Featured Artist: Roberto Matta

I dread it when I tell people that I am an artist and they ask me who my favorite artist is.  I don't have many favorites in life -- I'm either too enamored by multiple things or too indecisive -- and I certainly could never have just one favorite artist.  That's like having one favorite band or one favorite food - impossible! But I do have artists who influence my work. One of these is Chilean artist Roberto Matta Echaurren (most commonly known by his first two names only), who was an artist prominent in the 1940s and '50s.  When I first saw one of his paintings in the San Francisco MOMA back in 2006, I immediately fell in love.  I didn't know anything about him or his work, but that painting, Invasion of the Night, was enough: Roberto Matta: Invasion of the Night, 1941 Invasion of the Night, 1941

I was taken with the colors, with the depth, the creation of this whole world that seemed somewhat familiar yet so alien.  It seemed amazing that someone would be making something this weird and abstracted in 1941, yet it felt so contemporary.  Above all that the technique is what really got me.  I couldn't figure out how he had created the thin, wash-like yet cloudy layers of paint that make the shapes more bulbous, add shadow and depth, or make something appear see-through. So I did some research and found out that at least one of his techniques was to wipe away the paint (subtractive glazing, if you will).  I have experimented with this and it is fun and sometimes effective, but also more difficult then it looks!

Unfortunately Matta's work is surprisingly difficult to find - it's hard to find good reproductions of more than just a handful of his work, which is such a shame because having bought a book with plates of his work I feel like everyone who does a Google search of his work is missing out on some gems. I feel like this is indicative of how overlooked Matta has been, despite his work being so influential and important for both Abstract Expressionism and Surrealism.  I am particularly drawn to his work from the 1940s, when he was hanging out in New York with a bunch of other Surrealists exiled from Europe, including one of my favorites, Yves Tanguy.  Matta's work differed in that while they created landscape-based pieces, he was creating what he described as "inscapes". In other words, he used "'psychological morphology,' a fusion of the psychic and the physical that refers to the idea of interior landscape" (from an essay by Elizabeth A.T. Smith and Collette Dartnall in Matta in America).

The Earth is a Man, 1941-42

The artist himself puts it nicely: "Painting has one foot in architecture, one foot in the dream."  That is certainly something I am interested in exploring in my own work, albeit in a stylistically different way. Being inspired by an artist doesn't mean that my work has to look like his/hers; rather, as Max Ernst says, "Art is not made by one artist but by several. It is to a great degree the product of their exchange of ideas with one another."

A Grave Situation, 1946

Artist as Story Teller

I heard a story on NPR the other day about this journalist, Paul Salopek, who is traveling the world by foot over 7 years and gathering stories along the way. The exact opposite to the book Around the World in 80 Days, yet seemingly just as crazy. What a wild and extremely fascinating idea! Clearly a journalist's job is to collect stories, but I think this is an innovative way of going about it - not rushing around to find the story but instead meandering and observing life along the way.  You can follow his stories here.

Most artists are story tellers, and I think their inspiration often comes from slowing down, taking time to smell the flowers or notice the color purple. For me, it's not that everything I see or hear goes directly into my paintings; rather, noticing the quality of light just before sunset in the late part of spring on my way home from the office, or the bird of prey that sits on a wire above the expressway every morning on my commute triggers something in me that makes me want to create.

I think my attention to detail and appreciation of beauty in the everyday comes from a childhood growing up in rural areas with limited electricity.  When I wasn't voraciously reading novels, National Geographic or World Book Encyclopedias (yes, I was a nerd), I was running around making up games to play. My family didn't own a TV or a computer until I was well into middle school, and I didn't get a cell phone (which I had to share with my twin brother) until I was 16.  So I had plenty of time to think and imagine things, something that has certainly affected both my world view and my art.  Of course, now-a-days I am all too often caught up in the fast pace of our tech-centered world, and I have to remind myself to slow down and find that centered vantage point of chronicler and story teller.

Which is why I like hearing stories like this Ted Talk by artist Shea Hembrey: How I became 100 ArtistsHembrey created a biennial featuring art by 100 artists from all over the world, except that all of the artists were personas that he created. Not only did he make multiple pieces of art in 100 different styles, but he also created back stories for each artist so that the concept behind each body of work was based on something to do with the artist's life experiences, interests or topics of exploration.  Now that is some great story telling!

Two takeaways from this fascinating project: first, Shea's criteria for the work that the artist must be able to explain the work to their grandma in 5 minutes or less, thus making it more refined and more accessible to the general public. I think this is extremely important in the current climate of overly-convoluted contemporary art. Second, that it have the three H's: head - "interesting intellectual concepts", heart - "passion and soul," and hand - "in that it would be greatly crafted,"  simple enough instructions that I, for one, hope to uphold in my work. 

Fighting Painter's Block

I  have a confession to make: I haven't painted since December.  Besides the simple examples that I made for my classes, I had done nothing to add to my portfolio. Now that I have the time and am trying to get back into a schedule, I am having some difficulty beginning again. A bit different than writer's block in that I have ideas, but am overwhelmed to the point of paralysis - where to begin? So, I tried a few tricks to get back into the zone. First, I cleaned up and rearranged my studio. A bit like spring cleaning, this seems to get me into the right mindset every time. I also decided that I needed some plants to bring in some life.  I actually get great afternoon sunlight in my studio, but I wanted another source of life that would help keep the creative juices flowing, even at night time.

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Then, since I was still having some fear of taking the plunge -- using any excuse from lack of energy to higher priorities to get out of going back into the studio -- I watched some TED Talks, which I find both interesting and inspiring, even when completely unrelated to my own art. In doing so, I remembered a talk from several years ago by Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity and the creative process that I have found helpful, so thought I would share that with anyone feeling a bit depressed about, or stuck with, their creative output.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86x-u-tz0MA

I also realized that I spend a LOT of time inside these days due to my new desk job (which is actually very inspiring, but inside none-the-less), and that going straight from the office into my studio as getting me down. So I went on a beautiful hike yesterday and enjoyed the fresh spring air and endless greenery. Ah! Just what I needed to clear my head and give me some inspiration.

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So, now I feel well equipped to go into my studio and uphold my end of the bargain, as Liz Gilbert suggests, by simply being present.  I look forward to sharing my new creations with you soon!

One Billion Rising - Global Dance Movement 2/14/13

Happy Valentine's Day! Actually, I am not a big proponent of said holiday, but I am a supporter of V-Day - the global movement to end violence again women and girls. Started 15 years ago by Eve Ensler -- also the playwright of the well-worth  watching Vagina Monologues -- this year there is a new campaign called One Billion Rising that encourages a global dance party to support the safety of women. You can watch live performances on their website, go to a local event or join in! Here's a shout-out to my fellow artists Dhol Rhythms Dance Company who are performing at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, check out the details here.

Featured Artist: David Mills

Like most artists, I am very process-oriented: the thrill of creating rather than the final product is where I really feel alive.  When I look at other people's art, I am often trying to figure out, how did they do that?  Not because I want to steal their idea or try and one-up them, but simply out of creative curiosity.  So being able to visit another artist's studio and talk with them about their process is one of my favorite things to do. Recently I found out my friend and fellow artist David Mills has been uploading time-lapse movies of his painting process (and by "painting" I don't just mean paint and a brush like most of my work; this guy really takes it to another level with all sorts of cool materials), so I thought I'd share one with you:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCUSKBcBGWg

You can see more where that came from on his youtube channel, blog, or Facebook page.

Vivian Maier: Street Photographer

Happy 2013 everyone! My year has started off very busy, hence the lack of posts, but I hope to get back on the wagon as I have lots of fun new things to share. I'm going to start by sharing the work of photographer Vivian Maier, whose work I was introduced to through a lovely book given to me for Christmas called Vivian Maier: Street photographer by John Maloof.

Maloof stumbled across hundreds of thousands of negatives of Maier's in 2007, which she had apparently "kept secret  for over fifty years". A nanny by trade, she lived in big cities and documented city life, but never showed the images to anyone.  In the past couple of years, though, Vivian's work has become something of a sensation due to the quality of the work, the period it is documenting (primarily 1950s and '60s America), and the incredible number of images. It seems both impossible and romantic that this woman who was not trained as an artist nor a photographer should have such amazing work and also have kept it all to herself.

  Self-portrait  of the artist

You can read more about her story at the links above (or wait for the film Finding Vivian Maier), but I just want to comment on what I find inspiring about her work. First, it appears she was making art for art's sake - not for shows or fame or anything like that. And because she was taking photos only for herself, she seems to have the freedom to choose whatever subject matter she wants and in doing so manages to capture some really intimate and fascinating subjects. For example, she has this picture of a dead horse left in the street. Part of my fascination with this gruesome scene is that it gives a window, albeit a black and white one, into the streets of post-war America, when horses were still commonly used as transportation even in big cities. But I also think the photo says something about the artist (for trained or not, the quality of her photographs confirm that she had both an artist's eye and artistic talent), about the types of things she felt worth documenting. In a way many of her photos of every day occurrences remind me of Norman Rockwell illustrations, but often grittier and less optimistic.

I also really like that even though many of her photos have people in them, none of them are posing. They often seem unaware of her presence -- which is somewhat odd to me considering that cameras were much bigger and more rare than they are today -- except for this lady below, who has such an awesome expression of disgust.

Another reason I identify with her work is that Vivian was a professional nanny, and from my brief stint as a nanny I know that it can be quite a lonely profession with a lot of down time, especially if the child is young. During that time it is easy to get bored, but Vivian seems to have used whatever moments she had to take hundreds of photos of the big cities (New York and Chicago) in which she lived. I wonder if she ever shared her photos with the children in her care?

Lastly, while most of the photos have a person or an animal as the subject, I, of course, love the photos with interesting framing of architecture. I don't know what Vivian felt when she framed this shot, but amidst the interesting shapes and overlapping lines I see the buildings as a stand-in for people or relationships that appear so strong yet can crumble and leave a giant hole. Of course I'm reading into the psyche of someone we will never know, and perhaps that is the thing that strikes me most about Vivian Maier's photographs: that they make me want to have a conversation with them and create a connection with the woman behind the camera.

 

Michele Pred: (IN)Security

Have you ever wondered what happens to the items that get confiscated before you board a plane?  I have, but only when a TSA agent took away the yoghurt I was planning to eat for breakfast, because he considered it a liquid and it was over the 3 ounce limit.  I suspect it became his breakfast...  However, I hadn't given much thought to the objects that are confiscated -- all the scissors, razor blades, pocket knives, etc.  But Michele Pred has.

Travelers

Travelers, 2011

She asked the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) if she could have the confiscated items to use in her installation art work.  I recently saw a show called (IN)Security at the Thompson Gallery on the San Jose State University campus featuring some work from her series Homeland Security.  The work is partly about curiosity, wondering how dangerous the tiny (formerly travel-size) sewing scissors could be, or to whom all of these pocketknives belonged?  Did they have sentimental value, and have they been saved from a death in oblivion by being on display, in the shape of heart, in this exhibit?

The show also has more serious undertones, though, as a social commentary on how our culture views danger and threats.  Michele uses color and placement of objects to create an American flag out of razor blades, pocket knives, or, as in this piece, a combination of objects carefully placed in their own containers as if logged for evidence by a forensics expert or scientist.

Fear Culture
Fear Culture, 2007

Michele speaks about how she is capturing a moment in history, the feelings of threat and danger that has prevailed since 9/11, and the above piece certainly has the feel of creating a time capsule.  Check out more of her work at her website.

New paintings and what inspired them

Here are two new paintings to prove that although I have been slacking off in the blog-o-sphere, I have been hard at work in real life.  I hope you like them.

We Celebrate the Freaks

The title of the above piece is a paraphrase from a passage in a Salman Rushdie book that I love, The Ground Beneath Her Feet.  The imagery is from photographs I took in the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (NB: Although many famous Argentines are buried here, including Eva Peron, this has nothing to do with my painting).  I am inspired by the architecture of fancy graveyards and I like how the statues look silhouetted against the sky, something I accentuated in this painting. I was also reading The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon while painting this, which is set in Barcelona and has several scenes in graveyards. Although a great read, this is quite a dark book about a writer selling his soul to the devil, so I'm sure some of that got into this painting too...

When I'm Alone I Get Carried Away_small

When I'm Alone I Get Carried Away

The title of this piece is not a quote, but rather refers to the stir-crazy feeling I had while painting this piece.  Really, the turmoil I was feeling was in other parts of my life, and painting this was calming.  Yet some of that anxiety and loneliness got into the painting, something a friend pointed out to me upon seeing the completed piece.  Perhaps I subconsciously think that by having control in my painting I will be able to exert some more control in my life.  Isn't psychology fascinating? And just to thicken the plot, I should note that I actually painted these two paintings simultaneously... And yes, the dresses continue, albeit in an evolved way.

You can view these hot-off-the press pieces at my current show at Barefoot Coffee Campbell.  The opening reception is tomorrow, December 8th from 4-7, but the show is up through Jan. 31st so just pop by whenever.

Behind-the-scenes of Jordan Matter's Dancers Among Us

I shared some images from photographer Jordan Matter's "Dancers Among Us" series a couple of months ago.  Now check out this behind-the-scenes live action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgWfYisRr20

I won't lie, I am really taken with this work.  I think it's an incredibly successful merging of concept with artistic execution.  And I don't think I will ever get tired of looking at his new combinations of amazing dancers in often humorous "skits".  It reminds me that life is beautiful and humans are amazing.  Matter has just released the book version, also titled Dancers Among Us, which includes the story behind capturing each image.  I, for one, am excited to get my copy!

(I'm not sure if the embedded video is working properly, so here's the link to the video too)

Create with Nature

A couple of years ago I helped teach a class with Zach Pine who specializes in nature sculptures and has designed a "create with nature" program using things found in the great outdoors (sticks, rocks, leaves, etc) to make temporary sculptures which can then "recycled" to create something new.  It's eco-friendly, simple enough for any age group, and fun!  This is an easy and great way to get inspired and refreshed through creativity and play, something that everyone - not just artists - needs to be encouraged to do more and more.  It's also an opportunity to collaborate and to create community.  Such a simple, beautiful idea.

Every child is an artist: finding inspiration in play

Do you remember that familiar Picasso quote: "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."?  I have been thinking about it a lot the last few months as the stresses of adulthood and my inner critic try to sabotage my art practice.  I say "try" because my many teaching gigs have taught me some valuable lessons that help me get out of my funks of second-guessing myself and agonizing over the smallest details.  Working with 8-10 year old students not only cracks me up, but leaves me wishing that I could recapture that reckless abandon that they display.

Kids truly amaze me!  Even those that may complain about not having much artistic talent will come out with the most breath-taking work: sometimes humorous, skillful, or just plain original.  It's so sad that the older we get, the more restrictions we put on ourselves to express our creativity.  The human mind is incredible and many of us have hidden talents that we have yet to discover.  Being around kids really inspires me to take more risks in my art, but I realize that that's something I have to work at and keep reminding myself to do, not an easy task.

                                 

I have also been lucky enough to work with some senior citizens who were taking an art class for the first time (none pictured here).  I really do think we come full circle: older people often exhibit a healthy recklessness that mirrors that of the kids, as if after a life-time it is finally OK to let go of one's inhibitions and play.  I was particularly impressed with one student, in his 70s, who liked to paint pretty landscapes and abhorred anything abstract, yet the week after I held a class on abstract painting, he came to class on his own initiative with not one, but two, (un-assigned) abstract paintings (unfortunately I did not get photos of these).  Now that takes not only courage - to try something new and scary - but also a certain level of playfulness that is truly inspirational.  While I hope that I am that willing and able to try new things when I am 72, I also want to start cultivating that attitude now and not wait until I'm older.

 

If I Could Dance...

Back in June and July I made a series of paintings of body-less dancers titled "If I Could Dance". While I received good feedback from many people, I also feel like I left a lot of people hanging by not having an artist statement to go along with the work.  Here I am talking about the values of making "ugly" paintings whilst making (purposefully) "pretty" paintings.  Yet it is not so hypocritical as you might imagine - the "prettiness" is part of the message.

I grew up in a culture where my first consciousness about my body was one of shame.  I was taught an extreme form of modesty to be culturally sensitive to, and safer in, the norms of Muslim Pakistan.  The idea was to become invisible and not react to the stares or calls or groping which my white skin and reddish-blonde hair sticking out in a sea of brown people did not help.  I remember being embarrassed at age 8, which led to being self-conscious almost all the way through high school.  When I wasn't hiding my body under baggy clothes, I was trying to play sports and pretending to be tough.  I thought any attention from the opposite sex was negative, and I scorned the "cheerleader"-type and swore to never be a "girlie-girl".  Along with this I tried not to make "pretty" paintings because I wanted to be taken seriously as an artist and my lack of knowledge about successful female artists led me to believe that by simply being a woman my art was at a disadvantage - relegated to the cute category of "hobby".

Then a couples years ago I started to embrace the "girl" inside of me.  I started wearing dresses, make-up and jewelry -- heels even! I gained confidence as a woman and decided owning my femininity was to my advantage.  But I still resisted it in my art.  I now knew about and admired many successful women artists, but I still didn't want to make paintings about gender, again, out of some kind of fear of being taken less seriously.  Until this series.  I decided I wanted to celebrate the female form, critics of "pretty" paintings be damned!  And what better way than through dance?  I have always lacked confidence in dancing, but I love watching it - dance inspires me and makes me appreciate the human body even more. I feel connected through dance.

These dresses show the form of the dancer while being body-less because I didn't want to put a face or race or body-type to cloud the universal beauty of dance.  One of the amazing things about dance to me is that it can be so expressive and convey whole narratives and complex emotions without a single word, hence negating any language barrier.

I explored different types of dance from around the world because I find them beautiful and I suppose I was being instinctively culturally inclusive.  Dance is a celebration of the human body, and I've decided to be a part of it and celebrate in my own way.

Art of the Art Assignment

I highly recommend Draw it with your eyes closed: the art of the art assignment (published by Paper Monument) to all art educators. It's an hilarious account of the favorite/best assignments given to, or by, artists and art professors around the country.  These are mostly assignments in higher education, where the trick is to give students open-ended assignments with enough room for personal expression and imagination, while still having them learn something.  The embarrassing, kookie and sometimes inappropriate results had me laughing out loud (in public, no less) with the creative interpretations of students, some of which go very, very bad, along with the usual "happy accidents".  Inevitably, sometimes it's actually the teacher who ends up learning a lesson (eg. "never give that assignment again", or "only use that with grad students").  Covering all mediums, the book offers many fun, conceptual and useful assignments to take inspiration from as an art educator.

I got to thinking about the best assignments that I have received from my instructors over the years, and I've paired it down to three:

1) My high school art teacher gave us an assignment where we had to go out on the town over the weekend and find all the stores that might have useful (non-traditional) art supplies.

I lived in Hanoi, Vietnam at the time where I attended an international school and took the International Baccalaureate Visual Art 2-year course.  This meant that not only did I have to document all of my findings in great detail for my teacher, but I first had to overcome the language barrier and navigate the bustling and winding streets of the old quarter on my mission. While at the time it was terrifying, it has become one of the most useful lessons I learned in high school because (a) I built the confidence to just go out and find stuff in an unfamiliar place, a skill that has served me well over the years, and (b) my idea of what art supplies should be and where you should get them was shaken and replaced with a more imaginative take on the whole thing.

 

2) One of my college professors, Craig Nagasawa, made me limit my palette to 6 colors plus white for a whole semester. The result was so successful that I didn't add any new colors until 2 semesters later. The purpose of this limitation was for me to stop being overwhelmed by the amazing array of color offered in oil paints today, and to really learn how to mix color and figure out how to make the colors that I needed.  I now teach a class on color and whenever I see my students -- especially the color enthusiasts like myself -- come in with a box full of paints, I turn around and give them the same advice: limit your palette until you understand color better.

3) In my 2nd year as an art major, I  took a class with Kara Maria, a visiting lecturer, and her assignment for the semester was: make ugly paintings.  This seemed quite shocking to us fairly new painters/budding artistes, but her assertion was that in our naive pursuit of perfection our paintings became dull.  By being given permission to make "bad" paintings, we were suddenly freed of our self-enforced restrictions and became bolder, more willing to experiment, and less afraid of "mistakes".  My paintings definitely improved as a result of this simple idea, which I not only employ on my own students but I also have to remind myself of whenever I feel like my work is getting stuck.

 

Human motorcycle - where paint, photography and yogis collide

Get it? I didn't the first time I glanced at it, even though I read the title. It wasn't until I read the description that I realized that that motorcycle is made out of super flexible yogis with body paint. It's really amazing to see how they do it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATzONfFRU0U

If you happen to be in the San Jose area, you can actually meet the artist, Trina Merry, and watch her do her thing over the next couple of weeks, check out the schedule (under Art Alive) here.

Cindy Sherman shows her face(s) at SFMOMA

I find it very interesting and informative to see the arc of an artist's entire career, and it's a rare event among contemporary artists unless the artist has the good fortune of having a retrospective show.  The Cindy Sherman exhibit on view at the SFMOMA through October 8th affords such an opportunity by displaying her work from 1975 to present.  What really struck me about Sherman's arc is her remarkable consistency in subject matter. While I might get bored or frustrated with a subject and move on to the next thing, Sherman seems to delve deeper and find another way to represent her subject.  She does this through innovative portraiture, including simulating movie stills and Old Masters' paintings. All of her work has to do with the portrayal of females - in art, the media, film, fashion, etc. - yet her manner of doing this is subversive by her being both the (heavily disguised) model and the photographer.     

Another interesting thing to me is that by portraying so many different "types" of female - the diva, the plain Jane, the 60s housewife, the socialite - Sherman herself defies being typecast and throws light on the fact that the way one looks does not make up one's identity. It also seems to reflect on how women see themselves; how we try to remain young, beautiful, sexy. Yet beneath all that make-up and plastic surgery, there's a whole other person.

 

I was really impressed with Sherman's devotion to her craft, which involves her expertise as a photographer in staging the scenario just right, but also her skills as a make-up artist, including the use of prosthetics, and as a method actor. Her attention to the details - making sure the tattoos, the painted on eyebrows and the freckles match her character just so - show her devotion to her craft.  It really is a remarkable exhibit.

  

One of my favorite pieces was actually an early one - a stop-motion video titled Doll Clothes (1975). It's simplicity belies it's ingenuity. As someone who grew up loving to play with paper dolls, there's a nostalgia Sherman taps into while also highlighting many of the themes she went on to explore in her later work. She has, impressively, come full circle,  and yet it's not over: I'm sure there's much more good work to come.

Exploring the Central Texas Art Scene

Traveling and moving across country have kept me from posting on my blog over the past few weeks, but it's also thrown into sharp focus all that I have learned, and come to appreciate, about the art scene in Central Texas.  Having only lived there for a year, I feel like I've barely scratched the surface, but none-the-less I will share a few of my (paired down) recommendations: First and foremost, check out www.glasstire.com. They are your artist resource in the region, providing information and commentary about shows, artists, jobs and more.

AUSTIN

Despite having a relatively small art scene by some standards, there is actually a lot going on in Austin at many different levels, so I have just made a few selections from my favorites:

Women and Their Work, a non-profit gallery where you will find friendly and informative staff in addition to some very innovative and diverse works, largely installations, by contemporary female artists. They also host a lot of performances, info sessions and social events and are a good place to learn the who's who in the Austin art scene. One of my favorite exhibits from the 2011-2012 season was Laurie Frick: Quantify Me.

The Austin Museum of Art/Arthouse is a mixed experience for me, but with three venues you can definitely find something you like. I suggest the shows at the Jones Center and Laguna Gloria; the latter is located in a French riviera-style house with beautiful grounds and gardens to explore, plus the museum's art school.

Although most people know about the Blanton Museum of Art on the UT campus, which I also highly recommend, it seems the Visual Art Center (VAC) in the middle of campus is less well-known, yet with 5 galleries housed in an impressive building, it has a lot to offer, from both the art department and outside artists.  My favorite this year was Diana Al-Hadid: Suspended After Image.

For something a little off the beaten path and for those of you into contemporary and experimental art, I highly recommend Co-Lab. Primarily run by the amazing and innovative Sean Gallagher, this is a non-profit performance and art venue that always has something good going on.

HOUSTON

I only made it to Houston for one day, so despite it being an art hub with many attractions, I am going to simply recommend the  Menil Collection - "A museum and a neighborhood of art. Free of charge, always" as their website so aptly states.  Residing in a quiet residential neighborhood surrounded by trees, it is an oasis great for picnicking in between seeing some fantastic art.  It is home to the Rothko Chapel, an architectural feat and meditation spot open to all religions that houses Mark Rothko's black paintings and was founded by philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil.

Although I loved visiting this peaceful spot, I actually preferred the 6 or so black paintings housed in the Menil Museum that didn't make it into the Chapel.  Among other things, the Museum includes a fantastic collection of Surrealist art featuring mainly works by Max Ernst and Rene Magritte, but also some Yves Tanguy and Roberto Matta, two of my favorite artists from this movement. Behind this building stands the Cy Twombly Gallery, which houses a retrospective of the artist's life works, which really opened my eyes to both the immense scale of many of his paintings and to the subtleties hidden in his brash style.

SAN ANTONIO

My brief stay in San Antonio did not allow time for an art tour, however the McNay Art Museum  was recommended to me, particularly for its Post Impressionist collection.

Also recommended is Artpace, which "serves as an international laboratory for the creation and advancement of contemporary art", according to it's mission statement. They do this through their support of established and emerging contemporary artists via international residencies and exhibitions, and through their education programs.

FORT WORTH (Dallas)

I am sad to state that I didn't actually make it up to Fort Worth, mostly because I missed two amazing shows that I would have loved to see: Caravaggio and his followers in Rome at the Kimbell Art Museum and Lucian Freud: Portraits at The Modern, the latter of which is up through October 28, 2012. These are two artists that I have great respect for, mainly for their very different, but equally impressive, painting styles. Of course I'm talking about Caravaggio's use of chiaroscuro (light/dark) effects and that wonderful deep yet bright red that shines out in many of his paintings; and Lucian Freud's use of thick, tactile paint and bizarre color combinations.

                    

Street Art Utopia

I love this:

By Sainer from Etam Crew - On Urban Forms Foundation in Lodz, Poland

I got this photo off this blog my brother sent me called Street Art Utopia. Their tagline is "We declare the world as our canvas".  I like that; especially with the work they're doing with it. It amazes and inspires me when art is public, accessible and free. Making the world a better and more beautiful place. If I had my way, artists would have subsidized living expenses to help beautify the world around them, wouldn't that be nice?

By c215 in Oslo, Norway

See more of the great street art from around the world that this group has collected http://www.streetartutopia.com/?p=9303

Art shows beating the heat around Austin 4: Multiplicity

Multiplicity: Photography by Malia Moss @ UP Collective, opening TOMORROW - August 11  

Opening reception Sat. Aug. 11, 7-10PM. Open to the public, find out more.

I've already had a sneak preview to the show, so I can vouch for it. Having recently seen some not-so-impressive photography, I have been a bit jaded about young people's photography, but Malia's work is a breath of fresh air. I think this is partly due to her commitment to her very time-consuming and painstaking process of digital manipulation which could very easily become stale and/or mundane, yet it doesn't.  Her use of one subject, whether it be an animal or a human, repeated dozens of times in the same setting becomes a kind of story-telling, albeit a strange one.  By placing herself, just once, in each photograph Malia becomes the omniscient narrator to these tales.

I didn't know when I first saw this series that they were about living with chronic anxiety, but when I found that out I saw how completely Malia has created a sense of anxiety in each frame.

Lastly, I have to add a shout-out to UP Collective, the host of this show. If you haven't been yet, you should. UP is becoming a happening place to view some really amazing emerging artists; and if you have been before, you'll be blown away by the new gallery floors! Hope to see you there.

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If I Could Dance and Other Tales: LAST CHANCE to see my work at Jerry's Artarama

Show comes down Monday, Aug. 13th, so go check it out.

 

Art shows beating the heat around Austin 1: Rigoberto A. Gonzalez

They say summer is a sleepy (i.e. down-and-out) time for art shows here in blazing Austin, but there are some great shows up right now in appropriately air-conditioned settings.  My next couple of posts will feature shows I've been enjoying, here's the first: Rigoberto A. Gonzalez, Baroque on the Border @ the Mexican American Cultural Center, through Sept. 1

Levanton

Gonzalez is from a small town in Texas and made his appearance on the art radar by being featured in the 2011 Texas Biennial,  followed by reviews in Glasstire and shows in Houston and now Austin.  Well worth seeing in real life, Gonzalez's paintings are made with old techniques reminiscent of Caravaggio paintings to depict the current drug war in Mexico and along the border.  The stunningly beautiful chiaroscuro lighting combined with traditional Biblical-type scenes portray horrific events, from kidnappings to beheadings, as poignant as Fernando Botero's Abu Ghraib paintings.

I particularly liked the painting above, titled Levanton (The Kidnapping), because of the emotion on each of the individual's faces and the chaotic motion of the scene, but also because of the direct stare of one of the kidnapper's right out at the viewer, like a challenge: "What are you looking at?" It's chilling and evocative; what can/should we do about this violence? The scale of some of the paintings seems to reinforce the vastness of the problems and the helplessness of it's many victims.

After the heaviness of this show, you can lighten up by visiting the community gallery downstairs featuring Matthew (Rodriguez) Bonifacio's playful show,  Scruffy Kitten.