Monday, November 30, 2009

Fly Eye and the Amazing Hexagonal Mirror

Being with Hexagonal Mirror makes me appreciate the eye of the fly- if you were to push the thing in from behind that's what you would get, one giant insect eye. In this case I am the insect, seeing the world around me in thousands of tiny mirrors.
I see all these pieces of me separated from each other. In one mirror is my mouth and there it is again and again, dozens of my mouths in little seperated compartments populate one area of the mirror.
Even more wonderful than my closed mouth in forty mirrors is the echo I get when I stand in the sweet spot. It vibrates off the walls of the Hexagonal Mirror. So I stand within the tiny reflected pieces of me and make the biggest noises I can make. The noises get bigger than I can make them because they bounce off the walls. I am made bigger and smaller in this place, and everything about me is multiplied.
LaValle is right about entering a new world, this piece of art is a world with it's very own version of every person that enters it. It has it's own silent sound system just waiting to be turned on, the only thing about it that reminds me of the world I know is that it looks like a fly eye, and really, what is more amazing than that?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Anish Kapoor ~ Hexagonal Mirror on 4, Tony Cragg on 1

The Portland Art Museum has been very fortunate to host the works of world class sculptors such as Anish Kapoor, the artist of this week's piece on Fifty Two Pieces (see image of Hexagonal Mirror on the left). And in some cases these pieces are reflective metal like Kapoor's. Right now the museum is also exhibiting Tony Cragg's sculpture that remains untitled but stands over seven feet tall. You can see this reflective spiral if you choose the main entrance on SW Park. After you've gone through guest services, you can watch the world through the reflections created by Tony Cragg and by your own mind as it puts together images from the four walls around it –– three sides are Asian, including the red from "China Design Now" and the fourth is from the park across the street. Remember, as you're looking at what's reflected, that only about 25% of what goes to your visual cortex comes from your retinas. Ah, and in my case I'm thinking of the other reflective sculpture that the Portland Art Museum had on display for over two years beginning in 2005 – John Chamberlain's stainless steel Neptune's Cap.

This 8 x 6 x 4 foot sculpture of stainless steel graced the Link Gallery and would stop many visitors for longer than the usual thirty seconds that they would normally spend at most works of art. During the majority of its time here, it reflected this rather large painting by Larry Poons. Keep in mind that Chamberlain's original design was for the sculptor, Donald Judd. Neptune's Cap was to be submerged in the swimming pool at Judd's compound in Marfa, Texas. Unfortunately, Judd died in 1994 while the work was still in design. Chamberlain finally completed the piece in 2005. Since I now know where the piece was originally intended to be shown, I have a difficult time not thinking of kelp - beautiful reflective ribbons from the sea rather than Poons' pinks. Many thanks to Bruce Guenther, Chief Curator at the Portland Art Museum, for arranging these extraordinary loans.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Anish Kapoor ~ Portland and Chicago

Anish Kapoor is well known for his very large usually reflective sculptures. Although Portland is not home to one of them, Chicago, on the other hand, is. Kapoor's Cloud Gate graces Millennium Park and the natives refer to it as the Bean which it, of course, resembles – you have to love those Chicagoans for accuracy. The Cloud/Bean is Kapoor's first site specific installation in the United States. In addition to the above images of the Cloud, I'm including a video and a link to another in an effort to keep the posts uncluttered. Click here for the additional video. Right now we'll have to settle for the Hexagonal Mirror currently on view at the Portland Art Museum and this week's piece at Fifty Two Pieces.

Speaking of Chicago, I'll take this opportunity to also tout the symphony at Grant Park there, Millennium Park's outdoor music venue. Carlos Kalmar (the Music Director of the Oregon Symphony) is the Principal Conductor of the Grant Park Music Festival. Chicagoans love him. They come out in the rain to watch and listen to him conduct. They truly know genius when they see it. The night we watched him conduct he arrived with his hair combed close to his head. We were convinced he had done something to his usual "fro" that would keep him from conducting with his usual eloquence. No, we were wrong. He started fine and within 10 minutes his hair had dried (he must have been caught in the rain) and conducted a superb evening of music. So the next time you're in Chicago, visit Millennium Park. In addition to all of its other activities and sculptures, you'll be able to personally take in the Cloud/Bean. If you time your visit right you'll also be able to hear Kalmar conduct for free.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Anish Kapoor ~ Hexagonal Mirror

I wish I could say that the above images are of Anish Kapoor's Hexagonal Mirror at the Portland Art Museum. Alas, the museum has a No Photography rule. As a result, photos of Anish Kapoor's Hexagonal Mirror that is currently on the 4th floor of the CMCA are few and far between. At some point though, images should begin to appear on Flickr much as the ones in the image above have. They're of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's version of the Hexagonal Mirror.

As you can see from the images above (click here to go to that page on Flickr), you won't just view the Mirror as a spectator, you'll be a particpant with it. You'll walk around the room, move in closer, move away, walk around the room some more. It will completely entrance you. Don't miss this sculpture – it's on loan and could be off display at any moment. The first time I went to PAM to see it, I was the only person in the gallery. The effect of the light from the southern windows and the wolves baying from the Kiki Smith wall hanging was as if I had entered the Underworld. Fortunately, I found that if you stand in exactly the right spot, just to the right of center, you'll see dozens of reflected Emergency Exit signs to take advantage of.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Anish Kapoor ~ Hexagonal Mirror

For all of you who are in Portland for the foreseeable future, you'll be able to enter the world as created by Anish Kapoor. This Hexagonal Mirror (shown here as a work in progress) is now on display on the 4th Floor of the CMCA at the Portland Art Museum. Anish Kappor is famous for his reflective sculptures of all shapes and sizes. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a similar one on display in its Modern wing but viewing that one will cost you a plane flight and lodging expenses. So take advantage of the opportunity and visit this unique sculpture soon.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Florine Stettheimer ~ Contemporary of Duchamp, O'Keeffe and Stein

Those brown eyes of Marcel Duchamp will pierce right through you and find your true identity, resistance is futile. Florine Stettheimer may not have met with financial rewards from her artistic work during her lifetime but artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Charles Demuth all thought highly of her work. And Gertrude Stein benefitted from the success of Virgil Thomson's production of Four Saints and Three Acts based on Stein's libretto. Key to that success was Stettheimer unique set design.

Duchamp spent considerable time with Florine and her two sisters attending their Salon and giving them French lessons when he first arrived in America during World War I. The sharing of ideas during those years of friendship makes it easy to understand his affinity for Florine's symbol filled paintings such as the Cathedral series and her many portraits. Duchamp organized the 1946 retrospective of Stettheimer's work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O'Keeffe also gathered at the Stettheimer apartment. “She put into visible form in her own way, something that they all were, a way of life that is going and cannot happen again, something that has been alive in our city.” In 1938, Stettheimer and O'Keefe were the only women artists whose work was included in the exhibition of American art organized by the Museum of Modern Art to travel to the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris. Stettheimer portrayal of Stieglitz has O'Keeffe appearing out of the background. It hangs in Nashville so if you're ever there you'll be able to see it in all of the glory of Stettheimer's color palette.

Stettheimer received much critical acclaim in 1934 for her work as set designer on Virgil Thomson's opera of Gertrude Stein's Four Saints in Three Acts. Stettheimer utilized cellophane extensively in the scenery and costume design. Unlike most designers, Stettheimer created little figures to show how the costumes should be designed. This little maquette reflects the all black cast Thomson used to portray the European saints. It was after the success of Four Saints that Gertrude Stein returned to America for her lecture tour. Thomson's opera with Stettheimer's sets played a major role in Stein's level of celebrity.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

At The Met with Eve and Florine

Last week I went to the Met with my Aunt Eve. Eve lives in New York, I grew up in a tiny Oregon town. I thought of her often and how someday I would visit her in the Big Apple- imagining a city as ripe and sweet as something that grew on the trees outside our house. I thought I would go the day I graduated from high school, but until last week I had never visited Eve. She's painted all the walls in her house, and her fireplace and shutters. She says this is the fourth time she has re-primed and painted the hearth:

We went to the Met, she wore at least a dozen colors and I was head to toe in black, she threw a crazy scark of me, so we would match. We wandered for hours, until we came to the Stettheimer wall:

I read the wall panel for my favorite of Florine's paintings, The Cathedrals of Fifth Avenue:

Wall Panel: In each of her Cathedrals, Stettheimer uses architecture to organize her composition. In this case it resembles a real Cathedral, perhaps Saint Patrick's Church on Fifth Avenue, although the newlyweds emerge from underneath a bright red canopy and matching carpet that seem to belong more to the Plaza Hotel than to a church. All around this central scene, activities depicting other aspects of conspicuous consumption abound, seemingly unaware of the wedding taking place. This wild activity energizes the canvas just as it energizes Fifth Avenue on a Saturday afternoon in December.
I didn't say anything, and neither did Eve. We just looked. For a long time.
Later I was thinking about the painting, we were sitting on the couch together.

I said, remember that big painting with all the colors, on the wall- there were four of them- they were street scenes of New York. She nodded. I said, I think I would like to write about those for my blog this week. She frowned, I didn't like those paintings she said. Why? I asked. There was nothing I could find to like about those, but I loved the frames.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Florine Stettheimer ~ Portrait of Myself

Florine Stettheimer really didn't like to have photos taken of her. So unlike her sisters Ettie (writer) and Carrie (crafter of dollhouses), there are not many photographic images of her available. To make up for that though, Florine did include herself in many of her paintings and did at least one self-portrait – Portrait of Myself, today's lead image. Florine lived a life of privilege. She and her sisters spent much of their lives in Manhattan and frequently visited Europe where Florine studied with various artists and schools. Her only solo exhibition in 1916 was somewhat of a disappointment to her so she chose to exhibit only occasionally in group shows after that. As a result not many were aware of her work while she was alive and after her death it has only been recently that she is being recognized at major museums. The Metropolitan Museum of Art usually has an entire gallery wall devoted to her work. And of course, the Portland Art Museum has her Portrait of My Teacher. Below are photos of Florine (one of the very few in existence) and one of each of her two sisters.

Florine Stettheimer, ~ 1920

Ettie Stettheimer, 1932

Carrie Stettheimer, 1932

The three sisters entertained on a grand scale having parties and afternoon salons in their Manhattan apartment. Some of their well known friends were Carl Van Vechten, Francis Picabia, Leo Stein, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Charles Demuth, and Marsden Hartley. Stettheimer painted a number of their portraits including these two of Marcel Duchamp and Carl Van Vechten.
Marcel Duchamp, 1923

Carl Van Vechten, 1922

Most of us are more familiar with Duchamp than we are with Van Vechten. Picking out the symbols she used in Duchamp's portrait, I found reference to his cultural allegiances to both the United States and France and his love of chess. The woman in that painting it turns out isn't Stettheimer but his alter ego, Rrose Sélavy. And of course the clock most probably is symbolizing his fascination with time and space.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Florine Stettheimer ~ Cathedrals of Broadway

Florine Stettheimer painted her Cathedrals series over the course of fifteen years. All four of the paintings are part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection although they may not all be hanging on the gallery walls at any one time. Cathedrals of Broadway is a perennial favorite and shows Stettheimer's distinct style. Once you've seen a Stettheimer how could you not recognize the bright colors and figure filled images as being hers. She paints a New York that is much like it is today, a city that never sleeps. In Cathedrals of Broadway painted in 1929, about the same time as the Portland Art Museum's Portrait of My Teacher this week's piece, you can take in a time of change. Silent movies are on the way out and are shown with the word Silence roped off. The talkies have arrived and are symbolized by the newsreel clip in the top center showing the beginning of baseball season. As she did in many of her paintings, Stettheimer included herself. In Cathedrals of Broadway, she is entering on the painting's left with her older sister Stella and her cousin Walter Wagner.

Cathedrals of Broadway inspired poet Naomi Shihab Nye to writed "The World, Starring You" that was included in Heart to Heart a book of poems inspired by Twentieth Century American Art. Nye is quoted in the introduction of Heart to Heart as she talks about Stettheimer's work ... "her scenes woke me up with their beautifully luscious shapes and colors of flowers and figures, and gave me a deep feeling of closeness with the times in which she lived." Here is Nye's poem that accompanied Stettheimer's Cathedrals of Broadway.

The World, Starring You
Naomi Shihab Nye

Florine, we would live inside your colors! Red joy,
golden rushes of hope, the 1929 we will never see.
Names of radiant theaters flame your sky – RIALTO – ROXY –
citizens mingling in pearls, top hats, inside a glittering flare.
Where have they gone? a ticket booth waits like a small domed mosque.
An usher – or is he a policeman ? – wearing white gloves and yellow cape
pivots between welcome and EXIT. Even the mayor looks smart.
Frills and flgs, banners, tiny dancing sprites . . .
You painted the flurry and flux,
abundant addresses of Broadway welcoming crowds.
I like the fanfare, the dreamy dazzle, canopies of light!

Florine, the early 20th century chimed like a chord,
but we are hobblers at the millennium, cleaning out our drawers,
nothing looks enough like you.
The age of gracious penmanship was yours.
Balance your globe on tipsy clock,
lift the darkness with arches and stars.
And ever, ever, a roped-off fluted SILENCE at the center.
Take us where you were and where you are.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Florine Stettheimer ~ Portrait of My Teacher

Yesterday's post was to honor Jeanne-Claude, wife and partner to Christo and all of their mutual works. Those works are not housed in museums but in the collective memory of us all and to some extent so is the work of Florine Stettheimer. Unlike Jeanne-Claude whose work will always remain in the memories of those who saw it on site or are looking at in print or more probably on-line, some of Stettheimer's works are hung in museums. This was not always the case. Born into a family of money and privilege, Stettheimher pursued art, studied art in Europe and upon her return to the United States at the outbreak of World War I, mounted a solo exhibition that did not meet with financial or critical favor. Stung by rejection, you might imagine that she would have put away her brushes and gone to her room, but no she continued to paint, changed her style – painting in a unique modern and some would say feminine motif and only showing in select small group exhibitions. Her instructions upon her death were for her heirs and assigns to destroy her ouevre. Fortunately for all of us they ignored that instruction. As a result the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as countless other museums have any number of Stettheimers on exhibit.

Stettheimer paints with bright full colors as you can see in Portrait of My Teacher, Fraulein Sophie von Prieser. She has a calligraphic use of line that shows itself in this painting with the inclusion of Fraulein Preiser's name in the fence. Looking closer at the painting and you'll see a portrait of Stettheimer as a young girl above the mantel, sitting next to a Hellenic bust. That bust comes down through the ages looks timeless compared to the aged look of Fraulein Prieser. And on the small table is a framed portrait that some say is Stettheimer herself. The colors in the painting range from deep blues and greens to bright reds oranges and yellows. Stettheimer paints an optimistic view in 1929 that continued through the Great Depression and on into WW II. She died in 1944 before the end of the great conflict. Her paintings live on though and are the favorites of many including Matthew Stadler who wrote about her in the online zine Doppelganger back in 2006.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Not Stettheimer But an Homage to Jeanne-Claude

Jeanne-Claude ... 13 June 1935 - 19 November 2009

Thank you DK Row for your article about Jeanne-Claude and her visit to Portland on Oregonlive linked here. More here. And here. And here.
"In their beckoning but impenetrable Other-ness, their aloofness from whatever meanings we would try to attach to them, The Gates always reminded me of that jar in the Wallace Stevens poem, the one that "did not give of bird or bush/like nothing else in Tennessee." .. Richard Lacayo

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Florine Stettheimer ~ Portrait of My Teacher

This week's selection at Fifty Two Pieces carries a rather long title. Florine Stettheimer (1871-1944) painted this image of her teacher and entitled it – Portrait of My Teacher, Fraulein Sophie von Prieser. It's a long title and the image is a beautiful homage to a woman who instructed another woman when she was growing up. Stettheimer painted this in 1929 when she was fifty eight, about the same age I was when I first saw this work of art. Portrait of My Teacher is one of a number of portraits of people from Stettheimer's childhood who she painted during the years of 1928 and 1929. There's a great deal going on in this painting. Even without being in the gallery with it, you'll be able to scan, quantify and qualify a great deal of what Stettheimer produced in this portrait. Start with the thought that there is not just one portrait. How many portraits are there represented?

Amy went through the Metropolitan in New York today. One of their galleries is filled with Stettheimers. Amy is scheduled to be weighing in later in the week on this woman painter from the beginning of the 20th century.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Helen Frankenthaler ~ Spaced Out Orbit and Photographs

When I see works of art, I usually end up wondering who the artists were, how did they live their lives, what did they look like? Earlier in this week on Helen Frankenthaler and Spaced Out Orbit, I posted a video about her and her life (linked here). Since then I've begun looking for images of her on the internet and have found a number that show her and some that show her with her art. Here's what I've collected so far.

The Early Years – 1950's

Jackson Pollock, Clement Greenberg, Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner and an unidentified child

1957 from Life

The 1960's and one from 1970
"There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about."

During this period Helen Frankenthaler was married to Robert Motherwell


After Motherwell
Frankenthaler and Motherwell divorced in 1971. Spaced Out Orbit was painted in 1973. She made several trips West during the seventies. Our Orbit may have been the result of one of those trips. Here she is in the next two decades...



"A really good picture looks as if it's happened at once. It's an immediate image. For my own work, when a picture looks labored and overworked, and you can read in it--well, she did this and then she did that, and then she did that--there is something in it that has not got to do with beautiful art to me. And I usually throw these out, though I think very often it takes ten of those over-labored efforts to produce one really beautiful wrist motion that is synchronized with your head and heart, and you have it, and therefore it looks as if it were born in a minute." ...Helen Frankenthaler
Helen Frankenthaler will turn 81 on December 12. I share her birthday and that pleases me.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Helen Frankenthaler ~ Spaced Out Orbit and the Clement Greenberg Collection

How is it that the Portland Art Museum has such a strong collection of painters representing Abstract Expressionism (Frankenthaler, Hoffman, Pollock, Gottlieb), Color Field movement (Noland, Louis, Olitiski and Dzubas) and Post-Painterly Abstraction (Bannard, Poons) (amongst others in each area)? Well, these were all painters who art critic Clement Greenberg in the 1950's and later championed as being integral to the new movement of painting in New York City. They were his friends and as such he was able to amass a collection of art from them. The art filled his home (Spaced Out Orbit hung behind Greenberg's desk chair for sometime) and storage areas. So much so that when he died in 1994, his widow Janice Van Horne took nearly all of what Greenberg had collected and sold it en masse so that 159 works of art could be acquired by the Portland Art Museum in 2000. PAM's collection went from 0 to warp speed in this area of art overnight. Although some parts of the collection are scattered throughout the CMCA (Center for Modern and Contemporary Art), e.g. Horacio Torres nude study is on the third floor, most of the collection that is exhibited is on the second floor.

Helen Frankenthaler's Spaced Out Orbit hangs next to Jules Olitski's The Prince Patusky (a story for another time). On the adjoining wall are Kenneth Noland's No. 1, and Friedel Dzubas' Found. Dzubas and Frankenthaler were sharing a studio on West 23rd in 1952. The night Frankenthaler officially finished Mountains and Sea, Dzubas called Clement Greenberg to announce that he needed to get right over because something odd and beautiful had emerged. Later, Greenberg who was Frankenthaler's lover at this point decided to invite two friends to Frankenthaler's studio -- Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis. Both of these men were bowled over by what they saw. The three Noland, Louis, and Dzubas along with Olitski quickly adapted the pour/stain technique to their painting style. Frankenthaler was an integral part of the development of Color Field Painting.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Helen Frankenthaler ~ Spaced Out Orbit descended from Mountains and Sea

Earlier in the week, I mentioned that Spaced Out Orbit is an example of the staining technique called "soak-stain" Helen Frankenthaler had developed in 1952 and first used on the painting Mountains and Sea. Frankenthaler had seen Jackson Pollock with his canvases on the floor and dripping and pouring his beautiful fractals. What she did was to place a giant canvas on the floor, seven by 10 feet, dilute her oils with a mixture that included turpentine and proceed to pour the paint onto unprimed canvas. What happened was that the paint seeped into the canvas becoming an integral part of it. She didn't just leave the paint there though -- working the paint with brushes and blotters. Some have said the overall effect of this soak stain was that of a watercolor with the personality of an oil. Frankenthaler moved on from using thinned oils though. She had noticed that the thinned oils left a faint oily stain around each color area. In 1962 she began to use thinned acrylics to create her soak-stain paintings. Thinned with water, the paint left no halo effect, the colors seemed brighter and more intense. During this time she also began to leave some of the areas of her canvas blank to "let it breathe". Spaced Out Orbit is one of Frankenthaler's acrylics. Painted in 1973, it is quite small at 42" x 72" compared to the size of Mountains and Sea.

Doing a search for videos on Helen Frankenthaler will net you some compilations of her life and work as the one I posted on Friday (linked here). You'll also find these two videos of how to do the soak-stain method with multiple references to our woman Helen Frankenthaler.
Stain Painting Part I from Portland State University

Stain Painting Part 2 from Portland State University

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Like a Ship at Sea, The Mirage of an Arabian City

There is something so wonderfully feminine, loose and liquid about Frankenthaler's work. It is like air and water and dripping cracked eggs. Her paintings are boundary-less, there are no hard edges, just endings to colors that become other colors. The pink of Spaced Out Orbit has a quality so vast, as if it is a city floating out in front of me, far away. Or a ship on the sea. Wherever it is, it carries it's own atmosphere. What I love about Spaces Out Orbit is that Frankenthaler knew when to stop. It is a skill to not go too far, and for her to have left so much empty space and to have known the delicate balance of completion, shows her intuitive wisdom. She often covered her canvases head to toe, take a look.
Here is "Seeing the Moon on a Hot Summer Day" done in 1987. Beautiful, amazing, but full. Or check out the one below, "May 26th Backwards" done in 1961. That's my birthday.

From the same website where I pulled these images, I found these Frankenthaler quotes.

"I had the landscape in my arms as I painted it. I had the landscape in my mind and shoulder and wrist."

"Every canvas is a journey all its own."

It is almost like birth, her paintings. It is almost like she is giving life to something that was already there, and she knows it.