#ArtLitPhx: “Sound of Color” Exhibition at Royse Contemporary

Sound of ColorRoyse Contemporary is so excited to present “The Sound of Color” by mixed-media artist Rafael Navarro, opening on Thursday, October 19. The exhibit will showcase art inspired by music (and musical instruments themselves) in a variety of mediums including painting, mixed-media, and sculpture.

Navarro shares, “I prefer to communicate visually, in a poetic manner, making similarities in the creation of life, music, and art.” Nicole Royse also reveals, “what I love most about Navarro’s work is his keen eye for details, the strong imagery he depicts and the stories each piece tells.”

The opening reception will be from 5pm to 10pm on October 19, but the exhibit will be on display until November 4. It is at the Royse Contemporary Gallery, which you can find at 7077 E. Main Street, Suite 6, Scottsdale, AZ 85251.

The opening will be a part of the Scottsdale ArtWalk in Old Town Scottsdale. Nicole Royse, the owner and curator, will give a brief talk about the artist and work featured in the exhibition; guests will also have the chance to meet the artist. For more information about the exhibition, check out the official press release or visit Royse Contemporary’s website.

#ArtLitPhx: Exhibition Preview, Gabriel Rico

Installed work by Gabriel RicoFrom June 10th to September 2nd, the ASU art museum will host Guadalajara-based artist Gabriel Rico’s show, “Dead, Dead, Live, Dead.” On Thursday June 1st, from 4PM to 6PM ASU will host a special preview of the work.

This is Gabrielle Rico’s first museum exhibition in the United States. Rico creates installations using a wide array of objects including taxidermy animals, neon, and found objects.

RSVP at the facebook event page here. And you can check out more of Gabriel Rico’s artwork here.

Guest Post, Beth Galston: Recasting Nature

Recasting Nature: Selected Sculptures by Beth Galston, 1998 – 2016

For my last Superstition Review blog in 2012, I wrote about how as a sculptor I balance the two worlds of my public commissions and private studio practice. At that time, I was focusing primarily on public art, and was about to install two new sculptures in Nashville and San Antonio. Once these projects were successfully completed, I felt the need to recharge my artistic batteries and reconnect with my studio practice.

I have spent this past year preparing for a retrospective of my work, “Recasting Nature: Selected Sculptures by Beth Galston, 1998 – 2016,” which opened on June 10 at the Susquehanna Art Museum in Harrisburg, PA and runs through September 18, 2016. It has been an incredible journey, looking back over my past works and forward as well. I’d like to share some thoughts on the exhibit and give you a quick walk-through, in words and images.

The exhibition includes key works from the “Recasting Nature” series, tracing my development over the last twenty years. Inspired by natural forms and processes, the series evolves from sculptures made of natural materials, to translucent cast resin pieces within which natural materials are embedded, to a new immersive light installation made of cast resin and LEDs controlled by a computer.

In my sculptures, I explore relationships between the natural and man-made worlds. The idea of transformation is central to my work — transforming materials, transforming a space, and transforming viewers’ perceptions.

In designing the exhibit, I wanted to keep the space spare, so there would be breathing room for people to experience the pieces. My desire was for viewers to slow down and spend time with each sculpture, and make connections between the various works. There are two large-scale installations in the space, where viewers can linger and become part of the sculptural environment.

The following is a narrated tour of the exhibition with images. Let’s get started!

Recasting Nature

Photo 1: This is an installation view of “Recasting Nature” seen from the entry. Tangle, a snaky rope made of acorn caps is in the foreground. Ginkgo Wall and Sycamore Circle, two sculptures made of cast resin blocks with leaves embedded, are in the mid space.

Tangle

Photo 2: Tangle is a coiled rope made of more than 30,000 acorn caps strung together on monofilament. A vertical strand of caps rises up to the ceiling, as if summoned by a snake charmer.

Ginkgo Wall and Ice Forest

Photo 3: Ginkgo Wall is in the foreground and Ice Forest, a large-scale installation, is in the background. Both are made of cast translucent resin, a see-through plastic that looks like ice. I began experimenting with resin as a means of preserving the natural materials I was collecting. Ginkgo Wall is made of sixty resin bricks (the size of real bricks) in which I have embedded the fan-shaped leaves from Ginkgo trees. Set within blocks of resin, the leaves become frozen moments in time.

Ice Forest
Photo 4: You are standing behind Ice Forest, an immersive environment of more than 150 cast resin rose stems. Suspended from the ceiling, the crystalline stems interact with light to create a magical space through which viewers can walk. Across the gallery, on the right, you can see hints of glowing blue lights at the entry to Luminous Garden (Wave).

5_LuminousGardenWave
Photo 5: Luminous Garden (Wave) is a computer-controlled light installation made of hundreds of tiny blue LEDs embedded within cast resin seedpods and set atop piano wires. This man-made environment evokes a landscape or garden. The effect of this particular color of blue LED lights is calming and meditative. The programming of lights creates a slow cycle of changes like a wave or breath, so when you are in the space it slows you down and makes you aware of your own breath.

Luminous Garden Wave
Photo 6: This is a detail view of the glowing blue seedpods in Luminous Garden (Wave), which appear to hover in the air like fireflies.

I have learned so much seeing my works from the last two decades together in one space, and have been thrilled with viewers’ responses.  I have witnessed how the various sculptures explore relationships between the natural and man-made worlds, and how these themes have circled around over the years in new forms and materials.  Whether using leaves or light, I seek to create a sense of wonder so that viewers can see the world with fresh eyes.

It has been a pleasure taking you on a tour of the exhibit. Coincidentally, the day that this blog will be published is the last day of the Susquehanna exhibition. Then, several of the works — the entire Ice Forest installation, Tangle, Water Chestnut Sphere, and two series of prints — will travel to the Cynthia-Reeves Gallery in North Adams, MA, located right next to MassMOCA. The exhibit runs from September 29 – November 13, 2016. If you are visiting western Massachusetts for art viewing or leaf peeping this fall, please stop by the gallery! Feel free to contact me, I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can find additional information about “Recasting Nature”, including a review, interview and artist statement on my website.

Thanks for reading and looking!

Best wishes,

Beth

 

Photos by  Elizabeth Stene

Kehinde Wiley Upcoming Exhibition

A New Republic, WileyThe Phoenix Art Museum has an upcoming exhibition, Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic. The exhibition will run from October 7, 2016 to January 8, 2017. This exhibition will feature sixty paintings and sculptures by Wiley. Wiley has emerged as one of the leading American artists within the last decade. Known for his portraits, Wiley draws influence from traditional, aristocratic portraits to make his modern portraits. In doing so, Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic raises questions about race, gender, and the politics of representation.

For more information, visit the Phoenix Art Museum’s website. More information about the exhibit can be found at Kehinde Wiley’s website.

Guest Blog Post, Jacob Oet: Why “Art” and “Serious” Should Get a Divorce

Jacob OetFor some people, “serious art” is a compound word. They say it with the most severe reverence that is usually reserved for funerals and graduation speeches. These are people who think that good art can’t be silly, or that silliness can’t be sincere or profound.

However, as any creator knows, art is entirely unpredictable and rule-breaking. Creating something good is like riding an endlessly bucking horse; if the artist wishes to ride any distance without falling off, they must learn to adapt to the horse’s movement.

Mediocre art is very easy to identify; it feels unnatural, restrained, sedated, in chains. A horse that doesn’t buck will never go anywhere interesting. It’s more like taking a pony in a circle at an amusement park.

For critics, there is little worse than making the wrong distinction between good and bad: mediocre art is sincere, however poorly executed; bad art is always insincere. While mediocre artists give us clichés and flat soda, they are not as dangerous as “serious art” snobs.

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“Silly or serious” is not a dichotomy. Attend a wedding reception to see this in action; watch the bride and groom, hours after making “the most important decision of their lives,” get drunk. Watch their parents get drunk and start reminiscing about baby moments. Also, consider sex, one of the silliest acts. Intercourse is the only time when it is interesting and enjoyable to repeat the same motion hundreds of times, time and again. Yet this is what allows the human race to continue.

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“Silly or serious” is not a dichotomy. When evaluating art, one must treat “silly” and “serious” as the primary colors of any good work. The mark of a brilliant artist is the ability to be both silly and serious.

This appears in all genres of art, and I’m going to take you through music, literature, and unframed art with such examples as Mozart, Lewis Carroll, YouTube, and Futurama.

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I love Mozart. I love the calm-before-the-storm-iness of Mozart. I love the crystalline confidence of his scales. I love the catch of his melodies. I especially love how Mozart mixes silly and serious.

Mozart’s canon “Leck Mich Im Arsch” (literally, “lick me in the ass”), is one of my favorite examples of how silly and serious can work together to produce art that is unquestionably brilliant, even if it does make you giggle. Just think that without these lyrics, this would sound like a solemn ode to brotherhood.

Another of my favorite Mozart moments is from his final opera The Magic Flute. In one of Mozart’s most cheerful, upbeat, and memorable pieces, the Queen of Night asks her daughter to murder Sarastro, while exercising insane vocal techniques that singers have to dedicate their lives to attain. It’s a funny song, because the seriousness of the lyrics clash with the flowing lightness of the tune.

The vengeance of Hell boils in my heart,

Death and despair flame about me!

If Sarastro does not through you feel

The pain of death,

Then you will be my daughter nevermore.

It’s a scary song; listening to it, I get chills. And it’s a song that gets me through the day, one I love to sing over and over, under my breath, everywhere I go.

It’s not just the mixing of silly and sincere that makes these pieces great; it’s the undeniable humanity and sincerity of the music.

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Now consider Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.” Its linguistic brilliance and inventiveness is first class, as the beauty isn’t in the meaning so much as in the way the plot is actually understandable, despite the strangeness of its language. The atmospheric brilliance of the first stanza is inimitable:

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

Its specific nonspecific language allows us to imagine and feel anything, depending on how we enter the poem. Many would write this poem off as silly. Yes, it is silly, but I find serious and sincere qualities in its retelling of the hero’s journey. It is a metaphor for triumph over any conflict in our lives.

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There is also the problem of unframed art. Some people tend to think that art must present itself as art, and that only certain kinds of art exist. Music, poetry, theater, painting, sculpture, etc… What about TV shows? What about YouTube videos?

This YouTube video by user wendyvainity seems at first to be nothing but nightmare fuel, with dogs. Here is a full synopsis of the video: two dogs sing an auto-tuned song about being dogs while the hairs on their coats grow incredibly long and then shrink back into their body; they jump over each other, and then they jump over what is probably the River Styx. Even on the other side of the river, they keep singing, and their hairs keep growing and shrinking back. Yes, I’d say nightmare fuel with dogs is a pretty accurate term, but—wendyvainity’s video also engages the absurd and the nonsensical to speak about (or at least prime in our unconscious minds) mortality, change, identity, fate, self-consciousness, and the possibility of real connection. Oddly enough, it reminds me a lot of Beckett.

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The animated sci-fi comedy show Futurama has proven itself capable of genius, but what really makes some of the episodes “art” is the show’s commitment to sincerity. Take for example my favorite episode, “Jurassic Bark.” The episode is a perfect blend of silliness and seriousness.

For those who are not familiar with Futurama, the premise of the show is that Fry, a loser pizza delivery boy living at the turn of the 21st century, accidentally gets cryonized until the year 3000, and must adapt to his new life. A common theme is Fry’s attempting to reconcile his past life with his current existence, and the possibility of his own insignificance.

Why is “Jurassic Bark” such a brilliant episode? Because it confronts cynicism with sincerity.

Here is a brief summary of “Jurassic Bark”: A museum in New New York digs up the remnants of the pizza restaurant that employed Fry in the 20th century. In the exhibit, Fry finds the fossilized body of his old dog, Seymour. After making a show of protesting in front of the museum, Fry gets to keep his fossilized dog. Fry’s mad scientist boss, Professor Farnsworth, says that he can bring the dog back to life. However, Fry’s best friend, Bender, gets jealous and upset with Fry for spending so much time preparing for the dog’s revival.

The episode alternates between Fry’s preparation for Seymour’s arrival in the present, and flashbacks of the history of Fry’s experience with his dog. The flashbacks start with their first meeting, when Fry gets a prank pizza order and shares the unpaid-for pizza with the starved dog in an alley, who follows Fry home. The flashbacks culminate in Fry’s cryonization and the dog’s subsequent search for Fry.

Fry: “I have a pizza here for Seymour Asses.”

Man at Delivery Address: “There isn’t anybody by that name here. Or anywhere. I hope in time you realize how stupid you are.”

Fry: “I wouldn’t count on it.”

At the end of the episode, learning that the dog lived for twelve years after Fry got cryonized, Fry succumbs to the contagious cynicism of his coworkers, and decides, for the first time in his life, to be ‘emotionally mature’ and to let his dog stay dead. The last lines of the episode (as given by IMDB) are:

Fry: I had Seymour ‘till he was three. That’s when I knew him, and that’s when I loved him… I’ll never forget him…

[Picks up the fossil and looks into its apparent eyes]

Fry: But he forgot me a long, long time ago…

But the episode doesn’t end there. The episode ends with a montage of the twelve years Seymour spent waiting in front of the pizzeria for Fry’s return, accompanied by a beautifully sung rendition of “I Will Wait for You” from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

Good writers are deliberate, and every detail in “Jurassic Bark” is necessary to the episode and has some poetic value. I am going to offer a few of the most striking motifs, and some parts of the episode that I think embody them. As a warning to the reader, many of these examples are extremely specific and require a familiarity with the tropes and characters of Futurama:

The buried past is still alive in some form: fossilized Seymour, flashbacks… False emotional showiness: Bender the magician, Leela dramatically stripping and running to the lava, Bender emerging from the floor like a volcano, Bender’s robot dog… Cynicism as a destructive force: Bender’s throwing the fossil into the lava, Fry’s parents ignoring Seymour’s barking at Fry’s cryonized body, Fry’s ultimate decision not to recover Seymour… Cynicism as learned behavior: Fry is Bender’s apprentice, Fry’s ultimate decision… Sincerity as something frowned upon: the crew’s lighthearted scorn of Fry’s three-day dance-protest to get his dog from the museum, Bender beating up Zoidberg after Zoidberg explains Bender’s magic trick to the audience, Bender choosing to believe that Fry’s emotions are fake and that Fry is only acting that way to make Bender feel bad… Sincere connection as a rare and valuable ideal: Seymour is weak at first but grows healthy when fed and given love, Fry is only happy when with Seymour, Fry and Seymour are lonely and outcast but fill a void in each other’s lives, symbolized by their ability to sing together “Walking on Sunshine”…

Many viewers, angered by their own emotional responses to the episode, have complained that the ending of “Jurassic Bark” is manipulative, and rightly so; like all great stories, we are tricked into feeling emotion for people that don’t exist and the decisions they make. Where the objectors are wrong, however, is in denouncing this manipulation. Yes, we are tricked, as many great writers have tricked us in the past. We are tricked into first believing that Fry is making the right decision (a triumph for cynicism), and then shown that his dog never stopped believing and just kept waiting. In the end, moved to tears and anger as many viewers are, we ourselves are the triumph of sincerity.

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So. What’s the takeaway? Why is any of this important?

Silliness is the most underrated aspect of art.

More than anything, sincerity is what counts.

Art doesn’t have to be serious to make you a better person.

If you can be a silly genius, more power to you.

A Visit to the Barnhart Studio

Barnhart Studio, a castle of metal and cinderblock, is tucked into a Mesa residential area. When I ring the doorbell, an unassuming man in a t-shirt opens the door: William Barnhart.

After a brief introduction, I am given a tour of the studio. William starts from the foundation of the building. From the tile work on the bathroom walls to the welding on the doors, most of the fixtures in the building are made from recycled materials, and they are all William Barnhart’s handiwork.

The very studio where William works is a reminder that art sometimes requires more than a table and chisel or paintbrush. The studio resembles a mechanic’s garage, a zone under construction, where a plaster sculpture waits to be completed. When I ask how long it takes to finish a project, William says, “It takes as long as it takes.” He shows me the swinging cranes that lift heavy materials, the giant fan he traded a painting for, and a room he is working on.

We walk and talk, and then we sit down in his office and talk about his work and about art in general. The following is a recreation of part of our conversation:

Superstition Review: Have you worked with art galleries?

William Barnhart: I did for a time, but not anymore. Art galleries insulate the artist from the clients, because if the client and the artist are communicating, there really is no need for the art gallery. I like the communication with my clients. I can put my studio down anywhere, and my clients will come to me.

SR: That’s true, you have an actual client-artist relationship. What kind of mediums and materials do you work with?

WB: I do prints, paintings, sculpture. I like working with bronze, making sculptures. You know, bronze, it’ll be around for generations.

SR: I read that the sculpture you recently finished has gold on it. Do you think the value of the materials you use adds something to your work?

WB: I definitely want to use quality materials in my work. It’s not necessarily the value of the materials but the quality of them.

SR: I know some artists try to make social commentary with their art. What would you say is the message you are trying to convey with your art?

WB: Social commentary is definitely not the focus of my work. I want my art to be universal, to transcend the bounds of time. It’s more about relationship issues, about human emotions and the drama of the figure. It’s about the human experience.

We discuss other things, such as his creative process and why he chose that particular area to place his studio. But when I take leave of William Barnhart, print-maker, designer, painter, sculptor—with “more stripes than the tigers,” to use his words—what lingers most in my mind is the image of the high-domed building, the living space, the vibrant place of craft that is itself a work of art.

For more information about William Barnhart’s studio and his work, visit his website.