Liz Spayd for WaPo.com
Liz Spayd, an assistant managing editor in charge of national news for The Washington Post, has been named editor of washingtonpost.com.
Spayd's upcoming editorialship has been called in an official WaPo statement as "another sign that our Web site is a journalistic force that will play a large part in shaping The Post's future."
Spayd joined the WaPo in 1988.
A little history:
When the washingtonpost.com first got started, one of the first things that it did was to augment the galleries and visual arts coverage by adding a group of freelance writers who would write reviews and profiles to augment the print version's scant coverage of the DC area's galleries and artists.
This is how Jessica Dawson first connected with the Washington Post bosses. Previous to that, she used to write for the Washington City Paper as a freelancer working for then WCP Arts Editor
Glenn Dixon Brad McKee.
At the washingtonpost.com, under editor John Poole (who was then the site's online Arts Editor), the arts coverage by the WaPo online flourished and there were dozens and dozens of gallery reviews, which have unfortunately mostly disappeared from the WaPo's online presence, as well as many gallery profiles, most of which have also vanished, although a few still remain.
At once point, even the print version critics, such as Jessica Dawson's predecessor for the Galleries column (Ferdinand Protzman) and Michael O'Sullivan, authored online articles and reviews for washingtonpost.com which were only available online.
And for a short period of time, there was happiness in the air, as the WaPo finally appeared to be delivering gallery coverage, if just through its expanded online presence.
And then John Poole got promoted and went on to bigger and better things.
And then it took a looooong time to find a replacement online Arts editor. And by the time she was hired, she had a tight budget and no allowance for online art critics, and a bare bones coverage of the art scene.
And then the WaPo's Chief Art Critic (Paul Richard) retired, and Ferd Protzman got pissed that he didn't get promoted to that job and quit, and Jessica got hired as a freelancer to replace Protzman and back then the Galleries column was a weekly column.
And then Gopnik got hired from some Canadian newspaper where he used to write for after the Post's first choice (a New York Times critic) turned the job offer down and recommended Blake, who apparently was outside the Post's radar at that time.
And the "augmented" online visual arts coverage ended, other than the random Gopnik video here and there.
Liz Spayd, if you read this: can you bring back some other critical voices to the DC art scene and renew the online art reviews?
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Liz Spayd for WaPo.com
Monday, October 30, 2006
Position Your Artwork
Abstract Earth Gallery has a unique feature that allow the viewer to preview what a work would look like on a wall (allowing you to position the work). You can even upload pictures of your own wall to see what the work could look like in your home or office.
Just click on any of their artists' names and then click the "on the wall" option.
I bet the jury is out on just what this does to the whole "art buying process," -- and this coming from one of the world's worst art hangers, never really thinking how it looks on my wall, or if it fits a motiff or whatever - I buy artwork for many reasons, key amongst them is "do I like it?" but never "will it look good in my house."
But then more often than not, I just hang it, or if undecided, it just stays around forever waiting for a decision - such as my "decades-long waiting-to-hang" of a really nice Vija Celmins drawing that I've had for ages and it has never hung yet!
Exposing the Ripper
And nu, during my recent flying to and from New Mexico and then to and from New Hampshire, I read "Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper -- Case Closed" by Patricia Cornwell, who's not only a bestselling author, but also the Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine chairman of the board.
In the book, Cornwell accumulates a spectacular amount of circumstantial evidence to prove that British painter Walter Sickert was the infamous Whitechapel serial killer, including some interesting analysis of Sickert's paintings.
Although Ms. Cornwell's detractors and Sickert's defenders are many, the tantalizing evidence of DNA is too hard to dismiss, and I for one do not believe in coincidences. Apparently, Sickert has been a suspect for many years, and Cornwell has just tied the case into a tight, if not so neat, package.
This book is a terrific read, and Cornwell has convinced me that the case is closed!
Art for Children's Healing
Alexandria's Elizabeth Stone Gallery pass info about an original Art, limited editions, and children’s books event to benefit children with Neurofibromatosis and their families and Neurofibromatosis Research
The Art exhibition, reception and book signing is Monday, November 6, 2006, 5:30 pm - 9:00 pm and you can meet Charles Santore, Award-Winning children's book author and illustrator, and Emily Arnold McCully, Caldecott Medal 1993.
Where: Bryn Mawr Hospital
130 South Bryn Mawr Avenue, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
The Rotunda - South Bryn Mawr Entrance
Visit Elizabeth Stone Gallery for details.
Lots of openings this week. Add to them "Arts Council @ GRACE" juried by my good friend Jack Rasmussen.
The show opens November 3 and runs through December 1, 2006. Opening Reception and Juror's Remarks, Friday, November 3, 6-8 pm at the Greater Reston Arts Center in Reston, VA. Details also at the Arts Fairfax website.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
New DC gallery
ARCH and the Honfleur Gallery have announced the opening of the Honfleur Gallery, including four new artists studio spaces for rent. Studios will be available starting in December. Studios will be rented on a first come, first served basis. The studio size ranges from 100-125 square feet, and the prices from $155-$200 a month, based on square footage. Each studio has its own skylight. Spaces will be rented on 6-month or 1 year term.
The Gallery and Studios are located at 1241 Good Hope Road SE, in historic Anacostia. They are a 10 minute walk from Anacosia Metro Station and directly on the bus line. To make an appointment to view the spaces (still under construction), contact email@example.com or call (202) 889-5000, x 113.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
As I mentioned before, the massive collection of artwork by DC area artists which has been assembled for the permanent collection of the District and which is on view at the Wilson Building, is the closest that the capital city of the United States has ever been to having a "DC Artists Collection," since unlike all other major American cities, Washington does not have a physical "Washington Art Museum" and most area museum curators tend to look at their buildings as "national" museums and thus generally tend to ignore DC area artists.
I say that I am waiting to exhale, because I am holding my breath to see what the local DC area art critics write about this collection. I am told that over 1,000 RSVPs have been received for the opening, which is October 31, 2006 from 5-7PM, so this is clearly a major and important art event in the capital.
The collection has already received massive press and television coverage -- for Washington, DC that is -- such as a great piece by Jessica Gould in the WCP on Oct. 19, a piece in Intowner's October issue, an article coming in the first November issue of the Current newspapers, and article coming soon in the Express, maybe an article this coming week featuring the opening in the Wash Post Metro section, and next Thursday, maybe the District Extra cover. Additionally both Channel 4 News (on Oct. 25) and Channel 8 News (also on Oct. 25 and 26) have had features on the collection.
And I can predict (and maybe breathe now), that because it is a collection of DC area artists, and because it is a very large collection, and because it is a public (and apparently already popular) collection, they'll have either nothing to write about it (and by their apathy continue to show the District's arts media anemic insight into the District's dynamic art scene), or...
I hope that they'll prove me wrong, and do write extensively about the Wilson Building Art Collection, but I predict that:
- Blake Gopnik, the intelligent and erudite Chief Art Critic of the Washington Post will (a) ignore it, or (b) write about it and dismiss it, or use it to continue to preach his dated Greenbergian agenda.
- Joanna Shaw-Eagle, the elderly and experienced Chief Art Critic of the Washington Times will cover it, and offer us a detailed description of the collection.
- Michael O'Sullivan, the savvy Washington Post's Weekend section Chief Art Critic (and the only WaPo critic in "tune" with the DC area art scene), will probably cover it and offer the only true insight into this important collection.
- Jessica Dawson, the young freelance writer who pens the "Galleries" column for the Style section of the Washington Post will either (a) ignore it, or (b) cover it in a small dismissive little mini-review.
- Jeffry Cudlin, the award-winning Chief Art Critic for the Washington City Paper, may cover it (if his packed schedule as an
Associate Adjunct Professor at Maryland allows it), and offer us an intelligent review, but will probably highlight the weaknesses that exist in any massive public art endeavor.
Let's see over the next few weeks if I've nailed this.
Friday, October 27, 2006
One of my absolutely favorite buildings in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia is the Athenaeum.
Built as a bank in 1851 in a Greek Revival style (and now a registered Virginia Landmark and a National Historic Site), this beautiful building stands out from the city's otherwise Federalist architecture with its high coved ceilings and large windows looking out onto cobblestones and 18th-century houses, and it is a splendid venue for an art exhibition, which is what the the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association uses it for.
About ten years ago I curated a massive exhibition there, titled "A Survey of Washington Area Realists" which accommodated a few hundred artists hung salon-style in this beautiful building and was a huge success.
"Peace Pieces," all new works by area artist Marta Sewall, opens on Sunday, November 5, 2006, at the Athenaeum. According to the news release, "the works abstractly depict patterns taken from the earth and various global cultures. The mixed media pieces personify the natural and manmade occurrences of global decay and rebirth. Ms. Sewall's works are inspired by fabrics, diverse world societal traditions and architecture details."
The opening reception is from 4:00 pm 6:00 pm on Sunday, November 5, 2006. The show will run through December 17, 2006.
"An Impressionist Sensibility" at SAAM
The Smithsonian American Art Museum will have "An Impressionist Sensibility: The Halff Collection," on view from Nov. 3 through Feb. 4, 2007.
According to the news release, the exhibition "presents iconic works by some of America's most talented and cherished artists. These selected paintings are from Marie and Hugh Halff's collection, one of the finest private collections of late 19th- and early 20th-century American art."
This exhibition is the first time this remarkable private collection has been on display in Washington, D.C.
"An Impressionist Sensibility" features 26 paintings by William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent and John Twachtman, among other internationally known artists.
Marie and Hugh Halff (who live in San Antonio, Texas) acquired these works during the past 20 years, and on Saturday, Nov. 4 at 4 p.m., Eleanor Harvey (curator for nineteenth and early twentieth century art, landscape painting, southwestern and Texas art) will lead a discussion about collecting with the Halffs.
They will be joined by the fair Barbara Guggenheim, who not only has a cool art name, but is also a well-known consultant who advises private collectors, including the Halffs, and corporations about building art collections. Ms. Guggenheim's book "Decorating on eBay : Fast & Stylish on a Budget" was published a year ago.
This free public program will take place in the museum's new McEvoy Auditorium.
Wanna go to a DC opening tonight?
First make a beeline for The Gallery at Flashpoint, which will be showing A. B. Miner, Ian Jehle, Nekisha Durrett: Me, You & Those Other Folks and the opening reception is from 5-7 pm. Listen to me and bring your sheckels and buy Miner now, I say again: "Buy Miner Now!" Last week Capps wrote about Miner's work for the WCP here and there are lots of other earlier reviews here.
"going... #1" by A.B. Miner
Then tomorrow haul ass to say farewell to Cheryl Numark, who will be closing her gorgeous award-winning space after this show. That opening is on Saturday from 6:30 to 8PM.
Open Studios in DC area
Mid City Artists, is a prominent group of diverse Washington, DC area artists in the U St./Dupont/Logan neighborhoods (talented artists such as Anne Marchand, Robert Cole, Craig Kraft, Sondra Arkin, Colin Winterbottom and others) and they will all unveil new work during their semi-annual Open Studios events coming Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 11-12, from 12pm - 5pm.
This two-day event will feature new and varied collections of sculpture, painting, photography and other media. A detailed downloadable map is available on their website at www.midcityartists.com.
Also hosting open studios are the Reeb Hall Studio artists in Arlington, VA. Their Annual Open Studio day will be held on Saturday, November 4 from 2 to 5 p.m. The 13 visual artists currently working at the studio are: Shahla Arbabi, Carlo P. Biggio, Jr., Jane Buckman, Beverly Donnenfeld-Chello, Carol Lopatin, Phillip Loiterstein, Anne McGurk, Kebedech Tekleab, Lee Vaughan, Rick Weaver, Alice Whealin, Linn Woloshin and Cynthia Young.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Holocaust Survivor wants her paintings removed from Auschwitz
While I was in Santa Fe I read this story in the local newspaper.
Artist Dina Babbitt was once forced to make a deal with Dr. Josef Mengele (the brutal Nazi doctor who subjected concentration-camp prisoners to ghastly medical experiments). Mengele "needed someone to illustrate his perverse racial theories with portraits of Auschwitz's Gypsy prisoners, an inferior group according to Nazi ideology. A trained artist, she agreed to do the work as the price of saving her mother, as well as herself, from the concentration camp's gas chamber."
In 1973 she discovered that seven of her paintings wound up in a museum at Auschwitz dedicated to preserving a historical record of the Holocaust.
And she wants them back. Read both sides of the story here.
"Transitions: Photographs by Robert Creamer" opens today, October 26 and runs through June 24 at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, 10th Street and Constitution Avenue Northwest, Washington. The opening reception will be held Nov. 4 from 3 p.m.-5 p.m. Call 202-633-1000. A review of the exhibition by Glenn McNatt can be read online here. Creamer is represented by Hieneman Myers Contemporary in Bethesda, MD.
Also tonight Thursday, October 26, starting at 7 PM, visit the Arlington Arts Center in Virginia for a glass of wine, a bit of a snack, and conversations with: Suzi Fox, (sculpture), Akiko Kotani, (works on silk and paper), Mahasti YMudd, (installation and performance), Trish Tillman, (installation and video) and Candice Welsh, (works on paper) as they discuss their works in the Center's "Fall Solos 2006" in gallery talks throughout the building.
On October 27, 2006 at 6:00PM is the opening reception for "Meditative Vail Painting Exhibit" by Sirkku M. Sky Hiltunen (Dr. Sky) at Sangha Gallery, 7014 Westmoreland Avenue, Takoma Park, MD 20912 (302) 891-3214. The exhibit will run through November 26, 2006.
The Gallery at Flashpoint presents A. B. Miner, Ian Jehle, Nekisha Durrett: Me, You & Those Other Folks October 26 – November 22, 2006. And the opening reception is Friday, October 27, 5-7 pm. The very talented and diminutive Lucy Hogg will be moderating the artists' talk at the gallery on Saturday Nov. 22 at 3 pm. A. B. Miner is another one of my favorite DC area painters, and I think that collectors should pick up all that's for sale at this show. Additionally, Ian Jehle is easily one of the best contemporary portrait artists around.
Numark Gallery hosts the opening reception of "The Last Show," which is Numark Gallery's final exhibition celebrating 11 years in DC. Participating artists include Shimon Attie, Chan Chao, Diana Cooper, Tony Feher, Terri Friedman, Doug Hall, Peter Halley, David Jung, Robert Lazzarini, Nikki S. Lee, Sharon Louden, Carter Potter, Robin Rose, Adam Ross, Michal Rovner, David Ryan, Jim Sanborn, David Shaprio, Dan Steinhilber and Yuriko Yamaguchi. Opening Reception is Saturday, October 28 from 6:30 - 8 pm.
That same night, one of my favorite artists on the planet, Molly Springfield opens "Gentle Reader" with an opening reception on Saturday, October 28, 7-9 pm (and then an Artist Talk on Saturday, November 11, 2 pm) at Transformer (1404 P St NW, Washington, DC / 202-483-1102).
DCAC in Adams Morgan, DC will have "Herb's Choice: Born Again Dada," an evening of live performance, spoken word and anti-art on Sunday, 30 October starting at 7:30 PM. It's all free. The exhibit itself runs through 05 November in the DCAC gallery.
With an opening reception on Thursday, November 2, 6-9pm, and running through November 30, 2006, Orchard Gallery (7917 Norfolk Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814 tel. 240/497-1912) has "A Closer Look," collages by Sophia McCrocklin. Her color-infused collages take on a new theme relating to the late work of Monet’s nympheas. Using a technique that incorporates painterly painting with collaged fabric pieces, she also pays allegiance to Matisse’s cutouts. McCrocklin’s own heritage is her native Kentucky quilt.
The superbly talented Leo Villareal returns to Conner Contemporary in DC with an opening reception on Friday, November 3: 6-8pm. The show is titled "Origin." This is Villareal's third solo with Conner.
The Wood Turning Center, which is a Philadelphia-based not-for-profit international arts institution, gallery and resource center, has "Fabulous Art," opening on November 3, 2006 and running through January 14, 2007. The opening reception takes place during First Friday, November 3 from 5:30pm to 7:30pm. Ranging from furniture to house wares and everything in between, this exhibit shows the wide scope of wood art available today. Tables, chairs, bowls, ladles and everything in between are part of this exhibit of functional and frequently whimsical world of everyday objects.
Nic Coviello mixes "dramatic graphic elements with quiet fleeting images" in his current body of botanical works at Nexus in Philadelphia. This exhibition opens Friday, November 3 and runs through Sunday, November 26. A reception for the artist and informal talk will be held on Wednesday November 8 from 7 to 9 pm.
Also at Nexus is "Terror Begins at Home," an installation by Anne Cecil Member where she "examines the recent failures of our government and social institutions in a series of multimedia installations." This exhibition opens Friday, November 3 and runs through Sunday, November 26. A reception for the artist and informal talk will be held on Wednesday November 8 from 7 – 9 pm. Poetry reading with CA Conrad, Frank Sherlock and Greg Fuchs, on Saturday, November 18, 7 to 9 pm
On Saturday, November 4, the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center Frederick, MD will host "9 Artists: 25 Years," a retrospect exhibit showcasing the work of nine women artists who, beginning in the early 1980s, contributed significantly to Frederick's arts community.
At Falling Cow Gallery, "Simple-ism " opens on November 4th with a reception from 6-8 pm and will run through November 25th. The artist featured identifies himself only by the name Anonymous Artist, simultaneously "removing himself while claiming the anonymous artistic achievements of the past." Simple-ism also reexamines "Color Field" painting in a digital age. And no, it's not me. The gallery, is at 732 S. 4th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, 215-627-4625.
On Thursday, November 9, 2006, from 7– 9 pm, the Arlington Arts Center (3550 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA) and as part of their inaugural exhibition for their new temporary outdoor site-work exhibition series, "Sculpture on the Grounds," will have curator Twylene Moyer, who will lead a forum discussion with artists Laura Amussen, Jackson Martin and Renee Rendine to speak about their works. Additional insight will be provided by Greg Zell, the Natural Resource Specialist from the Long Branch Nature Center, offering a compelling overview regarding natural resources in the Arlington area.
Bethesda's Fraser Gallery showcases the third solo exhibition by DC's best-known landscape photographer, the exceptionally talented (and highly collected) Maxwell MacKenzie. The opening reception is Friday, November 10 from 6pm - 9pm as part of the multi-gallery Bethesda Art Walk. The show runs through January 6, 2007.
A few blocks away, Bethesda's Gallery Neptune opens "Three" (Kim Bentley, Rion Hoffman,and Kirk Waldroff) with a public reception at Gallery Neptune on Friday, November 10, 6-9 PM. The artists were first "discovered" at the amazing DC area art extravaganza known as Artomatic which is easily one of the nation's best "art fairs" to discover new, emerging artistic talent.
"The Muse and the Green Fuse" are new art works by Amira Dvorah, and during the month of November, the Da Vinci Art Alliance in Philly will present the exhibition which will feature new paintings on canvas, instruments, and furniture by Dvorah. A reception for the artist will take place on Saturday, Nov. 11th from 3-6:30 pm.
Painter Jane Hahler’s solo-artist exhibit, "Color in the American Townscape," will be shown in The Art League Gallery in Old Town Alexandria, VA, November 9 – December 4, 2006. The opening reception is November 12, 2006 from 2:00 – 4:00 pm.
Two DC galleries add to their online presence.
Nevin Kelly Gallery has a new online blog, as far as I know the only DC area commercial gallery to have one. Visit their new blog here.
Conner Contemporary Art has just launched a new website. The new site offers the ability to view video and listen to audio excerpts from their artists. They also offer audio downloads of gallery events and lectures with artists, art historians, curators and other experts in the field. Visit the new website here.
Wanna go to an opening in DC tonight?
New ceramic pieces by Howard graduate Tricia Bishop - this will be her first show in her old neighborhood! - And new works by DC area painter Sandra Warren Gobar (who is a faculty member of both the Smithsonian Institution and the Corcoran College of Art & Design) opens tonight at the new Longview Gallery in DC. The artists' reception is on Thursday, October 26, from 5-8pm.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Monday, October 23, 2006
Factory Work: Warhol, Wyeth and Basquiat
The Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, by virtue of its gorgeous countryside location, is worlds apart from the typical urban setting where we expect to find a fine arts museum, and exists in an almost make-believe part of America that has been made famous by the Wyeth family of artists for the last three generations.
Currently on exhibition through November 19, 2006 is Factory Work: Warhol, Wyeth and Basquiat, an eye-opening exhibition that should cement firmly the artistic footprint of the youngest of the two active Wyeth artists: Jamie Wyeth.
Jamie Wyeth (born 1946) and Jean-Michel Basquiat (born 1960 and died 1988) were both young, successful artists with substantial reputations of their own, when Warhol invited them (Wyeth in the 70s and Basquiat in the 80s) to join him in New York and paint with Warhol’s at the Factory, Warhol’s famous New York studio.
Jamie Wyeth is the son of realist painter and American art icon Andrew Wyeth, and the grandson of illustrator N.C. Wyeth (and all three of the Wyeth’s share other salons in the museum). But while Andrew Wyeth and his father are well-known names in the iconography of American art, Jamie has somewhat been unfairly dismissed by the postmodernists and the usual town criers always screaming about the "death of painting," and Jamie Wyeth, above it all, is a painter in the most powerful and solid of all painting traditions.
The current exhibition at the Brandywine River Museum showcases and documents the results of Wyeth’s long and fruitful association with Warhol and also Warhol’s subsequent and similar association with Basquiat.
The Wyeth-Warhol relationship was a close one. The two shopped for antiques and taxidermy specimens together, attended art exhibition and gallery openings, and exchanged ideas and traded influences. Warhol also visited Wyeth's farm in Chadds Ford, several times and in fact documented one of these visits in his published diaries.
Furthermore, and perhaps the most interesting part of the exhibition, Warhol and Wyeth painted each other's portraits, as later did Basquiat and Warhol. It is in these portraits that we discover a close, even intimate (in a friendship way) relationship between these artists.
When I was visiting the museum, I was lucky to run into the fair Victoria Wyeth, grandaughter of Andrew and niece to Jamie. Through her, as she walked through the museum and talked about her talented family, some intimate insights into her uncle's relationship and influence from and to Andy Warhol was revealed.
30 years ago, a journalist referred to the 1976 exhibition of the Wyeth and Warhol portraits at the Coe Kerr Gallery in New York City as "The Patriarch of Pop Paints the Prince of Realism." Famed art critic Hilton Kramer referred to these same portraits as "an all male version of Beauty and the Beast."
And it is one of these portraits of Warhol by Wyeth ("Portrait of Andy Warhol," 1976, and presumably Kramer’s "beast") that really stands out as a unique insight into an artist whose face is perhaps second only to Frida Kahlo’s in the recognition factor among the artworld’s portraiture consciousness.
Wyeth has said about this portrait that Warhol’s "whole thing of absorbing everything, of recording – turning yourself into a sort of tape recorder – that appealed to me... Our work was diametrically opposite. But I loved the idea that he was a recorder. And I styled myself after it... And then I selfishly wanted to record him and paint every pimple that he had on his face. And he let me."
While I was at the museum, it was this portrait of Warhol that attracted the most attention, even from a visiting self-proclaimed Warholite, who told me that she had come to the exhibition just to see it (the painting is owned by the Cheekwood Museum of Art in Nashville).
It captures the illusion of Warhol as only a master portrait artist can, somewhat dazed and fragile, looking much as if Warhol had aimed his famed 16mm camera onto himself. This is Wyeth at his most spectacular, in full control of unbelievable genetic technical skills that were evident at a tender age (he had his first New York gallery show at the age of 20).
These early skills are seen at the exhibition in his "Portrait of Shorty" done in 1963 when Wyeth was 17, and a portrait of President Kennedy done four years later that apparently was applauded by his widowed wife but disliked by the Kennedy clan for it showed JFK as a worried leader biting his fingernails, as Kennedy did when under stress. The portrait former president John F. Kennedy was exhibited at the Coe Kerr Gallery in 1974 and in the catalogue for that exhibition, Ted Stebbins (now Director of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts), wrote that "James Wyeth is a genuine master of the portrait . . . at twenty eight he has reached artistic maturity."
Eighteen years his senior, Andy Warhol’s portraits of Wyeth are part of Warhol’s signature pieces: one is a projected line drawing done mechanically from Warhol’s Polaroid camera and the second a paint and silkscreen ink on canvas painting.
They depict Wyeth as a dreamy-eyed, handsome male prototype, a depiction that Warhol would revisit years later with Basquiat. In the drawings, Wyeth's lips are visited often by Warhol's pencil, delineating every line and crevice. "Jamie is just as cute in New York as he is in Chadds Ford," said Warhol in 1976, "and what I hope to reveal in the portrait is Jamie’s cuteness."
If Jamie Wyeth’s artwork was "diametrically opposite" to that of Warhol, it exists on another art history universe from that of art school icon Jean-Michel Basquiat.
New Yorker Jean-Michel Basquiat was the son of New York Rican and Haitian parents, and his aggressive graffiti slogans had entertained the New York art world in the late 70’s while pissing off the most other New Yorkers who were sick and tired of the thousands of graffiti "artists" (such as me actually - my "canvasses" were the subway cars of the LL train from Brooklyn and the 7 train in Queens, both of which I took daily to go to High School) who roamed the streets and subways of the seven boroughs. Like Wyeth, he experienced early gallery success and had his first one-man show in Italy in 1981, also at the age of 20.
Basquiat was a determined and ambitious teenager who was a product of the 80’s and who sought out Warhol (according to the museum's press release), "not so much to learn about painting, but to learn how to become a celebrity."
According to art historian Robert Rosenblum, Basquiat was a "crazy kid from Brooklyn who... began his meteoric career by raucously embracing a counter-cultural life, living in public parks, selling painted T-shirts on the street, spraying graffiti on city walls, succumbing to cocaine and heroin, and using a garbage-can lid as his painter's palette."
Warhol and Basquiat, like Warhol and Wyeth a decade earlier, painted each other's portraits and collaborated on a series of paintings that were exhibited in 1985.
Basquiat tried Warhol's silk-screen techniques, and Warhol created an "oxidation" (copper metal powder, Liquitex acrylics, and urine) portrait of Basquiat. In this process, Warhol mix copper pigment with water and gesso and apply it to canvas. He would then pee onto this wet paint, and the urine would react with the copper to make it change colors. Once dried, Warhol would silkscreen the image onto the oxidized canvas.
Still a developing artist (his painting career only spanned seven years), Basquiat died of a drug overdose a year after Warhol's unexpected death in 1987. According to Paige Powell, Warhol’s assistant who dated Basquiat, "Warhol provided fatherly advice" and Basquiat learned "how to be a professional artist, how to be a business person, how to schmooze the collectors and hold the line with the dealers."
In Basquiat’s "Sketch of Andy Warhol" (1983-84), he captures a shocking view of Warhol, exposing him – in a completely different visual representation, but identical artistic insight – much like Wyeth had done in 1976. Robert Rosenblum notes in the exhibition’s catalog essay that "Warhol must also have been attracted, in a masochistic way, to the shocking candor of both Wyeth’s and Basquiat’s portraits of him."
In addition to the artwork, the exhibition is rich in peripheral materials (photographs, magazines, videos, and even Basquiat’s famed garbage-can lid palette) supporting the relationship between Warhol and the younger artists.
While both Warhol and Basquiat met unfortunate and early deaths, Jamie Wyeth continues to create works saluting his relationship with Warhol. Wyeth's The Wind (1999) is a modern interpretation of a post-Pre-Raphaelite painting owned by Warhol. Factory Lunch (2004) depicts Warhol at the Factory, and Fred Hughes (2005) captures Warhol with his ever-present tape recorder and his business manager.
The exhibition was curated by Dr. Joyce Hill Stoner, who is an art historian, paintings conservator and Director of the Preservation Studies Doctoral Program at the University of Delaware. It runs through Nov. 19 and then it will travel to the Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas, from January 16 to April 8, 2007, and the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine, from May 6 to August 26, 2007. Unfortunately it is currently not scheduled for any Greater DC area museum, where I think it would be a resounding success and open some curious minds to react on the association of these three creative artists. In fact, I think that this exhibition, with its important documentation of two significant artistic crossroads, should be picked up by museums and venues at all of our major art markets. It would not only be a good thing for our art students, but also for our public, and even for our penny-pinching museum administrators looking for an important exhibition that is also of interest to the general public and to American art historians.
Located on U.S. Route 1 in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, the Brandywine River Museum is open daily, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except Christmas Day. Admission is $8 for adults; $5 for seniors ages 65 and over, students with I.D., and children; and free for children under six and Brandywine Conservancy members. For more information, call 610-388-2700 or visit the museum's website at www.brandywinemuseum.org.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Another Great Santa Fe Gallery Discovery
Strolled into the Lew Allen Contemporary gallery in Old Town Santa Fe and was pleasantly surprised not only to find the kind of artwork that is seeting Santa Fe apart as a key spot on the world art scene, but also an amazing and beautiful space.
The gallery is set on two levels, each one of which could swallow most of the Mid Atlantic's largest galleries.
On exhibition on the ground floor gallery was work by Jean Arnold, Ben Aronson, Daniel Morper in a really tight show entitled "Arnold/Aronson/Morper: Cities Different" and because it offered three distinctly different visions and takes of urban landscapes, it immediately appealed to me.
These three artists each has a singularly distinctive approach to depicting the urban settings that attracts their attention, and they have been placed together in a very strong show that manages to sew together their visions into a memorable tapestry of urban art.
Lew Allen Contemporary has so far impressed me the most in this short visit, but more later!
SITE Santa Fe
Today I'll be exploring SITE Santa Fe's Sixth International Biennial: Still Points of the Turning World curated by Klaus Ottmann.
In my first visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico, a couple of quick impressions (lots more to follow later):
- At around 70,000 people, Santa Fe is a lot smaller that I imagined.
- It is a charming and beautiful place, and Gerald Peters deserves a lot, in fact most of the credit, for turning this amazing place from a little town full of "cayote" art spaces into the third largest art market in the world.
- There are a lot of art galleries here, at least 500% more that I had imagined.
- There are a lot of art galleries here that still deal in "coyote" art, but I am told by a couple of local art dealers that met with me yesterday that there's an equal huge number of galleries that offer good contemporary art in all the other genres.
- One of the good ones that I discovered yesterday was Chiaroscuro. More on them later.
- Loads of good restaurants as well. Last night had exceptional nopal leaves and carnitas and great live music at Los Mayas.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Gould makes her CP debut and Rousseau nails FeBland
I am in New Mexico... but back in the DC area:
Jessica Gould makes her WCP debut with a really nice piece on the new Wilson Building Art Collection, in Washington, DC making an excellent subtle point on the lack of nudity in American (not just the Wilson's) public art. Read her colum here.
DC's other large public art collection (at the Washington Convention Center), as far as I recall, does not have a single nude in its roster, and precious few figurative works.
This new collection at the Wilson Building is the closest that we now have to a "DC Artists Collection" and curator Sondra Arkin deserves a lot of kudos for her hard work in putting it together.
In the Gazette (which is owned by the Washington Post), Dr. Claudia Rousseau reviews David FeBland's fourth solo at Fraser Gallery.
FeBland's is Fraser's best-selling artist, but that success has not come without a lot of hardwork from FeBland himself. Not only from an enviable work ethic, but also from a very savvy approach to the artworld.
Path of Escape by David FeBland
Gehry for Philly
The Philadelphia Museum of Art today announced its selection of Frank O. Gehry as architect for a 10-year master plan to "dramatically expand the Museum."
According to the news release, "In a departure from the sculptural buildings for which the architect is best known, Gehrys challenge at the Philadelphia Museum of Art will be to create dynamic new spaces for art and visitors alike without disturbing the classic exterior of a building that is already a defining landmark in Philadelphia. The project will add expansive new galleries for contemporary art and special exhibitions by excavating under the Museums east terrace on the hill of Fairmount, and will renovate the Museums existing interiors to create additional space for the display of its renowned collections. A total of 80,000 square feet of new public spacea 60 % increase is anticipated."
At the Board of Trustees meeting today, H. F. "Gerry" Lenfest, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, stated: "We have asked one of the world’s most respected architects to expand this world-class museum, and we look forward to working with Frank and his talented staff to realize a project that began as a dream and that today, in partnership with the city and the state, can begin to move full steam ahead."
A warning note to Anne d’Harnoncourt, Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Corcoran.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I read somewhere the other day that in the last year, the US economy grew at such a healthy pace that its growth alone was like creating a brand new economy the size of China's entire economy. And every day I hear about how the stock market is setting new records. And everyday I hear about how the unemployment rate is the lowest that it has been in ages.
And yet, I've managed to pick the worst time in recent history to try to sell my house in Potomac, MD.
So, I have now reduced it in price by over $175,000 from its initial price and its "comp" value and by almost $200,000 from what HouseValues.com says that it is worth.
Buy the house here.
Opening at Vastu
Another DC area art venue that showcases original art is Vastu, located at 1829 14th Street, NW in DC, and tomorrow they will have an opening from 6-8PM for "Artworks," which is an exhibition by Greg Minah and Yao e. odamtten.
The exhibition goes through Nov. 6, 2006.
Opportunity for Photographers
Deadline: 29 December 2006
The Fraser Gallery (which I used to co-own) is hosting their Annual Bethesda International Photography Competition. Details and entry forms here or call the gallery at 301/718-9651.
Opportunity for Artists
Deadline: December 13, 2006
Washington, DC's Touchstone Gallery has a Call for Artists for its 9th Annual All-Media Exhibition. It will be juried by my good friend Jack Rasmussen, who is the Director and Curator of the American University Museum, in Washington, DC. Details and prospectus here.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Shauna Turnbull Joins Mid Atlantic Art News
When I began splitting my time between PA and DC, I announced that I would be getting help in covering the Mid Atlantic span between Philadelphia and the Greater DC region by a couple of additional writers.
Below is the first contribution by Shauna Turnbull, who will be helping me to cover the Greater DC area's art openings and art events. This piece by Shauna will be hopefully the first of many.
Annie Leibovitz: Politics and Prose Bookstore – October 17, 2006
By Shauna Turnbull, Art Addicts
The good folks over at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Northwest DC had us packed in like sweltering sardines and the standing room only crowd gathered for one of the store’s most exciting author events ever. You never knew so many people could fit into such a cramped space without the fire department rushing in, but none of us cared very much.
We were all there (some of us up to three hours early) to stake out our own personal square footage just to see, hear, and be in the same room as American born celebrity photographer and portrait artist Annie Leibovitz.
A popular culturist and a modernist, Ms. Leibovitz (born Anna-Lou), was honored in 1991 with a major exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Her work has received major acclaim and criticism largely centered on the fact she’s concentrated on celebrities continuing since her early work with Rolling Stone Magazine.
Ms. Leibovitz read for about a half an hour from her new, highly praised retrospective "A Photographer’s Life."
The retrospective is a collection of work from 1990 – 2005. It is inspired in part, due to the death of Annie’s long time companion, Susan Sontag, and the death of Leibovitz’s father a mere few weeks after Sontag's death. Both black and white and color images span personality novelties of the rich and famous to more personal and intimate relational works on the author’s family. Of particular note is a photograph of Ms. Leibovitz’s mother in her late seventies, one the photographer loves because of its authenticity and its absence of pretension.
Ms. Leibovitz appeared unpretentiously to be in a mixed state of joy over her young children (she gave birth to her first daughter at the age of 51 and was 8 ½ months pregnant during September 11, 2001), while at the same time also fighting the clutches of resigned and unrelenting grieving. She bares her soul and describes her experience as being not primarily that of a photographer, but rather one as an observer of life.
Most interesting were her perspectives on the effect of engaging a subject in conversation prior to taking a photo. Leibovitz says no matter what you say to a person, it changes their face, changes their emotion, and changes the expression in the eyes. This is one of the reasons she most prefers unstaged and unposed photography.
She’s searching for who the person is – what’s their statement. When asked by aspiring photographers what the key to a successful life in photography is, she quips, "stay close to home."
So it seems the retrospective may be asking – who, where and what is home – does the definition of home change as people die – is home within – and can you find your home through Liebovitz’s expression and years of work?
Two New DC Galleries
Meat Market Gallery opened at the end of September with a group show of its gallery artists. The new gallery is located at 1636 17th Street, NW in DC.
Opening this weekend is Dissident Gallery, located at 416 H Street, NE. The grand opening is Oct. 20 at 7PM.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Why Blake is Wrong (Again)
When an art critic hangs his or her entire reputation on joining in early on his writing career with a traditional anchoring art criticism agenda, and for years and years pounds this agenda forth as the true (and only) Gospel for contemporary art, it takes either:
(a) A huge amount of professional courage to realize that the times have left your founding ideas (and the foundation of your agenda) behind as a quaint, and once revolutionary concept, or
(b) Ignore the present, and continue to pound your dated agenda and discredited, once collective ideas and communal concepts as if they're still new, and novel and applicable.
Blake Gopnik, the intelligent and erudite chief art critic of the Washington Post, has told his readers time and time again that:
- Painting is Dead
- Video, Installation Art and Photography are the only contemporary genres worth exploring
- There's something "icky" about nudes
- The holy grail of the art market is a non-existing "new" painting art movement
- Being "up to date" and "new" are key things in contemporary art (nevermind that Video, Installation Art and Photography are quite aged in years now and not the "new kids on the art block" that maybe they once were when Gopnik started writing).
- There's nothing "new" that painting can offer that would have looked much out of place over the past five or ten years in any high-end New York gallery.
- Skill is "banal"
- There's something "icky" about nudes (did I mention that already? Well... he harps on this aversion over and over).
See how many of these Gopnikisms you can find in this traditional Gopnik review of a painting show, in this case his review of "Life After Death: New Leipzig Paintings From the Rubell Family Collection" at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center.
2006 DC Gallery Tally
The capital area's gallery sky is not falling!
As far as I know:
DC Area Galleries that have closed (or will close) so far in 2006:
Fraser Georgetown (moved to Bethesda)
JET Gallery (moved to Chicago)
DC Area Art Galleries that have opened (or will open) in 2006:
Hillyer Art Space
Long View Gallery
Ninth Street Gallery
Randall Scott Gallery
Woman's Story Gallery
If I've missed anyone, please let me know.
Update: See updated info about Nowuno at ArtDC.org
New Alexandria Gallery
After 15 years in Michigan, Elizabeth Stone has recently relocated her art gallery to King Street in Old Town Alexandria.
The Elizabeth Stone Gallery focuses on children's art, and (as far as I know) is the only art gallery in the Greater DC area, maybe even the whole Mid Atlantic to do so. The gallery specializes in original art, signed limited editions, prints, and children's books by more than one hundred internationally known children's book illustrators.
We'll have a review of the current show later today.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
The Most Popular Contemporary Political Art in the World
Came from a DC area artist in 2004!
A handful of readers emailed me commenting on yesterday's post on the issue of political art by DC area art venues and artists, reminding me that the most popular (measured by the spectacular and record-setting number of times the image was downloaded from the Internet and from the worldwide news deluge that it received) political artwork from recent times was this painting by the fair Kayti Didriksen:
I wonder who ended up with this wildly popular work? Kayti: Email me!
Friday, October 13, 2006
For many years now, the Warehouse Galleries on 7th Street in Washington, DC, have been the capital region's bastion for political, activist and progressive art exhibitions focused on themes such as war, peace and how artists view the world around them.
Over in nearby Arlington, John Aaron's Museum of Modern ARF has been pounding out one political show after another (and has been apparently also been in the past the subject of vandalism because of it), and many DC area artists have for many years focused a lot (if not all) of their creativity on political art, people such as Stephen Lewis, Tom Nakashima, Jefferson Pinder, Nekisha Durrett and let's not forget that Lebanese-born artist Chawky Frenn (who teaches at GMU) seldom paints anything that doesn't have a sharp political comment to it (he had a solo scheduled in late 2001 that was cancelled when his then Boston gallerist allegedly told Frenn that he couldn't show his work after 9/11).
But getting back to Warehouse...
Opening on Election Day at 8pm, Molly Ruppert brings us her Fifth Annual Peace Show, and this year's show will offer a worldview of disturbance and destruction and will feature the work of many artists spread throughout the Warehouse's eight distinct galleries.
The exhibition includes Gabriela Bulisova's photographs of the ongoing clusterbomb devastation in Lebanon, paintings by Tom Drymon, a DC artist who moved to New Orleans before Katrina, a house wrap installation for peace by Laura Elkins, and the other artistic peace efforts of many artists.
US Air Force Memorial
The beautiful new US Air Force Memorial (designed after the trails left by the famous Thunderbird bomb-burst formation) will be dedicated in Arlington, Virginia in several formal dedication events that will take place tomorrow, October 14th, 2006 at 1:30 p.m. on the 3-acre promontory adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery and a short walk from the Pentagon.
The Memorial is on the grounds of the Navy Annex.
The USAF has always tried to show a very modern and futuristic views to all their designs (such as the USAF Air Force Academy in Colorado and even in their uniform insignias), almost as if they've never got over being upset that science fiction has always depicted the military ranks of the future as naval ranks, and the space war machinery of the future as "ships" and space "sailing" machines and not flying machines.
After all, it's Captain Kirk, not Colonel Kirk and Admiral Adama (in Battlestar Galactica), not General Adama.
A well-deserved salute to the men and women in blue who have served over the years and who continue to serve. They should be very proud of their very beautiful memorial, and we should be very grateful for their service.
Update: I could have predicted this, but just like the WaPo's Philip Kennicott, I am sure that all the usual leftwing nuts will find something to dislike about the new memorial, or introduce a personal political agenda into the issue, while all the usual rightwing nuts will also find something to dislike in its postmodern look and somewhat abstract design and lack of militaristic "view."
Whenever one designs and builds a public memorial, you can't please everyone, but whenever it is something to do with a military service, you can bet that all the wackjobs from the left and from the right will come out and become negative from some perspective or another, fueled by their extremist and divisive agendas.
I say that as long as it pleases the people and the families of those whom the memorial is supposed to "honor" - even if it is a just spot to take one's picture - then that's good enough for me.
Numark Gallery to close
I was in DC yesterday and didn't get home until very late (thus the lack of postings). While there I was told about Numark Gallery closing its doors.
Cheryl Numark is closing the doors to her still rather "new" award-winning space, and stepping off into the world of a private independent art advisor and curator. She states that
"After some time off to focus on my family and catch my breath, I plan to start a new venture. One of the regrets in running the gallery was that the demands of the exhibition schedule prevented me from spending as much time with my clients as I would have liked. The creative process of working with like-minded art enthusiasts in search of more exposure to artists and the art world, guidance in making smart choices in building their collections, and assistance in how to present work in its final setting, seems like a natural next step.Having recently done precisely the exact same thing (although Fraser Gallery is still quite open under Catriona Fraser's hands), I wish Cheryl the best of luck with this next phase of her life.
I hope this new art advisory venture will allow me to continue working with the community of artists, curators, collectors, critics, art lovers, and other art gallerists that have been such a big part of my life over the past eleven years. Thanks to all of you who have provided so much encouragement, friendship and support.
We would like to bring that community together one last time at Numark for a celebration of our 11 years together. We will be showing the artists with whom the gallery has worked most closely in 'The Last Show', which opens Saturday, October 28."
Weekend Online Today
The Washington Post's Weekend online chat with the Weekend section staff starts today at 11 AM.
You can send questions in ahead of time here.
The online chat with Weekend has degenerated to the point where most people ask Weekend about where to get a good pizza or something banal like that. Hopefully some of you can ask some good, intelligent questions today.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Factory Work: Warhol, Wyeth and Basquiat Lecture
October 15, 2006
Dr. Joyce Hill Stoner, guest curator of Factory Work: Warhol, Wyeth and Basquiat (on view at the Brandywine River Museum through November 19, 2006), will present an illustrated lecture on the little-discussed side of Pop artist Andy Warhol as mentor to realist painter Jamie Wyeth and graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. The lecture begins at 2 p.m. and is free with museum admission.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
"Dutch artist Aldert Mantje understands absurdity. The international artist has had more than 60 exhibitions, but he can’t get his fantasy Adolf Hitler paintings shown in his hometown of Amsterdam. So here they are in Philadelphia at Pageant Gallery. And now, he says, everyone’s calling and asking to see the works."Read the review here. Maybe a courageous DC area gallery can step up and show these works in the capital region?
Below is Mantje's "Hitler After a Car Accident."
US Mint Wants Artists
The United States Mint has issued a new nationwide Call for Artists, and they are inviting artists from throughout the United States to participate in its Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) to "enrich and invigorate the design of coins and medals."
The new invitations seek up to 10 Associate Designers - professional visual artists - and up to six Student Designers - undergraduate and graduate level artists - to supplement the pool of "Master Designers" currently under contract in their program.
Visit this website to access the application online, or contact the United States Mint at (202) 354-7727, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every once in a while I get emails from artists who are in extreme need of financial assistance, asking for information on where to get quick and urgent help. Funding is vailable during times of emergency, disability, or bereavement from the Artists' Fellowship, based out of NYC.
The Fellowship does not accept requests from performance artists, filmmakers, craft artists, hobbyists, commercial artists, or commercial photographers. For more information, contact:
Artists' Fellowship, Inc.
47 Fifth Ave.
New York , NY 10003
Or phone them at (646) 230-9833 or visit their website.
Grants for Photographers
Deadline: October 31, 2006
The Aftermath Project's mission is to support photographic projects that tell the other half of the story of conflict-the story of what it takes for individuals to learn to live again, to rebuild destroyed lives and homes, to restore civil societies, to address the lingering wounds of war while struggling to create new avenues for peace. Two grants will be given in 2006, one for $15,000 and one for $20,000. For more information visit this website.
Save this date
October 31, 2006.
That's when the new City Hall Art Collection at the John A. Wilson Building in Washington, DC will make its debut with a reception for the artists and the artwork from 5-7PM.
This huge new public art collection (around 175 works by approximately 100 artists) is now the key collection of Washington, DC area based artists, from the big names like Gilliam, Winslow, Tate, Christenberry, Kainen, Chao, Yamaguchi, MacKenzie, Stout and others, to the emerging artists and perhaps even a "barely emerging" artist or two.
Some nitty-gritty info:
- You must RSVP to Carolyn Parker or call 202-724-2042.
- All persons must show photo ID to enter this building.
- There are a number of parking garages nearby, but they highly recommend public transportation.
- Enter through the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance.
- Artists in the collection should enter through the D Street entrance (around back) and sign in at the VIP Center.
- Remarks begin at 6:00 — you may arrive as early as 4:30 for sign-in and looking at the artwork.
There will be "maps" of the collection at the Opening Reception and at the Security Desk in the future to help visitors find where the art is hung. Art will be on the Ground floor through the 5th Floors in public hallways.
There will be a commemorative book published to mark the occasion. Every adult visitor to the Opening Reception will be receiving one copy (as supplies last). An image of at least one work from each of the artists in this inaugural phase is included. There were five essays written (including one by yours truly) on the different topics/clusters of the collection, and many of the artists are mentioned in the text.
They are looking for volunteers to help out with the reception. To volunteer, please email Ebony Blanks at Ebony.Blanks@dc.gov.
See ya there!
Just began the process to discover interesting links and blogs that cover the Mid-Atlantic region, and have update the blogroll, adding a few here and there and deleting those who haven't posted in months.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Perhaps the WaPo's chief art critic, Blake Gopnik should attend this upcoming symposium on contemporary portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery, as it may help him become more progressive and less closed minded and less of a rigid post-modernist-traditionalist (see this post) when it comes to contemporary portraiture.
The symposium is “Today’s Face: Perspectives on Contemporary Portraiture” and it is at the National Portrait Gallery on Friday, November 17, 2006 at the Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium (Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture), 8th and F Streets, NW in Washington, DC.
For further information and to register for this free symposium, visit the National Portrait Gallery’s Web site here or simply send your name, address, telephone number and e-mail to George Parlier at: email@example.com Please use "Richardson Symposium" as the subject line in your e-mail.
"Villa America" at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
I've been hearing good stuff about the "Villa America" exhibition currently at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts showcasing American art in the first half of the 20th century.
The more than 80 paintings, works on paper, and sculptures (from the collection of Myron Kunin, former chairman of the Regis Corporation) showcase some well-known names from American Art History, such as Andrew Wyeth, Arthur Dove, Alice Neel, Milton Avery, and Georgia O’Keeffe and also number of artists who probably should be better known to me, but aren't such as George Tooker, Arthur B. Carles, John Steuart Curry and others.
Read the Philly Inquirer art critic's (Edward J. Sozanski) review of that show here.
Opening at the Czech Embassy
Acclaimed Czech artist Mila Judge-Furstova (currently living in London) will make her Washington, DC debut with a solo show opening at the Embassy of the Czech Republic on October 17 starting at 7PM.
Mila Judge-Furstova graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1997 winning seven major awards and firmly establishing herself as an artist in London.
In 2000 she won "Print of the Year" in the Czech Republic, and in 2001 she was awarded the honor of being the youngest member of the Royal Society of Painters and Printmakers. In 2002 she had her work chosen for the front cover of Alan Smith's book "Etching." And last month she presented a work to Vclav Havel, last President of Czechoslovakia and First President of the Czech Republic.
For additional information, call the Embassy at (202) 274-9105.
Grants for African American Artists
Deadline: November 3, 2006
The William H. Johnson Foundation for the Arts is a nonprofit organization which seeks to encourage African American artists early in their careers by offering financial grants. The William H. Johnson Foundation for the Arts awards grants to those individuals who work in the following media: painting, photography, sculpture, printmaking, installation and new genre, and who demonstrate a financial need. The 2006 William H. Johnson Prize will be $25,000 and will be awarded in late December, 2006.
The William H. Johnson Foundation for the Arts
275 South Beverly Drive, Suite 200
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Opportunity for Young DC Artists
Deadline: October 25, 2006
The DC Arts Commission recognizes young DC artists with the Young Artists Grant Program. This initiative, which offers grants of up to $3,500 to artists between the ages of 18 and 30, is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts' Challenge America program.
Grants support individuals in two funding categories:
1. Young Emerging Artists Grant Program. Artists may apply for up to $2,500 of support for innovative art projects.
2. Young Artists Community Service Program. Artists may apply for up to $3,500 of support for projects that strengthen communities as well as provide positive alternatives for youth.
The Commission hosts a series of workshops to assist all individuals and organizations in preparing their applications. No prior reservations are required to attend workshops. Workshops will be held on Wednesday, October 11, 2006 from Noon - 1:30 pm. All workshops will be held at the Arts Commission offices. Call 202/724-5613 for details or visit the Commission's website.
Opportunity for Artists
Deadline: November 30, 2006
The City of North Charleston is seeking visual and fine craft artists to apply for consideration as exhibiting artists at the North Charleston (SC) City Gallery. For details, please contact:
North Charleston Cultural Arts Dept
North Charleston SC 29419
Or call 843-745-1087 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Opportunity for Artists
Deadline: November 20, 2006
Parkland College is seeking proposals for solo and group exhibitions for its 2007 - 2008 exhibition season and beyond. Exhibition proposals in all genres of contemporary approaches to art making by single artists, collaborative groups, or curators will be considered. For a prospectus contact:
Parkland Art Gallery
2400 W Bradley Av
Champaign IL 61821-1899
Or call them at 217-351-2485 or visit their website or email Emily at email@example.com
Opportunity for Designers
Deadline: OCtober 31, 2006
Wanna design a toy? This is an open call art design contest. They are on a global quest to find the "cutest design ideas for a fictional alien space baby that has recently been discovered on Earth." The winning designs will receive cash prizes plus the very first editon of the plush toy that the winning designs will inspire. There are no entry fees. Details here.
Monday, October 09, 2006
The Mother of All Rock Fights
At the risk of being vain, I've posted below something a little different.
For a couple of years now I've been working on writing down my memories of my early childhood in Cuba, which is where I was born and lived my early years before my family escaped to the United States in the 60s. I hope to one day pitch it to some publisher, and one of the reasons that I decided to do the whole PA move was to attempt to find the time to work on these memories. The below is an early peek at a chapter draft somewhere in the middle of the book. It is titled "The Mother of All Rock Fights," and feedback, suggestions and criticism is welcome!
The Mother of All Rock Fights
Depending on who you believe, the mother of all rock fights started with either a push, or a slip into the dirty, sewage waters of the Guaso River in Guantanamo, Cuba.
Even now, nearly forty years later, it stands out as vividly, as spectacular, as surreal and as immensely impossible, as on the day that it happened.
Sometimes in the early 1960’s a new baseball stadium was built in the outskirts of Guantanamo. At the time, to us local children, it was beautiful new place, a shrine to the love of baseball that all Cubans have. We didn’t notice or care, that all seats were made of cement, and that it was a grim, stark and bare bones space.
But at least to us boys it was a wonderful, beautiful place, where once in a while even the Orientales, the provincial team that represented our honor in the national baseball leagues (and always seemed to lose to the hated Havana teams), played.
My father also loved baseball, and he was the un-official baseball escort for all the boys in the neighborhood, and often he would lead a dozen of us ruffians to a game at the stadium, which was named Van Troi, in honor of a shadowy slain North Vietnamese guerrilla fighter who had been killed in the Viet Nam war.
Why name a baseball stadium after a man who probably never heard of baseball was also a mystery to us, especially since we all knew the names of all the real baseball gods, both Cuban and Americans. But more on baseball later.
As I said, Van Troi Stadium was a few miles outside of the city, and we all usually caught the bus that stopped at the bottom of Second Street, directly across from the side of our house that ran downhill through that street. We took that bus to the edge of the city and from there we all walked, usually with hundreds of other people, to the Stadium.
From Guantanamo the trek to the Stadium could be made via two different routes. The longer and safer route was through the metal bridge that spanned the Guaso River. Crossing this bridge was always a thrilling adventure to me. The bridge was a metal arch, and the walkways on either side were made of metal grilles that allowed you to see the river below you as one crossed the bridge.
Because the bridge was – at least in my eyes – just a few feet above the rushing water, there was always a sense of immediacy – and danger – from the fast flowing Guaso River rushing underneath your feet. It was also quite a wide crossing, as the Guaso was a rather wide river at that point and often, when augmented by tropical rains, as when the Flora hurricane passed through Oriente province in the early 60’s, would flood the city. In fact, the metal bridge of my memories may have been a "new" bridge built after Flora, which may have wiped out the older bridge.
Anyway, the bridge crossing was adventurous, and I would always plan it ahead at the beginning of the crossing. I always had a strategy in case I fell off the bridge or in case the bridge collapsed while I was in the middle of it. This always demanded knowing exactly where on the bridge I was, and which direction (backwards or forwards) was the shortest path to land.
Once we crossed the bridge, the road to the Stadium was through a slightly hilly unpaved street, almost a country road, and sometimes we would stop and rest at a house where my father was friends with the family who lived there.
There we would always buy a bottle of pru, which is a homemade Cuban soft drink. We would usually bring the drinks along the rest of the walk to the stadium and sometimes carry extra bottles with us to drink later.
Once, my cousin Cesar had the task of carrying all the extra bottles, and when we arrived at the Stadium, we discovered that he had drunk all of them on the way to the ballpark.
As pru is actually some kind of a fermented non-alcoholic drink, and being homemade, possibly not the purest of drinks, he immediately developed a tremendous case of diarrhea halfway through the game and never made it to the stadium’s bathroom, and managed to shit all over his pants, much to his embarrassment and our delight.
In any event, this route was the safer, but the longer of the two ways to get to Van Troi Stadium. The second route was a short cut that involved crossing the river though a series of rocks that had been strategically placed at a narrower portion of the river, about half a mile downriver from the bridge.
Now, these weren’t (by any stretch of the imagination), large, flat rocks, but a series of mossy, slippery rocks that sometimes even demanded a slight jump from rock to rock, rather than just steps. In fact sometimes, one could actually step from rock to rock, while other times you needed a synchronized ballet to jump to a small rock, and use it as a spring to the next, larger safer rock, as there was no room in the small rock to actually land and stabilize one’s body. It was a dangerous and almost incredible risk, and yet at the time it seemed as natural as crossing the bridge.
The choice was always based on the availability of the rocks themselves. If the river was too high, then we took the bridge, if the river was low and the rocks exposed, then we’d all cross the river at the rock crossing. Hundreds of people, usually all men and boys and all heading to the game through the river shortcut.
To add an ever greater sense of danger to this crossing, was the repugnant fact that the city’s raw sewer lines came out somewhere between the bridge and the rock crossing.
And this was completely untreated, raw sewage at its most luxuriant stage of smell and visibility. The river, which was clean and clear when we looked at it from the bridge, became shit brown and foul by the time it arrived at the rock crossing and turds floated like brown torpedoes all around you as you gingerly made your way across the rocks.
It never occurred to us why the rock crossing had been built after the sewage lines, rather than before it – who knows, perhaps it pre-dated the sewage lines, but the immense danger of crossing the river by skipping across slippery, mossy rocks was multiplied by a million when one considered what would happen if one had the misfortune to slip and fall into the shitwater.
And it did happen quite often! Someone would be a little too cavalier in the crossing, or sometimes someone too tipsy from drinking too much beer at the games, lose concentration, slip and fall, to the cheers and laughter and applause of the rest of us. And falling near the riverbed was the worst, as the shit tended to concentrate there, while the river current, although faster and more dangerous in the middle, tended to keep the middle of the river cleaner.
The edges were absolutely gross. A luxuriant, rich, thick mixture of shit and mud demanded strict attention and concentration. In response to this, whoever had originally placed the rocks to build the crossing, had thankfully placed larger rocks at the edges, some of which actually could accommodate several persons at once. This had an indirect cause in the overall accumulations of tiny events that all led to the greatest rock fight in history.
I always recall the crossing of the river at this point as a true adventure. Sometimes I was a pirate, usually Emilio Salgari's El Corsario Negro, getting away from the Spanish soldiers; at other times I was an astronaut discovering another planet. But I was always in a high state of concentration, always ensuring that I never slipped and always focusing on the next rock, especially when we neared the edges, and the river became a mass of mojones, which is what we called turds, and birds eating all the gross insect life that lived amongst it.
Sometimes a particularly spectacular mojon would float by, or a fleet of mojones, to the delight of us kids crossing the river. We would shout in unison and point to the mojones and exaggerate their sizes and speed. The word mojon is an interesting one, and I’m not sure where it comes from, or if it is a Cuban slang or a true Castilian word. It literally means someone or something that is wet, and has no relation that I can think of to the Spanish word for shit, which is mierda.
Regardless, the river at this point was full of mojones, and stinking of mierda and we would always be alert and I never recall any of our gang falling into the river.
Until the greatest rock fight in history. Truly the mother of all rock fights.
On that particular day, we had all trekked to the stadium not to watch a baseball game, but to watch something different in our perception of sports, at least to Cubans: a soccer match.
While soccer is a big thing in nearly all Latin American countries, in fact nearly a religion in most, it was and probably still is, a curiosity and ignored as a sport by most Cubans.
This arises from the fact that soccer – like bullfights – was a "Spanish sport" enjoyed by Spaniards in Cuba, and thus disliked immediately by Cubans, who wished to remove all things Spanish from the young republic. Spaniards like soccer and bullfights while Cubans preferred baseball and cockfights; Spaniards drank wine, Cubans drank beer and rum, etc.
Anyway, on the day of the greatest rock fight in history, there was a soccer match staged at Van Troi stadium, and as most of us had never seen a soccer match before, a curious crowd of several thousand local men and boys made the trip, either through the bridge or through the rock crossing, and congregated at the ballpark to watch the game.
It was a disaster.
One of the teams had traveled from Havana, and was on a nationwide tour to help spread soccer among Cubans. The second team was made up at the last minute from Guantanamo men from the Institute (the local junior college) or local baseball players who had not been selected for any of the national league teams. I bet that for some of the locals, it was the first time that they had ever actually played soccer.
It was the most boring sports spectacle that I recall ever witnessing, played on a baseball field, with the pitching mound still in place, and soccer lines marked at the last minute with white chalk lines.
I recall the entire game consisting of the ball being kicked from one extreme end of the field to the other, with little of the precision and foot skills that only experienced soccer players can display. One just can’t show up one day and decide to dribble with your feet – it just doesn’t happen, and it showed.
And Cubans are just not culturally designed to play soccer, which demands precise teamwork and strategy, as opposed to individualism on the field, which is what the inept soccer players on the soccer pitch, I mean baseball field turned soccer pitch for that day, attempted to do.
The crowd was bored and delighted us by hurling insults at the players, and booing throughout, and only applauding when a fight broke out on the field, which was practically every few minutes, when aggressive, inept Cuban men kicked each other’s shins in futile attempts to get to the ball.
The soccer experiment was a boring disaster, and when the game ended, scoreless as I recall, the crowd was in a dark mood as it left the Stadium and headed back to the city, most of us through the river rock crossing.
And this mood was the second ingredient in the recipe for the chain of events that led to the greatest rock fight in history.
Here is what happened.
I had just crossed the river, and along with my father behind me, begun the slight climb from the river slopes towards the streets above it. At that point, one had a great view of the river and I recall turning around to see the long line of people, like ants, crossing the river, jumping rocks and making their way back to the city.
And then it happened.
Monguito fell into the shitwater; not the middle, cleaner part of the river, with fast moving water and smaller rocks, but near the banks of the river, with turgid, stagnant mud and shit.
Whether he slipped or fell is a matter of debate. As I said before these bank rocks were larger and thus "safer" than the smaller, middle-of-the-river rocks, and Monguito claims that as he was standing on one of these rocks, Gustavito, who lived in the house directly below our house on Second Street, and who was a perennial enemy of the Monguito brothers, pushed him from behind.
Gustavito, who was a feisty (and always ready to pick a fight), scruffy, short bulldog of a boy, with a flat top blonde haircut, and he looked like a miniature of his father, who was a professional boxer, has always denied pushing Monguito, claiming that he was nowhere near Monguito when Monguito fell or was pushed in.
Anyway, Monguito emerged from the river completely covered in shit and mud and looking for revenge. The people who were still on the rocks were dying of laughter as he made his way up the banks of the river, and the crossing momentarily stopped as the elder of the two Monguito brothers emerged from the muck.
And he turned to face his laughing tormentors, and he was looking for revenge.
He then spotted Gustavito, still on a rock on the river, also laughing and in fact doubled over with laughter. And in Monguito’s mind, somehow, it became clear that his archenemy had some hand in his fall.
And he picked up a rock, and with the brilliant aim of someone with a thousand previous rock fights of experience, lobbed it in a long arch towards Gustavito, who was too lost in laughter to notice the incoming missile as it hit him and made him fall into the river.
Now the other river crossers really exploded in laughter – this was too much! Two falls in one crossing – this alone was worth the boring experience of the soccer game!
But Gustavito, who had not seen who had thrown the rock, emerged from the river also looking for revenge, and incredibly enough began picking up rocks from the river itself and pelting the crowd with shit covered missiles.
And suddenly pandemonium broke out as people began to fall into the river and more rock throwers were added to the battle. From our safe side on the land, we all joined in to try to nail those still clinging to the relative safety of the rocks.
Some tried to turn back and head to the other side, colliding with crossers coming over and more and more people fell into the water, creating several water battles as men fought each other in the water, on rocks and on the shore. And the people already on the banks of the rivers were also good targets for us, as we were higher above them on the streets that ran parallel to the river.
And thus, from the relative safety of those streets above the river, we were on a superior position to rain rocks on all of those unfortunate souls below us while being able to dodge all incoming rocks; all except Pepin, who as usual got his head cracked open by a rock, even though he was with us on the streets, desperately, from his superior position, trying to help his brother Monguito below.
And for a glorious ten minutes or so, the greatest rock fight in history went on along the shitty shores of the Guaso River, involving perhaps one hundred men and boys of all ages, with the distinct advantage to those on the shore, many of whom were covered in shit, having at one point been on rocks and knocked off either trying to avoid a rock, or being hit by one or pushed by another person attempting to cling to the rock.
If the latter was the case, then it was a matter of honor to get to the shore and attempt to knock off your pusher by nailing him with a rock.
At some point in the battle, even flying turds were being lobbed, to the horror of some of the participants, already covered in shit, who were now being pelted by flying turds and mud.
I cannot remember how and when the greatest rock fight in history ended, perhaps the militia or the cops showed up, but I do recall walking back all the way from the edge of the city to our neighborhood, because there were three in our group completely covered in shit: Monguito, Gustavito and Cesar, who somehow had ended up in the river as well, and Pepin covered in blood from his head wound.
Because of shit and blood, the bus driver would not allow them in, and my father couldn’t leave them to walk alone from that far. It was quite an interesting trek, and we made them walk downwind behind us, only stopping once in a while to break up the occasional fights between Monguito and Gustavito.
When we got home, my grandmother gave my father hell over his supervision of us, and Elba, Pepin’s mother, swore blue murder at my father for not taking Pepin directly to the hospital.
My grandmother then took Cesar to the back garden, where he was hosed down with the garden hose, while the rest of us, less the other two who had fallen in, and Pepin who was on his way to the hospital for his usual visit to stitch up his head, climbed to the roof of the house to watch Cesar being scrubbed clean from head to toe while we drank cold lemonade that my mother had just made.
Thus truly ended the greatest rock fight in history.