Thursday, July 25, 2019

Prints of True Americana: The Work of Ralph Goings

Ralph Goings (1928–2016) was an influential artist and teacher associated with the American Photorealism movement of the 1960s and 1970s. He was best known for his highly detailed images of diners, ketchup bottles, and salt & pepper shakers and pick-up trucks.

Born in Corning, California, Goings grew up during the Great Depression. His first exposure to art was in high-school, and he was inspired by the work of Rembrandt from books in the local library. His aunt encouraged his artistic interests and he began painting using paint from the local hardware store and old bed sheets.

After he served in the Army, Goings briefly enrolled in Hartnell College, and was quickly encouraged to attend art school. He studied art at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, and while there, he met other artists like Robert Bechtle and Nathan Oliveira. He received his MFA from Sacramento State College. Later on, he taught art in Crescent City, and was the head of the Art department at La Sierra High School in Sacramento.

He was inspired by the realistic artwork of Wayne Thiebaud and Thomas Eakins. With artists like Robert Bechtle, Robert Cottingham, Audrey Flack, Don Eddy and Richard Estes, Goings helped establish the Photorealist Movement.

"It occurred to me that projecting and tracing the photograph instead of copying it freehand would be even more shocking. To copy a photograph literally was considered a bad thing to do. It went against all of my art school training... " (edited quote from Realists at Work)

In the mid 1970's, Goings and his family relocated from Sacramento to upstate New York so he could be close to, but not in, the New York City art scene. He enjoyed a long relationship with OK Harris Gallery. In 2006, he and his wife chose to permanently relocate to Santa Cruz.

Remembered as a highly skilled artist, Goings’ work portrayed everyday objects with such a purposeful and distinct realism that their extreme details amazed and fooled the eyes of his audience. His prints compare very favorably with his other media. They are a marvel to behold with their rich surfaces, and numerous reflections. His compositions are intimate and tightly woven. The ketchup bottle and sugar dispenser images are as one would naturally experience them in a restaurant, or a roadside diner. They are cool, clean objects neatly lined up on the countertop, accessible and always ready to pick up.

Going’s affinity for the everyday subject was a step up from pop art that preceded his work. He left out the novelty and Americana glam that one finds in a Warhol or a Lichtenstein. His was a down to earth, real version of American culture. His work reflected an aura of honesty and no-nonsense unmatched in his colleagues’ work. Goings was a true American artist.

MFA - 1965 Sacramento State College, Sacramento, CA
BFA - 1953 California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, CA

Public Collections
Benedictine University, Lisle, IL
Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, FL
Flint Institute of Arts, Flint, MI
H.J. Heinz Company, Pittsburgh, PA
Lucasfilm, San Anselmo, CA
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Portland Museum of Art, Portland, OR
Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Sheldon Art Museum, Lincoln, NE
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, FL
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Celebrating the 4th of July!

It's that time of year my friends, when we set our work aside for a day or two, (or three) to celebrate our independence, our way or life, and remember the sacrifices of the many before us so we can live our lives today. It is the 4th of July for America, and that means families gather, they barbecue, go to the beach, or the movies, or the races. It means a good time to be had by all as we go see small town parades, baseball games, fireworks, and eat, drink and be merry. There is more to the story, of course, but we are truly blessed to live in a country that lets us be ourselves, and do what we choose. The same cannot be said of other nations. So, think on the history of this great country and celebrate. Below are a few prime prints by some amazing artists on the theme of Lady Liberty. Enjoy, and be safe!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Emma Nishimura " Reckoning with Memories "

Queen Sonja Print Award
The Queen Sonja Print Award is the world’s leading award for graphic art, and is presented every two years. Originally a Nordic prize, the prize became international in 2016. The winner receives a cash prize of NOK 400,000 and a residency at the Atelje Larsen art studio in Helsingborg, Sweden.

Curators, museum directors and fellow artists from all over the world nominated forty-two artists for the 2018 Award. The nominees reflect the breadth of contemporary printmaking today, ranging from traditional forms to new approaches involving installation, collage and performance.

In 2018, The Queen Sonja Print Award was given to Emma Nishimura, from Canada.

Emma Nishimura (b.1982) lives and works in Toronto, Canada. Her work ranges from traditional etchings, archival pigment prints, drawings, and audio pieces to art installations. Her work is in public and private collections and has been exhibited nationally and internationally.
The artist explores notions of memory and how history is interpreted and re-negotiated, through a varied use of traditional and contemporary printmaking techniques. Her body of work is exquisite and consistent – exhibiting an exceptional thoroughness of aesthetic. Nishimura bridges the boundaries between mediums. Her works incorporate traditional prints, sculptural objects, installations, audio pieces, photogravures, drawings and writing.

The following is from an interview with Nishimura after receiving the award:

How did your work become so rooted in your own family history?
I got a grant from the Ontario government for a project in which I investigated my heritage and being mixed race. So I went to my mum’s basement, rummaged around, looking for old photos and I came across this box that said “Baachan’s Sewing Patterns”. [Baachan meaning grandmother in Japanese] I open it up and inside there was about 200 miniature paper garments of beautiful craftsmanship. To match all of those clothing patterns were five books of drawings – she had taken a drafting course in 1941 in Vancouver. Inside one of those books was a sheaf of notebook pages dated 1943. It was just Japanese names and measurements. In 1943, she was interned in the camps, she was making clothes in the camps. So, I found this box and I thought how do I talk about her work and her journey? How do I make my own work about all of these stories?

Why choose printmaking?

I’ve always loved working with my hands. And I sewed a lot. I’ve always been very physical with work and manipulated things. I discovered printmaking in high school and then really focused on it in university.

You have incorporated various types of papers – from photographs and written testimonies to maps – in your works. What potency do you think documents have?

It’s how do you make sense of them and what you do with them. I have these amazing photos but then they stay in this album. And there’s something incredibly special about sharing them. I’ve found my way to meeting people who my grandparents knew. But then everything stays tucked away in these boxes, or on the shelf or relegated to a basement. That has been a push in my work, how do I make these accessible.
Thinking about the weight of memory and the stories that are passed down from one generation to the next (and the stories that are lost as well), this body of work explores the idea of what it might look like to package and archive memory. An extension of the Collected Stories series, this work is part of an ongoing installation project that focuses on the narratives surrounding the Japanese Canadian internment.

The series consists of hundreds of small bundled forms, known as furoshiki. This Japanese wrapping technique can be used to both store and protect. It may wrap a gift or be purely utilitarian. Working with photo-intaglio and sculptural papermaking processes, the bundles appear to contain an assortment of objects and have varying illusions of physical weight. However, all of the bundles are empty - mere shells that bear only the traces of what they once held. Many of the forms reveal elements of photographic imagery, small moments that link and connect with different stories and memories. All of the photographs have been archived from family albums, my own, as well as others. I will continue to make more bundles, as I complete further interviews and collect photographs from different storytellers.

Your work looks at the telling and retelling of stories. What interests you about that ongoing process?

Initially when I was doing the research I was talking to my mum and talking to my aunt, realizing that they have very different versions of the same story. All of these gaps. And I went back and reread this novel that I read as a kid and all of a sudden I discovered that what I had concocted as my grandmother’s experience was really that of the main character in the novel. There is this beautiful way that memory conflates. We don’t really know what the real version is.

Do you think there are parallels between the act of printmaking and that of revising and adapting tales?

Absolutely. Everything is endlessly reworked. I can make a finished piece but then I cut it up and reassemble it. Print affords you a bit of a structure but then there are so many steps along the way for different paths to appear.

You have turned prints into three-dimensional sculptural works using photographs and texts relating to the period of the internment. Was that always the plan?

No, I had no idea. I took sculpture early on and thought I don’t know if this is really for me. And now it’s a lot of how I think. With the sculptural pieces, the next step is to really grow that installation. I’ve made 350 and the goal is to make 1,000, for viewers to be really immersed in those stories and those memories.


Friday, March 15, 2019

Robert Riggs: Refined Brutality

Robert Riggs (1896-1970) was an artist well known for his realistic images of the circus, boxing matches, images of the great outdoors and hospital and psychiatric wards. He was born in Decatur, Illinois, and he began his art studies at Millikin University. At the age of nineteen, he won a scholarship to study in New York City at the famed Art Students League. After two years, he moved to Philadelphia to work for the advertising firm A. W. Ayer & Company.

During WWI, Riggs served in Europe with a Red Cross hospital unit where he made sketches of wounded soldiers and horrific battle scenes. He also studied at the French private art academy, Académie Julian.

After the war, Riggs returned to Philadelphia and did freelance magazine illustrations and advertisements. In 1924, he took an extended journey to North Africa, China, Thailand, and the Caribbean islands. He became an avid collector of European, Asian and African artifacts, and his home was like a museum.

Riggs produced most of his graphic art prints between 1934 and 1936, when the economic conditions of the Great Depression made prints popular. He gave up printmaking around 1950 but continued to produce black-and-white drawings for reproduction. His most distinctive prints, however, are unflinching images of mental illness and domestic violence.

Known for his prize-fighting and circus-genre scenes Riggs became a highly successful artist, in the 1930s and 40s. His interest in circus scenes and the grotesque certainly makes sense, given the things he saw when he ran away to join the circus as a young boy.

His subject matter was simplified of all unnecessary detail, favoring basic, yet actively charged symmetrical compositions. He viewed the world in a powerful, almost refined and brutally muscular way. He imbued every subject with great solidity and substance.

He was fascinated with the all-male worlds of the boxing ring and the military, passionate about the muscular male form and of homosocial environments. He seems to have been influenced by some of the other more openly gay illustrator-artists of the day: Jared French, George Tooker, and Paul Cadmus

There is an element of WPA influence in his subjects of men hard at work. His figures are a kind of everyman who does the task he is given, and who takes pride in a job well done. His artwork was stripped down to essential elements. His massive, brutal male figures showed an appreciation for the beauty and raw power of the male form.

1939 - Associate member, National Academy of Design
1946 - Full member, National Academy of Design
Society of Illustrators' Hall of Fame
1961 – 1963 - taught at the Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts).

"Robert Riggs was awarded the Gold Medal for Excellence by the New York Art Directors Club for ten consecutive years and received many additional awards."
- Walt Reed

Public Collections
Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
Philadelphia Museum of Fine Arts
U.S. Library of Congress

Friday, February 22, 2019

Gertrude Hermes: Fluidity of Nature

Gertrude Anna Bertha Hermes OBE RA (1901 – 1983) was an English printmaker and sculptor, born in Kent, England. Her parents were originally from Germany.
She attended the Beckenham School of Art in 1921, and the next year she enrolled at the Brook Green School of Painting and Sculpture, where fellow students included Henry Moore and Blair Hughes-Stanton, (whom she married in 1926, but later divorced in 1933).

Hermes produced a commission for the British Pavilion at the Paris World Fair in 1937. She exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy, and her work was included at the Venice International Exhibition in 1939. She worked in Canada from 1940 to 1945.

As a teacher, she taught printmaking at the Central School of Art in London, and she taught printmaking at the Royal Academy Schools. Her graphic work focused on natural themes. Her illustrations were used for books such as Gilbert White’s Natural History of Selbourne, and the famous The Complete Angler.

Her work is in many public collections including the Tate, and the National Portrait Gallery. Her commissions include a fountain for the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, and she is included in numerous private collections such as the musician David Bowie.

Associate of the Royal Academy - 1963
Royal Academician - 1971
appointed an OBE -1981