Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Art History and Studio Art

The background I have in art history is invaluable to me as a studio artist, and I always try to keep up with current shows at the New York museums. Travel -- around the U.S. and to Italy (1969, 2005), France (2004), and London (2004, 2005) -- has been my passion. I fill long days in museums, sometimes looking at a single painting for more than an hour. There is no substitute to observing artwork firsthand. The scale, the detail, the reaction, the color and texture of an original cannot compare to a reproduction or photo on a computer screen.

Among the works I've been looking at is Pablo Picasso's Night Fishing at Antibes of 1939. This large painting shown below (6 ft. 9 in. x 11 ft. 4 in.) is on view at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This is about fishing -- men fishing, men fishing for women, women fishing for men, and it shows Picasso himself as the main character with the striped shirt standing in the boat. The colors are unusual for Picasso. The black background and emphasis on secondary colors green and purple give it a mysterious quality, almost like a dream. This painting does not portray beauty, but shows truth instead. The viewer is invited into a story.

Pablo Picasso, Night Fishing at Antibes, oil on canvas, 1939
At one time, I wanted to be an art historian. I started Stony Brook University as an art history major. I had amazing teachers, including Nina Mallory for the history of Baroque art, Albert Boime (who wrote about this painting) for the Literature of Art, and Aldona Jonaitis for the history of African Art, Art of the Northwest Coast, and Art of Oceania. The editor of Art Forum, Lawrence Alloway, was my professor for Contemporary Art. He was an influential critic and curator, and coined the term "pop art."

At the beginning of my senior year I switched my major to studio art, and started doubling up on painting, drawing, printmaking, and design classes. I also took ceramics and weaving. Stony Brook had several large floor harness looms! But what interested me most was painting, drawing and printmaking. After a year taking courses in screen printing, etching and lithography, I knew I wanted to be a printmaker. My professors were practicing artists, including Ed Countey, James Kleege, Robert White, and Mavis Pusey.

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