Archive for December, 2011

The light lock in the lobby: Recent films and moving images in Forum

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

When I arrived at the museum in May 2009, my first show was in the Forum Gallery. I brought together three moving image works that kept kicking around my head over the preceding year. The dark, granite floored gallery seemed a good place to experiment with their simultaneous presentation. All silent, the group included Joachim Koester’s frantic, beautiful, and strange 16mm film Tarantism, William E. Jones latest version of his Farm Security Administration digital photo animation hypnotism Killed, called Punctured, and Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer’s nighttime film raid on the Met, Flash in the Metropolitan. You can read more about the Jones, Koester, Nashashibi/Skaer: Reanimation here.

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Puppets from the Puppet Theatre in Rabka

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011, was the day before the 30th anniversary of the proclamation of martial law in Poland in 1981. I remember very well this dark, dark day, when the dream of Solidarność and our hope for the end of the Cold War was crashed by Wojciech Jaruzelski (and the Soviets). That Monday seemed a good moment to visit the archive of the Rabcio-Zdrowotek Puppet Theatre, since after all Jaruzelski was very much seen as a puppet himself.

Jerzy Kolecki Posters from the Puppet Theatre in Rabka

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

Polish artist Paulina Olowska took me to her show at Galeria ZPAFGaleria ZPAF, a small gallery in Krakau (South of Poland), where she displayed a selection of posters designed by Jerzy Kolecki (*1925) in the 1970s and 1980s. They advertised plays by the Rabcio-Zdrowotek Puppet Theatre in Rabka, a small town south of Krakau. On the occasion, Olowska published a set of postcards reproducing the posters, wrapped into an interview with the artist. A short excerpt:

Paulina Olowska: In 1954, you graduated with a degree in painting from the Cracow Academy of Fine Arts. How did you come to start creating stage design and posters for a Puppet Theatre in Rabka?

Jerzy Kolecki: My plan for life didn’t include theatre. I came to Rabka with my art school diploma in search of work—and I found it in the Rabcio-Zdrowotek Puppet Theatre as an actor. I travelled with the troupe, in the back of a truck, even in the freezing cold. In those days, the Theatre didn’t have its own performance space yet. The building was just a studio and two rooms: for the administration and the management. The performance spaces were sanatoriums and school gyms. The theatre, a theatrette really, had been created for the kids undergoing therapy in Rabka. In the bone tuberculosis ward, the attendants would arrange the beds and lay the children in the plaster corsets on them.

What kind of dolls played in those performances?
In the early years, they were marionettes—a very difficult technique. We’d built constructions to screen the actors from view. These days, the technique is no longer camouflaged from the viewer. We hid all that from those kids. They just saw the moving puppet.

Had you already started designing posters then?
When I started working for the theatre in 1953, the posters were being printed in Nowy Targ. The same typeface was used for election posters and for theatre posters. I believed the latter needed to stand out in some way.

John Kane

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

John Kane, Scene from the Scottish Highlands, c. 1927 © 2006 Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

John Kane, Scene from the Scottish Highlands, c. 1927 © 2006 Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

“On his third try in 1927, however, Kane succeeded in winning over the Carnegie jury with one of his own compositions, a painting he called Scene in the Scottish Highlands. The admission of a common house-painter and handyman to so prestigious an exhibition caused an immediate furor. Indeed, it was the first time ever that a living self-taught artist had been recognized by the American art establishment.” —Jane Kallir

“Genius has been discovered!” announced the Pittsburgh Press when John Kane’s Scene from the Scottish Highlands was accepted in the 1927 Carnegie International exhibition. The selection was indeed remarkable, for Kane was a simple laborer who entirely lacked formal artistic training and had never previously exhibited his work. His canvas, chosen from over 400 entries by most of the major painters of the day, was the only work by a Pittsburgh artist to be admitted to the show.

Reporters soon traced the artist to his shabby one-room apartment by the railroad tracks in Pittsburgh’s market district, where Kane had painted for years without an audience or recognition. Suddenly, he became a national celebrity. In the next several years he participated in four more Internationals, and in 1928, 1929, and 1932 he won prizes in the Annual Exhibition of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh. Outside the city he exhibited at Harvard University, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and The Museum of Modern Art. By 1930 he had sold paintings to such well-heeled clients as Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and John Dewey, chairman of the department of philosophy at Columbia University.

Kane himself later remarked, “If I had tried the world over for an exhibition to show my work I couldn’t have found a better one than that International, right here in Pittsburgh.” He was by no means overwhelmed, however, by the honors that came his way. “I have lived too long the life of the poor,” he noted, “to attach undue importance to the honors of the art world or to any honors that come from man and not from God.”

More about Scene from the Scottish Highlands

More works by John Kane

Outpost Journal #1: Pittsburgh, PA

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Outpost Journal is an annual, non-profit print publication on innovative art, design, and community action from cities that have been traditionally underexposed beyond their local contexts.

The inaugural issue of this new publication focuses on our home base, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and features stories about local artists, City of Asylum, The Waffle Shop (pictured above), and the Bayernhof, among other traditionally off-the-map points of interest. While Outpost isn’t a comprehensive guide (and doesn’t aim to be), the Providence-based editorial team did a good job getting the inside scoop on the the city’s unique off-center art scene. Pittsburgh in a nut-shell according to Outpost? “A former home of major American wealth and industry, the city is now chock full of beautiful building stock, thriving non-profits, [and] every-which-way parking jobs that point to the both intrepid spatial problem-solving and a hint of lawlessness…” I wonder what the “Pittsburgh Left” and parking chairs say about us?