Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Aesthetic Economy

Aesthetics and economics are inextricably linked. According to current research by Americans for the Arts, $166 billion is generated annually through arts and cultural activity. Film, theater, museum going, dance, all of the things most of us like to participate in given time. We are already living in an an aesthetic economy.

But, if art and culture are already so entrenched, why is a career in an arts related industry considered, well, not the favorite choice of a parent of a teenager? Being the mother of a 16 year old, I am particularly sensitive to how this unfolds. My son is in no danger of such a decision, at least not at this point. His aptitude is strong in math and science and I suspect he will go after a more ‘solid’ career choice. But I am an artist! Why do I have that less than arts supportive attitude? There two streams of thought at work here. One, the most obvious in my mind is my sons aptitude and interests. His father has a Ph.D in botany and writes school curriculum in the sciences. I, on the other hand, am an artist and so he has been raised with both ends of that particular spectrum. I would never try and influence his decision making process although exposing him to possibilities certainly ranks as part of my job description. The second thought stream here is that it IS a difficult career choice and part of me is relieved he isn’t, at this point, taking that tougher road.

That said, I am interested in the evolution of art as a viable means of making a living and of its healing power in society; economically as well as spiritually. I believe art has the capacity and may well be the exact remedy to many of the ills of our day. I continue to watch the Occupy movement gain speed. I agree with many that we are at a pivotal, if not volatile moment, again, in our history. There are many ways this story can continue to unfold. Egypt and Wisconsin, unlikely revolutionary partners, yet both communities stand at the beginning of this new wrinkle in the everlasting human uprising. Today, Egypt is struggling to turn over the rule of their nation to the civilian population because the former regime destroyed the institutions that would make that possible. The Old Order Stifles the Birth of New Egypt.

Pepper Sprayed Seurat
Occupy Wall Street is an opportunity to continue a long road that rests, putters, is stifled but never dies. It is the cry of freedom. It is the need of people to feel they, we, I have a voice. There is much to concern myself with today. Thanksgiving is tomorrow. I we have much to do. But, in the wrinkles of time in our day, remember that art is there. To inspire. To guide. And to fully participate in the re-evolution of the human spirit. A revitalizing force, guided by beauty, it can and will help define the new era dawning.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Line and Color

Thompson Giroux Gallery
September 17-October 30
Hours: Thursday - Monday: 11-5PM
57 Main Street
Chatham, NY

Jean Feinburg, Splitsville, 2009, 16" x 10", oil on wood

Jean Feinburg's work is constructed from repurposed wood, possibly from crumbling barn structures or other scarred effigies. She constructs simple configurations that are then carefully painted with muted tones, earthy and calm. Shapes are masked, edges are crisp. There is comfort in the work in spite of the rough hewn materials. These are objects of quiet beauty, well crafted and cared for. The works date from 2002-2011 indicating commitment to a process and style. Feinburg employs very simple and specific modes of conveying a refreshing arithmetic of squares and rectangles. One piece that gives a sense of spiritual essence is "Splitsville" 2009 16" x 10" -- a cross painted on a piece of wood that has a crack down the center. The title belies the shape of the geometric figure on the wood structure. A cross. Iconic and unmistakable.

Emiliy Cheng, Canopy, 2002, 50" x 48"

Emily Cheng is an artist who has embraced the beautiful without apology. Her paintings "Spin" and "Flutter" both from 2005, resemble lengths of fabric tied into a knot and fluttering in the breeze. Their red border serves to differentiate the edge in a striking separation between the object and the ground of the painting. "Canopy" takes the shape of an umbrella and turns it into a mandala, rotating around a ground of arabesques with detailed surprises around the edges of the canvas. Paint drips dry in different directions, suggesting the canvas was worked on in rotation . The texture of the paint is left as evidence of the making. "Protecting Three Graces" is an earlier work, a monotype of layered imagery -- Botticelli's "Primavera" and eastern thangka images with Cheng's own shapes. A curious juxtaposition of Asian and European art history.

David Paulson, Homage to Masson, 2010, 25" x 42", oil on board

David Paulson's painting has the heroic quality of a demonic nature. The visceral work is thickly painted in oils or acrylic and pays homage to modernist artists such as Andre Masson and early Jackson Pollock. Paulson uses paint to build up a surface that emboldens his graphic abstractions and layers color in ways that repel while drawing the viewer in. Painting with such physical quality is difficult to fathom in its purely formal elements. "Startled Figure" 2009 is an emotive, anxious response of the startled figure. A nervous agitation beckons the viewer to reflect on her own irritable volatility. Black scumbling and raw oozing acrylic, hardened and caked on the surface exhibit an organic, primitive quality. Brutish and dark. "Homage to Masson" 2010 is expressive, emoting the pure joy of laying paint down on a surface. An homage to the early surrealist Masson suggests Paulson uses automatic drawing in his work and the composition certainly supports this assumption. Automatic mark making creates a completely non-objective picture in a manner used by the surrealists, but in the hands of Paulson, renders a romantic possibility of immediacy.

Tom Hope, Down to the Waters Edge, 1996, 66" x 46", oil on canvas

Tom Hope's one picture in the show, "Down to the Waters Edge" 1996 is the most narrative piece in the exhibit. Mythic in scope and large, 66" high x 46" wide, the painting seems to evoke a dream. Fishermen surround nets of fish laying in a boat that becomes a stairway leading up to a door where a nude woman floats above them all. Watching men stand a bit back from the fisher men, taking stock, perhaps to bid on the fish or take their cut. The entire picture is floating in the night sky with stars in the background. Much more illustrative than the other works on the show, Hope's work has a surrealistic quality. The dream evokes a mystery and captivates the viewer in its puzzling allure.
Michael Tong, Ben Franklin, 2003, 20" x 14", welded bronze on steel

Michael Tong has several different types of pieces in the show. His works on paper are reminiscent of Chinese landscape painting. "The Big Pink" 2007, 60" x 82" is a watercolor/guache on paper. To begin with, the color itself is a surprise. Pink monochrome sets the stage for the rest of the picture which includes tiny humorous tableau in the distance. Trucks and unexpected figures clamor up the hillside in a quietly anomalous mise en scene amidst the grandeur of this pink mountain scape. "Lakeside" 2007 also calls to mind Chinese landscapes, but again, the quirky inclusion of a modern home on stilts in the water and a two story american cabin complete with brick chimney and motor boats harboring next to their fantasy domiciles leaves one smiling if not outright laughing. Humor is clearly an aspect of this artists intention. His jewelry is also pretty funny. In particular "Ben Franklin" 2003, welded bronze on steel is an impossible golden chain with the symbol of an American hundred dollar bill on it. A wry wink at the golden chain culture.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Laura Sharp Wilson


Acrylic and graphite on Unryu paper mounted on wood

27 ¼ x 26 ¾ inches

Yelling at Strangers, 2010

Acrylic and graphite on Unryu paper mounted on wood, 12 x 12 inches

McKenzie Fine Art

511 West 25th St. NYC

I was fortunate to see this show before it closed on April 30th. Working on a small scale, Wilson's work is very dense and intricate. She applies rice paper to the surface of prepared wooden panels and creates these fantastic worlds of densely patterned string like meanderings. Binding and fencing are recurring themes. There is a beautiful prison stuck here. These are precious works of art with a tortured and meticulously rendered surface that synthesizes multiple decorative elements. These compositions are fascinating to look at. They hold the eye and do not disappoint. Botanical references are insinuated, all of the linear elements seem to bind themselves up in a carefully contained composition just this side of chaos. These little lovelies are obsessive and lyrical in their layered and nearly cacophonous resolve.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Some rules and hints for teachers and students

By Corita Kent
Whole Earth Catalog
Spring 1986

RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for awhile.
RULE TWO: General duties of a student - pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.
RULE THREE: General duties of a teacher - pull everything out of your students.
RULE FOUR: Consider everything an experiment.
RULE FIVE: Be self-disciplined - this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.
RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There's no win and no fail, there's only make.
RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It's the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.
RULE EIGHT Don't try to create and analyze at the same time. They're different processes.
RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It's lighter than you think.
RULE TEN: "We're breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities." (John Cage)
HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything - it might come in handy later.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I saw the SOFA Show in New York at the Armory last week. I was somewhat appalled by the overall lack of real quality or inovation in the show itself, seemed like a glorified craft fair. Lots of jewelry and very highly polished pots. There were a couple of acceptions, though. The highlight, in my humble opinion, was Goro Suzuki's wonderful tea bowls at Gallery Gen. Like a quilt, they are reconstructed fragments of simply glazed ceramic, joined with Kintsugi, a traditional method of repairing broken pottery by laying gold on the adhesive in the crack. Aparently this is especially true of tea bowls. His use of this technique with great intention exhibits a real flare for reinventing an impossibly old and used form. So poetic. I was reminded of Cezanne in their gorgeousness and true innovative vigor.

Another breath of fresh air was Jun Kaneko, my old mentor. His famous Dungos, always bold and undeniable were on display at Chiaroscuro Contemporary Art.

Marcia Lyons had these cool cubes dripping with paint on view at David Richard Contemporary.

I look forward to the day when "art" and "craft" end their meaningless war.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Daniel Weiner

I have been meaning to write about Dan Wiener's work for a while and am finally doing so now. I have know Dan for close to 20 years, having met him at the suggestion of Saul Ostrow, my erstwhile studio spy that often suggested relevant artists for me to meet and talk to. Those suggestions have led to winning friendships and lifelong acquaintances. Dan is one of those happy encounters.

I was drawn to Dan's work in the late 80's because of it's high quirk factor. Always on the lookout for work that resonated with my own, I felt a kinship with Dan's unusual visual language, one seemingly drawn from an Ursula Leguin novel or something. His inventive sense of form and otherworldliness is quite fantastic. I love the way he makes works on paper, then sculpture, not as exact replicas of the paintings, but as sisters and brothers. Friends in a small tight knit community. Dan's work has a playful, humorous quality that invites you into his narrative. I feel transported when I look at one of Dan's watercolors. His sculpture makes me smile and sometimes laugh out loud.

See his current show at Lesley Heller in New York City for one more week.

Bart Gulley

Mona Mark and I ventured further afield last week to see a show of work by painter Bart Gulley. The show was held at the Foreman Gallery at Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY.

Bart's work is a sophisticated blend of collage and design. He utilizes swathes of color torn or cut and lays them in a random collective of overlapping layers. The outcome hints at architectural thoughts; monumental slabs of colorful substance leaning against structurally impossible lines of contrasting material. Some of the work is raw cardboard and flotsam acquired in vaguely memorable ways, adhered to the surface of each piece with care.

Bart's work is handsome and striking, formal and almost beautiful. It was well worth the trip.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Art Fairs, NYC : Wrap Up

Yayoi Kusama, 2010, acrylic on canvas
Paul Villinski, 2010-2011

OK, so I went to New York last week to take in some art during what really needs to be called New York Art Week. I went to Pulse, The Independent, The ADAA Show and the Armory Show. I know I missed some spectacular shows, but I saw enough art to keep me going for a while. My favorite piece, if that is even a reasonable declaration, is this wonderful cello spilling butterflies by Paul Villinski. This was found at the booth of Morgan Lehman Gallery and took my breath away.

Another favorite was this simple painting by Yayoi Kusama.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Art Fairs

Am getting ready to head into the city tomorrow, or town as I also call New York City. From my perch up here in the hill, "town" is all too much of a contrast with where I spend most of my days.

I am particularly looking forward to Volta. As a fair that focuses 100% on artists, I suspect it may be extremely dynamic. This will be my first time at this relatively new show.