Sunday, June 22, 2014

Etchings by Giorgio Morandi - a Masterful, Measured Study

The Italian artist, Giorgio Morandi, whose still life images are noted for their carefully measured studies in subtlety and simplicity, also developed quite a reputation in the printmaking medium. Quite an understatement when you see his prints, my inked up comrades. These prints are beautifully crafted, seamless in their calculations and a tour de force how abstraction can define that which is observed. I do like these prints very much and in the past have challenged my students to try to study/master Morandi’s style. There is something fragile and vulnerable about the work, and yet his lines gather together, one by one, to form these delicate bottles and vases. His scale creates a certain intimacy as well, and we as viewers feel a preciousness toward the subject, as Morandi surely did.

Morandi was born in Bologna in 1890. From 1907 to 1913 he studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Bologna. After the death of his father in 1909, the family moved to via Fondazza n. 36, and Morandi became the head of the family.

Morandi taught himself printmaking by studying books on Rembrandt. Morandi was deeply influenced by the works of Cézanne, Derain, and Picasso. However, he was also influenced by the Italian artists Giotto, Masaccio, Piero Della Francesca, and Uccello. He briefly studied the Futurist style in 1914 but eventually opted for a more timeless, meditative style. From 1914 to1929, Morandi was appointed instructor of drawing for elementary schools in Bologna. From 1930 to 1956, Morandi was a professor of etching at Accademia di Belle Arti.

In 1915, he joined the army but suffered a breakdown and was discharged. During WWI, Morandi's still lifes became more reduced in their compositional elements and purer in form, revealing an admiration for Cézanne’s compositions. In 1918–19 he worked with Bacchelli and Giuseppe Raimondi (1898–1976) on the Bologna magazine La raccolta.

He went through a Metaphysical painting phase from 1918 to 1922. This was his last major stylistic shift; then, he focused for the rest of his career on subtleties of hue, tone, and objects arranged in a unifying atmospheric haze. He was sympathetic to the Fascist party in the 1920s, although his friendships with anti-Fascist figures led authorities to arrest him briefly in 1943.

On a personal side, Morandi was seen as being rather quiet, yet having a charming personality. He lived in Bologna with his three sisters, Anna, Dina and Maria Teresa, until his death in 1964, and was buried in the family’s tomb at Bologna’s Certosa cemetery.

Throughout his career, Morandi concentrated almost exclusively on still lifes and landscapes, except for a few self-portraits. He was perceived to have evolved a style congenial to modernist abstraction. Through his simple and repetitive motifs and economical use of color, value and surface, Morandi became an important forerunner of Minimalism.

He created 133 etchings, which is a significant body of work in its own right. He explained: "What interests me most is expressing what’s in nature, in the visible world, that is". He did not ally himself with any group but continued to pursue his own idea of natural truth. Often, his objects conveyed a sense of timelessness.

In 1993, the Museo Morandi opened due to the generosity of the Italian president Marilena Pasquali, the Municipality of Bologna and his sister, Maria Teresa Morandi, of his works and his atelier, which were owned by the family. The museum includes a recreation of his studio.

1921 - exhibited with de Chirico and Carrà in Berlin and Florence
1926 & 1929 - Novecento italiano exhibitions
1929 - Morandi illustrated the work Il sole a picco by Vincenzo Cardarelli
1948 - first prize in painting, Venice Biennale
1957 - grand prize in São Paulo's Biennial
2008 - the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
2013 - the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels, Belgium

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Jose Julian Aguilera Vicente's Vibrant Cuban Expressionism

The plethora of unknown, or little-known, talent continues to amaze me, my inked up comrades. Yet, the part that is little-known is really only limited to our access, as is the case with this feature. I came across this person by accident, but the first image grabbed me like a vice grip. Here was powerful and emotive, expressive work that has been hiding only because of its origin. The island where this work is made is, in fact, well-acquainted with this man's work. So, again, it is a matter of access and export. Let's take a look...
José Julián Aguilera Vicente, b. 1933, in Santiago de Cuba. Aguilera Vicente is one of Cuba’s most recognized artists. His career in the art world has been varied and he has shown his work outside of Cuba, but Cuba remains the most popular spot to find his work. This is where the political binds that tie off cultural exchange need to continue to loosen their grip. Art is art, and people can gain a lot culturally from exposure through the arts. Aguilera Vicente has been able to break free a bit with his work to exhibit his prints outside of Cuba, yet there are many artists living and working in Cuba whom we have limited knowledge of or access to see their work. I am glad we have this opportunity.
In addition to working as a professional artist for over 40 years, he is also known for teaching art at the José Joaquín Tejada Art School in Santiago de Cuba, the Art Education Department at the University of Oriente and the Higher Institute of Education (ISE), amongst other places.

As a child, Agguilera Vicente won a competition and some art supplies. His family was not supportive of his artistic ambitions, but his brother Paco supported him to attend art school. His first teacher/mentor was sculptor René Valdés Cedeño. Among his fellow students was Miguel Ángel Botalín. In 1953, Aguilera Vicente graduated from the José Joaquín Tejada School of Fine Arts, which followed the nationally sanctioned curriculum of Havana’s San Alejandro Art Academy.

After he had begun to teach he took a class in printmaking at the Neighborhood Institute. It was mostly theory, but he was interested to pursue the process. The 1960 Revolution ushered in a new era for Cuba and the artists working there. Aguilera Vicente was asked to teach at the José Joaquín Tejada School of Visual Arts and the following year, he exhibited his first exhibition of engraving with more than 100 prints from Mexico’s Taller Grafica Popular, who specialized in graphic arts related to Mexico’s Revolution. Aguilera Vicente explains the personal significance of this exhibition by saying, “We examined them with a magnifying glass, discussed them, and analyzed how they had made those engravings. Then we dared to do some ourselves. I devoted myself to engraving…. My engraving school was the Mexican Revolution.”

Aguilera Vicente later met the president of the Engravers Association of Cuba, Carmelo González, who taught about printmaking by showing examples, yet it was one of Aguilera Vicente’s students, Lesbia Vent Dumois, who actually taught him techniques which helped him develop his own work. It was also at this time he discovered German Expressionism and Soviet realism.
As time went on, Aguilera Vicente began to turn to relief printing. “Wood is better suited for romantic pieces. I enjoyed it from the first creative step, from the moment the idea occurred to me….It’s a magnet, a fever. “
Aguilera Vicente’s expressionist work emphasizes the presence of an existential separation and fragmentation, and, as Octavio Paz pointed out fragmentation “is the most perfect and vibrant expression of our time.” I, for one, enjoy this man's love of making images, in whatever medium he chooses. The dramatic, evocative nature of his line, the bold compositions, the clear message. Some of the work has a more political overtone, but the somber feel of the rain washing away people's passion and dampening their spirits is reflective of most Cubans' plight as they hope for a better day and social freedoms.

Aguilera Vicente is a founding member of the following art groups:
Raúl Gómez García Brigade
the Juan Marinello Cultural Contingent
the Commission for the Development of Monumental and Environmental Sculpture (CODEMA)
the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC)
the Provincial Committee of the National Union of Cultural Workers (SNTC)

As a prolific artist, Aguilera Vicente has participated in over 100 exhibitions, won regional and national awards, such as Professor Emeritus, the National Culture Distinction and Artist Laureate, and his work has been included in international venues such as the Biennials in São Paulo, Brazil (1967) and Krakow, Poland (1972).

He has had numerous articles, reproductions and critiques published about his work, namely the Cuban publications Bohemia magazine, Mella weekly, Granma daily, Caimán Barbudo magazine and Galería bulletin; as well as Russia’s Revista Literaria Internacional; RDA magazine; and Germany’s Gráfica Contemporánea.
His work can be found in many private collections in Cuba and abroad, including the Emilio Bacardí Museum in Santiago de Cuba, and in the Flores Carbonell Collection.

1961--Oriente Gallery, Santiago de Cuba
1961--Cultural Center, Camagüey, Cuba
1966--Centro Habana Gallery, Havana, Cuba
1966--Habana Gallery, Havana, Cuba
1966--Balcón de Velázquez Gallery, Havana, Cuba
1980--UNEAC Gallery, Santiago de Cuba
1980--Cultural Center, Palma Soriano
1980--Arts Center Gallery, Budapest, Hungary
1962--São Paulo Biennial, Brazil
1975--Art exhibit in Kingston, Jamaica
1976--Santiago in Leningrad, USSR
1976--Modern Cuban Art, Oslo, Norway
1976--Modern Cuban Art, Helsinki, Finland
1976--Modern Cuban Art, Switzerland
1978--Qualifying Committee XI Festival, New York City, USA
1979--Joan Miró International Gallery, Spain
1980--Cuban Graphics, Managua, Nicaragua
1981--Santiago Graphic Exhibit, Mexico City
1982--Cuban Printmaking, Spain
1982--Cuban Graphics, Paris, France
1982--Graphics Sampler, St. George's, Grenada
1983--Cuban Graphics, Mexico City, Mexico
2003-2004--Meridian International Center, Washington, D.C.
2003-2004--Lighthouse Center for the Arts, Tequesta, Florida

View more of Aguilera Vicente’s work at: