Steinberg Museum Reactions

On 10/14/14 we took a guided tour of the current exhibitions in the Steinberg Museum of Art at Hillwood. In the comments section below please react and respond to your experience. Please be specific in detail.

 

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10 thoughts on “Steinberg Museum Reactions

  1. Color and Time: Paintings by Roy Newell

    The offset compositions of Roy Newell were alluring. The shapes used were rectangles and squares often divided and created by straight parallel lines in rectangular and square masonite boards. The layers of paint were textured and it made me look closer at the paintings to see what was underneath. The color combinations drew me in. There were warm and cool colors next to each other, as well as complimentary colors paired together. There were many neutrals with varying browns and blacks. My eyes were frequently examining the variations of color combinations and their boundaries. I enjoyed listening to Newell’s process as he worked and reworked these paintings over the years. His use of colors and compositions were very pleasing to me.

    Changing New York: Photographs by Berenice Abbott

    Berenice Abbott’s Gelatin Silver Prints showed a New York City from the mid to late 1930’s. Her photographs were architectural and did not have many humans in the photographs. They were mostly landscapes of the different industries in New York, billboards, businesses, and transportation hubs. The few people in the photographs were never the focal point. As I looked at these photographs I recognized asymmetrical compositions coupled with a beautiful range of values from white to gray to black. The exhibit’s title, “Changing New York” was great way to frame the show. I could not separate the history seen in these photos which served as glimpses to New York’s past. The photos were a snapshot of commerce, industry, infrastructure, and communities in the 1930’s.

    Much of what was photographed does not exist anymore. The Beaux-Arts Pennsylvania Station (1910-1963) was in the background of a Modern Greyhound Bus Depot. Neither building endures in their photographed form. The Grey Hound is now located at the Port Authority Station and the jewel of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company was cut down and spliced Madison Square Garden on top. However the photo leaves many clues to life. Upon looking closer you see many cities on the Grey Hound routes that are now Rust Belt and Erie Canal destinations (Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, and Cleveland). The aforementioned cities were extremely important to the national and local economies. Today they no longer hold that might. Behind the station is the beautiful American version of the Gare D’Orsay. Prior to its construction you had to take ferries to get to Manhattan. Pennsylvania Station was a testament of engineering during its time. It represents our dominant rail and steel industry during the early 1900’s and prior to that.

    Each picture has layers of history of place and human customs within it. The butcher shop advertises different cuts of meat that are rare to find today especially with supermarkets. New York City had a Department of Docks when Manhattan was a legitimate port. There was the Downtown Skyport with propeller planes. Each photograph is a little time capsule.

    Furthermore, during the late 1930’s there was an emphasis on the future. New York’s 1939 World’s Fair was “Building the World of Tomorrow.” There was a hint of that direction in Abbott’s photographs. Her subjects were all confirmations of modern life. She photographed different pieces of New York that were leading to the world of tomorrow. Now they mark a page in history.

  2. With the Roy Newell paintings they make me think as an artist what constitutes a finished work, and does work really ever get finished? He spent decades trying to get at “it” whatever “it” is for him. On the back of the paintings are these hastily drawn dates, some scribbled out, others left intact. Each date was a time he revisited the painting. In that sense I think the show is more somber than what the bright beautiful juxtaposition of color provides. I see a man who was striving for a painterly pursuit with his view of the world, and who knows if he ever got that fully realized during his lifetime. I see that in the texture that develops over time because of the nature of the thick paint on top of think paint. It makes me feel the work is still ongoing, and with time it might hit a peak where we see what he was going after all along. It’s a total pursuit of the unknown and pushes boundaries of what paint can mean as a material over time.

    Looking at the Bernice Abbott photographs is like going back in time. Reminds me a lot of like the Twilight Zone. Her photographs were influenced by surrealism via Man Ray, but relate in this mix between documentary photography and fine art photography. How would the city look like during a time like the Great Depression? I’m sure there would be people, but Abbott doesn’t have many people in her city pictures… of New York City. There’s always someone walking a street at anytime today so it’s surreal in her images to imagine completely empty spaces devoid of people, and they all appear to be taken during the day. I get the sense that during this time period, this was the feeling and attitude of the city.

  3. Roy Newell-
    I am the Graduate Assistant for the Freshman Foundation in Photography class and took three sections of students to the Bernice Abbott show. Every time I walked right past the Roy Newell work and didn’t engage with it. From a glance, it seemed like something I would not be interested in. Coming back this time and being forced to confront the pieces, I began to get an appreciation for them. Knowing the backstory that he piled on layers of paint and would go as far as to attempt to get pieces back once they were sold, aided in bringing me into the work. This type of dedication and passion for your craft is inspiring.

    Bernice Abbott-
    I loved the Bernice Abbott work. The amount of detail she was able to get in her photo’s, persuaded me to by 8 x 10 film and experiment with my landscapes. Her command of composition is remarkable and her choices are spot on. The photograph with the boys playing at the seaport with the skyline behind them was so strong. Her command of spacial relations created striking photographs.

  4. Her goal was to capture the reality of New York, not to emphasize the beautiful or the ugly, but to document every detail. She realized she was capturing the end of an era and wanted to document it with scientific clarity. . Her background in sculpting shines through in these images. She had great sense of perspective and was able to create dramatic scenes using sharp angles, shadows, and harsh sunlight. The buildings can sometimes look like giant monsters overtaking the population below. The people in her images are usually small and insignificant, ready to be swallowed up whole by the life we are choosing to build around us.
    These images became some of Abbott’s best work. She mastered the art of architectural photography

  5. Response to “Color and Time,” Paintings by Roy Newell, 1956-2000

    When viewing Roy Newell’s work I was first intrigued by his color and texture choices, balancing warm with cool and shine with matte, but what kept my interest was the story behind all of it. His process in incredibly integral to his work, constantly revising pieces so that they we’re never really looking at a “finished” work. The layers of paint show this history. The back of the canvases even become works of art in themselves, showing how Newell changed his mind each time he reworked them, turning the canvas, changing the orientation, resigning and re-dating the backs over and over again. When I look back at my own work, I can remember exactly where and how I was when I created it, but this information is not present to others looking at my art. In Roy Newell’s work, you can get hints of personality and when he created the work. In piece #4 in the gallery, the paint is very neutral in color, which reflects the popularity of those colors when it was created. The person that purchased the painting would not allow Newell to continue working on it after the purchase was made, so the colors and composition were never altered. The collection and his overall body of work are small due to his obsession with revision. He would revise works in terms of color, composition, altering the abstracted geometric shapes, and canvas orientation. The works were done in oil paint on recycled wood and Masonite with different textures and colors showing through the layers. My favorite vantage point was when I looked at the work from the side, finding evidence of previous layers, tape marks, colors, and multiple textures.

    Response to “Changing New York,” Photographs by Bernice Abott, 1935-1938

    When looking at Bernice Abott’s large format, gelatin silver prints, I feel like I’m seeing moments frozen in time. The pieces are part of a government-funded program for artists to capture modernism after the depression. Her work lacks a human presence in a city that is typically filled with people. This gives the photographs a surreal and almost creepy edge to them, making me wonder, “Where is everyone? How did all of these buildings and signs get here without any people?” To me, it looks like the moment right after everything is built and just before all of the people come crowding in, hustling and bustling. Her ability to eliminate the middle ground makes it possible for her to capture the vast cityscape, showing all of its growth. I believe the most special element of these photographs is their connection to time and history. Some things have changed, but many things remain the same and I found comfort in the familiarity between the place I see today and the place it was so many years ago.

  6. As the artist was a persistent re-visitor to his oil on panel paintings, so much so that he was known to ask collectors for a piece back so he might continue to work on it. Clearly it was important to him to know and understand what he might have been thinking the last time he had approached the panel.
    The panel was worked on yet again in 1992 and again in 2000.With the Roy Newell paintings, I notcied greens and blues are prime players, but Newell’s use of orange, yellow, and funkier shades of purple play worthy foils. There is also a lot of black and brown, but not too much white, although it is there in small amounts. What really grabs you, though, is the texture and the raised and sometimes uneven surface of these paintings. Furthermore, his use of recurring geometric relations were also not terribly precise or formulaic, although his compositions do seem to reference the ratio of the golden section.

  7. Abbott’s goal was to capture the reality of New York, not to emphasize the beautiful or the ugly, but to document every detail. She realized she was capturing the end of an era and wanted to document it with scientific clarity. . Her background in sculpting shines through in these images. She had great sense of perspective and was able to create dramatic scenes using sharp angles, shadows, and harsh sunlight. The buildings can sometimes look like giant monsters overtaking the population below. The people in her images are usually small and insignificant, ready to be swallowed up whole by the life we are choosing to build around us. These images became some of Abbott’s best work. She mastered the art of architectural photography.

    As the artist was a persistent re-visitor to his oil on panel paintings, so much so that he was known to ask collectors for a piece back so he might continue to work on it. Clearly it was important to him to know and understand what he might have been thinking the last time he had approached the panel.
    The panel was worked on yet again in 1992 and again in 2000.With the Roy Newell paintings, I notcied greens and blues are prime players, but Newell’s use of orange, yellow, and funkier shades of purple play worthy foils. There is also a lot of black and brown, but not too much white, although it is there in small amounts. What really grabs you, though, is the texture and the raised and sometimes uneven surface of these paintings. Furthermore, his use of recurring geometric relations were also not terribly precise or formulaic, although his compositions do seem to reference the ratio of the golden section.

  8. Roy Newell

    Off the bat, the colors and sizes of the work caught my attention. In a time where I feel most works are on a large scale it was refreshing to see something smaller, something that can get easily lost; delicate. The colors popped and attracted me from a distance, the scale told me to get closer in order to see what is happening on and below the surface. Newell’s pieces remind me of a puzzle or mystery. I constantly explored the surface and edges of the painted segments. I could see layers upon layers and at times tell the color of the previous layer. It became a game, a playful game. As a whole, similar colors would jump out and catch my attention. I could not tell if these colors were prominent or if my eyes selected this colors to focus; another game.

    I was impressed by Newell’s “OCD” nature of coming back to a work and tweaking it. In my practice, the things I wish I could have done differently are applied to the next project. Rarely do I rework a piece. There is always something to redo, but to fixate on it over years seems unhealthy. Sometimes you have to let things go and come to terms with it. On the contrary, these are exactly the same reasons I am drawn to his work. The texture and layers tell a story span; it holds my attention and curiosity. The story pulls me in and gets me wondering about previous versions.

    Berenice Abbott

    Although I take photos, I did not find myself engrossed in Abbott’s work. I leaned towards to see how the pictures were presented. I examined the print, the frame, and mounting. Oddly enough, something I saw (tacking gum to keep the frame still) was immediately used in the PAC MAC show. The fact that her name or work is not new to me guided me in a direction to examine the setup. I find her composition relaxing and intriguing. It tells me that she examines the world without a camera. She is an observer of life and human interaction.

  9. After viewing Roy Newell’s collection “Color and Time” at Steinberg Museum of Art at Hillwood; I feel in love with this idea that “things are never finished.” The artists use of various color schemes, and materials such as, oil, the emergence of acrylic painting, or idea of “plastic painting”, creating works that are totally not representational, but discuss the artist process in a way much like telling a story of that process and the need, or desire to revise a individual work. Selling to those whom agree to give the painting back!
    Imagine that! An artist you once bought a piece from, displayed ever so nicely over your mantel, only for them to show up on your doorstep and request the “unfinished” work back. Crossing out his name, turning it, changing the entire color scheme, it is truly hilarious!
    Although the concept is unique, the viewer only sees a few amount of products hung in this single galley. Where at least 100 paintings lie hidden beneath each work.
    Furthermore, the artist is re-appreciated and reevaluated through each exhibition time after time. These pieces are viewed as so simple, yet the attention to detail is so essential. Newell’s works are painted on wood verse canvas, and sealed with duct tape from the 1950’s. The works are about so much more than geometric shapes. Deciding where a piece begins and ends the material and texture of the paint, about color choice and material. The irony in the emphasis of brush strokes, and texture, or how it cast a shadow etc, the surface is so tactile, yet we focus on that of a flat plain surface.
    Where as Berenice Abbott series “Changing New York” depicts images taken after the depression, documenting images that we are making America more modern, thus changing NY. The images displayed were large formatted photographs; the artist invented certain devices to create the works, to enhance and get various an angles, capturing the complex between history and present day. Providing a differed outlook of the building of skyscrapers, causing viewers to ask, what brought that on, distributing and construction of steel. (This got this country out of the depression at the time.) Noting that her work is not just photojournalism, for example the view from a city street of a clock, the idea that time is abstract, a concept we made up long ago to mark things in our day, temporal, time-based, reminder of our life cycle. Analyzing that hardly any people are in her images located in NYC! (This yes, was hardly built up as it is today). However, 2am in NYC we expect to see people. Yet again all these places in a metropolis, typically swarming with people are empty, provide a creepy feeling. Viewers find themselves asking where are all the human presences!? It is surreal! What time of day is it, no beginning or end to a story, implying only the middle. Each image creates a deep narrative with context. Both collections are truly unique and beautiful.

  10. For this Steinberg Museum tour, we watched two different exhibitions. One exhibition is that paintings by Roy Newell”Color and Time”, another one is photography by Berenice’s “Changing New York”. The first thing I want to say that I am interested in Roy Newell’s painting. I feel like color is the most important elements for every artwork. In his painting, there’s no subject, pure colors and different layers in different times. I like the way he painted, as we know that he don’t have job, just painting and fishing are his whole life. So I can feel how relaxing he was, and how happy in his paintings.In addition, he use half a century to finish these painting is really an amazing thing for me.For me, I don’t have enough patience to paint one work, so I was shocked when I heard he spent almost whole artistic lifetime to do that. I think that a good way to making art should be like this, enjoying life and enjoying art. Also,the group of photography are great job too. When I saw these black and white pictures I feel like I come back to that era. I know America had a Great Depression in the 1930s, and New York as a world’s top financial center I still can feeling the depression atmosphere around photos. These old pictures let me realize that how fast development speed New York City is. It’s also give me more understand about this amazing biggest city in the past.

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