Famous birthdays: January 15th



photo by Neal Ambrose-Smith


Untitled, From the Williamsburg Housing Project Murals | circa 1938

Brooklyn Museum

PAUL KELPE

Paul Kelpe was a German-born American abstract painter. His constructions integrating found objects into paintings were the first such works created in the United States and he painted two of the five Williamsburg murals, the first abstract murals in the United States. In addition to his mural work for various American government projects, he was an innovative independent painter and university art professor. He was a pioneer of American abstract art, including his work in Chicago during a period in which abstracts were not well accepted or appreciated.


Paul Kelpe, Machinery (Abstract #2), 1933-1934, oil on canvas

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor, 1964.1.27

"Most of my work consists of absolute or abstract painting (I have done a few sculptures). My work consists of plain rhythmic composition, of spaces and lines, circles, cubes, architectonic forms, and sometimes parts of machinery. The most important dogma or rule which I try to follow in my work may be put tersely in this wise: geometry made uselessly and transformed into colors, simplicity, order, and expression. I have not been influenced greatly by any one artist, but I have been very much influenced by the whole movement of new art in Germany, within which I grew up. I do not, however, consider myself as belonging to any "school." Whether my work is a purely personal expression is a question that may be of interest to others. It is of no particular interest to me. The same holds true of the question as to whether my work is a contribution to society, an expression of the age or of any national, religious, racial group or spirit. I don't know whether my work has any relationship with anything of that sort, and I don't care. I am rather certain that my work has no bearing on any religious or political attitude. There hasn't been thus far any extensive criticism of my work; therefore, the question as to whether the criticism is an influence hasn't much application to me. Neither, I feel, does the question regarding the effect of the demands of the market on one's creative efforts have much to do with me."

~ Paul Kelpe


"Voluptuary droid décolletage", 2001, computer-robotic assisted acrylic on canvas, 66” x 120”.

JOSEPH NECHVATAL

Joseph Nechvatal’s paintings and animations conjure up an enigmatic world of depth that signals a contemporary practice engaged in the fragile wedding of image production and image resistance. He brings a subversive reading to computational media by presenting an artistic consciousness that articulates contemporary concerns regarding surveillance, encryption, safety, privacy, identity, and objectivity.


Joseph Nechvatal – Computer Virus

While some artists seek precision and control with their work, Joseph Nechvatal unleashes a virus on his computer-based imagery—part of his philosophical approach to making art. His work embodies both biological and technological elements, drawing metaphors between the two. While his production utilizes a set of rules similar to those of the Abstract Expressionists (whose aesthetics are built upon a collection of defined parameters, and more concerned with the process), Nechvatal deviates by allowing the computer virus influence the outcome of the image. At times beautiful and others disconcerting, his work challenges the viewer to go beyond the surface.

Nechvatal received his Ph.D. in the Philosophy of Art at the Centre for Advanced Inquiry in the Interactive Arts, The University of Wales in 1999. However, since 1986 he has incorporated the use of computers and computer-robotics into his work.


Detail from an untitled work, 1980-98, by Lee Bontecou, from MoMA's permanent collection.

LEE BONTECOU

American artist Lee Bontecou established a significant reputation in the 1960s with her pioneering sculptures made of raw and expressionistic materials. Though she is best known for her three-dimensional work, drawing has always been an equally important component of her artistic practice. This summer, the Princeton University Art Museum will host Lee Bontecou: Drawn Worlds, organized by the Menil Collection, where it premiered in January 2014. The exhibition brings together a selection of works on paper from the artist’s more than fifty-year career, from early soot drawings created with a welding torch to recent works in graphite and colored pencil. Calling her drawings “worldscapes,” Bontecou has produced an incredible body of work that propels us into fantastic spaces and strange terrains.

Bontecou understands drawing as a process of discovery, a place to solve problems, and a means to explore the imagination. While she plans and experiments on paper in anticipation of constructing her sculptural forms, there is not always a traditional progression in her process from drawing, as a foundational step, to sculpture, as the final outcome. Bontecou often goes back and forth between three and two dimensions, and there is not necessarily a clear point of origin for an idea or an image. And though many of her drawings are formally intertwined with her sculptures, they ultimately stand on their own as works in and of themselves. In them, the artist employs, even relishes, methods unique to the medium, revealing her deeply pleasure-full and tactile approach, as well as the great care she places in the art of drafting.


Untitled

1962

Welded steel, epoxy, canvas, fabric, saw blade, and wire

172.7 x 182.9 x 76.2 cm

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Gift of D. and J. de Menil 62.45 - © 2016 Lee Bontecou. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA / Museum purchase funded by D. and J. de Menil / Bridgeman Images

The variety of drawing techniques Bontecou employs is extraordinary. She achieves slick surfaces by working on plastic or by prepping paper supports with gesso, leading to smooth passages of graphite. There are bold, repetitious, and impressionistic marks inspired by her love of drawings by Vincent van Gogh; stratified bands of hatched lines; areas of reworked surfaces where an eraser has worn down the grain of the paper’s weave; and precise marks made with a thin lead tip that is matched by broad swaths of dusty blacks. In Bontecou’s works on black paper, light reflects off silvery pencil lines, causing them to softly appear and disappear. The artist renders some of her drawings by pushing her fingertips into the soot, leaving feathery prints. For others, she scrapes into the black with a knife for an inverse effect, dispersing the dark pigment with the sharp blade.


Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, State Names, 2000, oil, collage and mixed media on canvas

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Elizabeth Ann Dugan and museum purchase, 2004.28

JAUNE QUICK-TO-SEE SMITH

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith is one of the most acclaimed American Indian artists of today. She has been reviewed in most art periodicals. Smith has had over 100 solo exhibits in the past 40 years and has done printmaking projects nationwide. Over that same time, she has organized and/or curated over 30 Native exhibitions, lectured at more than 200 universities, museums and conferences internationally, most recently at 5 universities in China. Smith has completed several collaborative public artworks such as the floor design in the Great Hall of the new Denver Airport; an in-situ sculpture piece in Yerba Buena Park, San Francisco and a mile-long sidewalk history trail in West Seattle and recently, a new terrazzo floor design at the Denver Airport.


"Going Forward, Looking Back" by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith

Smith uses humor and satire to examine myths, stereotypes and the paradox of American Indian life in contrast to the consumerism of American society. Her work is philosophically centered by her strong traditional beliefs and political activism. Smith is internationally known as an artist, curator, lecturer, print-maker and professor. She was born at St. Ignatius Mission on her Reservation and is an enrolled Salish member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation of Montana. She holds 4 honorary doctorates from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Mass College of Art and the University of New Mexico. Her work is in collections at the Whitney Museum, the Metropolitan Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Walker, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Museum for World Cultures, Frankfurt, Germany and Museum for Ethnology, Berlin. Recent awards include a grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation to archive her work; the 2011 Art Table Artist Award; Moore College Visionary Woman Award for 2011; Induction into the National Academy of Art 2011; Living Artist of Distinction, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, NM 2012; the Switzer Award for 2012.

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