Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Spring Sculptures and a Cherry Wood Bench



New Sculptures, winter 2014 through spring 2015. L-R: 'Gold Head' 2015; 'Head' 2014;
'3 Stripe Head' 2015; 'Mallard' 2015; 'Relief Head' in oak, 2015; 'Cheongsam' 2015.

This is a temporary display created for a party in my studio. Tools are stored above and below.

These are all carved and painted wood sculptures that I have made in the last few months. 'Mallard' and 'Cheongsam' are in honor of my friends Anita Tsang and Cathy Hau who are from Hong Kong and Shanghai respectively. They recently flew to NYC to attend the opening of 'China: Through the Looking Glass' at the Metropolitan Museum. Anita and Cathy wore very elegant and authentic Chinese 'Cheongsam' style dresses.


Laura Jacobs, in her 26 May 2015 Wall Street Journal review of the exhibition, describes Cheongsam as, 

"...Cheongsam or (in Mandarin) Qipao, a high-collared, cap-sleeved, figure-skimming sheath that emerged in the 1920s, a sophisticated nod to the flapper’s chemise. These sheaths are placed in murmuring dialogue with Western reinventions of the shape."

I like that description. Here is a picture of Anita and Cathy in-costume at the Met:


L-R: Anita and Cathy wearing Cheongsam dresses by the Temple of Dendur pool.

The other four sculptures in the top photo represent figurative heads or busts. These are perhaps the most the most difficult subject matter of all for artists. Maybe that's why the poet W.H. Auden said that, "All sculpture should be confined to busts of famous chefs." 

L-R: 'Mallard, 'Cheongsam.' Painted wood.


The next two sculptures below were too tall to fit into the tool rack studio display.


L-R: 'Turkey Head,' 'The Hour - in Colonial Red.' 


'The Hour - in Colonial Red,' carved and painted wood. I found a mahogany rudder for a small sailboat at our local dump's 'Swap Shop.' After cleaning it up I band-sawed this head shape out of the rudder and rounded the edges. Then paint. The bottom band is colonial red. Yes, the USA was once a British Colony...



Detail of hot-forged iron 'Turkey Head' in our living room mirror.
~~~~

Cherry Bench

Here is a carved cherry-wood bench I recently completed. It is 17 1/2 inches tall, 78 1/2" long and 14" deep. My wife, Bartley Johnstone, likes it because she says that the long, curved bottom of the bench looks like a boat.

Cherry Bench

A friend said yesterday that she thinks it looks more like a whale underneath. Perhaps it does! The six inch thick cherry wood for this project has been air-drying for over ten years. The black leg at the far end is solid cherry that has been stained and hand-rubbed with fine steel wool to give it an almost-matte sheen. Here is a detail of the leg in the foreground:


Large 'dovetail' joints fasten the leg to the bench.
Only the right hand leg is stained black.
~~~~


Two more benches: 'Nazlini Bench' and 'Reclining Woman Bench' are shown in the I.M. Pei designed gallery at Choate School in Wallingford, CT.

From left: '3 Sided Glass Top Table with 4 Legs,' 'Nazlini Bench'
The framed painting on paper, far left, is a study for the table.
The 'Nazlini Bench' is made of carved and painted poplar wood
with forged iron details.


'Reclining Woman Bench' Length: 83 inches.
Carved and oiled cherry wood back, painted base.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Paintings with Photographs

'Prada-Milano'
During the week of the 2011 Milan Furniture Fair I took this photo of the window display at Prada; within the elegant Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Painting on photo, 19" x 13", 2015.
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'Pergamon II' painting on photo, 19" x 13", 2015
The 'Pergamon' paintings, shown above and below, include fragments of the stunning 2nd century BC 'Pergamon Alter.' This immense frieze is now housed within the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. When I took these photos - on the 4th of July 1982 - the museum was then called the Berlin State Museum and was located in East Berlin. The Wall was still up. It was torn down seven years later in 1989. 

On that day in '82 we had to cross the underground border at 'Checkpoint Charlie' in order to enter East Berlin. Border guards detained us for half an hour in the grim, under-lit subway station. They emptied all of our pockets and even unwrapped a balled-up chewing gum wrapper to see if it had secrets written on it. They pointedly harassed my friend and German scholar Daisey Davidson until she was in tears. They saw a notation in invisible ink on her passport. 

Her crime was bringing over cans of vegetables and toilet paper to a family she knew on a previous trip. After Daisey burst into tears, the guards were satisfied that they had done their manly work. We were allowed to cross. Emerging out of the station into the sunlight we saw buildings in almost-deserted streets still pockmarked by shrapnel from WWII. 

I'm not even sure if taking photos at the museum was permitted. But there were no guards and no other visitors, so I just went ahead and did it. This is the first time that prints have been made from the negatives. The negatives have been stored in a box for the last 33 years.

Pergamon I
~

As many readers who follow this blog know, for years I have been making abstract paintings on paper in a very small-sized format, about 15 by 11 inches. But in 2014 I began to combine photographs with paintings. These are a little bigger; 19" x 13". This began with what some of my friends have referred to as the 'Africa Series.' (See the earlier post here called, 'Sierra Leone, West Africa, 1974). They employ mostly black and white negatives that I printed 'full-frame.' That means no editing of the overall image or change in proportion. I also endeavored to interfere minimally with the condition of the negatives or slides. If one had a really bad scratch, as 'City Hotel' in Freetown did, well, it just got left in as part of the work.

City Hotel, Freetown, Sierra Leone
In the newer ones shown here, I've partially abandoned photographic principles formerly held dear. Now they are sometimes not full-frame, color is wantonly employed, sizes are random and they are routinely Photo-shopped at-will to repair gross imperfections. Since all standards seem to have become negotiable, even the most sacred - that they were all taken solely by me during the past 40-plus years - is also history. In this respect I am referring to the image below titled 'Northern Light / Gleam.' This handsome shot of the pre-war, 12 Meter sloops Northern Light (blue hull) and Gleam (foreground) was taken by my friend Lane duPont in the waters off of Newport, RI. (Both sailboats were found sunk. They were raised and restored by my late childhood friend, Bob Tiedemann. In 1977 Bob took showers at my South Stamford sculpture studio when he was otherwise living in his van on City Island while restoring Gleam).

The principle that has not changed is the one central to them all - that every painting remains faithful to its subject.

~


Northern Light / Gleam


Scott, AR


Attica '71


Waiting


Köln I


Köln II
~

A brief note on paintings titled Köln I and Köln II:

In 1982 I was having dinner in Cologne (Köln), Germany with the late, noted architect OM Ungers and his family. He took us to a very traditional local restaurant for dinner. The place was so local that one item on the dessert menu was called, "Cologne Caviar." In fact, it was actually a plate of blutwurst - their beloved blood sausage! 

Over coffee I asked Mr. Ungers if he could think of any architectural treasures that must be seen before leaving town. He immediately began to draw a sketch on a coaster. He talked enthusiastically while he sketched one of the Roman-influenced columns at St Mary's Chapel in the Old Town. These are the columns shown in the above paintings. He especially loved the transition from round to square at the top; the elegance and simplicity. On the following day I found the Chapel and took this photo. OM was right. They are lovely.

~

A personal note regarding today, 9 February 2015:

Since the creation of this art / design blog in 2012, I have had 9,999 'page views' to date from dozens of countries all over the World. Perhaps as I am typing this it will go to 10,000. To me it is nothing short of a miracle that this is possible - that people not just in the USA but also in the Philippines, Ukraine, Turkey, Hong Kong, France, Vietnam and elsewhere can read what a guy at his desk in Sharon, CT is saying and displaying; what he thinks is important 

My grandmother, Bernice Rockwell Peck, was born in 1898 in Olean, NY. Her father had a small, somewhat primitive one-man farm. She left home to study watercolor and painting at Pratt in New York City during WWI. Her first job after finishing school was teaching art at the Port Chester, NY high school between the world wars. If she were alive today I wonder what she would make of what her grandson does and of the 'cyber' communications world that we all now routinely take for granted.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sierra Leone, West Africa, 1974

Freetown in Blue

Tinguilinta in Red

Kafala

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone, West Africa, in 1974. About 200 of us came over on a flight from Philadelphia. We stayed in the capitol, Freetown, to take language lessons and wait for our specific assignments. Sometimes - following in Graham Green's footsteps - we would go to the City Hotel for a beer. He wrote his first novel, The Heart of the Matter, in Freetown during WWII.

Fifteen year old prostitutes from Liberia would sit on the front porch of the City Hotel waiting for customers. Russian sailors stood at the bar having a drink. Uzi machine guns on their backs.

After Freetown we went inland to Bo for further instruction. We met a number of German families also living in a compound nearby. Everybody there kept a pet mongoose to keep the deadly 'two step' snakes (green mambas) at bay. Spitting cobras were common too.

The Abu Construction Company was rebuilding the road system in the entire country. The Chinese were rebuilding the rail lines. The United States provided the Peace Corps Volunteers. I traveled to Kenema by bus as I was supposed to eventually be posted at the Kenema Technical Institute. That town has lately been in the news as a center for Ebola treatment. 

Now, for the first time in forty years, I am printing the black and white negatives of photos taken there . They are the subjects for new paintings on paper. I took these photographs with a Topcon Super-D 35mm film camera. It had a fixed 50mm 1.4 lens. That used to be considered a 'normal' lens; closest to the view you see with your eye. In those days I used Kodak Tri-X 400 ASA film. The film was developed in a lab in Africa. Negatives have been stored in a box ever since.


 19" x 13" paintings:


Boy Under Grapefruit Tree


Bundu Dance


City Hotel


Tinguilinta

Boy Under Grapefruit Tree

Tinguilinta

City Hotel

Boys Rolling Tires in Green, Kenema, studio view.

A '60s postcard of Freetown. That's the City Hotel in the middle, behind the Texaco sign.



11" x 8 1/2" Paintings:

City Hotel, Freetown

Woodworking Class, Kenema

Launch to Tinguilinta at Anchor

'Head,' painted wood, H. 15", 2014.






Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Art with no politics, no hatred.

This morning Bartley and I were talking over coffee about how artists use unpleasant subjects and images in order to get attention; painter Jenny Saville; the new Met Opera performance of 'Death of Klinghoffer,' etc. My answer to her was that sometimes the most powerful, touching and courageous art demonstrates restraint; is not at all bombastic. She replied, "Honey, I wish you would post that." I said OK.
Here are representations of fall colors expressed in two ways. They are photos I took of four Canada Geese landing in a pond at dusk. And an ancient dance in a very poor West African town. Simple statements. With actual and implied references to landscape. Nothing about butchery or killing diseases. No politics, no hatred.
As I'm typing this I just received an e-mail from a friend in London: "...yes, the world is going mad……… p.s. the art world runs on greed."

Canada geese landing in water; bold horizontal landscape elements.
Sharon, CT, 21 October 2014.


A Bundu ceremonial dance in Kenema, Sierra Leone, 1974.
Painting on paper with photo, 19" x 13", 2014


Additional Paintings on Paper

'Brown and Gold Summer Field'


'St. John's, Hong Kong'

'Vermont Landscape'

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

'Distilled,' A Group Show in New York, September, 2014


'Distilled' is open through 25 October 2014
http://jacobsongallery.com/index.php?nav=newsdetails&ID=132

A very high-quality show in New York at 
Bernard Jacobson,17 East 71st Street.
212-879-1100 Open Tues - Sat  10 to 6

Small paintings by: Robert Motherwell, Sam Francis, Helen Frankenthaler, Larry Bell, Marc Vaux, William Tillyer, Christian de Boschnek, Vicky Colombet, Nicola Ginzel, Eric Holtzman, Kazimira Rachfal, John Scofield


L-R: John Scofield and Diana Erdos, curator and gallery
director at the Bernard Jacobson Gallery, NYC. 

Two small paintings on view at the Bernard Jacobson Gallery to 26 July.

The private viewing room in the rear of the gallery.

'A Murder of Crows'   John Scofield























'Landscape in Mars Yellow'    John Scofield

Bernard Jacobson Gallery

17 East 71st Street
New York, NY 10021
212-879-1100

diana (at) jacobsongallery.com
jacobsongallery.com