Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Set Free by Nature and Art: The Landscapes and Abstractions of Don Alden

Don Alden, Winter 3, oil on canvas, 30" x 40"

Don Alden is looking for peace in his paintings, and he shares this. Serenity, whether in his abstractions or his landscapes. There is no conflict there. One is simply on the inside, the other on the outside.

Don Alden, The River, oil on canvas, 24" x 30"

One is a place where he looks inward, the other outward. What could make more sense than that? Why wouldn't we all be doing that? Balance. Completion. Indeed, Don Alden's paintings are about being whole. Holistic.

Don Alden, Winter Shadows, oil on canvas, 30" x 40"

Don Alden is a graphic designer by training and by trade, but in his heart he is a painter. Painting is where he goes to get away, to be himself, to be by himself, to heal, to commune, with nature, with the universe. He can look harder and deeper. He can ask questions and even get answers. He can find sanctuary, he can find light, he can find peace.

Don Alden, Silver Lake, oil on canvas, 24" x 30"

Landscape painting came naturally to him when he started painting. His home backed up onto conservation fields, as pretty an expanse of nature as you could ever dream of. It spoke to him. It called him. As an athlete he spent so much time running and cycling and training as a guest in this halcyon paradise.

Don Alden, Old Sudbury Farm , oil on canvas, 39" x 40"

As a visual person, honoring that paradise was a no brainer. It was a simple act of gratitude, adoration, homage. Humility. Humbled by the magnificence of it all. That he could be a part of it. That every day he woke up and it was just there, waiting, alive, full of energy, beauty, power, mystery and majesty. It showed him something new everyday, taught him something new. He got to feel it, love it, and know it.

Don Alden, Red Blue Red, oil on canvas, 20" x 20"

Abstraction was something else all together. Strange. He didn't know the first thing about it. About its history, its development, its pioneers, its standard bearers, its heroes. He barely knew where to start. Which foot to put forward. A landscape was right in front of you, and if you looked hard enough and long enough, it would guide you. It would show you the way. The rest was up to you. Abstraction had no such road signs. It was all up to him. He was completely in the dark.

Don Alden, Silver Linings, oil on canvas, 16" x 20"

But over the last twenty years Don Alden has kept at abstraction while painting and selling his landscapes. Those abstractions were a curiosity to his friends and clients. Don's quirky side. His personal side. A strange and curious but forgivable eccentricity. Don Alden is also a business man. His abstractions not only revealed an impractical side, they exposed it. What did they mean? What was he trying to accomplish.

Don Alden, Elevated, oil on canvas, 12" x 20"

By learning the language of abstraction he discovered its poetry, and who has time for that? In the business world this is nothing but a can of worms better left sealed tightly closed. You start contemplating abstraction, or poetry, and the next thing you know you're out of a job.

Don Alden, Fortitude, oil on canvas, 16" x 20"

Don Alden is no longer a stranger to the language of abstraction, or its poetry. It is there for him the way the landscape is. A place where he can find energy, beauty, power, mystery and majesty. A place where he can find peace.

Don Alden, Circling Swirl, oil on canvas, 40" x 30"

Addison Parks
Spring Hill

Don Alden, Blue Green Bliss, oil on canvas, 16" x 20"

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Artist Notes: Martin Mugar and That Chthonic Thing

Love this painting!

Really mesmerizing! That glow about it that Spring has. That chthonic light you love so much. A glow I am desperate to see and feel and bask in, but I got a dose of it from this painting. It also, of course, has a very powerful dynamic emerging in the diagonal patterns, patterns that shift and flip and veer slightly off course creating a kind of vertigo. Dizzying. This is new in the work, and I have to say, a revelation! Remarkable! A real master work! Beautiful painting!

Addison Parks
Spring Hill

Martin Mugar
Oil and wax on canvas

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Artist Notes: New Paintings by Nina Nielsen

2017. Nina Nielsen continues her powerful personal search for the divine, cutting across space and time, traversing centuries and cultures and spiritual history. Her paintings go mano a mano, face to face, with our deepest selves. This is dream painting fusion. This is long, strong vision. This is the diary of a stargazer.

Addison Parks
Artdeal Magazine
Spring Hill

Sue Miller: I Know You Rider

Persephone, 2012-2013, Acrylic on Paper, 5 3/4 x 5 3/4"

Sue Miller dreams her paintings. I don't know how else to put it. She doesn't so much paint dreams or dream of paintings, as she fuses the experience of dreams and painting together so that they become one. It is impossible to tell where one begins and the other let's off. You could even say that her paintings set dreams in motion, which is more than just saying that they are the stuff of dreams.

In the Intervening Years, 2009-2012, Acrylic on Paper, 7 1/2 x 7 1/2"

And yet for the most part they seem very simple. Simple with a myriad of complexities. Simple the way an egg looks simple until you examine the way light and shadow tell its story. Light and shadow tell Sue Miller's story. Light and shadow in a conversation without end. This is the murkiness of dreams. This it the murkiness of Sue Miller's paintings.

In a Way, 2011-2012, Acrylic on Paper, 7 3/4 x 8"

If you are in a hurry or distracted or looking for something else, you cannot and will not see them. They require a centered mind. A spiritual mind. A curious mind. If you are in a mood, in the mood, they await you. They take time. They aren't just slow, and not fast, they refuse to share themselves with anyone who needs a quick fix. They have too much respect for themselves.

Landscape for Allan, 2007, Acrylic and oil on canvas, 9 x 12"

But if you have a feeling for the joys of nuance, if you can linger with an aroma, slow dance in the moonlight, watch a cloud take shape, shift again and again, and then disappear, then this work is for you. If you can muse and marvel and release yourself to timeless, endless space, and you would enjoy paintings that can go that distance and beyond, then this work is for you. If you can imagine watching a rose uncurl itself, and are looking for a coach and rider to deliver you to the land of dreamy dreams, then this work is for you. Bon Voyage.

Annie's Days, 2000-2001, Acrylic, mixed media on Canvas, 18 x 18"

Addison Parks
Spring Hill

Pippen's Birches, 1998-2014, Acrylic on Canvas, 9 x 12"

Ararat II, 1984-1986, Acrylic on Canvas, 50 x 66"

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Milton Resnick: Baptism by Fire

What painting would you save from a fire? It just so happens that I have such a painting. A Milton Resnick oil on canvas from 1959.

Milton Resnick, the sublime master of abstract expressionism. The painter's painter. The painter's hero. The pioneer who redefined the fabric of space in paint. Primordial. Godhead. The birth of creation. Milton Resnick, the Russian Jew who came to this country as a boy, worked in the WPA, fell in with de Kooning and Pollock and the Tenth Street, Cedar Bar crowd. Milton Resnick, who rose to become synonymous with gravitas, the godfather of the New York School. Milton Resnick, whose vast canvasses brought the viewer face to face with our most basic questions; tremendous, awesome, serene, sometimes frightening paintings that brush stroke by brush stroke touched both being and nothingness.

And then, thank goodness, there are these other more frivolous questions, fun questions. What if you were trapped on a deserted island and could have only one book, or one album, or one fruit, or one other person, etc., who or what would you choose? Always a pleasure to ponder.

Another perhaps lesser known but also telling query is if there was a fire in your home what would you save if you could save only one thing? Or, by extension, if there was a fire in an exhibition, in a museum, in the Louvre, or the Met, or the Modern, and you could save only one painting, which would it be?

The first question is not just about what you like, but more about what could sustain you, what wouldn't bore you after a while, but the second question is more about what you think is the single most important thing that needs to be preserved, maybe forever.

Funnily enough I have a painting that answers both questions.

Around 1959 we had a fire in our home on Winthrop Rd in Shaker Heights(forgive me if you've heard this story.) I was down the street goofing off with plastic pail and shovel in a sandbox with my best friend Hanky White. When fire engines roared by, sirens blaring, of course we ran after them. When they stopped in front of my house I couldn't have been more thrilled or more proud. There was my home up in flames, clouds of black smoke billowing out of the roof with devilish tongues of flames licking the sky. Men with axes in fire hats and glistening black oil coats marshaled hoses and started shooting water in beautiful arcs. In the thick of all the chaos, standing in the middle of the lawn, in her underwear and a top, stood my mother clutching our Siamese cat, and a painting by Milton Resnick.

That's how I remember it anyway, and of course there is much, much more to the story. The point however is clear. Here is a painting that was literally saved from a fire.

It is also the painting that has been in my life my whole life, like a mooring. I have looked at it everyday one way or another for over fifty-five years. In passing, in contemplation, in earnest, lost in thought. I have studied it, curated it into shows, hung it in a million places, and even rescued and restored it after it was damaged in the late Seventies.

And always it has shown me something different, something new. It is never the same, but seems to change with each passing day. It is as quixotic and enigmatic as Mona Lisa's smile.

So yes, it is the one painting that comes to my deserted Island, and yes, it is the painting that gets saved from a fire. Again.

Addison Parks
Spring Hill

Milton Resnick, PENNANT, 1959, oil on canvas, 60 x 48

Saturday, March 11, 2017

NOTHING MORE, NOTHING LESS: Peter Parks, For the Love of Painting

Peter ParksYellow 13; 60 x 48"; oil on canvas; 2013
Courtesy Greg Moon Art and the Harwood Museum; 
Photo credit: Cris Pulos

Art is a calling for the artist Peter Parks. You might call it a spirit thing. The fabric of his work has always been made of this, from his earliest work in Europe as a teenager. It has been a place devoid of ego, held together with an unexpected sweet and sensitive evenness and openness of vision that most people can't see, understand, or frankly take the time to appreciate properly.

Peter Parks, untitled, oil on canvas, 60 x 48",  2011-14

As a result his wonderful work has gone largely misunderstood. Work that is not only driven by faith, but shaped by it, fed by it, charged by it. Peter Parks has been one of arts unsung disciples for over fifty years; one of the army of individuals the world over who are outside the limelight but that keep the fire burning.

Peter Parks, untitled, oil on canvas, 60x 48",  2011-14

Because of this the paintings of Peter Parks might surprise you. There is a special sensibility behind his work that has always been there, but is impossible to put a finger on. Something actually quiet and delicate.

Peter Parks, untitled, oil on canvas, 2008

Which is why he is an artist, and why he makes paintings. If there was some other way to share that sensibility then painting would be unnecessary; furthermore, doing anything else with his paintings but share that sensibility would be a violation of that sacred, profound, and ineffable calling.

Peter Parks, untitled, oil on canvas, 2008

Peter Parks doesn't talk the talk, he paints the paintings. Talking the talk gets you everywhere in this world, but in the end, it is the paintings which will speak and speak loudly. Peter Parks is a magnificent painter, and time will tell.

Peter Parks, Untitled/ #10 Black and White 2015 
5' x 5' oil on canvas, 2015

Born in New York in 1947, raised in Ohio, educated in Swiss boarding schools with summers on the Greek Islands, and winters in Rome, when it came time to go to college, he served his country in Vietnam. Later it was the San Francisco Art Institute and Mexico and New Mexico. In the late 70s and early 80s he did his time back in New York. After a little time in California and Maine it was back to New Mexico. Back to Taos. Back home. Home to him still. Home to his painter's heart.

Peter Parks, Untitled/ #3 Black and White 14
6' x 6' oil on canvas, 2014

Peter Parks does not, however, make easy paintings. They are a journey. They are also his music. We have to take those journeys. We have to listen. Paintings rich with feeling and experience, razor sharp thinking and seeing, vibrant touch and imagination and wisdom. They come from somewhere different. Someone different. They require a little courage, a little backbone, a little willingness to travel off road, off the grid, off the beaten path. The results are pure exotic poetry, deep and nuanced, and unfailingly original. That is understood. They are what they are. Nothing more, nothing less.

Peter Parks, Untitled/ #2 Black and White 14
6' x 4' oil on canvas,  2014

Peter Jackson Parks is a twenty-first century Paul Klee living and painting in Taos, New Mexico. Gifting the world his sensibility, gifting the world his art.

Artdeal Magazine
Spring Hill, 2017

Saturday, March 04, 2017

A Painter with No Country: Portraits by George W Bush

I saw George W promoting his book of portraits of veterans on Jimmy Kimmel, and even though he works from photographs, which do more than half the work, I have to say that I like them. I like them a lot. They are fresh, lively, free spirited, colorful, imaginative, fluid, even fun, with a certain flair, and a very nice sense of timing and of the whole. He actually has a good eye.

I think it is hard for people to admit that. I tried writing about his portraits once before and had to pull it for political reasons. But that is wrong. Frankly as much grief as it will cost me, I like to keep politics out of art. I like to think that most of the time art is, if not above politics, separate.

I didn't vote for W, and although we are very distant cousins on my father's side and his mother's(somewhere I have a picture of the two of them together), I pretty much disagree with everything he stood for as president. But...I like his paintings. Go figure.

The irony is that his people can't appreciate his paintings, they are not about skill and show little, and my people can't ever forgive him or stomach him or see the paintings with unclouded eyes, so he is kind of a painter without a country. I saw Charlie Rose, who must have less aesthetic sensibility than a doorstop, belittle him about it, and he didn't get any love from Kimmel either. So no love for George and his paintings. Strange karma indeed.

Portraits are interesting for all sorts of reasons. For one, they are about real people, and all that comes with that: hope and fear and love and suffering and honor and frailty and strength and dignity and loss and inner light and soul and so on. George's have that. They are less about appearance or verisimilitude. They have personality, and they capture something of their subjects on the fly. They also, and this is the difference maker, act and feel like paintings. So many portraits don't. They act and feel more like doorstops, which I guess explains Charlie Rose.

There is so much to be said for being untrained. Unfettered. Unanalyzed. Uncritiqued. Unburdened. Not bullied by art teachers through years of schooling. Never told no. Just curiosity and possibilities, pulled by the slipstream that is the wonder of life. A place every painter seeks to but rarely achieves. Tabula rasa. New eyes. New day. Lucky George.

So who knows, maybe one day curious George W Bush will be known more as a painter than a president(what if he had discovered painting first!). No harm in wondering about that, but then again, that's just me.

Addison Parks
Spring Hill
March 4th, 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Dragon Master: Tony Smith and the Unexpected.

There is more than one way to skin a cat. But before that there is the one and best way to do something, including skin a cat. The only way.

A few years ago I purchased a painting at auction that I hoped was by my old friend Leon Polk Smith. It was a medium large, grid based, black and white geometric painting the kind I was assigned as a freshman in art school signed simply Smith 70.

Smith's longtime partner Bob Jamieson soon enough threw water on my great find in the nicest possible way. Something about it being a little too busy and trying a little too hard for it too be Leon's. Inotherwords not nearly elegant enough.

I knew it was something though, and I was still convinced it was Leon's. An under bidder, great term, had, after all, tried to offer more for it to me after the auction. This was no freshman project.

Enter Richard Tuttle. My brief mentor, the young and reluctant guru of my youth who spoke in riddles and got inside my head in a way that pissed me off for decades. He had worked for Betty Parsons and was privy to her store house, her back room stacks of art magic by all the greats who had passed through her gallery on 57th Street in Manhattan. He had claimed one of those as his mentor, Ellsworth Kelly, Leon's successful rival for the crown of elegant hard edged abstraction, even though Leon in turn claimed that she liked him best.

So I was struck one day while trying to unlock the mystery of this painting I had bought, that of course there was another Smith. Could it be? And then I remembered a story I had read from Kiki Smith about Richard Tuttle hanging around her family's home when she was growing up. I imagined a young Tuttle sitting alone in the living room with maybe a big hairy family dog, being asked to hold something, or if he had seen Seton, or if he would like to stay for dinner. Anything to soak up the enigmatic genius of the prince of American monumental geometric sculpture, Tony Smith.

Sure enough, it was all right there. The code. The binary bonanza. The bisected squares whose resulting triangles turned black or white, and left or right, to tell their story.

This is the language of Tony Smith's giant sculpture of the late Sixties and early Seventies. Large black painted aluminum grid and bisected cube based sculptures dreamed together by turning this geometric element one way or the other to see which way it would go and what it would become. Together they moved like a flock of swallows and then suddenly and unexpectedly shifted and surprised you.

I had a friend whose family had a house in a shoreline Connecticut enclave where Smith, who was also architect, had built a home. Decades ago she drove me by the house. There was also a geometric sculpture, one of the cubes, outside. I knew I was supposed to be impressed. I was still young and not easily impressed and so I wasn't. Maybe one of the worst of many bad qualities.

But there was his cube. So strong. The ultimate riddle. Patient and wise. Inscrutable. Impenetrable. Infuriating.

And there I was today, parked in front of this painting. Almost lost in a trance, sometimes dozing, flickering on the edge of consciousness, and it happened, doors began slamming open and closed, dimensions shifted, transformation unfolded right before my eyes. Did I just see that? I shook my head. I googled Tony Smith images on my phone. Still in a daze I rifled through them. Sculptures of huge proportions changing before my eyes, with simple slight of hand, showing me one face, one being, and then another, like dragons doing a secret dance, only to disappear and still themselves in a pose to be invisible to passers by.

Addison Parks
Spring Hill

It is worth noting that this painting is probably by some other Smith, despite the similarities. Just a little kickstart for looking at a sculptor who does not get much love these days.