Friday, May 11, 2012

Dorothea Rockburne, Frank Stella, and Gertrude Stein, Among Others

This semester is flying by and I have not had a moment to update what has been keeping me so busy.  The semester is over at Ithaca College.  My students did a fantastic job completing their final drawing projects.  The grades are in.  The Ithaca College Faculty and Student Print show, which I curated, is also up and beautifully hung at the Ink Shop Printmaking Center.  But now I can focus on my own coursework, and update my blog!

Last weekend a trip to New York City was jam-packed with museums, gallery exhibits, and a visit with Dorothea Rockburne.

I first knew of her work in the late 1970's with her geometric folded paper pieces.  Over the years I have kept track of her work, and decided to contact her directly, with the hope that she might consider mentoring me next semester.  We met at the studio and spent an hour talking about her amazing career. She is currently working on a commission mural (41 feet high!)  for the Jamaican Embassy commemorating Colin Powell. Because of the huge time commitment that this commission involves, she will not be able to mentor, but has offered to give me a critique anytime next semester, gratis!

Her recent body of work on astronomical stardust paintings had just come back from a show. (The attached image is called Harmonic Intervals). It was amazing to see her gigantic studios (both at least 10,000 square feet with 30 foot ceilings) and finally to chat with her.  She knows Frank Stella, Raushenberg, John Cage, and many other amazing artists.  She suggested that I go see three shows: the Stein collection at the MET, Frank Stella's black paintings at the Aquarelle Gallery, and Lucien Freud's drawings at the L & M Gallery.  I saw all three!

The Lucien Freud exhibit was inspiring.  I purchased the catalog.  My husband and I spent a lot of time looking at the drawings, watercolors, and prints.  I was especially drawn to the portraits for which he became famous.

The Frank Stella exhibit was amazing, to say the least. The black, copper, and aluminum paintings from his early career were featured.  I especially loved the copper paintings -- the surface and metallic sheen of the paint were luscious. I found it especially interesting, because of my talk with Dorothea, that Stella  achieved the idea that function followed form in these shaped canvas paintings.  Please read the wonderful review of this show that appeared in the New York Times:

At the end of the day, we traveled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to see three shows there: Storytelling in Japanese Painting; Stein's Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-garde; and Printed Image in China, 8th-21st centuries. The narrative scrolls and standing screens in the Japanese painting show were extraordinary.  I spent a long time looking at the way certain spatial tropes were used by these painters, whether in the scroll format or screen format. I am intrigued by the skewed perspective as well, and how narrative is incorporated.

The Chinese print show was also fabulous.  It was thrilling to see the first known serial use of a woodblock in a print. It was also enlightening to discover the extent to which printmaking was so crucial for the dissemination of Buddhism beliefs, and later a conduit for socio-political and cultural commentary.  The technical mastery of these prints was astounding.

The Stein collection was a window into the life and culture of the Parisian avant-garde.  Gertrude Stein and her family were instrumental in the careers of Matisse, Picasso, and many other painters who visited the Steins. The idea of art collection became a serious endeavor.  We owe much to these visionary intellectuals.

No comments:

Post a Comment