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Showing posts from April, 2010

On art and NASCAR (2): Cyril Edward Power

'Speed Trial', 1932, Linocut, Cyril Edward Power
Cyril Edward Power was an interesting man. He was born in 1872 in London, and was trained as an architect. He won the RIBA medal in 1900 (a prestigious architectural award), then worked in his family’s architectural practice, as well as for the Ministry of Works, designing public buildings. In 1912 he published a three-volume ‘History of English Medieval Architecture’ with his own illustrations. He flew with the Royal Flying Corps during World War I, and perhaps this is where his fascination with machinery and movement began. In the 1920s, he gradually turned towards art, particularly printmaking. In 1932, he made the linocut shown above, ‘Speed Trial’.
Power was influenced by the Italian Futurists (discussed in the first post in this series), and their English followers, the Vorticists. This print was made 20 years after the Balla painting I talked about earlier, but it still has that direct, un-ironic admiration for cars and spe…

On more student work from the Journal + Sketchbook class

Drawing by Paco Aschwanden
Each week in the Journal and Sketchbook class, we ask the students to hand in photocopies of two drawings that they've completed in the preceding week. Above is something that was handed in this week. I think it's done in oil crayon or water-soluble wax pastels. Considering that these are primarily writing students, the quality of work that comes out of the drawing side in this class is pretty impressive.

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On another blind contour drawing

Dinner table
"It is only by drawing often, drawing everything, drawing incessantly, that one fine day you discover to your surprise that you have rendered something in its true character."—Camille Pissarro.
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On Julia Katz at Addington Gallery: Interview with the Artist

'Boardwalk', by Julia Katz, oil on panel, 48" x 60"
The latest exhibition at Addington Gallery in Chicago (running until June 1st, 2010) consists of encaustic paintings by California-based artist Howard Hersh, and extremely strong figurative paintings by Chicago-based artist Julia Katz. After I met Julia Katz at the preview, she agreed to be interviewed about her paintings, which depict people in public spaces, either running or clustered together in crowds.
Philip: You work in series, it seems. Is there a common theme to the subject matter of your work?
Julia: I like to work in series because I like to develop several pieces at once.  Rotating from one to another while they are in process helps me to figure out what I am looking for with each painting. I’ve been working with a general theme of the human figure in motion for the past several years, after spending many years painting strictly from models posing in the studio.  The idea of painting motion is continuing t…

On old sketchbooks: 3

'John', March 1986
This week, we're in 1986 on the march through old sketchbooks.

“Do not fail, as you go on, to draw something every day, for no matter how little it is, it will be well worthwhile, and it will do you a world of good."—Cennini (1370-1440).
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On Richard Wilson's '20:50' (1987)

This week's Meditation is on a stunning installation by Richard Wilson, which is back on show again at the new Saatchi Gallery in London, for which the piece was first created in 1987.

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On Patricia Ann McNair + Aleksandar Hemon at Story Week

Patricia Ann McNair
In March, my wife Patricia Ann McNair moderated a reading and panel discussion between authors Aleksandar Hemon (Macarthur Genius Recipient), Achy Obejas, and John Dale. It was held at Chicago's Harold Washington Library as part of the Story Week festival of writing. The audio has just become available, and it's worth listening to:

http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/audio_popup.aspx?audioID=41116

Patty starts her introduction at about the 2 minute mark.

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On art and NASCAR

Why do we love cars?

Maybe some of us don’t love cars at all. We have one because we have to, because it performs a function, like a toaster or a microwave.

Some of us, though, love cars because of their machined perfection, because they can go so fast, because there’s something thrilling about the sensation of the human body hurtling through space at high speeds—whether we experience that on an empty desert highway, pressing the foot down hard on the gas pedal when we’re sure there are no cops around; or we go to giant speedway stadia, where we gaze enviously at machines that are permitted, indeed encouraged, to whizz around at nearly 200 miles per hour (all hail fellow car lovers at the Talladega Superspeedway this weekend!).

Some of us love cars because they are simply beautiful objects. Maybe not so much now, when manufacturers have honed and cloned their designs until they all start to look the same, and the minute differences between one model and another are visible only to t…

On old sketchbooks: 2

May 1985: Person leaning on rail on cross-Channel ferry
Another drawing from a sketchbook/diary I kept in 1985. Here is Hiroshige writing in 1834 on the practice of drawing:

"Ever since I was six I've been obsessed by drawing the form of things. By the time I was fifty I had published an endless number of drawings, but everything I produced before the age of seventy is not worth counting. Not until I was seventy-three did I begin to understand the structure of real nature, animals, plants, trees, birds, fish, and insects.

"Consequently, by the time I am eighty-six, I will have made even more progress; at ninety I will have probed the mystery of things; at a hundred I will undoubtedly have attained a marvellous pinnacle, and when I'm a hundred and ten, everything I do, be it a dot or a line, will be alive."

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Postcard from Lincoln Park, Chicago: 2

The Conservatory, beau jour de printemps.

On Denver artist Lisa Purdy

"Rebirth", oil on canvas, 36" x 24"
Lisa Purdy is a painter and sculptor living in Denver, Colorado. I recently had the opportunity to visit and talk with her in her studio, which is in a lively area of galleries and studios just south of downtown Denver.
Me: Your studio is in the Santa Fe Arts District of Denver. For non-Denver residents, can you tell us about the area?
Lisa: The Art District on Santa Fe is a collection of shops, art studios, galleries and creative endeavors along Santa Fe and Kalamath streets in Denver.  The District has a membership fee that helps promote the area and specific businesses within it.  On the first Friday of every month, large groups of people flock to the area to view art, attend special events and enjoy an evening of dining out.
Me: When did you acquire your studio?
Lisa: I acquired my studio in June of 2009 in the Bolt Factory building.  As may seem obvious, the building sold every kind of bolt imaginable until a decade ago.  Two ye…

Postcard from Lincoln Park, Chicago

Christian Science building, midday.

On a history painting by Manet

This week's Meditation is on Manet's 'The Execution of the Emperor Maximilian I', a lesser known painting now, but one which I grew to love by regularly seeing one of the three versions housed in London's National Gallery.

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On old sketchbooks: 1

Running late on the blogging this week, but here's a page from a diary/sketchbook that I was keeping in--wait for it--1985. It's a self-portrait. Note shaggy hair, beard, and John Lennon glasses. Good times!

I've decided to start posting a drawing from my sketchbooks, at least one a week, from 25 years of sketchbooks, beginning in the year that Boris Becker won Wimbledon and Wham! were top of the charts, and coming up to the present day.

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On my dear readers who can't really be only my friends but maybe could be new friends one day

Looking at the Google Analytics report for this blog has given some interesting facts about which city the readers are living in, how long you are staying around, whether you are a new or returning visitor. So although I don’t know any of you by name, hopefully you will recognize yourself in the following, providing you’re reading this blog again:
Thank you to the person/s from New York who spent an average of 55 seconds reading a couple of pages.
Thank you to the person/s in Christchurch, New Zealand (is that you, Mark?) who read an average of 1.57 pages and spent 90 seconds doing so.
Thank you to the person/s in Addison who read an average of 2 pages per visit and spent 5 minutes on the site.
A big thank you to the persons in Portland (Oregon or Maine?) and Glasgow, Scotland, who spent 32 minutes reading an average of 6 pages. Please come again.
Thank you to the person/s in Seattle who visited several times, and spent more than 10 minutes reading an average of 5 pages. Despite the rain, …

In the studio

Trying Lazertran on plexiglass for public art project.

On the Interlochen Printmaking Class: rainbow roll

'Tree' by Bob, 2009
One of the great things we do in the Introduction to Printmaking class, which I am teaching at the Interlochen College of Creative Arts this summer, is something called rainbow roll. An example is shown in the image above. First, the student, Bob, cut the image of the tree out of one block of linoleum. Next, he took a block of the same size that hadn't been cut. This gave him a flat, smooth surface to roll the ink onto.

I put a dab of blue ink and a dab of ochre ink at the edge of a plexiglass plate, placing the ink about three inches apart. Using a brayer as wide as the plexiglass plate, I showed Bob how to roll the brayer back and forth so that the surface of the brayer picked up a band of blue ink, a band of ochre ink, and then a gradually blended mixture of the two colours in the centre. He then rolled this over the blank block of linoleum until it was covered in colour that started blue on edge, then graded through green and on to ochre on the othe…

On 'Wheat Fields' by Jim Dine

This week's (slightly late) Meditation is on a sculpture by American artist Jim Dine that I saw in the Denver Art Museum. If you have any thoughts on the opinion expressed in this short talk, please leave a comment.

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On artists who write and writers who art: Part 6

'Love', Robert Indiana
Throughout this series, I’ve been trying to think of artists who made serious attempts at writing, whether that be in poems or prose. There is of course a large number of visual artists who incorporate text as part of their visual work. To name just a few:

Picasso and Braque.
The Dadaists, such as John Heartfield.
Rene Magritte.
Antoni Tapies.
Andy Warhol.
John Baldessari.
Ed Ruscha.
Gilbert + George.
Robert Indiana.
Kara Walker.
Richard Prince.
Jenny Holzer.

Broadly speaking, these artists use text in the following ways: 
As part of a collage (think Picasso’s ‘Ma Jolie’) that plays with painted representations of things, plus snippets of actual things (e.g. newspapers) that traditionally do not belong inside the painted picture. The text is not usually intended to be read specifically for the meaning of the words themselves: they stand as a signifier of the world outside the picture frame, and thus serve the purpose of blurring the boundaries between what…

On the beauty of Chicago

Chicago has to be one of the finest cities I’ve ever lived. And that means I’m comparing it to Madrid (1 year), Barcelona (1 year), Paris (six months), and London (10 years). I work two days a week at a magazine based in Lincoln Park, and most lunchtimes I walk for a couple of miles around the neighbourhood. In just a few blocks, I can walk past a tower block designed by Mies van der Rohe, a row of early twentieth century town houses built in red-brick Gothic style, mansions that wouldn’t look out of place on a Paris street, a house with an iron façade that reminds me of a Wild West saloon, churches with curling stone columns done in the Moorish style, and a small museum with a classic Palladian portico. Every street is lined with trees, which are just starting to bloom in these warmer early April days. The grid system of the streets means that it’s an easy city to walk around, but the grid is broken up by these immensely long diagonal boulevards (supposedly following ancient Indian t…

A blind contour drawing from the Denver trip

Here is a blind contour drawing, done for the most part by drawing without looking at the page, in an airport lounge while waiting to board our plane.

Thoughts on Denver: attractive city, nice combination of newer and older buildings, a vibrant art community, ranging from museums built by international architecture stars to a district with lots of artists studios and galleries, light rail and shuttle buses everywhere in contrast to many other US cities, decent food options, and of course a view of the immense Rockies in the distance whenever there's a gap between the buildings.

In the coming weeks I'll be posting interviews with two artists from Denver, and also writing about some profoundly good art that I saw.

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2pm: MCA Denver

William Stockman drawing @ Denver MCA. Mobile blogging is fun!

Studio visit, Denver

Lisa Purdy in her studio, Santa Fe art district.

Inside the DAM

Mexican carving at DAM

On Libeskind's extension to the Denver Art Museum

At the Denver Art Museum, looking at the collections inside the new building designed by Daniel Libeskind. The exterior is very impressive, all exploding cubes, aggressive diagonal prows thrusting into space, shiny surfaces. Once you go inside, it gradually dawns on you what a bad design this is to show art in. None of the interior walls are rectangles, it seems. They're mainly polygons, very often all different within one room. This is no doubt intentional, but it seems to make it difficult to show any pieces with a consistent sightline.

Nevertheless, there is a lot of good art in the contemporary collection. A sculpture by Jim Dine called 'Wheat Fields' impressed me most. It struck me so much that I intend to write about it at greater length.

Tomorrow, I'm meeting an artist at her studio in the Santa Fe arts district of Denver. More later

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On the road

I'll be in Denver, Colorado, for the next few days, and hope to post a few things about artists and galleries that I see while I'm here. In the meanwhile, here's a clip of a singer who will forever be associated with the Mile High City (that's where he got his name from, isn't it?):



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On a portrait of a writer in ink: Interview with Bobby Biedrzycki

One of my colleagues at Columbia College Chicago, writer and adjunct faculty member Bobby Biedrzycki, has an eye-catching tattoo on his arm (shown above). It's such a work of art that I wanted immediately to find out who it depicted. Then I thought I would interview him about it.

Q: Let's start with a question that I bet you've never heard before. Did the tattoo hurt?
A: Haha. The shading made the skin a bit more tender than other tats I've had, but pain is a subjective thing, right? What hurts me might feel like a massage to someone else.
Q: Describe the tattoo for us.
A: It's a black and gray portrait of the writer Hubert Selby Jr, my idol. It's based on a photograph I found of him that I liked very much (and heard that he liked also). He is smiling, and has a small parakeet on his shoulder.
Q: Why did you choose this particular image?
A: Well, I knew I wanted something of him in his later years. He wasn't a very happy person early in his life, but later he rea…

On a great art blog

Work in progress by Sharon Butler
East coast artist and educator Sharon Butler runs a fantastic art blog called Two Coats of Paint, which seems to be updated every 2 seconds with great reviews of shows about painting, news about painting. I don't know how she does it - maybe via incredibly complex, continually updating RSS feeds or something. Anyway, it's beautiful to look at, and definitely worth seeing. I'm cross-linking here to her extract from a conversation between stellar painters Cicely Brown and Jacqueline Humphries.

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