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Assemblage

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.


Betye Saar

Betye saarAssemblage artist Betye Saar creates a new, mystical world in her work.

"There has been an apparent thread in my art that weaves from early prints of the 1960's through later collages and assemblages and ties into the current installations. That thread is a curiosity about the mystical. I am intrigued with combining the remnant of memories, fragments of relics and ordinary objects, with the components of technology. It's a way of delving into the past and reaching into the future simultaneously. The art itself becomes the bridge. Curiosity about the unknown has no boundaries. Symbols, images, place and cultures merge. time slips away. The stars, the cards, the mystic vigil may hold the answers. By shifting the point of view an inner spirit is released. Free to create," noted Betye Saar in 1998.

In Betye Saar’s work, time is cyclical. History and experiences, emotion and knowledge travel across time and back again, linking the artist and viewers of her work with generations of people who came before them. This is made explicit in her commitment to certain themes, imagery, and objects, and her continual reinvention of them over decades. “I can no longer separate the work by saying this deals with the occult and this deals with shamanism or this deals with so and so…. It’s all together and it’s just my work,” she said in 1989.1

Saar grew up in Los Angeles and Pasadena, California, and studied design at the University of California, Los Angeles—a career path frequently foisted upon women of color who were interested in the arts, due to the racism and sexism prevalent in universities at the time. Saar eventually studied printmaking, and her earliest works are on paper. Using the soft-ground etching technique, she pressed stamps, stencils, and found materials into her plates to capture their images and textures. Her prints are notably concerned with spirituality, cosmology, and family, as in Anticipation (1961) and Lo, The Mystique City (1965).


Valerie Meotti

Valerie MeottiWorking in a range of disciplines, Valerie Meotti strives to give her art immediacy and understandability.

She explained, "Painting and creating visual art has been my passion for most of my life. My motives are not to send a message but to be felt. What one takes from my imagery is yours alone. I have a difficult time explaining why I create but I can tell you how. I have never felt I was a catalyst trying to reveal a profound message. 

I am not a singular artist in that I can not settle on one technique of expression. I enjoy having the versatility and knowledge to explore and experiment.  Watercolors are my base of operations, the one thing I rely on most. My unique digital transfer technique utilizes my graphic capability but lets me develop it freely like a painting, using both my major influences.  With this I cross over into collage components developing most of my mixed media works. Oil painting, I am new to but I love the color and luminescence that can be achieved.  I will continue my learning. Ceramics are mainly for the quirky characters I developed called Pistachio People and I still illustrate the little guys. I believe they can be in a successful mass market someday.  Someday I will achieve the independence to sustain my art. Just looking for some glimpse of encouragement."

 

Claudio Parentela

CLAUDIO PARENTELAClaudio Parentela is an illustrator, painter, photographer, mail artist, cartoonist, collagist, journalist free lancer. He has been active for many years in the international underground scene and has collaborated with many zines,magazines of contemporary art,literary and of comics in Italy and in the world. His work can be categorized as street art but with a variety of mediums. He describes his illustration style as,"anarchic, cool, conceptual, twisted, schizophrenic, obsessive, and chaotic."

"I feel completely absolutely free only when I’m amongst my 'artistic things' and in my studio, with my photos, my papers, my colours, my glue, my scissors, my ropes, tapes, plastics, all my 1000 things I found around in the city. It’s been difficult to arrive here where I’m now but it’s a wonderful continuous magical journey, every moment and every day," he says.

What advice would you give to other artists?
To be and to continue to be, and try to be themselves. It’s so important, and then to have fun to have fun to have fun.

 


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.


Virginia Rose Torrence

Rose ceramicsVirginia Rose Torrence’s mosaics are constructed entirely from found objects, principally the content of several bins of hoarded ceramic shards saved over the course of three decades by an adjunct ceramics professor at Marygrove College, where Crissman just finished his term as a professor (due to the closure of the undergraduate program).

“I’ve been working there all summer,” said Torrence, “because it’s a really beautiful space and because the whole upstairs was abandoned, and we got to do whatever we wanted. I was on a walk and I all of a sudden just realized that that was amazing free material.” The resulting body of work playfully reframes elements of classic portraiture and Dutch still life painting, drawing together figurative and abstract compositions that level the hierarchy between fine art and literal trash, including fruit rinds and bottle shards found on the her weekly walks at the nearby Belle Isle Park.

“I’m encapsulating all those materials under one skin of plastic — and that’s a really satisfying action, to stop the decay of something, and try to unify them and bring them all into the same space,” said Torrence. The image of a once-living fruit incorporated into a tile mosaic is jarring and, just as the symbology of Dutch still life presented notions of desire and memento mori, these ceramics subtly struggle with the ultimate futility of art to stop time, try as it might.


Liene Bosque

Liene+Bosque +Prehispanic+City +2014 +Plaster +160+x+60+x+5in+(2)_lowBorn in São Paulo, Brazil, Liene Bosquê (1980) is a visual artist based in New York City. In 2013 she was a resident artist at Workspace Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC), having received the Manhattan Community Arts Fund. Bosquê has attended the New York Foundation for the Arts Mentoring Program for Immigrant Artists, in addition to participating in the 2012 Lower East Side Studio Program and being granted a place at the 2011 New York Art Residency and Studios (NARS) Foundation.

"I am interested in the relationship between place and people. My work deals with the exploration of sensorial experience within architectural, urban and personal spaces. By the process of creating traces, shadows, impressions, imprints, and reflections, I emphasize context, memory, and history. My multidisciplinary practice, including installations, objects and site-specifics, finds ways to fragment habitual spaces, transforming rigid, subtle architectures into more fragile and pliable materials. I'm interested in materials that hold a memory and also already saturated with meaning. I investigate the passage of time, which changes place and how we look at place, through the presence and absence of who inhabit these places," she says.

Bosquê holds a MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2011), a BFA from the São Paulo Estate University (2003), and a BA in Architecture and Urbanism from the Mackenzie University (2004), also in São Paulo, Brazil. While living in Lisbon, Portugal, she was the recipient of the 2007 "Anteciparte" Award, having completed, in 2008, the Advanced Course at Centro de Arte e Comunicação Visual (Ar.Co.).

Her installations, sculptures, performances, and site-specific works have been exhibited internationally at locations such as MoMA PS1 (2016), William Holman Gallery in New York (2015); the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago (2013); Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Arts Center in Governors Island, New York (2013); and New York Foundation for the Arts Gallery in Brooklyn, New York (2013); the Elmhurst Art Museum in Elmhurst, Illinois (2012); Carpe Diem in Lisbon, Portugual (2010); Museu de Arte de Ribeirão Preto in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil (2007); among others non-profit galleries and public spaces in Brazil, Portugal, Turkey, and United States.


Theresa Friess

Theresa friessTheresa Friess creates beauty from discarded objects. Her works are a compilation of everyday objects arranged to offer the viewer a compendium of surfaces, colors and shapes.

Friess works in Bushwick Brooklyn where she participates in Bushwick Open Studio.


Brandi Martin

Brandi Martin Brandi Martin uses poetry to inform her art. She says, "The slurry grammar of the social networking used to bother me. But soon I found myself wanting to do the same. Why? I found that complete thoughts were drained of emotion. Phrased like evocative definitions of an unnamed something, in the voice of the second person, this shredding of language denies the academic third person; it feels visceral.  

I tried diagramming it old school style. Breaking it up and rebuilding it again felt educational and metaphorical at the same time. 

The ongoing nature of how we change language as it changes us. The fixed rules are actually temporal, and it’s our play with language as it flows past us that really remakes it.  A few words on a card cut off from a sentence is poignant, it could end any way, we easily insert our lives into just three words. Less gives more. The fragmented sentences and phrases in my works are not broken instead of whole, they are open instead of closed. Every day we break the authority of text- and the shards aren’t the waste; they are how we enter into the conversation."

Brandi Martin's research-based practice delves into the the quiet crises of analysis and translation. Her work challenges the authority of any singular medium or moment by transparently layering imagery, media, and time. 

Martin classifies these works as ‘metacognitive objects’. Connections and conflicts between self-referential elements create a rich friction for extended engagement, highlighting the viewers’ own thought processes. 

Inspired by the poetry and mechanics of instructional methods, as well as the evocative qualities of found objects, Martin's most recent work refers to the photographic canon, the use of second person voice as applied to art, the poetics of broken language in ‘memes’, and searching out the indexical trace in the mundane.

Brandi Martin holds an MFA From the School of Visual arts in NYC. She makes sculpture, video, images and installations that struggle to resolve conflicting narratives. Brandi lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She is the recipient of residency awards in Gorna Lipitsa, Bulgaria (funded by the Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Arts Programme of the EEA) and The Bridgeguard Residency between the Mária Valéria bridge between Štúrovo, Slovakia, and Esztergom, Hungary (funded by the Štefan and Viera Frühauf Endowment Fund).