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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.


LA2

LA2-paintingBorn and raised in the Lower East Side, Angel Ortiz (also known as LA2), like so many other kids would write on his desks and chairs in school. When his mother put him in the NYC Boys Club, which he loved because of the access to a swimming pool. His friends at the Boys Club were already tagging up in the streets, buses and sanitation trucks when asked him to join them in using the streets as their canvas. After that, Ortiz was tagging non-stop. He became the King of the buses and sanitation trucks. His tags were everywhere, At the age of 14, Ortiz met Keith Haring, an artist from Reading ,PA. Haring was attending The School of Visual Arts and had a studio in the Lower East Side (The Rat Studio). Of all the tags he saw around the city, the "The LA2 tag" stood out to him. He asked around to see if anyone knew whose tag it was and looked for Angel for months before they were finally introduced at Junior High School 22. Here, Haring and other graffiti artists were creating a mural. He asked if anyone knew LA2, to which SOE, Angel's friend responded and said, "I can get him for you." He went to Angel 's house, told him there is a guy with funny shorts and glasses asking for him. When he skeptically went over to the school, Haring could not believe Angel was a kid! They got along right away and loved learning from each other. Ortiz showed Haring some markers tricks- Keith did not know too much about markers, but he was the King with the brushes. It was as if they had always known each other.

Their first collaboration was that first day on a taxi hood in The Rat Studio. LA2 added his tags and crew names and asked Keith if he could add squiggly lines to add energy.  Two weeks later, Haring called Ortiz and told him he had sold the piece and he wanted to collaborate with him.  Tony Shafrazi gave him his first show with their collaborations in the Fluorescent Room.  Keith Haring then asked his mother's permission to take Angel traveling. He wrote a letter to his teacher and at the age of 15 he was exhibiting in Europe. Through Haring, Ortiz met art icons like Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Richard Hambleton. They exhibited for almost seven years, but continued collaborating till Keith's passing in 1991. 

 

Angel Ortiz lives in NYC and is still creating and exhibiting world wide.  LA2 HAS done work for various museums and programs, such as the Children's Museum of Arts, the Children's Museum of East End, Apple Village Arts and the Renaissance Charter School.  

 

He believes meeting Keith Haring was a blessing for both.  Humbled to this day that it was his tag that caught Keith's eye.


Jean Smith

Jean smithOnce an inspiration to a generation of would-be Riot Grrls, the Vancouver-based painter Jean Smith is now carrying a torch for every artist who dreamt of quitting their day job and making a difference through their work.

Since 2016, Smith has been creating a series of enigmatic portraits that are selling like hotcakes on her Facebook page. So far she has sold more than 1,500 canvas works that get snapped up within minutes.

The haunting portraits of women with angular faces, expressive dark eyes and plump red lips—differentiated by their accessories—are selling fast thanks to their US$100 price point.

The artist—half of the seminal 1980s punk rock duo Mecca Normal and precursor to the underground feminist movement known as Riot Grrrls—was inspired by the tradition of bands like the DIY style, anti-establishment Fugazi, who performed $5 gigs to increase accessibility. Her success has allowed Smith—who is also a novelist—to quit her day job at a Vancouver garden centre and work full time as an artist.

Smith has now raised more than $150,000 for her pet project, the Free Artist Residency for Progressive Social Change. She plans to purchase a suitable property for the residency, which will house her as well as visiting international artists. With Vancouver real-estate prices some of the highest in North America, edging out the city’s creative class, Smith is looking beyond the metropolitan area, although she says she is “open to sponsorship, partnership, collaboration and philanthropy” in order to secure a more centrally located property.

Inspired by photographs, Smith’s paintings (larger works are available at US$650) bear a certain resemblance to the artist. Divided into themes that include Pioneer of Aviation (one work offers a bemused fusion of Smith and Amelia Earhart) Skier, Nurse, Hat and No Hat, the works play with both female stereotypes and aspirations—such as the Affirmative series of mainly black women astronauts—in a way that is fittingly performative.

“There is an intention for emotions and injustices surrounding these images to be visible and understood,” says Smith.

The ArtNewspaper


Anna Torma

Anna tormaFrom Hyperallergic - Angels, devils, dragons, and monsters are just a few of the unruly creatures that maraud across Anna Torma’s delightfully chaotic textiles. The Hungarian-Canadian artist’s multicolored, swirling scenes are filled with semi-clothed human-animal crossovers tangled together in curious acts of sex and mischief. Inspired by fairy tales, children’s drawings, Hungarian folklore, and medieval legends, Torma’s playful, hand-sewn worlds present an especially engrossing escape from the bleakness of everyday pandemic life.

Torma was born in 1952 in Tarnaörs, a village in northern Hungary. Her first contact with art came from her parents: her father painted landscapes and still lifes when he wasn’t farming, and her mother and grandmothers taught the young artist regional needleworking techniques used to prepare a young woman’s bridal trousseau. Torma’s facility with class drawing assignments and skill with sewing doll clothes were early signs of her artistic path. “I have always been smart with my hands,” Torma told Hyperallergic in a video call from her New Brunswick studio. Torma, whose sunny studio is filled with potted plants and piles of new works, is shy but quick to smile, and speaks in a soft, melodic voice.

For decades, Torma has collected found textile objects like crochet doilies, embroidery samplers, lace, appliqué, and fabric clippings. Some of her favorites appear in her Personal Ribbon (2020) series. In these works, textile objects like scraps of traditional Hungarian embroidery and a fabric photograph of the artist’s grandparents are arranged along strips of hemp cloth. Collectively, the sequenced artefacts form a sort of exhibition within an exhibition of the artist’s personal and material points of origin. Unlike her previous works, these place Torma’s biography at their center. “Activities with textile are always very personal,” the artist said, and with these works, “I invite you to my life in a private way.”

 

 


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).


Philip Guston

Philip gustonPhilip Guston ('ust' pronounced like "rust"), born Phillip Goldstein (June 27, 1913 – June 7, 1980), was a Canadian American painter, printmaker, muralist and draughtsman. Early in his five decade career, muralist David Siquieros described him as one of "the most promising painters in either the US or Mexico,"[1] in reference to his antifascist fresco The Struggle Against Terror, which "includes the hooded figures that became a lifelong symbol of bigotry for the artist."[2] "Guston worked in a number of artistic modes, from Renaissance-inspired figuration to formally accomplished abstraction,"[3] and is now regarded one of the "most important, powerful, and influential American painters of the last 100 years."[4] He also frequently depicted racism, antisemitism, fascism and American identity, as well as, especially in his later most cartoonish and mocking work, the banality of evil. In 2013, Guston's painting To Fellini set an auction record at Christie's when it sold for $25.8 million.[5]


Judith Gale

Judith GaleJudith Gale’s artistic drive is inspired by nature, particularly marine life. Her fascination with the complex intricacies and the plethora of shapes and colors found in living things generate her paintings. By enlarging these unique elements of nature on canvas, she aspires to capture peoples’ awareness and appreciation of these spectacular wonders. She hopes her artwork helps to draw the tranquility of the ocean to the world above.

Judith has been actively working with the Molluscan Science Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Maryland focused on the study of mollusks and the preservation of coral reefs. She has been involved in distributing educational material to school aged children all over the world. She hopes that by introducing seashells to children, they will grow to love and value our oceans and help protect them.

This work with seashells shaped her art and influenced the themes of her paintings and photography. A portion of her proceeds are donated to this foundation. Judith Gale grew up in Maryland and is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in NYC.


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."

 

Felix Vallotton

Felix vallottonAccording 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.

 


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.