Earlier this month, the New York Times did an article about the Alice Neel retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum. She has been a hero of mine for a long time and I’m happy to see her getting this level of acknowledgment.
After reading the article I spent some happy hours poking around the internet and found this lovely portrait done by Neel (1900 – 1984). There’s a lot more out there, including some interesting interviews.
I listen to podcasts while I do mindless studio prep activities and while I walk the dog, garden and clean. One of my very favorites is The “Anthropocene Reviewed”, written and presented by John Green. He “reviews facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale”. A recent episode was about Agnes Martin’s series of paintings, “With My Back to the World” and Hiroyuki Doi’s drawings. I give it 5 stars.
I recently did a quick, completely unscientific, bit of internet research to find how many artists live and work in the Portland area. There doesn’t seem to be a definitive source for that information but, I did find a few interesting factoids:
A “Citylab” article written in 2017 says Portland/Vancouver had the 3rd highest “Location quotient” (that’s the artist to regular human ratio) in the country. Los Angeles and New York City topped the list.
The Portland Open Studios Tour has a substantial number of artists (as many as 100) who open up their workspaces to the public on 2 weekends each fall. https://portlandopenstudios.com
And according to the artists’ resource website, “Artists Network”, Portland is among the top 10 “leading art cities conducive to an artful life”
I’m not certain what “artful life” means, but presumably there is some quality drawing creative people to the area. And given the relatively large numbers, I wasn’t surprised to find a show of 2 local artists worth mentioning, when I visited Elizabeth Leach Gallery this week.
“Erosion”, by Christine Bourdette includes sculptures and drawings. Ryan Pierce’s “Hot Hex” has his latest large scale paintings. Both artists address issues of environmental degradation. https://www.elizabethleach.com/exhibitions
Polyester litho plates are inexpensive and easy to work with. The process can result in lines which mimic crayon or pencil and can be printed on either a litho or etching press. These 2 videos do a good job of explaining the processes of creating and printing plates.
What is making me happy? Among other things, the recent work of 3 artists. Here they are, in no particular order:
Ruth Ross worked in the publishing industry in New York City before moving to Portland in 2000. This extraordinarily versatile artist makes prints, paintings, collages, photographs and jewelry. http://ruthrossart.com
The New York Times Style Magazine recently did a long interview with Johns. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/18/t-magazine/jasper-johns.html
He currently has a show at the Matthew Marks Gallery in New York and in 2020 will have 2 shows split between the Whitney and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He is 88 years old.
An article in the Sunday NYT Arts section (12/16/17) profiled art collector Beth Rudin DeWoody. Her Bunker Artspace is located in a residential area in West Palm Beach and is just 2 miles down the road from Mar-a-Logo. She believes that “art should be provocative” this is borne out by exhibits that include an x-rated area, a controversial image of the crucifixion and a doll-sized sculpture of Charles Manson on a playdate. Quite an outlier institution in an otherwise conservative community. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/15/arts/design/mar-a-lago-has-a-feisty-new-neighbor.html?_r=0
One of the pieces I found most interesting was by Jeff Colson. I mistook it for a big luscious trompe l’oeil painting, but it is actually a sculpture. This video of him building it is worth a look. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDg8p53NZJA
Last week I made a day trip to Tacoma to visit the Museum of Glass. It’s in a striking 75,000 square foot building completed in 2002. I had plans to walk across the adjacent Chihuly Bridge of Glass, but the museum’s demonstrations and exhibits were so engaging they filled all the time I had. Hopefully the walk can happen during another visit and on a warmer, drier day.
My time there started in the Jane Russell Hot Shop (no kidding, real name) where glass technicians, called gaffers, conjure creations from molten glass. The demonstration alone was worth the trip. MOG has a robust artist-in-residence program and installation artist, Fred Wilson, was directing the creation of large tear-shaped pieces intended for inclusion in a piece similar to one of his earlier works, Drip Drop Plop.
Drip Drop Plop 2001
An exhibit of paintings, drawings and sculpture, Every Soil Bears Not Everything, by Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora C. Mace, is in the galleries. These 2 artists have worked collaboratively for more than 30 years using blown and cast glass, fabricated wood and bronze. http://www.kirkpatrick-mace.com
While trolling Google Images for places where printed media and 3 dimensional art might intersect, I stumbled upon the work of Brian Dettmer. According to Wikipedia, “as a student, Dettmer focused primarily on painting. When he began to work in a sign shop, his work began to explore the relationship between text, images, language, and codes, including paintings based on braille, Morse Code, and American Sign Language. He then began to make work by repeatedly pasting newspapers and book pages to canvas and tearing off pieces, leaving behind layered fragments. In 2000, Dettmer started to experiment by gluing and cutting into books, the medium for which he is now best known”. These books are what most captured my imagination.
In 1985, my brother-in-law John gave me a copy of “Rhapsody” for Christmas. This beautiful book is a catalog of Jennifer Bartlett’s seminal work of the same name. The piece, comprised of hundreds of 12” x 12” painted metal tiles, was originally exhibited at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York in 1976 and then again 30 years later, at the Museum of Modern Art.
1985 was coincidentally, the year I finished my graduate program in painting. When I received the book, I was chagrinned to realize that despite 3 intensive years of study, I had never come across her work. This was due no doubt, to my sloppy and somewhat random research skills. But, I also hold my professors responsible for thoroughly examining the work of her contemporaries, artists like Jim Dine, Robert Rauschenberg and Alex Katz, while failing even the slightest mention of someone referred to as “one of the most successful artists in the 1970s” by Klaus Ottmann, a curator at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC.
After I saw the images in “Rhapsody”, Bartlett immediately became and continues to be a major influence for me. I strongly relate to her inclination to combine many small elements to achieve a coherent whole. Additionally, her iconic “child-like” house motif as well as her garden images touch on the theme of domesticity – something I value deeply as content. In the late 1980s, while in New York, I saw drawings and painting from the garden series and found the work to be unforgettably luscious and painterly. She has been working for the better part of 50 years and a Google image search yields, I think, a remarkably diverse and rich cross-section of what she has accomplished.
I recently listened to a segment from one of my favorite podcasts, “To The Best of Our Knowledge” (Wisconsin Public Radio), and was touched to hear Alain de Botton’s beautifully articulated ideas on the topic of looking at art.http://www.ttbook.org/book/art-therapy-alain-de-botton
Even though the word “therapy” is in the title, his thinking about how we might relate to art is anything but clinical. I’ve seldom heard a more passionate or succinct description of the relationship between artist, art and viewer.
Édouard Manet (French, 1832-1883). Bunch of Asparagus, 1880. Oil on canvas. 46 x 55 cm (18 1/16 x 21 5/8 in.). Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud, Köln