Over the past year I have written about art I have seen during my travels across the country. I created the following postcards to serve as my visual “notes”
Art to Buy Now – A Look at the Past Year:
Over the past year I have written about art I have seen during my travels across the country. I created the following postcards to serve as my visual “notes”
Art to Buy Now – A Look at the Past Year:
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
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.
The week before last, I got to check out the Claes Oldenburg exhibit at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. I have seen the iconic “Spoonbridge & Cherry” a few times in the sculpture park outside the museum – it has become a symbol of the city’s contemporary art culture. When I think about it, I guess I have seen a fair number of his oversized, highly-polished sculptures of everyday objects. I have been amused by the large typewriter erasers, umbrellas, the bow & arrow in San Francisco’s Embarcadero, a broom & dust pan, shuttlecock, etc. Most of those public works have been created since the 70s.
The focus of the show at The Walker is on the art he produced right after he moved to NYC that was created in the 60s. While I guess I understood he was part of the movement from AbEx to Pop, I really have never known that much about his earlier works.
Pieces from his first show, “The Street” depict the urban grit of the city and were made from bits of cardboard and materials that he would have actually picked up from the street.
The second show was “The Store.” These sculptures are bright and shiny – the colors are exciting. While the objects are based on items that might typically be found in the store, he intent was not necessarily literal. I remember something he said once about sculptures being “form that puts color into space.”
About this same time he was experimenting with live performances and participatory art “happenings.” These interactive art performances were kind of a combination of performance art, flash mob and improv. These performances called for soft sculptures that he and other participants could interact with.. handle, move and even wear. When his show ” The Store” was re-designed for a larger gallery, he adjusted the size of the sculptures to fit into the space. This was key to all of the subsequent work – his fascination with common, everyday objects, unexpected materials and scale have lasted throughout his career as an artist spanning more than 50 years. The show includes key pieces from “the Home”: light switches, toilets, electrical sockets, etc. The geometric mouse is shown in a number of iterations – both as sketches and sculpture.
Of course, Oldenburg is known for his Pop Art sculptures, but he has always maintained an active drawing practice and so the show does dedicate a lot of space to showing his sketches and watercolors – for him that is the begining of all art. I was particularly interested in his proposed architecture and monuments – the MetLife building as a giant Good Humor bar and giant banana for 42nd Street.
The show brings together nearly 300 pieces from around the world – it’s well put together and thoughful; really I think it is the perfect primer for anyone that has ever wondered about the guy whose made his career making those giant sculptures that seem to always make us smile. I LOVE IT!!!
Nabil Nahas is showing in Dubai right now – I received a notice of his show in my email today and thought I’d share these images because I personally love them.
(to learn more about the artists and his show, visit the Lawrie Shabibi website: http://www.lawrieshabibi.com/exhibitions/32/overview/ )
I see a lot of art…more than most. In the past 10 years, I have seen roughly 1000 museum exhibitions and 3000 gallery exhibitions all over the world; that coupled with books, magazines, websites, television, restaurants, offices, and homes…well, it adds up to a LOT of artwork. I am happy to assist buyers with finding the perfect piece or pieces to add to their collections. Whether it is to find that specific piece to go into your space or to develop a plan for you to build upon over time, I can help you define your goals and then do the legwork – researching options for you. I will introduce you to artists, dealers, galleries so that you can feel confident in your choices.
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:
Usually I write about the art I have seen pretty close to the time that I see it – it’s my way of making notes and really thinking about what I have seen.
Well it has been a while, but I have been reflecting on a visit I made to the Singapore Art Museum back in 2010. There were a couple of new acquisitions that caught my eye (like “Status” by Jane Lee and the “Farmers & Helicopters” by Dinh Q. Lê.) I vaguely remember an exhibit, Realism in Asian Art, that showcased works by 20th Century artists from 8 Asian countries and was arranged into five themes: Realism as form of representation, The rural as an attitude and metaphor, ‘Hail the Worker!’, The Impact of War, and Social Commentary.
The exhibit that I just can’t stop thinking about – FX Harsono:Transitions was a survey of works by FX Harsono.
Harsono is widely known for playing a pivotal role in the development of contemporary art in Indonesia during the New Art Movement of the 1970s. The works in the exhibit ranged from politically charged critiques of oppression, examinations of the disenfranchised to explorations of his own family history, and the haunting loss of his cultural heritage when the Japanese all but removed traces of Chinese identity amongst the immigrant populations in Java. As I recall, there were a cluster of about half a dozen rooms in two galleries that lead viewers through the works representing pivotal stages in Harsono’s career.
When I walked into the gallery, the first piece I saw was a framed toy gun – not my favorite work in the exhibit, but certainly a smart curatorial choice because it demonstrated the use of ready-made objects to compose art. In Indonesia, when artists began challenging the notion that art had to be created at the hands of the artist (be it painting or sculpture) – suggesting that it could be created with the use of everyday objects – it was unique for a country that had no real exposure to the contemporary art movements around the globe.
After the entrance, I passed the wall and immediately was overwhelmed with a powerful installation of burned wooden torsos hovering just above the floor. The lighting cast manipulated shadows that recalled the anguish of more than 100 people who died as they burned in a shopping mall during the riots of 1998.
On the wall there were a series of screen-printed hands that together spell out “demokrasi” (democracy), while the last screenprint is of a bound hand reflecting a sense of helplessness of the people.
Around the corner I saw a mattress bound in chains. I was taken with the hard/soft construction and understood it to be a question – if oppression becomes the norm, can we begin to accept it or even take comfort in it because it’s familiar? Do we begin to become ignorant of our own confinement?
One of the most powerful installations for me was “The Voices are Controlled by the Powers” (1994); it consisted of 100 traditional masks. It takes a moment to realize that all of the faces have been severed, their mouths cast into the center of the room – representing the voices that are not allowed to be heard in a country with tight controls on free speech.
“Bon Appetit” was a table setting, replete with fine china and stemware. The course appeared to be a number of beautifully arrange butterflies. The beautiful, fragile creatures were pinned to the aristocratic finery. I didn’t exactly follow the metaphor, but it was clear – the butterflies were not going to get away.
Perhaps the most significant piece for me was an installation of a chair, a desk and countless sheets of paper all bearing his name written in an abandoned Chinese script. This work was one of the clearest depictions of Harsono’s ongoing struggle to understand his heritage as a Chinese Indonesian. When he was a child his parents were forced to take Indonesian names, leaving their Chinese culture behind.
Last week I went to about a dozen exhibits and, while I liked some of them, the one show that really got me thinking was Peter Coffin: Here & There at the Hirshhorn.
Coffin’s art covers a lot of ground, both literally and figuratively. Outside is a never-ending spiral staircase that just loops into itself; downstairs is an oversized dog sculpture that takes up an entire gallery; running the length of 2nd floor landing are framed 3-color fade combinations (they were used as poster backgrounds by Colby Poster Printing Co); one room is dedicated to his photos and assemblages and then a separate room offers a cleverly-animated light show projected onto 12 paintings from the museum’s collection.
The installations are scattered throughout the museum and while they don’t seem to relate to each other, the overall effect (on me anyway) was to slow down and think.
My first inclination was to dismiss the work as referential, my second was to think it mundane and then (albeit fun) a bit gimmicky. After leaving the show though, I can’t help but think that was all by design. When I looked at his work it was easy to draw connections to other artists, but I think that missed the point.
Physical works and materiality are key to an artist’s way of exploring concepts and ideas. I find myself thinking back to each of the installations and about the artist. It’s funny because I am an artist also, and I often joke that I have a million ideas, but unfortunately ideas don’t sell themselves. It’s that execution thing that holds most of us back -well, not Peter Coffin.
When it comes to his larger body of work, it is easy to see that he is prolific. He is smart too – he uses art to engage the senses: sight, sound, feel…believe me, I got to thinking about and so I looked it up, he even uses taste & smell. Coffin’s work explores art history, social media, and interaction with the environment to challenge perceptions. Colorist, earth artist, performance artist, photographer, sculptor, videographer – he is an artist that uses a full bag of tricks.
I will definitely watch out for what he does next.
Last weekend we headed to San Diego for a few days; it wound up being one of the nicest weekends I can remember.
We flew into L.A.’s Orange County Airport instead of San Diego because we could take advantage of less expensive airfares. It was ideal because it gave us the opportunity to check out some of the beach towns between the two cities.
Our first stop was Laguna Beach where we toured Gallery Row on Coast Highway. If you haven’t been to this stretch, it is worth the visit – of course, the beach is gorgeous and there are tons of restaurants there, but also the art scene is pretty impressive. There is an art museum, and a couple dozen galleries lining the road. Of course, there were the typical seascape paintings, but also quite a few contemporary galleries with international artist rosters. My three favorite were the Peter Blake Gallery, Joanne Artman Gallery and The George Gallery.
We lucked out when we called a couple friends who live up in Los Angeles and found out they were spending a few days on the beach. We joined them in San Clemente and caught up over a nice dinner before driving down to San Diego.
The rest of our visit was a treat – we stayed in La Jolla and the weather was perfect, the food was good and, best of all, we got to visit good friends who live there. We spent time on the beach and walked around the shops and restaurants. We went to Mission Beach and to Balboa Park; we saw the Museum of Contemporary Art and the San Diego Art Museum.
Sunday, we drove back up to Newport and spent some time on the beach. We had dinner in Irvine before flying home. The problem with short trips – they end all too quickly; still it was a pretty perfect weekend.
My top picks for this visit:
1. JoAnne Artman Gallery – it was funny after I saw James Verbicky’s glossy collages there, I started noticing his work all over the place. I saw his artwork again down in La Jolla and then once I got home I opened The Week and there he was again. I also really liked Alberto Murillo’s colorful acrylic abstractions and Anja Van Herle’s expressive portraits.
2. Peter Blake Gallery – I love the cool white walls with minimalist works. Currently, they are celebrating the gallery’s 20th anniversary with a group show going on right now. My favorites were Jan Maarten Voskuil’s monochromes.
3. Arnold Newman: Masterclass at the San Diego Museum of Art. This exhibit takes a comprehensive look at how some of the photographer’s most iconic portraits were composed. On display are 200 black and white images along with sheets revealing his crop marks and his notes on how to compose the best images.
4. The George Gallery – I was excited to see Lisa Stefanelli’s effortless tangles of color on display. The gallery focuses on contemporary art by women.
5. Approximately Infinite Universe – The exhibit focuses on artwork inspired by science fiction writing. While the show was not my favorite, it did have a few works in it that I really liked. I enjoyed Luke Butler’s “Star Trek” paintings and to Andrea Bowers’ drawings of Patti Smith and Yoko Ono.
6) Murals of La Jolla – We wound up parking next to a 108ft. mural “53 women” by Ryan McGuinness. It turns out that over the past few years, the La Jolla Community Foundation has put up 11 public works, all temporarily-installed murals by well-known artists throughout the community…others I saw were by Julian Opie, Roy McMakin, Kim MacConnel, John Baldessari, and Fred Tomaselli.
7) “Pleasure Point” by Nancy Rubins – I have seen this mass of boats and surfboards catilevered over the edge of the museum a few times now and I get a kick out of it each time.
8) Joan, Joan, Joan: One Subject, Many Artists at Orange County Airport. I like checking out the art exhibits at airports. Many of them have rotating shows – this one was a surprise: it includes 190 portraits of Joan Quinn (she was the West Coast Editor of Interview Magazine) by many different artists including Shepherd Fairey, David Hockney, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, and Ed Ruscha.
Nick Cave: Sojourn at the Denver Art Museum is far and away my favorite show in Denver right now so I am setting it apart from my list of 10.
I have seen his work in museums in LA and Seattle and at the Jack Shainman Gallery in NY a couple times over the past 10 years. I always find myself struck by how his art which seems all-at-once to express carefree, optimistic creativity while hinting at an intense personal narrative filled with caution and perhaps melancholia.
His fancifully embellished soundsuits have taken the world by storm and this show dazzles viewers with the latest and greatest – there are 20 new ones strutting the runway. In this exhibit, I am in love with the 16ft. tondo; it’s an enormous round canvas made out of shimmering beaded black cocktail dresses. I guess the depiction of the night sky is more expression than actual representation; it deftly conveys the artist’s nostalgia for simpler times – just looking at it transported me back to those summer nights when I’d lay back and stare up at the night sky.
I have been back to the museum to see this show a few times and find myself really drawn to two new series – his “Rescues” and his paintings. In the former, he takes porcelain dogs and props them up, comforting them in cocoons crafted of other flea market finds: grandma’s birds, flowers and beads. The latter are somewhat 3-dimensional bas-relief compositions of birds, flowers, fruit, beads, beads, and more beads and offer an opportunity for Cave to explore new directions.
There are so many great shows going on in the area; here are 10 of my favorites: