the GIF animation loses the color…
This is the sixth post I’ve written about our iDEA trip to New York in March. I’m writing again about the Fountain Art Fair, where I saw the work of many wonderful emerging artists. Let me define “emerging artist” one more time (according to the curator at a similar art fair we went to): an artist that is not a household name. Frankly, many of these artists should be household names, and I don’t know why they aren’t. Really, some of the work is so fantastic that it makes me question the fame of any artist I had heard of before I became a serious art student, any of the classic examples of excellence that we take for granted as geniuses of their time. Maybe, they just had good luck, were connected to the wealthy or powerful, or had great promotion. Maybe they were just so damn persistent they eventually became noticed whether their art was really any good or not. Maybe they made a sex tape that accidentally became public (or the old world equivalent: had a raucous public affair with the spouse of an elite patron or colleague). Fame and success in the art world does not seem like a meritocracy. As, I suppose, may be the case in many professions.
On to today’s artist, Patricia Smith. I do not know much about her background. I looked on her website, scoured the internet, and found references to her work based on the exhibitions she lists on her resume. I know that she has an MFA from Rutgers in 1984. She exhibits quite a bit in the US and in Europe. But more than that, I could not find. She is an enigma.
The tenor of her work leads me to adopt mysterious airs. Her ink and watercolor paintings are delicate and alluring at first glance. Which is why, out of the many (around 100?) exhibits at the fair, I walked up and looked deeper into her work. They resemble antique maps, with fine lines and warm tones. Her shapes that are land masses look like somewhere I’ve been, but just can’t quite place. And as I started to read the names of locations on her maps, I found that they were places in the human subconscious, internal emotions, or random thoughts and connections that we all try to make sense of, whether we are aware of it ore not. She is referred to as “a cartographer of the psyche” in abstracts of her exhibits.
Peter has encouraged me to use photographs I took at the art fairs, so the above painting is what I have of Smith’s work. I did not snap a photo of the title of the piece. I felt nervous about photographing artists’ work in that setting, even if I knew it was for educational purposes, so sometimes I just got a quick shot in and them tried to nonchalantly move on. I tried to find this particular piece on her website, no luck, but other similar works have titles like “Garland of Questions and Answers,” “Forced Opulence Tank,” and “Twin Rationalization Chambers.”
On the painting I do have a photo of, the locations on the map are “Flesh Trophies,” “Hooch,” and “The Ropes,” among others. There is a sly, intelligent humor at work in her paintings, and her pitch is perfect – sometimes intellectual, sometimes crude, always peculiarly insightful. On her website, she explains: “Spaces are a symbolic language. Language has its own dimension of space in the mind. We are instinctively compelled to create and experience spaces, and to ‘own’ space. We have an innate desire to possess meaning through symbols. Most of all, we love the moment when we suddenly ‘get’ the joke.”
When I read that, I instantly thought, “this woman knows me!” As if she had been there, looking over my shoulder when, in fact, I got the joke. So few artists make you admire their work and inwardly smile at the chaos of life, feeling like you just were let in private club of the uniquely clever. To me, that is an artist to cherish.
So thank you, Patricia Smith, for creating such a lovely space in my mind through your paintings. Some day, I hope I can find out more about you, but for now, the paintings will linger in my psyche.
it would be interesting to see if anyone could program Processing to filter videos something like this…
“The video captures an episode of the popular TV show [“Man Men”] in the act of being shared by thousands of users on bittorent. The video simultaneously acts as a visualisation of bittorrent traffic and the practice of filesharing and is an aesthetically beautiful by product of the bittorrent process as the pieces of the original file are rearranged and reconfigured into a new transitory in-between state.”
I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
– The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused – nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.
This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear – no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anasthetic from which none come round.
And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small, unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.
Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City deserved far more time than the afternoon we had allocated to it when we went there in March. This we knew upon entry. There was no way we could explore in any depth every section of the museum. Since we had already visited the MoMA, my wish was to take in the Old Masters and the Impressionists. Off we went.
I was, of course, not disappointed. No one can be unmoved by a live view of High Renaissance paintings, and the Degas and Renoir were just amazing. But as we were roaming from room to room, feeling a bit lightheaded, we chanced upon a room of English Romantic paintings. Frankly, this was not something I would have sought out, given our time constraints.
I came upon “The Calmady Children,” (1823) by Sir Thomas Lawrence.
Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769 – 1830) was a portrait painter of the wealthy and an official painter of the Royals, with an unusual biography. He was self-taught, the son of an innkeeper, and a child prodigy. His first royal commission was at the age of 18, of the Queen Charlotte. His reputation as a portrait painter was unparalleled for his lifetime, and he lived a life of a bon vivant. There are books devoted to his love affairs, which included a devotion to two sisters, Sally and Mary Siddons. He later became president of the Royal Academy, and died suddenly at the age of 60, after a life filled with much professional success.
When I saw the painting, I was drawn to the eyes of the young girls. In person, they truly sparkle. Another Lawrence painting was right next to it – same thing. I just couldn’t stop looking at them. I got up close and tried to determine how, among all the paintings I had seen that day, this artist make me stop dead in my tracks. I decided his use of whites, in the eyes and other parts of the painting, had something to do with it. Another one of his paintings was right next to it, and it also drew me in.
The dramatic portrayal of nature and emotion are hallmarks of Romantic era painting, and I can see why this is something that appealed to me. But there were other painters in the room that did not nearly generate the same effect as Lawrence. And looking at the photo I took, which really is a pretty good representation of the painting, I cannot see quite what I saw when I was standing in front of it. Painting is not my primary art form, and if there is one thing I learned from this trip, seeing a print in a book pales in comparison to seeing a painting in person.
Another theme I’ve been exploring in these posts is the cult of the artist. Sometimes, the ultra-famous reputation of an artist is deserved. Sometimes, not so much. Perhaps it was the unusual circumstances or deeds outside of their work that added to the glamour of their fame; often dumb luck was a clear factor. And now we wear down the grooves of their fame, or infamy, again and again.
He did not paint landscapes, religious scenes, or any of the other subjects that bring recognition to the greats. But I am happy to carve Sir Thomas Lawrence’s groove a little deeper.
Normally when titling a post from our trip to New York City in March I would have put the Fair or Museum’s name first, and then the artist. This time, however, Chris Twomey (b.1954) gets first billing.
The Fountain Art Fair was at the Armory (68 Lexington Avenue @ 25th Street) in New York March 9-11, 2012. I felt very fortunate that this event coincided so nicely with our visit. We had also been to the SCOPE Art Festival earlier in the week; both Fountain and SCOPE were supporting “emerging” artists. Of the two, SCOPE seemed higher up on the food chain. I was, in fact, puzzled by the “emerging” definition of the artists at SCOPE, since most seemed very well represented by galleries. When I spoke to a gallery representative there, she told me that “emerging” meant that the artists were not household names. OK. I actually really enjoyed both fairs as part of our whirlwind art-gasm in New York. The SCOPE Festival seemed more like where I could aspire to be ten years from now, the Fountain Art Fair, maybe five or less, with a little luck.
Thus I was a little confused after I started researching Chris Twomey, the subject of this post. Her work was displayed at the Fountain Art Fair, the more “emerging” of the two festivals. When I saw her work, I couldn’t help but walk up to it and gaze at it. The works on display were from a series titled “Triumph of the XX,” which are 2D wall pieces with aluminum foil as a substrate and images of a couple locked in embrace. The foil is crumpled, the images somewhat indistinct. The female in the images has red hair. The artwork is compelling, dreamlike, and sexual. The artist’s statement describing her work is worth quoting in its entirety:
“’Triumph of the XX’ evokes the passion of the XX chromosome (female) in its ability to heal a flaw or mutation in the DNA by recombining and backing up since there are two X’s. A red haired woman is the metaphor for this concept, as she recombines the genes of the world, healing division. Aluminum foil, a simple substrate found in the kitchen and commonly used by women for domestic labor, is elevated, along with this concept, to an articulation of the divine.”
What puzzled me about her work appearing at Fountain was that the more I read about her, the more I realized what an accomplished artist she is with a very diverse and widely recognized body of work. Many of the artist’ work there had a very rough vibe to them, but Twomey’s was clearly that of a thoughtful and skilled professional, not of a young artist looking to make a break.
Twomey has had a long and illustrious career, one I would feel very lucky to have. She has worked in a wide variety of media: film, television, installation, sound, photography and paint. “Triumph of the XX” was part of a series that also was an installation, and was inspired by the knowledge she gained of genetics while fighting breast cancer. She lists origins and self-identity as themes she often explores in her work. She has had many major exhibitions in the last several years, and consistently works with new media that includes a variety of digital components.
I believe her work was at the Fountain Art Fair to publicize an upcoming exhibit at the “AC Institute,” a non-profit whose mission is “to advance the understanding of art through investigation, research, and education… We support and develop projects that explore a performative exchange across visual, verbal, and experimental disciplines.” Aha! Now this all made more sense. The more deeply I get involved in the art world, the more I realize how important these journeys to the edge are. Art is, essentially, a way to communicate ideas, and the most exciting aspect of art (to me) is always expressing new ideas. Chris Twomey, it appears, is at the forefront of expressing new ideas, and it seems as though this is not a unique position for her in terms of her career. Now the appearance of her work at the Fountain Art Fair makes sense, and I am very grateful I had the chance to see it.
One of the highlights of our recent trip to NY was a tour of UVPHactory, a production company owned by a childhood friend of Peter Bill, Damijan Saccio. Peter sure set us up for a nice surprise with this one, only mentioning the tour in passing and not telling us a thing about what sort of work Damijan and his crew have done.
So we arrived at a large building in the Little Italy district, and went up a slightly scary old elevator to the second floor that houses UVPH’s studio. The space was quite cool, a open sunny room housing rows of Macs, large windows, shelves of fun books and cute geeky guys working away in Aftereffects and 3D modeling programs. Damijan introduced himself and led us to a conference room to show us some “eye-candy”. “This is what we did for Shakira…for Bjork…for Lady Gaga…for HBO, for Showtime, for the Olympics…” (see above video). I realized that this company is very cool. Incredibly cool. We ask Damijan about the teams workflow, from contracting a job, through conceptualizing, developing, and delivering a finished product. We ask what software programs they use to create their awesomeness… and the answer: Photoshop, AfterEffects, Cinema 4D, Maya, Vue..thrills us, since these are all programs we have learned or could learn in the iDEA program. He talked about some of the challenges they have faced in one of their current projects, a PSA-type video animation for a children’s organization. We looked at some of the files for that video that the animators are currently working on, and see how they build up the color and movement and shadows of the animations.
I found myself forgetting for a moment that I have kids…and a job (sorry Peter)…and had to resist the urge to beg Damijan to take me on as an intern, because working for UVPH is my idea of a dream job. Equally exciting was the realization, looking at what the guys at UVPH were doing, that I could do this. I’m learning what I need to know to have my dream job. This gave me a new appreciation for the skill set I am acquiring through the Expressive Art department at WNMU. Thanks UVPH for the tour and the motivation to keep working towards my goals!
Check these guys out: http://www.uvphactory.com
The main exhibit at the Guggenhiem when I visited in early March 2012 was the work of sculptor John Chamberlain (April 16, 1927 – December 21, 2011). His signature media of steel junked car parts formed the bulk of the exhibit, though I also noted a few pieces that used polyurethene foam tied together with string.
I found myself feeling alternately fascinated, annoyed, and amused by the artist and his work. Chamberlain was a noted wild man in his heyday. Getting arrested after a major exhibit for fighting with a police officer was only one of his escapades. He left studies at the School of the Art Insitute of Chicago after arguing with his professors and accusing them of being narrow minded. He insisted that he worked with no thought of its meaning, and was clearly irked by the ever-present associations of the auto industry and car crashes with his sculptures. He claimed he used junked auto parts because there was a lot of the material lying around. Perhaps my favorite story associated with his work is that several of his sculptures were carted off to the trash as they were sitting outside of a gallery, waiting to be brought in for exhibition.
All of this definitely added to Chamberlain’s allure in my mind. Irreverence is a character trait I personally admire. On that note, I had to wonder if his foam pieces were a “screw you” kind of joke on his patrons. When I saw one at the Guggenheim, I couldn’t stifle my laughter. It seriously looked exactly like the foam mattress I had myself tied up and put in the garage. I really couldn’t see what was going on with it, other than looking like, well, a junky tied-up foam mattress. Its form was not dynamic in any way. I don’t think it was conceptual art. I think it may have just been crappy art. A joke, conceptual art, crappy art… personally I feel if the viewer finds herself tossing these terms around to describe someone’s artwork, something is likely wrong.
His steel sculptures were another story. They do indeed look like abstract impressionist paintings in 3D. Twisted, huge, hulks of color and metal, they forced me to stand up and take notice. In fact, there was so much energy in his work, I could feel it propelling me excitedly from piece to piece. Some art invites you in slowly contemplate every nuance. Chamberlain’s sculptures made me want to circle round excitedly, jump up and down, run back and forth… which I think I did actually, probably to the consternation of the other art admirers at the museum that day. The sculptures are vibrant, colorful, full of energy, full of life.
As a welder, I did peer closely to see if I could determine how his pieces were put together. There was nothing special about the welding, but I really have no idea how he twisted the metal to meet his exact idea of what each piece should look like. At first I thought he must be just making them on the fly, but the maquettes on display proved me wrong.
I read later Chamberlain veered from the steel car-parts sculptures to foam and other media only for a shot time in the middle of his career, and then went back to the car parts. I opine that this was a good decision, for the energy, color, and form of the sculptures made from this signature media are unique and arresting.