Lecture by Daniel Brown at the Greenwich House

Daniel Brown will be speaking about issues in contemporary art. In particular, he will speak about the difference between collecting and investing.
This will take place at the Greenwich House Gallery at 7pm on November 3rd. All are invited to attend. The event is open to the public.
2124 Madison Road
Cincinnati OH 45208
513 871 8787


American Elegance: Chintz Appliqué Quilts, 1780-1850 at the Taft Museum of Art

The contemporary art world has embraced quilts: Amish quilts with their color-blocked abstraction and the equally striking quilts from Gee’s Bend, which are perhaps less known. For six generations the women of Gee’s Bend, a rural community founded by freed slaves on an island in the Alabama River, isolated from the mainland by an unreliable ferry and an unpaved road with a roundabout approach, have made quilts with an abstract boldness and lively folk-art aesthetic.

The examples in American Elegance: Chintz Appliqué Quilts, 1780-1850, are nothing like these; these are polite and refined. The women who made them were often unknown society ladies with the means and the time to create these rather extraordinary quilts. they carefully cutout motifs from chintzes, which were imported from India and expensive, and appliquéd flowers, scenes, animals, and other designs onto quilts that were intended for actual use or for commemorative purposes.

The exhibition traces the changes in fashion with the substitution of cheaper calico fabrics manufactured in the U.S., and stylistically to pieced or patched work and block designs.

In an age of cheap imported Chinese quilts that retail for $15, including coordinating fabric tote, at Walmart or what hobby quilters put together from kits with machine-stitched piecing, these quilts are absolute technical tours de force. The unknown maker of a Medallion Quilt, 1820-40, (medallion referring to a motif placed in the center) carefully cutout floral motifs and a woven basket filled with an extravagant bouquet of tulips, lilacs, and passionflowers to use as the medallion. However, she used the less expensive calico for a stepped-pyramid pattern on the edge. Although virtuoso technique is not particularly valued in contemporary art, it’s hard not to be impressed by the miniscule size and machine-like regularity of the stitching. It makes a textured ground of diamond shapes, and also traces graceful grapevines, flowers, and berries, which are emphasized with trapunto, or stuffed work with extra batting, for a bas-relief effect.

The size of these quilts is unexpected. A Tree of Life, 1790-1820, is nearly 11-feet-square—big even for today’s California king (76” x 80”). The informative label, like all in the exhibit organized by the International Quilt Study Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, explains that fashionable four-poster beds were often piled high with feather mattresses and had trundle beds, all needing to be covered. The compositions of all of these quilts are sophisticated, the palettes pleasing, and the execution superb. They certainly deserve to be called masterpieces.

-Karen S. Chambers

American Elegance: Chintz Appliqué Quilts, 1780-1850
on view through November 7 at the Taft Museum of Art, 316 Pike St., Cincinnati, Ohio 45202. 513-241-0343.

Pictured Above: Medallion Quilt, maker unknown, probably U.S., c. 1820-49, 122.5” x 124”. International Quilt Study Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2006.003.0004. Courtesy of the Taft Museum of Art.

Pictured Below: Tree of Life, maker unknown, probably U.S., c. 1790-1810, 123” x 132”. International Quilt Study Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2007.034.001. Courtesy of the Taft Museum of Art.


Cut and Paste: Michael Scheurer at Clay Street Press

Here’s the bad news first: You are too late, Michael Scheurer’s exquisite solo show at Clay Street Press closed this weekend (October 16th, 2010). The summation of nearly two years worth of effort, The Tabloid Series and other Works presents over 40 collages and a series of six intaglio and full color lithographs (made in conjunction with artist and printer Mark Patsfall) that abound with curiosity and meticulous detail. The sheer amount of visual information available in this show is stunning and a full appreciation of the exhibit requires multiple visits.

For source material, Scheurer mines all four corners of the globe, but his collages are most at home in the Far East. The uncomplicated sensibility of traditional Asian artwork is pervasive in many of the best pieces, but several of the denser works also pay homage to Surrealism and precipitously, DaDa. The collages on view form several groupings; there is an Art Historical Series, a Coloring Book Series, a Paint Series, and each references in some way its genesis as works of art. The collaborative Tabloid Series being the most singular of these.

As previously noted the Tabloid Series are not true collages, but rather mixed media lithographs designed by Scheurer and printed by Patsfall resulting in a decidedly different kind of work. Due to their black ground, these prints have a somewhat closed feel; the eye is continuously pushed away from the edges and back towards the center of the picture. In contrast to his more open works where the eye is free to roam, the Tabloid images are much bossier. The Tabloid Series also directly reference their starting point differently. Whereas the collage material in Scheurer’s other pieces acknowledge their source but grow into something fresh in their new context, the Tabloids never expand beyond being the cover of a magazine.

In the large North Wall installation, Scheurer’s work is able to hold together a monumental display that could quickly spin out of control by exerting a tight unity within and among the pieces. There is a high level of restraint regarding use of color and taken as a whole, the pieces tend to vibrate with a uniformity that is punctuated only by the occasional outlandish burst. When Scheurer goes hot pink, as in Untitled #7 of his Paint Series, he means it.

Nearly 100 years after the beginning of the pasted paper revolution, collage continues to be a source of inspiration for artists and viewers alike. Michael Scheurer’s contribution to the form is tremendous both in terms of scale and quality; rarely is one treated to an exhibition that displays not only the dexterity of the artist, but the malleability of the medium. Such a consistently superior body of work is not an altogether common phenomenon, but as with all good things; this show too, has come to an end.

-Alan D. Pocaro

The Tabloid Series and other Works on view through October 16th, 2010 at Clay Street Press. Clay Street Press, Inc. 1312 Clay St. Cincinnati, OH 45202. (513) 241-3232

Pictured at Top: The Tabloid Series and other Works. Installation view. Courtesy of Clay Street Press.
Pictured Below: Untitled # 2 (Tabloid Series) 2010. Intaglio and lithographic print. Courtesy of Clay Street Press.

Pictured Bottom: Untitled #7 (Paint Series) 2009. Mixed media collage and acrylic and enamel on paper.
Courtesy of Clay Street Press.

Kevin T. Kelly: Embracing the Yin and Leslie Shiels: Lost Dogs Found at Cincinnati Art Galleries

There are twin—fraternal twin--shows at Cincinnati Art Galleries: Leslie Shiels: Lost Dogs Found and Kevin T. Kelly: Embracing the Yin. Shiels provides the hunting hounds, and Kelly the countryside they might roam.

Shiels has returned to a subject that she has explored, with great success, in the past, but a wall label explains that she “pushes the concept into the ‘now’ with an enlivened palette and a greater complexity of surface.” It doesn’t take a wall label to “get” that the somewhat ordered yet still slapdash brushwork makes the surface more complex, and the palette with plenty of local color is lively. The turquoise zigzag on the back of one of the hounds leaping at a robin that has inexplicably flown too close to the pack in Kennel Wall is delicious.

One of the most successful—to my eye—of Shiels’ oil paintings in the challenging square format is Kennel Bound. The pack is still in the woods and eager to get home. They fill the foreground, and you only see the hindquarters and tails of a few who are dashing ahead. Shiels’ energetic crosshatchings convey their excitement as they head back to the kennel, anticipating a celebratory dinner after an exhausting yet exhilarating day on the hunt. This is what they were born to do.

All the energy of Shiels’ paintings is balanced by the stillness of Kevin T. Kelly’s precisionist landscapes. Nothing is happening in his farmland scenes. While there is some depth, the paintings could just as easily be hard edge-geometric abstractions--imagine them turned upside down as a painting instructor once advised me. The color is flat and static.

His sharply defined barns, trees, and roads look as much like paper cutouts as actually painted with acrylic on paper. Whatever depth there is is provided by diagonal lines and shapes receding into the distance, for example, the yellow stripe in the middle of the road in Barns at Sunset, 2009.

His addition of gouache in his 2010 paintings creates somewhat greater reality. The boards of Barn, Route 27, read as weathered, and the trees are no longer the single green of a child’s drawing, but are modulated as in nature.
Kelly’s intent “is to present a sense of inner calm or tranquility, much like the state achieved near the end of a meditation,” hence the show’s title: “Embracing the Yin.” Shiels’ dogs would definitely disturb Kelly’s calm.

-Karen S. Chambers

Kevin T. Kelly: Embracing Yin and Leslie Shiels: Lost Dogs Found on view through October 29 at Cincinnati Art Galleries, 225 East Sixth St., Cincinnati, Ohio 45202. 513-381-2128.

Pictured Above: Leslie Shiels. Kennel Bound (2010). Oil on Linen. 40” x 40”. Courtesy of Cincinnati Art Galleries.
Pictured Below: Kevin T. Kelly. Barns at Sunset (2009). Acrylic on Paper. 6” x 7”. Courtesy of Cincinnati Art Galleries.