Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lambert and Blankenstein show at Bryant's

Bryant Galleries in Jackson is not a place that one would likely happen upon if searching for art galleries.  It is hidden in a non-descript shopping center off of Lakeland Drive.  But then again nowhere in Jackson is a hotbed of an art market.  The largest concentration of galleries in Jackson is in Fondren, and I believe that there are only about five.  Jackson isn't known for its art offerings which is why I was interested in doing this blog... to attempt to have one more opportunity for artists' work to be viewed.  So Bryant's may not be the easiest to find, but it is definitely worth the search.  They have a very unique offering of some Mississippi artists and some international artists, and they appear to be very particular about the quality of work that they show.  It's a large space, but divided nicely into more intimate areas.  

Hanging right now is a duo show of separate work by husband and wife David Lambert and Vidal Blankenstein.  David actually runs the gallery.  It's interesting to see their work hanging together because living together they must influence each other.  They both work in acrylic on panels, but their approaches are quite different.  David is also showing some of his airplane sculptures which were included in the Invitational at the Mississippi Museum of Art this year.  The Invitational show just came down so I hope you didn't miss it.  There was a long article in the national magazine, Art in America, about the Invitational written by guest curator Peter Plagens that was less than flattering but just short of condescending.  His arrogant and pompous tone did no credit to the work, but the work didn't need him.  It was obviously art of a high caliber that can stand on its own.  

When I first saw David's planes in a show at Belhaven they struck me by their witty concept and construction, and yet they were so simply assembled with disregard for attempted craftsmanship.  I was pleased to see that this visual language carries over into his paintings as well.  The consistency gives credit to the work.  David told me that he had not painted in awhile because his focus has been on the airplanes.  He looked through some old sketches and found some designs that appealed to him that he developed into paintings.  Many of the sketches are displayed next to the final pieces.  

Vidal's psychological images are much more layered and painterly.  There are recurring symbols of trees and birds and hands and ladders and almond shaped patches that seem to transition between leaves and the all seeing eye.  Vidal is a graphic designer, but I think that it is interesting that David's work is the more graphic, illustrational, and cartoon influenced work.  I think that artists who have full time jobs aside from their art often produce work that is a contrasting response to what they do all day.  Either way, it's just great that they are reserving the energy to produce the work.  

Man in Striped Shirt (Lambert)

Soup and Grits (Lambert)

War (Lambert)

Planes (Lambert)

Sanctuary (Blankenstein)

Where are you going? (Blankenstein)

Morning (Blankenstein)

Open (Blankenstein)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Kelso at Fischer

I get excited when December rolls around every year.  It's not because of the cooler weather or because of the upcoming Christmas Holiday.  I had grown tired of the mass materialistic holiday until four years ago when my wife and I had our first child.  There is a renewed sense of magic seeing Christmas through the eyes of a child.  No, the reason I get excited when December comes around is that I know there will be a show of Richard Kelso's work hanging in Jackson that month.  It is an annual event to look forward to and it is hanging right now at Fischer Galleries in Fondren.  Kelso was mentioned in my last post about color theory and the influences of Henry Hensche.  

Richard Kelso is a landscape painter.  He has produced an incalculable number of landscape paintings through the years.  You might think that this would cause someone to become stagnate in his work, producing Bob Ross like symbols for trees that are comfortable and familiar, but I continue to be amazed at the experimentation and variety he shows.  And the work is simply gorgeous.  Anyone can appreciate the beauty of the scenes in his work,  but if you are a painter you will marvel at the way he uses paint.  Every stroke is deliberate, and every color of every stroke looks as though it were mixed uniquely for that one spot.  His colors are never chalky or muddy but rich from the vibrant sunlit treetops to the deepest shadows.  Kelso holds to a standard of quality that is both inspiring and daunting to me as a painter.  

There actually are two paintings in the show that are not landscapes.  Many times in his shows there will be a small selection of paintings of his studio or things in his studio.  I always love these pieces but not only because of their masterful execution.  If you ever visit Kelso's studio which is above Hal and Mal's you will recognize the light.  There is a single window that he paints by, and from what I've seen he never uses artificial light.  The cold indirect light that comes through the window casts soft warm shadows, and he absolutely nails the atmosphere that it creates.  

My one disappointment in the show is that there are no drawings.  Drawings are so sincere and personal feeling, and Kelso's Constable-esque pieces are like little treasures.  Maybe I've been a good boy this year and Santa will bring me one.  

Autumn Glory


Green House on Hwy. 22

November Mist

Pond at Mr. Palmer's


Studio Corner

Monday, November 23, 2009

Color Theory

A month or so ago I had the opportunity to go to a home out in Madison where there was a reception/showing for California artist Camille Przewodek.  Camille was leading a workshop in town on plein air painting that week.  I recently read that Camille's approach to painting came from her experience at The Cape Cod School of Art where she studied with Henry Hensche.  Charles Hawthorne, who studied under William Merritt Chase, began the school in the late 1800s with a close tie to the American Impressionists.  Hensche was a student of Hawthorne's, and he took over the school when Hawthorne died.  This man's instruction must have been incredibly inspiring because there is an impressive number of artists continuing to follow his approach to painting, particularly in Mississippi.  Sammy Britt, long time Delta State art professor, studied with Hensche as well and really carried the torch influencing hundreds of artists through the years.  Others around the state following to different degrees the color theories taught at Cape Cod are Richard Kelso, Bob Pennebaker, Gerald DeLoach, and George Thurmond.  

It's not easy to clearly define the color theory taught from the Cape Cod School.  It has roots in impressionism, but really stresses the use of color to turn form rather than values.  Masses of colors are laid down as "light keys" to quickly see the relationships of colors at that particular time of that particular day.  Sammy Britt stated to me a few years ago that "Hensche was providing us with a new language, not simply a style or technique.  It is a visual language of light keys where you focus on the changing color on an object not the changing value.  One must choose to paint tonally or in light keys."  Here is where things get a little difficult.  It is very tempting to try to take some of the ideas from this mind set and mix them with some tonal painting.  This can create years of confusion to a painter.  

In my early days of painting I studied with Bob Pennebaker a little, and took a workshop with Sammy giving me some ground in a colorist approach.  Later, in my graduate studies everything was hard core tonal.  I think that I am just now beginning to see how my own approach can pull from both sides, but as Sammy said, this probably means that I am not painting in light keys.  The influence is undeniable though.  

At the Camille Przewodek show I had the pleasure of meeting local artist Ginny Futvoye.  She was taking the workshop while also working on a body of work for a show at Nunnery's Gallery in Fondren.   The show is hanging right now, and I was really curious about how this workshop would influence her work in midstream of a show.  Her work has a real decorative appeal to them.  They tend to be warm in tone and of a nice size that gives them a confident kind of presence.  The "Cows Grazing" painting stood out to me in composition and color approach, and sure enough, according to Ginny, that painting was the first one completed after the workshop.  The show does not feel incongruent though.  Ginny told me that there was some difficulty at first in applying her new found knowledge, but didn't feel that it was that far off from where she already was.  

Here's a selection from the show...

Square Books 1

Alpine Sunset

Cows Grazing

Sunset Zinnias

Lauterbrunnen Valley

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Article in Northeast Ledger

This blog is not intended to toot my own horn, but I am very proud of the flattering article in the Northeast Ledger this morning. Scott Albert Johnson, journalist and musician extraordinaire, did an amazing job of weaving the bits of information that he gathered when he visited my studio into a comprehensible story. He mentions the blog as well, so if you are a new reader because of the article please leave me a comment telling me so. Here's the link.... Artist balances art, family.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Rob Cooper's glass work

Currently at Fischer Galleries in Fondren is work by three young Jackson artists, Rob Cooper, Josh Hailey, and Ginger Williams. Rob is doing some particularly intriguing work with glass. Most of the show is made up of wall mounted glass panels, but there are two traditional leaded glass pieces as well. For at least the past 13 years Rob has worked at Pearl River Glass Studios in Jackson which is having their annual exhibition at The Cedars in Fondren next week, I believe. During this time he has been able to develop some very sophisticated and skilled handling of this medium. He is incorporating fused glass, painted glass, and etched glass to create delicately layered images. The subjects run the gamut from mythology and ancient literature to superheroes, but the work really fits together well as sort of mystical narratives. There is an interesting influence from Japanese wood cuts present. In images such as The Dream of the Fisherman the visual connection is obvious. He uses the strong graphic outlines around flat shapes of color, not to mention the Japanese looking figure and architecture. But another interesting connection is the process of painting the glass. Like wood cuts, and unlike most painting it is a subtractive method. You lay on a flat tone of paint and use a brush to lift off the pigment in order to create the gradations and highlights. Then the glass is fired in a kiln to set it. This process can be done multiple times in multiple layers, and I can tell you from experience that it is not easy. Rob has a unique sensitivity to handling this medium that you won't find anywhere else around here. Here is a sampling of the work...

The Dream of the Fisherman

Tales of the Sea I

Tales of the Sea III


Aquarian Totem

Flash Gordon and Wonder Woman

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A kite too far

death, my love,
is a scary thing
but not so much
compared to responsibility
for things beyond your control
for people you can't make do
what you
in your ultimate wisdom
think they should do
like it's not out of your hands
the string leading
to a kite too far in the sky
like the silent pop
is not a hurt
a hurt in the swirling
farther away tail
that makes death
easy my life
easy my love
a folding and gentle creasing
like with an unbitten
fearless thumbnail

From a collection of poems called the majesty of the past by Jackson poet Bob Hudson. The bound collection can be found at Sneaky Beans coffee shop and One Blu Wall Photography Gallery.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In and out of context

I finally finished reading Michael Kimmelman's book (I'm a really slow reader). It strikes me when I read art criticism or commentary how dependent it is on the context. I'm sure that Kimmelman wouldn't consider himself a strict contextualist, but in writing about art it seems to be necessary to clue the reader in to the background of the artist and why the art was done. Kimmelman has access to artists that most of us don't have giving him great insight into the context of work that he writes about, but he is also great at verbalizing his own interpretation of the work without all of the incomprehensible "psycho-babble" (my wife's word) even if he knows that it is different from the artist's intention.

I have always considered myself a bit of a contextualist. Being an artist I have trouble separating the work from the artist and can appreciate the work on a whole other level having that knowledge. Several years ago I visited a gallery in New York that was exhibiting work by the Mississippi artist Walter Anderson. A gallery worker spoke to me (I'm not one to initiate conversation) and I told him that I am from Mississippi, and that I love Walter Anderson's work, and that he was a complete nut case. With snoot in the air he told me that they prefer to just focus on the work. Well guess what, Anderson's work was his life and it is does a disservice to him and his family to separate the two.

This does not mean however that I can't appreciate seeing artwork without having any knowledge of the artist. There is a wonderful group show at Gallery 119 right now called "5 under 35", five artists under the age of 35, all of whom are new to me. The artists are Charlie Buckley, Laurie Fisher, Allan Innman, Amanda Sparks and Carlyle Wolfe. I have actually seen Amanda's incredible work before in the current Invitational show at the Mississippi Museum. In starting this blog I was more interested in solo or two person exhibitions that really show a good concept for the show as a whole with a unified body of work. This group show doesn't really fit in those parameters, but I was so struck by the work of Carlyle Wolfe that I wanted to put it on the blog. I had the chance to meet her at the opening, but again I am not very good at introducing myself, so I didn't. Perhaps I could have given you a bit more context had I spoken to her, but the work is so strikingly beautiful that I think that it is not necessary even in writing about it. Her work which is usually of flowers can be striking and harsh with hard-edged cutouts and at the same time delicate and dainty. It has a flat softness reminiscent of traditional chinese watercolors, and beautiful layering that reminds of the work of Julie Mehretu. So now, I think I will find out more about her, like whether she is related to Karl Wolfe, whose autobiography I am starting to read now.

Vinca (watercolor on tissue embroidered)

Shadows (oil)

Pink Hydrangeas (Oil)

Hydrangeas (oil)

Begonias, Vinca, and Zinnias (embroidered monotype)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Christopher Brady at Mississippi Library Commission

Since the Mississippi Library Commission opened their new building several years ago they have been exhibiting some nice art shows. Similar to my last post though, the building is worth visiting simply to appreciate the architecture... it is just a plus that you get to see art there as well. Hanging through October is a group of paintings and drawings by Christopher Brady called People, Places and Things. You can also check out the fused glass work of Phyllis and Jess Tackitt of Southern Fired Glass, but I am going to focus on Brady for this post. He is an art instructor at East Central Community College in Decatur, MS. I pulled a quote by him about this show from Clintonnews.com.

"This show is an exploration of people, places and things that we may take for granted. My hope is to take these familiar and ordinary sights and transform them into something deeper and more extraordinary."

While the show as a whole does not come across as a cohesive body of work, there are some very nice individual pieces. The tight watercolors are well executed and the watercolor monotypes have a unique and appealing character to them. There is also a charcoal drawing, a pen and ink drawing, an ink wash, and a silverpoint drawing. Silverpoint, or metalpoint drawing is not common these days, but when you see one handled well it is a treat. It was a very popular method of drawing in the Renaissance period because of its durability and that it doesn't smudge. Metalpoint drawings are done on coated paper with a stylus that would have some type of metal point to it, e.g. silver, gold, copper, lead. It is a very delicate and beautiful medium, but one of the most unique qualities of metalpoint is that over time the metal will tarnish and each type of metal tarnishes to a different color. To me, the silverpoint drawing "Ray" and the other work that embraces a modernist approach with a subject on a flat background like "Yo-Yo", stand out in quality. One interesting thing that I found out about Christopher Brady is that his thesis project while at the University of Mississippi landed him in the 2008 Guinness Book of World Records for the longest wood block print measuring at 282 feet. Congrats to him on that. Here's some of the work...

Yo-Yo (watercolor)

Vessels (watercolor)

Tom (Ink Wash)

Ray (silverpoint)

Oxford Square (watercolor)

Central High (watercolor monotype)

Berries (watercolor)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Apron Show: An Accidental Masterpiece

I visited the new Mississippi Craft Center today. If you haven't seen it you really should for the outstanding architecture if not for the amazing shop of Mississippi crafts. I didn't know what was showing in their gallery prior to my visit and what I saw was at the same time bizarre and endearing. It is a selection of aprons from a collection of over 600 aprons owned by a lady named Carolyn Childs Terry in Iuka, Mississippi. You may wonder why I would be interested in putting such a thing on a fine arts focused blog, but there were two things that kind of intrigued me about this. First, though not all of the aprons in the collection are hand made, I felt like there was an interesting connection between these and the quilts of Gee's Bend, Alabama that took New York by storm several years ago. True, the designs of these aprons don't have the irony of strong abstract designs by folks that couldn't be further from the established artworld as the quilts did, but the idea of designing and crafting such an ordinary utilitarian object into a personalized expression creates a value that can't be ignored.

However, I probably would have just walked by the sign that simply reads "Apron Show" had I not just started reading The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa by Michael Kimmelman. Kimmelman is an art critic for the New York Times, but I was not familiar with him until I watched the documentary film My Kid Could Paint That. He was in the film, but there is a section in the special features that is simply titled Michael Kimmelman on Art. This short monologue is some of the most refreshing and comprehensible commentary on art that I believe I have ever heard. That being said I had to pick up his book. In the introduction he talks about a man that amassed a collection of around 75,000 lightbulbs and lightbulb related objects. Kimmelman writes,

" He certainly created something wondrous out of his
improbable hobby. His achievement was not simply to
put together a collection of lightbulbs; it was to convey
through his collection the obvious contentment and
meaning that this obsession gave him. The collection...
became his masterpiece by accident - by which I mean
not a traditional work of art like a painting or a sculpture
but derived, like art, from a creative impulse, a deep
compulsion pursued to the nth degree. His museum
became a shrine to his peculiar ardor, which (again,
like art) entailed the value of looking at something very
closely, in this case at a humble lightbulb.
The idea behind The Accidental Masterpiece, the one
that popped into my head at some point, is pretty simple.
It is not that I should write a book of art history or
criticism, exactly, or solely dwell on my favorite painters,
sculptors, and photographers. Nor is it that all art is
salutory. A day of looking at bad art can be long and
dark. Instead, it is this - whether the example is the
life of an artist as lofty as Bonnard or the passion of a
lightbulb-enthusiast... - art provides us with clues about
how to live our own lives more fully. Put differently,
this book is, in part, about how creating,
collecting, and even just appreciating art can make
living a daily masterpiece."

There's nothing else I can say. Here are some of the aprons...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Patterson/Barnes at 119

Hanging at Gallery 119 in downtown Jackson is a show of 33 pieces by the Florida based duo Gary Patterson and Marion Barnes. They collaborate on assemblages that typically focus on caricatures of blues and jazz musicians, but also delve into subjects of the rural life that is behind this type of music such as poverty and religion. Like the music that inspires the artwork there is a real entertainment aspect to the work. Found objects mixed with well crafted drawing and painting cause the viewer to stick around for a longer look moving the work beyond pure illustration. Patterson/Barnes' work has a close connection with one of my favorite artists, Benny Andrews. He also uses exaggeration and mixed media to depict African-American lifestyle and hardship. Here is a selection from the show...

Too tired to fight

Not in my backyard

Mississippi Blues

Just as I am

John Lee Hooker/I don't want to hear it

I'm glad you're gone

Don't get left behind

Bobby Rush/Turn on your love light

B.B. King

Michael Doucet and Dennis McGee/Alligator Bayou