Thursday, July 13, 2017

Travel Sketchbook

For travel I have made it a habit to bring with me a small sketchbook, mini colored pencils, and markers and other drawing tools, and when time allows, capture a place or person in its pages. Words find their way in too, when I come across a poem or quotation that speaks to me in the moment.

This year so far has found me traveling more than usual. I take photographs, but my sketchbook is a more personal response to the world. I know the world all the better for the extended, intense looking that is needed to make a sketch.

So here are a selection, in date order of my travels so far in 2017.

A view from my window, Reykjavik, Iceland

Duluth, Minnesota

beach detritus, Spring Lake, NJ

pedestrian bridge, Spring Lake, NJ

In a botanical garden, Sarasota, Florida

sculpture by Juan Munoz, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C.

one corner of a fountain enclosure
by the Capital Building, Washington, D.C.

Atlantic City, NJ

Monmouth Beach, NJ

hillside, Lake Tahoe, Nevada

view of Lake Tahoe

sun worshipper, Lake Tahoe

waterfall with snow below, Lake Tahoe

Where to next? Vermont, New Hampshire, Cape Cod are on my calendar - more opportunities to study trees, waves, people and all the other challenging subjects. I can't draw every leaf, the wave will not hold still to be drawn, and each person has their own individual features. I must miniaturize and simplify. The challenges of drawing are many and the sketchbook is a learning tool. The sketches are that, and they are also a souvenir for me of pleasant day beyond my "little world."

Sunday, July 2, 2017

One Day in D.C.

Site a l'homme assis, by Jean Dubuffet, 1969-1984

It was a long, hot day in D.C., but inside two art museums it was very cool and often thrilling.

Yet more from the Hirshhorn. I have to say, my senses did NOT thrill to this next exhibit, maybe because I'd just seen so much already that was so intriguing (see the last post). Yet I think it is worth showing a few examples of work from 50 years ago by Berlin artist Markus Lupertz.

Take the first painting you see at the exhibit, called "Donald Duck's Wedding" (detail) from 1963. What do you make of it?

Westwall (Siegfried Line), by Markus Lupertz, 1968

Lupolis - Dithyrambic, by Markus Lupertz, 1975

I know I did not give it the time it deserved. There is beauty here, even a message in some paintings, but at the time I was in visual overload. Yet I forged ahead, saw work from the permanent collection at the Hirshhorn, and after a break for lunch, headed for the East Building of the National Gallery of Art.

Here are the "Masterworks" from the Hirshhorn that peaked my interest:

Venus of the Rags, by Michelangelo Pistoletto, 1967

Seer (Alice II), by Kiki Smith, 2005

A big surprise in this room...

Untitled (Big Man), by Ron Mueck, 2000 (with my friend Dotty)

A painting worth looking at closely...

afro. died, T., by Iona Rozeal Brown, 2011

Moonrise Kent England, 30 September 1985, by Hamish Fulton, 1985

The artwork above is a conceptual piece. Very large, it conveys the immensity of the sky and the length of the long walk the artist has taken. It is one of a series of artworks about the artist's walks, this one being, " ALL THE PACES BETWEEN MOONRISE AND MOONSET."

I think the East Building of the National Gallery of Art is an exhausting place. It is a multi-level building designed by I.M. Pei. The stairs, towers, lack of seating were not conducive to a late afternoon visit for me. Go yourself, but go when you are fresh.

Hahn/Cock, by Katharina Fritsch, 2013

The sculpture here and the sculpture at the top of the page were the best moments at the National for me.

Everyone who saw it, while I was lingering on the rooftop, loved this bird.

My last words are not really art related, but patriotic. I felt proud that our country has erected, collected art and artifacts and staffed these fine museums and made them free to the public.

Happy 4th of July everyone!

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Hirshhorn, Ai Weiwei and Other Great Exhibits

The Hirshhorn Museum is a free museum of art on the mall in Washington D.C. and inside that round building on concrete curving legs I  saw some amazing art. I loved it!

The building is actually donut-shaped because the center is open. Outside at ground level there is a fountain in the center. So of course most of the walls curve. The artwork can potentially relate to the circularity, and that is what one sees in the current exhibits at the Hirshhorn.

Two exhibits not only relate to the encircling walls, but in one case the art is painted and in the other drawn directly on the wall.

Linn Meyers drew large scale, graceful, very linear drawings that suggest bird feathers, water, or air. Whatever they suggest to you, in any case, they flow beautifully.

I don't know what tool she used to draw with, I see some evidence of underlining with pencil, but it looks like brush or marker and black ink. The lines are parallel, but grow closer and more distant creating ripples and a feeling of movement. The drawings are elegant and evocative.

The second artist who worked directly on the wall was the Swiss artist Nicolas Party. Quite different from Meyers, Party's paintings are representational, yet clearly imaginary landscapes.

Called "sunrise, sunset," the exhibit has paintings which show sky, with sun or without, in the colorful time at the beginning or end of day. Each section of wall is painted a different background color before the paintings were executed.

Smaller paintings near the entrance give way to larger ones at the opposite end and return again to small scale as you round the turn.

There are Seuss-like trees, Miro-like boulders and cloud shapes, simple shapes, making up wonderfully imagined and colorful scenes from the arctic to the tropics.

A candy shop of color really, a happy world, but with no people, and if I remember no sign of any. The lack of animal and human life gives them an otherworldly feeling. Where are we? Is this another planet? It almost seems so.

Perhaps it is an expression of the artist's personality. Is he a quiet, reclusive type, I wonder?

Barbara Kruger's contrastingly brash exhibit of statements, equations or questions in block letters was also directly applied to walls, and the floor as well, but her room, at the underground level of the Hirshhorn, had flat walls. Every surface was plastered with words.

I have seen her work in other places over the years and always am titillated and provoked, and enjoy her blunt and blaring messages. I bought her postcards and a refrigerator magnet at the museum store - her work translates so well to those formats, which in her case, is not an insult.

Finally, we come to Ai Weiwei, the famous Chinese dissident artist. Come to think of it, he used the wall too, with this incredible, graphically sharp wallpaper, part of the exhibit called, oh so cryptically, "Looks Like a Llama but it's Really an Alpaca."

Part of the exhibit's wallpaper was black and white and part a golden version, but each contained the same imagery. Can you see the motifs?  

The theme is political prisoners, something Ai Weiwei knows about first hand. He is restricted from traveling out of China, his phone is tapped and he is routinely followed by police. He has been jailed, all for expressing his views and making art that is offensive to the government.

On the floor are murals made out of legos depicting political prisoners around the world.

Yes, legos. Why legos? He explains in a video in the the last room of the exhibit that he chooses, as often as he can, materials that anyone could use.

There are room after room of the lego images that use the colors of the flag of the prisoner's country. Some are large images, and some only a couple of feet in size. Along with the wallpaper showing surveillance cameras, handcuffs, chains and Twitter birds (Twitter as the communication tool important to the cause), Ai Weiwei seeks to make the world aware of the magnitude in number and scope of prisoners who have been jailed for expressing themselves.

Washington D.C. is the best place to have this displayed, he said. May the world take note.

My day of art in Washington, D.C. is to be continued...