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Sprawl! Drawing Outside the Lines at the High Museum of Art

By admin on August 26, 2015

Untitled, at the High Museum’s Sprawl! Drawing Outside the Lines. Join participating artists (I’m one!) on September 12 for the Monster Drawing Rally. Take home some art!
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Summer Salon at Sandler Hudson Gallery

By admin on July 24, 2015

SUMMER SALON

JULY 17 – SEPTEMBER 5, 2015

 

Sandler Hudson Gallery is pleased to present Summer Salon. We are celebrating our artists this summer with a group exhibition! Come view works by the ten SHG artists recently acquired by the High Museum of Art and works by some of our newly represented artists.

Ryan Coleman, Don Cooper, William Downs, Margaret Fletcher, HENSE, Michael T. Hensley, Medford Johnston , Gary Komarin, Mark Leibert, Elizabeth Lide, Susan Loftin, Donna Mintz, Mario Petrirena, Michael Reese and P. Seth Thompson

Michael Murrell’s Connections at Chastain Gallery closes tomorrow, March 6.

By admin on March 5, 2015

Review: Sculptor Michael Murrell explores nature and spirit in lyrical “Connections” at Chastain

February 12, 2015

By DONNA MINTZ

Michael Murrell's exhibition Connections at Chastain Art GAllery

Michael Murrell’s exhibition Connections at Chastain Arts Center. Kayak is in the foreground.

Michael Murrell’s sculptures and assemblages fill the walls, hang from the ceiling and rise from the floors in Connections, his thoughtful and moving show at Chastain Arts Center’s gallery through March 6.

Ably curated by Karen Comer Lowe, the disparate works are connected through symbol, form, material and, most importantly, Murrell’s singular ability to find the unique form in that material, be it wood, metal or bone. It seems that he can make something from anything. But it is never just anything: it is the thing as it was always meant to be.

The sleeping figure of Deer Dreams, lustrous sculpture carved from the huge trunk of a fallen white ash, is the still point in the room and the potent nexus of Murrell’s intuitive ability to find what is in the wood and his craftsmanship. The “Do Not Touch” signs were ubiquitous, and for good reason: I had an overwhelming desire to run my hands along the grain of the wood as it followed the marble-like haunches of the figure — an ash tree’s dream of reincarnation.

The room feels potently silent; it’s as if you have interrupted a conversation among the works that you, too, must be still and silent to hear. They invite the viewer to consider ideas of connection — to the cosmos, to the past, to the plant and animal worlds, to our dreams and to each other — through archetypes and ancient ideas.

One of those ideas must certainly be the Buddhist notion of impermanence: all existence is transient and in flux; nothing is ever really destroyed, but neither is it permanent.

Michael Murrell: Skull Tower, skulls, (24 species), epoxy resin, glasscloth. (Photo courtesy the artist. Shot at a different location)

Michael Murrell: Skull Tower; skulls (24 species), epoxy resin, glasscloth. (Photo courtesy the artist. Shot at a different location)

The idea of transience and its corollary, to take pleasure in what is here now, is eloquently conveyed in the focal Skull Tower, a slender, conical floor-to-ceiling sculpture made from the skulls of more than 24 species of animals that Murrell has collected during 50 years’ worth of hikes in the woods. Deer, raccoons, rabbits, turtles and birds are reincarnated here into a singular work of beauty.

Like Skull Tower and the three other sculptures made from found animal bones, much of Murrell’s work speaks powerfully to the idea of transformation, another connection implied here. Red Twist, made from a twisted and hollowed out arch of white cedar, was given a refined finish and trumpet-shaped ends. Red felt fills the cedar’s interior and spills from the ends like blood, suggesting renewal more than death.

The piece rhymes with Trumpet, the corner installation of graceful, long-stemmed “flowers” made from epoxy resin inverted and suspended from the ceiling so that they open voluptuously to the floor.

This is spare but allusion-filled work. It reflects not only Murrell’s knowledge of the art and myths of African, Oceanic, Eastern and Native American (especially Inuit) cultures but also his desire to capture the spirit in nature rather than the actual form.

Murrell made much of this work during residencies at the Hambidge Center in Rabun Gap, Georgia. He harvested bamboo there to “weave” the dreamlike blue Kayak, which floats across the center of the gallery like an Egyptian lunar barque. He used the same bamboo for Canoe, inverted and suspended from the ceiling, as ancient and as timeless as the craft that dominates the ceiling of the Oceanic Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

A fallen spruce that he happened upon in the Maine woods became Dream Boat, a narrow and graceful boat shape which he roughed out and carved on the spot and hauled out over his shoulder to his nearby studio, where he stained its interior an evocative blue and filled it with currents of found beads the colors of water and sky.

Murrell’s boats express the idea of passage — through time and space. The idea of journeys, particularly cyclical ones, is important to the artist, whose frequent use of circles and elliptical loops echoes his belief in the rhythmic continuity of life.

Michael Murrell: Zuruuruhe, Travel Urg , spruce. Ccourtesy of the artist)

Michael Murrell: Zuruuruhe, Travel Urge, spruce. (Courtesy the artist)

Zuruuruhe: Travel Urge, its title a biological term for migration or the urge to travel, is a Martin Puryear–like sculpture made from curved pieces of found spruce joined to form a circle. Two arctic terns are captured midflight on the loop, as if in continuous migration. Their yearly flight from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back is a 25,000-mile loop.

Some of the work would have benefited from more careful lighting, but in others the shadows cast onto the floor or wall provided an opportunity to see the structure of the piece in a different way. Look for the reticulation on the floor cast by Bone Towers and the patterned weave multiplied beneath the floating Kayak. This effect is most powerful in Plow, one of the more evocative pieces and one of the most successful, whose shadows add the dimension of memory and create an almost stand-alone artwork on the wall behind it.

All of the work was made within the last 8 to 10 years and most within the last four, but none of the pieces is dated. At first, I wanted progression, chronology, until I realized that it is the very timelessness of the sculptor’s work that speaks most truthfully.

How would you date the many lifetimes in Skull Tower? And seen through the prism of impermanence, why would you want to?

Connections distills form, culture and idea to the level of poetry. Murrell seamlessly connects his many influences with a lifetime of looking in powerful, often beautiful works that reference those influences but are always entirely, uniquely, themselves.

 

Behind the Scenes at the Museum on WABE

By admin on June 24, 2014

On Friday, June 20, WABE, Atlanta’s NPR station, highlighted my story of the odyssey of a horse pyxis – from 8th century BCE Greece to the galleries of the Michael C. Carlos Museum. http://wabe.org/post/delicate-dance-assembling-museum-exhibit

I wrote the story as part of  the Behind the Scenes series running at ArtsATL.com. Read the original here:

Behind the Scenes: A team of specialists required for rare Greek vessel’s journey from France to Carlos Museum gallery

June 18, 2014

DONNA MINTZ

CAPTION: Conservator Kathryn Etre repairs the Geometric Greek ceramic horse pyxis recently acquired by the Carlos Museum. (c) Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University. (Photo by: Caroline Smith)

Conservator Kathryn Etre repairs the ceramic horse pyxis recently acquired by the Carlos Museum. (c) Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University. (Photo by Caroline Smith)

Behind the Scenes at the Museum!” was the immediate answer from my tenth-grade English teacher when I asked him years later for his favorite book. It was a choice he based largely on the novel’s opening sentence: “I exist!”

That sentence comes back to me as I enter a clean, white room in the Parsons Conservation Laboratory at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University.

A lidded bowl of dun-colored clay keeps to itself on a paper-lined table. It is decorated with faded geometric patterns that also include a long-legged bird and the meander of a swastika.

The lid is topped with four small clay horses standing side by side, a familiar symbol of the Greek Geometric Period from which it dates. The poet we know as Homer, sighted or not, might have recognized this object as a pyxis, a vessel designed to hold jewelry or other keepsakes. It once belonged to wealthy Athenians living in the time Homer composed his epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey. Myths of the Trojan War were important for Greeks living in the eighth century B.C.E. The owners of this vessel would have counted their ancestors among the victors in the Greek siege of Troy and distinguished themselves as aristocrats with links to a Homeric past.

The few things that haphazardly share the table with the bowl — a plastic box filled with small tubes of acrylic paint, a roll of paper towels, a wooden mask staring at the ceiling awaiting attention — are its inelegant companions, an affront to its composure.

Carlos Museum curator of Greek and Roman art Jasper Gaunt,

Carlos curator of Greek and Roman art Jasper Gaunt.

Jasper Gaunt, curator of Greek and Roman art, selected the pyxis for acquisition by the museum. Just as we presume Homer pieced together the stories of many to craft his epic poems, Gaunt calls upon his expert and multifarious knowledge of the history of art to piece together the story of an object.

Acquired recently when a 19th-century French collection was dispersed at a Paris auction, the piece sparked his interest as a rare find. Pottery in the Geometric period was not made in any great quantity, and to Gaunt’s knowledge only two or three other horse pyxides have come on the market in the last 30 years. Even rarer was the number of horses on the lid; four are shorthand for a four-horse chariot.

As The Iliad opens in medias res, nine years after the start of the war, so, too, is this pyxis in the middle of things. This quiet workroom is its penultimate stop in a journey that began almost 3,000 years ago. Its odyssey from eighth-century B.C.E. Greece to an afterlife at Emory’s Carlos Museum is a story of the collaboration of many.

According to Gaunt, the pyxis was made to be used by the living, but within a couple of generations was almost certainly consigned to a grave as an offering for a deceased family member. “It probably came to light in the 19th century in the context of some sort of construction, and was purchased — presumably in Athens — by a French tourist.”

Director of collections services and chief registrar Todd Lamkin arranged safe passage to the museum. Upon arrival at the Carlos, the pyxis was unearthed from yet another burial as Lamkin and his colleagues opened its protective crate and removed its wrappings. In their care, it was photographed and given an accession number. Hard-copy and electronic files were created, and its condition was assessed by conservators in the laboratory under the guidance of chief conservator Renée Stein.

Assessment made, the pyxis was rolled on a cart to the storage area off the lab while conservators mapped their restoration plan. An entire story could be written about this storage area, this way station where objects await their fate. It resembles not so much a museum laboratory as the waiting room of a secure, clean bus station. A United Nations of priceless objects peers out from within glass-fronted shelved lockers: African masks alongside ancient Roman glass and gold adornments, next to Greek sculpture and even an entire brightly painted Egyptian coffin.

After a short stay, the horse pyxis was rolled to the conservation lab, which has been its temporary home for almost a year. Kathryn Etre, Mellon assistant conservator, has spent over 250 hours mitigating the effects of nature, use and time, and even longer hours waiting between procedures. Etre worked to leach damaging salts from the clay, repeatedly bathing it. She cleaned and reversed old repairs and rejoined the fragments to enhance its structural stability.

Attic Geometric Horse Pyxis, Late Geometric II, ca. 735-720 BC, ceramic. Carlos Collection of Ancient Art (Photo by Kay Hinton, Emory Photo and Video)

Attic Geometric Horse Pyxis, Late Geometric II, ca. 735-720 BC, ceramic. Carlos Collection of Ancient Art
(Photo by Kay Hinton, Emory Photo and Video)

The four horse figures atop the lid, so important to the historical value of the piece, were restored only to the point of stability. In conversation with the curator, the conservators made aesthetic decisions regarding the visual unity of the piece. The fragile horses, once stabilized, remain largely in the compromised condition that better conveys the story of their years.

Preparator Bruce Raper worked with the conservators and the curator to provide secure and appropriate mounts for display in the museum in conjunction with Joseph Gargasz, director of collections and exhibitions. Gargasz worked with curator, conservator, preparator and object to determine proper placement and presentation in keeping with the curator’s interpretation and goals for the gallery in which it will appear by September.

It is impossible not to conjure images of the afterlife when considering the journey of this ancient object, at rest now in this quiet room in the year 2014. Craftsmen formed it from Athenian clay and decorated it with a slip (a purified version of the clay from which the vase is made).

The family that owned it valued it enough to take it with them to the grave. A French tourist added it to his collection.

Now it comes to the Carlos, bringing with it as much as we will ever know of the language of the past. The horse pyxis, accession number 2012.6.1A/B, will soon take its place in the galleries of the museum, to offer its silent form to all who stop to listen.

In a world of impermanence where so much vanishes everyday, it is a wonder that this fragile vessel made of earth, air and water in another world has even reached us. It exists. We owe a debt of gratitude to the dedicated people working behind the scenes at the museum to unearth, collect, preserve and protect for us these messengers from another time.

Members of the Carlos team, from left: Stacey Gannon-Wright, Laura Wingfield, Bruce Raper, Renee Stein, Ashley Jehle, Joseph Gargasz,  Todd Lamkin.

Members of the Carlos team, from left: Stacey Gannon-Wright, Laura Wingfield, Bruce Raper, Renée Stein, Ashley Jehle, Joseph Gargasz, Todd Lamkin.

Series

- See more at: http://www.artsatl.com/2014/06/behindthescenes-carlos-museum-emory/#sthash.pZGcNgfS.dpuf

Behind the Scenes at the Museum in ArtsATL today

By admin on June 18, 2014

Behind the Scenes: A team of specialists required for rare Greek vessel’s journey from France to Carlos Museum gallery

June 18, 2014

By DONNA MINTZ

CAPTION: Conservator Kathryn Etre repairs the Geometric Greek ceramic horse pyxis recently acquired by the Carlos Museum. (c) Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University. (Photo by: Caroline Smith)

Conservator Kathryn Etre repairs the ceramic horse pyxis recently acquired by the Carlos Museum. (c) Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University. (Photo by Caroline Smith)

Behind the Scenes at the Museum!” was the immediate answer from my tenth-grade English teacher when I asked him years later for his favorite book. It was a choice he based largely on the novel’s opening sentence: “I exist!”

BehindTheScenes_HiResThat sentence comes back to me as I enter a clean, white room in the Parsons Conservation Laboratory at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University.

A lidded bowl of dun-colored clay keeps to itself on a paper-lined table. It is decorated with faded geometric patterns that also include a long-legged bird and the meander of a swastika.

The lid is topped with four small clay horses standing side by side, a familiar symbol of the Greek Geometric Period from which it dates. The poet we know as Homer, sighted or not, might have recognized this object as a pyxis, a vessel designed to hold jewelry or other keepsakes. It once belonged to wealthy Athenians living in the time Homer composed his epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey. Myths of the Trojan War were important for Greeks living in the eighth century B.C.E. The owners of this vessel would have counted their ancestors among the victors in the Greek siege of Troy and distinguished themselves as aristocrats with links to a Homeric past.

The few things that haphazardly share the table with the bowl — a plastic box filled with small tubes of acrylic paint, a roll of paper towels, a wooden mask staring at the ceiling awaiting attention — are its inelegant companions, an affront to its composure.

Carlos Museum curator of Greek and Roman art Jasper Gaunt,

Carlos curator of Greek and Roman art Jasper Gaunt.

Jasper Gaunt, curator of Greek and Roman art, selected the pyxis for acquisition by the museum. Just as we presume Homer pieced together the stories of many to craft his epic poems, Gaunt calls upon his expert and multifarious knowledge of the history of art to piece together the story of an object.

Acquired recently when a 19th-century French collection was dispersed at a Paris auction, the piece sparked his interest as a rare find. Pottery in the Geometric period was not made in any great quantity, and to Gaunt’s knowledge only two or three other horse pyxides have come on the market in the last 30 years. Even rarer was the number of horses on the lid; four are shorthand for a four-horse chariot.

As The Iliad opens in medias res, nine years after the start of the war, so, too, is this pyxis in the middle of things. This quiet workroom is its penultimate stop in a journey that began almost 3,000 years ago. Its odyssey from eighth-century B.C.E. Greece to an afterlife at Emory’s Carlos Museum is a story of the collaboration of many.

According to Gaunt, the pyxis was made to be used by the living, but within a couple of generations was almost certainly consigned to a grave as an offering for a deceased family member. “It probably came to light in the 19th century in the context of some sort of construction, and was purchased — presumably in Athens — by a French tourist.”

Director of collections services and chief registrar Todd Lamkin arranged safe passage to the museum. Upon arrival at the Carlos, the pyxis was unearthed from yet another burial as Lamkin and his colleagues opened its protective crate and removed its wrappings. In their care, it was photographed and given an accession number. Hard-copy and electronic files were created, and its condition was assessed by conservators in the laboratory under the guidance of chief conservator Renée Stein.

Assessment made, the pyxis was rolled on a cart to the storage area off the lab while conservators mapped their restoration plan. An entire story could be written about this storage area, this way station where objects await their fate. It resembles not so much a museum laboratory as the waiting room of a secure, clean bus station. A United Nations of priceless objects peers out from within glass-fronted shelved lockers: African masks alongside ancient Roman glass and gold adornments, next to Greek sculpture and even an entire brightly painted Egyptian coffin.

After a short stay, the horse pyxis was rolled to the conservation lab, which has been its temporary home for almost a year. Kathryn Etre, Mellon assistant conservator, has spent over 250 hours mitigating the effects of nature, use and time, and even longer hours waiting between procedures. Etre worked to leach damaging salts from the clay, repeatedly bathing it. She cleaned and reversed old repairs and rejoined the fragments to enhance its structural stability.

Attic Geometric Horse Pyxis, Late Geometric II, ca. 735-720 BC, ceramic. Carlos Collection of Ancient Art (Photo by Kay Hinton, Emory Photo and Video)

Attic Geometric Horse Pyxis, Late Geometric II, ca. 735-720 BC, ceramic. Carlos Collection of Ancient Art
(Photo by Kay Hinton, Emory Photo and Video)

The four horse figures atop the lid, so important to the historical value of the piece, were restored only to the point of stability. In conversation with the curator, the conservators made aesthetic decisions regarding the visual unity of the piece. The fragile horses, once stabilized, remain largely in the compromised condition that better conveys the story of their years.

Preparator Bruce Raper worked with the conservators and the curator to provide secure and appropriate mounts for display in the museum in conjunction with Joseph Gargasz, director of collections and exhibitions. Gargasz worked with curator, conservator, preparator and object to determine proper placement and presentation in keeping with the curator’s interpretation and goals for the gallery in which it will appear by September.

It is impossible not to conjure images of the afterlife when considering the journey of this ancient object, at rest now in this quiet room in the year 2014. Craftsmen formed it from Athenian clay and decorated it with a slip (a purified version of the clay from which the vase is made).

The family that owned it valued it enough to take it with them to the grave. A French tourist added it to his collection.

Now it comes to the Carlos, bringing with it as much as we will ever know of the language of the past. The horse pyxis, accession number 2012.6.1A/B, will soon take its place in the galleries of the museum, to offer its silent form to all who stop to listen.

In a world of impermanence where so much vanishes everyday, it is a wonder that this fragile vessel made of earth, air and water in another world has even reached us. It exists. We owe a debt of gratitude to the dedicated people working behind the scenes at the museum to unearth, collect, preserve and protect for us these messengers from another time.

Members of the Carlos team, from left: Stacey Gannon-Wright, Laura Wingfield, Bruce Raper, Renee Stein, Ashley Jehle, Joseph Gargasz,  Todd Lamkin.

Members of the Carlos team, from left: Stacey Gannon-Wright, Laura Wingfield, Bruce Raper, Renée Stein, Ashley Jehle, Joseph Gargasz, Todd Lamkin.

Series

- See more at: http://www.artsatl.com/2014/06/behindthescenes-carlos-museum-emory/#sthash.nJzur4oG.dpuf

At Rivendell Writers’ Colony overlooking Lost Cove in Sewanee, Tennessee

By admin on June 13, 2014

…and so fortunate to call this home for my second summer in Sewanee at the School of Letters, University of the South.

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Last night’s moon rising over the cove.photo-23

Roving Room opens Friday, May 16 at Habersham Mills

By admin on May 10, 2014

Morgan Alexander at the Swan Coach House Gallery

By admin on April 29, 2014

Review: Emerging artist Morgan Alexander’s elegant shrines to nature and found materials, at Swan Coach House Gallery

April 28, 2014

By DONNA MINTZ

Morgan Alexander: where have they gone, where are they going;  charred cypress wood (Photo courtesy Swan Coach House Gallery) Charred cypress wood (Photo courtesy of Swan Coach House Gallery)

Morgan Alexander: where have they gone, where are they going?,
charred cypress wood. (Photo courtesy Swan Coach House Gallery)

Morgan Alexander is the 2013–14 recipient of the Forward Arts Foundation’s Emerging Artist Award. His exhibition remembering, forgetting, and remembering again, at the Swan Coach House Gallery through May 30, proves why he justly deserves the honor.

Alexander brings a Japanese aesthetic to a Southerner’s respect for family and love of the land, joined with an Eastern influence in thought and practice. He creates shrines to things that once were while making something completely new.

He imbues his drawing, construction, installation and sculpture, made with salt, honey, found wood and other materials from nature, with a sense of memory and loss that is never nostalgic, just as the thing itself never seems of the past, but simply changed and newly arrived in the present. An elegance and restraint suffuses his work and calls to mind the Japanese term wabi-sabi, finding beauty in the imperfection of natural objects and processes and value in these subtle, simple and elegant objects in a world where nothing is permanent and nothing is finished.

Alexander is interested in beekeeping and is disturbed by the modern phenomenon of colony collapse disorder, the term applied to the decimation of today’s bee population as huge numbers of honeybees are disappearing from their hives without obvious explanation. He allies himself with the ideas of scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner, whose quote provides wall text and who, in 1923, urged a metaphysical appreciation of the wisdom of the hive. Steiner anticipated this modern demise if destructive agricultural practices of the day were allowed to continue. “Nature sometimes talks to us in a very understandable manner. You will notice what it says if you can take simple things simply enough.”

Alexander takes simple things and, quite simply, makes them beautiful. He delivers this profound simplicity in the five beehive-like structures that occupy the center of the room. He made them from cypress blackened by the traditional Japanese practice of shou-sugi-ban. This practice of charring wood to protect it from insects and fire makes manifest the idea of duality that is a recurring theme for the artist: burning to save and protect.

The blackness of the structures in where have they gone? where are they going? makes their presence even more profound, but it also makes them mere shadows of the real thing. They occupy the room with simultaneous there-ness and not there-ness — vessels for the duality that Alexander attempts to understand in his work. They possess both emptiness and presence, what was once and what remains, and make us rethink the idea of absolutes.

The artist connected with a beekeeper in North Carolina who was nearing the end of his life and letting go of decades-old beehives in which he and the bees had cultivated the honey that was his livelihood for so many years. Alexander valued their history and their simple beauty as material objects, noting their weathered coats of paint, the scrimshaw left by decades of burrowing bees and the residue of propolis, or bee glue, still there along the slats.

Morgan Alexander: no title -- are these the voices of our departed, or is it just the gramophone?  #11; Reclaimed beehives, glass, wood, paint (Photo courtesy of Swan Coach House Gallery)

Morgan Alexander: no title — are these the voices of our departed, or is it just the gramophone? #11;
reclaimed beehives, glass, wood and paint. (Photo courtesy Swan Coach House Gallery)

Alexander honored the collaboration over time of seemingly disparate things with his series titled no title — are these the voices of our departed, or is it just the gramophone? Noting that trees had become the wood that was used to build the hives, which were then touched by bees, people, honey and time itself before at last it all came to him, Alexander employed a keen sense of composition to make something new from what was. He selected and cut from the hive sections he brought back, but he changed nothing from those sections except their placement within a composition that he calls drawing.

With the etched glass he created to cover his compositions, he elevated the material beyond found object assemblage and the nostalgia of the beautiful surfaces, and added his own voice to its history. The glass serves, intentionally or not, to create a distance that mutes the material just as time separates us from the past. His constructions become mute evocations of the past. Memory, place and loss dwell behind scrims of glass in seeming shades of pale gray, sea-glass green or milky alabaster. Joseph Cornell knew the power of this remove, and so does Morgan Alexander. Something abides in the material behind the glass, but it is held back, unreachable by us, as ineffable as a poem.

There are landscape references if you are inclined that way. I am, and in a pairing of a rust-red piece with a cloud-white piece, I saw red clay ground beneath a sky leached by summer heat of all its color. In other work, Alexander calls upon his “drawings” to explore the idea of tokonoma – the Japanese term for an alcove where objects are placed for artistic contemplation. In such places, the shadows of the objects — of porcelain figures, or bonsai or arranged flowers — are as important to the composition as the object itself. His constructed drawings in three parts and in two parts call upon this shadow/form idea. In others, he uses lead, steel and glass on panel to achieve the same effect of depth and shadow. Some are portraits of emptiness, and others give the impression of a steel-gray sea against a pale sky.

Morgan Alexander: installation drawing (population); Salt, steel (Photo courtesy Swan Coach House Gallery)

Morgan Alexander: installation drawing (population); salt and steel.
(Photo courtesy Swan Coach House Gallery)

Coming full circle, we arrive at the installation that greeted us at the entrance to the gallery. Tiny domes of molded salt atop metal pins gather in clusters and clumps like so many pushpins on a population distribution map and call to mind the tracking of movement over time. Alexander hoped to create something to resonate in a kind of dialogue with the hives. The work is titled installation drawing (population) and conjures concrete images of migration and population density. But these markers are made of salt, a substance that Alexander uses to evoke the very essence of our humanity, of our fleeting human bodies. The ethereal whiteness of the salt can also signal an emptiness or absence as much as a presence. Duality again. Shadows on the wall created by the individual elements of the installation remind us of the appreciation of the shadow in tokonoma. Salt is collected here perhaps just as bees collect pollen. A gathering that moves with them as they move, or as they once moved before their decline. Memento mori.

Morgan Alexander gives new life to old materials, and makes much of the duality in the one: the non-duality. Remembering/forgetting. This/that. Is/isn’t. Beauty/. . . In this show, it’s all there, but only beauty is without paradox. After three visits to remembering, forgetting, and remembering again, I find myself remembering the work, and then remembering again, but I cannot forget the lessons to be found its profound beauty.

- See more at: http://www.artsatl.com/2014/04/review-morgan-alexander/#sthash.Fo4mXX19.dpuf

Review: Photographer Abelardo Morell makes magic in High’s “The Universe Next Door”

By admin on March 10, 2014

February 26, 2014

By Donna Mintz

Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948), Camera Obscura: Manhattan View Looking South in Large Room, 1996, gelatin silver print, 18 × 22 ½ in.The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, promised gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser. © Abelardo Morell

Abelardo Morell: Camera Obscura:
Manhattan View Looking South in Large Room, 1996, gelatin
silver print. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles,
promised gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser.
©Abelardo Morell

Photographer Abelardo Morell is an alchemist who has made magic from the scientific principles of light for over 45 years. A retrospective of his work containing more than a hundred photographs at the High Museum of Art leaves no doubt that he is also a poet.

Abelardo Morell: The Universe Next Door opens with photos of common household objects and domestic interiors that Morell began making after the 1986 birth of his first child. It was a time when he began to look at ordinary reality, his new reality of the family home and a son and, he said as he toured the exhibition with ArtsATL, to “begin to deal with this world, to record it and to meditate on it.” Looking deeply at the intimate and familiar in his life transformed his emotional sense of himself.

That early work deepened his interest in how we decipher the world through optics, including the camera, and led him to consider the optical properties of water and objects such as a wine glass or his own eyeglasses. Morell, who studied photography at Bowdoin College in 1969 after having failed first-year physics, said, “Ordinary folk physics was important to me. Not the esoteric kind, but how children look at things.”

These concerns also led him to make pictures about photography itself. Light Bulb, a gelatin silver print from 1991, is a seminal work. Wanting to demonstrate photographic principles to his students at MassArt, he constructed a camera obscura from a cardboard box open at one end, a lens and some duct tape.

Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948), Light Bulb, 1991, gelatin silver print, 18 × 22 ½ in. The Art Institute of Chicago, Comer Foundation Fund. © Abelardo Morell

Abelardo Morell: Light Bulb, 1991, gelatin
silver print. The Art Institute of Chicago, Comer Foundation Fund.
©Abelardo Morell

The camera obscura, known since antiquity, is a phenomenon in which light moving through a small opening into a dark room will bring with it an image of the outside world The image, upside down and laterally reversed, appears on the wall opposite the light source.

Morell positioned his camera obscura before a light bulb and photographed the entire contraption, including the dreamier, inverted twin of that light bulb glowing on the back side of the box.

Light Bulb came out of his desire, he said, “to make something poetic and beautiful and perfect, even though it is just a stupid box. Not an elegant thing, but it produces beautiful things inside.”

This idea got him thinking about using an entire room as a camera obscura. He started with his bedroom, amused at the thought of his neighbors wondering what was going on in that black-draped space. He and his wife would wake to the dream of the outside world on their white sheets and the pale wall behind their bed. He recalled lying in bed together watching a black-and-white inverted movie of neighbors walking upside down on outside streets and squirrels walking on telephone poles. His photographs of the room portray the magic he made.

He expanded his experiments to the anonymous spaces of hotel rooms and institutional sites such as museums and office buildings. In one black-and-white image, the interior of a Times Square hotel room is virtually draped in the vivid, kinetic graphics of the signs crowding the famous square beyond the room, emphasizing the quiet stillness of the empty room in comparison. In another, the Empire State Building falls across white sheets of an empty bed like liquid platinum or silver lamé, while the rest of the skyline, blurred and upside down, hangs on the wall of the room.

In these works, the rational and the irrational are invited to exist in the same room. We can consider this quality of Morell’s work in the context of Surrealism, in which bizarre and unexpected combinations left room for the unconscious to express itself. André Breton expressed the idea of startling juxtapositions in First Surrealist Manifesto (1924), taking from a 1918 essay by French poet Pierre Reverdy: “The more the relationship between the two juxtaposed images is distant and true, the stronger the image will be — the greater its emotional power and poetic reality.”

It is just as easy to situate the work in magical realism, that genre in art in which magic or magical elements inhabit an otherwise mundane environment for the purpose of deepening our understanding of reality. The world that comes to us through Morell’s photographs arrives changed by the artist having seen it first: a lyrical delivery of the “observer effect” in physics (that the act of observation alters the thing observed).

Luc Sante, who wrote the introduction for Morell’s fourth book, Camera Obscura, commented that it is “as if he had taken his camera into the dream state and emerged with proof of what he saw there.” This is photography as visual counterpoint, and as such, seems more about the relationship among the objects in a photograph than about any single subject.

Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948), Camera Obscura: View of the Brooklyn Bridge in Bedroom, 2009, inkjet print, 32 × 40 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, purchased with funds provided by Richard and Alison Crowell, Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, and anonymous donors in honor of James N. Wood. © Abelardo Morell

Abelardo Morell: Camera Obscura:
View of the Brooklyn Bridge in Bedroom, 2009, inkjet print.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. ©Abelardo Morell

In later pictures, he shot in color and used a prism to right the image coming through the opening. In one standout, it seemed to me that a ruby-sheeted bed dreamed of the Brooklyn Bridge. In another, potted plants in an Italian room longed for the wildness of the natural garden outside, which is portrayed on the wall behind them.We witness the secret life of objects, where interior and exterior inform the other in gorgeously ambiguous un-resolution, generously allowing room for the viewer to create his own world. An entire landscape enters the confines of a single room to dazzle and disorient us: we wonder, as did Leonardo in his Codex Atlanticus, “Who would believe that so small a space could contain the image of all the universe?”

In 2010, Morell began experimenting with a portable tent camera he created from a yurt-shaped tent topped with a periscope lens designed to project the outside landscape onto the ground beneath the tent. Some of the most potent images in the exhibition come from this series he made of the grandeur he saw at places such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite. Morell delighted in these photographs, noting that the composite of the ground itself played with the view and observing that he looks for a way to create “a new layer of meaning under the images.”

An inherent sense of the sublime here echoes that of the 19th-century photographers of the American West, Carleton Watkins and William Henry Jackson, and recalls a beauty so awesome that it could only be conjured in dreams — or memory. André Aciman, Egyptian-born memoirist, essayist and self-described exile, believes that an exile reads time, memory and beauty in the “key of loss.” Morell’s early displacement from Cuba — his family left everything behind in 1962 when Morell was 13 — seems to inform a sense of inchoate longing that infuses much of this work. As a boy in his small seaside town of Guanabo, he immersed himself in the cowboy movies of the American West, and recalled an expansive sense of possibility in that unfamiliar country to his north. That sense of boyhood wonder comes through in these photographs.

In one, Old Faithful erupts before a line of onlookers. The pebble-strewn ground onto which the image is projected calls to mind the flying debris of an explosion — or the graininess of an old black and white movie.

Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948), Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 2011, inkjet print, 30 x 40 in. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Purchase with funds from Joe and Tede Williams, Friends of Photography, and with funds given in memory of Dr. Robert Bunnen, 2012.210. © Abelardo Morell

Abelardo Morell: Tent-Camera
Image on Ground: View of Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone
National Park, Wyoming, 2011, inkjet print.
High Museum of Art. ©Abelardo Morell

Included in the exhibition are photographs about optics, paper and books. Supreme among them is Shadows During Solar Eclipse (1994), which Morell made of the myriad images of a sun in eclipse as seen on the ground beneath a leafy tree. The light piercing the openings created by dense leaves had the effect of thousands of pinhole cameras. Miraculous. Aristotle had seen the same effect through a handheld sieve over 2,000 years ago. Morell’s photograph carries the same wonder of discovery.

Morell is drawn to the symbolism and malleable meanings of paper — maps, money or stacks of paper. Among his “book pictures” is a photograph made of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. The book’s opening pages are translucent; words from one page shine through to the next, creating a palimpsest of thought and meaning. Many of these photographs feel more direct in approach and, as such, carried less emotional appeal than other series.

Also on view are photographs the High Museum commissioned for its Picturing the South series. It includes four camera obscura images made in Atlanta hotel rooms, but Morell was clearly most excited about a new series of trees photographed here and elsewhere in Georgia and Tennessee.

Challenging himself to “make new what had been done so well in the past,” he incorporated frames, mirrors and cutouts he made in reproductions of sylvan paintings through which he photographed the real thing. He likened his composition to collage — what he described as “things behind speaking to things in front.” They reflect the sense of discovery and delight he claims to have felt when making them.

Abelardo Morell reveals the beauty to be found in the balance of opposite or discordant qualities. His work is about perception, looking deeply and truly seeing. It is work about contradictions in equilibrium — technical/conceptual, reality/dreams, inside/outside, upside down/right side up.

That we notice only the balance and not the contradictions is testament to Morell’s balletic ability to move between them. He learned form by watching his parents dance, and it shows. The exhibition title draws from the lines of an e.e. cummings poem: “listen;there’s a hell/of a good universe next door;let’s go”

He could have lived next door to Abelardo Morell.

Abelardo Morell: The Universe Next Door was organized by the Art Institute of Chicago in association with the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

Morell will speak at the High Museum on March 6. Click for information

Abelardo Morell: Tent Camera Obscura opens March 7 at Jackson Fine Art.

Click here to view more photos.

- See more at: http://www.artsatl.com/2014/02/review-photographer-abelardo-morell-magic-highs-the-universe-door/#sthash.xg8ByQUE.dpuf

look away, Donna Mintz at the Lamar Dodd Art Center

By admin on November 14, 2013