Printmaking has never been considered one of art’s major techniques:
After architecture, sculpture and painting, printmaking has traditionally been a second cousin. Robin Holder (b.1952), the subject of the current show at N.C. Central University’s Art Museum, is not only a master printmaker but proves over and over printmaking can hold its own against all the so-called classical techniques.
Her images are dark: The spaces look abandoned except for the straight-on shot of a fully stocked bar neatly arranged with a full assortment of beer, whiskey and snacks. It is the only indication visually that these are viable places temporarily empty of people.
In 1854 Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States Navy sailed into Edo Harbor and demanded that the Japanese open their gates to the West and they did. There are many explanations why the Shoguns opened up trade to this American when they had closed their country to foreign influence for more than 200 years. The history of Japan at this moment in time is beyond the scope of this column, but the results of this incident, especially those that affected Western art, reached halfway around the world and were a key influence in the development of modern art.
Queen Elizabeth I sent a team of ships with soldiers, botanists, mathematicians, artists and historians to stake Britain’s claim into what was being called the New World. “A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia” by Thomas Harriot with engravings by Theodor de Bry of John White’s watercolors was published in 1590. It was a result of a 1588 expedition and the first book about North America written by someone who had been there.
The Jazz Age calls up visions of “Gatsby,” women in short skirts, bobbed hair and smoking in public; Prohibition and gangsters; deep rooted discrimination; and music with a syncopated beat played by black musicians for white and black audiences. Archibald Motley Jr. (1891-1981), a mixed-race artist, New Orleans born and Chicago bred, recorded this era in acidic, neon colors of violets, teals and seaweed greens, and the current exhibition at the Nasher Museum of Art is jumping with his busy, crowded canvases.
It seems there are endless variations for the artist who wants to pursue the color white as the overall theme in a series of paintings. For some years Don Mertz has worked through this challenge and presents some of them in his current show, sponsored by the Durham Art Guild. Because of the London-Heyden exhibition in the main gallery, the Guild has traded spaces with the Durham Arts Council and Mertz’ show is in the upstairs gallery, making the lobby to the theater quite splendid.
Silvia Heyden (born 1927) and Edith London (1904-1997) met in Durham in 1966; London was an established painter and Heyden was still experimenting with her tapestries.
The exhibition which has brought the two artists together again is absolutely gorgeous. Never mind their technical expertise or their many awards -- seeing their work on the walls of the Durham Arts Council gallery is a gift and an honor.
Whether America can be described as a melting pot or a salad bowl, the fact remains there are many subcultures just below the surface of our national identity. The standard version is the United States was founded by white, middle-class Christian men who had wives and children, and while that was the textbook picture of our citizenry in 1775, there were large pockets of Americans, like women and blacks, who had no public face.
Humans have known about metal and used it for thousands of years. It can define objects as different as silver tea services, nails, bridge abutments, supports of buildings and kitchen appliances; it is a mainstay of sculpture and fashionable jewelry.
The exhibition at Light Art +Design touches on many aspects of this remarkable material especially as it has been recycled into art objects.
The arts are alive and well in the Triangle and the next few months offer wonderful ways to spend the cold months. Jazz enthusiasts are going to love Duke’s Nasher Museum exhibition of Archibald Motley’s jazz age paintings, which will open here and then travel around the country. And Durham Bulls’ baseball fans will revel in the N.C. Museum of Art’s “Bull City Summer,” a photographic documentary by 10 photographers of the 2013 Durham Bull season.
In 2013 the visual arts in the Triangle covered the spectrum. Time, love, activist Indian art, a feminist Kenyan-American, Doris Duke’s Shangri La and Porsches were just a few of the artistic wonders woven into the cultural fabric of the Triangle. The museums organized and hosted these shows and each in its own way added to our rich local art scene.
At the N.C. Museum of Art one arrow points to the Brian Ulrich show and the other to the Porsches. The comparison is stark; in one, we celebrate conspicuous consumption with no consequences and, in the other, we witness the gluttony in the marketplace and its inevitable collapse.
“Mother Russia” conjures up images of great writers; vast expanses of unbelievable cold; royal courts with tsars and tsarinas, the peasants or serfs, who were little more than slaves; the psychic Rasputin; the assassinations of the last tsar and his family; and the people’s devotion to the Eastern Orthodox Church. All this is part of the mystique surrounding this exhibition of more than 200 decorative and religious objects, which date from the first Romanov, Peter the Great (1672-1725), to Nicholas II (1868-1918), the last.
Two painters and two traditional commercial galleries; it is the way art used to be all the time. Lynn Boggess creates landscapes; Beverly McIver, people. Both slather oil paint on their canvases; the signs of their hands are everywhere. Boggess’ marks become streams, trees, and land. McIver’s become pigments of skin where certain colors show worry and others sparkles of joy.
Big Brother is watching us; never mind that George Orwell’s “1984” (written in 1949) was a work of fiction about a society that used technology to enable an oppressive government to monitor and control its citizens. Today “1984” seems too close to the truth to be comfortable.