Sunday, October 1, 2017

26th Regional Artists Exhibition at the Artists Group Gallery in Buffalo, NY

This year the 26th Regional Artists Exhibition for Western New York will take place from 6 October to 10 November.  The judge was artist Gary L. Wolfe, who selected my mixed-media artwork Reservation pictured below.

While I was favoring the other entry, I am happy that Mr. Wolfe chose Reservation to make this the sixth time I have had the privilege to display my work in a Buffalo regional.

Reservation is a slightly different direction for me although the imagery is similar to the last several years of my drawing and mixed-media pictures. Nonetheless, Reservation is one of two recent icons in which I employed the use of a clear acrylic sheet as another visual layer in addition to drawing and collage.

Reservation; 25" x 28", mixed-media on board and acrylic

Saturday, September 30, 2017

John Berger and _Ways of Seeing_

After a re-viewing of the 1969 series Civilisation by Kenneth Clark this past year, I was reading various articles about it.   One reviewer recommended watching the shorter 1972 four-part series Ways of Seeing by John Berger as the "other side" of Art History.  I never had heard about it, or at least did not remember it, but off I went into YouTube in search of it.

When I was done with the first episode, I decided that I was going to purchase the book as well since this was a fresh look at Art.  Well, at least a fresh look to me of European Art.

Several writers have disparaged Berger's series, stating that he does not give a full account of Art as did Clark.  I judge this as unfair for the simple reason that four half-hour episodes are simply not going to be a full counter to Clark.  Further, I do not think that Berger was as much trying to balance Clark as much as he was trying to show another side of European Art.

While Clark engaged the formal aspects of Art and their historical context, Berger presented the economic context more so (after all, Berger was a Marxist) as well as the social context of a human being "seeing" Art in new settings.  

Further, and as weighty, he discussed as near a phenomenological reduction of Art as any philosopher could ask.  First, Berger helped the viewer take the presuppositions off the field of perception by showing artwork playing diverse sorts of music; he demonstrated how the background music played a role as to how one understands the artwork.

Manipulation of the audience perception of an artwork through the music is clear enough.

Next, he then exhibited artwork without music as one would see these elsewhere.  And, lastly, he offered artwork in other contexts just as we see them today and as no one in the past could have done so; in magazines on TV, in commercial advertising.  

These various perceptions of artwork showed how the social context can be manipulated and understood as such so as to be avoided.

Berger also dove into the notion as to how a person sees in contrast to how a camera sees, how the setting of the viewer surely needs consideration as well, and the relation of the artwork to the viewer--is it just a commodity? 

Much more to say about this short but pithy series as Berger touched on serious philosophical issues concerning our understanding of Art.  While Clark provides a wonderful commentary as to the importance of Art in regards to the progress of human spirit (however construed), it becomes a bit too tidy at times.

Berger, however, revealed the precious, delicate state of Art in its own time and how many paintings considered "Art" need to re-visited.  I think it would be rewarding for any artist to watch Berger's series to remind one how such a particular selection of history may skew ideas about Art.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

NACC Radio Interview 16 May 2017

Here is the link to my radio interview with Kelly Lang at the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center.  The interview lasted about 35 minutes and this section presents half that length so it is not too boring.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Beyond the Barrel: Niagara Falls 125

In honor of the City of Niagara Falls 125th anniversary, the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center is presenting an art exhibit with the theme on Niagara Falls from May 5 - August 6.  A juried show that will offer prizes in various categories, the NACC has been hosting the Beyond the Barrel art show for several summers. 

This is the first time since 2014 that I have entered artwork into the show, and I'm glad to say that the jurors accepted it.  Usually the show has an open theme but this year it is understandable that there is one concerning--what else?--Niagara Falls and all that may offer to one's imagination.

I picked up a previous idea from an earlier drawing and incorporated it into the artwork using bits and pieces of Niagara Falls history and legacy.  The judges selected this for "The Michael Kudela Tribute Award for Excellence in Mixed Media."

Tesla's Dilemma; 36" x 60", mixed-media on panel

Friday, February 17, 2017

Made in NY 2017--Envisioning the Future

The exhibit Made in NY 2017 had a theme this year about the artistic vision of the future whether technological, sociological, political, and even physiological.  The judges selected 64 artworks out of 309, and one of my entries, Fearful Symmetries, will be in the show.

This is an annual exhibit at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center in Auburn, NY, and it runs this year from March 24 - May 21.  You can read more about the show and the center at

Fearful Symmetries; 40" x 30", mixed-media on panel

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Escher and Picasso: Two 20th Century Artists

Currently, there is an exhibit of work by M. C. Escher at the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery (closing 29 January) and there is an exhibit of work by Pablo Picasso at the Buffalo Albright-Knox Art Gallery (closing 19 February).

Having seen both exhibits, and considering that they were both artists of the early and mid-20th century, made me consider how they both are alike as well as different.

First, let's review briefly the criticisms about both; usually most art historians knock on Escher while they tout Picasso as a revolutionary and, of course, as one of the Great Artists of the Century.  They tell us that Cubism is a natural development from the artwork of Cezanne and, perhaps, parallels the great discoveries in science at the time.

All very well.   I happen to like much of the work by Picasso, Braque, Gris, and anyone else who took up the cubist exploration of forms on a 2-D plane.  After a long history of artists attempting to show the space of the figure in the plane, and long after Western artists resolved it with perspective, the new use of space by Picasso et al. was a worthy accomplishment philosophically as well as visually.

I agree with this line of thought; no debate here.

I find that the problem is how the same art historians will gladly pass on artwork by Escher.  "Clever illustration," "sophomoric," "...the kind of art you leave in your 20's," are typical remarks about his drawings and prints.

Well, it is time to re-visit Escher and Art; it even causes one to ask the question "What is Art?"  A very big question, certainly, but relevant to understanding.

Another question is whether Escher contributed anything new to Art.  A third might be how he measures up to other artists in his time period.

The broadest question is the biggest one, and "What is Art?" is among the important philosophical questions.  Of course, this means that there are many responses with no one reply known as definitive.

Is Art the re-presentation of another vision of reality or the vision of another reality?  That is my definition, and to this Escher's work fits.  Granted, that leaves room for a lot of other work that is not meant as Fine Art.

And yet, if Fine Art also means important ideas about both Art and the world, then I think Escher's use of space in the plane is as sophisticated, and in my view more so, than anything the cubists imagined.

Of course, this would answer the second question as to a contribution to the visual arts.

The last question, just how does Escher measure up to other artists of his time period, is tricky.  The one artist whom I can think influenced Escher with certainty is Oscar Reutersvard.   Reutersvard is little known today, but though younger than Escher his impossible objects likely played an important part in Escher's development.  As much so, I think, as did the Italian landscapes and Moorish tilework.

Reutersvard remains the outstanding crafter of impossible objects,, but I think Escher gave them life.  I say this without diminishing the achievements of Reutersvard's imagination.

In this light, Escher's drawings of people and landscapes early on became part of the foundation for his imagination along with Moorish tessellation and Reutersvard's creation.

Nice rhyme, but fine words butter no parsnips.  Just how do I think Escher measures up to the big-name artists of the 20th century?

I know that I am in the minority, but I believe that Escher's art reflected the big questions as much as did the work of the cubists, dadaists, surrealists, abstract expressionists, and pop artists.  Philosophically, they are mathematical paradoxes about the human environment.  Visually, they intrigue me as much as other 20th century work.  They cause me to think not only about the world in which I live but also about what it means to make Art.

And isn't that what Art is about?

M. C. Escher exhibit at the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery

It might be worth your while, if you live in this area, to visit the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery in order to see the M. C. Escher exhibit that closes next Sunday, 29 January.

I do not usually bother noting other art exhibits but for those living in Western NY and in the Finger Lakes region this may be a once-in-a-lifetime exhibit of his work here.  Given the  condescending remarks of many in the art world about Escher's work, it is a nice surprise that they decided to have one.