Monday, October 19, 2015

A Prison Window


Lee Saloutos is interested in exploring places of confinement and incarceration with his series, Hidden in Plain Sight: The Abandoned Prison. In this series, Saloutos explores the abandoned landscapes of the United States prison system. According to Prison Policy Initiative (PPI), a criminal-justice research and advocacy group, the United States has roughly 2.4 million prisoners that reside mostly in state prisons. [i] In addition, the prison population is estimated to steadily rise. Thus, Saloutos’ series offers a powerful dialogue on the historical beginnings of the United States prison system and consciously comments on its future.

Saloutos’ images in this series focus on a variety of spaces within actual prisons, now unused. He includes images of places within prisons such as deteriorating prison cells, rusting facilities, and dispiriting gas chambers. Each space is distinct and evokes imagery of its past inhabitants. Saloutos’ images of two cells from the same building in the abandoned Missouri State Penitentiary especially resonate with the viewer because of the distinguishable similarities and contrasting differences. More specifically, Saloutos stages both images so that the viewer has a tunnel view into each cell. At the center of each image, is a tall and enveloping window, which provides the only light for the cell. Low and concave ceilings further obstruct the space and emphasize the restrictive nature of the cell to the viewer. Despite these many similarities, the images are contrasting in nature. Missouri State Penitentiary #11 showcases a bare space with illuminated white walls. In comparison, Missouri State Penitentiary #19 is cramped with former furnishings. The walls of this cell are deteriorating, allowing the viewer to see the layers of age incurred by the space.
Lee Saloutos, Missouri State Penitentiary #11, 2012.

The themes of time and age are essential to Saloutos’ images. These themes are very apparent in Missouri State Penitentiary #11 and Missouri State Penitentiary #19. In addition, these images reflect on the important and long history of the Missouri State Penitentiary. At its peak, the Missouri State Penitentiary, which opened in 1836, housed over 5,200 prisoners. [ii] The demand and capacity of the Missouri State Penitentiary is evident by its reputation and legacy as “the bloodiest 47 acres in America.” This title was given to the prison by Time Magazine due to the violent events that commonly occurred there. [iii] However, even after its closure in 2004, the Missouri State Penitentiary's violent reputation persists.


Lee Saloutos, Missouri State Penitentiary #19, 2012.
Saloutos’ images of the Missouri State Penitentiary present a different view of the institution. Without the presence of inhabitants, the prison stands empty, masking its long and frightening history. He shows the prison filled with light, allowing for its spaces and facilities to be seen clearly and critically by viewer. Due to this composition, a struggle occurs within the viewer, who views both a jarring and warm scene. The contradiction between these elements presents a twisted and unsettling beauty. This contrasting experience is essential for understanding Saloutos’ work, which is meant to incite reflection on what occurred in each abandoned space. Ultimately, a viewer can find  both a figurative and literal window into the prison system through Missouri State Penitentiary #11 and Missouri State Penitentiary #19. Therefore, I encourage you to look at both images together and independently in order to grasp the overall impact of Saloutos’ work. Perhaps consider the prisoners and events that occurred within each cell. By doing so, you may be able to discover the boundary between the absence within the prison and the presence of its legacy, which is ultimately maintained and challenged in these images.
Lee Saloutos’ works will be on display as a part of Absence/Presence: Selected Contemporary Photography, an exhibition of 23 photos, on view until November 20, 2015 at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery.
                                             
[i] J.F. (2014, March 16). Whot, what, where, and why. The Economist
[ii] Missouri State Penitentiary: History. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2015, from Missouri State 
     Penitentiary website: http://www.missouripentours.com/history.php 
[iii] Missouri State Penitentiary: History. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2015, from Missouri State 
     Penitentiary website: http://www.missouripentours.com/history.php 
  

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).
 






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Found In Collection

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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Howard Hodgkin: Paintings - May 16, 2012

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Prison Window


Lee Saloutos is interested in exploring places of confinement and incarceration with his series, Hidden in Plain Sight: The Abandoned Prison. In this series, Saloutos explores the abandoned landscapes of the United States prison system. According to Prison Policy Initiative (PPI), a criminal-justice research and advocacy group, the United States has roughly 2.4 million prisoners that reside mostly in state prisons. [i] In addition, the prison population is estimated to steadily rise. Thus, Saloutos’ series offers a powerful dialogue on the historical beginnings of the United States prison system and consciously comments on its future.

Saloutos’ images in this series focus on a variety of spaces within actual prisons, now unused. He includes images of places within prisons such as deteriorating prison cells, rusting facilities, and dispiriting gas chambers. Each space is distinct and evokes imagery of its past inhabitants. Saloutos’ images of two cells from the same building in the abandoned Missouri State Penitentiary especially resonate with the viewer because of the distinguishable similarities and contrasting differences. More specifically, Saloutos stages both images so that the viewer has a tunnel view into each cell. At the center of each image, is a tall and enveloping window, which provides the only light for the cell. Low and concave ceilings further obstruct the space and emphasize the restrictive nature of the cell to the viewer. Despite these many similarities, the images are contrasting in nature. Missouri State Penitentiary #11 showcases a bare space with illuminated white walls. In comparison, Missouri State Penitentiary #19 is cramped with former furnishings. The walls of this cell are deteriorating, allowing the viewer to see the layers of age incurred by the space.
Lee Saloutos, Missouri State Penitentiary #11, 2012.

The themes of time and age are essential to Saloutos’ images. These themes are very apparent in Missouri State Penitentiary #11 and Missouri State Penitentiary #19. In addition, these images reflect on the important and long history of the Missouri State Penitentiary. At its peak, the Missouri State Penitentiary, which opened in 1836, housed over 5,200 prisoners. [ii] The demand and capacity of the Missouri State Penitentiary is evident by its reputation and legacy as “the bloodiest 47 acres in America.” This title was given to the prison by Time Magazine due to the violent events that commonly occurred there. [iii] However, even after its closure in 2004, the Missouri State Penitentiary's violent reputation persists.


Lee Saloutos, Missouri State Penitentiary #19, 2012.
Saloutos’ images of the Missouri State Penitentiary present a different view of the institution. Without the presence of inhabitants, the prison stands empty, masking its long and frightening history. He shows the prison filled with light, allowing for its spaces and facilities to be seen clearly and critically by viewer. Due to this composition, a struggle occurs within the viewer, who views both a jarring and warm scene. The contradiction between these elements presents a twisted and unsettling beauty. This contrasting experience is essential for understanding Saloutos’ work, which is meant to incite reflection on what occurred in each abandoned space. Ultimately, a viewer can find  both a figurative and literal window into the prison system through Missouri State Penitentiary #11 and Missouri State Penitentiary #19. Therefore, I encourage you to look at both images together and independently in order to grasp the overall impact of Saloutos’ work. Perhaps consider the prisoners and events that occurred within each cell. By doing so, you may be able to discover the boundary between the absence within the prison and the presence of its legacy, which is ultimately maintained and challenged in these images.
Lee Saloutos’ works will be on display as a part of Absence/Presence: Selected Contemporary Photography, an exhibition of 23 photos, on view until November 20, 2015 at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery.
                                             
[i] J.F. (2014, March 16). Whot, what, where, and why. The Economist
[ii] Missouri State Penitentiary: History. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2015, from Missouri State 
     Penitentiary website: http://www.missouripentours.com/history.php 
[iii] Missouri State Penitentiary: History. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2015, from Missouri State 
     Penitentiary website: http://www.missouripentours.com/history.php 
  

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).
 






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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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