Barbara Brady

All over Maine art is teeming, and in Lincoln County proper great
artwork is everywhere, though sometimes, one must work a little harder
to find it. Down the narrow roads of Damariscotta Mills lies a gem of a
contemporary art gallery. Curator Yvette Torres has been creating an
art space that is "committed to excellence." Indeed, Barbara Brady's,
"Land-Marks" is a testament to that commitment. Each piece is hung
deftly inside the clean, pale walls of the gallery space. The high
ceilings and hardwood floors of the restored church provides the
reverence in which Brady's work deserves.

Throughout Brady's current show, she is drawing upon her experience as a
plein-air painter, using natural patterns to create landscapes within
landscapes; little worlds within larger spaces, drawing one up close to
the very surface of the paint.

Nose to nose with "Solitude," pale peach, sky blue, and yellow ochre
shape this composition into a towering wall of color. At its peak, the
landscape cascades back down from three pouring-like gestures of thinned
paint. The drips and cracks from oils mixing and drying evoke a
springtime shower.

From a distance, "Stonington" appears to be remnants of landscapes,
stripped bare and fractured like a Cubist painting, yet upon closer
examination, it is realized within each stroke of paint, each scratch
upon the canvas, each delicate line placed ever so thoughtfully, framing
a larger area, that there is life brimming over the entire surface. A
life that surpasses the stark realism of perception and sails straight
through into the pure thrumming of energy within each breath of nature.
"Dividing Line" pulls back into the recognizable structure of land and
sky with raw umber separating the horizon. Peach and yellow ochre are
added with lavender and blue to shape the rolling hills against
otherwise flat planes. The variation in line weight and line direction
calms the abstraction to a pleasant solution.

Fervent marks of green, umber, and lavender, coupled with ecstatic
scratches, drips, and scribbles make the surface of "The Cows Are Out" a
sensory delight. Each layer of paint added, scrapped off, then
re-added, pulls together into an art making narrative, a story of
struggle, playfulness, laughter, and then pure bliss when it all comes
into focus.

The process of art making is much like the process of life. The
intention is direct but the experience is very emotional and intuitive.
Brady's oil paintings are operating at the very core of intuition and
expression. Glimpses of inexplicable moments are distilled into
brushstrokes and colors.

The work of Barbara Brady is a testament that art in
Maine can and does go against the grain of what is expected. And for
that we should all be eternally grateful.

 

From an article by Renee Lauzon, Lincoln County News

 

Interview:

Barbara Brady at Yvette Torres Fine Art

Posted on August 22nd, 2012 in Artist Interviews

 

 

I stopped by Yvette Torres Fine Art to see reMarks: Paintings by Barbara Brady while in Rockland the other day.  If you have not been to this gallery you have to go—it’s a terrific space to see paintings in. The  large, wide open space, allows for different perspectives on the work. The garage door and gray floor give it an industrial feel that is authentic. An arrangement of  modern chairs complement the work beautifully and invite a moment for conversation and discovery.

The space is both intimate and expansive, in the same way the exhibitions introduce us to a person, to a body of work which then connects us to other places and events– expanding our experiences.

 

 After seeing the exhibition, I got in touch with Barbara, visited her studio and asked her some questions about her work.

JP: Your work seems to be drawn so clearly from the Abstract Expressionist tradition yet there are differences, I wondered how you see that connection?

BB: I admire and have been inspired by DeKooning, Kline, Mitchell, the energy of gestural painting intrigues me.  I also find the work of Gerhard Richter and Anselm Kiefer to fascinate.

JP: What else do you think influences your work?

BB: Seasons, nature and music.

JP: You  paint without preconceptions- Would it be accurate to say that your process is an intuitive search for an image ?

BB: Intuitive, emotional, not sure I would call it a search exactly – more of a revealing.

JP: What is that quote of Mattise’s above the door in your studio?

BB: “Give external shape to inner visions.”

JP: The paintings ‘read’ very differently from far away and close up.  You mention that from a few inches away that one can see their ‘chapters’, their existence. Why is that important for you?

BB: Yes, very important. I feel, to have a complete appreciation for a person, or painting or anything really, you need to get to know them/it. Spend time with, learn from, explore and yes, look and listen. Too often life is superficial, a casual chat, a quick glance – how can you ever truly understand or appreciate something without investing some of your time? I don’t think my work is meant to have an immediate “grab” or an “in your face” style. I have likened it to more of a “come hither” approach. A bit of mystery that can be revealed if you are willing to give of yourself.

JP: Your work seems to have an underlying structure  in common yet there is this wonderful use of color and gesture where you are able to sustain endless variations that remain inventive, compelling and consistently beautiful.

BB: Thank you!

JP: I look at your work and it makes me want to get in the studio- you clearly love the materials, moving painting around, making marks.

BB: Yes, each piece reveals something new. Some pieces, it’s all about the paint. Others, it calls for the addition of other materials (graphite, oil pastel, paper, cardboard, wire). Going beyond the brush, adding other materials to enhance or adorn a piece or create a new mark.

JP: What are you reading ?

 

BB: Lee Krasner a Biography by Gail Levin

 

Christopher Barnes, Joseph Fiore

Barnes is a consummate documentary photographer, but in this event he takes his skills to another realm. He departs from rationalism to become a conceptualist - an artist who finds images that conform to his conception of what the image should be. In a sense, the images are partially pre-formed in his mind; he knows what he is looking for.
His subjects are the derelict hospital and contagious-disease wards at Ellis Island. Their walls are scabrous, leeching paint and plaster into corridors that have endless vistas. The tug - the tension - between the original governmental solidity of the structures and the current leprous decay is palpable. You can feel it with your skin.

The subject matter is obvious and evokes loneliness and despair, but Barnes' images transcend the obvious. They are magnificent extractions of powerful architecture with an eye for metaphor and the surreal. The prints are not titled but one of a toilet invaded by ivy into which a dead bird is embedded would be surreal if it were not real. Another print is of the cast-iron monster of a furnace, virtually a railroad engine in captivity. It is all done with available light and a flawless compositional sense.

We have seen Fiore's paintings over the years. He is a master of the urban idiom and his perceptions of the waters that surround New York are those of an intimate. He paints the waterfront, the rivers, the railyards, the underside of the West Side Highway, the gray skies and winter ice as only an intimate can. It's a pleasure to see such emotional and evocative painting.

FROM THE MAINE SUNDAY TELEGRAM AUGUST 6, 2006
Philip Isaacson of Lewiston has been writing about the arts for the Maine Sunday Telegram for 40 years. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

Black Mountain College Artists 2007

7/18/07

Kay Liss

The gallery has built a solid reputation for putting on high quality shows since its inception only two short seasons ago. But with its current exhibition, it leaps into another category of sophistication all together. The exhibit, entitled Up From New York, displays some impressive work from artists who were prominent in the New York art scene in the 1940's and 50's and whose work was shown and/or is in collections at such premier institutions as the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of Art (in New York City), and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. And at least two of the artists, Joseph Fiore and Charles DuBack, have strong connections to Maine, Fiore having summered in Jefferson with family for nearly 50 years and Charles DuBack summering in Tenants Harbor for a long time. The thread tying together the six artists in the show are that they all studied or taught at Black Mountain College, the iconoclastic school near Asheville, N.C., that was a unique experiment in education from the 1930's to the '50's. Such maverick artistic spirits as Willem de Kooning, Merce Cunningham in dance and Buckminister Fuller of geodesic dome fame, spent time teaching there. Fiore taught painting and drawing at the college from 1946 to 1956. The show presents a fascinating evolution of his work from the 50's to the present. However, it doesn't follow what one may think of as a logical and typical trajectory - from roughly realistic to abstract. The earliest works are abstract expressionistic in style, then in the 60's he experimented with a more impressionistic style of landscape painting, evidenced in oils such as "Ledges and Stream." From the 70's, there's a medley of styles on display, from the more impressionistic "Woods" to the more abstract and geometric "Sunset Through Cloud Band." In the 1980's, Fiore was playing with shapes and colors, departing from the more rigid Neo-Plasticism ideals of the color field painters like Josef Albers, a Black Mountain teacher himself for many years. Paintings such as "Sikeytaki," from 1984, have a more organic feeling. Many of the works from the 90's continue this style - fun, Paul Klee-like paintings of mysterious markings and figures within curved color field spaces, a wonderful example being "Winter Solstice XI," its glyph-like creatures in a brown-gray background reminding one of ancient cave paintings. John Urbain studied matiere under Albers, an art form using different materials to explore geometric design in a three dimensional expression. Wallpapers, book covers and even metals were combined to create works of rich texture and interesting pattern juxtapositions. Collage works on display are from the 70's through the present and are quite similar in style, except perhaps that later ones, such as "Three Roses" from 2000, are less geometric and more organic. All of this viewer's favorites are from the 80's, in particular "Brown Sun," "Yellow Figure" and "Purple Strip." DuBack, primarily a painter, has mostly drawings on display, from the 1980's to the present. They are dark and dramatic, such works as "Haze" depicting trees wildly swaying in the wind. He also has a number of watercolors in the show representing a more abstract style. DuBack, represented by the Greenhut Gallery in Portland, has shown widely both in Maine and in New York, including at the Whitney and MOMA. Elaine Schmitt Urbain was a student at Black Mountain where she met her future husband, John. She spent time as an artist in Paris and has lithographs on display depicting scenes from her life there. They exude a lively, gay atmosphere in that unmistakably French artistic manner. Elaine's sister, Elizabeth, also studied at the college and met her future husband, Pete Jennerjahn, there. She was probably more involved with dance than with art, studying with Merce Cunningham while there. A large impressionistic oil of hers is included in the exhibit. Similarly, Jennerjahn was involved with music more than art, taking classes from the minimalist composer John Cage at Black Mountain. A few of his abstract paintings are in the show. 

Cranberry Island Artists

FROM THE MAINE SUNDAY TELEGRAM
SEPTEMBER 2, 2007

‘THE CRANBERRIES’ WORTH THE TRIP

I also applaud “Encountering the Cranberries” in Damariscotta. Curated by writer and art critic, Carl Little with a family affiliation with the Cranberry Isles, it is a handsome compendium of current and barely erstwhile art from that favored land.

Almost 60 two dimensional works and at least four pieces of sculpture have been selected by Mr. Little, and my impression is that he has somehow encased the sunshine of past summers and set it free in a splendid old house half a state away. The atmosphere in it’s rooms is a tonic for the late weeks of the season.

Seventeen artists are represented and with few exceptions I could describe their work as celebratory. It extols the summer so fluidly that it makes your heart sing. I make this point because my preferences run to intense works that give your stomach a wrench and Little’s show is so effusive that it almost startled me.

There is a dark moment or so in a pair of drawings by Emily Nelligan. They are a tender contribution to the mystery of eventide. Without bypassing admirable paintings by, John Lorence, Daniel Fernald and Carl Nelson, I accept the show as a gift of an opportunity to see work by the late William Kienbusch. History has confirmed the singularity-at least in local terms-of his vision. No one working in these parts in the 1960’s embraced both the severity of his abstraction and his fine touch for the tangible world. The balance is often exquisite and Mr. Kienbusch is a master for it.

Philip Isaacson

Winslow Myers

Myers' Work Creates a Whole From Contrasting Halves

August 25, 2009

From an article by Kay Liss, Lincoln County News

In his artist's statement, Winslow Myers evokes one of his seemingly favorite statements by the author of a work on the French abstract painter, Georges Braque: "The poetic image is born of the bringing together of two more or less distant realities, between which only the spirit grasps the relationship." Myers goes on to say that Braques' work, some of which embody this principle "literally" in that they are actually bisected into two contrasting images, helped inspire him to create a series of diptychs entitled "Passages," now on view in Damariscotta Mills. Myers, who lives in Vermont but is from Maine and is the son of Julia and the late Edward Myers of Walpole, works primarily in a very large format, most of his "Passages" series being nearly or over, five by five feet. The two halves of canvases play with a variety of contrasting elements: in views from close up and far way; in machinery and nature; interiors and exteriors; and in seasons. They are meticulously painted, another interesting contrast in that, though the works are large, upon closer inspection the viewer can often see a pointillist approach to applying the paint on an almost invisible grid system, creating the illusion of depth in a background. This technique is used to particularly impressive effect in "Passages XIV" of an old train trestle in a fall scene contrasted with an interior scene of a cozy couch, a window behind it depicting snow falling in the woods beyond. In such works, machinery, represented by the bridge, doesn t create a threatening image, imposing itself upon nature, but rather seems to blend into and become part of nature. This is evident in another wonderful work, "Passages VIII," in which an old iron train, though spouting black smoke, is sprinkled with a mossy green, making it almost meld into the green hillside background and, actually, making it a thing of strange beauty. On the other half is a snow packed trail between two pines. The colors, as in most of the paintings, are finely balanced in both halves, creating a connecting harmony. The most important connecting element in these diptyches, notwithstanding all their contrasts, is the theme of "Passages," they each depict passages of some kind, whether it's a passage by train or the implied skiing down a snowy mountain pass, the passage of the eye through a window or traveling by plane or boat. The latter type of passage is majestically represented in "Passages IX" of a close-up of the front of a sailboat, its jib tilting starboard in the wind and the bottom of its mainsail hanging steady. Ahead is a spit of Maine coast with its tall pines and rocky ledge. On the other side of the canvas is a distant snowy ski slope. Myers also has displayed some smaller studies to the larger works. In most of them, it's obvious that such close-up scenes of large objects, such as bridges or train trestles, work much better in a large format. There are a few, however, that belie this rule. One is "Plane Study," 16 by 16 inches, of a tip of an airplane wing as seen from a window looking out and the mountains below, all in gray tones with a bit of white. For some reason, it simply works as a small piece, though its larger relative is not part of this show to compare. The artist's careful preparation for embarking on a large work is evident as well in skillfully drawn pencil sketches. The paintings, all in acrylic, have the capacity to make one linger in looking, as a gallery visitor commented. There's so much to see and think about, though perhaps not in a "hidden" symbolic way; they are complicated, surely, yet not in a psychological sense. They indeed create a poetic whole from "the bringing together of distant realities," grasped best by the spirit and the delighted eye. Myers, recently retired from teaching in Massachusetts and formerly at the Rhode Island School of Design, has previously shown in this area, at Gallery 170 and the former Round Top Center for the Arts. His work has been shown extensively in Vermont and Massachusetts beginning in the early 1970s.

NEW WORK/OLDER WORK (Review by Leon Nigrosh, Worcester Magazine, June 27, 2002) Born and raised Down Maine, Winslow Myers reflects his upbringing. He is reserved and self-effacing, but he has a great deal of inner strength. He just received an award for 30 years of teaching at the Bancroft School, where he is chair of the visual arts department. Coincidentally, his current exhibition of 19 paintings at the ARTSWorcester Gallery at Quinsigamond Community College is a retrospective of the same 30 years of his personal artistry. And much like the artist, the paintings are quiet, modest and unpretentious. Many of these paintings fall into certain categories with themes that reoccur over the years. One of his earliest works in the show, the 1973 "Marine 3," is a close-up study in furled sails, with the treatment of the fabric carried out in much the same manner as earlier artists handled classic experiments in clothing drapery. Four other canvases continue to explore this motif, each with different results, colorations and attitude: "July Squall" from 2000 is painted in monochromatic greens with foaming chop on the waters, showing the sails wrapped up for safety. Completed last year, "Arrival" depicts a brighter day with sails tied because of the immanent landing. The majority of the canvases on exhibit are nearly five- feet square. They are, for the most part, painted in thin layers, which allow the texture of the linen to lend pebbly appearance to the works. As with many artists, Myers spends a lot of time in his studio, and derives inspiration from this experience. The early "Interior with Drive-in Screen" is a look through his green window frame toward a view of a large pale blue rectangle. This spare composition is intensified by tiny green diamond-patterned wallpaper that frames the window frame, while the top of a brown radiator skirts across the bottom of the canvas. The character of his spaces is always changing depending on the time of day or season of the year. "Garret Room" is so darkly painted that we almost miss the hanging smock. But his latest studio painting, "The Floodlight," is bright and cheerful, even though it is set in winter, as the snow-covered trees outside attest. The painting, with a large, old lamp reflector to one side, shows a glass bowl with large flowers centered in the window with an easel alongside holding a painting of a still life, unfinished. Myers is also interested in trains, or at least in parts of trains. Several paintings in the show feature railroad imagery, such as the 1981 "Freights in Afternoon Sunlight," where we see the tops of boxcars as they pass by a jumble of houses in the distance. These brightly colored, blocky buildings are reminiscent of Edward Hopper's (1882-1967) flat-surfaced renditions of ordinary American architecture. By placing the vantage point from above in his recent "Trestle with Coupler," Myers creates a layered look through the yellowing leaves to a rusty train coupler, then beyond that through the tracks and down to the rushing river below. Virtually all of the works on display appear to be simple, straightforward depictions of some particular place, but they are actually all composites of different spaces and elements, often combining natural, organic components with man-made architectural objects. In Myers's 2001 painting, "Construction with Freight," there is an array of empty boxcars, a concrete highway overpass, steel fencing, and mounds of dirt making up strong horizontals that are bisected with with several bare trees to create a single space. This painting, like most of the others, has a frame-wiåthin-a-frame that draws our attention to the major elements within the composition. Those paintings framed with windows are obvious, but here gray trees act to bring attention to the ghostly open rail cars, producing an almost abstract appearance. The only painting that does not seem to fit this style is Myers's self-portrait. No frame-within-a-frame or composite assemblages of organic and inorganic objects-just himself. Luminous, built up shades of green and orange, but just him, looking out at us, at once real, and yet not real, a modest representation of a modest man. Leon Nigrosh may be reached at [email protected]
Nancy Freeman

August 25, 2009

Nancy Freeman's New Art Inspired by Friend

From an article by Kay Liss, Lincoln County News

Nancy Freeman, artist and founder of the former Round Top Center for the Arts in Damariscotta, has created a series of paintings inspired by her good friend Jody McCorkle, who passed away the first of this year. Often, it seems, creativity is sparked by remembering someone special and offering a tribute. Perhaps it's a way of keeping that someone alive. Last spring, Freeman organized a special exhibit of McCorkle s artwork at the Round Top farmhouse. The one-day show was filled with all manner of objects McCorkle would find to paint her nature-inspired designs upon - from watering cans to goose eggs. Some fine watercolor paintings were also on display. Her creative instinct seemed to take any form it could find. "She was a very good artist, but didn't really think of herself that way," Freeman said. "She created art for the sheer pleasure of it." Freeman first met McCorkle about 17 years ago, three years after she began Round Top Center for the Arts on the farm that was part of her estate. They became fast friends, working on the exhibition committee together, taking classes and visiting galleries and artists' studios. "Jody was so appreciative of other artists," Freeman said. "She and her husband, Henry, were avid collectors and he was on the acquisitions committee at the Portland Museum of Art." With the passing of her friend in January and the turmoil at Round Top - the art center's board of directors, which Freeman served on, left the premises by the spring after a difficult period of trying to resolve issues relating to the property deed - Freeman was feeling downcast. The art center she had devoted herself to was no longer at Round Top farm. The show for McCorkle and Freeman's subsequent inspiration to do a series of collages with her friend's spirit in mind is what lifted her out of her sad state. "Jody, above all, was a happy, joyful person," Freeman said. "She also represented the happy part of Round Top for me." Thus, working on art inspired by her friend was healing in multiple ways for Freeman. The Jody Series, as Freeman calls it, is currently part of an exhibit at Gallery 170 in Damariscotta Mills. McCorkle's spirit is obviously present in these playful works. Freeman's previous artwork has had a playful aspect to it - in its exploration of shapes and color in rhythmic patterns, reminding one of Paul Klee's art. Yet there was something more defined in their patterns than in these more free-form expressions. Most of her prior work is in printmaking with inks and watercolor, so this collage making - with wood, paper, fabric, bits of colored paper, acrylic paint and even pieces of wire screening - is also something of an adventure for the artist. "The collages are little studies about the pleasures of seeing and sharing visual memories as if they are like the flowers in Jody's garden," Freeman said. Freeman was a student of music before she was of art and the influence of the rhythms, repetitions and abstract quality of music is readily apparent. Other inspirations have come from oriental thought and gardening, she has said. The artists who most influenced her were Matisse, Klee and Ellsworth Kelly. Her art has become progressively more abstract over the years; 30 years ago, she was doing portraiture and other representational work. Yvette Torres said the Jody Series seems to have motivated Freeman to go back to work in her studio, "making herself happier in the process, and in turn others who see her work and enjoy it. I'm delighted to be able to show her work" The exhibit, the last of the season, will be up only until Sun., Sept. 21 and can be seen Thurs. through Sun. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. The two other artists in this interesting show are Frances Kidder and Diane Langley. The gallery is located on Borland Hill Rd. just off of Rt. 215. Freeman has also recently returned to giving her popular art history and art classes at the Round Top Farm, now administered under the auspices of the Damariscotta River Association (DRA). The property reverted to the DRA when the art center, now called River Arts, left for it s new location in the old Coffin House on Main St. For more information about this class and other activities taking place at Round Top, call the DRA at 563-1363.

Lina Burley

7/21/2010 4:53:00 PM
Lina Burley's Work In Rockland Gallery
Lina Burley,
Lina Burley, "Winter Bough," 2002, oil on canvas, 24 x 30 inches.
By Kay Liss


Yvette Torres has been exhibiting high quality fine art in the Midcoast area for a number of years now. From 2004 to 2008, she co-directed an outstanding gallery, Gallery 170, on the main street of Damariscotta.

Transforming the grand Federal-style building into a splendid venue for art, she quickly grew a reputation for showing artists of a more abstract bent than one might find in other area galleries, and also many artists with national recognition.

Gallery 170 then spent a couple of seasons in a studio space nearby in Damariscotta Mills where Torres continued to show the work of her stable of artists. This year she's ventured into the rich and varied art world of Rockland with a new space at 313 Main Street and a new name, Yvette Torres Fine Art. Her first show opened on July 2 on the occasion of the first Friday of the month art walk. 

The show is entirely of the work of the late Lina Burley, a well-known area artist from East Boothbay who passed away in 2005. Her watercolors and oils were exhibited in many local venues, most prominently at the Maine Art Gallery in Wiscasset with which she was connected for many years, but also the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland. Her work is in the collections of the Portland Museum of Art and she was the recipient of numerous awards, including a National Association of Women Artists medal of honor for her watercolors. She was a student of the famed Art Students League in New York City from 1956 to 1962.

Torres said Burley's daughter, Linda, approached her a couple of years ago about a show, and after seeing the work, Torres was enthusiastic. "Lina was a very popular artist and many of her paintings had already been sold, but there was enough good work left to create a solo show."

This reviewer first came upon her work in a member show at the Maine Art Gallery in 2005. As impressed as I was then with her Impressionistic style watercolors of lily pads, I was thrilled to see a greater breadth of work in the current Rockland show, and to see her wonderful oil canvases which tend to be more abstract than the watercolors.

One of the most stunning is titled "Illusory," a gorgeous symphony of blues and greens that suggest a tree's reflection in water. As the title denotes, what it is doesn't really matter; the subtle gradations of color and vibrancy of life in the blues and greens are what captivate.

Another outstanding oil is "Down River." The viewer's gaze is drawn into the canvas to the meandering river, the palette of browns, greens and orange plant life lining the river unusual and beautifully blended in large, free brush strokes. "Blue Hill" is also a composition that creates great depth, drawing the eye inward toward the surprising bright blue beyond the line of dark green trees. The dark greens and browns the artist favors bring out the spirit of Maine.

"Winter Bough" centers around a delicate, beautifully rendered image that captures the frozenness of winter over a pond but with its hint of green also looking forward to the spring ahead. "Rogue Wave," a large oil from an earlier period, 1983, and the winner of the National Association of Women Artists award, is a fascinating composition; though the wave is clearly evident and occurring amidst the blue of water, it sits atop various layers of brownish green color, as if one is viewing the geological formations underlying the ocean itself. Burley's sense of color is undeniably one of the most interesting aspects of her work.

The above mentioned are just a few of the 26 works on display. The show is well worth a visit and will be up until Aug. 1. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday 10 to 5. For more information, call 332-4014 or 888-777-1077 or visit the gallery website, yvettetorresfineart.com.

 

 

 

 

The star of the annual member show at the Maine Art Gallery in Wiscasset is unquestionably the artist to whom the show is dedicated Lina Burley who was long involved with the gallery and passed away this past winter. She is the only member with a number of pieces in the show, so one has a chance to absorb a small scope of work done over a period of time. (With so many members in the show -84- only one piece per artist was permitted.) Her works are primarily impressionistic landscapes and her mediums both oil and watercolor. One of the most captivating oils of Burley's is a large landscape "Still Water" of lily pads in a pond. What makes this painting so arresting is, though it may be done in a Monet-like style with it's impressionistic brushwork, its apparent serenity and, of course, the subject matter itself, the colors are anything but reminders of the Impressionistic master. Rather than subtle gradations of pastel colors, the images are bold contrasts of color the water an almost black shade with some bright green splashes along with the green lily pad and white of the flower. It creates an interesting juxtaposition of serenity and something stirring, and even dark, underneath. Another fascinating oil of hers is "Sherman Lake" the use of color - browns, pinks and yellows - the most interesting aspect of the work, though the off-centeredness of a reflection also creates interest. One of the watercolors in which Burley's talent in this medium is revealed is "Cascade" which depicts a dramatic splashing of waves on rocks, all in well-orchestrated whites and blues and aqua. Kay Liss From "Maine Art Gallery member show well worth seeing" August 25, 2005. Lincoln County News July 23, 2010 Lina Burley's Work In Rockland Gallery By Kay Liss Yvette Torres has been exhibiting high quality fine art in the Midcoast area for a number of years now. From 2004 to 2008, she co-directed an outstanding gallery, Gallery 170, on the main street of Damariscotta. Transforming the grand Federal-style building into a splendid venue for art, she quickly grew a reputation for showing artists of a more abstract bent than one might find in other area galleries, and also many artists with national recognition. Gallery 170 then spent a couple of seasons in a studio space nearby in Damariscotta Mills where Torres continued to show the work of her stable of artists. This year she's ventured into the rich and varied art world of Rockland with a new space at 313 Main Street and a new name, Yvette Torres Fine Art. Her first show opened on July 2 on the occasion of the first Friday of the month art walk. The show is entirely of the work of the late Lina Burley, a well-known area artist from East Boothbay who passed away in 2005. Her watercolors and oils were exhibited in many local venues, most prominently at the Maine Art Gallery in Wiscasset with which she was connected for many years, but also the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland. Her work is in the collections of the Portland Museum of Art and she was the recipient of numerous awards, including a National Association of Women Artists medal of honor for her watercolors. She was a student of the famed Art Students League in New York City from 1956 to 1962. Torres said Burley's daughter, Linda, approached her a couple of years ago about a show, and after seeing the work, Torres was enthusiastic. "Lina was a very popular artist and many of her paintings had already been sold, but there was enough good work left to create a solo show." This reviewer first came upon her work in a member show at the Maine Art Gallery in 2005. As impressed as I was then with her Impressionistic style watercolors of lily pads, I was thrilled to see a greater breadth of work in the current Rockland show, and to see her wonderful oil canvases which tend to be more abstract than the watercolors. One of the most stunning is titled "Illusory," a gorgeous symphony of blues and greens that suggest a tree's reflection in water. As the title denotes, what it is doesn't really matter; the subtle gradations of color and vibrancy of life in the blues and greens are what captivate. Another outstanding oil is "Down River." The viewer's gaze is drawn into the canvas to the meandering river, the palette of browns, greens and orange plant life lining the river unusual and beautifully blended in large, free brush strokes. "Blue Hill" is also a composition that creates great depth, drawing the eye inward toward the surprising bright blue beyond the line of dark green trees. The dark greens and browns the artist favors bring out the spirit of Maine. "Winter Bough" centers around a delicate, beautifully rendered image that captures the frozenness of winter over a pond but with its hint of green also looking forward to the spring ahead. "Rogue Wave," a large oil from an earlier period, 1983, and the winner of the National Association of Women Artists award, is a fascinating composition; though the wave is clearly evident and occurring amidst the blue of water, it sits atop various layers of brownish green color, as if one is viewing the geological formations underlying the ocean itself. Burley's sense of color is undeniably one of the most interesting aspects of her work. The above mentioned are just a few of the 26 works on display.

Black Mountain College Show at Yvette Torres Fine Art 2015

 

Black Mountain College Show at Yvette Torres Fine Art

By Kay Tobler Liss

 

Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina was one of the most interesting experiments in education that America has ever seen. Founded in 1933, during the 24 years of its life some of the most adventurous artists in the fields of art, dance, music, poetry and design taught or studied there. With a visit to the current show of BMC artists at Yvette Torres Fine Art in Rockland one can get a powerful sense of the amazing creative energy that existed there so brightly and briefly.

The show includes works of eight artists: Josef Albers, Joseph Fiore, Pete and Elizabeth Jennerjahn, Donald Alter, Lorna Halper, John and Elaine Schmitt Urbain. One can see the influence upon the other artists of Albers, a color field artist and teacher of the avant garde Bauhaus School who was much sought after by numerous prestigious institutions upon his immigration to this country.  One can see his influence perhaps most evidently in Fiore’s work, but all the artists display a great deal of individuality as well.  

Fiore, who summered in midcoast Maine for many years, obviously loved to play with juxtapositions of color. There is a lyrical quality to his geometric patterns, with their softly defined edges and more suggestive forms than in Albers’ work. There’s also a great deal of variety in his style, with an oil, Untitled from 1955, that looks more Abstract Expressionist,  and another Untitled work from 1988, that plays with Cubist ideas. He went on to teach at BMC for many years. His work is in the Whitney Museum and the National Academy, among many other places.

Halper’s silkscreens and works on paper in the show reveal the influence of Albers, and also the inspiration from a professor, Max Dehn, who taught a class in Mathematics for Artists and might have sowed the seeds of what would eventually become her signature drawings of intricate and dynamic spiraling patterns. 

Donald Alter, who lives and works in Newburgh, NY, said of his experience at BMC in a 2010 interview: “… I think that it is probably one of the main experiences of my life…. Specifically there was contact with very exciting people. There were many artists in many areas and they were all accessible.”  As in Halper’s work, his is informed by a strong mathematical sense of line, some of the more interesting works of graphite and acrylic on board infused with subtle gradations of color. Two other acrylics on board are quite different, one an off-center circle and another a triangle in a pastel color that take up almost the entire space of the work with only a marginal background in a complementary pastel shade.   

Pete Jennerjahn studied with Albers and then taught his color theory class at BMC when Albers left for Yale. Not surprisingly, his paintings in the exhibit, all oils on board, reveal a delight in experimenting with color juxtapositions, often in bold rectangular forms as Albers did, but then in horizontal striped pieces as well. Jennerjahn was interested in music and was influenced by John Cage at BMC. His wife, Elizabeth danced with Merce Cunningham, another BMC innovative icon, while they were all students. Together the Jennerjahns started a Light-Sound-Movement Workshop engaging participants in cross media experiments that were precursors to today’s performance art. Elizabeth experimented with fabric, works in the show all involving fabric with appliqued large forms often resembling something from the natural world such as a leaf or spirals of snails. 

John Urbain’a mixed media collages are a pure delight, playful in both form and color. Again, the influence of Albers is apparent. Having been taught a more traditional style of painting at the respected Cranbrook School, Urbain flourished under the direction of Albers at BMC where he began combining objects of disparate hues and textures and exploring line, space, color and material. His work is collected in some of the country’s most prestigious museums, including the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and the Museum of Modern Art. 

Elaine Urbain met her future husband at BMC and was also a student of Albers. Completely distinct from the other artists in the show however, her style is of a personal nature and are pen and ink and pastel sketches of people in various places and times. They have a whimsicalness about them, and add another artistic dimension to the exhibit. 

 

The show includes two works of Albers as well. The exhibit would be important enough, just to have the works of the other seven artists. But to have two of Albers’, one of the towering and most influential artists/teachers of the mid part of the last century, makes it even more remarkable. One should not miss this amazing show – you would have to go to the Black Mountain College Museum in Asheville, North Carolina to see such a show. It is up through September 15 and is open Wednesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 207- 332-4014 or 888-777-1077.

Robert LaHotan, The Early Years, 1952 - 1969

Art New  England  July/August  2011

 

Robert LaHotan (1927 - 2002) was a classic seasonal Maine painter: summers on Great Cranberry Island down east and winters in New York City, where he taught for many years at the Dalton School in Manhattan. Like fellow New Yorkers Dorothy Eisner, John Heliker, William Kienbusch, and Gretna Campbell, LaHotan found just about complete artistic sustenance on the island; Great Cranberry was his number-one muse from the 1950s on.

Like his peers, too, LaHotan rarely showed in Maine. Represented by Kraushaar Galleries for most of his painting life, he would ship his work back to the city in late summer or early fall. This makes Robert LaHotan: The Early Years a special treat-a substantial sampling of his Maine oils come home (more or less) to roost.

The paintings in the show date from the 1950s and 1960s. They range in aesthetic from modernist-representational-Western Way (1956), which was shown at the Twenty-fifth Corcoran Biennial in 1957; to wholly abstract-Mostly Green (1960), which edges into color field. 

LaHotan was for the most part an expressionist responding to island motifs-rosebushes, dappled woods, rocks, and coast-with an abstraction flair, his brushwork uniformly activated. Several paintings have the quality of sketches, as if the artist were testing out color and compositional combinations.

One can see kinship with the works of other members of what might be called the Great Cranberry School. Potted Plant by Window (1960) brings to mind Eisner's island interiors from the 1970s, while the dynamic Blue Sea (1959) has a Kienbusch feel to it.  Standouts include Landscape Maine (1957), Landscape with Trees and Rocks (1963), Back Shore (1950), and Red Quarry (1959), the last-named a highly expressive addition to this subject that has appealed to many artists.

LaHotan's legacy is carried on in his art, but also in the foundation he and Heliker established that supports artist residencies at their home on Great Cranberry Island. This exhibition underscores the special energy of the place and the painter.

 

Carl Little

Arthur Cadieux, Edge of Spring

 

WORKS BY CADIEUX FEATURED IN ROCKLAND

 

Nineteen recent works by Eastport artist Arthur Cadieux electrify Yvette Torres Fine Art Gallery in Rockland.  The large scale works on paper, canvas and panel stud the broad white walls like gems aflame, achieving a symphonic cohesion.

Cadieux’s solo show “Edge of Spring” is the only work currently presented at Yvette Torres Fine Art, which is dedicated to contemporary art.  The wide central gallery with two large alcoves is filled with storms, seascapes, tangled forests, silhouetted trees against skyscapes, a monumental nude figure, “Nature’s Mistress,” and one “Hot City”.

To see these large works from afar, and many at one sweep, then close the distance does justice to the large works.

Cadieux achieved his intent to have “the color proclaim the paintings, to say this is nature on the verge of coming alive out of the Downeast grey.”  Grey is the matrix from which Cadieux began this series of works in his Eastport studio.  His definite brush strokes and heavy impasto echo the rhythmic music he paints by, placing visually dancing passages in each piece.  Like Hemingway, who said, “You can’t go 10 rounds sitting on your ...” and stood to write, Cadieux’s work, done in a physical, slashing style with the artist working on several pieces simultaneously, results in some pretty fancy footwork, sometimes with Cadieux literally on his toes.

“It’s got to sing!” he often says.  And if it doesn’t sing, he has the courage to obliterate what doesn’t please him and “go for broke.”   This collection, all produced in a calendar year, is downright operatic.  Maybe that’s Downeast operatic, as he captures the chaotic tumble of storm tossed rocks on a shore under an ominous sky, the impenetrable thicket, the soar of pine against the vivid sky of the Maine woods and the glimmering promise of first leaves.  They work as individual pieces, but the collection as a group, thematic in style and subject, is a sensory experience that has visceral impact.  This is more than a show.  It is an event.

Edge of Spring opened May 24 and continues to Sunday, June 23, 21 Winter Street, Rockland.  It is worth a day trip down the beautiful coast to see these works by a Maine master at the height of his powers. 

 

 

Heidi Reidell

The Quoddy Tides, Eastport, Maine

 

Jim Condron, I Quit

 

The obvious shared feature of several new paintings by Jim Condron is their relatively small size compared to other publicly displayed works by the Baltimore artist. Each of these works is about the size of a book cover, a somehow apposite comparison given the artist's explicit literary references in the past. Working at this scale encourages playfulness and experimentation, and partly for this reason these paintings have the character of milestones on a journey. By limiting the space upon which he works, the artist is required not to do more with less, necessarily – but to imagine more or to imagine deeper into a given space. Large canvasses may be particularly suitable for making bold statements, but working small often means pushing boundaries within.

 

“Her talk is like my secret writing” (oil on paper on silk, 5 x 5.5 inches, 2013) might inspire a neo-formalist analysis by some latter-day Clement Greenberg, but what enticed this writer was the swirling milk-chocolatey paint laid thick with a knife on paper. It conjured up a sensuous memory, that of sticking my finger into a bowl of buttery cake frosting and licking it off. Truly “sensational” events tend to be channeled deep in our minds, and each of these works by Mr. Condron, layered and built up with paint as they are, combine, appeal to, and play off both the visual and tactile senses.

 

Mr. Condron hints of his close association and love for books in the ironically titled “I have no time to read” (oil on paper on leather, 5 x 8.75 inches, 2013), in which the painting is mounted on a strip of pebbled brown morocco, for centuries a style of treated leather favored by bookbinders. He builds a dense impasto by mixing and shaping paint with a palette knife or other instrument to create uncertain topographies suggested by ridges and troughs imbued with rich color. The result is like a map representing no geographic location, but a projection instead of interior life, with edges neatly trimmed. There is a sculptural character to the work, and no reading of it seems complete without taking into account the feel of the thing. But therein lies the rub: we don't usually go around handling works of art, though perhaps we should.

 

Strips of mink fur (re-purposed) frame the third painting, entitled “Could you hate me less” (oil on handmade paper on board, mink; 8.5 x 8.5 inches, 2013). The painting is composed of rough nodes and smooth planes of oils in moody hues of indigo, blue, olive, gold, cadmium yellow and white. These seem to bubble up and erupt from the paper as if sprung from thermal wells, a kind of materialization of emotional life. But there's something else here. At the center, in what appears to be a quiet recess, are a glancing pair of alert, calm eyes in the midst of this chromatic uproar. The eyes appear feminine. They cast a side-long look not at the viewer, but at the world beyond, as though apprehending something invisible to us. To be honest, these eyes may be nothing more than an accident of perception – another way of saying that one viewer, or many, may just be seeing things. But we have a proclivity to see things, like the image of the Virgin Mary on a half-eaten grilled cheese sandwich. (Someone paid lots of money for it!) To paraphrase Nietzsche: stare into a painting long enough, and the painting will stare back. Yet if we want to respect the possibilities inherent in a work of art, and the intentions of the artist, and our own intentions as well, then we are called to respond to them by first opening ourselves to all the vivifying elements of personal experience – our senses, our memories, inclinations, feelings, thoughts. Even the “wrong” ones, the ones that put us on a different track altogether.

 

“Make it New” was the slogan of poet Ezra Pound, a pillar of the modernist movement, to the writers and artists of the early 20th century. Pound's commandment has reverberated in the minds of creators long past his lifetime. And he came by it honestly. One of the effects of modern era, already in place since the Enlightenment, has been an over-riding concern for novelty and “originality” in the production of art. Thus we see a rapid succession of artistic developments (the “-isms”) during the last century, all the way to “post-post-modernism” and the anxious recognition that the whole enterprise has become, well, a very big business indeed. For some, maybe for many, novelty in artistic production has worn itself out. And in the digital age, what does originality even mean besides endless combination and recombination? 

 

I'm not suggesting that art has exhausted itself or that it has come to some terminus. Just the opposite. Until now, the burden of producing art has been on the makers of art (“Make it New!”). But what if the new model for artistic production is the meme, as opposed to the passive viewing of a discrete object? (Which is, for most people, what the experience of art has usually entailed.) What if, going forward, our response, individually and collectively, to a work of art becomes the crucial and dynamic element in the experience? It would certainly challenge our notion of what art is, who makes it, and how it enters our life. It also would imply an entirely different kind of encounter or engagement with art, one that is more awake, more active, and more bold.

 

John Waite

06/25/13

 

Black Mountain College Artists

Black Mountain College Show at Yvette Torres Fine Art

By Kay Tobler Liss

 

Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina was one of the most interesting experiments in education that America has ever seen. Founded in 1933, during the 24 years of its life some of the most adventurous artists in the fields of art, dance, music, poetry and design taught or studied there. With a visit to the current show of BMC artists at Yvette Torres Fine Art in Rockland one can get a powerful sense of the amazing creative energy that existed there so brightly and briefly.

The show includes works of eight artists: Josef Albers, Joseph Fiore, Pete and Elizabeth Jennerjahn, Donald Alter, Lorna Halper, John and Elaine Schmitt Urbain. One can see the influence upon the other artists of Albers, a color field artist and teacher of the avant garde Bauhaus School who was much sought after by numerous prestigious institutions upon his immigration to this country.  One can see his influence perhaps most evidently in Fiore’s work, but all the artists display a great deal of individuality as well.  

Fiore, who summered in midcoast Maine for many years, obviously loved to play with juxtapositions of color. There is a lyrical quality to his geometric patterns, with their softly defined edges and more suggestive forms than in Albers’ work. There’s also a great deal of variety in his style, with an oil, Untitled from 1955, that looks more Abstract Expressionist,  and another Untitled work from 1988, that plays with Cubist ideas. He went on to teach at BMC for many years. His work is in the Whitney Museum and the National Academy, among many other places.

Halper’s silkscreens and works on paper in the show reveal the influence of Albers, and also the inspiration from a professor, Max Dehn, who taught a class in Mathematics for Artists and might have sowed the seeds of what would eventually become her signature drawings of intricate and dynamic spiraling patterns. 

Donald Alter, who lives and works in Newburgh, NY, said of his experience at BMC in a 2010 interview: “… I think that it is probably one of the main experiences of my life…. Specifically there was contact with very exciting people. There were many artists in many areas and they were all accessible.”  As in Halper’s work, his is informed by a strong mathematical sense of line, some of the more interesting works of graphite and acrylic on board infused with subtle gradations of color. Two other acrylics on board are quite different, one an off-center circle and another a triangle in a pastel color that take up almost the entire space of the work with only a marginal background in a complementary pastel shade.   

Pete Jennerjahn studied with Albers and then taught his color theory class at BMC when Albers left for Yale. Not surprisingly, his paintings in the exhibit, all oils on board, reveal a delight in experimenting with color juxtapositions, often in bold rectangular forms as Albers did, but then in horizontal striped pieces as well. Jennerjahn was interested in music and was influenced by John Cage at BMC. His wife, Elizabeth danced with Merce Cunningham, another BMC innovative icon, while they were all students. Together the Jennerjahns started a Light-Sound-Movement Workshop engaging participants in cross media experiments that were precursors to today’s performance art. Elizabeth experimented with fabric, works in the show all involving fabric with appliqued large forms often resembling something from the natural world such as a leaf or spirals of snails. 

John Urbain’a mixed media collages are a pure delight, playful in both form and color. Again, the influence of Albers is apparent. Having been taught a more traditional style of painting at the respected Cranbrook School, Urbain flourished under the direction of Albers at BMC where he began combining objects of disparate hues and textures and exploring line, space, color and material. His work is collected in some of the country’s most prestigious museums, including the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and the Museum of Modern Art. 

Elaine Urbain met her future husband at BMC and was also a student of Albers. Completely distinct from the other artists in the show however, her style is of a personal nature and are pen and ink and pastel sketches of people in various places and times. They have a whimsicalness about them, and add another artistic dimension to the exhibit. 

 

The show includes two works of Albers as well. The exhibit would be important enough, just to have the works of the other seven artists. But to have two of Albers’, one of the towering and most influential artists/teachers of the mid part of the last century, makes it even more remarkable. One should not miss this amazing show – you would have to go to the Black Mountain College Museum in Asheville, North Carolina to see such a show. It is up through September 15 and is open Wednesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 207- 332-4014 or 888-777-1077.

Robert LaHotan: The Early Years

Robert LaHotan: The Early Years

By: Carl Little

Yvette Torres Fine Art • Rockland, ME • www.yvettetorresfineart.com • July 8–August 14, 2011

LaHotanRobert LaHotan (1927–2002) was a classic seasonal Maine painter: summers on Great Cranberry Island down east and winters in New York City, where he taught for many years at the Dalton School in Manhattan. Like fellow New Yorkers Dorothy Eisner, John Heliker, William Kienbusch, and Gretna Campbell, LaHotan found just about complete artistic sustenance on this island; Great Cranberry was his number-one muse from the 1950s on.

Like his peers, too, LaHotan rarely showed in Maine. Represented by the Kraushaar Galleries for most of his painting life, he would ship his work back to the city in late summer or early fall. This makes Robert LaHotan: The Early Years a special treat—a substantial sampling of his Maine oils come home (more or less) to roost.

The paintings in the show date from 1950 to 1978, with most of them from the 1950s and 1960s. They range in aesthetic from modernist-representational—Western Way (1956), which was shown at the Twenty-fifth Corcoran Biennial in 1957; to wholly abstract—Mostly Green (1960), which edges into color field.

LaHotan was for the most part an expressionist responding to island motifs—rosebushes, dappled woods, rocks, and coast—with an abstracting flair, his brushwork uniformly activated. Several paintings have the quality of sketches, as if the artist were testing out color and compositional combinations.

One can see kinship with the work of other members of what might be called the Great Cranberry School. Potted Plant by Window (1960) brings to mind Eisner’s island interiors from the 1970s, while the dynamic Blue Sea (1959) has a Kienbusch feel to it. Stand-outs include Landscape, Maine (1957), Landscape with Trees and Rocks (1963), Back Shore(1950), and Red Quarry (1959), the last-named a highly expressive addition to this subject that has appealed to many artists.

LaHotan’s legacy is carried on in his art, but also in the foundation he and Heliker established that supports artist residencies at their home on Great Cranberry Island. This exhibition underscores the special energy of the place and the painter.

 

Fuse Visual Arts Feature: Artists John Heliker and Robert LaHotan — Spirits of Generosity

 Visual Arts

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2011

 

Robert LaHotan was a fine abstractionist before he fully turned his energies to landscapes and interiors in his mature works. This exhibition, which spans 25 years, shows him alternating between abstract and figurative styles with many paintings landing somewhere between the two.

Robert LaHotan: The Early Years. At Yvette Torres Fine Art, 21 Winter Street, Rockland, Maine.

By Franklin Einspruch.

 

Robert LaHotan, ROCKS AND TREES AT NIGHT, 1962, oil on linen, 8 x 10 inches. Photo: Yvette Torres Fine Art.

John Heliker and Robert LaHotan, known as Jack and Bob, were painters from New York who bought a property on Great Cranberry Isle, ME that had once been a shipbuilding operation. They met as teacher and student, then became a couple and remained one throughout the rest of their lives, pursuing art and teaching careers in New York and painting and living the good life in Maine. “Theirs was a true marriage,” says Patricia Bailey, director of the Heliker-LaHotan Foundation, which operates out of what was once Jack’s and Bob’s home and studios and where I am currently an artist in residence.

 

I was given a quick but touching overview of LaHotan’s life thanks to a talk delivered by Bailey at Robert LaHotan: The Early Years at Yvette Torres Fine Art in Rockland, ME. Also on hand was Isabelle Storey (formerly Evans), who read from her book Walker’s Way: My Life with Walker Evans. Evans befriended Jack and Bob and recorded his visits to Big Cranberry, as they call it here, in photographs. See, for instance, Jack Heliker’s Bedroom Wall, Cranberry Island, Maine in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art. There is also a famous Evans depicting an old stove. That stove is downstairs from where I’m typing this.

Bob and Jack treated visiting friends to dinners that featured excellent conversation, many cigarettes, and Bob’s renowned cooking. Jack was permitted at most to make salad dressing, but his company must have been fascinating. I have perused his library, which contains volumes covering Eastern and Western religious thought, marriage and homosexuality, ancient and modern philosophy, and a great variety of biographies.

 

Robert LaHotan, WORKSHOP STILL LIFE, 1968, oil on linen, 46 x 40 inches. Photo: Yvette Torres Fine Art.

I had planned to review the LaHotan show for this publication, but it is now out of the question. Because everyone calls him Bob, I do as well. Communal dinners here begin with a toast to Jack and Bob. I am painting in Bob’s studio, looking eastward over the bay. I have seen an orange moonrise reflected in the waters. I have watched the tides come and go and have twice painted the shoreline. Between the studio and the house, a stone and a circle of wildflowers marks the place where Bob’s ashes are interred. Bob loved wildflowers, I’m told. I make a point of walking by once a day to thank him for his studio, for cultivating the buildings and landscape into a perfect painter’s retreat, and for dedicating it after his death to the work of future artists.

The stone that marks Jack’s ashes is also on the property, not far from Bob’s studio. A few heads of garlic sprout among Jack’s wildflowers. Jack loved garlic, I’m told. Jack was 18 years older than Bob, but Bob only survived two years after Jack passed away in 2000. Theirs was a true marriage.

I am of no mind to criticize Bob’s art. I’ll say instead that he was a fine abstractionist before he fully turned his energies to landscapes and interiors in his mature works. This exhibition, which spans 25 years, shows him alternating between abstract and figurative styles with many paintings landing somewhere between the two. Even in the fully abstract pieces, it’s easy to see landscapes or interiors trying to force their way into the foreground. I get the sense from them, despite their merits, that Bob was working somewhat against his natural tendencies in an effort to deal with the dominant painting style of the era. There are artists who are abstractionists to the core. Bob wasn’t one of them. But neither was, say, Richard Diebenkorn or Philip Guston. It’s not necessarily a liability.

It can even be a boon. One way of making an abstraction is to abstract it from something. In Bob’s case, it was a patch of forest floor such as Green and Peach Woods Study (1960) or the dim light of an old shed such as Workshop Still Life (1968), in which one can still detect the wooden construction and cluttered interior, however transformed.

 

Robert LaHotan, GREEN AND PEACH WOODS STUDY, 1960, oil on linen, 12 x 10 inches. Photo: Yvette Torres Fine Art.

For paintings in which objects are barely recognizable, they convey a powerful sense of place. Potted Plant by a Window (1960) captures the comforting decor and extensive gardening, both indoors and out, that have been lavished upon the house where I have been living for two weeks.Rocks and Trees at Night (1962), at only 10 inches wide, nevertheless renders the broad, foreboding forms that you see when the light is disappearing and you are becoming the most vulnerable thing in the New England woods.

 

In painting here, especially in the very studio where these works were created, I am following a formidable act. But a spirit of generosity lingers over the place, and it comes to my assistance. Over the last few weeks, I’ve learned of the extensive network of artists who count Heliker or LaHotan as a beloved teacher. In honing a property to serve the many needs of painting, companionship, domesticity, and reflection, then dedicating it to further art-making, they have left a rich teaching that lives after them. Maine features much natural beauty, but the setting is additionally inspiring because they made it that way. As we say at dinner, here’s to Jack and Bob.

 

 

Samuel Gelber

 

From  Art New England, Aug/Sept 2016

Studio Visit with Sam Gelber

 

Samuel Gelber’s paintings seamlessly transition between landscape and abstraction. They tend to be large, horizontal paintings that feature an insistent staccato logic built of arm-length stroke straight lines reinforced by pulsing passages of brush-drawn hatching.

In conversation as in his painting, Gelber is bold, succinct and intellectually crisp. Born in 1929, Gelber’s voice has the experienced carrying power and critical acumen one would expect of a Professor Emeritus of Brooklyn College. When he speaks about his painting, however, Gelber is no longer the professor but an energetically passionate artist.

I met with Gelber in his studio – an airy, open and expanded barn nestled in the picturesque, even idyllic, hilly landscape of Morrill, Maine, near Belfast. It is neat and well-organized, but it is comfortable and inviting.

While most of the works on site are stored on vertical shelves in an adjacent room, the center of the long studio houses several dozen of Gelber’s 15 and 12 foot canvases. With the help of his son, Noah, a Berlin-based dancer and choreographer, the artist brings out canvas after monumental canvas. We talk about process, materials, philosophy, teachers, students, colleagues and influences, but mostly we talk about his paintings.

We begin with the painting hanging on the wall in Gelber’s working space depicting a “pre-Columbian” view of Mount Katahdin. It is full of surprises. The distant Katahdin is young – a tall and jagged peak soaring alone into the sky. The space before us in the seven-foot horizontal scene features a stream flowing across our way – which is further blocked by dense trees and bamboo. When I ask about the non-indigenous bamboo, Gelber’s eyes twinkle as though I stepped directly into a trap he set. I see the ostensibly misplaced bamboo as a clear challenge relating to Gelber’s mischievous iconoclasm. “I want to knock about folks who are mired in overly classicist thinking,” he explains. “Traditional knowledge is great – even necessary – but it’s not enough. We need to knock it forward.”   

This tricky bit of tactical modernism helps explain Gelber’s paintings, including why there is ultimately very little difference between his traditional-seeming landscapes and his clearly abstract paintings.

For me,” explains Gelber, “painting is about the framing of spaces. I understand a tree by its spaces – between branches, other trees, or any element in the landscape. And as lines play a greater role in the painting, their roles as fences that define spaces and energies become clearer.” A few minutes with any of Gelber’s paintings clarifies his terms “fences” and “lines” and reveals why they are important to his personal lexicon. Gelber relies on the line-shaped marks that play the role of trees or slender plants in his landscapes and function like hatching (“fences”) when they are gathered together. But even in his landscapes, the primary role of trees and objects is to create spaces for the viewer to navigate visually. The result is that Gelber’s paintings are more about visual movement than the description of things. We inhabit the spaces of places – his work intimates – instead of kingdoms of things.

As Gelber’s works appears more abstract, such as the 15-foot “Galapagos,” it is easier for the viewer to free the lines from their typical job of describing shapes. This is where Gelber’s work jumps the rail from traditional to contemporary painting. The shared accomplishment of Mark Tobey and Jackson Pollock was the freeing of lines from describing shapes or objects. Gelber not only employs this logic, but the gestural distinction between these two artists. Tobey’s “white writing” marks are wrist gestures that tether them to calligraphy; Gelber follows this route with his hatching and with wriggling cascades in works like the seven-foot Rain Forest. Most of Gelber’s marks, however, are arm-gesture straight lines whose geometrical simplicity allows them to echo and reference each other. Gelber seeks this “constant interrelation of the lines to carry you through the painting in a way that isn’t controlled but feels instead like a constant reshuffling.” The long visual experience, in turn, is a personal experience rather than a specific visual narrative scripted by the artist. Gelber seeks to match his painting process to the process of looking at his works, and so he has simplified his paint application as much as possible – to paint and turpentine. “I like the idea of going back to the first marks on the canvas,” he explains. “It’s theoretically nice that the viewer could follow the lines and layers back to where I started the painting. (…) My works are complex enough that they can’t be memorized, after all, and they are less about things than spaces, so to follow the rhythms and energies into the structure is to follow the process of my painting – my constantly shifting connections in which something always intervenes.”

 

Even after hours in the studio, Gelber is animated about Monet’s late, large paintings, Mondrian’s early works, Odilon Redon, Gelber’s teacher Ad Reinhardt, and his friends such as Lois Dodd. We go through his racks of paintings and his stacks of startling apt travel diary drawings. Gelber’s mental energy is vast and agile. I am impressed by what he has accomplished, but I look forward to seeing what Gelber will do moving forward.

Dan Kany

 

Notes on "12-18-12", Lincoln Center fo the Arts  2007

Samuel Gelber at Lincoln Street Center for Arts

 

ROCKLAND, MAINE.-To stand before a monumental canvas of Samuel Gelber is to be embraced by the true colors and light of nature. From July 6 to August 3 at the Lincoln Street Center for Arts and Education in Rockland, Maine, experience the inimitable strength of Gelber’s art. 

 

Two years since his last show in the same space, 21 – 18 – 12, which refers to the length in feet of the paintings exhibited, is a rare opportunity to be enveloped by his colossal works. The gallery’s three large walls will carry: Chaos and War, 2006-7 (5’ x 21’); Recollection of Sri Lanka, 2006 (4‘ x 18’); and Primeval Forest [dedicated to Dr. Charles L. Tyer], 2003 (5‘ x 12’). 

 

Representational painters have forever labored to find order in nature, but Gelber releases nature – and himself – from such limitations. In his works, the overlapping, intersecting genuine disarray of the world – its profusion, abandon and radiance – are given unfettered life, as wild as the untamed apple orchards of Maine that were an early inspiration of his brush. 

 

Carl Little reviewing (in the Maine Times) Gelber’s exhibition at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland in 2002 said: “ ‘The Season’s Suite’ is an act of liberation. One can’t help… shar[ing] the artist’s excitement as he explores new territories where individual details are less important than the power of the whole.” 

 

In 1975 Gelber put aside representational aspects of objects for more elemental relationships. He embraced a construction that was less than “real.” His search was for space and relationships between one thing and another, more than fidelity to the look of objects. 

 

Gelber says: “My paintings remain landscapes. There are seasons and forests, occasions for color, space, linear connects, ever expanding and contracting. As associations shift, new information is required, added to the surface without removing previous data. Working transparently and translucently, the entire process of construction is open for all to see, a spontaneous accumulation of reactions to the dialogue between artist and painting. Every surface mark (brush stroke) demands a response. I used to deliberate this, ponder the possibilities, most often concluding with my original impulse.” 

 

These are not the untutored words of a young aspirant seeking to justify post-modern artistic folly; they are the reasonings of a seasoned professional with 50 years of exposure and experience, 40 years as a professor of art (a graduate of Brooklyn College, CUNY, who returned to teach there) and colleagues and contemporaries including Ad Reinhardt, Jimmy Ernst, Lois Dodd and Carl Holty. 

 

The art critic Philip M. Isaacson wrote (in the Portland Herald), when Gelber exhibited in the Great Hall of the Portland Museum of Art in 2001: “Gelber’s paintings…could have anticipated the hall. There is a confidence about them that is almost a challenge to the room…. Gelber is a master with paint. At this scale, the tonality and the application are symphonic. They sweep across the surface in a valedictory summation of fine painting. The works show an assimilation of the influences – often seismic in their importance – of Cubism and more recent more abstract attitudes. Almost as impressive is [his] willingness to take risks…no small factor…at this scale. The pay-off is two works of art that will touch you with the beauty of their craft and their intellectuality and their sustained aesthetic intensity.” 

 

Jenna Russell reviewed (in the Portland Phoenix) Gelber’s Hay Gallery 2002 exhibition, ‘The Liberated Landscape’ as follows: “Gelber communicates the darkness of thickets, the motion of water, the pink glow of twilight and the shimmer of mist, using little more than the painterly equivalent of pick-up sticks thrown at the canvas with painstaking precision over months and even years…. We’ve all seen plenty of representational landscapes. Its that familiarity – breeding as it does a kind of blindness, a belief that we’ve seen it all before – that makes our eyes and hearts prick up at this – its newness, its commitment to discovery and, even tougher with age, rediscovery.” 

 

Gelber continues: “I gave up gravity, sources of light and cast shadow, object edges, defined dark and light, in effect freeing myself of the weight of expected requirements. The history of art can be a great weight. Italians have the burden of the Renaissance to carry. Can they jettison that history for open air? I unburdened myself and found fresh air.” 

 

Lucas Pola, in his (Brunswick Times) review of the Portland Museum 2001 paintings, opined: “For contemporary landscape painter Samuel Gelber, no amount of words can match the canvas in its ability to capture emotion the natural world may evoke at a particular moment in time.… The harsh rapid brush strokes and dark hues…imbue the images with violent energy and motion; in each case the viewer gets the distinct feeling of being on the edge of a powerful storm.” 

 

The artist reveals that in the current show “Recollection of Sri Lanka, painted last year in Maine, is about landscape, particular and universal, but Primeval Forest is a dream about what may never have existed – I hope poetry – that can be visualized only because it never was. Chaos and War, the longest work at 21 feet, is about the expenditure of earthly and human resources.” 

 

Samuel Gelber was born and educated in Brooklyn, New York. For more than 40 years, he has spent a significant part of each year painting at his studio in Maine. He can be reached for commentary at [email protected] or 207-342-5509. 

 

 


Anne Ayvaliotis, A Celebration of an Artist's Life

Art New England

 

Anne Ayvaliotis: A Celebration of an Artist’s Life

 

Sep 22, 2016


Anne Ayvaliotis, Judge and Jacob, oil on linen, 56 x 74". All images courtesy Yvette Torres Fine Art.

By Kay Tobler Liss

Anne Ayvaliotis is a name familiar in art circles in Maine. She was part of a well-regarded group of artists that came to Maine from New York City in the 1950s and 60s, a group that included Charles DuBack, Lois Dodd and Joe Fiore. She was known as a teacher of art at the Farnsworth Museum of Art in Rockland and at Round Top Center for the Arts in Damariscotta, and her work is in collections at the Farnsworth and the Portland Museum of Art. Ayvaliotis died in March at the age of 90. In her honor, Yvette Torres Fine Art in Rockland is holding an exhibition of her work, Celebration of an Artist’s Life. (Open September 9 through October 16, and over Thanksgiving weekend in November. Reception: Friday, September 9, 5 p.m.)

Ayvaliotis was a late-generation Abstract Expressionist whose work was part of the Color Field artists’ trend of the 1950s and 1960s. In the late 1940s, she lived in New York City and studied at the famous Art Students League and with Hans Hoffman at his school of fine art. She followed this with independent study in Spain, France, Italy and Greece. Afterward, in 1961, she left the center of the art world, Manhattan, and made the bold decision to move to the rural hills of Washington, ME. Many of contemporaries—Jackson Pollack, Willem de Kooning—who stayed in or near New York went on to find tremendous success, and most of her Maine artist contemporaries went back and forth to New York. One can’t help but wonder if she had stayed more in touch with the art world of Manhattan, whether Ayvaliotis would be more of household name.

But Maine inspired her. “I am trying to express the way I feel about the world. When I observe nature, I get involved, and put it down in a way that works. That’s very exciting to me… An event occurs in my life, which really moves me…when I next look at nature I perceive it in relationship to what I’m feeling. Both life and painting are about despair and celebration. I always like to have that gigantic tension playing together,” she said. The forms and colors in the fields, horses, hills, granite rocks and lakes that surrounded her and her little white farmhouse tugged at her heart and moved her to paint.


Anne Ayvaliotis, Clary Hill, oil on canvas, 68 x 38".

In Celebration of an Artist’s Life, one feels this “gigantic tension” in many of the works. For instance, Clary Hill, a 68 x 38” oil on linen of the hills near her home, is dark and foreboding, yet there are bright openings that invite the viewer to see beyond, into life’s dual darkness and light. In Judge and Jacob, a painting of her beloved horses, one sees a playfulness and innocence capturing the childlike nature in all of us. It evokes some of Helen Frankenthaler’s work. In Winter Solstice, one feels the starkness of winter, but a bold bolt of red brings us to a revelation that all is very much alive and changing into the light, yet another example of the artist holding the tension between despair and celebration.

 

Although very frail in her last years, Ayvaliotis still managed to get to her canvas or paper once in a while to paint. She still enjoyed a martini in the late afternoon as the sun was going down over the fields. She remained a witty and deep-thinking conversationalist. Hopefully, her reputation will only grow.


Zola Marcus

A review of the recent Zola Marcus exhibit at Black Mountain College Museum+Arts Center. Showing at Yvette Torres Fine Art July 1 - July 30, 2017.

 

Rediscovering Zola Marcus

by Ken Fitch*

Once again, the estimable Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center in Asheville, North Carolina, continuing its series of rediscoveries of the remarkable individuals who were participants in the Black Mountain College experience that included Dan Rice, Pat Passlof and Ray Spillenger, among others, has brought its focus now to the work of  another  distinctive artist, Zola Marcus.

With this exhibition of discovery of yet another individual whose work reflects the remarkable experience of those working in a range of disciplines who came to this enclave in the mid-20th Century, the work of Zola Marcus takes its place among that of the artists who threaded out into the art world of the late 20th Century.

 

In this small, vivid exhibition of the work of Zola Marcus, we find masterworks worthy to hang alongside those of his contemporaries in the museums of the world.

Zola Marcus’ work is an ultra personal statement that both corresponds and responds to the intensive art world in which continuum his work potently resides.                                          

His work is individually bold and confident, with an emotional implosion that generates a subsequent explosion across the canvas that is compelling.

His work presents a panoramic arc of the late 20th century as he assuredly moves through the continuum, layering his artistic presentation with stylistic accretion and overlay that seems almost autobiographical, emerging through journeys in color and form that display an almost organic progression that renders the later works as living and continuing, as these works were subject to reworking and reactivation.

 Thus, we see bold, deliberate slashes and strokes of color across the landscape of the canvas, but then  also, the gestural application  that reflects the action of creation at a hot point, all generated  by emotion, but assuredly controlled and vividly and totally calculated.

Even the thin lines that appear in some of the smaller canvases, that may seem to verge on structural, have an emotional wiring in their existence that is felt rather than engineered, embedding in clusters of patched colors in and over merging color fields.

The strong lines that deliberately breakup and geometrize the canvas (as seen in the early works  from Paris), in the later work are then funneled through a powerful prism of extensions that threaten to stretch beyond the canvas, but also with the exuberance of glorious basking in color as bold and rich as that of any of his contemporaries.

One can sense an autobiographical journey here as the styles of his early explorations remain embedded in the canvas, traversed by overlays that are equally controlled and studied, but let loose in medium and gesture with an awesome range of intensity in the flow that rigorously takes over the canvas. 

Clearly, his experience with the paint and canvas becomes intensely personal, unraveling and trammeling his psyche in the flow and intensity of the paint. The rendering lines and applications possess an energy that is almost palpable that confronts us spatially and emotionally with an amazing duality when encountering the work: 

First, there is the special power of the larger canvases that signal their presence to us from afar, from the distance across the gallery:

Up close, when one enters the aura field of the canvas, we are compelled to confront an additional immediate vibrancy that, although safely confined to the realm of paint on the plane of canvas, is both unsettling and totally deliberative, as we too experience and relive each emotional assignation with the canvas.

Some of the individual gestures, in their direct engagement, equal in power the impact of the total canvas seen from afar, so that a microcosmic/macrocosmic duality is also present as one interacts with these works. 

Whenever one zooms in on any detail, the energy is palpable in the gestural flow, nodes and affixation, an energy that emerges from a place deeply within, whether in the amazing gestural intrusions, or the longer banding strokes.

One senses that all he took in would eventually flow out onto the canvases following lines of embedded personal experiences that energize the strokes and gestures that create these emotionally insistent and vibrant canvascapes.

This exhibition offers the opportunity to step back to fully observe the panorama of his work that flows from the arc of his journey as an artist and also recognize his place in the wider, denser visual continuum of the late 20th century in which his work resides.

Although Zola Marcus came to Black Mountain College as a “student,” he had previously studied with Hans Hofmann in New York and then with Léger in Paris, and his masterful works from that Parisian period, shown here to stunning effect, reveal a high level of accomplishment in style, execution and presentation.

His application to the College reveals a purpose that finds echoing resonance in the annals of the Black Mountain College experience, as he states in his 1953 letters to the Registrar of Black Mountain College:

“I shall find the need to get some intensive painting done.  Thus I am interested in attending your college for that period [July 1953], so that I may work in a stimulating atmosphere and at the same time enjoy the environment that Black Mountain may offer.”  

And:

“It was my hope to be able to go someplace where I shall be able to paint in an atmosphere conducive to creative work.”  

The choice of a journey to Black Mountain College was probably not at all arbitrary, on a rebounding path from Paris where Léger’s students included some of the artists soon to emerge and take their place on the contemporary NY Art Scene, including Black Mountain College alumnus Kenneth Noland, among others. Léger’s connection and affinity with Black Mountain College were well known, as Léger had visited the campus, his works hung there, one of his chief patrons, Katherine Dreier, was also a major benefactor for the College, and Léger’s lifetime collegial interactions included Willem de Kooning and Buckminster Fuller. After Marcus’ residencies in Rome and Florence, Black Mountain College would be THE place to go to explore, expand, and extend his artistic exploration in a compatible and vibrant environment.

Zola Marcus’ artistic journey certainly mirrors and reflects the visioning dynamics of his mentors: Following Hofmann, he merged Cubist structure with Fauvist and Expressionist colors, in a clustering of expression that would take him on the route to Paris to the studio of Léger, another artist whose work shared the primacy of paint.

Leger’s emphasis on the three components of lines, forms and colors would also be realized dramatically in the works that Zola Marcus would bring forth there, and later, throughout his life.

Just as Hofmann and Léger were spurred by their  early experiences with Cubism, Fauvism  and the stunning works  being created,  Zola Marcus would  move forward  on this continuum,  and thus, in his work,  reflect, with great depth and textural implant, the implementation and  realization of  so many intrinsic principles that drew power from the medium in which paint was primacy, and in which he and his predecessors had  worked and explored.

Zola Marcus’s progression is entirely logical and personal, considering his mentors (and their associations). Indeed, he may have achieved Hofmann’s oft-stated purpose in achieving a synthesis of Cubist architecture and Fauvist color. The Cubist organization that was one of the hallmarks of Hofmann’s teaching would serve Marcus well in the amazing interacting organization of elements that characterized the Abstract Expressionist works that would be dominant for the remainder of his life.  Hofmann’s theory of “Push and Pull” can be discerned also on many levels in Marcus’ later work.

 At Black Mountain College in 1953, studying painting with Esteban Vicente, exploring ceramics with Warren MacKenzie, Daniel Rhodes and Peter Voulkos,  and working in community in the presence of Merce Cunningham, Stefan Wolpe  and  a host of other teachers and students in other disciplines, would be an inevitably profound experience and contribute to the vivid expansion of his art in transformational forms of exploration that would characterize the art that flowed for the rest of his life, and now is suspended before us to engage us with its multi-leveled panoramic experience.

That this artist and his work, last exhibited in 1966, remain largely unknown, might be attributed to the fact that, as posited by his friend, Bard College’s James H. Ottaway Professor of Philosophy and Aesthetics, Garry L. Hagberg, and others, he did not produce a signature style-bending explosive work of the kind that penetrated the postwar NY Art Scene. 

Also, his early career-defining accomplishments with their grounding in the traditional continuum may have been an obstacle to his inclusion among the emergent breakout Abstract Expressionist artists of the NY School.

He had emerged as a distinguished accomplished artist in the tradition of the School of Paris at the very time that its accomplishments, importance and relevance were met with rejection and dismissal by his contemporary American artists, many of whom would emerge in the subsequent categories of Color-Field and Post-Painterly Abstraction.

The success of his accomplishments in Paris may have been distinctive, but not necessarily compatible with the rapidly shifting, rigorous artistic categorization that was projected on the NY Art Scene with the fierce dueling criteria of action and formalism, whereas his work combined and multilayered such considerations, presenting a duality that Professor Hagberg has insightfully observed in Zola’s work that operates on many levels.

The awareness that his distinctive Abstract Expressionist work combined the styles of painting that polarized other artists and critics (into camps of action and formalism) might have further encouraged him to avoid the contentious fray of competing pronouncements, rivalries, jealousies and conflicts that raged through the critical realm of the art scene within the culture, with its often polemical categorizations and the shifting vagaries of commercial selection that was inevitably arbitrary in dispersal of economic viability,  a situation for which he often expressed disdain.

Unlike the many loquacious artists who felt a constant imperative to boldly affirm and proclaim their presence and the significance of their art, personally, or collectively as members of informal coalitions and spirited gatherings, there is little indication that Zola Marcus stepped beyond the powerful realm of his personal art and the weapons of paint and canvas. Indeed, despite prompts and entreaties, he would always defer explanation or explication, and divert attention from his art that seemed to reside in a distinctively strong private nexus.

Further, while many of the Abstract Expressionist artists were self-proclaimed and self-evident outsiders, determinedly avant-garde in direction, often allied with strong political engagement, and counter-cultural in relations to established and changing forms of artistic expression, Zola Marcus inhabited a place within an extended cultural continuum in which creative expression flowed from, around, and beyond established pillars of cultural exploration.

His decidedly individual path would follow a differently routed journey that would be a realization of his individual personality and personal world experience.

The early arc of his artistic journey was certainly, in its beginnings, American traditional: Cornell University, The National Academy of Design, The Art Students League, The Cummington School, then transitioning to The New School, and most significantly, the critical jumpstart of the Hans Hofmann School and the Atelier Fernand Léger in Paris.

Eventually, fresh from his European exploration that also included  residencies in Rome and Florence, and penultimately, his summer at Black Mountain College, he returned to New York, where he settled in Greenwich Village,  the haven for artists at the time, although as yet, accounts of his interactions with the intense cluster of artists who were situated there are still unknown. He would eventually move north to Kips Bay and then to the small aerie of a rent-controlled apartment on Park Avenue with a vital sun-basked alcove from which his painting blossomed, ensconced in a haven, a place of refuge that might have been a blessing, not far from the modernist architectural playground just South, and avoiding the real estate explosion downtown that dislocated artists in the later decades of the 20th century.

In his life’s journeys, he always seemed to find a place from which to work in which his personal vision and expression could thrive, informed directly and indirectly by a cultural grounding that also clearly contributes to his artistic work and serves to also give it such power, range  and authority. 

Ultimately, it was there in the small sunlit alcove of his apartment that he brought forth a continuing series of works that are only now making a public appearance.

Like many of the other innovative artists who might not have experienced the burst of fame in the increasingly competitive and cutthroat NY Art Scene, Zola Marcus spent years as a teacher at various levels from High School to College, and one wonders what some of those students may eventually tell us of his teaching and his presence among them, as this artist and his work now enter the spotlight of retrospective that is actually, in many ways, a discovery. A particularly intriguing consideration is his role as a “volunteer” at the Guggenheim Museum in his later years, a place where the works of his mentor, Léger, prominently hang, but one wonders if the Museum had any awareness of this artist and the continuum he brought to that spiraled wonder.

Although he was far from withdrawn from awareness of the work of his contemporaries in the art world, including Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, as well as the works of theoretical philosophers and critics from John Dewey to Clement Greenberg, as a teacher, and possibly even a working colleague with others, he was well aware of their work and their place in the world, and his work also solidly continues on its own pathway through those years in fascinating complement with intensely personal expressional realizations of his own. His work does reflect an attuned response, both in exploration of the prompts and principles of his mentor/teachers, with whom he interacted, but also the cultural landscape and populace in which he lived.

Indeed, he was thoroughly engaged with the diversity and richness of the New York Cultural Scene, attending opera, ballet, concerts and exhibitions in an era now considered a golden age of accomplished performances, and one can easily see and even hear that world resonating in these works by an artist whose own radar was so attuned to the density of the cultural world in which he found himself with sounding transferred into powerful canvases of uncompromising engagement.

The touchstone comments reported by his friends and family of the art events he experienced, become inescapably informative of a person as wide ranging in the experience of the intensity of the landscape of artistic activity in NYC during these years, and when prompted by this reality, one begins to hear the music he so often cited, from the many performances of the era which generated a truly visceral experience. It seems clear that conversation about music and culture is a mode through which he shared his world. When he talked about those flashpoints of cultural events and engagements of that era, it is important to note that they were engagements with powerful human experiences, densely and intensely rendered within formal vehicles that seemed to loosen  expression all the more unrestrained.

Just as Hoffmann often cited Beethoven in his visionary expositions, for the explorations of Zola Marcus, perhaps the relevant counterpoint is the verismo/dramatic impulse that one might see and hear in the operatic music that was the soundscape for much of his life. One can readily hear Carmen, Trovatore and Cavalleria, et. al. in some of the visually intense renderings here.

However, in another aspect of his range, when one looks to one of the extraordinary masterworks here, the relevant music would almost certainly shift to the transcendent romanticism of the music of a Wagnerian cosmos where we see and experience an amazing work that verges on the transcendent, with a swirl of veiled strokes ranging over and around vivid small clusters of jewel-like intensity. With its swirling veils pulling us in, it elicits a dominant engagement that takes us in to an inevitability, and perhaps the realm of the spiritual (that Hofmann often posited). 

His emotional engagement as an artist is in Abstract Expressionist action mode, but, significantly, also at play, is the role of a teacher, theoretician and observer that contributes to a high degree of sophistication in the disposition and organization of the elements in his canvases, a unique progression from the vibrant Cubist works of his early years, contributing to the modal duality noted by Professor Hagberg that also generates a tension and an intensity.

Although we are for the most part drawn up in to the world of Abstract Expressionism, one senses that the human connection has major immediate connection here, in its environmental resonance (as works would hang in his apartment for periods of time, and subject to interactive reworking and accretions), but one becomes aware also of a real possibility of figurative elements very much alive within the swirl of paint on the canvas, both in application and depiction.  

When one looks at the range of works on exhibit here, one is aware of the initial early figurative works in standard portrait realizations, but the figurative would inevitably find its iteration in the styles in which he was immersed. 

 Indeed, the self portrait seen here seems precipitantly determined to verge into the abstract at earliest opportunity. 

The figurative was amazingly rendered in the Cubist Paris works, as in this classic Mother and Child depiction.

His niece has pointed out that there are some later works that seem most abstract, but in a lapse of disclosure, were revealed to be portraits of self and friend, although with only lines and arabesques rendering the human presence.

Thus, when mention of figurative elements is suggested in some of the work, a particular human connection is ignited in depiction and reflection, although it is also present on an emotional level throughout the prism of his art.  It is also important to note his engagement with other art forms that have a predominant human expression (theater, dance, opera, etc.).

Indeed, as a counter to any accusation of figurative abandonment or representational disability (often projected on artists of this category), he periodically painted fully representational works, often noting  the life-sized Venus de Milo  he had painted in a faux fresco on the wall of the dining room in his apartment.

When the potential of figurative presence enters consideration of the paintings, this energizes our exploration, but again the creative nexus here is inevitable in the undeniable emotional connection with the paint, the line and the physical existence of the paint itself with a physical tangibility that has emotional inherence that merges subject, act and medium.

In one of his major works in this exhibition, that at first seems to lack the cohesion and total organization seen in his other works, one’s perception quickly changes with the intimation of the figurative, when confronted with the startling possibility of the presence of a nude figuration in all of its reverberating intensity galvanized in the central force field in front of us.

The tripartite organization of the painting with this figurative dimension generates a correspondence from the realm of art history (which Marcus explored as a teacher and theoretician), presenting an inescapable possibility that this work may be a Cubist/Abstractionist variant of an iconic classical representation with tripartite organization, a correspondence that would render this work especially provocative and enigmatic.

The presence of figurative, portrait and personal reference elements that are suggested in his work also appear in the works of a range of contemporary artists from de Kooning to Passlof to Rauschenberg. 

This intense personal engagement with the work, of course, was not alien to his contemporaries, for in their personal engagements with the execution of their work, an emotional expression was communicated that also reflected the world and times in which they lived.  In the works of some of the most intuitive artists of the period one feels what was in the atmosphere at the time, and this energy was then transferred and conferred on the canvas through the richness and diversity of the palette and the power and intensity of the application.

Marcus is exceptional here as the multi-leveled aspects of his work do reflect and connect in an awesome way, especially if one steps back to consider that this life in art tells us in a most personal way what he, his contemporaries and we who shared the same times and places have experienced.  

Although very controlled, there is also a private emotional intensity embedded in some of the rigorous lines and gestures that crossed and layered the canvas. Certainly, the vivid eruption of the personal and the private, as well as reconnections with the world and others, would all be present in the work, and here we see it most powerfully, perhaps because it is so private and not encumbered by any constraints of public confrontation, but a dedicated journey in the personal and public worlds in which he lived, and now those times and that life live forever in these works.

No wonder that during his lifetime, the process of art and its embedded interactions were so personal that verbalization would be an intrusion into the complex world of dense emotional nodes and arabesques, and sweeping bent arcs of force.

When one sees these paintings in collection, as here, and in lines of walled installation, the panorama of his achievement appears, for we see the entire continuum of this artist’s life and work.

The continuum here is deeply personal, with explorations, associations, pentimenti and memories poured onto the playing field of the canvas, perhaps unintended for further direct revelation, a record of a life in engagement with the paint and the forces that generated the canvascape that would be a mirror and a window into the realm where creation resides and from which it bursts forth.

It is also, in its informed renderings of pathways of expression, a document of time resident, densely and fully crowded with the sounds and sights of an era, which challenges our range of confrontation with forces revealed through the medium that is paint.

Personal references and multilayered vestiges of experiences also appear in the collages (as they do in works by Rauschenberg  and other contemporaries), where the ephemeral materials  from his travels are embedded in multilayered accumulation in collagial organization.

In Zola Marcus’ work  (as in that of many Black Mountain College figures) we see the larger connectives in the realm of art that some historians seem to latch too narrowly in dismissing the density of human  experience, the presence of larger communities of artists  and the confluence of human exploration  that was particularly innovative  at Black Mountain College during the time of its existence and in its reverberating models and acculturations that have continued on in expanding references and revelations.

The rediscovery here is most fortunate in the active participation of his niece, Julie Feinsilver, his nephew, Alan Feinsilver, and his friend, the distinguished James H. Ottaway Professor of Philosophy and Aesthetics, Garry L. Hagberg, who have contributed to the creation of the catalog for the exhibition, with its essential, critical insights, and, at the Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center, the intuitive and illuminating curation of Alice Sebrell and Connie Bostic.

In the end, this exhibition achieves what any major exhibition does: urges us to explore and discover more of the artist and his work.

 

*Ken Fitch is an Artist Advocate, Dramaturg, Consultant and Curator in Asheville, NC.

Copyright, Ken Fitch, all rights reserved