Sunday, November 30, 2008

Big Picture of Chicago Painting

Roff Beman (1891-1940)

I'm finally getting around to posting about a show I saw in August,

Big Picture : A New View of Painting in Chicago

that a couple of gallerists mounted
in the Chicago Historical Society.

I don't know why it's called a
"New View"
except that it categorically excludes landscape painting
which was so dominant
in the period being surveyed
(late 19th through mid 20th Centuries)

This is no great loss to me,
since I'm already familiar
with so many of the landscape painters of that period,
but it might be misleading
to most people.

For me,
the show was very exciting
since I had not seen most of these painters before.

Including Roff Beman (shown above)
who seems to have been the
quintessential art bum,
as he depicts his humble home/studio above.

Maybe you have to be from Chicago to like
this little slice of gritty urban life.

Like most of the artists in this show,
his reputation is very limited,
but I find him charming

Miyoko Ito (1918-1983)

There's something so melancholy
about the work of this Japanese-American,
perhaps she felt exiled
from both of her native cultures.

Although this gallery site is showing her more upbeat work,
so maybe the better word for her is

James Bolivar Needham (1850-1931)

.. just as an African American laborer like Needham
must have felt exiled from mainstream America
in a lifetime that saw the end of slavery
and the Birth of a Nation

He meticulously studied, painted, and cataloged
the Chicago waterfront scenes where he had worked,
and was not recognized as an artist
until late in life.

Carl Hoeckner (1883-1972)

Not really painting you'd want to hang in your living room,
which is probably why this gritty artist
quit my art club, the Palette and Chisel,
back around the time this painting was made (1918)

Where would this painting belong ?

It's a memorial to the great disaster of WWI,
but who wants to remember such things ?

Harold Haydon (1909-1984)

Wow -- this painting is drenched in Chicago-ness
and I guess he's something of a local hero
as a long-time professor at the University of Chicago
as well art critic at the Sun Times.

He had also gotten a degree in philosophy
and his own pet theory of "binocular vision"

(I suspect his theories were just a way
for him to relate to his colleagues at the University of Chicago,
which is a problem that probably all artists have
as they try to build a career in academia.
They've got to put on a white lab coat,
and present their art work
as a kind of research)

Thankfully his family has made a website for him,
and it's quite an enjoyable trip through
the century that he nearly spanned,
though I like his earlier, regionalist paintings
(like the one shown above)
the best.

Edmund Giesbert (1893-1971)

Not much about this guy on the Internet,
except for a few illustrations that he did.

I think the above shows that he's one of his period's
best figure painters,
a Midwestern version of Eugene Speicher

Thomas Kapsalis (b. 1925)

A long-time teacher at the Art Institute,
I like his kinetic frenzy --
well, maybe not so frenetic,
more like stately -- classical
and a bit ... ummmm... academic.

(this one looks like a diagram
from an origami book)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

S.O.F.A. 2008

Rudy Autio (1926-2007)

This is my third year of blogging about the Chicago S.O.F.A. show
-- and I'm feeling a bit frustrated.

The problem is the figurative art.

There's always plenty of it,
but it's always plenty bad.

There's only a few artists that I like,
it's often the same ones
I've seen before,
and most many them,
like Rudy Autio,
are very old and/or dead.

Keld Moseholm (b. 1936, Denmark)

I was happy to discover this guy on this trip,
Denmark has a great 20th C. figurative tradition.

This piece is more like joke-art,
but I found some really nice things
over on his website

Is there some reason that
good figurative sculpture
has to be jokey
if it's going to be considered

Lindsey De Ovies

And here's an even funnier joke.
(how appropriate that I'm
writing this post on Thanksgiving day)

Rusty Wolfe

This was the only painting
that interested me on this trip,
I guess because I've recently been collecting
images of geo-form paintings.

Apparently this self-taught guy has some sort of
mechanical process to generate all these lines.

I find the results
to be as enjoyable
as any of the other
geo-form paintings that I've found.

Lucie Rie (1902-1995)

and at last we get to the potters.

This older generation
showed a little more restraint
(and much better taste)
than my more exuberant contemporaries

Ewen Henderson (1934-2000)

And here's another one
that shows the same

Jeff Shapiro (b. 1949)

But I like this guy,
maybe because
nothing appeals to me more
than a bubbling hot
cheesy pizza!

It's almost pornographic
(especially if you're hungry)

Shigemasa Higashida

This fellow is mentioned on the
previous potter's website,
so I'm thinking he's a friend and/or mentor

Shigemasa Higashida

I often see this kind of work
in the Ando Gallery at the Art Institute,
so I guess it's characteristic
of contemporary high-art Japanese ceramics.

(and it's wonderful to look at)

Hiroshi Yamano (b. 1956)

Moving on to the glass
(and there's always plenty of glass)

I liked this fish specialist.

Emily Brock

and I especially like her.
(I showed her work last year as well)

She was my favorite figure sculptor at the show.
(but these things must be a nightmare to keep dust-free)

Jong Pil Pyun

Closing out with an especially whimsical piece
(in a Korean kind of way)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Plein aire in the Studio

It was beginning look
like my gallery tripping days of the year
were over
but then I found
fun website and realized that
many more remained to be seen.

These large landscapes (48" high)
by Henry Coe
took me on many pleasant trips
out to the countryside.

(which, regretfully, I haven't been
taking much lately)

Everything is alive in his paintings,
so maybe I would rather
just look that them
instead of
drive out to Starved Rock State Park

I like how he gives me
the feeling of a moment
even if it took him
quite a few
to bring such a large work
to completion

and , looking on line,
I'm finding
that he did multiple paintings
from the same source material
(sketches completed on site)

Since the large, finished works
were not really painted on site
you can't really call them plein aire
but they sure feel that way
(as opposed to the paintings
made from photographs
which usually annoy me)

he's been able to preserve
the excitement of being outdoors on a sunny day.

(or what Wilhelm Reich
once called
"orgone energy")

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Transforming Tradition: Pottery from Mata Ortiz

Juan Quezada
was a poor farmer
who decided to revive
his local art of ceramics
(he lived about 20 miles from Casas Grandes)
and ended up reviving the economy
of his entire village of Mata Ortiz
where pottery has now become a cottage industry.

I love to contemplate
the boundary between artsy art and touristy trash
because I'm never sure where it is
although it makes a world of difference
regarding price and availability.

The above detail comes from an ancient pot
made about 600 years ago
and shown at the Art Institute in 2006

But what about these modern pots?

(all shown in a special exhibit
of pottery from Mata Ortiz
this month
at the Field Museum of Natural History)

This one is nice,
but somehow it's different,
though I'm not sure that difference
would disparage it
in another 600 years
when both pieces would be
historic artifacts.

This one
is starting to feel a bit
too sllck to me

Will the 21st C. qualities of this piece
be evident over time ?

This one feels
almost Islamic to me.

Which is also good,
but definitely different

This one feels

in comparison with this historic piece
that feels cartoonish-serious

While this one
feels like it could be made
by a skilled potter
from the Chicago area

I don't really care for this one,
but have to note
that I like it no less
than the vast bulk
of historical Asian ceramics
that I see from time to time.

It's well made - just not special

same thing with these pots
from the same village
that are currently on sale
for reasonable prices
in the museum's gift shop


I don't think you'd find
something this engaging piece
in a gift shop

(by way of comparison with the previous piece
from the Field Museum,
here's a recent acquisition
of the Art Institute,
listed as "Acona - 1880's",
this one feeling like a
more decorative, less personal variation )

nor would you find something this quirky
(Chaco Canyon 850-950 AD)

I guess I just prefer the old stuff,
(1200 A.D., Cibola)

because it seems more whimsical
without getting outrageous.

(although possibly,
if this sort of thing were selling well,
the potters of Mata Ortiz
would be working this kind of style as well)

and from the Art Institute,
here's a late 19th C.
Acoma piece (New Mexico)
that makes an interesting comparison.
Not as much fun as the ancient pots,
but still it has a certain mystery about it.

Sosaku Hanga - etc

Sosaku Hanga
was an early 20th C.
Japanese art movement
that tried to bring the woodblock print
into the world
of modern art.

And this month's show at the
Buckingham Gallery at the Art Institute
is mostly about one of its founders,
Onchi Koshiro

He was born into the imperial family,
but he wanted to be a modern artist,
and it looks like he
picked up on everything he saw

beginning with Renoir

but always
feeling like
nothing other than
Japanese graphic design

I'm not sure he ever lived in Paris,
but it certainly looks like it

and it also feels like
he lived in Japan,
the Japan that was careening
into the insanity of war and militarism

making it's sensitive artsy types
a little insane as well.

What an image of catastrophe!

No aesthete would ever want to imagine
seeing such things --
it must have just happened,
and then he recorded it

This one feels like
aloof alienation

and this one
may be a little angry

But also in the gallery
are the voluptuous
ceramics of Kitaoji Rosanjin (1883-1959)
whom I mentioned
in an earlier post

I love this guy,
and wish I could have
eaten at his restaurant.

You see,
he was also a famous chef.

this could be some kind pasta,
couldn't it ?