The Eyes

The Eyes

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hirshhorn 360-Degree Projection

Internationally renowned artist Doug Aitken will transform the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden's iconic circular building into “liquid architecture.” Using approximately eleven high-definition projectors, Aitken will seamlessly blend imagery to envelop the entire façade of the Gordon Bunshaft-designed structure with a 360-degree panorama that will make the Museum recede into cinematic space—rotating, rising, and evolving into new forms. Exploding film conventions, the work cannot be viewed from any single perspective or at any single moment in time. Visitors must walk the perimeter of the building in order to experience the work more fully. 

This site-specific work will animate the Hirshhorn beginning in mid-March and remain on view each evening from March 22 to May 13, 2012, offering an unprecedented exhibition experience to the millions of visitors who will come to the National Mall during the 100th anniversary of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. A fully illustrated book about the work as well as a series of public programs—including lectures, dialogues, performances, and other events—will accompany the project. 

More than a temporary artwork, this truly original piece will also become part of the Hirshhorn’s permanent collection, enhancing its ever-expanding holdings of cutting-edge time-based media.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I "Heart" the Art Institute of Chicago

I visited Chicago recently, staying at a kicky, new hotel, PUBLIC ChicagoA new venture by hotelier Ian Schrager, PUBLIC was an experience for a low-maintenance type of traveler, with an adorable staff, modern decor, and impeccable service. Minimalist furnishings, sleek lines, muted colors, and soft lighting carried through from the lobby and registration desk to the updated famous Pump Room restaurant and into the serene sleeping rooms. I found it to be a lovely retreat in the heart of the city on a quiet street in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood.

The purpose for my stay was a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago. Enamored by the Modern Wing and the nearby Millennium Park, I started my journey with Matisse's monumental masterpiece, Bathers by a River. Completed in several stages between 1909 and 1917, the immense canvas began as one of three panels commissioned for the residence of a Moscow collector. After the collector decided not to purchase the original painting, Matisse reworked the canvas again in 1913, obliterating one figure and altering the remaining nudes into abstract forms. He reworked the canvas again in 1916 and 1917 to how it is seen today. Another Art Institute treasure is the recently re-installed America Windows by Marc Chagall (seen below).  Completed in 1977, the windows commemorate the American Bicentennial in memory of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley.

No trip to the Art Institute is complete without a visit to the Thorne Miniature Rooms. Sixty-eight miniature rooms commissioned by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago were created between 1932 and 1940 according to her specifications and were painstakingly built to scale of one inch equal to one foot.  The rooms offer a glimpse of European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s.  A few of those rooms are now decked out for the holidays.  The Holiday Thorne Rooms are on view now until January 7, 2012. Add shopping on Michigan Avenue and lunch at the historic Marshall Field's (now Macy's) Walnut Room and I'm in heaven!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

On the Road to Santa Fe

Red Hills with the Pedernal
19.75 in. x 29.75 in. | Oil on Linen
Georgia O'Keeffe | 1936
I’ve heard it said the light and color in Santa Fe are beautiful. It was much more than that—it was dramatic. Expecting a brown-laden desert, I instead found an exquisite terrain of burnt umber and spots of green vegetation, mountains of blue with purple veins, and the hills bursting of orange and red. Filled with history, museums, and galleries, I found myself drawn to the landscape as much as the art. I was entranced by some stunning art at both the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the New Mexico Museum of Art, but I also experienced the same awe those artists drawn to the area must have felt when they absorbed it, and in turn, put to canvas their interpretation of that magnificence.

Walking in Santa Fe on a recent August evening, I looked to the sky and saw the most incredible sunset I’ve ever seen. I quickened my pace back to the hotel for my camera to try to capture that image on film. However, it was just a moment. Within minutes it had changed, and in just a few more minutes while searching frantically for the perfect vantage point, it was gone. That’s the way it was there—ever-changing and constantly evolving. I can only imagine how excited O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, and scads of others artists were to transfer that imagery to canvas. I’ve long admired the work they executed with Santa Fe as their backdrop. But, it wasn’t until I visited the area that I truly appreciated what they had accomplished!

My interest in O’Keeffe has been awakened by what I learned about her and the landscape she loved. She always knew what she was meant to do, and she pursued it with passion. Departing Santa Fe in the early morning again was something special to see. From walking out of the small airport’s rust-colored adobe structure onto the tarmac, to seeing the unobstructed panoramic view of light streaked with dozens of hues of blue that seemed to emanate from the ground up while boarding the plane, and floating over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains high on the brilliance of color and the play of light—it was very surreal. I fell in love with Santa Fe.

Friday, June 17, 2011

This Week in Art | Brock, Martin, De Kooning, and Modigliani

Sometimes I can go through a spell where my work life takes over, and I'm devoid of art. I hate that. I just spent three days out-of-town for work, none of which allowed a single moment to go to an art museum I've never visited. Instead, it just sucked the life out of me and spit me back out at home Wednesday night.

However, upon re-entry, I walked into our home full of art and the studio space of my partner and artist, James Brock. It made me happy again. Then, a little time spent online steered me toward the things that save me from the tension and drudgery of work (for pay). I discovered Knox Martin's blog post on the Greenpeace website. It is Knox’s beautiful tale of a magnificent encounter with a whale and the symbolism and terror depicted in his soon-to-be executed Whaling Wall. It moved me more than Melville ever did!

Café Singer 

Oil on Canvas | 92.4 cm x 60.3 cm
Amedeo Modigliani | 1917
Lunchtime today led me to another love, Bill de Kooning, when the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden hosted Friday Gallery Talks. For 30 minutes, a curator discussed de Kooning’s Two Women in the Country—a wildly, expressive painting executed in 1954 as his popularity was on the rise.  It was a nice way to spend a lunch, learning something new, with a dozen others with the same interest.

Finally, on Sunday I will follow yet a new interest in the troubled and short life of artist Amedeo Modigliani. The National Gallery of Art presents the author of Modigliani: A Life, Meryle Secrest with a lecture titled, "The Unknown Modigliani." I finished reading the Secrest biography last night and it was an interesting and fast read, debunking many of the widely-known and long-held myths about him. The National Gallery holdings include several beautiful examples of the artist's work in their permanent collection. Also, worth seeing is the biopic Modigliani, starring Andy Garcia, with its terribly tragic end. 

Five days and four artists that renewed my spirit and enriched my life this week.  I'm thankful for the opportunities I have to seek out this exposure to art, art history, and the artist's who bring me back to life.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Knox Martin | Flowers—Homage to Matisse (2011)

Knox Martin's latest offering of Flowers is exquisite. While I could never choose a favorite from this beautiful collection, his Flowers—Homage to Matisse (2011) makes me euphoric!

This tribute to Henri Matisse's The Red Studio (1911) is stunning. His overall use of red infused with blue and green take aim, yet Martin defines his own use of space. He appropriates imagery from the earlier painting—the white outlining of objects, a round plate in the lower left, the vines from a vase, and the still life-worthy table dominating the left side of the painting. The patterns in the blue plate and the swath of green on the right seem to nod to Matisse’s affinity for using multiple patterns and fabrics in his work.  And, is that green triangle in the center, one of the missing hands from Matisse's clock? 

Yet, Homage is distinctly Knox! On our first visit to Knox, my partner, James, took him a huge bouquet of flowers and upon presenting them to him, he said, “Oh, great! Now I have to draw the f*cking things!”  He’s a gem. I celebrate Knox honoring Matisse and Red Studio one hundred years later!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Clyfford Still Museum | Denver

The Clyfford Still Museum announced that it will open its doors on November 18, 2011. The museum, which will house 94% of the artist’s total creative output, the majority of which has never been on display, will reintroduce the public to the life and work of Clyfford Still, one of America’s most significant yet least understood artists. No previous exhibitions of the artist’s work have been able to present the full trajectory of Still’s 60-year career, including his rarely seen figurative works from the 1930s, paintings from the 1960s and 1970s created after Still’s retreat from the commercial art world, and the hundreds of works on paper that the artist created, often on a near-daily basis.

After achieving national recognition and prominence for his abstract works in the 1940s and early 1950s, Still ended his relationship with commercial galleries in 1951, infrequently exhibiting his work thereafter. Following the artist’s death in 1980, the Still collection, comprising approximately 2,400 works by the artist, was sealed off completely from public and scholarly view. Still’s will stipulated that his estate be given in its entirety to an American city willing to establish “permanent quarters” dedicated solely to his work, ensuring its survival for exhibition and study. In August 2004, the City of Denver, under the leadership of Mayor John Hickenlooper, was selected by Still’s wife, Patricia Still, to receive the substantial Still collection. In 2005, Patricia Still also bequeathed to the city her own estate, which included select works by her husband as well as his complete archive.

I saw a few paintings by Still at the Denver Art Museum in a small exhibition in October 2008.  The exhibition was dedicated to the soon-to-be-constructed Still Museum adjacent to the existing Art Museum in Denver.  This is quite a legacy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

An Icon of 20th-Century Architecture | The Farnsworth House

Located only an hour from where I grew up and a two-hour drive from downtown Chicago lies The Farnsworth House, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's modern masterpiece. A pilgrimage site for architects and designers world-wide, it is considered one of our country’s most important modern assets. I have to admit my interest in this gem is recent, only following them on Facebook and Twitter in the last month.

My fascination with architecture started when living in Chicago in the mid-1990s. I worked on the ninth floor of a glass-box office building built in 1967 overlooking the Michigan Avenue draw bridge, the Wrigley Building, and the Chicago Tribune Tower. Our apartment on the 21st floor in Printer's Row, had a birds-eye view of that iconic of all glass and steel skyscrapers, the 110-story, once-named Sears Tower (now called the Willis Tower). I was immersed in and surrounded by architectural history.

The 1585-square-foot house built in 1951 on the Fox River in rural Northern Illinois stands as a testament to one of the greatest architects of the 20th century. The portraitist Annie Leibovitz trekked to Plano, Illinois to photograph the house for her upcoming book, Pilgrimage, due out Fall 2011. And, toy giant Lego has even immortalized it in their architecture series.

Open April 1 through November 24 for guided tours. My next trip to Illinois will definitely include a visit to this rich museum.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Knox Martin | The Whaling Wall Public Art Project

Knox Martin's whaling project has intrigued me since my first visit to his studio almost three years ago.  He is passionate about this project and I'm so thrilled to see it moving forward.

Knox Martin and Woodward Gallery announce this important public artwork, The Whaling Wall, to be premiered as a public mural at 334 Grand Street in New York, corner of Grand and Ludlow Streets facing west, scheduled to be completed May 2011.

The powerful image depicts man’s irresponsible killing of the whales, a metaphor for peace and a call for humanity.  Known for his muralist work, Knox was seen in the recent past on a cherry picker putting his signature in a more visable location when his Venus  was partially covered by construction of a new building adjacent to that mural.  At age 88, he is an awesome force!

©2011 Knox Martin/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

The realization of this public artwork is made possible by the commitment of the following:
  • Artist Knox Martin has envisioned and will donate his painting to the public to raise awareness;
  • Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Downey have donated their building’s exterior wall;
  • Golden Artist Colors, Inc. will provide custom paint; and
  • Woodward Gallery has coordinated and will curate the project. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Grace to be born . . . | March 28, 1922

A few months after moving to Baltimore in 1989, I was exploring my new neighborhood of Mount Vernon, a beautiful historic area of the city just north of the harbor. Located across the street from a wonderful cafe and bookstore my brother and I used to visit frequently near Walters Art Gallery, I stopped in C. Grimaldis Gallery to have a look around. I was intrigued by a work titled, West Broadway, by Grace Hartigan. On my way out, I took a postcard from the Gallery reception desk with an image of the large, vibrant painting I had just seen. I kept that postcard for quite a while, first used as a bookmark, and then it was pinned to a wall near my desk at work when I moved to Chicago a few years later. I didn't take the time then to find out more about her, I just remember being very drawn to that energetic image.

Video Cover | 2008
Image | The Persian Jacket | 1952
Posting about this painting in
MoMA Collection coming soon.
In the summer of 2003, I was reading the book, Bill and Elaine: Portrait of a Marriage, about the lives of Willem and Elaine de Kooning. Several times, Hartigan is mentioned during the 1950s period when they were all part of the emerging Abstract Expressionist movement in New York.  Alas, my interest in knowing more about her life was born. I sought her out, found she was still living in Baltimore where I first encountered her work, and she had an address listed. So, I wrote her a letter telling her how much I enjoyed reading about her and of my interest in her work.  My partner, James Brock, followed my letter with a phone call to her studio.  

I continued to pursue my passion for knowing more, reading any books I could get my hands on about her life and her work, purchasing catalogs and postcards from her past exhibitions, even gaining access to the papers she donated to Syracuse University. At her suggestion to James, we attended the opening reception of a show in the fall of 2003 at Grimaldis Gallery, and introduced ourselves. We later enjoyed seeing her at more openings, James called her several times and spoke with her at length from her studio, I continued to write to her, and she even suggested further sources to read.

I persist toiling in my head on a dramatic project about her, wondering if it will ever take shape. I still collect books about the New York School and her place in art history as a second generation Abstract Expressionist painter. Currently, her work is hanging in the Abstract Expressionist New York exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, and we forever enjoy visiting the Smithsonian's National Gallery of Art and the American Art Museum to see her art in their collections. The title of this post, Grace to be born and live as variously as possible, is a line from a poem by her dear friend and poet, Frank O'Hara.  I dedicate this post to all the joy she has brought to my life, honoring the day of her birth—March 28, 1922. Thank you, Grace.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Cubies' ABC and the Armory Show of 1913

Much has been written about the importance of the Armory Show of 1913, indisputably regarding this watershed event with changing the course of art in America. A little gem of a children’s book, The Cubies’ ABC, published in 1913, rhymes through the alphabet invoking the images and ideals of the Show’s participating artists. The red, yellow, and blue Cubies take on Matisse, Picasso, and other artists as well as the modern art collector, Gertrude Stein, in quirky and bizarre poetry that hardly seems to be written for a child. About Stein, the Cubies exclaim for the letter G:

G is for Gertrude Stein’s limpid lucidity,
(Eloquent scribe of the Futurist soul.)
Cubies devour each word with avidity:
“Alone words lack sense,” they affirm with placidity,
“But how wise we’ll be when we’ve swallowed the whole!”
G is for Gertrude Stein’s limpid lucidity.

With images by architect Earl Harvey Lyall and verses by his wife, Mary Mills Lyall, the book is dedicated to the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, organizers of the International Exhibition of Modern Art (the Armory Show). The entry for the letter Y expresses the boredom with art before this exhibition:

Y’s for the Yawn overcoming each Cubie
At sight of a painting not done in his style
“If man doesn’t use all the colors, from ruby
To sapphire and emerald and topaz—the booby!—
To look at his canvas is not worth one’s while!”
Y’s for the Yawn overcoming each Cubie.

The jokes and thought-provoking prose leave you smiling with the excitement the art world must have felt putting themselves and their work forward for an unsuspecting public to encounter and interpret. The illustrations in this book are as whimsical and fun as the language. See the complete book on I leave you with this:

I is for the Cubies’ Immense Intuition—
“The only real need of an artist,” they say:
“Without it we all would go straight to perdition!”
Between you and me, I’ve a sneaking suspicion
The Cubies themselves appear well on the way!
I’s for the Cubies’ Immense Intuition.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Love Affair in Art

Frank O'Hara | 11 in. x 14 in.
Pastel and Pencil on Paper | James K. Brock
I'm in love with art. I find it everywhere. It hangs on every wall at home. I wake up next to an artist every morning and go to bed with one every night. I get dressed in front of art each day. Walking to the subway, I pass street art painted on cement walls. I live and work in a great city where I see monumental and world-famous art at free museums. I read biographies about artists and art movements, and devour art magazines and blogs dedicated to art. Art covers the walls of my office and flies around on my computer's screensaver.

Being in the presence of and learning from Knox Martin has been an incredible experience. Knox is a wonderful, kind man who completely fascinates me. His art is alive, positive, and dancing with energy, just like the man. Much more than just visual with Knox, he has recited poetry, talked art history, and once even cooked dinner in his studio for me and his coterie of that moment of other artists, musicians, and writers. Meeting Grace Hartigan and to have her know of my interest in her life and work will always be a part of my rich, life experience.

And, being included in the artistic process every day with my partner, the artist James Brock, brings incredible joy. The art and his studio are the central universe of our home. His art is lively, colorful, and splendid, evoking only positive feelings and images of life around us. Our journey has been painful at times, but worth every patient step when I sit and contemplate a newly executed work of art.

I listen to music while I commute and workout daily. Madonna, Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga, and Kanye West turn those daily routines into a dance. I love music from every genre and decade of my life and credit my father's love of music for it always being a part of me. I played trombone and piano in my youth and dabble at keyboards today.

I hear poetry in the work of openly gay rapper, LastO. An artist outside the mainstream, he brings a fresh voice to a genre dominated by sickening homophobia. LastoO's words and music forge new ground documenting a raw, urban, gay experience. My fascination with the life of Frank O'Hara, born out of love for Hartigan, now stands on its own as a testament to him as poet, curator, muse, friend, and lover to the art world of the 1950s and 1960s. The dialogue and characters created by playwrights Edward Albee and Tennessee Williams torture me in my own quest and I wouldn't have it any other way.

The best part is being with the person I love most, with all my heart, the one who is at my side loving all of it along with me, James. We share with each other what we learn about art every day. Through Twitter, Facebook, and email, we constantly document our pursuit of art. Always at the forefront, I can't ever imagine my life without him, or the beauty of art.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Sitting and the Portrait

More than a year ago, master artist Knox Martin told my partner James and I that he wanted to draw our portrait. When he said it, we were thrilled by the gesture. I consider the act of being the object of an artist’s creation to be romantic and burdensome. Romantically, you’re singularly with the artist and his medium, and burdensome knowing that you will be immortalized without control of the outcome.

During a past visit to Knox’s studio, he had both of us sit for him while drawing—first James, then me. I sat in a director’s-type chair about three feet from Knox. He instructed me to look directly at his nose. We didn’t speak as his eyes intently calculated my face. I tried to contain the electricity within to keep my composure while he worked. The feeling was staggering as I listened to his pencil grazing the surface of the paper.

I know there were other things going on around me in the studio, but I was in his contemplation at that moment and I was oblivious to any other activity. Knox later posed us together and took several photographs of which he would use to complete the portrait.
Months later, a cardboard tube arrived at home. Knox completed the drawing. I’ll always remember that moment of elation and joy seeing the reflection of Knox’s vision. I will cherish that image forever.