Mar 28th 2015

POPPIN' FRESH: Three generations

by Glen Roven

Glen Roven, Emmy Award winner, is a composer, lyricist, conductor, pianist, translator and CD Producer.

In my never-ending quest to become hip, cool and trendy -- and of course to feel younger and assuage the ravages of time -- I have subwayed to distant Williamsburg to eat at the latest bohemian restaurant, I have taxied to the Lower East Side to hear contemporary classical music, and I've even attended a concert featuring the foremost virtuoso of the toy piano (don't ask!). So when I read one of my favorite galleries, American Medium, in Bed Stuy Brooklyn of course, was hosting a pop-up show in Manhattan, I simply had to go.

Until recently, I didn't know about pop-up anythings, except the muffins. I first learned about the pop-up restaurant phenomenon watching the HBO series Looking, where Dom, financed by his older boyfriend, commandeers a defunct restaurant, serves his famous Portuguese Chicken for one night and closes before the cops can shut him down. I tried to get into wastED, a pop-up restaurant in NYC where star chefs fashion meals from food discarded from other restaurants and supermarkets. As appetizing as that sounds, I'm rather glad I couldn't get in. I assumed a pop-up gallery was the same: here today, gone tomorrow -- but hopefully without the police or edible garbage.

This pop-up show was called "Three Generations: Dorothy Braudy, David Fitzgerald & Travis Fitzgerald". Travis is not only the co-director of the American Medium and a fine artist himself, but the son of sculptor David Fitzgerald, an artist with whom I was not familiar; he is also the grandson of Dorothy Braudy, a painter who's work I've seen and adored at galleries in Santa Monica. Thus the three generations.

According to Travis, 

With mammals there is a certain amount of learning from one generation to the next. The young adopt the traditions of those that came before while also implementing newly found implications, thoughts, and skills, continuing a line already laid out while at the same time reacting against those traditions. Artists make this process explicit.

There is no better evidence of the creative gene being passed on than the show that Travis Fitzgerald brought to the Home Studios on 873 Broadway. By the time this piece is posted, the show will have been dismantled, and that's a pity. "It's an amazing thing that we all are artists," said Braudy, "and even more amazing that the three of us can show together. Even the Wyeths never managed to pull off three generations at once." There is no pictorial theme to this show; rather the three generations provide the theme and the underlying unity, one as profound as it is organic. Again from Travis, "The work is all quite different and coming from our very personal ideas of what art is and what we want to make."

Braudy paints with oils on canvas. Usually working from photographs, she transforms those static images with bold and dynamic color. As her grandson says, "Dorothy's paintings are more traditional, but making figurative painting from photographs was radical when she began her career." Looking around the room, I was overwhelmed by her sensual bursts of colors which have the soaring emotional impact of fireworks on July 4th.

The show opens with her Tossing, (1979, 36 inches, oil on canvas) a circular painting of a father in a large swimming pool tossing a young child up in the air. The toss is an explosion of joy as the water cascades around the pair. The father's expression of cautious enthusiasm contrasts with the unbridled delight of the boy. The water seems warm and inviting, so unlike the cool, clinical pools of David Hockney, another artist who, like Braudy, was seduced by the strange beauty of Southern California. The father/son (or so I assume) relationship seems a direct line from the mother/daughter masterpieces by Bertha Morisot. 

Another highlight in the Braudy canon is Leo in Italy, a feast of Mediterranean colors -- modulating ochre and sea green -- with Leo (Braudy's husband) lying asleep in a wrought iron bed, the iron casings casting their own geometric art on the wall, the shadows playing happily with the iron. Leo is sleeping deeply and heavily, perhaps spent from an afternoon liaison; I see him as a descendant of Mars in Botticelli's famous "Mars and Venus."

One of Braudy's signatures is her "Film Noir" series where she works from black-and-white movie stills. By subtly adding brooding colors, she transforms a shot into a vivid representation of the entire movie, actually the entire world of this film genre. The dark tone of these searing but non-sentimental works contrast with the gaily colored domestic paintings in this show, highlighting the depth and breadth of Braudy's exploratory powers. 

One of my favorites is Raw Deal: Ranger, (2005, 36×47 inches, oil on canvas). It features a figure in a muted orange/brown coat and threatening fedora, his back to the viewer, stalking another figure in silhouette just emerging from a structure (trees? a building?). Despite its bright Diebenkorn background, the entire painting is foreboding, producing a palpable sense of dread. I'm going to call it an oxymoron: Braudy has created a black-and-white painting in color.

Another haunting work is Gun Crazy: Rain (2005, 35x46 inches) -- a cityscape, a sole street lamp in the background illuminating nothing but rain-drenched streets and a dilapidated feed and grain store. Here Braudy's "black-and-whites" are rendered in muted pinks and purples with TV antennas looking like crosses on the roof of a store and on the houses in the background.

David Fitzgerald, the baby-boomer of the three generations, created disturbing and frighteningly beautiful works for the show. "My dad's work is the most inscrutable," said his son. "And yet he's always been interested in encaustic and the figure. That's the basis for the busts, but there is obviously more there." Obviously: the 13 busts of women were all based on mug shots of female sex offenders. 

Artists have worked with encaustics for millennia; no surprise these busts have an Egyptian feel, reminding me of the famous Nefertiti in the Louvre. It's hard to get any sort of detail from this medium so the sculptures radiate a primitive but luminous quality, very much like healthy skin. 

Before even I knew who the ladies were (David supplied the names and a condensed rap sheet in the artist's statement), they all felt, well, creepy. Maybe because I am currently binging on Orange is the New Black, I felt a sad familiarity with the dead-eye look of the busts, the look the actresses on the series so brilliantly portray. Some of the women wore dime-store wigs, like the one based on Katherine Cervantes, "a 35-year-old woman from Sellersburg, Indiana ... arrested and accused of drinking with a group of teens, including her daughter and her daughter's 14-year-old ex-boyfriend. Cervantes was accused of giving the boy alcohol and marijuana and having sex with him."

Some had no wigs at all. I'm not sure which were more unpleasant, perhaps "Abbie Jean Swogger, 34-year-old former exotic dancer and teacher's aide at Highlands Senior High School, who was arrested in February 2008 for allegedly contributing to the corruption of at least four minors, including her own 15-year-old son."

David, who is disarmingly quiet, said, "All these ladies, I don't what I'm going to with them." He laughed. "You can't put them your living room."

Travis Fitzgerald, the millennial of the group, had the most "cutting edge" work, pieces that would be in a gallery in Brooklyn. No surprise there. "My work is a direct result of running two galleries today. I don't hold myself to a medium, but rather follow the work where it wants to go." 

In addition to a monumental self-portrait he drew early (!) in his career, and a painting of some evocative, quasi-realistic colorful chairs, his latest works were found cornered off in a small room, isolated from the sex offenders and the colors of Grandma Dorothy. As he and his father designed and installed the work, he clearly chose to "go to his own room," so to speak, by placing his newest pieces in such a way. He exhibited several gorgeous, but subtle, tapestries and an installation of a boy's room related and inspired by Jan Steen's paintings, "Woman at her Toilet". While I didn't know these paintings offhand, I assumed they were the Dutch genre paintings made to sell to the newly formed merchant classes. The Steens, said Travis, "portray prostitutes sitting cross-legged in bed in a moment of domestic intimacy with their items of comfort and objects of importance strewn about them (lapdog, chamber pot, clogs). They have an inner sexuality, and the portraits pose questions about the objects we transfer desire onto." For his "Object of Permanence I" (2014, Woven blanket) Travis, working with a dark blue woven background, deleted most of the woman's body and left us with two sets of legs -- one grey, one orange -- along with three small articles of her toilet, a chamber pot, a glass and a pair of shoes, perhaps all that's important to a potential John. For one of the installations, he was inspired to sculpt nine copies of the dogs in the Steens ("Kooikerhondfe Reclining", 2014, acrylic paint) and position them in the center of his room so the overflowing crowd had to carefully avoid stepping on the sleeping pups, a piece of performance art unto itself.

This multi-generational show was particularly moving to me. I am a musician and have worked in music now for almost 30 years, although my parents, having no interest in music whatsoever, did their utmost to discourage me. They thought I was from another planet, an alien plopped into their domestic life to torture them about orchestras, musicals and operas. In fact, my 93-year-old mom still sees my career as a personal affront to her. (Ah, parents!) I can't imagine what it would have been like with parents supporting my artistic endeavours, despite the personal and financial risks of the future. Travis explains, "I was always super supported in whatever choices I was going to make." Wow. "It's a wonderful privilege that I get to show with two of the people who supported me in my decisions, both artistic and personal, throughout my life."

Travis was so inspirational that I will give him the last word here: 

We are all unsure, questioning as we go. That, in part, is the nature of making work. The goal is to be sure-footed, striking out with determination as you go, but it takes time and a certain perseverance to get there. All three of us work, question, rework, worry, rework. A familial cycle I am happy to continue.

 


This article is brought to you by the author who owns the copyright to the text.

Should you want to support the author’s creative work you can use the PayPal “Donate” button below.

Your donation is a transaction between you and the author. The proceeds go directly to the author’s PayPal account in full less PayPal’s commission.

Facts & Arts neither receives information about you, nor of your donation, nor does Facts & Arts receive a commission.

Facts & Arts does not pay the author, nor takes paid by the author, for the posting of the author's material on Facts & Arts. Facts & Arts finances its operations by selling advertising space.

 

 

 


This article is brought to you by the author who owns the copyright to the text.

Should you want to support the author’s creative work you can use the PayPal “Donate” button below.

Your donation is a transaction between you and the author. The proceeds go directly to the author’s PayPal account in full less PayPal’s commission.

Facts & Arts neither receives information about you, nor of your donation, nor does Facts & Arts receive a commission.

Facts & Arts does not pay the author, nor takes paid by the author, for the posting of the author's material on Facts & Arts. Facts & Arts finances its operations by selling advertising space.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Essays

Sep 19th 2020
EXTRACT: "Over his incredible career, David Attenborough has seen more of earth’s natural wonders than almost anyone. To hear him talk, with such clarity, about how bad things are getting is deeply moving. Scientists have recently demonstrated what would be needed to bend the curve on biodiversity loss. As Attenborough says in the final scene, “What happens next, is up to every one of us”. "
Sep 15th 2020
EXTRACTS: "The Anglo-Australian multinational company Rio Tinto – the largest iron ore mining company in the world – demolished two 46,000-year-old Aboriginal rock shelters in May.......The Dampier Archipelago of Western Australia is home to thousands of Aboriginal pictographs, and perhaps the oldest surviving rock art in the world. Indeed, Australia’s Indigenous art represents the longest uninterrupted tradition of art in the world – going back over 50,000 years......Aboriginal people represent the oldest continuous culture in the world...."
Sep 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution was a defining event that changed how we think about the relationship between religion and modernity. Ayatollah Khomeini’s mass mobilisation of Islam showed that modernisation by no means implies a linear process of religious decline.....Reliable large-scale data on Iranians’ post-revolutionary religious beliefs, however, has always been lacking...........In June 2020, our research institute, the Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in IRAN...conducted an online survey......The results verify Iranian society’s unprecedented secularisation."
Sep 12th 2020
EXTRACT: "Just as you can upgrade your old computer’s operating system, culture can evolve even if intelligence doesn’t. Humans in ancient times lacked smartphones and spaceflight, but we know from studying philosophers such as Buddha and Aristotle that they were just as clever. Our brains didn’t change, our culture did."
Sep 2nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Our lab in Cambridge, England, is working with a promising new family of materials known as halide perovskites. They are semiconductors, conducting charges when stimulated with light. Perovskite inks are deposited onto glass or plastic to make extremely thin films – around one hundredth of the width of a human hair – made up of metal, halide and organic ions. When sandwiched between electrode contacts, these films make solar cell or LED devices."
Sep 2nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Bryant, a black man, was sentenced to life in prison for trying to steal hedge clippers from a Louisiana carport storage room in 1997. He has already served twenty-three years for this petty crime, and on 31 July the Louisiana Supreme Court denied a request to review his life sentence. The denial followed a lower appeals court’s 2019 decision that concluded “his life sentence is final.” The only judge on the Louisiana Supreme Court to dissent (or even issue an opinion) was Chief Justice Bernette Johnson. She wrote a stinging rebuke, observing that Bryant’s “life sentence for a failed attempt to steal a set of hedge clippers is grossly out of proportion to the crime and serves no legitimate penal purpose.” "
Aug 18th 2020
EXTRACT: "In 2016, the Brennan Center for Justice reported that as high as 40 percent of prisoners should not be in prison—”behind bars with no compelling public safety reason.” There are literally thousands of young prisoners, Black and white, who are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for non-violent offences. It is unfathomable that we as a society are spending billions of dollars every year to sustain such pointless cruelty, to inflict needless pain on individuals, fathers and mothers, who pose no threat at all to the public."
Jul 31st 2020
EXTRACT: "From a Kantian standpoint discrimination based on race – or religion, or gender – is fundamentally wrong. It is wrong, first of all, because it is dehumanizing, a denial of human dignity. When I racially discriminate, I am denying the person’s intrinsic self-worth, I am, in fact, denying their very right to exist, whether I know it or not. The moral law demands that I treat every individual as a free person equal to everyone else. If the moral law grants each of us a kind of infinite worth, it does not grant someone greater worth than anyone else."
Jul 12th 2020
EXTRACT: "Remember, your wellbeing is extremely important when supporting someone with depression. Take time for self-care so you can model positive behaviours and be replenished enough to provide this crucial support."
Jul 4th 2020
EXTRACT: "--- Nobody is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart, for his purity, by definition, is unassailable. --- Author James Baldwin’s words, written in the America of the late 1950s."
Jun 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "Numerous studies have shown that children who grow up in more deprived neighbourhoods tend to have worse physical health as adults compared to those raised in more affluent areas. This is the case even when researchers take into account family income and education, and whether or not parents have major illnesses. In order to address this health disparity, researchers need to understand how those living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods end up with worse health outcomes. Our team’s latest study has highlighted one potential way your childhood neighbourhood may influence your health for years to come. It might do so through changing how the activity of your genes is regulated."
Jun 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "Ruth Poniarski is a painter and the author of Journey of the Self: Memoir of an Artist (Warren Publishing, 2020), in which she tells the story of her decade long struggle with mental illness, a “spiraling malady” which led her into a “pattern of psychosis”. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Poniarski about her life and work, and how she eventually overcame her demons."
Jun 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "I know I’m good in a couple of things, really good in a few things, and that’s enough. My confidence is big enough that I can really let people grow next to me, it’s no problem. I need experts around me. It’s really very important that you are empathetic, that you try to understand the people around you, and that you give real support to the people around you."
Jun 27th 2020
An essay about the "the enormously influential 1940 'Head of Christ' painting by evangelical Warner E. Sallman" pictured below.
Jun 17th 2020
EXTRACT: "The diverse, non-human life forms that live in our guts – known as our microbiome – are crucial to our health. A disrupted balance of these contribute to a range of disorders and diseases, including obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease. It could even affect our mental health..... It’s well known that the microbes living in our guts are altered through diet. For example, including dietary fibre and dairy products in our diets encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria. But mounting evidence suggests that exercise can also modify the types of bacteria that reside within our guts."
Jun 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "Bonhoeffer’s life holds an important lesson for us today, regardless of our religious affiliation or lack thereof. And simply put it is this: you are called upon; you are called on behalf of your neighbor. When you are called to be responsible that is not an obligation which you can decline, discharge or acquit yourself of – it is an infinite responsibility, a “forever commitment” as Charles Blow recently put it. And we all must be prepared to make any sacrifice necessary when we are called."
Jun 11th 2020
EXTRACT: "People differ substantially in how much they’re affected by experiences in their lives. Some people seem to be more affected by daily stress, or the loss of someone close to them. On the other hand, some people seem to get through the same experiences relatively unscathed. Similarly, some people benefit strongly from counselling, or having a support system of close family and friends. Others seem better able to manage on their own. But understanding why some people are more sensitive than others isn’t just a question of how they were raised, and the experiences they’ve been through. In fact, previous research has found that some people in general seem more sensitive to what they experience – and some are generally less sensitive."
Jun 7th 2020
EXTRACT: " The root causes of anthropogenic climate change – which has led to the endangering of countless species across the globe – cannot be adequately grasped in isolation from the technological application of modern science. While Swedish activist Greta Thunberg was certainly justified in calling upon American legislators to “unite behind the science,” neither can we overlook the culpability of science in bringing about the environmental crisis. "
May 23rd 2020
EXTRACT: "The QAnon movement began in 2017 after someone known only as Q posted a series of conspiracy theories about Trump on the internet forum 4chan. QAnon followers believe global elites are seeking to bring down Trump, whom they see as the world’s only hope to defeat the “deep state.” OKM is part of a network of independent congregations (or ekklesia) called Home Congregations Worldwide (HCW). The organization’s spiritual adviser is Mark Taylor, a self-proclaimed “Trump Prophet” and QAnon influencer with a large social media following on Twitter and YouTube."
May 23rd 2020
EXTRACT: "The aim of my research for the Understanding Unbelief programme was to investigate the worldviews of non-believers, since little is known about the diversity of these non-religious beliefs, and what psychological functions they serve. I wanted to explore the idea that while non-believers may not hold religious beliefs, they still hold distinct ontological, epistemological and ethical beliefs about reality, and the idea that these secular beliefs and worldviews provide the non-religious with equivalent sources of meaning, or similar coping mechanisms, as the supernatural beliefs of religious individuals."