Edward M Gomez
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From the Hyperallergic.com article: "[T]he album is a romp from its opening rave-up, 'Moonbeams,' which, after a poetic recitation backed by gentle birdsong, erupts into [Ono's] gasping yelps and a blast from the band, through 'Shine, Shine,' a hard-charging call for everyone to, well, shine. [...] Acorn invites readers to take part in collective imaginings. As the artist has often stated, 'A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.'"

 

19 April 2014

Strange — and strangely compelling — images from the Iranian-born painter Marzie Nejad

Marzie Nejad self-taught artist Luise Ross Gallery

NEW YORK — The self-taught, Iranian-born, New Jersey-based painter Marzie Nejad has come up with some of the strangest images I’ve seen in a long time. How about a picture of Frida Kahlo, that unibrowed, cult-worshipped patron saint of Mexican modernism, appearing to enjoy a pleasant nap as she tumbles down a rushing waterfall in a Chinese-style canoe? (See “Frida” [2012], here on the left.) In the background: a high ridge topped by the ruins of an ancient Roman aqueduct. Or how about “Memory” (2014) with its row of vine-filled flower boxes rolling out into the far distance of the pictorial space against a curtain of foggy color that is joyously multi-striped, like a rainbow. Where do such images come from?

In a recent interview, Nejad, who gladly retired from medicine (kidneys were her specialty) to devote her time to painting, told me, “My pictures come more from visions than from my dreams.” More evidence of Nejad’s audacious image-making will be on view in “Conversation,” her solo exhibition at Luise Ross Gallery in New York’s Chelsea district, which will open on April 24 and run through May 31. See my article about the work in this show in HYPERALLERGIC.com. In it, I consider whether or not looking at this kind of art from a typically ironic (and, implicitly, somewhat condescending) postmodenist point of view is the most appropriate way to examine it or not.

 

12 April 2014

Primoridial, mark-making gestures and texture-rich surfaces in Gene Mann’s New York debut

Gene Mann Andrew Edlin Gallery abstract art

NEW YORK — The Swiss-French artist Gene Mann is presenting her first-ever solo exhibition in New York at Andrew Edlin Gallery (through April 26). On view: Richly textured works, which blend gestural painting, figurative drawing and collage on everything from small pieces of cardboard to big boards. Often an air of something primordial and elemental wafts through Mann’s art. Her images of semi-abstract human figures and freewheeling abstractions celebrate the basic act of making lasting, even yearning personal marks. They’re gestures that emphatically say, “I am alive. I am here.” For more about Mann’s life and work, see my article about this exhibition in the online arts-and-culture magazine HYPERALLERGIC.com.

 

10 April 2014

Make it big, really big: Artist Jack McLean’s strange, funny, crowded, sprawling drawings

NEW YORK — A few months ago, in Tokyo, I met the Scottish-born artist Jack McLean, who has lived and worked in Japan for two decades and who sometimes likes to dress up as a tree. In my just-published article about McLean's art and ideas in the April issue of the American art magazine Art & Antiques, you can read about his unusual drawings in ink on paper or canvas, and about how packed they are with overlapping, weird-funny scenes and goofy characters. You might even recognize some of the neurotic urban types and 21st-century zombies McLean depicts in his visual offerings of the human comedy in all of its self-absorbed, head-turning, gadget-obsessed, curse- and laughter-inducing splendor. See a PDF containing the published pages of this magazine article here. McLean is represented by The Container, a gallery in Tokyo.

 

23 March 2014

Carve it! Near Chicago, the works of self-taught artist William Dawson in career survey

MUNSTER, INDIANA — In this town some 30 miles southeast of downtown Chicago, the South Shore Arts Center is presenting “William Dawson” (through April 20), a retrospective of the work of the well-known American self-taught artist who was born in Alabama in 1901, spent most of his life in Chicago and died in 1990. The exhibition was organized by the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in Montgomery, Alabama. Known for his wooden totems featuring stacks of heads with nearly generic facial expressions, Dawson also made paintings on paper of animals and the occasional abstract creation. Highlights of this survey include carvings of birds, several stand-alone figures (including a forlorn-looking Uncle Sam) and a charming but somewhat ghoulish depiction of the cheery 1970s pop-music act, Tony Orlando and Dawn (left). Remember “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,” the group’s big hit from 1973? Probably better not to... I love the idea that Dawson compressed his depiction of this chart-topping trio’s two female back-up singers into a single figure. That’s them/her on the right in this photo, with real human hair, too.

 

21 March 2014

Strange images from a sometimes spontaneous, sometimes masterfully controlled flow of ink

Marcos Bontempo    
Untitled works on paper (2012), made with ink and/or acrylic paint, and sometimes with salt or iron oxide, by Marcos Bontempo. Photos: Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago.  

CHICAGO — Here in the Loop’s gallery district, Carl Hammer Gallery is presenting “Spiritual Meanderings” (through March 29), an exhibition of 52 small-format drawings by the Argentine-born artist Marcos Bontempo. Bontempo, who has lived in Spain since his childhood, sometimes suffers from schizophrenic episodes. To make his art, he uses ink or acrylic paint, occasionally mixing salt or iron oxide into these materials (which can give his black ink a molten, blood-red appearance) to make images the surrealists of the 1920s probably would have found captivating.

Using a technique that seems to be as controlled as it is spontaneous, Bontempo masks out certain parts of his larger, animated forms, such as their hands and feet, while allowing broader brushstrokes to shape the main trunks of their bodies. From a distance, some of the artist’s primordial-feeling, half-human, half-animal figures — a man with a bird’s head, a giraffe with a man’s head — appear to be ornately decorated with line work as fine as that of old engravings. On closer inspection, however, it turns out that it is the free flow of his ink or paint that naturally generates such richly, randomly patterned passages.

Bontempo’s strange figures, with their gargoyles’ wings, curling tails or spiky plumage jerk, twitch, bend and stretch in silhouette, like bizarre characters in shadow-puppet plays. Compelling and mysterious, his haunting pictures leave after-images that are hard to shake.

Carl Hammer will bring a selection of Bontempo’s works to the 2014 Outsider Art Fair in early May (May 8-May 11).

Posted by E.M.G.

 

25 February 2014

In New York, artist Yoko Ono presents the 2014 Courage Awards for the Arts

NEW YORK - First presented in 2009, Yoko Ono’s Courage Awards for the Arts are among the less well-known expressions of philanthropy and cultural activism for which the internationally famous multimedia artist, performer and peace activist has been recognized. Still, as Ono has said, it is an awards program whose mission and character resonate deeply with the artist herself. That’s because, Ono has observed, over the decades she has learned a thing or two about perseverance, struggle and striving to remain true to one’s creative vision, often in the face of harsh criticism, misunderstanding or rejection.

Above, left to right: Artist Yoko Ono presiding at the podium at the presentation of the 2014 Courage Awards for the Arts in New York this past Sunday, Feb. 24, 2014; Ono’s white top hat; performance artist Laurie Anderson, one of this year’s laureates, at the awards ceremony.. Photos by E.M.G.  

With such themes in mind, Ono’s Courage Awards acknowledge the achievements and the stick-to-itiveness of art-makers, music-makers, creative visionaries and determined champions of free expression, that indispensable, basic human right that allows creativity to flow. Past recipients of the awards have included, among others, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange; the feminist artist, writer and activist, Kate Millett; composer-performer Meredith Monk; the Guerrilla Girls; composer-performers La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela; and the 19th-century writer Émile Zola. (In fact, PEN American Center, the organization that supports writers and freedom of expression, picked up Zola’s 2010 award for him in that long-deceased author’s name.) Each award consists of a framed certificate and a check in the amount of $25,000.00.

Speaking to a gathering of guests that included Patti Smith, composer and WNYC-FM radio-program host David Garland (“Spinning on Air”), artist and Franklin Furnace Archive founder Martha Wilson (a 2012 Courage Award laureate), museum curators and other art-world figures, Ono presented the 2014 Courage Awards for the Arts to performance artist-musician Laurie Anderson; the Vienna-based, Austrian artist Valie Export; the British singer-actress Marianne Faithfull; and the London-based artist Gustav Metzger, who is most often associated with “auto-destructive” art.

More... (Click here to open a PDF containing full news report.)

Posted by E.M.G.

 

14 January 2014

American Visionary Art Museum

In this article, the American Visionary Art Museum’s founder-director, Rebecca A. Hoffberger, who organized the exhibition, notes that it “proposes that we can either use technology to empower or to diminish what it means to be human. The choice, as the art and information on display suggest, is ours to make — and it’s one we have a responsibility to make wisely.”

 

Below: Some of my articles and essays published in late 2013 and early 2014

Click on each box to go directly to a PDF or website, where you can read the text in its entirety, as it appeared in its original publication.

 

11 December 2013

In Japan, a Scottish artist creates fantasy worlds (on some very large sheets of paper)

Click here for the website of The Container, the Tokyo gallery that represents artist Jack McLean.

 

6 November 2013

In Tokyo, a self-taught artist celebrates the human spirit in intricate, abstract drawings

TOKYO—In Japan, the 67-year-old, self-taught artist Hiroyuki Doi, a former master chef who worked in some of Tokyo’s top restaurants, has been making abstract drawings in ink on paper for several decades. Since his art first emerged on the international scene in a solo exhibition at the now-closed Phyllis Kind Gallery in New York in 2002, Doi’s compositions, which are made up of little more than dense groupings of tiny black circles, have become increasingly complex in form and ever more expansive in the themes they have addressed.

Doi has observed that, for him, “using circles to produce images has provided soothing relief from the sadness and grief” he has felt since the death, many years ago, of his youngest brother from a brain tumor. Since then, Doi has created works that have alluded, as he puts it, to such themes as “the transmigration of the soul, the cosmos, the coexistence of living creatures, human cells, human dialog and peace.”

He feels strongly about art that reveals the touch of its maker’s hand; he believes the most soulful, expressive artworks let viewers know they were made by fellow humans, not by machines. Doi told me: “I want to create works that will convey to future generations a message about the importance of this human touch.”

To create his drawings, Doi uses a kind of Pilot brand pen that is manufactured and marketed only in Japan. Its .005 milimeter, polyacetal tip keeps its shape and, unlike a felt-tip pen, does not dry out. It dispenses black, oil-based ink smoothly until its last drop. Doi draws on Japanese washi, or handmade paper, which can be produced using various ingredients. Doi has used washi made with fibers from the bark of such shrubs or trees as the kouzo (the paper mulberry), the ganpi and the mitsumata.

Now, with “Hiroyuki Doi: Pen & Art,” a mini-retrospective of his small and large drawings of recent years at Pen Station Museum (near Kyobashi subway station in Tokyo; on view through December 20), Japanese viewers have an opportunity to get to know the work of an artist who has become better known overseas.

My article about Doi’s drawings and his current exhibition at Pilot Pen Station, an art space operated by the Pilot Pen Corporation, has been published in the November 6, 2013 edition of The Japan Times/International New York Times. Find the text of the article, with photos, here, on the newspaper’s website.

Posted by E.M.G.

Photos at left, top to bottom: Doi at work in his studio in Tokyo; one of the artist's untitled abstractions; Edward shooting a photo of the artist at his current exhibition at Pilot Pen Station; a view of some works in the show. All photos by E.M.G. except second from top, courtesy of Ricco/Maresca, New York.

 

 

Below: Some of my articles and essays published in the summer and the autumn, 2013

Click on each box to go directly to a PDF or website, where you can read the text in its entirety, as it appeared in its original publication.

   

 

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"Vernacular photography" is the term that's being used nowadays to refer to photos whose creators and, sometimes, whose intended purposes are unknown. It's also the name of a hot collecting category. My article about this field and some of the leading collectors of these unusual, often dramatic images was published in the December 2011/January 2012 issue of Art & Antiques (U.S.A.). See it here. A PDF will take a few seconds to open and download.

My article about the legendary, British-born surrealist artist Leonora Carrington, who died in Mexico City in May 2011, was published in the September 2011 issue of Art & Antiques (U.S.A.). I was one of the last foreign visitors to meet with the reclusive artist at her home in the Mexican capital before she died. See the article here in the form of a PDF. It will take a few seconds to download and open.

Now available: My essay, "Nostalgia for the Future," about the American painter Stephanie Brody-Lederman, in a limited-edition chapbook published by Ballena Studio.

To order a copy, send a check or money order for U.S.A.$6.00 (U.S.A.$7.00 for orders outside the United States) to: Edward M. Gómez, P.O. Box 7339, J.A.F. Station, New York NY 10116-7339 U.S.A.

My article about an interesting discussion that is now going on in the field of outsider/self-taught artists' art has been published in the February 2011 issue of Art & Antiques(U.S.A.). The debate focuses on this question: Should there even be a distinction of categories between art made by academically trained, "professional" artists and art that is created by self-taught art-makers? Here is the complete Art & Antiques article in PDF form.

My article about the Japanese modern artist Takesada Matsutani, pegged to his recent museum exhibition in Kamakura, Japan, has been published in the May 2010 issue of Art in America. (See my 7 February 2010 "Journal" item for information about this artist and his recent exhibitions in Japan.) Matsutani, who has been based in Paris since the late 1960s, was a member of the so-called second generation of the post-World War II Gutai group of prototypical performance and abstract-expressionist artists in Japan. Here is the complete Art in America article in PDF form.

My interview with the artist Aurora Robson was published in the October 2009 issue of Art in America. In it, the Brooklyn-based, Canadian creator of paintings and mixed-media collages, and of sculptures made from cast-off plastic bottles, talks about her philosophy of art-making and the techniques she employs. Of special interest: Robson's environmentalist outlook and how she puts her save-the-planet values into practice as an artist and teacher. Read the article here. A PDF will open.