Archive for April, 2014

12
Apr
14

Mixed Media Art on a Stick!

The annual West Liberty University MAD Fest was held on Friday, April 11, with Professor James Haizlett orchestrating the event. Each year I am asked to teach a mixed-media workshop that is geared towards high school art students and their teachers. For the past two years I presented an altered photograph workshop based on the work of artist Alex Gross. I had seen Alex’s exhibition at the Jonathan Levine Gallery in NYC in the spring of 2012, which inspired the direction of my workshop.

This year I wanted to change things a bit,  just in case one of the visiting students might be returning to my workshop for a second year. Last fall I saw the work of artist Tom Sarver in the 2013 Carnegie International. By chance, my wife, Chris, and I got to meet Tom at the recent Out of Hand event at Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh. He was there helping event visitors to make their own puppet, and I enjoyed making one myself.

It was about a week before MAD Fest and I still was not sure what I would present. At this point I am just listed in the MAD program as Robert Villamagna: Mixed Media Workshop. My experience with Tom Sarver at Contemporary Craft got me thinking about creating a one hour mixed-media workshop using a stick as the primary vehicle for the artwork.

The "Mixed-Media Art on a Stick" examples I made for the workshop.

The “Mixed-Media Art on a Stick” examples I made for the workshop.

I made a few puppet-like mixed-media examples earlier in the week to hopefully inspire my workshop students. From left to right: The first guy made up of a deconstructed shipping carton, a foamcore head, Sharpie, and miscellaneous scraps, arms are attached with nuts and bolts; the deer head is a piece of plywood, with plastic bread shelving cut into the shape of antlers, acrylic paint, nails, and Sharpie; the skeleton head is foam core with black mat board scrap for eyes, etc., his body and is cut from a plastic beach bottle, arms attached with a rivet tool; and meat head man is a photo copy of meat on foam core, his body is black mat board scraps, arms are attached with nuts and bolts.

My two workshops were scheduled begin at 1 PM and 2 PM. Early that morning I spent about four hours preparing the studio with labeled bins of sticks (wood lathe), cardboard scraps, cloth scraps, plastic detergent bottle pieces, plastic caps, colored and textured paper, etc. I set up a hot glue station with several glue guns, as well as a station for drilling and riveting. I was able to offer a huge assortment of colored and textured mat samples which a student of mine intercepted from the Micheal’s craft store dumpster. (Thanks Amanda!) At each table I had scissors, Tacky Glue, and an assortment of Sharpies. Due to the limited timeframe, I decided at the last minute not offer paint as an option. Even with a hair dryer on hand, paint takes time to dry and with only fifty minutes to work I felt it better to leave paint out of the equation.

Overall, I felt the students were energized, creative, and having a good time. About fifteen minutes into each workshop the studio became a beehive of activity. A special thank you to my WLU student assistants: Kevin, Jessica, and Alex! Here are some photos from my back-to-back workshops:

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04
Apr
14

NYC Art Trip 2014

 

On the Highline!

On the Highline!

On March 19th I made my 16th trip to NYC with students and faculty from the art department at West Liberty University. I was joined by faculty members Lambros Tsuhlares and Moon Jung Kang, and nine students: Brady, Abbie, Ryan, Lucas, Emma, Hanna, Josh, Richard, and Dillon. This is the second year without our buddy, colleague, and professor, Paul Padgett. He was truly with us in spirit.

The main purpose of the annual trip is to experience as much art as possible in four days, and pack it in we did! We were blessed with a safe road trip and a several days of sunshine and moderate temperatures. We arrived at our hotel around five pm, and following a short break we headed to the Garment District to visit the studio of photographer Rick Burda. Rick, a still life photographer, creates images for advertising, design and editorial clients. Rick kindly spent about two hours with us discussing his work.

Nearby Rick’s studio we stumbled upon the Last Rites Gallery, which exhibits work by artists who prefer to explore the darker side of contemporary surrealism. The gallery shares space with Paul Booth’s Last Rites Tattoo Theatre. This combination makes for a very unique gallery experience.

At Last Rites Gallery.

At Last Rites Gallery.

The remainder of our evening included a stop at Times Square and then on to the fabulous Strand Book Store. The entire second floor of the Strand is devoted to books on art, design, and photography. It’s difficult to leave the Strand without finding something to take back home.

Early Thursday morning we walked the Highline Park, a linear park built on a 1.45-mile section of the elevated former New York Central Railroad spur called the West Side Line, which runs along the lower west side of Manhattan. This structure has been redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway, something I always thought would be an awesome purpose for the Bellaire Bridge that spans across the Ohio River.

Cynthia Haller at Stephen Haller Gallery in Chelsea.

Cynthia Haller at Stephen Haller Gallery in Chelsea.

The Highline Park threads it’s way above the Chelsea neighborhood, which has the highest concentration of art galleries in the city. Many of the galleries begin opening at 10 AM, and we spend most of our day visiting as many as we can. While visiting the Stephen Haller Gallery, co-owner Cynthia Haller gave us a “behind the scenes” tour of the gallery and some additional insight into the work of artist Nobu Fukui.  At around 4 PM we leave the Chelsea galleries and head to OK Harris Gallery in Soho. OK Harris usually has six to seven exhibitions going on at any one time, and the work within rarely disappoints. Later that evening we visited the New Museum which is only a few blocks from our hotel.

Remembering the Padge at Strawberry Fields in Central Park.

Remembering the Padge at Strawberry Fields in Central Park.

Friday morning we joined the rush hour mob on the subway as we headed up to Central Park. Our first stop was Strawberry Fields where we took a few moments to remember Paul Padgett, aka Prof. PP. We grabbed another train to 96th Street and walked westward across the park to the Museum of the City of New York. Here we viewed the exhibition City as Canvas: Graffiti Art from the Martin Wong Collection.

Martin Wong, an East Village artist and collector of graffiti art, amassed a treasure trove of hundreds of works on paper and canvas—in aerosol, ink, and other mediums. The artists, including Keith Haring, Lee Quiñones, LADY PINK, and FUTURA 2000, were seminal figures in an artistic movement that spawned a worldwide phenomenon, altering music, fashion, and popular visual culture. The exhibition  includes over 150 works on canvas and other media, along with photographs of graffiti writing long erased from subways and buildings.

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A second exhibition within this museum was Rising Waters, Presented to mark the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, Rising Waters draws on work submitted by over a thousand photographers, both professional and amateur, who responded to an open call for images in the storm’s wake. The juried exhibition features striking before-and-after images of the hurricane’s impact on the New York region, including preparations, the storm’s destructive effects, and the ongoing rebuilding efforts.

After lunch we were off the Whitney Museum of American Art, mainly to see the Whitney Biennial 2014, the show I love to hate. This Biennial will be the last to take place in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s building at 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street before the Museum moves downtown to its new building in the spring of 2015. This is the 77th in the Museum’s ongoing series of Annuals and Biennials begun in 1932 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. While there were a few pieces in the Biennial I was able to connect with, most of the exhibition left me shaking my head and feeling that too much of it was dull and lifeless.

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Now it was on to the MOMA where we fought the heavy “free night” crowd. Overall, students were pumped about seeing so many heavy-hitter artworks close up and in person. We gave the MOMA thunbs up as we headed to a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner, a great wrap up to an art-packed day!

Saturday has come to be referred to as “do-what-you-want” day on our annual trip. Students and faculty broke off into small groups, each heading off to various adventures throughout the city. Lambros and I, along with a few students, walked across the Manhattan Bridge over to Dumbo in Brooklyn. Dumbo, an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, is a Brooklyn neighborhood tucked between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. Tradition is to begin our Dumbo morning at Jacques Torres for a rich hot chocolate or mocha, and then onto several galleries and book stores. As luck would have it, many of the galleries were not open or between exhibitions. In addition, Powerhouse Arena, one of our book stops, had a clothing show event and there were no books to be had. Bummer!

On the Manhattan Bridge.

On the Manhattan Bridge.

After a super grilled cheese sandwich at Little Muenster, Lambros and I caught the train back across the East River to our hotel. We decided to check out a Red Grooms installation in a gallery on Bowery, and we discovered six more galleries in the neighborhood. This was a pleasant way to spend our last evening in NYC before heading back to WV in the morning. It was another great art trip to NYC, and with a four day window of good weather! Here are some more images from our visit: