Sunday, September 8, 2013

Landscapes by Yasunari Nakagomi

I went to the reception of a new group show at LA Artcore Gallery at the Brewery Annex.  Amber Maida and Danilo Gionnoni showed interesting work of abstracts.  However, the artist that most struck me was Tokyo based Yasunari Nakagomi.   

The first artist who came to mind was Mark Rothko--not that Nakagomi's work resembles Rothko.  Indeed, it was the complete opposite of Rothko that made the work interesting.  While Rothko worked in floating blocks of color, Nakagomi's work seemed to be a blur of just one color. 
Artist Ysaunari Nakagomi next to one of his paintings
His abstract landscape paintings aren't of  a particular place, though he confessed they remind him of the Japanese mountainsides.  His work could be mountains or desserts or oceans.  They recollect a place of memory or fantasy.
Landscape #1034, 84x60, oil on canvas mounted on panel
He works with one color, shading or lightening areas.  He said in Japan he uses silver or gold gesso which, I think, adds to the ethereal quality of his work.  He'll do a painting in one sitting, which truly captures a moment in his mind or soul.
Landscape #876, 52x41, acrylic and oil on paper mounted on panel
In this set of paintings, he uses horizontal lines with vertical brush work.  His techniques requires the use of wide brushes or squeegees

Landscape #892 43.5x30, acrylic on paper
He works with these "landscapes of the mind" because he said real landscapes can be seen anywhere, particularly on the internet.  These landscapes only exist within the artist. 
The show runs until September 29th. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Go See Manuel Mendive!

I visited the California African American Museum (CAAM), and saw Things That Cannot Be Seen Any Other Way: The Art of Manuel Mendive.   What's great about CAAM is that admission is FREE, which is always a good thing during these tough economic times.  However, I would have gladly paid to see the work of Manuel Mendive, a Cuban artist, exploring Afro-Carribean themes. 

The work is deeply rooted in spirituality and magic.  There is a deep sense of transformation occurring in the work, leaving me with a great sense of awe.  Perhaps because I'm a Divinity student that I recognized something familiar in the art.  The paintings seemed to say we are connected to something higher, bigger, brighter than ourselves.

These ghostly masks were part of the exhibition.  I love their crescent moon-like faces. 

From the press release:

The exhibition is centered on the 50-year career of the prominent Afro-Cuban artist Manuel Mendive. This is the first exhibition in the United States to focus exclusively on the contemporary visual and material culture of the Afro-Cuban religion LukumĂ­, and the general way in which the cultures of the countries of the African Diaspora through telluric and mystically-charged subjects. The selected works at CAAM have rarely been exhibited together.

Emerging from a generation of Cuban artists who studied at Cuba's San Alejandro National School of Fine Arts, Mendive is highly regarded as one of the foremost contemporary artists in Cuba and the Caribbean.

"It is an honor for me to exhibit my work at such a well-respected cultural institution as the California African American Museum. I cannot give enough praise to all who have contributed to the success of the exhibition and its opening," said Mendive through an interpreter.

The show runs through October 20, 3013. 

Manuel Mendive with one of his paintings

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Loving LA: the Making of a Portrait

UPDATE: The LA Times did a feature on the exhibition:,0,2967466.story

Original Story:

July 13th was the opening of We Love LA: Please Make it Better at Future Studio Gallery in Highland Park.  The new regime of politicians begin their term on July 1.  According to Curator Amy Inouye, she would like to accomplish this with this show: 

We realize that governing the sprawling metropolis is a daunting task, but as artists, we are used to thinking outside the box, and our hope is that we can engage in ongoing dialog with the new regime that could result in modern solutions to civic challenges. At the very least, we hope to engage our new officials in an appreciation of the LA art world—a crazy, fun, and creative world that is inspired by this amazing but also sometimes infuriating city. Don’t we all just want LA to live up to our dreams for it?

The artists were asked to do portraits of different politicians, from the Mayor to Councilmembers.  The purpose was "to congratulate them and  to remind them of the importance of art in the city’s cultural landscape, personality, and sensibility, not to mention its economy."

I was thrilled to be a part of the show.  I saw it as my official coming out as an artist.  I'd hung in pop-up galleries (one day or weekend shows), but this was the first time that a curator asked me to be in a show with more experienced artists, including Gary Leonard and my teacher Margaret Garcia.  Indeed, I'd guess that I was the youngest (career-wise) in the show. It will be on view until September 13.

It was also part of the NELA Art Walk.  I'd gone to the art walk many times.  I always had fun going to the different galleries or studios and seeing what was on display.  It was gratifying to be one of the artists being seen this time.

The politician I was asked to work with was Councilmember Tom LaBonge, a man I respect.  He  went to the same high school I went to, albeit 15 years apart.  I looked through pictures of Mr. LaBonge online.  There were plenty to choose from.  However, they all looked savvy, a politician enjoying his established career.

I wanted to send a message to Mr. LaBonge, perhaps remind him why he chose public service.  I went to our alumni association and asked to see photos from his 1971 yearbook.  There were photos of him as a varsity football player, of a young man preparing for life.    They were of an idealistic and hopeful person. 

I was moved by these photos, reminded of my own youth.  I believed I could do anything, everything was possible.  I set out to do a portrait of Mr. LaBonge based on these photos. I wanted to remind him of what was possible for our City.  No matter what, idealism and hope are important at any age. 

I blew up the photos and gazed at them for hours.  I tried a few paintings, but abandoned them.  I decided to focus on his face. I developed something that I was happy with. I took the product to painting class to have my teacher Margaret Garcia critique it.  She helped me out with the nose, and encouraged me to find the highlights.

It was surreal watching people look at my painting, photographing it or talking about it.  A slew of people that I loved came to support me, and I truly had a great evening.

The show got some great press.  Here's a news report on it here.

You can see the show at Future Studio Gallery:

5558 N. Figueroa Street
Los Angeles (Highland Park), 90042
Open Saturdays, 12pm - 5pm or by appt. (323-254-4565)

Friday, January 25, 2013

The LA Art Show

For me, the New Year hasn't begun without visiting the LA Art Show.  For four days (January 23-27), galleries and artists from all over the world gather in my town to present their very best.  I get overwhelmed by the work, but I always leave happy.  Knowing that there is so much creativity happening on earth makes me feel hopeful.

There are certain artists I never get tired of seeing (Edgar Payne, SC Yuan), both of whom are dead.  So, I get giddy when I actually get to meet and chat (via his interpreter) with a live artist.  I was taken with Li Guanglin, a Chinese artist based in Beijing.  His large canvasses of Tibetan life are simply breathtaking. 

He has been visiting Tibet since 1985.  He photographs his subjects, but says only 70 percent of the paintings are from a photograph.  The rest is remembered from his spending time with them.

I was fond of the paintings where he painted the subjects from behind.  The images are of the devoted praying at a holy lake. 

At fifty years old, Mr. Guanglin has many years of painting ahead of him.  I look forward to seeing more.

Other artists who made an impression...

Rimi Yang, an artist from Santa Fe, New Mexico painted these large (48 X 72) child-like images.  I felt like I walked into a storybook.

Cuban artist Gina Pellon did these mixed media pieces.  I enjoyed the colors and energy of the pieces.  There was something rural, yet sophisticated about them.

                        (76.25 X 51)                                         (28.5 X 23.5)

Russian artist Sergey Fedotov did these figurative abstracts.  You can't tell from the pictures, but I really enjoyed the textures of these paintings.  I wanted to run my fingers across them and feel them.
(39.4 X 31.5)                                        (31.5 X 27.6)