Collage at the New York Studio School June 10-July 14, 2019

I visited the New York Studio School exhibition ATTACHED: Meghan Brady, Sarah Faux, Melissa Meyer and Anne Ryan (June 10-July 14, 2019). The exhibition included three small collages by Anne Ryan (1889-1954) a pioneer in collage and early generation NY Abstract Expressionist. The exhibition also included 13 larger works by 3 contemporary artists: Meghan Brady, Sarah Faux and Melissa Meyer, who are painters and also work in collage. Meghan Brady’s works are wall-sized paper pieces with painted and cutout shapes.  Sarah Faux’s works are collaged canvas. Melissa Meyer’s works are watercolor assemblage.

The exhibition was co-curated by Rachel Rickert and Graham Nickson. The images below show works by each artist in the show. See all the works online here.

 

Meghan Brady, Future Figure I

The image above is by Meghan Brady, titled Future Figure 1 (2018). It’s collage on paper, acrylic, and backed with Tyvek, 110 x 91 inches, image: courtesy Mrs. Gallery. This is one of two wall-sized works by Meghan Brady in the exhibition. Brady’s works are made with paper pieces that include wide sweeping strokes of paint, and large painted and cutout shapes. The curators wrote: Brady’s works …embody the bold and deliberate nature of cut and paste collage…her collages are all-consuming like a tapestry, but one that has been shattered and re-formed.

 

Melissa Meyer, Rearrangement Series #6

The image above is by Melissa Meyer, titled Rearrangement Series #6 (2018), collaged watercolors on paper, 15 ¾ x 12 inches. Collage is about juxtaposition and in this work, Meyer created a collage that juxtaposed hard, cut edges against soft, transparent, painterly brush strokes. Lennon Weinberg Inc. represents Melissa Meyer and the gallery is located at 514 W 25 Street, NYC.

 

Melissa Meyer, Rearrangement Series #8

The image above is by Melissa Meyer, titled Rearrangement Series #8 (2019), collaged watercolors on paper, 17 ½ x 32 inches.

 

Melissa Meyer and her MacDowell sketchbook

I took the image above at the opening reception. It shows Melissa Meyer standing in front of her work titled MacDowell Sketchbook (2012), collaged watercolors on paper, 6 x 36 inches. This is one of 7 works by Meyer in the exhibition. See other works included in the exhibition here.

I wrote about Melissa Meyer in a post (January 7, 2019) titled Melissa Meyer: Drawing with Paint – Painting Collage. Meyer makes a connection between her approach to painting and the collage process of cutting, pasting, and arranging elements, and says she isolates elements while building the whole painting…and wants viewers to experience each part of a painting as dynamically as they experience its entirety. The post is about her approach to painting and collage.

 

Sarah Faux, Let it go higher

The image above is by Sarah Faux and titled Let it go higher (2019), pigment, acrylic, dye and oil on cut canvas, 65 x 61 inches, image: Capsule Shanghai. Read more about the artist at the Capsule Shanghai website.

 

Sarah Faux, Piriformis

The image above is by Sarah Faux and titled Piriformis (2019).  It’s acrylic and oil on cut canvas, 72×49 inches. Her gallery, Capsule Shanghai, writes: Sarah Faux merges the seemingly disparate strands of figurative representation and gestural abstraction…with flattened fields of color. Faux lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

 

Anne Ryan, Untitled #549

The image above is by Anne Ryan (1889-1954), Untitled #549, collage with papers and found scraps of fabric, 17 ¾ x 39 ¾ inches dated 1948-54.  The color palette is mostly monochromatic. This is a relatively large work by Anne Ryan. Most of her works are tiny.

 

Anne Ryan, Untitled #562

The image above shows one of two tiny collages by Anne Ryan in the exhibition. It’s Untitled #562 (1948-54), collage, 7  1/16 x 6 ¾ inches, courtesy of Washburn Gallery, NY. In this work, Ryan’s collage papers are soft, with torn edges. She works with fragments of different materials clustered and layered within her composition.

I wrote about Anne Ryan when I first saw her collages at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) exhibition titled Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction (April 19-August 12, 2017). Read it here. Anne Ryan was born in Hoboken, New Jersey and was a self-taught writer, painter and printmaker who began to work in collage (at the age of 58) when she saw an exhibition of works by the German artist Kurt Schwitters.  From 1948 to 1954 she created about 400 tiny collages. Many of her collages are in permanent collections at major museums in the U.S. but we don’t often see then in the museum galleries. Many of Ryan’s collages include string, netting, handmade papers and woven fabric that are often frayed at the edges. Her choice of materials was always meticulous, and she often included exquisite hand made papers.

 

AT THE OPENING RECEPTION

 

Opening reception: Meghan Brady, Future Figure II

I took the image above at the opening reception. People (and a dog) are standing in front of Meghan Brady’s wall-size work titled Future Figure II, collage on paper, acrylic, and backed with Tyvek, 100 x 106 inches. Notice how large the work is in comparison to the people standing nearby. This is the 2ndwork by Meghan Brady in the exhibition.

The day after the opening reception, I contacted Rachel Rickert, who co-curated the exhibition for Attached with Graham Nickson. I asked her several questions. She was very gracious and shared her comments that follow.

INTERVIEW with Rachel Rickert

Q: How did you determine these 4 artists were the right artists for ATTACHED?

RR: The exhibition was inspired by a proposal from Melissa Meyer and Sarah Faux who are included in the show, suggesting a large group exhibition about Collage in the 21st Century. Graham Nickson and I decided to focus on a smaller group of artists that would include Melissa Meyer, Sarah Faux and Meghan Brady. I saw Brady’s large scale collage works at Tiger Strikes Asteroid in Brooklyn in 2018 and felt her works would be a good addition because they demonstrate the range of the medium of collage – and would add elements of bold gestural abstraction with irregularly shaped pieces and bodily references. Graham Nickson suggested adding Anne Ryan as the 4th artist because she would frame the contemporary works with an important historical precedent. Anne Ryan discovered collage in the later years of her life, and dedicated herself to this new found medium between 1948 and 1954.

Rickert added: “Each artist has or had an active painting practice in tandem with or that led them into collage. We wanted to showcase the collage side of their practice, and how the medium has led the artists to discover new, and courageous elements in their work.

 

Q: What arrangements did the NYSS gallery have to make for loan of art works?

RR: The New York Studio School worked with each artist to loan the works directly from them or from their gallery. We owe a big thanks to Mrs. Gallery for working with us on Megan Brady’s work, Capsule Shanghai for Sarah Faux’s, and Washburn Gallery for loaning us the Anne Ryan pieces.

 

Q: How engaged were the artists in details for the exhibition? Did they help determine which works would be included?

RR: Choosing artwork for the exhibition was a collaborative process between myself and Graham Nickson, and the artists. We asked the artists/galleries to submit available works that they felt would be good candidates for the exhibition, and Graham and I discussed what work would allow each artist to shine, while combining to create an interesting whole presentation.

 

Q: Why did you select the title Attached:

RR: Attached speaks to the physical process of collage, the parts that were stuck together to create new wholes. We wanted a title that encompasses the making and the commitment of collage final decisions—when things are attached in place.

 

Q: How are the artists connected to the NYSS?

RR: Melissa Meyer is a friend of the school and has taught a Drawing Marathon and lectured in our Evening Lecture series. We presented her works in the exhibition Melissa Meyer: in Black and White, December 14, 2007 – February 3, 2008. Sarah Faux was a student of Melissa Meyer’s, and Meyer introduced her to the School. Meghan Brady was not previously connected to the School, but her experimental studio-centric, concept through making process is very much in line with the School’s philosophy.  The School admired Anne Ryan’s overall body of work for its intensity and beauty. Ryan did not previously have a connection with the NYSS. We were excited to share the work of these dynamic artists with our community.

 

Rachel Rickert is the Exhibitions and Alumni Coordinator at the New York Studio School.

Finally – It was a terrific exhibition and I was so pleased to see it and meet Melissa Meyer.

 

 

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Betye Saar

November 21, 2018

 

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Betye Saar, A Loss of Innocence

The image above is an installation piece by Betye Saar (American, born 1926) titled “A Loss of Innocence” (1998). It’s a chair and dress, 50x12x12 inches. The image is included in a Hyperallergic review of her exhibition STILL TICKIN: Six Decades of Betye Saar’s Personal, Political and Mystical Art at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (Jan 30-May 1, 2016). A Loss of Innocence includes a delicate white dress with short, capped sleeves on a wood hanger suspended from a wire directly above a tiny doll-size chair sitting on a low wood pedestal. The chair is a tiny shrine. The dress cast two shadows that spread from the floor to the walls. One shadow looks eerily like a lynched body. The Scottsdale Museum says “There is a touch of alchemy to Betye Saar’s artwork: transforming the simple and mundane into powerful art.” Saar’s art tackles issues of spirituality, race, equality, family relationships and autobiography. Every work is poignant, evocative and emotional.

Betye Saar was born in Los Angeles, CA in 1926. She graduated from UCLA in 1947 with a B.A. degree in design and began her work in the visual arts as a graphic designer and costume maker — a trade that is deeply personal to her because her mother was a seamstress. She continued graduate studies, working toward a career in teaching design. She took an elective course in printmaking that allowed her to segue from design into fine arts. She began making politically themed artwork after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Watts Riots. Saar taught art in Los Angeles at UCLA and the Otis Art Institute. Saar’s works are included in the permanent collections in museums worldwide, including 3 works in the collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art in NY. Saar married and raised 3 daughters. Saar received two National Endowment for the Arts Awards, in 1974 and 1984. In 2008, she was recognized for her career in art and community activism and awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus.

Betye Saar lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

 

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Betye Saar, The Liberation of Aunt Jemima

In 1967 Saar saw an assemblage by Joseph Cornell at the Pasadena (CA) Art Museum and was inspired to make art out of all the bits and pieces of her own life. She began making assemblages in 1967. She had been collecting images and objects since childhood. She came from a family of collectors. In the 1960s, Saar began collecting images of Aunt Jemima, Uncle Tom, Little Black Sambo and other stereotyped African-American figures from advertising during the Jim Crow era.

The image above is titled The Liberation of Aunt Jemima (1972). It’s the first piece Saar made that was politically explicit. Saar said: “My work started to become politicized after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. But The Liberation of Aunt Jemima, which I made in 1972, was the first piece that was politically explicit.There was a community center in Berkeley, on the edge of Black Panther territory in Oakland, called the Rainbow Sign. They issued an open invitation to black artists to be in a show about black heroes, so I decided to make a black heroine.” Read about the Rainbow Sign invitational here. She added: “For many years, I had collected derogatory images: postcards, a cigar-box label, an ad for beans, Darkie toothpaste. I found a little Aunt Jemima mammy figure, a caricature of a black slave, like those later used to advertise pancakes. Saar added: “She had a broom in one hand. I gave her a rifle. In front of her, I placed a little postcard, of a mammy with a mulatto child, which is another way black women were exploited during slavery.I used the derogatory image to empower the black woman by making her a revolutionary, like she was rebelling against her past enslavement.When my work was included in the exhibition ‘WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution’, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2007, the activist and academic Angela Davis gave a talk in which she said the black women’s movement started with my work The Liberation of Aunt Jemima. That was a real thrill.”

In American popular culture the mammy figure was a depiction of servility. Saar turned her Aunt Jemima into a warrior, brandishing weapons, contending with injustice, facing the darkest chapters of American history. The Liberation of Aunt Jemima is in the permanent collection of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. It’s Saar’s  most iconic piece. Photo: Benjamin Blackwell, courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, LA, CA.  Read more about how Betye Saar transformed the Aunt Jemima image into a symbol of black power in an artsy.net review here.

 

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Betye Saar in 1970

The image above shows a young Betye Saar in 1970 in a room she used as an art studio.

 

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Exhibition installation: Keeping It Clean

The image above is an installation view of the exhibition Keeping It Clean at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles (May 28-August 20, 2017). The solo show presented a mix of new and historic works that included Saar’s ongoing series of washboard assemblage sculptures, begun in the late 1990s.

In a review in the contemporary art magazine Art and Cake (June 28, 2017), Shana Nys Dambrot wrote: The washboard is a perfect object for Saar’s creative enterprise, whose particular magic has been the fusion of aesthetic, narrative, politics, and innovation into singular objects that triumph at all their tasks in art and in society.” In Saar’s own words, the new pieces are intended as reminders “that America has not yet cleaned up her act.”

Betye Saar also said: “I wanted to do an exhibition of my washboards because they are intimate and hands-on…It’s a body of work that I am still making, and the new works are inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. People think racism happens everywhere else, but racism still exists in Los Angeles.”

 

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Betye Saar, Mother and Children in Blue

The image above is titled Mother and Children in Blue (1998), watercolor and mixed media collage on paper, 8 5/8 x 6 ½ inches, permanent collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY – purchased with funds from the Drawing Committee.

 

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Betye Saar, Locksmith

The image above is titled Locksmith (2018), Mixed Media assemblage with metal frame, antique door locks, metal keys and vintage photograph, 14 x 11 ¾  inches.

 

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Betye Saar, Uneasy Dancer

The image above is titled Uneasy Dancer – Sock it to “Em (2011). It’s a red leather boxing glove with a watch on the wrist band and a mammy figure in a red dress tucked inside on top. The time on the watch is stopped at 5 minutes after 5.  “Uneasy Dancer” is an expression Betye Saar has used to define both herself and her artistic practice. I found this image in a review for Saar’s first exhibition in Milan, Italy installed at Fondazione Prada (15 Sep 2016 – 08 Jan 2017).  Read more here.

 

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Betye Saar, Indigo Illusions

The image above is titled Indigo Illusions (1991), mixed media assemblage with neon. This work was included in an exhibition titled “Betye Saar: Something Blue” at Roberts Projects in Los Angeles (Oct 27-Dec 15, 2018). All the works were made between 1983 and 2018 and all feature the color blue. Roberts Projects is Betye Saar’s gallery in CA and the exhibition was organized to show how she uses blue as a means to explore concepts of magic, voodoo and the occult.

 

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Betye Saar in 2016

The image above is dated 2016 and shows Betye Saar in her studio with all her stuff. Photo: Ashley Walker, courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles.

The Getty Research Institute (GRI) in Los Angeles is launching an African-American Art History initiative and has acquired the archive of works by Betye Saar as a first step. The GRI will help other museums preserve and digitize their own archives, and is working with the Studio Museum in Harlem, the California African American Museum, Art + Practice in Los Angeles, and Spelman College in Atlanta on this project.

 

NEWS

The Brooklyn Museum has installed Saar’s works in an exhibition titled Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power (through February 3, 2019).  Saar also has a solo show titled Keepin’ It Clean at the New York Historical Society (November 12, 2018-May 27, 2019).

In a recent interview for the Los Angeles Times, Betye Saar said: “When you’re 92, it takes a lot to get you excited. I paid my dues, and now I’m reaping the rewards…I’m very happy that anybody can go to the Getty Research Institute to discover my work, not just the art community. It’s my contribution.

 

I am writing a book about women artists who create with collage, assemblage, photo collage and/or installation art. One chapter will be devoted to the artist Betye Saar. Please contact me if you have spoken with her – and thank you.

 

Solo exhibition: October 4-28, 2018

the Upstream Gallery, 8 Main Street, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY

 

I am pleased to write this interview about the artist Phyllis Famiglietti. She has a wonderful approach to the art of collage and will show 35 works in various media (October 4-28, 2018) at her first solo exhibition at the Upstream Gallery, 8 Main Street, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY. Meet Phyllis Famiglietti at the gallery reception, Sunday, October 7th, 2-5 pm. Visit the Upstream Gallery during regular Gallery hours, Thursday to Sunday, 12:30-5:30 pm. For information and gallery directions, call 914.674.8548 or visit the Upstream Gallery website.

Collage, Collage, Collage

Phyllis Famiglietti started creating paper collage about 7 or 8 years ago. Prior to that, she worked a lot in photography and in digital collage. She is a video editor who moves images around in her day job. As a break from sitting and looking at a computer screen all day, she took up the art of paper collage and found it very appealing.  She says she loves the feeling of different papers in her hands and the stickiness of glue on her fingers.

 

Phyllis Famiglietti, Brandy Wine Creek

Famiglietti’s collages are typically small and there are various groups that will hang together in the exhibition. The largest collages are 24” x 20” and the smallest are 7” x 9”. The older works were based very much on the Polaroid photograph. The more recent works have broken free. The artist says she’s been exploring frames, grids and quadrants in new and exciting ways.

The image above is titled Brandy Wine Creek. It’s a collage with various papers, including reproductions of old maps, an old brown envelope, some random pieces of magazine cut-outs and colored paper. It’s 24×20 inches, and one of 35 works on view at the Upstream Gallery.

Famiglietti said Brandy Wine Creek is actually her most recent piece, and it’s interesting as a departure for her, because she did it while away in Maine this summer on a vacation. She said the vacation location was…”totally off the grid…no flush toilet, no running water, no electricity…and the papers in the collage are just a hodgepodge of what was on hand and available. She added: “It was a great challenge for me. I’m sticking with my quadrants, but I’m a lot more relaxed here…. letting shapes flow in and out of each other in an organic, free-flowing way“. She let the colors dominate in a way she’d never done before and thinks, “The environment in which I worked is so apparent in this piece.”

Hunt and Gather – Cut and Paste

Famiglietti cuts and pastes papers that she finds interesting in terms of image, color or texture. She says she loves going to flea markets and especially library sales where she can pick up cast-off books. She adds: “I also frequent construction sites where advertising posters are mounted on surrounding green painted plywood. I’ll judicially collect pieces of these posters and layer them into my work.”

 

Phyllis Famiglietti, Sociology

The image above is titled Sociology. It’s collage and the size is 16 x16 inches. Famiglietti says: “This work was done right after my Polaroid phase, and I think the grid and frames are informed by that previous work. There is a lot of layering (which is also an off-shoot of my video work) while what’s inside the frames is kept more to a minimum. “ She says she is fascinated with what time does to elements, and loves the feeling of peeled away layers of papers. Most of the pieces are from old sources, and sometimes include sanded paperback book covers. Some elements are from discarded hardcover books where the cloth is stripped off the cardboard.  The artist said she called this piece Sociology because the word “sociology” showed up on one of the elements (from a paperback book cover) and she thought it really fit the piece.

 

Phyllis Famiglietti, Rubbery Man Scent

The image above is a collage done on a book cover. It’s title “Rubbery Man-Scent” refers to text that is in the piece. Famiglietti says: “Pretty much all my pieces have names that appear somewhere in the text in that particular piece. I’m mostly using text as a visual element, though sometimes I do stray from that. Some papers in this work are vintage; some are from recent magazines; others are from book covers or the interiors of books. I try to use elements in ways that are unrecognizable from the original work itself. “

Famiglietti works in series in order to look at a particular set of materials in depth. She explored the Polaroid photograph for a period of time, experimenting with the relationship of what’s both inside and outside that iconic frame. The artist included works from the series “Massachusetts White Gentlemen” in the current exhibition. She recycled portraits from a book of historical political figures (all white men) and obliterated their faces with pieces of photos of engines taken at her car mechanic’s shop. The exhibition also includes small works (7” x 9”) from a series where she layered pieces of advertising posters with images from 1950’s Popular Mechanics magazines. The artist has another series that uses the inside of book covers as her canvas.

Famiglietti says: “I might start a work with an image or part of an image. Collage is a journey…. a rollercoaster with dips and spins, discovery, frustration, a puzzle, a fitting, a juxtaposition.” She asks: What am I saying…where am I going with this?  It’s a constant uncovering, like ripping off layers of myself…. reframing and re- contextualizing, an ongoing process of coming to terms with me…what was/is expected, taken and turned inside out and transformed into what is totally unexpected.“

Visit the exhibition (October 4-28, 2018). Read more about the artist here.

See more works by the artist online at the Upstream Gallery.