Monday, April 8, 2013

Tawney and Martin

Two artists whose artwork and art practice I admire are Lenore Tawney and Agnes Martin. Tawney and Martin were friends while both lived in New York and I definitely see parallels in their art and statements.


Lenore Tawney from an article in ‘American Craft’

Tawney writes of that art is just beyond language. She states that the magic found in the artist’s creation always retains the memory of its origins and is destined to return. She also notes that these origins are closer to the silence of the universe than to the noises and verbalizations.


Lenore Tawney, Even Thread


Lenore Tawney, Seed Puzzle


Lenore Tawney, Discourse


Lenore Tawney, Untitled


Of course, Tawney is most known for her spectacular weavings and I acknowledge those but wanted to focus on her drawings, collage and assemblage for this post.

Agnes Martin writes about her artwork:

I would like my work to be recognized as being in the classical tradition (Coptic, Egyptian, Greek, Chinese), as representing the Ideal in the mind. Classical art cannot possibly be eclectic. One must see the ideal in one's own mind. It is like a memory-an awareness-of perfection.
from Dia Art Foundation.


Agnes Martin “With My Back to the World”

You may be very familiar with Martin’s art as she was quite prolific and her work is displayed in many museums. I’d like to show some pieces that are not seen as often and those to me that most closely align her with Tawney. All artwork below by Agnes Martin:


Untitled, 1960


Falling Blue


Untitled, 1960






The Sea

Saturday, March 9, 2013

New Artwork

I’ve been experimenting with some new artwork that focuses on color, color relationships and form. I’m still in the designing stage working on sketches and doing samples. Here’s one of my earliest sample pieces. It isn’t quite there yet as I’m still working out materials and relationships between the forms and the question of “do I want to stay formal and use pure forms”? I’m purposely trying not to over think at this stage and just play.


Also, a couple of sketches that play with pure forms but give them a more interactive background:

sketchbook1-30-2013 sketchbook1-31-2013

Friday, March 1, 2013

Jiro Yoshihara

Est-Ouest Auctions Co., Ltd. - UNTITLED

Artwork from Jiro Yoshihara, 1970, 17.91" x 20.87".

Circle, acrylic on canvas, 1971, 45.5 x 53 cm.

Untitled, 1962

White Line on Black, 1968.

Circle, 1971. Exhibited in “Gutai’s Splendid Playground” currently at the Guggenheim through May 8, 2013.

Red Circle on Black, 1965


Untitled, silkscreen, 1969. I love the rawness and energy in Yoshihara’s artwork and, yes, the scale:

White Circle, 1965.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Japanese Postwar Art – Gutai

After the end of World War II, Japan saw a rise in young artists who called themselves the Gutai Art Association. In the fall of 2012, Hauser & Wirth mounted an exhibit of work called “A Visual Essay on Gutai at 32 East 69th Street” featuring artworks by twelve members of the Gutai. From the web exhibition at Hauser & Wirth, the exhibit “traces efforts by these artists to resolve the inherent contradictions between traditions of painting – the making of images on a flat, framed plane – and the core tenets of a movement that called for experimentation, individuality, unexpected materials, and, perhaps above all, physical action and psychological freedom.”

Although the members of Gutai attempted to distance their work from the past and from reminders of the war, death and destruction, I found several artworks that don’t escape the reminder of the horror of the atom bomb. Others allude to the mushroom cloud yet also hint at renewal and rebirth. Saburo Murakami’s Work, 1963, Paint, polyvinyl acetate adhesive, plaster on board, 182.5 x 107 x 10 cm / 71 7/8 x 42 1/8 x 3 7/8 in.Hiroshima echoes: Saburo Murakami's Work, 1963

Work — Jiro Yoshihara, 1967, Oil on canvas
90.9 x 115.5 cm / 35 3/4 x 45 1/2 in.


Work — Jiro Yoshihara, 1965, Oil on canvas, 182 x 227 cm / 71 5/8 x 89 3/8 in.


White Ceremony - E — Norio Imai, 1966—2012, Acrylic, cloth, plastic mold, 63 3/4 x 51 1/4 x 7 1/8 in

White Ceremony - E

Work65-Daiwa — Takesada Matsutani, 1965
Polyvinyl acetate adhesive, paint on canvas
183.4 x 183.5 cm / 72 1/4 x 72 1/4 in


Some of these artists were also featured in an exhibit called, “Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in 2012. I’ve been working on a new series that focuses on form and color. The artwork of the artists of the Gutai is something I want to explore more fully, especially the artwork of Jiro Yoshihara.

All images courtesy of Hauser & Wirth. A book on Gutai, titled “Gutai: Decentering Modernism” is available, as is a catalog from the exhibit at Hauser & Wirth.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Warming Huts in Winnipeg

In August I was contacted by an architecture firm in Cambridge, MA. about collaborating with them on a warming hut for a contest in Winnipeg, Manitoba. A warming hut is used along a winter trail as a place to “warm up” as you ski or skate. The contest is for international firms and artists and ask that the designs “push the envelope in terms of design, craft and art.” Out of over 100 entries, our design was chosen as one of the three from the open submission process. See the entries here.

The architecture firm had seen my work on Pinterest and was very interested in using industrial felt to line the inside of the warming hut. The city of Winnipeg has two rivers that intersect within the city and this is where this competition is centered. The frozen rivers have been turned into trails and there are a lot of activities during the winter months. See more about The Forks here.

I was unable to go due to work commitments, but have received some images and some wonderful feedback about my work. I was also able to participate in the 10x20x20 presentation from the warming hut participants via Skype. A blog post about the presentation is here: I must say that it was very challenging to talk to an empty room, I was unable to see or hear anything as it was happening but I am so, so grateful to the organizers for allowing me to participate. In fact, everyone associated with this event has been amazing. I’m particularly grateful to Mette Aamodt and her partner Andrew Plumb of Aamodt / Plumb architects for choosing me as their artist collaborator. They are an exciting firm in Cambridge and have had a lot of success with their designs. See the original proposal under Warming Hut here.

Following are some images from the finished hut and a few that I took before shipping the felt panels. Unfortunately, my camera quit working before I could get good images – I have been told that the organizer of this event has hired a professional photographer so I’m hoping for better images in the future. The images I chose to stitch centered around the rivers and their intersection. I also used images from pictographs in the area and the animals that have roamed the area for hundreds of years. I wanted to use imagery that 1) was an homage to the area, and 2) stayed true to Mette’s initial inspiration of huts she remembered that were lined with animal pelts. It was a challenging project but I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to participate and was very happy with the outcome.

exterior_warminghut1 exterior_warminghut2

exterior_warminghut3 interior_warminghut1



buffalo_panel1 buffalo_panel2

Saturday, January 26, 2013


I received several books for Christmas via a nice cash gift that enabled me to pick and choose some favorites. One of the books I chose was Inside the Studio, two decades of talks with artists in New York. From Strand Books, a synopsis:

In1981, Independent Curators International, a New York organization with a record of innovative art programming, began “New York Studio Events,” an annual series of visits to the studios of prominent artists. Inside The Studio presents excerpts from the talks delivered by nearly seventy-three artists to their guests over the last two decades. Transcribed, excerpted, and shared here for the first time, ICI’s tapes of these talks constitute a remarkable record of the thinking and conversation of key artists of the 1980, 1990, and today. The artist variously provide personal insights, philosophical reflections, stories, and discussions of the origins of their practice, the evolution of their ideas, and the intellectual, psychological, spiritual, and even physical bases of their work. Includes color reproductions of artists’ works. Index of Artists, Photograph Credits. 296p.

I’ve really enjoyed the fact that I can pick up this book and choose an artist, see his or her photograph and an image or two of their work, and read the 3 page compilation of the studio visit. Many of the visits are from the 90s but I think are still so relevant. Most are well known artists, but some were new to me. Here’s a paragraph from the visit with artist Jane Hammond:

“When I start the painting, I don’t ever know what the meaning is, I don’t know why it’s important, I just come to trust that the things that occur to me at night while I’m lying in bed are real. I say to myself, “This is a painting idea,” and I find my glasses and kind of drag myself up and make some notes about it. In a fascinating and ever deepening process, what happens to me is, as I make the painting, or after I finish the painting, or sometimes a month after I finish the painting, I realize why the idea came and what the painting is about. I wouldn’t get that insight if I didn’t make the painting, so the painting, for me, is a process in which I get to access something that I couldn’t access but for painting it. Painting is like a tool for self-knowledge. Maybe it sounds kind of corny to say that today, but that’s how I see painting.”

Wow. I know that I find insight into my artwork when I review it years after first completing it, and I’m able to articulate more clearly what I was trying to say. I even find links between small series to the larger whole that confounded me initially.

One more recommendation is the film Gerhard Richter Painting. Highly recommended. If you have a Netflix streaming account, it is available to view. I’ve heard that people consider him a bit crotchety but I found him very insightful and at times somewhat embarrassed when the camera records him starting a painting. Can you imagine? It’s such a painful process for me to sew that first stitch. See the trailer here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Art of Charline von Heyl

Nothing makes me happier than to see a talented and contemporary female artist be recognized with museum retrospectives at a relatively young age. Von Heyl is a painter and printmaker with a style that is difficult to pin down. I find her work utterly compelling.

In her interview with Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes, von Heyl talks about her three martini theory that there are three types of artists: those that rely on input, input, input (such as herself), those that are like a dog to the bone, and those that are bright-eyed and bushy tailed and who are conscious always of where their art fits into the art scene of that moment. She says she constantly reads books and looks at printed images and trolls the internet and blogs absorbing information. Von Heyl says it is a completely cannibalistic “search and seizure” (my words in quotes) and then she goes into the studio and paints. She says that when asked about her reference in paintings, she often can’t recall.

In It’s Vot’s Behind Me that I Am, 2010, acrylic, oil on linen and canvas, 82 x 72” (courtesy Freidrich Petzel Gallery), she used canvas and layered a bed sheet on top exploring the way the sheet absorbed the paint vs. the canvas. There is strong geometry, pattern and a graffiti type of abstraction. The white and black rectangle is meant to be a brick according to von Heyl. (an example in this case of a recalled reference, she cites the influence of Krazy Kat comics.)CVH_10_008.jpg
The next image also has pattern and also shows hints of humanistic or animal form yet distorted to the point of being unrecognizable. You can also see instances of where she laid down tape as a technique. Below image from the Institute of Contemporary Art PA and is not identified.

Below Untitled, 2007, woodcut on digital image, 30 x 22 1/2”
Detail Image
Below, Woman, 2005, charcoal, acrylic and oil on canvas, 82 x 78”
Detail Image
Von Heyl, who was born in Germany in 1960, says her works have a “cringe factor.” She says she forces things together that could not possibly work. She says it is akin to bending bones.

In Lying Eyes, 2005, acrylic and oil on canvas, 82” x 85” below, also from Friedrich Petzel Gallery, there is pattern and architecture, animal heads and other body parts, and fractured imagery that dispenses your tenuous grasp on any realistic hold. I love the shadow effect in the background. You often see artists using the exploded hard edge imagery but the combination with soft sections of more restful suggestive shapes are very compelling. It’s as though von Heyl goes to that next step, as though she looks at the image and wants to thwart any reference you might be grabbing. I could look at her work for hours.
Detail Image
Below is Lazybone Shuffle (2010), a newer work. Hear curator Jenelle Porter talk (gush!) about it here. Extraordinary.

Von Heyl recently had a museum retrospective in the U.S. (at Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia and ICA Boston) and just wrapped up the same exhibit in the U.K. at the Tate Liverpool. There are articles about her in Art in America and an excellent one in BOMB magazine. Also, there is a time lapse slide show of von Heyl painting a mural at the Worcester Art Museum. Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes (referenced above) interviews her here. I’d like to thank her gallery, Friedrich Petzel Gallery, for most of the images. They do a beautiful job representing their artists online for those of us not able to see them in person. I’ve just scratched the surface in featuring these artworks – check her out. You won’t be disappointed.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The practice of seeing (Part 2)

Last week, I wrote about an interview conducted by Alessia Masi in ARTnews, November 2011. She interviewed Wayne Thiebaud in an article titled “Object Lessons: Wayne Thiebaud on Morandi, light, color, shadows and more.” After Thiebaud discusses Morandi so expressively, Ms. Masi inquires about his own art practice, how he works in general, from reference, memory or imagination.

Thiebaud notes that he cannot work from photography, that he has a “kind of quarrel with them.” He notes that he does a lot of drawing, a lot of painting. He also talks about looking at other artists for his reference. He says that with a lot of practice, you can see a dime size piece of a painting and know whether or not it is a Vermeer, a Degas, a Seurat. He says you have to look a lot, see a lot, spend more time and look more carefully to learn.

One story that he related I found fascinating. He says that the painter Jean Ingres challenged his students to create a 100 step achromatic value study. The students rebelled saying it was impossible. Then Ingres brought out his own student work featuring a 1000 step value study!


Ingres, Jean-Auguste-Dominique - Half-figure of a Bather - Neoclassicism - Oil on canvas - Nude - Musée Bonnat - Bayonne, France

Ingres, Jean-Auguste-Dominique (1780-1867)

Half-figure of a Bather

1807; oil on canvas

Can you imagine a 1000 step value study? Amazing. Thiebaud says that by looking at the back of one of Ingres’ Turkish Bathers, you can see those beautiful subtle values.

In terms of practicing drawing, Thiebaud notes that Mondrian made thousands of little thumbnails. These drawings would be studies for placement and intersection of his lines and to determine “how much space in one area as opposed to another”. (pg 80)  Thiebaud notes that one has to test out different set ups, re-draw, adjust, move things slightly and pay attention to composition if you are serious about your work. He acknowledges that it can be neurotic but, how much you learn! Don’t, as Thiebaud notes, cast too early in concrete. Practice seeing, drawing, painting.

I’ve read many books about practice but I always get more inspired when I read interviews or articles or books that give you specifics. I feel like the artist is in the room with me, sitting next to me, encouraging me by example.

In the upcoming weeks, I will be visiting the Dallas Museum of Art to see the work of Mark Bradford and going to the Modern Art Museum of Ft Worth to see the Richard Diebenkorn exhibit. I’ve read a book on Diebenkorn, and have seen the ART21 video on Bradford. I look forward to checking out other books on both and reporting on my visits.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The practice of seeing (Part 1)

I read a very interesting article the other day in ARTNews, November 2011. The title of the article is “Not-So-Still Lifes: Thiebaud on Morandi.” In the article Wayne Thiebaud talks about the good lessons that can be learned from looking at Giorgio Morandi’s work such as the “wonder of intimacy and the love of long looking.” Spatially, there is something not quite right in Morandi’s still lifes and, also, dare I say it, in some of Thiebaud’s. This is what makes them more interesting than a traditional still life.

Thiebaud goes on to describe more of “long looking,” “of staring but at the same time moving the eye, finding out what’s really there, and there are so many things that are subtle and may look like something at one moment but not the next.”

Theibaud two cheese cubes webWayne Thiebaud, Two Cheese Cubes, 2011

Thiebaud also says that Morandi’s work was hard to appreciate initially, “These didn’t come to you, you had to go to them.”

 image Giorgio Morandi; Natura morta (still life), 1956, oil on canvas, 30.6 x 40.8 cm

Thiebaud goes on to talk about the formal qualities of light such as highlights, core and cast shadows and how to replicate or use these strategically as a way of determining volume. With Morandi’s work, and also I believe with Thiebaud’s paintings, he says, “the light is created through creating energy, by the juxtaposition of colors and the interaction of those colors to create light quite different from the modulation of volumetric rendering.” Other artists who use light by “way of color” are Bonnard, Matisse or Vuillard. The light can be discussed as “eternal or symbolic or a light that is sustained by energy.”


condiment bowls web thiebaud

Giorgio Morandi; Natura Morta (above), Wayne Thiebaud, Condiment Bowls, 2008 (below)

We are currently working with color to express the illusion of space two dimensionally in my classes. This article could not have come at a better time.

More on this article in my next post.