I do believe we’re on the eve of….well, something….
Do you remember where you were almost four years ago, the night of Trump’s election? This is not exactly a question comparable to “Where when you when JFK was shot?” or “when the planes flew into the World Trade Center?” But it was nonetheless a memorable evening.
I was with a small group of friends at my landlady’s house, watching a 54-inch screen as the results rolled in, proudly wearing my Madam President button (which I still have). My hostess’s first reaction was “Oh my God, what will happen to my portfolio?” The rest of us were too stunned to wonder much of anything. I stumbled home and poured another scotch and braced myself for either jackboots or Volkswagens stuffed with clowns on the White House lawn. In fact, it feels like we’ve had both.
And now, of course, here we are four years later, anxiously awaiting the results (and it seems there’s a possibility all votes may not be counted for a couple of weeks). The full impact of the Trump administration on every aspect of the country’s governance and well-being—from the environment to global affairs to the Supreme Court—will no doubt require a report to equal Gibbon’s six-volume History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
In the meantime, though, in just the last year we can look at the microcosm that is the art world and take note of significant changes. I’m not seeing quite the dire forecast Jerry Saltz published in New York magazine in early April (but then I’m not as close to the epicenter of the culture scene). Nor have I run across much follow-up to the prediction that one-third of all museums worldwide would close their doors this year. Instead, it’s not the pandemic that has roiled institutions, but the Black Lives Matter movement, which has put pressure on museums to diversify staffs and exhibitions and avoid art that might raise too many hackles (I refer, of course, to the Philip Guston retrospective). How this will all shake out for the future is too soon to tell, but I find it troubling when a smart dedicated curator like Gary Garrels at SFMoMA is pressured to resign for using the term “reverse discrimination.” Sometimes it all looks like another kind of witch hunt.
In my tiny corner of the art world—which is to say the members of Vasari21—I’ve seen great cause for optimism these last few months. We all went into a state of shock at the outset of the pandemic, but galleries have re-opened again, with Covid-safety restrictions in place; more and more artists have found exposure through online shows and artists exchanges, like the USPS project and #artistsupportpledge; and many report that the period of isolation has meant renewed creativity and heightened focus. The downside, of course, has been fewer sales and more lost teaching gigs.
In the gallery scene that I cover—mostly mid-level dealers with an established roster of artists—the news is not stellar but it’s not been catastrophic either. I was starting to work on a follow-up to a report published in April, Dealers Face Down the Pandemic, before taking a break to pursue a couple of assignments and roll out the 2020 fund-raising campaign. The few I interviewed a month or so ago expressed confidence about the foreseeable future, but with the second wave of the pandemic now upon us, who can say with any certainty what the art world will look like in 2021.
In fact, as I reread this newsletter so far, it seems we don’t know nothin’ about nothin’. The only certainty is that artists are not going to stop making art.
I await the year’s end to pull out my crystal ball again.
In the Meantime
Fundraising continues as I reach out to you one by one (though I’ve called a hiatus till after the election). My profuse thanks to everyone who has donated so far. I’ll be sending individual notes of gratitude shortly (my mom always told me to be sure to strive for a personal touch). For those of you who would like to chip in, here’s that handy DONATE button again.
And I have a new installment for Eat My Memoir,“Bad Grandma’s Lace Cookies,”a not-so-lighthearted-but-nonetheless-amusing remembrance of a truly awful grandparent. You’ve probably got a relative like this in your family too. Somehow this kind of writing has turned out to be enormously therapeutic for me. You can go to the contact page and sign up so that you will never miss an installment.
Sous chef Sylvia inspects the cookie dough
And here’s the news from Vasari21 members
Sasha vom Dorp, Paul O’Connor, and Hank Saxe all have works at Gallery 203 in Taos, NM, as part of “Contemporary Art/Taos,” through November 30. “The diverse practices of the artists presented in this show illuminate the inspiration that has attracted artists to the Taos area for centuries,” says the 203 website. Saxe and O’Connor offered up a nifty collaboration (below), while vom Dorp’s stunning prints are described as “documentations of sunlight encountering sound as observed through the medium of water.” I kinda sorta know how these are made, but one of these days I will interview the artist to give you a fuller idea.
Paul O’Connor and Hank Saxe, El Gamal (2020), ceramic, found metal, wood, 29 by 29 by 4 inches
Sasha vom Dorp, 33.33Hz Sunlight 2015-12-04 13:32:50.018 36o24’22”N 105o34’31”W (2015), archival pigment print mounted on aluminum, 58 by 40 inches
"Landscape 2 is part of a series that developed when I pulled out a box of book spines, remnants from other past projects where I had only used the hardcover of the discarded books,” says Kerith Lisi of her work in The De Young Open in San Francisco, a juried community art exhibition of submissions by artists who live in the nine Bay Area counties (through January 3). “Out of curiosity, I wanted to see what would happen if I soaked and rinsed the spines of glue and paper. Sitting outside in the sun with a bowl of water, I spent weeks ‘undying’ the spines as the color faded away, then pinned them up like garments on a clothesline. When the fabric was soft and dry, I adhered them together in pairs and began stitching into sections by hand without a plan in mind, just as a meditative exploration of color and materiality.” Through December 30, Lisi also has works in a show called “Piece & Plane” at Slate Contemporary in Oakland, CA. Details are here.
Kerith Lisi, Landscape 2 (2020), 24 by 24 inches framed
Perci Chester has two installations, “Arc de Triomphe” and “Initial Response,” at the NE Sculpture Gallery/Factory in Minneapolis, MN, through November 7. Her latest body of work, she says, “speaks to birth, motherhood, and the universal experience of way-finding and place-making within the development of individuality and human agency. With a unique coordination of materials and sculptural strategies, this series seeks to challenge convention and playfully engage viewers.” (Another of her works, Dancing Couple, can be seen at the Anderson Center Sculpture Garden in Red Wing, MN. More details about the garden, residencies, and art program of this ambitious endeavor on the upper Mississippi are here.)
Perci Chester, Arc de Triomphe (2019), aluminum, zinc, stainless steel, painted steel base, nylon pantyhose, 108 by 48 by 112 inches
Through December 1, Fran Shalom is part of a three-person show (with Fran O’Neill and Drew Lowenstein) called “Vital Presence” at 1GAP Gallery in Brooklyn, NY. “Despite obvious and overt contrasts in mark making, compositional organization and speed of retinal impact, the artists have in common the lively presence of a sense of self, of humor, of the human predicament, of environment, of society,” writes curator David Cohen. “In contrast to the high jinks of O'Neill and Lowenstein, Fran Shalom makes slowly and slyly humorous metaphysical paintings of disarming, quiet-seeming intensity that punch above their deceptive initial weight. Despite the abstractness of her forms, she imbues these quirky images with a feeling of being subjected to the vicissitudes of life. All three artists, with their particularities of speed, size, iconography and scale, exude vitality and presence."
Fran Shalom, Jazzy (2109), oil on panel, 24 by 24 inches
Claudine Metrick is in a showcase of new faculty members at the Pratt/MWP Gallery in Utica, NY. “I Bought These Flowers to Remember You was made in remembrance of a dear friend,” she writes. “The show consists of a series drawings and paintings on the subject of the sunflower. There are monumental drawings of the flowers which grew from my packet of seeds alongside miniature renderings of sunflower seeds encased like relics in brass statuettes. The life-size charcoal drawings express the movement, weight, and emotion inherent in the botanical subject as an embodiment of grief. The small, yet ornate, statuettes evoke a sense of fragility with their scale and materials. The minutely rendered seed drawings adorn stands of brass and mother of pearl that secret away soil, dried petals, and silver replicas of the original seeds. A series of small oil paintings on aluminum depict the dried and faded blossoms that I bought to remember her. Each panel is like a memory of her passing. Thoughts I wish I could send to her are etched into the aluminum plates. Through scale, material, and mark, ‘I Bought These Flowers to Remember You’ memorializes a life and a relationship that shaped who I am today.”
Claudine Metrick, I Bought These Flowers to Remember You (2019), oil on aluminum, 4 by 6 inches
Regrettably, I’m two days late in showcasing the works of two brand-new members, Natsuki Takauji and Zhen Guo, in a pop-up called “Two Strong” in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Both artists, says curator William Norton, “tackle thorny issues faced by strong, intelligent, revolutionary women living in this male-dominated world.” Takauji’s background, he says “led her to create work that interrogates the professed spirituality, ethics, perception and belief systems of modern society. The seductively beautiful intrigue of her oil fountain sculptures speak of the earth’s pillaging, and how oil’s 'gifts' blind our entire society to our eventual self-destruction.” Zhen Guo’s art was forged during the 11 years of China’s Cultural Revolution. “Her art incorporates her romantic vision of the world, but it is a world where love is beset by anxiety and doubt, where there is little to give comfort and security," says Norton. "Her large-scale punching bags covered with breasts appear entertaining at first glance until you consider the full ramifications of her subversive statement.” Below, works by Takauji (Catcher in the Depth) and an installation shot of Guo's work (“Love”)
Through December 1, Holly Grimm is part of a group show called "Thin As Thorns: In These Thoughts In Us: An Exhibition of Creative AI and Generative Art" at the Honor Fraser Gallery in Los Angeles. “In the contemporary era of digitization, Artificial Intelligence is undoubtedly operating within a more complex and conflicted space within culture than ever before,” says the press release for the exhibition. “As the great disrupter of our time, it has come to complicate virtually everything it touches. Is it possible for a machine to think and act creatively? Is it possible for an automated system to produce something wholly original, something its own programmers could never have anticipated? For those working within the realm of AI, this question is possibly one of its greatest provocations, particularly when applied to artistic production. Within the works presented in 'Thin As Thorns: In These Thoughts In Us,' AI systems serve the dual function of navigational tool and artistic medium, allowing each artist to freely explore and examine their role as both creator and spectator.”
Holly Grimm, Une Femme de la Mer (2020), pigment ink on Hahnemühle German etching, 16 by 16 inches
“Historically, what artists have created through adverse times has also brought communities together,” says the prologue to “Hope and Ambition,” a show of works by Arts Mid-Hudson’s members, including three Vasari21 supporters—Laura Gurton, Sydney Cash, and Carole Kunstadt. “The very act of making art is hopeful, for it means the artist has cast their vision into the future. In this exhibit, the Arts Mid-Hudson members present their artworks—whether it is photography, ceramics, paintings, video, drawing, or poetry, the artistic hope and ambition will transcend where we are today and look ahead.” The show can be seen in a handsome and comprehensive online exhibition here.
Sydney Cash, Citadel Kuti (2020), oil paint on paper, mirror, wood under structure, 9 by 21 by 9 inches
Carole Kunstadt, OVUM XXI/Breakthrough (2020), silk thread, paper: hand colored wood engravings dated 1855, 7.5 ny 8.5 inches
Laura Gurton, Reach Out and I’ll Be There (2020). cold porcelain, 30 by 30 inches
The Artists’ Breakfast Club, a group of Arizona professional artists that meets regularly to exchange ideas and meet with curators, museum professionals and writers, celebrates 20 years with an exhibition at the Civic Center Public Library Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ (through December 31). “Artmaking can be a lonely profession once you're out of school,” says Wendy Raisanen, curator of collections and exhibitions for Scottsdale Public Art. “Since the pandemic, I think more people understand how important it is to have connections—having a group of people who have similar interests and goals.This exhibition provides a look at the high quality of art that grows from this kind of support and community.” Adds long-time Breakfast Club member Diana Creighton: “I’m happy that visitors can see the show in person, with a mask and distancing. So much today is online, and no matter how good the image, you never see the surface and depth of a painting. I just sold a piece from an online image. When I delivered the painting, the buyer said she hadn’t realized how rich the surface was.”
Diana Creighton, Checkpoint 1-8 Eastbound (2020), oil on canvas, 32 by 36 inches
Through November 8, Marcia Annenberg is part of a group show called “FEMA: Fear Environmental Management Atrocities” at the Icebox Project Space in Philadelphia, PA. It sounds both daunting and courageous: “The work of artists from around the country will be presented in this gallery, filled with water a foot deep to simulate the reality of this world crisis. Attendees, on a timed-entry basis of six or less, will be given boots. Hanging overhead will be large paintings of the Flood Factor maps that show the city's neighborhoods flooded out in the next 10 to 15 years.” Annenberg’s contribution, she writes, “documents the under-reporting of critical news: the melting of the Himalayan mountain range and the ramifications of the loss of water for one billion people. Our heating planet will create climate refugees on a scale never seen before.”
Marcia Annenberg, Hush My Kush (2019), detail, mixed media, 66 by 66 inches
Nance Frank, an old friend and one of Key West’s premier gallerists (along with Helen Harrison), has a joint show of two of the island's most beloved local talents, Andy Thurber and Wayne Garcia, Says Thurber’s website: “Andy grew up in an earlier Key West, before chain restaurants, when summers were sleepy. After crewing on a shrimp boat, sailing to Cuba during the Mariel boatlift, and helping bring more than 100 Cubans to freedom, he found his passion in art.” And says the Key West Florida Weekly of Garcia: “Mr. Garcia has been smacking chunks of wood with a hammer and chisel since he was 14 years old….He literally and figuratively paints a picture of an island paradise rich in community and culture, validating all of the reasons why many of us have chosen Key West as our home.”
Andy Thurber, Big Tub of Fish, intaglio, 23 by 39 inches
Wayne Garcia, Double Trouble, intaglio, 10 by 8 inches
Long-time V21 member Maureen McQuillan is part of a trio of artists showing work at McKenzie Fine Art on the Lower East Side of Manhattan (through December 20). Notes the press release: "The abstract painters in this exhibition explore a biomorphic rather than geometric approach to form. All embrace patterning, repetition, and layering in their work and are further united by a strong use of color. Additionally, they each welcome intuition, chance, and deviation as part of their working process. Celebration of the irregularities of the handmade is evident throughout the work.” The other artists in the show are Christopher Dunlap and Laura Watt.
Maureen McQuillan, Untitled, 2020, ink and acrylic polymers on wood panel, 15 by 15.75 ines
“Primordial Soup” is the name of the show for the second annual exhibition of Paradis Palace, co-curated by member Cameron Ledy. “When considering this year’s submission pool of works, the topic of escapism quickly took hold,” notes the press release for the exhibition, which includes V21 member Pamela Casper. “Technicolor landscapes, abstracted hellscapes, playful collages—a Romantic theme was organically born from our final selections. The works presented toggle between reality and fantasy, the through-line being a collective desire for something better. The time for greed is gone; what will fill that vacancy? The works in this exhibition connect back to the core—the body, the universe, the natural world. There is a celebration of life, of the goodness of Earth. Femme icons reign, flora and aqua fauna bloom and spin, and all the while we are reminded of the strange, euphoric, and psychedelic.” Adds Casper of her work, below: “I look at the basic elements in our natural world, the smallest microorganisms of our universe which spin and swirl in a euphoric celebration of our good Earth.” The show is at 1260 Broadway in Brooklyn, NY, through November 21; Saturdays 1 to 5, or by appointment.
Pamela Casper, Diatom Tornado (2020), watercolor on Arches paper, 30 by 22 inches
I recently mentioned Andra Samelson’s participation in the online show “Pandemic Proof,” curated by Ellen Fagan Hackl, and hosted by the SHIM Art Network for Odetta, but I failed to note the amazing number of other Vasari21 members who are part of the exhibition. “By creating a digital space for artwork, we are developing a new platform for artists to exchange ideas with one another, expanding into a global community, while generating opportunities for future collaborations with each other," says Hackl. The show can be seen here through December 10, and below are some of the artworks from V21 members.
Cecilia Andre, Orange Talks to Green (2018), Egyptian kaftan fabric, vinyl, and fiber crochet on stretchers, 28 by 22 inches
Leslie Kerby, African Centre (2020), paper, oil pastel, graphite, 5 by 4 inches
Suzan Shutan, Kite Dance (2019), mixed media collage
Anne Rynearson, Synchronicity (detail), 2018, acrylic and interference on canvas, 72 by 48 inches
In miscellaneous news…
Teressa Valla reports that her photo Absolutely Essential Eyes, below, was accepted for the ongoing exhibition “New York Responds” at the Museum of the City of New York by a 12-member community jury. The show documents “history in real-time through crowdsourced stories of how all five boroughs are experiencing both the COVID-19 pandemic and the uprisings for Black Lives.” It will be open to the public in the Museum's Third Floor South Gallery from Friday, December 18, 2020 through April 2021. More information is here. Congratulations, Teressa!
Absolutely Essential Eyes (2020), digital print, 20 by 20 inches
"In the early days of Covid, during my walks in the empty city, I started taking photos of discarded gloves on the street,” writes Eleni Mylonas. “They came in different shapes and colors, and they marked the fleeting presence of fellow New Yorkers trying to become adjusted to the new protocols. Placed side by side, they make a playful narrative of our woes.” Here’s a link to a GIF Eleni put together, and below an earlier work inspired by gloves.
Eleni Mylonas, Encaustic with Glove (2017), encaustic with pyrography on panel, 10 by 10 by 1 inches
And my thanks to recent donors!
“The Dinner Party is allegorical, using animals and symbols in jewel-toned colors to express the desire for people to come together while holding differing political views today,” writes Sharon Sayegh. “Part wish fulfillment and part observation, pulling from art historical references, I composed this as an artist who finds myself standing on the outside, seeing many sides to the problems confronting us now.” She adds that the work recently won the Bernadette Award from the National Association of Women Artists.
Sharon Sayegh, The Dinner Party (2018), oil and palladium leaf on panels; diptych, 36 by 96 inches
“My work is specific to place: I go there. I explore space in my drawings—how it pushes up against, and how it reaches deep,” explains Laura Lou Levy. “Surface is important, and atmosphere, and shapes. I find the thick and thin-able texture of oil stick and oil pastel supremely addictive. A few years ago, I started looking up. This drawing is part of a Cloud Series that is slowly unfolding. In these drawings, I illuminate the constantly changing curl and swell of clouds, and the delicate, electric tracing that can happen.The colors begin to pulse and run and sing. I swim in the moody energy, and get lost in the blue, deep secrets of the sky.”
Laura Lou Levy, Cloud Series: Prayer (2020), oil stick and oil pastel on Arches paper, 8 by 8 inches
“Reading Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘A Spider Sewed at Night,’ I compared the wonderment and steadiness of a spider weaving a web to women’s lives of sewing and thought of my childhood home—the women in my family were rarely without a needle in their hands,” writes Anne Bascove. “Several had earned their wages through sewing, and earlier, my grandmother (a child when she fled her country’s pogroms) survived by doing piecework on New York’s Lower East Side. I began a ‘Seamstress’ series using mixed media. Needles, thread, buttons, or other sewing implements from my family and those of my friends, along with those found from anonymous seamstresses, are added to photographs, along with hand-drawn, painted or collaged papers. The remnants of this history turned into compositions of pure color and form.”
My heartfelt thanks to all who have contributed during the 2020 fundraiser. As said, I will be reaching out to you individually to find out more about your endeavors.
In the meantime, fasten your seat belts. It may be a bumpy night.
Till next time....
Top: My interview with Tracy Linder appears in the November/December issue of Sculpture magazine but, alas, there seems as yet no online link. Shown here is an installation shot of Shovels (2017). Congrats, Tracy!