Sunday, October 29, 2006
This is what's happening to Steve's face. I have applied so many layers to the face that it has become this smooth glossy thing and when I want to paint on it the oil doesn't stick, and if I keep applying more color it starts to get muddy. Has any one encountered this problem before, and if so what did you do to get some texture back? I have been working this painting with Sun Thickened Linssed Oil and turp but I'm thinking of mixing cold wax medium to bring some of that texture but I'm some what hesitant. I'm always worried that mixing too many mediums could turn out to be disastrous to the longevity of the painting.
I hope one of you out there could help me out a little bit. Maybe I'm getting too precious with this painting. It always seem that I'm so close to being done but it never passes this stage. I keep repainting things. I would appreciate your comments greatly. Take care all and happy painting!
It seems like I was having a Spanish painting night since I couldn't resist sketching a Velazquez painting. This is a detail of his Supper at Emmaus, a piece that according to the curators was influenced by the style of Caravaggio. Maybe that's why I like it so much.
Once again I was hypnotized by another Spanish painting. I had made a post of this back in July and on that same month I showed a quick sketch of this painting. Last night I went back to the same sketch and re-worked it with pen as I stood in front of the work. I couldn't help it since the curators at the Met decided to keep this painting out of storage since then. Very good move by them since this painting is incredible. I don't know who Juan de Valdes Leal is, but he's alright in my book! My visit to the museum did not end in the Spanish Painting galleries, I made my way through the new European galleries they had closed for renovations many months ago. Got to see more work that has been in storage...that's always very exciting! I also got to see the show Americans in Paris, a very good show about American painters who were drawn to the art scene of Paris during the Impressionist era. I will try to visit the show again and show some images of it next week since this is the last stop after traveling from London and Boston. After this visit I came home and got to work on a portrait I've been working since the summer of 2005! I'm planning on finishing it this week. Wish me luck!
Monday, October 23, 2006
I have always been drawn to the effects light and shadow can create. To this I can also add the interest of atmospheric effects, which I have mentioned in the past when talking about my work. The best way to capture the drama of light is by painting things light can pass through, like this bottle of linseed oil. I love the way the oil glows against the dark background and how it reflects on the surface it rests on. This was a study I decided to execute trying to get me ready for bigger piece of the same subject. I'm not sure when I'll start that more detailed work but I hope it is soon, since I'm dying to work some more with this subject. But before that I have a couple other paintings I have to finish before moving on to this one.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
It is the month of October, and like many others more than 300 years ago the city of Lima paints itself purple as the celebration of the crucified black Christ is underway. Women wear purple habits, flags and images of the "Senor de los Milagros" are posted up in public, private, and sacred spaces. This is the faith of the Peruvian people, manifested in, according to the Vatican, the world's largest religious procession. More than half a million people of all racial and social backgrounds come together to accompany the oil on canvas effigy of the Lord of Miracles as it makes it's way through the streets of central Lima, spreading hope to a country badly beaten by the incompetence and selfish ways of the Peruvian government.
In the half of the 17th century, a time when Peru was at its best under the rule of the Spanish empire, an Angolan slave painted the humble image of a dark skinned Christ on the cross on a weak adobe wall. This wall belonged to a building where an Angolan fraternity of free slaves gathered regularly to worship and celebrate their saints, and would sing nostalgic songs which reminded them of their homeland. It is here where the story of the "Cristo Moreno", Black Christ, begins. On November 13, 1655 an earthquake hits the city of Lima, destroying a great part of it, especially the neighborhood of Pachacamilla. Houses, churches, official buildings, and other structures came tumbling down, and the only wall that remained intact was the wall with the painted Christ. The image was left to the elements and forgotten for many years and was later discovered by a resident of the area by the name of Don Antonio Leon. Story goes that this man cleaned the wall and its surrounding area and in exchange of taking care of the Christ, through the image he asked God for the miracle of liberating him from a tumor. When the wish was granted word about the miracle spread around town and soon people, mostly of color, started venerating the Crucifixion scene. On Friday nights they would gather and celebrate with loud music the presence of the Lord.
In 1671 word of such gatherings reached the authorities and they soon ordered the wall to be demolished. Men were sent on different occasions to paint over the image but every try was unsuccessful because the people who were to carry out the orders would freeze, faint, or become scarred once in front of the painting. Acknowledging the power of the image, the Catholic Church built a small temple around the Christ, and in 1682 the chapel is recognized as the "Chapel of the Holy Christ of Miracles." On October 20, 1687, another earthquake knocks down most of Lima, including the chapel, and about 1,300 of 35,000 people perished. All was lost except the painting of the the Black Christ. After witnessing that the image was left immaculate after the earthquake, the people of Lima requested a copy be made so that it could be taken out in procession through the streets of Lima as a way to ask for God's protection. It is here when the yearly procession was born and the miracles kept being recorded.
This procession is accompanied by a large fraternity of carriers. 4,000 men divided into groups of 20 "cuadrillas" are responsible for taking turns in carrying the more than 3 tons of gold and silver for 6 kilometers in 20 hours per day of procession, October 18, 19, and 28. 32 brothers carry the massive "anda" through the streets of Lima, and they are followed by a marching band, which I think happens to be the National Guard Marching Band. To the sound of drums and trumpets playing nostalgic sounds the procession makes its way through the multitude who push their way in all directions just to be close to the "Cristo Moreno." To the front of the procession a group of more than 75 "sisters", or "Sahumadoras," make way for the effigy scenting the area with incense, setting the scene for the announcement of a sacred presence. In front of the "Sahumadoras" another group of women, the "Cantoras," sing hymns and other religious songs through the long hours of the day. All Brothers and Sisters dressed in purple habits, or robes, create a carpet for the procession to walk on.
I have had the opportunity to experience this religious fest as a boy. To this day I have seen nothing like it. To be in this procession is overwhelming and yet exhilarating. The sound of the drums could be felt as your body trembles with the beat, the smell of incense forming large clouds makes you aware of the holy vibes, and the faithful followers is a site to be seen. Many come to ask for a miracle, for the well being of family and friends, and for a better tomorrow for the Peruvian people. As a little boy holding my father's hand I would see penitents walking on their knees, crying for the pain they feel physically and spiritually. I have seen some intense and moving scenes in this procession. But it's the number of people and their force that still woes me. I though I was going to die once, when I was 8 or 9, when the crowd caused me to separate from my father and my little body kept being crushed, pushed and rolled around by the ecstatic people. I don't know how my father was able to find me a few seconds later, but as bad as this may sound I will always remember it with happiness. This was the first time I encountered the large painting with its gold and silver frame work just a few feet away.
This weekend I took part in the New York procession. Most Peruvian communities around the world have gotten together to celebrate this tradition just as in our homeland. Manhattan has two processions, Brooklyn has one as well as Hartford and Stanford in Connecticut. New Jersey has a number of processions, Washington D.C., and other cities in Florida celebrate this month the same way. There's even a Lord of Miracles procession in Rome, where the Christ is taken to the St Peters to be blessed by the Pope. I also found online this week that Peruvian communities in Madrid, Spain, and Australia also parade their Lord of Miracles.
Although this may be a religious month, not everything is penitence and seriousness. This month is usually celebrated with food, and my friend Alejandro from PeruFood has put together a piece on the food of the "purple month." If you would like to see pictures from the Lord of Miracles procession of St Patricks Cathedral in NYC click here.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
My Monday night was no different than any others. After getting home from work I had to make dinner, and since the days have been cold I thought a good home made chicken soup would be nice. I decided to save half of a vine ripe tomato because it looked so bright and juicy, I new I needed to paint it. After eating my soup and relaxing for a bit I went to work on this small painting. I tried something a little different. Instead of painting on a canvas panel I used stretched canvas, and the change was nice. I actually liked the way the canvas bounced back as I lay the color in. For some reason I do better on canvas, or at least that's the way it appears to me. At the end I was happy to have accomplished a small painting along with a banging home made chicken soup!
Friday, October 13, 2006
Mandible, 2005, oil on canvas, 82 x 62 1/2 inches
At first glance Lipsky's paintings come across as minimal and technically speaking, easy. Upon closer inspection the paintings come alive and a sense of movement/rhythm starts to happen. This rhythm is not accidental, it is calculated since Lipsky firmly believes in Hans Hofmann's idea of "push and pull," an idea very evident in her work with bands of color meeting at different points. The horizon line gets broken up and bars start to push up and down. A student of hers once said that the movement of Lipsky's work reminded her of the equalizer lights of a sound system going up and down. This is a very good point made by her since another idea deeply rooted in Lipsky's work is the presence of music in art, something introduced by Kandinsky and his work. I remember Pat one day in class saying "is all about hitting the right notes." Well, it seems like she has since other critics have connected her work to piano keys and their respective sounds.
I have said before that I'm partial to the grid, because of its sense of order and the relation it has to Inca architecture. Many work using the grid, but what makes Lipsky's work successful is the presence of the human touch in her paintings. Her work comes across as very flat and hard edged on reproductions but to be in front of these paintings is a whole different ball game. At first you can't help but to notice the sensuous egg shell like surface of the paint application. Lipsky has made it possible for her paintings to be almost matt, a quality that lets the viewer truly see the paintings without the glare of lights, making it easy to admire her use of color. The physical quality of her paint is achieved by mixing beeswax with her oils, giving the paintings an encaustic look. But underneath the soft paint film one can see the imperfections of the canvas weave, traces of brush bristles broken and left behind in action, and lines created by brush strokes.
Out of all the paintings in the show Middle Blue is the winner. This painting is very reminiscent of Matisse while at the same time bringing faint images of cathedrals with their majestic stained glass windows. Lipsky has spent a lot of time studying the stained glass windows in France, reason why Blue became a major color in her work. After coming back from one of her trips she got on the phone with Kremer Pigments and demanded the company to start carrying a certain shade of Cobalt Blue. Middle Blue is an exception to her use of Blue because in this painting the Blue has greenish undertones. This slight difference in hue may not be noticeable to the new viewer but to one who has studied her work for a few years the slight change is enough to be seen. The biggest thing that blew me away is the most insignificant detail in the painting. When I walked into the room and saw the painting I immediately saw the red outlines in surrounding some of the bars. I thought, "she did it again" because some of her best works shows her process of getting to a specific color. In Middle Blue she has left these Red areas from underlying paint layers she decided not to fully cover. Once again, edges in Lipsky's work are important.
Another factor that makes Lipsky's painting significant is her connection to the past. As modern as her work might seem the formal elements of good ol' oil painting is still there. The artist is always keeping in mind the many centuries of art that has come before her, allowing her work to be compared with the standards of Renaissance art and other movements. This is obvious in Homage to Bellini, where the artists has taken color hints from the master. As I stood in the gallery I over heard her say to some one that Middle Blue was also taken from another Renaissance master, Lorenzo Lotto.
Not all of Lipsky's work has reference to art history, some of it deals with literature. In the case of Proust's Sea, she has taken the title after developing some connection between the painting and, according to David Cohen, in Proust's Swan's Way "when the narrator, in different Balbec hotel rooms, sees the sea...low, glazed bookcases reflect a frieze of seascapes."
Not Too Well Daddy, 2005, oil on canvas, 70 x 47 inches (on left) Odalisque, 2005, oil on canvas, 69 1/2 x 47 inches (on right)
The main focus in Lipsky's recent body of work is the deliverance of sophisticated color. In these paintings the artist has pushed herself further exploring new hues and combinations that are charting a new territory for her future work. In the past her use of color was strong, vibrant and multi layered. Now, the paintings are more quiet, wise and some what more private but with an undeniable presence.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
When life gives you lemons you paint them! At least that's in my case since I make my lemonade from the Crystal Light packs. I was at the grocery store the other night and saw all the lemons piled high and they all looked so beautiful. I've been wanting to paint a lemon for a while but never gave myself the chance to do it because I can't seem to get the values right. I just see a big yellow lump and it's very difficult for me to translate what I see onto my painting support. Well, I gave it a try and I guess I'll hear from the rest of you letting me know whether if it worked or not.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
I decided to wipe off the grey and forget about that idea. At this point I was not sure as to where I was going and fear kicked in again and left the painting to "dry" so that I could glaze more colors. The drying excuse was just a way to stay away from this painting I'm afraid of ruining.
At this point I can't think about fear any more since I've pushed the painting further. Las night I worked on the portrait some more and was very happy with what I got done. After taking a break by surfing the web, I went back to look at the painting and my feelings about it changed. I like the resemblance to my mother. In the earlier stages of the painting she looked like she had gotten in a fight and her lips and nose were swollen. Now it looks more like her but in a plastic way. I went too heavy with the pinks. I kept saying that she looks like a plastic doll and that the painting looks more like an acrylic than oil. No offence to those who work in acrylic. I'm in my warrior mood today and I will be tackling this piece for a few hours tonight before I go to bed. Wish me luck!
Monday, October 09, 2006
Yes, it's the very early hours of Monday and I just got done eating and painting. After going out to dinner I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts to buy a treat as my dessert. It came to me that I would paint it before eating it. This was no easy feat since I wanted to devour this donut but I kept pushing myself to finish the painting before taking a bite. The sweet smell of this donut was teasing and torturing me. So far this has been the toughest painting I've done since the subject was ready to eat and the aroma was heavenly. After I put my brush down with a feeling of victory I pounced on the donut and claimed my prize!
Saturday, October 07, 2006
The paintings were done but the I still needed to get them ready for presentation. I had to attach hanging wire in the back of each and paint the sides of the canvases and panels so that they don't look messy as then hung on the wall. Two paintings' sides did not dry and when I brought them to the gallery to hang the curator and I were getting paint all over ourselves. We just laughed about it.
Opening was last night and not many people came, but no big deal. I was happy to see more work hang in a gallery. I got compliments on my work, my friend Scott Newcomb said, "Luis, once again you have out done every one in the show." Thank you Scott for those kind words, I know I would be out done by you if we ever show together.
These are my babies, the smallest oil paintings I have ever done my favorite. These three pieces hold a very special place in my heart and I still don't know why. Maybe is because their size, they look so fragile I want to always protect them.
These two paintings (above and bellow) were the trouble makers of the show. These are the guys that didn't dry. It was strange because the other paintings' sides were dry the next day and these two took three days, maybe even four since I didn't check last night if they were hanging dry or wet. Oh well, it's common practice for artists to turn in wet work.
This painting was finished just in time for the show. I was planning on getting three paintings done but in a matter of three or two weeks I was only able to finish this tomato. I'm very happy with it since the color is a bit more bold.This is the view of how my group of paintings hung in the gallery. Now that this show is already done it's time to move on to the next one. Anyone have any tips as to where to find show listings?
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
On Saturday, I had to make the decision between three shows at the Met: Rembrandt and His Circle: Drawings and Prints, Sean Scully: Wall of Light, and Cezanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde. I was going to be accompanied by my best friend who is not an artist, and I knew that I couldn't stay at the Met until closing time, which is 9:00 p.m. on Saturdays. I went to see the Scully show and if time allowed, of if boredom didn't overtake my friend, I will have a look at the Rembrandt show as well. The Scully show turned out to be bigger than I expected, with three rooms full of his work. Room 1 was were the watercolors, prints, and pastel paintings hung; followed by room 2. The second room was the biggest one and the most important since it was here where the focus of the show lied. Amazing color abstractions hung in the walls of the huge modern gallery of the Met. The oil paintings rose up in colossus proportions and I was mesmorized.
Scully's earlier work dealt with geometric shapes and grids, but most of those paintings were monochromatic. After visiting Mexico in the early 1980's the artist developed this continuing series inspired by ancient Mayan architecture. Scully was drawn to the way light and shadows played with the stacked stone blocks of the Mayan aesthetic. The "culture of walls and light," as he called it, released a celebration of color never witnessed in his work before. Scully took his cue for his composition from the Mayas, but later his use of color would be influenced by other places like his home town of London, Munich, Barcelona, New York, and my own Peru. These other inspirations are the reasons why Scully keeps pushing his compositions and color variations further. The Wall of Light series consists of more than 200 pieces and he's not done yet. Not all of his paintings focus on this idea though. In his painting Neils, the artists offers a tribute to his dying friend by utilizing the energetic color yellow, in hopes that his friend would live. Other paintings have titles of more known persons as Giorgio Morandi, Jean-Baptist Corot, and Edouard Vuillard.
Like I had mentioned on my last post, I am a sucker for certain grid paintings. It wasn't up until this show that I found out why I'm inclined to such work. There's always a sense of order in grid paintings, and the ones that I find to be exquisite are works like Scully where the human touch is evident with every brush stroke and color choice. It came to me that what Scully's experience of his visits to Mexico was something I was familiar with growing up in Peru. The appeal for this aesthetic is in me because the Inca empire left a strong presence after the Spanish conquered Peru. Inca architecture is very similar to the way Scully arranges his compositions. Blocks tightly fit together on top and next to each other to form a strong structure, or wall.
I have always thought the Scully's work was great, but seeing the paintings in person for the first time was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I tend to react to good art by making faces my friend calls "orgasmic." But with this show I reacted physically, my heart would not stop beating fast and it felt like I was gasping for air. There has only been one show when this has ever happened and that was the Willem De Kooning: A Centennial Exhibition at Gagosian Gallery. The vastness of the canvases was unbelievable, and when coming close to a painting it felt like the bands of color started to surround me. This kind of surrounding feeling is a staple of the Abstract Expressionist tradition which Scully is a descendant of.
Painting after painting, the walls of the Met came alive with Scully's Walls. I thought the colors in Wall of Light April were very sophisticated. I fell in love the the soft light green rectangles at the bottom right corner of the composition. The neutral hues in this painting made me feel the presence of a cool foggy day. Somewhat how the sky feels when it rains.
This painting, I thought, was amazing. Maybe because I like browns, but all the colors here complement each other beautifully. I love the Ochre tone in between the rich Brown and cool Blue at the bottom of the painting. What makes this piece successful is the Green rectangle on the top center. This Chrome Oxide Green like color has enough punch to let itself be known but it doesn't overpower the surrounding colors. What I loved the most about this painting in particular was that unlike the rest of the series, the artist left the edges of the painting untouched, revealing some of the canvas.
This little painting, little in Scully's scale, was one of many small works in the room 3 of the exhibition. The paintings hanging in this room were very unexpected since I did not know that Scully also painted in very small scales. This room was very comforting and the paintings stood out like little jewels in the dim light of the space. Wall of Light Beach is one of Scully's more upbeat works.For images of all three rooms and the art on display in Sean Scully: Wall of Light visit my flickr page for this show!
Monday, October 02, 2006
Yesterday I checked out Art (212) Contemporary Art Fair held from September 28 - October 1, 2006 at the 69th Regiment Armory in Lexington Ave at 26th Street. I'm exhausted since on Saturday I went to the Met to see Sean Scully: Wall of Light show. More on that later! So what does (212) stand for anyway? This is the telephone area code of New York City, Manhattan to be more exact. A couple of months ago I missed a similar art fair, The Armory Show and I kicked myself for it. I was very close to not going to this fair but at the last minute I took the subway ride on the 6 to the venue. No excuses this time since I had a $5 discount off the general admission price of $15. This fair featured 60 leading international galleries representing contemporary emerging and mid-career artist.
Being the jaded boy that I am, I was expecting crappy art. You know, the flashy, shocking crap that I see all over contemporary art publications. OK, I did see some of that stuff yesterday, but to my surprise and enjoyment there was a lot of good art. At the front of the pavilion I saw this geometric abstract painting which reminded me of Hans Hofmann. I'm a sucker for color abstraction, especially if it's a grid painting. I did not write down the name of the artist or gallery it was in, but I do remember that it's an acrylic painting. I hate using acrylic but it's nice to see others work successfully in this medium. The composition of this piece worked for me because of the different sizes of the squares and rectangles, thus creating a wonderful rhythm. Not to mention the festive color choice, which was the reason why it stopped me on my tracks.
Stuart Arends, Stanza Dell' Amore 6, 2004, oil and wax on wood, 7.25 x 5.5 x 2.75 inches
Like I said, a sucker for the grid, and when I saw this painting I could not believe how much it looked like my teacher Pat Lipsky's recent work. I was enamored with this tiny abstract painting and the colors made me feel good. I wanted to take it from the wall and make a run for it, since I didn't have the $6,000 asking price! But I decided to just take a picture of it. Stuart Arends is represented by Richard Levy Gallery, Albuquerque, NM. I love the subtlety between the white on top against the off white at the bottom.
I saw this photo of the famous tennis player and I thought it was cool. Aside from painting, I have an interest for photography and the lighting reflecting on Agassi's eyes and face was beautiful. Martin Schoeller is represented by Hasted Hunt Gallery, New York, NY.
I became familiar with Pesce's work a couple of years ago while looking online through the artists roster of the Elizabeth Harris Gallery. I immediately was drawn to his work due to his amazing use of color. The man can do bright color as well as very sensitive soft grays. Pesce works in a style I like to call Minimalist Representation, using bottles, cups, boxes,and pans as subjects but only suggesting their shape and mass without revealing their true textural nature. This was my first time seeing his work in person and as I looked at the paintings on show I could not help but to think of Morandi. I could not help but to notice Peter Hoffre's landscapes. I was not sure what they were about. From far they looked like painted on glass but come to find out they were oil on wood topped with resin. This guy knows how to combine tradition with contemporary approaches. His touch was very painterly and his soft glowing lights were reminiscent of Venetian painting. This Canadian painter is represented by Kathryn Markel Fine Arts, New York, NY.
Here I come to the end of showing some of the work of Art (212). These two paintings are by artist Daryoush Asgar who has portrayed young men in heroic poses. Although these paintings have a very contemporary edge, similar to billboards and fashion ads, they still hold on to the European tradition of oil paint on canvas. Easy to Reach reminded me of portraits by Anthony Van Dyck, while the young man in On Top brought to mind Caravaggio's Bacchus. The handling of the paint on these large canvases was impeccable, the use of color clean, and the homoerotic presence of the figures made the work stand out. This artist is represented by Ernst Hilger Gallery, Vienna, Austria.
For more images from Art (212) please visit flickr and look at the set I made for this fair.