Pre-Trip Errata

Getting on plane tomorrow so here are some quick sketches and thoughts in between closing up stateside studio:

I just finished the biography on Alexander Calder by Jed Perl. I had not been into Calder beforehand but developed a new appreciation for him after finishing. I have shelves of books on biographies/histories of Paris during different eras which include all the artists that where then on the scene.

For modern art eras, Calder was often featured. He was portrayed in a sort of often parroted shorthand, as an impish figure who artists in all the various movements liked (surrealists, futurists, cubists et al) even though he was never formally a member of anything.

Marcel Duchamp too was embraced by key figures in many movements which he purposely never joined. Duchamp had the glamour of enigma and an obvious influence to varying degrees on many artists who came after him for generations.

After reading this wonderful book the two had more in common than would be apparent from other books. Duchamp’s mien was always sphinx like which lent a sort of gravitas to whatever he was doing.  Calder was serious about his work but had a joyous disposition. If he did not get along with somebody, then he just did not bother with them. He had artistic theories & philosophy but he was reticent and never pontificated about  them. This lent a sort of playful veneer to all that he did to casual gallery & museum goers. There was a joy to what he did, but a serious joy.

This is the second book I have read by Perl on an artist to whom I was initially indifferent. It underscores that no matter how much one knows about art or how well formed their aesthetic sense, there is always room for more exploration and to pull new things into oneself.  And as I have often said, with certain non-fiction authors, it is well worth reading anything that they put out. Jed Perl definitely falls into this category.

 

9×12 quick sketch Calder

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It was just Duke Ellington’s birthday.  To people not well versed in jazz Duke Ellington is “Take the  A Train” or that sort of sludge of sound behind really old cartoons which utilized swing music before Carl Stalling came on the scene with his innovative sonic madness.

There was always forward thinking elements to what Duke & his orchestra were doing. He was constantly evolving and adding to his vision and sonic palette.

He composed in so many forms that it’s bittersweet to think of the years where he was lumped in with other, mere entertainers. Publicly, he never seemed to complain about this. In his final decade or so when he was starting to truly get his due,  in performance he still would often include medleys of the hits as to please the crowd. Remnants of when  this  American Mozart, despite his skill land ambition had to set toes to tapping.

For beginners to his oeuvre the best place to start are his later recordings. These works are more easily acceptable to someone  used to post bop jazz (used to be called “Modern” ). In his final years, Duke seemed to be allowed to record whatever he wanted. It runs the gambit in diversity. From Tone poems to suites, to soundtracks to trios and sacred concerts to teaming up with musicians young and old that he admired but had not worked with in small ensembles (John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, Louis Armstrong)

I first got into his work by delving into the later stuff. I enjoyed that so much i started looking backwards. Years ago I would not have been open to it, but now i treasure all Duke.

There is probably at least one of his albums to fit no matter where you are in the world and what you are doing. All around the globe, my pencil in hand and the rich coloration as envisioned by Duke wafting up out of the speakers.

Sir Duke Quick Sketch 9×12

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50th Anniversary AEC

I had the great honor2019 of my first portrait of composer/musician Roscoe Mitchell being used for the official tee shirts for the world wide tour marking the 50th Anniversary of The Art Ensemble of Chicago.

Regardless of the nature of the ensemble he is playing in or composing for, he has been a prime inspiration to me for years.

 

Officialtshirt

Turtles

The turtles keep surfacing when someones shadow fell across the surface of the fountain. They are looking for a snack or just to let everyone know that they are still around. They rise and fall with the rhythm of merry go round horses.

Kay found this hilarious.

9×12 Pencil & Paper

 

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Sculptures

I have been doing sculptures for years but always  looked upon them as a largely private matter.

Mostly, they are done just to keep the juices flowing. I had not really ever had  any intent to show or sell them.

Stylistically, they are akin to some of what Cy Twombly, Jack Whitten & Robert Rauschenberg had done. They are  one part totemic object, one part a sort of a chronicle of a moment and place. Intuitively I came up with my own rules which served me well from the get go. I will only use materials that are on hand and of the time and place that I am at. This lends a strong improvisational element to my sculptures while also allowing the place to dictate important aspects of the work’s voice.

It is “easy” compared to my other visual work since there is no pre plan and so a piece can never be wrong. Working in a different manner and medium from my other work has led me to view my process in a new light which ultimately adds to my chops and palette.

A few people having seen some of them, understood what they were about and even liked them. I would have considered it an achievement to have had even one person “get it” . So many more than that, it melted my resolve for them to remain unseen. Of course I fully realize that they are not going to be everybody’s cup of tea.  I am sure too, that there will be people that really enjoy my paintings and drawings but are left cold by these.

They are varying degrees of sturdy. Most done on the road, if not gifted would not make it home. And even left behind as a memento, they often have a limited lifespan. Others on account of the nature of the materials used, start to die the moment that they are born. The winner always in a fatal game.

This fragility makes it so that my sculptures are often three works in one. There is the conception and creation of the piece. Then there is the physical work itself for however long it lasts and lastly the photo of the piece.

Even knowing that some will not physically last, I have not photographed every sculpture i have ever done. I like the idea of their existence being akin to hearing a piece of music or poem. It can give pleasure and add to you in some way but its intangible.

Give me a pencil nubbin and scrap of paper and I am pleased. I do not need everything I do to be worthy of being framed or even seen. I get a huge pleasure now in the process. This is a major aspect of my sculptures importance to myself. The process is the pay off intellectually and spiritually.

W.Wolfson ’19

 

“Monkey Bird”

“Cecil Taylor”

“One Eyed Face”  (This one is actually very sturdy being wood & Steel)

Pocket Pad

Have been busy with a bunch of larger projects (including getting next short story collection ready!) but that would never keep me from compulsively reaching for ever present pocket pad when out and about (nor hour or two of woodshedding every night)

Give me a scrap of paper and pencil nubbin and it is one of my greatest pleasures in life, serving the process.

3×5 per side

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Keith’s Hand

I had read how, for the most part artists do not retire. They do their thing, regardless of medium, as long as they can. I think this is because what gets one into the game initially is that it is a calling. After years of doing it, the process itself becomes a part of the artist.

Keith Richard’s hands show a life of service for the muse. They have become almost sculptural.
They are reminiscent now of the library of congress documentary photos of the first blues men and their hands.

In some ways it is full circle as in this respect, after over half a century, aspects of Keith now resemble those first blues men who were his childhood heroes and initial inspirations.

 

Keith’s Hand 9×12 graphite & Paper

 

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