Visual Playlist – Amy Sillman Style

“That’s the huge problem with an abstract painting. When are you done? You’re done when you don’t want to do it anymore.” – Amy Sillman

Amy Sillman – A Shape that Stands Up and Listens, 2012

Margaret Curtis – Trial By Water: The Pool Party, 2016

Philip Guston – Daydreams, 1970

Lari Pittman – Untitled #1, 2000

Sue Williams – Zbigniew, 2011

Elena Sisto – Elena Sisto, Vest, 2013

Artist web site:


Visual Playlist – Alex Katz Style

One day I just looked out the window and just decided I was going to paint a window.” – Alex Katz

Alex Katz – Twilight 1, 2008

Willem de Kooning – Untitled I from Quatre Lithographies, 1986

Jackson Pollock

Matisse – The Horse, the Rider, and the Clown, 1944

Japanese screens – Red Sun Over Autumn Grasses

Thutmose – Nefertiti Bust, 1345 BC


Artist Web site:

Seeing Like an Artist

Sculpture is the main type of art I usually blog about. I’m going to switch gears a bit and blog about painting and art in general. Recently I stopped by the MoMA and ended up buying a book called “How to See” by the painter David Salle.

Mr. Salle’s book is a collection of essays he has written, over a long period of time, reviewing the works of other contemporary artists. What attracted me to the book is that Salle choose to avoid art jargon and instead describe the art and artistic process in everyday language. I enjoyed reading his essays but that fact alone doesn’t usually cause me to blog about it.

A common technique used to convey one’s feelings about a picture/book/album is to list examples of other better know works/artists as synonyms to illustrate your point(s). Mr. Salle’s choice of examples, highlighted his extensive knowledge of contemporary artists, forced me to realize how just how little I know about the subject; especially when it comes to contemporary painting.

I’m much more likely to read a music review than a review about a painting. Perhaps because of this, I begin to think of Salle’s lists of related work/artist examples as a sort of potential visual playlist. The more I thought about it, it seemed like it would be fun to write a series of posts listing visual samples of each referenced artist, attempting to convey the point I feel that Mr. Salle was making, along with an example piece of the artist being essayed. I’m setting myself this task as a way to bolster my limited knowledge of contemporary painting. Hopefully others will enjoy viewing the resulting painting “playlists”.

Is it Sculpture?

I’ve never been completely comfortable calling a nicely designed object, art. For decades museums and galleries have held exhibitions of items that the average person wouldn’t normally consider as art. Of course, part of the fun is trying to decide where the “line” between art and non-art is. In the right mood, I can also see the argument that there is no such line.

The latest item that rekindled this debate for me, was a post I saw about a couch being marketed as an “Outdoor Interactive Chair And Art Piece”. Apparently they have been installed in a couple of resorts. I’m sure they are very nice and imagine that most guests would enjoy the view while setting in them. I’m just not sure I’d call it sculpture.


Stonemasonry and the Craft Versus Art Debate

I’m not a fan of the Huffington Post but they post on such a wide range of topics, invariably I end up reading some of their work. Lately, I have seen a few news items about Thea Alvin and the stone sculpture-landscape she is installing at Duke. You have got to give the Huff some credit, they are the ones that made the editorial decision to focus their reporting of this event on the tension between the craft of stonemasonry and the art of sculpture.

The item has a succinct quote from Hellen Diaz and Mike de Palma, of New Castle Stoneworks:

“Stonemasonry is one of the earliest crafts in civilization’s history. … Stone installation is an intricate art; the mental aptitude it requires to endure a project for two or three years and turn simple stone into a beautiful and truly unique piece of art is enormous.”

Mr. Chameides’ post starts off with some links on stonemasonry and the craft vs. art debate. I’d like to highlight a couple of quotes from the related material he points to.

From the ART TIMES, Sept/ Oct 2009; By Donald Windsor:

Art is craft that leaps into a metaphor. True art evokes meanings and emotions far beyond what the viewers observe. Craft remains the underlying basis of art, but no matter how well done, is merely what it looks like.

From the Tate blog, 13 October 2011; By Kirstie Beaven:

Perhaps intention makes the distinction. If a maker intends to express something perhaps that makes it art.

However, I asked a few makers at a contemporary craft fair last week, and they often felt that it was the material they worked with that made it craft – textiles, ceramics, glass seem to fall into the craft category, never mind if their intention as maker might be an artistic one.

Perhaps it’s how a maker learnt their skill. As an apprentice coming through a process of learning a skill, hand to hand, as it were? That’s craft. As a fully formed genius honing an expressive talent? That’s art.

Perhaps it’s use. Something wearable or useable – jewellery or furniture for example – seems to fit neatly under the craft label, while something that has no clear practical purpose might be called art. However, this doesn’t take into account the decorative crafts, nor the artists who produce practical items.

As for Mrs. Alvin – from what I’ve seen her specialty is dry-laid stone arches. Mr. Chameides describes her work this way:

This extraordinary woman uses her bare hands and a whole lot of muscle and creative energy to build amazing rock structures that curl and twist, undulate in ways that delight and amaze and challenge.

Here’s Mrs. Alvin’s take on the art in stonemasonry:

But to Alvin, respecting the craft alone “does not make art.” To make art as a stonemason, she says, you must “speak to the stone … see the beauty in the stone.” She clearly sees it as a mystical experience to create a structure that is “perfect in its expression of imperfection.”


Thea Alvin’s web site:

Interview with Sculptor Sandy Stoddart

I’m not familiar with his work. He is described as “the go-to-guy if you should want a great man from Scotland’s past memorialised in bronze”.

Some of Mr. Stoddart’s thoughts on art:

He has spoken sometimes about the “anaesthetic” and “narcotic” quality of art, the way it can ease the pain of both the artist and audience and offer a temporary release from a suffering world. When we first met he showed me a small clay figure of Hypnos, god of sleep, and explained that he had been feeling very glum and squalid until he made it.

He likes the idea of his work being lost within the grand tradition of classical sculpture, so that it cannot easily be identified as being by his hand. He is not attempting to express anything about himself in his statues, but his choices of whom to sculpt do, of course, say something about what sort of man he sees himself as being and what he values. He wants to celebrate intellectual rather than physical achievement, which is one reason why he has never made a statue of anyone from the world of sport.