Thursday, January 17, 2013

Addressing the Lichtenstein Retrospective in DC

Four guys and four days ago two fathers, a single guy and a DINK set forth on this continent, to a national museum, conceived in knowledge and dedicated to the proposition that all art can be collected.

Now we are engaged in a great retrospective, testing whether dots or an artist can paint four colors and can be so dedicated that they can endure. We met at the National Gallery Museum. We have come to this destination, as a starting point, to comemorate those artists that have come before us so that we might create. It is altogether fitting and proper that we (David, David, Adrian and I) should do this.

But in a larger sense, I cannot describe, rather depict, nor round out this artist…Roy Lichtenstein. So I, as a Pennsylvanian, drove to DC with these artists to examine, give praise and admire a collection of Lichtenstein's work. Though I and my cohorts would have rather seen the retrospective in chronological order; those higher up than I decided to arrange the show by subject matter. Could it be an easy answer to showcase an artist that broke out onto the art scene at the age of 37. The comic figure subject is the first step and exemplified by the large Mickey and Donald painting centered at the entrance. This is the piece that we as artists all strive for…the break out piece. “Look Mickey” is supported by documentation and two other abstract paintings on the second floor. I'm sure Mr. Lichtenstein wouldn't mind me saying he wasn't very good at the abstract stuff.

The story goes, or at the very least it works better in my mind, that Roy made it to LeoCastelli's gallery a few days before Warhol. Leo took Roy's work in and hung the “Look Mickey” piece. A few days later Andy comes into the gallery to show Leo some of his paintings of Superman, but Andy is blown away by the accuracy of Roy’s comic strip drawings and goes back to the drawing board (rather silkscreen) and cleans up his act. The rest is history.
This is mytake on Lichtenstein. The show is made out to illustrate that Roy has a good sense of humor and he can even poke fun at his newfound success. Becoming confident in his vocabulary he pushes Benday dots in yellow, red, blue, white and black all over the art history books while keeping up with the times. I'm too young to know for sure but I’d think everyone was saying he was as cliché in 1970 as Kincaid is today. Yet, look at back at art history in 1970. We have Donald Judd and SolLeWitt coming to the forefront with this minimal, clean, conceptual art and Roy comes out with his mirror series. Brilliant! It is conceptual, modern, minimal, and slick but has all the essence of a Lichtenstein with a few colors. The curators break the show up into Roy appropriating other artist, then landscapes and ending with an Asian influence. I see it as an artist that developed his own language then used that language to speak his thoughts on art history and it’s simplicity via dots and lines.

If you paid the five dollars for the headset you could have heard him say, “Art is based on art history or we would all be painting like children.” Or something like that. But I digress… These artists shall not have died in vain, that this retrospective under God shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the artists, for the people, shall not perish from this earth. So if you're headed to DC to see the inauguration or the tail end of the retrospective or voting for the Oscars, remember Lincoln but see Roy.

Friday, January 4, 2013

C'ya 2012

It’s that time again when everyone recaps the past year. You hear everything from "who the person of the year" is to the best of and the worst of. I can’t help but  to play along while sharing my personal experiences. Hopefully it will help me with my biographers when they need to fill the pages between me inventing the Internet and making yellow the new black on the runways. With the help of Facebook's timeline app, I was able to glance back at the year and figure out why I'm 10 pounds heavier this January. My timeline is a montage of food, beverages, places, family and the occasional new piece of art.

One would think that with being an artist there would be more than the occasional piece of art. It’s not that I wasn't producing art; it was more that I was exercising my creativity and my desire to make things. Actually last year as I sat in a room of 20 artists “confessing” what our true resolutions were and how we wanted to better ourselves and what we wanted to accomplish in the year, I thought to myself, then said aloud, "I want to make my house a home. I want to create a place in which my kids will always want to come back." There I said it, my commitment had nothing to do with making more or better art; it had to do with living life and by the end of the year a majority of it fell into place.

I could not have done this without others wanting to enjoy and celebrate their own lives. At the beginning of the year I was blessed with many commissions that supported me and kept me busy throughout the year. One client wanted to reward herself and remind herself that she had survived breast cancer the previous year. Another client wanted to pass on a passion for art by creating a special birthday present. Still another client fell in love with the lushness of encaustic and wanted a portrait to give to her husband as a gift. These patrons and others like them celebrated special moments with art that I created. How could I not fulfill my own commitment!

So I began with a hammer and some nails, the tape measure that I later figured out how to read and a level that I swore was level. With the help of a friend I built the most magnificent shed. My intention for the shed was to store the contents that now fill my basement. This was the first step in refinishing my basement, so that when the kids do come back, we can have a cozy “French resistance mixed with a 1920s speakeasy flare” bar to hang out in. This has yet to be built but I'm working on it. The stuff is moved out and the shed is filled to the brim. As with all projects, if you're going to do “this” well then you might as well do “that”, all while doing the main “thing”. Three months later, I'm on to the front yard making brick paths. I find so much solace in laying bricks and in building stonewalls. It is like figuring out a puzzle that is life-size and potentially holding up something. The brick path starts at the front door and nicely curves around the side of the house fading into the ground where it shall resume and continue this year. Yet 30 feet to the south of this brick path, a new stone path and patio was built. I proudly made a somewhat perfect circle out of stones and placed our newfound antique iron patio set on top. Determined to finish one project before 2013, I graded the soil and seeded it. There are reports of grass before the first snowfall.

I can't finish the chronicle of my previous year without mentioning the other “C” words: Carouge, Canada and Cuba. These once again fulfill my mission by year’s completion. To ensure that my kids like me and want to come back home, I so diligently worked on last year. I took my oldest daughter on a father-daughter excursion to Carouge, Switzerland. A week in Switzerland eating chocolates and singing through the hills had solidified the notion that I am the best dad and that she will be coming home later in life. I now had to convince my other two kids that waited patiently at home. This year we chose Canada as our family vacation, not because it was an election year and everyone threatened to move there. I chose it because of Montreal, which was the closest we’d get to a European city feel without having to purchase five plane tickets. As always it was eight days of wandering, eating and allowing the surplus of time to make the memories. The last “C” was a curveball that wasn't even a thought entering into January 1, 2012, Cuba. Opportunity knocked and patrons joined in my Kickstarter moment that ended the year with me in Cuba and began this year with a few Cuba inspired art shows.

By the time 2012 ended I had finished all my paintings. Some were already hanging and others were under the Christmas tree. I had documented some peoples’ memories brining a smile to their walls. In return I confirmed my “confession” by committing to it, then ventured out to countless countries.

All I can hope for this year is that it not be too demanding. Maybe have more dinners and drinks, drawing and maybe Denmark with just enough dinero to distribute.