Los Angeles – February 2014

A couple weeks ago I got to go to Los Angeles and check out the art scene.

It really was a great trip. I did manage to get a little business done while I was there but mostly it was a chance to enjoy visits with friends, walk along the beach and watch the dolphins, check out the restaurants and shopping, and see a lot of artwork.

Everyone knows that L.A. is a big city and it is really spread out – well, that carries over to the art scene. It seemed like everything I wanted to see was 45 minutes away from wherever I happened to be. I didn’t always make a game plan and, as a consequence, found myself sitting on the freeway & showing up at places on the day that they were closed. I didn’t mind though because it was sunny and 75° with a nice breeze coming in from over the water (it’s been a great ski season in Colorado, but still it’s nice to take a break from the cold.)

There is so much to see at The Getty Museum and at LACMA that I wound up visiting each of them twice. I also managed to get to The Hammer Museum, The Santa Monica Museum of Art and The Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown L.A near the Disney Concert Hall and the new Broad Museum, still under construction. For galleries, this time I checked out downtown, Culver City, Wilshire Boulevard and then Bergamot Station over in Santa Monica.

Museums

“Past Tense” works by Hiroshi Sugimoto at The Getty – this exhibit brings together three series: habitat dioramas, wax portraits, and early photographic negatives. I especially liked the portraits: Sugimoto places wax figures of Queen Victoria and then of King Henry VIII and his wives.  This clever series brings portraiture full circle: Madame Tussaud’s figures are created using old master portrait paintings. Sugimoto then places the statues in front of black backdrops and photographs them in order to create “historical” portraits.  He employs a 9-minute exposure to capture all the life-like details of the statues and costumes.

A Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography at The Getty – Queen Victoria was the first of the monarchs to have her reign documented by camera. She was an avid collector and had a passion for photography that resulted in a collection of some 20,000 images.

Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic at LACMA – This is a retrospective that shows work from 4 decades of this iconic artist’s work.

Keltie Ferris: Doomsday Boogie at Santa Monica Museum of Art – Her work combines perspective with contemporary geometric color and graffiti.

Galleries

  1. Edge & Surface by Claudia Meyer at Fresh Paint Art Gallery
  2. Hydrographics by R. Dean Larson at DNJ Gallery
  3. Unexplored Territory by Kevin Cooley and Phillip Andrew Lewis at Kopeiken Gallery
  4. Michael Kenna at Peter Fetterman
  5. Marcia Roberts: From the Beginning at Rosamund Felson
  6. Beverly Semmes 1992-1994 at Shoshana Wayne
  7. Dustin Yellin at Richard Heller
  8. Los Gigantes at Frank Lloyd – this included works from 5 of the galleries longstanding artists: Larry Bell, Craig Kauffman, John Mason, Ed Moses, and Peter Voulkos
  9. Group show at 1301PE – included Fiona Banner, Fiona Connor, Kirsten Everberg, Ann Veroinca Janssens, Jorge Pardo, Blake Rayne, Jessica Stockholder, Diana Thater, Rirkrit Tiravanija
  10. Robert Reynolds Studio

Barbara Kruger at Hammer Museum

Barbara Kruger at Hammer Museum

Nancy Rubins at MOCA

Nancy Rubins at MOCA

Charles Ray "Boy with Frog" at Getty Museum

Charles Ray “Boy with Frog” at Getty Museum

Dustin Yellin at Richard Heller

Dustin Yellin at Richard Heller

Keltie Harris at SMMOA

Keltie Harris at SMMOA

Diane von Furstenberg at LACMA

Diane von Furstenberg at LACMA

Calder at LACMA

Calder at LACMA

Hiroshi Sugimoto at The Getty

Hiroshi Sugimoto at The Getty

Levitated Mass by Michael Heizer

Levitated Mass by Michael Heizer

Richard Serra

Richard Serra

Metropolis II by Chris Burden

Metropolis II by Chris Burden

Telluride – January 2014

Last week my partner & I took a few days off to go explore Telluride and do some skiing.  It wound up being the perfect time to go because we were between weather systems –  there was snow on the ground, but the skies were sunny and the temperatures warm.

Telluride was settled with miners back in the mid-1800s and it still has much of it’s old town charm. While the mountain village overflows with tourists, I got the sense that the actual town itself is a community of locals. There are plenty of restaurants, shops and galleries to appeal to visitors and residents alike.

Of course, I took a few breaks from the slopes to check out the local art scene, a half-dozen galleries and a handful of studios.

The three that really caught my eye were

  1. Gallery 81435  I am still not sure who was manning the store – I went in twice and never did see anyone else there.  The show was beautifully minimal, with black and white sculpture, woodblock prints and photographs.  I fell in love with Antonio Marra’s sculpture and Meredith Nemirov’s drawing series of tree details.
  2. Oh-Be-Joyful Gallery  This gallery was a treat: the series of rooms were filled with landscape paintings from regional and national artists.
  3. Telluride Gallery of Fine Art  Probably the most commercial of the galleries, they focus on contemporary photography, painting, sculpture and jewelry.  I caught the tail end of their winter “White” show and especially liked the ceramic works by Marc Leuthold and the encaustic panels by Shawna Moore.

Oh Be Joyful Art Gallery

Oh Be Joyful Art Gallery

Marc Leuthold at Gallery 81435

Marc Leuthold at Gallery 81435

Shawna Moore at Telluride Gallery of Fine Art

Shawna Moore at Telluride Gallery of Fine Art

Marshall Noice at Lustre Gallery

Marshall Noice at Lustre Gallery

Telluride

Telluride

Views everywhere we turn in Telluride

Views everywhere we turn in Telluride

Skiing in Telluride

Skiing in Telluride

Thumbs Up; Thumbs Down in DC

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I have written about shows a number of times and indicated “this” is my kind of show or “that” my kind of show.  It’s funny because sometimes I question if everything is my kind of show. The fact is I do have a voracious appetite for all things visual and, yes a lot of different exhibits interest me. The reality is I tend to favor four kinds of shows:

  1. I love retrospectives that showcase the development of an artist AND places their work in context of what is happening, both in the world and in the art scene at the time.
  2. I am drawn to curated exhibits that have something specific to say and then go onto to lay it out for me.
  3. I like those shows that create singular “wow” moments.
  4. I am always ready to see the latest works of individual artists and typically enjoy those exhibits if I actually like the artwork.

I saw two  very different exhibits in DC last week – the first one was a thoughtful primer on the development of videography: Watch This! New Directions in the Art of the Moving Image at SAAM – Just off the 3rd floor elevators on the North side of the building are two spaces dedicated to the exploration of media arts.

On one side of the hallway is the huge Nam June Paik installation of “Electronic Superhighway” (see my April write-up, http://myartlook.com/2013/04/18/nam-june-paik-at-the-smithsonian/) and then on the other side is a gallery with rotating installations.

Currently on view is the 3rd installment of “Watch This!” with 4 videos worth seeing:  John Baldessari, “Six Colorful Inside Jobs” (1977); Bruce Nauman, “Walk with Contrapposto” (1968); Charlemagne Palestine, “Running Outburst” (1975); and Bill Viola, “The Fall into Paradise” (2005).

Created some 37 years apart, all four videos explore time and space: Nauman walks with exaggerated purpose (swinging his hips from side to side) up and down and up and down a narrow, short hallway –the repetitious activity emphasizes the parameters of the space. The Baldessari video shows him painting the inside of a room (walls and floor) six different times; was fascinated with the overhead perspectives that made the room flatten at times – when the perimeter walls and corners were complete, it would look eerily like a vacuous Rothko painting.  Viola’s slow-motion video seemed to toy with space in a different way.  The couple starts out so far away in the video that I almost walked away thinking the computer was rebooting.  As they ascended (or is it descended?) they eventually break the surface of the water. Lastly, Palestine runs from object to object in a largely empty warehouse of a room – the viewer sees what he sees, speeding up and slowing down as he goes.

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The second show also tackled the historical context of art – this time as an exploration in responding to an age of destruction: Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950 at the Hirshhorn  – I was pretty excited to see this show: I mean it sounds like the kind of exhibit that is ready to make a hypothesis, gather supporting evidence and then really make a closing argument.  A show like that would have to be well-curated, right? Probably provocative, don’t you think?

At the beginning of the exhibit, the curator’s notes start out okay; they postulate that destruction has historically held significant interest to artists. They go on to describe a heightened reactivity in a nuclear age and then focus on the role that destruction plays in art since the 1950s.

For me, the show begins to break down with the actual exhibit – I sometimes wonder if I think too linearly, but based on the notes, I would have loved to start the exhibit with some historical reference pieces that demonstrated art of destruction throughout the ages. That minor quibble aside, I found it hard to keep focus – some of the artwork was in response to destruction (Harold Edgerton’s “Photography of Nuclear Detonations”), some artwork was destructive in a more semantic way (Ai Weiwei dropping the Han Dynasty urn and Ortiz unmaking a piano) and some was apparently included just for star power (Warhol’s images of an electric chair) The show has a lot of powerful pieces by well-known artists: John Baldessari, Juan Muñoz, Yoko Ono, Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, Christopher Wool – some 40 different artists.

Some of the pieces that I especially liked were Raphael Montañez Ortiz piano destruction;  Ori Gerst’s “Big Bang 1”, a video of a vase of flowers exploding;  Yoshitomo Nara’s “No Nukes in a Floating World; and Pipilotto Rist’s video “Ever is Over All.”

John Baldessari, still from Colorful Inside Job, blue to violet, at Hirshhorn

John Baldessari, still from Colorful Inside Job, blue to violet, at Hirshhorn

Bruce Nauman Walk with Contrapposto at Hirshhorn

Bruce Nauman Walk with Contrapposto at Hirshhorn

Jeff Wall, The Destroyed Room at Hirshhorn

Jeff Wall, The Destroyed Room at Hirshhorn

Noshitomo Nara, Delivery Service at Hirshhorn

Noshitomo Nara, Delivery Service at Hirshhorn

Ori Gerst-still image from The Big Bang at the Hirshhorn.jpg

Ori Gerst-still image from The Big Bang at the Hirshhorn.jpg

Pipilotti Rist, still image from The Ever is Over All at the Hirshhorn

Pipilotti Rist, still image from The Ever is Over All at the Hirshhorn

During Denver’s Coldest Week, the Art Shows are Hot!

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Arghhhh! I got back from Washington, DC the other night to arrive in Denver on the coldest night of some 40 years…brrrr! I was tempted to stay in wait for it to warm up (like maybe another week), but then I ultimately felt the pull toward the galleries…so like a moth to the flame, I went in search of the light.

Luckily, the galleries are mostly warm – a couple of them have space heaters going, but for the most part, they provide a great opportunity to get in from the cold and enjoy some of the very best Denver has to offer.

They are all very different shows and so I have to point out that I am not listing these in any particular order because I thoroughly enjoyed all of them.

  • “Dimension & Symmetry” by Clark Rickert at Gildar Gallery  – Clark has long been one of the art stars of Denver art scene and yet his work always seems of the moment. I am enamored with the vibrant colors that he applies to advanced mathematic equations and theories.
  • “Structural Leanings” featuring Haze Diedrich & Lewis McInnis at Space Gallery – the strong architectural underpinnings of both of these artists’ works is very compelling. I have been a fan of both of these artists for years and am in love with these new works.
  • “Flos” by Mia Mulvey at Goodwin Fine Art – I love these sculptures based on Dutch still life imagery and conceived with the very latest technologies.  The juxtaposition of ceramic, felt and 3-D printing connects historical reference to current media.
  • “Altitude” by David Kimball Anderson at Robischon Gallery – I was blown away by these installed pieces that use cast bronze work alongside scrap materials to convey a story of journey and a profound sense of mindfulness.
  • From the “Mandala” and “Buddha” series by Bill Armstrong at Robischon Gallery – these photos are gorgeous! They complement the other shows in the gallery, but are worth a look on their own.  I find them to be contemplative and joyful. They strike me as a bit of a riddle – there is a sense of paradox with the vivid colors presented through a lense that is out of focus.
  • “Cosmic Ebb & Flow” featuring Barbara Groh at Sandra Phillips Gallery – Barbara’s abstractions convey a sense of space, evoking different locations: ranging from Sweden to India to the coast of Maine. This show strikes me as new and different, and yet obviously Groh’s.  The forceful, deliberate brushwork combines with delicate almost whimsical mark making – and the underpinning of vibrant colors restrained by material surface treatments are all signature elements.
  • “Mond:See” featuring Sabin Aell and Jonathan Hils at Walker Fine Art – I fell in love with Hils’ work about 10 years ago and have been a convert ever since. He continues his sculptural explorations of fractal elements and aggregation, in this show with new materials and the use of new technologies.  Sabin’s multi-layered imagery reaches new levels of sophistication – they are delicate and beautiful and the installation on the front wall is stunning.
  • Don Stinson at David B. Smith Gallery – this show about over, but if you get the chance to go down and check out the show, it is totally worth it to see his latest landscapes. Make sure you call ahead because the gallery will only be open by appointment during the holidays.
  • “Refashioned Fables: Icons and Tribes of the Disbanded West” featuring Bale Creek Allen & Tracy Stuckey at Visions West Gallery – another show that is about over; rush over and take a look. The bronze sculptures are really amazing – cast from tumbleweeds. The paintings are take a satirical look at the already re-imagined ideals of western culture.
  • “Fluid” by Frank Martinez at Plus Gallery – I am in love with the level of skill displayed in these predominately black and gray abstracts. The liquidity of the paints captured on panel belies their 2-dimensional restrictions. Looking at these, I get the sense that I can feel the viscosity of the liquids and dip into the visualized space.
  • Jeff Aeling, featuring John Davis and introducing Jivan Lee at William Havu Gallery – I went to check out Aeling’s atmospheric landscapes and wound up really taken with Davis’ sculptures. The three artists present well together.

Barbara Groh at Sandra Phillips Gallery

Barbara Groh at Sandra Phillips Gallery

BUDDHA 714 1of10, by Bill Armstrong at Robischon Gallery

BUDDHA 714 1of10, by Bill Armstrong at Robischon Gallery

Frank Martinez at Plus Gallery

Frank Martinez at Plus Gallery

Furrow by John Davis at William Havu Gallery

Furrow by John Davis at William Havu Gallery

David Kimball Anderson at Robischon Gallery

David Kimball Anderson at Robischon Gallery

Haze Diedrich at Space Gallery

Haze Diedrich at Space Gallery

Lewis McInnis at Space Gallery

Lewis McInnis at Space Gallery

Red Rocker Rider by Tracy Stuckey at Visions West Gallery

Red Rocker Rider by Tracy Stuckey at Visions West Gallery

Looked Back, Not Knowing by John Davis at William Havu Gallery

Looked Back, Not Knowing by John Davis at William Havu Gallery

Mia Mulvey at Goodwin Fine Art

Mia Mulvey at Goodwin Fine Art

Quantum Zone 2013 by Clark Richert at Gildar Gallery

Quantum Zone 2013 by Clark Richert at Gildar Gallery

The Spud Redux, 2013 by Don Stinson at David B. Smith Gallery

The Spud Redux, 2013 by Don Stinson at David B. Smith Gallery

Wil Twerk 4 Food by Shawn Huckins

Image

Boatmen on the Missouri: Will Twerk for Food by

Shawn Huckins’ new artwork at Goodwin Fine Art in Denver. Wil Twerk 4 Food, painting based on Boatmen on the Missouri by George Caleb Bingham. Contact me if you want this one; it will go quickly!

Checking out Art in Richmond, VA

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Richmond, VA is an old city – first settled in 1609. It is tucked amidst rolling farmlands along the James River, about 100 miles south of Washington, DC.  Richmond has a little something for everyone: there are the blue-blooded aristocrats of America’s first families and then the young urban hipsters. It’s a college town, so there are plenty of students; there is the grunge set (my brother calls them the pin cushions and comic books, in reference to their piercings and tattoos.) The restaurant scene is decidedly southern – plenty of chickens, hams, and turkeys, but it trending toward farm-to-table, small batch liquors, gastropubs and based on the number of food trucks popping up around town, it is experimenting with variety like never before.

Last week I took some time to check out the local art scene. There is a vibrant artist community with a bevy of studios and galleries, and it boasts one of the best state-level art museums in the country.  Thanks to major benefactors, the museum’s collection of antiquities and European impressionist paintings surpasses most other museums in this class and it has an impressive collection of contemporary work as well.

The galleries I checked out were clustered downtown and in uptown – mostly on Broad and Main Streets, respectively, each in about a 3-4 block span. A couple of them seemed to focus on gifts and crafts and then a few were either co-ops or run as nonprofits while others were commercial galleries. Unfortunately, only one out of a dozen gallerists actually engaged me to talk about art, their artists and their business. For that, I am grateful to Jennifer Glave Kocen of Glave Kocen Gallery – her space is terrific, the inventory of contemporary artists seems solid and the support, both for the gallery artists and the community seems genuine…it will be the first place I go to when I am back in town.

Additionally, I did make a daytrip over to Lexington, VA to check out my Alma Mater and see a couple old friends (not exactly old, but it has been 25 years, so I guess we are getting there.) Much of the campus remains the same with the beautiful red brick colonnade. The town seems to be a bit of a time capsule from a lost era, but there were some major differences including W&L’s new arts center.  It was funny because I was momentarily lost, trying to place it in the context of my old landlords – the renowned photographer Sally Mann & her husband Larry.  Turns out the new complex sits on the land where they used to live. The state of the art facility houses a 450-seat theater, classrooms, studios and a gorgeous gallery, showing work by Barb Bondy. I managed to poke my head into a couple of galleries in town, with Studio Eleven being the one that drew me in the most. The gallery had two very different bodies of work being presented by Barbara Crawford; I wasn’t certain that I would have shown them together, but I did like hearing about the artist: she is a professor at a nearby school and, as I understand it, Crawford’s interests are primarily focused on art of the Italian Renaissance.

For this trip, my top 10 were:

  1. Early 20th Century European Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
  2. The Contemporary Art Collection at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
  3. Metapsychosis by Jessie Mann, Sally Mann, Liz Liguori and the Mountain Lake Workshop at Reynolds Gallery
  4. Courtney Johnson: Light Lure at Candela Books + Gallery
  5. Frankie Slaughter: Unravel at Glave Kocen Gallery
  6. Sarah Bednarek : Geometron at ADA Gallery
  7. Captiva Works: Sounds and Photographs by Steven Vitiello and Taylor Deupree at Reynolds Gallery
  8. William Wylie’s This Heavy Veil: Recent Photographs from Naples at Page Bond Gallery
  9. Barb Bondy: Suspension at Staniar Gallery (in Lexington, VA)
  10. Kendra Dawn Wadsworth: Murmurations at Quirk Gallery

Chihuly at VFMA

Chihuly at VFMA

Barb Bondy at Staniar Gallery - drawing suit with charcoal nubs attached

Barb Bondy at Staniar Gallery – drawing suit with charcoal nubs attached

Degas sculptures at VFMA

Degas sculptures at VFMA

LeWitt Variation #6 by William Wylie at Page Bond

LeWitt Variation #6 by William Wylie at Page Bond

Frankie Slaughter at Glave Kocen Gallery

Frankie Slaughter at Glave Kocen Gallery

Sarah Bednarek at ADA Gallery

Sarah Bednarek at ADA Gallery

Electric Football at ADA

Electric Football at ADA

Six Dancers By Ernst Ludwig Kirchner at VMFA

Six Dancers By Ernst Ludwig Kirchner at VMFA

Matapsychosis by Jessie Mann, Sally Mann, Liz Liguori and the Mountain Lake Workshop at Reynolds Gallery

Metapsychosis by Jessie Mann, Sally Mann, Liz Liguori and the Mountain Lake Workshop at Reynolds Gallery

Ryan McGuinness at VFMA

Ryan McGuinness at VFMA

William Christenberry at W&L

William Christenberry at W&L

Murals in Richmond

Murals in Richmond

Personal Histories Influencing Art – June 2013

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I was in Ohio this past week for a family emergency and while I spent most of my time with family, I did take a few breaks to clear my head. I wound up driving to nowhere in particular, I spent a couple of hours rolling through green landscapes of elms, maples and sycamores; seeing horses and cows and hay bales dotting the hillsides. It all reminded me of my childhood – that time before life really sped up…back when my cousin, who is long-since passed, and I would catch crawfish in the stream and make lanterns out of lightning bugs; when we would see how many of us could pile into the back of a car to go to the drive-in and we’d watch the nightly amusement-park fireworks from the back yard. I remember sitting on the porch to watch the tornadoes go by and going to my brothers’ Friday night football games. I thought of my old tree house and of eating the pork chops, green beans and mashed potatoes that sustained me 40 years back.

During the week I saw two exhibits that reminded me that we are all influenced, not by one artist or one experience, but by the cumulative layers that build to create our personal histories. The first one was Wild Card: The Art of Michael Combs, A Fifteen Year Survey at 21c down in Louisville and the second one was  Patti Smith: The Coral Sea at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati.

I guess it was because I was in an area that I once called home that I was feeling especially nostalgic, but I really enjoyed Michael Combs’ show. Combs’ exploration of societal norms connects with viewers because it examines those personal memories that we each carry. His story might be exactly the same as yours or mine, but he confronts us to recall those rites of passage that shape our ideas of gender, race and class. 

At the CAC, I checked out Patti Smith’s The Coral Sea. The museum provides a somber setting for this site-specific installation which showcases her reflections on art, on death and rebirth. The centerpiece is a veiled room-within-a-room, resembling the Kaaba; inside the trance-like recording of poetry read by Smith and Kevin Shields set a spiritual tone for the exhibit. The museum’s concrete walls stand as stark backdrops for the hospital beds and silverprints that pay tribute to Robert Mapplethorpe.

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21C is an exciting hotel concept that displays art, not only throughout the hotel and restaurant spaces, but also incorporates gallery space to make each hotel a contemporary art museum. I’ve been to the ones in Louisville and Cincinnati; there is also one in Bentonville, AK that I know I will see eventually. I understand ones in Lexington, KY and Durham, NC are now in the works.

The Contemporary Arts Center is one of the nation’s oldest contemporary art institutions. It is a non-collecting museum devoted to presenting contemporary art from around the world. Coincidentally, 21c (Cincinnati) is located just next door.

Wild Card: The Art of Michael Combs

Wild Card: The Art of Michael Combs

Wild Card: The Art of Michael Combs

Wild Card: The Art of Michael Combs

Wild Card: The Art of Michael Combs

21c Louisville

21c Louisville

21c Louisville

21c Louisville

21c Louisville

21c Louisville

Patti Smith at CAC

Patti Smith at CAC

CAC staircase, building by Zaha Hadid

CAC staircase, building by Zaha Hadid

Chuck Close, Kara 2008 at 21c Cincinnati

Chuck Close, Kara(Walker) 2008 at 21c Cincinnati

Vee Speers, From the Birthday Party Series 2007

Vee Speers, From the Birthday Party Series 2007

Vic Muniz, Marlene Dietrich 2005

Vic Muniz, Marlene Dietrich 2005

Vancouver 2013

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We just got back from Vancouver; it really was a perfect week.  My partner was running the Marathon and I was up there to offer support and to enjoy spending time in one of our favorite cities. It was our fourth visit up there and we find ourselves loving it more each time.  This time we made our first visit to Victoria, which was a treat.  In Vancouver, we spent almost all of our time downtown managing to check out Mount Pleasant, Granville Island, Kits Beach, English Bay, Davie Street, Stanley Park, Yaletown, Gas Town and a little bit of China Town. Outside the city it makes sense to have a car, but downtown it is easy to use public transit and mostly to walk to just about anywhere.  Although the city is very cosmopolitan, it is compact: a population similar to Denver is crammed into less than a third of the space.

My sense is that there is real energy around the growing art scene – it was just announced that the museum just brokered a deal to build a new facility from the ground up, the area’s art schools are strong, nascent art districts are becoming more defined with galleries and studios and more & more public works dot the city.

I went to the Vancouver Art Gallery and saw a fun retrospective of Art Spiegelman’s comics, and to the Contemporary Art Gallery and saw a great Nancy Holt photo exhibit. I checked out the totem poles at the Royal BC Museum; there were more in Stanley Park (one of the most spectacular things we saw were the nests of the great blue herons). I found a lot of craft stores and design/home-furnishing stores were practically everywhere. There were not so many great galleries for contemporary art, but I found a few of them, with Jennifer Kostuik, Trench Gallery and Madrona (Victoria) being my favorites.

The tribal art of the Northwest really peaked my interest. Of course, The Bill Reid Gallery (check out his massive relief “Mythic Messengers”) is at the top of the heap; Coastal Peoples had “Haida Masterworks II” which showcased generational continuance of aboriginal art; the Douglas Reynolds Gallery has a gorgeous array of works including prints, masks, totem poles, bronze and stone sculptures, bentwood boxes and jewelry.  It was a treat to meet Elaine Monds over at the Alcheringa Gallery in Victoria; she was happy to talk me through some of history of First Nations art and basics of formline design and the significance of different spirit animals.

Public works are easy to find in Vancouver, thanks in large part to Vancouver Bienniale – it has established a unique program of installing works throughout the city every two years. Because the works stay up for 11-18 months or so, millions of people get to enjoy them. The foundation typically acquires a couple of the sculptures from each Bienniale, increasing the city’s inventory of public works.

My Top 10:

  1. “Traces of Time” by David Burdeny at Jennifer Kostuik Gallery
  2. “Stenten: The Resilience of Line, Locale and Intuition” at Trench Gallery
  3. “Selected Photo and Film Works” by Nancy Holt at Contemporary Art Gallery
  4. Galleries on South Granville, esp. Bau-Xi, Ian Tan & Marion Scott
  5. “Amazing Laughter” by Yue Minjun
  6. “The Drop” by Inges Idee
  7. Totem Poles at Thunderbird Park in Victoria
  8. “Walking Figures” by Magdalena Abakanowicz
  9. Norval Morriseau at Eagle Spirit Gallery
  10.  “Pictures” by Erin Shirreff at Contemporary Art Gallery

Gabriel Dubois at Trench

Gabriel Dubois at Trench

November Sky - David Burdeny at Jennifer Kostuik

November Sky – David Burdeny at Jennifer Kostuik

Warren - running the Vancouver Marathon

Warren – running the Vancouver Marathon

Parliament in Victoria

Parliament in Victoria

Walking Figures by Magdalena Abakanowicz

Walking Figures by Magdalena Abakanowicz

Spring - Alan Chung Hung

Spring – Alan Chung Hung

White Raven (articulated dance mask) at Eagle Spirit Gallery

White Raven (articulated dance mask) by Jordon Seward at Eagle Spirit Gallery

Primary #9 - Mike Banwell

Primary #9 – Mike Banwell

The Drop - Inges Idee

The Drop – Inges Idee

Norval Morrisseau

Norval Morrisseau

Komagata Maru Monument

Komagata Maru Monument

Grand Hotel at Vancouver Art Gallery

Grand Hotel at Vancouver Art Gallery

Amazing Laughter  - Yue Minjun

Amazing Laughter – Yue Minjun

Vancouver - BC Stadium

Vancouver – BC Stadium

Top 10 in DC – Spring 2013

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I had the opportunity to go DC twice this Spring, and as a result my “Top 10” list is a little long this time around. It was great to get to go on back-to-back trips because some of the museums and galleries were installing shows during one trip or the other. I know I still missed a lot, but saw enough that my head is still spinning.  I tried to check out different parts of the city – Georgetown, Adams Morgan, Kalaroma, the H Street Corridor, Logan Circle, U Street, and of course the National Mall. It was a special treat to get to meet with Christine Neptune, who showed me about 2 dozen gorgeous Wolf Kahn monotypes; with Robert Brown, who showed me a portfolio of Per Kirkeby’s; and with  Andrea Marinkovich, who had a wonderful David Hockney.

Some of my favorites at the Museums:

  1. “Nam June Paik: Global Visionary” at Smithsonian American Art Museum
  2. “Ellsworth Kelly: Colored Paper Images” at the National Gallery
  3. “Albrecht Dürer: Master Drawings, Watercolors, and Prints from the Albertina” at the National Gallery
  4. “Nordic Cool” at the Kennedy Center
  5. “Angels, Demons, and Savages: Pollock, Ossorio & Dubuffet” at the Phillips Collection
  6. “Vanitas!” Jeanne Silverthorne at the Phillips Collection
  7. “Portraiture Now: Drawing on the Edge” at The National Portrait Gallery
  8. “Pump Me Up: DC Subculture of the 1980s” at the Corcoran
  9. “On Common Ground: Dominican Republic & Haiti” at American Museum of the Americas
  10. “Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848–1900” at National Gallery of Art

And at the Galleries:

  1. “Nothing Rhymes with Orange” at Project 4
  2. “Gordon Parks: An American Lens” at Adamson Gallery
  3. Robert Longo at Adamson Gallery
  4. Mel Bochner at Robert Brown Gallery
  5. “Gathering Space” by Timothy Thompson at Hamiltonian Gallery
  6. “Concrete Abstract” at Heiner Contemporary
  7. William Whitaker at DCAC
  8. “Narciso Maisterra – Recent Work” at Hillyer Art Space
  9. New Paintings by Kevin H. Adams at Gallery Plan B
  10. “Trash Talk” at the Torpedo Factory

Thomas Muller at Project 4

Thomas Muller at Project 4

Thinker on Rock 1997 Barry Flanagan

Thinker on Rock 1997 Barry Flanagan

Trashtalk by Alex Lockwood

Trashtalk by Alex Lockwood

Ellsworth Kelly colored paper

Ellsworth Kelly colored paper

Timothy Thompson Gathering Space

Timothy Thompson Gathering Space

El Maiz - Edgar Negret, 1996 at Organization of American States
El Maiz – Edgar Negret, 1996 at Organization of American States

Juha Pykäläinen - Elk Towers

Juha Pykäläinen – Elk Towers

She Who Must Be Obeyed - Tony Smith

She Who Must Be Obeyed – Tony Smith

Ai Wei Wei - Packing up the zodiac sculptures

Ai Wei Wei – Packing up the zodiac sculptures

Cool Disco Dan at Corcoran

Cool Disco Dan at Corcoran

Jeanne Silverthorne at Phillips Collection

Jeanne Silverthorne at Phillips Collection

David Hockney - An Imaginary Landscape 1967

David Hockney – An Imaginary Landscape 1967

Mel Bochner - From Floating World, 1990

Mel Bochner – From Floating World, 1990

The Menil Collection – art in context

It means so much – collection…collection of art; collection of antiquities; collection of museums; collection of philanthropic causes; marks made on the world; lives well-lived. John and Dominique de Menil were key figures responsible for propelling Houston to the top of the list of truly great art cities. They developed the art department at the University of St. Thomas and later the Institute for the Arts at Rice University. They had a long and storied history of support to the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, to which they brought major exhibitions and gave important works. They engaged architects from around the world to bring the first modernist, international style buildings to the state. They amassed a collection of more than 17,000 pieces of art: paintings, sculptures, decorative objects, prints, drawings, photographs and rare books. The museum campus opened in 1987 with later buildings opening in the 90’s which house the Cy Twombly Gallery, the Dan Flavin Installation at Richmond Hall, the Bysantine Fresco Chapel. The Rothko Chapel (ca. 1971), the Loretto Park with Tony Smith and Mark di Suvero sculptures and the network of offices housed in bungalows and walkways tucked throughout the neighborhood complete the campus.

Last month, we got the chance to spend a nearly perfect day walking around the Menil Collection.

What a suprise! We started at the Rothko Chapel, fully prepared to wait with the crowds that would surely be lined around the block. Instead, we parked at the entrance, we walked though the garden to view Barnett Newman’s “Broken Obelisk” standing in the reflection pool out front and then we walked in.

I must admit I had brief concerns that we might be trespassing – “6 million people in Houston must know that you are not supposed to actually go the Rothko Chapel, right?” After I was convinced that it was open and we should check it out, we did.. and we loved it.

The austere space is an octagonal room constructed of brick and covered in gray stucco and capped with a baffled skylight. It is tranquil – actually , National Geographic Society named it “One of the world’s most peaceful and powerful destinations.” On the walls are 14 site-specific canvases painted by Mark Rothko. At first glance, they look like windows – a series of big blank black canvases. We walked around the room, looking at the canvases from different angles and taking in the effect of each from across the room. Then we moved in closer. We walked up to a canvas until we reached that point at which the painting completely filled our fields of vision. I expected to realize some sort of calming meditative state – you know, staring into an abyss.

What happed was amazing! It was the most unusual experience: the clouds outside passed over the skylight and it was as if the canvas came to life. We had been patient and open to what the works had to offer and, in turn they began to breathe…slowly at first “did you see that?” and then with a steadiness that allowed us to see the colors and strokes and patterns. We saw the purples and reds, the horizontal and vertical lines, compositions on display that had been mostly overlooked. We began to move from canvas to canvas, slowly and then more quickly as the paintings gave us the keys to unlock their treasures.

I have to tell you, I probably could have ended the day at this point and been fully satisfied with our discovery – but that is just not me; I almost always have to keep going. I am compulsive when it comes to looking at art and knowing one of the world’s great collections was just a block away…of course, we checked it out.

We walked through the Montrose neighborhood of modest little bungalows; down tree-lined streets and little gardens and walkways and then Loretto Park with Tony Smith and Jim Love sculptures up to the museum. We crossed over Michael Heizer’s negative spaces, rifts in the lawn and into the main pavillion.

I was delighted to be greeted with Yves Klein’s luscious blue paintings – I think I have said it in previous posts, but his paintings make me feel like I could just dive right into that pure saturated color. We toured the main museum building and were impressed with the collections. We saw the Claes Oldenberg “Strange Eggs”; we checked out the galleries of works by Ernst, Johns, Léger, Martin, Matisse, Picasso,Raushcenberg,Tanguy, Warhol. We saw indigenous art from Africa and the Pacific Islands; we got to see the Cycladic and Greco-Roman collections.

We kept it moving though – there was even more to see. We walked outside the main building and continued through the campus, ducking between bungalows to find Richmond Hall, an old neighborhood grocery turned dance hall. Dominique de Menil acquired it in the 80’s and had since converted the space to house site-specific light installations by Dan Flavin. It’s truly like stepping into another world: the grey concrete space is lined on either side with flourescent sequences of yellow, green, blue and red…vertical columns, one after another after another repeating through the entire space. It was pure joy.

Finally, we made our way to the Cy Twombly Gallery. He is one of my favorite artists (I know, I know I have a lot of them) – coincidentally, I went to school in his hometown of Lexington, VA. His work is hard to categorize – not exactly AbEx, not quite Minimalism not Pop, but all of those. If you explore his seemingly crazy, energetic scribbles, you find traces of poetry – references to history and mythology and always scrict adherence to composition. The marks are set, then erased and then brought back. The colors melt like the fading of memories of stories being told. This time around, my favorites were the green paintings. The gallery is a gorgeous, light-filled space (again baffled skylights) that avails itself from one space to the next. The design of the space combines with the work, much like the other buildings on the Menil campus.

The effect thoughout the collection is to elevate the experience and to interact with the artwork. For me, it made me look at artwork that I thought should be familiar and consider the power of context.

Barnett Newman "Broken Obelisk" at Rothko Chapel

Barnett Newman “Broken Obelisk” at Rothko Chapel

Michael Heizer at Menil Collection

Michael Heizer at Menil Collection

Rothko Chapel

Rothko Chapel

Cy Twombly Gallery

Cy Twombly Gallery

Dan Flavin Installation at Richmond Hall

Dan Flavin Installation at Richmond Hall