Local Attractions: The Renwick Gallery brings Burning Man to Washington D.C.

Local Attractions- (1)

Labor Day weekend has arrived and we’re sure you’re wondering how you’re going to spend your 3 glorious days off!

Here’s an idea! There’s an art museum filled with wonders residing just steps away from the White House. This institution known as The Renwick Gallery has the words “Dedicated to Art” carved above the main entrance and has maintained that mantra since its official opening in 1972. Currently the Renwick is featuring a remarkable exhibition called, No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man, which encompasses the entire museum.

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view of the main entrance of The Renwick Gallery, photo courtesy of Google Images

Today’s blog will give you a brief look inside the exhibition, No Spectators, some background information on the Renwick’s rich history, and the take everyone on a trip to Nevada’s Black Rock City, the home of Burning Man. Everybody ready? Let the tour begin!

The History:

The Renwick Gallery is an extension of the Smithsonian and it’s the location of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s (SAAM) program of contemporary craft as well as decorative arts. The Renwick is a National Historic Landmark because it was the first building in the U.S. constructed with the sole intent to be a public art museum.

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Renwick building, 1884, photo courtesy of SAAM website

It was meant to showcase the art collection of 19th century Washington native, philanthropist, banker, and avid art collector, Mr. William Wilson Corcoran. Mr. Corcoran felt recognizing the artwork of American artists and sharing them with the public would “encourage American genius.” The name Renwick Gallery originates from the architect Corcoran hired, Mr. James Renwick Jr. In 1858, Corcoran hired Renwick because he was familiar with Renwick’s design of the Smithsonian’s Castle.

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The Smithsonian Castle, 1847-1855, photo courtesy of Google Images

The design of the Renwick was inspired by the opening of the Louvre and the style of the Renwick building is called Second Empire architecture, which at the time was highly popular in France. The construction of the Renwick began in 1859 and went until 1873. The museum ran into numerous obstacles, which delayed opening for years. Once it was completed in 1874 it was referred to as “The American Louvre” and played a major role in proving Washington D.C. to be cultural territory.

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interior of the top floor of the Renwick, photo by Ron Blunt, found on SAAM website

The history of the Renwick is so extensive, I can’t discuss the entire timeline here. If you’re interested in learning more about the museum’s history, click here to visit the SAAM website.

No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man

What is Burning Man?

Once a year, thousands of people flock to Black Rock Desert in Nevada to construct Black Rock City, a temporary metropolis where Burning Man comes to life! Burning Man is centered around self-expression, art, community, freedom, and all around positivity

The Burning Man Mission is to “produce positive spiritual change in the world…it is equally important that we communicate with one another, with the citizens of Black Rock City and with the community of Burning Man wherever it may arise.”

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The Man will always Burn, photo courtesy of Google Images

Burning Man is a place where innovative minds can come together to celebrate their love for creativity.

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“Love” by Alexandr Milov from Odessa, Ukraine, Burning Man 2015, photo courtesy of Collective Evolution

No Spectators:

Black Rock City is a hub of artistic genius motivated by The Ten Principles: Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-reliance, Radical Self-expression, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation, Communal Effort, and Immediacy. This artistic brilliance is being recognized by the Renwick and now everyone can enjoy the mesmerizing creations artists bring to Burning Man.

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The Ten Principles, on view at the Renwick Gallery, photo by Taylor Chauncey, PG Gallery Assistant

The exhibition No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man was made possible by Nora Atkinson, the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft at the Renwick.

“No Spectators’ is a long-standing saying on Playa. You are encouraged to fully participate. It’s all about being there, being fully present, and not just observing. Two of the ten principles of Burning Man are radical participation and radical inclusivity, meaning that there are no outsiders. Everyone is part of the experience.” – Nora Atkinson

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Nora Atkinson, photo courtesy of the Burning Man Journal

No Spectators features works, sculptures, costumes, and installations from 20 different artistic innovators; Gelareh Alam, Duane Flatmo, Marco Cochrane, FoldHaus Art Collective, Michael Garlington & Natalia Bertotti, HYBYCOZO (Yelena Filipchuk & Serge Beaulieu), David Best (creator of Temple used in the very first image of this post), Richard Wilks, Aaron Taylor Kuffner and many many more!

All of the works featured in this exhibition are in some way interactive to encapsulate the “No Spectators” mantra.

Below is a brief look inside The Art of Burning Man:

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designs created by Gelareh Alam, photo by Taylor Chauncey, PG Gallery Assistant

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design created by Gelareh Alam, photo by Taylor Chauncey

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design created by Gelareh Alam, photo by Taylor Chauncey

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Paper Arch by Michael Garlington & Natalia Bertotti, photo by Taylor Chauncey

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detail of Paper Arch by Michael Garlington & Natalia Bertotti, photo by Taylor Chauncey

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Shrumen Lumen by FoldHaus Art Collective, photo by Taylor Chauncey

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Tin Pan Dragon, a 23-foot animated sculpture made of steel & recycled aluminum by Duane Flatmo, photo by Taylor Chauncey

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Truth is Beauty by Marco Cochrane, photo by Taylor Chauncey

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Evotrope by Richard Wilks, photo by Taylor Chauncey

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HYBYCOZO (Yelena Filipchuk & Serge Beaulieu), photo by Taylor Chauncey

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Gameltron by Aaron Taylor Kuffner, photo by Taylor Chauncey

I hope you enjoyed this little brief look into the Renwick and No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man! There is so much more to see so go check it out!

Note: the exhibition will close in two phases, please visit the Renwick Gallery/SAAM website by clicking here for more information.

Of course, come visit Principle Gallery as well since there’s no such thing as too much art! Here is our schedule of Upcoming Events!

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Kyle Stuckey: The Artist Who Captures the Essence of Charleston

Kyle Stuckey

We certainly love our dear city of Alexandria, but for this blog we are taking a trip down south to Charleston! We want our followers to get to know the artists we represent at Principle Gallery Charleston as well as give you all a taste of the exciting events and exhibitions our team puts together.

For this blog I will be introducing you all to Charleston-based artist, Kyle Stuckey!

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A little bit about Kyle:

Kyle Stuckey was born in 1987 and began studying art in high school. During that time he was taught via private instruction with Lori Woodward Simmons and participated in various workshops. Stuckey eventually became a member of the Putney Painters, one of the leading Realism groups in the U.S. renowned for still-life, portraits, as well as landscapes. With this group of painters Stuckey was able to enhance his skills in the company of some of the greatest artists working today, such as Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik.

Stuckey’s work is highly influenced by his study of the art worlds most influential figures, including John William Waterhouse, John Singer Sargent, William Bouguereau, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, and Anders Zorn. Over time, he has developed and fine-tuned his style, working with oil as an Impressionistic Realism painter.

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Stuckey painting the scenery of Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, NV

Originally from New Hampshire, the artist lived in Nevada for 2 years. He has also spent time in Mexico, Vietnam, Nicaragua, and Japan. Stuckey lived in Costa Rica for 8 months and in Rome for 2, traveling throughout Italy. He currently lives in Charleston, where he continues to paint.

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What’s next for Kyle Stuckey?

Saturday, August 25th 2018 | 5:30-7:30pm:

Kyle will be unveiling a brand new painting at Principle Gallery Charleston! However, it’s not just any painting, it will be a piece showcasing the newly renovated Historic Fireproof Building, which resides on the 100 block of Meeting St in Charleston. This painting was generously commissioned by The Renaissance Women of Charleston for the South Carolina Historical Society.

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The Historic Fireproof Building

This building is a National Historic Landmark that currently serves as the headquarters for the South Carolina Historical Society, which is a private non-profit organization that began in 1855.

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image from the SC Historical Society website

The Fireproof Building was built in 1827 with the purpose to house and protect important city records. In efforts to keep those records safe, the architect constructed the building entirely out of fireproof materials. The walls and frame were made of pure masonry, while the doors, window frames, and shutters were made of iron.

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Image courtesy of the Historic Charleston Foundation

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Image courtesy of the Historic Charleston Foundation

Unfortunately, a fire did manage to start on the upper floors, ruining a decent portion of the buildings interior, but the records remained safe.

If you would like to attend the VIP Unveiling at Principle Gallery Charleston, please RSVP by calling 843-727-4500. Space is limited so please RSVP by Thursday, August 23rd.

Friday, October 5th 2018 | 5:00-9:00pm:

Kyle Stuckey’s 50 Portraits of Charleston: The Heartbeat of the Holy City opens Friday, October 5th at Principle Gallery Charleston, with the Opening Reception from 5-9pm! This exhibition will showcase 50 original portraits by Kyle, and each portrait represents people who live in Charleston, who call it their home.

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Since the show is centered around the Charleston community, 25% of all proceeds from works sold will be given to a local charity: Teachers’ Supply Closet.

A few questions for Kyle:

I asked Kyle a series of 6 questions, questions pertaining to his creativity, his process, and his career. Below are my questions and the artists answers. Enjoy!

Q. Is there something that or someone who inspires you daily?

 

My inspiration really just comes from anything that catches my attention. I think it is important to observe the world we live in, from the big to the small. And when something catches my attention for whatever reason, I may want to capture that particular thing itself or it could open up ideas to future projects.

 

Q. Is there a specific project, commissions, personal creation, etc, that you are extremely proud of?

 

50 Portraits of Charleston. Although it’s still not complete, I would say it will be my biggest undertaking to date. Accomplishing 50 portraits in less than 6 months is something I wasn’t sure I could do, so it gives me a little boost of confidence knowing I can get it done…even when it’s hard.

 

Q. What does the word creativity mean to you?

 

Expressing the things you observe in a way that excites you.


Q. I know you have done a wondrous amount of traveling, do your trips serve as your artistic motivation? Is there anything else that sustains your ambition?

 

a) Yes! I like to paint things that are interesting or beautiful. When you travel, you tend to see a lot of new and exciting things. The more you explore, the more you find!

 

b) Wanting to get better sustains my ambition. I’m sort of stubborn and always want to be better.

 

Q. Have you been faced with discouragement? If so, how did you overcome it?

 

Every day. Or at least 5 times a week. As a creative, you’re cursed by thinking you’re never good enough and there’s always room for improvement or change of direction. It’s a constant learning and exploring. Each day you can wake up and find out there’s something you don’t know how to do like how to create a new brushstroke or better render the effects of atmosphere and space. It goes on and on. So when I get stuck or feel like I’m the worst, I either put that particular painting away for a bit and go on to something else or view some of the past work I’m most proud of to remind myself I actually can create something worth looking at. Also, practicing what I’m not good at is a big part of getting out of a discouragement rut.


Q. What was the best piece of advice you were given? Who gave it to you?

 

Two things:

 

1. Squint more

2. Don’t neglect to practice your art form

 

Both came from one of today’s living masters, Richard Schmid.

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Work by Kyle Stuckey available at Principle Gallery Charleston:

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Giving Way to the Night 36×36, oil on panel

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Over the Waters 15×10, oil on panel

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Night at the Fountain 28×53, oil on panel

STUCKEY Dream Garden

Dream Garden 33×24, oil on panel

Contact Principle Gallery Charleston via email art@principlecharleston.com if you’d like to inquire about any available works by Kyle Stuckey. Visit their website www.principlegallery.com/charleston if you’d like to see more work by Kyle!

Getting to know the artist, Joseph Zbukvic

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Joseph Zbukvic was born in 1952 in Zagreb, Yugoslavia. His early education was extremely versatile and consisted of the visual and performing arts. However, in spite of his obvious talent for painting, he enrolled into a pedagogical university to study literature and language in 1967.

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Joseph Zbukvic painting the rural landscape of Melbourne

In 1970, Zbukvic’s studies were interrupted by political unrest in Yugoslavia, thus he decided to immigrate to Australia. There he saw an opportunity to start over and return to art. The artist resumed his formal education at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. Zbukvic majored in Industrial Design and graduated with a diploma in art in 1974. During his time in school he began painting again and achieved instant success at art competitions. The artist won his first major award, the Corio Council Art Award in 1975.

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In Australia, Zbukvic was able to pursue his visionary interests and build a highly successful career in art. In 1978, he transitioned to painting full-time and rapidly established himself as one of the leading artists in Australia. Thus far he has had over 40 solo exhibitions in Adelaide, London, San Antonio – Texas, Brisbane, and Sydney.

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Zbukvic happily surrounded by a group of intrigued observers

Zbukvic has become a leading master of the watercolor medium as a result of his ability to transform any subject into an astounding form of visual language. The way the artist captures a diverse collection of subject matter through expressive and thoughtful brushwork has captivated people and galleries all over the world.

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The studio of Joseph Zbukvic

In an effort to get to know Mr. Zbukvic a little bit better, we asked him a series of eight different questions. Below are our questions and the artists answers!

Q. Which artists are you inspired by?

A. I have never really had a guru. My painting philosophy is very simple: I just paint.. I keep my mind as clear as I can with no influence of any kind.

Q. I know you had a strong passion for art growing up, was there a specific artwork(s)/artist(s) that you saw as a child or maybe older that really encouraged your decision to become an artist? If so, which artwork(s)/artist(s)?

A. I grew up on a small farm with no art influence whatsoever. There was just one painting in the living room. I remember it clearly. It was an oil in muted brown tones of a Dutch windmill by the canal. I looked at it but not really understanding what it was. Eventually I received a formal but very general art history education at high school. I was singled out for my drawing talent in art classes which sent me on that journey.

However I always say that art chooses you and not the other way around. A true artist is chosen by his calling…

Q. Who is your greatest role model?

A. My grandmother is still with me spiritually. She took me under her wing and was the first to recognize my talent and acknowledge me as a person. She is still my moral guardian even though she passed away many years ago. I would not be who I am without her guidance.

Q. What’s your favorite museum?

A. I actually avoid all exposure to art, believe it or not.. I find that it clods your thinking and polluted your vision. Remember; I just paint. I have visited museums in the past and decided to stop – hence my style is totally self induced and original for that reason.

Q. If you could host a dinner party and invite all of your heroes (alive or passed), who would you invite?

A. It would be a dinner for one, ha ha 🙂 (see above) I guess I’d love to meet some of the famous artists at the turn of the 19th-20th century, it was a great era for art. Maybe Leonardo da Vinci? He truly was amazing and original.

Q. How many hours a week do you spend painting?

A. I wake up thinking painting and go to sleep doing the same.. people think painting occurs only when brush in hand. True beginnings are in our dreams… The physical painting process is simply a result of that dream.

Q. Do you listen to music as you paint? If so, what songs make up your playlist?

A. Yes always – very eclectic. From Elvis to Pavarotti, from gypsy ballads to Hank Williams etc. Folk, classic, jazz, soul, country… you name it.

Q. Besides art, what are your other interests, hobbies, etc?

A. I always find this a strange question as art is omnipresent. However, I own a 1956 classic sports car, Triumph TR3 (see below). I sometimes take it for endless drives through our wonderful countryside.

Zbukvic currently lives and works in Melbourne, Australia

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Available works by Joseph Zbukvic at Principle Gallery:

ZBUKVIC Sunny Corner, Barcelona 72

“Sunny Corner, Barcelona” 10×14, watercolor on paper

ZBUKVIC At the Races II 72

“At the Races II” 12.5×9, watercolor on paper

Afternoon Peak Hour, Melbourne 72

“Afternoon Peak Hour, Melbourne” 21×13, watercolor on paper

Barcelona in the Summer 72

“Barcelona in Summer” 14×10, watercolor on paper

A huge thank you to Joseph Zbukvic for sending us some images and taking the time to answer our questions!

If you like the work of Joseph Zbukvic, visit his artist page on our website by clicking here. Also, feel free to email us (info@principlegallery.com) if you have any questions or to request further inquiries!

Joseph Painting

How Floral’s Conquered the Art World

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Well, we can officially say that summer has arrived! However, here in Alexandria it has felt like summer since about.. April. Therefore, because Mother Nature decided to skip over Spring and bring us this sometimes enjoyable, yet other times torturous heat. We thought we’d discuss the gift Spring typically brings… flowers! Today, we’ll discuss how floral’s became a leading subject in ancient, traditional, medieval, modern, and contemporary art.

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The incorporation of floral motifs within works of art began decades ago. Many civilizations engraved blooms and blossoms into their ceramics, painted them upon structures, and wore them as accessories. A significant example would be the Egyptians, who used the lotus flower in their painted murals and ceramics as well as blooms that were inlaid into ceremonial jewelry. The Egyptians believed that the lotus flower was a representation of the sun and had strong ties to human creation as well as rebirth.

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Floral Collar from Tutankhamun’s tomb, Egypt, ca. 1336-1327 BC; papyrus, olive leaves, persea leaves, cornflowers, blue lotus pedals, picris flowers, nightshade berries, faience, linen

Above is a floral necklace that was excavated from the tomb of Tutankhamun. Blue lotus pedals were inlaid into the collar, along with other types of plants.

When the lotus flower was painted and engraved onto ceramics the lotus was rendered in a consistent yet stylized way.

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Rim Fragment of Relief Chalice, Egypt, ca. 945-712 BC; Blue/Green Faience

As you can see in the fragment above, the lotus resembles a fan and this particular stylization remained prevalent throughout Egyptian art.

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Hippopotamus with lotus flower embellishment, Egypt, ca. 1961-1878; Faience

 

Blog Insert The Northern Renaissance

During the Renaissance, artists began perfecting still-life paintings, which then became extremely popular subjects. Some of the earliest examples of floral still-life painting comes from the Northern Renaissance because during this period there was a major increase in the study of flowers and the creation of botanical publications. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Renaissance artists “typically combined flowers from different countries and even different continents in one vase and at one moment of blooming” to represent the worldwide rise of interest in flowers and botanical’s.

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Flowers in a Wooden Vessel by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1603

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Flowers in a Ceramic Vase by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1620

Blog Insert The Impressionists

During Impressionism, painters utilized the floral motif in a variety of ways. Some neglected the still-life and showcased flowers as arranged bouquet’s behind figures, surroundings to plein air figure paintings, or as floral backdrops.

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The Two Sisters, On the Terrace
by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1881

However, one artist in particular did things a little differently, his name is Claude Monet. He created paintings that solely focused on capturing the feelings of nature. Monet painted flowers in the style of still-life and he painted them as they appear in nature.

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Jerusalem Artichoke Flowers by Claude Monet, 1880

Monet masterfully captured the peace and serenity that is associated with flowers. His appearance of soft brushstrokes, soothing colors, and glowing light creates a movement as well as a narrative. Also, the artist’s care and respect for his subjects translates to the viewer. In his own words he expressed his gratitude and love for flowers; “I must have flowers always and always.”

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Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies by Claude Monet, 1899, oil on canvas

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Water Lilies by Claude Monet, 1919, oil on canvas

At Principle Gallery

Recently we received 3 brand new floral, still-life scenes from our regular artist, Elizabeth Floyd, who specializes in still-life and landscapes. Floyd is a former architect who chose to abandon her 9 year career and pursue her true passion.. painting.

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January 36×24, oil on linen by Elizabeth Floyd – available at Principle Gallery

Floyd’s floral still-lifes are paintings of flowers she grows herself. She has a spectacular garden and selects flowers from her collection and creates stunning compositions.

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Peony and Flower Bud, 8×10, oil on linen by Elizabeth Floyd – available at Principle Gallery

So here we are, in June of 2018 and floral’s still remain present and popular in the world of art. There is something about the way flowers resonate with viewers and many find themselves desperate to have floral paintings in their home.

Peonies in Canning Jar

NEW Peonies in Canning Jar, 12×16, oil on canvas by Elizabeth Floyd

King Alfred Daffodil

NEW King Alfred Daffodil 9×6, oil on panel by Elizabeth Floyd

White Azaleas

NEW White Azaleas, 9×12, oil on panel by Elizabeth Floyd

Featured above are the 3 new Floyd’s that are currently available! If you enjoy the work of Elizabeth Floyd click here to see more of her wonderul works. Also, Liz Floyd was just featured in Elan Magazine and one of figure works of her daughter is gracing the cover. You can read the entire article if you click here, you can find the piece on Liz from pages 30-33.

If you are interested in any of Liz Floyd’s work featured here or on our website please don’t hesitate to email us: info@principlegallery.com

 

The Progression of Abstraction

Technique Tuesday abstraction

What is it?

What is a gallery that specializes in Contemporary Realism doing writing about abstraction, you ask? Well here’s the thing– when people think of the term “abstract art,” most people specifically think of non-objective art. The two do have overlap, but the realm of abstraction is a lot more nuanced than just pure realism and pure non-objective art. The work that we show here at the gallery is nearly always, representational, or objective, meaning the artwork is “of” something. As you may remember, we’ve discussed the “spectrum” of realism on this blog before, and talked about some art being more hyperrealistic, some art more painterly, some very abstracted, and some non-objective. Non-objective art does not seek to portray anything that exists in reality; rather, it communicates purely on a visual level, using the elements and principles of art to create something aesthetically interesting. Other styles, like Hyperrealism and Photorealism, attempt to portray reality in its exactitude, or at least in the case of the latter, how it appears in photographs. But there is a whole world of art that also falls in between the two. Abstraction in art is any deliberate step away from portraying exact reality. Abstraction in objective art, or art that does seek to portray or represent something found in reality, involves some level of alteration, usually a kind of simplification of the object into its most essential shapes, colors, or lines. But enough of the talk, let’s start looking at visual examples!

Examples in art history:

If we look at the entire history of visual art, we can see that the prevalence of abstracted art is very high toward the beginning, slowly lessens to nearly none at all for many, many centuries, and then rockets back up in the 20th century. For a long time, the “goal” in the creation of art was either minimal abstraction or pure abstraction, depending on what was in vogue. In the post-modern world we inhabit now, a vast range of visual art styles are now accepted and encouraged. Let’s take a look at examples of abstraction through the years:

Abstraction, as a movement, didn’t officially begin until the early 1900s, however artists were unknowingly experimenting with the idea of “abstract art” centuries before. Artists were finding new and innovative ways to express themselves and their emotions without categorizing their work under the field of abstraction. Looking back at the artistic culture of Native Americans, it’s apparent that they began making pottery over 2,000 years ago. Certainly, over time, their decorations became more and more elaborate, lets examine the example shown above.

The specimen on the left (fig. 1) is a piece of pottery traced back to the Seminole Tribe of Florida, a tribe that can be traced back 12,000 years. The exact date of this specific example is unfortunately unknown so lets simply focus on the elaborate and abstracted details within this gorgeous piece of pottery. The characteristics of Native American pottery typically include animal or bird patterns, geometric patterns, and color schemes that may be polychromatic, black on cream, or black on black. The meanings behind these specific symbols remain secret to the tribe. However, their artistic choices share the qualities of abstraction in the way the bird is stylized and more geometric than an exact representation of the true anatomy of a bird.

Now lets turn our attention to 7th century China! China was ruled by the Tang Dynasty from 618-907 and a famous painter named Wang Mo created a “splashing ink style” of painting. Sadly, none of his work survived, but fast forward 53 years to 12th century China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) a painter named Liang Kai reinvented Wang Mo’s “splashing ink” method. Utilizing this technique Kai created one of his most famous works, Immortal in Splashed Ink (fig. 2; see above). This technique resulted in a loose appearance in the ink and very little detail, in this piece we get the essence of a male figure, but a figure without facial detail, without an identity. What’s intriguing here with Mo, Kai (more of his work shown below), and the Native American’s approach is how these appear to be visionary, possibly unintentional choices that represent a movement that arose centuries later. Were they intentionally searching for new art techniques? Were they surrounded by a style that they found dull and wanted something different or did they simply feel it was just a way they could express themselves and the world around them?

There are many more early examples, but too many for us to discuss here, so time to turn our attention to some more modern examples!

TURNER Rain, Steam, and Speed

figure. 9 “Rain, Steam, and Speed” J.M.W. Turner; 1844; National Gallery of London

Joseph Mallor William Turner (J.M.W. Turner) was an extremely talented British artist who enrolled himself into the Royal Academy of Art Schools at a very young age. He exhibited his first watercolor at the Royal Academy at the age of 15. As his career progressed he began utilizing oils and created extremely rendered works, but as he got older his art became more representational. His famous work Rain, Steam, and Speed (fig. 9; see above) exemplifies Turner’s progressive abstracted style. Instead of trying to emulate reality he chose to express emotions by modifying colors and shapes. In this composition we can only translate familiar shapes such as a train or the bridge in the far left, but the rest of the composition needs to be deciphered.

Often when it comes to art, viewers search for the familiar and so often abstraction is motivated by realism therefore viewers sometimes find themselves asking..why? They ask why the artist chose to distort, vaguely represent, rearrange, or adapt a subject. Sometimes there’s an answer to that question and sometimes the intentions behind a work of art remain a mystery.

Above, we have two, highly familiar forms, but the way they’re arranged raises questions. On the left, William Kandinsky’s Circles in a Circle falls under the category of “geometric abstraction,” because he utilized one of the most basic shapes, the circle, to compile his composition. To viewers, the painting is deciphered as a combination of circles and lines, but Kandinsky valued circles because he believed that the circle had “cosmic significance.” He felt that specific colors and shapes triggered emotions and when those colors and shapes are combined they symbolize “harmony of the cosmos.” In his words; “The circle is the synthesis of the greatest opposition. It combines the concentric and the excentric in a single form, and in balance.” Kandinsky also wrote a letter in 1931 that said Circles in a Circle was “the first picture of [his] to bring the theme of circles to the foreground.”

While Kandinksy was searching for harmony and meaning behind colors and shapes, 29 years later Henri Matisse, who was considered the greatest colorist of the 20th century, used colors and patterns to deliberately make viewers uncomfortable. In addition to color, Matisse valued the human form. He often fragmented the figure in harsh ways, but he also worked in a curvilinear method. It all depended on the behavior and personality of the models he worked with. They essentially served as extensions of his own personal emotions. You can find some further examples of Matisse’s figurative work, from the same 1952 Blue Nude series below.

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The most appealing aspects of abstraction is the way it has progressed over centuries and how so many artists found and are still finding a way to change the way we perceive ordinary objects and forms. Artists become inspired by those who came before and enhance those original ideas.

Certainly the timeline of abstraction expands much further than Henri Matisse, but lets examine how abstraction is being incorporated into work here at Principle Gallery!

Examples at Principle Gallery:

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figure. 16 “Study 15 People” 32×28, oil on board by Geoffrey Johnson – available at Principle Gallery

We are currently in the final days of Geoffrey Johnson’s Solo Exhibition therefore it’s the perfect time to discuss how Johnson exemplifies abstraction in his work.

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figure. 17 “Velvet Chair” 18×14, oil on board by Geoffrey Johnson – available at Principle Gallery

A major staple in Johnson’s work is the way he gives his figures a ghostly presence. They’re depicted extremely thin and without an identity, which remains to be a major draw to his work. The human form is distorted and Johnson’s figures can be compared to the unique structure of the sculptures by Swiss sculptor, Alberto Giacometti.

Above, in a comparison of a 20th century Giacometti to a modern Geoffrey Johnson you can see the extreme similarity in the abstract rendering of the figures. Giacometti sculpted his figures as thin as he possibly could, he also did the same thing with his animal sculptures. Another strong comparison between the two is the presence of mystery and a skeletal impression.

Like Giacometti, Johnson has a serious interest in the human body, but he also finds interest in strong, unique architecture, that’s often found in New York and in other fast-paced cities. Both Giacometti and Johnson exhibit movement in their work, Giacometti in a more static manner while Johnson captures the way people move through cities. However, Johnson showcases movement in his cityscapes more so than in his interiors.

Parlor 72

figure. 23 “Parlor” 30×40, oil on board by Geoffrey Johnson – available at Principle Gallery

In Johnson’s interiors, not only are the figures abstracted, but the furniture is often distorted in a few different ways. As you can see in figures #17 and #23 a few pieces of furniture show signs of abstraction. In Velvet Chair the pink velvet chair in the left corner of the room has a stylized slant as does the coffee table on the right in the foreground. While Parlor shows signs in the 2 tables outside of the doorway and the one against the peach colored wall. The legs of the chair mirror the thin appearance of Johnson’s figures. These qualities make Geoffrey Johnson so prolific because he successfully blends the traits of realism and abstraction in his compositions. Viewers appreciate the sophisticated feeling of timelessness and melancholy that emerge from his work.

We hope you enjoyed this brief overview of the progression of abstraction despite us being a gallery that specializes in realism, but it’s always fun to think outside the box!

Geoffrey Johnson’s Solo Exhibition can be viewed in its entirety until this upcoming Tuesday, May 29th and if you can’t make it in time please view the exhibition through this link: http://www.principlegallery.com/alexandria/artists-page?field_artist_target_id=612&nid=612

If you’re interested in receiving the Geoffrey Johnson Solo Exhibition digital catalog please email us: info@principlegallery.com and we’ll gladly send it your way!

 

Technique Tuesday: Found Object Sculpture

What is it?

“Found object” art describes artwork that utilizes objects not conventionally designated as art supplies, and manipulates them, usually while keeping them still recognizable as their original form. In its early days, some found object sculptures did not even involve any manipulation of the object, but simply the artist designating that item, just as it was, as “art.” Throughout the history of found object art, it’s taken on a variety of manifestations, so let’s take a look!

Examples in art history:

Found object art really wasn’t something seen in the art world until the 20th century, and one of its very first incarnations was quite a controversial one. Dada, the avant-garde artistic movement that began about 1915 and flourished into the 1920’s, in many ways sought to challenge the conventional standards and definitions of art. One aspect of their movement was the promotion of the idea that anything could be art, and anyone could be an artist. Artists like Marcel Duchamp presented what he termed “readymade” sculptures, consisting of an object like a urinal or a bicycle wheel, mounted on some kind of pedestal, and labeled as “art.” It might go without saying that many art critics had conflicting responses to such a statement! Even after the age of Dada passed, found object artists continued to produce work throughout the 20th century, and their ranks included iconic names like Louise Nevelson, known for her found object “assemblages,” and Ai Weiwei, China’s most famous contemporary artist. Found objects have and continue to appear in a broad range of sculptures, from the more conceptual to some quite representational pieces.

(top row) Marcel Duchamp, “Bicycle Wheel”, 1916; Man Ray, “Object to Be Destroyed”, 1923; Pablo Picasso, “Bull’s Head”, 1942 — (bottom row) Louise Nevelson, “Royal Tide, Dawn”, 1960-64; Ai Weiwei, “Grapes”, 2011; Kyle Bean, “Which Came First”, 2011

Examples at Principle Gallery:

Sculpture is not something that we typically display much of at our Alexandria location, as our setup here is better suited in general toward displaying paintings. However, we came across a found object sculptor whose absolutely unique and charming work really caught our attention. When we were putting together an invitational figure show for February, David Lipson’s sculptures seemed as though they would be a fun and refreshingly different take on “figures” and we happily included him in the show. Check out the three sculptures that are part of this upcoming exhibition!

As you may be able to guess from their labels (originally old car dealership decals), these three delightful figures are called “Baxter,” “Mallory,” and “Ridley. Carefully and beautifully crafted from a variety of found objects, many of them vintage finds, these figures each reveal a stunning level of creativity and craftsmanship– on top of which, they just make you smile!

The “Bodies of Work” exhibition, which opens THIS COMING Friday, February 16th, contains a fantastic variety of figurative art. From highly photorealistic styles to gestural Impressionism, found object sculptures to Surrealist and Magical Realism paintings, oil on linen to mixed media on paper, there’s something in this show to fascinate every taste! If you’re in the area, please be sure to join us from 6:30 to 9 PM on Friday for the opening reception! And, as the digital preview of the show is available NOW, feel free to contact us at info@principlegallery.com to receive a copy and get a sneak peek at this incredible collection of artworks!

 

Technique Tuesday: Magical Realism

Happy Tuesday! You may remember that not long ago we spent some time looking at the well-known movement called Surrealism. We’re going to be looking at a lesser-known “relative” of that movement today: Magical Realism.

What is it?

Magical Realism is a term that has been long-debated and is typically more frequently applied to literary rather than visual arts. Although glimpes of Magical Realism were seen in the art world prior to the invention of the term, it was first used by art critic Franz Roh in the late 1920’s to describe the changes that he was observing in art in the wake of Expressionism. The dawn of the 20th century, the upheaval of wars, the advancement of technology, and the changing world converged to produce several art movements that drifted further and further from strict Realism and into the realms of abstraction– for example, Expressionism, Dada, Cubism, Fauvism, Futurism, and more. The changes noted by Franz Roh, however, indicated that some artists were “reverting” to Realism again, though with an eerie, mysterious twist. While Surrealism focused on heavily psychological subjects (dreams, the subconscious, etc.), Magical Realism showed a mostly-recognizable reality, but in a way that added a sense of mystery, unease, or magic to that reality. Unlike Surrealism’s jarring juxtapositions and unsettling, even shocking, imaginary concepts, Magical Realism presented a mostly-believable world, with just a hint of mystery. Often, Magical Realism paintings included a sense of stillness, gravity, and heightened sharpness or detail, while also incorporating fantastical elements. Let’s take a look at some examples.

Examples from art history:

First, let me clarify that as many artists crossed back and forth between genres, Magical Realism has become a bit ambiguous in the eyes of some art historians. Many of the artworks of the early 20th century contained elements that could include them in multiple art movements. Here are several examples of artworks that many art historians classify as Magical Realism. Do you agree?

(top row) George Tooker, “Government Bureau” ; Salvador Dali, “Portrait of Gala”; Pyke Koch, “Resting Somnambulist IV” (bottom row) Diego Rivera, “Sunflowers”; Andrew Wyeth, “Spring”

Examples at Principle Gallery:

We’ve got a fantastic figurative exhibition coming up this February entitled “Bodies of Work,” and we’re thrilled about the variety of work in the show, including the many pieces with elements of Magical Realism! Take a look at some of these sneak peeks from the exhibition, and see if you think you’d qualify them as Magical Realism, Surrealism, or something else altogether! Be sure to shoot us an email at info@principlegallery.com to request a digital preview of the show as soon as it’s available, if you’d like to be among the first to see this beautiful collection of artworks!

Stephen Early, “And Into the Forest I Go”

Nadezda, “Revanche”

Mark R. Pugh, “A Secret and a Locked Door”

Mark R. Pugh, “Autoportraitism”

Mark R. Pugh, “Novaturient”

Anna Wypych, “Too Sweet to Be Serious”