Posts Tagged ‘paintings


plumeria (and disappointing phone conversations)

stored in a shoebox there is a letter from my mother that reads in part: “i am writing to you after our disappointing phone call today to let you know…” (at one time in the not too distant past, people used to write letters to each other — on paper — address an envelope and stamp it, mail it using the united states post office — no one called it the postal service — i’ve kept a lot of these letters, not just from my mother, but from my friends and relatives as well. they’ll never be published, you know, as “robert patrick: letters 197_ to 198_”, but they do give a little insight to what was happening in my life at the time.)

but back to “disappointing phone calls”: i had two yesterday. one with a friend who lives in paris and the other with a friend in chicago. it wasn’t until i had hung up with my friend in paris that i realized something was wrong; i’m not sure she knew who she was speaking with…she is elderly, and she admitted that her children had arranged for people to come and check up on her every day and get here and there and back again. when i asked if she’d been painting, she replied, “not for at least a year now.” which saddened me as there wasn’t a time that i’ve known her when she wasn’t in the middle of some revelation, breakthrough, new insight, and applying the news in paint on canvas/paper/tennis shoes. that’s 31 years of creating and that’s just the time i’ve known her. when i shared the news i had of two recent deaths of people she knew, she seemed disinterested, cold even.

and so, when i hung up, i realized that she sounded not unlike my uncle who has alzheimer’s…relatively reasonable about “how he’s doing”, but a little hollow and perfunctory, as if he were being polite to a stranger. <sigh>

the other phone call was with a friend whom i’ve know for as long as my painter friend in paris. this one still in chicago and struggling financially, still in her home, but barely, working two jobs, going without electricity one month, gas the next, or some other important daily necessity just to make that mortgage payment. i relayed my news, but she would not let me get a word in — her diatribe relentless (relentless diatribe = redundant, but true) and off-putting, for what was i to do, but listen and murmur agreement? finally, i said “i love you, but i have to go now.” and she quieted down and we parted–still friends, still sharing, still suffering.


tree and fog (on the installation of art)

it has always been my contention that the best way to install an exhibition of paintings, prints, photographs (or a collection of all three), is to use your eye and not a tape measure.  you are creating a dialogue (or even an argument), but more than likely a conversation between the art, the artists, and the viewers that will blossom more freely if the structure of the installation is less rigid and more natural.

there are those in the art world who would differ with me on this subject, but i can finally announce some vindication by quoting nick serota of the tate modern (and all of the tates: britain, liverpool, et al): “working with david [david sylvester, writer and critic), was a pretty special experience. i learned not to use a tape measure when installing, for starters. use your eye.” (via the july 2, 2012 the new yorker‘s calvin tomkins “the modern man” profile of serota). not that that statement is the be-all, end-all, but it is nick serota after all, and his opinion should carry some weight with my detractors.


paintings at the louvre (also, fainting)

(click to enlarge for easier reading.)   please note this story may be true or false, or even partially true and partially false–but the percentages of truthfulness & falseness are not necessarily equal or perhaps they are.  i am undecided on this point.


palate (palette) cleanser

"constellation with exposition" oil on linen 1955 by richard paul lohse, 47.25" square

[free of any symbolic relationship with reality, these blocks of color are in and of themselves a concrete object.  the foundation of constructivism or concrete art began in russia & spread across europe & into latin & south american art in the 1930s & 40s.  richard paul lohse was a swiss artist & one of the major proponents of the movement in western europe.]

i looked up from my dessert & tears were streaming down his face.   spoon in one  hand, he couldn’t take his eyes off the plate in front of him.  “what’s the matter, sweetheart?” i inquired, “is everything okay?”

“it’s just so beautiful, i don’t want to disturb it by putting my spoon into it,” he sniffed back a sob.    “the whole meal has been so wonderful & now this, this plate is the last part of it & i’m hoping if i just hold my breath for a second longer it won’t end–i don’t want it to end.”

all this over a plate of seven different sorbets.  one scoop per flavor, all arrayed in the most spectacular display of ices that one could ever hope to see (at the hotel au raisins de bourgogne, in beaune, france, should you ever find yourself in the neighborhood,) & now at last, he dipped his spoon into the first one, his pink tongue catching the bottom of the spoon & pulling it into his mouth, a beatific glow (a halo really) arcing over his head as the first taste buds reacted to the flavor of the sorbet & sent his eyes rolling toward the heavens.

& although they were served as a dessert, their purpose was to cleanse & rejuvenate & enliven the rest of his evening (they succeeded, if memory serves me.)  sorbets (or ices) have been used that way in haute cuisine to ‘cleanse’ the palate of the diner between courses (most usually during a tasting menu composed of several different dishes.)

this is what i thought of when i first saw this painting by lohse.   i kept going back to it, for the color, for its simplicity, for its impishness, for its delight was my delight & when i turned away from it, its colors sweetly, but without over-shadowing, informed my view of another work of art (which i’ve forgotten, of course.)

but even now when i look at it, i get that same bubbly feeling (champagne freshly poured into a crystal flute,) even the same little spritz of it as you put your lips to the thin rim of the glass for that first sip (its dryness — sec — already tangible.)  i am somewhat surprised that the artist titled the work, for usually these high concept art genres eschew titling work so as not to influence the viewer (should there be any.)

“constellation with exposition” — the stars on display & you see when you look at the colors how they twinkle against each other — look at the night sky & tell me you don’t find the very same colors in stars (near & far) — you won’t be able to.  i’m sure there are scientific reasons why your brain reacts the way it does to certain colors & how artists manipulate that experience through the placement of one color against another, but in this instance, for this moment, i don’t care.

all i want is the visceral knowledge, the evocative emotion, the base instinct that’s triggered by color & shape & composition.  this painting is brilliant & it, like those sorbets, brings tears to my eyes & cleanses my senses for whatever is to come next.



shapes & forms (& color)

Men & women are sexually attracted to round shapes — breasts, buttocks, hips, thighs, calves (on women); biceps, pectoral muscles, buttocks, thighs, calves (on men.)  [That may explain the hyper-sexualization of those attributes in the porn industry, but I digress.]

I’ve been thinking about shapes a lot lately & looking around our collection (mostly representational) & considering the shapes that predominate.   Like Will Barnet’s “Reclining Woman” (above) many of the works are dominated by round shapes (full circles, half moons, dipping & rolling curves, subtle esses, elliptical lines over-spilling their banks.)  They all remind me of an artist I represented in the ’80’s (and whose work we own) James Coignard.

We had M. Coignard in for an exhibition–something of a challenge for us; his English, not so good; our French, not so good, but we managed.  Before his arrival from France, we studied & divined his symbols & shapes & colors, but one thing we couldn’t find a ‘reason’ for was his use of the letter ‘s’.  No amount of pre-Google research could turn up a valid explanation,  either symbolically, ethnographically, Jungian archetypical or other proto-new age-y mish-mash of five dollar words came close to explaining why he might use this particular shape (stenciled, cursive, printed, drawn-out & present in almost every work of his.)

Here is Coignard now in front of us (he came with his mistress–she sat at a desk during the reception, smoking and paring her fingernails–the Gaul!) What better opportunity, “Monsieur Coignard, we are enthralled by your talent & the rich symbolic language you have developed to express your thoughts on the state of man, but one symbol, one shape has us stumped and that is the letter ‘s’.  Please, would you share with us why you are so intrigued with it and what it means in your art?”

“Mais oui, it is a lovely shape,” he puffed, half-burned cigarette and an inch of ash dangling dangerously from his bottom lip, “c’est tout.”

Of course, we were stunned and abashed and slightly suspicious that it could be so simple, such a simple shape, an ess, that’s all, but we accepted his answer and ever after I have looked at art in a new way, less for what the artist may have hidden in a symbol, but more for what beauty could be found there in the shapes (and colors), the forms the shapes took & how the colors shaped them & take the art first at face value & leave the symbolic exploration for another day (fear not, we do divine & explore & dowse & explicate every little square inch of a canvas, a print, a watercolor, whatever medium) but first we let it work its visual magic on us & allow the artist to speak to us viscerally & get their hook into us & reel us in (not a fish tale, but true.)

P.S.  We have owned a beautiful hand-pulled lithograph (it’s nearly 4′ x 5′) of Barnet’s “Reclining Woman” for more than 20 years & from home to home & halfway around the globe, it has followed us & always hangs with such grace & beauty above our bed in our deep blue bedroom, & gently & without fuss guides us to sleep each night.   Barnet is a master of shape & form & color.  (& he’ll be 100 next year!)


Diverse Expressions

Our dear friend, Sally Walsh, is opening a new exhibit at Universal Art Gallery, 2001 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, CA on Saturday, February 26th.  You can view some of the art by clicking here.  M. & I went up to preview the exhibit today:

One is greeted by these lovely bathing beauties frolicking on the side of the gallery–outdoor murals are a staple of life in Los Angeles and are most often respected & left alone by the taggers whose work adorns so many flat surfaces in SoCal.

Sally, as always, was delighted to see us (we love Sally!)  She’s Oxford educated (read History,) the daughter of actors Hazel Court (the scream queen of the 1950s) and Shakespearean actor Tony Walsh.  Sally’s been knocking around art galleries forever (like me) and has a brilliant eye for what’s hot & what’s not.

Mannolo, an artist and friend of Sally’s (ours too!) met us there for a quick perusal of the art as it was being installed. He was wearing a floral patterned shirt that quickly caught my eye.

I loved its delicate pattern and beautiful colors and how it complemented his skin and character.

M. was intrigued by some cube sculptures (made of carrera marble, oh my!) and incised with brilliant shimmering color.

Paintings and prints by Victoria Bell will be displayed.  Ms. Bell’s family were vaudevillians and for this series of work she’s been mining photographs of them taken while on tour.  We were struck not only by their remembrance of times past but also at how modern they were.  A theme that wends its way through this exhibition.

Paintings by Robert Palacio will be exhibited as well.  We’re smitten by how he mixes his heritage (Mexican) with the whole low-brow art movement that’s all the rage out here right now.

We kidnapped Sally and dashed over to Lilly’s on Abbot Kinney for lunch.  I just realized that I’ve never seen the front of the restaurant as we’ve always parked in the lot behind & gone in through the rear entrance (mind yourself.)

Venice is the ne plus ultra down-market hide-away for stars & Hollywood celebs (Julia Roberts is a resident)–its twisty, windy, dead-ended, one-way narrow streets (two cars can barely pass each other) offer a certain security & like the Cretan Maze are slightly menacing–all contributing to excellent star-sightings (all in mufti, of course.)  Regardless, Lilly’s is a delightful French bistro (the waiters are even Gallic — ask them to shrug for proof.)

Sally channeling Claire Danes via Venice Magazine.

Sally is Diverse Expression.  (Pardon me, but this is  shameless promotion, I know, but I’d do it for you too–if we were as close friends as I am with Sally.)

Sally had to get back to work & Mannolo was needed up in the Valley–so after dropping them back at the gallery, M. & I headed up Lincoln to Santa Monica and Wertz Bros. Antique Mall, one of our fave places for the occasional much needed piece of ‘stuff’ (in the best George Carlin sense of the word.)  This is me reflected in a delicious bus sign (it would’ve been on a roll over the windshield of the bus & the driver would’ve cranked it to change as cities came & went…right now, they’re a very ‘hot’ decorating item out here.)

After a quick go-round at Wertz Bros., M. & I jumped back on the 405 & headed home (carpool all the way!)

As we got closer to our home (just on the other side of this hill) we realized how lucky we are to live in such a magnificent landscape.

Aliso Wood Canyon (separating Laguna & Aliso Viejo) leads down to the ocean with trails & running/bicycling paths all the way to the sea.

The sky was a brilliant blue, the perfect counterpoint to the star that warms & nourishes our planet.



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© Robert Patrick, and Cultivar, 2008-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Patrick and Cultivar with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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