Thursday, April 20, 2017

John J. A. Murphy and the Mechanical Figure

John J.A. Murphy’s (1888 - 1967) work has strong alliances with the Cubist art movement he would have seen in Europe. His work has close affinities with the work of Fernand Leger, Picasso, and some of the later German Expressionist printmakers like Heckel and Schmidt-Rotloff.
An impressive element of Murphy’s work is the wonderful concrete-block look of his figures and the robotically-massive presence they have. The subjects vary from religious to athletic competitions and male wrestling. The weight of these figures fills his compositions to a near-bursting, and lets us feel as though we are a part of the activities taking place.
Murphy’s work fill our eyes with linear, built-up male figures who represent all things masculine and power-filled. They roll around the picture plane and struggle amongst themselves for dominance, but ultimately fail since all the figures are equally weighted. The effect though is a tour de force of characters that endlessly fight for our attention. The result is a visual exhilaration. Murphy’s work is terrific.
Murphy was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He studied art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Art Students League, in New York City.
Murphy first worked as a portrait painter and then moved to London to be a painter’s assistant to Frank Brangwyn.

During WWI, he served in the Army Corps of Engineers’ camouflage section in France, and illustrated posters.
When he returned to New York in 1921 he exhibited his prints at Keppel's Gallery and Walker Galleries, in New York; and exhibited at the Leicester Gallery, in London.
He also designed book illustrations and typography.

Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors and Engravers
Fellow, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Member, the Guild of Free Lance Artists
Who’s Who in American Art

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Easter Hare Greetings!

Wishing all my inked up friends a very Happy Easter, with plenty of eggs and rabbits and chicks and peeps and Easter egg hunts and daffodils, etc, etc, etc....

Monday, April 10, 2017

Michael Rothenstein and the Printed Cock's Comb

British artist, Michael Rothenstein, (1908-1993) was a prolific artist who earned a worldwide reputation as one of the most exciting British printmakers of the twentieth century.
Born in Hampstead, London, he was the youngest of four children born to the celebrated artist, Sir William Rothenstein (1872-1945). His older brother, Sir John Rothenstein, was also well-known as head curator of the Tate Gallery.

Rothenstein was home-schooled and studied art at Chelsea Polytechnic, and later at the Central School of Arts and Crafts.
During the late 1930s he exhibited landscapes and in 1940 he was commissioned to paint topographical watercolors of endangered sites in Sussex for the Recording Britain project (organized by the Pilgrim Trust).

In the early 1940s he moved to the north Essex village of Great Bardfield where there was a small resident art community. He exhibited frequently at the Redfern Gallery, in London, and during this time he became interested in printmaking.
Rothenstein organized the Great Bardfield Artists exhibitions during the 1950s. Thanks to his contacts in the art world, these exhibitions became nationally known and attracted thousands of visitors.

From the mid-1950s Rothenstein focused his energies on printmaking. He became known as one of the most experimental printmakers in Great Britain during the 1950s and '60s.

From 1936-1956 he was married to the artist, Betty Fitzgerald, who was later known as Duffy Ayers, and the couple had two children. In 1958 he married Diana Arnold-Forster.

Rothenstein taught art at Camberwell School of Art and Stoke-on-Trent College of Art, and he lectured extensively throughout the USA.
He authored several books on art subjects including Frontiers of Printmaking , 1966, Relief Printing, 1970, Suns and Moons, 1972, and the folio Song of Songs, 1979.

Rothenstein gave to British art a particular liveliness and a sensual flair for color and texture. His fascination with birds, (cockerels) was brash and wildly popular. The artistic and cultural symbolism for using roosters or cockerels is varied.

Since antiquity the rooster has been, and still is, a sacred animal in some cultures and deeply embedded within religious worship. The term "Persian bird" for the cock appears to have been given by the Greeks after Persian contact, but in Iran, during the Kianian Period, from about 2000 B.C. to about 700 B.C., the cock was considered a sacred bird.

The cockerel was a symbol in Gaul at the time of the invasion of Julius Caesar and was associated with the god Lugus. Today the Gallic rooster is an emblem of France. In the Chinese zodiac, the Rooster is a symbol of honesty, moral fortitude. Of the Yang attribute, it signifies fortune, luck, fidelity, protection as well as bossiness. Some of Rothenstein’s roosters are performing the cockerel dance – a mating ritual where they fan out their wings and bristle up their feathers to show they are dominant, and of good mating stock.

I enjoy seeing the brushy bluster of Rothenstein’s birds and the crazed dominance they exude in his compositions. The flair of the rooster’s spirit is evident in his work and we know their cockerel dances with extend well beyond the compositional borders Rothenstein presents. These prints are still quite a bargain, so snatch up a few for your print collections, my friends.

Public collections:
British Museum
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Tate Gallery
Victoria and Albert Museum

Associate of the Royal Academy (ARA), 1977
Hon. RE and elected RA, 1983
Royal Academician (RA), 1984

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Velvet Print Road of Howard Norton Cook

Howard Norton Cook (American,1901–1980) was a well-known printmaker and WPA period muralist. He was born and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts.
He ventured to New York City in 1919 to attend the Art Students League where he also painted outdoor billboards and worked in printmaking shops between his art classes. In 1922 he began to work as an illustrator creating prints and drawings for several popular magazines like Harper's, Scribner's, Atlantic Monthly, Forum and Survey.
It was while he was working as an illustrator for Forum and Century magazines that he spent two months in Santa Fe before moving to Taos. The experience was transformative and had a lasting impression upon his artwork. While in Taos he met and married fellow artist Barbara Latham.
Cook’s Taos-period artwork reflected his fascination with Native American ceremonial dances from the pueblos, adobe structures, and landscapes which differed so greatly from his earlier urban work. Also he produced a series of prints based upon the Grand Canyon.
Cook and his wife traveled to Paris in 1929, and when they returned to New York, his subject matter shifted toward the city’s numerous construction projects.
He worked under the WPA program, producing murals for courthouses in Pittsburgh and Springfield, MA, plus a large fresco for a San Antonio post office in 1937.
In 1938, the couple re-settled near Taos, on the Talpa ridge.

During World War II he served in the South Pacific as an artist-war correspondent for the US Navy. In 1943 he was appointed Leader of a War Art Unit and served in the Solomon Islands.
In the 1940s, Cook's work focused mostly on American Southwest scenes. By the end of the decade, his style had become much more abstract. He moved toward making collages by the 1950s.
During his career Cook taught as a guest professor at several art schools and universities. His work continued to gain attention long after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which confined him to a wheelchair and stopped his art career.
The look of Cook’s work reminds us of the work of notable WPA era artists, Margaret Bourke-White and her industrial machinery, simplicity of fellow Taos artist Gustave Baumann’s compositions, the watercolors of Charles Sheeler, and the watercolors of the legendary John Marin.
Cook’s blacks are the most luscious, velvety of blacks ever seen, and his lines define contours and form in a way that wraps itself around his subjects – whether human or industrial I-beams. Both are carefully and equally handled to reveal his interest in the subject, making us envious of his skill and his experiences to see these wonderful places. He makes us jealous of his compositions; full of angularly unique lines and shapes.
The man’s work is a treasure, and it needs to be seen more often. Give these images a good look, and take a step back into time when NYC was a bustling joint and the American Southwest was his peaceful counterpart to the urban scene. It’s no wonder many east coast artists flocked out to New Mexico, and still do. It is an uplifting, artistic mecca where one can find time to reflect and renew our creative spirit.Cook takes us on his velvet print road of adventure and we are all better informed artistically for it.

Two Guggenheim Fellowships
Membership in the National Academy as a graphic artist
Gold Medal for mural painting by the Architectural League of New York
First Artist in Residence at the Roswell Museum - 1967
SFB Morse Gold Medal from the National Academy of Design

Public Collections:
Albuquerque Museum
Art Institute of Chicago
Baltimore Museum of Art
Bibliotheque Nationale
British Museum
Fogg Art Museum
Harvard University
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Minneapolis Art Institute
Museum of Modern Art
Newark Museum
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Princeton Museum of Art
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Victoria & Albert Museum
Whitney Museum of American Art

Friday, March 17, 2017

All the World is Irish!

All the World is an adopted brethren of the Irish today as we celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Much love to all, including my inked up friends far and wide. Celebrate today, for tomorrow we print!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

John Hitchcock: Print Spirit Keeper

After viewing John Hitchcock's prints and installations, one is left with an understanding of things not necessarily in today's highly charged public eye, but we left with a knowledge of atrocities from the past and imminent danger of the future. Hitchcock's work brings out the ghosts and fears of our past. He presents images of desecrated animals as decaying hunting trophies, and contrasts them against objects of mass destruction which threaten our planet. His is challenging work, not only for its subject, but for the thoughtful and engaging manner of his installations which wrap around rooms and cover floor to ceiling.

The spirits invoked by his portraits of animals long since hunted, killed and kept a a sort of trophy or headdress used in spiritual ceremonies call us to acknowledge their spirit and power and place in the world which is diminished from their loss. His contrasted use of flat images of bombs and tanks with the animals speaks about the destruction of the natural world. If the animals aren't able to be respected or saved, then we are not far behind them. I believe Hitchcock is amply using the print medium to communicate his concerns about social and political issues. The refreshingly interactive elements of his installations activate the room and bring printmaking, and its relevance as an art form, to the present day. He is challenging our notions of the 2-dimensional aspects of the medium to enliven and shake up our antiquated sensibilities about what the medium can do. Bravo! Here's to hoping Hitchcock continues to bring his messages about hope and destruction to greater and greater audiences as his career develops.

John Hitchcock was born and raised around Lawton, Oklahoma. He earned his MFA in printmaking and photography at Texas Tech University, in Lubbock, Texas and received his BFA from Cameron University, in Lawton, Oklahoma.
He is currently an Artist and Associate Professor of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Hitchcock’s artwork is deeply informed by his personal biography and family history. He grew up in western Oklahoma on Comanche tribal lands in the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma next to Ft Sill, a US field artillery military base. Fort Sill was originally established in 1869 to wage battles against American Indians.

Hitchcock’s mother is of Comanche and Kiowa ancestry, a descendant of the indigenous Plains tribes affected by the federal government’s systematic policy of forced removal and relocation. The artist’s parents met when his father served at Fort Sill. Raised in this area, Hitchcock was exposed to the training activities at the base, which sensitized him to an American culture of violence and military action.

Hitchcock uses the print medium with its long history of social and political commentary to explore relationships of community, land, and culture. Images of U.S. military weaponry are combined with mythological hybrid creatures from the Wichita Mountains of western Oklahoma to explore notions of assimilation and control. He explores notions of good, evil, death, and life cycles. His depictions of beasts, animals, and machines act as a metaphors for human behavior and cycles of violence. His artwork is a response to human behavior towards nature and other people.

Hitchcock’s current artwork consists of mythological hybrid creatures (buffalo, wolf, boar, deer, moose) and military weaponry (tanks and helicopters) based on his childhood memories. He depicts stylized skulls of animal heads - buffalo, horse, and deer—that represent departed family members, and are linked to American Indian folklore passed down through his ancestors. The work reflects on communities and traditions disrupted by war and cultural genocide.

The American Photography Institute
Jerome Foundation grant
National Graduate Seminar Fellowship at New York University
Tisch School of Arts
Vilas Associate Grant at University of Wisconsin-Madison

New Zealand
South Africa
United States