After a month’s hiatus at Artists’ Gallery, the co-op exhibition space where I’ve been a member since last November, I will have 3 paintings up for the May show which runs from May 8 – May 31, 2009. The opening reception is this Saturday, May 9, from 6-9pm (the front-room featured artists this month are Beatrice Bork and Joe Kazimierczyk).

The paintings that I’ll be showing are Entanglement, Moving Forward, and Secondary Process.

If you’re in the area on Saturday night, please stop by to say Hi!  Artists’ Gallery is located at 32 Coryell St, Lambertville, NJ, and is open Fri, Sat, and Sun from 11am-6pm.

I’m very happy to announce that one of my photographs was accepted into the 27th Ellarslie Open, a juried exhibition that runs from April 25 through June 14. The show is located at the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie Mansion, in Cadwalader Park, Trenton, NJ, and there will be an opening reception on Saturday, April 25, from 5-9pm. My photo is “The Road Ahead”, one that I first posted on the blog a couple of months ago.

The Road Ahead

The Road Ahead

[Update:  I’m happy to report that this photo received an honorable mention award in the category of Digital Photography from juror Dr. Helen Shannon.]

I recently finished a painting I’m calling “Secondary Process”.  Enjoy!  The term “secondary process” is a Freudian term, with many sort of confusing definitions on the Internet, though I like this one.  In this case, I’m using it to refer to the use of secondary colors (along with optical primaries) in a structured way within the painting.  Several years ago I titled a painting “Primary Process” which only made use of red, green, and blue.

Acrylic on panel, 30x30 inches, 2009

Secondary Process, acrylic on panel, 30x30 inches, 2009

The opening reception for this year’s Mercer County Artists show is this Wednesday, March 18, 2009, from 5-7:30pm.  The annual juried show of work from artists who live, work, or go to school in Mercer County, NJ, is held at The Gallery @ Mercer County Community College.  The juror is Kristen Accola, director of Accola Contemporary in New York.  This year my painting Moving Forward will be in the show, which is up through April 9.

Moving Forward, acrylic on panel, 24x24

Moving Forward, acrylic on panel, 24"x24"

I hadn’t been to Chelsea since January and so was looking forward to catching up on the scene yesterday on an art-filled day in the city.  I had my list of galleries to visit, planned carefully via (which, sadly, seems to be missing more and more gallery listings these days) and the latest copy of ArtNews.  The weather was reasonably cooperative — gloves and scarf required but at least it was dry and not too windy.

Mexico City, Ridley HowardYesterday it seemed that a recurring theme in several of the shows I came across was “Big Heads.”  For fans of Alex Katz, you might be particularly interested in the paintings by Ridley Howard at Leo Koenig on 23rd St, up through April 11.  The figures are stylized — features are simplified into geometrical shapes but in a way that is beautifully painted.  The pieces include flat fields of color but also have enough articulation to suggest the third dimension more than most Katz paintings do.  (Particularly compelling was “Mexico City“.)

Gandhi, Lee WaislerOn 27th Street, another show of Big Heads — portraits of famous world figures — by California artist Lee Waisler is up at Sundaram Tagore gallery.  In this show, Waisler attaches thin strips of carefully shaped wood fastened to the underlying canvas as a drawing framework for his “dimensional portraits”, which are then fleshed out with acrylic paint in a sort of pop-art style.  The wood strips give the paintings a sculptural dimension (almost like Wesselman steel drawings) and I particularly enjoyed the smaller of two Einstein paintings and this colorful portrait of Gandhi.

Continuing the Big Head theme Erwin Olaf, van den Boogand moving towards Floating Bodies, over at Mike Weiss Gallery Piet van den Boog exhibits a number of large figurative works, including this one called Erwin Olaf (listed as Acrylic and Oil on rusted Steel).  The paintings in this show are worth looking at up close, where you can see the texture of the individual brush strokes with very little smooth blending.  The exhibition is called “Ophelia” (after the character from Hamlet who drowned, possibly by suicide, after being spurned by Hamlet and losing her father), and water and darkness play a role in several of the pieces.  The artist has a video of his studio along with a close-up of one painting posted on YouTube.  (Someone who has often painted big heads in the past, Rudolf Stingel, has a show of very small portraits up at Paula Cooper; these have a similar painterly texture to the van den Boog works but are monochrome and I thought not as interesting as other Stingel paintings I’ve seen).

At Von LintelKaoru, back on 25th Street, Izima Kaoru exhibits large intriguing photographs of famous Japanese models and actresses in fantasy scenes of their own deaths — in this show, the most common image is of a woman in a dark peach-colored outfit “floating” in a room of flowers.  You’re drawn to the blank expressions on the model’s face (with perfectly smooth makeup applications), the selective focus in the images, and the peculiar contradictions of bleak subject matter and well-executed photography.

Fortunately, not everything was big heads and floating bodies in Chelsea yesterday.  Larry Poons, detailAt Danese gallery, I caught the Larry Poons show of new paintings (Check out the very cool online catalog of this show, though don’t expect perfect color reproduction).  I was most familiar with Poons’ early dot and ellipse paintings, but these works are pure abstract expressionism, large canvases of colorful, vigorous brush strokes.  There are faint glimpses of things that could be read as figures — perhaps a face here, a body there, an overall sense of landscape — but mostly they read as abstract.  (They reminded me of the Cecily Brown show a few months ago, though the Poons paintings are more lyrical in their brush stroke and more harmonious in their use of color.)  Most of the Poons pieces in the show have a high key color palette, with the exception of one painting in the back room whose overall tone was aquamarine blue with punches of magenta, green, yellow, and orange (Calling You).

Finally, at Betty Cunningham there’s a pretty nifty show of “Diaphans”Alexander by Clytie Alexander.  These sculptural/painting objects consist of thin sheets of painted aluminum, perforated by hundreds of “hole punches” (probably drilled), floating four inches away from the wall by small rod fixtures.  As the ceiling light shines through these works (“diaphanous”), they create vague shadows on the wall that intermingle with the aluminum support and at times make the edges of the paintings appear hazy.  The backs of these paintings (which you can’t really see directly) are often painted a different color from the front, so that the reflected light tints the shadows on the wall behind the work.  In the back room, this is particularly interesting as pieces that otherwise look to be similar shades of white end up casting different tints of shadows on the walls behind them.  At the surface, these pieces can remind you of a Yayoi Kusama infinity net with hundreds of densely packed holes, while from far away you’re more likely to think of Robert Ryman, where white sits on top of color and the mounting against the wall is an important part of the piece. (Interestingly, as I signed the guest book, I noticed that Robert Ryman had in fact signed in just a few names before mine.)

On Friday, I headed into Manhattan for The Armory Show, located on piers 92-94 at 12th Avenue and 55th Street.  (Since the show didn’t open until noon, I had some time in the morning to catch up with Bonnard at The Met, but I’ll write about that in a separate post.)  This year I didn’t try and stuff four art fairs into a single day (perhaps art is like ice cream, wonderful stuff but if you try to take in too much too fast you get a headache?).

As with last year’s event (wow, I’ve been blogging for over a year now), there was some confusion at the entry to the show that could have been prevented with better signage.  Even though I had an e-ticket purchased ahead of time (recommended), there was still a wait as people sorted themselves out into proper lines and the staff gated people into the lobby rather ad hoc.

This year, the exhibition is comprised of two separate pavilions, the main “contemporary” show (“International Fair of New Art”) in the same upside-down T-shaped pier as last year and a “Modern” component in the adjacent pier.  Both parts are included with the same $30 (!) entry fee.

Turning the first corner in the show, I noticed a large epoxy resin painting by Peter Zimmerman at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin.  Zimmerman writes that he used Photoshop to abstract an image of a book cover algorithmically and used the resulting design as a starting point for his painting.  This seems similar to a process that I’ve used on some of my own recent paintings, where I’ve used photographic reference material and my own Photoshop algorithms to create the framework for a painting.

I noticed two or three different artists using Venetian blinds prominently in their work — something symbolic of the time or just a coincidence?  Evan Gruzis @ Deitch Projects hangs black blinds in front of a plasma TV displaying a bright orange video loop to create an eerie but intriguing object.  (I don’t normally go for this type of piece, but this year I found several assembled objects or sculptural works to be compelling and worth looking at for more than a few seconds.)

Also at Deitch was something completely different, a huge Kehinde Wiley painting (“oil wash on paper”) depicting an African American man in a pose entitled “Confederate Soldier from Mississippi Memorial” with trademark decorative elements floating in the background.  Having only seen Wiley’s canvases before, I enjoyed examining the different texture and brushstroke application in this oil wash on paper painting.

Another assembled-object piece that was visually enjoyable was Cornelia Parker’s “Composition with Horns” (similar to this one) at Frith Street Gallery.  It’s comprised of two instruments, a cornet and a bugle, hanging from thin threads just an inch or two from a pedestal (think Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible), with the cornet hanging perfectly vertical and a flattened (steamrolled?) bugle hanging horizontally at its side.  I’ll assume, given the title, that we’re to appreciate the object’s formal qualities (which I did) and not try to figure out the meaning of the flattened bugle and upright cornet.

At the same gallery, Anna Barriball’s “Green Glass 2008” reminded me of a James Sienna drawing, or an Altair Design, or a construction from World of Goo, with thousands of delicately drawn green lines connecting to fill a sheet of paper.

One of my favorite paintings in the show, and one that captured the zeitgeist perfectly, was Carl Hammoud‘s “House by the Rai…” at Magnus Karlsson.  It showed Hopper’s House by the Railroad, but half of the house was falling down, crumbling, in disrepair.  Maybe it’s too literal, but since I love Hopper, this painting “hit home” for me.

Another favorite, and another “object” work, was Ján Mancuška‘s “Tatlin’s Tower (this time in proper direction)” at the Andrew Kreps booth.  I’d prefer to call it “Filmstrip Yoga”:  it’s a strip of film with images of someone doing various shoulder stand yoga poses, with the strip twisted into a spiraling twirl, strung up with dozens of white strings and suspended adjacent to a fluorescent bulb lighting a plane of frosted glass.  My description isn’t doing it justice and I’m sure my memory isn’t completely accurate, but what I liked was that you could enjoy the piece at various scales — either up close by looking at the images on the film or the way it was strung up, or from further away by looking at the overall shape of the piece.

I found two Anish Kapoor pieces (both of which I think were sold), one a straightforward concave highly polished mirror that does typical fun house inversions and one that was much more interesting:  a bright magenta open-ended “semi-sphere” where, as you look into it’s interior, you lose all sense of depth and your eyes can’t focus on the back of the piece.  Mesmerizing and beautiful.

Over in the Modern wing, there was quite a lot to enjoy, though I won’t go into all of the details.  Highlights for me included a high quality Philip Pearlstein 2-figure oil painting, a Vasarely that happens to use almost the same palette as a painting I recently finished (oddly enough at the same gallery as the Pearlstein), some nice little Oscar Bluemner watercolors at O’Hara that are alas way out of my budget now, and a few nice Sol LeWitt wavy ribbon gouaches.

Overall, I found the contemporary part of The Armory Show to be about what it usually is:  enjoyable though a bit overwhelming; full of much that wouldn’t garner a second glance, but also providing enough that I enjoyed looking at to make me glad that I went.  Thankfully, this year the $30 entry fee gives you acces to the Modern part of the show as well, where you can take in and enjoy some familiar museum-quality pieces to help get your money’s worth.

This Sunday is the opening reception for the March group show at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville  (32 Coryell St, Lambertville, NJ).  Unlike most previous openings, this one takes place on a Sunday afternoon, from 2-6pm. This month’s theme is Madness, “an exhibition exploring chaos, passion, and general craziness,” mostly not related to basketball.

I’m exhibiting four paintings and two photographs.  The paintings  include Affordances, Figment, and a recent completion, Points of View:

Points of View (2009), acrylic on panel, 24 x 24 inches

Points of View (2009), acrylic on panel, 24 x 24 inches

Among the photographs I’m exhibiting is “Crazy Roots”, taken in Central Park several years ago:

Crazy Roots, photograph, 10x8 inches

Crazy Roots, photograph, 10x8 inches

I’ve used a portion of my wall space at Artists’ Gallery during this month’s exhibition, The Art of Seduction, to show some photographs.  Although I focus mostly on painting, I’ve been taking thousands and thousands of photos over the past 10 years and hope to occasionally show a few prints in Lambertville or elsewhere.  Here are the photos I’ve exhibited this month:

A moderately spicy pepper from last year's garden

Moderately Spicy, from last year's garden

The Road Ahead, taken in Madrid, 2007.

The Road Ahead, taken in Madrid, 2007.

A Walk in the Park, taken in Roosevelt Park, Edison, NJ.

A Walk in the Park, Roosevelt Park, Edison, NJ.

If you’re interested in prints of these photos, you can reach me directly here.

I’ve recently finished several paintings that I’ve been working on over the first six weeks of the new year and am now finally getting a chance to post them online.  First up is a painting that I finished in January entitled Affordances.

Affordances, acrylic on panel, 24"x24", 2009

Affordances, acrylic on panel, 24"x24", 2009

If you haven’t yet made plans for Valentine’s Day, why not come out to Lambertville, NJ, for some art and some chocolate?

The Art of Seduction

Artists’ Gallery Members Group Show
This show runs from February 6, 2009 until March 1, 2009
Reception:Valentine’s Day February 14th from 6:00 – 9:00

The Artists’ Gallery will seduce you with a captivating collection of traditional and contemporary art. A sumptuous chocolate buffet will be provided for the opening reception on Valentine’s Day, Saturday, February 14 from 6:00pm – 9:00pm. Tantalizing French Truffles and other irresistible chocolate confections will be donated by The Chocolate Box at 39 North Union Street.

This Valentine’s Day make the opening reception at the Artists Gallery part of your evening out in Lambertville or New Hope. Before or after drinks or dinner stop by the gallery (32 Coryell Street, Lambertville, NJ) and allow yourself to be seduced by the wide range of creative expression. The artwork represented is an alluring mix of abstract, modernist, Impressionist, and traditional realist art in a variety of mediums, including oil, acrylic, watercolor, pastel, photography and glass sculpture.

Gallery members Beatrice Bork, Gail Bracegirdle, Jennifer Cadoff, Merle Citron, Richard Harrington, Charles Katzenback, Joe Kazimierczyk, Alan Klawans, Florence Moonan, Alla Podolsky, Marc Reed, Materese Roche, Carol Sanzalone, Douglas Sardo, Bonnie Schorski, John Treichler, and Andrew Werth will be attending the reception and will be pleased to share their inspiration with you. So drop by, say hello and contemplate the perfect Valentine gift—a work of art from the Artists’ Gallery.

Today I had a truly amazing art experience.  The Carnegie Mellon University College of Fine Arts is having a series of special events this weekend in the New York area, and tonight’s event was a studio (& home) visit with world-renowned artist Philip Pearlstein (BFA, Carnegie Tech class of ’49).  As an alumnus of CMU — even though I toiled away in the engineering school as an undergrad — I was able to participate.  I’d been looking forward to this event for weeks and was relieved that today’s foul weather didn’t scuffle the plans.

Pearlstein lives and works on the west side of Manhattan and upon entering his apartment (with the other two dozen or so visitors) you immediately notice his immense collection of objects.  I would be tempted to say “tchotchkes”, but in fact these objects are much more than that: figurines, models, sculptures, masks, toys, and more.  It’s really a mini-museum of human culture.  Mr. Pearlstein mentioned that for the most part he was a collector of objects before he began being a painter of them.  As you look around you see many familiar items from his paintings — a zeppelin, a neon Mickey Mouse sign, some wooden ducks (that also happen to be represented in a painting behind his dining room table).

Moving into his studio, my feelings changed from nervousness (visiting a famous artist’s home!) to one of pure excitement:  Wow — I’m in Philip Pearlstein’s studio looking at several finished, gorgeous paintings on the walls with two more works in progress on easels!  It’s always instructive to see a “work in progress” as you get a real sense of how the artist does his thing.  Pearlstein has his easels set up fairly close to where the models would be sitting and begins with a rough charcoal drawing on an untoned, white canvas.  Then, it seems he uses Naples yellow to add to the drawing.  Then (as the artist explained) he begins painting from the center and works his way outward, in the present case by starting with a particular intersection of curves between the model’s leg and the arm on the chair.  He mentioned that he’ll touch all parts of the canvas — eventually — three or four times as he goes, each time tightening things up a bit more.

Laid out on his palette were (if my memory is serves me) the oil colors Naples yellow, raw sienna, burnt umber, cadmium orange, cadmium red, and a black whose name I couldn’t see (and I didn’t dare touch the palette to turn over the paint tube).  I asked him if his palette had evolved over time and he said he thought it had; in the past he had used more Mars colors (those made from an iron oxide base).  He mentioned that he chooses the objects to be in any specific painting primarily for their formal characteristics — shape and color and how they fill the space.

After an introduction from the dean of CMU’s College of Fine Arts, Hilary Robinson, Pearlstein spoke about his journey from Carnegie Tech to his eventual success in the New York art world.  He had early training in design and continues to think of himself in a sense as a graphic designer, with composition on the canvas being a kind of page layout problem.  After beginning as a member of an artist’s co-op on Tenth Street in Manhattan, he got a big break when one of the art magazines did a review of his show and put a large image of one of his paintings front and center, while images from the likes of Rothko, de Kooning, and Kline were small and off to the sides.  This got him attention and landed him an uptown gallery relationship.  When he later told that art reviewer about the success the magazine placement had gotten him, the writer told him (I’m paraphrasing), “I did that because I had just gotten fired.  I thought your work was the worst of the bunch and I wanted to stick it to the magazine.”  Pearlstein’s audience laughed as he told this story — a little luck is always a good thing, it seems…

Pearlstein and his wife Dorothy were gracious hosts and everyone I spoke to expressed great appreciation of this opportunity to meet him.

Every once in a while you have to sacrifice for your art.  Today, on a day when both the Giants and the Steelers were playing in huge playoff games, I had a conflict.  Scheduled at the same time as the Giants game was the opening reception for the Portrait Society of America’s local/NJ portrait show at the Bernardsville Library.  I really wanted to go, but definitely didn’t want to miss the games (especially the Steeler game).  Thankfully, there exists the DVR.  The trick is not to talk to anyone about the games and to turn the radio off on the drive home, lest you be told the score and have your plans ruined.

Well, I’m glad I went to the reception in Bernardsville because it was a good time.  A couple of friends stopped by to see the show (thanks!) and I met a bunch of nice people, both visitors to the show and fellow artists.  I was particularly impressed with the questions people were asking me about my funky portraits regarding technique, materials, purpose, etc.  Thanks to Jamie Lindholm, the local ambassador of the PSA, for organizing the show.

Bummed about the Giants, but very happy that the Steelers will advance another week.

Andrew Werth at the Bernardsville Library

After visiting the show in Newark, I headed into Manhattan to for this year’s first trip to Chelsea.  Although many of the galleries are still closed for the winter break, it was opening night for many shows.  Even with the chilly and windy weather, the receptions still drew good crowds.  In an economy where nobody wants to spend any money, free wine and free art (at least to look at) is a bargain.

I was glad to catch the Al Held show at Paul Kasmin, which I had accidentally missed on my last trip to the neighborhood.  The exhibition consists of approximately half a dozen medium-sized paintings (for Held they’re medium-sized, for me they would be gigantic), each a highly saturated, hard-edged colorscape of perspectival scaffolding and twisting roller-coaster-like beams.  In what I consider a sign of a good show, the other two people in the gallery with me were similarly scrutinizing the paintings carefully, from near and afar, from the front and from the sides, looking for color and composition, working to see how they’re all put together.

There are a couple of interesting shows on 23rd Street, a street that often gets short shrift on my visits to Chelsea.  At Pavel Zoubok Gallery, George Deem has a show entitled, “We Were There”.  It features a series of gouache and oil paintings (I think) whose subject matter is taken from combinations of famous works by the masters, particularly Vermeer.  Of particular note is “Sargent Vermeer”, which places one of the girls from Sargent’s “Daughters of E D Boit” (perhaps my all-time favorite painting) into a Vermeer interior, with the Sargent painting itself hanging on the wall Vermeer-style.

Also on 23rd Street at Leo Koenig (extended beyond its Jan 3 end date) is an exhibition of works on paper by Christian Schumann.  Each of the pieces in this show consist of obsessive, meticulous, paper-filling drawings of a sort of fictional landscape that’s reminiscent of the movie Wall-e.  The imagery is of blobs of… something, perhaps organisms, maybe robotic, mostly organic, not a lot of straight lines.  Although all of the works are fairly similar except for differences in the light washes of color underneath the drawing, there’s a cumulative effect of seeing so many of these works lined up in the gallery one after the other.  Given the nature of my own work, I can appreciate the kind of voluminous mark-making and mindful process that must have gone into each of these pieces.

At Kathryn Markel gallery on 20th Street, there’s a fine exhibition of oil paintings on aluminum panels by California artist Tyrell Collins.  Each of the panels contains a lovingly painted landscape in mostly yellowish hues, a combination of trees and fields.  The aluminum supports make these perceptually very interesting, as the works can glow depending upon the angle of view, an effect that reminded me of Daguerreotype photos.

There’s a very nifty show at Gana Art, a gallery that consistently puts on high quality shows.  Korean artist Lee Jung-Woong shows a dozen paintings in a series called, “Brush”.  Each work presents a very finely depicted paintbrush on top of an ink-splattered piece of paper, and you’re compelled to think about how the work was painted and what it’s a painting of.  The press release says that the artist splatters Chinese ink on the “canvas” (though I think the supports are stretched Korean paper) and then renders the brushes in oil paint.

Finally, there’s a beautiful show of “Railings & Shadows” by Andrew Jones at George Billis Gallery.  Jones (who’s a friend of a friend of mine) captures the light on the stoops and railings that line the streets of the West Village.  The paintings are representational but through cropping and carefully selected points of view have somewhat abstract compositions.  My favorite pieces in this series are the ones where the articulations of the brush are visible even in what would be a flat area of color, giving you something very interesting to look at up close.  Some of the works — the ones with the most contrast, I think — really pop when you stand back, especially “West 15th Street Newels” (already sold!).

I was finally able to make it up to Newark today to see the City Without Walls show which includes six of my paintings.  Here’s a photo of the overall installation — you can click on the image to get a higher res version.

Andrew Werth @ Seton Hall School of Law

I’m very pleased with the way my paintings look in the lighting of this atrium — a nice, neutral light with very even illumination.  If you’re thinking of going to the show but nervous about going to Newark, it’s incredibly easy to get to by train or car.  I’ve posted directions by train in a separate blog post.  By car, you can follow the Seton Hall law school’s directions, which work very well; today I used the GPS which took me via Turnpike exit 13A through Newark and that was perhaps even easier.  There’s a parking garage right next door at 103 Mulberry St (it’s not cheap, but it’s easy).

In addition to my own paintings, the show includes the work of three other artists.  David French, who happens to also be from Carnegie Mellon (where he graduated from the fine arts school just before I got there as an engineer), exhibits a number of large sort-of-Richter-esque abstractions.  Using mostly subdued tones and a wide-open composition, French perhaps uses large palette knives or squeegies to apply the paint to canvas in ways that pit horizontal versus vertical (I found this image, though I don’t think this one is in the show).  Sonya Chusit, who happens to be from Teaneck — where I lived for 8 years growing up and still consider my “home town” — hints at representation in otherwise large fields of color with expressions of hands, foliage, and streams of “0” digits running across the canvas.  Finally, Karim Marquez (no serendipidous connection, as far as I can tell) exhibits a variety of works ranging from a bright and bubbly blue meditation on color and depth to a dark, monochromatic mixed media expression.

I’m very happy to report that six of my Embodiment paintings will be included along with the works of three other artists in a show at Seton Hall University School of Law.  The exhibition is being curated by Evonne M. Davis from Newark’s City Without Walls Gallery.  Here are the details:

Real or Otherwise Around
Seton Hall University School of Law
One Newark Center (1109 Raymond Blvd for your GPS)
Newark, NJ  07102
January 5, 2009 – April 24, 2009
Monday – Friday, 10am-5pm

The six paintings of mine that will be included in the show are:  Cartesian Question, Dance, Journey, Perceptual Present, Stormy Thinking, and Strange Loops 5.

Unlike many of the previous shows I’ve been in, this show is easily accessible by public transportation from New York City.  Take the PATH (Newark Line) or NJ Transit to Newark Penn Station.  Walk from Penn Station by taking the street-level exits to Raymond Plaza West.  Turn right and go 1/2 block to Raymond Blvd.  Turn left and cross McCarter Highway at the next intersection.  Seton Hall is across Raymond Blvd to your right and the Law School entrance is mid-block on Raymond Blvd.  Click on the map below for an interactive version on Google.

Walking from Newark Penn Station to Seton Hall Law School

I’m very happy to announce that three of my paintings will be on display in a large group show of portraits — yes, portraits — at The Bernardsville Library as part of an exhibition by the local chapter of the Portrait Society of America.  In addition to my recent representational Self Portrait, I’ll also be exhibiting two pieces from my Embodiment series that include figurative/portrait elements:  The Self (2004) and Introspection (2005).  Here are the details:

Ambassador’s Show 2009
January 3, 2009 through January 31, 2009 (hours of operation)
Opening Reception:  Sunday, January 11, 2009 2-4pm
The Bernardsville Library
1 Anderson Hill Road, Bernardsville, NJ

It was good to be back home after driving through nearly four hours of rain and traffic, returning from several days down in Washington, DC.  During the trip I managed to squeeze in visits to three great museums.

First up, I took a quick stroll through the National Gallery of Art, just off The Mall.  I’ve been there several times in recent years so it has become almost familiar, though it’s still quite a joy to explore.  On this trip, I mostly focused on the east wing of the old (west) building, which houses French Impressionists and American Impressionists and Realists from the late 1800s and early 1900s.  One of the iconic images here is Renoir’s “A Girl with a Watering Can”:

Girl with a Watering Can

From there I headed over (or rather, under) to the newer (east) building, the home of a very fine, compact collection of modern and contemporary art.  All of the major players are represented, with my favorite pieces probably being two Sol LeWitt works:  one is a wall of ink washes in colored bands that make up four squares; the other is a wall drawing in four colors of not-straight lines intersecting with even density (I’m paraphrasing from LeWitt’s descriptive, generative titles).  Both are exciting to look at up close as well as from a distance, each providing a different kind of optical treat.

From the National Gallery of Art, I headed up 8th Street to the National Portrait Gallery (which shares the building with the Smithsonian American Art Museum and together they are called “The Donald W Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture”).  I had never been to this space (at least not in adulthood) and so wasn’t sure what to expect.  It’s a great museum and if you’re heading to DC I would highly recommend a visit!

On display in the Smithsonian side of the building was a special exhibition comparing the works of Ansel Adams with Georgia O’Keefe.  I’ve never been that big a fan of O’Keefe, but this show has perhaps changed my mind, as it was full of dynamic, abstracted landscapes which to me are more interesting than her more ubiquitous flower paintings.  The Ansel Adams photographs didn’t fare well in the comparison, as the warm gallery lighting and generally small size of the prints made it tough to enjoy his photos fully.

Upstairs, the Smithsonian has on display a very nice collection of modern and contemporary work, and I found one Oscar Bluemner (one of my favorite artists) tucked away in a room of other early American modernists.

But for me, the star of this visit was the Portrait Gallery.  The space exhibits “the nation’s only complete collection of presidential portraits outside the White House”, and it’s really a must-see.  From the familiar George Washington “Lansdowne” portrait by Gilbert Stuart to the rather smarmy and soft-focused Bill Clinton by Nelson Shanks, it’s a real history lesson.  The text panels next to each painting focus more on the presidents than on the artists or the paintings themselves, which I guess makes sense for the general public, but left me wanting to know more about each of the paintings.  It was amazing to see the variety in quality from one painting to the next; from truly magnificent to just short of laughable.

In addition to the Presidents collection, the Portrait Gallery also has many other historical and contemporary portraits in the form of paintings, sculptures, and photographs.  On display now is a show called “The Mask of Lincoln” which includes mostly photographs of honest Abe as well as two “life masks” taken five years apart in 1860 and 1865 (the latter just two months before Lincoln’s assassination).  It’s hard to tire of things Lincoln and I always find seeing those images of him from very early in the history of photography to be quite moving and mesmerizing.  Of the rest of the paintings in the portrait gallery, one that jumped out at me was a Sargent (his paintings always seem to jump out at me), a portrait of Leonard Wood from 1903.  This painting combines perfect color mixing with an absolute minimum of brushstroke to yield a striking rendition in paint.

On Tuesday, I stopped by the Phillips Collection, another gallery/museum that I hadn’t seen before and another one that was well worth the visit.  Reminding me of a more intimate Frick Collection, the space is organized into two buildings, an old mansion with carpeted floors and stuffy decorations and a more modern seeming space with wood floors that feels more like a museum.  Currently, the top floor is showing by-products of a work-in-progress by Jean-Claude and Christo:  “Over The River”.  The exhibition includes photos and drawings of the wrapper duo’s plans to drape massive silvery fabric sheets over a stretch of the Arkansas River in Colorado.  It might be fun to visit that when it goes live (I enjoyed “The Gates” in NYC a few years back), but the ephemera in this show (quite a lot of it) is rather a snooze.

The rest of the collection, though, was quite enjoyable.  The Rothko Room holds four Rothko abstracts, with Green and Maroon being the most compelling.  On opposite ends of the floor are a wonderful Matisse and then the incredibly famous Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party.  You always wonder if it’ll be a letdown to see a painting you’ve seen a million times before in reproduction (that’s how I felt about Velazquez’s Las Meninas when I saw it in Spain last year, though that could be due to dreary weather and packed crowds).  Luncheon, however, is a blast to see in person.  Full of color and life, it’s one of those paintings that looks much better in person than it does on paper (where the colors are often way off).

Luncheon of the Boating Party

Finally, the Phillips Collection hosts the odd numbered panels in Jacob Lawrence‘s Migration Series, which I had seen in total in New York a number of years ago, but which are always worth a look (and a read, since the panels come with captions explaining in story-book fashion the migration of African Americans from south to north from 1916-1930).

One of these days I’ll get back to DC and spend some time with the history and politics destinations, but for this trip I was happy to stick to art (the “Newseum” was begging people to visit, but with a $20 admission charge it’s a tough sell).

I’ve just finished a new painting entitled, “Entanglement” (acrylic on canvas, 36″x36″, 2008):


It’s a little bit tough to capture this painting accurately on screen, as I’m using some paints that look different depending upon the light and the viewing angle.  Specifically, the underpainting includes a copper metallic paint that at some angles is a very saturated copper-red/orange, while at other angles is much more reflective of any incident light.  When you look at the work from the side, other features appear in a dark red that are not apparent in this photo.

The term “Entanglement” here refers to a property in quantum physics, as well as the nature of just about any relationship in the larger world.

After exploring the Miró and Van Gogh shows at MoMA, meeting a friend for lunch, and doing some business in SoHo, I headed back northwards to Chelsea where there’s an abundance of interesting art to see right now.

Of the several major photography shows up today, my favorite was Richard Avedon at the Pace Wildenstein on 22nd Street.  Although I’ve seen many of these images from the Avedon retrospective at the Met a few years ago, you don’t get tired of seeing them.  Many of the shots are his signature white-background portraits, but the show includes more “snapshot” type images as well.  I love seeing the old, barely recognizable Groucho Marx, the triptych of Igor Stravinski with his puddling eyes, the very young Bob Dylan.

At Gagosian’s 21st Street space, Hiroshi Sugimoto exhibits fourteen “Seascapes” photos.  Sugimoto uses a large-format camera to take shots of the horizon at sea, varying exposure times to produce images that range from abstract and hazy to crisp and clear.  More interesting perhaps than the photos themselves is the installation (though I love Sugimoto’s work, these aren’t his most exciting pictures).  The huge gallery has been divided in half, with the first room lit by natural and fluorescent light and the seascapes are of daylight scenes.  In the back half, the gallery is pitch black except for the spotlights which cause the borders of the dramatic night-time seascapes to glow.

Matthew Marks is exhibiting some neat new photos by Andreas Gursky on 24th Street.  These huge images capture the peculiar architecture and the dancing clientele at a nightclub in Germany.  A few of the shots show the club practically empty, drawing attention to the honeycomb-like walls of the room, while others show hundreds of people in a frozen state of dancing.  (I’m not sure to what extent digital manipulation is going on, but I only noticed one patron whose eyes were blinking…  How does he do that, if I can’t even get a family photo with 6 people to all have their eyes open? 😉

The last big photography show I saw gave me the creeps:  Cindy Sherman at Metro Pictures.  Sherman takes shots of her dressed-up, made-up self in front of a green screen and then superimposes them onto background images.  Perhaps it was something I ate, but these images of her, which continue “her investigation into distorted ideas of beauty, self-image and aging”, litereally caused my stomach to turn.  I guess that’s what they’re supposed to do.

Moving on to painting, there’s a nice show of large Joan Mitchell sunflower paintings at Cheim & Read.  If you like Mitchell, this is a great little exhibition worth seeing.

I was looking forward to the Terry Winters show at Matthew Marks (22nd St).  From what I’ve read about him, he shares a number of formal and subject-matter interests with me:  science, technology, mark-making, tessellated patterns, topology, and color theory.  But for some reason these “Knotted Graph” paintings didn’t excite me the way a mini-retrospective of his work that I saw in Texas a few years ago did.

There’s an interesting painting show of works by Sandro Chia at Charles Cowles gallery.  I’d call these “mash-up” paintings, in that they seem to pull stylistically from and mix together a bunch of periods of art history.  Mix in a handful of Picasso, tablespoon of Gauguin, a dollop of Matisse, and a splash of Warhol, and you get these colorful, playful images, whose subjects, however, are cowboys, Indians, and pirates.

At George Billis Gallery, Kenny Harris (who happens to be a friend of my brother’s) exhibits some paintings made while he was traveling cross country for a reality show about whether he could travel across the country by trading artwork for food and shelter.  They’re gorgeous paintings mostly of interiors (e.g., hotel rooms) with a particular sensitivity to light, atmosphere, and floor reflections (which are remarkably interesting to look at).

Finally, there’s a nice, small show of paintings at Jeff Bailey.  Mark Shetabi’s “Arena” paintings of images from a Queen concert (with their immediately recognizable late lead singer) vary from small and intimate to large and abstract.  The paintings are alternately representational and abstract.  The representational works show Freddie Mercury on stage in front of huge stadium audiences or capture the machinery of a concert (e.g., speakers, instruments) in low-chroma style.  The imagery gets more abstract as the artist zooms in on the equipment: an amplifier, a sound absorber.

Whew — a long day of art, but quite a bit of it worth seeing, the kind that makes you ready to go home and paint.

After seeing the Miró show, I headed down to the second floor to take in the blockbuster “Van Gogh and the Colors of the Night.”  It’s worth becoming a member of MoMA for this show just so you can avoid the timed-ticket entry and the associated very long lines: just flash your membership card and you can proceed straight into the galleries without any delay.

The show focuses on Van Gogh’s longstanding interest in the night: landscapes at dusk, nighttime interiors, and star-light night skies.  It includes, of course, the museum’s super-famous “Starry Night”:  fortunately, if you’ve been to MoMA often you’ve seen this painting a million times and can skip the huge crowds here.  There are several “Sower” paintings where peasants work the fields as the sun sets in the background.  The Potato Eaters is here and it’s nice to see it in person instead of in your art history books (all of them!).

The Dance Hall in Arles is a Gauguin-like interior full of dancers and is noteworthy for its surprisingly flat forms and lacking the signature broken brushstroke of most of Van Gogh’s other work.  In The Night Cafe, Van Gogh tries “to express the terrible human passions with the red and the green”.

In a show full of knockout paintings, the “star” is the other Starry Night (“…Over the Rhone”), a gorgeous scene of a couple strolling in the foreground, the town of Arles shimmering in the distance, and reflections of the town and the stars in the sky flickering over the water of the Rhone.

My only complaint about this show is that it’s so crowded, even with the timed entry tickets.  Worse, large crowds loiter around the paintings with audio explanations, audioguide glued to the ear, oblivious to the space and people around them.  My suggestion is that you go and just look at the paintings as much as you can and read the text or listen to the audio from MoMA’s excellent online exhibition ahead of time.  But most of all, be sure not to miss this show!

Pipilotti Rist: Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters)
In MoMA’s large atrium, there’s a site-specific installation by artist Pipilotti Rist.  I remember being entranced by Rist’s video / sculpture installations in Chelsea a few years ago.  The video component of the present piece is projected up against the walls of the atrium while the center of the space contains round cushioned benches for viewers to lie back on.  People are encouraged to make themselves comfortable, to get to know others around them, and to take off their shoes before stepping onto the light colored carpet!

The Printed Picture
In another show that I had to hurry through but will have to revisit (it’s up through June 1, 2009), MoMA documents the history of multiple-copy image prints (the exhibition coincides with the publication of the book The Printed Picture).  In a nifty curatorial strategy, examples of dozens of different kinds of prints are exhibited along the walls of the gallery, many of them coupled with 50x magnifications that let you easily see what’s going on at a very low level on the paper (e.g., you can quickly see the difference between halftone screen patterns and stochastic screen patterns).  There’s an awful lot to look at here, so this show might be best enjoyed in detail through the book.

It’s pretty much peak art season at the galleries and museums in New York City right now and yesterday I managed to view a whole lotta art.  In this post and the next, I’ll cover the first half of my day, spent at the Museum of Modern Art.

Wow — there’s a lot to see at MoMA right now!  First up, on the sixth floor, is Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting 1927-1937.  The show is organized by “series”, with each room displaying works from a specific period in Miro’s output over these 11 years.

Things get off to a slow start in a gallery of works whose goal was to “assassinate” painting.  The important feature of these, apparently, is that they were painted on raw, unprimed canvas.  The works themselves, while perhaps of import art historically, don’t offer much visual interest today:  a few splotches of white or black paint, some schematic lines here and there.

Things begin to get more interesting in the next room, with Miró’s “Spanish Dancers” and “Portrait of a Dancer”.  Here, the artist enters the third dimension with his “constructions”, collages of real-world objects onto painted supports.

The third room features what I consider to be the most iconically “Miró” pieces, his Dutch Interiors and Imaginary Portraits (this could just be due to my familiarity with the piece Dutch Interior (I), a part of MoMA’s permanent collection that I have painted into a still life several years ago).  These paintings abstract, simplify, morph, and twist scenes that one would have found on Dutch interior paintings.  The compositions become complex negotiations of positive and negative spaces, while the forms are painted with out-of-the-tube colors.

Bouncing back in the opposite direction, Miró then returns to mostly colorless collages (less collage-objects this time), now frequently cutting holes into the supports, adding some surface interest to otherwise not-so-exciting pieces.  In the next series, Miró returns to painting in a series of “Large Paintings on White Grounds”, which MoMA’s texts describe as “willfully ugly”.  Compositions are less formally balanced and brush strokes are loose and child-like.  I did notice, however, that the work “Painting (Mediterranean Landscape)”, which is easy to pass by quickly, looks very different when you look back on it from the next room:  the mountains are painted like a scrim and make the painting pop with depth.

The show proceeds to works of “non-sculpture” objects/constructions, then to “Paintings Based on Collages”, and then to “Drawing Collages” (which pair found materials with biomorphic black lines).

Once again color comes back into the picture in the room “Pastels on Flocked Paper” from 1934.  (“Flocked paper” refers to paper that has been painted and then, while still wet, sprinkled or otherwise coated with a texture-providing material such as dust or fibers.)  These works include dimensional modeling of surreal figures with exaggerated limbs and other protrusions.

Moving back to paint, Miró completes a series of works on cardboard that he considered a look back on his career with works full of the colors and shapes that signify Miró.  From there, this show moves to a series of works on copper and masonite, occasionally working with tempera instead of oil.  These works are worthy of closer study, with intense color, detailed brushstrokes, and a more narrative structure that includes ghastly figures and other beasts at play on barren landscapes.

Perhaps coming full circle, the last series on display use “minimal means” on mostly raw masonite supports, with images becoming more schematic, more abstract, less colorful and much less attractive.  The final work in the show, however, is something of a rock star, “Still Life with Old Shoe”.  Miró returns to representation and working from life in this psychadelic, surreal play of forms and colors.

If you can’t make it to see the show in person, be sure to check out MoMA’s excellent online exhibition which includes wall texts, audio explanations, and images for all of the works in the show as well as a few that aren’t.

I just got back from the reception for the Absolutely Abstract 2008 show at the Philadelphia Sketch Club, where my painting Figment received an honorable mention award.  There were 125 pieces in the show, seven honorable mentions, and three top prizes.

Award Recipients at Absolutely Abstract 2008

(Award winners, from left-to-right:  Daniel Buchler (?), Deborah Riccardi (co-chair), Ben Cohen (?), Michelle Marcuse, David Foss, Lisa Lawinski, Hunter Stabler, Andrew Werth, James Moss (?), and Don Brewer (co-chair))

Andrew Werth and Figment