November 2, 2012
The meaning of ser en dip I ty: The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: “a fortunate stroke of serendipity”.
I recently posted a blog about visiting the Studio Museum in Harlem (NY) to see the Bearden Project (closed Oct. 21, 2012).
2011-2012 has been a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the artist’s birth with museum and gallery exhibitions all across the United States. Bearden was one of the great artists of the 20th century and is best know for his collage paintings. Read about his life and art at the Bearden Foundation.
I knew in advance the exhibition at the Studio Museum didn’t include works by Romare Bearden (1911-1988). It was the 3rd and final installation of the Bearden Project, with paintings, collage, mixed media and sculpture done by mostly young contemporary artists who were inspired by Bearden as they were growing up.
The link to the Bearden Project website allows you to see all the works and read (or listen to) comments about how each artist was influenced by Bearden. It also includes images of works by Bearden each artist selected for the Project.
The trip to the Studio Museum was a bonanza. There were 4 important exhibitions. All the shows closed on Oct. 21, 2012.
The lobby gallery featured postcards by 4 artists in an installation titled Harlem Postcards. Museum visitors were invited to take a card. You can see the cards and send a postcard from the website link.
I kept returning to look at the mixed media work on paper by Ebony G. Patterson, Untitled Species I, 2010-2011 (see above). It’s cut papers and fabric embellished with glitter, 62 x 50 inches. It was fascinating to see the cut-outs, glitter and embellished surfaces.
I also got to see the exhibit titled Illuminations: Expanding the Walls 2012 (photography).
After checking out the Bearden Project on the lower level, I walked upstairs to the mezzanine to see Primary Sources: Artists in Residence 2011-12.
The exhibition catalog says each artist uses appropriated source material and imagery and reinterprets and re-contextualizes content through different media: painting, photography, drawing (and collage). The Museum curator, Lauren Haynes, wrote: “Through their investigations of primary sources, either their own life stories, political histories of nations in flux, historical texts, or images found on the internet, these artists create artworks that will themselves become primary sources about contemporary art in the 2nd decade of the 21st century.
The image by Meleko Mokgosi, seen above, was a grand painting in multiple parts that wrapped around the gallery walls. The artist uses wide-angle perspective and large-scale imagery. Many images are appropriated from wedding blogs, newspapers (from Botswana), magazines and his own photographs. The catalog says Mokgosi is a conceptual painter who uses the language of film and works like a film director to create his large scale tableaux – painted montages with figures, objects, furniture and still lives where his frames, like movie sets, fade one into the other.
The image by Xaviera Simmons, seen above, is a color photograph, titled Index 3 Composition 2, 40×55 inches. In the catalog essay, Luc Sante writes: “Her alchemical touch transforms every kind of rag and bone, variously drab or cold or ponderous or high-hat in both their original states and artistic implications, turning them all into vehicles for adventure…The entire African diaspora is contained in those clusters of pictures and objects clothes-pinned to a tumbling skein…”
I got to view the most amazing collage paintings I’ve seen in years by the artist Njideka Akunyili.
It was a perfect example of serendipity – I went to the Studio Museum to see the Bearden Project, and in the last gallery I visited, I found the collage paintings by Njideka Akunyili.
Her work took my breath away. It is so masterfully done.
The image above, titled Witch Doctor Revisited, 2011, is acrylic, charcoal, pastel, colored pencil, collage and Xerox transfer on paper, 76×51 inches.
In a review, Alex Fialho wrote (Art Fag City, October 17, 2012): “… what makes Akunyili’s work the principal success of Primary Sources (is that) at just 28 years old, Akunyili seems to have already fleshed out a practice that recasts a disparate array of sources and materials into a cohesive aesthetic sensibility.”
He says Akunyili’s work loses much of its tactility and detailed nuance in reproduction. You have to see it in person. I was so lucky to see her work at the Studio Museum. I believe she will be an important artist with a great future.
The image above by Njideka Akunyili is titled Efulefu: The Lost One, 2011, is acrylic, charcoal, colored pencil, collage and Xerox transfer on paper, 40×30 inches.
Rose Oluronke Ojo writes about the autobiographic content of this painting in the Primary Sources catalog essay titled “The Dance.” She says: “Akunyili’s series of multimedia works reference multiple discursive formations, as well as supposed opposites: black African and white American, European painting traditions and traditional African art, conservative African courtship rituals and an interracial couple in coital bliss…This dance of the opposites in Akunyili’s work is reflective of the multicultural, multi-local nature of contemporary African art.”
Njideka Akunyili was born in Enugu, Nigeria in 1983. She received her MFA from Yale University School of Art (New Haven, Ct) in 2011. She participated in the Bearden Project earlier in 2011 at the Studio Museum.
A final review: Holland Cotter wrote about Primary Sources: Artists in Residence 2011-2012 in the NY Times (July 19, 2012). He starts with Njideka Akunyili and mentions the autobiographical content in her large collage paintings. He comments on the political content in Mokgosi’s works, and has a lot to say about Xaviera Simmons, who – he says “has been playing audacious photographic games with the African in African-American, by scrambling categories like ethnic authenticity and historical objectivity.”
Your comments are Welcome
Please let me know if you were able to see the exhibitions at the Studio Museum in Harlem and comment on the artists I’ve written about here.
October 18, 2012
Last weekend I visited the Studio Museum in Harlem to see the exhibition Bearden 100, a centennial tribute to the great 20th century artist Romare Bearden (1911-1988). What I saw was the 3rd and final installment of Bearden 100. It closes October 21, 2012.
I promised to write about the Bearden 100 exhibition in a previous blog about a Bearden workshop I lead on August 5, 2012 at the Newark Museum titled Conjur Woman: Portrait in Collage – inspired by the artist Romare Bearden.
The workshop was offered in conjunction with the exhibition Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections at the Newark Museum (closed August 19, 2012).
The image above is by Romare Bearden and titled Conjur Woman. It was completed in 1964. It’s only 9×7 inches, and was created with snippets from newspapers and magazines such as Ebony and the Saturday Evening Post.
Bearden turned his tiny collage into a huge black and white print (called a Photostat). The Newark Museum had small works and large prints on display. The large black and white Conjur Woman Photostat is in the collection of the Studio Museum.
Read more about the meaning of the Conjur Woman and more about my workshops.
22 ARTISTS AT THE STUDEO MUSEUM IN HARLEM
Here’s a link to see images of the 22 works at the Museum. The link is from the Bearden Foundation.
I was drawn to several works.
One was a figure by Elia Alba titled Portrait of a Young Girl, 2012 (see the image below).
It’s a 3D figure in a prayer-like pose. She wrote: It wasn’t just Bearden’s collage, but his merging of cultural and artistic practices that left the strongest impression on me.
I really liked a collage by Noah Davis titled The Frogs (2011) seen below.
It looks like collage with many magazine papers and fractured faces (it’s definitely inspired by Bearden media and technique).
I was drawn to a mixed media 3D work by Xenobia Bailey, titled Endless Love: Conjur Kit, 2012 (see below).
I love the fact that the artist named her work Conure Kit – maybe she is inspired by all the Conjur Women in Bearden’s oeuvre.
The artist wrote: I love the continuum that his (Bearden’s) collages have to African-American quilt-makers and musicians. Mr. Bearden constructs everything in his artwork as if he is patching together the idea of the New African in North America.
See #66: Bearden, In the Garden 1974 (image below). It includes red striped fabric on a figure, and abraded painted papers.
The Bearden image was selected by Tanekeya Word, a visual artist living in NYC.
See her mixed media work (below) titled Pretty Dope-a-licious Cameo #11, acrylic paint, gouache, watercolor, acrylic ink, gold leaf, embroidery, floss, pastels, latex paint on watercolor paper, 2012.
Willie Cole selected the collage by Bearden, #57 Gospel Song 1969 (below) It includes multiple pieces of abraded papers, a gray background, and shows what Bearden did to his media to create unique surface texture. It also shows how he used pieces of papers to create a sense of dimension, texture, and rhythm.
Willie Cole, a Newark, NJ artist, said he selected this work because it sang to him when he saw it.
See his work tiled Sole to Sole (below). Cole works with found media and creates/constructs metaphor about race in prints, sculpture and other media.
Cole describes himself: Today I am a Perceptual Engineer. I create new ways of seeing old things. and by doing so inspire new ways of thinking. I’ve also been described as an Ecological Mechanic, a Sacred Clown, a Transformer, the hardest working man in Shoe Business, The Original Iron Man, formerly known as the Dog Man, and once known as Vincent Van Black.
Willie Cole is one of my favorite contemporary artists.
More BEARDEN 100
The Studio Museum plans to extend the Bearden Project. They say:
The site will be frequently updated with new participating artists, sharing their story of inspiration and will include a high-resolution image of their artwork. We hope you’ll share your own artwork, stories, and comments with us by email.
Romare Bearden was involved in founding The Studio Museum in Harlem and the Cinque Gallery (initially funded by the Ford Foundation). Bearden and 2 other artists – Norman Lewis and Ernest Crichlow – established Cinque to support younger minority artists.
Bearden helped found the Black Academy of Arts and Letters in 1970. He was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1972.
He is recognized as one of the most creative and original visual artists of the 20th Century. He worked in many different media, including painting and printmaking, but is best known for his richly textured collages
August 31, 2012
2011-2012 included many, many museum and gallery exhibitions all across the US honoring the centennial birthday for Romare Bearden (African-American, 1911-1988).
See the Romare Bearden Foundation site for updates and information.
Read about The Bearden Project (August 16-Oct 21, 2012) now at the Studio Museum of Harlem (144 W 125 St., NY).
The Bearden Project shows work by 100 contemporary artists who have all been influenced by Bearden’s genius. Each artist was asked to create a work of art inspired by Bearden’s life and legacy.
The image above, is titled Summertime (1967), collage on board, 56×44 inches, image courtesy Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, NY.
In the collage Summertime, Bearden employs the rectangular geometry of window and door frames in a way that explores inside and outside space. We are looking in. Who is looking out? Notice the face and eyes of the Dan mask set within the upper-right tenement window (and the eye seen behind the pink gingham curtain in the window nearby). Bearden’s figurative elements included African masks. Are these reminders of lost African ancestors?
In an earlier post, I wrote about an August 5, 2012 Newark Museum workshop I led titled Conjur Woman: Portrait in Collage. The post included many images by participants in the workshop. This post includes more images created at the workshop. See their images below.
See the upcoming exhibition Romare Bearden: Urban Rhythms and Dreams of Paradise at the ACA Gallery (529 W 20 St., NYC). The exhibition runs November 3, 2012-January 5, 2013. Reception date TBA.
The image above by Romare Bearden is titled Conjur Woman (1964). It’s a small collage, only 9×7 inches and was created with snippets from newspapers and magazines like Ebony and the Saturday Evening Post. She is looking at us. See her hands. One holds a leaf – to make a potion? Notice the window in the upper right corner. Are we looking out at the full moon?
See more Bearden images in a post I wrote on January 15, 2011 titled Romare Bearden: Conjur Woman and Collage.
Looking At Collage Looking At You
Bearden’s is a radically inclusive artistic vision.
We can’t help but participate. He draws us in.
We are viewing and we are viewed.
The Bearden image above is titled Carolina Morning (1974). It’s mixed media collage on board, 30×22 inches. The work was included in the Southern Recollections show that travelled to the Newark Museum.
We see a woman holding a baby. Is she in a doorway or on a porch? An older woman with a young child is in the distance. Are they approaching – or departing? We are caught in the woman’s gaze and have to wonder what she is thinking about.
CONJUR WOMAN by Workshop Participants
Here are additional images by people who attended the Conjur Woman workshop at the Newark Museum August 5, 2012.
Now, I look at the art and notice how it is looking back at me.
Mansa Mussa sent me a close up view of his collage, seen above. Notice the face of Romare Bearden (a photo he took when he met the artist in person). Bearden is playing drums. Notice the saxophone player in the foreground. He’s looking at you. This work is all about jazz music. Bearden was a great jazz fan and knew all the greats.
Joan Alleyne-Piggot sent me her image titled “Without Limits, seen above. It’s a collage with text and magazine papers. Notice her emphasis on mouths. She wrote:
What the eyes can’t see, the ears will hear
What the ears can’t hear, the nose will smell
What the nose can’t smell, the lips will taste
What the lips can’t taste, the hands will touch
Everything is without limits if one fails to try,
She wrote: “I was inspired by Romare Bearden’s work after attending the premiere at the Newark Museum and decided to take the workshop. It was very inspiring.”
Dorothy Meissner sent me an image of her collage titled The Conjurer, seen above.
At the workshop she built her collage with black and white stripes (the piano keyboard all around), and skyscraper imagery. She finished the collage at home after the workshop when she found her skyscraper magazine images. She wanted the skyscraper image to capture the energy of the big city.
I will visit the Studio Museum in Harlem and write soon about the The Bearden Project show before it closes on October 21st. I will also visit the ACA Galleries and write about the upcoming Bearden show Urban Rhythms and Dreams of Paradise.
Thank you for reading this post and thank you for your comments about all the exhibitions this year that honor the creative genius of this great artist.
January 24, 2012
A friend recently asked – Have you seen any good art shows recently?
I remember she was really asking if I had seen the exhibition Willem de Kooning: A Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art – MoMA (September 8, 2011 – January 9, 2012).
Yes, I saw the de Kooning show. I love the way he painted – and the works are so strong and still looks so fresh!
The two images above are my favorites. The top image is titled “Painting.” It’s oil and enamel on canvas (1948) 42 x 56 inches. The 2nd image is titled “Woman I” – it’s oil on canvas (1950-52) 75 x 58 inches. Both images: the Internet.
If you didn’t see the exhibition, visit the MoMA website which reviews de Kooning’s major themes, includes a timeline with images, and information on the artist’s methods and materials.
I enjoyed reading the NY Times art review by Holland Cotter (Sept. 15, 2011).
Cotter talked about de Kooning’s third “Woman” series as outrageous busty Gorgons with equine grins that caused fits when first exhibited.
Those are the ones I love. I went to the show to see de Kooning’s busty Gorgons – and the lush black and white abstractions.
DE KOONING AT ABMB
I checked the Internet and found a terrific art blog that talked about de Kooning at MoMA and recaps ABMB.
It opens with a rave review of the de Kooning retrospective (also saying it was easier to get into ABMB than get into MoMA to see the de Kooning show).
There’s an image right away of de Kooning’s Marilyn (Marilyn Monroe) titled “Woman” (1964), 24×18 inches, charcoal and pencil on paper, seen below. Image: the Internet.
Right next to de Kooning’s Marilyn are 2 Vic Munoz Marilyns (Munoz was one of many artists inspired by de Kooning).
A little further into the blog is a large, late de Kooning seen at ABMB: “Untitled XII,” oil on canvas (1985), 80×70 inches. Image: the Internet.
HAVE YOU SEEN ANY GOOD ART RECENTLY?
Back to the question I was asked – have you seen any good art shows recently?
It took a few seconds for me to reply – YES – I saw the best art show ever at ABMB in December 2011.
Every gallery was out to impress.
There was so much art to see that my eyes hurt by the end of the day.
I loved the ingenious installations, the glitz and the panorama.
I got to see a lot of great collage.
Almost immediately, I came face to face with a large Mark Bradford collage, titled “A Thousand Words.”
The image above is the collage, seen in NYC at the Sikkema Jenkins Gallery. The image shows it’s scale.
Here’s a link to a great video-rich website starring Mark Bradford, organized by the Wexner Center for the Arts. Check it out. It’s cutting edge.
Read my blog about Mark Bradford, written March 11, 2011.
The image above is me in front of a wall of collages. Each work was a mini masterpiece. Image: Mary Hunter.
I found enough collage to make me happy, including collage on sculpture. I took the image below.
TOP PLAYERS ARE THERE
I walked inside an installation by Theaster Gates – titled Glass Pavilion – and found myself looking up at glass lantern slides. I spoke with Kavi Gupta; The Kavi Gupta Gallery represents Gates (Chicago and Berlin). See more images at the gallery website…
There is a lot of buzz about Theaster Gates.
Read an article titled Theaster Gates in the Studio with Lilly Wei (Art in America, December 2011).
Lilly Wei is a New York-based writer and independent curator.
Thanks for reading and your comments.
August 3, 2011
Last week I drove by car for a late-morning appointment in NYC.
The highway route from Westchester took me along the Hudson River by way of the Henry Hudson Parkway.
The view was spectacular. The sky was bright blue and filled with round, puffy clouds – the kind children draw.
The clouds seen in the image above are called cumulous clouds.
As I drove along the highway, the clouds marched in a stately parade across the sky, white against brilliant blue. There was a ribbon of green grass along the highway with a blacktop pathway for cyclists and runners, and the grey blue green waves of the Hudson River were lapping along the water’s edge, reflecting sunlight from above.
The clouds reminded me of the clouds I saw in a collage painting by Romare Bearden (1911-1988), on view recently at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in NYC (the show Romare Bearden: COLLAGE, A Centennial Celebration, closed May 21, 2011).
The online exhibition is worth a look. I’ve included a link to the Gallery press release that says “The works in this exhibition reflect the artist’s belief that art is made from other art. This idea is literally present in the act of collage-making –- taking images, colors and forms out of one context, altering them, and juxtaposing them with other pre-existing images, colors and forms to create something new. Read more…
The work by Bearden I remember so well was titled “The Train Whistles” seen above (image the Internet).
It’s a large work compared to most works by Bearden, 31×40 inches, and a masterful mix of painterly passages, papers and striped and patterned fabric.
I saw the show twice before it closed.
I kept returning to see the Train Whistles and look again at how Bearden used his papers, and how he created his clouds.
I check the Internet and learned that a cloud is a visible mass of water droplets suspended in the sky above the surface of a body of land or water, and the droplets are so small and light they can float on the air.
The shape of a cloud depends on the moisture content in the air. The clouds are white because they reflect the light of the sun.
Bearden used different papers to create his clouds, combining multiple, subtly different shades of white with some torn edges against cut edges, layered with just the right spaces along the edges in between the papers to suggest depth and mass.
The image above is another Bearden collage in the recent Michael Rosenfeld Gallery exhibition. This one, titled “Watching the Good Trains Go By” (1969) is mixed media collage on board and is 9 x 12 inches. (image the Internet)
Like many of Bearden’s works, it contrasts strong, bright colors against black and white magazine and newspaper images in shades of grey. The colors are green and blue in paper and paint, and red and white patterned polka dot and red and cream in gingham checked fabric.
There’s a single cloud in the deep blue sky against a bright emerald green ground.
It was such a treat to see the works at the Michael Rosenberg Gallery exhibition. See more images online.
I hope you also got to see the show at the gallery.
A BEARDEN CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION
If you want to see more works by Bearden and are in NYC, please contact the Romare Bearden Foundation to find out about the ArtCrawl Harlem: The Strivers Garden Gallery (300 West 135th Street at St. Nicholas Ave.) that will present “Bearden at 100” (August 4th – October 9th, 2011).
See “Spiral: Perspectives on an African-American Collective (July 14th – October 23rd, 2011) presented by The Studio Museum in Harlem (144 West 125th Street).
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (515 Malcolm X Boulevard) presents Romare Bearden: The Soul of Blackness/A Centennial Tribute (July 15 – January 7, 2012).
As I got closer to my highway exit at 26th Street, the traffic slowed to a crawl. I had to drive crosstown to 6th Avenue.
I was listening to the Pachebal Canon on classical radio and wasn’t troubled by the delays and traffic. It seemed I had all the time in the world.
And the advantage of the traffic (advantage of traffic?) was that I was driving and stopping. It allowed me to take some photos from the car when I had to stop for a traffic light.
The image above is from my car. I am looking north on 6th Avenue. I was at 26th Street. The uptown view almost doesn’t look like a city street in NYC – but it is and you get to see the clouds against the city buildings.
Today I will drive into the City again – even though I prefer to take a train to Grand Central Terminal in order to avoid traffic.
I hope it’s another beautiful day with another amazing view along the way.
Questions for You: Are you a fan of collage and Romare Bearden? Did the information I shared about his work inspire you? Please add your comments below. Thanks for reading this post.
March 8, 2011
Recently I visited the Studio Museum in Harlem at 144 West 125 Street, NYC, hoping to see Mark Bradford’s super sized abstract collages. I was sorely disappointed because I saw really small collages, each a letter from A to Z, installed horizontally in the gallery. The exhibition is titled ALPHABET (November 11, 2010 – March 13, 2011).
The Museum produced a very handsome 4-color exhibition folder: A is for Alphabet. A is also for Angelenos. Mark Bradford is an Angeleno, born and raised and still living in Los Angeles, CA.
He calls himself a painter, but he rarely uses paint. Paper is his media.
He works without prepared drawings. He layers papers, then tears away and sands away his surfaces, building up and tearing down.
The colors in his palette are the colors in the scavenged papers he finds on the streets, on signposts and mom & pop shop windows in his South Los Angeles neighborhood.
Bradford’s process is collage/decollage – it is constructive and also deconstructive.
He says he creates maps of the imagination.
The image above, part of his Merchant Posters series, is a detail of a large work titled “Ridin’ Dirty” (2006). It’s mixed media collage, in 78 parts, 109 x 336 inches combined.
If you like text and collage, topography, texture and layers, these are amazing works. The Museum bookstore sells a very handsome exhibition catalog titled Mark Bradford: Merchant Posters, with 97 color reproductions. You can also get the book online.
The image above is from the catalog and is Untitled (2007), mixed media collage, 19×22 inches.
In Mark Bradford: Merchant Posters, in the introductory essay, “Border Crossings,” Ernest Hardy wrote:
“To create his Merchant Posters, Mark canvasses Los Angeles, specifically the once-White-Only-then-primarily-Negro-now-equally-Latino part of South Los Angeles (formerly and infamously known as South Central) in which he works and still lives. It’s where he harvests the hand-made advertising signs that he finds on telephone poles, on the fences and wood barricades that block off construction sites, and in the windows of mom & pop stores…
…we see flux. It’s the dynamic of static vs. fluid (old ways of existing vs. emerging survival tactics; a once largely mono-race space absorbing new cultures and languages, trying to make sense of it all) unfolding in his own neighborhood, where years of political indifference and corruption are being jiggled by longstanding economic hardship, forces of gentrification, and the presence of immigrants from throughout Latin America who are adding new contours. The posters force us to pause and ponder…”
Bradford was born in Los Angeles, CA in 1961. He attended and received his BFA (1995) and MFA (1997) from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). He still lives and works in Los Angeles. In 2009 he was awarded the MacArthur Genius Award.
The image above, titled “Orbit” (2007) is mixed media collage, 72×84 inches.
PERMANENT-WAVE END PAPERS FOR COLLAGE
In his early abstract paintings, Mark Bradford used permanent-wave end papers, hair dye and foil, supplies from a hair dressing salon. The collages were covered with rectangular papers from end to end in a linear grid (think Agnes Martin and Ellen Gallagher).
He works in a studio in the same building that was his mother’s beauty salon.
The first major survey of Bradford’s work, including his large map-like collages, was organized by the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH, in conjunction with his selection in fall 2009 for the Center’s Residency Award in visual arts. The exhibition is currently installed at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, MA (it closes March 13), and travels to the Museum of Contemporary art in Chicago, IL (summer 2011), continues to the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX and concludes at The San Fransisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA.
Check out Bradford’s work online. The presentation, organized by the Wexner Center says you can explore 4 different ways to get closer to the work, the artist and his process.
At the site you’ll Learn about “Duality” – the different layers – formal and social – that make up a single work of art – and you’ll see Bradford and hear two voices simultaneously – the presentation is so cool.
There’s a soundtrack behind the image and text for “Method Man” (2004) 125 x 125 inches, seen above. Media is mixed, including billboard papers, photomechanical reproductioins, carbon paper, acrylic gel medium, bleach and more (private collection).
ON LINE SHOWS ARE GETTING BETTER ALL THE TIME
On-line shows are getting better all the time, but there is no comparison to seeing the work in person. I can’t get to Boston in time to see the show that closes March 13. I think I have to plan a trip to Chicago or Dallas to see the works with my own eyes.
Please add your comments below and let me know what you think of this artist’s work and the on-line exhibition.