Archive for May, 2013


big jesus

The rubber army, or, performance art saves lives

It's just air in there.

It’s just air in there.

From The Atlantic, how performance art, essentially, helped save lives in World War II. Talk about art mattering.

Edward Hopper meets Spielberg

Untitled, Gregory Crewdson

When it comes to photography, I’m a Gary Winogrand kind of guy. I like it spontaneous, fleeting, and unpremeditated. Like a good haiku.  But I love Gregory Crewdson, whose shots are as artificial as a movie full of FX. Go figure. I first encountered him, without knowing anything about him, when I bought the Yo La Tengo album whose cover appears above, more than a decade ago. What looks like a great documentary about him was making the rounds this year and is now available on demand from Netflix.

Cooler than that CIA guy’s wig



Seniors wearing nature on their heads. Some great shots.

Insalaco steals the show

Adam and Eve on West 57th St., Thomas Insalaco

Adam and Eve on West 57th St., Thomas Insalaco

Thomas Insalaco’s new painting, on view at Oxford through June 1, is a beauty. It feels like a step into a new frontier for him, an  advance toward something even more intriguing than what he’s done up until now. I’d walked through most of the show before I finally paused in front of this large oil, and I was stunned by it before I even realized who’d painted it. So much of Insalaco’s career draws from his love of Caravaggio, so the ambiguous complexity of this painting’s composition and color threw me off the scent. It’s not a bright image—much of his work looks and feels dark—yet the baroque murk that always lurked behind so many of his foregrounds doesn’t swallow any detail here. Even in the darkest passages, he has spent a great deal of time lovingly rendering significant and beautiful detail.

I have a lot more to say about it, but first some praise for the exhibit as a whole. Jim Hall has assembled an especially strong invitational show, built around Galen’s philosophy of the four humors: sanguine (pleasure-seeking and sociable), choleric (ambitious and leader-like), melancholic (analytical and thoughtful), and phlegmatic (relaxed and quiet). The ancient four elements—earth, air, water, and fire—can be aligned with the humors as well, and some paintings in this show take advantage of that. I liked the theme from the start, and, with the notion of earth/melancholy in mind, I painted Skull Unearthed Circa 1930—which will also be on exhibit in the Rochester-Finger Lakes exhibit at Memorial Art Gallery this year. Not everybody warmed up to the show’s theme as quickly as I did: I encountered some head-scratching about it at first from Brian O’Neill, for example who ended up contributing a fine abstract to the show. It’s clearly a stretch to see the connection between some of these paintings and the four humors, but that’s part of the fun with Jim’s themes: how, and if, you can connect the dots. Matt Klos submitted a tiny, pleasingly muddy painting of jars, which I actually like for its enigmatic brevity, yet to entitle it Air seems a bit like giving it an alias in order to smuggle it through the door. (Glad he did.) Some personal favorites: Evening of the Cold Heart, Fran Noonan; MORE

To see the world in a grain of sand . . .



Give her a strand of your hair and she’ll do your portrait.

Cutting Loose with Susan Sills


Cutting Loose, Susan Sills, oil on panel

Susan Sills has a delightful solo show of her work from the past two decades at Viridian Artists, perfectly titled Cutting Loose. It’s really two different shows in one, based on her cut-out portraits and figures—life-sized, enlarged pastiches of people lifted from paintings by modernists and Old Masters, painted on birch plywood. The main installation is really a single scene populated with close to twenty of her three-dimensional paintings, arranged as if each of the figures were loitering on the steps of the Metropolitan. An Ingres odalisque reclines in front of a Norman Rockwell girl playing marbles and a bather by Degas. Michelangelo’s Adam reaches for Manet’s guitarist, rather than God. Behind all of them is an enlarged photograph of the Met’s façade, created with wide-format engineering printers, on long three-foot-wide scrolls hung side by side. On the opposite and adjacent walls are shelves displaying the smaller portrait work—Van Gogh, Gauguin, Vermeer and others.

The show does exactly what it’s meant to do: it draws you into the lives of the original sitters while making you feel as if you’re living inside a painting rather than looking at one. It’s all about love and companionship, the love of art history, love of painting, and the love of people in general. Years ago, when I wrote for Buck & Pulleyn, a boutique ad agency in Rochester specializing in marketing for tech companies, on Fridays we often put together something called a “stair party.” It involved pinball. It involved ping-pong. Mostly, though, we hung out on the staircase in our mezzanine/atrium, drinking beer and congratulating one another on getting through another week. The “cutting loose” feel of that cocktail hour is exactly what Sills captures, yet with creatures you would find, normally, in captivity inside the Met, not milling about on the steps out front. The installation embodies for me the sense that painters I love, and even some of their individual works, have been, more than anything else, a source of friendship. Yes, past work and past artists serve as teachers, idols, source of inspiration, models for how to see the world, but mostly remain faithful good friends. My relationship with favorite paintings has all the complexity of feeling and understanding that friendship entails. When I walked into Cutting Loose, my first reaction was, hey, these are my people.

Susan’s been an artist with Viridian since 1979. I spent an hour at the gallery  MORE

Why artist statements help



A great reflection on how an artist statement can actually help, without sounding pretentious, obscure or condescending from Hyperallergic:

“I challenge artists to stop looking outside for language and to start digging on the inside for why they do what they do. No one else knows what gets you up in the morning and makes you finish a painting on the way to your day job, or what problems you’re trying to solve in the world by depicting characters a certain way, or why you found that imagery compelling.”

64th Rochester-Finger Lakes Exhibition

Still Life with Pocket Door, oil on linen

Still Life with Pocket Door, oil on linen

I found out yesterday that I got three paintings, including the one above, into the Memorial Art Gallery’s 64th Rochester-Finger Lakes Exhibition, which is the museum show for central and upstate New York artists. It will run from July through September.