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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween

 

                                                                                                  
                                                                                    
A sacred night

Something of fright

A creaky floor

A slamming door

The blowing leaves

I do believe

Black Widows weave

All Hallows Eve


Bats in Bristol, bones in bags

Muses, minstrels, monster mags

A dance of death

A witch’s face

The children run

Keep up the pace

No time to loose

No time to waste

The zombie's  hair

all stuck with paste

The row men row

Against the wind

Don’t look; don’t worry

It's here again



No fear of death

It’s sting rebuked

The Song of Solomon

The book of Luke


 
We know there’s more

But here today

We celebrate our special way



A sleeper, a keeper

Both darker and deeper

A crawler and creeper

Who laugh at the reaper

                                                      


                                                                                                             2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Nocturnes


The artist made famous by his “Arrangement in Gray and Black: Portrait of the Painter’s Mother” (Better known as “Whistler’s Mother”) was a painter of nocturnes. Frederic Remington painted haunting, intriguing, mysterious nocturnes as did Van Gogh. What is “The Starry Night “if not a nocturne. Vincent did many other brilliant night scenes as well. The night is a fascinating time to many artists.


There is nothing as seductive, sublime or beautiful as the night.  Paul Williams expressed a sense of awe and love for the night when he wrote the lyric “What’s so amazing that keeps us star gazing?” In that continual spirit of wonder I choose to look at the night sky as often as I can. We don’t know exactly why we are fascinated even comforted by the sight of the stars and the moon. Often we are prividgled to see the moon accented with a cluster of clouds in a unique arrangement.



These natural compositions sometimes lasting so briefly that they are gone in seconds never to be repeated in exactly the same pattern again. I do know that just looking up and out at the heavens can relax and renew the spirit. Yes Paul; it is still amazing. Perhaps it is the possibility of seeing something never seen before; something that at the same time has been seen and shared by every human being that does compel us.
Within the last few years I have painted a series of works that are exclusively black and white and are nocturnes of a sort.  There is a paring down to basics in using black and white exclusively that gives a kind of purity and even sacredness to the work. The essence of all painting can be found in the interplay of light and dark. The technique is identical in a black and white piece; there is simply the lack of color. Ansel Adams created his “Zone System” for rating a black and white photograph. He believed every good photograph had every tone ranging from a pure or complete black to complete white while including every gray in between.   I’m   attempting to do a similar thing with my nocturnes. 




I was showing recently in a group exhibition where I displayed all black and white paintings and black sculptures. A woman remarked to her companion as they passed my work “Well; Picasso had his Blue Period…” I can take that kind of assessment.



The reflection of traffic and neon light on dark wet pavement during or just after a rain storm is as spectacular and nuanced as any light show in any venue you would want to see. The night cafes, bars and theatres and those travelers that are their patrons continue to color the night and make it unique. The night offers much to those that embrace it whole heartedly or even occasionally. It is a gift and a necessity as is the day. The balance of light and dark is essential to life and to works of art.



The night is not just a time of the gothic or horror but a time of quiet and reflection. In painting an opportunity   to depict not only light but a surprising vastness of shadows within the darkness, depth and distance.  

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Assael's Superman


Steven Assael is a painter of fine portraits. He paints crowded buses, waiting rooms and singular portraits of the people he knows and sees.  His subjects pose in varying degrees of dress and undress. They range from  regular folks to trendy; heavily tattooed and pierced to those in ornate costumes. He is among the best of our times and a personal favorite. Assael recently chose to paint an ordinary man in a mock Superman costume; it is fabulous in it’s simplicity. He wanted to depict a Superman of non- extremes. His Superman as presented as a typical man becomes unique as a depiction of
Superman. It goes against all previous depictions of the character. The ordinary is certainly extraordinary in this case. It is also masterfully executed.
Why even think about Superman (as a comic book character) or the concept of a superman? Great minds like Friedrich Nietzsche have explored the ubermench (over man) as something greater than mere man. George Bernard Shaw’s play “Man and Superman” explores the subject of the eternal pursuit by man and woman to produce a superman. There is currently a movie “Waiting for Superman “that is another variation and inquiry into the idea of the quest and need for a superman in today’s society.
Humanity has the constant need to compare and to rate itself. We will always have “top ten Lists” and”the best of” compilations. We want to know who is the fastest, the most beautiful, the richest and the smartest. We once celebrated the biggest winners and now we even laud the biggest losers. This, if for  no other reason than we are  imperfect creatures and we do need to continually  improve , to want more and to be more in every possible way. We need standards to set as goals to reach. Something like an ultimate being such as the superman is inspired because it is unattainable. We are always striving for but we will never reach that summit of perfection.
Jerry Seinfeld is a huge comedic talent (a superman among comedians) and considered by many to have co-created the funniest sitcom of all time. He is also a huge fan of the Siegel and Shuster character we recognize as Superman. In 2002 Jerry‘s picture book “Halloween” was released. It is based on his childhood holiday experiences and at the center is his ultimate costume choice; the packaged official “Superman Costume”. The text and the illustrations are dead on. I read it every year and it never ceases to amaze and thrill; it is hilarious. “.  I won’t be revealing too much but I do agree with Seinfeld: In that Superman does live potentially within us all.
  The legend of the superman has lived through out all histories and cultures. There are both religious and secular versions. Our vision of Superman; “The Red/ Blue Blur” as he is called on the “Smallville” TV show, was born in the late 1930’s; the dream of two High School students. It was a dream that has fathered many other dreams. It was a dream worth dreaming in the 1930’s and it is still worth dreaming today.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sin-KEV-Itch


A few years ago I had the pleasure of showing at the Jacob Javits Center in New York. I was one of about five hundred exhibiters from all over the world for “Art Expo New York”. The works were primarily from contemporaries with different degrees of noteterity including Jane Seymour and Paul Stanley of Kiss. There were original pieces by Chagall and castings from Rodin. Animation artist and director Eric Goldberg was there showing exclusive animation shorts and doing drawings.  There was one artist that I was very much interested in that was exhibiting; Bill Sienkiewicz. He was one of three comic illustrators whose original work was to be displayed. The other two were Alex Ross and a new guy, Simone Bianche.
The night before the opening I asked a man behind the comic artist’s desk; who happened to be Bill’s agent, if Bill Sienkiewicz would be making an appearance. My pronunciation was something like Sink-O-Vicks.  He handed me a business card with the correct pronunciation spelled phonetically on the back: Sin-KEV-Itch. “No… but I’ll tell Bill how you murdered his name” he said with a bit of laughter. I had at least made an impression and learned how to pronounce Sienkiewicz.

My first exposure to the immensely popular and talented artist’s work was in the pages of a black and white magazine from the Eighties featuring The Incredible Hulk. At that time Bill was doing an amazingly convincing homage to Neal Adams. I never purchased a copy of the magazine. This guy was good but not original, the equalivant of a cover artist in music. Sienkiewicz would later prove to be a phenomenal cover artist in the graphics arts field but that has a whole other meaning. Sienkiewicz would begin to speak in his own unique voice around 1984 in the pages of “Moon Knight” and “The New Mutants”. I don’t know what it was like when he decided to break apart from everything that had gone before but I think it must have been a sort of Dr. Frankenstein moment for him. “IT’S ALIVE…IT’S ALIVE…” I can imagine Bill screaming insanely and having to be restrained as he completed each page. I know that’s what Iwas experiencing from these totally unlikely, intrinsically beautiful pages. Like his predecessor; Neal Adams, he was doing everything wrong within the medium.  He was doing what looked like watercolors, collage and mixed media stuff along with his drawings. Things no one was doing with comic books. Some of the character drawings were expressionistic studies; without true form, to be interpreted by each reader in their own fashion. It was Post Modern. It- was- glorious!

In the years to follow Sienkiewicz was impressing, while inventing the graphic novel industry with works like “Electra Assassin “, “Dare Devil: Love and War” and “Stray Toasters”. Some of his projects he wrote himself, others were by illuminates like Frank Miller.
His most remarkable work on “Voodoo Child: the Illustrated Legend of Jimi Hendrix” is considered to be legendary among the legends. The Classics Illustrated adaption of Melville’s “Moby Dick” is simply the best to date in the history of that epic magazine series. It is Sienkiewicz’s masterpiece.  Sienkiewicz has crossed over many times to illustrate for main stream magazines, albums and DVDs. Not long ago he collaborated on live performance video projection with his early inspiration Neal Adams.  Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters commissioned the two for his “Leaving Beirut” shows. 
He has picked up a few awards in his career including the “Eisner” and “Kirby”. 

There is nothing typical of the work of Bill Sienkiewicz. His is a style that is unmistakable but without a definitive label. That is a good thing. It is the luxurious elegance of his work that places Bill Sienkiewicz   in his own league and our pleasure to attend each performance.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Imperalist


It was not a good night by anyone’s standard unless you were perhaps someone that thought war was a good thing. The debates had gone on for months and in some ways years. “Saddam Hussein had to be taken out; we will have to deal with him eventually, it might as well be now. He has those monstrous weapons of mass destruction and he will use them….” On that March night in 2003 the second George W. Bush War Campaign would begin with a little something called”Shock and Awe.” We would have the pleasure of seeing it televised safely at home. A kind of macabre, historic, media event that was “Must See TV.” As I waited for the event I began a painted.
George Bush had been convinced by members of his administration principally Donald Rumsfeld and Paul   Wolfowitz that because of the collapse of the Soviet Union we were without a compelling rival and thus unbeatable. The war on terror made it convenient and seemingly necessary to bomb Bagdad. It was time to extend the empire; America’s time for sole world domination was here. As the “Bush Doctrine” took effect I continued to paint. The painting I worked on during the premiere night continued to develop and I now called it “The Imperalist”.
Since that initial night which turned out to be neither especially shocking nor awesome we have moved on to other things along with the Bush administration (and Saddam). The wars have not.  We now have a new administration; that isn’t exactly new anymore and with his book that is new Bob Woodward has dubbed Iraq and Afghanistan;  “Obama’s Wars”. 
Woodward wrote four books during Bush’s years and this is his first during Obama’s tenure. Woodward is becoming the principal presidential scribe of the twenty-first century. His is a true insider and highly respected.
The job description of the American Presidency though seemingly the same changes with each president. Things are inherited and new events change what is asked of each man while in office. Aside from “The Party Agenda”; personal policies and personality determine what we expect from each man in the oval office.  Health care, the economy and the wars are defining Obama. The first drafts of his presidential histories are being written.  Obama continues, health care, the economy and the wars continue; Bob Woodward continues. I continue to paint though I may change the title of “The Imperalist “to “The Inheritance”.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Let's See



Let’s see… the combination of an interesting, positive  review of Peter Schjeldahl’s book  in an issue of “Modern Painters; “plus the compelling cover featuring  a  John Currin  painting, along with having enjoyed  his writings  in “The New Yorker “ made me want  to take a look at “Let’s See”.  I thought I would shortly find it on the shelf of some book store without any problem. Schjeldahl is popular and is probably the best, at least the most honest and interesting critic working on today’s art scene. The book would surely be falling off the shelves. Strangely; for some reason it wasn’t. The case was that I wasn’t seeing “Let’s See” anywhere.
I decided to order it. How could it miss becoming a best seller? I went to the information desk at “Barnes & Noble” and told the clerk I wanted to order a book. He said “alright, what’s the title?” I told him “Let’s See” and paused. He looked at me waiting as if for me to make up my mind. Realizing his misunderstanding   I told him “let’s see“is the title.” He said “well; let’s see if we have “Let’s See” on our order list.” They did and I was just a little closer to seeing “let’s See” for myself.
In just a few days I found a message on my answering machine that went something like this…” Mr. Jones I’m calling from “Barnes & Noble” to let you know that your book has arrived…wait a minute… (To himself) let’s see…Ok; Ok there it is … (back to me) yes we have it; your book has arrived. You can come in during the regular store hours and pick it up. “
After finally seeing what “Let’s See” was about, it was (no pun) eye opening.  The writing was superb, an excellent look into the mind of this poet/ critic that has a true love of art and the reporting of it. Schjeldahl is sharing his discoveries with the hope that the reader might get to witness the many shows he reviews in person. He talks about the odd but interesting things he encounters among his travels   like being helped by a woman and following her to the Hirshhorn when looking for an exhibit there in DC. He relishes a talk with John Currin on the painting techniques of the “Old Masters.” Techniques that Currin uses today. The Whitney Biennial and personal chats with gallerists are also among his offerings.  His insights are always more than the typical. He is both academic and readable. These are wonderful dialogues that always expand the vocabulary; the knowledge and the awareness of art.
Peter Schjeldahl continues to visit the numerous galleries museums and studios we can’t get to. Schjeldahl will be our eyes and ears he even gives a sense of how these places smell. He continues to write; a sequel is certainly in the making.   Well…let’s see…