Sunday, June 27, 2010

"Marks in Time and Space," seeking space

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Art by Nancy Charak, Sharon Swidler, and by Marian Carow. We have put together a three-artist show called Marks in Time and Space. We're looking for quality venues to exhibit these works. Contact us at

Increase Museum Attendance

The problem of how to increase museum attendance and educate visitors is described by the new director, Thomas Campbell, of the Metropolitan Museum, in an article from the Financial Times. The issue being framed is that museums feel that they are in competition for patronage in an increasingly frenetic audio-visual world replete with many, many other choices that offer much more immediate gratification. Thus the Brooklyn Museum offered up exhibits on Harley Davidson motorcycles which brought in visitors to see the bikes but never made it back to see any of the other good things in the place. (Hat Tip: Arts Journal)

“That engagement with contemporary art is part of what he describes as a “fundamental shift” in the presentation of the Met’s displays, helping to make them more accessible. “We assume a great deal of knowledge in our audience; I’m conscious that we need to do more for our general visitors.”

““We assume people know who Rembrandt is, for example. We have wonderful, thoughtful labels next to each Rembrandt painting, but there’s no overview of who he was and, frankly, considering our international audience, I doubt whether many of them do know who [he] was, or the significance of a particular period room, in a broader context.”

““What I’m trying to do is to get the museum rethinking the visitor experience from the moment that people arrive at the museum: the signage they encounter, the bits of paper they pick up, all the way through to the way we deliver information in the galleries. And obviously that’s an enormous task. We’ve got a million square feet of gallery space and tens of thousands of objects on display, so nothing’s going to change overnight.””

I have a suggestion on how museums can get attendance, beyond signage and bits of paper, beyond the elitism of assuming that visitors know who Rembrandt was; offer up free family tickets on a once or twice a year basis to all citizens of the town, be it New York, Brooklyn or Chicago. I note that the Art Institute of Chicago sits on land donated by the Park District, a tax levying entity. Surely all those within the park district’s boundaries should be entitled to free attendance at the museum at least once a year. Mayhaps then we can have a polity that knows who Rembrandt is, and that values art, art education and museums.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Alice Neel: Kept it Real

[caption id="attachment_590" align="alignleft" width="219" caption="alice neel, self-portrait"]alice neel, self-portrait[/caption]

Alice Neel, at L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice, California , Review by Marlena Donohue. in Visual Art Source. You have until 20 May - 26 June 2010, to see this show.

Quoting from the review: "One line of reasoning is that “the art is the art,” which is to say that it ought not matter that Alice Neel was one of few women painters tenaciously practicing when gifted artists like Elaine de Kooning and Lee Krasner were — by acquiescence or cultural pressure — conceding to roles as archivist or muse to male partners.

"As this argument goes, one stands in front of a work and it should not matter that Neel lost an infant daughter to illness, then had another taken by her husband to Cuba, then attempted suicide, then moved to Spanish Harlem to be closer to things a tad more 'real' than the silver ‘n black circle of Mary Boone.

"More than any realist of her generation, Neel honors Cezanne in the way she suggests anatomy from the architecture of paint rather than through perspective or logic. There is this tight fusion between the plastic and formal reality of an art work, and the equally undeniable accuracy and depth of the view the artist offers us of us, of our world, our place and predicament in it.

"We might indeed leave the messy life stuff out and still marvel at this artist. But that is not how or why art lingers. We continue to make and be seduced by art because its warp (form) and weft (content) can’t be taken one at a time and are more than the sum of their parts. There is in Neel that inseparable weave between the parts of experience defying language and their communication through utterly unrelated analogue actions like pencil lines, piled brac a brac, steel or, in Neel's case, oil on linen."

Alice Neel, Louise Bourgeois refused to be marginalized, bless them, because they honored the messy stuff in life and in their lives and put it up for us to marvel at.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Matisse: Black is a Color Too

[caption id="attachment_597" align="alignleft" width="198" caption="Portrait of Yvonne Landsberg by Henri Matisse"]Portrait of Yvonne Landsberg, Matisse[/caption]

I finally took myself to the Art Institute of Chicago to see the “Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917” exhibit last night. My favorite piece in the show is Portrait of Yvonne Landsberg.

Quoting from Black Is Also a Color, by Barry Schwabsky, June 2, 2010, which will appear in the June 21, 2010 edition of The Nation.

“This seeming suppression of color was something new for a painter whose calling card since 1904 had been the fearless use of color. Again, though, it can hardly be called typical, but that Matisse did recurrently experiment with gray and black after 1913 is inarguable. French Window at Collioure and another painting of 1914, Portrait of Yvonne Landsberg, may be the most extreme examples here, but paintings like Head, White and Rose (1914–15); Goldfish and Palette (1914–15); Apples (1916);The Rose Marble Table (1916); Portrait of Auguste Pellerin (II) (1917); and Shafts of Sunlight, the Woods of Trivaux (1917)—not to mention The Piano LessonThe Moroccans and Bathers by a River—are all ones that Matisse could not have made earlier because he would not have used black or gray so emphatically except to mark a contour.”

In addition to the dominant use of black, what is also evident on viewing the art in the real is that I learned that Matisse used sgraffito to create shades of gray, black and surface articulation. This was evident in many other works in the exhibit. Being able to see these is certainly a strong argument for looking at artworks in person rather than in books or on computer screens.

Schwabsky goes on to say: “. . .Matisse felt vindicated (after showing his work to the ageing Renoir). ’I'd won my point all the same,’ he told Masson. ‘The Impressionists had banished black from their palette; I put it back—and prominently—and a painter as in love with color and light as Renoir had the honesty to confirm it: Black is not only a color but also a light.’ This conquest of a color that's not a color and a light that's not a light is the inner story of Matisse's art in the war years. His sudden intense production in 1913 of monotypes in which fiercely elegant white lines pierce voluptuous black fields—the two elements perfectly matched so that the delicate line is as substantial as the massive field, the black as luminous as the white—must have convinced him that something similar had to be possible in painting.”

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Creatively Thinking Outside the Box

[caption id="attachment_599" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Collage, "Urbs in Horto," Nancy Charak artist, 2010, 18"x24""]Collage, "Urbs in Horto," Nancy Charak artist, 2010, 18"x24"[/caption]

I have recently been having discussions with a musical friend who says of us visual artists that we are quirky. I had been vigorously denying the notion of quirky to her, saying instead that we artists are less afraid of having unconventional thoughts than non-creative people.

Here's a quote from a blog called Dose Nation: Creative People are Just High Functioning Schizophrenics. There's more at » more at:

"Thinking outside the box might be facilitated by having a somewhat less intact box," says Dr Ullen about his new findings.

The post refers to dopamine D2 receptors and "High creative skills have been shown to be somewhat more common in people who have mental illness in the family. Creativity is also linked to a slightly higher risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Certain psychological traits, such as the ability to make unusual or bizarre associations are also shared by schizophrenics and healthy, highly creative people. And now the correlation between creativity and mental health has scientific backing."


Tracy Emin talks about Louise Bourgeois

Louise BourgeoisLouise Bourgeois, dead at 98, eulogized by Tracy Emin...

“The thing I really loved about Louise Bourgeois was that she wasn't afraid of her emotions; she wasn't afraid of being totally female and releasing those kind of emotions into the world through her art as a lot of men have done through history - whether it's Van Gogh, whether it's Edvard Munch with his jealousy, whether it is Picasso about love. Woman are actually much better at this kind of thing than men, and Bourgeois wasn't the Queen of this, she was the King.”

[caption id="attachment_603" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Louise Bourgeois, "Seven in a Bed""]Louise Bourgeois, "Seven in a Bed"[/caption]