Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Experience Susan Goldman's Exotic Moroccan Amphoras

The lush, densely patterned textures found in Susan Goldman's Amphora series are quite a sight to behold.
 Their amazing interplay between form and rich color and mark-making is reminiscent of a number of artists whose subject matter derives from the vessel - Giorgio Morandi and William Bailey, but her work also addresses the complexity of mark-making and are visually entertaining. In fact, part of the inspiration for this series comes from her exposure to north Africa and the incredible culture and rhythms of Morocco; its architecture, applied arts, and music. 
Goldman's work speaks also to the history of these forms which have been used for centuries to transport fish, grains, spices, oil and wine as a part of a tradition established to transport goods across the Mediterranean Sea. Goldman's amphoras don't liken themselves to containers, but her interest in the form is for the shape itself. Her compositions are full of tightly-compressed,  but not flattened spaces where the amphoras look as though they are floating in a sea of mark-making waves. Their visual relationship to Cubism is clear given the artist's display of them in a multi-dimensional space of hide and seek. 
The vessels' elongated necks and delicate handles are enjoyable to see, but it's her layering of the forms with patterned designs as seen in Morocco's Islamic buildings and applied arts that are create an intriguing dimension to the work. The image below suggests the viewer is looking through a screen in a harem  at an exotic interior. 
Likewise, a pleasant surprise in the piece below is an obscuring of the vessels' forms  for the clarity more often seen in her prints. One can feel from it feels rhythms of music and aromatic scents moving through the air. It also has a closer affinity with the work and colors of contemporary printmaker Karen Kunc, with whom Goldman has previously worked.
The infinity of geometric-inspired Islamic design patterns lend themselves well to Goldman's vessels and the multiculturalism of the Mediterranean. They become as timeless as the objects they derive from, but they are also a part of the present-day environment which anyone wanting to go print in Assilah should do so at their earliest opportunity.
Below is a view of the Mediterranean Sea at Assilah.

For more information about Ms. Goldman's prints contact at: goldmanprint@comcast.net

For information regarding Assilah's print center contact: Assilah International Cultural Moussem http://www.c-assilah.com

Some of Ms. Goldman's Activities and Awards:
Founder/Master Printer, Lily Press, Rockville, MD
Professor of Printmaking/Master Printer, Navigation Press, George Mason University, VA
2008  Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County Special Projects Grant
2005  Coordinator Southern Graphics Council International Conference “Power in Print”
2000  Artist-in-Residence, Assilah Foundation, Assilah, Morocco
Founder and co-curator since 1993 of The Art of Work, The Work of Art ©
1990 – 2000, Special Projects Coordinator, Master Printer, & Book Arts Fair Coordinator for Pyramid Atlantic

MFA - Arizona State University, in Printmaking
BFA -  Indiana University, in Printmaking, 1981

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mr. Spock and Wael A. Sabour's Prints on Migration

The appeal of Egyptian artist Wael A. Sabour’s multi-media prints are quite mesmerizing. His densely-layered colors, and his repeated organic forms grab our attention for their pleasing color palette, but it is also the combination of his criss-crossing of forms that has me feeling like I am in the middle of a Star Trek 3D chess game with Mr. Spock.  He layers the forms, showing us some ‘other place’, where multi- levels of travel occur, like some space-age time where water travel is but one available choice. 

Some of his forms are rowboats or vessels, and some look like amoebas floating in translucent layers of fluid. The rowboats appear to float in the air and pass above, below and beside us. Sabour would seem to be sending out a message about transitions, travel and going places, but the curious thing is his boats are empty. They are ready for us to step into them, but like one would find in a carnival gondola ride, they aren’t able to be maneuvered, and they appear to run along pre-programmed courses. So the question is… do we jump in and see where the boat takes us, or do we wait for the next one and hope it’s going in the direction we’d prefer? 
Sabour’s rowboats are taken from actual reference looking at small fishing boats sitting in the harbor at Alexandria. They are often brightly painted and seem pleasant objects in which to take a trip. Alexandria is a city in the northern part of Egypt,  historically known as one of the most traversed in the world. Its heritage has always been one of major trafficking of goods and people crossing the Mediterranean to all destinations.  Wael says of the city:

                Alexandria is a multinational city where Greek, Italians, French and Egyptians have lived together in a perfect harmony with each other and with their city for several decades.”

 Alexandria’s legacy as an intellectual and culturally diverse city feeds metaphorically into Sabour’s work. The vessels are available to be filled with people, goods, intellect or experiences. They cross the water in all directions seeking a final resting spot, but something in Sabour’s imagery also sends the message that there is no final destination for any of these carriers. They will be continually in motion, because the environment and human migration is ever-evolving. One can take comfort in that the boats seem to glide seamlessly over the water or in the air, and they do not appear to be in jeopardy of being capsized or flowing into dangerous waters. It’s as if Sabour’s depictions of them are more about personal memories than actual journeys. 
Another subject for discussion about Sabour’s  images is that we do not know who’s actually supposed to be travelling in these vessels. Are they available for everyone? Are they stopping for us to jump in, or are they really ghosts from journeys past? Is that why the boats are empty? Otherwise we should find at least one person in them to help guide us on our own trip. The manner in which he sets up his compositions suggests that these are boats on pre-determined courses, and unless we just jump in, we’ll never go anywhere ourselves. Of one thing we can be sure, we will never see a destination sign or hear a ship’s captain make a last boarding call. So then the boats’ journeys are more mysterious. Are they about the present, past or some other place in the future? We may never know, but I do think what we would potentially discover on the journey would be worthwhile…..

Sabour’s work has been shown extensively internationally. Much like his rowboats going in all directions, his work is found in several museums, including Egypt, Japan, Taiwan and the United States. He is also a Fulbright grant recipient, and he teaches Graphic Design at El Minia University in Egypt. To see more of his work go to wael@wael-sabour.net 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Printing All things Gaelic and Irish at Ceardlann na gCnoc

The west Irish county of Donegal is home to some of the most beautiful, pastoral landscape of Ireland. Coasts, and and pastures, and sheep and old stone cottages, and of course a multitude of green is to be seen everywhere.

In Gortahork,  a small village of about 500, there is an excellent print shop/residency space called Ceardlann na gCnoc, or CLO for short.

The shop has a full range of facilities for working in all traditional printed medium, plus computer and digital mixed media.CLO also publishes limited editions and artist books. They have a gallery space and regularly conduct workshops and exchanges. An added bonus is their prong of contacts which include collaborative arrangements with CLO centers in Portugal, Greece, Georgia and Armenia.

CLO's premise is to work with contemporary artists interested in culture and preservation of the surrounding Donegal landscape with its vibrant Gaeltacht (Gaelic) culture. Artists coming to live and work at CLO stay at the artist-in-residence house, and they understand it is a self-funded excursion, normally running around 200 Euros/week. 

As for producing art, there is a good-sized studio, where one can do etching, lithography, photography, artist books and even try their hand at icon painting in the traditional Greek style. At the end of the residency, artists are requested to give one image to the CLO archives, and one image per each edition produced while living there.
There is plenty of beautiful Irish landscape and small towns in the vicinity for those wishing to do small excursions, but the overall feel of CLO is one of serenity and a place where one can concentrate to do some serious work

For information, and to contact the good people at CLO, see the address below:


Ceardlann na gCnoc
Mín an Leá
Co. Donegal
tel / fax +353 (0) 74 91 62800

email: cloceardlann@eircom.net

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Reveling in Louise Nevelson's Printed Surfaces

I have known and admired the work of Louise Nevelson, but after reading her biography, I came to understand more about a strong-willed and powerful woman; one whose difficulties to pursue her art made her leave behind her husband and child, struggle for years without financial security and whose goal to be seen as an artist, not a ‘female’ artist, were ahead of the norm.

Discovering her prints was a pleasure, and as expected, their surfaces and the adventurous spirit with which she made them show us an artist truly forging her path toward innovation, and exploration to push the boundaries of a medium.  Nevelson’s prints tend in some degree to push visually toward cubism, as was her often heard credit to the influences of Picasso and Hofmann. She also pushed the printed medium with deeply embossed and etched plates, trying to make the paper bend to her will as she did with his found object sculptures. One can also see where her influences upon other notable painter/printmakers like Frank Stella and Jasper Johns occur.
The variety of her images reflects an consistent curiosity about tactile and rich surfaces and leaves us with an incontrollable desire to go put our hands on them. I am including a biography on Nevelson for those of you wanting to know more about a remarkable artist.

Louise Nevelson was born Leah Berliawsky (1899-1988) in Perislav , Poltava Governorate in the former Russian Empire. When she was three years old, her family emigrated to the United States, settling in Rockland, Maine, in 1905. She saw both of her parents suffer from depression, due in part to the adjustments to living in America, and being isolated in a small Jewish community. It was during high school that Nevelson decided to study art. Before moving to New York City, she married a wealthy businessman, Charles Nevelson, and they had one son, Myron(Mike), but her in-laws disapproved of her artistic interests and she eventually divorced  her husband in 1941.

In the 1930s Nevelson studied at the Art Students League of New York with Kimon Nicolaides and she went to Europe (Munich) to study with the renowned Hans Hoffmann. After returning to New York, Louise met and became an assistant to the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. She also studied with sculptor Chaim Gross. She continued to experiment with other artistic mediums, including lithography and etching,  but eventually decided sculpture would be her medium.
Nevelson worked for the WPA teaching art to children in Brooklyn until 1939. She exhibited her work in several smaller shows in the 1930s, received her first solo show at the Nierendorf Gallery in 1941. Her work consisted mainly of found objects and collage, speaking to her interests in Cubism and Surrealism. The scale of her work later grew to a monumental size, and when critics reviewed her pieces, it was praised until it was known Nevelson was a woman. A reviewer of her 1941 exhibition at Nierendorf Gallery stated: "We learned the artist is a woman, in time to check our enthusiasm. Had it been otherwise, we might have hailed these sculptural expressions as by surely a great figure among moderns." Sexism being rampant in the art world, it wasn’t ready, it seemed, for a talented ‘female’ sculptor. Nevelson believed that art reflected the individual, and chose to take on her role as an artist, not specifically a female artist. “I'm not a feminist. I'm an artist who happens to be a woman.”  Her opinion of discrimination within the art world bordered on the belief that artists not gaining success based on their gender suffered moreso from a lack of confidence. 

Nevelson visited Latin America, and was inspired by ancient Mayan ruins and Guatemalan steles. Her 1958 series of exhibitions were highly praised, and in 1959 Nevelson was included in MoMA's Sixteen Americans exhibition alongside Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. The scale of her sculptures and the influence of Latin American ancient art are credited as putting "Nevelson's sculpture in league with the grand scale of Abstract Expressionist painting, as well as the earlier mural painting of Rivera.” Nevelson took found objects and spray-painted them to disguise their original purposes. She gave credit to Picasso and Hofmann’s influence of Cubism as to her extensive use of discarded objects, and she was influenced by Native American art, dreams, and archetypes. 

From 1957 to 1958, she was president of the New York Chapter of Artists' Equity. That year, she was featured on the cover of Life magazine. In 1962 her work was selected for the 31st Venice Biennale, and from 1962 to1964 she became national president of Artists' Equity. In 1967 the Whitney Museum hosted the first retrospective of Nevelson's work, showing over one hundred pieces, including work from the 1930s to the late 60s, and four years later  the Walker Atr Center curated a major traveling exhibition of her work. 
Louise Nevelson Plaza, is located in downtown New York City and features a collection of her works. She donated her papers to the Archives of American Art The Farnsworth Art Museum, in Rockland, Maine, houses the second largest collection of her works.  Nevelson has a place-setting  in Judy Chicago's 1974–1979The Dinner Party.. Upon her death, Nevelson’s estate was estimated to be worth at least $100 million. 

National Medal of Arts
National Institute of Arts and Letters
American Academy of Arts and Letter Gold Medals
Creative Arts Award in Sculpture,  Brandeis University
Harvard University, honorary degree
Rutgers University, honorary degree