Two’s Company: “Discreet Vulgarities” @ Simone DeSousa Gallery

PeepSeats

Kupertus’ “Peep Seats” running video loops made collaboratively by the pair, on view for all prepared to kneel. Images courtesy of the artists and Simone DeSousa Gallery.

“Discreet Vulgarities,” which opened at Simone DeSousa Gallery on September 11th, could be accurately billed as a two-person show, featuring the work of photographer, multi-media, and performance artist Nicola Kuperus, and fine art painter and videographer Adam Lee Miller. But it could just as easily be considered a kind of two-headed hydra, with only the technicality of distinctions between two artists who have been in close conversation for two decades of create collaboration, as well as a 17-year marriage during which, according to Miller, they have only spent a handful of nights apart from each other.

On the surface, there are distinct bodies of work that can be instantly attributed to one artist or the other—Kuperus’ contributions largely consist of photography, particularly to capture moments within open-ended performances, as well as interactive sculptures; Miller is a formalist painter of commonplace building materials like gutter downspouts and pine studs, the tight rendering of which initially conceal a series of sly insinuations and vaguely dirty jokes.

2Drips

“2 Drips” – suspicious liquids by Adam Lee Miller. Images courtesy of the artists and Simone DeSousa Gallery.

Indeed, insinuation and lowbrow humor is the pulsing thematic of “Discreet Vulgarities” (as the title would suggest)—nothing graphic, nothing overt, but nearly every piece contains a subtle insinuation of the basic animal realities that lie beneath Kuperus’ satin gloves and Miller’s art historical references. Fluids drip from the joints of PVC pipes, gloved hand probe naughtily, two-by-fours emerge from and penetrate painted portals within the canvas. Kuperus’ “Peep Seats” go a bit beyond insinuation, forcing viewers to get on hands and knees if they wish to view through peep holes the collaborative video loops being screened within (foam kneeling pads thoughtfully provided). In another sculptural work, XXX, two wooden chairs nestle seamlessly within each other in a tender tableau of anthropomorphic intimacy. The personification of chairs cuts both ways; a photographic work features Kuperus, in a blonde wig and nude body suit, doing her best to blend in with a stack of chairs, and failing amusingly.

 

What_A_Mess

“What A Mess,” the first collaborative painting by the pair. Images courtesy of the artists and Simone DeSousa Gallery.

“Discreet Vulgarities” also breaks some new ground for the pair, who, despite collaborating musically via their band ADULT, have never before created a painting together. Their inaugural effort, “What A Mess” not only ties together a number of the show’s visual motifs—gloves, spills, drips, bright washes of color—but creates a satisfying centerpiece in formally fusing two practices which clearly exist apart only ostensibly to begin with. Kuperus and Miller acknowledge the give and take in their partnership, exchanging help with fabrication or conceptualizing, riffing off each other, making jokes that turn serious—in the way of musicians, of married people, of prime interlocutors. The vulgarities may be discreet, but the impact and resonance of these two artists on each other is obvious, and intensely interesting.

Two’s Company: “Discreet Vulgarities” at Simone DeSousa Gallery

The Simone DeSousa Gallery, September 11 – October 10

http://www.simonedesousagallery.com

 

 

Natural Selection Works @ the Scarab Club

Scarab opening

Scarab Club, Natural Selection Works, Installation image, Courtesy of Jim Pujdowski

When you visit the Detroit Institute of Arts, you look only a hundred yards away and see the Scarab Club, active in the community for over 100 years and a thriving force for local artists.

The Scarab Club’s most recent exhibition, Natural Selection Works opened September 10, 2015 and is curated by Jim Pujdowski, a longtime member of the Detroit Artistic Community. In his statement, Jim says, “The ten artists selected for this exhibition have the untiring desire to create. Each artist stands on their own and together they signify the strength of what is Detroit art.”

The exhibition, dominated by Wayne State alumni, brings together a community of artists that have dotted the landscape for many years. The longtime and exuberant director of the gallery, Treena Ericson, says, “Curating is an art form of its own. In this exhibition Jim has brought together ten artists with distinctly different styles, yet the show has a beautiful cohesion.” As you enter, ponder the names of those artists who have exhibited on these walls: Diego Rivera, Norman Rockwell, Pablo Davis, Gilda Snowden and Robert Wilbert, to name only a few.

 

Shirley Parish

Shirley D. Parish, After Midnight, Oil Painting 45 X 64 Image Courtesy of Ron Scott

As part of her cloud series, and most recently exhibited at the Ellen Kayrod Gallery, Shirley Dombrowski Parish presents the viewer with After Midnight, a large oil painting that evokes a spiritual feeling, a backdrop for a Michelangelo figure, or possibly a metaphorical abstraction for creation. In her statement, she says, “The painting of the sky began after many years of studying landscape. I try to capture light and breeze. I am aware of the constant shifting of light reflection of the sky, the sunset, water. The light is forever changing. These paintings are perceptions of experience, a visual poetry.” In her collection of thirty or more of these cloud based paintings, her subtle interpretation, wide and varied, provides the viewer with a vast range of interpretations, many that feel like a meditation. They are both representational and abstract, that create a kind of tension or play that may very well bring the viewer back again and again.

Andrew Blake

Andrew Blake, Untitled # 1, Acrylic on Canvas, 60 X 48, Image Courtesy of Ron Scott

An exception to an aging generation of artists in the exhibition is Andrew Blake with his painting Untitled 1, where he combines both figurative imagery with abstraction that invites the viewer into a complex composition relying on a diverse color palette and black line. The young artist attended the University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe before enrolling at the Maryland Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. Some may recall his exhibition at the Cass Café or know him from his musical performances at the Cadieux Café. The strength in Untitled # 1’s composition is the large figure in the upper right juxtaposed against the collage of abstract shapes, smaller figures and an array of line and shaped overlay.

Carlo Vitale

Carlo Vitale, Abstraction of Circles, Oil on Canvas, 48 X 60 Image Courtesy of Ron Scott

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this pointillist abstract composition, artist Carlo Vitale uses the circle as his theme for a colorful oil painting. The Detroit born artist says his influence often comes from working on a relative’s farm in the Michigan thumb area. Much of his work is devoted to a geometric grid approach to composition, with work that resembles a mosaic at a distance. He says, “My work is influenced by agricultural themes along with the colorful imagery of everyday life. The work generates kinetic and optical effects that are conjured up from music obsessions and the spirituality found in the art process.”

Robert Hyde

Robert Quentin Hyde, Untitled #3, Collage on Panel, 13 X 19, Image Courtesy of Ron Scott

Some may not want to re-visit Cubism, but I am guessing Robert Quentin Hyde might be a fan of Picasso, Fernand Leger, Georges Braque, and Robert Delaunay. In his intricate painting, Untitled #3, he unleashes the design of cubism and adds multiples of the feminine figure with an equipoise of primary and secondary color values. Yet another Wayne State University grad, who is known for his paintings that contain the heads of many women, Hyde builds in this composition a strong force of blue and orange that skillfully fuse the hermetic and detailed shapes together.

As a seasoned curator of exhibitions at the Liggett Gallery, Jim Pujdowski has sewn together familiar names and artwork by some of the better-known artists in the Detroit area. And what a better place to kick off the 2015 fall season than the Scarab Club where a team of people work hard to bring performance, literary events, and visual art exhibitions to midtown Detroit.

Natural Selection Works – September 10 – October 10, 2015

http://scarabclub.org

Essay’d III: A Diverse Class of Artists & Writers

Matt Corbin

“Meet me at The Pangolin Gallery” – mixed media/found object sculpture by Matt Corbin, Image Courtesy Sarah Rose Sharp

Never am I more impressed with the curatorial efforts of Steve Panton, then when I see an installment of the ongoing Essay’d series at his gallery, 9338 Campau, in Hamtramck. Panton already has established his reputation as one of the most innovative and intuitive curators around the Detroit art scene, with his first gallery 2739 Edwin, that he ran out of his own Hamtramck living space. Panton’s passion for research and his interest in local history has translated into a gift for tracking and uncovering artistic diamonds in the rough, and the shows at Edwin were a proving ground for unheard-of talents, and a showcase for the rising stars of Detroit outsider art.

During the first year of programming at his new gallery, which sits at street level on Hamtramck’s Jos Campau main strip, Panton has presented an array of fresh and established talent in the vaulted gallery space, including painter Saffell Gardner, months before the announcement as a 2015 Kresge Visual Art Fellow, fiber artist Lynn Bennett-Carpenter, and experimental musician Frank Pahl—a longstanding participant in the Detroit cultural scene, who is enjoying a Renaissance of interest at the moment. In addition to his ambitious move into a full gallery space, Panton piloted Essay’d, which presents essays on canonical Detroit artists, written monthly by Panton, Dennis A. Nawrocki, Matthew Piper, and myself. Roughly every three months, when a new “class” of ten artists has been essayed, Panton presents a group show at the gallery, and it is here that his curatorial skills are put to the test.

The writers for Essay’d choose their own subjects, based on passion and interest, and as a result, every set of ten presents a challenge in a group show setting. Typically group shows are arranged around some thread of commonality—thematic, locational, art movement, medium—but the Essay’d shows gather together a set of artists chosen by a set of writers. Furthermore, though he provides input, Panton gives the artists much leeway over what works they provide for the show, creating a second layer of abstraction in his curatorial control. It is impressive, then, how much the Essay’d shows hang together in a balanced and interesting way.

unnamed-1

EXQUISITE CORPSE MACHINE (Prototype #3). All ages and skill levels welcome. Image courtesy of 9338 Campau.

The opening, on Saturday, August 22nd, was a packed affair, with attendees of all ages and interests. Children gathered around Andy Malone’s interactive “Exquisite Corpse Machine 3”—an elaborate wooden device mechanizing the old-fashioned game that forces participants to make a collaborative drawing. Malone will be on hand this Saturday, August 29th, from 3:00-5:00, for an exquisite corpse activity at the gallery, and nascent artists of all ages are encouraged to attend.

Sanra Cardew

Detail from Sandra Cardew’s beautiful two-sided embroidered work, “Free-Falling” Image Courtesy of Sarah Rose Sharp

Other standout work included Sandra Cardew’s breathtaking fiber works, blending fabric construction and delicate embroidery with traditional painting and sculpture, to create highly ephemeral and wistful pieces. Clinton Snider contributed several small works, including a miniature house sculpture that appears to float midair, obviously from the same body of new work as “Sleeping Potential,” which he showed at Popps Packing earlier this year.

Clinton Snider

“Red House Island” by Clinton Snider, Image of Sarah Rose Sharp

A number of the artists presented work in their signature style, such as Mary Fortuna’s series of small paintings, which encapsulate a few variations on her perennial themes—bees, lotus flowers, third eye, and, of course, snakes—and selections from printmaker Toby Millman’s classic oeuvre. Ceramicist Marie Woo showed several trademark pieces, including a stack of green discs that was both formal and organic, suggesting an object somewhere between a pile of dirty dishes and an outgrowth of mushrooms from a large tree.

Then there were the far-outsiders. Matt Corbin, the final artist in this particular Essay’d class, whose essay will go live on September 1st, just prior to the show’s closing on September 5th, showed a couple of truly offbeat found object sculptures, including an anteater made entirely from repurposed plastic water bottles. Interspersed throughout the gallery are selections from Jon Strand’s newest series of intensely inked pointillist works, which bend the very edge of reason and obsession with their literal waves of detail. Finally, for the politically-minded, Shanna Merloa (essayed by guest writer Clara DeGalen) showed several archival inkjet prints from her series, “We All Live Downwind,” which utilized collage to raise questions about impurities in the water system. Native South African artist and CCS professor Chido Johnson showed “Revolutionary Residue”—early works in the form of cast cement fists that he says were created in the spirit of historical reference to post-apartheid South Africa, but he finds remain tragically relevant in the context of America’s current day struggles with race relations.

As always, the Essay’d show provided an opportunity to revel in our favorite artists, and discover some new ones. As a visual entry point into the artists chronicled on Essay’d, it provides an excellent chance for cross-pollination—people may see something in the gallery that draws them to read an essay on the website, or vice-versa. One sense that Steve Panton has learned to get the art to the people any which way he can. Kudos!

Essay’d III   August 22 – September 5, 2015

http://9338campau.com

The New Whitney Museum @ the Meat Packing District, NYC

Whitney NYC

Whitney Museum image – Photograph by Ed Lederman – 2015

 From its first space in Greenwich Village in 1931, to another home at Madison and 75th Street in 1966, to its new home at 99 Gansevoort Street, the Whitney Museum  has been deeply rooted in celebrating American art.

Sculptor and patron Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney was the driving force behind its development as she recognized the difficulty American artists were having exhibiting their work. Trying to keep up with its growth, it had established branches in various parts of Manhattan, and Stamford, Connecticut.

The new building at 99 Gansevoort Street is designed by the architect Renzo Piano, includes approximately 50,000 square feet of indoor galleries and 13,000 square feet of outdoor exhibition just east of the Hudson River. At the northern edge of the Meatpacking District, and the foot of Chelsea where the new High Line begins, is New York City’s newest and most unique public park.

As an artist and writer whose family is from NYC, the location choice for the new museum seems perfect, and at first glance, the interior space has an abundance of glass and terraced exterior space. One of the most impressive observations upon my first visit was the gallery interior wall. The fifth floor, for example, has 18,000 square ft. of open space where the 12” thick walls look and feel stationary, but, in fact, are movable. When you look up, you see a very thick steel grid that explains how these museum walls can be moved and repositioned based on curatorial design.

Chuck Close Installation

Chuck Close – Phil, 108 X 84, Acrylic and Graphite on Canvas, 1969 Image – Ron Scott

The first exhibition at the new Whitney Museum is America Is Hard to See, which provides a vehicle for its collection of American art that has been described as one of the arguments for moving into a new space. The collection includes over 21,000 works of art by more than 3000 artists who worked in the 20th and 21st centuries. The argument is that the Madison space never allowed for the proper leverage of the collection. This first exhibition, illustrates its capacity. Here in this installation image, Phil, 108 X 84, by the artist Chuck Close, one gets a feel for the gallery space. From his initial series in 1969, this acrylic and graphite on canvas presents a frontal portrait against a neutral ground. Close took an 8 x 10-inch photograph of his friend Phillip Glass, overlaid it with a penciled grid, and then painted a vastly enlarged blowup of each square onto the canvas using airbrushes to create a photographic image. In all the galleries, the flooring is reclaimed wide-plank pine from locations near the city and virtually column free.

Edward-Hopper-Early-Ssunday-Morning-1930 35 x 60 Oil on Canvas

Edward-Hopper-Early-Ssunday-Morning-1930 35 x 60 Oil on Canvas

The theatrical painting Early Sunday Morning, one of Edward Hooper’s most iconic paintings, takes its place in the exhibition as an example of social isolationism in this painting of Seventh Avenue, a north-south street, where light from the east cast it long shadows. Although Hopper is known as an archetypal twentieth-century American realist, his paintings are fundamentally representational. This painting demonstrates his emphasis on simplified forms, painterly surfaces, study of light and a thoroughly contemplated composition.

Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns – Three Flags, 30 X 45 Encaustic on Canvas, 1958

Three Flags is a signature image of Johns’, who got lumped into the Pop Art category by default when he decided to use everyday images in his work. Painting targets, maps, letters and numbers, Johns led some artists away from the abstract expressionism of the time. The familiarity and simplicity of his subject matter attracted audiences, often grounded in the imagery that was part of the everyday world at a time when the art world was searching for new ideas. In a statement, he says, “My work is largely concerned with relations between seeing, and knowing, seeing and believing, seeing and saying.” In Three Flags, he shifts the emphasis from emblematic meaning to a change of scale, discrete marks and surfaced texture.

David Smith

David Smith – Hudson River Landscape, 48 X 72, Welded & Stainless Steel, 1951

 

David Smith made what he called “drawings in space” using welded steel, as in Hudson River Landscape in 1951. Sometimes known as an abstract expressionist sculptor, similar to Pollock, Smith’s life was cut short when his pickup truck spun off the road in a crash near Bennington, Vermont at the age of 59. Best known for the Cubis, a series of stainless steel hand-brushed geometric shapes, his works have been included in exhibitions at the MOMA, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art represented by M. Knoedler & Co. and Gagosian galleries.Smith continued to paint and draw throughout his life, pieces that included landscape and figurative work. Most of Smith’s work is an object lesson in what scale means with respect to the viewer. His work was that of a welder, not a forger, and is often referred to when expressing the concept of Constructivism.

Two women W.diKonning

Image of de Kooning Woman and Bicycle, 75 X 49, Oil, enamel, Charcoal on Linen, 1952

For this viewer and many others I assume, the painting Woman and Bicycle is the 1950’s hallmark of Willem de Kooning’s work. Acknowledged as one of the most influential Abstract Expressionists, he says in his statement, “I’m not interested in ‘abstracting’ or taking things out or reducing painting to design, form, line, and color. I paint this way because I can keep putting more things in it–drama, anger, pain, love, a figure, a horse, my ideas about space. Through your eyes, it again becomes an emotion or idea.” The most distinguishing attribute in Woman and Bicycle are the two smiles where banality meets beautiful.

In addition to the new museum and its exhibition, the web site for the Whitney Museum is excellent, one of the best I have experienced. Extremely comprehensive and user-friendly, there are many short videos that explain everything. http://whitney.org

As for what will become of the space on Madison, The Metropolitan Museum of Art plans to present exhibitions and educational programming at the Whitney’s uptown building for a period of eight years, with the possibility of extending the agreement for a longer term.

 

The Whitney Museum of American Art

America is Hard to See   May 1 – September 27, 2015

Upcoming: Frank Stella, A Retrospective   October 30 – February 7, 2016

http://whitney.org

 

 

John Singer Sargent @ The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

JS Sargent Self Portrait MET 7.2015

John Singer Sargent – Self-Portrait 1906 Oil on canvas Instituti museali della Soprintendenza Speciale per il Polo Museale Fiorentino, Galleria degli Uffizi

If you’re considering a trip to New York City, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (a.k.a. the Met) is a must see, especially if it is your first visit. The museum was conceived in Paris in 1866 and built in New York City in 1870. Located on Fifth Ave on the east side of Central Park from 80 to 84th Streets, the Beaux-Arts building is the largest museum in the United States and averages five to six million visitors a year. The museum has seventeen departments and is capable of hosting several major exhibitions at one time. The current exhibition, Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends, opened June 30, 2015 and runs through October 4, 2015.   The exhibition originates from the National Portrait Gallery in London, curated by Richard Ormond, Elizabeth Kornhauser, and Stephanie Hendrich, who organize a collection, partly of commissioned formal portraits. Sargent is an American (1856-1925) who spent much of his time in Europe, returning to America for lengthy visits in Boston and New York, where his subjects were actors, musicians, artists and writers. Sargent seems deeply engaged in the culture of his time, and always open to new influences and friendships. A few of the portraits in the exhibition are of famous artists such as Claude Monet, Auguste Rodin and the writer Robert Louis Stevenson.

Fountain

John Singer Sargent – The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy 1907 Oil on canvas

The Fountain, was painted in 1907, where Jane de Glen is shown painting plenaire beside the great fountain Villa Torlonia in Frascati outside Rome. The pool lies at the top of a cascade of falls down the hillside to a Renaissance villa. Sargent captures so eloquently what he himself is so good at, the facility to compose and capture the spontaneity of the moment. Few artists of his time have the degree of visual theater in their work, combined with a gift for drawing with such gesture and realism. It was as a young student in Paris that Sargent studied with Carolus-Duran, who eventually referred to Sargent as his finest pupil.

Monet

John Singer Sargent – Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood 1885 Tate: Presented by Miss Emily Sargent and Mrs. Ormond through the Art Fund 1925

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was during this early time that Sargent captured this private moment of Claude Monet painting, with his future wife Alice Hoschede, as he worked on what is thought to be the painting Meadow with Haystacks near Giverny. For Sargent, this impressionist influence would stay with him for a lifetime, as Impressionism was the name given to a kind of observation that processed the moment as a phenomenon of optics base on the intensity of the outdoor light. It is well documented in letters that Sargent befriended Monet, and acknowledged him to some degree as an influence. In 1889 Sargent painted a portrait of Claude Monet while they were together at the Salon.

JS Sargent MET 7.2015

John Singer Sargent – Henry James 1913 Oil on canvas

As it turns out, Sargent and expatriate American novelist Henry James became friends as they both recorded the social scene on the transatlantic voyages between the United States and Europe. Close friends for forty years, James remained a supportive critic of Sargent’s work. James was one of the first to recognize Sargent’s talent. In 1913, it was a group of James’s friends who decided to commission a portrait to celebrate his seventieth birthday. The study of the enigmatic literary genius provides the audience with a rich and sympathetic depiction of Sargent’s aging friend.

Mountain stream

John Singer Sargent – Mountain Stream, Watercolor 1912

Among the 92 works of art in the exhibition, Sargent’s Mountain Stream typifies much of his watercolor work. The painting is owned by the Met, and captures the flowing water among the French Alps in 1910. A young, nude male in the scene addresses the question of Sargent’s sexuality. In a biography, Sargent is portrayed as “a complicated, exuberant, passionate individual with a homosexual identity,” a lifelong bachelor surrounded by family and friends. The painter’s great-nephew Richard Ormond, himself a Sargent scholar, says “If [Sargent] had sexual relationships they must have been of a brief and transient nature and they have left no trace…. We simply do not know, and decoding messages from his work is no substitute for evidence.” Given the context of the time in which Sargent lived and a close look at his work, particularly the number of male nudes he painted, it is this writer’s opinion that Sargent had an attraction to men that today would be fully accepted.

JS Sargent MET Out of Doors Study 2015

John Singer Sargent – An Out-of-Doors Study 1889 Brooklyn Museum, Museum

 

The painting An Out-of-Doors Study demonstrates how Sargent experimented with portrait compositions whose informality stood in contrast to his commissioned studio portraits. Here, his French friend and his young wife settle in the grass at Fladbury, England. Sargent’s approach here seems liberated from his standard studio work and features a compositional asymmetry, natural light, and a casual moment. It is paintings like these that leave their mark and go beyond studio portraiture.

John Singer Sargent was an American giant among realistic illusionary painters. Although there was a time period where his work was in disfavor, his popularity has risen steadily since the 1950’s as illustrated by the large-scale exhibitions of his work in major museums in the United States and Europe. Sargent increasingly turned to landscape painting as a respite from his portrait commissions. Time Magazine critic Robert Hughes praised Sargent as “the unrivaled recorder of male power and female beauty in a day that, like ours, paid excessive court to both.” He was sixty-nine years old when he died in London.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art    https://goo.gl/AXke6w

1000 5th Avenue, New York City, NY 10028    (212)535-7710  10:00am – 9:00pm