inspired by the art of Romare Bearden. It didn’t happen.
10 COLLEGE STUDENTS MAKE 10 COLLAGE FLOWERS
They were inspired – instead – by a flat, cut-out of a chrysanthemum flower that was on a table in the art room (the image above is more complicated than the paper flower).
What I see and learn at each workshop I teach – every time I teach – is that each person is creative in her/his own unique way no matter what I say or how I present a project. I like that.
Last November I wrote LET ME DO IT MY WAY about how the people who attend my workshops push away from my ideas and explore their own ideas. I wonder if it’s something I say or the way I present the materials.
I wrote: I never know in advance if students want to be directed or if they want to be their own director. It was a popular blog and includes wonderful images of student work.
THE RECENT WORKSHOP
At the Bloomfield College workshop last month, each student got my handout titled 10 Collage Tip. I asked them to follow the text and watch as I demonstrated working with papers and glue. The demo is basic and simple. Once learned, the technique takes an artist in any direction he or she wants. I like when I am able to facilitate a basic and simple approach to individual creative expression.
I said it’s important to match the type of glue (adhesive) and the tools you use to apply the glue to the type of media (paper) you work with. If the paper is thin, use a light (thin) glue or adhesive. If the paper is heavy, use a heavier more viscous glue or adhesive. I work with white PVA glue for medium weight papers. I work with carpenter’s glue for heavy papers and photos. I work with gel medium for Washi weight thin papers.
I brought brightly colored tissue paper in large sheets to the workshop, and talked about how to layer the papers to multiply colors.
I did a quick sampler for the demonstration. I cut scallops in blue paper and glued it down over yellow-green paper. I cut scallops in yelow-green paper and glued it over yellow-greeen paper. How simple is that? I think the students were impressed with the bright colored papers and overlapping colors. See the image below.
Because tissue papers are very thin and delicate, I wanted the students to use acrylic gel medium as glue. Everyone got a small plastic cup for gel medium, and a plastic palette knife to apply the gel medium.
I wanted to teach them how to work with a palette knife and not a brush for the glue application, because the brushes they had in the class were the wrong brushes – they were too large, and too bristly. Remember: match the medium and the tools to the paper!
Here’s more information about gel medium. There are many brands to buy, including Golden and Liquitex. Gel medium comes in different viscosities (thicknesses). We were using a creamy, medium-thin gel. Typically, painters use it to modify and expand acrylic paints.
Gel medium also works great in collage, decoupage and transfers.
I showed the students how to cut tissue paper into shapes, scallops and rectangles with a scissor. I showed them how to place papers on the substrate (the bottom paper), and suggested they use a pencil to mark where the paper is placed (so you know where it goes when you lift it up to add glue). I showed them how to glue in two steps – lay down a small amount of gel medium on the substrate with a plastic palette knife where the tissue paper will go, place the tissue paper down, and apply a top-coat of gel medium and remove excess gently.
Gel medium goes on white and creamy and dries clear. Most people in the class used a bristle brush to apply it, and some of them tore the tissue paper (it tears if it’s over-handled).
Read about gel medium: It is used to alter the consistency of paint. Gloss medium adds sheen. Matte medium reduces gloss (shine). It is used to adhere mixed media elements to the surface of a painting, to increase film integrity, to add transparent layers of color, to extend paint (reduce the cost), to prime a canvas, repair and protect a painting (as a final coat).
THE ART HISTORY OF COLLAGE
I always try to discuss important collage artists at every workshop.
Many of the students at the workshop have Caribbean Island backgrounds, so it seemed like a good idea to introduce them to the artist Romare Bearden (1911-1988). I thought the students would be inspired by Bearden’s watercolor and collage landscape paintings.
His colors are bright and happy. He was inspired by the lush landscapes of his second home in St. Martin, and began to work extensively in watercolor. He became a fabulous watercolor artist, and also incorporated collage into the paintings.
I brought along the monograph titled Romare Bearden The Caribbean Dimension, by Sally Price & Richard Price, filled with gorgeous watercolors, drawings and collage paintings done by Bearden on site in St. Martin. I showed everyone images like the one below, titled Eden Midnight (1988), watercolor and collage, 30×40 inches. Photo credit: the Romare Bearden Foundation.
Read more about Romare Bearden: He is one of the most famous collage artists in the United States and has works in major museums throughout the country.
Bearden’s images are about the people and places he knew. His imagery is a visual metaphor of his life.
Roberta Smith wrote about Bearden – VISIONS OF LIFE, BUILT FROM BITS and PIECES (April 3, 2011, the New York Times). The Michael Rosenfeld Gallery is celebrating the centennial of Bearden’s birth (he was born in 1911) and the exhibition runs through May 21, 2011. Read the review. She wrote: the works…were made from 1964 to 1983. Some are not much larger than sheets of typing paper; others are more than four feet on a side. Their suavely discordant compositions involve both black-and-white and color photographs and occasional bits of printed fabric; almost all depict some scene of black life, past or present or imagined.
TIME FOR GORGEOUS PAPERS
My talk and demonstration were quick. They heard all they needed to know about process and about Bearden. I wonder if they thought Bearden’s art was old.
They got their scissors, a plastic squeegee, plastic palette knife, glue brush, a cup of gel medium, and selected as many sheets of tissue paper as they could. Good thing I brought way too many sheets (I thought).
I was surprised that everyone began to work and it was a large paper flower.
The image above shows an orange flower in progress. Notice that the artist is wearing a shirt with orange and yellow stripes. Often the artist matches the art.
Because the prototype flower was made with heavy paper, and the student’s flowers were cut from thin paper, many students had difficulty cutting round edges.
The image above shows 3 students. Two are working on blue flowers. One is observing the work in progress. Notice that they are working with glue brushes. They are doing it their way. I didn’t say a word.
I showed them how to cut individual petals and work with smaller pieces of tissue paper if they had problems cutting flowers.
I showed them that overlapping tissue papers create multiple tones and hues. Many students had fun playing with overlapping shapes.
The image above shows one student who is working on two collages. She was very good with cutting stripes and flower shapes and with her placement (design), overlapping and colors. I am sure she is very proud of her work.
COLLAGE IS STICKY BUSINESS
Glue goes through thin paper and it’s important to remove excess (this can be done with the palette knife or the plastic squeegee). When working with heavier collage media, I teach students how to apply and blot off excess glue so pieces lie flat and no glue oozes out.
Two students glued the large tissue paper flower off-center so it overhung the edge of the substrate paper and needed to have some support. I showed them how to add heavier paper behind the tissue paper to support it. I think they liked the extended edge of their collage.
One student acknowledged she listened to my talk about Romare Bearden and his collage media. She put newspaper on the substrate and then added tissue paper collage on top so that newspaper text and images showed through. We both liked the newspaper text showing through the layered tissue papers.
MORE THOUGHTS on FLOWERS
The contemporary Japanese artist Takashi Murakami (born: 1963) intrigues me. His works are reproduced in all the international art periodicals and shown in museums around the world. I saw his flowers on the cover of the 2009 Art Basel Miami Beach catalog. Gagosian Gallery represents Takashi Murakami.
I think the students at Bloomfield Collage have also seen his flowers and his art.
Murakami’s Chrysanthemum flowers have faces.
The image below is titled FLOWER SUPERFLAT (it’s a lithograph print on paper, edition of 300, 27×27 inches).
For Murakami, the flowers are a fusion between popular Western culture and Japanese Manga and Anime.
Read more about the artist at TakashiMurakami.com. His paintings are cartoony. His sculptures are huge and quasi-minimalist. He received his BFA, MFA and PhD from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music.
I also recommend Sarah Thornton’s book SEVEN DAYS in the ART WORLD.
In Chapter 6 – The Studio Visit – she writes about Takashi Murakami:
Murakami has taken a Japanese national icon (the chrysanthemum), and endowed it with a gaping orifice in a culture where a wide-open mouth is considered rude. The image comes across as challenging. It’s edgy. It’s not sweet.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
I welcome your comments (please add them below).
Do you make collage? Do you work with tissue papers or Japanese washi paper?
Do you use gel medium or do you use PVA glue? Or do you use another adhesive?
Do you like the work by the artist Takashi Murakami? Please see his website.
Do you like the work by the artist Romare Bearden? Please see the review.
Thank you for your comments.