If in Brooklyn, Visit Georgia

Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern
to July 23, 2017
The Brooklyn Museum

Georgia O'Keeffe

It is worth going over to The Brooklyn Museum, if you want to see their different perspective on "Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern".  What is surprising about this exhibition is the inclusion of many photographs and written entries by and about Georgia O'Keefe, as well as fashions she designed for herself that are Spartan in a very contemporary way    ( no surprise that Calvin Klein is a main sponsor of this show ).

Georgia finds her voice with shells and shingles

Georgia O'Keeffe ( 1887-1986 ) was born in the mid-west, and educated at The Art Institute of Chicago; she was a student of Arthur Wesley Dow and had an open mind when it came to painting her subjects.  Seeking a career, Georgia moved to New York City where she came under the guidance of Alfred Steiglitz - a renowned photographer and gallery director.  They had a long lasting relationship and Georgia's artwork was promoted at Steiglitz's Gallery 291 ( Fifth Avenue near 32nd street ).

Georgia O'Keeffe's Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Even if you have seen other shows featuring Georgia's paintings this one takes on a different dimension and helps situate her in time, exploring lesser known paintings as well as some of her master works from a very long career.  There is a wonderful catalog for "Living Modern" and  leafing through it you will find that The Brooklyn Museum actually has a very sizable collection of Georgia O'Keeffe's artwork and photos of her as well.  I was surprised to see a painting I did not know that came from The Smithsonian on loan, and it is about "Manhattan" - painted as a model for part of a competitive mural commission in 1932.

Gorgia O'Keeffe's " Manhattan ", 1932
oil on canvas was part of mural competition

The photographs taken of Georgia during her life really remind the viewer of her character, someone who looked like she was in total control of herself and her surroundings.  The photos in this show represent every phase of Georgia O'Keefe's life - from ones taken by Steiglitz through to the photos by Annie Leibovitz and Andy Warhol.

Georgia O'Keeffe out west in the mid 1930's

Everything in her paintings looks considered, restrained, and clear-eyed, some would say "reductive" and they move to the heart of modernism.  The paintings have become iconic, and now influence generations of artists in her wake.

On fifth floor of the Museum I stopped in to see paintings by Marilyn Minter, and found a giant floor projection centered in their arched space, and I saw what I thought were a bunch of melting M&M's, but I could not be for certain...

Top of the museum

Outside is a beautiful day and perfect for a walk in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, so we look forward to seeing the flowering cherry trees.  Sakura Matsuri,  the festival of Japanese culture is scheduled for April 29th and 30th, so if you are in Brooklyn, don't miss this chance to visit the garden when it is free and open to the public.

Cherry Trees in bloom
at The Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Years ago, I worked with my brother, Paul Singer, on graphics for The Brooklyn Botanic Garden - but all that is left of our efforts are descriptive panels in the Bonsai collection.  We still admired the ancient specimens - some go back 260 years - and have been well cared for all along the way.

The star magnolias were in bloom and couldn't help but take a look in on the Japanese gardens and take some photos to remember a fine day.  Then it was time to pack and head back upstate....

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

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On A Corner in Brooklyn

Kendall Shaw at his home studio on President Street
Park Slope, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Before I travel back in time with you, I want to shout out to Kendall Shaw who is a painter friend of mine in Brooklyn, New York.  

In the Early 1980's I was settling into a large new studio space on Union Street just down from Fifth Avenue in Park Slope and Ken owned the building then.  Looking back on those years when I was working at this loft building I was really involved in the New York City art scene, and then there wasn't that much going on in Brooklyn to compare to today in 2017.  Still, Park Slope was a terrific neighborhood then and now, where many artists lived along the tree-lined blocks up and down the streets. 

Kendall Shaw ( three layered canvas, mid 1980's )

While I worked on my art during the day, I got into the writing bug and started to have my illustrated essays published in the local newspaper and in magazines like American Artist.  I landed in a nice apartment on Prospect Park with my wife, and the new studio on Union Street sure was better than painting in the back room where we lived.  I was writing a regular feature that appeared in "The Prospect Press" and it all sprang from the fact that as I walked up the slope at night I would see artists working in their apartments ( like I had been doing ) and I was determined to meet these people since I was just settling in.  Soon I was interviewing the artists I met and the timing couldn't have been better.

Lennart Anderson

Up on Union Street near Eigth Avenue there was Lennart Anderson, a superb figurative painter,who's work I had followed since I was a teenager.  I have written about him recently on this blog when he passed away recently.  Back then I was able to introduce myself and write about Lennart's artwork after doing an afternoon interview which was later published.

Kendall Shaw, who was born in Louisiana, still had a bit of a southern accent, but he was really into a kind of painting aligned with the Pattern & Decoration movement that was in vogue at that time.  Ken had a background in chemistry and his paintings had an abstract quality that I think had some influence among his students and fellow artists.  At the top of this blog you see him at work on his large paintings that remind me of Ellsworth Kelly.

Jules Olitski

Across the street in an old bank building was the studio of the painter Jules Olitski, and I would watch trucks come and go, ready to haul away his giant paintings that extended the reach of his color field painting that was championed by Clement Greenberg years ago.

Alex and Allyson Grey

New folks moved in upstairs, and I wanted to meet Alex and Allyson Grey and was overwhelmed by the energy of the artwork they produced.  Alex and Allyson are really interesting people who had just moved down from the Boston area to be part of the new Stefan Stux Gallery, who was also moving down to be in New York.

Alex Grey

Allyson Grey

Both Greys had their own kind of art going on, and I was attracted to their knowledge and interest in all kinds of visual art.  Alex had been trained in anatomy, and Allyson had a series of rainbow hued paintings that evolved slowly from her geometric visions - all of this was very stimulating.

Art critic for The Nation,
Barry Schwabsky
in a photo I took when he came to speak at R.I.T.

Across from the bank building on Fifth Avenue, I found a friend in the art writer and poet, Barry Schwabsky who lived upstairs for a while.  He later became the editor of Arts Magazine when Richard Martin left the publication to work at F.I.T.

So, this little corner of Brooklyn became a powerhouse of artistic temperament, and the young artists of Park Slope had a regular open studio tour in which I took part in helping organize.  By 1984 I had a basement space that I sublet to a pair of artists who happened to be in the midst of a year-long performance piece.  I met Teching Hsieh ( Sam ) in New York City while he was tied to Linda Montano, and they rented my basement.  Imagine, if you can,  the unusual sight of them tied together, walking down the street.  This was truly memorable for many reasons - and they were really great folks.

Performance artists Teching Hsieh and Linda Montano

And what was I doing at that time?  I had completed a series of postage stamp designs with my father, Arthur Singer.  We had a hit on our hands and the U.S.Postal Service issued these stamps in Washington, D.C. and people lined up to get our autographs.  They sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of these little portraits of birds and flowers.  Now that was a time....

Arthur and Alan Singer
"The Birds and Flowers of the Fifty States"

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Vision Of The Future

"Future View" by Alan Singer
Transfer monoprint on Fabriano paper
My entry for "Made in NY, 2017"
at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center,
Auburn, New York
thru May 21, 2017

Once a year there is a very interesting juried exhibition of recent art mounted at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center in Auburn, NY called: "Made in New York".  This year, the title of the show is "Envisioning the Future" and I was very happy to have my mono print "Future View" selected for this show which seems appropriate for many reasons.  When I think about the future for the visual arts, I think about new techniques coming on board to broaden the search and enliven the map that artists use to find their path.  When I think about the future for the arts, I consider R.I.T., where I teach , and all the new voices coming from all over the world to develop their vision and practice their craft.  It is heartening to see all these young people flocking to the arts, and the show called "Made in New York, 2017" is right on the mark.  I am sure that we will see many new avenues opening up for artist exploration.

Peter Gohringer
" Soft Green Mutant" thermal vacuum formed plastic

When you see this show, you will have the opportunity to view this art in a wonderful space, the exhibition is selected carefully - so as to be not too crowded, and right at the entry there is this bright yellow-green form by Peter Gohringer that certainly has that look of something new and unusual.
This brilliant bubble like appearance, framed in white has a little bit of Pop Art in its genetic makeup but it stands alone in its simple field.  I am reminded of the movie "The Graduate" with Dustin Hoffman, when he receives advice about his future career prospects in:  plastics.  

"Rain Rustler Outfit" by Jennifer Hecker

Right around the corner was another surprise by Jennifer Hecker - a mixed media piece called "Rain Rustler Outfit", it is a costume made partly from worked hot glass along with a welded steel hat and "water pistols" with boots.  Funny imagination here in a sculptural presence that I have not seen before;  I wonder if climate change has driven this artist to think about what lengths we will have to go to deal with the elements.

Sue Leopard's artist book, at "Made in New York, 2017

There were some old friends represented in this exhibition, such as Sue Leopard with her book dedicated to: "This Past Winter ( GLOBAL WARN ( M ) ING - Serious Ill Winds, past & Future".
Sue has been making intricate hand made artist books for many years that include ingenious typography and careful image making on pages here of an ivory sort of paper: the Japanese Kitikata.

  Artist Janet Winkie next to her work " Receiving Blanket"

Janet Winkie who teaches at SUNY Brockport, has a sewn piece on display which she calls: "Receiving Blanket" made of old gym socks and a satin backing.  I was kidding her, but I said that the way her piece was hanging reminded me of marine life, especially the manta rays ( see also Chardin's paintings of ray fish ).  If you go back to the title for this show - "Envisioning the Future" this is in direct relation with a baby's first blanket as they enter the world.  A hopeful sign.

Thoughts about marine life are back again in the swirls of a giant woodblock print by Taro Takizawa.

An image of an giant Octopus on a vintage china plate reinforces this thought by Beckett Wood.  In the description of the work, the label reads that the plate has been fired at 2300 degrees, which I imagine makes the image pretty durable.

"Unknown Landscape" by Taro Takizawa

I was looking for hopeful signs in this show "Envisioning the Future" but more often I came away with the feeling of impending warnings - to be on your guard.  One very simple but beautiful work was a silverpoint image inscribed on a white panel and titled "Standing Stone" by Peter Allen.  This technique takes a long time to accumulate enough value to be visible, and it is hard to photograph but below you will get the idea of what it is all about; I urge you to go see the show and find this quiet piece in the show.

"Standing Stone" by Peter Allen
silverpoint on white panel

Thoughts about the future seem to be very graphic and might involve tumult, and I feel this in the small horizontal composition by Sarah Sutton from Trumansburg, New York. Her painting on panel is called "Delay Line Memory" and it is an engaging little oil that has a variety of  articulated values that tell a story of violent destruction on the man-made landscape. 

Sarah Sutton's painting  "Delay Line Memory"

"Made in New York, 2017 " brings together many people who have been working in the visual arts doing really interesting things in a wide variety of media.  I like Phyllis Bryce Ely's "Field at Risk" which is made with oil stick on top of old draftsman's mylar that still has traces of an engineer's drawing in places, calling our attention, once again to our environment and how we treat it.

Phyllis Bryce Ely's "Field at Risk"

As I leave,  I stop by two large drawings that again hint at the direction we are going. In these works by Donalee Wesley called: " Encroachment l and ll from 2017, we get more of that tumult, and tumbling action when the human population upsets the balance with wildlife, especially powerful predators.  We are all in this together, so be mindful of others as we work towards our future place in the universe....

Large drawing by Donalee Wesley
"Encroachment 1 "
"Made in New York, 2017"
Schweinfurt Memorial Art Center, Auburn, New York

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Whitney Bien

Welcome to the Whitney Museum
The Biennial continues through June 11, 2017

A bit of controversy surrounds the new Whitney Biennial because of Dana Schutz's painting of an open casket.  In fact instant death seems to be a factor for imagery that you might find in this museum show.  You might come to feel that reflections on society from these selected artists is a way to face facts, and they are not pretty.  People who confuse art with beauty might walk away from this show shaking their heads.

Painting by Henry Taylor

Henry Taylor's paintings are a case in point.  He does not turn away from making a direct and powerful approach to the kind of violence we read in the headlines, repeated again, and again.  The title of the work above says it clearly enough: THE TIMES THEY AINT A CHANGING, FAST ENOUGH....

Pope.L "Claim" ( Whitney Version ), 2017

Then, there are some funny situations that happen in the Biennial, and I am thinking of Pope.L's "Claim" ( Whitney Version ) from this year, and it is possible to see this as a mockery of formalism - a literal room full of baloney ( though one piece I see was already missing from this display ).  Nothing would stop this artist from realizing this vision - just to see what would happen - and I wonder what Donald Judd would have said...?  Judd would be refreshed if he went out on the balcony and viewed the installation of Larry Bell's "Pacific Red".

Larry Bell's  " Pacific Red "

Also at the Biennial there is a kind of "homage to the square" to use a term from Albers, and this marks a return to the grid, in these wood carvings by Matt Browning from 2016.  These finely carved works all came from carving a solid block of wood to form interlocking bars that would make an artist like Sol Lewitt very happy.

Carvings by Matt Browning ( 2016 )

At the other extreme there are several works hanging in another part of the show that are very large and much more organically organized.  I am thinking about the mixed media sculpture by a pair of artists called Kaya.  The prevailing color is black, and the materials all are reflective, and tend to remind me of the expressive and figurative works that we will visit at the end of this post.

One of a series from Kaya

John Kessler is an artist whose work I have followed in the past and he has two installations on the floor of the Biennial.  "Exodus" is a carousel of kitsch that is under continual surveillance ( projected on a wide screen in real time ), and "Evolution" has figures who seem to be snorkeling in a digital wave pattern projected on screens that mimic the movement of water.

Jon Kessler's " Exodus", a carousel of kitsch

There is so much to see, but I don't have time to wait in long lines that queue up for a virtual reality experience or the many videos playing in darkened rooms.  I was more attracted to the paintings of Shara Hughes, like "We Windy" that seems like a homage to David Hockney.

"We Windy" by Shara Hughes

Painting is also alive  and well in the hands of an artist like Carrie Moyer, and yet the energy in this Biennial can be felt in other ways.  I was very attracted to the show but it is difficult to find a pattern or see any prevailing trends at the Whitney.  Another installation in the Biennial requires a sunny day and you can see that here in the photo of a collaborative work in the windows which project shadows in a unique and interesting manner. 

"Reflections " 2017 from Casey Gollan and Victoria Sobel

On our way out of the Whitney we stopped in front of two paintings that kind of summarize a modern condition and it takes these two paintings in contrast to each other to tell a story.  One floor above the Biennial, in the show called "Human Interest" there are two figurative paintings - one by DeKooning ( see below )

Willem DeKooning, "Woman With A Bicycle" 1952

And then there is another's artist's interpretation of this painting which caused a fuss.  The second version is by the painter Peter Saul who had many shows at  the Frumkin Gallery on 57th Street in Manhattan that I attended going back into the early 1960's.  He is still working away on these really wild works that seem so idiosyncratic, but also so wonderfully wacky.  And that is how it is at the Whitney Museum of Art.

Peter Saul's  1976  Acrylic on linen of
de Kooning's Woman with Bicycle 

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Whitney Museum
Renzo Piano, Architect

We approach the Whitney Museum from the west.  It is a bright, sunny afternoon in New York City and it has been snowing earlier in the week, so we had a brilliant day to drive downtown and park to look around.  The new Whitney has many fine points and the architect, Renzo Piano is to be commended: he envisioned interesting spaces inside the museum and many balconies facing east outside.  We take the elevator to the eighth floor for a show called "Fast Forward" - Paintings from the 1980's.  I was there then, going to shows and hearing from the artists,  and the early 1980's re-established the importance of painting - there was a short lived boom for the art form.  You get a taste for that - stepping out of the elevator to confront Kenny Scharf and Keith Haring in a kind of visual exhortation.

Keith Haring ( 1958-1990 ) ( wallpaper ) and Kenny Scharf ( painting )

So you see a bit of the transgressive behavior of Haring ( defacing subway walls ) most of which is long forgotten, and with Kenny Scharf you get an artist from the 1980's looking back to kid's cartoons and other bizarre mark making .

Painting by Leon Golub ( 1922-2004 )

In "Fast Forward" one of the strongest paintings is by Leon Golub which could have been made yesterday - the subject is so present - the power structures of brutality ( wherever it occurs ) 
- rendered in a style that has a ground-down look because that is what it is.

Painting by David Salle

The irony of juxtaposition is on view in the painting by David Salle that commandeers the magazine layout ethos but drops the easy story in favor of a more obscure symbolic tale told by comparison.

The 1980's also saw the rise of painting by Julian Schnabel where often ceramic dinner plates were adhered to a canvas using Bondo.  One of my early students from R.I.T. was there working with Julian in his studio doing the daily tasks which also included baby-sitting.  Julian's painting on velvet at the Whitney isn't quite as interesting as some of his films - including a movie about Jean-Michel Basquiat who is also represented in "Fast Forward".  We stopped to admire a canvas by Terry Winters before we head downstairs.

Terry Winters in "Fast Forward"
at the Whitney
Going down to the next floor via an outside stairway you come across beautiful views north and south, and an odd sculpture set atop  some poles that looks like a sideways ear of corn with large nails attached and a head with a hole in it.  The label says this work is by an artist cooperative perhaps from the Middle East and their sculpture has the enigmatic title: "Local Police Find Fruit With Spells, 2017".

"Local Police Find Fruit With Spells, 2017"

We then walk around a floor of the new Whitney devoted to portraits from the museum's collection and I stop by a painting by Beauford Delaney ( 1901-1979 ) that I think I have seen before in Michael Rosenfeld's Gallery.  My cousin, Michael, is a strong supporter of art by African-Americans and I am glad to see that this work is included in the present show called "Human Interest" that runs through April 2nd, 2017.

Auto-Portrait 1965, oil on canvas
Painting by Beauford Delaney

On floors five and six we find the main attraction, the Whitney Biennial, and since it is the first day, the show is packed with visitors and this exhibition is an exercise in sensory overload.  If you get off the elevator, you might be greeted by the sight of Dana Schutz's painting called "Elevator", and it is a wonderful work that is part cubist, part figurative, and part Krazy Kat.

Dana Schutz with her painting called "Elevator"

The curators for the Biennial express their point of view through the artwork they have chosen, and they attempt to tackle subjects like inequality, neighborhood politics, student debt, and other life and death matters.

Biennial Curators
Mia Locks and Christopher Lew
from a photo by Pari Dukovic

In my next post I will try to get in close to take a look at some of the featured works in the Biennial so stay tuned...
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Women’s Work

Ceramics from Andrea Pawarski
The Yards

Women's Work is a group show at The Yards, which you can find on the northern edge of Rochester's Public Market.  Open on Saturday from 10 - 2 pm, you go up two flights of stairs to the exhibition space and the little shop called Dichotomy.  The Yards was established several years ago as a collaborative art space and it fills a gap by providing a venue for unusual installations and other media that might fall outside the realm of what a commercial gallery in Rochester could handle.  This location, on the border of the Public Market, in theory could attract a lot of attention; it could become a scene.  Artists who might not be able to find another way to show what they do could get a start here.

You can tell a lot about a person from their mode of expression, and the art on view in this exhibition can act as an opening chapter on the lives of artists that might be new to you.  For this viewer, it was good to catch up with some of these women who have been students at R.I.T. - and see what they are doing now.

Always on the lookout for an artwork that will resonate, I enjoyed the ceramic wallwork ( above ) that looks like rolling waves in the winter, and it reminded me of another artist - Diane Burko who has made many paintings of waterways and glaciers.  The artist in this case is Andrea Pawarski, and she is a young teacher and graduate of Syracuse University and her art is colorful, tactile, and almost baroque in the movement of her forms and details.

Jeanne Raffer Beck ( at right )

An attractive piece from this group show is from Jeanne Raffer Beck who I knew from her presence in the Hungerford Building where I maintain my studio.  Her mixed media piece is called "Traces" and it shimmers like the iridescence of a hummingbird.  Right next to her art is a smallish painting on wood by Judy Gohringer.  She titles her work: "Primal", and it is almost like a primitive shield, carved and painted on old cedar shakes or shingles.  I like the direct color and abstraction here, it reminds me of the Australian aboriginal art I reviewed at the Herbert Johnson Museum in Ithaca last year.

Judy Gohringer's "Primal"

Olivia Kim
"At Sunset", plaster and dyes

Olivia Kim is another artist I know from the Hungerford Building, and here she shows a figurative sculpture in rainbow colors that highlights motion.  This artist has been working with dancers from the Garth Fagan Company in recent past and this work looks like part of that endeavor.

Marisa Nowodworski
"I'm Not Listening"
Acrylic and pen on canvas

Marisa Nowodworski has a painting that is a real statement ( or many statements ).
A portrait is surrounded by what could be lines of grafitti, but is more likely commentary that is heard and felt.  A line of peaches on a shelf at the bottom serves to highlight the irony in the things that people say to one another, especially from parents and others who give caution to self-expression.

Amber Tracy

Amber Tracy is one of our recent grads from R.I.T. and her active little painting turns towards abstraction with a bit of energy and anxiety tied to it.  Across the room, two tagged cows in a field are there to be observed and documented in this drypoint etching by Maria Savka.

Drypoint by Maria Savka

Finally, I wanted to mention delicate wrought works by Sarah Rose Lejeune called: "Tender".
These tiny sculptures appear like ancient artifacts or remnants of life from another century.  They come in a little coffin and are displayed as if in a science museum.  They are imagined skeletons of birds perhaps, or fossils of insects, and they are a peaceful way to engage with this show of art by women at work in a variety of media, thank You!

Sarah Rose Lejeune
with her work called: "Tender"

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Art Is My Father

Arthur Singer  ( 1917-1990 ), Self Portrait
circa 1944
During World War ll , in The 
"Ghost Army "

Yes, I write about the visual arts, but Art is my father.  He was also known as Arthur - or if you were really close, Artie.  My dad - Arthur B. Singer knew he wanted to be an artist from his childhood on- and in that capacity he was nurtured by the culture at home on Audubon Avenue in New York City, and also by his friends including some well known artists, and the greatest names in Jazz.

Arthur Singer in his late teens
New York City

Arthur's mom, Tessie Singer
circa 1935

Arthur's mom was Tessie Singer, and for years she made expensive doll's clothes on contract to F.A.O.Schwartz.  Arthur developed a sense of the patience and vision that one would need for the creative life.  For someone like him to fall in love with drawing animals, it was a relief to take the subway ride out to the Bronx Zoo and spend the day sketching.

Arthur Singer, ink and wash
late 1930's

Arthur made drawings like these while he was still a teenager and he caught the attention of curators both at the Zoo, and at The American Museum of Natural History.  My father was a collector at heart, and he began to amass a book and record collection, as well as filing cabinets filled with pictures cut from magazines featuring every kind of bird and animal known by the early 1930's.

Arthur Singer's portrait of Cab Calloway
mid 1930's

As a teenager, Arthur was a nifty handball player and he also closely followed the careers of his friends in the Jazz world including Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington.  Artie also like to dance!
Along the way, Arthur made portraits of Cab and Duke out of the names of the songs they had recorded.

Going off to college meant that he had to take the "A" Train down from Washington Heights to The Cooper Union down on eighth street which at the time was one of the only free universities in the nation.  Arthur was enthralled by the talent of the artists he met at college and also deeply engaged in finding his own voice in the visual arts.  For a while he was captivated by cave paintings ( from pre-historic times ).  While in college, he found the double elephant portfolios of birds by John James Audubon - and that changed the course of his study from then on.

At an exhibition of his paintings,
Arthur while in the Army, paints a portrait of Alfred Drake of 
"Tars and Spars"

After graduation, Arthur spent some time in the Army in Europe with the unit known as "The Ghost Army".  "The Ghost Army" waged a war of deception with camouflage and theatrics, and among those who served this branch of the Army were artists like Ellsworth Kelly and Bill Blass and the photographer Art Kane.  Who knew that these young guys would go on to have major careers and help shape our culture?

Arthur Singer finds a mass audience for his wildlife 
art seen here at the start of his career in 1955

Frank Blair introduces Arthur Singer 
on the set of NBC's Today Show, 1961
with his new book "Birds of the World"

These are just a few short notes from the beginning of our new book titled: "Arthur Singer, The Wildlife Art of an American Master", which will be published later this year by RIT Press, here in Rochester, New York.  I am looking forward to sharing with you more about our book, and the marvelous life my father had during an illustrious career.

"Birds of North America"
If you like bird watching you may know my father's Golden Guide
which I helped revise in 1979
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Beyond Category

From left: Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn and Willie-the Lion Smith
mid 1960's

Celebration of Black History Month concludes with a whirl of events here in town.  My own way to observe this is to say: what a privilege it has been to come in contact with great artists like these fellows in this blog post.  As an example, I took this photo many years ago after a recording session I attended in Bayside, Queens, N.Y. with the likes of Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn and Willie-the-Lion Smith. I sat down to listen to the musicians and singer Joya Sherill with my father - who introduced me to Jazz and some of the major players and today I am in awe of the talents they possessed.

With a visual arts perspective, you might not know this but Duke Ellington came to New York City, from Washington, D.C. not only to play jazz but to attend Pratt Institute as a visual artist.

Luvon Sheppard being interviewed at The Memorial Art Gallery
February 26, 2017

Fast forward to 2017, and I am sitting listening to my colleague, Luvon Sheppard in a public conversation with Ephraim E. J. Daniels, one of our students from R.I.T.  In this interview, seen against a backdrop of recent artworks on easels - in one of the reception rooms at The Memorial Art Gallery - Luvon speaks of his early teachers, and the environment that he entered when he was a student at R.I.T. and abstraction was all the rage.

Luvon Sheppard's painting in "Memory of Trayvon Martin"

In the many years since that time, Luvon has become a treasured teacher and friend to many in our field, and he has a sensitive approach to his art that now blends a figurative sensibility with something more atmospheric.  In fact, figures do appear in the clouds, especially in paintings that sometimes attempt to deal with national tragedies like the killing of Trayvon Martin.  I would say that Luvon is reverent for life, for hope, and for feeling, especially between the values he places in his art and the people who come to view it, like the audience that gathered for his talk this past Sunday.

I also found a stimulating experience viewing the "chapters" of a visual book in the main galleries at the MAG called "Pax Kaffraria" by Meleko Mokgosi who is a painter originally from Botswana, Africa now living in the New York City area.

Part of the "Pax Kaffraria" by Meleko Mokgosi

A large crowd came to hear the painter Meleko Mokgosi in a "meet the artist" talk also at The Memorial Art Gallery last Thursday evening.  Introduced by Director, Binstock of the MAG, Meleko Mokgosi - who in his mid-thirties comes across as very erudite - is thoroughly grounded in a philosophical dialect known in academic circles as artspeak.  Let me  just say that the approach to talking about his paintings was handled by Meleko on a symbolic level - and not a kind of practical - how-to guide that some in the audience had expected.

Painting by Meleko Mokgosi
" Pax Kaffraria"
at The Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, New York

The paintings on exhibition have a photo-realist look, but Mr. Mokgosi says he is not so concerned with realism.  He does tell stories in his paintings, and they appear to be a series of vignettes - painted chapters of an ongoing story, maybe more symbolic than actual.  He visits, or quotes from social and political history of South Africa, and we are shown images of leaders like Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela that are painted like framed pictures hanging on a wall, all part of his larger opus " Pax Kaffraria".

He asks - How Shall I Portray Black People?  In art school he is taught how to mix a flesh tone for a figure that is not black...  What is it that these people should be doing?  How does he bring his visual dialog up-to-date?  His paintings include livestock and dogs, and pieces of the environment with little attention paid to landscape or place.  Meleko's figures more often float or are barely grounded in their own space.  This is an art of imagination and breadth, and I anticipate great things from this visual story-teller.  He has a style that articulates juxtaposition of dramatic elements, and in his paintings he reminds me of the style of the writer Don DeLillo ( often very dark ).

Meleko Mokgosi paintings also at Rochester Contemporary

Unless you have traveled widely, you might not have the necessary context to fully appreciate these paintings which bring to the forefront cultures and the notion of post-colonialist regions that we know from news reports in our newspapers here in the United States.  We need to know much more, and truly begin a dialog to have a sense of what is being said by an artist "beyond category" - as Duke Ellington, once said.

Meleko Mokgosi at "Meet the Artist"
The Memorial Art Gallery, February, 2017
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With An Artist’s Eye

"Jasper's Other Map"
Bernard Myers
University Gallery, R.I.T.
thru March 11, 2017

In the University Gallery at Rochester Institute of Technology, we have a physical environment that welcomes the viewer of images in an unhurried atmosphere that is both spacious and filled with natural light.  Towards the back there are archives of design work by Massimo Vignelli including books and posters, and on the other side there are antique cameras.  In the main gallery space there is a stunning show of large scale photographic prints made on matte paper held in place by magnets.  The textures and the look of these prints by Bernard Myers are so tactile, they look like they usher in a new era of clarity and desire.

Print by Bernard Myers

Bernard Myers was a graduate of R.I.T. years ago, with a background not only in photography but also in printmaking.  The colors are so clear, you might as well be looking at the actual thing- rather than a selection from reality.  A viewer gets to experience this art form without the traditional barrier of a frame and glass, and the reflections that would certainly come along with it - that often distort our experience of the art.

"Severance" by Bernard Myers

When you visit this show which is titled: "Bernard Myers: Dividing Line - Peru, Urban Renewal and Worlds in Between" - on view until March 11, 2017, you will see groups of images, some in black and white ( like "Severance" above ) and some in color - and they resemble the paintings of Gerhard Richter of Germany.  The prints are so alive that the color pulls you in first, and then you can register the details of these wall posters that have been gouged and scratched like some vital abstract expressionist canvas.

Bernard Myers

Tall in format, there is on view a series of prints featuring tall buildings and urban architecture, and the reflections and divisions of space in the built world of the modern city.  Here once again the colors are clear, though there are some distortions and deliberate duplication of textures and mirror effects.  These images are a bit less provocative, they don't have the mystery of some of his other images.

Bernard Myers at  University Gallery, R.I.T.

In particular, I liked the image of the fruit sellers' stall - seen from behind a screen. The idea of a permeable layer through which we view a scene is repeated also in the print on a back wall of a green landscape seen through a mossy screen porch.  The visceral effect of the screen through which we view the imagery is a casual metaphor here that is very effective, not over-wrought.

The selection and hanging of these beautiful prints, only makes me want to see more, and I can also recommend the beautiful books that contain his photos for sale at the desk.  This is an artist who is having a terrific time with his medium, and I can highly recommend it.
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Cooper Union Connections

Clare Romano ( 1922-2017 ) 
" Half Shuttered Venice",wood block print, 1996
commissioned by The Print Club of Rochester

Against a backdrop of political turmoil in Washington, D.C., I have found myself in a reflective mood, and I want to celebrate the good things I have and the relationships that have meant the most.  Can I also include the readers of these posts? - Thank You! If you spend a little time reading what I have written you have given me a better sense of purpose.  As an artist one can sometimes feel on the margins - so at least there are some connections made here as I tell my story.

I have written recently about my father, and my family - all of us involved in the arts.  My mother, Judy, and my father, Arthur were both graduates of The Cooper Union in New York City.  They had a wide variety of friends who were all in the visual arts, as designers, printmakers, illustrators, and fine artists.  One couple had even written a book on printmaking and that was John Ross and Clare Romano.  We would get hand made Christmas cards from them each year, and they inspired me to try my hand at making a wood cut, maybe when I was ten years old, and I took off from there.

Clare Romano Ross

Painting and printmaking were my main interests when I was in high school, and I took classes on Saturdays at The Museum of Modern Art School ( in the basement of the present day MOMA ), and also at The Art Students League, in preparation to go off to college.  When I was accepted at The Cooper Union, I was greatly elevated because so many of the people I had met ( friends of the family ) were involved in the arts, and had gone through The Cooper Union experience.  The Cooper Union was tuition free and it was and is one of the most selective colleges in the USA.

While I was at The Cooper Union, I studied art history with Brian O'Doherty, and Dore Ashton.  Above are some of her many books.  I liked her way of speaking, and also the fact that she was concerned with contemporary art, and was very familiar with the artists, and she was married to a painter, and they were my neighbors on East 11th Street in Manhattan.  It might be her influence that I feel today as I write about the arts, and I take inspiration from her as an example.

Dore Ashton ( 1928-2017 )

If you haven't read Dore Ashton's writing, I suggest that you take a look for her books, especially her interviews with Phillip Guston, and her books about The New York School.  Dore Ashton was there when it was all happening, and she changed the course of my college experience through her efforts at shaping the art history department at The Cooper Union.  She brought in some very interesting faculty to teach during the early 1970's when I was still getting my BFA.  Dore Ashton also brought in artists like Joseph Cornell, Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Motherwell, and poet Octavio Paz.

As you can see by this post, both of these women - Dore Ashton, and Clare Romano have recently passed away, and so that contributes to my reflective mood.  Later - way after I finished college and  got my MFA at Cornell University, I began to write and take printmaking seriously,  so I would say my role models had a very positive affect.  The wood block print at the top of this post was commissioned while I was the President of the Print Club of Rochester, so I had a chance to give a nod to an old friend, and a real figure of substance in the field of printmaking.

Now,  I can say thank you to my readers, and to the people who mean so much to me.  We passed  50,000 page views - so that is quite remarkable, and it leaves me very humble, so that people would spend a little time in their day to read my stories.  Thank you!
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