Artist-of-the-fortnight: Jim Erikson

This week, as I was racking my brain to think of another fine (not in a hierarchical sense; just meaning high quality) artist to you all, in the ongoing series of Artist-of-the-fortnight, I received an email from Jim Erikson. I met him a few years ago, through connections at Messiah College, but hadn't heard anything of him was a nice surprise. And, so is his work...his paintings and collages have a certain northeast-hardened, Bay Area sense to them; more Diebenkorn than David Park. Subtle colors and shapes that have a quiet harmony to them. But, check them out:

I normally post an image of an actual painting, but Peng Gallery has the entire site covered by copyright, so the email image will have to suffice.


Making peace with Pablo, part 2 of 2

(cont.) ...But this must be said - in both a pejorative and a laudatory way - not all of it is good. In fact, a lot of it is really quite awful. But, therein is the crux of the issue - each one of these pieces was both a movement to the next, and a piece unto itself. The former idea was never lost in the second: therefore some pieces scintillate, and others flatulate. But all of them were both a means and an end. Picasso was at the core, after all, simply a practicing artist. Why then is all of it so incessantly on display? Because of his international stardom; his name and reputation - as with any other rockstar artist - all of his work is ravenously bought, sold and traded, without aesthetic restraint. But those of us who can't afford a real Picasso, can be more discriminating, and take our time picking our favorites, according to what we know is good art, or what we've grown to appreciate regardless. And, having been thinking about monuments recently, I was struck by Picasso's "monumentality;" his hugeness that every artist, regardless of their desire or reticence to do so, must live in the shadow of, merely by the fact of having come after, rather than before him. And so, I've finally come to dealing with this shadow...

Another point to make about Picasso, was his virtuousity. Once I got past my disgust with some of his pieces - largely because of my above thoughts - I began to accept the fact that he was a virtuoso of mediums. No medium, that he chose to take on, was ever his master - his drive for artistic consummation was indefatigable, and exhausted nearly all media available. I had never seen his wooden people sculptures - often lifesize, which he painted and drew throughout the '50s; I had never seen his folded paper sculptures of figures, which were subsequently turned into concrete sculptures. He quickly, it seems, took to a medium, and turned it to his particular purposes; found his way through it.

I have begun healing my rift with Pablo; and it feels liberating. The doubts are still there, and I still thoroughly hate some of his work. But what better thing can one say of an artist, especially such an historically important and still-controversial artist - than I hate and love their work? I have grown to know him better through exposure and consideration. It's all about maintaining a conversation, isn't it?

The End (?)



...just an update on showings...I had a small drawing accepted - Shoots - into an equally small show called War & Peace 05, organized by the Lambertville (NJ) Peace Coalition, and exhibited at the Prallsville Mills, an historic site just outside of Stockton, NJ, on Route 29 North (about 10 minutes north of Lambertville, and an hour from Philly.) Kind of out of the way, but you might incorporate a bike ride or hike on the D&R Canal road, right next to the mills. Anyway, their website is: (Prallsville Mills site)

The show will be open to the public on the 19th, 20th and the 26th of November.


Making peace with Pablo, part 1 of 2

(above, Picasso, Bathers at Dinard, 1928)

(this is part 1 of a short essay [rough draft] that I wrote recently, detailing my thoughts about Picasso, etcetera...)

This last week, I've been making lots of copies at work. The area where the copier is also houses a mailbox where new books to be added to the library are placed. One book in particular has recently been capturing my attention, while my copies are collating. It's a German book, called Picasso:'s on the theme and motif of the bather in Picasso's work. Picasso and I have long had a love/hate relationship. In my experience, many average peoples' consciousness of "modern" art stops at or around Picasso - for better or for worse - and some will even use his work as a touchstone for their statements about all other "modern" art, regardless of the accuracy of the facts their opinions are based on. That's one thing that affected my opinion of Picasso...another was how so many people and books, etc, were bantering about Picasso's genius...and I guess I got jealous. Picasso this; Picasso that; oh, Picasso, I love your work and so on, ad nauseum. A previous, now dead artist, who loomed large in the consciousness, that I, a young whippersnapper with no notoriety, and not even much skill, had to go up against? It seemed better to just ignore him, for the most part. And so I've largely done so for many years; occasionally expressing my disdain for him and his artwork; surreptitiously (but silently) admiring a piece here or there...

However, repeatedly delving into this book has been revelatory to me. I've heard it said - numerous times - and so have you, probably: his influence may be seen in practically all art thereafter. Flipping through, I even thought of Tobi Kahn when I saw a Picasso painting of a woman form on the beach, flattened flounder-like; the thick, dimpled layering of paint bringing Kahn to mind. But I do believe this to be true; almost as much as true as saying the same of Warhol.

Another revelation was that...I actually really liked some of the incorrigible Spaniard's work. For every stupid revisiting of the libidinous Minotaur or in this case, bathers, in my memory, there is a gorgeous, colorful painting with crazy shapes; a folded paper figure with just the perfect balance of whimsy and gravitas; or a sculpture that is the essence of a playing child's innocence. Yes - I like Picasso's work...


Ideas and silence

"...Art is not about ideas. Ideas are good for writers. We cannot work with ideas. An artwork is not artwork is intuited, it is never understood or known. That keeps it strong throughout history. It will not endure if it is made to be understood. To be understood, you will just be a narrative piece of, no, no. What it is that makes a viewer silent is the question we should be asking. We know we have to listen to ourselves in silence because what we are looking at reflects this silence. I don't know where it affects the viewer, maybe not in the mind or in the heart, maybe not in the sex. Maybe in the stomach. But the work pushes you to this silence and makes it part of you when you look at it. Something must be real about it. But where can we find this image? Where can we find this energy? So, as artists, we have to ask ourselves whether we will be able to do this, or whether we are just producers of artefacts. I really don't know."

-Pedro Cabrita Reis, Portuguese artist, in Modern Painters, November 2005. (Reis's current exhibit)


Memorial redux

While doing some online research on memorials, monuments and art, I came across this quirky website address which comingled all three terms:

It's a firm in Utah, which purveys memorials (gravestones). A simple premise, yes, but on their "history" page, I found a wonderful old photograph, which is more than slightly reminiscent of Constantin Brancusi's studio (see above).

Here one encounters another wrinkle in the relationships between art and memorials. The etched bucolic scenes, commemorating your loved one's hereafter: is it art? If you think not, why is that so? Wherein lies the difference between Venturi's monument (see two posts ago), which we might be more prone to call "art," and these granite memorials? Is it purpose/intent? Is it because Venturi's expression bespeaks more of Modernity, therefore more "recognizable" art formalities, than the cottage lanes, angels, lambs or flowers? Does it then come down to sentimentality?


Artist-of-the-fortnight: Mary Judge

Beginning this week and continuing each fortnight, I will attempt to introduce to you, my faithful blog visitors, a new artist. This may be someone whom I have just discovered, or whose work is particularly important, influential, or enjoyable to me at this particular time. And the artist this week is all three of the above. So, to begin, I will introduce Mary Judge. I know her work mostly through Gallery Joe, on 3rd and Arch in Philly, but she is an oft-exhibited artist, nationally and internationally. Anyway, her work is the most interesting part. Above you see a large painting of hers. I highly recommend visiting her website, to get a better idea of her ouevre's scope, especially a particularly poignant cement sculpture, that looks like it could be made of molded paper:




(Robert Venturi's Christopher Columbus Memorial, Philadelphia)

In the midst of last post's discussion, the topic of memorials emerged, and I was reminded of my recent interest in this subject, and the companion subject of monuments...I included some links having to do with the subject of memorials and art, on my last comment, but for some reason they are not working. So, here they are again, for those who are interested, with clickability:

"in memoriam" (scroll down)

Robert Venturi, et al and their thoughts about memorials, etc:

This is an interesting concept to me, especially related to a question that Douglas Witmer, a friend of mine and accomplished painter, were thinking about not too long ago: What is our art for?

One idea that emerged was that of the role of memorial...and I was particularly struck with the possibility of paintings being memorials, by Douglas's making of a particular painting (seen in the link above) for memorializing a significantly painful and poignant point in another's friend's life.

Some time ago, I wrote in my sketchbook,

Monument = Painting?
Painting = Monument?

This is not to be taken as a fact, but a question. Can a painting be a monument or memorial? In a way, all paintings are memorials; however I'm thinking of the intent towards memorializing, rather than by virtue of the work itself. Can a painting become a monument?

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