NARS Open Studios Show 2018 and Talk About my Art
I spent the afternoon hanging and rehanging the show until I got the hang of it. I’m confident with my final selections, though the room could use more light. The show was built around the two large canvases, because I wanted to see them on a wall. For the weekend I’ll just be sitting there and will be surprised if any friends show up, even though the response to the announcement and email has been very favorable. I may want to write about it (blog it) after it comes down next week. I’m just now printing out a handout flyer with a statement and prices, to cover all the bases. — to Peter
It went well enough but I didn’t like sitting for my own work so I circulated to meet and see what the other artists were doing. I think I was the oldest one showing, and felt I should freely dispense art wisdom to the “kids”, who politely ignored me. Among the visitors were many foreigners, who seemed to appreciate my paintings—Russians, Poles, Chinese, Koreans, mid-Western Americans, Israelis, and unidentified accents from Eastern Europe. Two kids had been students at LaGuardia HS with Alex. —to Julia
The room is too small to step back with an broad installation shot, but now that you mention it, I will try to take a panorama later. The paper paintings, which you say are too close, are positioned to relate to each other in the room corners. The first paintings up, were spaced too symmetrically and evenly. Because of the table placement-- which is needed for sign-in book, box of wine, handouts, and alternate paintings—the corner paintings are best seen by standing diagonally, otherwise one has to walk around the table. It took me hours to realize that solution. I may be rationalizing, but it works, for me. Only the 2 large canvases and one or two of my original choices of paper survived repeated reorganization. I could have hung two paintings to occupy the space, but it doesn’t feel overcrowded with 6 paper paintings up. Paper is my slim chance to sell something affordable, if at all.
The show came about because a friend, David Lindberg, who works in another studio in my building, knew the director at NARS. David's wife had applied for and rented studio space there. In October we had our own open studios weekend, simultaneously with NARS Foundation, two blocks away. This time we were invited to participate using unoccupied rooms. — to Peter
The open studio weekend at NARS Foundation/J&M Studios went well, mostly as expected — with a few unknowns answered, and some new insights gained. I’ve seldom shown my artwork and very few people have seen any of my paintings in person. I have been posting photos of my paintings online and social media for years, so people may have the impression that they have seen my paintings, only they have been looking at thumbnail photos in RGB colors, which is notational documentation at best, with no sense of scale or surface qualities. Color relations are completely lost in translation. The live aesthetic experience is altogether missing from the picture.
Last fall, 2017, David Lindberg, a friend and artist suggested that we have an open studios weekend with other artists in our building in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. We deliberately chose the date to coincide with open studios at the NARS Foundation, only two blocks from our building. We had attended the opening night in October at NARS and met some of the artists in residence and left postcards for our show including a weblink for spbkstudios.blogspot.com. Some friends and random strangers visited our building and studios, but it was sparsely attended with little overflow from NARS. This year for June, we were invited by the director, Junho Lee, to show at NARS. David and I agreed to participate and show in two available empty studios.
I had recently completed two new large paintings on canvas in May. They are each 6x7 feet in size. Neither had been seen on a wall and I wanted to hang them. With David’s help, we walked them to NARS without much trouble, save for some wind and navigating the elevator and stairs. There was some trouble hanging them, as the large, common nails I hammered into drywall drooped under the weight of the stretched canvas. Luckily an artist in a nearby studio helped me out and I used a handful of finishing nails placed along a level line on the wall. That worked. One painting titled, Braque’s Corner Pocket, was hung horizontally. And the other painting titled, The Lucinda River, hung vertically on the opposite wall.
I filled in the remaining empty walls with paintings on paper. That should have been simple, but became a problem, mostly of curatorial choice. I brought over a number of paper paintings made during winter and spring for selection in situ. There were paintings of two sizes, 22x30 and 22x36, all untitled, with orientations TBD. With a variety of paintings to choose from, it should have been easy. I initially selected six paintings that I felt were best and also related to each other thematically, and those were pinned in place at eye level, arrayed evenly around the room and on either side of the two large canvases already hung. But something looked off, so I began to swap positions and replaced several paintings. There was a lot of trial and error and the long t-pins were tough to push into the dry wall. Eventually, I invited Junho Lee to view the room. He looked at each wall like a general reviewing the troops, then told me what worked and what needed work. I understood that some groupings didn’t relate and others were too symmetrically hung, lacking variety.
Next, I tried numerous alternatives until I hit upon the solution of using the corners of the room rather than hanging work evenly distributed along perpendicular cardinal points. Finally I had to replace one last paper painting, but none worked, so I returned to my studio and found the missing link—a painting I had left back for no reason other that it had become too familiar. But it was the right solution and I was happy and confident of my choices and the look and feel of the room. Last details were a matter of bringing extra lighting and setting up a table for wine and snacks, where I could also show loose paper paintings in a portfolio, to anyone who wished to see more.
Here is copy of the printed handout to accompany the show:
J&M and NARS Open Studio Weekend, June 8 - 10, 2018
new paintings on paper and canvas
Making art in New York City since 1976. Studio in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
Work on canvas and paper— all sizes, mostly abstract, color paintings. Plus drawings, prints, and collages.
The new large canvases show my long-standing interest in color, surface texture, and gestural mark making. These lyrical paintings, purely abstract, employ modernist planes of color to expressive ends. The paintings are made with layers of acrylic paint that are transferred from plastic sheeting, which is then removed, leaving thin planes of dry color adhered to the canvas or paper. The painting technique I use has been under development for 10 years and is still being modified to suit each new painting. It constantly evolves in order to address the problem at hand: How to paint a painting? How to make it new?
Braque’s Corner Pocket
signed on back
horizontal 72x84 acrylic on canvas 2018
The Lucinda River
signed on back
vertical 86x71 acrylic on canvas 2018
The paper paintings were made over the winter and spring. I was working on new color combinations, paint handling and mark making (gestures), using both transfer and direct fluid paint. Exploring alternate possibilities, painting freely and spontaneously, I made over 100 paintings. Some paper paintings include overlapping planes along the lines of a X cross, introducing a prominent dynamic diagonal movement into an otherwise free-form and fluid color space.
signed on back
22x36 acrylic on watercolor paper
signed on back
22x30 acrylic on watercolor paper
As mentioned above, I felt confident with the work and the installation. Sitting for the show was another matter, as I didn’t know what to expect or who would come to view it. It was never clear to me if my presence in the room was a deterrent that would make someone uncomfortable or if welcoming people in and talking would be a distraction. I’m uncertain about what someone, who is unfamiliar with my painting, would want to hear about my art, if anything. Should I talk about intentions, formal issues, techniques, influences, aesthetic style, color abstraction, my background? I found that it was usually sufficient to explain that these are recent paintings, acrylic on canvas and paper, and my working studio is located nearby, and that I have been painting for some 40 years, and it’s a full time job (since I am otherwise unemployed) but no, I don’t make a living at it. In other conversations, I introduced the titles of the two large canvases and spoke about their references—one to Georges Braque’s cubist paintings of pool tables and the other to the John Cheever story, “The Swimmer”.
Visiting other artists’ spaces, mostly artists I didn’t know, though I had previously met a few, was also interesting. Even if I didn’t initially relate to their art, they all seemed ready to talk about their art and were very serious and knowledgeable. In some respects, it reminded me of a post graduate program, which in many ways it was. Some of the artists had recently graduated (including one from Cranbrook Art Academy in 2015) while others had recently moved to NY, delighted to be in Brooklyn. Some apologized for not having much to show, having just taken up residence at NARS. They seemed to have a lot to say, and were practiced in talking about art. As possibly the oldest artist in the show, I realized that I was speaking from experience, and could talk about the art world and living in a New York that no longer existed (having moved here in 1976), and that was interesting to us both.
It was fun for me to walk into studios with my friend, painter and filmmaker, Bill Page. Bill wasted no time in asking direct questions about their art. I was impressed at how he drilled down and asked pointed and provocative questions. And I was also impressed at the answers he elicited. It never occurred to me to interrogate someone to that degree about their art, of someone who I don’t know and who doesn’t know me. They appeared to appreciate it. I introduced Bill to David and they had a long conversation on the wet rooftop, during the BBQ after the show closing on Sunday.
Occasionally, I returned to my space after a short walkabout, to discover someone intently viewing my paintings. It was very interesting to hear what they had to say and to answer questions. I’m never sure what someone sees in my art, and it was enlightening to hear someone speak directly about my paintings, even without prompting. Some visitors, and artists from other studios, were quite articulate. For me, it was a tutorial on how to talk about art.
No sales were made, at least by me.