Art and design projects. With stories about the people, places and experiences that have shaped my

Monday, February 9, 2015

Paintings with Photographs

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.

'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 by the harbor, Freetown, Sierra Leone, 1974. Painting on Arches paper.

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.