Fun House – the art of the unusual

Summer 2016 will be remembered for the Fun House exhibit, held at Barrett Art Center in Poughkeepsie and curated by Eve Biddle, local artist and curator. The exhibit was inspired by Hudson Valley regional artist David Lax’s surreal painting, spotted in the entry hall of the gallery. “There is something about this theme, the bizarre, weird, and wonderful, that really strikes a chord with artists;” Executive Director, Joanna Frang commented, “We had over 300 local and national entries for the show.” Local artist and curator, Eve Biddle, selected 81 artworks by 51 artists, hailing from 17 states and 40 cities and towns. Biddle’s curatorial statement sets the stage in anticipation for seeing the art: “These works are a jumble of dreams and nightmares designed to overload the senses and spark the imagination.”

Santiago Cohen_The Fight_Courtesy the artist
The Fight, by Santiago Cohen. Copyright Santiago Cohen – Website: http://www.santiagocohen.com/Artnew.html

Many of the artworks include the unexpected juxtaposition of collage images, such as John Baker’s painting, “Born and Raised in the City of Chicago,” and the photographs by Annie Stone and Kerfe Roig. Santiago Cohen’s “The Fight,” reminds us of the strong influence of the surrealist movement on Mexican art. Born in Mexico, this New Jersey artists’ influence is seen in his three paintings on exhibit.

 

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Pollito Chicken, photo by Ileana Doble Hernandez – copyright Ileana Doble Hernandez – artist website: ileanadobleh.com 

Ileana Doble Hernandez exhibits staged photographs from her series, “Animal Nature,” which are inspired by animal-human interaction. The photograph “Pollito Chicken,” depicts a mother with a pig-mask sitting at the dinner table, her baby is dressed in a bright yellow romper and appears to be trying to crawl out of an aluminum roasting pan. There is a roast chicken in front of the mother, but the placement of the baby next to the dinner and the empty plate might make the viewer feel uneasy. The artist notes that “In the end, we are also animal kind.”

 

Jim Allen exhibited “Traveling Dreams,” a surreal black and white photograph that captures reflections and shadows of travel, whether by fantasy or memory. The fantasy of riding off on a stallion is viewed through a scratched windowpane, making the memory seem unreliable. Through the window the viewer sees the distorted image of a school bus leaving on its route.

James Allen_Traveling Dreams_Courtesy the artist
Traveling Dreams by Jim Allen. All copyrights Jim Allen. 

Sculptural pieces include Trent Taft’s artworks that could have come from the special effects movie prop storeroom: meticulously created and vaguely disturbing, these are artworks from a new master.

Marah Carpenter’s fabric work series, “Paper Doll Look,” a reconfigured wardrobe inspired by paper dolls, features three pieces that are actually wearable, creating a one-dimensional view of the model.

Isaac Roller’s pen and ink scroll “The Changeling” demonstrates the artists’ skill at drawing animals – both real and imagined. Although a small portion of 31’ scroll is viewable, what is on display is truly bizarre.

All images copyright the artists.

Abstract Expressionism lives on!

Abstract Expressionism developed through a New York school of painters and established an art movement born in the United States. Let us consider Elaine De Kooning and Grace Hartigan, whose paintings exude a sense of energy in the paint application, or Lee Krasner’s work, filled with abstract forms that feel reminiscent of a fantastical landscape. However, in the machismo world of the Abstract Expressionists, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell are historically mentioned as making important contributions to this movement – at this point in time, we should acknowledge a more equitable list of artists contributing to this movement.

The Hudson Valley region has many artists that have made their life here, including artists whose work is inspired from the Abstract Expressionists. Barbara Gordon’s art must be included in this group and it is a pleasure to see a full body of her work in this solo show, “Active Engagement – Testing Boundaries.” The exhibit is aptly named, as active engagement has been the consistent thread for the artistic output seen in the show and evident over a lifetime of her artistic career. Barbara Gordon states: “My academic grounding, at Cooper Union, was firmly in the abstract expressionist tradition, in which figurative work was a virtual taboo.”

The artworks in this exhibit show the growth of the artist’s vision after her early studies. For instance, the artwork, “Faith in a Seed 1,” utilizes a variety of materials she uses as her medium: papers, cardboard, scraps of wood, and paint. Through collaging of the materials and overpainting, the drips and faint markings are composed around a wood fragment with rusted nails. Many of the pieces for the exhibit the artist has composed wood framing devices, pieced together from wood scraps from her barn. For instance, “Bent Tree Construction” has vivid hues of blue and orange establishing a dynamic palette, while the wood pieces carefully fitted together add the touch of the human hand to the composition. Thoughtfully layered cardboard, watercolor papers and paint give the work a feeling of a precious relic.

bent tree construction 1Gordon’s dynamic painting style is evident in “Notes on a Red Headed Woodpecker,” the delicate nuances of the background creates a dimensional foil for the energetic red and black slashes, which are reminiscent of gestures seen in Franz Kline’s works. This piece, however, exudes an other-worldly serenity where that energy can abide. In the painting, “Blue,” the artist uses an energetic paint application, including drips overpainted with layers of color: blue, sap green, and red compete for space in a composition that seems inspired by the landscape.

notes on a red headed woodpeckerThe exhibit is rich with visions that the artist has captured working out of her Accord studio, which she described as her artistic practice: “Now, being directly in nature, living along a rail trail, surrounded by silence and the constantly changing light in the land, mountains and sky I strive for a synthesis of pure abstraction with the concrete, specific images of nature, animals, and people that have interested me since childhood.”

BLue

Involuntary Painting

A group of artist colleagues have started a site where they post photos of images that appear at first glance to be paintings. This is not a new phenomena, artists are always captivated by color, design and a striking composition. Walking in your neighborhood you could find the same involuntary paintings – I know that I have.

These images I found on several PT Boats stored by a waterside – the contrasting layers of peeling paint, water and mineral discoloration have created beautiful colors over the years. The wood planks under the paint shows through enough to give you a sense of how the boat is built.

The public group can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/involuntarypainting/

#involuntarypainting

Carwashes and Gerhard Richter

LMR-carwash@POK
Carwash through a windshield

Driving into a carwash you relinquish your car over to a large machine going through an automated process of soaping, scrubbing, and rinsing. During a recent carwash session sitting in the driver’s seat staring at the soap and water flowing over the windshield, I immediately was reminded of the beauty of Gerhard Richter’s art.

Richter is known for a variety of approaches to making paintings, but one of his well-known practices is squeegee painting. He commented on his process during a conversation with Nicholas Serota:

With a brush you have control. The paint goes on the brush and you make the mark. From experience you know exactly what will happen. With the squeegee you lose control. Not all control, but some control. It depends on the angle, the pressure and the particular paint I am using.

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Still from the film Gerhard Richter: Painting (2011)

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richterrichter-Abstraktes Bild 1986
Abstraktes Bild sold for $46.3 million

During last month’s auction at Sotheby’s in London, Gerhard Richter’s squeegee painting, Abstraktes Bild (1986), sold for $46.3 million – a record for a living European artist.

The art of Mercados

I love a Mercado! Across the major neighborhoods of Mexico City, Mercados are the center of commerce and the interactions of daily life and should be part of  every visitor experience.IMG_0978

During a recent trip to Mexico City we stayed outside the center in Coyoacan, a quieter community where Frida Khalo, Diego Rivera, and Leon Trotsky once lived. The Mercado Coyoacan has everything a local resident might need in daily life, from birthday gifts to fresh tortillas. In fact, the entry we came through had a tortilla machine cranking out fresh tortillas.

Walking through the aisles I am always struck by the beauty of the displays – whether the rows of cactus fruit, or the pyramids of differently colored red chilies, it is visually beautiful. The perfume of each section will assail your senses as well – I always stay away from the meat aisles for this reason.

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There is a pride and showmanship in each merchant’s displays – whether you are selling fruit or toys, items are arranged with an artistic eye and precision.IMG_0980

Small food stalls sell fresh fruit drinks, breakfast, lunches and snacks. Sitting down at the counter and ordering the specialty can be one of the most wonderful parts of your visit to a Mercado.

The Art of Details

While strolling around Mexico City recently, my eyes were filled with so many beautiful images layered upon each other that it was overwhelming. Sometimes we forget to stop, focus and appreciate one image alone. Here are some images when viewed by themselves are fascinating.

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Xoloitzcuintli

We are departing for Mexico City in 4 days, leaving snow and slush behind – nothing these little Mexican hairless dogs would likely experience. Xoloitzcuintli, or Xolo for short, has been popular in Mexico for centuries. The dog was named by the Aztecs after Xolotl, the God of lightning and death.

These small effigies can be seen at street markets as freshly baked clay folk arts, and also nearly identical Xolos at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. The dog statues were buried alongside their masters to protect and guide them in the afterlife.

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