Saturday, April 7, 2018

Farid Rasulov at Laumeier

Coffee, Conversation, 1001 Skewers and Bird #1

Azerbaijani artist Farid Rasulov and Curator Dana Turkovic sat comfortably at one end of the Aronson Fine Arts Center to discuss Farid’s 1,001 Skewers (in the gallery space) and the artist’s Bird #1 abstract installation (outdoors in the Northern Grove) at Laumeier Sculpture Park. Dana has an easy interview style that allows the artist many opportunities to embellish his motivation for creating the composition of 1,001 skewers. Farid draws attention to 75 skewers arranged on one wall and the invitation to add a sort of social media conversation. He notes another wall and a gallery space installation that is reminiscent of a DNA strain. He has taken advantage of the height of the wall to the west to create a tree composed entirely of skewers. The remaining wall, as one guest suggests, may have a calculated mathematical significance.
Farid is soft spoken and not at all boastful or arrogant in spite of a long list of artistic accomplishments. He represented Azerbaijan at the 53rd Venice Biennale. His work includes large scale paintings, installations, 3D graphics, animation and sculpture. Dana invited the artist to comment on his training in medicine. His response in a measured tone is a statement that an artist does not need to go to school to learn art. He adds, matter of factly, that an artist can learn a great deal from the study of medicine as he has. (This notion gets a polite laugh from patrons seated in the gallery.) A local artist employed by Kiku Obata & Company Design Consultancy defends the formal artist training. (This is a comment from an man originally from Baku, Azerbaijan himself).

Farid’s Bird #1 sculpture was inspired by a graphic representation of an abstract and angular bird design he wondered about in a carpet from his native country perhaps while working in Baku. Now he is part of this exhibition and the outdoor installation in Saint Louis which is the continuation of an exploration series of works from emerging national economies around the globe. 

Azerbaijan, the nation and former Soviet republic, is bounded by the Caspian Sea and Caucasus Mountains, which span Asia and Europe. Its capital, Baku, is famed for its medieval walled Inner City. Within the Inner City lies the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, a royal retreat dating to the 15th century, and the centuries-old stone Maiden Tower, which dominates the city skyline.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Morgan Visits Macondo

Macondo is a fictional town described in the Gabriel García Márquez novelOne Hundred Years of Solitude. It is the home town of the Buendía family. I finally made some time to read this book (with the help of 14 hours of discs from Blackstone Audio borrowed from my local library). Here’s a sampling from midway through the story of seven generations of a family spanning one hundred years.  

It was as if God had decided to put to the test every capacity for surprise and was keeping the inhabitants of Macondo in a permanent alternation between excitement and disappointment, doubt and revelation, to such an extreme that no one knew for certain where the limits of reality lay. It was an intricate stew of truths and mirages that convulsed the ghost of José Arcadio Buendía under the chestnut tree with impatience and made him wander all through the house even in broad daylight. Ever since the railroad had been officially inaugurated and had begun to arrive with regularity on Wednesdays at eleven o’clock and the primitive wooden station with a desk, a telephone, and a ticket window had been built, on the streets of Macondo men and women were seen who had adopted everyday and normal customs and manners but who really looked like people out of a circus. In a town that had chafed under the tricks of the gypsies there was no future for those ambulatory acrobats of commerce who with equal effrontery offered a whistling kettle and a daily regime that would assure the salvation of the soul on the seventh day; but from those who let themselves be convinced out of fatigue and the ones who were always unwary, they reaped stupendous benefits.

Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014) grew up listening to family tales, eventually becoming a journalist. His fiction work introduced readers to magical realism, which combines more conventional storytelling with vivid fantasy. His novels Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude) and El amor en los tiempos del cólera (Love in the Time of Cholera) have drawn worldwide audiences, and he won a Nobel Prize in 1982. 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

My Black History Month 2018

Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 nearly fifty years ago. The site of that tragic event at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, is now, the location of the National Civil Rights Museum. We took a road trip from Saint Louis to Memphis that allowed us to spend a good part of Saturday afternoon over President’s Day weekend perusing that remarkable place.

The Saint Louis Art Museum marked Black History Month with a variety of programming, including two film screenings The Black Power Mixtape, 1967-1975 on Saturday, February 24th and “I Am Not Your Negro” on Sunday, February 25th. The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 looks at the people, society, culture, and style that fueled an era of convulsive change with contemporary audio interviews from leading African American artists, activists, musicians and scholars. Utilizing an innovative format that riffs on the popular 1970s mixtape format, the film is a cinematic and musical journey into the black communities of America. I Am Not Your Negro envisions the book James Baldwin never finished, a radical narration about race in America, using the writer’s original words, as read by actor Samuel L. Jackson. Alongside a flood of rich archival material, the film draws upon Baldwin’s notes on the lives and assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. to explore and bring a fresh perspective to the racial narrative in America.

Meanwhile, the Missouri History Museum’s exhibition #1 in Civil Rights: The African American Freedom Struggle in St. Louis examines the local civil rights movement and the city’s leading role in advancing the cause of racial justice from ground-level activism to groundbreaking supreme court rulings.

This year, perhaps my sensibility has been heightened with Special School District’s engagement with the Cambio Group. SSD is demonstrating this year an effort, among other things, to improve cultural competence. I am a white man in America and cannot help but feel reflective when history, notably the events of the last fifty years, marks the struggle.  

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Toulouse-Lautrec - Graphic Designer

Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) was an aristocrat, dwarf, and party animal who invented a cocktail called the Earthquake (half absinthe, half cognac). He is the artist who designed the Moulin Rouge posters as well as paintings and drawings that capture highs and lows of urban life in nineteenth century Paris (in Belle Epoque). I especially admire Toulouse-Lautrec because he elevated advertising to the status of a fine art. In fact, Jane Avril, one of his closest friends and one of Montmartre's most beloved cabaret dancers, wrote: "It is more than certain that I owe him the fame that I enjoyed dating from his first poster of me." At a time when the only acceptable designation for persons with disabilities was freak, Toulouse-Lautrec used his unique appearance to his advantage. It allowed him to disappear into a crowd or corners of a room, seeing others without being seen. His remarkable observations of society almost certainly stem from his status as an outsider.

Toulouse-Lautrec was born into an aristocratic family in the South of France and raised in an atmosphere of privilege. By age 8, it was clear that he suffered from a congenital illness that weakened his bones. After two serious riding accidents his legs stopped growing. At his full height, Toulouse-Lautrec was 5 feet tall, with the upper body of a man and the legs of a child. He walked with a cane and in considerable pain for the rest of his life but was highly productive artist. Sadly he passed way too young at the age of 36. (On September 9, 1901 he died from complications due to alcoholism and syphilis).

Saturday, February 10, 2018

AIGA Portfolio Review 2018

Robert Lopez of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIU-C) took on the responsibility of orchestration of the portfolio review portion of the AIGA’s annual student conference on Saturday February 10, 2018. I’m glad they still had me on a list of willing portfolio reviewers. As reviewer, I am once again, impressed by the quality of design and professional presentations made by these aspiring artist/designers.

The event hosted at Maryville University featured speakers (Roxy Prima and Phoebe Cornog of Pandr Design Co., and Dan Funderburgh.a Brooklyn-based illustrator, artist, and wallpaper designer), workshops in addition to the opportunity to have a few local professionals review and critique their portfolios.There was plenty of opportunity to meet and greet.

College students facing the prospect of becoming job seekers are encouraged to participate in the portfolio review sessions to get some real world feedback. I had the pleasure of sessions with Jonathan Neal (UMSL), Tyler Clemons (Millikin University), Jack Prange (SIU-C),Claire Nipper (Truman State University), Kory Wood (UMSL), Adrianne “Annie” Mathews and Lyubov Sheremeta (Stephens College). More than 100 students were a part of this conference. They came from nearby, far and wide. Reviewers included executive recruiter Bob Bishop, design firm owner/president Dave Cox, event trade show designer Jamie Kidd and Kim Watson of Pinacle Graphics.

My advice, as always, is to seek out advisors in and around the quality of work for which you hope to be associated. Contact them and start with a courtesy interviews. Build your network and your personal brand by listening carefully. Happy Hunting!   

Saturday, February 3, 2018


Timothy Wagner show at siba 
Timothy Wagner invited me to an opening show of some of his recent work at Stevens Institute of Business & Arts (siba). He says he always draws inspiration from travels and from his family, notably his wife and toddler son of whom I had the pleasure of meeting at this opening (February 2, 2018). He seems influenced by art history as well. Fine artists from Marcel Duchamp to Robert Rauschenberg would likely appreciate Wagner’s use of reclaimed materials like printed book pages, roadmaps and photo transfers in a mixed media style/technique that involves resin that manipulate oil or encaustic painting. Light refreshments at the gallery at 1521 Washington Avenue and a reception on a cold Friday night from 6pm – 8pm proved to be a pleasant environment to view the new work in the creative heart of the vibrant downtown Loft District. The work is showing until March. Stop by and take a look.

“I have been creating art professionally since 2000. My background is in painting though I’ve always incorporated other mediums into my work. My mentor Gary Passanise really opened my eyes to different techniques and artists using mixed media. Other professors like Rennie Bernard and Ahzad Bohosian taught me a lot about painting and drawing, although they, too, always lead in a direction of using more mediums in my work,” says Wagner in a blog post about the opening on siba web site. A long time artist-associate, Ty de La Venta was on hand at the opening to confirm that Tim has been at this for some time. Tim is considering further study at Fontbonne University. He is one to watch. 
Wagner sells his work on his website at  ---  Photo(above) of artist Timothy Wagner and family at gallery opening 2-2-18

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Tanya, Thread, Jumanji, Pitch

I, Tonya
I, Tonya is a riff on the Tonya Harding saga starring Margot Robbie as the infamous figure skater the whole world decided it loved to hate, is a fresh, chancy, and wickedly enjoyable movie. It’s framed as a fake documentary (it opens with the characters being interviewed 20 years later), and it has a tone of poker-faced goofball Americana that suggests a biopic made by the Coen brothers. The movie revels in the sheer woeful ghastly comic horror of what went on during the lead-up to the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer — the smashed knee of Nancy Kerrigan, the whole scheme to undermine her that was even more cracked.
Phantom Thread
Post-war London renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) are at the center of British fashion with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock. Woodcock, a confirmed bachelor with inspiration and companionship, until he comes across a young, strong-willed woman, Alma (Vicky Krieps), who soon becomes his muse and lover. Once controlled and planned, he finds his carefully tailored life disrupted. Director Paul Thomas Anderson paints an illuminating portrait both of an artist on a creative journey, and the women who keep his world running. Phantom Thread is Paul Thomas Anderson's eighth movie. Paul Thomas Anderson is son of the Ghoulardi who hosted B-movies on late night television when I was growing up in Cleveland, Ohio. He named his production company after that local Cleveland celebrity. He directed Boogie Nights when he was 27 years old. Phantom Thread is his 8th motion picture.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
A group of teenagers who turn into videogame characters, is a sequel to the 1995 Robin Wlliams hit Jumanji, a remake, a reboot, or something else. It’s definitely the kind of movie that works the name of a classic rock song into its title and makes sure to blast it during the end credits, for people who were in their twenties during the 1990s and now have kids of their own. Once they end up inside the Jumanji videogame, Spencer (Dwayne Johnson), Fridge (Kevin Hart), Martha (Karen Gillam), Bethany (Jack Black) and Alex Vreeke (Nick Jonas) are supposed to be characters in the game-space.
Pitch Perfect 3
Opening somewhere off the coast of France, The Bellas are performing "Toxic" on a yacht for three men. Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) crashes through the ceiling and sprays the men with a fire extinguisher, just as there is an explosion. Three weeks earlier, John (John Michael Higgins) and Gail (Elizabeth Banks) are following Beca (Anna Kendrick) as part of a documentary they are making about the group.Chloe (Brittany Snow) tells her friends about a Bellas reunion performance tlater that night. The ladies meet up with the rest of their Bella sisters - Aubrey (Anna Camp), Cynthia-Rose (Ester Dean), Stacie (Alexis Knapp), Lilly (Hana Mae Lee), Flo (Chrissie Fit), Jessica (Kelley Jakle), and Ashley (Shelley Regner). There is a USO performance tour and if they are good enough, they get to open for DJ Khaled.