Monday, June 29, 2009

Timothy Rub Resigns as Cleveland Museum of Art Director

Former Cincinnati Art Museum Director, Timothy Rub, who has since led the Cleveland Museum of Art since 2006 and who just finished guiding construction of the museum's gleaming new East Wing, has decided to leave his post in September to direct the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has the story here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

ArtWord: Alton Falcone Interview

Alton Falcone is a sculptor currently exhibiting at the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center in Covington, KY. He discovered sculpture during his long sojourn in San Gimignano, Italy in the province of Tuscany. He was profoundly influenced by the ancient ruins and Renaissance spirit. He founded his own art gallery and hosted a continuous exhibition of his work for several years before returning to the United States to earn graduate degrees in both Fine Arts and Philosophy from Stony Brook University, New York.

Variation in Grey#2, 2009 (Recovered wood, 40"x25")

1. While your sculptural work seems to adopt the Minimalist language of the cube and repetition, a closer look and contemplation of your pieces reveal a rather obvious and perhaps intentional reference to architectural forms and constructions. Hardly Minimal. The weathered wood and rusted nails with the clean “industrial cut” permit a much more dynamic visual language. With what seems to present dueling geometric and organic lines in your work, explain how you see the result as harmonious.
In the wood sculptures, there is the play of the geometric and the organic, but also other aspects are at play. I work three: a negative space (the absence of wood), the flat plain and the clustered, ‘busier’ sections (such as conglomerations of small wood pieces and extruding nails). Each of the three negates the other two in some way; for example, the flat plane feels like a negative space next to the clusters. Hence the aesthetic play of my work is really between these three elements on one level as well as the dual play between (as you mentioned) a clean cut and the ‘softer,’ weathered touches.
The harmony arises in varied ways. The overall proportion is often based on the Golden Ratio, known for its presence in natural forms, strongly evident in my recent wall works. The straight line affords the eye a respite and ordering within or around the weathered elements which in turn afford a respite from the hardness of the line. The harmony arises from a balance between these, as well as a careful play of the three other elements listed above. Color also serves to unite disparate aspects; some of the weathering is my own intervention. It is a lot to juggle; if one views my works long enough, this balancing act reveals itself, not as a tightrope but a conscious, peaceful ordering.

2. You say you are attracted to abstract art because “there are no references to concepts, ideas, real objects beyond what is before the viewer or flights of narratives within the beholder’s mind.“ Do you believe your work makes no references to concepts or ideas? Is this your goal? If so, why?
A concept (such as occurs in art that makes reference to a conceptual theme at the expense of all other aspects of it, which to be fair does not always happen in conceptual art) acts with necessity on the viewer’s interiority and oppresses the free play of the imagination, substituting imaginative experience for ‘intellectual play.’ That for me is a poor substitute for rich visual experience (here I am inspired by Schiller). My rejection of references to real objects goes back to Plato’s rejection of mimesis. The tendency for artists to rely on narratives is for me also a substitute for visual richness - the work becomes like a mystery novel, finding its completion to the extent it is ‘read.’ And narrative works are often mimetic, simply on a more subtle level. Essentially, my rejection of the above is that the work would refer to something outside of itself and rely too heavily upon the purely mental activity of the viewer, whereas I wish my artwork to be self-referential, self-sustaining and engaging of vision and intuition.
I consider it valid that other artists work in the ways in which I reject; this is simply my own research and a demand I make upon myself.

3. During the time you spent working in Italy you found the ancient ruins your inspiration. The Roman Forum is often referred to as an architectural history book complete with inscriptions, dates, and names that chronicle Rome’s history. Do you seek a similar historicizing in your work that is itself made of pieces from older architectural structures? How to you see your own reworking of the wood as part of this history?
The weatherization and history of the wood is more symbolic of history than having an actual history, although it of course has an actual history. I rarely conserve what might be called linear, ‘obvious’ history (such as an inscription from someone on the wood, or a price tag, etc.) as I would find this distracting from the play of elements I described earlier. Anything I do to the wood would become part of its history by default; I try to conserve the more ‘naturally’ produced weatherization out of concern that too much of my own hand may appear artificial. But I do make heavy interventions with bleach, paint, scraping etc. and carefully choose methods that have unpredictable results. I also add many of my own holes and similar damages as I add, subtract, cut, reattach, etc.

4. In your artist statement for the exhibit at the Carnegie Center, you ask your viewer to imagine a personal history transformed to a higher meaning, “as a spirit greater than their outer manifestation, one evolving to an elevated and luminous state even through the most painful of experiences.” Here, you seem to refer to martyrdom or more precisely a Christ figure. This combined with the old wood and rusty nails really strengthens an allusion to the crucifix. Do you see religion as a theme in your work?
I used the image in order to reach out to viewers not in the habit of looking at abstract art. Since the work does not refer to anything they may have perceived before, I played with the idea of the intuition/feeling one may experience before, say, one’s grandparents or other venerated members of the elderly community. The materials are symbolic of lived, endured experience (experience is not always pleasant) but their arrangement and other methods of my transformation of the materials symbolize the transformation of suffering.
Such transformation is not limited to Christianity; take, for example, Buddhism and the lotus flower. It is purely accidental that my materials recall Christianity . I am Christian, but I don’t see that religious aspect in the work, unless you define religion in terms of the formless stream within it. I don’t, or I would be at church services.

5. You welcome or even celebrate wood’s ability to reveal its own weathered history and refer to the wood you use in many of your pieces as “recovered.” Yet contemporary audiences may associate your language of history recovery to environmentalism, recycling or “green” speak. Is this a misconception or an added bonus?
Added bonus. I know that many artists claim to be green through their use of recovered materials. But how are those materials worked? Do they use toxic glues, power machinery, industrial glazes? That undermines a little the green category so I don’t claim it. Not all artists fall into this of course but I for one use miter saws, paint thinners, etc.

6. Similarly, environmental artists like Robert Smithson were interested in history, more specifically ecological history. His exploration of the passage of time and human’s impact in nature is reflected in his Spiral Jetty. Do you welcome a comparison between your work and that of the Environmental artists?
Not really. My wood work is mostly what I call ‘studio work’ (not site-specific, public art, installation etc.) and is designed for the white box gallery. I ‘halt’ the weatherization of the wood, coating it with bee’s wax and hope that it is protected. My hope is that its final home is protective of the work. I would enjoy creating a body of wood sculpture cast directly into bronze (via the burnout technique) in order to deeply conserve the form but this would require funds that I do not have.
I am not limited to studio work though and I have made work with the intention of it weathering and breaking down; in that case I could be included with environmental artists.

To see more images of Alton Falcone's work visit www.altonfalcone. net.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

2009 Professional Development Fund for Emerging Arts Leaders of Color in the Great Lakes Region

Americans for the Arts is pleased to announce that the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation has renewed its support for Americans for the Arts' Professional Development Fund for Emerging Arts Leaders of Color. A total of five Joyce Fellows from the Great Lakes Region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin) will be selected to participate in this program in 2009. Fellows will receive stipends of $3,000 to support their attendance at the 2009 National Arts Marketing Project Conference, 2010 Arts Advocacy Day, and 2010 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention. In addition, fellows will have special opportunities to meet field leaders, work alongside mentors, and receive individualized career coaching. An additional five fellows will be selected in 2010.

Here you can find more information and download an application.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

DC Art Writer, Tyler Green Points to the CAM's Blue Hole, Little Miami River by Robert S. Duncanson

In an earlier post about the Cincinnati Art Museum's current exhibitions depicting women, I mentioned discussions about American Art recently taking place. I specifically looked to Tyler Green's upcoming review of the NGA's reinstalled American Art galleries.

Here is the critique, in which he recognizes the NGA's exclusion of non-white and non-male artists in these galleries. To illustrate the rather blatant inaccuracy of the presentation of America's art history, Green lists a number of artists and works, including The Cincinnati Art Museum's Blue Hole, Little Miami River by Robert S Duncanson.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Call for Artist: Manifest adds NUDE to Exhibition Schedule

The first annual Nude will be the ninth exhibit added to the Manifest Gallery exhibition schedule. For this international competition, works in any media of any style or genre and size will be considered. The deadline is July 17, 2009.

Here you can find more information and an online entry form.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

PAC Gallery Updates

Last month I expressed concern over the choice to open the new PAC Gallery with an exhibition of contemporary Indian Art. My question was based on recent art market reports. Though this week, the PAC Gallery is reporting an earlier edition of one of these paintings sold at Christie’s.

According to the PAC Gallery:

“We are pleased to announce that edition No. 8/9 of Vivek Vilasini's Last Supper Gaza just sold at Christie's recent South Asian Modern & Contemporary Art Sale in London. The priced realized at the auction was $34,744 including the buyers premium. We have edition No. 9/9 and the only copy available in the United States at PAC Gallery, our new location in East Walnut Hills.”

Click Christie's to view the sale.

PAC Gallery has decided to extend this exhibition through the end of July if you would like to see this and the other paintings that make up the show.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

ArtWord: Cedric Michael Cox Interview

I chose to open my artist interview series, ArtWord, with local artist Cedric Michael Cox, whose work directly reflects the urban space in which he lives and works. Over the Rhine is located north of Downtown Cincinnati and is probably Cincinnati's most economically diverse and certainly its most creative neighborhood. Since 2001, when OTR was at the center of a race riot that made national news, the neighborhood has been making strong strides towards a revitalization. The 19th century Italianate and Greek Revival architecture throughout Over the Rhine is immediately recognized as influential to Cox's work.

15th and Elm, 35x45 inches, acrylic mounted on unstretched canvas

1. You grew up in a suburban neighborhood where you lived within a well-defined grid of perfectly manicured lawns and lines of houses. You mention your move to OTR was the single most influential aspect of your work. The grid is still a commanding element in your paintings. Tell me more about the transformation of your work that reflect this influence.
The grid and its commanding element in my work goes back to my interest in Cubism and Italian Futurist like Umberto Boccioni and Gino Severini who serve as a major influence. As a youth in grade school and in high school I remember the foreground and background in my paintings and drawings being rendered to the same level of intensity with my subjects having a very geometric quality. It wasn’t until college that I started relating to artist like Franz Marc and Fernand Leger. I fell in love with these artists because they handled their subjects the same way I thought I did. Growing up in the suburbs where everything felt and looked the same, inspired me and my misfit friends to take the bus and explore downtown where we thought we would blend in. We still were misfits but the noise and look of the city felt great. The architecture of OTR always inspired me but it wasn’t until I moved there in 2000 that I remembered what I learned in college. Paint what you know. The urban environment fueled by my love for the fragmentation of form and the city became my subject. The ruins of OTR were and still are my muse. The quick gestural graffiti tags against the brick wall patterns are a vision that repeats in my mind when I look up at the tallest buildings and in the cracks in the ground. The visual stimulation pulses in me as I walk. This is what I see and what I know.

Painting the Quilt #2, 40x57 inches, acrylic on tar paper mounted on unstretched canvas

2. You seem to draw on the aesthetics of various artistic genres. I am most intrigued by your admitted reference to quilting. I’m not familiar with many male painters who would offer a shout-out to the crafts. Your work does in fact share the analytical form of traditional quilting. Have you worked in textiles? Would you like to bring actual quilting into your paintings?
When describing my work to someone who hasn’t seen my work, words like patterns and rhythm come up. When these terms are used I tend to refer to my paintings and drawings as quilt-like. The same way shapes and colors bounce from corner to corner in a quilt can be related to the invisible line of the compositional pyramid used by the master painters like Leonardo da Vinci. Most of my work has this quilt-like quality to it because I have appropriated compositions and the use of pattern and color from contemporary fine art quilt makers. I believe patterns moving and shifting in space to make an implied or obvious connection to the viewer can be seen in “craft” like art and in fine arts. I will use whatever source I can find to fuel my paintings. My continuous mission as a visual artist is not only to create work that expands my interests, but also to find innovative ways of attracting new and inspired audiences to my work and to the arts in general. If associating my paintings with quilts helps others who never experienced abstract work like mine to understand how I create then I have made a connection. I have only made a hand full of quilts in my career and I will like to do more. I have not worked with textiles but I believe that I can learn a lot if I tried. I am open to anything that will enhance my art.

3. Your referencing and comparing musical composition to the visual is not so unusual. Many painters have spoken about their similarities. You are a musician, yes? Do you still play? Have you performed professionally?
As a musician, the similarities between a musical composition and a visual composition are apparent. A change in rhythm or pitch can be compared to a shift in line, brush stroke, gesture, and pattern. Fresh out of college with the notion of purely painting what I know, I looked to my apartment as a still life for inspiration. My apartment was filled with guitars. To this day you will find shapes and forms that echo the shapes of drums and stringed instruments in my work. Ever since I was a child I remember being fascinated with the guitar and wanting to be a rock star. I strummed my first guitar at the age of 4 and still to this day I will strum a six string while paint is drying on one of my paintings. For over seventeen years I have played bass with my friends in the band Morticite. Though we have played in front of large crowds opening up for major Heavy Metal and Punk bands and produced numerous recordings we never landed a major record deal nor did we ever care to. Like me with my career as a visual artist, the rest of the band has other passions and sources of inspiration that drive them beyond the stage and studio. Built on the love and passion we have for the music we play and the respect we share for each other the band will stay together forever.

4. When we spoke, we laughed a bit about how because you are black, many would assume your musical palette would include exclusively jazz, R&B, and rap. However this isn’t the case. Tell me more about your musical influences? How do these styles lend themselves to your paintings?
When I was an undergrad at the University of Cincinnati’s College Design, Architecture Art and Planning my instructor was Wayne Enstice. At that time I was creating a body of work inspired by the relationship between body and music. The paintings depicted anatomical structures of the internal anatomy intertwined with biomorphic imagery that resembled musical instruments. I was creating portraiture from the inside out in a surreal environment. At a critique I found it necessary to mention that my main source of musical inspiration was jazz. This was probably inspired by the fact that my instructor was not only a fan of Jazz but has written many essays on Jazz theory. I was trying to win him over. Wayne saw right through me and declared the drawings as strong but saw more rock n roll than jazz in my work. Later on Wayne ended up using one of the pieces in this series in the third edition of the college text, Drawing: Space, Form, and Expression and described the work better than I ever could. It is clear that though I like jazz, Hip Hop, and r&b music, my main drive to achieve artistic excellence is fueled by the driving sounds of Iron Maiden and other trash bands from my adolescence. I am privileged to do what I do now with paint as I did as youth with crayons. Rock ‘n’ Roll was in my blood then and it is still with me now. The music I compose for my band Morticite tends to be layered with riff after pounding riff leaving little room for crescendo or rest. Similar to my paintings I am driven to give the listener an all over compositional climax from start to finish. Walls of layered distortion with riffs intertwined in dense patterns, echoes the cubic area of my paintings.

The Drummer, 30 x 36 inches graphite on paper

5. Do you get frustrated with the aesthetic assumptions viewers place on you because of race? Combined with your interests in your urban living space in OTR, musical rhythms, and of course your race, how far away could a comparison between you and an artist like Jacob Lawrence be? Do you often feel compelled to defend your art from racial stereotypes? How does this play out specifically in Cincinnati as opposed to other cities, countries in which you’ve lived?
It depends on what the assumptions are. Most assumptions people make about African American artists is that our work is based primarily on our race and culture alone. Those assumptions don’t bother me to the point of frustration. I basically just accept it at face value. Jacob Lawrence’s work uses music, mythical folklore, and the urban environment as his palette for expression. This and the fact that we are both African American artists make us similar. Where we differ is that his music influence comes from jazz where mine comes from rock ‘n’ roll. I was always encouraged by my peers to paint what I know based on my experiences and how those experiences influence me. My art defends itself from these stereotypes. The same connections one might find with my work and other African American artist work can be made with the work of artist of non African decent. When creating my work I have no obligation to anyone but me. My goal to achieve artistic excellence is fueled by the desire to create work that reflects my interests regardless of my race. I enjoy living in Cincinnati particularly Over the Rhine. When visiting other cities and even my short time in Scotland I found that people were more intrigued by the art rather than my race.

For a more complete portfolio of Cox's work see his website.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Classically Competing Images of Women

With the opening of the Cincinnati Art Museum’s three new exhibitions focusing on women we have an opportunity to see how women are viewed and presented throughout art’s last century and the competing perspectives of female and male artists. The much discussed issues including the male gaze and voyeurism surround the Garry Winogrand Women are Beautiful. Similarly, the discussion of the challenges posed to women artists during the turn of the last century that seemed result in their relegation to domestic settings of the feminine present Bessie Potter Vonnoh as Mary Cassatt’s sculptural American counterpart (without mentioning Mary Cassatt).

While these are valued topics important in engaging American art in the last century, the museum’s third exhibition fails to grab the opportunity to offer something new to the discussion. Virgins to Vixens: Picturing American Women, 1881-1930 as the title suggests parades the same dichotomy.

Currently there are discussions about the presentation of American art as new galleries devoted to this subject are opening in museums throughout the country. Not only what to hang in the gallery is at issue, but what new questions to ask and new themes to engage in our changing America are needed exercises. One art critic, Tyler Green, begins this discussion here.

For now and in Cincinnati, perhaps the best place to engage in a new discussion about images and roles of women in America is the more specific Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America currently on view at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

Or we can go to France.