Notes 9.18.15: Figure+Abstract, Morbid Anatomy, William Mortensen, the Louvre and the New Whitney
So, apparently my image, “Ashokan Reservoir, NY III”, was on display in the Louvre a couple of months back and I didn’t even realize. Last month, I received a message which started: “We were thrilled to include your work in the digital display at the Louvre on July 13th as part of the Landscape Collection.” I have to admit, I remember entering this landscape thing on See.Me, but after discovering there was some kind of social media popularity voting component to it, I was turned off and didn’t really pay attention to any of the subsequent messages in regards to it. I was surprised then to be informed that my image was among those that were on digital display. I guess I can officially say I had my work exhibited in the Louvre, if only for a moment…
It has been a strange taxing couple of months. In truth 2015, you have not been a good year so far and the summer has been too hot and too long. Nevertheless, I have felt generally productive and focused, in an artistic sense. Most of my attention has been on my Figure + Abstract series. I recently finished “Head III" and “Figure III”. “Figure III” in particular had been a bit of a trial to create, having been started, scrapped and restarted, perhaps three or four times before its final incarnation. I wonder if the “Figures” of the series are always going to be such a difficult birth, so to speak, as I had similar difficulty creating “Figure II” until its final manifestation.
Currently I am working on another, tentatively titled Figure in Red which incorporates the same combined elements of digital and analog painting, drawing, etc. However, I have experimented with some new techniques in its creation especially regarding the manner of how I used Corel Painter. I must say this about the process of creating the Figure + Abstract series so far – there are reactionaries that reflexively assume digital media has somehow brought an end to the “happy accident” – this is not so, I have had many happy accidents in the creation of this series regarding the digital elements.
I have also been doing some preparatory work for a different new series that I wish to explore and I wish to also continue with the Vanitas series that I started. Time for a little darkness, I think...
Speaking of darkness, last month Sarah and I visited the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Gowanus, Brooklyn. We saw their exhibition Opus Hypnagogia: Sacred Spaces of the Visionary and Vernacular. Overall I enjoyed the exhibits mix of occult, art, curiosities and elements that are a bit, in truth, campy. The museum occupies a nice space housed in a building with a black façade that stands out in the industrial area of Gowanus. We discovered the museum by chance a couple of weeks before we went and I have to say, I am a bit thrilled that such a place exists in Brooklyn.
Among the most interesting work on display was the work by William Mortensen, a photographer who created photographic manipulations in the Pictorialist style and whose work went from being widely known to obscure, in part due to the disdain of photorealist purists such as Ansel Adams. These early fantastical photo-manipulations were great to see as they predict so much of what is going on today including some of what I do in my own work. When I used to work in analog photography only, I was much more interested in the labor intensive darkroom techniques that came with manipulation and experimentation. Mortensen wasn’t focused on representing strict reality. He was more interested in psychological and emotional impact and also exploring the imaginative; something I can relate to.
Lastly, Sarah and I went to the new Whitney Museum last month. We had a very good time. Visiting the Whitney’s old space within the Brutalist building designed by Marcel Breuer always felt, perhaps as to be expected with Brutalism, like one was within somewhat of a dark fortress. I can’t say I didn’t like the Breuer space overall, but it didn’t exactly “flow”. However, before visiting the new space I was a little hesitant that I wouldn’t care for the crowd pleasing elements to the new design that I was reading about. So often pandering to the crowd means a race to the lowest common denominator, and consequently, mediocrity. The new space designed by Renzo Piano however was impressive. It is definitely not dark, with its many windows and terraces offering views of the surrounding neighborhood, including the High Line, and the Hudson River. In many ways it almost seems like the opposite of the old space to me. Most importantly, the space seemed to showcase the artwork quite well. I enjoyed the inaugural show, a retrospective taken from the Whitney’s collection representing the history of art in the United States from the start of the 20th century to the present. We even had a tasty treat and very good coffee at their café.