Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cincinnati Art Snob Blog Moves to Wordpress

After a few years with Blogger, I've decided to move the blog over to Wordpress. Wordpress provides a template allowing me to better showcase certain features. I am particularly excited about the slide show featuring my Artist Interviews.

With this change, I've eliminated my arts calendar. While this may have been helpful to some of my readers and certainly to the art museums and galleries whose events I posted, this became too challenging to maintain. Frankly, there's lots of art happening here. You will be able to keep up with the events by visiting the museum and gallery websites directly. You will find a list of those links on the new blog.

You can visit the new site here:

http://blog.cincinnatiartsnob.com/

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cincinnati's Contemporary Figurative Artists

The Weston Art Gallery is now showing Narrative Figuration, which features five of the city's premier realists: Robert Anderson, Daniel O'Connor, Tim Parsley, Emil Robinson, and Tina Tammaro. These are easily some of my favorite local artists. Jackie Demaline's recent profile of Emil Robinson presents how influential they are to each other.

I had the opportunity to interview Robinson for this blog almost two years ago. Demaline's story reminds me of Robinson's genuine graciousness. Whenever you ask him about his work, he so often defers to those who influence him.

Narrative Figuration may suggest a short list of artists for me to interview in the near future.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New Images of Resistance Reveal Contemporary Resignation

Let Your Motto Be Resistance is an exhibition of 68 photographs from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, which opened Friday at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. This inaugural exhibition of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is the first ever collaboration between the Freedom Center and the Smithsonian.

The title of the show comes from the1843 "An Address to the Slaves of the United States" by the abolitionist, Henry Highland Garnet. The premise of the exhibition is to present a more contemporary definition of "resistance." NURFC curator, Dina Bailey, correctly suggests when we think of resistance we think of images of violence or protests. Instead, many of the photographs in this show are of well-known (if not by face, by name) individuals who embraced Garnet's plea. Familiar names include Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Ella Fitzgerald, and Amira Baraka. The photographs are arranged around a stark white gallery and grouped in 3 categories: "Activists," "Performers and Athletes," and "Writers and Intellectuals." Each category is labeled with an explanation or definition of the category of resistance. Each photograph is labeled with an introduction to the individual, their challenges, and successful resistance.

What's most successful about the exhibition is that no matter how familiar the viewer may be of the subjects, the viewer may be surprised to learn the stories of resistance. While we can accept Ali as "The Greatest" and may see Lena Horne as one of Hollywood's most beautiful celebrities, their gifts did not protect them racism. Each of the individuals featured in Let Your Motto Be Resistance faced injustice

Unlike Without Sanctuary, these are not difficult pictures to view. The portraits are rather idealized and in some cases glamorize the individual. In fact, they look much like promotional shots of each of the individuals. The viewer must read the labels to learn and understand these as examples of resistance. And here may be where the Smithsonian exhibit may run into a problem.

Directors of the collaborating museums claim the following:

“As we examined the photographs that comprise this exhibition, it was clear that they revealed, reflected and illuminated the variety of creative and courageous ways that African Americans resisted, accommodated, redefined and struggled in an America that needed, but rarely embraced and accepted its black citizens,” said Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“Powerful in its depiction of African American resistance, this exhibition speaks on a global level,” says Freedom Center CEO Donald W. Murphy.

While I agree the lives of the individuals depicted in the exhibition represent courage almost impossible to measure, the photographs themselves do not represent this at all. These photographs do not tell the story of resistance. These are beautiful photographs of successful people, most of whom are recognizable celebrities. What is creative is the way this inaugural exhibition of Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture tries to redefine images of 150 years of African American resistance in the U.S. Not included are photographs of actual resistance.

The exhibition goal to present new or more diverse images of resistance seems to flirt with rewriting of history of racism and failing to acknowledge contemporary racist tendencies. Bailey admits when she initially saw the collection group Muhammad Ali with the Activists, she thought it best to present him with the other athletes. Despite Ali's resistance to the Vietnam War and the anger people had toward him and Muslims, the curator felt this current grouping was more in line with how people think about Ali today. Further, within moments of entering the gallery, I noticed the largest of the categories was "Performers and Athletes." The smallest, "Writers and Intellectuals."

In the past few years speech writers and others have quickly adopted the saying "A Time to Move Forward." This contemporary motto has been embraced as an anti-historical approach to the most challenging issues. It permits us to wipe our slates clean and ignore our past wrongdoings. The Smithsonian is known for painting a pretty picture on our past. Unless the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center works hard to create programming courageous enough to honestly reveal and celebrate historical and contemporary acts of resistance, Henry Highland Garnet's call will not be heard.

Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will be on view until June 19.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The ArtsWave Impact Flip

City Beat's Jane Durrell presents the recent repackaging of the Fine Arts Fund into ArtsWave. In the middle of their capital campaign, the City Beat story provides a short history of the organization and the impetus for its recent rebranding.

Their new broader mission to financially support more and larger institutions outside of Cincinnati, a lack of support for the work of individual artists (Durrell quotes me on this point), and populism are some concerns of potential as well as past supporters of the Fine Arts Fund. The argument for continued support is the organizations newly defined mission to support art's impact on the community. Of course this is not the same thing as supporting the arts.

As you read the story, take the time to watch the 2 videos included. They provide perhaps the best illustration of the new ArtsWave marketing strategy: grant recipients singing the praises of ArtsWave.

With ArtsWave refocusing towards impact, the arts organizations and artists are left supporting ArtsWave.

There's the flip....it's your coin.

Monday, March 14, 2011

ArtWord: Corrine Bayraktaroglu

Embroidery Face

Corrine Bayraktaroglu was born in the Northeast of England, went to high school in London, married and came to America in 1978. While she has always done crafts and learned embroidery from her mother and grandparents it wasn’t until the age of 40 that she took her first formal art classes. She came under the tutelage and guidance of Marie Linnekin in 1996 at Anne Arundel Community College, Annapolis, Maryland. After a hiatus of 25 years from embroidery she picked up the thread again in 2009 using her own art and sketchbooks as inspiration.

I had an opportunity to ask Bayraktaroglu about her work in various media and living in Yellow Springs, OH. She talks here about the role of feminism in the arts in general and explains how her experience as a victim of abuse from the age of 9 until 15 gives her an empathy/understanding that is useful in engaging some of the most challenging issues expressed in her work. Bayraktaroglu also discusses her public works with Jafagirls and the freedom of working within a number of genres.

1. Tell me a little about what motivated you to return to the needle after being trained in mediums more traditional to the fine arts. Was this return a simple experiment? Was this medium choice a conscious exploration of a feminist agenda? Or were you interested in making a connection with your own personal, familial influences?

I seem to have come full circle. I have always loved texture, and after doing knit graffiti and expanding into craft graffiti I wanted to explore embroidery and see if I could use it in a new and creative way now that I had the confidence and ability to create my own designs. In the past I had no art training and depended on kits and embroidery transfers. I got excited about the idea of seeing if I could translate some of my art into stitch and seeing if I could integrate it with other media.
I view the needle as just another tool for me to work with as an artist. I can see why others do (see needlework as part of a feminist agenda) because it’s seen and treated as a just a female craft/ hobby using kits and making pretty little doodads. Making a feminist statement with it is a reaction to that perception but I never regarded it a feminine craft/art even though it was historically foisted on women as the only artistic outlet we were allowed to participate in. To me that would be like saying painting is a man’s craft because historically only men were allowed to train for it and do it. I was excited by the idea of exploring another medium that I had always enjoyed in the past, and the challenge of seeing if I could integrate it with other mediums.


2. You say your work is created as a response to the world around you. All artists can make this claim. Further, I find that is much too simple a description of your creative process. Not only does your work require time, the results are simply exquisite. From your homage to artists like Frida Kahlo and Basquiat to your social commentaries as well as personal reflections reveal such a vast visual language that hardly reflects impulsiveness. With so many tools of art, how do you determine which to use? Describe this dance between the mediums.

Perhaps I need to add the word impulsive because generally my work is born out of an immediate reaction to something or idea that pops into my head and a primary need to express it visually. Just as people talk about what they feel and what is going on around them, I use my art in the same way. I have to scribble them down lest I forget because sometimes so many ideas/visions are popping up. The actual process, the implementation of an idea does take time.

The process really depends on the idea, if it comes in the form of a word or an image. Sometimes I am just in the mood to paint, or the weather permits me to work in my workshop and shelved ideas (that I had scribbled down) pop up that are perfectly suited for my mood. I will try to keep it short but here’s an example. I was reading about child trafficking and an image popped up of a young girl trapped in a small filthy room waiting for the next customer. I remembered how it felt to be in a room waiting for my abuser and how I wanted to fly away. I decided to use the wings of a bird I had in my studio and make this an assemblage with a box for the small nasty room. That determined the size of the piece. How I feel about the men who abuse and exploit women is manifested in the shape of a carrion bird who feeds off these young women/girls. That’s when I decided to do an embroidery version of the crow (above) since the stitches are soft like the feathers and a human eye to show that the bird is disguised and is really human carrion. Slowly how this piece will represent my initial thought has evolved and I processed how I felt about it.

Shiny Pretty Things

3. You mention a sense of freedom you have “to work between genres, disciplines, mediums, between fine art and craft, high art and low art.” This freedom comes no doubt from your ability to work in various mediums. But was there any pressure to choose a definitive genre or discipline? Does refusing to be categorized force your work in front of a smaller audience than you may wish?

There is a quiet pressure, and sometimes outright pressure by other artists/art school teachers/galleries who don’t feel you are dedicated to one medium and therefore don’t take you seriously. I had so many people asking me if I had quit painting or presumed I would because I started doing embroidery again which I found strange. I respect and understand galleries wanting a specific style etc, they are trying to earn a living and cater to a specific genre/
market/customer base. I am very lucky to be in a gallery (IN A FRAME) in Yellow Springs that uses my diversity as a selling point. It does limit the audience of my work, but since the compelling reason to create is influenced by internal needs rather than external concerns I don’t really worry about it.


4. I became more acquainted with your work by way of your graffiti knit projects I found around Yellow Springs. When did Jafagirls begin?

In 2005 with a friend who has since moved out of state. Now it primarily Nancy Mellon and myself along with what we call jafa cohorts or conspirators lol. It means just another F*&c*&^ing artist, and for me a humbling reminder that I am one amongst many just trying to do my own thing my way.

5. Unlike most graffiti and most cities, this work is accepted and even celebrated by the residents of Yellow Springs. Has this always been the case? Can anyone “scarve” a tree, pole, or bench in Yellow Springs?

Yes, from the get go we had so much support, but we live in a village that embraces creativity, which is not to say some people didn’t express concerns. We did our research and were able to address those concerns I believe. As for whether others can yarnbomb around town, that is not for me to say ;)

6. It is not only the various mediums and subjects in which you make art that reveal your expressiveness, you are an incredible advocate for the arts and the community of Yellow Springs. Through your blog you link to so many wonderful finds you encounter throughout the day. It is as if you are the community art curator of Yellow Springs, OH. Do you curate exhibitions for local artists?

Nancy and I have curated a few exhibits as members of the Yellow Springs Arts Council over the years. Nancy and I created a gallery in the local restroom for 4 years called the “chamberpot gallery”, and less formally we facilitated an exhibit in a local cafĂ©, and the flower power street art project in June 2010. At the moment we are preparing a group installation of public art called the pub alley project.


Teef: Homage to Basquiat

7. With such a strong connection to the local art community, how do you make yourself part of national or even international conversations? I mean how do you as an artist connect with the national or international conversations on art. I'm referring to a possibility or tendency for one to remain cloistered in a small self-defined community while the art world rolls by. Perhaps you don't have this problem....I certainly don't see it in your work. I suppose this is why I ask.

I am insanely curious person and love history and the arts/crafts . I think my years of exploring castles, antique markets and museums around the uk as a child and young adult and living and travelling in a variety of states in the usa I’ve been exposed to a very broad range of arts and crafts. I would say this has allowed for a more global view of the arts and given me an better understanding of the context. For example when I think of embroidery I think about in terms of the of the role it has played for centuries, socially, culturally and economically. What British child isn’t taught about 1066, and one of the most important historical documents about 1066 is the Bayeux Tapestry (which is actually embroidery and believed to have been commissioned in 1070). People who have never been exposed to this type of history or seen ancient textile arts may have more difficult time seeing embroidery as anything other than the stereotyped view, which might explain why I don’t’ see doing embroidery as a feminist reaction.


Corrine Bayraktaroglu has been doing her blog, Jafabrit’s Art, for about 5 years as well as the Jafagirls blog. She's been been doing the Yellow Springs Arts blog, which is also a support blog for the arts council, for about 4 years. She and Nancy have just recently started a blogtalk radio show called Bits and Bob’s with the Jafagirls.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Creating The New Century

There have been a number of turn of the century exhibitions. Most I've seen seem to be noted for the varied ways video other multi-media approaches have found a way into the art museum. For example, Younger Than Jesus at the New Museum a few years ago was made up of works, of which nearly all, implemented some kind of video installation. I could count on one hand the number of paintings in this show of artists 33 years old or younger. I enjoyed the show (or perhaps I enjoyed hanging out with my sister in NYC), but I missed the paintings.

This week I was invited to see Creating The New Century at the Dayton Art Institute. This exhibition features works created since the year 2000 and includes 70 paintings, drawings and sculptures (no video art!) by artists who vary in age and career length. Grouping artists like Francesco Clemente, Philip Pearlstein, Sean Scully, with Mark Bradford, Jun Kaneko. and Marilyn Minter was what excitedly drew me to make my first visit (yes, first) to the DAI.

Admittedly, I was initially suspicious of this show as yet another exhibition of a private collection. James F. Dickie is the Chairman and CEO of his family business, Crown Equipment. As he notes in an essay on collecting in the exhibition catalog, Dickie has been collecting art since he was 10. Of course this claim as well as the rest of the essay doesn't necessarily convince me of the value of the collection or his collecting. That Dickie served as chairman of the board of trustees at The Dayton Art Institute and The Smithsonian American Art Museum was not the clincher either.

In 1997, the DAI opened a new expansion by hosting American art from the Dickie collection. So this is the second time in less than 15 years the DAI has featured works from this collector. I did not see the earlier show, but Creating The New Century is not so much a collector's collection as it is a painter's collection.

James F. Dickie II is a painter and the exhibition wonderfully explores painting (and sculpture) in this 21st century. I was excited by artists like John Alexander (he spoke with us during this media preview), who is inspired by great art in history. His Ship of Fools is a response to the contemporary through the influence of artists like Bosch, Homer, and Gericault. New painting processes like those employed by Linda Besemer are for a non-artist like myself reason enough to see this show. Her Fold #71 is a pure painting in that it is made exclusively of a sheet of paint.

I was immediately drawn to this collection. While in the gallery, I spoke with a fellow writer, a painter who teaches painting. He too was excited about the show and we talked about the possibility of creating a painting class based on Creating The New Century. I know I could create a pretty interesting art history seminar. Of course it would be a history of contemporary art without video art.

But I think I would be okay with that.

ETA:

The accompanying catalog includes and excellent essay written by New York Art Critic Ellie Bronson on each of the artists featured in the exhibition.