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The Latest Artist Talks, Exhibits, Et cetera

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

Just some of the art I have consumed lately. . .

The entry to the Mickalene Thomas immersive experience "A Moment's Pleasure" at the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA). The house is accessed through a door out onto the roof of the museum and is meant to be a space where you can just hangout and where local art related events can take place. It is on display through May 2021.

October, November, and December 2019 were busy art filled months for me! Yesterday, I managed to fit one more museum visit into the semester and year, before leaving town for the holidays. While there, I not only got to experience Mickalene Thomas's immersive interpretation of a Baltimore row-house, which is lounge-ready with its comfortable seating, built-in bar, video screen, and artwork that was sourced from the local Baltimore art scene; but while I was at it, I also got to catch the Joyner/Giuffrida Collection's luscious Generations: A History of Black Abstract Art exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Check out a few of my favorite moments from the show below.

"9.11.01" 2006 by Jack Whitten.

Jack Whitten's artwork (pictured above) is the artist’s monument to the 9/11 tragedy which he personally witnessed from his New York studio. It's a huge, breathtaking canvas that is composed of thousands of hand-cut acrylic tiles, as well as blood and bone fragments (sourced from a butcher) and molten materials collected from the World Trade Center site.

Close-up detail of a bone fragment in "9.11.01" by Jack Whitten.

It is a truly awe inspiring work that is best seen in person. There is just so much going on in it and the photos do not do justice to the shimmering color, expansive texture, and sheer size of the work. It's a pure example of how an artist internalizes, processes, and incorporates the historical events of the day into their work.

Detail of "My Grandmother Felt the Color" 2016 by Mark Bradford.

Of course there had to be a Mark Bradford. Actually, there were two in the exhibit, but this large scale painting (detail above) was my favorite. The map-like surface, etched detail, exaggerated texture and paper elements are all things that I incorporate into my own paintings. I am inspired by how Bradford creates such richly detailed surfaces that hint at all that is going on underneath. His work gives me so many ideas.

"Arboretum Presents White Dogwood" 1972, acrylic on canvas by Alma Thomas.

In 1924, Alma Thomas was the first person to graduate from Howard University with a degree in art, and she was also an important member of the Washington Color School. As a painter myself and one who is also enthralled with a bold color palette, I like what Thomas had to say about the issue: "The use of color in my paintings is of paramount importance to me. Through color I have sought to concentrate on beauty and happiness, rather than on man's inhumanity to man." Amen Alma!

"Blue Edge" 1971, acrylic on canvas by Sam Gilliam.

Sam Gilliam is another important member of the Washington Color School. This painting (above) makes me think of a story that Mary Gabriel tells in her recently published book Ninth Street Women, where a few members of the Washington Color School visit Helen Frankenthaler in her New York City studio, and how they were influenced by her unique soak-stain method of pouring thinned paint directly onto raw canvas. I think you can see that influence here in this painting by Gilliam. He is using the same method, but with a totally different result that informs a style all of his own.

Thank you Zoë Charlton for getting me up to Baltimore to see the exhibit (which is at the BMA through January 19, 2020) and for working with me as my studio mentor this semester!

"Pages from the Book of Babel" Mixed-media on paper, by Michele Montalbano.

Since I started this post with my most recent museum visit in late December, I guess I will stick to the format and move backwards chronologically from December through October 2019; which means that next on my list is a visit I made in early December to the Freight Gallery; a "micro-gallery" that is housed in the 1925 Hollister Whitney freight elevator inside the building that houses the Off the Beaten Track Warehouse artist studios located in northeast Washington, DC.

The exhibit on display in the "minute" gallery, by my former studio-mate Michele Montalbano, was part of an on going series entitled From the Book of Babel. And the instillation included a fifteen foot scroll on semi- transparent Duralar, that combines drawing, relief printing, gilding, and letterpress. The work is inspired by three sources: the story of the fall of the Tower of Babel; illuminated manuscripts; and Michele's love of typography.

Totally loved the innovative, small space that is helping to provide more options for artist to show their work in the DC area. And it was great seeing Michele and other old friends whom I hadn't connected with in a while!

Cover of my signed copy of Debbie Harry's recently released memoir "Face It."

And what a better way to start out the month of December than by going to see Punk Rock Goddess Debbie Harry speak at Sixth and I, as well as getting a copy of her book, Face It. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I look forward to getting to it soon! She is 74 years old and is still creating music, among other artistic pursuits.

November 21, 2019 artist talk by Marilyn Minter at the Hirshhorn Museum.

In November I attended an artist talk with Marilyn Minter at the Hirshhorn Museum, in which she discussed her work that includes video, photography, and large scale enamel based paintings that explore themes around the female body, beauty and sexuality. While much of her work can seem visually provocative, hearing her talk about her process and preoccupations, I realized that her intention is not to necessarily shock the viewer, but instead are the outcome of deep meditations on topics that inform her worldview. Minter (born 1948) is an American artist currently living and working in New York City.

Later that same week, also at the Hirshhorn, I attended the premier of the documentary Marcel Duchamp: Art of the Possible which was shown in conjunction with the museum's recent acquisition and current exhibit of the Marcel Duchamp Collection which was donated by Barbara and Aaron Levine (local Washingtonians).

If you want to truly understand what conceptual art is and where it fits within the art historical canon, then you need to understand Duchamp. This well made and deeply absorbing documentary is a great way to start the learning process.

"The Passage" 2019, oil on canvas, by Maia Cruz Palileo.

And then there was October, the busiest month for me yet, where I started off visiting the Katzen Center at American University and saw the Maia Cruz Palileo show. It was curated by my first semester studio mentor, Isabel Manalo, and was recently voted one of the Best of 2019: Top 20 United States Art Shows by Hyperallergic. Congratulations Maia and Isabel!

"Men With Escabeche" 2017, oil on canvas, by Maia Cruz Palileo.

As Isabel writes about the paintings in the exhibit brochure, "[They] depict historical narratives from the colonial past of the Philippines, Palileo's country of origin, as well as stories and moments about her own life as a Filipina American growing up in the midwestern United States. This body of work is as much about history as it is about memory, and one's discovery of a colonized personal and cultural identity."

While I was at the Katzen Center, I also toured another wonderful little gem of a show that was right up my alley, Grace Hartigan and Helene Herzbrun: Reframing Abstract Expressionism.

"Detail of Pallas Athena--Earth" 1961, oil on canvas by Grace Hartigan.

Hartigan was part of the second wave Abstract Expressionists of the New York School in the 1960s and 70s, and She eventually ended up in Baltimore teaching at MICA. This detail photo of her painting (above) shows her lush color mastery and textured brush detail.

Both Hartigan and Herzbrun "began their careers as gestural abstractionists in the mold of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning but went on to reinvent and revitalize the signature styles of the Ab-Ex movement in powerful and personal ways."

Isabel Manalo in front of one of her paintings on display at the DC offices of Facebook.

Later in October, I was also lucky enough to snag an invite to the DC offices of Facebook to see a temporary display there of Isabel Manalo's abstract paintings. And trust me, it was no easy feat. It took a while for Isabel to get permission to bring a group to see the installation and even then, we all had to sign nondisclosure agreements upon entering the offices. Luckily it was okay to take photos of the paintings! Seeing the Facebook offices was almost as exciting as getting to see Isabel's artwork : )

"The Country A Wilderness Unsubdued" 2018, collage and drawing, by Zoë Charlton.

Towards the end of October, my current mentor Zoë Charlton invited me to a reception at the Phillips Collection where they were celebrating their acquisition and unveiling of one of Zoë's figurative collages The Country A Wilderness Unsubdued.

Zoë's sprawling "phantasmagoric landscape" looked amazing and is the perfect fit for the airy spiral staircase leading up to the Museum's main galleries. Congratulations Zoë!

"Pat Steir: Color Wheel" on display at the Hirshhorn October 24, 2019 through September 7, 2020.

And Finally for October, one more event at the Hirshhorn, an artist talk with Pat Steir in conjunction with the opening of her Color Wheel series. I even unintentionally got a picture of the artist herself (see yellow arrow above) in front of one of her works!

The exhibit is the largest painting installation to date by the acclaimed abstract painter, spanning the entire perimeter of the Museum’s second-floor inner-circle galleries, extending nearly four hundred linear feet. These immersive works transform the Museum into a vibrant spectrum of color. The thirty large-scale paintings create an immense color wheel that shifts hues with each painting, with the pours on each canvas often appearing in the complementary hue of the monochrome background.

Pat Steir is 79 years old and still paints every day. Each of her large scale paintings for this site specific installation has at least four layers of poured paint, some have as many as eleven layers. And according to the artist herself, she throws and splashes paint, but never drips because "dripping isn't macho enough for me!" Ha!

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