Thursday, January 13, 2011

I don't hate Michael Snow! "Shakespeare always said his plays should appeal to the beer-drinkers in the front row "

OK here we go. The entries to follow are for my the second installment of my Canadian Art History class - 1960s to present day.

We have been asked by our Professor, who is the best ever I might add; no I'm not looking for brownie points, just happens to be the real truth-to keep a journal, starting January 11Th, 2011, based on our classes and the topics we cover.

The first article hand outs were about Michael Snow and Joyce Wieland. Both of these artists were also covered in our first lecture.
At NSCAD Michael Snow was pretty much the "IT" boy the "ART STAR". I have to say I wasn't much interested in much of it.

The period of the 60s and 70s does have particular interest to me as I am a child of the 60's born in the 50's. Attending NSCAD in the 1972 right through the 70s gives me a certain perspective.

Conceptual art at NSCAD ruled during the time I was a student. I was 21, a tender age in some ways but I did have by this time a foundation of a core ideology however under developed and naive. I had a desire to work as a traditional artist, rendering figurative subject matter through drawing and painting. I was in for a rude awakening!

I had no idea what to expect upon my arrival into art school. The prevalence of conceptual art was confusing, disturbing, threatening, intimidating, distancing, gender specific and entertaining by times.

I remember on one occasion having Mr. Peanut give a presentation of his book; yes Mr. Peanut published a book! It had cut out peanut shaped holes through the center of the pages with a peanut in the shell snugly fitted into the matching shaped hole. Fascinating!

In open Art Seminar class at Mount Allison we have been discussing Clemet Greenburg, the acclaimed and infamous art critic. The juxtaposition of him as the privier of abstract expressionism, painting being the only relevant art form, the idea of pure art, along side of what Michael Snow and Joyce Wieland attempted, to re-define art that dealt with the ideas of what art is and examining what the process of making art is an interesting one.

I am not an artist that has ever been a really interested in conceptual , abstract or abstract expressionism, although I have explored it some in my own art practice. I am glad things have changed in the art world and that we are no longer subject to adhere to a particular ideology and discourse if we choose not to. The Avaunt Gard had it's on rigidity, as did other art movements.

I say we don't need to throw the baby out with the bath water. We need to hang on to and understand some of our past in order to understand our present and our future.

Thank goodness for change.

I had a wonderful painting teacher in my early years as a student at NSCAD by the name of Dana Loomis, who was an abstract expressionist-cum- surrealist painter. I learned so much from him, not just about painting but more importantly about myself and how it was essential to find out about my own ideology. He gave us a required reading Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Persig, one of those life changing books that had a profound affect on me as an artist then and continues to do so today.

I was very saddened to hear of his death a few years back after finding his obituary on line.

Painting Exhibit Honors The Work Of Late OU Art Professor

By Athens NEWS Staff

From the 1960s until 1990, Ohio University's art program boasted a nationally renowned abstract expressionist-cum-surrealist with galleries in New York City. Now, almost 14 years after Dana Loomis' death...

From the 1960s until 1990, Ohio University's art program boasted a nationally renowned abstract expressionist-cum-surrealist with galleries in New York City. Now, almost 14 years after Dana Loomis' death, OU's School of Art is holding a retrospective exhibit sampling the life's work of the artist.

Ron Kroutel, OU art professor and close colleague of Loomis, was instrumental in organizing the exhibit. He said Loomis' paintings won't just draw intellectuals and artists at the university, but will also appeal to the Athens community. ""I think the show is not only for the people in the School of Art, it's also for the wider Athens community,"" he said. "Shakespeare always said his plays should appeal to the beer-drinkers in the front row -- I think Loomis' paintings have that quality."

Indeed, Loomis' oil paintings do have a populist appeal. The crisp and stunning realism might leave even the most jaded art critic in awe, and the careful arrangement of metaphorical objects leave inevitable echoes in the subconscious.

Consider, for instance, Loomis' ""Four Ages of Man,"" on display at the OU Art Gallery in Seigfred Hall. The picture shows an open closet with an army jacket, a business suit, a university team pennant, and a baby's hat and pacifier. Each fold in the fabric and shadow on the shelves is photographically accurate, yet the angles and arrangement of the still-life objects follow the same composition used by abstract artists like Piet Mondrian -- the man who painted those sleek pictures composed of big red, blue, yellow and white tiles. Loomis, in fact, began his career as an abstract expressionist in the school of the famous American painter William DeKooning, under whom he studied at Yale.

Seigfred's exhibit samples Loomis' early abstract work as well, the most gripping of which is ""Group Forms,"" which he finished in 1961. This painting, though initially appearing as simply obsessive smears of paint, reveals itself to be an intensely sexual painting upon further examination. The swoops and scrawls of paint form the almost-figures of naked women -- or at least squirming and suggestive organic forms.

Kroutel said Loomis' paintings were not difficult to organize because many locals own Loomis originals. Many come from the private collection of his widow, Gloria Loomis, while others belong to professors or other Athens residents.

Kroutel also expressed surprise that the art school didn't act sooner to honor its deceased professor -- they simply hired a replacement. ""When he died, they didn't really do anything,"" he said. ""I thought it was odd that the school would act like a corporation.""

But Kroutel commended the school for its support when he brought up the idea of a Loomis retrospective, allocating money to print a color pamphlet for the exhibit. A graphic design student in the School of Art laid out the publication, and it contains reproductions of Loomis' work along with commentary from Kroutel describing Loomis' career. ""He and I were close colleagues for 25 to 30 years,"" Kroutel explained. ""(Loomis) was quite a bit older than me, but we shared the same attitude toward art.""

Kroutel's essay describes Loomis' transition to realism with works such as ""Pharos #1: Greece,"" which appears at the gallery. Loomis, in this painting, makes no attempt at realism, but he is beginning to use representation to convey his ideas while still retaining his abstract composition.

Most of Loomis' canvases on display, however, sample the artist's realistic work. Some of the most impressive are those that depict a carefully positioned canvas arranged before an open door or window. The paintings on the canvases complete the landscapes outside -- a quote from the surrealist vocabulary of Renee Magritte. ""Mirror Image,"" painted in 1986, uses this device, as do several other paintings in the retrospective.

Loomis' admiration of Mondrian is also a theme throughout the show. Works such as ""Formal Devices,"" ""Bloody Mary Morning"" and ""The Four Humors"" all have the same strong, linear composition and repeating planes of red, blue and yellow.

Anyone in Athens can see Loomis' paintings at Seigfred Gallery through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at no charge. Viewers should be prepared, however, to stand in awe.

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