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Artists A-F

Bisa Butler

Bisa-Butler-I-know-why-the-caged-bird-sings-1200x581Hyperallergic writes on artist Bisa Butler:

Bisa Butler has a great name; it has almost a rock star quality. But she wasn’t born with it. Mailissa Veronica Yamba grew up in New Jersey, the daughter of a Ghanian-born university president (at Essex County College in Newark) and a French teacher from New Orleans. She graduated from Columbia High School in 1991, married, earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in painting and art education, and taught high school art for a decade while raising her children.

The story will sound familiar to many women artists. However, Butler has recently emerged as a significant art-world presence, with her first solo museum exhibition, Bisa Butler: Portraits, currently on view at the Art Institute of Chicago. (The exhibition opened in 2020 at the Katonah Museum of Art in upstate New York.) Butler gained success, quite remarkably, through the often-marginalized medium of quilting. Yet, what might seem like an overnight success is not. Butler had been showing work for 20 years with other African American quilt artists under the auspices of the curator, writer, and artist Carolyn Mazloomi. Butler was known in these circles, but it was not until three years ago that she surmounted biases in the contemporary art world against both people of color and fiber arts.

Butler’s breakthrough happened in 2018 at an art fair, Expo Chicago. Her work, presented by Claire Oliver Gallery, sold out during the first hour of the preview. I remember running into friends at the fair who asked breathlessly, “Did you see those quilts?” When Erica Warren, the textile curator at the Art Institute of Chicago, first saw the work at Expo, she was “transfixed and astonished.” “When the works came into my view in the crowded exhibition hall,” she told me by email, “there were a few particulars that really grabbed my attention, including the vibrant colors and patterns, the discerning gazes of the portraits’ subjects, and the balance and dynamism of the figural arrangements.” The Art Institute of Chicago subsequently acquired a major work, “The Safety Patrol” (2018). 

Butler’s work draws on the rich history of African American art: Her legacy lies with enslaved women creating embroidered quilts from scraps, her grandmother’s and mother’s needlework, Romare Bearden’s pioneering collages, AfriCOBRA’s self-fashioned aesthetics of the African Diaspora, James Van Der Zee’s studio photographs of elegant Black New Yorkers during the Harlem Renaissance, and activist artists — for instance, Faith Ringgold, whose monumental, Guernica-inspired vision of a race riot, “American People Series #20: Die,” (1967), was set in conversation with Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” (1907) when the renovated Museum of Modern Art opened in 2019. It was the Gee’s Bend quilts, however, in an exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2002, that inspired Butler, then a graduate student, to work with fabric.


Erro

The acclaimed artist Erró (b. 1932) is considered one of the leading figures in European Pop-Art. During his long and successful career he has delved into diverse subjects in his paintings, often using an overflow of images to reflect on contemporary society of consumption, in addition to references to various political current issues.

From early on Erró was inspired by technology and science, creating works where the human and the mechanic are combined. In particular he examined how technology invades the body and how the human body adapts to the machine. The images offer questions concerning the borderlines between human beings and technology. Are these borderlines perhaps no longer there when human existence is tied to the mechanic and the very identity a collage of various technological creations, an hyperreal presence in social media, drugs cooked up in laboratories, smart-gadgets assembled in factories, the trace of chips in credit cards. The human being has become a cyborg, whether we like it or not.

The exhibition Cyborg gathers together artworks that reflect these ideas in various ways. The word is a combination, a collage of the words ‘cybernetics’ and ‘organism’. In 1960, when scientist were thinking up a new type of astronaut, the phrase ‘cybernetic organism’ was considered cumbersome. As a result it was shortened, cut and pasted into one handy word, ‘cy-borg’. At the same time these scientist where working on the technology behind the cyborg, Erró was working on art works focusing on the interaction between machines and people, often by creating a collage with people – usually women – and various machines.

The collage is very well suited to the cyborg, as the cyborgs very existence is dependent on compositions and excess. The cyborg is always a collage of some kind, de-formed and a combination of diverse images from art and toys. Even though it is already here, it is still being created and is continually changing. Many of the pieces are already here, but they keep being arranged in new ways – in addition new pieces are continually made.

Erró is an artist of the collage. Combinations characterize his work, and collages are the raw materials behind his paintings. The collages bring together different and similar objects and are always marked by an excess of some kind. Excess is also a symptom of the cyborg, it is always too much, something added, de-formed, integrated and transformed. The cyborg‘s collage shows us the familiar in a new light and makes it unfamiliar, until we grow used to it – or not.

Erro


Viola Frey

Viola freyFrom Artists Legacy:

Over the course of her five-decade career, Viola Frey produced an impressive body of artwork, including ceramic sculpture, bronze sculpture, paintings, and drawings, and explored the mediums of glass, wallpaper, and photography. Internationally respected—with works held in over seventy public collections—Frey was drawn to the expressive potential of clay and, along with her colleagues Robert Arneson and Peter Voulkos, instrumental in cracking the barrier between craft and fine art.

Born in 1933 and raised on her family's vineyard in Lodi, California, Frey felt compelled to create and exhibit artwork at an early age. When she was eleven, she submitted a rendition of a Matisse drawing for exhibition at the Sacramento Public Library and was excited when it was accepted. However, as she later reflected in her 1995 interview for the Archives of American Art, even at the age of eleven, she realized "the point was not to draw like Matisse but to draw like yourself."

After graduating high school in 1951, Frey took classes at Stockton College (now San Joaquin Delta College) before receiving a scholarship to attend the California College of Arts and Crafts (now California College of the Arts) in Oakland. She completed her BFA in 1955 and then traveled to New Orleans to pursue an MFA at Tulane University. While there, she studied under George Rickey, Katherine Choy, and visiting artist Mark Rothko. In 1957, before finishing her graduate degree, Frey moved to New York, where Choy had recently founded the Clay Art Center in Port Chester and was actively engaged with the advancement of ceramic arts. To support herself, Frey commuted into Manhattan daily and worked in the business office of the Museum of Modern Art.

By 1960 Frey had returned to San Francisco, where figurative art and working with clay were in the vanguard. During this period, she produced functional pottery, wall plates, and ceramic sculpture, in addition to continuing a rigorous painting and drawing practice that focused on still-life, landscape, and figural compositions.

Office work helped to support Frey's artistic ambitions. She worked in Macy's accounting department from 1960–70 and during this period also began her teaching career. In 1964 she was hired at CCAC, at first as an Artist Potter in Residence and later teaching a color and light class in the Painting Department. When reflecting on her early teaching years, she mentioned particularly enjoying the freedom to work in all mediums. Frey felt that "the only way to establish oneself as an artist was to show that as an artist [she] was multifaceted and that [she] could work in other media. So no one could put [her] in a box." By 1971 she was a full-time assistant professor in the Ceramics Department and had purchased her first home, converting the basement into a studio.

Frey was a passionate collector. Along with fine art, china, and books, she collected figurines and knick-knacks found at flea markets, which served as inspiration for her junk sculptures, later called "bricolages." By curating and producing her own source materials, Frey created a complex personal iconography that would serve as her creative wellspring throughout her artistic career and assist in her exploration of power and gender dynamics.

In 1975 Frey moved from San Francisco to Oakland, where she could expand her studio outside and study how natural light would interact with the commercial glazes that she preferred. As her figures became more colorful and increasingly taller—eventually reaching over 10 feet—her need for space grew. In 1983, as a supplement to the home and garden studio that she owned, she rented a 5,000-square-foot warehouse to accommodate the monumental works that she was building to challenge both the viewer and herself. In 1996 she purchased a 14,000-square-foot warehouse, where she worked until the day of her death July 26, 2004.

Prior to her death, Frey exhibited annually, traveled the world to expand her art practice, received two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, taught thousands of students, guided the design and building of the Noni Eccles Treadwell Ceramic Arts Center on CCAC's Oakland campus, was honored with an honorary doctorate from CCAC, and co-founded Artists' Legacy Foundation. Learn more about her work and accomplishments at www.violafrey.org.


Patrick Christiano

Patrick christianoNew York based artist Patrick Christiano sold his work on the streets of the city.

According to Robert Lederman, President of ARTIST artistpres@gmail.com, "Pat was one of the City's most beloved street artists. He was an artist, writer and poet who sold in many parts of the City, including Union Sq Park, the Met, and Strawberry Fields.
 
Pat was very active throughout the years of our legal struggle. He provided a lot of help and research for the lawsuit that overturned the Parks' Department's artist-permit. A 1999 criminal court ruling issued by Judge Lucy Billings dismissing some of his park summonses was an important step in winning that case. Pat will be remembered as one of the friendliest and most helpful street artists."
 
You can view some of Pat's art and poetry here:
 

Mickael Broth

Street artist, muralist, night owl, ex-vandal, skateboarder, writer- those are just a few words to describe well-known Richmond artist Mickael Broth. The 32-year-old literally made his mark in Richmond painting large scale art forms all over this town, from inside and outside of Mellow Mushroom, to 15 bike ramps for this year’s Dominion Riverrock, to a Richmond Kickers mural, even gracing RVA Magazine’s 10th anniversary cover with his colorful, trippy artwork.

Mickael Broth, also known as The Night Owl, is a Richmond, Virginia-based artist, muralist, sculptor, and writer. Mickael moved to Richmond in 2001 with the intention of painting as much graffiti as possible. His involvement in vandalism was halted abruptly with his arrest in 2004 and subsequent ten-month jail term for his crimes. Since that time, he has gone on to pursue an active (and legal) career in the arts. He was awarded a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Professional Fellowship in 2008 for his studio work and has shown widely around the United States; from museums and galleries to alternative spaces and abandoned buildings. His work is held in numerous private and corporate collections. He has painted over two hundred public murals throughout Richmond, the United States and Europe since 2012, in addition to helping curate multiple public art festivals. Through his public art work, Mickael has been commissioned by all manner of clients, from small local businesses and nonprofits to municipal governments, museums, and Fortune 500 corporations. He has been an active member of the community, working with youth groups, as well as leading volunteer groups in the creation of collaborative public art projects. Mickael serves on the board of directors for the RVA Street Art Festival and has been instrumental in the curatorial direction of the organization since its formation in 2012. In 2013, he published Gated Community: Graffiti and Incarceration, a memoir detailing his experiences with vandalism and jail. In 2017, he was awarded a commission by the City of Richmond for the creation of an 15’ tall welded aluminum sculpture installed in front of the Hull Street Library in Richmond’s Manchester neighborhood. Mickael’s second published book, Murals of Richmond, which documents Richmond’s public art explosion, was published in November 2018 by Chop Suey Books and quickly sold out of the first printing. Mickael continues to live and work in Richmond, along with his wife and educational activist Brionna Nomi, their son Maverick Rosedale, and their shelter-dog Lil’ Nilla Bean.

http://mickaelbroth.tumblr.com/
Whurk.org/38/mickael-broth


Margot Bergman

In many ways, Margot Bergman is a quintessentially Midwestern artist, eschewing trendiness and exhibiting the kind of independence, even outsider-like eccentricity, often associated with the region. Active in Chicago since the late 1950s and having shown with Corbett vs. Dempsey since 2006, she creates loosely rendered, neo-expressionist paintings that have portrayed various subjects over the years but most recently depict human, generally female, faces in close-up. There is a kind of straightforward, one might say Midwestern, honesty about these psychologically penetrating images, as if she is looking for truth at a time when truth is seen as outmoded or impossible. While she does display a bit of wry humor at times, she is not attempting to make a statement or be ironic.

After trying on styles for several decades, Bergman arrived at her signature expressionism in the 1990s, and has recently achieved her greatest recognition. She has had solo gallery exhibitions in New York and Los Angeles in the past two years, and in the coming year will have two solo museum shows in Europe. On display in her latest show at Corbett vs. Dempsey, “Thank you for having me,” were nine acrylic portraits ranging from roughly two to five feet tall. While in a previous series Bergman used paintings she bought from thrift stores and flea markets as her supports—trying, in a sense, to collaborate with the original artists and pull out some hidden meaning with her imagery—in this latest body of work she started fresh, with blank canvases, depicting fictional women and attempting to convey the essence of her subjects as she sees it. The visages, like those in her prior works, appear off-kilter, exaggerated, and sometimes bloated. In the single horizontal piece on view, Effie and Ida (2017), two faces blur together. In other works, like Brenda (2015), parts of the faces look shrouded and indistinct. Two eyes and two mouths appear on top of each other in Margaret (2017), like the features in some of Georg Baselitz’s portraits. It’s as though Bergman envisions multiple personas in the same person. Throughout this body of work, Bergman demonstrates a heightened virtuosity: see the agile lines and watercolor-like washes of acrylic in Constance (2018), for instance, or the beautifully realized green iris of the right eye in Monica (2018).

Bergman has expressed admiration for Baselitz, Willem de Kooning, and Lucian Freud, and their influence is certainly apparent in her fondness for distortion and the grotesque. At one point, she had a studio down the hall from Chicago Imagist Ed Paschke, and it’s impossible not to think that some of his work, which often comprised tight portraits and demonstrated a penchant for the outlandish, rubbed off on her as well. Some might call Bergman’s portraits monstrous. “Sometimes they are quite shocking to even me,” she admitted to an interviewer in 2014. But it is a benign monstrousness—the point being less to shock than to probe, to unblinkingly portray the inside and the outside, the dark with the light.


Kate Carvellas

20170516010439-All_Things_Bright_and_Beautiful"My work rises to the surface of my mind from deep within my sub-conscious.  It is intuitive and rather compulsive.  It is an attempt to make sense of the chaos that I experience in my mind and the world. Art allows me to explore what often feels frightening and overwhelming in a way that makes it visible, but also safe.  Transforming it into something tangible.  My artwork simultaneously expresses joy and angt; two states of being that I hold simultaneously.  Much of my work explores this dichotomy: chaos vs order, spontenaouty vs precision.  Trying to make order out of chaos."

Creating intensely personal, vivid artworks from assemblages to abstract paintings, mixed media work, to sculptures, artist Kate Carvellas finds great beauty in the every day. Whether she’s creating mixed media work that springs up form her subconscious or working with found objects to shape assemblages that turn discarded materials into something that vibrates with new life, she’s moved to make the simple profound.

With bright-hued abstract paintings both delicate and bold and sculptural works that seem pulled from a rich inner-world, Carvellas says her work is “an essential and intensely personal part of my life.  It explores and expresses the inner workings of my mind and heart in a way that words cannot.” It is the artist’s hope that those viewing her work will find it resonates on an intellectual, emotional, or spiritual level.  

Artist Bio 

In 2004 Kate began creating two-dimensional thematic montages using imagery from various magazines and clip art sources. With further exploration she began to pursue a different direction, creating, original, three dimensional collages.  In 2007 she began exploring the creative world of mixed media and assemblage and fell in love with both of these media.

12 years ago her work was made entirely of borrowed images and objects.  Through the years, she slowly began leaving her own marks on the work.  Starting out with light pencil markings to more visible lines and shapes.  As her confidence grew, so did the strength of her marks and brush strokes.  While she is still deeply enjoying creating assemblages out of found objects, shes now creates abstract paintings made entirely from her own hand.  These painting, at first, sprang straight from her subconscious.  She has also been using her own photographs as the springboard for her abstract paintings.  Abstracting reality. 

Her newest work has, in a sense, brought her full-circle.  She is now creating abstract works that combine painting, found objects and whatever else she finds that will fullfill her vision for the work.  She is thrilled about this new direction.

 


Rick Bartow

Rick BartowIn 2013, artist Rick Bartow suffered a major stroke. Within days of nearly losing his memory and motor skills, he was back in the studio, drawing and painting his way back to health. Until his death, just three years later, Bartow continued to produce artworks drawn from his personal history, Native American ancestry, and friendships with artists and indigenous peoples from around the world.

“ABC 123,” a self-portrait made shortly after Bartow recovered from his stroke, documents his experience of losing and recovering his memories. Letters and numbers serve as mnemonic devices, repeated alongside the artist’s handprints. Bartow’s face, identifiable by his wire-frame glasses, is frozen in terror as he confronts the possibility of losing recollection of the past. A graphite drawing from 1979, the exhibition’s namesake, echoes this later portrait by featuring another figure whose face is a rictus of terror. This work reflects on Bartow’s earlier life, specifically the despair following his military service in the Vietnam War.

By all accounts, Rick Bartow was an unwilling combatant, working as a teletype operator and hospital musician in Vietnam from 1969 to 1971. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his time abroad, but suffered from PTSD and substance abuse upon returning to the US. While his artworks avoid representing specific wartime experiences, graphite drawings from the artist’s early career express raw emotion, translating ineffable feelings of despair into visceral portraits of physical and psychological horror.

Nearly losing his memories might have encouraged Bartow to confront parts of his history he did not embrace during most of his life. A year before his death, he painted “Buck,” a portrait of himself as a veteran, with a striped badge on his right arm to indicate rank and a wheelchair for his ailing health. In faint letters, “Indian” and “Hero” flank Bartow in mock salute. The self-portrait is one of few examples of the artist acknowledging his status as a veteran and physical vulnerabilities as an older adult.


Carol Dronsfield

IMG_2784Carol Dronsfield is a Brooklyn based photographer who uses advertising detritis as inspiration.

Her photography is used almost as a mosaic where she focuses in on a portion of a much parger image, often including areas of distress or detritis, and using that abstracted portion in part of a much larger work of art. The effect of of a fully formed abstract piece of work that stands apart from its original form and look.

 


Ronit Baranga

Benjamin Pineros reports on groundbreaking ceramic artist Ronit Baranga.

Israeli sculptor Ronit Baranga is making waves with a series of ceramic works that blend grotesque human forms with traditional dinnerware. Her work blends wide-open mouths, sprouting fingers and other body parts with cups, plates and kettles, turning inoffensive, everyday items into nightmarish and fascinating sculptures that look like they’re right out of a David Lynch film.

Baranga uses different kinds of clay for her works, creating partial casts of the different parts of her eerie figures and then connecting them together to form the final piece.

She repeatedly uses fingers and mouths in her sculptures because of their inherent sensuality. Isolating them from the context of the human body gives them a powerful, whole new meaning she wants to explore.

As she stated in an interview published on Emptykingdom.com, “The seamless combination of these organs in plates or cups, appearing as one, creates, in my opinion, new items that “feel” their environment and respond to it.”

A commonality in her body of work is a never-ending exploration of the relationship between inanimate and living entities.

“I try to change the way in which we observe useful tableware,” she says. “The useful, passive, tableware can now be perceived as an active object, aware of itself and its surroundings – responding to it. It does not allow to be taken for granted, to be used. It decides on its own how to behave in the situation.”

Ronit Baranga’s most recent work was displayed at the Gross Anatomies show at the Akron Art Museum.