The Abundance of Images

December 13, 2017

 

I live in Metro NYC and see a lot of contemporary art. I also find images online. You can too. The Internet is a great resource for information and images.

Yayoi Kusama flower painting

The image above is a flower painting by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (born 1929). Notice the colors are red, green yellow, black and blue. It’s a stylized flower with stem and leaves and a crackle-texture black on red background. Notice the detail and pattern. You may think it looks like a simple flower painting, but probably also think it is very appealing.

Kusama is known for obsessive, dot-covered art and pumpkin motifs, as well as the use of mirrors to create mystical “Infinity Rooms.” The image below shows the artist in a saffron orange and black polka dot dress sitting on the edge of a platform installation with walls and floors in the same color and polka dot design with a pumpkin sculpture behind her in the same colors and design. The artist is part of the installation. The image was reproduced in an Artsy article titled The Top 14 Living Artists of 2014 and was taken at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (2010). I have the image, on a Pinterest Board titled Yayoi Kusama. I have 117 pins that show Kusama and her art. It is the most popular board of all (image of Yayoi Kusama courtesy Artsy, published January 18, 2015).

Yayoi Kusama in front of her pumpkin sculpture

Kusama says “My artwork is an expression of my life, particularly of my mental disease.” She has been plagued by mental illness and hallucinations since childhood. She uses her hallucinations and mental illness as material to stimulate an incredible artistic output in every discipline. Her colors and patterns are opulent and decorative. At the age of 88, Kusama is one of the most unique and famous contemporary female artists alive today. Her works include paintings, sculpture, photography, installation, performance and Conceptual art. She lives in a mental hospital in Japan and works every day in a nearby studio.

Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors at the Hirschhorn Museum

The image above is a view of Infinity Mirrors, originally at the Hirschhorn Museum, Washington, DC. Read about Infinity Mirrors. The show is currently at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles, CA (closes Jan 1, 2018) and will travel to the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (March 3-May 27, 2018), the Cleveland Museum of Art (July 9-Sept 30, 2018) and finally to the High Museum of Art (Nov 18, 2018 – Feb 17, 2019).

There are plans to build a museum for Yayoi Kusama’s art in Japan this coming year. Read more about Yayoi Kusama life and art here.

 

CONNECTIONS

In a previous post, titled Connections, I wrote about an art project I organized and took to Albuquerque, NM in September 2017. The project included 21 mixed media collages by regional members of the Society of Layerists in Multi Media (SLMM). I am a regional coordinator for the Society.

I got email from Sharon Eley. She is a Midwest regional SLMM member and participated in the SLMM group exhibition I organized. She asked me to edit the post because I didn’t mention that her twin sister, Shirley Nachtrieb, was the person responsible for an exhibition I mentioned in the post. Shirley is the regional coordinator for the South Central SLMM membership. I edited the post and gave Shirley credit.

I was curious to see Shirley’s art and visited her website. She is an amazing watercolor artist. I saw flower images and it made me think about writing this post to show (and share) the images of Yayoi Kusama’s art and include images of flower collages by my students at the Pelham Art Center. See the images below. The student collages don’t look like Kusama’s flower paintings. They’re interpretive and personal. They are collage paintings because they include cut and pasted flower images  (from flower magazines) and painted papers on a painted and embellished  Bristol paper substrate. My students loved the flower collage project because it included so much mixed media. But, they also love other collage projects we do. Not everything is a flower.

 

Lynn Evansohn Flower Collage

Lynn Evansohn did the collage above. The flowers are cut from a botanical catalog I brought to class. Some of the papers are painted. Lynn painted the background with black acrylic and etched spiral twirls into the wet paint. The vase is all paper collage. Notice Lynn cut and pasted green painted paper dots at the bottom edge. I remember she said it was a tribute to the polka dots in Yayoi Kusama’s work.

Patty Towle did the collage below. She painted the background with black acrylic embellished it with tiny dots of various colored painted papers. The flowers and stems are cut and pasted decorative papers. Some flower petals have polka dots. She cut flowers and leaves from images in a flower catalog. Notice the dots that decorate the blue vase. Notice  the blue painted paper tiles Patty used to create the table, and notice the black spaces in between. The design mimics the black on red in Kusama’s flower painting seen above.

 

Patricia Towle Flower Collage

 

Mimi Wohlberg Flower Collage

Mimi Wohlberg did the collage above. She painted the background with black acrylic and embellished the surface with dots and circles. She painted the flower papers and stamped them with more dots. Notice the stem and leaves are cut from patterned green painted papers. The design is layered and all the pieces overlap with a sense of dimension.

Sylvia Lien did the collage below. Notice the landscape imagery behind the cut and pasted flower in a vase. Sylvia was inspired to create a collage that quoted a Kusama flower sculpture in a landscape setting. Notice how Sylvia’s flower petals and leaves are made with various papers from a flower catalog. Notice the flower stem. Sylvia cut and pasted yellow painted papers to shape a curved stem. I like the vase. It’s a simple rectangle shape, cut from a page in a flower catalog. This collage juxtaposes decorative papers and photo images to create abstract and natural elements.

Sylvia Lien Flower Collage

Sandra Graciadei did the collage below. She painted the background with black acrylic and  etched the open dot design into the wet paint. The vase was cut and pasted from a  magazine image found in ArtForum. Sandra painted papers for the leaves in the vase. The tiny flowers are cut from a flower catalog. Notice how Sandra fitted all the leaves and flower stems into the vase and how the flower stems extend beyond the edge of the black painted background. Notice how the stems mimic the width and abundance of the lines in the design on the vase. Details!

Sandra Graciadei Flower Collage

Estelle Laska did the collage below. Her collage is an interpretive quote of a  Kusama flower sculpture in an outdoor setting. Estelle painted the collage background with blue acrylic and used a palette knife to build texture as she painted. Her leaves and flowers are large papers cut from a flower catalog. Estelle added red and green painted paper polka dots to a rich golden yellow leaf shape at the bottom. Notice how the leaves extend beyond the borders of the painted background.

Estelle Laska Flower Collage

Harriet Goldberg did the collage below. She painted the background in black and green and added yellow and green polka dots. The yellow dots are press-on papers you find in stationery stores. The flowers are cut and pasted from painted papers and images from a flower catalog. The vase is decorative paper with dots. Notice how the flowers extend beyond the painted background. See all the patterns, colors  and layered papers. This collage is a riot of dots and definitely Kusama-inspired!

Harriet Goldberg Flower Collage

Leslie Cowen did the collage below. She painted the background with acrylic in blues and greens. There is a sense of diagonal movement as well as decoration. She etched into the paint with a palette knife. The large pink flower at the top extends beyond the painted background. Leslie cut and pasted her papers to make the flower image look dimensional and realistic. Some of the leaves and flowers are created with painted papers and some are images cut from a flower catalog. Realistic and abstract imagery is juxtaposed in this design. Notice how the leaves also extend beyond the edge of the painted background.

Leslie Cowen Flower Collage

Ilene Bellovin did the collage below. She painted the background with black acrylic and created her flowers with papers from a flower catalog. Notice the variations in color in the pink, yellow, red and violet flower petals. Ilene created the leaves with green painted papers. This collage is almost realistic. The flowers are cut and pasted papers arranged like a beautiful bouquet.

Ilene Bellovin Flower Collage

My students include adults at all skill levels. Beginners quickly become highly skilled collage makers. We work with fine art papers, everyday media, art magazines, including ArtForum, postcards and found papers. We embellish collage with drawing. We paint papers.

The flower collage project is a favorite. We’ve done it more than once. All the flower collages above include painting and mixed media collage on 14″ x 11″ Bristol paper substrate.

Sometimes I get resistance to projects that quote a famous artist. I argue that there is no way anyone can copy. Everything is an interpretation. And, more important, the process is an exercise that teaches you how to look carefully and study what you see. You notice colors, relationships, scale, proportion, and other design elements.

Question for YOU: Can you be inspired by an artist and make collage that quotes but doesn’t copy? Send me your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.