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ART COLORADO November/December 2011


ART COLORADO November/December 2011

14 Brianna Martray at DIA

10 Clyfford Still Museum

26 Cover Artist

Ricky Allman

18 Herbert Bayer 22 343 Dresses in L.A.

BOOKS ARTISTS

37 Van Gogh Reconsidered

28 Kathy Knaus 30 Mark Bennett-Howell Richard Kalisher PUBLISHER 32 Ashley Christine Bauer 34 Blake Flynn

Donovan Stanley EDITOR Eric Kalisher DESIGN Contributing Writers Tracy Tomko, Nikki Sapp Hugo Anderson, Robert Carasso Theresa Anderson

Advertising Inquiries rkpublisher@gmail.com 561.542.6028 / Richard Kalisher

Š 2011 R.K. Graphics. All Rights Reserved. Some information reprinted from press materials.


The Birth Of Venus

Barry Rose

Departure /Arrival

Painting with glazes on terra cotta and Totems by Ellen Reynolds

November 4 ~ December 24, 2011

15 artists interpretations December 28, 2011~ February 4, 2012

knoll gallery niza

915 Santa Fe Drive / Denver, Colorado 80204

303-953-1789 / nizak@mac.com / www.nizaknollgallery.com


THE CLYFFORD STILL MUSEUM: A HISTORY OF THE ARTIST

On November 18, 2011, the Clyfford Still Museum will open in Denver, reintroducing the public to the life and work of one of America’s most significant yet least understood artists. Housing 94% of Clyfford Still’s total creative output, the museum showcases the full scope of the artist’s 60-year career, including his rarely seen figurative works from the 1930s, paintings from the 1960s and 1970s created after Still’s retreat from the commercial art world, and the hundreds of works on paper that the artist created, often on a neardaily basis. The museum’s collection of approximately 2,400 paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures, the majority of which have never been on public display before, will provide an unprecedented opportunity to reflect on the full scope of Still’s legacy and his profound influence on American art.

Designed by Brad Cloepfil and Allied Works Architecture, the new museum will provide visitors with an intimate environment to experience the art of Clyfford Still. The museum’s inaugural exhibition, cocurated by Director Dean Sobel and Adjunct Curator David Anfam, will feature approximately 110 works drawn from the Still collection, exploring both his early arrival at complete abstraction as well as the ongoing significance of figuration on his later work. The exhibition will include a number of paintings, works on paper, and objects from Still’s personal archives that have never previously been displayed. It will also include the only three Still sculptures still in existence. “Still is considered among the most important and influential painters of the twentieth century, though the vast majority of his work has never been

exhibited publicly,” said Dean Sobel, Director of the Clyfford Still Museum. “Our prior knowledge of Still was based on a small fraction of works that were in the public realm, a mere six percent of the artist’s creative output. The opening of this museum will provide unprecedented insight into the life and work of Clyfford Still, and will redefine how the artist is considered within the art historical canon.” After achieving national recognition and prominence for his abstract works in the 1940s and early 1950s, Still ended his relationship with commercial galleries in 1951, infrequently exhibiting his work thereafter. Following the artist’s death in 1980, the Still collection, comprising approximately 2,400 works by the artist, was sealed off completely from public and scholarly view. Still’s will stipulated that his estate


be given in its entirety to an American city willing to establish “permanent quarters” dedicated solely to his work, ensuring its survival for exhibition and study. In August 2004, the City of Denver, under the leadership of then Mayor John Hickenlooper, was selected by Still’s wife, Patricia Still, to receive the substantial Still collection. In 2005, Patricia Still also bequeathed to the city her own estate, which included select works by her husband as well as his complete archive. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper see the potential of the museum to help gain further attention for Colorado’s arts community. “Having one of the most comprehensive single-artist museums in the world in Denver is an incredible collection for the city and our state.” Designed by Brad Cloepfil and Allied Works Architecture, the Clyfford Still Museum is a dense, cantilevered two-story building of richly worked concrete. Featuring nine light-filled galleries on its second level, as well as a library, educational and archival resources, a conservation studio, and collection storage on its first floor, the 28,500-square-foot museum presents a compelling environment in which to view and appreciate Still’s work and learn about his life and impact. “This new building for the work of the artist Clyfford Still provides an intensely intimate and introspective relationship with his art,” says architect Brad Cloepfil. “The building is conceived as a nearly geologic experience, one that firmly holds both visitor and art in spaces amplified by natural light. The sequence from city, to park, to building creates a ceremony of repose that prepares the visitor for a personal and very physical relationship with this incredibly important body of drawings and paintings — whose power and presence are revealed

in natural light for the first time.” One first encounters the museum through a grove of trees and landscaped forecourt, which provides a place of contemplation, decompression, and transition from the museum’s surrounding urban context. Through the trees, the structure of the building is visible, consisting of cast-in-place architectural concrete walls with a variety of surface relief and texture. The façade features thin, vertical lines of concrete that project from the building’s surface in a fractured, organic, and random pattern, creating a rich surface that changes in the intense Denver sunlight and forms varied shadows across the building. The entry is revealed beneath a canopy of trees, and visitors are welcomed into the museum by a low, long reception lobby. Visitors rise from the lobby and reception area toward the natural light falling from the galleries on the second floor. The museum’s second level features nine light-filled galleries, totaling approximately 10,000 square feet. Each gallery is distinctly defined and proportioned to respond to specific aspects and needs of the collection and helps trace the distinct phases of Still’s career in chronological sequence. Gallery heights vary from 12 to 17 feet to accommodate changes in scale and media and to establish an intimacy with the

art. Two outdoor terraces and an education gallery offer visitors a moment of reflection and investigation during the

gallery sequence, and allow them to reorient themselves with the surrounding and distant landscape. Moving between galleries, visitors are providedglimpses into the collection storage and interpretive galleries on the first level. The visitor’s experience of the collection will be enlivened by natural light that enters the galleries through a series of skylights over a cast-inplace,perforated concrete ceiling (see below). The geometry of openings in the ceiling creates an even field of soft and changing daylight in the galleries. Diffusing glass, motorized shades, and electric light give curatorial flexibility to the gallery spaces, helping to support different gallery configurations and the museum’s rotating exhibition program. Upon completing the primary gallery sequence, visitors may descend back to the museum’s first level to explore the painting storage, archive, and exhibition spaces. An open doublehigh corridor connects these facilities and will serve as an exhibition hall allowing visitors to further their learning of the history and life of Clyfford Still. A “timeline” section of the corridor places the artist’s work in context with historic events and other artistic movements, and an “archive” hallway presents the everyday artifacts of the artist’s life and information about his painting technique and media. From this corridor, visitors will also be able view the collection storage rooms, and assess the number of paintings produced during the artist’s prolific career. A visible conservation lab and a research center offer visitors additional resources for furthering their knowledge of Still’s career. This open corridor speaks to the institution’s founding principle of unveiling this once-private and very personal collection to the public, as it invites a gradual immersion in the works of Still.


The museum’s inaugural exhibition will present a comprehensive survey of Still’s artistic career from 1925 through the late 1970s, documenting the development of his primary imagery and his early arrival at what would be considered Abstract Expressionism. The exhibition is the first to explore Still’s pre-World War II figurative work, which points to the significance of figuration throughout the artist’s career. The exhibition will also consider rarely seen paintings and drawings produced by Still after he retreated from the New York art world to Maryland in 1961, providing visitors with a greater understanding of Still’s impact on and relevance to Abstract Expressionism. Installed chronologically over the course of nine discrete galleries on the Museum’s second floor, the exhibition establishes a chronology of Still’s 60-year career to provide an overview of the stylistic evolution of his oeuvre and the places where he created these works—including Alberta, Canada; eastern Washington State; Richmond, Virginia; San Francisco; New York City; and rural Maryland. The first exhibition galleries will include Still’s figurative and landscape paintings from the late 1920s and early 1930s, which demonstrate his representational style and introduce characteristics that mark his later work. Never-before-seen paintings, drawings, and prints made by Still in the 1940s reveal the artist’s arrival at characteristics of Abstract Expressionism earlier than peers such as Pollock, Rothko, and De Kooning. Still’s rarely displayed works on paper from all periods of his career, and his works from the 1960s and 1970s, which are marked by a lighter palette and greater economy of imagery, will also be displayed. The exhibition is accompanied by a presentation of select objects from the Clyfford Still Archives, including letters, photographs, tools and materials, and various personal effects. The museum is located in the heart of the Denver’s Civic Center Cultural Complex, near the Denver Art Museum. Visit clyffordstillmuseum.org

Clyfford Still: (above) PH-343, 1937, oil on canvas, 45” x 35.5”, (below) PH-1023, 1976, oil on canvas, 114” x 172”. Both Images: Clyfford Still Museum Collection. © Clyfford Still Estate


"Sherbet Meltdown", 2011. 60" x 60"

Acrylic, enamel, ink and charcoal on raw canvas.

lauramoretz

3507 ringsby court, suite 114 denver, colorado 80216

www.lauramoretz.com I twitter @lauramoretz


Brianna Martray’s “Shadow Happy” at Denver International Airport Introduction by Mark Penner-Howell | Interview by Tracy Tomko

There are any number of ways to experience an air-

port. But given the pat-downs and digital undressings, the chronic flight delays and the human tendency to run just a bit late for pretty much everything, then it’s easy to understand why public art of any kind is all but invisible to many harried travelers. In this context it’s especially remarkable that a work as subtle and contemplative as Brianna Martray’s Shadow Happy, not only holds it’s own, but literally activates the space it occupies, on the walkway between the main terminal and Concourse A at Denver International Airport. I have watched as travelers stop conversations mid-sentence when they suddenly notice the ten thousand white origami cranes, and little circles of glued glass fragments, swooping and swirling around the columns and overhead spaces of the walkway. These ephemeral materials, paper and glass, are brought to life by the ever-changing shadows and reflections cast by the movement of sun and cloud throughout the day.

14 Art Colorado Nov/Dec 2011

The experience is further enhanced by the sense of motion the installation has when viewed from the moving walkway. It is simply amazing to watch as a work of art so delicate interrupts the cares of busy travelers. A lot of artists talk about how important it is to follow where the artwork leads. In Shadow Happy, Martray has followed as her work led into some very fertile, if unfamiliar territory. Several years ago Martray finished a novel. A coming-of-age story. After a NY literary agent requested a copy, Martray re-read it, and decided against submitting it for publication. In her own words, the story “wasn’t good enough.” It seemed Martray had outgrown her protagonist, and rather than go back into the work, she shelved it, and began to explore painting as a creative outlet. What does an artist-in-transition do with stacks and stacks of manuscript that aren’t good enough? In Martray’s case she began folding paper cranes, page by page. Over the next several years she experimented successfully with both painting and Photos: Tony Gallagher


metal sculpture. All the while folding cranes. Over time it became clear that the novel was going to have another life. By daring to dismantle her novel and step away from her original intentions, Martray had transformed her nascent literary exploration into something far more profound and inclusive. Each origami crane contains bits of the original text, and so provides a mysterious and fragmented glimpse

Tracy Tomko: When did you start

folding the pages of your manuscript into origami cranes? And why?

Brianna Martray: The folding began

in the fall of 2006. I had been staring at stacks of manuscript pages scattered throughout my house for years, but they still seemed too precious to casually toss into the recycling bin. Once I started folding my novel, I had vague ideas for a future installation. My first instinct was to dye them all because my work at that time was based on the emotional response to color. I thought to create a 3D mosaic with them, but the ideas shifted endlessly and nothing serious ever took hold. When my

into the piece’s origins, but it’s no accident that the story has been folded into thousands of birds which now soar across an immense public space. By offering the manuscript up as raw material for complete recycling, Shadow Happy both embodies the original coming-of-age story and signals Martray’s emergence as a mature artist capable of truly expansive and moving work. — Mark Penner-Howell

computer and backup copy of the digital version of the novel were stolen, the poetry was too big to ignore. I realized that the only complete copy was now folded into origami cranes. It wasn’t even possible that I could just unfold, since I had cut many of the pages to make a variety of sizes. TT: How did the circles of glued broken glass come to be? BM: More than a decade ago, and before all the advancements in security at airports, my boyfriend at the time and I loved to drive out to Denver International Airport (DIA) in the middle of the night, to wander around and talk.

On one of those evenings, we were talking about the interconnectedness we saw in everyone and everything. We wanted a symbol for what we meant and eventually came up with the idea of the glass. We visualized everyone as pieces of the greater whole, being a sheet of glass. Then with purpose, for the thrill and for the experience of it, and because it was too lonely not to, the glass shattered. It was decided that we were more beautiful broken. That analogy made its way into “Barefoot Bearing Weight” at a crucial moment in the story. So, it was born at the airport, written in the pages of the cranes, and is shown in physical representation of our circles of community, with the glued Feature

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glass circles finding their way back to the very space where the idea was conceived. It’s so interesting to me that it has all come back to the airport. TT: When did the connection between the cranes and the glass circles happen for you? BM: After I realized that the only remaining copy of the final draft of my novel was all folded up, I knew I wanted to express the poignancy of the circumstances in some way that you could feel the tension between the different elements of it. At first the installation was going to have three parts: environment, self, and community. Environment was to be represented by black and white paintings done in the same vein of my abstracted, surreal landscapes of the past, with self being the cranes, and community the broken glass glued into circles. The layout didn’t really come together until I took the 2D work out of it. I wasn’t able to visualize it in the

space until I let go of creating a false environment for it. TT: How did “Shadow Happy” come to be a part of the art at Denver International Airport? BM: A friend and I were recently marveling at that very thing. In 2006, when I had a large number of cranes folded, she had asked what I was going to do with them, and I casually answered, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could put them up at DIA?” When I decided to install “Shadow Happy” at Core New Art Space, as my show in 2010, I wasn’t thinking about anything more than that until I realized it would have to come back down in three weeks, so that the next show could go up. A friend of a friend called the public art coordinator at the airport and they contacted me to schedule a time to see it. There was a long process of finding the right place in the airport, submitting a proposal, and getting approval for the project.

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TT: Did the change in setting [from a gallery to the airport] change the feeling of the piece in any significant ways? BM: The bridge to Concourse A, at DIA, feels like the most perfect place for it. Though it was beautiful and I was really satisfied with the way it showed at Core, I now know it was a little “closed in” by the walls. At the airport it has the advantage of the windows allowing the sky to be the backdrop. They also add the natural light, which makes really dynamic and ever changing shadows. It looks completely different in the day than the night or on a cloudy day versus a sunny one. The way that it grew with the space is incredible and it seems like the whole thing could just keep flying, since there are no walls at either end of the bridge. Shadow Happy is on view at Denver International Airport on the pedestrian bridge to Concourse A. For more information, visit flydenver.com/artexhibits Photo: Mark Penner-Howell


Shana M Zimmerman

Green Room VI (detail) 30x44 Oil

El Centro

102 E. Water Street Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 505-988-2727 info@joewadefineart.com www.joewadefineart.com

shanazimmerman.com

shanazimmerman@gmail.com

520-620-0236


Herbert Bayer: Bauhaus by Hugo Anderson

Bauhaus and our very sense of what is modern in twentieth century art and design are practically synonymous. We are surrounded in our everyday lives by the designs and theories put into practice by the Bauhaus. While the school of the Bauhaus existed only from 1919 to 1933, its principals and influence resonate today because of the achievements of the artists and architects associated with it: Walter Gropius, Paul Klee, Vassily Kandinsky, Joseph Alpers, Lyonel Feininger, Laszlo MoholyNagy, Warner Drewes and Herbert Bayer. By definition Bauhaus means construction or architecture (bau) and house (haus) in German. It was the creation of Walter Gropius, who in 1919 assumed control of the Weimar School of the Arts and Crafts and the Weimar Academy of Fine Art. He combined the two into the Weimar Bauhaus School. It was Gropius’ intention to create a new generation of craftsmen without the class distinctions between craftsmen and artists. No doubt it

“No institution has affected the course of twentieth century art and design so profoundly as the Bauhaus. Its impact is staggering. Bauhaus precedents provide sources for everything from the appearance of our urban skylines to the modern dinnerware on our hard-edged, contemporary tables. They are found in virtually every functionally designed object and graphic today.” - Gwen Chanzit

Curator, Herbert Bayer Archive at the Denver Art Museum 18 Art Colorado Nov/Dec 2011


and Beyond was an attempt to build something new and positive out of the ashes of World War I when Gropius stated “Let us desire, conceive, and create the new building of the future together.” The central concept was that no one art form was inherently better than any other and that the fine arts and applied arts must be studied and used together. Through good design the new artist/craftsman would create a better world. The very fact that easel painting was replaced in the curriculum by mural painting showed Gropius’ commitment to integrate all the arts within architecture. Of all of the artists associated with the Bauhaus during its brief 15 years, it is Herbert Bayer (1900-1985) who actually devoted a lifetime to a career which incorporated the ideal of total integration of the arts, in design, advertising, architecture, public sculpture and painting. Herbert Bayer was born April 5, 1900 in Haag am Hausruch, Austria. Because of a book he read by Vassily Kandinsky (Concerning the Spiritual in Art) he enrolled at Weimar Bauhaus at the age of 21. He actually arrived at the Bauhaus six months before Kandinsky began teaching. Bayer studied at the Bauhaus for two years, taking a leave in 1923 to travel through Italy. He had arrived at the Bauhaus with almost no prior background in art, and thus offered the perfect “blank slate” upon which to create the essential Bauhaus artist. Since the Bauhaus offered no art history in its curriculum it made sense to expand his firsthand knowledge of art architecture and design by spending a year traveling in Italy, sketching and painting. To support himself he painted houses and stage sets during his travels, thus applying the integration of craftsman and artist at the first opportunity. In 1925 he was offered a position on the faculty at the Bauhaus, as Master of Typography. It was then, in conjunction with the ideas of Moholy-Nagy, that Bayer developed a “universal alphabet” using only lower case letters. This was designed to be a practical typeface, which was large enough to read and free of distortions and curlicues, sans-serif type. Bayer applied this type design to ad copy, posters and books throughout his career. In 1928 Bayer left the Bauhaus to pursue a design career in Berlin. It was his desire to put the theories of the Bauhaus into practice in design and advertising. In 1933 he produced a “bayer type”. During his Berlin years, in addition to his design work, Bayer ventured into photography, which he used in both commercial (ads and posters) and fine art production. With Maholy-Nagy, Hebert Bayer was an early creator of photoplastic or photomontage. The altering of photographic imagery through the use of multiple

negatives and collage meshed well with Surrealist imagery, as in self-portrait (1932), lonely metropolitan (1932), and metamorphosis (1936). The later 1930’s were difficult times for free expression. Artists were among the many groups who felt the need to find exile outside Nazi Germany. The Bauhaus had closed in 1933 and many of its artists/faculty had already emigrated to the United States, finding work teaching at Harvard and at the New Bauhaus in Chicago. Bayer had traveled to the U.S. in 1937 and became involved in the design of an exhibition on the Bauhaus at the newly created Museum of Modern Art. In 1938 he moved to New York City. Deposition (1939) while depicting the tools of Christ’s crucifixion, also portends the dark future of a Nazi victory in Europe, a victory that seemed quite possible in 1939. The exhibition Bauhaus 1919-1928 opened at the Museum of Modern Art and later traveled around the United States. It provided an introduction to modernist design to a country slow to accept abstraction in painting, much less in advertising, which required client acceptance. During his tenure in New York, Bayer’s graphic work prospered, but when the opportunity arose to move back to a mountain environment he took it, moving to Aspen, Colorado in 1946. He accepted a position as design consultant for Walter Paepcke and the Container Corporation of America, whose headquarters were in Chicago. The Aspen of 1946 was a small mountain town of less than 800 residents and only the beginnings of a ski town, Feature

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with two pre-war ski runs. Paepcke and Bayer were instrumental in initiating the changes that would make Aspen a cultural oasis in the 1950’s and beyond. The Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies was founded by Paepcke in 1949, with Herbert Bayer working as architect and design consultant. He designed a complex of buildings for the institute, integrated within the natural landscape of the mountain valley. In 1955 he created a work called grass mound, a forty foot grassy place for relaxation, years before the concept of “earthworks” became popular. He also created marble garden using discards from an old marble quarry. In 196364 he designed a new tent for the Aspen Music Festival. With his return to mountain living, mountains and contour map elements began to emerge in his artwork from the late 1940’s on, as in his lithograph mountains and lakes (1948). He designed a series of ski posters, including ski broadmoor (1959). In 1953 the Container Corporation published world atlas with graphics designed by Herbert Bayer. His goal was to put together an atlas with clean graphics that was easy to read. The interaction between fine art and commercial art again shows in Bayer’s paintings and prints with continuing use of weather related symbols, such as arrows, flow charts and contour maps. The Container Corporation employed the talents of Man Ray and Fernand Leger as well as Bayer in the late 1930’s. It was their concept that through good design, corporations could influence good taste and profits. Bayer, with his Bauhaus ideals, was a natural to work in this collaboration of art and industry. In their ads, text was limited to fifteen words of copy in order to put the emphasis on visual images. Lengthy texts were out; clean copy was in. Advertising was seen as good public relations with consumers and buyers at other corporations. Bayer used collage and photomontage, elements from his fine art, in his early advertisements. He became chairman of Container Corporation’s Department of Design in 1956. He was more than

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just an art director, contributing in management decisions, including the design of buildings and interiors. The Great Ideas of Western Man was a Herbert Bayer advertising campaign of the 1950’s and 60’s. These ads had no sales message, again working on the concept that a good corporate image was also good for business. The ad concept was an out- growth of discussions at the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies. The Institute worked to bring business executives and managers together to discuss ideas in a relaxed setting and a cultural environment. The Aspen Institute was as responsible for putting Aspen on the world map as was skiing. It was also a great concept for expanding the year past ski season, with many of its programs in the summer months. It was through connections at the Aspen Institute that Bayer met Robert O Anderson, founder of Atlantic Richfield Oil Company. In the early 1950’s they became friends; Anderson bought Bayer’s house in town when Herbert moved his studio onto Red Mountain, overlooking Aspen. Along with the house, Anderson also began to buy artwork by Bayer, providing the beginning of a relationship of patron and friend that would last until the end of Bayer’s life. After Walter Paepcke’s death in 1960, Bayer began working for ARCO as an art and design consultant, starting in 1966. Bayer oversaw the design of corporate offices in New York and Philadelphia, as well as Los Angeles when the corporate headquarters moved there. He designed the artwork for ARCO Plaza in Los Angeles: double ascension, two linked staircases in a pool of water. He also advised ARCO on the development of its large corporate art collection and the performing arts programs it sponsored. He designed carpets and tapestries for the corporate offices. He designed a sculpture for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. A similar sculpture resides at the Design Center in Denver, Colorado. He also developed a seriesof sculptures for ARCO that were designed to hide/beautify the Philadel-


phia refinery area. These were among a number of sculptural projects that were never created and exist only in the form of maquettes. Currently the Bayer family is working to try to realize some of his models as larger works in Denver and other cities. Bayer moved from Aspen to the Santa Barbara area in 1976. He lived there for the last ten years of his life. A fine collection of his work can be found in the Santa Barbara Museum, while The Herbert Bayer Archive is at the Denver Art Museum, with over 9000 artifacts in the collection. During the last four decades of his life, Herbert Bayer was well employed in design positions with the Container Corporation and ARCO. In addition to his corporate responsibilities he developed a significant fine art portfolio during these years. Artistically Bayer is probably better known for his earlier photomontages from the Berlin years (1928-1938). Having two significant patrons in Walter Paepcke and Robert O. Anderson, there was little need for Herbert Bayer the fine artist to go through the normal routine of gallery exhibitions and reviews necessary for artwork to find its way into important private and public collections. The town of Aspen is full of Herbert Bayer paintings that moved directly from studio to private hands. To a certain degree his reputation as a painter, printmaker and sculptor never received the critical acclaim that exhibitions and reviews would have allowed. He suffered a bit from being too successful. In his later years Bayer used his graphic skills to create fine art prints, using lithography and silkscreen, the same mediums used in his commercial work. A skill learned in one area is used in another. In these graphic images, as in his later paintings, he returns to geometric design and abstraction in a se-

ries of works he called “anthologies”. In these works the Bauhaus artist has returned to basics: color, geometry and design. The sculpture he produced during these same years still maintains a freshness today, thanks to his combination of clean design and primary colors. His surrealist photomontages from the 1920’s hold as much shock value today as they did then. The success and legacy of Herbert Bayer are the combination of Bauhaus ideas and American optimism from the post WWII period applied to a work ethic and career which lasted until his death in 1985. It is the combination of clean design and a fresh palette of primary colors that explain the continuing appeal of his artwork. His work is optimistic and easy to live with, the result of his lifelong adherence to good design. More than any of his contemporaries, Herbert Bayer stayed true to his Bauhaus ideals through his sixty-year career. Hugo Anderson is the Director of Emil Nelson Gallery, which represents the works of Herbert Bayer from the Bayer Family Collection.

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343 Dresses: The Chromatic Convergence Project by Nikki Sapp

With a physical life span of 343 days, Los Angelesbased artist Mary Younakof ’s Chromatic Convergence Project color-blocks the city’s streets. In an act of interactive speculation, this project incorporates several artistic mediums in a plot that unveils a human response to color. With 49 hues for each tone of ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet), Mary Younakof has designed and created 343 dresses that she will wear throughout the year. Kicking off on January 23, 2011, the project will come to a close on the final day of 2011. The artist takes off on the streets of LA in a new color each day to find the given hue’s presence in our urban community. After two long years of prep work, she has scouted every nook and cranny of the million mile radius that makes up LA, and has been documenting the vibrance of color that is often overlooked by on-the-go, car-encapsulated urbanites. The Project is organized mathematically. It was carefully designed around the number seven in order to present 343 dresses in 343 colors, with each dress being worn over a period of 343 consecutive days. Repetition is a key factor here. Breaking it down further, the pattern of the dress is composed of seven pieces of fabric, which are linked to the seven-hued color palette. These colors will extend into 49 different tones exponentially equating to a total of 343 individual colors.

22 Art Colorado Nov/Dec 2011

The star of the show is Color, and it’s everywhere once she’s wearing it. Mary has described the experience as wearing “rose colored glasses.” As she goes through the phases of each hue, its presence in her surroundings jumps out and catches the eye, which cues a worthy color relationship with the environment. Her senses are heightened towards everything that matches her dress, and the world becomes pleasantly, yet unexpectedly tinted. It all sounds very sweet, surreal, and simplistic; but there is much more to it than one would imagine. In an effort to challenge viewers to acknowledge the basic presence of colored life, an emotional reaction takes place. With the moving mass of color that is Mary, we find that feelings are shifted and a universal magnetism draws people in to a place in which color theory provokes visceral perception. Not only does the shade affect the artist’s own attitude and daily feeling, but it also generates an emotional reception from the public. From the artist’s personal experience over the past six months, she has noticed a consistent behavioral response: Color prompts memory. Mary recalls instances where people in the market or on the street would come up to her, only to share a story of an event involving a red dress or a yellow childhood toy. Besides evoking memories, Mary also noticed a less forward emotional connect – non verbal body language. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that more men stop to stare at (perhaps flirt with) a woman walking down the


street with a pink dress on, and maybe it just so happens that more people do the cheesy-smile-with-athumbs-up-thing when a lady in yellow moseys on by. And orange? There is something funny about orange that makes people want to touch. It is of no surprise, as pink/red is most commonly associated with love, yellow with happiness, and orange with physical energy. Nevertheless, while the dress appears to be the center of attention, it really serves as a tool that activates a much larger art venture, which incorporates a plethora of creative channels. The project is jam-packed with artistic mediums that highlight the artist’s versatility. The exploration of color is documented through means of fashion, installation, photography, sculpture, performance, video, and social networking sites. While Mary appears at predetermined, color-relevant locations, chance encounters with pedestrians occur and provide unscripted results. Such chance happenings and social reactions are recorded and promoted via the internet. As the project unfolds, the worn dresses go into a public vault at the Pacific Design Center, where aficionados can find clips from previous community interventions. Social involvement is an integral aspect of the artist’s plot, and thus the typical outsider receives a silent invitation to be

a part of what may be an otherwise foreign art world. With such a publicly played out project, Mary Younakof has succeeded in including the every-day person in her work, and in a sense, she has brought the gallery to us. More about this Project is available at 343dresses.com Feature

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Great Western Art Gallery The Art Gallery in Denver’s Theatre District

1455 Curtis Street | Denver, CO 80202 | 303.396.2787 FineArtLiquidation.com

A Special Private Collection For Sale Starting November 4, 2011

Remaining artwork on sale at a public auction January 14, 2012 Preview auction items 9 - 11 a.m.; Auction 11 a.m. Provenance for all collection pieces

Other Artists In This Special Collection

of Prints & Original Paintings

Romero Britto Juan Carillo March Chagall Albrecht Durer Anatole Krasnyansky Toulouse-Lautrec Henri Matisse Joan Miro Alexandra Nechita Picasso Rembrandt Renoir Michelangelo Collection includes a limited edition of the silver bust Madonna Della Pieta by Michelangelo

Enjoy the art at the DAM, take it home at GW!


EXHIBITIONS COVER ARTIST

Ricky Allman

Landscapes That Reflect Colliding Forces

(clockwise from bottom left) fluid redux, acrylic on panel, 36”x48”; safe keeping, acrylic on canvas, 36”x48"; deconcretize, acrylic on canvas, 48”x36”. All images 2010.

Ricky Allman's paintings are a hybrid of mountainous landscapes and architectural structures that juxtapose nature with the environment constructed by man. The artist manipulates light and space to create new experimental worlds that are both foreign and familiar to the viewer. Allman's paintings capture a sense of movement and space through the heavy use of varying perspective, layering, and complex connections. Tight, fine lines are balanced with loose, painterly strokes. Bold colors are contrasted with subtle, grounded tones. Geometric shapes commingle with organic masses. Allman's fascination is with contrasting forces that work with and against each other, that intersect and collide, shaping natural and man-made structures alike to create a captivating, challenging landscape for the viewer to experience. Allman's works often explore his struggle to reconcile the religious belief system he was raised with and his current world-view. His paintings are tinged with both an existential

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concern and a cautious optimism for the future. Although he grew up in a tradition concerned about apocalyptic events, he has become more interested in humanity's disregard for the future and the hope that such disregard can be overcome. Allman's inspiration for his work comes from a myriad of sources: everyday experiences and observations, environmental surroundings, current events, sci-fi movie stills, and reflections about the past and present. This series of works represents a new level of experimentation, maturity, technique and sophistication for the artist. Ricky Allman is an American painter born and raised in Provo, Utah. He is currently an assistant professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He received a BFA from the Massachusetts College of Art, and an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2007. Ricky Alman’s work will be exhibted at David B. Smith Gallery in Denver from December 16 through January 14. For more information, visit rickyallman.com


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“Rising Cumulus” 8 feet in height

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EXHIBITIONS ARTISTS

Kathy Knaus

LOOKING CRITICALLY AT THE “IDEAL” FEMALE BODY By Theresa Anderson I had the great opportunity to have a series of conversations with Kathy Knaus as she was gearing up for her solo exhibit at Ice Cube Gallery, one of Denver’s most respected artist-run galleries. Kathy Knaus is an avid creator — a creator of space, dialogue and support for exceptional regional artists in Denver — and she is also an unabashed artist who follows her own muse. She is best known for her meat paintings whose sharpness of cutting hooks and lickable flesh is sensational as well as sensorial. Her works are often read by the viewer as political — whether the paintings and installations are seen as pro or con — they come from her unwillingness to look away, her fascination with, and deep exploration of conflicting self. Her most recent set of work, Screaming Rabbits, is no exception. In this exhibit Knaus juxtaposes a series of painterly conceptual paintings riffing on the ideals of fashion models with an abstraction of her own personal marriage bed. The two series when combined form a commentary on the luscious impossibility of a woman’s body and life. The canvases and installation are both marked and reconstructed in ways that delegate

flesh and body to impermanence yet struggle with the demand of freshness, rejuvenation, and cleanliness of youth. The installation piece, The Mar-

riage Bed, consists of a thick stack of predominantly red large canvas on a seemingly pristine white platform balanced on two bookended nightstands.

28 Art Colorado Nov/Dec 2011

The stacking of paintings, platform, and marred, yet repaired, nightstands conjure a powerful abstraction holding decades of memory. The paintings, with sharpness of tools like a wicked tongue juxtaposed against a palette of royalty, especially hold the possibility of her place in the world. And yet, the marriage bed is encumbered, a small precarious space. Her description is telling. “It holds two people, children, animals, dirt, drink, food, hair, bugs, blood, sperm, sweat, passion, happiness, sadness, tears, hopefulness, dreams, drool, milk, urine, tension, relaxation, anger, cuddling, not touching and other bodily secretions and emotions. The particular object, this placeholder speaks volumes in a world silent on the significance of the marriage bed. “ On top of the bed, Kathy has laid a bedcover that she carried around for weeks on end. Eating, sleeping, and painting on it, she sat on it alone days on end and with her dogs. Representing a passage, her interaction with the coverlet in most ways resembles a portrait of the 24 years spent with her marriage bed. Similar to the fashion of creation of the installation, the painting canvases


EXHIBITIONS ARTISTS

Kathy Knaus that accompany The Marriage Bed also are stacked — only vertically up the wall instead of horizontally off the floor. Knaus had each set of canvas constructed to mimic the measurements of supermodels through the decades. Each set of eight canvases is divided into thirds to represent the measurements of each model. Knaus painted each set of canvas and then taking them apart she reconfigured the new groupings to describe the actuality of women’s measurements. Working closely with measurements and following an instinctual mark making, dissecting the models basic construction became her sensor; her microscope looking at the personal ramifications of food addiction and body image. Heightened to the ramifications of women’s portraiture and the history of abstract expressionism, Knaus chose painterly abstraction as a tongue in cheek commentary, one with fits and starts that leave room for another self to fill in the blanks. The stacked canvases are slick, dry, drippy, all over, intertwined with hard-edged constructions that combined with powerful marks ascertain her acceptability, her validity and power. She asked “Is this red enough for you? Is this shiny enough for you? Is this pretty enough for you? Is this figu-

rative enough...?” With the sensibilities of a third wave feminist, Knaus’ paintings were deliberately conceived after she read an article in a trendy fashion magazine that compared the discrepancies of heights

of supermodels from the 1940’s to today. Comparing the measurements of the bust, waist, and hip to the increasingly towering heights, a trend of lengthening had been perceived. Even as the models tallness increased, their

measurements became exponentially smaller. From Betty Grable who in the 1940’s was 5’4” with measurements of 36” x 24” x 35” to today’s supermodel extraordinaire, Eve Salvail, 6’8” with the seemingly impossible 32”x 24”x 35”. Perhaps the remnants of her excavation of the impossible height of the supermodel Salvail represent the true stature and nature of the artist herself? Knaus is in the realm of painters who with gumption and an unflappable voice has created a series of artworks that tugs on the senses. This is Kathy’s second exhibit at the Ice Cube Gallery. She was a founding member and the first Director of the Ice Cube Gallery where she currently serves as the Treasurer. Kathy also is an associate member of Pirate Contemporary Art. In 2000, Knaus graduated summa cum laude with a BFA from Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Denver, Colorado under the direction of Clark Richert. She received the prestigious Chuck Mattox Memorial Scholarship, the Colorado State Merit Scholarship and “Best in Painting” in the Fine Arts Department. Although born in Sidney, Nebraska she considers Colorado her home since moving to the Metro area when she was 8 years old. She currently lives in Denver, Colorado. Artists

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EXHIBITIONS ARTISTS

Mark Penner-Howell

STARTING A CONVERSATION WITH HIS WORK by Tracy Tomko Mark Penner-Howell recently unveiled a small grouping of paintings at Walker Fine Art, his new representation in Denver. This body of work focuses on desire and our attitudes to manipulate “the universe” to any extent that we can on our behalf. Referencing attempts toward pleasure through things such as wealth, sex, drugs, and tranquillity, he comments on human recklessness and naiveté, hinting at temptations that we are faced with along the way in our efforts to rise to the top or attain our goals. “Whether we’re looking to relationships or some new app, we try to find shortcuts to getting what we want”, said Penner-Howell. Recognizing a strong tradition of this in human nature, he’s investigated methods such as Tarot, Astrology, and alchemy. “In this series of paintings, I'm exploring the darker aspects of desire and attachment via the four classical "root" elements: earth, air, fire and water,” says the artist. “The choice to use an arcane and outmoded thought-construct as a thematic overlay seemed a natural fit with the murky psychological territory of human desire. These paintings are an exercise in free-associating familiar but unexpected images in an attempt to illuminate enigmatic matters of the heart. The noir overtones are meant to heighten a sense of uncertainty. Themes of longing, vulnerability, and entanglement pervade.” In Lotus Soup (see opposite page) there is an obvious carryover from his

last body of work that commented on the economy. Juxtaposing cultural references with symbolism that can lead to conflicting conclusions is some of what keeps the viewer so intrigued to continue to look through the layers with which Penner-Howell is known for presenting us. Take the lotus, being such a

strong Eastern image; mix with literary allusions and overlay something heavily laden with meanings in the Western world, like the Great Seal; then charge it all up with electric color compositions. You will still only have pieces of the recipe for what Mark served up so deliciously at the Walker Fine Art exhibition. Those who enjoyed his past work will find themselves being teased into a new frenzy over possible outcomes to

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the narratives he proposes. While he has started with some of the same types of signature elements — open mouths, eyes or faces that are cropped out of the images, or iconic symbols put to new use — these paintings feel like they are filled with the loaded sense of the potential of youth. They seem more openended (like our desires) in that, as they unfold, we are unaware as to whether outcomes will lead us to heavenly bliss or pandemonium. His works are layered in a way that takes you on a journey as you’re peeling them. Like a visual pied piper, he leads us with large doses of ambiguity and irony. We are looking in before there is an aftermath or wake to be considered, and the only fear is in the form of anticipation. Are the subjects of the paintings even aware of the dangers? Penner-Howell says, “I’ve always had more questions than answers. I’m really interested in ‘memes’ — ideas that have the ability to replicate themselves in different forms and have a life of their own. But they get mutated and transformed as they move away from their source. That’s what the ‘mash-up’ creative approach is all about, and I like how rich it can be. I want to try to achieve a kind of conversational quality in my work.” Mark Penner-Howell’s latest exhibition was featured at Walker Fine Art from Sept 16 through Nov 5. For more information, please visit walkerfineart. com and pennerhowell.com


EXHIBITIONS ARTISTS

Mark Penner-Howell

Mark Penner-Howell: (opposite page) Diver, acrylic and ink on canvas, 48” X 60”; (above) The Gift of Fire, acrylic and ink on canvas, 50” X 36”; (below) Lotus Soup, acrylic and ink on canvas, 60” X 30”.

Artists

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EXHIBITIONS ARTISTS

32 Art Colorado Nov/Dec Nov/Dec2011 2011


EXHIBITIONS ARTISTS

Ashley Chistine Bauer

IN HER OWN WORDS This latest series is about identity issues involving the unchosen aspects of selfhood, while using my own identity as a vehicle. I have abstracted the most basic aspects of what a stranger sees in passing, a Caucasian female, and then ascending into an exploration of my relationship with these aspects in regards to a lost sense of heritage and the burden of an illusive history passed down by unknown ancestors. The work has a presence. It seems to breathe and demands a whisper as the hair clings on to passerbys. The notion of these objects as predominately decorative, weak and inherently female in their perpetuation of societal expectations of gendered values is subverted as the figures are purposely innocent and sexual, powerful yet unaware of the power they possess, while confrontational and unforgiving in their stance. The bras are presented to the viewer as if they are something they can try on, as if one can change these aspects about oneself similar to just trying on a new outfit. Growing up I had always wanted to be a boy. It was never that I did not like being a girl, it was more that I got along with and fit in with the boys in their allowance of terrorizing the playground. As I got older there seemed to be a forceful transition of how the world worked, where gender now permitted or deterred certain behaviors. The problem lies in knowing that there is an enduring acceptance of sexism and continuation of racism. Even in the language we use on a daily basis we can see a gendering of words, not to mention a hierarchy of how we implement language. Take for example how people typically describe themselves. We would rarely meet a Caucasian male that would describe himself according to his gender or race, but a female or non-Caucasian would be more inclined to include one or both of these attributes. Small differences like this have an effect on culture. This installation originated from a previous project I had been working on, which dealt with issues involving stereotyping in the media. I was playing with ideas involving self-fulfilling prophecies and the pigeon-holing of groups by Both images: Ashley Christine Bauer, Shedding My Skin, 2010, mixed media installation.

the West's media saturated culture. This made me wonder where I stood in regards to Caucasian women in the media. In looking into myself, I wanted to challenge and explore notions of idealized femininity. I decided to focus on the time period in one's life where there's a split of sorts, where you are forced to realize a gender or risk being ostracized. It's strange how we continue to chase after that idea of what a woman, or even a man for that matter, “should” be for so many years after puberty comes into fruition. It's hard to avoid. Just going through the check out at the grocery store can be a belittling experience with all the magazine covers spewing “weight-loss secrets” and tips on how to “snag the right man.” The funny part is we live in a very media literate society and we know that most of what we see is not a reality, yet we still buy into these old scripts. It's incredibly frustrating because as far as we have come, these ideals are still upheld, otherwise the world of advertising wouldn't be so permeated with them. My inspiration comes from a number of sources which include Hollywood glamour, editorial fashion, and artists such as Aurel Schmidt, Princess Hijab, Jessica Stoller, Sue Williams, Cindy Sherman, Hank Willis Thomas, and Nathalie Djurberg to name a few. I have also been very interested in Stanley Deetz's theories about the structure of language and how it constructs our realities. In his book, Communication and Society, he states: “The concept of ‘race’ and a full linguistic system of race distinction and talk arose out of 19th century biology and was developed as a means of explanation, division and exclusion. Modern biology does not support the naturalness of the distinctions but we still talk as if ‘race’ was a category of nature.” A similar distinction can be made with gender and the language used in describing distinctions and said characteristics of masculinity and femininity. As for the future, I am shifting my work's focus from the chapters of our lives that have been written for us, to those in which we have yet to discover. As my mom used to say, we must know where we've been to know where we're going. Artists

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EXHIBITIONS ARTISTS

Blake Flynn

IN HIS OWN WORDS Although art has been a part of my life since I could first grasp a crayon, I didn’t start to pursue it as a full-time career until after I had spent several years sitting in a cubicle in an engineering office. I don’t regret my engineering days; In addition to paying the bills, they gave me a chance to develop both my analytical and design skills, thus honing both sides of my brain. I think this is evident in my artwork. I work within the basic framework of realism, with (mostly) recognizable subject matter and the fundamental goal of making a two-dimensional surface look three-dimensional in a convincing way. For this I employ what I understand about geometry, perspective and the physics of light. But at the same time I feel compelled to transcend the limitations of realism, letting my imagination run rampant. I bend physical laws. I distort shapes and sizes. I combine disparate elements. I create improbable juxtapositions. This gives me greater capacity to articulate a particular idea and to create the desired visual and emotional atmosphere. This freedom to bend “reality” to suit my tastes is when I feel the full intoxicating power of being an artist. My work appears surrealistic however it is neither dream-based nor lacking in conscious control. And although the germ of the idea for a given painting might have a subconscious component — potentially even a substantial

34 Art Colorado Nov/Dec 2011

one — I’m actually quite analytical in the development and execution of the piece as I utilize reference material, detailed sketches, and small-scale value and/or color studies. This reliance on my rational mind combined with the narrative quality of the work suggests the term “Magic Realism” would be a more accurate characterization. Like most artists I paint what interests me, which can lead to a broad array of subjects. As a result my works portray humans and other animals, myths and religions, social and cultural boundaries, even the occasional autobiographical allusion. The tone may range from serious to quirky, but I always try to engage the subjects from an atypical perspective that finds both beauty and absurdity in our struggle to find our place — as individuals, as a society, as a species — in both the natural world and our so-called “civilized” world. Cu r re nt l y, I’m working on a series of “Madonna” paintings (see next page) depicting a benevolent human female interacting in a nurturing, compassionate way with various groups of plants and animals. The concept is to portray a sort of subclass of Mother Nature. I see these works as a celebration of both biodiversity and the creative power of the female, as well as a bid for a more motherly, nurturing relationship with the natural world, as opposed to the more destructive paternalistic approach which emphasizes dominion and consumption.


Blake Flynn: (opposite page) Empty Chair; (this page, clockwise from top left) Renaissance, oil on board, 12”x12”; Local Warming, oil on board, 12”x12”, Madonna of the Butterflies, oil on board, 40”x30”; Shade, 8”x8”.

I continue to draw inspiration from all that surrounds me: from books, films, conversations, current events, personal experiences and travel. The latter has been especially important as my wife, and I have taken extended trips abroad in recent years. This has led inevitably to paintings full of all manner of exotic (to me) flora and fauna, and artifacts and ideas from the broad sweep of human history. To learn more about the artist, visit blakeflynn.com. Blake Flynn’s work will be exhibited at the Georgia Amar Gallery in Denver through the end of the year. Artists

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STUDIO LA SCALA

Bird In Flight I, 36” x 48”, Reverse Painting on Plexiglass, 2011.

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The Art of DAMON LA SCALA


Reconsidering Van Gogh A New Book Takes a More Sympthatetic Look at the Artist by Roberta Carasso

Perusing the recently-released book, Van Gogh’s Untold Journey by

William J. Havlicek, I gained several insights on Vincent Van Gogh’s artistic genius and the essence of the man himself. Most striking are the three areas of the artist’s life the book reveals. First, and woven throughout, Prof. Havlicek (who teaches Contemporary Art at the Laguna College of Art and Design) focuses more on when Van Gogh was “normal” and lucid than on his periods of mental depression. While Prof. Havlicek does not deny that the artist was disturbed, he prefers to hone in on times that depict Van Gogh’s art at its best so that the reader can reach its true legacy. Second, the author highlights Van Gogh’s literary passions; and how he cherished those, like himself, who suffer. His Christian perspective saw the experiences of those in distress as a religious devotion, a sacrifice for a higher spiritual purpose, perhaps leading to Van Gogh’s appetite for books about those who were the underdogs of society, books by Charles Dickens, Harriett Beecher Stowe, and Victor Hugo. The works of these literary giants, who elevated the lonely, poor, and scorned, brought Van Gogh comfort as their writings confirmed his belief in the sufferer — those who sought “light in darkness.” Readers will be surprised to learn that literature was, at times, a source of inspiration for Van Gogh’s art. Third, Van Gogh’s Christian beliefs are shared by the author and are the underpinnings of Prof. Havlicek’s research. His research parallels the philosophy of the artist making Prof. Havlicek the perfect writer of this book. The book has been written based on the original letters of the artist. Prof. Havlicek spent 15 years reviewing all the letters and immediately came to the conclusion that it was best to focus on what Van Gogh wrote rather than rehashing what had previously

(Clockwise from top left) Van Gogh: The Starry Night, 1889. Oil on canvas. Museum of Modern Art, New York; Self-Portrait, 1889. Oil on canvas. Musee d’Orsay, Paris; Portrait of the Artist’s Mother, 1888. Oil on canvas. Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California.

Books

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been presumed from his art. The author attempts, and succeeds, in avoiding the trap many have fallen into, of engaging largely in Van Gogh’s degenerative behavior. Rather, Prof. Havlicek throws the spotlight on his highly artistic nature, his love of literature, his being a brilliant writer, which is clearly evident in 902 letters written in Dutch, French, and English. Also of importance is that the artist had studied Latin and Greek. Van Gogh was a key artist in the Post-Impressionist era, a distinction he never realized in his time. He painted at a critical era, when art was undergoing a fundamental shift; artists were depicting color, shape, space, and light for their own sake, a perception that paved the way for further art movements and eventually pure abstraction. Van Gogh’s oil on canvas brushwork transcended convention. He painted freely in thick, twisted and turned strokes of paint. His masterfully applied brush work evolved into heavy surfaces that often combined the three with the two-dimensional. Van Gogh was a colorist. He often dared to break with tradition to bring about unrealized color possibilities others may have tried briefly — or never have considered. Van Gogh would put two colors together to electrify an image. Or, he would put a light pigment next to a dark pigment; or one over the other or close together. He freely used light tones close to its darker version. The artist used green for the face, yellow for the sky, and many other color configurations that forced other artists to rethink their palette. Van Gogh worked passionately as if he were being directed outside himself. A devote man, he rendered landscapes, flowers, fruit, and portraits in homage to the holy magnificence of the universe he cherished. He was, indeed, a prolific artist, turning out a staggering body of paintings, drawings, and prints — an amazing accomplishment considering his brief life of just 37 years. Prof. Havlicek explores the artist’s life through letters Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo, and the correspondence of his sister-in-law Johanna. In this daunting task, Prof. Havlicek real-

izes that there was a neglected dimension of Vincent, the untold journey of “…an unknown, adventurous, deeply compassionate man whose essence seems to have been lost in the dramatic and often apocryphal stories surrounding his illness and early death.” Prof. Havlicek writes that Van Gogh was healthy and outgoing most of his life but during his final 16 months he developed a form of epilepsy accelerated by his abuse of absinthe, a toxic liqueur which affects the central nervous system. Hollywood movies, sordid stories, and other misperception of the real facts have altered the public’s perception of the artist. Those final months were to sadly eclipse Van Gogh’s otherwise positive attributes, and belie the true character of the man. The most important person in Van Gogh’s art historical life was his sister-in-law Johanna. It was she who preserved and chronicled over two thousand of his works of art and all his correspondence. Both Theo and his beloved brother Vincent were to die within about a year of each other leaving Johanna with a baby and very little money. Yet, despite Vincent’s art not being appreciated during his short lifetime (he had sold only one painting), it was primarily Johanna who realized his genius and his value to art history. Prof. Havlicek made a significant discovery while living and researching in Holland. He found that Van Gogh’s idea for the renown painting Starry Night came directly from a passage in Viktor Hugo’s book Les Miserables. Prof. Havlicek points out that Vincent’s favorite motif was a shining star or the blazing sun or moon. He was fascinated by the idea of “light out of darkness,” which was also the theme of Les Miserables. Hugo’s hero, Jean Valjean, in

38 Art Colorado Nov/Dec 2011

his youth was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread, spending years in the most vile of prisons. Light came, but darkness, in the form of the policeman, Javert, sought to extinguish it. In Les Miserables, there is also a priest, Father Bienvenu (translated as “good is coming”), also called the “Benedictine Father.” The priest represents supreme holiness, the best of humanity. At the end of his day, the Bishop would go into his garden and would see the starry night. The bishop — the epitome of charity, especially for neglected children — spoke to Van Gogh’s soul and to his early experiences, working with coal-mining families. In reading Van Gogh’s letters, the great art historian Meyer Schapiro, suggested the connection between the book and the painting. Schapiro saw how the writer and the artist both saw that “God is a lighthouse in eclipse.” Prof. Havlicek takes Schapiro’s concept and supports it with further evidence, making the connection a reality. Interestingly, Starry Night is considered one of Van Gogh’s most significant paintings, and the contemporary musical, an interpretation of Hugo’s great literary masterpiece, has also been extremely successful. Perhaps viewers of both works of art are drawn to their profound and similar message of the just underdog who finally realizes light out of darkness. Prof. Havlicek adds that there is a thirst in many people for uplifting and true stories. They especially side with the defeated, which to some extent is true of both Van Gogh and Jean Valjean. Prof. Havlicek’s seminal book Van Gogh’s Untold Journey reveals a far more sympathetic Vincent, and to a large extent, redeems much of the apocryphal renderings of the artist’s true nature by past commentators.

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam features William J. Havlicek’s book in its bookstore. It may be purchased directly from the publisher at Creative Storytellers at CreativeStorytellers.com — a division of Progeny, Inc., a children’s charity committed to exploited and endangered children worldwide. A large percentage of net profits go to support these children. nReaders might also be interested to know that Van Gogh’s letters are available online at: www.vangoghletters.org/vg/ Roberta Carasso can be reached by email at: roberta.carasso@gmail.com


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the 21st annual international los angeles photographic art exposition

speakers, panels & roundtables

january 12 - 16, 2012

• Ken Gonzalez-Day

santa monica civic auditorium preview gala benefitting the wallis annenberg photography department los angeles countymuseum of art

• Hunter Drohojowska-Philip • Manfred Heiting • Lee Kaplan • Weston Naef • Chris Pitchler • Jeffrey Henson Scales • Franklin Sirmans • Collecting Photographs: Public & Private Collections • Vivian Maier, Street Photographer: A Conversation • photoBOOK review • The Photography Book Roundtable • Photographers of the Pacific Standard Time period installations • Emerging Focus Finalists • Golden Age of Physique Photography 1945 - 1970

© Anthony Friedkin, Woman by the Pool, 1975

• Soho Cameraworks 1970-1979

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Art Colorado - Nov/Dec 2011  

An issue of Art Colorado, published in November 2011.

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