Hope in the Shadows of Decay

August 15, 2011 5:00 am0 comments

altThere is an image in photographer Andrew Moore’s new book, Detroit Disassembled, which perfectly illustrates the appeal of his work. A busted up piano, the very symbol of high culture, sits at the center of a photograph of an abandoned ballroom. Evidence of an ornate, high ceiling and interior arched doorways are obscured by decay, destruction, and debris. The piano is literally on its last leg, having lost the others to time and indifference, and its pedals sit detached in front of the once grand keyboard. Evidence of the room’s former life is strewn about and more recent graffiti adorns the walls. It is the picture of urban decay, the image of a decadent, cultured past through the lens of an artist living in the post-industrialist century.
“That was originally a luxury apartment building that was completed in 1929,” Moore tells me by phone, adding that many of Detroit’s significant buildings were created in that landmark year, just before the country was gripped by the stock market crash and subsequent Great Depression.
Images from Moore’s book will be on view at one of Provincetown’s newest galleries, Gary Marotta Fine Art, beginning this Friday, and you will not want to miss this incredible show.

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The Range of Abstraction

August 10, 2011 5:00 am0 comments

altIt’s all about connections.
That’s one of the ways that curator James Balla describes the Abstraction show that’s on exhibit at the Albert Merola Gallery from August 12 to September 1.
“Even once you get them up on the wall, you start seeing relationships between and among the paintings,” says Balla, himself co-owner of the gallery and an artist in his own right. “Not to mention between the generations.”
Indeed, from Fritz Bultman—born in 1916—to Bill Jenson (1945) to Duane Slick (1961) to Ryan Sullivan (1983), the show is covering a great deal of territory in chronology alone.
But that’s far from all. The word “abstraction” is by now as broad a term as can be made in the visual arts. Abstract expressionism comes from the combination of the emotional intensity and self-denial of the German Expressionists with the anti-figurative aesthetic of European abstract schools that include Futurism, the Bauhaus, and Synthetic Cubism. Additionally, it has an image of being rebellious, anarchic, highly idiosyncratic, and even nihilistic.
“This show, however,” notes curator Balla, “seeks to show some of the ways that serious artists confront and use the idea in their work.”
And, as mentioned before, there is a flow. “Provincetown has always been on the fence about abstraction versus figuration,” says Balla, and it’s clear in some of the pieces that that conversation is taking place on the canvas. And there is, as well, a connection to Provincetown in the work of each of the artists being exhibited.
Ellsworth Kelley has a piece from the 60s on display, the reductive Orange and Blue over Yellow; he “works from nature, with a focus on reducing things to their essentials,” says Balla.

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The Ernden Gallery Celebrates 10 Years

July 28, 2011 5:14 pm0 comments

On the evening of September 11, 2001, Dennis Costin sat at the dinner table with his partner Ernie Bynum in New York City discussing the enormity of that morning’s tragedy.
“I remember sitting there that night and Ernie said, ‘The only way we’re going to get our soul back [as a nation] is through art’,” says Costin.

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5:03 pm0 comments

Artist Jiang Peng was born in a China that had already begun to change in ways no one could have ever predicted back in 1976.  The ten-year period known as the Cultural Revolution had just come to an end when Peng was born in the city of Chengdu.  Launched by Mao Zedong, the Chairman of the Communist Party in 1966, the Cultural Revolution sought to eradicate the “bourgeois” and “capitalist” elements he deemed present in China. What followed was a violent, tumultuous period in Chinese history with millions facing persecution and suffering widespread violence and abuse.
Growing up in China, Peng, like most children, was a member of the Young Pioneers, a communist youth organization, and was taught – or more aptly put, brainwashed – to believe the crushing ideals of the Chinese government. Peng’s paintings take a playful political view of his childhood in China and his latest show Brain Wash is on display through August 4 at Tao Water Gallery, 352 Commercial Street in Provincetown.
His work is political in both a humorous and slight-of-hand way, allowing him to work in relative freedom and without harassment from the authoritarian government. Famed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s recent imprisonment and constant surveillance by the government begs the question how do other artists produce work with political themes, particularly ones that can be critical?

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Wish You Were Here…

July 16, 2011 8:09 pm0 comments

Even in this digital age, sending a postcard, or collecting them, seems to be a thriving aspect of going on vacation. Periodically, we here at Provincetown Magazine will feature a postcard from days gone by because of its bizarre imagery, funny notes, or historical importance. Postmarked August 2, 1950, a [...]

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Art Between Friends

7:22 pm0 comments

altMuch is written about new trends in art. New techniques, new approaches, and new artists are the focus of many a publication. Not nearly enough time is spent reflecting on endurance in the creative fields.
One of the great treasures of Provincetown is its legacy of artists who not only lived and painted here in the art colony’s heyday, but who continue to work well into their 80s and 90s. That’s not something you find everywhere. It doesn’t fit with the bohemian artist image. It doesn’t fit with the painful, self-destructive artist archetype that has fascinated us all for decades. These lifetime artists have a knowledge and a discipline that goes beyond the devotion to one’s art to encompass the art of living, the art of being a whole person with various interests, complex ideas, and simple pleasures.
Two such artists, Varujan Boghosian and Ed Giobbi are featured in an exhibition at the Berta Walker Gallery, opening this weekend. The subtitle for the show is “Best Friends.” Both Boghosian and Giobbi are 85 years old. Both are incredible, accomplished artists. Both honed their skills at Vesper George School of Art and here in Provincetown – Giobbi studying with Henry Hensche and Boghosian on his own. Both love to cook. And they have been the best of friends since 1948. But as artists, while they may touch on some related themes here and there, they are each as unique as can be.
“I’m very simpatico to his imagery. I think he’s a fabulous artist,” Boghosian enthuses about Giobbi. Likewise, Giobbi says of Boghosian, “He’s absolutely the finest assemblage artist in America today. He’s extremely talented.”

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Guardians and Sentinels

6:50 pm0 comments

altBudd Hopkins’ career as an artist began with an obsession.
“When I got my vision, my voice, back in the 1950’s I was completely obsessed with abstract expressionism,” says Hopkins.  “My work changed and it became more colorful, more work with shaped canvases and collage. At 80, I’ve fallen back in love with abstract expressionism.”
A solo “mini retrospective” at Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill currently features the work of Hopkins, who has taught at the art school for 30 years. With works in the permanent collections of the Whitney, the Guggenheim, the Hirshhorn, the Corcoran Gallery, San Francisco’s Museum of Art, Boston’s Museum of Fine Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Hopkins is regarded as one of the most influential and important living American artists.
Born in Wheeling, West Virginia, in 1931, Hopkins graduated from Ohio’s Oberlin College in 1953, whereupon he moved to New York City. Exhibiting his work on the Outer Cape since 1956, Hopkins has been an artistic presence each summer for over 50 years. An original member of the esteemed Long Point Gallery, Hopkins’ influences include his contemporaries Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, and Franz Kline, all of whom spent considerable time in Provincetown as well.

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Abstract Indeed

June 23, 2011 6:28 pm0 comments

altA noted art historian, speaking the other day off the record, ruminated on his academic colleagues’ approach to art. Rarely is it without their having read several publications before viewing a given work. “Academia tends to narrow focus, sadly,” he said.
Ideally, art reflects the world as it moves us while we move through this world. No matter the medium in question, its final destination must be our own heart. A polluted optic strains our ability to receive the purest intent of a painter, movie director, poet, or composer. It is your right to find yourself troubled, elated, mystified, inspired on your own terms.
If you have found yourself intimidated at the prospect of standing before a painting without having forearmed yourself, there is no better opportunity to leap into the void than to give yourself over to the work of John Grillo.
In fact, you’d be better off to stop reading right here before any ulterior thoughts tint your eventual perceptions.

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The Exuberant Images of Joåo de Brito

6:25 pm0 comments

altThe colors are vibrant and bright, bright as the sunlight in João de Brito’s native Portugal and just as welcoming. They belong to paintings that comprise scenes from the artist’s homeland, scenes from his travels in Europe, scenes from here on the Outer Cape, that form a distinctive way of looking at what de Brito calls the “discovery of the everyday.”
You can see some of these paintings at Thanassi Gallery during this year’s Provincetown Portuguese Festival, as part of a special exhibit of João de Brito’s work in oils and giclée, titled Coastal Views.
De Brito is no stranger to Provincetown. A longtime member of the venerable Beachcomber’s Club—and the first Azorean visual artist invited to join—he has a long history with the town. “I was offered a stay in Harry Kemp’s shack,” he says. “I was not able to stay for any length of time, but I spent several hours there. His poetry moved me incredibly… it’s a special world out in the dunes.” (Included in the exhibit at the Thanassi Gallery is a painting of the Tasha and Margo Gelb dune shacks.)
The names he cites as friends are icons of Provincetown, past and present. “I did a painting of Flyer Santos, and this fellow from Toronto fell in love with it and bought it right away,” he remembers. “Napi showed me his collection, and looking at all those paintings—it is like taking a journey. There’s a special energy here, especially in the winter.

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Rebirth of the Barn

6:17 pm0 comments

altCharles Hawthorne founded the Cape Cod School of Art atop Miller Hill Road in a large barn built in 1900 on a sand dune. That was the moment that gave birth to the Provincetown art colony as well as thousands of artistic careers. Now known as the Hawthorne Barn, the large studio is assuredly one of the most historically significant structures in Provincetown, based solely on the events that happened within: Hans Hofmann and Jackson Pollock argued in there; Divine and the Dreamlanders partied in there; Tennessee Williams danced in there; an art class of nuns painted nude male models in there, or so the story goes.
In 1978, the federal government added the Hawthorne Barn to the National Register of Historic places. Despite the historic importance of the barn, it fell into disrepair, and poor management turned it into an empty building with little public function.
Not long ago, the barn stood on 17 acres of undeveloped land. Now, high-priced condos crowd the property as parcel after parcel has been sold, an indication as to how truly imperiled the Hawthorne studio was. But there was a huge sigh of relief when the barn sold in 2009. And now there are shouts of joy as the plans for a new artistic life for the Hawthorne Barn are unveiled.

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