Curatorial debut

Yours truly at the opening of You, Me and Everybody Else

Considering that not even one of my own works was on exhibit at the You, Me and Everybody Else show at MOCA DC , why am I looking so pleased with myself? That’s because I was the guest juror and curator -an experience I thoroughly enjoyed. Friday night’s grand opening was the culmination of several months of hard work. Setting out to jury and curate a show requires a lot of time and energy, most of it in front of a computer screen. When David Quammen of MOCA DC asked me to help him revamp his lobby space and curate the inaugural juried show, I accepted the challenge.

I came up with a theme that reflects our eternal fascination with people – whether it be looking at ourselves or at others. The first step was to hit up the sites advertising Calls for Entries. However I soon discovered that the best and most visited sites are great resources for artists looking for calls, but expensive for galleries and institutions. On a shoestring budget I spread the word on free sites and art blogs, and received some wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) submissions for You, Me and Everybody Else (my call encouraged artists “to consider broad contemporary interpretation of the figure”). Here are some examples of the works I selected for the exhibition. Also please note Jayne Matricardi-Burke’s multi-media Family Portraits behind me in the top photo.

John Norris ‘Manufacturer’

Michael Berkowitz ‘High Priestess’

The works began arriving from artists within the United States, France and Israel. With a push for new lighting, fresh paint, carpet cleaning and removal of unnecessary ‘stuff’, the space was ready to do the works justice. Then there were press releases to write, bloggers to contact, labels to prepare, postcards to design and artworks to unpack (Note To Self: make sure to specify NO styrofoam peanuts in the future!). The opening night arrived and the turnout was larger than expected and the response to the works was very rewarding.

As a curator, I made the decision from the start not to request artist statements from artists. I surprised myself, because when I am wearing my Artist Hat, I tend to expound and over-explain my work. As a curator, I found that I was more interested in what the work conveyed to me directly, without the artist’s input. I have forgotten which famous artist balked at writing any statements, claiming that if he were required to do so, he may as well hang an essay on the wall rather than a piece of art! Brings to mind the early conceptualist Mel Bochner’s word portraits (see Self Portrait below).  How do other artists and curators feel about artist statements? I’d love to hear different takes on this subject.

This curatorial experience has whetted my appetite for more curatorial opportunities and I already have some exciting ideas. You can also check out an in-depth article about the curatorial process which has been published in The Great Nude. But for now I need to get back into my studio and get ready for my own solo show in August!

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IT’S A WRAP!

The close of the year comes with the inevitable onslaught of holiday decoration at every turn. Believe me, I have nothing against holiday cheer, but some people’s idea of decorating their winter lawns for the coming Holidays should be banned on the basis of aesthetics alone. Check out the deflated plastic Santa above. Downright sad….!

I am wrapping up several projects (good) and embarking on some new ones (even better). There aren’t enough hours in the day to actually create all the ideas I have filling my head every day. Any artist knows that some works just have that special something that draws attention to it. To note, my recent painting Back View which I featured a few posts ago just returned from being exhibited at the New York Contemporary Art Fair and has now been selected for the rather prestigious show Au Naturel. 50 works were chosen out of 700, so that feels pretty good!

Back View

In art, size really doesn’t matter. It is all in the eye of the beholder. For instance, I am almost done completing a large commissioned painting,  and just found out that I sold another of my miniature figurines at the annual Miniature Painter, Sculptors and Engravers Society (MPSGS) held at the Mansion at Strathmore in Bethesda, MD. The rather stately mansion is an apt backdrop for the many awesome miniatures whose minute details defy  the imagination.

Mansion at Strathmore
Going to a new home

I have always enjoyed putting in my two cents’ worth when helping fellow artists out with their concepts or with the hanging of a new show. Now I get to have the opportunity to jury and curate an exhibtion at MOCA DC Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery in Georgtown, Washington DC. The new venture opens up the gallery’s front lobby to ‘UP.FRONT at MOCA.DC’ featuring my juried fugurative exhibitions. My first Call for Entries is entitled You, Me and Everybody Else. For further details and entry form go to http://www.mocadc.org/pages/upfront.php.

I am also happy to report that I have revisited a large ceramic installation project concerning young veterans and their tattoos. More details as the project starts to take shape but if you know of any recently returned vets who are interested in sharing their tattoos and their stories, please be in touch.

Happy New Year to All, and let’s try to Give Peace a Chance (really)…

Time flies…

Time flies when you’re having fun both in the studio and out. I was in Paris again in June for a brief visit, this time concentrating on connecting with local galleries and interviewing artists for my Great Nude.tv article entitled The Nude in Paris. I revisited a famous installation by Daniel Buren, one of France’s most renowned contemporary artists. His art pays particular attention to the structures and environments in which they exist, and his signature stripes are magnificent in his Columns installation in the Palais-Royal (below left). I appreciate his work so much more after attending a lecture and slide show he gave at the American University in Paris. A lot of art created today is more than 50 percent about concept and therefore understanding the cerebral inspiration for contemporary work is vital to its understanding.

Since returning from Paris, I have been concentrating on some painting backlog. I completed my colored pencil piece for Women of the Book. The Torah section which was my task to illustrate and personally interpret was Ki Tavo which deals with various polarities – the balance between giving and receiving, between reward and punishment etc. My final illustration (below) hopefully invokes an ambiguity as to whether the hands are in the process of giving or receiving. The dramatic backdrop conjures the beginning of time when I believe our connection to the earth and the spiritual world was clearer. The pomegranate is a common Jewish symbol and also happens to be the meaning of my family name – Milgrom – in Polish. Working on tradtional klaf, or animal hide parchment, was a real challenge and also confirmed that colored pencil is a very difficult medium when working on a large scale. I look forward to seeing the completed artists’ Torah and its eventual travelling exhibition.

Last Friday night (9/9/11) I participated in a group exhibition Political Potpourri which was the result of a call for entry for political works which individual artists are passionate about. I was thrilled to be able to exhibit my video A Winter’s Tale with its new soundtrack provided by composer Gina Bever. My video was originally shot in Israel in 2002 during the height of the Second Intifada (Palestinian Uprising) when suicide bombings became a deadly part of everyday life. I am eternally confounded by the potential for Man’s cruelty to Man and suicide bombing is a most heinous, senseless and merciless act of cowardice. Apart from my video, I also exhibited several sculptures, and my Israeli flag painting trilogy at MOCA DC in Washington DC’s Georgetown district.

I also recently completed a very challenging painting set to be exhibited at The Great Nude’s booth at the November Contemporary Art Fair in New York City. It felt wonderful to get back to the challenge of photorealistic painting, but after spending three days on one finger, I do ask myself why I subject myself to this type of work. The result is usually my greatest gratification.

Finally, as an antidote for this type of meticulous painting, I am thoroughly enjoying creating primitive and whimsical illustrations for a possible French cook book collaboration with chef and recipe tester Fiona Reed who is based in Maisons Lafitte outside of Paris. What better combination than food and art??

B is for baguette