Luce Artist Talks: Emily Francisco
September 12, 2014
You've heard of landscapes and cityscapes, but how about soundscapes? DC-based artist Emily Francisco creates these immersive audio environments and she'll talk about her recent work when she kicks off the Luce Foundation Center's fall Artist Talks series this Sunday, September 14 at 1:30 p.m. Francisco's pieces are especially interesting because, while they involve destruction, they're not in and of themselves destructive. Rather, Francisco takes everyday objects—like pianos, nutcrackers, and radios, and constructs entirely new pieces and experiences from them. The Trans-harmonium: A Listening Station is a keyboard that's wired to dozens of radiosbut doesn't play musical notes. Instead, it broadcasts from a different radio station each time a key is pushed.
Francisco earned her MFA from American University last year and just concluded her appointment as Artist in Residence at Artistphere in Rosslyn, Virginia, this April. Her latest show, Something Slightly Familiar, will run at CulturalDC's Flashpoint Gallery from September 12 through October 11, 2014.
Throwback Thursday: Han's Hofmann's Fermented Soil
September 11, 2014
It's Throwback Thursday! And we at Eye Level have decided it's a great opportunity to bring back some of our interesting posts from the past. American Art has been publishing our blog since September 2005 (that's an eternity in Internet years) and some of our posts are as current now as the day we first posted them. Today, we feature a version of Howard's February 2008 post on Hans Hofmann's painting, Fermented Soil. You can see Fermented Soil on American Art's 3rd Floor, North Wing.
Fermented Soil by Hans Hofmann contains such fresh joy and vigor it is hard to believe it was painted by a man in his mid-eighties. It swings like a jazz sextet. Hofmann was right in the swim of what was going on in painting at that moment, and Color Field painting would have been impossible without his contribution.
Fermented Soil achieves the layers of poetry that Hofmann was in search of throughout his career. In fact, Hofmann would sometimes use a line from German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, as a title. The famous push-pull that he emphasized in his teaching can be seen in this painting; the insistence on tension in composition achieved through the handling of paint and juxtaposition of color, like the interplay of notes or chords in music. In all those improvised strokes there is an assurance that can only come through the blood memory of painting for more than six decades. The color is pure Hofmann and comes from the many landscapes, figure studies, and still lifes he painted. His paint seems as edible as fruit.
Born in Germany, Hofmann first came to America in 1930 as a mature artist. He taught many students who would become important painters, including Frank Stella, Helen Frankenthaler, and Lee Krasner. There is an implicit connection through Krasner to Jackson Pollock, who was her husband. Art critic Clement Greenberg would often visit Hofmann’s studio, and dialogues between the two men played a role in developing Greenberg’s thoughts on art.
Hofmann’s earlier work is marked by many influences, from Seurat and postimpressionism to Picasso and Matisse. When Hofmann was in his seventies and eighties and was able to stop teaching, his work came to fullest flower. His contact with the New York School enabled this Zen-like jump to a new plateau, where his lifetime of disciplined work and teaching allowed him to paint with the flow of a jazz improvisationist.
From Public Library to Public Gallery, Marvin Beerbohm's Automotive Industry Mural is Reinstalled
September 9, 2014
The polished machinery featured in Marvin Beerbohm's Automotive Industry will be shimmering a little brighter now that the mural has been treated by the American Art Museum's paintings conservator, Amber Kerr.
The mural, which was previously located in Detroit's Public Library, was recently installed in the museum's first floor, Experience America, galleries and is now on view. Our paintings conservator was also on view during the mural's cleaning, as the artwork's large size required an in-situ treatment.
Working under the watchful gaze of the public is nothing new for our conservation staff, whose daily activity is continually on display in the museum's Lunder Conservation Center, which is located on the third and fourth floors of the museum. Commissioned by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and painted in 1940, the artwork needed some cleaning and touching up. The skilled hands of our conservator worked quickly and the treatment of this expansive canvas was completed in less than two weeks.
Handi-Hour: Holy Crafting Happy Hour, Batman!
September 3, 2014
It has been a long summer, and Handi-hour is finally back on Thursday, September 4. This time we are partnering with the Fantom Comics in Dupont Circle for a Handi-hour with comic book flare! Program coordinator Katie Crooks demonstrates her super power craft making in this round of Handi-hour how to videos; check them out below for a preview of some of the crafts we'll be making at the event.
Join us in the Luce Foundation Center from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in the Smithsonian American Art Museum as we cut up comic books and craft them into works of art while drinking delicious fall brews from ChurchKey/Birch and Barley and enjoying live music by FarAway. Admission is $20, cash only at the door. You must be 21 or older to enter. See our calendar for more information.
Celebrating Labor Day with Ralph Fasanella
August 28, 2014
American Art's exhibition Ralph Fasanella: Lest We Forget will open at the American Folk Art Museum in his home city of New York on September 2, 2014, celebrating both the 100th anniversary of the artist's birth as well as the soul of Labor Day as an American holiday of commemoration and honor. Folk and self-taught art curator, Leslie Umberger, writes about the artist and his connection to the ideas intrinsic to Labor Day.
The paintings that New Yorker Ralph Fasanella made between 1945-1995 are bold narratives of the working class. They are testaments to urban American life in the early and mid-twentieth century drawn from both personal and shared experience. Fasanella identified so strongly with the workers of America that he claimed Labor Day as his official birthday—making it known that to celebrate his life was to praise the achievements of the working class.
Fasanella's parents immigrated to the United States in 1910 seeking a better life for their family. They were part of the immigrant wave that fueled America's industrial age, an era when labor was cheap and plentiful and industrial practices were unregulated, unfair, and unsafe. As members of the working class became more unified, they fought for their rights with increasing success, and Fasanella learned from both his parents and his community how effective solidarity could be.
Fasanella was just fifteen years old when the stock market crashed and America was plunged into the Great Depression. To help the family get by, he took work as a delivery boy when he could find it. But the jobs never lasted and Fasanella increasingly came to believe that the Capitalist system was propelled only by greed. He became a dedicated activist, determined to fight for his rights rather than endure injustice.
The Federal holiday of Labor Day dates to 1894, but it wasn't until 1923 that all states in the Union observed it, and in the 1930s the day meant to honor the societal contributions of the working class was reinvigorated by New Deal programs such as the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, which guaranteed the basic rights of individual workers, and the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 which limited working hours and fixed minimum wages. Fasanella was among hundreds of thousands who joined in the annual parade meant to show the strength and spirit of the masses.
American Art's exhibition Ralph Fasanella: Lest We Forget opens at the American Folk Art Museum on September 2, 2014.