The Woven Image at MoMA

I hope you’ve visited the Museum of Modern Art, NYC, and seen Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction (April 15 – August 13, 2017). This show is important. I include links (below) to reviews with excellent images and comments about why this show is important.

Yayoi Kunama, No.F oil on canvas

I’ve seen this exhibition 3 times. My art practice is contemporary geometric abstraction and it was important to me to see how the curators selected the art and artists. I recognized the stars – Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, born 1929), Agnes Martin (American, born Canada, 1912-2004), Louise Nevelson (American, born Ukraine, 1899-1988), Louise Bourgeois (American born France, 1911-2010) (and others). The image here is by Yayoi Kusama. It’s titled No.F and is dated 1959. Media is oil on canvas, size is 41.5″x52″. This Kusama painting is in the permanent collection at MoMA.  Kusama is an international art star. I kept looking at it, trying to get as close as I could, to see the incredible texture of the white on white oil paint. It looked like eyelet fabric to me but was a painting.

I went to see Making Space a second time to really appreciate the extraordinary abstract paintings and sculpture by the Latin American superstars Carmen Herrera (Cuban, born 1915), Lygia Clark (Brazilian, 1920-1988) and Lygia Pape (Brazilian, 1927-2004). These three have also had recent solo retrospectives at NYC museums. I especially love the hard-edge geometric abstraction in paintings and sculpture by Carmen Herrera who is still at work at age 102. She is finally getting the recognition she deserves. See her black and white abstract painting below.

Carmen Herrera, Untitled, painting on canvas, 1952

 

My third visit to Making Space was different. I wanted to see all the works that are woven because I have a new fascination with weaving and textiles, and the exhibition showcases this media in the context of great art.

 

Making Space at MoMA includes ninety-four works by fifty-three international artists. Every work but one has been in storage at the Museum. The exhibition was co-curated by Starr Figura and Sarah Meister with help from Hillary Reder. The Curator’s Say: Making Space shines a spotlight on the stunning achievements of women artists between the end of World War II (1945) and the start of the Feminist movement (around 1968). In the postwar era, societal shifts made it possible for larger numbers of women to work professionally as artists, yet their work was often dismissed in the male dominated art world, and few support networks existed for them. Abstraction dominated.

 

Magdalena Abakanowicz, Yellow Abakan

 

This work, titled Yellow Abakan, by Magdalena Abakamowicz (Polish, 1930-2017) fuses weaving with sculptural installation. It’s coarsely woven sisal, 124”x120”x60”

I read that Abakanowicz deliberately tried to blur the distinctions between art and craft. She chose to explore the structural (sculptural) qualities of fiber.

 

 

 

 

Sheila Hicks, Prayer Rug

 

The work seen here is by Sheila Hicks (American, born 1934) and is titled Prayer Rug. It’s made with hand-spun wool (87”x43”). Hicks wrote she was inspired by Morocco and prayer rugs and architecture with arches. To create this work, she went off loom, working like a ceramicist works, with the material in her hands.

 

The next work (below) is by Anni Albers (American, born Germany, 1899-1994) and is titled Free-Hanging Room Divider, 1949. Anni Albers was a protean force in textile innovation and design. The work here is made with cotton, cellophane, and braided horsehair, 87”x32.5.” Albers was focused on creating translucent space, thinking about how the weaving functioned in an architectural setting as a space divider.

 

See Peter Schjeldal’s review: THE XX FACTOR Women and Abstract Art (the New Yorker magazine, April 24, 2017).

Anni Albers, Wall Hanging

 

Schjeldal writes: The show’s inclusion of fabric and decorative art marks an insurgent appreciation, taking hold in the sixties, of formerly patronized modes of “women’s work.” He references Magdalena Abakanowicz “Yellow Abakan” (1967-68). He says it “… invites a fighting comparison with some far more well-known minimalist works in felt, from the same time, by Robert Morris.

This wall hanging by Anni Albers as tall as a tall adult and was installed so you walked by and saw it up close. It is transparent. You can see the floor behind the weaving in this image. I love the vertical stripes and the cellophane in the weaving.

 

 

 

Here is an image of me standing in front of a framed black and white weaving by Anni Albers. The work is exquisite in design and detail. I was visiting the exhibition at MoMA for the 2nd time and invited. Peggi Pugh to join me so we could compare notes on what works we liked best. She took the photo. In this gallery, every work  was a weaving or an image (a drawing or print) that looked like a weaving. We walked around the gallery slowly to be able to absorb all the different works.

 

woodcut by Lygia Pape
drawing by Yayoi Kusama

 

Here are two images that look like weaving but are not. The top image by Lygia Pape is untitled, from her series Weavings (Tecelares). It’s a woodcut print (dated 1959). The bottom image by Yayoi Kusama is titled Infinity Nets. It’s ink on paper (dated 1951). I thought it was interesting that the curators placed these two works in tandem, one on top of the other. I thought they were textiles from a distance, because the Anni Albers framed textile (above) was in the same gallery space. I was wrong – but they look exactly like textiles.

 

 

 

 

Lenore Tawney, Little River

 

 

Here is a view of a wall hanging by Lenore Tawney (American 1907-2007), titled Little River (1968). Photo credit: Nicole Craine. In his New York Times review, At MoMA, Women at Play in the Fields of Abstraction (April 13, 2017) Holland Cotter tells us: In the 1950s, Ms. Tawney lived in Lower Manhattan, where she counted Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Indiana and Agnes Martin (who is also in the MoMA show) as neighbors. Living in an old shipping loft, she made the most radical work of any of them: towering open-warp fiber pieces that stretched from floor to ceiling and across the loft’s wide space. Yet, in 1990, when she finally had a retrospective, it took place not at MoMA, but at the American Craft Museum, which was then across the street.

 

 

 

Ruth Asawa, hanging mesh sculpture

 

I photographed this gallery installation. I was fascinated with the shadows cast on the floor beneath the mesh wire sculpture by Ruth Asawa (American, 1926-2013). The work was installed from the ceiling in the center of the gallery. Hanging from the ceiling was totally a unique concept. As was woven sculpture in mesh wire. On a wall across the room, you see Lenore Tawney’s Little River weaving (notice the cast shadows there on the wall behind the work). On another wall to the left, you see a small view of Magdalena Abakanowicz’s very large sisal Yellow Abakan. The installation was inviting and intriguing. People lingered and looked.

 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

Anne Ryan, collage 353

 

The image here is a collage by Anne Ryan (American 1889-1954) titled #353 dated 1949. I’m a collage artist and know Ryan was highly respected for her practice. Ryan worked with exquisite papers and also fabric and thread. Her works are small and delicate and deliberate. The Museum has four collages by this artist in the permanent collection, and the curators installed four Anne Ryan collages in the exhibition. At least two or three reviews, including ones by Peter Schjedahl and Holland Cotter and the Huffington Post start with this image. When I looked at this collage, I saw the threads and the thin papers. It’s a woven image also.

 

 

See the Artsy review by Abigail Cain (April 17, 2017), titled New MoMA Show Unearths Female Abstractionists That Have Languished in Storage.

Cain writes about gender inequality at the Museum. She also mentions the philanthropist Sarah Peter who can help remedy the imbalance. Sarah Peter launched the Modern Women’s Fund at MoMA in 2005 to target works by women artists for acquisition and to support major solo exhibitions by women. That’s a good start to bring about change.

Holland Cotter also writes about the gender inequality issue in his review of Making Space at MoMA and says: “This exhibition is a start, but ultimately to make changes and show women artists the respect they deserve, the MoMA should also reorganize the permanent-collection galleries that draw the largest crowds…Put Anne Ryan next to Kurt Schwitters and Jackson Pollock to see how that shakes out, historically and atmospherically… Put Ruth Asawa’s wire sculptures up against Richard Serra’s fortresslike walls. “

I hope the MoMA and other museums make these changes. Please send me your comments.

 

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Several people commented about my recent post Duality at the Islip Art Museum, where I am showing a two-panel abstract diptych in blue, black, white, green and gold ochre. See the image below. I submitted two images as digital files for review for this show. Scott Bluedorn was the juror who selected works in the exhibition. He is a long Island artist. His studio practice includes painting, drawing, collage, assemblage, installation, photography and cyanotype. He makes collages that are futuristic and Surrealistic.The exhibition is titled Duality: Glimpses of the Other Side and continues to September 17, 2017. Visit the Islip Art Museum, located at 50 Irish Lane, East Islip, NY on Long Island. Gallery hours are Th/F 10-4 and S/S 12-4.

 

nikkal, Blue Triangle Diptych

 

Blue Triangle Diptych is geometric abstraction in two parts (a diptych), 24 inches tall and 32 inches wide. The triangles are in different media and are arranged in a different pattern on each panel. One panel (on the left) is a collage made with painted papers. Every blue and black triangle is cut and pasted paper. One panel (on the right) is an acrylic painting. The paint is layered and I used tape to get sharp lines.

 

nikkal, Blue and White Triangle diptych

The 2nd entry, seen nearby, was not accepted for the exhibition. It’s a diptych and all collage on two panels and made with blue and white painted papers arranged as triangles. I love the range of blue and soft green and white in the painted papers. I prefer this triangle diptych, but was happy the juror accepted one work for the exhibition. It made me wonder how he made his decision. One of the comments to the post came from Karen Rand Anderson, an artist who lives and works in Rhode Island. She writes a blog, She said she liked the blue and white diptych better than the one the juror selected. I told her I agreed, but said I assumed the juror wanted to see juxtaposition, per the exhibition title, and the piece he selected has more dialogue going on. Maybe I was wrong.

The jury process is subjective

Here’s a little information about how it works – and it’s important to understand the process is a crapshoot. You can never assume any work will be accepted – unless the show is an invitational and the juror (curator) tells you he/she wants a specific piece. By definition, an invitational is never a juried show. Artists enter juried exhibitions all the time for different reasons, sometimes for prize money and also to build their resume. The typical juried show includes one juror who looks at digital image files for every work submitted and selects the works. Typically the juror is a professional artist or gallerist, sometimes a prominent art critic, and sometimes an artist with a regional, national or international exhibition reputation. What gets selected into the exhibition is his/her decision. Sometimes the works are selected first by image file review and then by direct visual inspection to make sure the work is the same as the image file.

I typically do not enter juried shows. I wrote that I entered this show because the exhibition title: Duality: Glimpses of the Other Side was intriguing. My work is abstract and not narrative. My new studio focus is about duality and the serendipity of mismatched twins. I see diptychs as fraternal twins. I like the concept that twins can be the same and also different. Even identical twins can be different (if they try). It takes looking to see how they are different. I intend to focus on diptychs.

Recently I interviewed two jurors about the process of how they select works for an exhibition.

 

The juror looks for strong works

I emailed Susan Hoeltzel, the juror for an annual show at the Upstream Gallery, 8 Main Street, Hastings on Hudson, NY titled PaperWorks (June 22-July 23, 2017). I am a member of this artist-run gallery and helped hang (install) the exhibition that includes a large and beautiful array of paintings, drawings, 3D sculpture and other works on paper submitted by local and regional artists. Gallery members do not enter or show work in this exhibition. The juror came to the gallery to see the exhibition after it was installed. I didn’t meet her and emailed her to ask how she selected the works for the show. I told her that gallery members were very pleased with the works she selected. I did not tell her I helped install the show. She replied: Thank you – I also think the exhibition looks great and extend my congratulations to the people who installed the show (It’s not that easy to hang a group show and the people who installed this one were sensitive to the transitions between the works, making it visually pleasing and leading the viewer from one work to the next.) I took that as a compliment. She wrote: In choosing the work, I was simply looking for strong work that represented a broad range of approaches – style, content, media, etc. She added she was working without information about dimensions, so was trying to make sure not too many works were selected for the space. It’s a big space and there are a lot of works to see.

Susan Hoeltzel is the former director of the Lehman College Art Gallery, City College of New York. Susan has exhibited her mixed media drawings on canvas nationally and internationally. Her works explore objects and the meaning we construct around them – about illusion and what we infer from the flat, two-dimensional surface of the work. Her most recent series deals with plants, particularly invasive species.

 

The juror picks what he likes

I spoke with the artist and educator Stuart Shils in person July 15 at the opening reception for the 9th National Juried Exhibition at the Prince Street Gallery, 530 West 25 Street, NY, NY (July 11-29, 2017).

 

nikkal at Prince St. Gallery

The image nearby is me standing in front of my collage titled Amok at the Prince Street Gallery opening on July 15. I submitted 3 entries that are part of a new series titled Curvy Geometric. Amok was accepted, seen here on the wall above another framed work.  Amok is made with painted papers, magazine text and  tan Washi papers with thin bamboo sticks. The Washi papers add a transparent layer. I’m a layerist. This framed work is 18 inches by 17 inches I was pleased that it was installed in the gallery on a small wall with only 4 works. There were about 50 works in the show, mostly small in size, mostly paintings.

I met the juror at the reception and complimented him on the exhibition he selected. I asked him to tell me how he chose. He said he picked what he liked. Simple. The show includes 45 artists. He said he rejected about 300 entries – that means 1 out of 7 artists was accepted. I said I was surprised to see so many semi-abstract and abstract paintings in the show. I checked Shils’ website before I entered the Prince Street Gallery juried show and basically entered because the juror’s works look like abstract paper collage. I asked Shils to tell me about his paper works. His answer surprised me. He said his work is not really collage. He said he puts papers together and then disassembles the work after he takes a photo. The product is the photo. It’s a collage concept. I did not ask if the photo is material or immaterial.

See works by Stuart Shils online, including window collages, painting, monotypes, drawing, photography, video and a book with his photographs titled “because I have no interest in those questions…” (Sold out).

 

The juror picks the art and creates the show

I remember a comment I heard many years ago about juried shows in a seminar led by the artist Kay WalkingStick. She is an American Artist and one of today’s most accomplished Native American contemporary landscape painters.

She basically said – don’t be upset if your work is not selected in a juried show. In some cases your work doesn’t fit the concept the juror intends. In some cases, the other works submitted are so different from what you submit that your work will look like it doesn’t belong in the show and that’s why it’s not accepted. She added: in some cases your work is so much better than all the rest that it can’t be included because all the others will look terrible in comparison. AND there are probably other reasons. Try to be positive.

Maybe the juror doesn’t like your work. Don’t take it personally.

Please add your comments. Tell me if you’ve been a juror and how you made your decisions. If you’re an artist, tell me if you enter juried shows. Tell me if you love or hate the process. Share what you know.

 

nikkal, Blue Triangle Diptych

I submitted two diptych paintings for a juried exhibition titled Duality: Glimpses of the Other Side at to the Islip Art Museum. One diptych – titled Blue Triangle Diptych (nearby) was accepted. One diptych, titled Blue and White Triangles (below) was rejected. The juror was Scott Bluedorn, an artist who lives and works in East Hampton, NY. The exhibition is June 24-September 17, 2017. The reception date is June 24th from 8-11. The Islip Art Museum is located at 50 Irish Lane, East Islip, NY 11730 on Long Island. Gallery hours are Th/F 10-4 and S/S 12-4.

 

I don’t typically submit works for juried shows but was intrigued with the theme and the wording in the prospectus. It asked artists to “seek out what’s hidden behind the veil of perception to reveal chaos in the mundane, beauty in the ordinary, and depravity in the wholesome.” I don’t see how my work is veiled, depraved or chaotic, but I suppose my approach to layering with paint and papers implies veiled perception – something below the surface. I am interested in duality. The diptych is my approach to expressing duality. I work with painted papers and collage. The media is dual. In the first diptych, one panel has painted paper collage and one panel is a painting in acrylic. Each includes triangles but the configuration is not parallel. Each panel is 24×16 inches. Together, the diptych measures 24×32 inches. I like the interplay between mixed media – collage and painting, paper and paint. The Blue Triangles Diptych was never intended as a diptych. Each panel was created to stand alone. By chance, I placed them next to each other against a wall in my studio (I was re-organizing space). I liked what I saw and I decided they belonged together – it was serendipity! I think of them as fraternal twins.

 

nikkal, Blue and White Triangle diptych

The image nearby is my 2nd diptych titled Blue and White Triangle Diptych. This work was declined. It was created as a diptych. I changed triangle shapes and added more light blue and white papers as I worked. Notice the way the triangles go from wider to thinner as they approach the center and press into each other’s space. I wonder if this work was declined because the two parts are united. What do you think? I hope you can attend the reception and/or see the exhibition if you find yourself in the area. Link here for more information and directions. The Islip Art Museum website says the IAM is a leading exhibition space for contemporary art on Long Island, and the NY Times calls the Museum the “best facility of its kind outside Manhattan.”

 

CONTEMPORARY DIPTYCHS

 

I have a skinny, 16-page paperback catalog titled Contemporary Diptychs: Divided Visions. See it nearby. It’s an old catalog from a 1987 exhibition. I found it while browsing for art books at the Strand Book Store (828 Broadway and 12th Street in NYC). I loved the cover image and the essays about diptychs inside. If you haven’t been there, you must visit the Strand. It’s a great destination for art book lovers.  The catalog cover image shows a contemporary diptych titled Slope of Repose, by the artist Edward Henderson, dated 1986. The catalog has the same title as the exhibition – Contemporary Diptychs, Divided Visions, – and includes essays written by Roni Feinstein, formerly Branch Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Fairfield, CT. Feinstein organized the exhibition at two Whitney Museum branch locations – one at the Equitable Center in Manhattan, 787 Seventh Ave., NYC and another at at the Whitney Museum branch in Fairfield County, Stamford, CT. Both shows were in 1987. The exhibition catalog is still available online.

 

According to Feinstein, the first diptychs were tablets consisting of two pieces of wood with writing hinged together. In the late 16th century, diptychs were used primarily for companion paintings with portraits of a husband and wife, intended as a pair, but also visually independent. The contemporary revival of diptychs in the 1960s was more about conceptual art – dealing with issues of narrative and allegory, autobiography and self-expression, social, political and cultural commentary.

 

The essay about Edward Henderson’s diptych Slope of Repose (image is seen above) says: “Things are not exactly as they seem. The left side may look like a collage with pasted newspapers and other elements, but it’s a trompe l’oeil painting. What looks like a wooden bar running down the middle is actually painted to look like it’s real, and the right side panel shows a letter N (an apartment house) but is assembled from thin strips of balsa wood. What seems to be collage on the left side is painted and what seems to be painted on the right side is collage.” The diptych makes you ask – what is real?

 

FINAL COMMENTS

 

I am pleased to be included in the exhibition Duality: Glimpses of the Other Side at the Islip Museum, and can’t wait to see the various works that were accepted in this annual show. Long Island is a lovely place for a day trip in the summer. If you are nearby, please stop by and see the exhibition. Let me know what you think. See directions to IAM here. Let me know what you think about contemporary diptychs and the idea of duality.

 

It Takes a Team

May 24, 2017

I visited the NYC Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) last week to see the exhibition Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction (through August 13). The show is fabulous and all the most exciting abstract artists (who happen to be women) are included. The curators selected works from the Museum’s permanent collection, including almost 100 paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, prints, textiles, and ceramics by more than 50 artists. I loved how the works were installed in the galleries. I am a keen critic when it comes to exhibition installation. It takes a team to select the great works and it takes a team to install the best exhibition.

The curatorial team included Starr Figura, curator, Department of Drawings and Prints, and Sarah Hermanson Meister, curator, Department of Photography, with Hillary Reed, curatorial assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints. According to the online comments, the installation was loosely chronological and synchronous, with works that range from gestural canvases by Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, and Joan Mitchell to radical geometries by Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, and Gego. There are fiber weavings by Magdalena Abakanowicz, Sheila Hicks, and Lenore Tawney. There’s collage Anne Ryan. There are paintings – both large and very white  by Agnes Martin and Yayoi Kusama. The last gallery includes a large sculpture by Lee Bontecou. There’s a hanging sculpture by Louise Bourgeois (it looks very heavy), and – my favorite – a wall installation by Eva Hesse done with industrial materials. It’s a stellar cast. I include some of these artists below with images taken at the exhibition (my iPhone) as well as images from the MoMA website. Visit the exhibition online here. I hope you get to see the show and see all the media and  all the artists.

 

Agnes Martin, The Tree, oil and pencil on panel, 1964

 

 

The painting seen here is 6×6 feet, done by Agnes Martin (American, born Canada, 1912-2004). Titled The Tree, it’s oil and pencil on panel, and dated 1964. Image: copyright Estate of Agnes Martin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. This is a very white painting with faint pencil lines on canvas. When you walk up close you see it clearly. From a distance everything is quiet and delicate. Agnes Martin had a recent retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC – I made sure I got to see it more than once, and also attended a panel program at the Museum. I heard that Martin made all her pencil lines by hand. Amazing. Her work is highly regarded and her career and persona are fascinating. Here’s a link to see images and a video from the Guggenheim Museum show.

 

 

Carmen Herrera, Untitled, painting on canvas, 1952

The image nearby is by Carmen Herrera (born 1915, Havana, Cuba). It’s untitled and dated 1952. The artist is still working and showing her paintings and sculpture at age 102. I love this painting because it has black and white stripes that create the illusion of triangles. Notice the top and bottom of the painting where there’s black against white and white against black. Carmen Herrera was and is always focused on the edges of her paintings and sculptures. Herrera studied art, art history and architecture in Havana and then in Paris, France where she because part of an international artist’s group called the Salon des Realties Nouvelle. She distilled her geometric style of abstraction in Paris. She reduced her color palette to three, then two colors for each canvas. She created hard-edged canvasses at the same time Ellsworth Kelley (also in Paris) developed his style. The Museum website says: Herrera’s ascetic compositions prefigured the development of Minimalism by almost a decade, but the artist did not receive the critical attention she deserved. I saw this same image by Carmen Herrera at the Whitney Museum of American Art at her 2016/2017 solo exhibition titled Lines of Sight. See more images and read about the Whitney exhibition here.

 

Yayoi Kunama, Untitled, 1959

The work nearby is by Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, born 1929). I’m a great fan. Here work and career are amazing. This painting is very white and looks like lace. It has dimension. It’s untitled, done in 1959 and oil on canvas (41 ½ x 52 inches). Yayoi Kusama is almost 90 years old and still exhibiting everywhere. Her white painting in this exhibition looks nothing like current images that you see in galleries and museums. Recent exhibitions include installation with ceramic pumpkins and polka dots in mirrored spaces. When you think of Kusama, you think kaleidoscopic imagery and incredible color. The painting at MoMA is copyright 2017 Yayoi Kusama. I posted a blog about Kusama in 2012 – titled Collage Exploded – about her solo show that year at the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC. All about dots. See it here. The David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea, NY, represents Kusama, and organized Infinity Mirrors, Kusama’s current North American traveling exhibition (2017-2019), a survey of the artists’ evolution to create art in immersive infinity rooms. The traveling exhibition includes sculpture, installation and large scale paintings. Read about Infinity Mirrors here.

Women Artists: Eclipsed Careers

Elsa Gramcko, Untitled, 1957

 

I’ve already said that every work in the exhibition Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction  is part of the permanent collection at MoMA. But, many works are exhibited for the first time or in a long time. I’ve listed who donated the art to the Museum. Most of the artists – because they are women – were eclipsed in their careers by the “big guns” (i.e. male artists) and did not have a solo museum exhibition during their lifetime. That’s all changing now.

The image at left is by Elsa Gramcko (Venezuelan 1925-1994). It’s untitled, 39×13 inches, 1957, oil on canvas and painted with a deep Yves Klein blue, with black, white, red, yellow and green in a bold geometric design. The blue and white together are radiant. This is not a big painting in size, but the saturated colors and design are totally captivating. I noticed it immediately as soon as I walked into the gallery space.  The painting was a promised gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund, 2016.

 

 

Lydia Clark, The Inside is the Outside, 1963

 

I recognized the image at left as soon as I saw it. It’s a stainless steel curvilinear sculpture by Lygia Clark (Brazilian, 1920-1988), titled The Inside is the Outside, 1963, 16 x 17 ½ x 14 ¾ inches. Lygia Clark had a retrospective exhibition at MoMA in 2014 organized around three key themes: abstraction, Neo-Concretism and the “abandonment” of art (the last was participatory). The MoMA says Clark became a major reference for contemporary artists dealing with the limits of conventional art forms. Read about the 2014 Lygia Clark exhibition: The Abandonment of Art, 1948-1998 here. This curvy steel sculpture is another gift from Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund, 2011.

 

 

 

Eva Hesse, conceptual sculpture,1966

Here is my image of a sculpture by Eva Hesse. I saved my favorite image for last. I am intrigued with the industrial materials she used to make art, and by the shape the materials create on the wall. This conceptual sculpture is untitled, dated 1966, and made with enamel paint and string over papier-mâché with elastic cord, approximate size is 33 1/2 x 26 x 2 1/2 inches. Eva Hesse was German-American (1936 – 1970) and is associated with Minimalism and Feminist Art. In this work, contour is the primary concept. Notice the shape. Hesse’s work demonstrated to a new, postwar generation how to distill feelings and conceptual references down to a set of essential forms and contours. Her career spanned little more than a decade. Even though she died young, she left a huge legacy for others to follow. She said: In my inner soul art and life are inseparable. I think art is a total thing. Her work has remained popular and highly influential to important international artists who followed, including Louise Bourgeois, Bill Jensen, Martin Puryear and Brice Marden. Words associated with Eva Hesse’s works: wit, whimsy, evocative and spontaneous invention. Her media were casually found, everyday materials. Important critics describe her forms as languid and proto-feminist. Read about her Life and Legacy here.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

I am always impressed with the talented teams that curate an exhibition – what they choose to include and how they choose to organize how the show is installed. This exhibition is about great artists (who happen to be women) who were marginalized in the art world during the post World War II period. The MoMA, and other museums, are making amends for that exclusion.

This show feels contemporary. That’s a compliment from me.

I want to recommend a new book I’ve just read that I found at the MoMA bookstore after I saw the exhibition. I always stop at the bookstore to find a little book to add to my library. I like little books to carry and read if I’m on the train, waiting for an appointment, etc. Ideally, the book doesn’t have too many pages, there are lots of images and really good text. I found Who’s Afraid of Contemporary Art? An A to Z Guide to the Art World by Kyung An and Jessica Cerasi (2016, Thames & Hudson). The book is fun to read and answers 4 basic questions: What is contemporary art? What makes it contemporary? What is it for? And why is it so expensive? The authors discuss museums and the art market, the rage for biennales and the next big thing. Who’s Afraid of Contemporary Art? examines how artists are propelled to stardom, explains what curators do, and challenges our understanding of artistic skill, demystifying the art market, and much, much more. Every short chapter includes a 2-page commentary and an image by or about a significant work by a contemporary artist. Both authors are highly qualified to write about the contemporary art world. Kyang An is an Assistant Curator at the Guggenheim Museum, NY and Jessica Cerasi is Exhibition Manager at Carroll/Fletcher and was Assistant Curator of the 20th Biennale of Sydney in 2016.

 

Get the book Who’s Afraid of Contemporary Art? and go see the MoMA exhibition before it closes August 13. You’ll find there are artists you love and didn’t know about. There are more than 100 works by 50 artists to see. Email  me your comments about your favorite artists and works in the show. Tell me if you agree that many works also seem contemporary in spirit in spite of the fact they were created so many years ago. Tell me what you think about the sculpture by Eva Hesse. Thank you for your comments.

Nancy

The Collage Experience at the Barrett Art Center in Poughkeepsie, NY

I belong to an artist’s collective called the Power of 13. We are 13 mid-career artists who meet informally once a month or every 6 weeks to chat and catch up on what we’re doing in the arts. We are painters (contemporary and traditional), printmakers, a fine art photographer, mixed media artists, and sculptors. We network, share tips, critique works in progress, and look for exciting places to see contemporary art and show our works as a group. We have a lot to share – and that is what is so exciting about being part of the group.

I’m a contemporary collage artist and tend to see everything in terms of collage and installation.

 

Nikkal, Curvy Geo Stretch

The image nearby is a new collage I created titled Curvy Geo Stretch. It’s done with black and white painted papers and is framed and 14×14 inches. I call it Stretch because of the light black shapes that shift to the left – or to the right, depending on the way you want to see it.  My collage is hanging above a 5-foot wide marble fireplace in the 1st gallery at the Barrett Art Center. Sitting nearby on the mantle is a classical 26 inch high bronze sculpture of a violin. On 2 adjacent walls are various paintings and  collages. The installation is a fascinating juxtaposition of old and new – art and architecture – and the mix of works by 6 members in the group. There are 64 works by 13 artists in the exhibition, including paintings, collage, mixed media, sculpture, photography, printmaking and drawing. We are so pleased to have the opportunity to show works by the Power of 13 Collective at the Barrett Art Center.

Penny Dell curated and organized this show. I helped Penny install everything. It took us more than 2 days. All the individual works show well together, and the collective spirit is strong.

 

The opening reception was April 22. If you are in Dutchess County on Saturday, May 20th, please come to the closing reception at 55 Noxon Street, Poughkeepsie, from 2-4 pm. Read about the Barrett Art Center: http://www.barrettartcenter.org

 

Edna Dagan sculpture

 

The 2nd image at left is a close up view of Edna Dagan’s sculpture with my grid collages in the background. Both are installed in the front gallery at the Barrett Art Center. In Edna’s sculpture, you see a cherub and part of a violin. This work is about 26 inches tall. Edna has 4 sculptures in the exhibition, and all are about music with a violin done in cast metal. My 2 collages are painted papers on paper. Framed sizes are 32×28 inches. I especially like the close up photo of the sculpture juxtaposed with the slightly out of focus view of my grid collages.

 

 

 

 

 

The Barrett Art Center

The image nearby shows the Barrett Art Center. Image is courtesy of their website. The building is narrow and long with 2 galleries, meeting room, office and kitchen on the 1st floor, and more galleries and classroom spaces on upper floors. The building is named for Thomas W. Barrett, Jr. who was born in Poughkeepsie, NY on 9/12/1902 and was an artist interested in the social and the societal value of art. He formed the Dutchess County Art Association, mounting exhibitions for local artists, giving them a means of showing and selling their work during the Depression era. He studied art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and worked as an artist in NYC. He returned to Poughkeepsie in 1929, and moved back into the current Barrett House where he was born.

 

2nd gallery view

In the image at left, I’m standing in the doorway in the 2nd gallery space with a view of the hallway behind me. Penny took the photo the day we installed the art. Notice that the space is relatively small and there’s a lot of art to see. It doesn’t seem crowded because the ceilings are high – and that makes you feel you’re in a larger space. In this photo, you see 5 small mixed media works by Alice Harrison hung vertically on the left. On the short wall to the left of the doorway is a mixed media painting in pink and green acrylic by Ruth Bauer Neustadter. Above the painting are several wall-mounted wire and hand-made paper sculptures by Penny Dell that skip across the wall left to right above and across the ornate doorframe behind me. Penny’s wire sculptures are light and etherial, yet fill the space and create a special kind of energy. They’re white on a white wall, but cast shadows and draw your eye upward. Notice the top wood blocks on the doorframe with carved acanthus leaves. Notice, on the right – a funky green mixed media sculpture by Susan Lisbin perched on a white wood pedestal and, on the back wall are 3 more works by Susan, including a color-field skinny abstract in green painted on found sheet metal. Once again, you see the juxtaposition of contemporary art, greens and reds, blacks and whites with vintage architecture.

 

Penny Dell wrote:

…Seeing the show allows viewers an opportunity to puzzle out connections between works and artists who through the years have continued to meet regularly. Read more of Penny’s comments about the collective and the exhibition here:

 

Hallway installation

 

 

The image at left shows me in the front hallway at the Barrett Art Center (photo by Penny Dell). I’m standing below and she’s standing at the top of the stairs – looking down at me. The image shows the art installed on both sides of the narrow hallway. Notice the antique floors – wide plank old wood – and, in the top left portion of the photo you can see the decorative carved wood trim on the 2nd floor landing. I’m a big fan of the details you find in older homes. This one was build in 1842. We were told to hang art on the staircase wall because there would be a constant flow of traffic up the stairs to a second floor gallery and classroom studios. It was a challenge to get the last pieces hung so high up the staircase, but all the works hang well together in the hallway and add another dimension to the exhibition.

 

 

Crowded hallway at the reception for Power of 13

 

 

Here’s another image of the hallway installation, taken during the April 22nd opening reception. Notice the beautiful Victorian light fixture (in addition to the track lighting), and notice the high ceiling in relation to the people. The woman standing on the left is over 5’10” tall.

 

 

 

 

Photography by Pauline Chernichaw

 

Here is a view showing contemporary photography by Pauline Chernichaw in the 1st room gallery with a view to the front hallway exhibition beyond. I think the black and white photos show really well on either side of the doorway. Do you agree? I love the contrast of the horizontal format of the photos – sleek and contemporary – with the vertical door opening and with the color of the woodwork and ornate trim on it. In this photo, the paint trim color looks oyster grey and picks up on the grey tones in Pauline’s photos. However, in hanging these works, I was more concerned with contrasting horizontals and verticals.

 

 

Susan Sinek and her painting

 

 

The image nearby shows Susan Sinek and her figure painting in the 2nd room gallery. If you could see the works on the wall Susan is facing, you would see her prints and figure drawings.

 

I hope you can visit the exhibition and see all the works.

 

 

 

 

About the Power of an Art Collective

The Power of 13 collective has been meeting for years in each other’s homes and studios. Many artist groups (collectives) are larger than we are. Some are smaller. We started the group with 9 (and called ourselves the Power of 9) and then added more members, so changed our name in steps to the Power of 13. We think 13 members is about as big as we want to be.

We are like almost all artist groups in that we are organized to share tips, critique art works and network information. Some groups limit members to a professional category, typically architects, graphic designers, painters or printmakers. We prefer to be informal and friendly. We like the idea of sharing information across media boundaries. We are serious artists. We always share great food and conversation.

We thank Penny Dell for contacting the Barrett Art Center and organizing our group exhibition. Read more about Thomas W. Barrett here:

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Do you want to meet other artists? Do you want to be part of an artist’s group? If you do, I recommend you check out local art centers, colleges and universities. Go to art receptions. Attend public meetings with artists who speak about their work. If possible, take a class to meet other artists. Ask people how to join a group. Many Chambers of Commerce and arts councils list arts associations. Check out artists’ groups online.

I hope you think the history of the Barrett Art Center is interesting. The Power of 13 collective thanks the Center for this opportunity to exhibit in a unique and beautiful space.

Please write and tell me how you are engaged with the arts. Email me if you want suggestions for how to form an artist’s collective. Thank you for your comments.

Nancy

 

Appropriation is a very useful concept in contemporary art and essential to appreciating contemporary collage art.

 

I like to make funky figure collages with papers and text cut and pasted from magazines like W, Elle. Vogue, and ArtForum. I thumb through the magazines and tear out pages when the right image strikes. Everything becomes a magazine mash-up.

 

nancy nikkal, sex celebrity, collage 2016

 

The image nearby is my collage titled Sex Celebrity. This work is part of a new series with female images done in collage with various cut and pasted papers. Some of the papers are straight out of the magazine. Some are painted with acrylic. Some papers are purchased in an arts and crafts store. I like to mix and match and create works that combine image, color, pattern and texture. Most of all, I am fascinated by celebrity culture and Pop Art. My goal is to create images that are edgy, sexy and provocative.

 

The image you see is a collage on a 12×16 inch panel showing two x two females. Everything is an image: some more, some less real. The colors in this collage are creamy white, grey-black, green and tiny touches of pale blue and red.

 

The large female image is a close-up of a face, eyes closed as if in a swoon. She seems ensconced in a reverie in a garden setting, surrounded by green. She’s a beauty. Her eyes are decorated and glittery. There’s a large, expensive diamond jewel floating near her nose. The jewel looks like a delicate flower or a garden bug. I’ve seen expensive jewels in fashion magazines. They’re highly crafted with multiple stones. A beautiful woman deserves a beautiful diamond. I embellished the image, but it’s straight out of the magazine.

The smaller female image in my collage is a figure in a couturier outfit and her breasts are exposed. You see a lot of that in the fashion magazines currently. She’s standing in front of the large face image. There’s a third image in black and white located on the lower left side. It may be a print by Pablo Picasso torn from an art magazine. I took it because it was the right size and in black and white. There’s a fourth image on the right side that’s a face and facing left. If you look carefully, you can see eyes, eyebrows and hair. The face is made with striped green paper. I like stripes. I like to combine abstraction, reality and fantasy.

 

I cut and pasted all the papers. There is no actual glitter and no jewel – just papers to simulate jewels and glitter.

 

Appropriation in Art

I recommend the book titled Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. It’s a little book with a lot of big ideas. The author says: remix and reimagine to discover your true path. It sounds like collage.

Appropriation in art is defined as the act of using pre-existing objects or images with little or no transformation applied to them. The artist’s job is to decide how much image transformation is necessary. Some artists feel guilty for stealing an image. I’m not sure that’s true for everyone. There is so much to steal now. Images are everywhere. I think it’s how you use them that makes a difference.

 

nancy nikkal, flat chested, collage 2017

The image nearby is a magazine collage I created on a 14×11 inch paper substrate. I gave it the title FlatChested. I think she is. She’s high fashion and very thin. The image is inspired by the concept Exquisite Corpse where the parts don’t have to match. Each of the 3 parts comes from a different magazine page. I liked the pink background in the middle section and the model’s long, graceful hand. Her eyes were made up with glitter and that was also appealing. I liked the wild, dark hair in the top section that has a mustard yellow background. I liked the pattern where the hair is separated by a part in the middle. The width worked well with the cut-off hat in the pink section. I liked the dot patterns in the black and white bottom section. Everything worked well. I didn’t have to add glitter because the model already had glittery eye makeup. I changed her mouth and shortened her torso. Colors are gold, pink, black and white. Her skin color is caramel brown. The papers come from W magazine. There are only 4 pieces in this collage –  three horizontal rows of cut and pasted magazine papers and a mouth from a model image in black and white (from the same magazine).

 

 

My students often ask me about copyright infringement and appropriation. One student this winter had to overcome – and actually did overcome – her resistance to appropriating magazine images. I persuaded her. We talked about it all through the winter term at the Pelham Art Center where I teach contemporary collage to adults. Her career is print publishing so I understand her resistance to appropriating images. I really like her 3 portrait images. Each one is very different. See them below.

 

student portrait collage with papers & glitter

 

The image nearby is the 1st portrait collage Ilene created in class. Her papers included stamped drawing paper (dots) for the face, chevron-striped paper for the dress, decorated papers from magazines and painted paper for hair, eyes, nose and mouth. The collage is on 14″x11″ Bristol paper (substrate). Ilene spent a lot of time cutting papers for the hair, eyes and mouth. Notice one eye is light brown and the other eye is a black and white pattern. Ilene added green glitter eye makeup last. Her background is grey magazine paper with a printed gallery name as vertical text. I remember Ilene asked me if she should cut, cover or leave the vertical text. I said yes – leave it in – it’s not too prominent. Ilene’s 1st collage has a lot of directional movement with pattern and cut papers. The grey dots in the face are tilting down right. The vertical text is parallel to the right edge.

 

 

 

student collage, assorted papers & glitter, 2017

 

The image nearby is the 2nd portrait collage Ilene created in class. It’s much more abstract and the eyes, mouth, chin and hair are made with cut triangle papers. The papers come from magazine pages but do not show a model’s image. There’s a lot of dynamic energy in the way Ilene placed the cut papers. Notice some of the magazine papers are solid black, beige, yellow, blue and magenta red. Notice a few of the cut papers have stripes and crosshatched line drawing that adds texture. I love the spaces around the triangles. Ilene used a minimum number of papers but still gave us a sense of modeling the shape of a face. Notice the shading in the red papers for the lips. The way Ilene cut the papers gives a sense of volume. Notice the nose and tiny hands (each within a contrasting triangle) are actual magazine images – the only ones in this collage. Hooray for appropriation! I believe Ilene made the hands and nose small to make them less obvious as swiped magazine images. Notice the magenta-red lips are larger than either hand.

 

 

student collage, exquisite corpse portrait, 2017

 

The image nearby is the 3rd portrait collage Ilene created in class based on the concept Exquisite Corpse. I believe I made my collage FlatChested (above) during the class to demonstrate how to cut magazine papers in angled, horizontal strips, using different models for each piece. Ilene’s portrait includes a woman’s eyes, ears and hairline on top and a man’s mouth, chin and neck below. She included a black round hat for the top strip in the collage, and found decorated papers in swirly patterns and bright colors for the bottom strip. I know she loves this portrait collage. I really like the contrast of one face in color and another face in black & white, and really like that one half of the face is male and the other half is female. Ilene selected images with care so that the expressions in the eyes and mouth co-mingle.

 

 

 

EXQUISITE CORPSE at PINTEREST

See 72 pins (images) for the Exquisite Corpse at my Pinterest site. Some of the images are historic examples. My students love Exquisite corpse as a class project and I set up Pinterest boards so they can check out images online. Read more about the Exquisite corpse here.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Today, appropriating and remixing images and media is common practice for visual, audio, and performing artists. Appropriation is a strategy. Visual artists would not be able to create the mash-up of  images we create without all the images online and in magazines. They’re available, plentiful and we find them. Please share your thoughts. Do you swipe images and use them in collage? Do you re-mix other media? Tell me if you love the Exquisite Corpse.

Thanks for sharing – Nancy

 

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

March 7, 2017

I posted a recent blog titled Hearts for Valentine’s Day, dated Feb 13, 2017

 

The first image shows magazine papers in red, painted papers, and papers with text in black, red and white. I cut the papers and created hearts in halves to show that two halves pieced together would make a single heart. I believe relationships are about how we connect. We start apart and we come together. Collage is about putting things together.

I included some of the backstory in the blog about Valentine’s Day, and showed collage versions of Valentine’s Day cards with heart images.

nikkal, Valentine's Day collage

nikkal, Valentine’s Day collage

 

The image nearby is a Valentine card I created with hearts and a figure from a fashion magazine. The model is seated on a plush red sofa and the hearts are floating above her head – larger than life. See more traditional cards with hearts in the Hearts for Valentine’s Day blog post.

The Art of Collage is about Cut and Paste

I always look online for what people say about collage. Frequently it’s described in terms like cut and paste. I believe we live in a cut and paste world. That’s a big reason why collage is so contemporary.

 

 

I found an article online from the Financial Times – Visual Arts (March 3, 2017 by Emme Crichton-Miller) titled Cut and paste: the art of collage – works of fragmented reality come together in two concurrent shows in New York and London. The exhibit is in New York to April 15 and in London March 10-May 13. It’s a fascinating article and references historic and contemporary collage. Read about it here.

 

 

Nikkal, Blue & White Triangles, painted papers, 24x32 inches

Nikkal, Blue & White Triangles, painted papers, 24×32 inches

 

 

My studio practice is painting and collage, but I make collage differently than most collage artists. I paint papers for collage and cut and paste them into geometric grid patterns.  I put the papers together in ways that emphasize color relationships.

The image nearby is  titled Blue & White Diptych and is made with painted papers in shades of blue, cut into triangles and pasted on 2 wood panels. Together, the panels are 24 inches high and 32 inches wide. Notice how the triangles move left to right and go from lighter to darker as they move within the collage.

 

Nikkal, Blue Triangle Diptych, 24x32 inches

Nikkal, Blue Triangle Diptych, 24×32 inches

 

The image nearby is titled Blue Triangle Diptych, and done as two panels that are 24 inches high and 32 inches wide. The right panel is an acrylic painting, 24×16 inches, that looks like a collage. The left panel is a collage with painted papers, 24×16 inches that has a triangles done with layered paint. Some of the underpainting shows through. The colors in the painting are blue, green, pale sienna, white, black and grey.  The left panel has only right angle triangles made with two pieces each. The right panel has triangles with all different angles and shapes. I did the painting and collage separately. By chance, I put them together, and  decided they speak to each other and belonged side by side. If I flip the panels left and right, they look different, so it’s important to keep them exactly as they are.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

I work with acrylic paints and mix all my colors. Everything I do is about color – even black and white are colors because they are mixed. My current studio focus is about triangles and the colors blue, white and black. My previous focus was grids and the series titled Metro. I wanted to learn to love the color green. That meant a serious focus on one color.  When I paint, no color is straight out of the tube pure. Nothing is exactly red or blue, yellow or green. Nothing is exactly white or black. I play with the basic colors and paint colors in layers to show how they interact visually. If you want to learn to paint papers, see my video tutorial Painting Papers with Nancy Nikkal. Please also see my green paintings and collages in the Metro Series.

Are you fascinated with color? I see color, not just as art, but as everything in my everyday life – in the city and in the parks, in plants and trees, the ocean, the sky, in cinema, television and magazines I read, the flowers I arrange, the clothes I wear, the design and furnishings, paint on the walls at home, table settings, even the food on my plate. Color is everywhere.

 

Here’s an extra – a little information about the science of color: In physics, a color is described as visible light and has a specific wavelength you can measure. Black and white are not considered colors because they do not have a measurable, specific wavelength. Black is described as the absence of light. White light (seen through a prism) contains all wavelengths of visible light and reveals the entire color spectrum. If we discuss paints and dyes, we understand what we see is a reflected wavelength. So there’s a science to paints and dyes also.

Thank you for reading, and for your comments – Nancy