Thursday, June 20, 2013

Reginald K Gee: Is Your Price Paid 1999, Bright Squarish Eyes 1999, Art Critic with 2.3 Billion Dollar Painting 1999, Twelve Miles to Go 1999

Reginald K. Gee  A Retrospective

July 26th - October 12th, 2013

The David Barnett Gallery presents a Retrospective of Milwaukee artist, Reginald K. Gee.  An opening reception will be held on Gallery Night & Day, Friday, July 26, 2013 from 5:00pm to 9:00pm and Saturday, July 27, 2013 from 11:00am to 5:00pm.  On Gallery Night and Day, gallery visitors can meet the artist at the opening reception.  The gallery is located at 1024 E. State St. at Prospect Ave. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has touted Milwaukee born, African and Native American artist, Gee, as a "budding genius ... an artistic wunderkind," who produces "stunning, complex visions" and describes his art as “tribal art-derived from Pop Culture and art magazines”.  Subjects include jazz musicians, surreal landscapes, seascapes, romance, fantasy and social commentary.  

David Barnett believes Gee is one of the most inventive, prolific and considerably good artists the gallery has ever represented.  After breaking into the art world at an outdoor exhibition in 1986 at Milwaukee’s Performing Arts Center, this primarily self-taught artist sometimes refers to himself as a visionary Neo-Expressionistic artist.  Gee incorporates his own iconic images, symbols, and numerology into his work.  His paintings are figurative, abstract, surreal and narrative; they express, through the use of uninhibited color, the artist's views of contemporary society.  “A good piece of art is like a splendid city.  It will continually offer and you hardly receive the entirety” says Gee.  The artist works mostly with acrylics on canvas, watercolor, mixed media and oil pastels.  Many of these oil pastels are created on brown paper grocery bags.  

In 2002, Gee participated in the Smithsonian Institute’s traveling US exhibition titled “In The Spirit of Martin: The Living Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”  Gee was asked to create an artwork for this exhibit which he titled “Inspiration”.  The painting features quotes from the bible and Martin Luther King, Jr. while touching on the political upheaval in the 1960’s rioting. 

Gee’s artistic influences include Picasso, De Kooning, Francis Bacon, Jean Michel Basquiat and David Salle.  Gee’s artwork has been featured in many exhibits throughout the country which include the Milwaukee Public Museum and the Haggerty Museum of Art.  The exhibit will run through October 12, 2013. 

The David Barnett Gallery provides professional art consultation, appraisals, restoration and conservation, framing, lighting, custom giclee printing, delivery, and installation services.  The gallery’s Van Go mobile art service brings artwork to residences and offices for “on location” selection.  Viewing hours at the David Barnett Gallery are 11:00am to 5:30pm Tuesday through Friday, 11:00am to 5:00pm Saturday, or by appointment.  For further information, please call (414) 271-5058.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Treasure's From Zimbabwe 

African Shona Sculpture

If you have ever had the chance to stop by The David Barnett Gallery you have undoubtedly encountered the stone carved sculptures that are on display within the entry way and front rooms of the gallery. These are African Shona sculptures, which refers to the region and people who carve them.

African Shona Sculpture is a celebration of the oldest, noblest, and perhaps the most demanding discipline of the visual arts. Against all odds, through political turmoil, poverty, famine, and AIDS, these determined Zimbabwean artists are able to produce some of the most powerfully contemporary sculpture in the world today. 

The stone itself is quarried in Zimbabwe's Nyanga Mountains, where 2.5 billion years of pressure and heat have created a wealth of dense and beautiful stones, such as Serpentine, Red Jasper, Cobalt, Opal and Springstone. 

When parts of the stone are carved and polished to a gem-like patina, the figures and forms seem to emerge naturally from the tactile surface, an effect highlighted by the contrast of stone left rough in some areas. In fact, many of the artists feel that there is a spiritual presence within the stone that speaks to them and guides his or her hands to reveal a material truth during carving. Each individual artist expresses through their own unique style a personal vision of their cultural identity and spirituality. Typically there are eight primary themes within these works with a heavy focus towards family. Some common themes are, women in society, the natural world, rural life, the spiritual realm, legends and myths, the role of elders, and lastly, social commentary. 

African art has always played an influential role in Western Art and can be seen in many Cubist works. Such artist's like Picasso and Gauguin were fascinated with the “primitive arts” and reverted back to them for inspiration for their own work. Today, African Shona Sculpture has emerged as an important new art form celebrated throughout world. The work of these sculptors has been exhibited in prestigious museums around the world such as the Rodin Museum in Paris (1971), the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1972), the Royal Botanic Garden in Kew, England (2000), the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Arizona (2002), the Chicago Botanical Gardens and Garfield Park Conservatory (2003), and the Denver Botanic Gardens (2004). 

The David Barnett Gallery has one of the largest collections of Shona Sculpture in the United States, and invites you to see these stunningly beautiful works of art. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Brief History Of Auctions and Valuing Art 

Written By: Jeanne Stetzer

As many of you are aware, on November 9th the David Barnett Gallery participated in our first auction with Leslie Hindman Auctioneers and on December 12th and 13th at their Chicago location. David Barnett and the David Barnett Gallery initiated an auction program, selling multiple works of art to benefit a new non-profit organization to help emerging artists. To celebrate this turning point in the David Barnett Gallery we thought it would be appropriate to discuss the history of auctions and how auctions influence the overall value of art as well as its perceived value. 

The first recorded auction dates back to Ancient Greece when Herodotus reported an auction in 500 B.C. in which women were sold for marriage. The Romans, are recorded as using auctions for family estates as well as the spoils of war, to pay off personal debts. It wasn't until 1674 in England when the first reported painting was sold at auction. This sale began the trend of selling works of art through auction houses, which is commonly done today. 

Until fairly recently auctions have mainly been an exclusive engagement, admitting only art dealers and gallery owners. However this changed around the end of World War II, with the emergence of the middle class that created a new market of art collectors. The admittance of non-art dealers into auctions was for several different reasons, such as to prevent dealers from "pooling" and to increasing overall business within the auction houses. Specifically, "pooling" refers to a pool of two or more buyers acting in tandem in order to suppress prices. "Pooling" most likely begun in England hundreds of years ago and it wasn't until 1929 that the American government tried to outlaw it, but failed. Instead, auction houses decided to admit the general public into their auctions to diminish the possibility of "pooling" and also increase revenue for the auction houses themselves. This increase and exposure towards auctions developed what we now consider the modern auction house, where anybody has the opportunity to bid on a particular object of their liking. 

The next major leap in the auction business occurred in 1995 with the launch of two major auctioning websites, Onsale, and eBay. Websites such as these enabled a wider range of auctions to become available to the average person, creating a spike in auction sales. Today, Internet art auctions are everywhere, and have become a mainstream for collecting art. However, this increased visibility of art auctions is both a blessing and a curse. In one way the consumer is able to inform themselves on the going prices for specific items, but are also more susceptible to fraudulent works online. Even most auction houses do not guarantee the authenticity of the items they are auctioning, and the better forgeries occur frequently. So how does one avoid this? Many galleries do offer authenticity guarantees as well as allow you to see the item in person. Due to reasons such as these, the gallery is still a major player in the art business and will continue to be for years to come.

What auctions do offer is the ability to determine what the general public sees as a fair market value of specific pieces of work. While this public perception is important it is not the only means of determining the market value of a work of art. Gallery sales are at the other end of the spectrum. According to David Barnett "While auction records by nature are public, private gallery sales are not. In turn the gallery represents the unknown true market value of an object. Where as the auction represents a value based on agreed upon sales price between  a willing buyer and a willing seller at a given moment in time." What this means is that the price of an object can change from minute to minute in an auction setting, where as for the most part the prices at galleries are more stable. While they do change it is not nearly as drastic as what can be seen in auction houses. Thus the prices that are represented at private galleries are an important reflection of the value of art. 

Joseph Ferrara,  Free Press 1957

 A look inside the work "Free Press" by Joseph Ferrara

Written By: Jeanne Stetzer

Wisconsin Artists and their instructors play a pivotal role in the upcoming show Wisconsin Art From the Collection of David Barnett and David Barnett Gallery, on view beginning January 18th and running through April 13th, 2013. The works on display cover a wide range of styles and mediums, and subject matter ranging from still lifes, to portraits, landscapes, and social politics. Each work can stand on its own, but together we are able to understand and appreciate the variety of artistic talent that resides in Wisconsin. 

Free Press by Joseph Ferrara is one such piece. Painted in watercolor in 1957, Free Press, represents the racial inequality of the era. The painting depicts an African American man standing outside the Milwaukee Journal pressroom, watching as the white employees print that day's newspaper. Not only does this work represent the segregation and racial inequality that was occurring here in Milwaukee but it also touches upon the important issue of the bias nature of media of the time, in this case the newspaper. 

Here, Ferrara paints in a very linear style creating a sense that not everything is right with the world. The figures are elongated and not individualized by facial characteristics, rather Ferrara differentiates between the figures simply with color. The pigments within the painting are muted and earth toned, creating an environment in which there is not a sense of pleasure, but rather oppression, The figure of the African American man stands under a street lamp, illuminated by rays of light, while the interior lights illuminate the white workers. Through the lines, color, and composition Ferrara is able to convey a scene of solitude and subjugation. 

Ferrara is known for his paintings produced in what he referred to as "frozen watercolors", produced by freezing the watercolor outside overnight. While Free Press is a few years away from this created technique, there are still experimental tendencies utilized in its creation. To create the rays of light from the street post, Ferrara used rubber cement and then preceded to scratch into the surface of the work. This reworking of the surface gives the work a sense of depth, drawing the viewers in. 

Free Press was created specifically for the Milwaukee Journal's 75th Anniversary Awards for Wisconsin Painters of 1957. As with most of Ferrara's paintings it was created onsite directly across from the Journal's pressroom as a run of newspapers were being printed. That year Joseph Ferrara received a judges's citation for his work, which was then exhibited for a time at the Milwaukee Art Center, now know as the Milwaukee Art Museum.

In 1984 Joseph Ferrara retired from teaching at Shorewood High School, where he was an art teacher as well as a coach. Among many of his students was David Barnett, who remembers that his first piece of art which started his collection was by his high school art teacher Ferrara. In 2002 Ferrara passed away, but his love of art was passed along to his students. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

David Barnett Gallery Showcases
Wisconsin Art From The Collection of David Barnett and the David Barnett Gallery 

January 18th - April 13th 2013

The David Barnett Gallery is pleased to present “Wisconsin Art from the Collection of David Barnett and the David Barnett Gallery” exhibit - a diverse exhibit reflecting over 50 years of collecting Wisconsin’s best. An opening reception will be held on Gallery Night & Day, Friday, January 18, 2013 from 5:00pm to 9:00pm and Saturday, January 19, 2013 from 11:00am to 5:00pm. The exhibit will run through April 13, 2013. The gallery is located at 1024 E. State St. at Prospect Ave. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

This exhibit features a selection of Wisconsin artists and influential instructors. Since the creation of the  David Barnett Gallery the focus has been to sponsor young Wisconsin artists and promote their work. This exhibit will explore the works of local artists and the educators who taught them. 

Wisconsin Art From The Collection of David Barnett and The David Barnett Gallery will feature such artists as Sylvia Spicuzza, Joseph Ferrara, Howard Schroedter, Randall Berndt and Joseph Rozman.  Many of these individuals divided their time between art educator, and practicing artist and were influential to many local artists including David Barnett himself. 

Sylvia Spicuzza, Farm Scene, 1938

Sylvia Spicuzza, daughter of Francesco Spicuzza, spent a great deal of her life teaching at Lake Bluff Elementary School in Shorewood, Wisconsin. She always gave encouraging words to her students enabling them to strive to their fullest potential. Her work uses a range of modern styles including Art Deco, and Art Nouveau, illustrating spacial forms of line, color and shape. Her largest and most important work, Farm Scene: Farmer's Wife w/ Children - Big Cedar Lake, 1938 depicts an intimate farm scene of a Wisconsin family, reflecting a classic example of the art style from the WPA era. Originally, this work hung in Spicuzza's dining room, and is now one of the David Barnett Gallery's prized pieces. Spicuzza's works span from the 1920’s until her death in 1998, most of which were never exhibited. Instead she focused on promoting the iconic works of her father, setting aside her own artistic ambitions. Farm Scene, along with a selection of other artworks from her private collection will be included in this exhibition.  

Joseph Ferrara,  Free Press, 1957

Joe Ferrara taught art at Shorewood High School influencing many local artists. David Barnett recalls his time with him as being very influential to his artistic career, so much so that his collection of art began with a watercolor by his high school art teacher Ferrara. David Barnett now has a few works in his collection by Joe Ferrara, including his politically charged watercolor entitled Free Press 1957, which illustrates the social inequality occurring in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during the Civil Rights Movement. It was initially created for the Milwaukee Journal's 75th Anniversary Awards for Wisconsin Painters in 1957, which was later awarded and exhibited at the Milwaukee Art Center. Today, it is part of David Barnett's collection and will be part of this expansive survey of Wisconsin artists. 

Howard Schroedter, Turbulent Sky, 1988

Howard Schroedter was both a local artist and instructor. He received his Bachelors and Masters from the Wisconsin State Teachers College, now known as University of Milwaukee Wisconsin, and is remembered as Chairman of the Art Department at UW-Milwaukee. His focus and success on Art Education lead him to be elected a member of the University Committee. During this time he worked towards shaping policy and education, comprising the university's academic philosophy. As a Professor, he was able to mold the minds of his students and show them both traditional and new skills to use in their own works. 

In 1984 he retired in order to focus on his own work and began traveling between his  studio cabin at Hatch Lake, Wisconsin and his studio in Casey Key,  Florida. His primary focus was landscapes, which later evolved to a focus on clouds.  For his sky paintings as well as his landscapes he utilized a technique know as “glaze painting” which essentially is layering small amounts of paint on top of one another in order to create a wide range of colors and textures. We see this technique in "Turbulent Sky" 1988, which depicts wild flames of red and orange hues of a vibrant Wisconsin sunset. This painting would become Schroedter's final work before his death, and is believed to be one of his finest works.   

Randall BerndtArtist In Heliopolis, 1986

The creation of the David Barnett Gallery was not solely focused on local instructors of art but it has also been key to providing a haven for up and coming local artists and graduate students. One such artist that will be on display is Randall Berndt who received his MFA from Madison in 1969. Currently Berndt is an Assistant Curator at the Wisconsin Academy’s James Watrous Gallery at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison.  His works on display contain some of his best examples of his artistic oeuvre, which focus on classical mythology and pop culture blended into a unique style all his own.  

Joseph Rozman, Underground Movies, 1968

Joseph Rozman, was the first artist to have a solo exhibition at the David Barnett Gallery, having his first one man show in 1967, again in 1969, and 1971. Rozman received his MFA from UWM in 1969, and would later become a Professor at Mount Mary College. His zany style portrays his spontaneous blending of ancient and personal symbols influenced by Egyptian art and the paintings and drawings of Paul Klee, his free experimentation with varied materials and processes, and his delight in color and texture. Caring the credo of "Art is Fun" Rozman's playful gestures recur in his richly diverse works. It is sure to be a happy experience.  

This exhibit not only shows the importance of local artists and their educators but it also strives to portray the message of The David Barnett Gallery into a single show, preserving the legacies of Wisconsin artists, past, present, and future. 

Please join us on January 18th, 2013 to rediscover the importance of Wisconsin Artists and their educators.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Exhibition Review: Cow Jumping Over the Moon, Cow Art from Around the World

Written By: Jeanne Stetzer

Timothy Kussow, Inside/Out:Nipple Bucket I, 1998
As previously mentioned in discussing “The Cow Jumping Over the Moon: Cow Art from Around the World” the cow, since ancient times, represents fertility, nourishment, motherhood, abundance, and feminine power. But for the artist, the cow may represent something different which is the case with these three artists that are currently on display. For Timothy Kussow and Macario Alfaro the image of the cow brings to mind their memories from their past, where as Heather Foster is fascinated with the cow as her primary subject. 

Timothy Kussow graduated with a Masters in Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 1998 and now is currently the Chair of the Art Department at Manchester Community College in Connecticut as well as a part-time firefighter. Kussow grew up in the Madison area and spent time at his grandparent’s cattle farm where he found inspiration for his art. For him the cow represents these fond childhood memories as well as a sense of whimsy. This sense of whimsy can be seen in his sculpture Inside/Out: Nipple Bucket I from 1998 (the same year in which he graduated from UW-Madison). Inside/Out: Nipple Bucket I was created using a milking pail, lining it with calf fur and attaching rubber nipples to the outside; the work itself is literally what the title describes. The work also references the famous surrealist sculpture "Object" by Meret Oppenheim from 1936, which was a tea cup, saucer, and spoon covered in fur, inspired by a conversation between Oppenheim and Picasso. 
Meret Oppenheim, Object, 1936

While Kussow may not be making a political statement with his piece,Inside/Out: Nipple Bucket I captures his sense of playfulness combined with fond childhood memories. 

For Macario Alfaro the cow represents something entirely different. In his work entitled Retablo Exvotos (Peasant Released from Jail by Cow) from 1939 painted with oil on tin, he depicts himself imprisoned within the municipal jail, hands gripping the bars with a look of longing on his face. Looking into the window is a black and white Holstein cow and above is the figure of The Holy Child of Atocha (Santo Nino de Atocha). The figure of the Holy Child of Atocha is typical of the Roman Catholic Church among Hispanics from both Spain and Latin America. The Holy Child is Jesus Christ portrayed as a small Spanish pilgrim boy; he holds in his left hand a basket of bread and in his right a water gourd suspended from his staff. He was witnessed by many people who were imprisoned for their faith and he used these items to feed the prisoners. Due to the symbolism associated with the Holy Child of Atocha his appearance in this painting is relevant due to the events taking place within. While this seems like a very strange composition the text located in the right corner gives clues to its meaning. 

Macario Alfaro, Retablo Exvotos (Peasant Released from Jail by Cow), 1939

The text translates to:
"I give thanks to the Saint "Nino de Atocha" that the cow finally appeared and I was able to get out of jail and demonstrate my innocence and honesty in front of my children, my wife and the village and because I am Mexican, honest and keep my promises."

While it is unknown how this cow enabled Alfaro to escape from the municipal jail, it is apparent that because of the events that transpired the cow for Alfaro represents his freedom and salvation. 

Heather Foster, on the other hand does not paint cows specifically due to her past recollections, rather she paints cows in attempt to capture their sprits. In 1990, Foster graduated with her BFA from the Maryland Institute, College of Art and had originally done work as a conservator and restorer of art. Soon Foster began her infamous cattle series in which she had worked on for roughly ten years. One such example from this series is Nursing Cow painted using oil on canvas from 2001. To paint images such as this one, Foster traveled to ranches and dairy cows observing them and their surroundings. Once back in her studio she would combine her memories and experiences into her work. This passion can be seen in Nursing Cow, which is painted using vibrant colors and thick energetic brush strokes. Here the cow is not only interacting with the viewer, by looking out, but is also interacting with the calf, almost shielding it from the viewers gaze while still feeding it. Foster has given the impression that we have walked into an intimate scene and that by glancing upon the cattle are gaining a sense of their sprit. 

Heather Foster, Nursing Cow, 2001

This exhibition will be on view through January 12th 2013 at the David Barnett Gallery.