Display - Surtex/National Stationery Show
In anything to do with design for commercial purposes TRENDS is the big word - what's not just new, but what will be new and important in the upcoming year or season. I spent a couple of days at the big Art and Design trade shows in New York this week - Surtex for licensing design and The National Stationery Show for - yes - stationery, etc. I was there because my art was there - at Surtex with my agent Montage Licensing. It was a great opportunity to meet people and get ideas - and of course, to hear about what's trending for 2013.
From Lettuce Press website
Some of it seems obvious - concern with green products, soothing colors and textures to combat the anxiety of this troubled world - but it was also interesting to have the perceptions coming from professional trend readers. More creativity, more home craftiness, warmer, more personal environments - one predicted a backing away from sterile, cold minimalism with a consequent move to home spaces where we can cuddle, grow plants even in urban settings, and make things with our hands. It may sound like the 60's, but it looks really new and fresh - the standards for quality are a lot higher now.
from Bowerbox Press website
Roaming the vast Javits Center where the shows took place, I found a lot of evidence to back up this trend - in the licensing show a nice shift towards more drawing, breaking the recent monopoly of flat Photoshop patterning (especially nice for me, as my work is all about drawing - though I use Photoshop and love it!) and a lot of quirky, personal fun in the work of many artists. A big trend, right in line with the prediction, was all over the stationery show - letterpress printing! It's hard to get much more hands on than printing cards and notes one at a time with hand-cut plates and hand-set type on a simple platen press.
Val of Bowerbox Press
I once had one of these when I was a small-time limited edition publisher - my partner and I set our own type, I cut wood engravings for illustrations, and we turned out - slowly - some very beautiful things. It was a treat to see so much letterpress printing at the show and really exciting to meet the crop of printers, many of them young, enterprising women with a love of the tactile, graphic possibilities and of the messy process itself!
Allison of The Lettuce Press
Allison Baer of The Lettuce Press, from Portland, Oregon, had a charming booth with tiny plants sprinkled around to accent her clean clever designs - we laughed about the 'clean' nature of the graphics, as she is covered in printer's ink when her work is in process. She draws the art and has it cut into plastic plates, then prints each card one at a time. She also pointed out the deep print of her impressions on the rich thick paper she uses, citing it as a signature of 'new' letterpress that stands in contrast to flat featureless mechanical printing or digital text. Next door to her booth, Emily Harris of The Victory Special Press creates designs using antique wood type, another variation on the new/historical approach.
Rondi of SixPenny Press
A number of the letterpress printers were showing together under the umbrella of Ladies of Letterpress, an international group that cites 'non-competitive community' as one of their principles. Their corner was a model of that principle, and it was buzzing with activity. There were 10 different distinctive styles on display - Rondi Vasquez of SixPenny Press does strong abstract designs, Val of Bowerbox Press frames her iconic owls in simple effective arrangements, Donatella Madrigal of Tella Press uses a mix of type and graphics - but the medium gave the booth a unified aesthetic that was very pleasing.
Donatella of Tella Press
The reviews are coming thick and fast, so let me add my thoughts, fresh from a first peak at the Barnes Collection in its transplanted natural habitat. All that glorious (and some not so glorious) art is in back in place in the familiar yellow-walled galleries, sacrosanct arrangements intact, in the center of Philadelphia. The official opening this weekend will bring crowds streaming through the doors. The press opening gave me an idea of what that will be like - after my small group tour of the building a few weeks ago (see the archives for the post), the bustling multitude of reporters, journalists and cameras was a bit overwhelming - a relative tidal wave.
But how great to see the new spaces in full use - animated conversations, people chatting over lunch on the terrace, exchanges of admiration or puzzlement about the hanging of the art in the rooms. I especially enjoyed a discussion between two newcomers to the Barnes - one from England, one from France - trying to figure out how on earth a museum could possibly hang art from three different centuries on one wall. They might not have hit on the answer, but they had zeroed in on the heart of the Barnes way of doing things.
If you were worried about the move, rest easy - you'll find the galleries with their jumbles of great masterpieces, slight or more subtle works, ancient metal craft, wooden spoons and tin kettles intact and just as amazing, breathtaking, and sometimes infuriating as ever - but improved. Better light makes everything fresher and easier to see - thanks mainly to good design decisions, new technology and slightly higher ceilings.
Dr. Barnes has in no way been left behind; he is still at your side every step of the way through the rooms (now fitted with simple benches and very helpful brochures) poking and prodding at you to look, really look at the art. You can almost hear him: 'Stop relying on labels or dim memories from art history classes! Pay attention!" There's a slightly musty, hallowed aura that clings to the yellow burlap walls he specified for the Merion galleries (recreated almost exactly), but Dr. Barnes was way ahead of his time.
Dr. Barnes, a physician/scientist (his invention of the anti-gonorrhea treatment Argyrol made him the fortune that made this extraordinary collection possible) called his system of putting together widely diverse works 'scientific' - empirical evidence based on color, form, composition, subject, and other considerations of aesthetic and physical 'fact.' His thinking, however, is also very contemporary - his 'Ensembles' (his name for his assemblages) shun a conventional academic hierarchy that is increasingly out of step with our Post-Modern multi-cultural mix of races, genders and voices. When you don't have prescribed lists and categories to rely on you have to 'Pay Attention' to the art, as Dr. Barnes commands. At the Barnes you're more easily able to remember that art has the power to startle, to shock, to hit you with force in the eye, head, and gut.
You'll never see it all at this spectacular new addition to Philadelphia's impressive roster of museums - there will always be something you missed, some new puzzle to figure out, some other combination or perspective. You'll need - and want - to come back again and again. (And how nice that you'll now be able to relax with a cup of coffee in the downstairs public lounge, browse a beautiful new bookstore, and enjoy other new creature comforts!)
This move was a struggle on many fronts, but it's a great time for the fabulous, amazing Barnes Collection to emerge from the lovely Beaux Arts cocoon of the Merion Building. It can now come fully into view by a much wider world in its sleek, elegant new home.Don't miss the fascinating exhibit in the new temporary gallery. 'Ensembles' illuminates Dr. Barnes' life, philosophy and quirky personality in a wonderful display of correspondence with artists and dealers, photos of his family (including the most beloved member, his dog) and collaborators, memorabilia (a bottle of Agyrol among other things.) His caustic, cranky, very lively sense of humor comes across best in letters he wrote rejecting the efforts of the 'high and mighty' to gain admission to see his pictures. Artists and manual laborers had much less trouble. We can all be glad we don't have to ask his personal permission to enter the Barnes, but he can be happy - I hope - that so many more 'common folk' can now be enriched by his art. http://www.barnesfoundation.org/ photos by Marilyn MacGregorI also have a longer article about the Barnes opening in the Broad Street Review
- click to read ithttp://www.broadstreetreview.com/index.php/main/article/the_new_barnes_worth_the_wait
AFP photo by Robert Michael
Myth met reality this week when we were treated to the phenomenon of a 'supermoon'- technically known as a perigree full moon for its proximity to the earth. The photos from all over the world are spectacular - this eye-popping example is from Dresden, Germany. I'm a big fan of the moon (I'm hardly unique - you probably are too) for its often startling beauty and the magical nature of its perceived changes.
Arthur Dove: Me and the Moon 1937
Human may have trod on the surface, planting flags and leaving dusty footprints, but when that silvery ball or sliver hangs up there among the stars on a dark night, it's easy to understand why humans have always found it a source of mystery and power, for good and for bad. The full moon can bring riches and cure warts, but it can also drive you mad.
Hiroshige: Saruwaka (late 19th c)
A full moon is always an event - with our scientific mindsets we understand the movement of the tides, the moon's relation to the sun and earth, etc., and watch it simply for the pleasure it brings - but in a more agricultural time and place it signaled essential steps in the growing year. The names of the full moons for Native Americans identify expectations - Full Hunger Moon in February, Full Worm Moon in March when the ground starts to warm and life begins to reappear, Full Corn Moon in September, commonly known as the Harvest Moon, which marks the harvest and signals the Autumn equinox.
William Blake: The Wandering Moon 1820
I hope you got to see this month's 'supermoon' - I watched it with friends in NW Connecticut as it emerged dramatically from behind a thick bank of clouds and rose until the sky glowed silver - so beautiful! Many artists have tried their luck at catching moonbeams - in tribute to the moon, here is a selection from various times and places.
One of the moons comes from Maurice Sendak's In the Night Kitchen, published in 1970. His death yesterday means a great loss to children, to illustration, and much more - his legacy is enormous. He'll have his own tribute - coming soon.
Landscape at Cagnes 1923 (Columbus Museum of Art)
I'm now teaching a class I'm calling 'Midnights in Paris' (thanks to Woody Allen for the idea) which looks at 5 'fantasy' eras of French art and history. The first in the series, the early 20th century, includes an artist we'll be seeing more of once the Barnes Collection reopens later this month. Chaim Soutine is the artist, and his story with Dr. Barnes makes a good headline: Starving Russian Artist Saved from Misery and Oblivion by famed American Millionaire Art Collector. The full story, of course, has a bit more to it.
The Pastry Chef 1919 (The Barnes Collection)
Soutine, born in a small Russian village in 1893, was beaten up at age 13 for breaking strict Jewish rules by drawing his rabbi - after weeks in the hospital he took the 25 rubles awarded as damages and got out of town - first to art classes in Minsk, and then to the art mecca of the time - Paris. For 10 years he lived hand to mouth in a series of creaky artist studios in Montparnasse where he became close friends with other artists, especially Modigliani. His first art dealer, Leopold Zborowski, supported him after a fashion without much real success in selling his work - until the fateful day in 1922, when Dr. Barnes walked into the gallery run by Paul Guillaume (a garage mechanic who rose to be a celebrated art dealer and collector) and noticed a small painting of an unlikely subject - a pastry cook.
Madame Castaing 1929 (Metropolitan Museum)
An introduction to Zborowski, a trip to Soutine's studio, and Barnes snaps up the whole lot of Soutine's work - some say 60 paintings, some say 100 - for a total of $3000. As far as Soutine was concerned, this was the treasury of Midas - as soon as Barnes left the premises, Soutine closed the door, hailed a cab and had the driver take him to Nice on the French Riviera, 200 miles away. It was a true turning point - the infusion of cash and belief in his work may even have saved a starving artist's life. Soutine returned to Paris and built on his success; his work began selling, he acquired a new apartment and studio, nice clothes (it is said that he became a 'dandy' in elegant shirts and silk ties) and wealthy patrons.
Carcass of Beef 1925 (Albright Knox Gallery)
Rollercoaster years followed, with health problems and an ornery disposition causing problems - and then came the Nazi occupation of Paris. Soutine, a Jew, fled Paris and when he tried to return was refused. He made it back at the very end of his life, assisted by Marie-Berthe Aurenche, the ex-wife of Max Ernst, and died in a Paris hospital. His 1943 funeral at the Montparnasse cemetery - 'on a sunny day' according to Marie-Berthe - was small and quiet, but Picasso was there to pay his last respects.
The Table 1919 (Orangerie, Paris)
The US, thanks to Dr. Barnes, is the place to see the best of Soutine's work. Though sometimes classed as an Expressionist, Soutine's quirky, animated swirly style is unique. The charming and the grotesque balance precariously in his color saturated compositions, whether the subject is landscape or still life, raw carcasses (a favorite theme) or portraits of friends and patrons. Barnes's recognition of the unknown Soutine is, for me, one of the signatures of his own extraordinary story: the confidence and exceptional eye signaled by that 1922 purchase make this landmark collection significant for more than the fantastic array of works alone. It marks a symbiosis between art and collector that is rare at any age. In 2006 one of Soutine's carcass paintings, 'La Boeuf Ecorche,' sold for $13.8 Million. Paintings shown are representative of Soutine's work but not necessarily in the Barnes Collection.http://www.barnesfoundation.org/collections/art-collection/artist/51/chaim-soutine