Saturday, May 28, 2011

artist's studio

The visit of the artist's studio is always a privilege and a few weeks ago, I was able to drive to Lafayette, LA, and spend some time looking at Eugene J. Martin's work at his home.

The presence of the artist (July 24, 1938- January 1, 2005) is still felt in the house situated in a quiet neighborhood. The artist's works are pouring out of the studio and invading the house with their colors.

Overwhelmed at first, I looked at the paintings, drawings, collages and was amazed by their quality. One would expect some trials, "doodles", "left overs". The works appear to be created effortlessly, already composed by the artist before being laid on the canvas, smaller during hard times, on paper, bigger during fat times, on canvas, without hesitation, like brain and hand were one. The studio is left intact, quiet with paintings, neatly organized, drawings, stacks of CDs with the artist's preferred music and his ashes on a desk.

It is eerie, but a conversation with Suzanne, his wife, who can recall many anecdotes about the artist, brings me back to reality. The painter lived for his art. Rarely distracted, he would paint almost daily and creation was his mission. He was totally immersed in his work, translating his internal happiness.

He was initially living in Washington, DC, then Lafayette, LA, and was never seeking the limelight ... he did not have time. Some artists live to promote themselves, Eugene Martin was just too busy working.

I recently viewed two exhibitions: "Beyond Black" at the LSU Museum of Art in Baton Rouge and "Dancing String Bean: Paintings and Drawings from Eugene Martin" at the New Orleans African American Museum.

During this visit, I discovered Eugene Martin's collages, made with pieces of his own works rearranged for another message. This is where the "discarded" works find a second life. Collages are most of the time one level, feel second-hand, kind of lazy compositions. Eugene Martin's collages are different. They are visually and intellectually challenging: new perspectives, depth and three-dimensional works.

Suzanne has published several books about the artist whose works are the result of his drive, his self discipline, his creativity. His art is so much him that the artist is still present.

Like remembering a song, Eugene Martin's works are now alive in my head with their colors and shapes. There is no better way to know an artist than to visit his (her) sanctuary.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

letters, quotes, discussions and more

" Theories of Modern Art: A Source Book by Artists and Critics" by Hershel B. Chipp with contributions by Peter Selz and Joshua C. Taylor, University of California Press.

Should I start with the last chapter on Contemporary Art or read again Chapter VII on "Art and Politics" or chapter V on "Futurism"? This book can be read from the first to the last page or as needed.

The crumpled book cover is a testimony of my repeated visits. I read it at swimming pools, in airplanes (or airports waiting for airplanes), doctors waiting rooms... The material is so dense that I can spend just fifteen minutes and find material for reflection , like quotes from artists, letters, articles, speeches, critics...
It could appear fragmented but the material is presented in a structured manner with nine chapters, each independent with a well-defined subject: Postimpressionism, Symbolism and other Subjectivist Tendencies, Fauvism and Expressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Neo-Plasticism and Constructivism, Dada Surrealism and Scuola Metafisica, Art and Politics, Contemporary Art.
The list of contents at the beginning facilitates a search with a short detailed preview and a referral to the page's number.

The illustrations are only in black and white and give a scholarly touch to the book.

A detailed bibliography related to each chapter, a list of illustrations and the index bring more useful informations.

Beyond entertainment, it is an essential.

photographs by the author:

"The Look of Amber", Yves Tanguy, 1929

" Muse I", Constantin Brancusi, 1909-10

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Eco art?

Nature is the only subject of the exhibition taking place at the Ogden Museum of Southern Arts titled "One World, Two Artists: John Alexander and Walter Anderson". Two figurative artists with their own twist, painting the Gulf Coast as we like to think about it. The two artists do not have much in common. John Alexander uses oil on canvass, heavily applied with reds, blacks, dark and bright colors, bringing drama and a flavor of expressionism in his best compositions like the two represented here.

In contrast, Walter Inglis Anderson's pastel watercolors tell the story of a lost paradise. The painter lived in Ocean Springs, MS, and the local museum, called after his name displays Anderson's work around the year. The painter, sculptor, ceramist, potter, writer lived with nature and represents the soul of the Gulf Coast with his unique style. His travels are reflected in some of his water colors, referring to Egyptian friezes. The exhibition brings a personal touch with pages from his diary and ink drawings.
Of course, I am biased...I love the work from Walter Anderson. Are we predisposed to prefer what we recognize? On these week-ends, when I am passing-by the museum of art in Ocean Springs, I walk through to take a peak at the display of Anderson's paintings and marvel.

photographs by the author
entrance of the exhibition

"There is a Bluebird on My Shoulder", 1985 John Alexander

"Herons in Heat", 1987, John Alexander

"Redwings, Crabs, Frogs", 1945, Walter Anderson

"Father Mississippi", 1953, Walter Anderson

"Horizontal Pelican", 1945, Walter Anderson