View of the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art featuring paintings by David Hockney, Adolph Gottlieb, Sylvia Pilmack Mangold, Helen Frankenthaler (from left to right). Image courtesy of www.bellagio.com.
Personal travel is most exciting to me when it presents an opportunity to see art in a different context. Some places, like Naoshima Island in Japan, create spaces that elevate and truly celebrate art. Others…well…don’t. Let’s just say Las Vegas tries.
I arrived in Las Vegas on Friday expecting a lot from the city but not expecting a lot of the city’s art, which augmented my surprise when I ran into Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, and Arturo Herrera in the lobby of THEhotel at Mandalay Bay. I had seen Herrera’s work at the Whitney a few years ago but for some reason (perhaps the flight’s deliciously spicy bloody mary), I couldn’t place his name. So I asked an employee at guest check-in. He responded, “Oh some South American guy…not sure what his name is but there is a description over there”. So unimpressive! Not that I expect every hotel employee to know the art on every wall but one might expect the man at guest check-in to know who created the massive mural of Disney-esque cartoons obliterated by violent blue markings that hangs over his head every day. Just sayin’.
The Arturo Herrera mural at THEhotel at Mandalay Bay.
I really loved that mural. Brilliantly apt idea to use Herrera considering that Vegas, to me, is nothing but a debased Disneyland for adults seeking only pleasure and indulgence. Which makes for a wonderful vacation, I might add, if you are up to the challenge! But enough about fun…more art more art!
Aside from the light shows and the whirl of the slot machines in the casinos, there is art in the traditional sense everywhere in Vegas if you look for it. The Bellagio hotel is in fact known for it. When you walk through the front entrance, try hard not to be swept away by crowds rushing to the casino, pool, spa, or conservatory and look up. There is a beautiful Dale Chihuly titled, “Fiori di Como” hanging above your head. The work is comprised of 2,000 individually hand blown glass pieces resembling jellyfish and I have read rumors that the piece cost over $1M dollars. Unlike the installation at the MFA in Boston, it’s hard to appreciate the piece in the midst of the opulent Vegas decor but it is worth a try. In addition to this sculpture, there is a restaurant in the Bellagio named “Picasso” that has Picasso originals hanging on the walls.
The Bellagio lobby. Image courtesy of www.bellagio.com.
I was quite confused when I saw an advertisement for the current show at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. This “gallery” show, titled “A Sense of Place: Landscapes from Monet to Hockney”, featured works by artists regularly sold at Christy’s, not a small gallery in Vegas. When I arrived, I learned that the gallery is not actually a gallery but a museum that charges $15 admission. Confusing, yes, but probably some genius marketing plan to get casino winners to explore the shopping halls of the hotel. I have since learned that you can go to their website ahead of time and print a free admission ticket online.
Torben Giehler’s 1999 nonrepresentational constructive abstraction titled “Boogie Woogie” at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. Image courtesy of www.bellagio.com.
“A Sense of Place: Landscapes from Monet to Hockney” was a decent historical survey of landscape painting. Some of my favorite pieces in the show were more recent, including a 2008 video piece by Inigo Manglano-Ovalle titled, “Juggernaut”. Below please find a video of one of his recent shows. There are bits and pieces of “Juggernaut” shown in the next post.
Íñigo Manglano-Ovalle presenta White on white en la Galería Soledad Lorenzo (by a10tv)
Louise Nevelson, “Volcanic Magic XVI”, 1985. Wood & paper collage.
Sometimes I forget that I am now a blogger (like, for example, when I accidentally forgot to post for three weeks this summer). Last week, an avid follower congratulated me at a cocktail party for a blog well done (or not done, as in the case of July 22-August 23…shame, shame on me). Unbelieving and somewhat embarrassed, I replied, “What blog? Oh…my blog. You read my blog?!”. I immediately promised myself to check my grammar more often and, sheesh, never forget to post for three weeks again. Embarrassment subsided, my red face turned back to its everyday awkward shade of pink, and I began to listen to this doctor who knew a surprising good bit about printmaking, the gallery scene in Paris, and oh, by the way, have you ever been to the _______? I think that would make a terrific topic for your blog. ”Brilliant!”, I thought. This is the second time a reader has suggested a topic for me and I was thrilled to spend all day today relishing in his suggestion.
The Farnsworth Art Museum is a small museum in Rockland, Maine that is dedicated to celebrating Maine’s role in American art. Not Maine artists’ role in American art but any artist from anywhere that has been inspired by the beauty of Maine’s light, seascape, and countryside. I love that idea because, like the National Academy Museum in New York City, the Farnsworth is not dedicated to old art or new art or art by one particular artist. It is dedicated to American Art in every period and movement…it just has to be inspired by Maine. What is amazing about this small museum is that you can walk from a Thomas Moran to an Alex Katz and not feel jarred by the transition. You sense an overwhelming power of place in the variety of expressions. It is almost as if place is more powerful than subject; that an artist can’t help but be changed by Maine.
The museum is also known for its extraordinary collection of Andrew Wyeth’s work. He painted many American treasures such as “Christina’s World” just a few miles away from the museum in Cushing, Maine. In addition to the large museum that showcases the museum’s permanent collection, the museum has a separate Wyeth research center and Wyeth church (yes, a repurposed church that has been renovated to showcase Wyeth paintings). The museum also owns a historic “saltwater” two-story farm house in Cushing. The house is significant because it housed the studio and was the subject of many of Wyeth’s masterpieces and can be visited for an extra fee.
I overheard a docent today say that the Farnsworth has a collection of about 10,000 works and that it is difficult to name an American artist that is not in their collection. To give you a glimpse of what is there, I have complied a chronological assortment of all things Farnsworth that I enjoyed:
Fitz Henry Lane, “Shipping in Downeast Waters”, 1854. Oil on Canvas.
Thomas Moran, “Alpine Landscape”, c.1880s. Oil on panel.
Willard Metcalf, “Ebbing Tide, Version 2”, 1916. Oil on canvas.
George Bellows, “The Fish Wharf, Mantinicus Island”, 1916. Oil on oak panel.
James Fitzgerald, “Fishermen”, c. 1938. Watercolor on paper.
Andrew Wyeth, “Turkey Pond”, 1944. Tempera on panel.
Sylvia Plimack Mangold, “Floor with Light at Noon”, 1972. Acrylic on canvas.
Charlie Hewitt, “The Bowery Suite”, 1991. Drypoint on Arches paper.
Jennifer Bartlett, “Air: 24 Hours 8PM”, 1991-1992. Oil on canvas.
All images courtesy of www.farnsworthmuseum.org
Avy Claire, “For the Trees”, 2009. Installation in polyester film and rapidograph. Avy Claire works out of Blue Hill, ME.
For many, the last few weeks of summer are reserved for enjoyment, reflection, and escape. My escape is among the trees in Maine. For this post, I thought that I would show some work by artists that either live in or escape to Maine.
Lois Dodd, “Sunlight on Trees”, 2001. Oil on Masonite.
Neil Welliver, “Flotsam—Allagash”, 1995. Woodcut on Kizuki Nishinouchi.
Rudy Burkhardt, “Ant”, 1994. Gelatin silver print, including:
The ant ran up the white birch tree
where are you going?
How should I know
anywhere my feet will take me
higher and higher down again
but up is better you’ll agree
just follow me
-Rudy Burkhardt poem added to “Ant”
Louise Nevelson, “Dawn’s Forest”, 1986. Painted balsa plywood.
John Marin, “Maine Islands”, 1922. Watercolor and charcoal.
Stephanie Terelak, “Jupiter’s Storm”, 2011. Collograph Print, 23x28”
I spent the past eleven days in New York City working in a printmaking studio. I love printmaking. There is something about the process that fascinates me. I’ll often work for an hour to ink a plate just so and somehow I never know exactly what I’ll end up with on paper. One of this blog’s biggest fans, Nicholas Enrich thank you very much, recently inquired about the printmaking process and the technique I use to make my layered prints. Last week’s work provided me a great opportunity to take some pictures so that I can talk about my prints in more detail.
The technique that I employ is called, “collography”. Most printmaking plates (plate being the printing structure bearing the image that is then printed onto a piece of paper) are metal or wood that have been scraped, carved, or etched with acid to make an image. In contrast to the aforementioned reductive technique, collographic plates have materials added to the plate to make the image, such as glued fabrics or materials. In fact, the word is derived from the Greek word colla, which means glue, and graph, meaning draw. Drawing with glue, sounds pretty simple. I’ll leave it at that.
A plexi glass collograph plate before inking.
My process, without giving too much away, is to ink the heck outta at least two collograph plates, most often three or four, for every piece. First I will ink the plate with a dominant color, dusting it with a ball of tarlatan to remove extra ink and reveal the “glue” image below.
An inked plate.
I then scrub in darker and lighter values of the color to give the appearance of depth, shadow, or highlight. I often use carborundum mixed in with the glue when creating a plate, which provides an interesting texture and depth to the image. Then I paint into the inked plate with other colors or use paint thinner to remove color from the plate, which reveals the white of the paper when it is printed. Once the plate is finished, it is placed on the press bed.
An inked plate on the press bed.
I then wet the paper, partially dry it, and place it on the plate and crank it through the press!
Paper on plate on press.
Keeping the paper wet, I will print a few times on the same piece of paper to create a layered image. Once a print is finished, it is hung to dry. Rinse the plate. Repeat (and repeat and repeat….).
L MD Galerie 56 rue Charlot Paris 75003 Paris France
Whenever I travel, particularly in Paris, my favorite thing to do is to visit small galleries that feature emerging artists’ work. Yes, major exhibitions such as this summer’s Jules de Balincourt show at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac often leave me breathless and wondering about the future of painting. But somehow it feels too easy to go to a show by a major international artist and feel satisfied that I have my finger on the pulse of painting today. It is a grueling afternoon, visiting these small operations. Gallery after gallery, I leave disheartened at how commercial and derivative art can be. Then all of a sudden I’ll happen upon a show that shakes me in a way no one’s work has before. I feel excited that I’ve discovered this artist and that somehow I am privy to an idea that is yet to be discovered. I don’t care how important a new show at the MoMA is…when you truly discover new, fantastic art in a small & relatively unknown gallery, there is no better rush. I felt that way when I discovered Ahmed Alsoudani’s work at Thierry Goldberg in the LES of New York City four years ago. I am sad to say, I have yet to discover an experience that beats that rush. But there’s time.
Ahmed Alsoudani, “Opened Ground” from Thierry Goldberg Projects in 2007.
One show that did strike me in Le Marais was an exhibition of Swedish artist Kristina Bength’s work, titled “Within Cuts & Bends” at L MD Galerie on 56 rue Charlot. Her realistic watercolor paintings of hauntingly empty swimming pools hung as laundry on a clothesline. The images were highly rendered and yet the medium allowed them to be painterly and poetic. The subject matter was sourced from a series of photographs of bodies of water that a convicted felon (as well as photographer) had taken before incarceration.
Kristina Bength, “Within Cuts & Bends 2” at L MD in 2011.
The absence of people in each piece left you wondering the meaning of the work, which the gallery explains as “…the water becomes a metaphor of recollection and oblivion, referring back to the overall question of what it means to remember and forget, but also to what it means to use archived material and restage it in new stories. The difficulties and pitfalls of returning to the past and re-writing history is the main theme of Kristina Bength’s art. The events as such cannot return, but they can recur in other forms if painting succeeds to put the storytelling potential of the archive into use.”
Installation of Kristina Bength’s work at L MD.
An exhibition featuring my work this summer at the Attleboro Art Museum.
This summer is turning out to be quite an exciting time for me. At the end of next week, I will officially be represented by Cavalier Gallery, which has locations in both Nantucket, MA and Greenwich, CT. I will have paintings in Nantucket all summer long so please, if you happen to be in town, swing by and inquire about my work! Also, I am happy to announce that I also now have work in An Artful Touch Gallery in Rockport, MA. I come from a family of artists and, for the first time in our family history, three generations of my family’s work will be featured in the same space in Rockport. This roster of artists includes my grandfather, Martin Ahearn, AWS, my father, John Terelak, and myself.
I also have the wonderful privilege of exhibiting in a juried group show at the Attleboro Art Museum in Attleboro, MA. The show was curated by Kate McNamara, Director & Chief Curator of the Boston University Art Gallery. Kate has curated and worked for MoMA PS1 and the New Museum of Contemporary Art so I imagine there will be some very compelling contemporary work on view. I am excited to see the varied interpretations of the theme “Green”, which extrapolates on both the color as well as environmentalism. I hope to see you at the opening on July 6th!
“I have deliberately tried to twist myself, but I have not gone far enough. My paintings are a record of this distortion…the image must be twisted if it is to make a renewed assault on the nervous system.” -Francis Bacon
Although I am working in Massachusetts, I am grateful that a large part of my art life takes place in New York. Last week, after a visit with my old studio mates in Harlem, a long talk about painting with Sonia Gechtoff, and a party at the National Academy Museum, I ran to the Met to see the new Richard Serra drawing show. I was pleasantly surprised whey I literally stumbled upon the show’s neighbor, “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty”.
After the Met, I grabbed a well-deserved coffee and walked by a group of people entering a small gallery on Madison Avenue. I looked at the window and saw the sign for “Soutine/Bacon” at Helly Nahmad Gallery. God I love New York. Only in that city can you make an accidental run in with an idea like that. Soutine and Bacon! Soutine is regarded as one of the most important historical links to abstraction. I studied Soutine’s work at the National Academy. My teacher brought in a bag of dead disemboweled fish, slapped a few on a table and told us to paint it. The lines, shapes, and colors made very interesting studies for abstract paintings.
Between Soutine, Bacon, and McQueen, interesting similarities exist. There is a strong element of fantasy in their work. They wanted to “shock your nervous system” and change your expectations for their medium. McQueen’s runways were more of a stage for performance art than for fashion shows. All of their work is theatrical and extremely emotional. They exaggerated and distorted reality; their pieces transport you to strange yet vaguely familiar other world. Hard to achieve, these are elements I believe all great art should have.
Sonia Gechtoff “The Visitor”, 1960-61, Oil on Canvas, 32x32”
Let me begin this post by elaborating on the title. I believe there are art teachers and there are artist teachers…and they are two totally different entities. An art teacher taught you to fingerpaint or taught a survey course of contemporary American art in college. An artist teacher is a working artist teaching a working artist how to improve their art and their practice. By practice, I mean the way in which we work in the studio but also how we perceive and react to the world. An artist teacher implores you to see the new exhibition of Judy Pfaff’s work at Ameringer | McEnery | Yohe and encourages you to pick yourself up after getting tossed to the curb by galleries or dealers. My artist teacher was Sonia Gechtoff.
I met Sonia Gechtoff in 2007 at the National Academy of Design. Until that day, I had been painting landscapes in oil and watercolor alone in my studio in Tribeca. I had painted successful portraits and landscapes but the process bored me, literally to tears. I loved painting but not painting that. After hours of soul searching, I came to the realization that what I loved to see was far different from what I aimed to paint. I went back to the museums, found the paintings that I loved (particularly, a room of Clyfford Still’s work at the Met) and found a teacher whose work was similar to the work I admired. I threw away my preconceived notions of what I should paint and I registered at a new school with a new teacher teaching a foreign idea with nothing but a blank canvas and a bag of paint. For the art student, a move like that takes balls. For the artist teacher, a move like that is a nightmare.
On that day, as I was slapping paint unintelligibly onto my new blank canvas, Sonia Gechtoff became my mentor, friend, and teacher. We worked together everyday, year after year, extracting the visual ideas I had upstairs. What does it mean? Why that particular color? Why paint? Why not charcoal? Questions were asked; paintings were cast aside. There were sleepless nights before class critiques when I couldn’t stomach putting my painting on the easel in front of my peers. It was like broadcasting your dirty laundry, showcasing your worst work. But with Sonia, there was always a lesson in every piece or an improvement in every line. I was never to be embarrassed when I was expressing something sincere. Years were spent stretching and cringing before I finally began to find my voice (which I am still discovering, incidentally).
Today, as I sit in my studio by myself but not alone, I hear Sonia when I pick up a tube of paint. “Not so much black,” she might say. ”Go look at some Philip Gustons and then come back to this,” she’d implore. Art is one of the few industries in this world that simply cannot be learned without the intense help of others. You can’t find it in a book and you can’t learn it on your own. I hope that one day I am able to carry on this legacy and become an artist teacher that possibly changes someone’s life. Having one sure changed mine.