Today we are bringing you art activate your sense of humor, so needed during these challenging times. Below are quotes from famous and not so famous people throughout history, but first here is some information on our artists.
Originally published at Society for Classical Studies
By Nina Papathanasopoulou | Jan 23, 2020
In addition to presenting the latest research on Greco-Roman antiquity and the ancient Mediterranean, attendees at the SCS annual meeting have increasingly had the opportunity to discuss other important issues such as the history of Classics as a field; systemic concerns and directions for the future; and ways to make the field more accessible to people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. The SCS has recently also incorporated into the annual meeting lectures by influential artists and writers whose work draws on, adapts, and interprets ancient Greek and Roman texts for the broad public. Luis Alfaro, the Chicano playwright and performance artist, spoke about his adaptations of Greek tragedy during the 2019 annual meeting in San Diego, while this year in Washington, D.C., Madeline Miller, writer of best-selling novels Circe (2018) and Song of Achilles (2012), discussed imaginative takes on Homer’s epics. Their contributions to the field indicate the value in seeking out conversations with those who engage with the Greek and Roman worlds outside the Classics classroom.
Eos, an affiliated group of the SCS that focuses on Africana receptions of the Classics, joined in this year’s effort to bring contemporary artists into conversation with the Classics community at the SCS 2020 meeting. This year Eos organized a panel and put together an art exhibition on “Black Classicisms in the Visual Arts.” Their aim was “to trace and interpret visual responses to classical materials among people of African descent and relate them to the typically more text-based study of Black Classicisms.” With support from the SCS and Onassis Foundation USA, Eos arranged that the panel be held not at the conference hotel, but at “Busboys and Poets,” a local events space a few blocks away named in honor of Langston Hughes and known for its social activism and as a gathering place for political and cultural conversations. Six scholars presented papers on various works of visual art, from movies to paintings and sculptures, while Shelley Haley, the SCS President-Elect for 2021 and the Edward North Chair of Classics and Professor of Africana Studies at Hamilton College, gave an introduction and response to the papers.
Alongside the scholarly papers, Eos displayed some of the prizewinners from the juried art exhibition of area artists whose work responds to Greco-Roman antiquity or to the tradition of artists of the African diaspora who have engaged with classical antiquity. Thirteen artists were selected by the jurors: Ahmari Benton, Anne Bouie, Tim Davis, Margery Goldberg, Hubert Jackson, Ibou N’Diaye, Gavin Sewell, Troy Jones, Hampton Olfus, Qrcky, Cynthia Sands, Aïsha Thermidor, and Charles Trott. Nine out of the thirteen artists were present to discuss their work at the end of the panel, and mingled with the crowd during a food and drinks reception that followed.
In speaking with these artists, I wondered what they found inspirational in Greco-Roman antiquity and how they thought their work related to it. What was it like for them to be part of this panel and to mingle with the SCS community? Hubert Jackson, a local D.C. artist and art teacher, whose work Crossing Boundaries of Time and Place was prominently displayed at the entrance of the event space, creates collages that explore human identity and history and blend together sites and events that are meaningful to him. In his work Jackson uses elements of the past, including African symbols, the pyramids in Egypt, and an ancient Greek temple as the background to a contemporary American city. All of these, he explained during his short presentation, have been part of the existence and history of African Americans, and his work honors them by inviting conversations between these cultures and time periods.
The work of Anne Bouie, an artist and historian, suggests that the notion of Classism exists and is explored universally. Her work seeks “to acknowledge the underlying principles that are considered classic forms of style and substances as they express themselves across time, cultures and peoples.” One of her works to be displayed at the exhibition, Hallowed Ground, is, in Bouie’s words “a call to the memory of spiritual forces. It addresses the ‘hidden’ narrative found in oppressive societies.” She explains the significance of the piece further, noting:
The Chiwara is a ritual object representing an antelope, and is used by the Bambara ethnic group in Mali. As farmers of the upper Niger river savanna, the blessing of agriculture is of central importance to Bambara society. Much like the temple of the Vestal virgins and the Oracle at Delphi, secret teachings accompanied the Chiwara to pass on needed knowledge and skills upon which the very survival of the community depended. The chiwara is surrounded by objects that reference life before and during enslavement, and makes the invisible the visible for the viewer’s reflection of its teachings, and to draw from it whatever the person perceives and needs.
Artist Ahmari Benton was also selected for the exhibition. Benton uses Greek and Roman mythology as inspiration for her art and had her piece, Two Truths and a Lie, displayed during the event at “Busboys and Poets.” The work was inspired by the figure of Medusa, who she views as beautiful, yet dangerous and mysterious. “Myths – whether we are consciously or subconsciously subscribing to them – are how we make sense of the world around us. This is a fact and something that we all share. I’m fascinated by the struggle between the denial and the acceptance of myths on a personal level,” Ahmari commented.
Troy Jones, an African-American artist from New Jersey, creates art that focuses on the identity of African Americans. His paintings follow the style of Caravaggio and portray black men who are wearing a kind of mask. “It is rough for black men in the US”, Jones said. “As a black man, it is difficult to be your true self; you always have to put on a show, to wear a mask.” The ancient Greeks voluntarily donned masks in order to perform roles during festivals, in a ritual affirmation of their larger community. However, Jones’ art portrays black men as compelled to put on a mask; so often and for so long that it becomes a part of their own personal identity.
Tim Davis, an art educator originally from Chicago who currently works with a gallery in D.C. also creates art that reflects on the identity of black men in the US today. His work, Blue Brothers, is according to Davis “a piece about today’s black men who are coming of age, who are working to become stronger and more focused on their heritage and culture.” The lack of facial features on the persons depicted draws our attention to the hair. “For black culture, hair has often been a way of artistic expression and of making a powerful statement,” Davis explained. Studying Greek and Roman sculptures and vase paintings, Davis was fascinated with the emphasis the Greeks and Romans placed on hairstyles and was inspired to do the same.
Artist Charles Trott tries to turn our focus away from appearances and the aesthetic differences that divide us, and centers on the elements that bring us together. As inspiration for his art, Trott uses images from antiquity and often uses maps to help us identify what he is portraying. The Greeks and Romans were highly influenced by Egyptian culture and he wants to bring out that connection in his work. He also wants to highlight the connections between the African world and the Americas.
Hampton Olfus’ art also tries to bring forth the connections between Africa and the Greco-Roman worlds. His work highlights societal roles and customs that pervade many cultures regardless of time and location. Politics, War, and Peace, one of his works selected for the Black Classicisms exhibition, underlines the human tendency towards war and political strife. The work evokes the Trojan War, with Helen as its object standing on the side. “This lady represents the role that women have been pushed into; she is in the background, fragile and scared, while the men are portrayed as the defenders of virtue and justice. It is society that mandates these labels,” Olfus said.
Local artist Qrcky finds Greek and Roman sculptures beautiful and fascinating, but their perfection makes him wonder: why is everyone so idealized, never missing a body part, never with an imperfection? In his own sculptures, Qrcky wanted to fill that gap. “I would have loved to make a black person in marble,” he said. His work titled The Poet is made of PLA plastic and portrays an actual poet, a young black man that he saw perform. His poet wears a knitted cap and his face is partly hidden by some sort of mask. “This mask is hiding him from the rest of the world,” Qrcky explained, “it’s a person who’s never going to be seen.”
Margery Goldberg, a wood sculptor, submitted her art to be part of the exhibition because she considers it “pancultural, related to all cultures and representing all people.” Inspired by the figurative art of the Greeks and the Egyptians, she does primarily figurative sculptures and uses ancient elements, like hieroglyphics in her art. In her sculpture entitled He She Tree the woman and man, carved on mahogany and walnut wood respectively, seem to be coming out of a tree stump. The tree stump, Goldberg pointed out, is like a human torso. The tree offers life, but also stability and strength.
In planning the Black Classicisms panel and exhibition Eos aimed to bring scholarly work on Africana receptions of the Classics in conversation with contemporary artists who are also interested in the Greco-Roman past. Mathias Hanses, Assistant Professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies at Penn State and one of the co-founders of Eos, noted that in the study of the ancient world, texts are increasingly put in conversation with the visual arts and the material record. In Classical Reception Studies, the focus lies more than ever on people of color and their creative and scholarly engagements with the ancient Mediterranean. For the panel, he wanted to combine these two scholarly trends. For the whole event, his goal was to see whether and how contemporary artists would use common methodologies and engage with similar issues as the scholarly papers and to learn how their art can inform our understanding of the past, present, and future of Classical Studies. For Caroline Stark, Associate Professor of Classics at Howard University and another co-founder of Eos, the art exhibition instantiates the rich tradition and ongoing vitality of Black Classicism in the Visual Arts and in particular, the importance and influence of Africa in classical antiquity. “Conversing with the artists and engaging with their artworks enriches our understanding of the ancient world and provides another lens with which to view our own work,” Stark noted. Together, these works all illustrate a desire to acknowledge the influence of African cultures on Greco-Roman thoIn addition to presenting the latest research on Greco-Roman antiquity and the ancient Mediterranean, attendees at the SCS annual meeting have increasingly had the opportunity to discuss other important issues such as the history of Classics as a field; systemic concerns and directions for the future; and ways to make the field more accessible to people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. The SCS has recently also incorporated into the annual meeting lectures by influential artists and writers whose work draws on, adapts, and interprets ancient Greek and Roman texts for the broad public. Luis Alfaro, the Chicano playwright and performance artist, spoke about his adaptations of Greek tragedy during the 2019 annual meeting in San Diego, while this year in Washington, D.C., Madeline Miller, writer of best-selling novels Circe (2018) and Song of Achilles (2012), discussed imaginative takes on Homer’s epics. Their contributions to the field indicate the value in seeking out conversations with those who engage with the Greek and Roman worlds outside the Classics classroom.
Eos, an affiliated group of the SCS that focuses on Africana receptions of the Classics, joined in this year’s effort to bring contemporary artists into conversation with the Classics community at the SCS 2020 meeting. This year Eos organized a panel and put together an art exhibition on “Black Classicisms in the Visual Arts.” Their aim was “to trace and interpret visual responses to classical materials among people of African descent and relate them to the typically more text-based study of Black Classicisms.” With support from the SCS and Onassis Foundation USA, Eos arranged that the panel be held not at the conference hotel, but at “Busboys and Poets,” a local events space a few blocks away named in honor of Langston Hughes and known for its social activism and as a gathering place for political and cultural conversations. Six scholars presented papers on various works of visual art, from movies to paintings and sculptures, while Shelley Haley, the SCS President-Elect for 2021 and the Edward North Chair of Classics and Professor of Africana Studies at Hamilton College, gave an introduction and response to the papers.
Alongside the scholarly papers, Eos displayed some of the prizewinners from the juried art exhibition of area artists whose work responds to Greco-Roman antiquity or to the tradition of artists of the African diaspora who have engaged with classical antiquity. Thirteen artists were selected by the jurors: Ahmari Benton, Anne Bouie, Tim Davis, Margery Goldberg, Hubert Jackson, Ibou N’Diaye, Gavin Sewell, Troy Jones, Hampton Olfus, Qrcky, Cynthia Sands, Aïsha Thermidor, and Charles Trott. Nine out of the thirteen artists were present to discuss their work at the end of the panel, and mingled with the crowd during a food and drinks reception that followed.
The Black Classicisms in the Visual Arts exhibition opens to the public at the Interdisciplinary Research Building (IRB) of Howard University in late January and will run through the end of June.
This event was made possible with the generous support of the Onassis Foundation USA. Eos would also like to thank those who helped organize the event: Helen Cullyer and Cherane Ali at the SCS; Melvin and Juanita Hardy of Millennium Arts Salon; Brandy Jackson, Ashley Bethel, and Carol Rhodes Dyson at Busboys and Poets; Zoie Lafis and the Center for Hellenic Studies; and the panelists Sam Agbamu, Stefani Echeverria-Fenn, Margaret Day Elsner, Shelley Haley, Tom Hawkins, Stuart McManus, and Michele Valerie Ronnick.
Header Image: Marble head of an African child, Roman, 150-200 CE, marble, Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA (Getty Open Content Program).
Nina Papathanasopoulou works as the Public Engagement Coordinator for the Society for Classical Studies, overseeing the Classics Everywhere Initiative and finding opportunities to bring together scholars and students of Classics with the broader community. She taught classics and theater courses at Connecticut College as a Visiting Assistant Professor from 2013-2019. She is currently living in Athens where she is excited to have joined the faculty at College Year in Athens. Nina specializes in Greek drama and mythology and her current research explores interpretations of Greek myths through modern dance, especially the choreographies of Martha Graham. firstname.lastname@example.org
An inside look at Maurizio Cattelan’s Banana at Art Basel Miami
By Nancy Nesvet // December 10, 2019
(permission from the author)
The most talked about installation of the day at Art Basel Miami Beach 2019, was Maurizio Cattelan’s “Comedian” (2019, banana, duct tape, paper with text instructions) tacked to the wall of Galerie Perrotin’s booth with grey duct tape including instructions for installing it. Bought by Sarah Andelman, founder of recently closed Parisian concept store, Colette, it is accompanied by a certificate along with the banana and duct tape, including instructions for installing it. Publications from the print edition of the New York Post to the online Art Daily announced the trail of this new work from exhibition to sale (for $120,000 on December 4, during the private days of Art Basel). With Andelman saying, “It really reflects our time” reported by the New York Times on December 4, she and we neglect to acknowledge that this makes all of us artists, furthering the egalitarianism of a buyer to obtain an ordinary object used by everyone. Duchamp did this with his toilet as did Cattelan with his golden toilet, though the golden toilet limited that object to a certain class of buyers who wanted and could afford such an object. Here Cattelan goes further with the democratically eaten banana.
Why a banana? Whether appropriation or inspiration, Samuel Beckett’s single actor play, “Krapp’s Last Tape” is clearly the motivation. With representation of failed work and an illusion to repressed sexuality often cited as the theme of the Beckett play, the banana held and used for gesturing throughout the one act is a phallic shape resembling a microphone, a mouthpiece for announcing one’s opinions, a true symbol of our times. The entire play is depicted as “taped”. I cannot escape the illusion to the (duct) taping of Cattelan’s banana, nor to the fact that this New York-based artist has produced this installation clearly inspired by Beckett’s play, originally written in English, for a gallery based in Paris, where Beckett lived and worked. Catellan produced three installations, a multiplicity resembling the staging of a play.
The staged audio taping of “Krapp’s Last Tape” provides the instructions to act the play, much as Cattelan provides instructions to create the installation. In fact, in listing the props necessary for the play, Beckett specifies “banana, tape recorder”. To put up the play, or the installation, it must be “taped”. Cattelan’s banana must be peeled to reveal its interior, and it rots, ultimately shriveling up, becoming another form. People have asked what happens when it rots, when it degrades to become another form. Plays change each time they are produced. Like a play or a musical composition, it changes with each actor, each musician, each consumer, each patron. OMG, Cattelan, besting Duchamp and Andy Warhol, is appropriating Beckett’s play, taping, banana and all. To absolutely nail the allusion, the banana was eaten yesterday by performance artist David Datuna at about 1:45 PM in front of an audience at Art Basel Miami Beach 2019’s Convention Center, making it, like “Krapp’s Last Tape”, a performance. Perhaps, from his grave, where his corpse, like the banana rots, Beckett is thanking Cattelan and Datuna, for making this little-produced play famous in its visual art/performance iteration. Cattelan is giving us much more than just a joke on ourselves, in spite of ourselves. He, like Beckett, has discovered the symbol of the time, a zeitgeist. And that is what art is.
Amidst the chaos and breaking news of the banana mania, I sat with Mr. Landau at Montreal Gallery Landau Fine Art’s booth at Art Basel Miami 2019, amidst a display of the finest art of the last century. He emphasized that people now buy art only for investment, not for the satisfaction of looking at a fine piece of visual culture although he buys only art that he loves. Yet he was insistent that art must evolve, that other forms must emerge. I think, with a wink of his expert eye, he would acknowledge that this new form is indeed art, indicative of the culture that produced it. It is not sublime, not beautiful, not even original by any means, but perhaps, not ridiculous at all.
by Elizabeth Ashe, republished from ArtscopeMagazine.com on 11/14/2019 here
Nancy Nesvet’s photographs and large-scale oil paintings, on view alongside sculptures by Larry Ringgold in “enDANGERd” through November 16 at Washington, D.C.’s Zenith Gallery, take entirely different turns of portraying the sea. In the paintings, the sea is vast, changing and tumultuous: in the photographs, murky depths pull me to look closely at the details. Those details are both threatening and beautiful, making the photographs look like a coming environmental apocalypse.
There is a masterful handle on scale in her paintings. We know polar bears to be substantial, but in Nesvet’s eight paintings, they are microscopic, appearing in the far distance, unreachable and not treacherous at all. The bears are stranded on icebergs broken off from the mother glacier, with strong seas pushing them apart. “If but all the seas rise up,” 48” x 58”, the unending seascape shows two polar bears, standing near one another on a broken-off iceberg. They are at the viewer’s eye level imploring me to seek them out as a focal point, and they look right back at you.
In that moment, I felt part of the composition; faced by environmental disaster, where waves, sea, icebergs and clouds are powerful, interchangeable and inevitable. In “Stranded,” 50” x 42”, icebergs look as if they’ve been sliced and separated, climbing the composition like ladder rungs. Mid-way up, a polar bear has separated from the other three, with a vast distance between them. None of the bears stand on stable ground; they are stranded from one another, and from solid land.
Nancy Nesvet, Bye Bayou
Nesvet’s large format C-print photographs of pier pylons and shallow water, photographed at Portland’s 150-year old ferry pier looks closely and blurs sunlight, depths and shadows. The wood is obviously old and saturated, with creosote stains and barnacles showing life. Like her paintings, the ephemeral point of view is specific and all encompassing. For the photographs, the viewer is at water-level, as if partially submerged, removed from the stability of land. What we see is the mystery of dark water and the sunken fragility of man-made structures.
In “Green Wonderland,” I feel as if the water will continue to rise and overtake the dock. Most of the image is a long, dark reflection, with one straight and one diagonal pylon, connecting at an apex framing two dark spaces behind them. It is frightening, but strangely still, instilling a feeling of the calm before the storm.
Larry Ringgold, Homage to Vince
Larry Ringgold’s sculptures take on process and discovery in a different way. By collecting driftwood — long tossed by the sea, and once very much alive — he builds endangered animals out of what we otherwise consider as nothing but wave breakers, perhaps cast up by a storm. Knotty burls and shredded sweeps are carefully chosen. The heft, shapes, and carved elements of each piece of driftwood, come together to make an animal that looks endangered. Due to his source material, there will only ever be one exactly like it; each of his animals are the last of their kind. There are a few herons, all distinctly posed in minimalist vignettes. “Homage to Vince,” 47” x 94” x 29”, a life-sized rhino, a tribute to Vince the white rhino, who was killed by poachers within the safety of the Parc Zoologique de Thoiry in France, greets gallery visitors in the front sculpture garden. He is strong, with broad muscle groups and character.
In the center of the gallery between Nesvet’s photography and paintings is “Peeps, Tree Frog,” 52” x 56” x 18”, where Ringgold takes a tiny frog and gives it a human scale, posed between tree limbs. Each knuckle and joint appear to contain enough momentum to launch onto the next tree — or the viewer — in an instant. Knowing its true size, though, shows me how delicate it is. The tree frog exemplifies balance, what it takes to maintain, and how easy it would be to lose balance. The frog challenges the viewer to notice and admire it, and also, to reflect on the balance we are not keeping.
“EnDANGERd” unites the viewer with the natural environment and those in it. The works are beautiful, current and on point, dangerous and encompassing. It shows the risk and devastation global warming poses, reminding us how diverse and fragile life is in our beautiful, if threatened world.
(“Nancy Nesvet and Larry Ringgold: enDANGERd” continues through November 16, 2019, at Zenith Gallery, 1429 Iris St. NW, Washington, D.C. The show’s closing reception takes place on Saturday, November 16 from 2-5 p.m. For more information, call (202) 783-2963.)
Republished from ArtscopeMagazine.com, https://artscopemagazine.com/2019/11/nancy-nesvet-and-larry-ringgold-endangerd-at-zenith-gallery/
It is rare that an artist maintains a trajectory from the inception of his career, but Bradley Stevens has done that, with detours along the way incorporating events and concerns that influence him. Stevens’ recent solo show at Zenith Gallery, DC, shows the work of a brilliant painter who has assessed the art scene and let us all in on the secrets. Acknowledging the long-held belief that many gallery goers attend art shows not to look at the work, but to look at the people pretending to or looking at the work, Bradley Stevens has shown the people who look and see. Stevens has placed his art viewers in museum venues, not galleries, and they stand alone or in small groups, clearly not attending the opening party. They are concerned with viewing the work. And I find myself viewing them and wondering what they are thinking about the work so splendidly “copied” by Stevens.
I feel oddly surveillant as I look at his depictions of the facial expressions and physical gestures of the viewers. Allowing the art public to spy on those depicted in the paintings, Stevens has taken observation to an entirely new level as he allows us to watch those viewing the paintings that depict individual sitters watched and seen by the artist.
Although he took art courses as an undergraduate and graduate student at George Washington University in DC, his real training was at the National Gallery of Art where he qualified and worked, three days a week, over five years, copying paintings. Spending hours each day at his easel in front of masterpieces of western art, he faithfully copied artists including Sargent, Rembrandt, Stuart, Peale and others. During and after his academic studies, he painted figurative portraits of famous Americans including American Presidents, finding success and supporting himself. That work was displayed in eminent law firms and in private and museum collections, with his first large sale of five large paintings to Arent, Fox, Kinstler.
During his student days and throughout his career, he has merged depicting interiors, the grandeur of buildings including the National Gallery of Art and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, with the viewers. His master’s thesis, “Geometry and Compositional Designs in Interiors” reflected that interest. He emphasized in interview, “I took art courses at George Washington University, but I got my art education at the National Gallery”, adding “I like most to look at people, what their story is, and I love museums.”
That love, clear in his paintings, leads to an important question: If Bradley Stevens, painter extraordinaire, could educate himself with the oldest method of art education, copying paintings, why is art education at the BFA and MFA level necessary and thriving. Although Stevens is credentialed with a BA and MFA, was it necessary or even relevant to his training and education as a painter?
Further to his education, and ours, Stevens emphasized that artists must concern themselves with their world. Artists are concerned with everything that goes on around them, including politics and other concerns of the populace. Although his painting, “An Art Education” depicts visitors to the National Gallery show, American Light, surrounded by three American luminist landscapes , Winslow Homer’s Breezing Up, depicting young boys in the wind off the New England coast and Whistler’s White Girl (later renamed Symphony in White No.1, and his painting, Connections, depicts Rembrandt’s Portrait of a Lady with an Ostrich Feather, declared by John Walker, former head of Boston University’s art department, “the finest portrait of a woman every painted”, the bridge between women over the centuries is seen in the modern-day viewer enthralled with this old portrait of an old woman.
More political is “Los Ninos,” where an interior of the Metropolitan Museum in New York shows a mother carrying a young boy in her arms looks at the portrait of Consuelo Vanderbilt’s son, Ivor Spencer Churchill, in Boldini’s painting, showing the diversity of museum viewers and those depicted in portraits in this country, having achieved economic and social success. In the distance in this painting, we see Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolo’s painting of children playing in the Mediterranean surf, near Valencia where Consuelo might have come from.
“The Three Graces,” depicting in the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art, Antonio Canova’s sculpture of Naiad, a water nymph, with Goya’s Young Marchesa” and the woman looking at them completes what Bradley Stevens called the triumvirate of women, otherwise named “The Three Graces” by the artist.
This emphasis on political and social identity, and association of women, immigrants, Americans is intentional but there is more. In a recent painting, “Sisterhood,” his wife and her sister look at a sculpture of women and a painting of a woman and child. In “The American Wing,” painted at the National Gallery of Art, a white-haired old woman and a bearded, elderly guard look at the Landsdowne portrait of George Washington, and Martha Washington, both by Gilbert Stuart, while Washington Crossing the Delaware, by Emanuel Leutze, which served as an entree to the successful founding of this country can be seen in the background. This emphasis on women and on patriots is not unfounded. It stems from the recent recognition of the treatment and rights and talents of women. He shows how the woman viewer is inspired to think and act as newly elected women members of congress have been motivated by women’s marches and rallies and sisterhood.
He also shows us how artists technically depict scenes and how museums show work to advantage, as in his paintings “The Artist,” with the viewer looking at a Cezanne in the National Gallery and even more in “Watchful Eye,” with Poplars in the background. He explained “how artists use vertical and horizontal divisions to give the composition a structural framework” saying, “museum architecture serves the same purpose in my paintings.”
So whereas Brad Stevens is reacting and analyzing the structural composition of paintings and of museum architecture, he is also putting forth his analysis and literal viewpoint of the social structure of society both at the time these paintings were made and currently. This juxtaposition of viewer in current times looking at and identifying with and looking for guidance from American and international forebears at all levels of society is unique to his work, making it not spying but rather enlightening and unifying. By depicting the gestures of viewers Stevens allows his audience to interpret, making us participants parading our surveillance and the artists’ and our staring, as we imagine ourselves there. He states in interview, “artists have to enlighten, paint the truth and emphasize art. Museums mobilize people to see the truth.” He does not take his mission lightly. Nor should we.
More importantly, Brad Stevens implores us to consider who gets to be on the museum walls? Those are generally people of some stature or importance in the history of this nation or of civilization. Those viewing them, in a democracy, get to decide who should be seen. It is a form of voting who is important or relevant, or heroic in the eyes of the demos or the populace. Brad Stevens, in depicting his wife, sister-in-law, elderly people and babes in mothers’ arms is saying that we all get to vote, to decide, who the arbiters and the heroes and heroines of our nation and the world are. In these times, when decisions impacting us all are being made by those many of us do not admire, choosing who is looked at, but more importantly, who looks shows the power of an artist in society to reveal society’s mores, better than a poll.
Admitting failure clearly paid off big. All three judges of Washington Sculptors Group’s submissions for the 5@35 show could not limit the show to five members’ work. We begged and cajoled Margery Goldberg, our esteemed leader as Director of Zenith Gallery, to please let us include six, and seeing the predicament herself, she relented. We are not sorry.
The show featured some amazing work, including Allen Linder’s darkly humorous pot-bellied, menacingly wide-eyed sculptures—particularly “King of the Ladybug Men.” He described his direct method of stone carving until a strong connection emerges from the object. He said, “If it’s relevant to my life, I know I’m on to something.”
Wilfredo Valladares, from Trujillo Colon, Honduras, constructed a wooden shop derived from memories of his mother’s dressmaking shop. Rolling pins incised with patterns he saw in his former country hung from the tall top of “Taller.” Pictures and objects reminiscent of what he saw in his homeland and in countries whose borders he crossed on the way to the USA hung on the wooden structure. I was curious about what was on the other side and was glad I went behind, as it was covered with graffiti-like black charcoal drawings of people and text. This reproduction of a remembered space was as intentionally incomplete and rustic as his memories. He explained that the early memories of his mother taking measurements in her dress shop and the resultant shapes intertwined with his experiences as an artist in a new culture resulted in what he terms a “duality of things.”
Gil Ugiansky’s “18 Reflections,” a series of geometric shapes inspired by his first experiences, as his father explained, the tetrahedrons carved into the sides of his piggy bank seemed impossibly balanced on each other’s points. Some turned, others remained still, suspended precariously in air. Amazing! He explained the science, due to the material and the way it acted.
Iranian sculptor Mitra Lore’s lion was inspired by a lion she saw on a trip to Africa, falling in love with the continent. Her friendly lion, “Africa,” begged approach and closer inspection of the intricate steel work, helping to convey her message of “Peace on Earth.”
Though formed from fragile material, Vienne Rea’s rainbow-colored acrylic ladder, “PRIDE,” from her Ladder Series appeared strong enough to support an LGBTQ individual to reach new heights. Rae said her work is “autobiographical” and she made the acrylic ladder for her “loved ones, that’s all.” Great inspiration.
The love shown in this exhibition, by these artists, is apparent. Whether for the African continent and the wildlife on it; the sculpture created for Vienne Rea’s loved ones, Wilfredo Valladares’ homage to his mother’s shop and to others who made the same journey; Gil Ugiansky’s continuance of the geometric infatuation begun with his father’s words; Al Linder’s dark humor expressed in these wide-eyed men of bronze with precious gems laughing at us, appalled but infatuated by their strange beauty or Luc Fiedler’s. ,
They are all truly labors of love, for the form, the content, the ability to draw us to them and remain enthralled.
What a show! We all hit the mark together! As Vivienne Rea said, “That’s all”.
Fabricating Culture. 6@35 will be on show until January 5, 2020, at Zenith Gallery, 1111 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. Washington, D.C., Monday through Saturday. See Zenith Gallery website for hours.
Artist talks at 1111 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. include:
- Vienne Rae Friday, September 27.
- Mitra Lore Friday, October 11.
- Luc Fiedler Saturday, November 2.
- Allen Lindner Friday, November 15
- Wilfredo Valladares Friday December -6
- Gil Ugiansky Friday, December 13.
The week of February 14th, 2018 was tragic in this nation. As we are all aware, seventeen students were killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida by an expelled student from the same school. Here in D.C., a champion of the arts and of students, Peggy Cooper Cafritz died at 70.
Zenith Gallery opened a show on Valentine’s Day, when the high school massacre took place called Light Up Your HeArt. By the next Sunday, Peggy Cooper Cafritz had died. Students at Duke Ellington High School in D.C., which she almost single-handedly birthed, were singing her praises. By Monday (President’s Day) many of those same students were joining other children and teenagers at a lie-in on the wet ground across from the White House, begging for the adults to do something to prevent future school shootings.
At the Hirschhorn Museum on February 13, Krzstof Wojdisko and one of the Guerilla Girls spoke about artists’ activism. Later that night, the museum projected Krzstof’s projection of a gun and candle onto the building’s façade, with a plan to project it for the next three nights. The projection was cancelled on February 14 and 15, as it might be upsetting to the public after the Parkland massacre. One very brave artist, Robin Bell projected that same image in Mount Pleasant, D.C., the next night. We need to empower ourselves if we and our children are to survive.
Peggy Cooper Cafritz took on the challenge of reforming the D.C. school system, ultimately beginning a program that became Duke Ellington School for the Arts. This school serves as a preeminent training ground for young artists, musicians and performers in this nation, showcasing the talent of teens. Her personal art collection, focusing on African-American artists, featured work from the students she sponsored and nurtured.
Students took it upon themselves to organize, because no one else has yet successfully done so. With their prowess at social media, they are using it for a good purpose, self-preservation. As people like Peggy Cooper Cafritz are not here to organize this time, the students are taking over.
There will be a walkout from schools nationwide on April 14. On March 24rd, there will be huge rallies, including one in Washington, D.C.
Margery Goldberg has directed Zenith Gallery during the last forty years. Her courage and free speech has been directed toward causes that make our nation better, and against those who act and speak and legislate against the welfare and representation of its people. She has never been afraid to disturb the public for a good cause she supports with her gallery and artists. Her current show documents the artists represented during the early years, and new ones. On that horrendous day, Zenith’s show opened; Light Up Your heArt, not only bringing light into our lives when all seems dark, but also announces that we, as artists, whether we are making sculpture or remaking society, are effective and powerful.
Lighting up the night, Zenith Gallery’s newest show at 1429 Iris St. in D.C., Light Up Your heArt opened on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2018 and will continue until March 24, 2018. The exhibit features work ranging from F. Lennox Campello’s Diego y Frida, a portrait of the couple, of charcoal and conté with embedded video and looped video images, and Frida Smoking of the same media, which are moving both literally and emotionally. Chas Colburn’s incredible techno advanced work on His and Hers, (neon and steel) laser cut neon-lit masks resembling fire-eyed deities, Lea Craigie-Marshall’s light-enhanced framed watercolors, Hot Earth and others recall fields of bright shining flowers. Margery Goldberg’s neon-accented wood sculptures; tall, light and bright; among them, Illuminated Face, Daybreak in Paradise, and my favorite, the Urban Fireplace of exotic woods, steel, and neon are inserted in her own living room fireplace. Nancy Nesvet’s C-print in a lightbox, Celestial Prism and photos of pure light, Light Heart and Sailing Away, bring to mind some outer space object in a dark sky. All emit questions: What is it and how do you make that?
We think we see aquatic creatures and shells in Alison Sigethy’s glass tubes, Chameleon Core, and Tiger Shells and Purple Pickles of glass, metal, water and LEDs, but they are not. Perhaps Eric Ehlenberger’s giant jellyfish wriggling in the front window are sharp enough to sting, but really would break first. Or would they? There Can Be No Doubt, Erwin Timmers’ tripartite panels of glass and Connie Fleres’ cocoon-like Light Pod (mica, wire, and neon) looks crystalline, especially against the sleet-slicked window. Tim Tate’s Cactus Flower and Peonies (cast glass and video) marries Dutch still life like images of flowers with new technology. Erwin Timmers’ Beyond Words, There Can Be No Doubt and Water Falling (glass, steel and LEDS) include recycled glass, reminding us of the limited supply of materials in our world and the artists’ insistence on their reuse. Connie Fleres’ neon-outlined three-dimensional architectural renderings, East View and West View envelop us in the safety of a beautiful sacred place. Festive dog lamps by Suzanne Codi, Whippet Lamp Him and Whippet Lamp Her enhances that warm fuzzy feeling.
Mary Voytek’s neon lit U.S. map, From Sea to Shining Sea works so well with glass and light. Cassie Taggart’s The Ark, of found wood, wire, clay, sheet metal and paint had people opening the front door to see the work inside. Philip Hazard’s America! (barn wood, copper, neon) and Earth, (collage, neon and wood) were only a sampling of his stupendous work. Michael Young’s Go Mama Go! Tree and Noi’s Screen, steel and neon media, brings artificial neon light to environmental forms of trees and mountains in a way not seen before. The colors embedded in the neon enhance the forms whether the green of a new sapling or the gradually cooling levels of a mountain. N might be for neon in Rocky Pinciotti’s N, but it also stands for my name, and so I claim it as another favorite. Can I have more than one? It must be for this show leaves me hard to decide on a single favorite.
Neon is hardly a new medium for Zenith to display, as Zenith has shown the tubes of light since the 70’s. This show, with its laser cuts, LEDs, lightboxes, recycled and heated glass forms presents entirely unique work and presentation of the possibilities of neon and other forms of light. So sometime during the rest of winter, in the weeks promised by Punxsutawney Phil, get thee to Zenith. Your mood meter will blink shiny red to thank you.
40th Anniversary: In the Beginning: The Rhode Island Years, 1978-1986
Margery Goldberg’s courage is apparent in the show marking her fortieth anniversary on D.C.’s art scene. 40th Anniversary; In the Beginning. The Rhode Island Years, 1978-1986, at Zenith’s downtown location at 1111 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., showcases the work of artists exhibited in her first D.C. gallery location.
Chas Colburn’s Opposites Attract, a fabricated steel, atom-like structure, with steel ribbons encircling a sphere (atom?) references this scientist-artist’s style. His Sentry of steel angle iron, colored the blue of his Opposites Attract stands guard over his other figurative and spherical work here. Beatriz Blanco’s dyed steel Displacement and Detachment play with figures in a new and interesting way. Margery Goldberg’s cherry-wood and cast resin Head in Hands leads us to sadly contemplate current events, but her mahogany and walnut United We Stand, Anthony Gormley like figures, and wood Zenith Remembers (woods with marble base), offer a solution.
Stephen Hansen, ever the jokester, offers Public Service, painted Paper Maché on wood where dark suited bureaucrats, strike the punching bag-like figure that, of course, has no legs. Perhaps subtler, but no less ironic, Hansen shows Real People, (painted Paper Maché) their easy chair supports their bodies divided by the open frame of a TV. Carol Newmyer’s Tree of Life, Duality, Roots and Wings and Pain and the Glory, all of patinaed cast bronze, takes us to great heights with their golden beauty, and optimism. Susan Klebanoff’s unique multilayered woven tapestry, reminiscent of theater scrims, present a beautifully coordinated pattern of flowers and fauna. SICA’s The Bride and the Cactus, Break Dancing and Sailor Girl are abstract sculptures with just enough depth to establish rhythm, reminding me of Calder’s stabiles.
Ellen Sinel’s paintings, Tree Meditation and Reflection (oil on canvas) bring trees’ beauty into the mix with her photo-realistic close-up views. Guenther Riess’ Reflections in a Grid #1 and Merchant’s Folly, both 3D paper constructions, with watercolor and mixed media bring architecture and photo-realism into conversation with relief sculpture in an innovative form. Ramon Santiago’s Woman and Protector, a silkscreened double portrait gets the duality across while his American Family (oil on paper) depicts what may be interpreted as three generations of women in a circle, that unending form. Robert Freeman’s Golden Necklace II, (Oil and Gold Leaf on canvas) depicts a proud African-American woman, well adorned. The mixed media Model of Old Zenith Gallery at Rhode Island Ave., N.W. punctuates the cooperative aspect of Zenith Gallery as a number of artists involved with the gallery came together to create this commemorative model. Within the Marquette are depictions of each of the artist’s work made small enough to fit, adding to the signature piece for the show
The city has changed since then, and Zenith’s art along with it, but these artists continue to produce the innovative and marvelous work that Zenith has always been known for. While the older work was great, the new work is even better. That goes for director Margery Goldberg too, who, along with the gallery and its work, just gets better and better. Go see for yourself.
Selections from The Freedom Place Collection at Congressional Bank on K St.
Celebrating Black History Month, the Freedom Place Collection, assembled and owned by DC resident, Stuart Marshall Bloch, CEO of Congressional Bank, and Board Member of the Black Student Fund and Julia Chang Bloch, President of the US-China Education Trust and former Ambassador to Nepal is presented by Zenith Gallery at Congressional Bank, curated by Zenith Director Margery Goldberg and Suzanne Alessi. This selection affords an unsurpassed opportunity to see up close works by renowned African-American artists, Robert Freeman, Alma Thomas, Richard Yarde, Benny Andrews, and Romare Bearden. Open Monday-Friday, 9-5, February 8 – March 30, 2018, this is a collection rarely displayed and not to miss.
Nancy Nesvet’s trends seen at Art Basel Miami 2017 and Satellite Fairs in Miami resulting in:
Ins and Outs in the Art World
Zenith Gallery has been crazy busy this month. Three shows total, two still running, an artists’ gathering soon you’ll all want to know about, and great attendance at all. Let me catch my breath and review the happenings of the month.
We’ll start it off with the incredibly successful Artists Femina show, held at 1429 Iris St. NW, DC from October 21-November 25, 2017. The show features women artists and those identifying as women, and women’s work mixed politics, aesthetics and humor in a gallery packed with art, proving that a woman’s place is in this art gallery.
At the opening reception packed with enthusiastic gallery goers, an installation outside the door by Lea Craigie-Marshall, Love Nest, featured a huge basket and sharpies to write notes expressing love for whatever or whomever you felt needed it. Opening the door to the front hall showed Carol Newmyer’s Summer Swirl, a curvaceous swirl of dance-like metal. Nancy Nesvet’s It Grew Wondrous Cold continued her series of paintings featuring the disappearance of glaciers and the wildlife they support in the frozen north. Kristine Mays’ dresses made of wire, Fearless, Blossom and Change of Heart, and Margery Goldberg’s striated wood illuminated neon-striped, Illuminated Face, lets us all know that there is a lighted halo alongside each woman’s wood hard visage. The painted ceramic totem, Future Cities, by Hester Nelson stands tall and impressive in the front hall. Susan Freda’s dresses, Aeris Sidus (Copper Stars), Floris Folium (Petals), of hand-woven Copper and Copper Wire, coated with resin seem to belong to a bygone glamorous era, of which we now only have these to form our dreams.
Turning to the right, Carolyn Goodridge’s Encaustic and Glass on Wood, Emergence of Strings and Center of Motion, uses the circle motif on a rectangular base to set up the juxtaposition of a round peg fit onto a rectangular base. Carol Gellner Levin’s Laura Reading ceramics, a bit tamer, show us domesticity as a woman reading, surrounded by dogs brings us back to a peaceful co-existence with animals. Close by, Stephanie Samuels’ Domesticity is my Pleasure shows a female figure, head crested by a raven, the protector in Celtic tradition, monkey on shoulder, recalling the animal who learns valuable lessons and then is able to make changes, in Buddhist lore, underscoring this symbol of female power. Leda Black’s Fringe Series, amazing giclee banners top flowing color-coordinated fringes, expressing the colors and mood of each season; spring, summer, fall and winter. Her PerSISTERS Series, prints on canvas of female heroines direct us to Make Waves, Fight, Insist, Take Command and more, underlining the purpose of this show.
All Aboard the Peace Train, Elissa Farrow-Savos’ painted wood sculpture combines craft with serious subject matter, as a woman leads her three female charges on a wooden wagon, chained to her leading horse, (hopefully a mare). Crystal Blue by Joan Konkel, a “bluetiful” flow of abstract drips crested the fireplace wall. Slogging through the Hungry Ghost’s Swamp by Jessica Damen amplifies the idea of women slogging through that swamp we hear so much about these days, combining title with painted content. Elizabeth Ashe’s colorful acrylics on canvas, Dangerous Cliffs, and Sunrise present impressionistic views of cliffs and flowers, recalling her native west coast Washington. Lea Craigie-Marshall, working in various media, adds A Fire Within, an acrylic and copper leaf work, and her watercolor, Cousteau to her masterful (or mistressful) portfolio. Her Mantas envelop me in their centrifugal well, her fire shining bright. Suzy Scarborough’s collages, Strange Love, The Lesson and The Well cannot be topped for sheer beauty, mixing seemingly oriental landscape technique with heightened color in the collage medium.
Downstairs, Julie Girardini’s Global Goddess, of steel with sewn photo images of handwriting and Nicola’s Dream on paper features a jewel-like orb topping a stately column. Nearby, Carolyn Goodridge’s Eagle Eye, (encaustic on glass) shows the eyes of her very realistic eagle’s face staring me down. Alongside, Joan Konkel’s In the Flow, (Acrylic, aluminum, wire cloth) and Mojito, (mesh and acrylic on canvas) brings three dimensionalities into her strong flowing work. For comic relief, I turn to Katherine Owens’ Frederick the Trash Can Frog, (mixed media on board) holding his toothbrush and dental floss.
For a lively discussion of the work in Artists Femina, please join us for an artist’s talk on Saturday, November 18, from 2-6 PM at Zenith Gallery, 1429 Iris St., NW, DC.
Zenith Artists Smiling at NWMA
Zenith was well represented at the reception and in the group portrait of DMV area women artists, at the National Museum of Women in the Arts on October 30th, with Elizabeth Ashe, Margery Goldberg, Lea Craigie-Marshall, Carol Newmyer, Nancy Nesvet, Sandy Adams, Anne Bouie, Jessica Damen and Cheryl Edwards forming our contingent. Amazing art at the present show, Magnetic Fields, and a wealth of information by groups supporting women’s art in all genres was presented. Kudos to the National Museum of Women in the Arts for getting over 250 artists together for this supportive evening. Of course, Margery Goldberg, who has ran Zenith Gallery for thirty-nine years in several locations, is pre-eminent in the DC area for supporting women artists, so I was particularly proud to be part of her group. Try to spot each of us in the Where’s Waldo type photograph. (Hint, Margery is the one with the crop of red hair).
At the American Fine Craft Show, the Beat Goes On
Not exhausted yet, or not admitting it, Margery Goldberg and her motley crew staged an exhibition of craft and fine arts at the American Fine Craft Show at the Crystal City/National Airport Hyatt during the weekend of October 28-29, 2017. Elizabeth Ashe’s work took off, in the guise of Copper Bird, a delicate yet strong sculpture of copper wire, and Dragon Fly 1, and 2, (Speedball Ink Prints). Leda Black’s wildly popular PerSISTERS Series prints, including RBG’s Dissent, Hillary’s Fight , Elizabeth Warren’s Nevertheless She Persists, and more, and F. Lennox Campello’s beautiful watercolor, Adam and Lilith, and charcoals on paper, including Superman Naked, attracted crowds of interested patrons. Lea Craigie-Marshall’s whimsical felted phone cases and purses proved enticing to buyers, especially the one with felt cherry blossoms, which sold, brightening the client’s day and anyone else who looked at it. Elissa Farrow-Savos’ polymer clay and painted found objects, Charting New Courses and She Could Not Bear to Leave Anything Behind, a figure atop three suitcases made everyone laugh. Billy Forrest’s Trump Pumps, stiletto heels, each with a distinct motif and decoration, and a perpetual source of ironic humor sold well while the team of Ken and Julie Girarini’s Asia Wall Clock (steel and copper) and Cosmic Origin (Steel, Glass and seeds) were unique, studied by many patrons. Carolyn Goodridge’s Om, Fire and The Zen of Zero (Encaustic on glass and wood respectively) proved beautiful in their minimalism while her Kaleidoscope series, including Tunnel Vision 2 and 3, seemed a kaleidoscopic view of the greater world.
Often serving as a base for other work, Margery Goldberg’s wood sculptural furniture, The Nationals (Table of Padouk, Mahogany and Louisville Slugger Bats), Walnut Slab Silver were art pieces in their own right. Stephen Hansen, a top selling artist at this show attracted those who needed a laugh, with his Paper-Mache painters brushing up acrylic canvas panels depicting Hopper’s New York Movie, Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie, and Lichtenstein’s Crying Girl, repainted masterfully and much smaller by Hansen. Bernie Houston’s gorgeous sculptures, of driftwood, Eat My Dust, Marine Life (my favorite) and The Arrival take their inspiration from the natural bent of the wood, appropriately coloring the figure he helps emerge from the wooden form. Mihira Karra proves she is equally adept at the landscape form in Banff, Canada, as at her realistic but expressive portraits, Condoleezza Rice; Obama, The President and the Man, and Hillary, of fabric collage. Joan Konkel, whose work was recently chosen for the permanent collection of a Florida university museum, showed Alexander’s Band, Don’t Stop the Music, Ghost of a Candle, (all mesh and acrylic on canvas), and In the Flow and Light and Shadow, (acrylic and metals on canvas. Join her band now. Kristine May’s strong and delicate miniature wire dresses, Change of Heart, Fearless and Blossom had the crowds enthralled. Donna McCullough’s cheerleading outfits of Oil Tin Cans, Aero Shell Mini and Team Gulf KHD proved timely. Hadrian Mendoza’s ceramic Dangerous Flower #1, sprouting points or teeth and Punk Rock 1, with spiky “hair” growing atop it lived up to their names. Nancy Nesvet’s Celestial Prism, a photograph of pure sunlight encased in a lightbox and her Mirrored Sea and Sunrise on Glacier Bay spoke to her concern with the untouchable beauty of natural elements, here sunlight and glaciers.
Ibou N’Diaye’s wooden sculptures, Walu Dancer Dogon, Old Dogon and Nomo are a modern interpretation of Dogon sculpture using Neem, Walnut and Ebony, as was used by Africans in the last century and before. Carol Newmyer’s Menorah, of cast Bronze allows me to change the positions of her “bronze dancers” choreographing the dance led by the heroic Shamash. Her bronze Roots and Wings, and Trilogy let me play with these precious figures. Katharine Owens’ mixed media, Radio Flyer, Lime in the Coconut, My Little Rocking Chair and Yellow Shoe Box beg play and laughter at these children’s wares. Amanda Richardson’s hand-dyed silk, then appliqued, tapestries won the buyers over with their delicate, complicated imagery while Suzy Scarborough’s acrylic and collages on wood, Strange Love, Readers and Reach similarly recalled eastern landscape drawings in their beauty and intricacy.
Gavin Sewell’s American flag, Paved with Gold, (mixed media on wood) announce not only what immigrants believed our streets were paved with, but unfortunately, also proclaims what some of our country’s politicians’ purses are made of. Similarly, Harriet Sosson’s comic watercolors are politically relevant, with Vice President Pence proclaiming how hot he is for President Trump, in her Don’t Want to Do This Anymore, and her Padded Cell and Wall, both cell and wall encircling his orange-haired superior. That boss image in her next work, What the Covfefe Did I Say?, says it all. If he can’t figure it out, maybe the artists can, and hopefully people will pay attention to what the artists express. Margery Goldberg and Zenith Gallery show work that is aesthetically beautiful and politically concerned, highlighting natural and man-made materials in the most inclusive display yet of that which the art world produces, taking art and fine craft to the very Zenith.
Mark your calendars now to attend the talk by Artists Femina artists on Saturday, November 18, 2-6 PM, at Zenith Gallery, 1429 Iris St., DC. See you there.
Black Artists of Today: Reinventing Tomorrow!
Visitors to Zenith Gallery’s latest show packed a reception at The Sculpture Space, 1111 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., DC on September 20. Celebrating African Heritage Month and The Annual Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus, the art was overwhelming, in a good way, towering above the crowd, almost reaching the 12 foot ceilings. Totems and Dogon elders and driftwood figures oversaw quite a celebration.
True to the title of the show, the artists grounded their work in traditions of many cultures, African and Afro-American, incorporating natural materials to produce work that speaks to contemporary issues. Informally talking about their work, the artists explained their art’s cultural significance, noting the symbols and iconography.
Ibou N’Diaye’s wooden sculptures, constructed with traditional Malian hand tools are infused with action and rhythm reminiscent of his Malian past. Chris Malone’s humorous and sometimes frightening spirit dolls recall West African beadwork, as they appear to dance to a West African beat.
Similarly, Anne Bouie created massively tall totem like sculptures incorporating Ghanian symbols. She explained her mixed media, assemblage and sculpture as “totems that came to me, came into their own,” adding “I love totems, staffs, symbols of the ceremony that sets a tone.”
Pointing to Harvest Staff, Bouie explained, “This staff is called the harvest staff and it recalls the umbrella called the bamkyim that shades the King of Ghana, and protects him as he walks. The staff represents the colors and the notion of making a statement about where we are individually and collectively.” Explaining her use of botanicals, she pointed out the coffee bean pods, black walnut seeds that are energized, animated pieces that are symbolic. “People say it says something to me. It represents the fact that art can communicate esoteric universal knowledge through symbols and this represents the different distractions, from the Aboriginal to the Adinka, Canadian and Celtic tradition including the moon from all traditions. I could read this in symbolic language and know what it is saying. I’m not trying to tell people what to think about in my work, but I hear what resonates with them in my work.”
I understood what Bouie meant, as the work in the show allowed me to contemplate it and feel that the art was listening to my reaction. Are the artists inventing (or reinventing as the title implies) a theistic tradition with new symbols?
Bouie said about her Guardian Staff, “It is a guardian, a standing post holding energy. I use a border and do research in symbology and cosmology and how the earth and the world on the other side relate to each other, and express that in my work.”
Chris Malone’s Speaking in Tongues, a colorful figure with a hole through its head, standing without hands or feet, maintains a statuesque presence.
Hubert Jackson’s The Story Teller shows a mother tightly holding all of her family, recalling the love a mother shows through her all-embracing arms. Using found object from Civil Was battlegrounds, Jackson’s highly colored assemblages illustrate a mother’s Thurber-like embrace amidst the pathos and possibility of losing them to war.
Bernie Houston’s Dress Rehearsal is one of many driftwood pieces fashioned into specific figures, here a dancer, and in other forms in this show, a basketball player called Down Court. He talked about the form: “I found it on the Maryland side of the Potomac. I listen to the wood. The wood tells me what it needs to be. I try not to deviate from the wood. All of my work now has become my signature.” And what a beautiful, graceful signature it is. There is a melodic flow to his sculptures, whether an athlete or a dancer, emanating from the curves of the wood.
The steel wire forms of Kristin Mays Grace of God envisions a thinker, wire-encased., while her three raised fists symbolize the continuing fight for racial justice.
Preston Sampson’s figure, hands raised against a forest of greenery make me wonder if he is dancing or protesting, or both, or is this, as the name implies, A Thirsty Pope? The fire behind his head lends a satanic tone to the painted figure.
William Buchanan’s painting Butterflies and Bombs makes me think of the metamorphosis both butterflies and bombs represent, one of life changing and the other of destruction. The juxtaposition and repetition of the same form, amid luscious colors lend a romantic and perhaps gothic beauty to his work.
In Down by the Creek, by Mason Archie, I see the representation of a formerly enslaved person escaping through the forested shadows, bringing the past into the present. Reincarnation, by Nigerian artist Doba Afolabi, and Along the River by Robert Freeman offer two versions of female figures, but with very different styles, Freeman’s recalling Gaugin and the Afolabi’s, Modigliani. Curtis Wood’s My Soul Has been Anchored, shows us a montage of books, posters, and pages torn from old readers speaking to the plight of African-Americans during slavery and Jim Crow. Read carefully; it is heartbreaking.
Using similar themes, Akili Ron Anderson’s sculpture Spirit Rocket employs saturated color to imagine an alighting form, while his massive wood and synthetic Akuaba Doll confronts us with the enormity of the traditional symbol. I imagine them moving in the darkness to find freedom. Carolyn Goodrich’s Sure Flight, with its light green sky, and kerchiefed winged figure against a full moon extends the story of flying toward freedom by the light of the moon.
Surrounded by color, rhythm, form, the crowds had to keep from dancing the night away, but we are in the nation’s capital on a weeknight. OH YEAH!
Black Artists of Today: Reinventing Tomorrow! Is up from September 12-January 6, 2018, at 1111 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. DC.
See it Monday-Friday 8am-7pm
Saturday, 8am-4pm, entering on 12 St. NW.
The place was packed, the mezze delicious, the art stupendous and the artists’ talks enlightening. On Thursday evening August 31, 2017, Zenith Gallery’s Resist show artists were hosted by Busboys and Poets, a sponsor of the show, at City Vista, 5th and K for Artists’ Talks and a Q&A. Awards, sponsored by Lake Research Partners and Busboys and Poets, juried by Margery Goldberg of Zenith Gallery, and Carol Rhodes Dyson, Busboys and Poets’ Curator were presented.
Ms. Goldberg, in her introductory remarks noted that nothing is out of the norm for artists or for anything anymore. “Everything is shock and awe. So much of art is what’s on our minds. I wanted to give artists an opportunity to express ourselves, because that is what we do.” She then presented her Trump-Putin VooDoo DooDoo doll, (which has to be seen to be believed) in a Lego boat, adorned with Russian and American flags, with sharks circling. Eliciting both laughter and cheers, it could only be bested by her Scream doll, recalling the Munch painting, because, “Present events and policies make us all want to scream”. (For further evidence of Margery’s dramatic prowess, see Zenith’s video of artists screaming along with the doll). She ended her intro by noting “Nobody can make this stuff up.”
Carol Rhodes Dyson, Busboys and Poets Curator, who founded the Social Impact Arts Collective, then took the stage to introduce the panels and pose questions:
Preston Sampson was up first. He talked about his identification as a black male who grew up in the 60s. His art is about young men and empowerment. He noted that the whole country is bothered now, compared to the 60’s. He spoke of his hero, Muhammed Ali who gave up a lot to fight for his rights. His work, depicting a raised fist, references the black Olympic athlete Tommie Smith. Speaking of Sampson’s concern with creeping apathy, he uses the symbol of the raised clenched fist to remind us, “Don’t Give In”, as Ali and Smith didn’t.
Next up was Lea Craigie-Marshall, gloriously arrayed in a dress lettered with “Resist” down the front, whose multi-media work, Burn It Down (at 5th and K, Busboys and Poets) shows a U.S. map in flames with Trump sitting on top because he is burning it all down; love, equality, all the good things. Craigie-Marshall’s painting, Cabinet of Horrors, speaks about Russian involvement in American politics, depicting Betsy DeVos, Rex Tillerson and Steve Bannon with blood dripping from their mouths, like, in her words, “a horror movie, because we are living in one.”
Nancy Nesvet spoke of the importance of the Resist show in showing work that can be read by all, and her paintings of icebergs and polar bears threatened by environmental crises, including But if All the Seas Would Rise at the Resist show on Iris Street. Her photo collage, Women’s March at Takoma Busboys and Poets is comprised of photographs of the Women’s March, showing all the factions represented.
Bulsby Duncan pointed up to his painting on the screen, Breaking News, which he painted because “half the stuff they show us is what they want us to see,” and to his painting including Freddie Gray appropriately called, The Line Up. By asking, “Who is Next?” in the painting, Bulsby answered, “We don’t know, but we do know.” Chilling words, chilling image. His representation of Trayvon Martin, Final Statement, emphasizes his viewpoint that “You don’t realize it, but you’re part of the problem”. And we all are.
In the next panel, Ms. Dyson asked artists about the connection between materials used and their work. The first panelist to present, Elizabeth Eby, put the musical imprimatur on the show, pointing out that Aretha Franklin’s lyrics from “Respect” were constantly playing in her head as she worked. Calling herself a found object artist and gardener, Ms. Eby’s work, entitled Alley Cat was inspired by a mop-like plant she then shredded, because for her, the administration is shredding everything we stand for.
Anne Bouie spoke next. A historian and educator by training who grew up in segregated Miami, Ms. Bouie was influenced by plants she saw at her grandmother’s farm, leading to her practice referencing “the earth and the gifts this shared place gives to all of us.” In her Which Way Out No. 1, she depicts visual cues. As Southern vernacular work uses what we have, “found objects”, she uses those things in our environment that we walk by, not seeing them. Her message is to appreciate the earth and the quilt pieces, barn wood and arrow shapes she uses, and understand it is a textile piece of codes to be read.
Thalia Doukas considers herself a public artist, displaying in non-traditional places. She has noticed that kids and artists see faces where they shouldn’t, adding “This political climate colors faces I find.” In her piece, Reflect, which she asks us all to do, the mouth is a mirror with teeth that spell out Reflect, so viewers can see themselves in it, and reflect because we need to. She is truly asking us to put our minds where our mouth is.
Surveillance comes into the mix with Ms. Doukas’ sculpture, Putin’s Fancy Bear, made from an antique chair back that looked like a Bear face. She enhanced it with teeth and a viola bridge for a nose. She made this piece to emphasize that someone (and presumably the spymaster, Putin) is listening and watching all the time.
In the third panel, Andrew Wohl referenced his serendipitous discovery of a crushed beer can depicting the stripes of the flag with Lady Liberty in blue, by the side of the road entitled Lady Liberty. All he needed to do was photograph the can to let it speak.
Also speaking about his work, Curtis Woody’s Mixed Media Quilt Painting, My Soul Has Grown Deep, uses southern vernacular media, imprinted with images of present-day struggles and portraits of African-Americans to show that we must keep resisting.
Jeremy Darby, represented by three prints in the Resist show, created People United Will Never Be Defeated (at 5th and K, Busboys and Poets) for the Charleston Chronicle as a cover tribute for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, printing an image of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrapped in the American Flag. May his image and words carry on, Jeremy Darby says to me.
Cheryl Edwards spoke of her drawing, Black Artist Matters I which ponders the placement of African –American Artists in the canon of American artists.
In a Q&A with the audience, Bulsby Duncan acknowledged the edginess of his work, emphasizing that he wants to “push the limits and get your attention”. He went on to remind us that a picture is worth a thousand words but that his work “has about 100,000 words so I let the canvas do the talking. The work speaks for itself.” And it does, Buzz, loud and clear.
The evening ended with thanks to Andy Shallal, Margery Goldberg, Carol Rhodes-Dyson and Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners for their judging, support and awards.
Funded by Lake Research Partners, the awards included a well-deserved first place to Bulsby Duncan, second place to the illustrious Rachael Bohlander and third place to the sculptor and fashion icon Lea Craigie-Marshall. Honorable mentions, donated by Andy Shallal of Busboys and Poets went to Sally Kauffman for her paintings, Rise and Day 2, depicting the Women’s March, Nancy Nesvet and Leda Black.
Special thanks to Margery Goldberg, captain and director of the merry artists of Zenith, who ended the evening with her declaration that “You have to have guts to be an artist. It’s about your soul. Artists know how to tell truth to power.”
Resist is at Busboys and Poets Takoma, City Vista, 5th and K NW, Brookland, and Shirlington until October 15, and at Zenith Gallery, 1429 Iris St. NW until September 30. Don’t miss it, and let us know what you think and are thinking. And always, Resist.
For a full video of the panels, see part one and two below. We are also featured on YouTube, Facebook and other social media sites.
Art outside Zenith Gallery, at 1429 Iris Street, DC announces the gallery loud and clear. Colorful sculptures, a metal swath of benches and huge wooden totems mark the entrance to Zenith Gallery, whose new juried show, RESIST, in association with Busboys and Poets and Lake Research, is on until September 30, Wednesdays through Saturdays, 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. and by appointment.
You might have missed the opening, with about 350 people crowded into the art-filled space, but there is still time to see the exhibition showing artists’ treatments of movements, rallies, protests, heroes and heroines of the last few months and before, with other gallery work taking up some of the art-filled space.
Open the door. Straight ahead is Pill Dress, Jenae Michelle’s mixed-media with prescriptions forming a lace bustier, and the Rx inserts (lacking pickup dates) forming the skirt. Do we need this? Jenae Michelle asks. For those who would like to sleep through the next 3-1/2 years, our collective answer is that it is one solution.
Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg’s We the People, a sculpture of wire, cloth and safety pins uses those pins, one of the signs of the protest during the 2016 election to inscribe the words, We the People, on the back of a kneeling woman’s hijab.Chilling, in her prayerful position, she prays for herself, for us, and for our nation.
The Negro Speaks, Curtis Woody’s mixed-media quilt painting, documents black contributions to American culture and ideas. This new mapping of cultural achievement uses a medium once used to map routes north and to Canada to escape enslavement,exemplifying the show’s title, RESIST.
Presenting another form of resistance to political misdeeds, Leda Black’s prints on canvas of Justice Ginsburg, DISSENT, looking like the superpower pop idol that she is and Harriet Tubman, FEARLESS, an equally courageous fighter for women’s and civil rights, stand in for the signage of this show. Rachael Bohlander’s Nasty Woman(Liberty No. 1), acrylic and newspaper on canvas, continues this genre; visual depictions of courageous dissent, with her painted Lady Liberty figure literally combined with rippedand fraying newspaper accounts; her strong colors and words overcoming the rips and frays.
In another tribute to print media, Bulsby Duncan’s Breaking News, mixed-media on canvas, highlights the role of newspapers to publicize dissent and disorganization with his collaged print and painted messages. Read the words, and pay attention.
Sally Kaufmann’s Day 2, an enigmatic oil painting depicting the pussy-hatted hordes of the Women’s March, summarizes the actions between last January and today, with a strongly painted and colored mass of humanity attesting to the huge attendance at the march.
If But All the Seas Rise Up, Nancy Nesvet’s painting of polar bears stuck on a detached glacier (and hung the night before the glacier the size of Delaware broke off from Antarctica), speaks to the environmental issues we all face. In this show, we don’t have to explain. The art says it all.
There is humor, if biting, in this show. Shoes, on the mantel are all dangerous stilettoes, titled Breaking Chains, Feel the Burn (holding Tabasco sauce), Get Out of the Kitchen (heel supported by a mixer blade), No Spin Zone, and other ironic feminist footwear, of mixed media and found objects by Billy Forrest.These shoes were not made for walking, but for standing our ground, and protesting. For proper attire to resist, Jenae Michelle’s handbags, of vintage fabric, wool and flowered, are emblazoned with the words, Empathy Matters.Those words reverberate in One Love, One Heart, silver leaf, acrylic and paper on canvas by Katherine Kendall, a veiled woman foregrounding a blue heart, inscribed with the words, WE THE PEOPLE. Katherine Owens also uses the image of the Statue of Liberty, in all her green glory, in Lady Liberty Crying, her acrylic on canvas, providing a close-up view of a tear shed for the travel ban. In advocating against another proposal by the present administration, Liberty Unbound (Liberty No. 2), a mixed media on acrylic by Rachael Bohlandertraps a deconstructed Statue of Liberty including found materials and previous parts of work by the artist, between two plexiglass walls.
Mihira Karra’s montage, free-hand sketched on canvas with bits of fabric adhered to board, portrait, Obama, The President and the Man, proudly includes images from African-American history in his hair; Spiderman (coming to the rescue?) resting on the side of his tie; facemade up of bits of US history andforehead and chin containing references to popular culture. A proud depiction, it makes me hum the song, “I am the President and I am the Man”, written about another president we were proud to have led our country.
Upstairs a wood, metal and plaster painted installation by Lea Craigie-Marshall has President Trump spewing hate, for the NEA, ACA and more, in Putin’s Most Precious.
Leda Black’s mixed-media interactive installation, PRESENCE: Assembling the Shards,transforms ritual and belief systems to address female political power by referring to Jewish tradition of the Shattering of the Vessels. In this work, the polluted shardsrepresent deformed vessels shielding the good power that lies within. The viewer is invited to take a pebble from a bucket and place it on the ladder, both as one places pebbles on a grave, and optimistically, marking a cumulative trail of ascending, strong, unyielding rocks.
There is more. Lots more. In the most expansive show yet addressing the political situation we face, Zenith Gallery shows the courage to RESIST, its many forms documented and commented uponin the most universal language, visual art. You will laugh and scream, cry and rejoice. GO- JUST GO SEE IT.
Judges for the show are Zenith Gallery’s owner and curator Margery Goldberg, Carol Rhodes Dyson, founder of the Social Impact Arts Collective, and Celinda Lake, a prominent pollster and political strategist and winner of the Opportunity Agenda Creative Change Award. For additional info: contact email@example.com, or call 202 783 2963. Additional work in RESIST, at Busboys and Poets locations, will be covered in future Zenith Gallery blogs. Stay tuned.
Works by Stephen Hansen
Show Dates: November 4 – December 10, 2016
MEET THE ARTIST RECEPTIONS:
Friday, November 4, 4:00-8:00 PM & Saturday, November 5, 2:00-6:00 PM
1429 Iris Street, NW, Washington DC 20012-1409
Back by popular demand, we are excited and happy to present “Great Moments in Art, II”. For 38 years Zenith Gallery has represented Stephen Hansen and his painted papier Mache sculptures. We think of it is our public service to provide humor relief when and where needed. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself an art connoisseur or someone who has never stepped foot into a gallery or museum, Stephen Hansen gets to the audience, and people love his work.
This show takes famous paintings by the masters and adds the Hansen touch. Stephen’s iconic comic figures are shown actually painting each great master’s work of art in each charming parody. In fact, Stephen not only creates the sculpture of his figure, engaging in the act of painting the masterpieces, he paints the copy of the painting each comic figure is creating. To be able to sculpt and paint with such talent and creativity and make you laugh, is a real gift and demonstrates extraordinary talent to boot! They say it is far harder to make people
laugh than make them cry. Come here and you will laugh so hard you will cry!
Hansen’s work has been shown worldwide over the past 40 years. His pieces are in the collections of Embassies around the world, as well as to be found in many museums, commercial buildings, airports and government buildings. Amongst which includes the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, here in Washington (and boy, do those folks really need a touch of humor!)
Piet Mondrian, painter, theorist, and draughtsman, was an important contributor to the De Stijl (The Style) art movement. He created a non-representational form that he termed Neo-plasticism, which consisted of white ground, upon which was painted a grid of vertical and horizontal black lines and the three primary colors. Mondrian, and the artists of De Stijl, advocated pure abstraction and a pared down palette in order to express a utopian ideal of universal harmony in all of the arts. By using basic forms and colors, Mondrian believed that his vision of modern art would transcend divisions in culture and become a new common language based in the pure primary colors, flatness of forms, and dynamic tension in his canvases.
Mondrian escaped to New York from Europe in 1940 after the outbreak of World War II. He was fascinated by American jazz, particularly boogie-woogie, finding its syncopated beat, irreverent approach to melody, and improvisational aesthetic akin to what he called, in his own work, the “destruction of natural appearance; and construction through continuous opposition of pure means—dynamic rhythm.” In this painting, his penultimate, Mondrian replaced the black grid that had long governed his canvases with predominantly yellow lines that intersect at points marked by squares of blue, red, and light gray, to create paths across the canvas suggesting the city’s grid, the movement of traffic, and blinking electric lights, as well as the rhythms of jazz. Broadway Boogie Woogie not only alludes to life within the city, but also heralds New York’s developing role as the new center of modern art after World War II.
Mondrian’s art was not based on outside artistic influences or on typical techniques, but was instead his interpretation of deeply felt philosophical beliefs. He subscribed to two sets of philosophical beliefs; theosophy, a religious mysticism which sought to help humanity achieve perfection, and anthroposophy, which held that the spiritual world was directly accessible through the development of the inner self. His works were thus aimed at helping humanity through aesthetic beauty and breaking from representational forms of painting. Mondrian chose to distill his representations of the world to their basic vertical and horizontal elements, which represented the two essential opposing forces: the positive and the negative, the dynamic and the static, the masculine and the feminine. The dynamic balance of his compositions reflects what he saw as the universal balance of these forces.
Mondrian is recognized for the purity of his abstractions and methodical practice by which he arrived at them. He radically simplified the elements of his paintings to reflect what he saw as the spiritual order underlying the natural world, creating a clear, universal aesthetic language within his canvases. Mondrian reduced his shapes to lines and rectangles and his palette to fundamental basics pushing past references to the outside world toward pure abstraction. His use of asymmetrical balance and a simplified pictorial vocabulary were crucial in the development of modern art.
This painting was bought by the Brazilian sculptor Maria Martins for the price of $800 at the Valentine Gallery in New York City, after Martins and Mondrian both exhibited there in 1943. Martins later donated the painting to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany
One of the pioneers of abstract modern art, Wassily Kandinsky explored the interrelation between color and form to convey profound spirituality and the depth of human emotion through a universal visual language of abstract forms and colors that transcended cultural and physical boundaries. He developed a pictorial language that only loosely related to the outside world, but expressed volumes about the artist’s inner experience.
Kandinsky’s work was exhibited throughout Europe from 1903 onwards, and often caused controversy among the public, the art critics, and his contemporaries. An active participant in several of the most influential and controversial art movements of the 20th century, Kandinsky is known for his innovative theories on nonfigurative art, set forth in his 1910 treatise Concerning the Spiritual In Art, considered the first theoretical foundation of abstraction.
To Kandinsky, colors on the painter’s palette evoke a double effect: a purely physical effect on the eye as well as a much deeper, spiritual effect causing a vibration of the soul or an “inner resonance.” There are obvious properties we can see when we look at an isolated color and let it act alone. One property is the warmth or coldness of the color. Warmth is a tendency towards yellow, and coldness a tendency towards blue. Yellow and blue combined for the first great dynamic contrast. Yellow has an eccentric movement and blue a concentric movement. A yellow surface seems to move closer to us, while a blue surface seems to move away. Yellow is a typically terrestrial color that can be painful and aggressive. Blue is a celestial color evoking a deep calm. The combination of blue and yellow yields immobility and calm, which is green.
Another property is the clarity or obscurity of the color. Clarity is a tendency towards white, and obscurity is a tendency towards black. White and black form the second great contrast, which is static. White is a deep absolute silence, full of possibility. Black is nothingness without possibility, an eternal silence without hope, and corresponds with death. Any color resonates strongly with its neighbors. The mixing of white and black leads to gray, which possesses no active force and whose tone is near that of green. Gray corresponds to immobility with hope. It tends to despair when it becomes dark, regaining hope when it lightens.
Red is a warm color, lively and agitated. It is forceful, a movement in itself. Mixed with black it becomes brown, a hard color. Mixed with yellow it gains in warmth, and becomes orange, which imparts an irradiating movement on its surroundings. When red is mixed with blue it moves away to become purple, which is a cool red. Red and green form the third great contrast and orange and purple the fourth. All these colors are present in Farbstudie.
For Kandinsky, music and color were inextricably tied to one another. So clear was this relationship that Kandinsky associated each note with an exact hue. The neurological phenomenon Kandinsky experienced is called synesthesia. It is a rare condition in which one sense concurrently triggers another sense. Kandinsky literally saw colors when he heard music, and heard music when he painted. The artist explored these sensations with unconventional color, line, shape, and texture to create a profound visual experience.
Jackson Pollock was an influential American painter and a major figure in the Abstract Expressionist movement. He was well known for his unique style of drip painting. During his lifetime, Pollock enjoyed considerable fame and notoriety, a major artist of his generation. Regarded as reclusive, he had a volatile personality, and struggled with alcoholism for most of his life. In 1945, he married the artist Lee Krasner, who became an important influence on his career and on his legacy.
Born in 1912 in Cody, Wyoming, Jackson Pollock moved to New York in 1930 to study at the Art Students League. The socially minded scenes depicted in his representational paintings of the 1930s gave way to more personal, symbolic iconography in the following decade, due partly to his interest in the Surrealist strategy of automatism (drawing, painting, or writing freely to unearth subconscious desires)—an interest shared by many artists associated with Abstract Expressionism—and his experiences with Jungian psychoanalysis. Exhibiting regularly throughout the mid-1940s in New York, Pollock relocated to East Hampton, Long Island in late 1945, a move that provided an opportunity to observe nature directly and to work at larger scales.
After the horrors of World War II, the mood in the United States turned artists away from traditional styles and themes and toward a search for new ways to express themselves. As Jackson Pollock said in 1951, “It seems to me that the modern painter cannot express his age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of the Renaissance or any other past culture. Each age finds its own technique.”
In the late 1940s, Pollock began to experiment with the technique for which he is best known—drip painting. He placed the canvas on the floor, stating, “On the floor I am more at ease,” he said. “I feel nearer, more a part of the painting since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.” His process became an illustration of critic Harold Rosenberg’s idea of the canvas as an arena in which the artist would perform, which is one of the reasons why Pollock’s method is also known as “action painting.” Usually titled numerically, so as to avoid any outside associations, these drip paintings comprise calligraphic, looping cords of color that animate and energize every inch of their compositions.
The result was a combination of spontaneity and control. At first, Pollock said, he worked on a painting without thinking. Then, “after a sort of ‘get acquainted’ period that I see what I have been about . . . I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc. because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.”
Pollock died at the age of 44 in an alcohol-related single-car accident when he was driving. In December 1956, several months after his death, Pollock was given a memorial retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. A larger, more comprehensive exhibition of his work was held there in 1967. In 1998 and 1999, his work was honored with large-scale retrospective exhibitions at MoMA and at The Tate in London.
Crying Girl was one of Lichtenstein’s first ventures into producing enamel-on-steel multiples of the comic-strip imagery he had first introduced in conventional hand-painted canvases. This innovative, industrial means of “mass production” was as ground-breaking as his distinctive subject matter. With other leading American Pop artists, Lichtenstein turned to popular culture and the worlds of commerce and advertising for attitudes and approaches as well as for content. Eliminating any trace of the individual artist’s hand in favor of reinforcing the notion of its mechanical origin, here Lichtenstein emphasized, in rigid dark outlines and the Ben-Day dots of printing, the primacy of the image itself – a sentimental, glamorized and equally “mechanical” idealization of the American girl.
Roy Lichtenstein was one of the first American Pop artists and he became a lightning rod for criticism of the movement. His early work ranged widely in style and subject matter, and displayed considerable understanding of modernist painting: Lichtenstein maintained that he was as interested in the abstract qualities of his images as he was in their subject matter. The mature Pop style he arrived at in 1961, which was inspired by comic strips, was greeted by accusations of banality, lack of originality, and, later, even copying. His high-impact, iconic images have since become synonymous with Pop art, and his method of creating images, which blended aspects of mechanical reproduction and drawing by hand, has become central to critics’ understanding of the significance of the movement.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Lichtenstein – cite_note-rlf-chronology-1in 1961, Lichtenstein began his first pop paintings using cartoon images and techniques derived from the appearance of commercial printing. This phase would continue to 1965.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Lichtenstein – cite_note-rlf-Hendrickson-14 His first work to feature the large-scale use of hard-edged figures and Ben-Day dots was Look Mickey (1961). In the same year he produced six other works with recognizable characters from gum wrappers and cartoons. Leo Castelli started displaying Lichtenstein’s work at his gallery in New York. Lichtenstein had his first one-man show at the Castelli gallery in 1962; the entire collection was bought by influential collectors before the show even opened. Look Mickey set the tone for Lichtenstein’s career. This primary-color portrait of the cartoon mouse introduced his detached and deadpan style at a time when introspective Abstract Expressionism reigned. Mining material from advertisements, comics, and the everyday, Lichtenstein brought what was then a great taboo—commercial art—into the gallery. He stressed the artificiality of his images by painting them as though they’d come from a commercial press, with the flat, single-color Ben-Day dots of the newspaper meticulously rendered by hand using paint and stencils.
Lichtenstein is a figure of monumental importance in the recent history of art. His contribution—the still-potent collision of commercial sources and fine art—defined the enduring legacy of Pop Art. The idea of compositional unity was central to the artist’s thinking. Plastic values such as beauty and balance were of primary importance to Lichtenstein, and reliable formal tropes—outlines, halftone dots, and solid diagonals—were the building blocks of nearly all his compositions.
Mark Rothko was born Marcus Rothkowitz in Dvinsk, Russia (now Daugavpils, Latvia) in 1903, immigrated to the United States with his family in his youth, and they settled in Portland, OR. In the mid-20th century, he belonged to a circle of New York-based artists who became known as the Abstract Expressionists. His signature works, large-scale paintings of luminous colored rectangles, used simplified means to evoke emotional responses.
At the age of forty-six Mark Rothko broke with representational painting and turned to abstraction. From 1950 on he painted floating, monochrome planes focused solely on the impact of color. Along with Barnett Newman he is one of the leading exponents of Color Field Painting of the 1950s. In this painting two rectangles are arranged parallel to one another on a blue background. Through their blurred and hazy contours the forms seem to float in a blue space and to almost disappear in it. As such, the dissolution of the chromatic structure creates a meditative, supernatural effect.
Highly informed by Nietzsche, Greek mythology, and his Russian-Jewish heritage, Rothko’s art was profoundly imbued with emotional content that he articulated through a range of styles that evolved from figurative to abstract. Rothko’s early figurative work—including landscapes, still life’s, figure studies, and portraits—demonstrated an ability to blend Expressionism and Surrealism. His search for new forms of expression led to his Color Field paintings, which employed shimmering color to convey a sense of spirituality. Rothko maintained the social revolutionary ideas of his youth throughout his life. In particular he supported artists’ total freedom of expression, which he felt was compromised by the market. This belief often put him at odds with the art world establishment, leading him to publicly respond to critics, and occasionally refuse commissions, sales, and exhibitions.
In the spring of 1968, Rothko was diagnosed with a mild aortic aneurysm. Ignoring doctor’s orders, Rothko continued to drink and smoke heavily, avoided exercise, and maintained an unhealthy diet. Rothko’s marriage had become increasingly troubled. He and his wife Mell separated on New Year’s Day 1969, and he moved into his studio. On February 25, 1970, Oliver Steindecker, Rothko’s assistant, found the artist in his kitchen, lying dead on the floor in front of the sink, covered in blood. He had sliced his arms with a razor found lying at his side. The autopsy revealed that he had also overdosed on anti-depressants. He was sixty-six years old.
Shortly before his death, Rothko and his financial advisor, Bernard Reis, had created a foundation intended to fund “research and education” that would receive the bulk of Rothko’s work following his death. Reis later sold the paintings to the Marlborough Gallery at substantially reduced values, and then split the subsequent profits from sales to customers with gallery representatives. In 1971, Rothko’s children filed a lawsuit against Reis, Morton Levine, and Theodore Stamos, the executors of his estate, over the sham sales. The lawsuit continued for more than 10 years and became known as the Rothko Case. In 1975, the defendants were found liable for negligence and conflict of interest, were removed as executors of the Rothko estate by court order, and, along with Marlborough Gallery, were required to pay $9.2 million in damages to the estate, a fraction of the eventual value of the works.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was of aristocratic ancestry, but opted to become an artist. Sickly from childhood, and dwarfish in stature, he was a fixture of the bawdy nightlife of Montmartre, rendering its stars and denizens with an honesty that was sometimes cruel. Influenced by Degas, as well as by artists in Gauguin’s circle, Lautrec staked out an aesthetic terrain between illustration and high art, producing a body of work that consolidated the reputation of bohemian Paris as a center of the sexual outlawry and adventurism.
Equestrienne (At the Cirque Fernando), a depiction of a performance at a permanent circus in Montmartre, was Lautrec’s first important painting, probably executed in haste for the fifth exhibition of Les Vingt, held in Brussels in February 1888. The work’s skewed perspective and cropped figures derive from the art of Degas and from Japanese prints, while the limited palette, spare composition and linear economy anticipate Lautrec’s well-known lithographic posters of the 1890’s.
The artist was also inspired by compositional aspects of Japanese prints and photography. For example, the center of the image is empty, and the picture is instead structured around the sweeping arc of the ring. This curve is repeated throughout the scene: in the powerful haunches of the horse, in the ring and gallery, and in the billowing trousers of a clown at the top of the picture. Lautrec was also influenced by Cloisonnism, a style based on medieval enameling techniques, using heavy dark outlines to bring out areas of flat colors, similar to Japanese wood block prints that used the same heavy outlining technique.
In Equestrienne (At the Circus Fernando) the subjects are not glamorous. The close-up view ironically removes the viewer from the spectacular nature of a circus performance and concentrates attention instead on the details of the performers’ interactions. The faces of the rider and ringmaster evoke a complex relationship based on power and tension. The artist’s tight lens also allows one to notice the garish color of the rider’s makeup and costumes as well as the stolid nature of the horse’s anatomy, playing against what is usually portrayed as glamorous and exciting. Instead, the tight focus on the ringmaster, rider, and horse, captures both their relationship and the sense of their being in motion. The large rump of the horse, its raised hind leg, in addition to the billowing skirt of the rider, suggest that the horse is moving at a fast clip around the ring. The few well-dressed spectators aren’t looking at the scantily dressed rider, but seem to gaze at some elements of the rehearsal outside of the painting’s space.
As a frequent visitor to the permanent Le Cirque Fernando in Montmartre, Henri knew the ringmaster he depicted, the Monsieur Loyal. It is thought his friend Suzanne Valadon, a painter, former circus performer, and artists’ model, modeled for the figure of the bareback rider. Equestrienne (At the Circus Fernando) was purchased by the owner of a soon-to- be-famous Montmartre nightclub, the Moulin Rouge, where it hung in the grand entrance hall.
Lautrec continued to paint and to incorporate new ideas into his work. He went on to become one of the most well-known visual chroniclers of Parisian life in the late 1800s. Sadly, his health never robust, he died from complications due to alcoholism and syphilis at his family estate in Malrome, just short of his 37th birthday.
A contemporary of Picasso, Joan Miró was born in 1893 in Catalonia and moved to Paris in 1920, where he remained for the duration of the Spanish Civil War. He permanently relocated back to Spain in 1940. While in Paris, he became known for his paintings with a personal system of signs and symbols. Miró consistently exercised his personal freedom in his work which, in the face of political turmoil, was infused with tragedy and anger as much as joy and tenderness. Brilliantly inventive, the artist continually pushed the boundaries of art and embraced entirely new techniques and used new forms of media. His artistic career may be characterized as one of persistent experimentation and a lifelong flirtation with non-objectivity.
Miró signed the manifesto of the Surrealist movement in 1924, and the members of the group respected him for the way he portrayed the realm of unconscious experience. From the 1930s onwards, Miró expressed contempt for conventional painting methods as a way of supporting bourgeois society, and famously declared an “assassination of painting” in favor of upsetting the visual elements of established painting. In the ’40s, Miró lighted the path to abstract expressionism in America through his advocacy of automatism. Using this approach, the artist was freed from the methods of traditional picture-making through the intercession of the subconscious, which guided the brush in seemingly random directions. Despite this, Miró held on to certain representational referents, notably women, birds and stars.
Figures and Dog in Front of the Sun is comprised of a painterly ground, fine lines that stand out from it, and freely formed organic shapes. The lines and forms are done in deep shades of red, blue, black, green and yellow. They’ve been organized so that they look like the depiction of an imaginary figure. References to figurative art are evident in the figure outlined on a neutral background. The composition focuses on an essential figure of Miró’s symbolism: the woman, which refers to the link of human beings and their roots in the land. Miró used the color palette of the traditional whistles from Mallorca, siurells.
In joyful rebellion against conventional painting methods, Miro’s art exudes an uninhibited childlike freedom of expression. Drawing inspiration from 1920’s Paris’ counterculture, his art is filled with wonderful absurdity. Miro’s use of primary colors, neutral colored background, as well as organic shapes conveys a lively, energetic zest for life – a playground of the artist’s subconscious mind.
In 1794, with a letter of introduction from John Jay in hand, Gilbert Stuart went to Philadelphia to request sittings with George Washington. Painting his portrait was a shrewd business move, for depictions of Washington were in demand on both sides of the Atlantic. Stuart’s established technique for finding appropriate expressions and poses for his subjects was to engage them with lively banter. When he encountered Washington, however, he found the president to be a difficult subject. Stuart’s usual charm and repartee failed to enliven this reserved man. According to Washington’s grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, Stuart finally succeeded in engaging his subject by discussing horses, a favorite topic of the president, who was an accomplished equestrian.
All of Stuart’s portraits of Washington (about 100 in all) are based on one of the three life portraits. Washington first sat for Stuart in 1795, but the result of that early session, a portrait showing Washington facing right, is known only through replicas that are identified as the Vaughan type (named for the first owner of one of the replicas). That first portrait was so successful that Martha Washington commissioned Stuart to paint a pair of portraits of her and her husband for their Virginia home, Mount Vernon. She convinced the president to sit again because, according to artist Rembrandt Peale, she “wished a portrait for herself; he therefore consented on the express condition that when finished it should be hers.” Stuart began what would become his most reproduced image, a depiction of Washington facing left, now called the Athenaeum portrait for the Boston library that acquired it after Stuart’s death. Although he never finished the original itself, he used it throughout his career to make approximately seventy-five replicas. The image, carefully built up with contrasting flesh tones, is one of Stuart’s most accomplished portraits. This image served as the basis for the engraving of Washington on the one-dollar bill.
Stuart’s image of Washington has been considered very dramatic and forceful since the time it was painted. The artist depicted Washington with a distinct wide-jawed look, commenting that “When I painted him, he had just had a set of false teeth inserted, which accounts for the constrained expression so noticeable about the mouth and lower part of the face.” John Neal, an early-nineteenth-century writer and art critic, wrote: “Stuart says, and there is no fact more certain, that he [Washington] was a man of terrible passions; the sockets of his eyes; the breadth of his nose and nostrils; the deep broad expression of strength and solemnity upon his forehead, were all a proof of this. Though a better likeness of him were shown to us, we should reject it.”
Lascaux (Lascaux Caves) is the setting of a complex of caves in southwestern France famous for its Paleolithic cave paintings. The caves are located near the village of Montignac, in the department of Dordogne. They contain some of the best-known Upper Paleolithic art. These paintings are estimated to be 17,300 years old. They primarily consist of images of large animals, most of which are known from fossil evidence to have lived in the area at the time. In 1979, Lascaux was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
On 12 September 1940, the entrance to Lascaux Cave was discovered by 18-year-old Marcel Ravidat. Ravidat returned to the scene with three friends, Jacques Marsal, Georges Agnel, and Simon Coencas, and entered the cave via a long shaft. The teenagers discovered that the cave walls were covered with depictions of animals. The cave complex was opened to the public in 1948.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lascaux – cite_note-timeline_of_france-8 By 1955, the carbon dioxide, heat, humidity, and other contaminants produced by 1,200 visitors per day had visibly damaged the paintings and introduced lichen on the walls. The cave was closed to the public in 1963 to preserve the art. After the cave was closed, the paintings were restored to their original state and were monitored daily. Rooms in the cave include the Hall of the Bulls, the Passageway, the Shaft, the Nave, the Apse, and the Chamber of Felines.
The cave contains nearly 2,000 figures, which can be grouped into three main categories; animals, human figures and abstract signs. Most of the major images have been painted onto the walls using mineral pigments although some designs have also been incised into the stone. Of the animals, equines predominate . There are 90 paintings of stags. Also represented are cattle, bison, felines, a bird, a bear, a rhinoceros, and a human. Among the most famous images are four huge, black bulls or aurochs in the Hall of the Bulls. One of the bulls is 17 feet (5.2 m) long – the largest animal discovered so far in cave art. Additionally, the bulls appear to be in motion. There are no images of reindeer, even though that was the principal source of food for the artists. A painting referred to as ‘The Crossed Bison’, found in the chamber called the Nave, is often held as an example of the skill of the Paleolithic cave painters
Since 1998, the cave has been beset with a fungus, variously blamed on a new air conditioning system that was installed in the caves, the use of high-powered lights, and the presence of too many visitors. As of 2008, the cave contained black mold which scientists were, and still are, trying to keep away from the paintings. In January 2008, authorities closed the cave for three months even to scientists and preservationists. A single individual was allowed to enter the cave for 20 minutes once a week to monitor climatic conditions. Now only a few scientific experts are allowed to work inside the cave, and just for a few days a month. The efforts to remove the mold have taken a toll, leaving dark patches and damaging the pigments on the walls.
Lascaux II, a replica of the Great Hall of the Bulls and the Painted Gallery, located 200 meters away from the original, was opened in 1983 so that visitors may view the painted scenes without harming the originals. Reproductions of other Lascaux artwork can be seen at the Centre of Prehistoric Art at Le Thot, France.
Vincent van Gogh was a major Post-Impressionist painter whose work had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. Van Gogh drew as a child but did not paint until his late twenties. He completed many of his best-known works during the last two years of his life. In just over a decade, he produced more than 2,100 artworks, including 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings, sketches and prints.
Van Gogh was born to upper middle class parents and spent his early adulthood working for a firm of art dealers. He traveled between The Hague, London and Paris. He was deeply religious as a younger man and aspired to be a pastor. In 1879 he worked as a missionary in a mining region in Belgium, where he began to sketch people from the local community. In 1885 he painted The Potato Eaters, considered his first major work. His palette then consisted mainly of somber earth tones and showed no sign of the vivid coloration that distinguished his later paintings. In 1886, he moved to Paris and discovered the French Impressionists. Later, he moved to the south of France and was influenced by the strong sunlight he found there. His paintings grew brighter in color, and he developed the unique and highly recognizable style that became fully realized during his stay in Arles in 1888.
After years of anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness, he died aged 37 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The extent to which his mental health affected his painting has been widely debated by art historians. Despite a widespread tendency to romanticize his ill health, modern critics see an artist deeply frustrated by the inactivity and incoherence wrought through illness. His late paintings show an artist at the height of his abilities, completely in control, and according to art critic Robert Hughes, “longing for concision and grace”.
Irises were painted while Vincent van Gogh was living at the asylum at Saint Paul-de-Mausole in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France, in the last year before his death. Working from nature in the asylum’s garden, each one of Van Gogh’s irises is unique. He carefully studied their movements and shapes to create a variety of curved silhouettes bounded by wavy, twisting, and curling lines. The painting’s first owner, French art critic Octave Mirbeau, one of Van Gogh’s earliest supporters, wrote: “How well he has understood the exquisite nature of flowers!” There is a lack of the high tension which is seen in his later works. Van Gogh called the painting “the lightning conductor for my illness,” because he felt that he could keep himself from going insane by continuing to paint. The painting was influenced by Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints, like many of his works and those by other artists of the time. The similarities occur with strong outlines, unusual angles, including close-up views, and also flattish local color, not modeled according to the fall of light.
Van Gogh considered this painting a study which is probably why there are no known drawings for it. Theo, Van Gogh’s brother, thought better of it and quickly submitted it to the annual exhibition of the Société des Artistes Indépendants in September 1889, together with Starry Night Over the Rhone. He wrote to Vincent of the exhibition: “(It) strikes the eye from afar. The Irises are a beautiful study full of air and life.”
In Hopper’s paintings, figures—usually women, and often alone—are seen undressing, reading, dining, gazing out windows, or simply lost in thought. When Hopper depicts more than one figure, viewers encounter ambiguous relationships fraught with tension. Conversation and movement are suspended, and there is the sense of having stumbled upon some sort of drama; Hopper, however, never divulges the narrative details.
Hopper’s compositions capture ordinary moments that few observers would stop to notice. For Hopper, real drama was found in the overlooked. He avoided signs of the noise and commotion of urban life, imbuing his portrayals of the city with a disquieting stillness. Hopper borrowed numerous theatrical devices and translated them to his canvases to create dramatic scenes. Strong light and high contrasts recall theatrical lighting as well as film-noir movies.
Hopper’s paintings invite endless interpretation and have been described as representations of loneliness, alienation, melancholy, or solitude. Hopper cast doubt on such readings, noting, “The loneliness thing is overdone.” He offered several explanations for his paintings, “Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world.”
Hopper began New York Movie in December of 1938 after a protracted dry spell in his work. For unknown reasons, Hopper had unusual difficulty developing the work, resulting in 54 preliminary drawings, more studies for a single painting than any other in his career. He visited several movie theaters, including the Strand, Globe and Republican, before settling into a more extensive period of sketching at the Palace Theater on West Forty-Sixth Street (now the Lunt-Fontanne Theater).
Like most of his fellow Americans, Hopper was an avid moviegoer, and by the late 1930’s both movies and cinematic effects occasionally made their way into his paintings. New York Movie features an attractive usherette, absorbed in her own thoughts. Like many of Hopper’s paintings, it explores the melancholy and isolation that so many people experience while living in a city. The usherette was modeled after Hopper’s wife, fellow artist Jo Hopper, who also served as the model in the Nighthawks. The ensemble that Jo is wearing was based on the wide-legged jumpsuits actually worn by the Palace’s stylish female staff.
One of the more unexpected details is the vignette featured on the screen, which Hopper described as snowy mountaintops. The scene is thought to be taken from the 1937 blockbuster movie Lost Horizon, directed by Frank Capra. In the opening titles, the film poses the question, “In these days of wars and rumors of wars-haven’t you ever dreamed of a place where there was peace and security, where living was not a struggle but a lasting delight?” This quote from the Capra film seems an appropriate analogue to the isolation evoked in the painting itself.
Paul Cezanne was a Post-Impressionist painter who created the bridge between Impressionism and Cubism, and is said to be the artistic father of both Matisse and Picasso. Although he was dissuaded by his father at an early age to pursue his passions in painting, he left his hometown of Provence for Paris in 1861. It was there that he met Camille Pissarro, a popular Impressionist painter, who served as his mentor and guide. He began painting in the Impressionistic style, but later began to structurally order what he saw into simple planes of color. He also began to simplify the objects he painted into basic shapes.
Unlike many of the painters of his day, who focused on one or maybe two subject styles, Cezanne concentrated on still lifes, portraits, landscapes, and nude studies. He began slowly in Paris, as all of his submissions to the Paris Salon between the years of 1864 and 1869 were rejected. He finally successfully entered a submission into the Paris Salon in 1882, which was also his last. In 1895, there was an exhibition held of all of his own works, signifying his growing success as an artist, but that same year he moved back to his hometown of Provence, where he continued to work in isolation.
Cezanne was depicted as a rude, shy, angry man, given to bouts of depression, and later in his life he withdrew into his paintings, spending long periods of time a recluse, painting in solitude. Although his paintings were not well-received by the public, who supposedly reacted with hilarity, outrage and sarcasm, and laughed at his art, young artists held him in high esteem, and often sought after him. Cezanne’s legacy is that he developed the practice of fracturing forms, which most immediately influenced the development of cubism, and later the foundation of modern art.
Cézanne’s work demonstrates a mastery of design, color, composition and draftsmanship. His often repetitive, sensitive, and exploratory brushstrokes are highly characteristic and clearly recognizable. He used planes of color and brushstrokes that build up to form complex fields, both a direct expression of the sensations of the observing eye, and an abstraction of observed natures. In this painting, along with the apples and the lemon, an unusual object is shown: a small metal flowerpot, or can, with some wilted plant. In all probability the artist introduced into his still life another form, the cylinder, and another color, grey, setting off the pure tones of the apples and the lemon.
Apples were at the center of Cézanne’s attention for a number of reasons. Not only are they beautiful in color, but in comparison with other fruit they are more varied. The artist was attracted to the simplicity and completeness of their form. There was also a practical reason important to him: apples do not spoil quickly. With his prolonged work he had to take this quality into consideration. Yet it is not enough to cite the practical or artistically formal reasons for such a predilection. At some level the motivating factor for the use of the apples was the meaning hidden in them. The apple is a symbol of Venus and is associated with Eve. The passions that had from youth tormented Cézanne, a fear of women that was almost pathological, found expression in a number of his works.
This is one of four paintings of sunflowers dating from August and September 1888. Van Gogh painted a total of twelve of these canvases, although the most commonly referred to are the seven he painted while in Arles in 1888-1889. The other five he had painted previously while in Paris in 1887. The flowers are built up with thick impasto that evokes the texture of the seed-heads.
Van Gogh was living in Paris and discovering the palette of the French Impressionists when he began painting the sunflowers. Around a year later, living alone and isolated in Arles, he produced the most extraordinary pictures of the sunflowers. Van Gogh embarked on these on Monday, August 20, temporarily forced to work indoors by a Mistral wind which, he complained, blew over his canvas and easel when he painted outdoors. By August 26, he had finished four sunflower pictures, which in itself is a token of the dangerous velocity at which he was moving at that point. The final one was the boldest of all, because it depicted yellow flowers in a yellow jug against a yellow wall, a symphony in ochres, golds and yellows.
The Sunflowers is one of the most popular paintings in the National Gallery and was also the picture that Van Gogh was most proud of. Looking back on his work of 1888, Van Gogh felt it was characterized by a “high yellow note”, by which he meant both the bright color and also the manic mental moods he had experienced while painting. It was painted during a rare period of excited optimism, while Van Gogh awaited the arrival of his hero, the avant-garde painter Paul Gauguin. The lonely and passionate Vincent had moved to Arles, in the South of France, where he dreamed of setting up a community of artists with Gauguin as its mentor. Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo in August 1888, “I am hard at it, painting with the enthusiasm of a Marseilles eating bouillabaisse, which won’t surprise you when you know that what I’m at is the painting of some sunflowers. If I carry out this idea there will be a dozen panels. So the whole thing will be a symphony in blue and yellow. I am working at it every morning from sunrise on, for the flowers fade so quickly. I am now on the fourth picture of sunflowers. This fourth one is a bunch of 14 flowers…it gives a singular effect.”
After the death of Vincent in 1890, followed by that of his brother Theo early the next year, almost all Van Gogh’s works and the bulk of his correspondence ended up in Amsterdam, in the possession of Theo’s widow, Jo Bonger. In 1923, Harold “Jim” Ede, then working at the National Gallery, Millbank (subsequently renamed the Tate Gallery) visited Bonger in Amsterdam. Ede saw many masterpieces in her apartment. He wrote to Bonger, “What touches me most directly are the golden sunflowers.” He asked if she might sell the picture. She insisted the picture would always stay in the family. However, the next year, after further pleas, Bonger unexpectedly gave in. She had felt she could not bear to part with this painting, but in the end decided to make the sacrifice. She wrote, “No picture would represent Vincent in your famous Gallery in a more worthy manner than the Sunflowers. He himself, ‘le Peintre des Tournesols,’ ‘the Painter of Sunflowers’ as Gauguin had called him, would have liked it to be there.”
Jean Dubuffet was born on July 31, 1901, in Le Havre, France, into a middle-class family that distributed wine. Although he was well-educated, he came to reject his studies, preferring to educate himself by reading the work of Dr. Hans Prinzhorn, who drew comparisons between the art of asylum inmates and the artwork of children. Based on these observations, Prinzhorn stated that it was savagery, or base animal instinct, that lead to universal harmony, arguing that it was the primal instinct, not intellectual theory or analysis that connected all living things. This concept had a strong influence on Dubuffet’s later career.
Dubuffet disliked authority from a very early age. He left home at 17, failed to complete his art education, and wavered for many years between painting and working in his father’s wine business. He would later be a successful propagandist, gaining notoriety for his attacks on conformism and mainstream culture, which he described as “asphyxiating.” He was attracted to the art of children and the mentally ill, and did much to promote their work, collecting it and promulgating the notion of “Art Brut”. His early work was influenced by that of outsiders, but it was also shaped by the interests in materiality that preoccupied many post-war French artists associated with the Art Informel movement. In the early 1960s, he developed a radically new, graphic style, which he called “Hourloupe,” and would deploy it on many important public commissions, but he remains best known for the thick textured and gritty surfaces of his pictures from the 1940s and ’50s.
Dubuffet was launched to success with a series of exhibitions that opposed the prevailing mood of post-war Paris and consequently sparked enormous scandal. While the public looked for a redemptive art and a restoration of old values, Dubuffet confronted them with childlike images that satirized the conventional genres of high art. And while the public looked for beauty, he gave them pictures with coarse textures and drab colors, which critics likened to dirt and excrement. The emphasis on texture and materiality in Dubuffet’s paintings might be read as an insistence on the real. In the aftermath of the war, it represented an appeal to acknowledge humanity’s failings and begin again from the ground – literally the soil – up.
Dubuffet’s heady experience in the country and rejection of art education is evident in The Cow with a Subtle Nose. The heavily textured surface depicts a cow, rendered in the child-like innocence of patients held in psychological facilities. The uninhibited, savage approach to the canvas exemplifies the concepts of what Dubuffet termed Art Brut. The image seems entirely unschooled in the traditions of landscape. It is thus at odds with the notions of ‘high art’, and approaches art making from the direction of artistic purity uninfluenced by cultural advancement.
The Creation of Adam is a fresco painting by Michelangelo, forming part of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted circa 1511–1512. It illustrates the Biblical creation narrative from the Book of Genesis in which God breathes life into Adam, the first man. The fresco is part of a complex iconographic scheme and is chronologically the fourth in the series of panels depicting episodes from Genesis. It is the most well-known of the Sistine Chapel fresco panels, and its fame as a piece of art is rivaled only by the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.
Michelangelo began painting The Creation of Adam, commencing the west half of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, in October 1511. After a fourteen-month break from painting, he had been able to see the first half of the ceiling from the ground and realized his method had to be slightly altered. Because the ceiling of the chapel is over sixty-five feet above the floor, the earlier figures were difficult to see. On this second half, the figures would become taller and the compositions would be less complex, making them easier to see from the ground. With his main ally, Pope Julius II, going in and out of failing health, Michelangelo knew that he would have to work faster to ensure that he would be able to finish the fresco. In fact, the entire scene of God creating Adam took less than three weeks to complete.
God is depicted as an elderly, white-bearded man wrapped in a swirling cloak while Adam is completely nude. God’s right arm is outstretched to impart the spark of life from His own finger into that of Adam, whose left arm is extended in a pose mirroring God’s, a reminder that man is created in the image and likeness of God. Adam’s finger and God’s finger are not touching, giving the impression that God, the giver of life, is reaching out to Adam who has yet to receive it; they are not on the same level as would be two humans shaking hands.
Many hypotheses have been formulated regarding the identity and meaning of the figures around God. The person protected by God’s left arm might be Eve due to the figure’s feminine appearance, but was also suggested to be Virgin Mary, Sophia, the personified human soul, or an angel of feminine build.
The Creation of Adam is generally thought to depict the excerpt “God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him” (Gen 1:27). The inspiration for Michelangelo’s treatment of the subject may have come from a medieval hymn called Veni Creator Spiritus, which asks the ‘finger of the paternal right hand’ (digitus paternae dexterae) to give the faithful speech.
The image of the near-touching hands of God and Adam has become iconic of humanity and has been reproduced in countless imitations and parodies. Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper and Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam are the most replicated religious paintings of all time.
Georges-Pierre Seurat was one of the most famous Post-Impressionist painters of the 1880s in France. The short-lived, shy, reclusive artist is noted for his invention of the colorist technique known as Pointillism, a form of Divisionism. In so doing, he pioneered the new style of Neo-Impressionism. As a response to Claude Monet’s Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism lasted only a few short years (1886-1891), but, thanks to Seurat and his contemporary Paul Signac, it had a major influence on Italian Divisionism, and on several other styles of Post-Impressionist painting, notably the Synthetism/Cloisonism of Paul Gauguin; the Expressionism of Vincent Van Gogh; and the Fauvism of Henri Matisse.
Born in Paris, to a wealthy family, he first studied drawing with the sculptor Justin Lequien at night school and was accepted into the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1878. After two years, he completed a year of service in the military and then returned to Paris. He moved into his own studio and spent the next two years mastering the technique of black and white drawing.
Seurat was fascinated by a range of scientific ideas about color, form, and expression. He believed that lines tending in certain directions, and colors of a particular warmth or coolness, could have particular expressive effects. He also pursued the discovery that contrasting or complementary colors can optically mix to yield far more vivid tones that can be achieved by mixing paint alone. He called the technique he developed ‘chromo-luminism’, though it is better known as Divisionism (the characteristic style in Neo-Impressionist painting defined by the separation of colors into individual patches which interacted optically), or Pointillism (a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image, that were crucial to achieve the flickering effects of his surfaces).
Seurat’s innovations derived from new quasi-scientific theories about color and expression, yet the graceful beauty of his work is explained by the influence of very different sources. Initially, he believed that great modern art would show contemporary life in ways similar to classical art, except that it would use technologically informed techniques. Later he grew more interested in Gothic art and popular posters, and the influence of these on his work make it some of the first modern art to make use of such unconventional sources for expression. His success quickly propelled him to the forefront of the Parisian avant-garde. His triumph was short-lived, as after barely a decade of mature work he died at the age of only 31.
Seurat was inspired by a desire to abandon Impressionism’s preoccupation with the fleeting moment, and instead to render what he regarded as the essential and unchanging in life. Nevertheless, he borrowed many of his approaches from Impressionism, from his love of modern subject matter and scenes of urban leisure, to his desire to avoid depicting only the ‘local’, or apparent, color of depicted objects, and instead to try to capture all the colors that interacted to produce their appearance.
René François Ghislain Magritte was born at Lessines, and studied at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels from 1916-18. Magritte settled in Brussels and made his living for a time by designing wallpaper and drawing fashion advertisements. He became very friendly with poets and writers who shared his interest in evoking mystery and were later the founders of the Belgian Surrealist group. Magritte turned away from his early Cubist–Futurist experiments in 1925. He began to explore ways of creating a poetic, disturbing effect by depicting recognizable objects in alien settings, by startling juxtapositions or combinations of objects, by inversions of scale and so on. His first one-man exhibition was at the Galerie Le Centaure, Brussels in 1927. Afterwards Magritte lived from 1927-30 at Perreux-sur-Marne, a suburb of Paris, where he met Miró, Arp, Tanguy, Dali, Buñuel, Eluard and Breton. In 1930 he returned to Brussels, where he spent the rest of his life. He died in Brussels in 1967.
Frustrated desires are a common theme in Magritte’s work. In The Lovers, a barrier of fabric prevents the intimate embrace between two lovers, transforming an act of passion into one of isolation and frustration. Some have interpreted his work as a depiction of the inability to fully unveil the true nature of even our most intimate companions. Enshrouded faces were a common motif in Magritte’s art. The artist was 14 when his mother committed suicide by drowning. He witnessed her body being fished from the water, her wet nightgown wrapped around her face. Some have speculated that this trauma inspired a series of works in which Magritte obscured his subject’s faces. Magritte disagreed with such interpretations, denying any relation between his paintings and his mother’s death.
Magritte’s earliest paintings, which date from about 1915, were Impressionistic in style. From 1916 to 1918, he studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, but found the instruction uninspiring. The paintings he produced during the years 1918–1924 were influenced by Futurism and by the figurative Cubism of Metzinger. In 1922, Magritte married Georgette Berger, whom he had met as a child in 1913. In 1920, Magritte served in the Belgian infantry in the Flemish town of Beverlo. From 1922–23, he worked as a draughtsman in a wallpaper factory, and was a poster and advertisement designer until 1926, when a contract with Galerie ‘Le Centaure’ in Brussels made it possible for him to paint full-time. In 1926, Magritte produced his first surreal painting, The Lost Jockey, and held his first exhibition in Brussels in 1927. Critics heaped abuse on the exhibition. Depressed by the failure, he moved to Paris where he became friends with André Breton, and became involved in the Surrealist group. The illusionistic, dream-like quality is characteristic of Magritte’s version of Surrealism. He became a leading member of the movement after leaving his native Belgium in 1927 for Paris, where he stayed for three years. Galerie ‘Le Centaure’ closed at the end of 1929, ending Magritte’s contract income. Having made little impact in Paris, Magritte returned to Brussels in 1930 and resumed working in advertising. He and his brother Paul formed an agency which earned him a living wage.
With his highly cerebral Surrealist imagery, René Magritte breathed new life into seemingly conventional subject matter. He painted everyday objects out of context, in juxtapositions forcing the viewer to reconsider things normally taken for granted.
Henri Rousseau became a full-time artist at the age of forty-nine, after retiring from his post at the Paris customs office – a job that prompted his famous nickname, “Le Douanier,” “the toll collector.” Although an admirer of academic artists such as William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Jean-Leon Gerome, the self-taught Rousseau became the archetypal naïve artist. Rousseau remarked that Jean-Léon Gérôme had advised him: “If I have kept my naivety, it is because Monsieur Gérôme always told me I should keep it.” His amateurish technique and unusual compositions provoked the derision of contemporary critics, while earning the respect and admiration of modern artists like Picasso and Kandinsky for revealing “the new possibilities of simplicity.” Rousseau’s best-known works are lush jungle scenes, inspired not by any firsthand experiences of such locales, but by frequent trips to the Paris gardens and zoo.
Rousseau was a self-taught painter who harbored dreams of official approval. Although he never achieved recognition from the French academy, he was embraced by early 20th-century avant-garde artists, including Picasso and the Surrealists, for his departures from conventional style, which included broad, flat planes of color, stylized line, and fantastic landscapes. While he painted exotic locales, Rousseau never left France. His jungles are the dreams of a city dweller, constructed from visits to the botanical gardens, the Paris zoo, and colonial expositions, and culled from prints and reproductions.
One of the most striking aspects of Rousseau’s style is the flattening of his subjects. Whether he was echoing his Impressionist contemporaries, who were concerned with surface, or simply following his own vision, the artist’s jungle paintings lack solidity, as if they were representations of theatrical décor, the gigantic leaves and petals minimally contoured so as to create the effect of overlapping cutouts. Moreover, his creatures seem deliberately subdued by a deadpan treatment that identifies each more as outline than as a tactile form.
Although he had ambitions to become a famous academic painter, Rousseau instead became the virtual opposite: the quintessential “naïve” artist. Largely self-taught, Rousseau developed a style that evidenced his lack of academic training, with its absence of correct proportions, one-point perspective, and use of sharp, often unnatural colors. Such features resulted in a body of work imbued with a sense of mystery and eccentricity. The untutored and idiosyncratic character of Rousseau’s art was derided by many early viewers of his work. Yet this quality resonated with modern artists who saw in Rousseau’s work a model for the sincerity and directness to which they aspired in their own work.
Influenced by a combination of “high” and “low” sources – academic sculpture, postcards, tabloid illustrations, and trips to the Paris public zoo and gardens – Rousseau created modern, unconventional renderings of traditional genres such as landscape, portraiture, and allegory. The fantastic, often outrageous, imagery that resulted from these hybrid influences was celebrated by the Surrealists, whose art valued surprising juxtapositions and dream-like moods characteristic of Rousseau’s work.
Three Musicians is the title of two similar collage and oil paintings by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. They were both completed in 1921 and exemplify the Synthetic Cubist style. One version is currently owned by the Museum of Modern Art New York City; the other is found in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The three figures in this painting resemble characters from the Commedia dell’Arte tradition. This Italian theater form began in the 16th century and was still being used in the early 20th century. Its hallmark was to feature well-known stock characters, who were usually masked. The blue and white clarinet player on the left is Pierrot, a naive clown who is always falling in love and getting his heart broken. His love interests often prefer the handsome trickster Harlequin, seen here in the center wearing the red and yellow colors of the Spanish flag and playing a guitar. As a suave, intelligent servant, Harlequin’s character stands in stark contrast with the melancholic clown. On the right is a singing monk. Although there is not a specific monk character in Commedia dell’Arte, they were often included in these theater performances. Sometimes the stock characters would wear the brown robes of a monk as a disguise. If you look carefully, you can see one more figure in the painting; a dog sprawled underneath Pierrot’s chair. Although its face is hidden, you can see parts of its body peeking out from behind the musicians’ legs and its shadow on the wall behind the musicians.
The previous year, Picasso had been hired to design costumes and sets for a ballet by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky called Pulcinella, which was based on a Commedia dell’Arte text from the 1700s. It is likely that the inspiration for Picasso’s use of Commedia dell’Arte characters in this painting came from this project.
Picasso also created this work as a tribute to two close friends. The Pierrot represents Guillaume Apollinaire, a poet who is considered a father of the Surrealist movement. Apollinaire was a World War I veteran who was wounded in battle and died of Spanish influenza in 1918, three years before this painting. The monk is a representation of Picasso’s former roommate, Max Jacob, another poet who had introduced Picasso and Apollinaire. Jacob had entered a Benedictine monastery earlier in the same year Three Musicians was painted. The Harlequin represents Picasso.
This work is an example of Synthetic Cubism, a movement created by Picasso and another artist named Georges Braque. It grew out of the more general trend of cubism, an avant-garde technique characterized by analyzing concrete objects, breaking them up, and then reassembling them in an abstract way. Objects are presented from different viewpoints, and the representation of these viewpoints is more important than a realistic representation of the subject itself. Synthetic cubism has these qualities as well, but was a simpler, more decorative, and flatter style than earlier cubist works.
Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge represents two of Monet’s greatest achievements: his gardens at Giverny and the paintings they inspired. In 1883 the artist moved to the country-town Giverny, near Paris but just across the border of Normandy. This was a time when he was enjoying increasing financial success as an artist, and he immediately began to redesign the property.
In 1893, Monet purchased an adjacent tract, which included a small brook, and transformed the site into an Asian-inspired oasis of cool greens, exotic plants, and calm waters, enhanced by a Japanese footbridge. The serial approach embodied in this work—one of about a dozen paintings in which Monet returned to the same view under differing weather and light conditions—was one of his great formal innovations. He was committed to painting directly from nature as much as possible and whenever weather permitted, sometimes working simultaneously on eight or more canvases a day. Monet’s project to capture ever-shifting atmospheric conditions came to be a hallmark of the Impressionist style.
In 1889 Monet painted a bridge that went over the pond in his garden. He revisited the subject many times. Throughout 1889 and 1890, Monet painted several canvases depicting the bridge and its surroundings. In each painting in the Japanese Footbridge series, a bridge is the focus of the composition. In most of these paintings, the bridge spans the entire width of the picture dividing the canvas in half. The color of the bridge varies in each depiction depending on the light in which it was painted. It is always an arched wooden bridge with a handrail mirroring the arched horizontal of the walking planks held up by a few vertical supports. In some, the bridge appears dark, showing the color of the dark wood in the shadows of the surrounding willow trees or under the shade of a passing cloud. In others, it is a vivid blue, purple, or pink reflecting the light in the atmosphere bouncing off the flowers along the banks of the pond. The top half of the painting shows what is behind the bridge, away from the viewer. The top is dominated by the leaning branches and leaves of the willow trees. It is almost entirely made up of shades of green occasionally with some blue or yellow. On the bottom of the paintings Monet shows his pond. Later in his life the Water Lilies would become among his most well-known paintings. Like the bridge, the color of the water, lilies, and other flowers change. In some they are a deep red or orange. In others they are a vibrant green, soft blue, or highlighted with pinks.
Like Monet’s other series of paintings, the subject matter, in this case the actual bridge, is not what makes these the important works that they are. Monet did something very new at Giverny. Instead of painting the beauty of nature as it is, he made nature into what he wanted and then painted it. His paintings of his gardens, including the Japanese Footbridge, are paintings showing how he sculpted nature. Monet meticulously cultivated the garden to his specifications. He brought in a craftsman to construct the bridge, traded plants to get the best rare varieties he could find, and diverted a stream to supply his pond with water. His garden at Giverny would provide the inspiration for what would become his biggest influence on the art world.
Pablo Picasso met Marie-Thérèse Walter, the subject of this portrait, in 1927 when she was 17 years old. They began an intense love affair, but concealed it from the public for many years as she was a teenager and the artist was married. By 1931, Marie-Thérèse’s fecund, voluptuous body and blond tresses were explicitly referenced in works such as Woman with Yellow Hair. Marie-Thérèse became a muse and constant subject for Picasso. He portrayed her reading, gazing into a mirror, and sleeping, the most intimate of depictions. A single, curved line delineating Marie-Thérèse’s profile became an emblem and appears in numerous sculptures, prints, and paintings. Woman with Yellow Hair is rendered in a sweeping, graceful, curvilinear style that is a radical departure from his earlier portrayals of women. This painting of graceful repose is not so much a portrait of Marie-Thérèse the person, as it is Picasso’s abstract, poetic homage to his young muse.
Although painted nearly 20 years after the artist’s initial experimentation with Cubism, Picasso’s simplification of Marie-Thérèse’s voluptuous figure into primary shapes can be traced back to that painterly technique. The undulating lines, rounded organic shapes, and saturated hues attest to the artist’s appreciation of contemporary developments in painting such as Surrealism. As an honorary member of the Surrealists, Picasso was influenced by their investigation into dreams as a portal to the subconscious, and the bright, playful colors he has chosen for this portrait may represent dream imagery.
Marie-Thérèse’s potent mix of physical attractiveness and sexual naivety had an intoxicating effect on Picasso, and his rapturous desire for her brought about a number of images that are among the most sought after of his long career. Picasso continued to create familiar and tranquil images of Marie-Thérèse until the end of the decade even though Dora Maar had gradually replaced her. In Picasso’s paintings, Marie-Thérèse appears as blonde, sunny, and bright, in contrast to his darker portrayal of Dora Maar, whom Picasso painted as the tortured “weeping woman“.
Picasso’s relationship with Marie-Thérèse was kept from his first wife Olga until Olga was told of Marie’s pregnancy. Picasso and Olga later separated, although they remained married until she died in 1955, so Olga would not receive half of Picasso’s wealth. Marie-Thérèse and Picasso had a daughter, Maya (Maria de la Concepcion) in 1935. When Picasso started to fall in love with Dora Maar in 1936, a year after Maya was born, Marie-Thérèse understandably became jealous. Fifty years after their first meeting, Marie-Thérèse took her own life. She died by hanging herself in 1977, four years after Picasso’s death.
Zenith Community Arts Foundation (ZCAF)
Harnessing the Transformative Power of Art to Benefit the Greater Washington DC Community Since 2000
Did you know that Zenith Gallery founder Margery Goldberg also founded a nonprofit? Founded in 2000, Zenith Community Arts Foundation (ZCAF) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, committed to arts advocacy, arts education, and public art, as well as using art and creativity to enrich the Greater Washington DC/ Baltimore/ Virginia region, with an emphasis on our local community. Based in the Shepherd Park neighborhood of Ward 4, ZCAF achieves our goals by fostering alliances between area artists, businesses, other non-profits, & government agencies. ZCAF’s current focus is on developing an arts education program for area teenagers. This program has been dubbed “Hands’ on Workshops” or HOW.
ZCAF’s Hands’ On Workshops (HOW) Mission Statement is:
In a world inundated with a bewildering array of messages and meanings, an arts education also helps young people explore, understand, accept, and use ambiguity and subjectivity. In art as in life, there is often no clear or “right” answer to questions that are nonetheless worth pursuing (“Should the trees in this painting be a little darker shade of green?”). Such nuanced thinking is in high demand on the job site, and employers value an employee who is capable of understanding ‘why’ beyond simply, robotically following instructions and completing tasks mindlessly. Such workers are valued for their ability to communicate, to learn, and to problem-solve.
At the same time, the arts bring excitement and exhilaration to the learning process. Study and competence reinforce each other; students become increasingly interested in learning, add new dimensions to what they already know, and enhance their expectations for learning even more. The joy of learning becomes real, tangible, powerful. Students who enjoy learning will remain in school, continue their educations, and organically apply their love of learning to all facets of their life: personal, social, career, and community interactions. Arts education facilitates successful hiring; long-term, gainful employment and promotion in one’s career.
Students of the Arts…
▲ understand the human experience, both past, and present, which facilities empathy;
▲learn respect for others – including adapting to and respecting other ways of thinking and doing;
▲experience an increased sense of belonging or attachment to a community –
Community-based art programs such as those offered by ZCAF and other non-profits help introduce your child to new people and new experiences. This attachment encourages our youth to engage in social and creative activities while feeling part of a larger community. Through these connections, the student will learn about trust and develop healthy interpersonal skills and friendships.
▲ experience a sense of pride –
When a person puts his heart and soul into an art project—and spends hours working on it, cultivating it, and making it beautiful—he or she will feel an enormous sense of accomplishment when it’s complete.
▲ gain an understanding of the business side of art (sales, marketing, promotions, formal critiques, etc.);
▲ problem-solve, in a creative fashion, often with tight deadlines and/or budgetary restraints;
▲ make decisions in situations where there are no standard answers;
▲ analyze nonverbal communication (such as road signs, maps, and facial gestures);
▲ appreciate the human-made and the natural world, leading to a more holistic, healthier lifestyle;
▲ make informed judgments about cultural products and issues; and
▲ communicate their thoughts and feelings – art making facilitates healthy self-expression.
A tremendous benefit of arts education is giving children a way to express themselves, especially in a classroom setting. When students are working towards a common goal, they appreciate that their “voice” and interests are heard and understood by others. This joint effort creates a sense of secure acceptance that is critical to their self-esteem.
ZCAF’s Hands’ On Workshop (HOW) – Alignment with National Standards for Visual Arts
ZCAF’s Hands’ On Workshop (HOW) Program features an innovative, comprehensive, culturally sensitive curriculum, reviewed and endorsed by Mr. Nathan Diamond, Director of the Arts Curriculum/Office of Teaching and Learning, for District of Columbia Public Schools.
ZCAF’s curriculum has been aligned with the legislation known as The National Standards for Visual Arts Education (below), which Congress adopted in the early 1990s, and updated in the early 2000s. The six “Content Standards” relate to what is being learned. The eleven “Core Standards” relate to the four-part structure of the creative process, as understood by art educators: Creating, Presenting/Producing, Responding, and Connecting. These National Art Education Standards are the recognized benchmarks for arts education for all citizens and are appropriate benchmarks for any arts program, public or private, nationwide.
To learn more about these standards, please visit: http://www.nationalartsstandards.org/
The Six National Content Standards for Visual Arts Education
Content Standard #1: Understand and apply media, techniques, and processes to art making and design
Content Standard # 2: Use and gain knowledge of structures and functions
Content Standard #3: Choose and evaluate a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas
Content Standard #4: Understand the visual arts in relation to history and cultures
Content Standard #5: Reflect upon & assess the characteristics & merits of their work & work of others
Content Standard #6: Make connections between other academic subjects: Science, Technology,
Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), music, history, social studies, English, etc.)
The Eleven National Core Standards for Visual Arts Education
Creating is defined as Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work.
Standard #1. Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
Standard #2. Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
Standard #3. Refine and complete artistic work.
PRESENTING & PRODUCING STANDARDS
Presenting and Producing is defined as:
Presenting (applies to the fine arts, architecture, and design fields) – Interpreting and sharing artistic work.
Producing (applies to media art such as animation, film, TV, & video) – Realizing & presenting artistic ideas & work.
Standard #4. Analyze, interpret and select artistic work for presentation.
Standard #5. Develop and refine artistic work for presentation.
Standard #6. Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.
Responding is defined as Understanding and evaluating how the arts convey meaning.
Standard #7. Perceive and analyze artistic work.
Standard #8. Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.
Standard #9. Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work.
Connecting is defined as Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.
Standard #10. Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art.
Standard #11. Relate art with societal, cultural and historical context to deepen understanding.
Anticipated Outcomes –The Benefits of Arts Education:
Pro-Social Development & Academic Achievement
The purported benefits of arts education have been documented in hundreds of studies. For example, Harvard’s Project Zero recently analyzed 188 reports related just to academic improvement stemming from enrollment in arts education programs.
The measured outcomes generally fall into one of two categories: pro-social development (life skills are also known as ‘soft skills’) and academic achievement.
Some of the indicators of pro-social development include:
- Better discipline
- Increased self-esteem
- Reduced truancy
- Better relations with adults
- More hope for the future
- Increased motivation
- More positive peer associations
- Less interest in drugs
- More resistant to peer pressure
- Reduced criminal activities
Measures of academic achievement include:
- Improved math ability
- Improved reading comprehension
- Improved language skills
- Increased interest in social studies
- Improved spatial-temporal reasoning
- Higher high school graduation rates
The most complete and well-designed analysis of arts education to date comes from the YouthARTS
Development Project, a collaboration of the U.S. Department of Justice, National Endowment for the
Arts, Americans for the Arts, and local governmental and nonprofit entities in three cities. The study
encompassed arts-based prevention and intervention programs in Atlanta, San Antonio, and
Portland, Oregon that share a common focus on reducing the risk factors for antisocial behavior (e.g.
social alienation, early school failure) and increasing the protective factors that help youths stay out of
trouble (e.g. positive peer associations, communications skills). Ultimately, these outcomes were
expected to result in reduced delinquent and criminal behavior. The detailed evaluation reports of the
YouthARTS program was published in November 2000 and suggested the programs had a variety of
positive impacts on youth attitudes and behaviors.
In respect to criminal activity, highlights include:
In Portland, only 22 percent of the arts program participants had a new court referral
compared to 47 percent of the comparison youth. The level and type of offense committed during the program period were less severe than prior offenses.
In Atlanta, despite the fact that the arts program participants had, on average, more court
referrals than the other groups at the start of the program (7.1, vs. 6.9 (San Antonio) and 2.2 (Portal) referrals, respectively, they had, on average, fewer court referrals during the program period than the comparison group (1.3 and 2.0 respectively). Moreover, a smaller proportion of the art participants committed new offenses during the program period than the control group (50 percent vs. 78.6 percent).
In San Antonio, where the program focused on pre-adolescents (10 to 12 years of age), only 3.5% of participants committed a delinquent offense in the 22 months following program completion.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Graphic Designers earnings average out to just over $42,000 a year (graph 1 – top) based on 2005 statistical analysis (see graphics) of job postings found on three websites which track salaries. This is thousands of dollars per year more than the median salary for all American workers.
According to the BLS, from 2008-2018, the field of graphic design will grow by almost 37,000 jobs (graph 2 – bottom), or 13%, higher by 5% than the overall expected civilian workforce growth of 8.2%. As of 2008, there were about 286,100 working graphic designers, a large majority of which had chosen to further their education through higher education.
In doing this research, it should be noted that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) focused on a few areas of expected growth within the field of graphic arts: Internet advertising and marketing, mobile phone and other young electronic media, and Web sites for a growing range of products and services. This will be tempered by the continuing decline of print media like newspapers and magazines.
This is representative of a broad shift away from traditional pen-and-paper design towards digital design. As such, ZCAF’s lesson plans delve into new media such as animation and digital media design. Students will get the chance to work with an animator, and discuss new media careers such as Video Game Designer. When ZCAF instructors teach about color, we include a discussion of film and theater light coloration techniques and the way light is ‘mixed’ on computer monitor screens and with computer printers. Information that most teenagers will not get in a traditional high school art classroom, because there simply is not enough time to expose students to some much detail in typical HS art programs.
However, as ZCAF knows, designers will be expected to be comfortable working in a wide range of formats and media, with those workers comfortable in both print and digital graphic design having the best opportunities. Therefore, ZCAF provides our students with a curriculum that focuses on a comprehensive overview of skills and medium. We know that to be competitive, it is imperative that new media and graphic designers also learn how to ‘draw’ using traditional techniques and materials. ZCAF is committed to keeping DC’s young adults in school so that they are eligible to pursue whatever form of higher education or career advancement they find best suits their aptitudes. Our program will help DC area teenagers see school and learning as both enjoyable in its own right, and beneficial in that it offers them skills and information that will help them navigate the world regardless of their future career path – in short, we will show our students the connection between academic skills and ‘soft skills,’ such as punctuality and healthy self-expression, so that they can be better equipped to engage as productive, well-developed, and capable 21st century citizens.
ZCAF’s Hands’ on Workshops will be a Partnership Between…
- ZCAF Administrators & DCPS School-based Administrators
- ZCAF’s Artist-Educators and Certified DC Public School Art Teachers
- ZCAF & DCPS Students, Parents, and Guardians
- ZCAF & DCPS – Out-of-School-Time Programming
- ZCAF & DCPS- Arts/Teaching & Learning Office
What will students be learning in ZCAF’s Hands’ On Workshops and how will they learn it?
ZCAF’s HOW program is designed to provides area youth ages 13-26 with a fun and supportive atmosphere that reinforces classroom teaching, infusing academic and career-focused information within the context of a project-based arts education program that focuses on the needs of various learning styles – all with the focus on bridging the ‘achievement gap’ inner city young adults confront. At the same time, our program is not just fun and games or ‘babysitting.’ We will be asking a lot of our participants.
HOW students will:
- Write, proofread, edit, and refine Artist’s Statements;
- Present their writing & art to the group (public speaking);
- Receive feedback from peers and provide feedback to peers;
- Work in a team at times, work independently at other times;
- Problem-solve and complete tasks within a deadline;
- Meet specific project guidelines and follow instructions; and
- Work with finite resources: limited time and specific materials
HOW students will be learning, practicing, and refining the kinds of skills and tasks that most people encounter on the job site. For example, HOW students will collaborate on the design and installation of their own art exhibit. This type of collaboration is translatable to many career-based activities, such as: working as a team in the operating room performing a surgery, performance in a musical ensemble, work in the military, and working in a large retail establishment.
ZCAF’s HOW offers a low staff-to-student ratio of 1 staff for every 10 students. Our Teaching Team will be able to mentor and nurture students, in a relationship not unlike an athletic coach and their team. ZCAF’s Teaching Team will be able to provide one-on-one assistance with college applications, job applications, and the development of student’s art portfolio.
If you would like to kindly make a tax-deductible donation, or to volunteer to help ZCAF in providing quality visual arts programming – with an emphasis on life and job skills – for DC Public High School Students, please contact: Ms. Ella Dorsey, Administrative Director or Ms. Margery Goldberg, Executive Director. We can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling: 202-783-8005. ZCAF offices are open Tuesday-Friday, noon-6:00 pm.
Zenith Gallery has begun the New Year with a new exhibit “Full Circle.” The show will be on display at our location at 1111 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20004. The show dates are January 13th – April 30th. The show features the work of two artists who work in different materials but who both utilize the motif of the circle (sometimes in two dimensions, sometimes in three). In contemplating this motif, we realized that the symbolism of this shape is quite appropriate for a show ushering in the New Year.
Zenith has put together a synopsis of some of the more intriguing uses of the circle motif in art, architecture, and culture. Circles are used in art to pull the viewer into the piece. Landscape paintings will use circles to make the viewer feel that they are in the landscape. Other symbols will use circles to include the viewers. A cross with a circle around it will include the viewer in the power of the cross. The cross is sacred and divine and the circle is used to make the viewer feel the same way. Circles unite people, and make people feel whole. The shape of the circle has been used as a symbol since the beginning of time. The circle can represent the power of the female, a symbol for a goddess, and the sun. It can represent infinity, being complete, and being whole.
Circles in Spiritual Practice
Religions that focus on the earth at their center and many pagan religions see the circle as a symbol of the female. The circle can symbolize Mother Earth. It represents the spirit of feminine energy and a space that is sacred. The circle will symbolize being closed in and boundaries. It represents cycles. It can represent the womb. It symbolizes being complete. It is a symbol of revolution, of being centered and mobile. It is a symbol of forever. It symbolizes the ongoing energy found in nature. It symbolizes the way the universe includes everything.
The meaning of the circle as a symbol is universal, although how it is interpreted will vary from culture to culture. It is seen as a divine sign, sacred to several cultures. For example, quite a few Native American tribes saw the circle as a powerful symbol. The Sioux, one of these tribes, saw the circle as the sun, and as the moon, and themselves as the children of the moon. They therefore used the circle as an abstract symbol, meant to represent their tribe, when painting their shields, their horses, and their teepees – the closest approximation would be the use by Americans of the colors red, white, and blue to represent our nationality and our political affiliation. The ancient Celts used the circle for protection. They believed neither enemy nor evil could cross the boundary. Celtics saw the circle as a symbol of space and the universe. The ancient Chinese use the circle to symbolize heaven, and a square to symbolize earth. Chinese art has used squares inside of circles. They used the square inside the circle to represent heaven and earth being united. The yin yang symbol is made up of circles. It will represent the two sides of balance.
In 1947, a fashion designer by the name of Elsa Schiaparelli introduced the color hot pink to western fashion, and by extension Western culture. She called the shade Shocking Pink, though today the color is more well-known as “magenta.” Like many artists who use color and form to create works of art that display abstract forms in a rhythmic pattern, Zenith artist Carol Schepps is also clearly inspired by how colors such as shocking pink and screaming yellow bounce off one another, yet you can sense through the titles she gives her work that she is also celebrating the sun, Mother Earth, and the beauty of natural phenomena.
“Brilliant Suns Series: Luminous Suns”
Hand Dyed and Commercial Cotton, Machine Stitched Tapestry 52” x 39”
On display at: Zenith’s “1111 Sculpture Space”
1111 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004
In Zen Buddhism, an ensō is a circle that is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment, which the mind is free to let the body create only when the mind has achieved, through meditation, a state wherein one’s thoughts can best be described as ‘nothingness.’ The ensō symbolizes absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and mu (the void). It is characterized by a minimalist aesthetic born of Japanese design sensibilities. This spiritual practice of drawing ensō or writing Japanese calligraphy for self-realization is called hitsuzendō (way of the brush). Some artists draw ensō with an opening in the circle, while others close the circle.
Ensō exemplifies the various dimensions of the Japanese wabi-sabi perspective and aesthetic: Fukinsei (asymmetry, irregularity), kanso (simplicity), koko (basic; weathered), shizen (without pretense; natural), yugen (subtly profound grace), datsuzoku (freedom), and seijaku (tranquility). Wabi-sabi, although difficult to clearly define, essentially embraces the beauty that is found in natural objects and natural materials, and endorses the artist’s use of imperfection, as it more closely resembles the natural world – a world comprised of uneven surfaces, organic forms, and rough edges.
Ensō by Kanjuro Shibata
Black and Red Ink on Rice Paper
Now let’s look at another piece of work from this recent Zenith Show “Full Circle.” Here is a sculpture by artist Len Harris, titled “Still a Chance.” The repeating circle within circle motif here is interesting for several reasons. First, because as it is repeating its’ self over and over, it puts one in mind of electrons spinning around within an atom – as well as the orbits of the planets in our solar system around the sun. The piece is wonderfully crafted, and you get the sense of a real mastery of engineering – in fact, it may come as little surprise to learn that Len Harris formally worked as an engineer at NASA. Having said this, another component of this sculpture that is worth noting is the subtle way it embraces the wabi-sabi aesthetic in tandem with the superlative craftsmanship – not one of those ‘circles’ is perfectly round. Finally, we want to remark on how much we enjoy the use of light and dark tones in the wood, which gives the piece a sense of being illuminated from within and adds to it’s visual appeal.
“Still a Chance”
Wood 27” x 29” x 26”
On display at Zenith’s “1111 Sculpture Space”
1111 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20004
Circles in Modern Abstract Artworks
The creator of the first modern abstract paintings, Wassily Kandinsky was an influential Russian painter and art theorist. In his youth, he studied law and economics at the University of Moscow. He was 30 years old when he began to study art, at the University of Munich. He was not immediately accepted into the school as an art student, and so in the meantime he began learning art independently, gaining artistic insight from Monet’s Haystacks and Richard Wagner’s musical composition Lohengrin. The devotion to inner beauty remained a central theme in his art. Let’s look at one piece by Kandinsky, Circles in a Circle, to delve a bit further into his artistic process and his use of the circle motif:
“Circles in a Circle”
Oil on Canvas
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Circles in a Circle demonstrates Wassily Kandinsky’s distinctive style from the early 1920s, a period of time when he began teaching at the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany, and subsequently moved away from a spontaneous painting style and towards a more geometric composition. In this work, a thick black circle surrounds twenty-six overlapping circles of varying sizes and colors, many of them intersected by straight black lines. In a letter of 1931, he described Circles in a Circle as “the first picture of mine to bring the theme of circles to the foreground.” Two strobes of blue and yellow extending from the top corners cross toward the center of the piece, changing the colors of the circles where they overlap. Although Circles in a Circle is distinctly different from Kandinsky’s paintings of the beginning years of the twentieth century, it reflects his continued belief that certain colors and shapes signify emotions that can be codified and combined into a whole, reflecting the harmony of the cosmos. For Kandinsky, the circle, the most elementary of forms, had symbolic, cosmic significance. In fact, he once famously wrote that: “the circle is the synthesis of the greatest oppositions. It combines the concentric and the exocentric in a single form, and in balance.”
Zenith Gallery’s newest exhibit, “Great Moments in Art: Works by Stephen Hansen,” is on display December 4-January 30, at our Iris Street location. This collection of whimsical parodies was created by one of our most endearing, enduring artists – Stephen Hansen. Hansen has been represented by Zenith for almost our entire 37-year history, and has developed a host of devoted followers, both within the area and around the world. In fact, Hansen’s work has been shown worldwide over the past 40 years. His work has featured in the collections of Embassies around the world, as well as many museums, commercial buildings, airports, and government buildings, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, right here in Washington, DC.
Hansen’s newest body of work is a nod to both the formal practice and study of Art Appreciation, and his viewer’s knowledge of both individual great works of art and the seminal Art Movements that define Western Art History: cave paintings, Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, The Italian Renaissance, The Northern Renaissance, Realism, Surrealism, Post Impressionism, Pointillism, Pop Art and so forth.
Art Appreciation is the knowledge and understanding of the universal and timeless qualities that identify all great art. The more you appreciate and understand the art of different eras, movements, styles and techniques, the better you can develop, evaluate and improve your own artwork.
Art Movements are the collective titles that are given to artworks, which share the same artistic ideas, style, technical approach or time frame. They provide Art Historians, Art Educators, Art Critics, and Art Theorists a means of grouping together artists of a common period, style or technique, so that they may be more easily understood and discussed. Art Critics or Historians usually name Art Movements retrospectively, and their titles are often witty references to the artist’s own comments about their work, or sarcastic nicknames pulled from a bad review.
These pieces are clearly “Hansens,” but they also delve into new territory for the artist, in that he has revealed his remarkable ability to replication a wide array of painterly techniques and styles. Each of these new works features his trademark painted papier-mâché figures, but this time they are taking center stage in all their three dimensional glory, mounted on paintings done in acrylic on canvas, mounted on wood panels.
What are these little guys doing? They are painters, wearing white caps and white painters’ scrubs, painting these great works of art. In so doing, they are making a rather clever statement about what it means to ‘paint’ a painting. In the artist’s own words: “This project started with a ‘Rothko,’ and the notion that one’s life work might have been accomplished one brilliant weekend with a roller. What if artwork really was, well? … Work, and paintings were done by painters? It had never occurred to me, until I became involved in this project, to pretend to be someone else for a few days. It is a bit like a holiday, though I would recommend Gauguin over van Gogh.”
In essence, Hansen’s achievement has been to create a group of artwork that playfully parodies a Brief History of Art in the Western World. Incidentally, the Supreme Court has ruled that a parody is not a copy – and thus, Hansen is not committing copyright infringement. Just in case you were wondering.) What we at Zenith enjoy is that he does so, while poking fun at himself – at maybe at each famous artist (just a little bit) not to mention anyone else who loves the original works he has replicated. His respect and admiration for each great work of art clearly comes through in his careful scrutinizing of each piece. Hansen is dissecting each work of art, distilling it down to its most notable and charming elements. In so doing, his pieces manage to tease, entertain, educate, and amaze. No small achievement!
The Following Examples of Hansen’s Great Works of Art and
Their Respective Art Movements are in (roughly) Chronological Order:
The Cave Paintings of Lascaux, France
The Italian/Southern Renaissance
The Northern Renaissance
Vex…a what? The study of flags is known as vexillology, from the Latin word vexillum, meaning flag or banner. A flag is a piece of fabric (most often rectangular or quadrilateral) with a distinctive design that is used as a symbol, as a signaling device, or as decoration. The first flags were used to assist military co-ordination on battlefields, and flags have since evolved into a general tool for rudimentary signaling and identification, especially in environments where communication is similarly challenging (such as the maritime environment where semaphore is used.) National flags are potent patriotic symbols with varied wide-ranging interpretations, often including strong military associations due to their original and ongoing military uses. Flags are also used in messaging, advertising, or for other decorative purposes.
Let’s discuss the development of the design of some flags we’ve been seeing a lot of recently. In fact, let’s get deep into three of the strongest statements flags are making these days. Let’s talk about the Rainbow Pride Flag, the Black Standard Flag being flown by Jihadists, and the Confederate Flag. Then, let’s look at how three Zenith Gallery artists are turning messages of terror, homophobia, racism, and despair UPSIDE down – as they incorporate flags into works of art promoting racial harmony, embracing racial identity, affirming and supporting marriage equality, and finally, making a profound statement about the preciousness of survival in the face of adversary and the enduring nature of American democracy.
From Wikipedia: “The LGBT community has adopted certain symbols for self-identification which demonstrate unity, pride, shared values, and allegiance to one another. LGBTQ symbols communicate ideas, concepts, and identity both within their communities and to mainstream culture. The two most-recognized international LGBTQ symbols are the pink triangle and the rainbow flag. The pink triangle, employed by the Nazis in World War II as a badge of shame, was re-appropriated but retained negative connotations. The rainbow flag was created to be a more organic and natural replacement without any negativity attached to it.”
This summer, Zenith Gallery chooses to celebrate the spirit of the American ideals of democracy, self-expression, justice, truth, social freedom, personal freedom, and true equality. That is to say, our most recent exhibit celebrates and explores the American people and American society that we aspire towards, if not always perfectly achieving. We’re doing this by presenting a two-site exhibit “Stars and Stripes: Zenith Salutes the Flag!” This two-site show features over 20 different artist’s depictions and interpretations of the American flag, in over 60 works of art. This intriguing exhibit was conceived in tandem with the release of the book “Stars and Stripes: The American Flag in Contemporary Art” by E. Ashley Rooney and Stephanie Standish, published by Schiffer Publishing Company. Both our two-site show and this book focus on celebrating how artists have incorporated the colors and symbols in the American flag within their own art, to convey various themes and to play off other motifs and designs.
Flags and Marriage Equality
The recent Supreme Court ruling on the legality of gay weddings is being celebrated across the country, and Zenith could not be more thrilled. To represent the pride and excitement they feel, Americans are ‘waving’ the Rainbow Pride flag. This iconic symbol of gay pride is showing up all over social media, on the evening news, on coffee mugs, and even in attire. You may recall that the original emblem adapted by the Gay Pride movement to represent LGBT culture was the pink triangle? You may also recall that the Nazi party used a pink triangle to label ‘sexual deviants,’ just as the Jews were labeled with a gold star. The evolution from pink triangle to rainbow is interesting, and when you think about it, also makes perfect sense. From Wikipedia: “The LGBT community has adopted certain symbols for self-identification which demonstrate unity, pride, shared values, and allegiance to one another. LGBTQ symbols communicate ideas, concepts, and identity both within their communities and to mainstream culture. The two most-recognized international LGBTQ symbols are the pink triangle and the rainbow flag. The pink triangle, employed by the Nazis in World War II as a badge of shame, was re-appropriated but retained negative connotations. The rainbow flag was created to be a more organic and natural replacement without any negativity attached to it.” Gilbert Baker designed the original, eight-stripe version of the rainbow pride flag in 1978. In late 1978, a seven-stripe version was developed due to a shortage of hot pink fabric at the factories producing the new flag. In 1979, a six-color version was developed, so that the flag would have an even number of stripes and therefore look better when hung vertically on lampposts. In this version, indigo is interchangeable with royal blue. This is the version that has been popular ever since.
Zenith Artist Jennifer Wagner created the mosaic piece “Pride (See Yourself, Be Yourself)” in celebration of the recent Supreme Court decision to legalize LGBT marriage nationwide. Her work was made with a team of youths, some of who identify as transgender, some of whom identify as gay or lesbian. The spirit of working in collaboration to celebrate this profoundly impactful legal decision energized Wagner. To paraphrase Wagner’s explanation of the creation of this piece: ‘how could we not do it? When my team and I heard about the Supreme Court decision, with tears in our eyes, we conceived of a piece that spoke to the struggles and the challenges that led up to the moment when the justices said YES.’ The wording on the piece are as important as her incorporation of the rainbow flag motif:
“This flag is for those who had to hide,
For those who cried,
And for those who died.
See yourself, Be yourself.”
Flags and Terrorism
The “Black Standard” Islamic State flag being flown by the terrorist organization ISIS also comes to mind as a flag that is ‘front and center’ in recent days. The Islamic State flag (aka “Black Standard” or “Black Banner” has existed long before ISIS was established.
In fact, there have been multiple versions of this flag throughout history. Its earliest incarnation can be traced to the advent of Islam in 7th century C.E., where Muhammad allegedly spread his teachings under the Black Standard. He adopted this banner custom from the ancient Romans, who conquered the world under the Aquila, or eagle, banner. Mohammed may have even adopted the eagle name, as early accounts of his conquest cite that he referred to his banner as “the banner of the eagle” also. As various sects of Islam developed throughout the coming centuries, the Black Standard began to stand for various eschatological ideologies. Today it is mostly identified with extremist Sunnism and Jihadism. Islamic tradition states that the Quraysh had a black liwā’ and a white-and-black rāya, and thus the origin of the colors and the symbolic meaning behind them. They represent the Quraysh, a holy text that in turn represents the words of Allah. The Pashtun tradition of using a version of The Black Standard with a white shahada (Islamic creed) inscription as a military ensign, dates back to the 18th-century. It is this version of The Black Standard that was adopted by the Taliban, and thus by Al-Qaeda, in the 1990s. This usage was adopted by the global Jihadism movement in the early 2000s, and in the 2010s by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).
In direct opposition to the message embraced by those who wave the Jihadism movement flag, Zenith Gallery artist Dalya Luttwak transformed the colors and shapes found within the design of the American flag into a profound, graceful, and powerful memorial for those who were lost on 9/11.
In her painted steel piece “Tribute to New York City,” Dalya evokes the skyscrapers and the rubble of the World Trade Center attack. Luttwak’s version of the attack…really, it’s a bit like seeing a very simplified model of the aftermath – is far more complex and intriguing than merely a few pieces of painted steel. Let’s look a little more closely at her work. First, color. She’s included the classic American flag palette of red, white and blue. Blue at the base is evocative of both the harbor and the sky (from out of which the planes flew), but it also could represent the holes in the ground and the blackened rubble. White horizontal and vertical planes can be seen to represent both the negative ‘empty’ space where the towers used to be, and also very simplified skyscrapers themselves. They are both ‘there’ and ‘not there.’ Being both ‘there’ and ‘not there’ is what a memorial speaks to, on the human level as well. Finally, red – red is so powerful. In our culture, red represents blood, pain, anger, and savage fury. In our culture, red also represents a different kind of passion – love. Luttwak has achieved a piece that upon closer examination incorporates the strong extreme sense of both loss and presence, passionate pain and passionate love. Perhaps she is suggesting we respond to the fury and the anger of the terrorists with love. Perhaps she is saying love will conquer all? After all, the red is ‘on top’ of the rubble. Whatever your final assessment, you can’t deny the piece is both elegant and eloquent. And, it’s extremely patriotic, but it does not ever feel jingoistic. Quite an achievement – and we are thrilled to showcase this work.
Flags and Racism
Lastly, but certainly not least, there is the infamous Confederate flag. This divisive image has been experiencing a surge in appearances due to recent events that can be added to the long, tangled, sad, and maddening history of slavery and the oppression in these United States. The history of the design of the Confederate flag is interesting. William Porcher Miles, the chairman of the Flag and Seal committee of the Confederate States of America (CSA) government, designed this flag. The now-popular variant of the Confederate flag was rejected as the national flag of the Confederate government in 1861. Instead, the Army of Northern Virginia, under General Robert E. Lee, adopted it as a battle flag. In fact, there were four successive national flag designs that served as the official national flags of the Confederate States of America (the “Confederate States” or the “Confederacy”) during its existence from 1861 to 1865. None of these are what is currently known as the “Confederate flag.”
Despite never having historically represented the CSA as a country, it is commonly referred to as “the Confederate Flag” and has become a widely recognized symbol of the American south and American southern culture. It is also known as the rebel flag or the Dixie flag. The “rebel flag” has therefore become synonymous with plantation culture, the white supremacy movement, conservative neo-separatist political beliefs that romanticize the Civil War era, as a symbol – the culture of slavery within the United States, and the systemic, widespread racist treatment of African Americans throughout our history, including present-day racism. Supporters of the flag claim they are celebrating Southern pride and Southern heritage. Several Southern states have incorporated the rebel flag in their state flag design. A 2011 Pew Research Center poll revealed that 30% of Americans have a “negative reaction” when “they see the Confederate flag displayed.” According to the same poll, 9% of Americans have a positive reaction.
As a result of these varying perceptions, there have been a number of political controversies surrounding the use of the Confederate battle flag at sporting events, at Southern universities, and on public buildings. Southern historian Gordon Rhea further wrote in 2011 that: “It is no accident that Confederate symbols have been the mainstay of white supremacist organizations, from the Ku Klux Klan to the skinheads. The KKK did not appropriate the Confederate battle flag simply because it was pretty. They picked it because it was the flag of a nation dedicated to their ideals: “that the negro is not equal to the white man.” Ideals, incidentally, quoted straight from The Cornerstone Speech, also known as the Cornerstone Address, was an oration delivered by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens at the Athenaeum in Savannah, Georgia, on March 21, 1861. The Confederate flag, we are told, represents heritage, not hate.
Why should we celebrate a heritage grounded in hate, a heritage whose self-avowed reason for existence was the exploitation and debasement of a sizeable segment of its population? In fact, we at Zenith Art Gallery REFUSE to participate in this disgusting sham, and we don’t believe it is about ‘heritage…’ unless by ‘heritage’ you mean the systemic abuse of thousands of humans within the horrific lifestyle that is, and was, slavery. We say “is” because we acknowledge that slavery still exists, both abroad and, to a limited extent, here–because, although it is no longer government sanctioned, there are still cases reported each year of individuals found enslaved within the United States.
Messages and symbolic meanings conveyed in flags are often determined by cultural context. One of our artists, Curtis Woody, speaks to his own life experience, as an African American, and through his own lens, manages to express the universal voice of the African America – throughout our history – in the work “Freedom Isn’t Free.” Curtis uses a format he refers to as “quilt” paintings (collage) to incorporate images and text, along side bold graphics and subtle textures, creating a piece that is one part historic record, and one part artistic expression. The delicate lace he has printed over the black profile on the bottom segment reminds us of a person sitting in a parlor behind lace curtains. On the other hand, it also evokes for us the thousands of Africans, and African Americans forced to live lives in a state of illiteracy, anonymity, and oppression. After all, the person in profile lacks any defining features – they are anonymous. Whether this is by choice is indeterminate. Are they a rich white civilian who wishes to remain behind the lace curtains, outside reproach, blissfully ‘ignorant’ of what privilege they enjoy, and at what price? We don’t know.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s talk about why people make art and perform artistic acts. One of the reasons people make art is to express their thoughts and feelings about what is going on in their world today. And, these days, with our 24/7 news feed, with social media running on hyper-drive, with phones that are almost secondarily considered phones and often primarily considered cameras, social secretaries, soap boxes, and day planners…well, let’s just simplify it – there is no shortage of inspiration for artists.
Let’s take a moment to consider some of the more upsetting, frightening stories of the times: the Charlie Hebdo attack on cartoonists and the subsequent attack on innocent Parisians in a Jewish grocery store, the abduction and torture of innocent young girls in Nigeria, death and destruction throughout the Middle East courtesy of ISIS, the recent Russian and Ukrainian territorial conflict in the Crimean peninsula, young Black men shot seemingly simply because they are – young, male, and Black, living in the United States, and in the wrong place at the wrong time. Guns, bombs, terrorism, and fear mongering abound.
Artists see and hear these stories, and they respond. They mirror what is going on, they reflect it back for their comrades to “see.” Their work is a reflection, in this way, of their times. Often, the most powerful work carries on, and becomes available for future generations to discover. Artwork offers future generations insight into how our society felt about the world we were living in, and people, places, and things in that world. That’s the power of art – it endears beyond the moment, preserving the feelings, ideas, and mood of that moment – a time capsule comprised of poetry, paintings, photographs, buildings, fashion, sculptures, dance, theatre, music, and so forth.
Of course, many of you already are familiar with this painting. It’s Guernica. It’s one of the most important works of art ever created, certainly one of the most powerful depictions of the atrocity of war ever conceived. Guernica is a portrayal of the aerial destruction of a Basque town by fascists during the Spanish Civil War. It’s also a groundbreaking work in that it does not limit its depiction of the war to a photo-realistic depiction, but rather includes the psychological and metaphysical aftermath. Around the world, images copied from and inspired by it have appeared on placards, fliers, and t-shirts. After the U.S. bloodbath in Fallujah in 2004, Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times wrote that “Fallujah is the new Guernica,” and journalists Jonathan Steele and Dahr Jamail referred to the siege as “Our Guernica.” In a 1945 interview, Picasso expressed the below sentiment. Later, Boeck and Sabartes include this quote in their biography “Picasso,” which was published by Harry N. Abrams in 1955.
What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who has nothing but eyes if he is a painter, or ears if he is a musician, or a lyre at every level of his heart if he is a poet, or nothing but muscles if he is a boxer? Quite the contrary, he is at the same time a political being, constantly aware of what goes on in the world, whether it be harrowing, bitter, or sweet, and he cannot help being shaped by it. How would it be possible not to take an interest in other people, and to withdraw into an ivory tower from participation in their existence? No, painting is not interior decoration. It is an instrument of war for attack and defense against the enemy.
Now, let’s take a look at “The Ascent of Man” by one of our artists, Reuben Neugass. This piece features ink on wooden panels. The overall dimensions are 12” x 40.” The connection the artist makes between instruments of war and profits is blunt, powerful, and profound.
Here’s another piece, by another one of our artists, to consider. The artist is Carol Newmyer. The piece is titled “Joy and Sorrow.” It’s a cast bronze piece, depicting the universal struggle for humanity to rise above our baser natures and achieve a transcendent state of peace and nirvana. One figure is reaching out enthusiastically and joyfully, ready to leap into action and embracing the possibilities. Their back is arched, their arms are spread wide, they are lifting their head up, kicking their leg out – it’s as open as a human can physically be, a jubilant stance. Meanwhile, the other figure in this piece is sorrowfully closed off. It is as if the artist is saying that being open brings joy, while being closed brings only sorrow. This is worth contemplating, when we consider how we could prevent any future terrorist attacks – in Paris, in New York City, at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, in Jerusalem, or elsewhere. Let’s take Carol’s advice and be open to what our world has to offer, and present ourselves as joyfully aware, rather than closed off and turned inwards.
Hello and welcome to our new blog! In this blog, we hope you’ll find a range of resources and ideas to inspire you, provoke you, and possibly even transform you! Please consider sending the link for our blog to all your family, friends, business associates, and neighbors.
We welcome free-flowing discourse between…
the young and the young-at-heart,
the creator and the patron,
the artist who is just embarking on their career
and the seasoned professional,
and finally, the informed and the curious!
It is our intention to offer the following categories of content:
Meet Our Artist
Each month, this page will feature a new artist, and will include a quick biography or resume, an artist’s statement, and examples of their art. There will be a comments section, which will give our readers an opportunity for to connect with the artist, asking questions to learn more about what you find compelling. In this area, we offer our readers the chance to learn more about the artist’s process, their background, their themes, their medium, and their inspirations.
Something to Consider – Editorial
Each month, this page will feature an editorial, relating the artistic process and art history to current events. The editorial will provide you with a bridge between the world of art and the world as a whole – topics might include: economics and finance, war and terrorism, social and cultural expectations for women, poverty and charity, politics and propaganda, environmentalism and recycling, or others. We’ll include a comments section here, and may even be inspired by reader comments to respond in the next essay to what you think!
Resources & Tips for Artists
Each month, Zenith Gallery will provide different resources, in the hopes of building an extensive menu for our artists. These will be archived, for easy reference from month to month.
Examples of resources might be –
- “How To Frame Your Work for An Art Gallery”
- “How to Price Your Work for an Art Gallery”
- “How to Write an Artist’s Statement for a Potential Client and an Art Gallery”
- “Sources for Free or Inexpensive Art Supplies”
- “How to Label and Describe Your Work”
Opportunities for Artists
Zenith Gallery will provide different opportunities for our artists, as part of our commitment to building and sustaining a supportive community of artists. These will be archived, for easy reference from month to month.
Examples of opportunities might be –
- “Upcoming Grants and Artist-in-Residence Programs”
- “Upcoming Juried Show & Exhibit Opportunities”
- 365 different artists: 365 days of art
- See who shares your birthday!
- Learn about a new artist each day!
Art in the News
- Links to Current Art-Focused News and Events such as:
- Museum Openings
- Stories about Thefts or Forgeries
- Movies about Art
- Famous Artists Who Have Passed Away etc.
Just for Fun
Whimsical, Cute, Fun, Silly Stuff – Jokes About Art, etc.