Friday, April 24, 2015

A Conversation with Robert Reitzfeld





       This past Tuesday, April 21, 2015 I sat down and interviewed one of the artists whose work is on display in the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery's current exhibit, Luminaries: Portraits from the GW Permanent Collection.  His name is Robert Reitzfeld and both he and his wife Lucy have been long-time supporters of and donors to the gallery.  Mr. Reitzfeld was born and raised in the Bronx in the '40s and was inspired by the work of cartoonists in newspapers and comic books from a young age.  As he grew older, his education in art increased and his tastes became more sophisticated.  Even so, he continues to combine elements from comics in his works today.


"Untitled Fragment-(I Remember Liz)"
           In our conversation, we discussed Mr. Reitzfeld's piece, Untitled Fragment-(I Remember Liz), which is on display in Luminaries, along with some of his other series including "Che. An Exploration," "Sleep Safe, America,"and "Landskapes."  He shared with me how his years spent working in advertising, as well as teaching at the The School of Visual Arts in New York City affected him and inspired him as an artist.

        I really enjoyed listening to Mr. Reitzfeld's anecdotes (especially the one where he was in a gallery with John Lennon and Yoko Ono!) and learning about the contemporary artists he is most intrigued by, including Todd Bienvenu, Katherine Bradford, Tony Fitzpatrick, Brenda Goodman, and Duncan Hannah.  It was a great pleasure getting to speak to this lovely man and artist and am looking forward to seeing his future artworks!

For more information on Robert Reitzfeld, check out his website: http://rtzfld.com
Click Here to Listen to the Full Interview: 


-Theodora P. Frangakis





Friday, April 17, 2015

Gallery Assistant Love!

With such a small staff, the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery has always relied on their Gallery Assistants. We pride ourselves in employing a diverse and exceptional group of students every year.  In honor of National Student Employment Week, the Gallery interviewed the three current Gallery Assistants to find out more about them and their interests:


Apeksha  Goonewardena, class of 2016, recently worked with Michelle Mazzuchi on the cases exhibit, Paper Window.  She found her experience selecting the books from the Corcoran Art & Design Collection and working on the text for Paper Window to be very rewarding.  She learned about how such an exhibition was designed and installed.  Learning about the textual and artistic value of artists’ books was a good experience, and valuable to her to work on an exhibition.  She enjoyed the dynamic of exhibition design, and looked forward to the “series” being developed with different themes.

Her academic interests are psychology and art history.  Her Paris trip last summer was great as she got to use her conversational French.  Her family trip also last summer to Sri Lanka, where her family originated, allowed more experience with the culture and its language Singhalese.

Vanessa Morales, class of 2015, is soon to be a GW graduate!  Her studies in French art and literature have stimulated further interest in art history.  She is fluent in Spanish, and her family lives in Chicago.  Her experience helping with the outdoor sculpture project, and the exhibition of paintings and photography, Luminaries gave her an insider view of gallery work.  She expressed that as a student, she did not know about GW’s art collection until she began working with the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery.  She is interested in our collection of pre-Columbian, mostly Mayan ceramics.  The experience of handling original artifacts is essential.  She is interested in fashion and interior design, and may continue her career in graduate school and eventually the Peace Corps.

As an English and Spanish double major, Theodora Frangakis, class of 2017, had a hard time fitting in art courses so she turned to a job at the Gallery to give her the artistic outlet she missed from high school. She has enjoyed meeting so many interesting people while at the Gallery and appreciates what goes into putting up an exhibit.  Attending the unveiling ceremony for a public sculpture by George Zongolopoulos with the Greek Embassy was a highlight for her.  Being at the Gallery then piqued her interest further in exploring more about the arts.  When abroad next year, Theodora has already applied for an internship in the arts in Chile and scoped out cities with artistic reputations in Chile and Brazil.  Before she heads to South America, she'll be spending the summer in New York City working at the public relations firm, Goodman Media.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Essence of Portraiture
Vanessa Morales, Senior, 2015

How can both the Mona Lisa by Leonardo DaVinci and a selfie posted on Instagram by a high school classmate both be considered portraits?

A portrait aims to display a likeness or essence of a person.  Even if a person changes or ages, the portrait will not alter. As Andy Warhol said, “Art never changes, even if people do.”  A portrait can easily tell a story or suggest much about the person or persons within it, even without capturing an exact resemblance.

Some of the earliest known portraits in existence were the 3rd century BC Fayum mummy portraits. These bright, supremely preserved portraits covered the faces of those being mummified for burial.  Although the bodies would decay, the portraits allowed the buried to live forever, unchanged, possessing a sense of permanence. These portraits were painted in encaustic directly onto the coffins of the buried, and have since been removed and placed in museums across the globe.  Since then, portraiture has changed, but the essence of remembrance and honoring those depicted has remained.  Portraits are everywhere: coins, caricatures, statues, billboards, paintings, and photographs.
Currently on display at Luther W. Brady Art Gallery is a show entitled Luminaries: Portraits from the GW Permanent Collection.  The exhibition displays portraits in various mediums highlighting an eclectic collection, including screen prints, photographs, oil paintings, and even a cast iron medallion.
Near the entrance of the exhibit sit the works of Aline Fruhauf.  Her unique approach to portraits comes in the form of woodcut prints.  Alice Longworth, Aldous Huxley, and nine Supreme Court Justices are portrayed in caricature.  Posthumously, her memoir named Making Faces stated, “Caricature was not only a respectable form of art but also a valuable way of documenting human beings.”

Observing the caricature of Alice Longworth by Aline Fruhauf may raise the question: how can it be a portrait if there is no *real* likeness?  This caricature is a woodblock print of a woman who faces away from the viewer, hidden under a chic hat.  One might argue that the vagueness of this person might not make it a portrait at all. Ms. Longworth is dressed in a fashionable dress and with matching accessories of handbag, gloves, heels, and a hat.  Although her face is turned away, the essence of Alice Longworth’s lavish but unconventional and controversial life is indeed captured through her beautiful wardrobe and unreachable persona.  Beneath her caricature is a note by the artist: “Mrs. Longworth facing Dupont Circle,” a neighborhood certainly frequented by her with all of its shops and restaurants.
    
Turning to an oil painting on the other end of the hall, there is a painting by Umberto Romano. This piece, entitled Dostoevsky, appears even further removed than Fruhauf’s portrait.  The canvas of black, red, and yellow paint embellished by swirls of neon colors and dreamlike brush strokes could easily be mistaken for abstract expressionism.  Then something happens.  Upon further inspection of the seemingly spontaneous brush strokes, the shapes in the blue paint towards the bottom center slowly start to take the form of a nose. The eyes of the viewer register a large blue hand and then the other, when suddenly, the impulsive brush strokes become very deliberate, and the portrait of the writer comes forward.  It is difficult to even recognize that there is indeed a figure within this painting, which, like the previous work, begs the question of whether or not it could actually be considered a portrait. 

Romano attempts to capture the spirit of Dostoyevsky, who wrote much about human psychology and existentialism, by visually representing these ideas in this convoluted portrait.

Whether it is the Mona Lisa, Howard Finster’s George at 23, or a 4th grade photograph, the persona of a subject of portraiture is not necessarily seen only through the likeness of the sitter. As we have seen, there are many examples where the spirit of the person is portrayed rather than just superficially.

Luminaries: Portraits for the GW Permanent Collection is on view in the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, MPA Bldg., 2nd floor until April 24, 2015. 






Monday, February 9, 2015

What are Artists' Books?

What is an artist's book and how can it be defined? This and many other questions are posed to students participating in the Corcoran School of Art and Design’s Art and the Book graduate program. The Master’s in Art and the Book focuses on the history and theory behind the rich tradition of book making. Students in this program actively engage in book making during their course of study. By end of the program, students are tasked with creating one collaborative artist’s book as a class, using a single overarching theme.

 Earlier this January, a group of these students exhibited their final book project from the fall semester. Entitled An Exquisite Future, the book revolves around ideas like the advancement of technology, the eminent collapse of the bee population, and the emotions that result from thinking about the unknown. The students composed the book by each completing a unique page. However, students collaborated by basing their page on the previous student’s page each presenting a year in the future. Each student only viewed the previous student’s entry. So, when the book was completed, a full and complete picture of the future emerged.

Sarah Matthews, Untitled, 2014.  
           
An Exquisite Future is one example of an artist’s book, however; it is not the only kind that exists. In fact, there are many forms and variations of artists’ books. This diversity in artists’ books makes it difficult to define the exact nature of these art pieces. According to Frank Furnace, an avant-garde performance art and fine arts nonprofit, “An artist’s book is an object whose primary medium is the idea, as opposed to an object that is valuable by virtue of the materials from which it is made.[1] This is a clarifying definition because it showcases how artists’ books are works of art that are realized in the form of a book, rather than a traditional medium. Therefore, each book varies in materials, images, and ideas. Ultimately, each artist's book is an expression of an idea conceived by the artist.

Artists' books from the Corcoran Art & Design collection will be on display as a part of Paper Window beginning February 11th in the MPA 2nd floor cases.



[1] Lauf, C. (1998). Artist/Author: Contemporary Artists' Books. American Federation of Arts.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Susan Roth’s works are currently on exhibition at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery in an exhibition called Form, Frame, Fold

Susan Roth grows inspired by the naturalism that surrounds her. Whether it is the motion of the waves or the whirl of the wind, she is fascinated by the evidence of nature’s presence and the trail it leaves behind.  In this way, movement becomes key in her oeuvre and can be perceived in different ways.  Being moved from a particular story or event leads Susan Roth to create pieces in which there is much movement. Moving memories are reincarnated through her pieces which embody travel, journey, and transportation via the mediums, textures, colors, or perceptions.  The optimism she develops from these elements she was also able to find in the touching story of Alice Herz-Sommer.  

A piece called Alice’s Piano within the exhibition, and prominently displayed in the show, is the result of an emotional catalyst.  To give a background to the story of Alice Herz-Sommer, Susan Roth tells us,
 “The life of Alice Herz-Sommer talks to the matter of what art is to the working artist.  It is the story of joy:  both making art and being alive.  Turning to Chopin's Etudes, the 27 solo pieces, Herz-Sommer found belief through practice, faith through optimism for the purpose of life.  This attitude to do, to honor, to emulate allowed her great freedom from the anxieties of influence. All this is to say, I trust my methods, [as] painting is artisanal, and allows any inspiration to come from this freedom to search.”

Alice Herz-Sommer was born on November 26, 1903 in Prague, to a German speaking, Jewish family where she was one of five children. 

To avoid the repercussions of what came with the war, her family fled Prague for Palestine.  It was Alice’s decision to stay behind to take care of her ailing mother.  In 1942, her mother was sent to Terezin, a Nazi operated camp.  After deeming that experience as “the lowest point of my life” Mrs. Herz-Sommer decided to begin work on Chopin’s Etudes.

In 1943, Mrs. Herz-Sommer, her husband, and her son were also transported to Terezin, where many of the inmates were among Czechoslovakia’s most renowned musicians and artists.  It was then that Mrs. Herz-Sommer joined the propagandist band, catering to prisoners and Nazi guards, as well as the Red Cross which visited three times a year.  The music seemed to boost the little morale of the camp and gave people joy.

The beauty of this story comes from the music: It was the concerts and music that kept her morale afloat while in Terezin, and it was Chopin’s Etudes that carried her through the rest of her long life.  Though Mrs. Herz-Sommer’s hands were beginning to fail her (she lost use of two of her fingers) she adapted, and it was her musical inclinations that gave her life and enriched her spirits.  Joy and the activities that evoke optimism in the lives of people can also help guide one to realize their purpose of life. Susan Roth says: Alice's Piano is dedicated to this spirit.  The title acknowledges the feelings I have for the picture.  I do hope that the viewer can see my sense of what James Joyce says, always, "the same anew".

Friday, November 14, 2014

Allusions in Susan Roth’s Work




The forms and folds of artist Susan Roth’s work present a dialogue on the use of cultural allusions in artwork. Specifically, Roth’s evocative titles often reference other works of art, media, and history. This is not completely unheard of; yet, Roth creates and assigns these titles after the work is completed. Therefore, Roth is not resigned to incorporating specific cultural allusions into her work; rather they occur naturally and derive from her process.

 
Susan Roth, Time Lord, 2013.
This is especially evident in her piece entitled Time Lord that refers to the ongoing BBC series “Doctor Who”. “Doctor Who” is a British science fiction program that chronicles the adventures of the Doctor, a time lord and humanoid alien. He explores the universe using his abilities while facing adversaries and helping friends. Over the course of its thirty-four seasons, “Doctor Who” has gathered a unique set of devoted fans. In fact, Roth is a fan, who began viewing the series during its original broadcast. It is evident from her steel painting Time Lord that Roth holds a special affinity to the show like most fans.  Like all of her pieces, Roth titled this work after its completion. Thus, the show was not the point of reference or focus during the work’s creation. Yet, Roth resonated with the shared themes of the show and the artwork. In an interview between gallery director Lenore Miller and Roth, the artist reflects on the piece and shares: “The shifting association [of the series] I feel is somehow invoked and similar to the shifts and rifts, the slips and slides, of my canvases, and now the steel as well”.[i] Ultimately, Roth’s feelings toward Time Lord and her process show how allusions become embedded in her artwork so effortlessly.






Susan Roth, Argosy (Conrad), 2013.
Similarly, in Roth’s work Argosy, she alludes to the author Joseph Conrad and his literature. Conrad was a British writer, best known for his novels Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim, which drew on his experience as a mariner in the 1870s. His works of literature often addressed profound themes of nature and existence, offering a revolutionary perspective during his time. Conrad and his works have been alluded to numerously in film. His stories and characters are recognizable in films such as Apocalypse Now and The Duelists. However, in both of these examples, Conrad’s works are cleverly adapted to different settings and conflicts in order to depict the timelessness of his ideas and themes. Yet, it is clear that these projects that these projects purposely used Conrad’s work to serve as inspiration. Comparatively, Argosy is unique in its allusion and medium because it occurs naturally. The allusion to Conrad is visible by the distinctive “C” shape that is embedded into Roth’s steel painting. Ultimately, this piece culturally adds to the previous allusions of Conrad’s work.


Susan Roth, North Country Girl, 2013.
 
Allusions can be powerful in artwork because they can elicit different responses and connotations from viewers. This occurs easily in Roth’s piece North Country Girl. For example, this piece could be an allusion to Bob Dylan’s song “Girl from the North Country”. Dylan wrote this song during a trip to England in 1962 in tribute to a past girlfriend. Since its debut, Dylan’s song has been covered by notable singers like Johnny Cash, Rod Stewart, and Neil Young. Depending on the age and background of the viewer, North Country Girl could be associated with a specific cover or the original song. Whereas, for other viewers, this may not be the allusion that is accessible. In fact, a film entitled North Country was released in 2005 that focused on a historic class action suit between a group of female miners and a mine in northern Minnesota. Although this event is seemingly obscure, it could impact how a knowledgeable viewer interprets the title of Roth’s piece and therefore, her work. Thus, the power of allusions not only impacts the subject of an art piece, but also how that piece is responded to by a body of viewers.
 
 
 
Susan Roth, North Country Girl, 2013.

Susan Roth’s works will be on display as a part of Susan Roth: Form, Frame, Fold until January 30th, 2015 at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery.



[i] Roth, Susan. Interview by Lenore Miller. N.d. Print. (Exhibition Catalogue).
 






Friday, October 3, 2014

Inside the Studio: Barbara Hepworth and St. Ives



Gustave Courbet, The Artist's Studio, 1854
Within the decorated walls of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, there is a work entitled The Artist’s Studio by the realist painter Gustave Courbet. In this painting, Courbet paints himself in the middle of the canvas as he is surrounded by characters of the natural world and subjects of the academy. Yet, despite these distractions around him, Courbet continues to focus on a painting in front of him and forgoes depicting the romanticized images around him. The Artist’s Studio is a compelling painting because of its poignant message about an artist’s responsibility in the world as a mediator of reality. However, it also grandly depicts Courbet within his own studio, allowing every viewer to feel present inside of it. This choice of setting is significant because an artist’s studio is a private sanctum that is often left unshared. It is evident though that these studios are imperative for creation and artistry.
 

Pablo Picasso’s atelier – Cannes, France
Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “An artist’s studio should be a small space because small rooms discipline the mind and large ones distract it”.[1] This intriguing statement by Da Vinci is sensible, yet isn’t true for most acclaimed artists. For example, Pablo Picasso’s studio spaciously resided in his home on the French Riveria. Artist Georgia O’Keeffe worked inside and outside of her ranch styled studio, which encompassed over five-thousand square feet. Comparatively, Jackson Pollock composed his works in a small barn that was initially built to store fishing equipment, the place lacked both heating and artificial light. Clearly, studios range in diversity and complexity, but it is arguable that these places are works of arts in their own right. In order to explore this concept of a studio as a work of art it is important to analyze the properties and components of a specific studio.




                       Georgia O’Keefe’s studio – Abiquiu, New Mexico    Jackson Pollock’s studio – East Hampton, New York


Artist Barbara Hepworth’s studio in her home in St. Ives was turned into a museum after the artist’s death. Hepworth and her family departed London in 1939 upon the outbreak of the World War II and settled in the small community of St. Ives in Cornwall. The war encouraged Hepworth to contemplate her place as an artist with new interest because the emotional link between art and society was now imperative. Although reluctant to depart London, Hepworth ultimately appreciated being decentralized. She felt that St. Ives was a much more responsible and encouraging community, stating, “St. Ives is a small place; but the artists and writers here do, I know, think of you and your work each day.”[2] In this aspect, Hepworth’s art becomes informed by the time and place of her environment.
 
Hepworth was influenced by the war and social engagement around her, which led to a new energy in her artwork. Intriguing, this new energy is present within the physical boundaries of Hepworth’s practice. When Hepworth acquired the Trewyn studio and her St. Ives home, the artist expressed, “ It will be a joy to carve in such a perfect place, both serene and secluded ­– the courtyard and garden are protected by tall trees and roof tops so that I can work out of doors most of the year.”[3] In fact, Hepworth’s Trewyn studio provided workshop spaces for stone carving, plasterwork, and outdoor sculpture. These spaces were maintained separately, yet were never in isolation of one another. The stone carving studio and yard acted as the heart of the studio. Whereas, she alternated between spaces for her bronze and plaster work. Additionally, Hepworth acquired the Palais de Danse, a dance studio, across the street from her Trewyn studio in 1960.  She used this space to craft large-scale works. In fact, on a visit to St. Ives in 2011, gallery director Lenore Miller toured this intimate space and viewed several of Hepworth's private works ( a photograph of this special visit is featured on the left). However, as Hepworth stated, she tried to work outside as much as possible in order to be influenced by the natural coastal echoes and images. Therefore, Hepworth’s practice was unlimited, allowing for freedom in her sculptural pieces.




Two Forms (Divided Circle) 1969 in the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden



Hepworth later shared with a friend that she felt as if she’d discovered an easy flow for the first time in her life after working in the Trewyn studio. She continued to work in this environment over a course of twenty-five years, evolving her preexisting practices and artistic flow. Yet, the studio became Hepworth’s final piece of art, which encapsulated the artist’s spirit and process. Upon Hepworth’s death in 1975, her studio was converted into an active museum, which showcases her studio workshops and outdoor sculpture. In a way, the museum acts as a living vestige or self-portrait of Hepworth. Marble dust from her creations continues to permeate the studio space as her tools and chisels lie still next to unfinished works. The garden and yard celebrate the artist’s life as it presents a biography of her work and career. The influence of St. Ives and the environment are evident from these exhibitions and truly show how an artist’s studio and place can inform their work.
 

Barbara Hepworth’s works and sculptural pieces will be on display at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery as a part of Icons of British Sculpture until October 10th.



[1] http://www.art-quotes.com/getquotes.php?catid=292
[2] Curtis, Penelope, and Alan Wilkinson. Barbara Hepworth: A Retrospective. Liverpool: Tate Gallery
     Publications, 1994. Print.
[3] Ibid.

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Covering exhibits at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery and giving you a peek into the Permanent Collection of the George Washington University.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

A Conversation with Robert Reitzfeld





       This past Tuesday, April 21, 2015 I sat down and interviewed one of the artists whose work is on display in the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery's current exhibit, Luminaries: Portraits from the GW Permanent Collection.  His name is Robert Reitzfeld and both he and his wife Lucy have been long-time supporters of and donors to the gallery.  Mr. Reitzfeld was born and raised in the Bronx in the '40s and was inspired by the work of cartoonists in newspapers and comic books from a young age.  As he grew older, his education in art increased and his tastes became more sophisticated.  Even so, he continues to combine elements from comics in his works today.


"Untitled Fragment-(I Remember Liz)"
           In our conversation, we discussed Mr. Reitzfeld's piece, Untitled Fragment-(I Remember Liz), which is on display in Luminaries, along with some of his other series including "Che. An Exploration," "Sleep Safe, America,"and "Landskapes."  He shared with me how his years spent working in advertising, as well as teaching at the The School of Visual Arts in New York City affected him and inspired him as an artist.

        I really enjoyed listening to Mr. Reitzfeld's anecdotes (especially the one where he was in a gallery with John Lennon and Yoko Ono!) and learning about the contemporary artists he is most intrigued by, including Todd Bienvenu, Katherine Bradford, Tony Fitzpatrick, Brenda Goodman, and Duncan Hannah.  It was a great pleasure getting to speak to this lovely man and artist and am looking forward to seeing his future artworks!

For more information on Robert Reitzfeld, check out his website: http://rtzfld.com
Click Here to Listen to the Full Interview: 


-Theodora P. Frangakis





Friday, April 17, 2015

Gallery Assistant Love!

With such a small staff, the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery has always relied on their Gallery Assistants. We pride ourselves in employing a diverse and exceptional group of students every year.  In honor of National Student Employment Week, the Gallery interviewed the three current Gallery Assistants to find out more about them and their interests:


Apeksha  Goonewardena, class of 2016, recently worked with Michelle Mazzuchi on the cases exhibit, Paper Window.  She found her experience selecting the books from the Corcoran Art & Design Collection and working on the text for Paper Window to be very rewarding.  She learned about how such an exhibition was designed and installed.  Learning about the textual and artistic value of artists’ books was a good experience, and valuable to her to work on an exhibition.  She enjoyed the dynamic of exhibition design, and looked forward to the “series” being developed with different themes.

Her academic interests are psychology and art history.  Her Paris trip last summer was great as she got to use her conversational French.  Her family trip also last summer to Sri Lanka, where her family originated, allowed more experience with the culture and its language Singhalese.

Vanessa Morales, class of 2015, is soon to be a GW graduate!  Her studies in French art and literature have stimulated further interest in art history.  She is fluent in Spanish, and her family lives in Chicago.  Her experience helping with the outdoor sculpture project, and the exhibition of paintings and photography, Luminaries gave her an insider view of gallery work.  She expressed that as a student, she did not know about GW’s art collection until she began working with the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery.  She is interested in our collection of pre-Columbian, mostly Mayan ceramics.  The experience of handling original artifacts is essential.  She is interested in fashion and interior design, and may continue her career in graduate school and eventually the Peace Corps.

As an English and Spanish double major, Theodora Frangakis, class of 2017, had a hard time fitting in art courses so she turned to a job at the Gallery to give her the artistic outlet she missed from high school. She has enjoyed meeting so many interesting people while at the Gallery and appreciates what goes into putting up an exhibit.  Attending the unveiling ceremony for a public sculpture by George Zongolopoulos with the Greek Embassy was a highlight for her.  Being at the Gallery then piqued her interest further in exploring more about the arts.  When abroad next year, Theodora has already applied for an internship in the arts in Chile and scoped out cities with artistic reputations in Chile and Brazil.  Before she heads to South America, she'll be spending the summer in New York City working at the public relations firm, Goodman Media.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Essence of Portraiture
Vanessa Morales, Senior, 2015

How can both the Mona Lisa by Leonardo DaVinci and a selfie posted on Instagram by a high school classmate both be considered portraits?

A portrait aims to display a likeness or essence of a person.  Even if a person changes or ages, the portrait will not alter. As Andy Warhol said, “Art never changes, even if people do.”  A portrait can easily tell a story or suggest much about the person or persons within it, even without capturing an exact resemblance.

Some of the earliest known portraits in existence were the 3rd century BC Fayum mummy portraits. These bright, supremely preserved portraits covered the faces of those being mummified for burial.  Although the bodies would decay, the portraits allowed the buried to live forever, unchanged, possessing a sense of permanence. These portraits were painted in encaustic directly onto the coffins of the buried, and have since been removed and placed in museums across the globe.  Since then, portraiture has changed, but the essence of remembrance and honoring those depicted has remained.  Portraits are everywhere: coins, caricatures, statues, billboards, paintings, and photographs.
Currently on display at Luther W. Brady Art Gallery is a show entitled Luminaries: Portraits from the GW Permanent Collection.  The exhibition displays portraits in various mediums highlighting an eclectic collection, including screen prints, photographs, oil paintings, and even a cast iron medallion.
Near the entrance of the exhibit sit the works of Aline Fruhauf.  Her unique approach to portraits comes in the form of woodcut prints.  Alice Longworth, Aldous Huxley, and nine Supreme Court Justices are portrayed in caricature.  Posthumously, her memoir named Making Faces stated, “Caricature was not only a respectable form of art but also a valuable way of documenting human beings.”

Observing the caricature of Alice Longworth by Aline Fruhauf may raise the question: how can it be a portrait if there is no *real* likeness?  This caricature is a woodblock print of a woman who faces away from the viewer, hidden under a chic hat.  One might argue that the vagueness of this person might not make it a portrait at all. Ms. Longworth is dressed in a fashionable dress and with matching accessories of handbag, gloves, heels, and a hat.  Although her face is turned away, the essence of Alice Longworth’s lavish but unconventional and controversial life is indeed captured through her beautiful wardrobe and unreachable persona.  Beneath her caricature is a note by the artist: “Mrs. Longworth facing Dupont Circle,” a neighborhood certainly frequented by her with all of its shops and restaurants.
    
Turning to an oil painting on the other end of the hall, there is a painting by Umberto Romano. This piece, entitled Dostoevsky, appears even further removed than Fruhauf’s portrait.  The canvas of black, red, and yellow paint embellished by swirls of neon colors and dreamlike brush strokes could easily be mistaken for abstract expressionism.  Then something happens.  Upon further inspection of the seemingly spontaneous brush strokes, the shapes in the blue paint towards the bottom center slowly start to take the form of a nose. The eyes of the viewer register a large blue hand and then the other, when suddenly, the impulsive brush strokes become very deliberate, and the portrait of the writer comes forward.  It is difficult to even recognize that there is indeed a figure within this painting, which, like the previous work, begs the question of whether or not it could actually be considered a portrait. 

Romano attempts to capture the spirit of Dostoyevsky, who wrote much about human psychology and existentialism, by visually representing these ideas in this convoluted portrait.

Whether it is the Mona Lisa, Howard Finster’s George at 23, or a 4th grade photograph, the persona of a subject of portraiture is not necessarily seen only through the likeness of the sitter. As we have seen, there are many examples where the spirit of the person is portrayed rather than just superficially.

Luminaries: Portraits for the GW Permanent Collection is on view in the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, MPA Bldg., 2nd floor until April 24, 2015. 






Monday, February 9, 2015

What are Artists' Books?

What is an artist's book and how can it be defined? This and many other questions are posed to students participating in the Corcoran School of Art and Design’s Art and the Book graduate program. The Master’s in Art and the Book focuses on the history and theory behind the rich tradition of book making. Students in this program actively engage in book making during their course of study. By end of the program, students are tasked with creating one collaborative artist’s book as a class, using a single overarching theme.

 Earlier this January, a group of these students exhibited their final book project from the fall semester. Entitled An Exquisite Future, the book revolves around ideas like the advancement of technology, the eminent collapse of the bee population, and the emotions that result from thinking about the unknown. The students composed the book by each completing a unique page. However, students collaborated by basing their page on the previous student’s page each presenting a year in the future. Each student only viewed the previous student’s entry. So, when the book was completed, a full and complete picture of the future emerged.

Sarah Matthews, Untitled, 2014.  
           
An Exquisite Future is one example of an artist’s book, however; it is not the only kind that exists. In fact, there are many forms and variations of artists’ books. This diversity in artists’ books makes it difficult to define the exact nature of these art pieces. According to Frank Furnace, an avant-garde performance art and fine arts nonprofit, “An artist’s book is an object whose primary medium is the idea, as opposed to an object that is valuable by virtue of the materials from which it is made.[1] This is a clarifying definition because it showcases how artists’ books are works of art that are realized in the form of a book, rather than a traditional medium. Therefore, each book varies in materials, images, and ideas. Ultimately, each artist's book is an expression of an idea conceived by the artist.

Artists' books from the Corcoran Art & Design collection will be on display as a part of Paper Window beginning February 11th in the MPA 2nd floor cases.



[1] Lauf, C. (1998). Artist/Author: Contemporary Artists' Books. American Federation of Arts.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Susan Roth’s works are currently on exhibition at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery in an exhibition called Form, Frame, Fold

Susan Roth grows inspired by the naturalism that surrounds her. Whether it is the motion of the waves or the whirl of the wind, she is fascinated by the evidence of nature’s presence and the trail it leaves behind.  In this way, movement becomes key in her oeuvre and can be perceived in different ways.  Being moved from a particular story or event leads Susan Roth to create pieces in which there is much movement. Moving memories are reincarnated through her pieces which embody travel, journey, and transportation via the mediums, textures, colors, or perceptions.  The optimism she develops from these elements she was also able to find in the touching story of Alice Herz-Sommer.  

A piece called Alice’s Piano within the exhibition, and prominently displayed in the show, is the result of an emotional catalyst.  To give a background to the story of Alice Herz-Sommer, Susan Roth tells us,
 “The life of Alice Herz-Sommer talks to the matter of what art is to the working artist.  It is the story of joy:  both making art and being alive.  Turning to Chopin's Etudes, the 27 solo pieces, Herz-Sommer found belief through practice, faith through optimism for the purpose of life.  This attitude to do, to honor, to emulate allowed her great freedom from the anxieties of influence. All this is to say, I trust my methods, [as] painting is artisanal, and allows any inspiration to come from this freedom to search.”

Alice Herz-Sommer was born on November 26, 1903 in Prague, to a German speaking, Jewish family where she was one of five children. 

To avoid the repercussions of what came with the war, her family fled Prague for Palestine.  It was Alice’s decision to stay behind to take care of her ailing mother.  In 1942, her mother was sent to Terezin, a Nazi operated camp.  After deeming that experience as “the lowest point of my life” Mrs. Herz-Sommer decided to begin work on Chopin’s Etudes.

In 1943, Mrs. Herz-Sommer, her husband, and her son were also transported to Terezin, where many of the inmates were among Czechoslovakia’s most renowned musicians and artists.  It was then that Mrs. Herz-Sommer joined the propagandist band, catering to prisoners and Nazi guards, as well as the Red Cross which visited three times a year.  The music seemed to boost the little morale of the camp and gave people joy.

The beauty of this story comes from the music: It was the concerts and music that kept her morale afloat while in Terezin, and it was Chopin’s Etudes that carried her through the rest of her long life.  Though Mrs. Herz-Sommer’s hands were beginning to fail her (she lost use of two of her fingers) she adapted, and it was her musical inclinations that gave her life and enriched her spirits.  Joy and the activities that evoke optimism in the lives of people can also help guide one to realize their purpose of life. Susan Roth says: Alice's Piano is dedicated to this spirit.  The title acknowledges the feelings I have for the picture.  I do hope that the viewer can see my sense of what James Joyce says, always, "the same anew".

Friday, November 14, 2014

Allusions in Susan Roth’s Work




The forms and folds of artist Susan Roth’s work present a dialogue on the use of cultural allusions in artwork. Specifically, Roth’s evocative titles often reference other works of art, media, and history. This is not completely unheard of; yet, Roth creates and assigns these titles after the work is completed. Therefore, Roth is not resigned to incorporating specific cultural allusions into her work; rather they occur naturally and derive from her process.

 
Susan Roth, Time Lord, 2013.
This is especially evident in her piece entitled Time Lord that refers to the ongoing BBC series “Doctor Who”. “Doctor Who” is a British science fiction program that chronicles the adventures of the Doctor, a time lord and humanoid alien. He explores the universe using his abilities while facing adversaries and helping friends. Over the course of its thirty-four seasons, “Doctor Who” has gathered a unique set of devoted fans. In fact, Roth is a fan, who began viewing the series during its original broadcast. It is evident from her steel painting Time Lord that Roth holds a special affinity to the show like most fans.  Like all of her pieces, Roth titled this work after its completion. Thus, the show was not the point of reference or focus during the work’s creation. Yet, Roth resonated with the shared themes of the show and the artwork. In an interview between gallery director Lenore Miller and Roth, the artist reflects on the piece and shares: “The shifting association [of the series] I feel is somehow invoked and similar to the shifts and rifts, the slips and slides, of my canvases, and now the steel as well”.[i] Ultimately, Roth’s feelings toward Time Lord and her process show how allusions become embedded in her artwork so effortlessly.






Susan Roth, Argosy (Conrad), 2013.
Similarly, in Roth’s work Argosy, she alludes to the author Joseph Conrad and his literature. Conrad was a British writer, best known for his novels Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim, which drew on his experience as a mariner in the 1870s. His works of literature often addressed profound themes of nature and existence, offering a revolutionary perspective during his time. Conrad and his works have been alluded to numerously in film. His stories and characters are recognizable in films such as Apocalypse Now and The Duelists. However, in both of these examples, Conrad’s works are cleverly adapted to different settings and conflicts in order to depict the timelessness of his ideas and themes. Yet, it is clear that these projects that these projects purposely used Conrad’s work to serve as inspiration. Comparatively, Argosy is unique in its allusion and medium because it occurs naturally. The allusion to Conrad is visible by the distinctive “C” shape that is embedded into Roth’s steel painting. Ultimately, this piece culturally adds to the previous allusions of Conrad’s work.


Susan Roth, North Country Girl, 2013.
 
Allusions can be powerful in artwork because they can elicit different responses and connotations from viewers. This occurs easily in Roth’s piece North Country Girl. For example, this piece could be an allusion to Bob Dylan’s song “Girl from the North Country”. Dylan wrote this song during a trip to England in 1962 in tribute to a past girlfriend. Since its debut, Dylan’s song has been covered by notable singers like Johnny Cash, Rod Stewart, and Neil Young. Depending on the age and background of the viewer, North Country Girl could be associated with a specific cover or the original song. Whereas, for other viewers, this may not be the allusion that is accessible. In fact, a film entitled North Country was released in 2005 that focused on a historic class action suit between a group of female miners and a mine in northern Minnesota. Although this event is seemingly obscure, it could impact how a knowledgeable viewer interprets the title of Roth’s piece and therefore, her work. Thus, the power of allusions not only impacts the subject of an art piece, but also how that piece is responded to by a body of viewers.
 
 
 
Susan Roth, North Country Girl, 2013.

Susan Roth’s works will be on display as a part of Susan Roth: Form, Frame, Fold until January 30th, 2015 at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery.



[i] Roth, Susan. Interview by Lenore Miller. N.d. Print. (Exhibition Catalogue).
 






Friday, October 3, 2014

Inside the Studio: Barbara Hepworth and St. Ives



Gustave Courbet, The Artist's Studio, 1854
Within the decorated walls of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, there is a work entitled The Artist’s Studio by the realist painter Gustave Courbet. In this painting, Courbet paints himself in the middle of the canvas as he is surrounded by characters of the natural world and subjects of the academy. Yet, despite these distractions around him, Courbet continues to focus on a painting in front of him and forgoes depicting the romanticized images around him. The Artist’s Studio is a compelling painting because of its poignant message about an artist’s responsibility in the world as a mediator of reality. However, it also grandly depicts Courbet within his own studio, allowing every viewer to feel present inside of it. This choice of setting is significant because an artist’s studio is a private sanctum that is often left unshared. It is evident though that these studios are imperative for creation and artistry.
 

Pablo Picasso’s atelier – Cannes, France
Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “An artist’s studio should be a small space because small rooms discipline the mind and large ones distract it”.[1] This intriguing statement by Da Vinci is sensible, yet isn’t true for most acclaimed artists. For example, Pablo Picasso’s studio spaciously resided in his home on the French Riveria. Artist Georgia O’Keeffe worked inside and outside of her ranch styled studio, which encompassed over five-thousand square feet. Comparatively, Jackson Pollock composed his works in a small barn that was initially built to store fishing equipment, the place lacked both heating and artificial light. Clearly, studios range in diversity and complexity, but it is arguable that these places are works of arts in their own right. In order to explore this concept of a studio as a work of art it is important to analyze the properties and components of a specific studio.




                       Georgia O’Keefe’s studio – Abiquiu, New Mexico    Jackson Pollock’s studio – East Hampton, New York


Artist Barbara Hepworth’s studio in her home in St. Ives was turned into a museum after the artist’s death. Hepworth and her family departed London in 1939 upon the outbreak of the World War II and settled in the small community of St. Ives in Cornwall. The war encouraged Hepworth to contemplate her place as an artist with new interest because the emotional link between art and society was now imperative. Although reluctant to depart London, Hepworth ultimately appreciated being decentralized. She felt that St. Ives was a much more responsible and encouraging community, stating, “St. Ives is a small place; but the artists and writers here do, I know, think of you and your work each day.”[2] In this aspect, Hepworth’s art becomes informed by the time and place of her environment.
 
Hepworth was influenced by the war and social engagement around her, which led to a new energy in her artwork. Intriguing, this new energy is present within the physical boundaries of Hepworth’s practice. When Hepworth acquired the Trewyn studio and her St. Ives home, the artist expressed, “ It will be a joy to carve in such a perfect place, both serene and secluded ­– the courtyard and garden are protected by tall trees and roof tops so that I can work out of doors most of the year.”[3] In fact, Hepworth’s Trewyn studio provided workshop spaces for stone carving, plasterwork, and outdoor sculpture. These spaces were maintained separately, yet were never in isolation of one another. The stone carving studio and yard acted as the heart of the studio. Whereas, she alternated between spaces for her bronze and plaster work. Additionally, Hepworth acquired the Palais de Danse, a dance studio, across the street from her Trewyn studio in 1960.  She used this space to craft large-scale works. In fact, on a visit to St. Ives in 2011, gallery director Lenore Miller toured this intimate space and viewed several of Hepworth's private works ( a photograph of this special visit is featured on the left). However, as Hepworth stated, she tried to work outside as much as possible in order to be influenced by the natural coastal echoes and images. Therefore, Hepworth’s practice was unlimited, allowing for freedom in her sculptural pieces.




Two Forms (Divided Circle) 1969 in the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden



Hepworth later shared with a friend that she felt as if she’d discovered an easy flow for the first time in her life after working in the Trewyn studio. She continued to work in this environment over a course of twenty-five years, evolving her preexisting practices and artistic flow. Yet, the studio became Hepworth’s final piece of art, which encapsulated the artist’s spirit and process. Upon Hepworth’s death in 1975, her studio was converted into an active museum, which showcases her studio workshops and outdoor sculpture. In a way, the museum acts as a living vestige or self-portrait of Hepworth. Marble dust from her creations continues to permeate the studio space as her tools and chisels lie still next to unfinished works. The garden and yard celebrate the artist’s life as it presents a biography of her work and career. The influence of St. Ives and the environment are evident from these exhibitions and truly show how an artist’s studio and place can inform their work.
 

Barbara Hepworth’s works and sculptural pieces will be on display at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery as a part of Icons of British Sculpture until October 10th.



[1] http://www.art-quotes.com/getquotes.php?catid=292
[2] Curtis, Penelope, and Alan Wilkinson. Barbara Hepworth: A Retrospective. Liverpool: Tate Gallery
     Publications, 1994. Print.
[3] Ibid.

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Washington, District of Columbia, United States
"Found In Collection" or simply "FIC" is the way many museums classify the more mysterious items in their possession that have little or no documentation. Here at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery of the George Washington University, we do keep extensive records of our collection, but some of the items we come across in academic buildings or our own storage can leave us wondering. This blog is an effort to showcase some of the more curious examples and their stories, and to provide a glimpse of the great variety of art pieces within the collection. To learn more about the Brady Gallery's history, recent exhibitions, or the George Washington University, take a look at the links below.

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