Lee Krasner

October 26, 2018

 

Lee Krasner – young artist

The image above is a photo of a young Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984). She looks tough and determined. She was born in Brooklyn, NY into an immigrant Russian Orthodox-Jewish family. Becoming an artist was something her family never expected, and Krasner was engaged as an artist throughout her long life. She belonged to the first generation of Abstract Expressionist painters. She is also known as the woman who married Jackson Pollock, and, in many ways, her reputation was overshadowed by his fame.

Lee Krasner was “rediscovered” by feminist art historians during the 1970s and lived to see the recognition she deserved. Today she is regarded as embodying the spirit of the 20thcentury American avant-garde. Her paintings, collages on canvas, and drawings are part of the permanent collections at major national and international museums, including the Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, the Brooklyn Museum, NY, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, the National Gallery of Australia Sydney, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, Tate Modern, London and many others.

DRAWING

Lee Krasner, Seated Nude

The image above is titled Seated Nude (1940), 25×18 inches, drawing with charcoal on paper, collection: the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Krasner’s art training was thorough and rigorous. She attended the Cooper Union, the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design in New York, (1928-1932) where she mastered the fundamentals of drawing, painting and design. Following the Academy, Krasner studied with the influential German abstract artist Hans Hofmann and absorbed his theories about Cubism, Neo-Cubism, and Fauvism. She was inspired by Piet Mondrian’s grid and the way Matisse constructed collage.

During the Depression, she worked as a muralist for the Works Project Administration (WPA). She was an important member of the Artists Union and the American Abstract Artists, and was committed to social and political activism throughout her life.

Krasner created Seated Nude in 1940 about the same time she began to associate with the American Abstract artists. This drawing looks like part of the figure is erased,  and shows the remnants of Cubism. Krasner was experimenting with abstraction in a raw and evocative way.

30 years later, Krasner cut up many of her drawings and began to create with collage on canvas.

LITTLE IMAGE Series

 

Lee Krasner, Noon

The above image is part of the Little Image series done from 1946-1950. It’s titled Noon (1947) and is one of 31 works in the series. The design is all-over abstraction, and seems to be composed of innumerable little images that may represent a personal vocabulary. Swirls of paint surround daubs of paint. The paint is thick. Colors are tonal reds, blues, brown-green, pale yellows and warm whites.

At artnet.com, I read: “Krasner was moving toward a more color-saturated, almost pointillist approach that allowed color to take over for gesture as the expressive element in her work.” At the artstory.org, I read: “With these paintings Krasner expanded the visual vocabulary of Abstract Expressionism. Taking her cue from Pollock, she worked more directly from instinct, but painted in a state of controlled chaos.”

It’s possible Krasner named the series Little Images because she had to work in a small 2ndfloor bedroom in the home she shared with Pollock at the Springs (Long Island, NY). He had the barn to paint big.  Like him, she worked with canvas on a flat surface. She applied thick paint—sometimes directly from the tube—in rhythmic and repetitive strokes, giving equal attention to every inch of the canvas. We might ask the question: which artist was inspired by the other in terms of imagery? We know the difference was scale.

Robert G. Edelman wrote: “Krasner’s Little Image paintings were admired by fellow artists and critics when they visited Krasner and Pollock at the Springs. Krasner recalled that the art critic Clement Greenberg had stopped by, and spotting an early work from the series remarked, “That’s hot, it’s cooking.” Later, despite the remark’s possibly derisive double meaning, Krasner said, “I considered it a compliment.”

 

Lee Krasner, Untitled

The image above is Untitled (1949). It’s oil on composition board, 48×37 inches, and part of the Little Image series (gift of Alfonso A. Ossorio, permanent collection: the Museum of Modern Art). Colors are blue, green, cool white and pale pink-purple.

PAINTINGS

 

Lee Krasner, Gaea

The painting above is titled Gaea. It’s oil on canvas (1966), 5’ 9” x 10’ 6”, permanent collection: the Museum of Modern Art, Kay Sage Tanguy Fund © 2018 Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Lee Krasner was always drawn to nature-inspired imagery with organic forms – in this case –swirling paint in shapes that look like super-sized flowers. The painting Gaea was included in the huge 2017 MoMA exhibition titled Making Space: Women, Arts and Postwar Abstraction (April 15-August 13, 2017), and was located prominently in one of the first galleries in the show. It was especially dramatic because of its scale, brush-work and colors. Starr Figure co-curated the MoMA exhibition and wrote: “Krasner put her whole body into the brushstrokes that you see across the canvas…and abstract expressionism was all about personal expression through the gesture of painting.”

The painting was created in the barn on the property at Springs after Pollock died in 1956. The wall signage next to the painting read:  “…In the mid-1960s her work took on a spirit of free invention, embodied in broad, sweeping strokes of paint – quite different from her smaller, thickly painted, and tightly controlled canvases of the Little Image series of the late 1940s.” Gaea is named for the Earth goddess of ancient Greek mythology.

Here’s a link to the YouTube video interview with Starr Figura about the meaning of the title “Making Space.” – about making more space for women artists in the Museum’s programming, and how the women in the exhibition paved the way for more women artists to follow.

 

Lee Krasner, The Springs

The image above is titled The Springs (1964), oil on canvas, 43 x 66 inches, collection: National Museum of Women in the Arts, gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay, ©2012 the Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS).

This painting combines the vocabulary of circles, ovals, and chevron shapes that Krasner first developed in her “Little Image” paintings of the 1940s. The colors are earth greens, ivory white, and palest pink on an ivory white background.  The colors and interlaced forms suggest flowers in a wind-blown landscape.

Springs is the name of the village near East Hampton, Long Island, where Krasner and Pollock, moved in 1945. Krasner began using the small barn as her studio after Pollock died, and her works grew in size. After Krasner’s death in 1984, the house became the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center. Paint by both artists can be seen on the floorboards on the barn-studio.

CUT UP CANVAS COLLAGE

In the early 1950s Lee Krasner became frustrated with the quality of several of her works and began shredding the canvases. In her earlier days studying with Hans Hofmann, Krasner had become an avid fan of Matisse, and had experimented with collage. Inspired by Matisse and his cutouts, she started using her shredded paintings as raw materials for a body of powerful, emotive collages, transforming the shreds of her “failed” paintings into a radical new direction in her oeuvre.

 

Lee Krasner, Milkweed

The image above is titled Milkweed (1955), 82 x 57 inches, oil, paper and canvas collage on canvas, collection: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

Milkweed is a perennial plant, sometimes also called Butterfly flower.

Lee Krasner was criticized during her life because she destroyed and repurposed drawings and paintings into new works. Milkweed and other collages on canvas are the result.” Starting in 1952-53, she unstretched, slashed, tore and cut up canvases in a way that emphasized their edges, which are alternately jagged and frayed, sharp and keen. With Milkweeed, she added dark green lines to unite the fragments with a circular rhythmic pattern that contrasts with the vertical movement of thin white canvas strips rising from below.

In her book 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History, author Bridget Quinn writes: “It strikes me that the collages are Krasner’s most autobiographical works. What is not autobiography if it’s not selecting chunks of the past and artfully reorienting them in the present? Each collage was a work…ripe with her joys and sorrows.”

 

Lee Krasner, Imperative

The image above is titled Imperative (1976), 50 x 50 inches, oil, charcoal and paper collage on canvas, collection: the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, gift of Mr/Mrs Eugene Victor Thaw.

In this collage, Krasner integrated cut up charcoal drawings with cut up painted canvas. The shapes are hard-edge and triangular. The pattern is positive/negative with white triangular areas surrounded by dark charcoal drawings and painted canvas.

 

Lee Krasner, Burning Candles

The image above is titled Burning Candles (1955), oil, paper and canvas on linen, 58×39 inches, Collection: Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, Gift of Roy R. Neuberger, © 2015 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS).

This collage shows a rhythmic and vertical thrust with hard-edge cut shapes that mimic the shape of candles  and point to the top. The colors are natural-toned, soft browns, ochres, black, white and grey.

In her book titled Originals, American Women Artists, Eleanor Munro wrote “Lee Krasner was referred to by macho artists and art critics during her life as “Pollock’s wife who also paints.”

Krasner was always open to change and receptive to the possibilities for new directions in her work. In an interview, Munro asked the artist about her revisionist tendencies. Krasner said: I believe in listening to cycles.” She always trusted her preference for a connection to nature, and was always willing to wait for a return from a dead cycle to get started again.

With regard to her paper and canvas collages Krasner said: “Obviously I’m hauling out work (drawings) of 30 years ago. Obviously pulling that out. Dealing with it. Not ignoring, hiding it. I’m saying, here it is in another form. This is where I’ve come from: from there to here. It gives me a kick to be able to go back and pick up 30 years ago. It renews my confidence in something I believe. That there is continuity.”

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Some artists focus on one particular style so that almost any art lover can easily describe typical examples of their works. Other artists, however, purposefully and constantly evolve their style, refusing to be limited by one aesthetic approach. Lee Krasner epitomized this approach. To describe a typical Lee Krasner painting would be impossible, because her work was never typical. Multiple times over the course of her career Krasner completely redirected her approach to painting.

Although she is normally associated with the Abstract Expressionists, Krasner’sdesire to revise her aesthetic – or what she called “breaks” – led to her innovative Little Image series of the late 1940s, her bold collages of the 1950s, and her large canvases, brilliant with color, of the 1960s.

Krasner was “rediscovered” by feminist art historians during the 1970s and lived to see the recognition of her art and career, which continues to grow to this day.

 

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Nikkal, B&W and Red (2018) collage 14×11 inches

 

I created the collage seen nearby as a sample for a class I teach at the Pelham Art Center in Pelham, NY. My collage is on a 14×11 inch Bristol paper substrate. It’s designed as an abstract grid and includes a bottom and a top layer. The bottom layer is the image below – a large page from W magazine that shows a model sitting in a field of flowers, holding a flower in his hand. The magazine image was almost as big as the 14×11 inch substrate. I glued it down and added a top layer made with small papers from art magazine that show stripes, round letter forms, half circles and bullseye shapes. There’s also a drawing with concentric circles with two lines that criss-cross the circle. Almost all of the top layer papers were printed text in black on white or white on black.

 

 

 

 

Nikkal, lower layer in the B&W and Red collage

 

This image is the bottom layer of the collage.  After I glued it down, I payed attention to the visual relationship between the new pieces and bottom image. I added papers so they touched and overlapped, paying attention to contrast and connecting patterns. I included papers with high contrast and some with low contrast.  I didn’t cover the entire first layer but you have to look closely to see where the bottom layer image peeks through. I added 4 tiny red collage papers last.

 

 

 

 

 

Black and White Are Colors

I think black and white are colors just like red, purple, blue, green and yellow. Black and white are potent because they are at opposite ends of brightness (in the value scale). I like high contrast. It can be dramatic. We pay attention to opposites and high contrast.

 

I showed my finished collage to the class. I showed an iPhone image of the magazine paper that was covered and underneath. I asked my students to go through the W magazines we have in class, tear out a page with a large black and white image and glue it to the Bristol paper substrate as the first step. Their second step for this collage was to look through art magazines and find papers for the top layer. WE all used the same magazines, but you will see they selected papers with a lot more red.

 

See images below of black & white and red collages done by students in my classes at the Pelham Art Center.

 

 

Chris Timmons, B&W and Red collage (2018)

 

The image at left is by Chris Timmons. She used stripes, dots and circles in black white and red. You can see part of an image from her bottom layer. It’s a face partially covered by a red half-circle in the center of the collage. Chris added a second face on the right edge of the collage, facing sideways to balance the horizontal white on black stripes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ilene Bellovin, B&W and Red Collage (2018)

 

 

The image at left is by Ilene Bellovin. She used red, grey, black and white horizontal strips  for collage over her bottom layer. Notice there is a sense of a figure in this collage where the image peeks through the paper strips.

 

 

 

Leslie Cowen, B&W and Red Collage

 

 

 

 

The image at left is by Leslie Cowen. You can see a building face with fire escapes. That image is her bottom layer in the collage. Leslie cut and pasted a vintage image of Jackie Kennedy in the upper right. Notice there is a cartoon drawing in the lower center that looks like eyes. Notice Leslie pasted in text in white on red, white on black and black on white throughout her collage to add to the rhythm of the diagonals in the fire escapes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magic of the Color Red

 

Red is one of the top two favorite colors of all people. Red captures our attention. It’s one of the most visible colors, second only to yellow. The history of languages reveals that red is the first color after black and white (all languages have words for black and white). If a third hue exists, it is red. When using red, where it’s placed and what it’s next to makes a big difference. I tell my students to use red as an accent color because a little bit of red goes a long way.

 

Here are more images in B&W and Red by students in my collage classes.

 

Estelle Laska, B&W and Red Collage (2018)

 

 

The image at left is by Estelle Laska. I believe the background layer in the collage is an image of a woman in a white dress. Estelle always makes narrative collage with a story and here she shows us her love of fashion illustration with collage she found of vintage drawings of ladies with long gowns and round hats. Estelle even included paper text with the words Fearless Fashion in the lower center of her collage, and used a red letter “A”, red quotation marks (on the right side), and a large open donut shape cut from red paper.

 

 

 

 

 

Harriet Goldberg, B&W and Red Collage (2018)

 

The image at left is by Harriet Goldberg. I can see part of the image of a building facade in the lower layer in the collage. Harriet cut two drawings with the letter “X” and pasted them in the upper and lower portions of her collage. Above the lower “X” he pasted a drawing of a cute face. It’s the same drawing that Leslie Cowen used in her collage. Harriet added red paper over the lips in the drawing, and cut and pasted 10 more red magazine and painted papers over her collage in a horizontal and vertical pattern to mimic the design in the buildings behind.

 

 

 

 

 

Paulette Coleman, B&W and Red Collage (2018)

 

The image at left is by Paulette Coleman. I think Paulette likes to work on a square substrate and probably cut it down from 14×11 inches to 11×11 inches. She used the white substrate as a background, and then pasted various magazine papers in red, black and white on top. There’s a rhythm of squares, dots and stripes that move horizontally, vertically and diagonally throughout. Notice the portrait of a face in profile on the lower left. Notice the sliced image of a red titanium red balloon by Jeff Koons on the lower right. Notice how reds balance the four corners of this collage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nelly Edmonson, B&W and Red Collage (2018)

 

The image at left is by Nelly Edmonson. You can see she used a duplicate (copy) image of the building facade with fire escapes. Harriet Goldberg used the same paper for her background. Nelly added red netting on the upper left to give a pink cast to the collage. You can see the pasted image of the building behind the red netting. Nelly strategically placed small red papers into the image of the building in the bottom layer. Notice the b&w face on the right. A lot of the papers mimic the diagonal patterns in the building fire escapes and lead your eye back into the image on the bottom layer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph Albers, The Interaction of Color, oil on panel.

 

Finally, here is an abstract painting by Joseph Albers (German-born American, 1888-1976), titled The Interaction of Color. This painting shows variations in the color red. Albers was an artist, educator and wrote extensively about color. Each painting consisted of either three or four squares of solid colors nested within each other to show how colors change when they are placed next to other colors. Read more about Joseph Albers here.

 

 

 

Read more about the color red here.

Creating a collage in two layers is challenging. You are working against an image. Working with black and white makes you focus on value and contrast.  Adding the color red, makes you selective in where you place the color.

Would you like to make a collage in black and white and red? Email me and ask for a free PDF for this project.

Your comments are welcome.

 

 

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.

 

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

 

Hearts for Valentine’s Day

February 13, 2017

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Do you send or receive cards, candy or flowers?

Do you know why we associate the day with love and romance?

blog-valentines-day_640_nikkal-hearts-collage

 

I made a collage with paper hearts (ab0ve).  It’s a sample and not finished. I would add red glitter and lace. I cut magazine papers and pasted the papers into 7 hearts on a substrate paper with stamped red circles.  Each heart is made with 2 parts. Some hearts are painted with red acrylic. Some show white on black magazine text and some show red on black magazine text. Very important: every heart has two halves that touch. Each heart has a right and a left side to show how two become one.

 

A very brief history of Valentine day cards

Sending notes and letters for Valentine’s Day started in the 1700s in Great Britain.

Esther Rowland (1828–1904) is known as the “Mother of the American Valentine” She was an artist and businesswoman responsible for popularizing Valentine’s Day greeting cards in America.

 

The History of St. Valentine’s Day

Historians identify Valentine’s Day with the Feast of Saint Valentine, a martyred Christian saint . FYI: There was more than one Valentine martyred. Read more about the saints Valentine.

In the Middle Ages, people believed birds began mating on February 14. February was the month of love.

 

blog-valentines-day_640_black-birds-read-heart

In the image above, 2 black doves are facing each other with a red heart outlined above them. The heart connects the two birds and symbolizes the love they share.

The connection to birds and mating goes back to pagan Rome and a holiday called Lupercalia – a purification day to avert evil spirits and accomplish health and fertility. Very pagan.

 

Link here to see a very witty, entertaining video about the original Roman holiday Lupercalia.

 

blog-valentines-day_640_hearts-and-banner

 

Victorians assembled original valentines from lace, bits of mirror, bows and ribbons, seashells and seeds, gold and silver foil appliqués, silk flowers, and clichéd printed mottoes like “Be Mine” and “Constant and True.” Victorian valentines commonly feature churches or church spires, signifying honorable intentions and fidelity.

 

You can make your own card. All it takes is birds, words, and hearts. The image above is a contemporary card with glittery encrusted hearts in all sizes.

 

nikkal-valentine-collage

I created the image above to add to this post. It has new cut paper hearts pasted on top of a fashion magazine page image. Some of the hearts are painted papers with oil pastel embellished on top. Some of the hearts are cut magazine papers. I like the scale of the paper hearts contrasted with the scale of the model sitting on a red sofa.

 

Did you exchange Valentines cards and candy when you attended grade school? Do you remember the tiny candy hearts in pale pink, yellow and green?

Do you give or receive chocolates in heart shaped boxes?

Hearts dominate. That’s why I chose the collage with hearts for the top image. Valentine’s Day is about connections and relationships and red hearts. I cut the hearts so each was in two halves. They touch to show how important it is to connect.

 

Do you think this is a good way to show connections? Please send me your comments. Please share images if you make your own Valentine cards. Email me your image.

CREATE with COLLAGE

January 20, 2017

Albert Einstein said: Creativity is intelligence having fun.

Do you know that art enhances problem-solving skills? Art encourages creative thinking. It will make you feel good. Making art boosts self-esteem.

Making art is good for your health. It focuses your mind and pushes your worries aside. My collage students at the Pelham Art Center say the 2½ hours spent in class seem to fly by because they are totally absorbed in their art-making projects. They’re in “the zone.”

Pablo Picasso said: Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

I teach CREATE with COLLAGE at the Pelham Art Center in Pelham, NY.  Winter classes meet Monday nights, Jan 23-March 20 – 7:00-9:30 pm. 7 classes (no class Feb 20). This post shows sample collages for the 1st class.

 

nikkal, sample triangle collage #1

nikkal, sample triangle collage #1

The sample collage nearby may look simple, but it’s also a creative challenge to combine colors, text, and pattern into a pleasing design. It’s guaranteed that each student’s collage will look different from the others. The triangles are cut from magazine papers. They face in different directions and papers overlap. Some papers are dark and some are light. Some have white text on a dark background. Some have dark text on a light background,

Collage is about Serendipity

In class I discuss how papers move as you handle them, so the design can change as you lift papers and glue them down. Some students worry that their plan for a collage will change as papers move. It does. The best part of making collage is serendipity. I say: if you like, trace the outline of the design or take a photo with your phone. Or – go with the flow. Be happy as you move papers and glue.

 

 

nikkal, sample triangle collage #2

nikkal, sample triangles #2

The image nearby shows tall triangles that are arranged so papers touch the edges of the rectangle substrate. The substrate is the bottom layer for the collage. In this case, the substrate is a heavy art postcard I collected at a NYC Chelsea gallery. I always ask for postcards at art galleries. The paper is a perfect substrate for a small collage – and it’s free!

Notice two triangles (on the bottom) each include a slice of a face – one is a man and another is a woman. Once you notice the faces, you cannot stop looking at these triangles. Notice the lower section of the collage has a dark skinny triangle facing downward that points to the two dark triangles with faces. Every other triangle is light, yellow or white with text. The red triangles mimic the red tones in the faces and lips.

 

 

I will offer the class a 2nd project with triangles in a grid. I like the idea of theme and variation.

nikkal, sample triangles for 2nd class project

nikkal, sample triangles for 2nd class project

 

The image nearby is a sample collage with a horizontal grid. There are 20 rectangles. Each rectangle has contrasting dark and light right angle triangles that faces up and down.

The dark triangles are cut from black painted papers. The light triangles are cut from magazine papers with dots, text and patterns.

 

.

Be inspired. It’s not copying. It’s Theme & Variation

class project: triangles in a grid

class project: triangles in a grid

The image nearby was made by a student in class last fall. I brought the sample triangle grid to class and asked everyone to create a collage with dark and light contrasting triangles in rectangles. I said their collage didn’t need to look at all like the sample collage, but I encouraged them to create a grid pattern.

Many students tell me they dislike the idea of copying. I say: don’t worry. You can’t even copy yourself.

Notice this student’s collage doesn’t look at all like the sample I made. She added light teal-blue paper to her substrate before she added the rectangle grid with cut triangles on top.

I think her design and colors are gorgeous. It’s an amazing collage.

 

Final Thoughts

I am happy that my collage classes became a creative community. The class experience builds confidence, trust and success. That’s the goal. Each member in class develops a visual style that’s personal, and everyone cares for each other.

Many people believe you have to be a painter or sculptor to be a real artist, or that if you are not a born artist it makes no sense to make art. Not true. Creativity is for everyone. The art of collage is ultimate creativity.

Make Art and Build Your Brain Power

Read more about how creating with art stimulates brain power – and how anyone can do it. See: Be Brain Fit by Deane Alban.

I welcome your comments. Email me for a free PDF for tips and a materials list for the triangle collage project.

Ask me about the class projects I design that include collage with figures, and faces, collage with landscape, and collage abstraction. I can custom-design a workshop for you and your group.

See my newest triangle paintings and collages with painted papers online here.