Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Contemporary Western New York Artists

George Grace

When I was back in Buffalo, NY visiting family I made it to this exhibition, The Artists Among Us II, just before it closed at the Burchfield Penney Art Museum on the Buffalo State Campus.  It was a show of over 600 local artists.  At first I was thrilled and didn't know where to start.  But as I made way around the huge exhibition space I grew tired and headachy pretty quickly.  My wife gave up and retired to another exhibition.  I pushed onward and made it all the way through.  Overall, I was not impressed with the artwork... but that said, I really appreciate a local museum exhibiting local art.  However, I suppose that this exhibit does not represent all of Western New York because the show is composed only of Burchfield Penney members... a nice incentive to join.

Here are some more thoughts...
  • I mostly preferred art that was simple and un-extraordinary
  • Art that looked as though an untrained artist made it were my favorites
  • There was not as many lame flowery, pretty, landscape paintings as one might have thought
  • There was a great mix a different mediums exhibited
  • I was pleased to see several Buffalo, NY themed artworks
  • Much of the art was crafty... and some things were made with masterful technique

According to the Burchfield Penney's website...
In recognition of the artists of Western New York and our role as the center of record for the arts of this region, the Burchfield Penney Art Center is very pleased to host the second members' exhibition in the museum’s history. This celebration of artistic expression in our community is important. It was fitting that the last exhibition in our Rockwell Hall galleries was our first members' exhibition—and now, more than 3 years after the new museum opened to the public, we are excited to host The Artists Among Us II.
The response from the community for this exhibition has been tremendous, and the Burchfield Penney is very pleased and excited to present the work of  670 member artists working in all media.

Viktoria Ciostek

Brett Doster

Mary K. Weig

Sarah Pratt Tobin

Nicole McCumber

Elizabeth R. Dann

Heather K. Morris

Chad Grohman

Katherine Sehr

Katherine Sehr (close up)

Victor Shanchuk Jr.

Kathleen S. Ludwig

Stacey Lechevet

John Mielcarek

Renee Oubre

Linda Piper

Michael Sparling

John Metzen

Patrick Robideau

Sunday, August 26, 2012

James Vullo: Deconstructing Urbania

During my last visit to my hometown of Buffalo, NY I visited the Burchfield Penney Art Museum.  I found myself enthralled with the James Vullo (1914-1999) exhibit titled: Deconstructing Urbania.  One very good thing about the Burchfield Penney is that it is a regional art museum.  Thankfully it doesn't concern itself with exhibiting Picasso's, Warhol's, or Richter's like the main Buffalo art museum the Albright Knox.  This large, newly build, wonderful space with several galleries focuses on Western New York artists specializing in Charles Burchfield, Charles Cary Rumsey, and James Vullo.

According to the press release for the exhibit....

Although artist James Vullo (1914-1999) created works in varied styles – ashcan realism, abstract cubism and landscape minimalism – at different periods in his life, his focus was always on the environment with which he was most familiar: the city and its surroundings.  In his early work he depicted the darker realities of early 20 th century Western New York with it's growing industrial base. By mid-career, his work evolved from representations of isolated urbanism to panes of color – a visual celebration of the geometry and beauty of the architecture in the region. And his style would change dramatically again when, in his later years, he stripped away intense cubic color constructions to settle into monochromatic landscapes.
Before serving in World War II, Vullo’s work was first exhibited at the celebrated Western New York show at the Albright Art Gallery in 1938, when he was just 24 years old. Upon his return from war, Vullo attended the Art Institute of Buffalo. In addition to painting, he spent most of his life teaching at Buffalo State College and other local institutions. Throughout his life he depicted his changing aesthetic view of a changing world – and then as now, his unique altered landscapes give audiences a sense of his perspective.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Eric Morgan Interview

I met Eric in college when we both were taking painting classes at SUNY Fredonia under Alberto Rey, whom we both greatly admire.  After I graduated in 2004 and moved to Brooklyn I gradually lost contact with Eric until 2009.  Eric now lives in Kailua, Hawaii and recently graduated in Oakland, Ca with a MFA.  You can visit his website at http://ericcyganikmorganart.blogspot.com/

What school did you get your MFA from?
John F. Kennedy University in Berkeley

How would you describe your videos?  I video the medium of your choice?
Through video, I examine my body, and the way it moves through time, the way it confronts the internal process of imagination. I'm particularly interested in considering absurd tasks and imbuing them with an esoteric purpose. Sometimes the setting will be all that is necessary, other times costume and rhythm of editing will be of more importance. The narrative and its definition is primarily left to the viewer to play with, analogous to looking through microscope or a telescope and watching the scene. What you see under a microscope is this other reality that is witnessed in a visual vacuum. I want to create those kind of alter-realities that connect to our daily reality. The goal is to subvert that daily reality to allow for new meanings to emerge. I like the idea of the videos spinning a soulful trance that gives the viewer just enough to enter but once inside all boundaries are destroyed and recreated with new ideas.

Why is the name of your blog "Level to Level"?
Level to Level is a body of work that culminated, a little over a year ago in 2011, in my MFA show. I wanted the blog to be its complete documentation.  It was an all-encompassing environment of various entrances and exits, which included videos, paintings and sculptural objects. The plan is to create another blog as a documentation for the new work, hopefully in the next few months.

How does your work from the past relate to what you are creating now?
Well, very soon after  you saw that work in 2005 I began to move away from painting entirely and focused on drawing. I bought these tiny sketchbooks and drew compulsively. I would have several books going on simultaneously, one was the very personal and experimental book and the others would be for more finished work stemming from that experimental book. These tiny drawings had mammoth ideas built into them but they were too insulated and not allowed to expand past the cerebral level.
Graduate school popped that bubble and I began to let the outside world inside my imagination. Everything changed then. Once these forms and ideas entered a physical world and an imaginative world, that is when landscape began to develop.  A break-through in this investigation of the inside/outside dichotomy was to place myself in the environment. Level to Level was a completion of the journey from those intimate, early black and white drawings to the expansive natural and urban landscapes.

What do you want, if anything, for the audience to come away with?
I want the audience to come away with a feeling of renchantment of the world around us.

What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a series of paintings and new video pieces. The paintings are small in size and they have themes of landscape-based visions and bright, fluorescent colors, while incorporating some of the environment I'm living in now. The working title for the new body of work is Pali Visions, after the mountainous, volcanic ridges that are left from the initial explosion that created the island of O'ahu.

Why did you choose to move to Oakland, CA and then Hawaii?
I moved to Oakland to attend graduate school and to fulfill my recreation of the original westward journey. Hawai'i is a continuation of that journey. The island environment is yielding new investigations of isolation, discovery, and movement or its lack of, which is ironically somewhat reflected in my art scene involvement.

Explain to me the significance of all the vibrant colors that are in your paintings, videos, and dress?
I think vibrant is a good way to think about it. In using such intense colors I am trying to harness some kind of a wild animal. It can get way out of control but its successes have a huge impact visually. The vibrations of colors within the relationships, for example of lime green and fluorescent orange,  create fields of high energy. 
To have consistency in the palette that I work in injects a particular emotional language within the formal aspects of painting. This is linked to all the other mediums as well. It's about expanding a vision in every available way, and leaving nothing unconsidered for expression. Also they're sexy!

Does your identity transform when you perform or record yourself in your videos?
Using myself in the videos is definitely deliberate and significant because the performance in the videos is about turning myself inside-out in the environment. Yes, my identity changes when I perform in front of the camera but it is important to say that it is not "acting". It isn't an identity that can be turned on and off to become the character. It is a temporal headspace that gets recorded for raw material. Mostly it isn't until the editing process that I see who I was.

What have been major influences in your art?
Music is a major influence. Sometimes I'll hear a section of a song, whether it be a harmony, a little melody or some time change, and I have the urge to figure it out visually because it tapped me emotionally.  Aboriginal art and the ideas about the land and Dreaming. I'm looking at David Hockney's landscapes, particularly the Grand Canyon paintings as well the northern England paintings. The American Sublime era, mostly the Luminists. Bruce Nauman--setting up problems and performing an investigation of them.  I discovered Brian Bress a few years ago and that changed my idea that video art can be kind of silly and funny but also expressing pressing existential things too. Psychedelic culture, mysticism, Graffiti and memory. Comedy has been a new influence within the past year or so. I relate to the comedians' absurdist perspective on daily life and I am working on translating that into my work. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Amy Feldman: Abstract Painter

Dark Selects Exhibition at Blackston Gallery in L.E.S.

Amy Feldman had a small solo show at Blackston Gallery last month and was part of a small group show at Art Bridge.  I like her art... Large (apparently heavily primed) canvases with simple ,mostly centered, abstract and monotoned compositions made in dark grayish blue acrylic.  They remind me of enlarged drawings... A bit like Franz Klein's paintings.  She succeeds in making this jump from looking like small doodles to large gestural paintings which is more difficult to do than you think.  Her paintings are fresh and made for galleries because of their large size.  Amy's use of positive and negative space together with the drippy loose bush work adds to their lightness despite their size.  Some seem to even boarder on OP art because of the contrast of pos/neg space and use of geometric shapes .  The quality i favor most in her work is the imperfect rough edges of the shapes she paints; she doesn't shy away from the hand painted look... In fact the contrast of the geometric forms that make these  compositions with the organic edges adds a richness to these paintings that give them an interesting quality.  Moreover there are many subtleties in these works once you move your attention away from their bold shapes/composition.  There are specks of tan paint, dry textured brush strokes, and sometimes an upward tapering off of the thickness of the stretcher bars.  The latter of the three is most exciting... You might not ever notice unless you're used to looking at the sides of stretched canvas.  Awesome work Amy... Hope to run into you someday and talk more about your art.

Below is a small section of her interview that Amy did with Valerie Brennan of Studio Critical (an abstract art blog)...

I always make drawings before I do paintings to get some idea about how I want to execute the paintings. Generally, the paintings stray far from my thumbnail sketches, but it’s really about the attitude of the drawings that I am interested in. I’m nonchalant about it and take many liberties, sometimes cutting into them and reassembling. Often my drawings are made on junky paper that I buy at the drug store. They are pretty quick and matter-of-fact. When I paint, I try to transfer a similar casualness to the paintings yet retain a specific poise.
After I make sketches, I often begin the paintings by “drawing” directly on the canvas with blue tape. Usually, I am working on multiple supports. The tape allows me to get a rough idea how the large forms will look. I always photograph the paintings with my phone before removing the tape so I can refer to the photos while I am making the painting. I then lay down a few layers of a colored ground and sometimes repeat the taping process, making changes. When I begin to use paint on the blank canvas, I have a loose vision about how I want the painting to look, but don’t hold myself to it and it often changes. I let the paint drip where it wants to go, but at the same time I am sensitive to the axis of the painting, its borders and how the forms are interacting. Sometimes the painting is left as is—take it or leave it. But other times, if I can’t articulate a particular awkward and seductive quality that I’m after, I will rework the painting. From time to time, I will mask out peephole-like areas at random that I work with later or I will just paint over the whole thing and start over.

Note the speckled ochre paint, the drips, and the "dry brush" strokes

Note the tapering of the width of the canvas

Ms. Behavior Exhibition at Art Bridge Drawing Room