Working 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."
According to the New York Times, Swiss painter and printmaker Félix Vallotton was an intriguing, talented but slippery artist. You often don’t quite know what to expect next in terms of style or subject, even within the same year.
Vallotton, who wrote criticism for a newspaper in Lausanne, Switzerland (where he was born in 1865), gave Rousseau an early laudatory review.
Although Vallotton ignored most of modernism, he influenced such surrealists as Dalí and Magritte, and also the Neue Sachlichkeit (new realism) painters of Weimar Germany.
In addition to painting, Vallotton created a series of groundbreaking woodblock prints in the 1890s, which made him famous, provided entry into the Parisian avant-garde and made his place in modernist art history. Their daring black and white compositions depict some of the pleasures, but more often skewer the hypocrisies and inequities of Parisian life. Vallotton did not see life as full of happy endings.
He made his first woodblock prints in 1891, inspired by the innovations of Japanese artists, eliminating their rich colors while exploiting their practice of cutting with rather than against the grain. It facilitated the curving shapes and lines basic to his formal wit.
Within a year Vallotton had a thriving, if not highly remunerative career. His terse exercises in dark and light appeared in periodicals, illustrated books and portfolios in Paris, then London and as far as Chicago. They were nearly instantly understood as radical, and by the mid-90s Vallotton was a regular illustrator for Le Cri de Paris, a left-wing magazine and the like-minded journal La Revue Blanche, which also covered culture (and was founded by Alexandre and Thadée Natanson). The woodblocks have the compression and legibility of cartoons and news photos, the formal daring of abstract art and the literary punch of modern short stories.
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.
Adam Neate's art career started in the early 2000s painting as a graffiti artist. He went on to a term he calls free art, where he would paint on found pieces of cardboard and leave them around the streets of London for people to find and take home. Over the years he left thousands of individually painted works and was one of the early pioneers of the movement that is now called Street Art. In 2006 he was given the opportunity to show his paintings in a more traditional gallery setting at Elms Lesters, showing alongside established names like Futura and Phil Frost. Since then he has been featured in prominent solo and group exhibitions worldwide to great critical acclaim.
Adam Neate (born 1977) is a British painter, conceptual artist and described by The Telegraph in 2008 as "one of the world's best-known street artists". He specialised in painting urban art on recycled cardboard, and has left thousands of works in the street for anyone to collect. He is a contributor from the movement in transferring street art into galleries. Neate's street art has garnered global interest, having been documented on CNN reports and European television. Major collectors and celebrities are fighting for his original works and international critics have lauded the artist's work. Since 2011 Neate has been mastering his own language of 'Dimensional Painting'. Elms Lesters publish a range of Adam Neate's Dimensional Editions and Multiples
Robert Guillot is a sculptor with a surrealist edge. His enchantingly odd shapes and forms are enigmatic, enveloping a figurative, bodily essence while drifting into curious abstraction. The collective placement and presentation of these objects creates a specific terrain, a nimbly morphing landscape of accumulated parts. In speaking of his process, Guillot states: “Things arranged, again and again, over and under and in between. Together they create a visual rhythm, and this rhythm is EVERYTHING.”
Robert Guillot was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1953. He studied at the Memphis College of Art and received his MFA at Yale University. Guillot’s work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions at Sideshow Gallery (Brooklyn); Jack Shainman Gallery (New York); Magasin 3 (Stockholm, Sweden); and The Stedelijk Museum (Netherlands). Guillot is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant (1981) and a Milton and Sally Avery Fellowship (1992). Past residencies included Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony. Guillot’s work has been reviewed in Hyperallergic, Artforum, The Yale Architecture Journal, The New York Times and The Village Voice.
According to Robert Lederman, President of ARTIST email@example.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."
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.
Claudio Parentelais 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.
In recent years, some of the most active dealers and collectors in the outsider-art field have been looking beyond Europe and North America in search of interesting discoveries from other parts of the world, including East Asia and Southeast Asia.
Among the more interesting finds to recently emerge have been the hard-to-classify drawings and paintings of the prolific Japanese autodidact Issei Nishimura, which pose something of a challenge for art sellers and buyers alike who want or need category labels to help them grasp what’s going on in his work. For Nishimura’s art is all punch and potency; its genre label might be something as unique as “expressionistic/psychological/automatist/psychedelic-baroque.”
Now, with Painting the Japanese Blues: Introducing Issei Nishimura, Cavin-Morris Gallery is presenting a first-ever US solo exhibition of this artist’s works (on view through February 15) at its Chelsea venue. Although the gallery showed a handful of his paintings at the Outsider Art Fair in New York a few weeks ago, and at last year’s fair as well, this presentation offers a broader survey of Nishimura’s inventive techniques and a concentrated sampling of the intense creative energy — and often bizarre imagery — that characterize his oeuvre.
Yutaka Miyawaki, the Kyoto-based dealer who represents Nishimura in Japan, and with whom Cavin-Morris has collaborated in mounting its current show, told me during his visit to the recent Outsider Art Fair in New York: “Perhaps it’s not even worth referring to Nishimura as an outsider, because what he produces is not what people who are familiar with that kind of art expect to see. I regard him as a contemporary artist — period. However, he is self-taught and he does live in isolation, on the margins of society, and his work reflects an unusual, deeply personal vision. These characteristics are all associated with art brut or outsider art.” (An illustrated Galerie Miyawaki catalog of Nishimura’s work from 2014 can be found here.)
Nishimura was born in 1978 in Aichi Prefecture, in south-central Japan. Today, he lives with his parents in their family home in the hills on the edge of Nagoya, a commercial-industrial city that is Aichi’s capital. There, Nishimura keeps a modest studio space that spills out into a garden, in which he has painted the rocks of a stone path and even some sides of the house.
As a youngster, Issei enjoyed making drawings; later he became interested in American blues music and began playing the electric guitar. He remains enchanted by the mythical legend of the Black American bluesman, Robert Johnson (1911-1938), who supposedly sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for his musical talent.
As a young man, Nishimura moved to Tokyo to study music, but he did not easily adjust to big-city life, and socializing was difficult, too. Ultimately, he withdrew from society, returned to the family home, and devoted himself to his art-making, which had begun to occupy a central place in his life. He still enjoys and plays music, but he almost never ventures out or receives visitors.
Last summer, however, during a research trip to Japan, I was invited by the artist and his family to visit them at their home. That day, his parents told me, their son was both nervous and excited to receive a visitor who was interested in his work. As Nishimura began to feel at ease, he explained that he often begins a new composition spontaneously, without a lot of preliminary planning, and that his subjects may be inspired by his interests — music, his cat or other animals, plant forms, or a sudden thought or visual impression.
Various rooms of the Nishimuras’ house were stocked with Issei’s stored artworks, including many picture-filled sketchbooks and boxes full of small, postcard-size ink drawings. From one box, the artist pulled out a remarkable suite of portraits of his uncles, aunts, and other relatives. “Are these accurate likenesses?” I asked his parents. “Yes!” the artist’s mother responded enthusiastically, adding, “They’re both caricatures and recognizable portraits at the same time.”
By contrast, many of the images to be found in the artist’s Cavin-Morris survey feature exaggeratedly distorted faces or bodies; these are the kinds of pictures that tend to fill his sketchbooks. In the drawing “Moonrise” (2018, ink on paperboard), Nishimura stretches out a woman’s neck like gooey taffy, topping it with a noseless, girlish head that resembles a balloon tethered to a long string. This peculiar nude’s breasts seem to dangle from her body like misplaced ornaments, and each of her hands resembles some kind of leafy growth.
In other drawings in ink on paper or paperboard, Nishimura obscures faces or body parts in thickets of dense, wiry lines, or he depicts mysterious, toothy creatures that appear to emerge from a common body or share a common tail. (Japanese viewers may recognize their inspiration in monsters from Godzilla stories.)
Nishimura’s paintings can be completely unpredictable from one to the next. In the current exhibition, bold palettes and abstract shapes that sometimes camouflage or unexpectedly transform themselves into more recognizable forms turn up in such images as “Untitled” (2013, acrylic and crayon on fabric, mounted on plywood), in which what appears to be a yellow fish with an open mouth makes its way horizontally across the composition, only to blend into what may be read as a human figure in profile, even as the artist throws in the outline of a front-facing body.
In “My Mother’s Permed Hair” (2013, acrylic on fabric, mounted on plywood), a voluminous, yellow-pink coif surrounds a distorted, abstracted face that would have made the Surrealists proud. In fact, Miyawaki told me, Nishimura made this painting one day right after his mother returned from a beauty parlor, where, for the first time in many years, she had had her hair permed, a change in appearance that shocked her son.
“Fear of Eye” (2013, acrylic on canvas), the largest painting on view, is also the exhibition’s most complex image. By e-mail, Miyawaki sent me several photos documenting this work’s evolution over time; through several different stages, the artist frequently — and often rather thoroughly — overpainted his composition until arriving at a final, bold image, in which a big, broad face with what appear to be four eyes stares out more eerily than menacingly at a viewer. Later, commenting on this picture, Nishimura explained to Miyawaki that he had been bullied as a child and that, even today, he feels a traumatic reaction when people look at him.
When I met the artist last year, he told me that he works feverishly on his drawings, sometimes filling several sketchbooks in a single day, and that he tends to work intensively for varying periods of time, with in-between lulls, during which he rests, enjoys his music, and develops new visual ideas.
But he can be impulsive, too, seizing his pens or paints to immediately capture something he has observed or an image gestating in his imagination, from lounging cats to mushrooms, lyrically abstracted females forms, and enigmatic, fractured faces.
In Japan today, difficult-to-categorize artworks like Nishimura’s can — and perhaps should — be appreciated in the wider context of expressionist and abstract art forms, of which Japanese modernists, from members of the postwar Gutai group to the multidisciplinary artist Tarō Okamoto (1911-1996), certainly have put forth their own distinctive offerings.
For now, Nishimura’s US debut opens the door a bit wider to contemporary developments in the field of so-called self-taught art in Asia, shaking up expectations about the character and appearance of the work of such remarkable autodidacts.
Janice Jakielski is an artist that transcends her medium of clay. Her porcelain work looks almost like paper using industrial casting methods to create paper-thin sheets of porcelain that she layers, folds and curls to re-imagine historic vessels.
"I create objects of curiosity; beautiful objects to provide focus, retreat and pause in an overwhelming world. Through the use of meticulous detail, familiar forms and uncertain function I coax my audience to draw near, closing the physical gap between viewer and object. In this way the details of my workmanship and the excessive fragility of the porcelain act as a whisper, flirtatiously demanding investigation.
This work began from a place of material exploration. I adapt and re-invent ceramic engineering processes and materials for application in the studio. This experimental approach to ceramics allows me to circumvent the constraints of a conventional clay body. By inventing a new way of casting and manipulating ultra-thin porcelain sheets I am able to create impossible objects. Cut, veneered, twirled and slotted my vessels have a material ambiguity that brings the viewer to a place of sensory uncertainty.
My pieces are inspired by iconic historic vessels. I do not replicate these objects but instead re-imagine them in ways not feasible using traditional ceramics. By removing the interior volume I am able to contemplate these forms divorced from function. They are vessels without voids, containers without containment. I use planes to playfully define, dissect and divide the spaces that they inhabit."
Janice Jakielski was born in a small farm town in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. Jakielski received her Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics from the University of Colorado, Boulder and a Bachelor in Fine Arts from New York State College of Ceramic Art and Design at Alfred University. She has exhibited both nationally and internationally including the Houston Center for Contemporary Crafts, Houston, TX, The Society of Art and Craft, Boston, MA, Cross MacKenzie Gallery, Washington DC and Eutectic Gallery, Portland, OR. Jakielski has participated in numerous residencies such as the Archie Bray Foundation, Roswell Artist in Residency, Djerassi and Millay Colony for the Arts. She is a recent recipient of a 2019 Mass Cultural Council Artist Fellowship. Jakielski currently teaches at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and has a studio, laboratory and apiary in Sutton, MA.