Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Jennifer Baker Paintings and Monoprints

In an exhibition at the Atwater Gallery upstate in Rhinebeck, cartoonist Michael Crawford is exhibiting a small selection of paintings in the back room while another artist, Jennifer Baker, is exhibiting her paintings and mono prints in the larger space. The two artists complement each other nicely. Mr. Crawford's paintings explore the figure, color, and--for want of a better term--abstract cartography.

Ms. Baker's work, on the other hand, examines the changing industrial landscape of the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia. It was a pleasure to meet the artist at the show's opening and to hear her discuss her work. She has painted some beautiful churches to be sure, but also aging factories, decaying industrial architecture, consuming fires, and even some relentless construction equipment. The techniques are surprisingly varied but the paintings and prints are all skillfully executed. They help to document her region's particular social and industrial characteristics even as they change forever.

Jennifer Baker, “Wedding Party, Saint Andrews Orthodox Church,” Oil on Mylar, 34 x 22"

Note:  The exhibition "Jennifer Baker and Michael Crawford Paintings and Prints" at the Atwater Gallery in Rhinebeck, New York runs through August 13. Michael Crawford's works in the back room were discussed in yesterday's post.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Michael Crawford: The Ethical Appropriator

The appropriation of images by artists remains widespread and is still somewhat controversial. When I attended a gallery opening featuring paintings by New Yorker cartoonist Michael Crawford in Rhinebeck on July 18, appropriation and the doctrine of fair use were the last things on my mind. Yet one piece in the show got me thinking about appropriation in a new way. It was a novelty--at least in my experience--to see the appropriating artist seek and receive permission to use a specific image. It hardly sounds revolutionary, but as far ast I know this is not the sort of thing Roy Lichtenstein or Jeff Koons ever did. Yet when Michael Crawford does it, it feels right.

Rauschenberg Minus Nebraska is a watercolor and photo cutout by Crawford which modifies a published reproduction of a portrait of Robert Rauschenberg by Chuck Close. The artwork is signed Crawford and is annotated "(with permission from + apologies to Chuck Close)." Personally, I admire Chuck Close all the more for granting permission to appropriate his piece. It can't be easy to allow someone else, even an accomplished artist, to alter your work in a way in which you have little control and ultimately may not approve. In this case I think there are no losers. Mr. Crawford presents an interesting work while the integrity  and importance of Chuck Close's original conception is in no way compromised.

In some ways Mr. Crawford has it easy. The artist whose work he is appropriating is alive and open to new, creative ideas. Many foundations, on the other hand, concerned primarily with preserving an artist's legacy might not be so forthcoming. Also, there tends to be more controversy when it is the more prominent artist appropriating from the more obscure one often for enormous financial reward. Put another way, Chuck Close, as the high-end artist, can afford to be magnanimous.

Ultimately, Mr. Crawford's appropriation is clever without subverting Mr. Close's original intention. It comes across to me as something of an homage to Mr. Close and for that matter to Mr. Rauschenberg. Meanwhile, it clearly has personal meaning for Mr. Crawford and demonstrates his longtime penchant for turning maps into interesting imagery.

Michael Crawford, (after Chuck Close), Rauschenberg Minus Nebraska

Michael Crawford's signature and annotation

This opening was the first opportunity I had to meet the artist and I didn't think to ask him about the appropriation. Instead I commented on some of his paintings of female nudes in rowboats. "You seem to have more fun boating than I do," was my wry observation. He chuckled politely, but I think that was the cartoonist in him. The painter in him was thinking I can't believe they let this guy in here. 

It might have been a more profitable use of my brief time with the artist to ask him how he thought his figurative work compared to that of, say, Pierre Bonnard, or whether Richard Diebenkorn's painting had influenced his ubiquitous map images. But that was not the way it went, people. One day if I somehow advance from writing an attempted blog to a real one I might start asking the proper questions. We'll see.

Michael Crawford, Sketch for Early Sunday Morning, pencil and acrylic on paper
Michael Crawford, Sketch for Lady of the Lake #4, acrylic and watercolor, 12 x 16"
Do you see Excalibur?

Michael Crawford, Sketch for Early Sunday Morning, Sketch for Lady of the Lake #4, Sketch for Timmermans, High Summer, Sketch for L #6

Michael Crawford, USA #26, oil on paper, and Self Portrait with a Hole in the Head, oil on palette

Michael Crawford, Self Portrait with a Hole in the Head, oil on palette

Note:  "Jennifer Baker and Michael Crawford Paintings and Prints" is now showing at the Atwater Gallery in Rhinebeck, NY. The show runs through August 13. Go catch it and tell them I sent you.

Michael Crawford's cartoons have shown up on this blog from time to time. In addition, the artist was photographed by Alen MacWeeney with his Self Portrait with a Hole in the Head for The New Yorker Cartoons of the Year 2014. Remember?

Michael Crawford the cartoonist and painter is not to be confused with Michael Crawford the "Phantom of the Opera" star, who also appears--just once, mind you--on this blog. I'm glad we cleared that up.

It is beyond my power--or desire--to survey the vast landscape of appropriation art, but while we're on the topic I thought you might like to see what Illustration Art blogger David Apatoff has to say about art appropriator Richard Prince. I hope I'm not giving away anything by telling you the post is called "Recent Developments in Parasitology."


Monday, August 3, 2015

New 2016 Calendars: The New Yorker and Edward Gorey

The new wall calendars for 2016 have arrived. They are probably on sale just about everywhere by now but I came across them over the weekend at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The New Yorker's 2016 entry calls itself The New Yorker Covers Poster Calendar 2016 which is nearly as awkward to read to yourself as it is to say out loud. The calendar's cover reproduces the 2012 Innovators Issue magazine cover "The Cloud" by Bob Staake. On the calendar's back cover, we get to see the magazine describe itself as "Iconic design. Iconic New Yorker." Apparently they left out the part about humble. Calendar covers are by Mark Ulriksen, Charles E. Martin, Maira Kalman, Jacques de Loustal, Birgit Schössow, Adolph K. Kronengold, Garrett Price, Christoph Niemann, Eric Drooker, Arthur Getz, Jorge Colombo, and once again Bob Staake. Helpful advice is offered for those who wish to "First hang it as a calendar--then frame it as art!" Let's face it: you could do worse.

The New Yorker Covers Poster Calendar 2016

The New Yorker Covers Poster Calendar 2016

Now the Edward Gorey 2016 Calendar describes the artist as "famous for masterful pen-and-ink cross-hatched drawings and ironic, offbeat humor."  While I might quibble a bit with the use of "cross-hatched" to describe the great variety of detailed pen-and-ink work for which Edward Gorey is acclaimed, I nevertheless find this calendar's blurb to be pretty accurate and without pretense. The cover illustration is a wonderful set-piece called "An Exhibition." I certainly would have no quibbles about gazing at an image of this quality every month.

Edward Gorey 2016 Calendar

Edward Gorey 2016 Calendar

Note:  You're in luck! This blog has a few posts on many of these artists:


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Lighthouse Beach

Come take a walk with me along Lighthouse Beach in Chatham.

The Chatham Light

Chatham Beach and Tennis Club

Driftwood, Lighthouse Beach, Chatham


Fishing trawler bringing in its catch


Imperfect world

Note:  This concludes my vacation photos from four days in Cape Cod.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

My Entry in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #483

Here is my entry in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #483 for July 27, 2015. The drawing is by Carolita Johnson.
"In your case, it isn't a God complex."

Heaven help me, I also considered this:
"You've got to let that whole Garden of Eden thing go."

August 3, 2015 Update: The Finalists

Note:  In last week's contest, P. C. Vey showed us some modern wearable technology. Look, I'm not talking Apple Watch; I'm talking jet pack. It seems my caption didn't go far enough. See the rising results of Contest #482.

Carolita Johnson has been spotted on this blog before...


Friday, July 31, 2015

Lighthouse Lamppost

A lamppost in the shape of a Cape Cod lighthouse is seen next to Captain Linnell House in Orleans.

Next to Captain Linnell House, Orleans

Note:  Give me a few carefree days in Cape Cod and I can't be held responsible for what transpires here on the blog.


Nauset Beach

It was a perfect day to visit Nauset Beach in East Orleans with its calm waters and vast expanse of sand. We even spotted a harbor seal in the water, but only briefly.

Nauset Beach, East Orleans

Nauset Beach, East Orleans

Nauset Beach, East Orleans

Note:  I'm having a special on photos from my Cape Cod vacation. For you, no charge.


I Saw the Sign

For some reason every express checkout lane in New York seems to say "10 items or less." Less refers of course to an amount and fewer refers to a number, so it's disheartening to see it done wrong so often and apparently so willfully. On the other hand, it's so refreshing to go up to Cape Cod and to see what happens when people still care about the language. The express lane sign reads "10 items or fewer." I took a picture just in case no one back home believed what I saw.

Checkout lane 7, Shaw's, Orleans

Note:  Don't miss Cape Cod as you've never seen it.


Cape Cod Car Decals

These car decals were seen last month in Brewster.

"Knit Happens"

"My Dog Digs the Cape"

Note:  More photos from last month's vacation in Cape Cod are in the archives.


A Sign of the Weekly Grind on Main Street

This sign was spotted at the cash register of Carmine's on Main Street in Chatham. I was on vacation at the time, but in the pizzeria it was just another workday.

Cash register sign, Carmine's, Chatham

Note:  Photos from my summer vacation in Cape Cod have been abounding lately.