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Showing posts from 2016

Sending COALTOWN into the World

I made this short video for an application to an artist residency. It's a pan shot of the interior of my diorama COALTOWN, which I exhibited at Terrain Exhibitions in Oak Park, Illinois, in September. The idea was to show the motorized parts of the models, in a way that can't be conveyed by a still image.

Glasnost

Rare footage of Dimitri Shostakovitch in rehearsal
There are many people around the world who no doubt are looking at the USA and wondering what the hell is going on, and there people looking at Russia and thinking the same, and now we have the two countries on a collision course again due to the meshing of two authoritarians taking advantage of a sizeable lunatic bloc in their respective electorates (or "electorate", if you will). 
I'm so shell-shocked by the pace of recent events that I'm having to remind myself of how much of my artistic development was shaped by the art/music/literature produced by these two countries. Every one of the people in the following lists made works that hit my like a bolt of lightning when I first encountered them, some as early as my fourteenth year. You can imagine the worlds that were opened up to me as I scoured these books (et al) while reading in an underheated bedroom in a draughty building in a mining town in the north of England…

Work by One of My Students

The Townhouse on Bristol Lane from Sulejman Karic on Vimeo.
I teach several versions of the Journal and Sketchbook class: the weekend or one day workshop version, and the 15 week semester-long version at Columbia College Chicago. Part of the extra academic requirement of the latter is that the students must create a piece of visual art that is in conversation with their final piece of writing. The final presentations of those paired pieces, writing + visual art, ended last week.

So many good things were submitted, and I'll post images of some of them soon. I'm going to start with this piece by student Sulejman Karic, because it combines a reading and a visual equivalent in the same video. He was born in the USA to parents who were refugees from the Bosnian war in the 1990s. The memoir he began working on is, I believe, the first time he has explored that material at such length. The video still needs some work, but it's so impressive already that I want to share it as wide…

A List of Every Drink in Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises"

I first read Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" when I was a teenager, and immediately fell in love with it. For the last couple of years, I have had the incredible privilege of teaching a class based around Hemingway in Paris -- while living and teaching in Paris itself, close to the Boulevard du Montparnasse, where most of the action of the novel's first half takes place.

Of the many things that one notices about the book, the colossal amount of drinking is something that stands out. These people didn't just drink like fish: they drank like whales, as if the ocean they swam in was alcohol and they had set themselves the task of drinking the seas of the world dry of it. During my read-through of the book before class started last year, I tried to underline every mention of drink in the book. And now, purely in the interests of science, I am listing the entire menu of booze mentioned directly by name. Some preliminary observations:
Most of this is…

A Centennial Day With Picasso

If you're not the sort of person who becomes obsessed with your favourite artists to the extent that you lap up even the tiniest details of their biography, then read no further: this post is not for you.

If, however, you get a kick out of that sort of thing, then here's what I want to talk about. Roughly twenty years ago, I found a short book that became a valuable addition to my collection of biographical materials about Picasso. It's called A Day With Picasso, and it came about when a researcher called Billy Kluver decided to track down all the photographs taken by Jean Cocteau during a single afternoon lunch session with Picasso, in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, some time during WWI. You can read the full story in his own words in the essay that prefaced the book. A brief summary: photos like this one were known to biographers and cultural historians...


... but no-one had tried to track down all the photos that Cocteau took that day, and no-one had ascertained even t…

Norske artister II: Edvard Munch

Everyone knows that painting by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. The figure on the pier, hands to its cheeks, mouth open and emitting a scream so piercing that it causes the solidity of the pier and the immateriality of the sea and sky to tremble (though curiously the promenading couple in the background appear to remain unmoved).

But I first got to know Munch as a painter through other works, such as the one above, The Girl by the Window, from 1893. This painting resides in the Art of Institute of Chicago, where I took a class of my students last week. Seeing it reminded me of being compelled by such works when I was a teenager, both for their style and their subject matter. A seemingly ordinary moment -- a young woman standing in her night dress before a window through which the moonlight streams -- is fraught with unsettling intimations of fragility and danger. Is she reading? Is she sleepwalking? Is she looking at someone down in the street? Whatever she is thinking, the painting i…

9 Things About Expo Chicago 2016

1. This is the fifth year that the giant exhibition hall at the end of Chicago's Navy Pier has hosted the Expo Chicago art fair, and according to its organizers and PR people, it was the biggest and most successful of all, in terms of participating galleries, attendance, and sales.

2. I could not tell whether the impressive, shiny, well-produced art on display was any different from what I saw on the walls last year, or the year before that, or the year before that, or the year before that. But a couple of things with lots of texture and loose execution caught my eye, nevertheless:


3. The special projects, ranged around the sides of the hall, were dedicated to more experimental works created by exhibiting artists. I liked this piece by Cody Hudson:

4. Why does anyone go to art fairs? It's about as much fun as going to Walmart. Yes, there is a lot of contemporary art in one place, but that's as much a minus as a plus. Even at the finest museums, aesthetic exhaustion sets in af…

Art in Unexpected Places

I had a minor scrape with the car at the weekend, which meant that I had to take it to the dealer yesterday to get it repaired. This meant that I had to go out to the northwestern part of Chicago, to a suburb called Niles (where my wife was raised, as it happens). There's not a lot to do there while you're waiting for four hours, so I walked a few miles to a Catholic cemetery. When I got to the middle of the cemetery, I came across a series of well-designed memorial chapels faced with this mosaic mural:


I think the artist was somebody called Wilfredo Bonsol, thought I couldn't find any information on him online, so I'm not sure. But the skill in the mosaic tiling is really impressive. Look at the gradation of tones and hues in the sky:


In between the interment crypts, I found a bronze statue of the baptism of Christ, again a well-executed piece, kind of old fashioned in its theme, but made in a style that reminds me of religious sculpture from the 1950s:


The suburb it…

More Acrylic Resist Etching Niceness

Yesterday was the second week of my acrylic resist etching class at Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago. I assisted the participants in printing a proof of the hard ground on copper plates that they prepared last week. The hard ground is actually acrylic floor polish, and as you can see from the image below, the etch it produces is amazingly sharp:


There are a few "blemishes" here and there, but those can be corrected or tidied up in subsequent prints. And remember, these are the first prints that two of the students have EVER done, and the first A.R.E. print that any of them have done:


What's great about the etch is that the lines are just as sharp and dark as if made using a traditional toxic ground. If you embiggen the images and look closely, you can see what I mean.


Video of Picasso's Linocut Process

As regular readers of this blog know, I am a maker of linocuts, and a teacher of the linocut printmaking process, and therefore a huge fan of Picasso's linocuts. The British Museum in London released this video in relation to a 2014 acquisition of several of Picasso's 1950s linocuts. It's got some nice insights into Picasso's process.

Airships and Art Shows

On Wednesday, I taught a class at Columbia College Chicago, and took my students to the Chicago Cultural Center on Michigan Avenue. There, I saw an exhibition by Paul Catanese, which involves flying this blimp around the interior of a giant gallery on the fourth floor. More about this when I review the show for Hyperallergic.

COALTOWN: at Terrain Exhibitions, Oak Park, IL

My installation COALTOWN is now on show at Terrain Exhibitions, an experimental outdoor art space in Oak Park, Illinois (which is adjacent to Chicago going west). I spent a long day in the studio last Saturday getting the diorama finished. This is a short video I made at the end of the day:



And here is how it looks in situ, together with some pieces installed in the garden/yard in front of the house:



The work originates in memories of growing up in a mining town in the north of England, and is preoccupied with how to represent memory, industry, violence, death. You know, small subjects.

Beautiful Work From a Journal & Sketchbook Class

Last week, my writer-wife Patty and I taught some classes at Shake Rag Alley Art Center in Mineral Point, Wisconsin. As you can see in the above photo, the grounds of Shake Rag Alley, with their lush gardens and nineteenth century historic buildings, are perfect for sitting outside to do some drawing and writing.

One of the activities we give students to work on is to write a series of instances, beginning with the phrases I remember/I don't remember/I'd rather not remember/I've been told. It's a great activity for stimulating memories of moments that come to be braided together in almost poetic ways. One of the best examples of that came from participant Wendy Moylan, who kindly agreed to allow me to post it here:

Yellow

I remember the old wedding shot, my grandpa lighting a cigarette in the flower girl’s mouth.
I don’t remember if he’s smiling or gravely playing the joke.
I’d rather not remember that he erased all stories in his barn.
I’ve been told he chose a shotgu…

New blog post about a new piece of work

Over on my studio blog, I've just posted a piece with lots of photos, detailing some of the intricate work involved in making a new 3-d piece of work for my next exhibition: link here.


New Vincent Van Gogh Site on Artsy

It's just come to my attention that Artsy, the online resource for art collecting and art education, has a page/site devoted to Vincent Van Gogh. I spent a few minutes looking at it and clicking through on some of the links, and it seems to be a museum-quality presentation of the life and work of the great Dutch Post-Impressionist painter, and which includes a running summary of every art exhibition at any one time that contains works by Van Gogh.

Worth looking at it if you're a fan of Vincent Van Gogh's work (and let's face it, who isn't?).

Painter William Eckhardt Kohler at Linda Warren Projects

William Eckhardt Kohler is a painter who lives in New York City, though he still retains a base in Chicago where he lived and worked for many years. I met up with him at Linda Warren Projects a few weeks ago, to talk about two shows that he has installed there (on display until August 13th 2016). One is a show that he curated himself, called New York; New Friends, and it comprises one of his own paintings in company with paintings and sculptures by artists from New York with whom he shares an affinity, not so much in the handling of the medium of paint, but in their dedication to its continued expressive possibilities.

His particular mastery of oil paint on canvas is in full evidence in the gallery containing his own paintings. Collectively titled Alchemy+Elements, his paintings are typically four feet to six feet on their longest side, and work from the first lay-in up to the final overlaying of thicker forms in a classically structured surface, despite their semi-abstract content. …

Motorized Art

Here are some things I've been assembling in my studio for a forthcoming exhibition: large scale (up to 6 feet high) and small scale models, some of which will have moving parts with the aid of tiny motors, wheels, and pulleys.



Another Monoprint Class

I taught a monoprint workshop at the Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago on Saturday, and as usual, the students all produced some nice looking work. Even for people who have done some form of printmaking before, they are always surprised and pleased when they pull the first print from the plexiglass plate and see the unique marks that they've made.

First up, a contact (or trace) monoprint, in two colours:


Then a blazing full colour additive monoprint:


Now a ghost print (printed from the faint residue of ink left on the plexiglass plate after pulling the main print):


Bravo, students!

Going through my CD collection

I have hundreds of CDs of "classical" music, arranged alphabetically by composer on shelves in the bedroom of the Chicago apartment. My wife suggests every now and then that we move the shelves somewhere else, so I occasionally come up with schemes to justify keeping them there. My latest one is playing every CD over the course of this year, all of them in the car, because:

a) I drive every day, and that's the best chance to listen to music;

b) The sound system in the car is amazingly good. (In fact, I think back to the first stereo that I bought from my pocket money, in the 1970s, and the better ones that I got in my twenties, and marvel at the fact that the sound in the Toyota Corolla is better than they ever were).

Note that I put the word "classical" between inverted commas. It's not a term that I particularly like, as it comes with so many assumptions, particularly from people who say they don't like that kind of music. But whatever we call it (I p…

Water, water, everywhere ...

Last weekend, I taught a class about crafting blog content to eight participants at the Interlochen College of Creative Arts in northern Michigan. One of the participants, Brita, has spent much of the last couple of years sailing a 40 foot boat around the Caribbean. I gathered that her presence as a land-lubber at the class is only a temporary hiatus from sailing the high seas. Anyway, I asked people who took the class to send me links to any blog or blog posts they were willing to share, and Brita sent me this one, about a near miss at sea.

The article also contains more photos similar to this gorgeous shot of a full moon near Tobago.

Student Images from my Acrylic Resist Etching Class

I recently finished teaching a five week course in acrylic resist etching. I and my six students explored how to make hard ground, soft ground, and dry point intaglio prints using non-toxic materials, such as floor polish for a hard ground, relief ink for soft ground, soy sauce for degreasing, soda ash for a stripping solution. Some of the students were experienced printmakers, some were first time etchers, and some were first time for both. Uniformly, they each produced some spectacular prints. They were honestly better than my first efforts using these new materials, partly as a result of my long trial-and-error research into this, but mainly because of their own willingness and talent.

Here are a few images from the class. First, a hard ground with chine colle:


A couple of hard ground images mixed with drypoint:


A softground etching:


A hard ground:


Finally, a hand-coloured hard ground etching:


Six of the Best: Part 37

Part 37 of an interview series in which artists reply to the same six questions. Today's respondent is artist Kate Ingold, whose work encompasses media as diverse as poetry, photography, and object-making. She is currently in the process of relocating from Chicago to Los Angeles; however, people in the midwest can see her work soon at Perry Farm, in Bourbonnais, IL, in collaboration with artist Joanne Aono.


PH: What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why?

KI: I consider myself a multi-disciplinary artist, but I suppose my primary medium is photography because I often start each project by making photographs. I print my photographs one time only and then treat them as substrates for drawings by tearing, scratching, sewing, and in other ways manipulating their surfaces. I also work in textiles (old and new), video, collage, and occasionally I write poems, either to go with the visual work or to stand alone.

Why photography? It’s a way for me to visually explore an idea. Often I find…

Blog Love: John Tomlinson

I've known the artist John Tomlinson for a few years. And by known, I mean "known", in that we so far have only become acquainted with each other via social media (though there was one near miss in New York City a few years ago). Such is the way of things, one feels after a while that one knows someone in the old fashioned way, too, after sharing and reading about each other's lives and works over a period of time.

He is a phenomenal draughtsman, as this image of a graphite drawing shows:


You can see a lot more of his work over at his website.

I've also just become aware that he has begun a blog, and a handsome affair it is too. As a former professor of art at Parsons, and the director of the New York Studio Residency Program, what he has to say about art is going to be worth listening to.

So in order to share the blog love, here is a link to John Tomlinson's nothing but art blog.