nikkal, Blue Triangle Diptych

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

 

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

 

nikkal, Blue and White Triangle diptych

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

 

CONTEMPORARY DIPTYCHS

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

FINAL COMMENTS

 

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

 

It Takes a Team

May 24, 2017

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

Carmen Herrera, Untitled, painting on canvas, 1952

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

 

Yayoi Kunama, Untitled, 1959

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

Women Artists: Eclipsed Careers

Elsa Gramcko, Untitled, 1957

 

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

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

 

 

Lydia Clark, The Inside is the Outside, 1963

 

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

 

 

 

Eva Hesse, conceptual sculpture,1966

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

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

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

 

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

Nancy

Creative Paper Collage

August 4, 2014

 

I am always inspired when I read a book by a creative artist. For example: Twyla Tharp’s book THE CREATIVE HABIT Learn It and Use It For Life is not just for dancers and choreographers. Every chapter will boost creativity in whatever your field. When I read these books, I always find something I can apply to my collage studio practice or apply when I design projects for collage workshops.

 

Her chapter titled “Scratching” talks about how to get ideas and how to explode ideas. She says you can scratch in the footsteps of mentors and heroes, but must not copy or your work is derivative. Try to interpret the idea into a new idea and “scratch” in unexpected places to get a new slant on the expected. She says: link A to B to C to come up with “H.” She adds: scratching is the ability to identify A, and then get to B and C. So – don’t stop with one idea.

 A class project in black and white and 3 primary colors

I love  class projects that explore collage with unique media, or explore images in collage based on other media.

 

Cucaracha, Alexander Calder

Cucaracha, Alexander Calder

 

The image above is titled “Cucaracha” (1948). It’s painted sheet metal and wire, 17” wide, private collection, by Alexander Calder (American 1898-1976). He is famous for his mobiles and stabiles – metal sculptures that move in space. His work is about movement and change. Very often his metal sculpture is painted in primary colors – red, blue and yellow. Notice how the mobile parts hang together from tiny chains. Notice how the sculpture casts a shadow as it stands on the ground.

 

I asked students to make collage inspired by Alexander Calder’s mobile Cucaracha – a 3D metal sculpture interpreted as 2D paper collage. I asked the class to juxtapose print text with cut and pasted papers – one collage on top of another collage – to create a dialogue between the parts and show movement. Black and white magazine text would be the bottom collage layer. Cut and pasted red, blue, yellow and black papers would be the 2nd layer on top of the black and white text. I found the Cucaracha image in the book CALDER CREATURES Great and Small, published by E.P. Dutton, Inc., NY in association with the Hudson River Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

 

sample collage papers

sample collage papers

 

The 2 images (above and below) show 2 different views of the same sample collage I created for the class.  I deliberately cut shapes that looked like the 3D shapes – to show students how collage can look like sculpture. The top image is a close-up view and shows unglued yellow and black paper and blue and red round shapes overlapping in the middle of the page. The image below shows the same unglued shapes in another configuration on top of the text collage. When I move the papers, the design changed. I moved papers several times. I wanted to show the class how the image changed each time the papers moved. Calder’s art is all about movement and change. Collage is also about movement and change. And if you don’t like the collage, you can remove the paper and start again.

sample collage, Nikkal

sample collage, Nikkal

 

LESSON PLAN: BLACK AND WHITE AND PRIMARY COLORS

 

Step 1: Make a collage with magazine text.

Cut and paste magazine text to create a design. It’s black and white, can be clean and crisp, and creates a graphic pattern with letters. It looks easy but it took almost 1 ½ hours for students to create a collage with just text. I asked students to glue a long, thin strip of black paper diagonally across the page before they started to glue text. I told them it was important to have the text strips meet the black paper “antenna” and leave a tiny space between the edges. Notice I created a pattern with text.

 

Step 2: Make a second collage with painted papers on top of the text collage.

This was fun and much faster. I told students to cut papers into shapes and that their shapes didn’t have to resemble the sample shapes I prepared. Everyone cut unique shapes. They didn’t want to copy the Calder image. Some students created a narrative collage related to words in the magazine text.  Almost everyone told me they loved the idea of having text as a bottom layer in the collage.

 

Following are student images. Notice every collage is created with the same painted papers. Notice every collage image is unique.

 

Dee Shaplow, paper collage

Dee, paper collage

 

In Dee’s image above, notice how her shapes balance well against the text design underneath. Notice one blue square extends beyond the substrate bottom edge. Notice 2 red triangles, 1 red circle, 2 yellow curvilinear line shapes and 2 black thin strips in a “V” shape protruding from the blue square. The shapes are geometric and simple and contrast beautifully with the clean design of text collage. Dee wrote she liked the way fitting the print into the background made her think about space. That was a positive. Negative: Dee prefers working on a large substrate – I gave the class a 7 1/2”x8” art card for the substrate. She doesn’t like working with primary colors. Calder’s mobile image isn’t a natural inspiration for her because she likes softer Impressionist art. Positive: the text is in motion and the painted paper shapes are engaged. I think her collage is bold, clean and well designed.

 

Louise, paper collage

Louise, paper collage

 

In Louise’s image above, you can try to read the text, but the image is marching on top and is the primary focus. Notice the thin black strip is a criss-cross “X” placed diagonally across the page. Notice the black and white text in the background creates a grid of blocks with white negative spaces. Louise pasted a pale yellow round shape within the “X” and placed a tall red right angle triangle with torn edge on the bottom right side of the substrate. She added more cut and pasted red papers: a tiny square, a tiny circle, one small red equilateral triangle and a thin, curved red paper with personality – all touching the black “X” in the middle. She added a semi circle and a tiny pale blue square touching the red square. She added new papers: 2 irregularly shaped triangles in speckled magazine paper pasted on top of black paper shapes. The painted papers show movement. The text papers show direction. Louise said she liked working with magazine text and thinks she may use it again as a starting point. She says there is no narrative story in her collage. I think her collage has so many interesting components.

 

Vivienne, paper collage

Vivienne, paper collage

 

In Vivienne’s image above, notice the juxtaposition of shapes in text with shapes in painted papers is dynamic and also narrative. I think there’s a story above and beyond the words. Notice how much care she took with selecting text papers for her collage bottom layer. The colors in the magazine text range from dark letters on creamy white, to grey black on light pink white, to blue black on a range of pale grey whites. It’s a beautiful text collage with so much variation in the colors and design. Notice Vivienne created a unique shape in red painted paper. I think it looks like a boat. She has 2 thin black strips projecting up from the red shape on the right side, and one thin blue strip projecting from the red shape on the left side. She has a yellow strip at the end and a yellow triangle on the right. There are 3 overlapping triangles – yellow, blue and yellow – that move down onto the red shape like sails. There is a wonderful sense of harmony and gentle rhythm in this collage.

 

 

Claudia, paper collage

Claudia, paper collage

 

In Claudia’s image above, notice she included text in different sizes and fonts. The text strip “IF YOU LOOK” is prominent in the upper right side. Claudia overlapped her text papers. You can’t read text easily (rows are crunched) and it makes you look more carefully. Notice Claudia created a “V” design with jagged black strips. Notice the left side of the “V” touches a color block that is yellow, red and, blue – one paper on top of another. In the lower third of her collage, notice there is a horizontal black and white band across the entire width of the collage and it overlaps 3 red triangles that look like sails. Another  blue on yellow shape (mostly yellow) sits below. The text ‘IF YOU LO0K” tells you to look “IN.” This collage is very layered, very colorful, and very well designed.

 

Sheila, paper collage

Sheila, paper collage

 

In Sheila’s collage above, notice she kept the Mondrian “Boogie Woogie” image that was printed on the art card beneath. Her text strips are glued around the Mondrian image and go to the edge of the card substrate. Her cut and pasted paper shapes go beyond the substrate edges. Sheila said the Mondrian image on the art card influenced her colors – so the project with painted papers in red, yellow, blue and black was a good fit. Notice some shapes overlap; some shapes nest between shapes. Sheila titled her collage “Joyful Explosion.” Notice you can read the text – it’s about Alexander Calder and his mobiles. This is another well-designed collage. Its abstract and about modern art. There’s a strong relationship between the text blocks and paper collage shapes, and a gentle connection to the boogie woogie rhythm implied in Mondrian’s work.

 

Irene, paper collage

Irene, paper collage

 

In Irene’s collage above, notice that the pattern of painted paper shapes mimics the pattern of pasted text shapes. All the text is slightly oblique and tilted like the paper shapes in red, blue, yellow and black. I love the fact that Irene left part of the top section of the substrate uncovered to create a horizontal white shape. Did you notice there’s a tiny section of text at the top that’s upside down? Notice that red peeks through the black strip (the right sideof the “V”), I asked the class to leave a tiny space next to the black strip. Irene’s paper shapes are bold and geometric. She cuts into her blue triangles and creates “V” shapes that repeat the “V” of the black strips and the “V” of the yellow strip and yellow triangle. There’s overlapping and repetitive shapes that move in unison along the “V” line. There is a subtle dialog between the upper and lower collage that keeps moving and keeps you looking.

 

Carol, pape collage

Carol, pape collage

 

In Carol’s collage above, notice how she created text in overlapping blocks and layered painted papers that became a flying bug on top. The “V” of the bug’s antenna covers the “R” in the word “Creature Comfort.” Carol commented: I decided to do some sort of insect when I saw the black “V” shaped pieces that were to be placed on the first collage text layer. She added: Calder made a critter in primary colors so that clinched it for me.  I struggled with the background, not realizing how the image and the text would be having a dialog. I found some clever headlines that made the image humorous. The insect itself dominates the lower left portion and though the bug is moving downward there is a feeling of flight. The creature has an oval yellow head with a large black dot for the eye. Notice the body is blue and the wings are red. There is a tail with a fringe on the back in blue and a fringe in blue underneath the head. Two black skinny legs are showing. Carol said: this project was a delightful revelation to me, and I think I’ll do more collage with text and image from now on.

 

Every color and shape emphasizes directional pattern. There is a strong sense of harmony between the lower and upper collage. They talk to each other. I wonder if there is a pun intended in the text “Altitude Slickness.” Where did the “L” is slickness come from?

 

Read my earlier blog  (make it good, July 5, 2014) – with links to Seth Godin’s post about challenges “Is better possible?”.

 

Thank you for reading and I welcome your comments.

My recent blog, Drawing and Collage: The Journal as Art (January 23, 2014), encouraged you to explore images and ideas in a 90 cent notebook (or a more expensive book with fine paper).

Experts say if you keep a notebook, your memory improves.

Advice: Get a notebook with blank pages and carry it with you so you can fill it up each day with personal notes, observations, contact information you collect, to do lists, doodles, drawings, and ideas.

Alexander Calder, journal page, pen

Alexander Calder, journal page, pen

The image above is a journal page by Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) from the book  titled Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations (from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art), by Liza Kirwin.

Notice Calder’s Paris address book page included sculptor Constantin Brancusi and the artist Hans (Jean) Arp in his list. Notice Calder’s calligraphic line. The page with cursive penmanship is a beautiful drawing.

Calder is best known for his wire sculptures and mobiles.

Calder said: “I think best in wire.”

The image below is a motorized mobile with painted wood, painted metal, metal wire and string, 23×24 3/4×7 (1931) Smithsonian Institution, gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn. Do you see a face in profile? I do.

Alexander Calder, Motorized Mobile

Alexander Calder, Motorized Mobile

See images of 3D wire portraits, sculpture, and toys in an online review of a 2005 the 2008-2009 Whitney Museum exhibition: Drawing in Space – Alexander Calder: The Paris Years (1926-1933). Image, courtesy the city review.com.

See Calder’s miniature Circus (see it when you visit the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC).

Contemporary Artists Who Keep a Journal

I found an online interview of a contemporary artist (Harvey Tulcensky) who keeps a journal.

Written by Clair Corey, the article (INSIDE/OUT Dec 17, 2012) says Harvey Tulcensky works full-time at the NYC Museum of Modern Art, exhibits with Edward Thorpe Gallery (Chelsea, NY), maintains a studio practice, and keeps a notebook handy for traveling to and from work – and she adds – the artist says he fills his Moleskin notebook obsessively “like an EKG with his minute-to-minute existence.” 

The image below is an untitled drawing (detail from a notebook) by Tulcensky in ballpoint pen on paper. Image: courtesy the Internet.

Harvey Tulcensky, Untitled, (detail) Ballpoint Pen on Paper

Harvey Tulcensky, Untitled, (detail) Ballpoint Pen on Paper

Ballpoint Pen Drawings are the Hot New Thing in Contemporary Art

The January 2014 cover of ARTnews magazine shows a self portrait by Toyin Odutola in mixed media with the face and torso done in ballpoint pen. Read the article by Trent Morse (posted 01/08/14) titled “Making Cutting-Edge Art with Ballpoint Pens.

See Odutola’s blog for images and even works in progress.

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

Buy a notebook. Buy pens, Buy ballpoint pens (contemporary!).

Start a diary. It can be as simple as the diary kept by Pierre Bonnard – a record of what shoes he wore every day, that tells us where he lived and what the weather was like.

Discover what you like, and what you want to say. Explore your own creative ways to keep track of your life.

I hope you do.

Nancy

I get a lot of comments about my post Late Night Musings on the Value of Art…

I open the blog with a review of the book $12 Million Stuffed Shark – The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art (2008) by Don Thompson.

Damien Hirst, shark in formaldehyde

Damien Hirst, shark in formaldehyde

The $12 million refers to the price for a dead shark in formaldehyde by the contemporary artist Damien Hirst (British, born 1965). He was considered the most important member of a group known as the Young British Artists who dominated the art scene in the UK in the 1990s. Critics are now very dismissive of Damien Hirst.

The image above is by Damien Hirst and titled The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. All images are courtesy the Internet.

Contemporary art is always about controversy

Bad Boy by Eric Fischl, co written with Michael Stone

Bad Boy by Eric Fischl, co written with Michael Stone

I just finished a new book titled Bad Boy: My Life On and Off the Canvas, by Eric Fischl (co-written with Michael Stone, 2013).

It’s an excellent read. I recommend it to everyone who wants a glimpse inside the art world in the 1980s.

The book is a narrative in Eric Fischl’s voice about his childhood (1948-1965), growing up in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic mother, and about his career in the hyper-charged and competitive NY art scene in the 1970s and 1980s. That art world was a world of fashion, fame, cocaine and booze.

The narrative is excellent. Fischl has a gift for conversation. The book includes images of his paintings and commentaries from artists, friends and collectors (including David Salle, Steve Martin and John McEnroe).

The first page of  the book is a bizarre recounting of a car chase, following Fischl’s opening night reception at the Whitney Museum of American Art for his retrospective (1986). He admits he was high on cocaine.

The story tracks back and tells us about his childhood, how he got accepted at CalArts (a very prestigeous and selective art school), the intense competition among the students at CalArts, and how he struggled, post graduation, to find his style and become an important contemporary artist. His resume is a stunning list.

Bad Boy (the book) is named after an infamous painting Fischl did titled Bad Boy (oil on canvas, 1981, 66×96 inches). The painting propelled Fischl to art-world stardom. I choose not to show the painting but you can see it online.

Fischl writes about his style and concept. He chose figurative painting with bold, brushy strokes. His subjects refer to his life and biographical details.

John Seed interviewed the artist in the Huffpost, Arts & Culture (August 30, 2013). Fischl told him: “Almost all of my early art dealt with the fallout from middle-class taboos, the messy, the ambivalent emotions couples felt, the inherent racism, the sexual tensions and the unhappiness roiling below the surface of our prim suburban lives. Meanwhile I was a suburban bad boy – cynical, sarcastic, contemptuous of all authority.”

I took notes when Fischl discussed the ways he approached his works. Fischl said he made split paintings (multiple panels) to explore the connections between time and memory and between physical and psychological space. He said he split the paintings to keep his creative juices flowing.  He added: “I have consciously tried to make work that took fragments and put them back together – impressions and bits of memories collaged into foreign lands or suburban settings, all with the purpose of making them appear seamless.

He said he was reliving his experiences as he was painting them, always at the point just before things fall apart.

Fischl describes his life with the artist April Gornik, who he married. The book includes comments by relatives, artist friends and collectors that are interesting additions to the book. They give their insight and compliment Fischl’s commentary.

The introduction says Fischl rebelled against conceptual and minimalist art that was in fashion in the time he started his career. He said his paintings became portraits that expressed angst and tension.

Eric Fischl, Self Portrait Unfinished Work, 2011

Eric Fischl, Self Portrait Unfinished Work, 2011

The large oil on canvas (above) is dated 2011 and titled Self Portrait – An Unfinished Painting. Many paintings by Fischl are large group portraits of friends at the beach.

Fischl wrote: My whole career I’ve been trying to make paintings that people can relate to, respond to emotionally and not stand in front of scratching their heads. He doesn’t love contemporary, non representational art.

He is sad that his work has been eclipsed by younger artists and new styles.

I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars as a review. It’s a really good book – I do recommend it – but I didn’t like the way it ended.

Delphine Barguidjian reviewed Bad Boy (see Scene, May 6, 2013). She asked Fischl: Do you think the art world has changed much since the 1980s? He responded: These days the institutions and galleries are less important, art fairs are more important. Short term, short hit, sensational aspect. That’s how people buy art nowadays – buy it fast and it doesn’t even leave their storage warehouse before they sell it off again.

Fischl said he was uncomfortable with the fragmentation and meaninglessness in contemporary art, and singles out Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst as examples.

Please add your comments if you’ve read the book and about whether or not you think Fischl’s art is (or was) controversial.

Collage Exploded

September 6, 2012

I walked into the last gallery at the Whitney Museum by mistake. I was there to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibition. So I saw the last works first – large flat acrylic polymer paintings in flourescent colors – instead of the early small, intimate collages.

Kusama, Encounter with a Flowering Season

Yayoi Kusama is well known for her use of dense patterns of polka dots and nets. She is known for her work in various media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, film, performance and immersive installation. The image above, seen at the Whitney Museum of American Art, is synthetic polymer on canvas, 51×52 inches. Image, courtesy the Internet.

I have never seen Yayoi Kusama’s works before. She was born in Japan in 1929 and came to the United States in 1957. She quickly became involved in avant-garde “happenings” and rose to prominence in the art world. She is considered a precursor of the pop art, minimalist and feminist art movements and influenced contemporary artists like Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg. Read about her life and work

Yayoi Kusama in a red wig

Many of her early works were installation, performance, and ephemeral. Many disappeared.

She left the United States and returned to Japan in the early 1970s. Kusama is now acknowledged as one of the most important artists alive in Japan today.

Kusama, Late Night Chat is Filled with Dreams

My first impression of the dense painting installation was: Too many. Too busy. Too close – OVERLOAD.

The image above, titled Late Night Chat is Filled with Dreams, was in the first gallery I entered with all the recent paintings. It’s synthetic polymer on canvas, 64×64 inches and was completed in 2009. Image courtesy the Internet. The artist said she would like to finish 2000 paintings before she dies. This painting was about number 196.

 

Kusama, Mirror Room Pumpkin

The image above, titled Mirror Room-Pumpkin is an installation Kusama completed in 1991. It is made with mirrors wood and paint to create a dizzying effect. Kusama wanted the dots to appear to go on and on into infinity. The room is orange, like a pumpkin. It’s 69x69x69 inches. The work is now part of the permanent collection of the Hara Museum in Tokyo, Japan.

Kusama was the featured artist for the Japanese Pavilion at the 1993 Venice Bienniale. She produced a mirror room filled with pumpkin sculptures.

I walked through the galleries and saw a variety of different media, including an exploding chair sculpture (see below). The sculpture communicated a visceral, phallic, raw energy. It was soft and also sly. I liked it. It made me uneasy. It made me think of soft sculptures by Louise Bourgeois. Naughty.

Kusama, Accumulations

Continuing through the galleries, I saw psychedelic dotty installations. Kusama’s work is about dots.

Kusama, Air Mail Stickers

The image above is titled Air Mail Stickers (1962). It’s a large collage on canvas, 71×67 inches, in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. The entire surface of the canvas is covered with hundreds of air mail stickers. Kusama had to lick each sticker to get it to stick to the canvas. When the collage was created, stamps were not self-adhesive like today. This work is included in the current exhibition. Photo courtesy the Internet.

Continuing on to the early works, I saw paintings, photo collage and collage. Everything was getting smaller and more intimate. The collages and photo collages were really wonderful. The image below is a small collage, titled Self Obliteration. There were many other collages and photo collages. Each one was a unique work, and was more narrative and less abstract that the later works.

Kusama, Self Obliteration

I didn’t get to see the installation Fireflies on the Water on the first level at the Whitney Museum (I was too late to get a ticket into the space). Fireflies (owned by the Whitney and included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial) uses water and mirrors to reflect 150 tiny hanging lights. Only one person is admitted into the installation at a time.

The exhibition will continue through September 30, 2012.

HOW DOES COLLAGE EXPLODE?

I titled this blog Collage Exploded. That was a reaction I had when I saw the exhibition.

Collage is about putting lots of things together and that’s the experience I got when I walked though the galleries. The exhibition was a collage. Probably because the artist worked in so many different media and everything is included.

CHILDREN DO COLLAGE

November 10, 2011

What a surprise! Children’s art on view in a pristine Chelsea gallery space.

I visited the DC Moore Gallery on West 22nd Street in NYC last month and saw an exhibition with collage done by children. The main gallery had wonderful paintings by Eric Aho. The adjacent gallery had an installation with 31 collages by students at the Calhoun School in NYC, titled 9/11: Through Young Eyes (September 8 – October 8, 2011).

The works were done 10 years ago. The students were 8th graders. Read more.

9/11 Through Young Eyes

My first reaction was – isn’t this interesting to see collage by young students in a Chelsea gallery. My next reaction was that the student’s works looked really good.

I wanted to get up close and see the way the collages were made, the materials that were used, and understand why the work looked so good.

When I walked around and looked at the individual works, I noticed they were made with pieces of cut construction papers pasted on top of another piece of colored construction paper. This is the stuff that children use for art projects in elementary school.  The paper is not that special. But the works looked almost professional.

I analyzed what made the works seem so special. The answer: every work, no matter what background color of construction paper was used, was “floated” on the same warm white paper – a high quality background paper – and framed in a matching white wood frame.

All the frames were the same size, and each one was hung with just the right amount of space between. Every framed work had room to breath. Each work got the gallery treatment.

Seeing the exhibition made me think how art can be enhanced by optimum presentation and installation.

I also thought about art made by even younger children I ‘ve taught at an after-school program at the Williams Elementary School in Mt. Vernon, NY, organized through the Pelham Art Center, Pelham, NY.  I will teach collage again at the Williams School in December 2011.

The images below are collages done by 2nd graders, inspired by Romare Bearden (African-American 1911-1988).

I showed them a small print reproduction of a Bearden work titled “The Block.” It’s 48 x 216 inches, six panels, cut and pasted printed, colored and metallic papers, photostats, pencil, ink, gouache, watercolor pen and ink on Masonite. The image below is a section.

Romare Bearden

I also brought reproductions of Bearden’s much simpler line drawings to inspire the students at the Williams School.

I think it’s important for kids to learn about collage by great artists like Romare Bearden, Henri Matisse, Jean Dubuffet and others.

The image nearby is a drawing by Romare Bearden. Image: the Internet.

Romare Bearden

The after-school program at the Williams School is self-selected. That means the kids decide what activity they want to join. My activity is making art with paper collage. The school has a very good art program and the children know how to work with scissors, paper and glue.

I bring drawing paper for the substrate (bottom collage paper) and assorted papers. I bring scissors, glue and crayons and encourage the students to embellish the papers with drawings, patterns and more color.

At the beginning of the class I show a reproduction in color of Bearden’s collage and drawings and say Bearden was a famous artist with works in important museums. I ask them to raise their hands if they know what a collage is. All hands go up.

I ask them to look at the windows in the classroom and see how the spaces are divided. I ask them to notice how the windows in the 3 different Bearden line drawings each have different windows, and to notice that some windows have people looking out.

Making art is about learning to see.

A student is placing his papers

I ask the students to make a collage like the Bearden drawings and have more than one house on a street.

The Bearden reproductions include people and cats in the window. The children drew puppies, kittens, birds, trees, flowers, boys and girls.

Student working on a collage

Because time is short and the students have different skill levels, I prepare a lot of the collage papers in advance and pre-cut papers into 3 sizes of squares and rectangle in brown, yellow, black and teal blue papers. Each student gets a small squeeze bottle of white glue and a pair of children’s scissors.

I leave some papers uncut, and encourage the students who want to be independent and inventive to cut squares into rectangles for doors, steps, chimneys and long windows, and cut squares into triangles for rooftops.

student collage

I always do a tutorial on how to carefully squeeze glue from the small bottles. I say do “dot dot dot” and don’t squeeze too hard. I am there to help clean up the glue puddles if they squeeze the bottle too hard.

I am amazed at the energy in the works. Even if they don’t cut squares into smaller pieces, or cut parallel edges, each work is fun and joyful, based on the ways the papers are placed and the drawings they add.  Everyone is able to finish his or her work.

The images show student works in progress and works held up for admiration. I didn’t show all the children’s faces to protect their privacy.

Student and his collage

Read more about the exhibition “9/11: Through Young Eyes” (September 8 – October 8, 2011) at the DC MOORE Gallery,

The thirteen-year-old students in the exhibition “9/11” made their art after a visit to the Whitney Museum of American Art to see an exhibition of works by Jacob Lawrence, including his “Migration Series” (1940-41). The Migration Series is about movement of African-Americans from the agricultural South to the industrial North following World War I.

Thank you for your comments about children making art with collage.