Monday, April 30, 2007

through the wires

Reticulárea, 1975

In last Friday's New York Times, Holland Cotter reviewed the Drawing Center's new show of work by the German expatriate artist Gego (nee Gertrude Goldschmidt). Born in 1912 and trained in architecture and engineering, she moved to Venezuela in 1939 to escape the Nazis (she was Jewish). In the early fifties, she developed her signature approach: dense abstract patterns of (mostly monochrome) lineson paper and in hanging wire structures. These patterns range from careful stripes and tight geometric patterns to the wild tangles characteristic of her later years. She died in 1994.

“Gego, Between Transparency and the Invisible” was curated by Mari Carmen Ramirez for the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, where it was originally shown. According to the press release, the show emphasizes:
the critical role that drawing played in the artist's oeuvre. On view
will be nearly 60 artworks which include ink drawings,
three-dimensional structures, watercolors, artist books,
and tejeduras
(The tejeduras are woven from strips of found printed paper.)

My first
and so far my onlyin the flesh encounter with her work took place at Harvard's Fogg Museum about six years ago. She had a few of her wire pieces in the show "Geometric Abstraction: Latin American Art from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection". I have only the faintest memory of them now, but I recall they intrigued me at the time. So I ought to get down to NYC before the show closes (on July 21) and reacquaint myself.

The review does a decent job of describing the work and hinting at its appeal. Of particular interest is the artist's refusal to see her three-dimensional work as sculpture. Cotter quotes this snippet from the artist's notebook: “Sculpture: three-dimensional forms of solid material. NEVER what I do!”. Although this reflects my own idiosyncracies, I'll say that I largely prefer the kind of thing she did. Her "drawing without paper" is reminiscent of work by different artists: Eva Hesse, Alan Saret, Sarah Sze, Sheila Pepe and Larry Kagan among others. Such work interacts with its settings in an exciting way and sets the eye to wandering about. Shadows can become an integral part of the work.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007


Local artist Syau-Cheng Lai will be showing her paintings at the Upstairs Gallery alongside the work of Long Island sculptor-ceramicist Ann Johnston Miller. There will be an opening on Tuesday, May 1 from 5 to 7 in the evening and a "brown bag lunch" the following day at noon. In addition, the Upstairs will be participating in Ithaca's next Gallery Night, which is on Friday, May 4.

Lai's panoramic drawing installation Visualizing for Bunita Marcus was on display at Cornell Olive Tjaden Gallery back in early Feburary. It was quite possibly the best show I've seen by a local artist this year. A vide
o by Miller was likewise a highlight of the recently closed spring show at the Main Street Gallery.

Upcoming at the Main Street is a show of anti-war paintings and mixed-media sculptures by local character Vicky Romanoff. The show opens tomorrow with a reception the day after, from 5 to 8 p.m..

Lai, Shattering Sky, 2005

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reading and rhyming

Buzz Spector
, All the Books in my Library. By or About Dieter Roth, 1999

Giuseppe Arcimboldo
, The Librarian, 1566

Pablo Picasso, Guitar and Ceret, 1913

Picasso, The Guitar Player Cadaques, 1910

Kurt Schwitters, Merzbau, 1933

Casper David Friedrich,
Sea of Ice, 1824

Visual "rhymes"—some of them are a bit subtle, but keep staring. Subject matter counts too; think human figure (head and upper torso) as monolith.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

view from upstairs

The oil paintings of Scott Smith and Shannon Kennedy complement each other nicely. Their two person show at the Upstairs Gallery is full of contrasts: Smith's small still-lifes have a spontaneous, sketchy quality and everyday subject-matter, while Kennedy's larger figural-architectural dramas have a meticulous, classical balance and a stage-like feel. Largely eschewing overt narrative or symbolism, both artists appear primarily concerned with the problems inherent in putting together a painting. With the exception of Smith's Kevin series, all of the artworks in the show are officially Untitled. However, the others are listed with informal secondary titles; I'll use those instead.


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Sunday, April 15, 2007

powers often

A parody of Charles and Ray Eames' classic film Powers of Ten (more). The notion that Homer Simpson's smooth cartoon skin could contain all those levels of nested detail strikes me as particularly absurd.

I'm just back from D.C., where I got the chance to see to see Saul Steinberg: Illuminations at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. (I failed to see it last time I was in NYC). The show itself was slightly disappointing
a lot of early or otherwise slight or marginal workbut it is fueling some thoughts on the relationship of comics/cartoons and modern art. The dialectic between the familiarity and the iconic power of the former and the strangeness and defamiliarization of the latter is particularly interesting. More soon, I hope.

See also the work of Peter Blegvad.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007


More (mental) food for fans of controversial Jesus art:
Groton's Main Street Gallery is one of the most inviting area art spaces. The primary gallery in front is oddly angled; its large front windows make it feel like an extension of the street. The small back gallery (which doubles as an office) is cozy and makes a good place for showing smaller work.

The latest edition of gallery's annual Spring Group Exhibitionthe start of a new season after their winter recessis full of familiar names. Impressively enough, most manage to keep things fresh.
Keep reading.

Related: The Main Street Gallery.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

big news

See my review of The DeCordova Museum's contemporary abstract painting show Big Bang! in the latest Big Red and Shiny, just out today.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

avant-garde and quiche

More news of possible interest to local readers: The Constance Saltonstall Foundation is reviving their lively (if slightly expensive) Salon series, last seen about a year ago. (I covered one of the less interesting ones here.) Last year's events featured guest speakers, formal and informal discussion, and light foodyou get the idea. The information and schedule, as shown the CSF website:

Let the Conversations Begin!
Sundays in April, May, June

Watercress Restaurant
orner of Triphammer and Hickory Hollow Lane, just north of Pyramid Mall

A MONTHLY LITERARY SALON that is open to the public. Enjoy an exquisite Sunday brunch and presentation from some of our brightest local minds (see names below). A lovely spring afternoon filled with real community: a little food, a little conversation and lots of stories.

Brunch begins at 11:00 am; speaker at 12:15 pm. $15 per person, per event. Reservations are required. Call Watercress at 257.0823.

APRIL 15, 2007


Cornell Professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, has chronicled art and controversy throughout America’s history in his book Visual Shock. The triumph of freedom of expression over censorship of public art is
quite a tale in this fascinating survey of art-related battles.

Ithaca College Professor of Cinema, Photography and Media Arts, co-director of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, and recent panelist at the Sundance Film Festival, will provide a lively and fresh perspective on our region in “Hidden Vectors: Art, Technology, and Economics in Upstate New York.”

Fondly claimed by Ithaca and much admired nationally for painting, printmaking and her perceptive mind, this former Cornell professor will examine "The Purpose of Art,” adding her own insights about what’s driving taste today.
Strange that these are described as "literary salons", given the apparent visual-arts orientations of the speakers. Also, I prefer having the salons in a museum to having them in an upscale-ish restaurant. It seems like a more inclusive kind of space.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

times two

No, not new reviews of mine (I have one for next week), but two pieces of interest nevertheless. Wylie Schwartz reviews a new show by sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard at the Johnson. Nice to have the company. Ursula will be speaking at the museum this afternoon at 5:15 and again tomorrow at 4:30. Also, good news, the Times has been awarded first place for its "Coverage of the Arts" by New York Press Association. Read more about it here.

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