In January and February 2020, I am the Artist-in-Residence at MERZ Gallery in Sanquhar, Scotland. The residency and film documentation are supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland.
About MERZ Gallery
Located in the former lemonade factory in Sanquhar, MERZ is the project of artist and filmmaker David Rushton, who is developing once derelict and neglected sites into art spaces. In addition to MERZ, he has turned a former abattoir into ZIPStudio and the Museum of Model Art and began manifesting a village of caravans that can house artists during the summer. Future additions include a second small studio with accommodation (Tadpole), a pop up cinema/further exhibition or studio space (кино), an unheated studio (FURTH), and sculpture green in addition to the work-shed and yard around the MERZ gallery and Bothy. Learn more at merz.gallery.
At the Residency
At this residency, I will activate as an artist, a writer, and a culture worker through a series of projects.
ARTIST I will create a body of work that reflects my experience in Sanquhar. John Enderfield observed of Kurt Schwitters, “He used paper of virtually every possible origin and description that was available to him.” The art made while in residence will be exhibited at MERZ Gallery and shared online via social media.
WRITING My writing will focus on the idea of collage as a 21st century art movement. The writing will deconstruct the idea of an art movement and make the argument that collage, as a 21st century art movement, redefines how artists relate to one another and how art functions in society. I will also maintain a journal of thoughts and observations while in residency.
CULTURE WORK As a way of demonstrating collage as a 21st century art movement, I will build an international collection of collage. The Schwitters’ Army Collection of Collage Art at MERZ Gallery will be a permanent collection, a survey of art by collage artists, alive and active in 2020, who responded to a call to artists and shipped, via post, a single collage to MERZ Gallery. Components will include a Finding Aid, a website, and a book of collage in the collection. Learn more at the Schwitters’ Army website HERE.
Methodology & Values
TRANSPARENCY I will build the Schwitters’ Army Collection in a transparent and open manner. The collection will be open to any artist who sends a collage. The Finding Aid will be live so that each day, anybody can access the document to follow the process.
COMMUNICATION I will communicate via social media (Instagram and Facebook) on a daily basis. Instagram @kasini will share personal experiences of being at the residency in Sanquhar. Instagram @kolajmagazine will share collage registered to the collection. On Instagram @merz.gallery, I will post reports on work I am doing while in residence, pictures of the gallery and installation of artwork, process work, and events.
ACCESSIBILITY I will maintain public hours at MERZ Gallery: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from Noon to 3PM when anyone can stop in for a visit. I will make and post a sign that reads “The Artist Is In” and I will be available for visits by appointment to those who email.
August 24th to October 27th, 2019 at Rokeby Museum, Ferrisburgh, Vermont
Exhibit Opening Saturday, August 24th, 11AM-5PM as part of Art Rokeby Festival
Structures define our world. Some of us live among skyscrapers, row houses, condominiums. In Vermont, many of us live among houses and barns. Rokeby Museum, a National Historic Landmark, is a collection of houses, barns, and outbuildings that served a variety of ends. The exhibition temporarily repurposes these historic spaces as platforms for contemporary art and asks the viewer to contemplate the role that structures play in shaping our experience of the world and how structures can inform and shape the experience of others. The exhibition is curated by Ric Kasini Kadour, Curator of Contemporary Art at Rokeby Museum, and is the second of two exhibitions this year that are introducing contemporary art to the historic site.
The art on view at eleven locations throughout Rokeby reflects on, responds to, or contrasts with structures on the site. In the Toolshed, sculptures by Meg Walker juxtapose ready-made elements with newly fabricated forms as a means of commenting on the role these structures play in the identity and history of rural communities. Inside The Other House, Axel Stohlberg‘s floating series invites the viewer to consider how humanity activates structures. Outside The Other House, Stohlberg will install black and white house sculptures. Informed by the memory of playing in dairy barns in his youth and Inspired by an old cemetery near his house to create monuments, two large sculptures by Denis Versweyveld, one installed outside the Education Center and one in the Slaughterhouse, express the archetypal house shape while considering the lath and plaster that make up old homes and barnes. In the Main House, Judith Rey‘s colorful box and gable paintings intermingle with the historic artifacts. Rob Hitzig will install two, interlocking, amorphously shaped, colorfully painted, plywood cut-outs on the Granary. An installation by the pond of Steve Hadeka‘s modern birdhouses will form a neighborhood that will be “developed” over the course of the exhibition as new houses are added to it. A conceptual work by internationally renowned multimedia artist and performer Yoko Ono will activate the Dairy Barn Foundation.
Built in the 1930s, the Tourist Cabin, the last original structure to be built at Rokeby, will play host to an international exhibition of Mail Art. Rokeby Museum has invited artists from around the world to send a piece of mail art that reflects or responds to their home or a building in their home community. These “postcards”, arriving from across the United States and Canada and from such far away places as Brisbane, Australia; Rosario, Argentina; and Stuttgart, Germany, bear artists’ thoughts about the idea of home and the buildings that inform their sense of place.
“One thing Rokeby does exceptionally well is provide us the opportunity to imagine how people lived in the past. The buildings at this historic site tell important stories about resistance, persistence, and resilience. They speak to how people fed themselves, stayed warm, and lived together,” said Kadour. “By pairing these buildings with contemporary art, we hope to continue to tell these stories and add new stories that speak to the role buildings play in our day-to-day lives.”
The opening of the exhibition will take place during the Art Rokeby Festival, a day-long event celebrating art at Rokeby.
About Rokeby Museum
From 1793 to 1961, Rokeby was home to four generations of Robinsons–a remarkable family of Quakers, farmers, abolitionists, artists, and authors. Today, the Robinson family’s home is a National Historic Landmark, designated for its exceptional Underground Railroad history. Rokeby is among the best-documented Underground Railroad sites in the country, one the National Park Service has described as “unrivaled among known sites for its historical integrity and the poignancy of the stories it tells.” Telling those stories is at the center of the Museum’s mission, which is to “connect visitors with the human experience of the Underground Railroad and with the lives of the Robinsons, who lived on and farmed this land for nearly 200 years.” The Museum is located on Route 7 in Ferrisburgh, Vermont. www.rokeby.org
About Contemporary Art at Rokeby Museum
Contemporary Art at Rokeby Museum is an ambitious two-year project designed to engage artists and the public with Rokeby Museum archives, objects, buildings, and land. Project activities will demonstrate how contemporary art can pick up the unfinished work of history and foster civic engagement in social, economic, and environmental justice issues. In 2019, Contemporary Art at Rokeby Museum will present two exhibitions, introduce an artist membership program, conduct a symposium about the relationship between art and history, and host an artist lab designed to support the development of an artist’s practice. Artists will be invited to make art at or about Rokeby Museum and their work will be shared online and at a festival in August. Contemporary Art at Rokeby Museum is a collaboration with Kasini House. www.rokeby.org/contemporary
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
www.pleasantranch.com After twenty years of professional experience in the music, media and design industries, Steve Hadeka began woodworking in 2012, studying with friends who were guitar builders, as well as instructional videos on the Internet. In the summer of 2014, he became a full-time woodworker and in January 2018, he opened a shop and studio in Winooski, Vermont, where he creates one-of-a-kind wooden art, home décor, barware, kitchenware and furniture under the Pleasant Ranch brand.
www.roberthitzig.com Montpelier, Vermont-based artist Rob Hitzig has been showing work in solo, group and juried exhibitions in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Washington, DC and across Vermont since 2007. In 2019, he was awarded Juror’s Prize, 2nd Place at the Vermont Studio Center’s 35th Anniversary Vermont Alumnx Exhibition. At the South End Art Hop in Burlington, he won first place in 2009 and Outdoor Sculpture Juror’s Prize, 2nd Place in 2014. He organized Montpelier SculptCycle 2008. His work is in the collections of Johns Hopkins University and the City of Newburyport, Massachusetts. He is represented by Cross MacKenzie Gallery in Washington, DC and Skyline Art Services in Houston, Texas.
www.imaginepeace.com Originally from Tokyo, Yoko Ono was the first woman admitted to the philosophy program at Gakushuin University in Tokyo, where she studied for a year before moving to New York, where she studied writing and music at Sarah Lawrence College. Ono became an influential conceptual and performance artist prior to her marriage and artistic partnership with John Lennon. George Macunias, founder of the Fluxus collective, gave Ono her first solo gallery show in 1961. From the 1970s to the 1990s, Ono worked on music, both solo and in collaboration. The Whitney Museum of American Art presented a retrospective of her work in 1989, as did the Japan Society Gallery in 2000, and the Museum of Modern Art in 2015. She received a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 2009 Venice Biennale. Yoko Ono lives and works in New York City.
Judith Rey holds a degree in Art Education from the State University of New York, New Paltz, as well as a Masters degree in Counseling. Rey has shown her work throughout New England and Florida. She has received a number of awards and her work has been included in major juried regional exhibitions. She lives and works with her husband, the sculptor Denis Versweyveld, in their home–studio in Ferrisburgh, Vermont.
www.axelstohlberg.com Axel Stohlberg holds an MA and BFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, with studies at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and the Art Institute of Boston. He owned and operated Axel’s Frame Shop & Gallery in Waterbury, Vermont from 1983 to 2013. His residencies include four at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson between 1980 and 2003; artist-in-residence at Basin Harbor in Vergennes, Vermont in 2003; and at Haystack Mountain School of Craft in Deer Isle, Maine in 2014.
Denis Versweyveld has spent most of his professional life in the arts and arts education. He holds a degree in Art Education from the State University of New York, New Paltz; an MFA in Sculpture from Indiana University, Bloomington, with studies at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He has exhibited throughout New York, New England and the Midwest, and has received a number of awards, including three grants from the Vermont Arts Council. His work is in a number of private collections in the U.S. and Europe. He lives and works with his wife, the painter Judith Rey, in their home–studio in Ferrisburgh, Vermont.
www.megwalkersculpture.com Meg Walker studied at the Edinburgh College of Art and Moray House College of Education, both in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her work has been shown extensively in solo, two-person and group exhibitions in Scotland, New York, and across Vermont. Her commissions include work installed at the Broughton House Garden in Kircudbright, Scotland and the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, Vermont. Her work is in private collections in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the collection of the Fleming Museum of Art at the University of Vermont. Meg Walker lives and works in Charlotte, Vermont.
Rokeby Museum 4334 Route 7 Ferrisburgh, Vermont 05456 (802) 877-3406
Established in 1922, the Southern Vermont Arts Center provides cultural, educational, and creative opportunities for all ages. Situated amid over one-hundred acres of pristine forest in the heart of the Green Mountains, SVAC offers a first class experience in a traditional New England setting. With a rotating calendar of member and guest exhibitions, the largest sculpture park in Vermont, and a busy schedule of dynamic classes for all ages, the Southern Vermont Arts Center has something for everyone.
In late Summer 2019, Ric Kasini Kadour will guest curate an exhibition in the Elizabeth De C. Wilson Museum & Galleries at the Southern Vermont Arts Center. Kadour starts from a place that society’s relationship to art is broken and sees contemporary Regionalism as a curatorial practice that mends that relationship. Kadour will present examples of Vermont art in a way that engages the viewer in a conversation about the role art plays in Vermont communities and in the lives of Vermonters. A series of panels will bring artists, academics, curators, writers, and the general public together for a conversation about how regionalism can inform art’s relationship with society.
“Unlike most countries, the United States is unique in that it eschews placing a regional identity on art,” said Kadour. “In our failure to do so, we are missing an opportunity to grapple with the relationship between art and who we are as a people. In the pages of Vermont Art Guide, I often try to make the case that Vermont art is very much a thing.”
“New England Regionalism has always been in conjunction with Vermont Art. The basis of Regional Vermont Art is the reason the Arts Center exists today. Almost a century ago, a collaborative of many prominent regional artists, business men and women established SVAC,” said Gallery Director and Collections Manager Anna-Maria Hand. “The idyllic setting of the rural Vermont landscape offered a transformative experience and opportunity for artists seeking to work outside the social, political, and economical changes that were present at the time. The collaboration of like-minded artists and the picturesque landscape provided a renewed connection with nature for these artists and it continues to do so. Bringing art and artists together in this atmosphere to create discussion is one of the best ways to learn and educate. By asking these questions and by creating this conversation in the form of an exhibition, Ric exemplifies and re-establishes the meaning of Vermont Regionalism as well as the Vermont Regional Artist.”
In asking the question, What is Vermont art?, Kadour works to illustrate how Regionalism can frame and deepen art’s relationship with the rest of society. “Art is able to add poetry, emotional intelligence, and imagination to that civic conversation, but, in order for it to do so, we need to feel that art speaks to, for, and about us, that it is a part of our community. We need to have some ownership of it. That is why regionalism is important and that is the point I am trying to make with this exhibition.”
Learn more about the Southern Vermont Arts Center and contact the museum via their website. Questions about the exhibition and program may be directed to Ric Kasini Kadour via email.
The Past Is Now: Historic Sites as Venues for Contemporary Art
Lecture & Slideshow by Ric Kasini Kadour
at the Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburgh, Vermont
Sunday, September 30, 2018 at 3PM
Historic sites are important threads in the fabric of culture and society. These time capsules hold for us, in land and architecture, memories of our past and the stories of the people who lived there. Contemporary art is the art of today and speaks to 21st century society. What happens when the two mix? Artist and writer Ric Kasini Kadour will present examples of historic sites that have used contemporary art to bring ideas of the past into the present. He will share how contemporary artist Olafur Eliasson referenced the optical illusions and interactive sensual experience of the 17th century landscaped gardens at Palace of Versailles to reframe the sites and their historical narrative within the contemporary visitor’s experiences. He will speak about how an annual art fair at Governors Island National Monument reinterprets the former army post and how the annual exhibition at Kents’ Corners in Calais, Vermont provides an opportunity for artists to bring the past into the present. The talk will present research from the American Alliance of Museums, the London-based Elizabeth Xi Bauer Art Consultancy, and Lowell, Massachusetts researcher and curator Kate Laurel Burgess-MacIntosh, who is the author of the blog Revitalizing Historic Sites Through Contemporary Art. The slideshow will be followed by a lively discussion about what we want from contemporary art and our historic sites.
The American Alliance of Museums writes, the marriage of contemporary art and historic sites “is a chance to discover new revenue and funding possibilities, and expand partnership and collaboration opportunities, while enlarging the reach and visibility of historic house museums. Most importantly, it gives us the opportunity to change public opinion, uncover new research and information, and breathe new life into old spaces, while seeing the past in different ways. Contemporary art introduced at historic sites can do all this and more; art is the new mode of interpretation, and artists are the new interpreters.”
Lecture attendees will also be able to view “The Fabric of Emancipation: The Lens of American History through Contemporary Fiber Arts” curated by Harlem Needle Arts. The exhibit includes pieced quilts, representational and abstract, made by African American fabric artists Ife Cummings and Michael A. Cummings, as well as a layered, pieced assemblage by L’Merchie Frazier.
Who should attend?
This lecture is open to the general public. We want your thoughts and ideas about historic sites and contemporary art. Artists interested in interacting with historic sites are encouraged to attend, as are members of historic societies interested in strategies for bringing their work to new audiences.
About Rokeby Museum
A Quaker family farm for nearly two centuries, this National Historic Landmark served as a safe haven for 19th century fugitives from slavery. Exhibits and programs highlight the noted accomplishments of family members who were ardent Abolitionists and talented artists, writers, and naturalists. Explore award-winning exhibits, guided house tours, more than ten historic farm buildings and agricultural features, and 50 acres of interpreted nature trails. www.rokeby.org
4334 Route 7
Edwin Owre’s New Series Pushes Landscape Painting Forward
This essay appeared in Vermont Art Guide #7. Vermont Art Guide #7has nearly two hundred places to see art around the state. The full-color, printed magazine has artist and venue profiles as well as articles and news about Vermont Art. Our goal is to document and share the state’s incredible art scene. SUBSCRIBE TODAY
“The next one I am gonna start is with a chainsaw…I’ve never chainsawed paper but that’s not a bad idea.” Those are the last lines of a video made by Winooski documentarian Dan Higgins during a visit to Edwin Owre’s studio in December 2011. Owre’s comments speak to his particular brand of artmaking: an experimental approach to materials, a disdain for “fussiness”, and a willingness to “give it a go” and see what happens. Architect David Sellers cites Owre as instrumental in establishing a movement of design/build in which artists and sculptors and architects design and build things in the process of making something. But the cavalier buoyancy with which Owre’s approaches artmaking is tempered by a keen ability to react and respond to movements in art. Owre’s fluency with color, shape, and composition pours out of the constructions on view at the BCA Center this past winter, and, if I may be so bold, suggest that Owre is doing with landscape painting what John Chamberlain did with abstract expressionism. He is bringing it into the third dimension.
Brightly colored fragments of plywood are assembled into fields. Barometer of Mercies, with its zig-zag geometries and rambling blue shapes evoke the sky. Intersecting white rectangles of Cross Talk and a suggestive orange dotted line propose an aerial view of a cityscape. How can one not see the mountain in Fleurs du Mal? Standing works use the tabletop as a horizon and rise up from the surface like buildings in a fantastical city. Pinks, blues, and orange hues reflect the palette of today’s painters who see not only green and brown but a blazing range of colors in the atmosphere. At various times, in these works, the paint crosses and combines genres. Raw wood contrasts with refined, smooth surfaces. Thick lines of red, white, and yellow break up luscious fields of swirled paint.
The thing to understand about Owre is his place in Vermont art history. From 1969 to 2003, Owre taught drawing and sculpture at the University of Vermont and over the course of those decades influenced countless contemporary Vermont artists. He taught students to unleash the possibility of mark and gesture, to consider copper tubing and bales of hay as materials, or to chainsaw paper if the mood strikes you.
About Vermont Art Guide
Vermont Art Guide is a quarterly, printed magazine about contemporary art in Vermont. We offer a curated list of places to see art and publish profiles on artists, art venues, and public art. Each issue is a celebration of the state’s great art scene. Learn more at www.vermontartguide.com.
About Edwin Owre
Edwin Owre has been working as an artist and educator for over 50 years. In his Grand Isle studio, the “constructions” he creates explore the possibilities of drawing and the gesture through abstract sculpture. “Solid and Light”, an exhibition of these abstract constructions, was at GreenTARA Space in North Hero, June 8 to July 15, 2018. Owre’s “New Constructions” was on display at the BCA Center, January 19-April 7, 2018.
“New Constructions” (installation view)
by Edwin Owre
at BCA Center, Burlington
January 19-April 7, 2018
Photos by Sam Simon
Ric Kasini Kadour at Antenna::Signals
at Antenna’s Paper Machine in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
January 24, 2018, 6-8:30PM
In celebration of the opening of Antenna’s Paper Machine print center, Signals presentations and performances examine the theme “Papers”. “Papers” explores the myriad uses of paper–a medium at once literal and symbolic, malleable and dogmatic, portable and burdensome–to translate and regulate life. The event explores the connotations of the theme from a number of specific angles, including immigration papers, The Green Book (guide to safe road tripping for African Americans in Jim Crow America), Storyville blue books (catalogues for New Orleans’ famed red light district), and rolling and hemp papers.
Kolaj Magazine‘s editor, Ric Kasini Kadour, is one of the featured presenters. Other presenters and performances include: Katrina Andry; Vanessa Centeno and John Lawrence; The Historic New Orleans Collection; Lydia Y. Nichols; Rodrigo Toscano; and Mr. Kush from Weed World Candies.
Conceived as a “live arts magazine,” Antenna::Signals is a variety show-styled event from the artists and writers of Antenna. Each “issue” of Antenna::Signals features a spread of 6-8 local artists, writers, musicians, scientists, activists and scholars whose practices relate thematically. The live magazine drops four times each year, accompanied by the release of a two-dimensional print publication.
Antenna is a New Orleans-based non-profit organization committed to being a vital participant in the life of the city by creating and supporting artist- and writer-driven programs.
(adapted from Antenna’s press materials)
Antenna’s Paper Machine
6330 St. Claude Avenue
New Orleans, Louisiana USA 70117
Date and Time:
Wednesday, January 24, 2018
This essay appears in the catalog Henry Isaacs: New Works for an exhibition at Maine Art Shows, August 9-September 1, 2014.
The New Landscape: A History
For much of art history, when the artist painted the land, he did so only as a backdrop, as context, rarely as subject. In fact, what little interest there was in the landscape nearly disappeared entirely during the medieval period, but in the 17th century, Dutch Golden Age painters began to flirt with the landscape as a valid genre of painterly expression. The views of Samuel Dirksz van Hoogstraten, a 17th century Dutch art theoretician, perfectly illustrate the complex relationship art history has with the landscape. On the one hand, van Hoogstraten thought of landscape painting as “the common footmen in the army of art”—a technical skill that was no different than the skill of painting hair or flesh tone—devoid of any deeper, intellectual or spiritual value. But van Hoogstraten also saw landscape painting as a “locus for poetic license.” As Thijs Weststeijn explains van Hoogstraten’s views, the landscape “provides scope for artistic freedom, for coloristic virtuosity and for chance: for a dialogue between Mother Nature and the artist’s own innate ability.” Or, as van Hoogstraten himself put it, “Whose artistic spirit would not burst forth with something extraordinary when he hears the poets sing of the landscape in such painterly words?” The landscape obtained a foothold on the rocky mountain of art.
Brittany contains all four great elements of landscape: sky, earth, water, and vegetation. Henry Isaacs renders the atmosphere in patches of blues and creams and yellows; the land made of oranges and greens sits on the watery cove which mirrors the sky. Vegetation creeps into the foreground like a kaleidoscope. That we recognize Brittany as a landscape painting—as opposed to a work of entirely Abstract Expressionism—says as much about our own Modern visual language as it does about Isaacs’ ability to render the three-dimensional world as a two-dimensional experience. What is remarkable about Isaacs’ work is its ability to hold our attention, its ability to pack so much visual pleasure into each patch of color. Every time we look at this painting we find something new.
It would be easy to see Isaacs’ paintings as simply the result of the artist’s imagination. Cove Mt. Desert is a colorful expression of land and sea and sky. The boats sailing out to sea in East Boothbay, Maine are the recollection of a lazy summer day. One could draw the conclusion that because Isaacs starts his paintings en plein air and finishes them in the studio that they are rooted in the truth of Mother Nature, but finished in the imagination of the artist. But doing so ignores two hundred years of art history where artists debated a series of simple questions: Is the subject what the artist sees or how the artist sees it? Is the artist under the influence of divine inspiration or a practitioner of scientific observation? Is the landscape painting a document of the land or the artist’s painterly expressive poem about it?
Two hundred years after van Hoogstraten, a twenty-year-old Victorian art critic named John Ruskin began collecting watercolors by JMW Turner. In spite of his popularity, Turner’s dynamic compositions were an affront to conservative Victorian tastes; his shocking colors were often criticized; and Ruskin was having none of it. A particularly condescending writer remarked of Turner, “He has robbed the sun of his birthright to cast shadows.” Ruskin’s defense of Turner, his response to the accusation that his painting was “contrary to nature, and to the rules of Art”, was to write a defense of the artist that liberated landscape painting from the pictorial restrictions of academic art. Ruskin ends with a plea to trust the genius of the artist. By contrast, Turner’s greatest rival was John Constable, who declared in a lecture at the Royal Institution in 1836, “Painting is a science, and should be pursued as an inquiry into the laws of nature.” Constable rejected the notion of landscape painting as the product of divine inspiration, that as if by looking at the landscape, the hand of God took hold of the artist’s brush and did the work for him. Constable argued good painting was the result of “long and patient study, under the direction of much good sense.” The rest of the history of landscape painting is a sort of tit-for-tat series of art movements. The expressive French Impressionists were responding to the dominant realism of the Barbizon school. The Ashcan school rebelled against American Impressionism to which American Realism revolted …and so on…until Modernism, when the history of painting was so exhausted it seemed to stop. Modernism completely liberated landscape painting from the land and placed the idea of a painting in the mind of the artist. The only subject is concept.
This history begs the question, What is Isaacs doing? What is his place in this morass? Isaacs trained at the Slade School of Art, where he learned to be a draftsman with formal skills and gained an ability to look at his subject with science-like observation and render it exactly as it appears. Yet, the realism of Isaacs’ paintings cannot be found in their illustrative qualities. Being a child of Modernism, Isaacs uses the act of seeing as the conceptual foundation of his paintings, and uses color work as the method of painting. The results of all this are landscapes that bridge 20th-century Modernism and reconnect us to the history of landscape painting in a contemporary manner. The old arguments and questions of landscape painting have been resolved. In Isaacs’ paintings, experience, sight, color, and the artist’s imagination converge to give the viewer an experience that hold our attention and dazzle our mind.
SOURCES The Visible World: Samuel Van Hoogstraten’s Art Theory and the Legitimation of Painting in the Dutch Golden Age by Thijs Weststeijn (Amsterdam University Press, 2008)
Introduction to the Academy of Painting; or the Visible World by Samuel Van Hoogstraten (1678)
“British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, Etc.”, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (Vol. XL, No. CLII, October 1836, p. 551)
Modern Painters, Volume 1 by John Ruskin (1843)
John Constable, Lecture IV at the Royal Institution (June 16, 1836)
This essay appears in the catalog Philip Frey: New Works for an exhibition at Maine Art Shows, June 27-July 16, 2015.
Philip Frey: Lavish Attention
The respect for and service to the viewer is, perhaps, one the best attributes of Frey’s paintings. “I am a student of aesthetics: the study of beauty,” he writes. “I paint what is interesting and beautiful to me.” What is beautiful to Frey is the Maine landscape and the people who live in it. The view in Deep Waters captures the striking natural beauty of mountains pouring into lakes. Double Cannon Ball speaks to the joy and excitement of seaside summer fun. Gestural and expressive use of paint conveys a sense of immediacy—a nowness—to Frey’s work that helps bring the viewer into the moment. There is no agenda here, no greater purpose, than to share a love for the world and a deep sense of place.
Art history is full of examples where paintings defined a nation or rebuilt a country’s identity in the face of defeat. The history of painting is littered with patriotic propaganda, religious liturgy, and moral lecture, but only in the last 150 years have artists been interested or able to step away from a political master and truly serve the viewer.
In the wake of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71, Claude Monet found himself back in his hometown of Le Havre making a series of paintings of the city’s busy port. Monet had spent the war in England studying with John Constable and J.M.W. Turner, both of whom deeply influenced his work. France was abuzz with patriotic renewal in the face of a humiliating defeat by the Germans and artists were quick at work attempting to reestablish the glory of France. Painters like Alphonse-Marie-Adolphe de Neuville were busy rendering scenes from the war. Neuville’s Les Dernières Cartouches shows French snipers ambushing Bavarian troops in Bazeilles before the Battle of Sedan. Jean-Léon Gérôme was painting Pollice Verso, a moral allegory set in ancient Rome. It was around this time William-Adolphe Bouguereau painted the erotically charged Nymphs & Satyr. French painting was academic, politically charged, and intent on reclaiming France’s pride. Monet was none of these things.
In Le Havre, Monet worked on a series of paintings of the port. Impression, Sunrise was painted from his hotel room overlooking the bay. Monet worked from a base of gray, relying on subtle shifts in tone to distinguish the water from the sky, and quick, almost rudimentary marks to draw the cranes in the background and two small boats in the foreground. Dots, dashes, and squiggles make up most of the piece. The painting is a wash of understatedness except for the salmon-orange sun and a bevy of equally brilliant strokes that capture its reflection on the water. Peter Gay in his book, Modernism: The Lure of Heresy, describes the painting, “Altogether truly an impression, a highly accomplished impression, looking far more casual a piece than it really was. A characteristic specimen of the new painting, it tells no stories and offers no lessons; it does not aim at making its viewers more devout, more moral, more patriotic, or for that matter, more sexually aroused.”
In contemporary terms, such non-objective art is usually reserved for abstract painting, where the lack of representation suggests an emotional or aesthetic exploration on the part of the artist. Increasingly, as we move into the 21st century, we see painters, like Frey, incorporating the lessons of abstract art into representational works. We see this in paintings like Convergence that are small, immediate, and relatively free of details. Frey breaks down the scene in Convergence into its basic elements: a blue underpainting, a wide stroke of yellow for the sun, a softer stroke below the sun for its reflection on the water; a dozen or so marks of green, a few strokes of white for clouds. It is casual and free and yet completely conveys the breathtaking view one gets when looking out at an island across the water. Convergence is what you feel when you remember the view.
“My work begins with a feeling—a connection to my everyday experience: evocative colors; unexpected patterns of light or the sublime quality of ordinary objects,” writes Frey. “From that feeling, I build a colorful and painterly world in response to it.”
Monet was working against a backdrop of patriotic fervor; Frey is working in a different context. Never in its history has so much art been so removed from people’s lives. Much of contemporary art demonstrates a contempt for the viewer, an unabashed lack of concern. One has only to take a brief tour of art fairs in Miami, New York, or Basel, to see a parade of narcissism, mundanity, and disdain that too often alienates everyday people from art. Frey is a refreshing counterbalance to contemporary art that is driven by concept and executed only to the point where the point is made. In contrast to this other work, Frey cradles the viewer, takes them by the hand, and walks them to a majestic view.
This approach to painting comes from our Impressionist forefathers. “Impressionist painters were carrying out Baudelaire’s influential agenda to lavish all of their attention on the present in which they lived and to which they responded,” explained Gay. And while Frey is not an Impressionist, the Impressionist spirit lives on in his work. He not only lavishes his attention on the present, he invites us to do the same, to join the boy jumping into the water in Dive, to take a walk in the woods in Forest Floor, to stroll the boardwalk in In the Moment, and enjoy the vibrant, colorful symphony of life in Pier Patterns. This is how Frey respects and serves the viewer.
On October 10, 2014, Hyperallergic published Ric Kasini Kadour’s essay, “I Don’t Care About David Byrne Anymore?” in response to Mr. Byrne’s blog post, “I Don’t Care About Contemporary Art Anymore?”
I Don’t Care About David Byrne Anymore?
by Ric Kasini Kadour
David, I received your missive in my Facebook feed. You know, the one where you pseudo-declare, “I Don’t Care About Contemporary Art Anymore?” The one where you complain that the art on view in the galleries you “peruse … when I return from jogging” are failing to raise your curiosity.
Ric Kasini Kadour’s essay, “Duncan Johnson: Reaching Across History”, is published in the catalog Duncan Johnson which accompanies the August 16-October 31, 2014 exhibition “Stone. Glass. Wood.” at the West Branch Gallery & Sculpture Park. In the essay, Kadour examines how Johnson’s use of material weaves multiple histories into a single work.
Duncan Johnson: Reaching Across History
By Ric Kasini Kadour
Every work of art poses some basic questions to the viewer. What is it? What does it show? Who made it? Why did the artist make it? And some art—that art which is more complex, perhaps more sophisticated, or simply difficult to look at or understand—raises other questions. Where does the art fit into the broader visual landscape? How is the artwork related to the larger narrative of art history? One doesn’t need to answer all of these questions to enjoy a work of art or even to understand and appreciate it, but asking these questions can make art a deeper, more meaningful experience.
In the September/October 2014 Issue of Art New England, Ric Kasini Kadour took stock of the current state of contemporary art galleries in New England and profiled a number of galleries doing well in spite of the challenges: Kobalt Gallery in Provincetown, MA; West Branch Gallery in Stowe, VT; Clark Gallery in Lincoln, MA; Yellow Peril in Providence, RI.
State of Affairs: How New England Galleries Make Their Way
by Ric Kasini Kadour
As businesses go, the art gallery is simple. Artist makes art. Gallerist hangs art on wall. Collector sees art and buys it. Everybody is happy.
If only it were that simple.
Imagine a business whose primary focus is the exposition of ideas in the hopes that someone will be so dazzled by them that he or she is willing to spend a small fortune on them. Imagine those ideas coming from a horde of eccentric children whose temperaments and idiosyncrasies become the business’s job to appease. Now imagine that business existing in a society that doesn’t really appreciate abstract ideas. Now you are approaching the reality of the contemporary art gallery.
Ric Kasini Kadour’s essay, “Paul Schwieder’s Glass Poems”, is published in the catalog Paul Schwieder which accompanies the August 16-October 31, 2014 exhibition “Stone. Glass. Wood.” at the West Branch Gallery & Sculpture Park. In the essay, Kadour charts the history of the studio glass movement from its humble beginnings in a shed behind the Toledo Museum of Art.
Paul Schwieder’s Glass Poems
By Ric Kasini Kadour
Having a beautiful object is like owning a poem. A jumble of words are aesthetically, sometimes rhythmically, arranged to convey a meaning greater than its prosaic self, a gestalt. Art objects are similar in that they combine complex histories, a myriad of narratives, into single forms. One can reduce a piece of sculpture to its basic elements—glass, stone, wood, etc.—but in doing so, one misses the entire point of the object’s existence: to show the viewer something greater than the sum of its parts; to expose the viewer to a greater, deeper meaning. This is what a poem does. This is how having beautiful objects is like owning a poem.
This essay appears in the catalog Craig Mooney: Lore of the Sea for an exhibition at Maine Art Shows, July 19-August 7, 2014.
Craig Mooney: Forward Movement
Spurred by an ascending Modernism, the pitter patter of art movements that rambled through the twentieth century left a mess at the art world’s door. If it could be painted, it had been painted; every conceivable style, approach, and method was exhausted. Painting has been declared dead and reincarnated so many times, that proclamations of its demise have become the stalwarts of lazy art critics and curators thirsty for attention. In reality, some painting movements have lost their utility. The white-on-white Minimalism that rocked the art world in 1951 no longer redefines our understanding of painting. We can no longer mine meaning from the dramatic application of paint to canvas which entertained the Lyrical Abstractionists of the 1970s. Post- and neo-revivals where artist’s attempt to resuscitate antiquated painting methods, while briefly entertaining, fail to sustain a meaningful approach to the medium. Where painting is moving forward is where artists are taking the lessons of past movements—the very best of visual strategy and technique—and putting those ideas in the service of new images. The collage of visual language expressed in paint is the future of painting and where some of the very best work is being done today. Craig Mooney is a case in point.
The bedrock of Mooney’s approach to painting starts, as all paintings do, with an abstraction of the subject to its most basic forms: land or water, horizon, sky or, in the case of figurative work, torso and head situated in the geometric forms of a scene. By under-developing aspects of his paintings, Mooney uses Minimalism to connect with the viewer who must fill in the blanks with his own experience. He builds intimacy between the viewer and the painting by using brush strokes and color work to highlight detail. For example, the dabs of orange and white in Inlet offer the viewer a visual scavenger hunt with which they can explore the painting. Lastly, Mooney combines a variety of styles—American Realism à la the Ashcan School, European Impressionism, and color and atmosphere catching pochades—with a contemporary use of blur that connects the viewer to a truth that transcends the subject, the viewer, and the painting itself.
In the collection of paintings presented in this catalog, one sees the evolution of Mooney’s practice. In his earlier cityscapes and figurative work, Mooney painted from the ground, from the viewpoint of a person merely feet away from the scene. This perspective can be seen in the figurative pieces Coastline Remembered and Call of the Sea and the landscape Day Sail, where the viewer looks out across the water to see sailboats dotting the horizon. But in Harbor Town or Day’s Catch, the perspective is that of someone hovering in the air. This compositional technique was pioneered by Andrew Wyeth in such seminal works as Soaring and continued by Andrew’s son Jamie in his paintings from Monhegan Island. Mooney’s use of this technique gives his paintings a mystical, fantastical quality as the viewer is asked to reference a point of view somewhere between aerial photography and a downward swooping cinematic shot. The result is a heightened sense of drama. This is particularly powerful in Harbor Town where, like the beginning of a movie, the viewer is poised to descend into a seaside village and the myriad of stories, secrets, and experiences found there. It is a gorgeous exposition with all the promise of climax and dénouement.
Recently, Mooney spent a few weeks in Paris with nothing to do but visit museums. He found himself returning to the Louvre and, in particular, to J.M.W. Turner’s Landscape with a River and a Bay in the Distance. The 1840s oil painting is a delicate work in beige, browns, and soft blues; though, because of the artist’s use of carmine, the colors seen today are most likely a faded version of what Turner originally painted. Nevertheless, the painting shows Turner’s remarkable ability to capture atmosphere. A mist descends onto the valley where the river meets the bay, gently obscuring the hills across the water as blue sky breaks through the top right corner. Turner was a romantic painter and a forerunner of Impressionism. For him, the subject was not the scene as he saw it, but the emotional dynamism as he experienced it. Mooney’s response was, “that was something I would like to do.”
The incorporation of Turner-inspired technique into Mooney’s blend of painting has yielded incredible results. Now Voyager is perhaps the closest to that style. A solitary ship moves into a vast fiery mist. Now Voyager is remarkable in that it has no horizon, no line that separates the water from the sky. The sailboat moves into the painting as if it is mid-ascension into the heavens. In Sailor’s Delight II, Mooney works from deep blues in the foreground to brilliant oranges, as the sky is reflected on the water. The clouds catch the sun in a radiant display of light. This masterful application of Turner-esque technique marries well with Mooney’s other visual strategies: the near abstraction of the land, the minimalist rendering of the boat, the dramatic perspective.
As he continues to evolve as a painter, as he continues to develop and add to his toolbox of techniques, Mooney will continue to make intense, dramatic paintings that deliver to the viewer the best of what painting can offer us. The works in this catalog are a wonderful beginning.
Nearly every work in “Convergence” is an example of how artists make visual art from music. Because that music is jazz, these works carry the extra weight of African American history and consciousness as it unfolded throughout the 20th century and continues today.
“Jazz Is Playing at Bates College”
by Ric Kasini Kadour Art New England July/August 2014 READ FULL ARTICLE
image above Musical Missionaries is a woodcut by Chicago-based video/performance artist Jefferson Pinder. It is an incredible reflection of jazz and African American history. Pinder’s video work deals with themes of blackness, Afro-Futurism, and physical endurance. You can see some HERE.