Gallery visits and research

March 2011
Train trip to  a contemporary  art exhibit in Bologna:
Wayne Thiebaud at the Museo Morandi

Early/pioneer pop artist. I was impressed with the illustrator style, subject matter and size of the works. The comparisons of style, color and subject  between the works of Tiebaud and  Giorgio Morandi  was amplified by the sheer number of Morandi’s pieces and the feeling you were in his domain. Thiebaud was a small but bright spot in this museum.

A review By Mark Van Proyen     | Aug 21, 2011
From Bologna: Wayne Thiebaud at Museo Morandi

On the second floor of an old public building located next to the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna, one can find the Museo Morandi, a dignified and modest exhibition space that is devoted to the work of Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964). Morandi has been widely regarded as the most important Italian painter of the twentieth century, an assertion that was confirmed by a major retrospective devoted to his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2008. That exhibition garnered both praise and interest because of the way that the deeply considered, quiet, and introspective character of the Bolognese master’s work seemed to be such a welcome and uncanny retort to the noisy spectacle of contemporary-art-as-we-know-it.

Morandi lived and worked all his life in Bologna, where, for many years, he taught etching at that city’s Accademia di Belle Arti. Although he made frequent visits to nearby Venice and Florence, in his latter years, he was something of a recluse. Now, over four decades after his death, his oddly eccentric still life compositions still attest to the fact that his legacy as the reigning master of painterly understatement and complex formal subtlety is fully intact. In so many ways, Morandi was a true painter’s painter, deeply ensconced in Italian art history. He was deeply aware of the crucial role that evocations of light and atmosphere play in slowing the viewer’s gaze to the point where pictorial nuance becomes the locus for an aesthetics of deep meditation.

Recently, the Museo Morandi invited Wayne Thiebaud to exhibit fifteen smaller works alongside eleven by Morandi in two of its intimate galleries. The exhibition was curated by Alessia Masi with Carla Crawford and is designed to set up close side-by-side comparisons between the two artists. For example, one of Morandi’s trademark groupings of humble crockery paired with geometrically skewed blocks of cheese in a 1956 painting simply titled Natura morta is set up next to one of Thiebaud’s signature works titled Cheese Wedges (2011). The latter work shows blocks of cheese set on a deli counter with plastic price tags affixed to them. In another instance, one of Thiebaud’s landscape paintings of the Sacramento River delta from the late 1980s is positioned next to one of the landscapes that Morandi painted during the single year that he fled Bologna (1944) owing to the danger posed by nearby military hostilities. The works by Thiebaud exemplify all phases of his long career, and almost all of the works in this exhibition are small, making for intimate visual encounters that seduce a viewer’s eye. Generally, such pairings seem focused on similarities of subject matter, but there are also some obvious formal similarities, such as the backgrounds formulated out of almost flat color that isolate the foreground objects amid intentionally indistinct environments.

The real interest provoked by this exhibition lies in how it reveals the differences between the two painters, and by this, I do not mean that it stages any competitive confrontation, only a very intelligent contrast of sensibility and pictorial priority. Clearly, the most noticeable of these differences is color, and this alone could be the subject of a long philosophical essay. Thiebaud’s color is richly informed by the late modern chromatics of Pop Art and Color-Field painting and is more distantly derived from the work of Matisse and Bonnard. Morandi’s work is much more about tonality, atmospheric subtlety, and the fleeting tangibility of the way that edges between masses of color define form.

These attributes connect Morandi’s work to certain well-known examples of classical Asian painting, such as the famous Six Persimmons, painted by Mu Ch’i in the thirteenth century. This observation underscores the dreamy evanescence of Morandi’s work, and it also leads viewers to how Morandi’s still lifes differ from those of Cézanne, he being the only modern artist whom Morandi admired without equivocation. Cézanne’s objects revel in a tangibility derived from a synthesis of visual look and tactile touch. On the other hand, Morandi’s seem almost as if they were captured as reflections in a placid pool of water, on the verge of a kind of disappearance if and when any turbulence might enter the scene.

This distinction bears on Thiebaud’s still lifes because they live in yet another perceptual space that is informed by very tight gestalts that give way to small festivals of sugary color that delight the eye. Thiebaud’s work has often been discussed in the context of the Pop Art that is historically contemporaneous with it, but in truth, it is much more of a piece with the paintings of Edward Hopper; it represents a realism that is almost self-consciously American in character. His still life objects are all examples of American-style acquireability that are redeemed and given special dignity by way of his deft painterly touch, which is one that does get to the pictorial point rather quickly (compared to Morandi), but not too quickly and not as quickly as is the case with most Pop Art. Take, for example, Thiebaud’s painting of a trio of bubble-gum dispensers titled Three Machines (1963). The machines are almost identical, although Thiebaud does bathe them in slightly different light. What one notices first is their fire-engine-red color, and then we see their multichromatic contents. Only after the sugar rush subsides do we note the regimented placement of the machines, vexingly equidistant from each other as well as the outer edges of the composition. Such compositional regimentation is a constant feature of Thiebaud’s work, especially through the ’70s, and it seems like an oblique nod to the idea of serial imagery that was thought to be so original in the early years of that decade. But Thiebaud’s work is more clever than that, in that he often contradicts his serial deployments of objects with sharp cast shadows rendered in complementary colors, implying that his objects are defined by strong raking light

While thinking about the aesthetic relationships between this pair of painters, I walked over to the school where Morandi taught, hoping to stumble upon some insight gleaned from the artist’s immediate environment. My visit to the school failed to provide me with any such thing, but a visit to the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna located next door proved fruitful. I imagined that this would be the place that Morandi would go on a break between classes, if only to beat Bologna’s beastly summertime heat. I tried to see the things to which Morandi would have paid special attention. As luck would have it, the Pinacoteca has three galleries full of old fresco paintings, one containing a half dozen that are unfinished and two more containing others that had fallen into disrepair. Here we see it all — ghostly forms limned out in whispering pale colors, intimations of what was or what might have been, half-mute ghosts that seem strangely alive and vexingly foreign to any “let’s get to the point” type of thinking. As is true with Morandi’s tabletop cosmologies, the only way to come to terms with this fresco collection is to silently sit there and let them slowly form themselves into consciousness. This is slow art at its best, and in our own moment of manic velocity, at its most uncanny as well.

April 2011
Visit to a new contemporary art gallery in Florence:
Mauro Lovi at the Otto Lougo dell’Arte
In an effort to familiarize myself with the contemporary art galleries in Florence I visit any and all new galleries that open. This is a small gallery with good foot traffic and located in an area with other art and antique dealers.
The first artist exhibited was Mauro Lovi,  to quote the introduction from the catalog.
“Architect, painter, sculpture, graphic artist, art director, planner of suggestive displays,installations, gardens and art parks, inventor of exhibits and events, author of prize winning books, effective catalyst of creative energies, subtle story teller, Mauro Lovi is above all a person endowed with a gentleness of spirit so profound and sensitive as to induce poetry in all he creates.
His works appeared to me as pleasant exercise in color and form. Most of a very marketable scale pleasing to the eye and reminiscent of natural growth.

Gallery visit May 2011
Galleria Poggiali & Forcohni Florence, Italy

I have been familiar with this gallery since moving to Florence 7 years ago. Our first apartment was a few door away. One of the best known actual rotating exhibit galleries in town. Usually show large scale works by known or semi-known contemporary artists. Has had several successful openings with multimedia artists. It is a good source for the free papers and magazines featuring contemporary art, Onpaper Exhibart, Mousse and i.OVO.

June 2011
Visit a contemporary art gallery in Florence, Italy

Marzia Migliora, RADA
EX3 central space, a large auditorium like space.

July 2011
Visit Contemporary sculpture park near Florence, Italy

Enzo Pazzagli Art Park

Enzo Pazzagli                 Arial view of park, planted cedar trees to  create a face/skull not discernible from the ground. Too many pieces for the space, overindulgence on the artist’s part, good blending of resources particularly glass and steel.

Sept. 2011 Attended an Art therapy course,

Art Therapy in Florence  

Course Objectives
Art therapy gives you the chance to use creative processes to express and learn about yourself, giving you tools to help you clarify your life goals and true desires, identify blocks and strategies to jumpstart motivation, help you identify and manage your emotions in a positive way, reduce stress, help build self-esteem and support self-love, and help inspire you.

Using art therapy approaches helps you liberate your creativity without the pressure or self-judgement about your skills or your artistic products, teaching you that the creative act itself is life-enhancing and can bring insight and even healing.

Working individually as well as in groups, the artistic process can help you connect with yourself and also give you opportunities to share with others.How the course works

During the course we will explore themes such as the primary human need to create and art’s role across cultures & history back to prehistoric times, and what this teaches us about what art can do for us; the bridge between art and spirituality, and how art can be used as a vehicle to connect with the self and the world.

During the course we will understand:
– the power of the creative process and how to best support it;

– how to apply creativity to enhance self-knowledge and thereby also personal and professional effectiveness;

– enhance self-esteem and self confidence through engagement with the creative process;

– build empathy skills through group work and sharing;

– support and engage emotional intelligence;

– learn how to bring benefits of art therapy into one’s personal daily life;

– understand the potential for art as therapy to be a tool in self-realization, relaxation and stress relief, and interpersonal communication.

December 2011

Train trip Nuremburg Germany,
Visit Toy Museum.


Web pages researched during 1st year.
Art Crimes — The Highlights
Louis Carosello – RiartEco 2008

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