Thursday, December 31, 2009

Kensuke Yamada @ the GVA

Well folks it is the holiday season, friends are in town, snowboarding to be done, and lots of art to be made for my upcoming show at the Ceretana in March/April. So all this means that this post is a bit late and the show is over and you cannot see it ever again, except for on, so HA!

Kensuke Yamada was or is a UM Grad Student with a emphasis in ceramics. All the work of his I have seen are very large, hand-built figures, including the MFA show at the UC Gallery. His recent MFA Thesis exhibition at the GVA, titled Empathetic, is no exception. The show contains about 7 large ceramic sculptures, most of which are glazed with an elegant yet simplistic patterning of stripes, polka dots, and pastel colors.  The alienated forms, patterning and color scheme reminds me of Picasso's early paintings of circus folk, such as the painting Family of Saltimbanques. His artist statement is simple and to sum it up he is interested in creating an emotional relationship between art and viewer.  I beleive that through the scale, isolation and emotive expressions of his figures this task is accomplished.

The sparse nature of the gallery layout with a few dark corners also reenforces the emotional landscape, however the question is "is the minimal amount of work part of the design or just a desire to move on from school?"  One of the most intriguing pieces was a sculpture containing an 8 foot figure with a 4 inch figure.  The contrast in scale certainly evokes an emotional response.  In addition, the large figure was actually wet to the is this some kind of way to ad to the emotive content by referencing the wet, the damp, the dank, the slimy? or was it simply not finished?  I think the sculpture is a succesful piece of art and I am all about an unfinished aestetic, but I also feel that this piece being the only one with out a glazed surface seems a little out of place with the rest of the exhibit.  Either way I was impressed by the show and rather enjoy Yamada's style.

Ultimately, as a 2005 UM alumni I certainly understand the desire for exodus from the education system.  Being in school from before we can remember us crazy artists get a little antsy and are ready to get out and emerse ourselves in the real world - where we get to find out what it really means to be a creative individual.  So good luck I say to Kensuke Yamada! He is off to reside at the Archie Bray so I am sure us Montanans will have the honor to see more work from this great ceramic artist.

More pics after the jump....

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

We want to see your "Art Gifts"

So its Christmas time and that means gift giving, and Artmelt wants to see what art gifts you have received.  So take a pic of your art gift(s), or a pic of you and your "art" and we will post it online. Email them to, include your name and the artists name, medium, etc. and anything else you feel is relevant.  I made some awesome art trades at the Ceretana Holiday Bazaar and will be posting them soon. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rebecca Weed - an "Experience" at the ZACC

It is always a pleasure to see & experience Rebecca Weeds drawings.  "Experience ? I thought you just looked at art?"  Well, lo and behold, art can produce a fuller, integrated experience that goes beyond the passive and dualistic viewer/ artwork separation. 

Weed's drawings accomplish this feat in a few ways. Most obviously, is the drawings are made of multiple layers of tracing paper, fastened only at the top. Therefore they move when someone walks by or the air moves. When viewing smaller artworks it is easy to feel like an outside onlooker; but the movement and large scale of these drawings creates a presence and becomes more of the viewers' immediate spatial experience.  Time is another important factor as it is implied by the content and the physical movement of the drawings.  The images and the implied time gives the viewer a  conceptual departure point to create meaning, in turn engaging them even deeper.

There are two drawings that address "time" through sequential imagery. One titled " I Hate Pink" is of a young girl frantically ripping off a pink dress and then stomping on it. Another "Shower Scene" depicts a woman showering.  The content of "Shower Scene" lacks in the humor of the first, but is an elegantly drawn and intimate view into an experience many take for granted.

Adding to the experience, Weed's use of layered tracing paper allows for the discovery of new images.  For example,  when the piece "Archer" moves, an image of an archer comes in and out of focus, and on the back layer a wolf is revealed.  Another piece reveals an image of swimmer fit with goggles and a swim cap.  These revelations so to speak provide the viewer with constantly changing imagery adding yet another level to the experience.

In conclusion, Weed's use of of material and stylistic drawing technique makes for a great art show that will engage you in more ways than one. I encourage you all to go to the ZACC and check it out!

More pics after the jump

Monday, December 7, 2009

Andy Cline "Scenic Overview 1/4 mile" at the Dana Gallery

In my eyes, Andy Cline's paintings bring some fresh air and ironic commentary into a Gallery that doesn't always grab me.  To my excitement, it would appear that Mr. Dudley Dana is gathering into his arsenal some younger, upcoming artists, including Artmelt favorite, Courtney Blazon.

Cline's paintings are about as photo realistic as you get, however I still wouldn't say he is any Richard Estes.  I find the images, although technically masterful, to be a bit dry in appearance.  The compositions are pretty calm and frontal with hardly a diagonal to be found. "A Pack of Resting Semis" is barely the exception as the shadow from a large sign enters from behind the viewer and takes you into the scene.  Generally, most of the compositions are sweeping vistas with the interstate laid out in front of you.  Perhaps there is a truck on the road, or in "Cruise Control" the view is completely empty minus the road and the sky.  While Estes' crowded scenes reflect the fast pace of the city, Kline's spacious paintings capture the feeling of being on the interstate in the Big Sky.  Ahh the open road...certainly one of the reasons I love driving in Montana.

The titles do add a touch of humor to the otherwise dry, empty, meditative, spacious images.  Names like "Oh Deer" beget images of dead deer on the side of the road. "At Least We'll Have a Ski Resort In Our Backyard" ironically describes an image of a run down trailer, with beat up vehicles framing in the decrepit "homestead", and the controversial  Bitterroot Resort looming in the background.   As mentioned before, "A Pack of Resting Semis" compares the big rigs of the road to the wildlife that inhabit the surrounding landscape.

To me this is the best part of the show.  The elk, bears, and fish that generally fill the gallery are now being replaced by the real Montana  - semis, cars,  and open roads instead of open meadows.  I say real Montana, because we often get this romantic portrait of elk calm, un-startled-by-your-presence grazing in a meadow, yet every hunter knows that this not the way you generally find these majestic creatures (if you can find them at all).

Ironic the titles may be, but even better is that in a gallery surrounded by romantic images of nature we find an artists saying "that is not Montana", here is a semi to replace your elk, here is a junk pile instead of a forest,  a beat up car instead of a horse, a dead dear, a logging trailer, the road...

More pics after the jump

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's Holiday Art Fair Time

That's right everyone get ready for all the holiday art fairs, sales, bazzars and open houses.  Supporting your local artists is always important, and what better way to share holiday cheer than by buying custom, hand made art.  So where should you go to support your local artists? Well it depends on what you want? There are generally two kinds of "products" you can buy this time of year, one I would term art and the other I would term a craft or crappy-commodity.  I know your thinking that the boundary between high and low art has been abolished, so why is he making a comparison between art and craft. Fyi, I am not against craft by any means, frankly I believe engaging your self in any kind of creative endeavor makes you a more realized person and I support it. However, I do believe art and craft have different intentions, and I am simply interested in acknowledging the difference between, oh I don't know... lets say an installation artist and a wreath-maker. So lets take a closer look.

This is what I generally term as craft: wreaths, little angels, manger scenes, model train landscapes, most jewelry, stockings, some ceramics, doilies, ginger bread houses...I think you get the point. If that is the stuff you want then go to the UC Art Fair...not sure when it is and don't care.  Now it is possible that all those things I mentioned have the potential to not be a crappy commodity and can transcend into meaningful works of art, but it certainly depends.  One thing I generally say about this concept is "Construction workers make things all the time but nobody is out there screaming they're artists." So ultimately I term craft as something that its goal is to be an object with, generally, mainstream content that is produced specifically for sale. These generally include functional objects, or something to adorn yourself or your home with and generally lack in deeper meaning and/or creativity.  Art, in my opinion, challenges you, strives for non-object-hood, is usually one-of-a-kind, provides a creative perspective and generally does not have a function other than as a communicator of meaning or as an artwork.

Of course there are always exceptions as the boundary between art and craft is thankfully not concrete.  I love artists that provide a fresh view of art and craft or use traditional crafting methods to create works of art.  This challenging of traditional materials and techniques gives meaning to objects whether it is a wreath or an installation.  There are some great artists in Missoula making great art right now using techniques and materials typically associated with craft, such as Courtney Blazon's merchandise, Patricia Thornton's stuffed Mannys and x-mas tree ornaments, grad student Kathryn Snugg's fabric paintings, and not to mention the entire Tsunami store showing us that toys are effing awesome.

So if you want some artwork this weekend then I suggest you stop by the Ceretana, Tsunami, the Brunswick Building, and the Clay Studio for awesome ceramics. December 13th at the ZACC and the Stensrud the Missoula Made Fair boasts 100% local, hand made goods.  Dec. 10, 11, and 12 there is  the UM Christmas Student Ceramic Sale where one can generally find high quality and affordable ceramics. Accompanying the student sale is a ceramic art show for those slightly less functional and absurd student artworks.  I am sure I am missing something that is awesome, so keep you eyes out for good, locally-made art. Art is not just a hobby it is work too, so support your local artists and the economy!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

2009 UM Juried Student Art Show by the Madstinker

The greatest thing about walking into this jury show was the quantity of work, mad technical skill, and the well-executed concepts in one show. Every emphasis in the Art department should be proud of their students. With that said, I'm a 2D exhibitionist, so I'm giving a review based mostly in that field. Sorry 3D, I'm going to group counseling and working very hard to improve myself. Soon I hope to give you the mad props you deserve.

Four pieces stuck out to me the most in this show. The work was simple and sweet all the way down to the title. Titles were important in this show, either it was really bad, or it assisted the work like a wench's assistant. Sadly, I think there was a lot of pieces falling into the first category. The work I admired had titles that kept the viewer engaged.

"America" done by Adam Lynn had friction. The rhythm in this work was down right dysfunctional. And I like it. His painting is dirty and nasty. Adam engages the viewer and himself in a conversation with questions and no direct answers. Literally, this guy used dialogue bubbles in pre-elementary handwriting. The color field was off. His spatial plane and figure drawing had no aesthetic anchors. His application of paint along with the canvas itself was so raw and outsider that it imitated the works by Ed Templeton among other Sk8/Punk/DIY kids from the 90's. And why do I find this to be all wonderful? With the title "America", this painting could have easily been preachy, egotistical and just plain annoying. He could have patronized his viewer with a technical high art application. But he didn't do that. Instead he humbled himself as the protagonist, and with that he humbled the viewer.

The next piece that made me want to run into the bathroom with a box of Kleenex would have to be Kathryn Snugg. "B for Best?" with the pop icon of deer had me going. Her canvas was made by recycled bed sheets, quilted together to create it's own modern composition. Vertical stitching broke the space well by being graphically imperfect. She threw in the pop image of John Deere acknowledging the fact that she's trekking worn territory. Deer head drawings were empathetic, but also connoted taxidermy. This was a really smart move on her part. This piece is not just a feminine piece referring to past lady crafts, but speaks to a wider audience. She was throwing all of the images of "Deer" into one big pot, accompanied by a meticulous drawing hand, stitching and embroidery. And like Adam, her materials looked accessible to anyone that has the need to communicate.

The next piece that I loved was an aesthetic bad boy. The character in his story was caught with his pants down, exhibiting greedy consumption with crude imperfection. Richard Evan Holmstrom's "2-1-2-3" is on such a large wood canvas that you are exposed to hairy legs and tighty-whiteys from across the gallery. This character is humorous, misogynistic, and demanding. At the same time, he's a mere simpleton. The great thing that Holmstrom illustrates in this piece is also a sense of vulnerability. The use of color pink is seen more as Freudian reference then aesthetic. He's mixing comic book with Modernism. It's hot! The character and his many egos and desires are all isolated from each other while the background is a generalized abstraction. The painting is ironic conceptually and visually. When I look at this big guy I can't help but think that Richard is thumbing his nose at someone or something. His technical skills is exceptional and up to par in an academic world. Hell, he even made a nice canvas (that was also an obvious fault in this show: badly made canvases). Maybe it's the man getting him down, who knows.

And last but not least we have Sheilah Healow. So many students and artist around this town has tried to tackle the chaos/order subject and has failed miserably. Sheilah makes it look easy. A quaint little drawing "Transition" showed complexity, movement and engineered lines bottled up like an atom bomb in the middle of a raw piece of paper. The multi-media piece reminded me of the work of Julie Mehretu. Color and line patterns along with topography creates a organism made of unlikely elements. But unlike Julie's work who focuses more on engineering and networking as a global technological organism, we see Sheilah making hers more micro than macro. She keeps her organism in a round-up, dead center of the paper as if it's a petri dish observation. She makes it more humanistic with drawings of anatomical imagery like intestines and feet. I've seen Sheilah's work before, and what I like about her is that she is not afraid to try new mash-ups but at the same time she will always have her signature moves.

As you can see there was plenty of more great pieces in the show. So many were reminiscent of styles and movements that are going on this day and age. These four artists just happened to turn me on in that certain way. It takes all types. Congrats to all the ones that submitted their work. Congrats to all that got in. The show is only up until the 20th, so get on over there.

A bunch more photos from the show after the jump.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

First Friday November 2009

Well it is (or was) 3:15am,  I've been home for one hour after a good evening on the town looking at art, socializing, and drinking free booze of course - isn't that the real reason we go out to First Friday- if it is, it shouldn't be!  Nonetheless, I  saw a lot of art tonight, some good, some better, some worse.  All in all it was a good FF, I crossed paths with a lot of different friends and people, and passed out a bunch of Artmelt handbills.  Tonight was like our official exiting of the closet.

Being that we were advertising the blog we came across a lot of discussion regarding the blog, art, art criticism and its role in Missoula.  We got a lot of good feedback, and discovered a lot of ideas for future posts. So our first official First Friday adventure was a success.  Let us begin the journey after the jump.

First off, I stopped by Bernice's Bakery to see my good friend,  Penelope Baquero's opening "Eco-Sapien."  These works explore human's relationship to the natural world and the concept of the eco-sapien.  Her paintings don't really tell us how to become eco-sapiens, but rather the paintings visually and emotionally explore the meaning of Eco-Sapien. For example, in one piece a human heart is topped with trees (much like a sea stack in the pacific northwest) and obviously trees could never grow out of your heart, so the meaning and symbolism emotionally suggest what it may be to have some eco-in-your-sapien. The highly detailed acrylic paintings are well executed and the style reminds me of a modern day Frida Kahlo. Good work Penelope!

I discovered two new galleries this FF. The first, Gallery @ studio D and  secondly, Contraption (which I find to be an excellent name btw). The audience at the first was filled mostly with people 30+ years older than me, and the work there by Dennis Sloan & some others, was well out of my price range. Contraption, owned by two guys named Phil and Lucas, is intended to cater to a younger crowd and a younger style of art. I was talking to Phil, and he said that younger adults can be intimidated to walk into some of the fancier galleries in town, and that they wanted to create a space that was friendlier toward them; not to mention there were 2 kegs of beer and a DJ playing all night. The space is small but great, and I am looking forward to seeing where these guys take this contraption.


So back to Gallery @ Studio D

I am wondering what these guys are contemplating it the dynamic colors, the interweaving of form, or is it the hot chicks on all fours? Let us hope it is the previous, but nonetheless the figures are certainly idealized and aesthetically proportional, to which I am not sure what to make of?  Is there some kind of sexual objectification occurring? In some ways painting anything is a form of objectifying. When making these works he claims to have been in his female-form phase, according to an article in the Missoulian.  As a painter from a different generation I didn't know there was such a phase, but frankly I do not think his conceptual framework holds up enough to suggest there is no objectification occurring here.  I am less worried about the firearms, as was the Missoulian's focus, and consider the idealized forms and sexual positions to be the point in question.  The paintings themselves are large and technically flawless. Surrounded by so much color, to which Sloan says is inspired by Montana skies, is visually engaging, but ultimately I view them to be no more than a modernist exercise in form and color.

My favorite show of the night was at the Catalyst featuring Sheilah Healow and Patrica Thornton. Like myself, both of these artists have studios at the Ceretana, so lucky for me I have been able to see a lot of their work. I believe their work compliments each other well, and their painting share a similar feeling even though they are worlds might be their color pallets and ambiguity. My favorite piece is this one by Sheilah Healow. The sheep and the head wrapped in wire, with the aggressive power of the white bull is latent with meaning, what specifically I am not so sure, but  I am happy to leave that question unanswered and just be with it.
I love T-Rex in a ball gown
Then off to the Missoula Art Museum, ran in to a lot of people there - Wolf Redboy, the museum staff, Ed Morrisey of the art dept, some graduate art students, and a handful of others.  There are a few good exhibits up at the MAM. One Being Roger Shimomura's "Minidoka on My Mind" and the other being a series of cardboard sculptures titled, "Big Trouble - The Idaho Project" by Scott Fife.  Both shows, well-worth-seeing, are rather powerful in content, size, technique and scale, but perhaps get a little redundant for me.


The texture created by the cutting, gouging, drilling, tearing of the cardboard creates a raw surface, and remarkably captures the likeness of these figures.

This one is certainly the exception to redundancy as the interaction between horse and wood board is rather intriguing, probably one of the few horse sculpture I actually like.