Art of the Week

Korean, Three Kingdoms (50-668)
Standing bodhisattva, 500-99
Bronze 27 cm. h.
Gift of J. R. von Reinhold Jamesson ‘51

The Three Kingdoms of Korea refer to the ancient Korean kingdoms of Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla, which dominated the Korean peninsula and parts of Manchuria for much of the 1st millennium. The Three Kingdoms period ran from 57 ad until Silla’s triumph over Goguryeo in 668, which marked the beginning of the North and South States period of Unified Silla in the South and Balhae in the North. All three kingdoms shared a similar culture and language. Their original religions appear to have been shamanistic, but they were increasingly influenced by Chinese culture, particularly Confucianism and Taoism. In the 4th century, Buddhism was introduced to the peninsula and spread rapidly, briefly becoming the official religion of all three kingdoms.

Bodhisattvas are beings in the Buddhist pantheon that have attained enlightenment but have opted to stay on the temporal world to help those who have not yet reached nirvana. Bodhisattva images of the 6th century are rarely independent figures. Most surviving images are those that were once attached as attendants to a Buddha in a single mandorla triad. Occasionally single mandorla triads were made with the bodhisattva as the main figure with two monks as attendants. This piece figures a plump face and gently depicted robes; fishtail draperies, and large hands.

McKillop, Beth. Korean art and design.  [New York]: IconEditions, [1992].
Korean arts and culture. Seoul, Korea: Seoul International Pub. House, c1986.
Pak, Youngsook. Buddhist sculpture. Seoul: Yekyong, 2002.
Buddhist sculptures of Korea. By: LEE, Lena Kim. Arts of Asia, July/August 1981, Vol. 11, p96-103.

Art of the Week

Henry Walton (fl.1836-1850)
Hobart Free College, Geneva, N.Y., 1836-37
Lithograph, 18 x 28 cm.

Henry Walton worked for the lithography firm of Stone & Clark in Ithaca, New York beginning in 1936. He is known primarily for his lithographs of upstate New York towns made between 1836 and 1850. Walton was also a portrait and miniature painter most often working in watercolor. In 1849 he joined the Gold Rush to California. There is some discrepancy on Walton’s birth and death dates. Falk’s “Who Was Who in American Art” has the dates 1804-1865 though it does note many different possible dates and sources. According to Falk, Walton left California and settled in Michigan in 1857. Hughes’ “Artist’s in California” has the dates 1821-1873 and states that Walton resided in San Francisco until his death.

Perhaps it is not generally Known to the citizens of Ithaca and its vicinity, that we have residing in our village an artist, who, though unpretending, is a proficient in the use of the pencil.”  So begins an editorial published May 23, 1838, in the Ithaca Journal, as Henry Walton embarks on his fifteen-year stay in the Finger Lakes region. Walton and his work remained virtually unknown until November 1937, when his portrait of J. P. Jenks was published on the cover of the Magazine of Antiques. The cover image and its accompanying editorial note brought the little-known artist out of obscurity and into the public eye briefly. Twenty years later, five of Henry Walton’s works were included in the exhibition, Rediscovered Painters of Upstate New York, which traveled through New York state from June 1958 to February 1959. Lithographs of Saratoga Springs, New York, published circa 1825-1830 are some of Walton’s earliest known town scenes. The certainty that Walton was in Saratoga Springs in the late 1820’s eventually lead researchers to discover that he was the son of judge Henry Walton (1768-1844) who had significant land holdings in that same area.

Walton arrived in Ithaca as early as 1835 and stayed in
the area until heading west to California for the gold rush in 1851. Throughout his time in the Finger Lakes, Walton was steady in his execution of lithographs of town views in this region. Leigh Rehner describes “two themes prevalent in Walton’s town Views: celebration of the topographical landscape and technical progress.” She notes Walton’s inclusion of civilization and progress in his town views, specifically his documentation and depiction of buildings in the towns he viewed. Others have noted Walton’s linear style, apparent skill in architectural draftsmanship, and overall technique. Rehner wonders if Walton did not use a ruler to achieve the linear qualities of his town views. Force enthuses about not only Walton’s technique, but also his use of color.

Hobart Free College, the hand-colored lithograph, looks south on Geneva’s South Main Street and includes a view of Seneca Lake around 1851. on the left is Durfee House; the buildings on the right-hand side of the street are the old chapel, “Polyonomous,” and Geneva Hall. Beyond Geneva Hall is the Middle Building, used as the Medical School and later the college library. On the far side of the Middle Building is Trinity Hall.

The existence of this work may have been unknown to scholars as it was not noted or included in either of the exhibits curated by Leigh Rehner in Ithaca (1968-1969 and 1988-1989), the catalogues of which are regarded as some of the most authoritative documentation on what is known of Henry Walton. Researchers have hypothesized that one reason for Walton’s obscurity for so long is that much of his work was purchased by locals and remained in the hands of private collectors and descendants of the original portrait sitters.

Sara Greenleaf, Associate Librarian for Collection Services
Moments in Time: Lithographs from the HWS Art Collection, 2009

Agnes Halsey Jones, Rediscovered Painters of Upstate New York, 1700-1875 (Utica, NY, 1958)
Leigh Rehner, “Henry Walton, American artist,” Antiques 97, no. 3 (March 1970)
Leigh Rehner, “Henry Walton,” in Henry Walton, 19th Century American Artist. (Ithaca, NY: Ithaca College Museum of Art, 1968)

New Acquisition

Ronald Gonzalez (b.1952, U.S.)
Study for Black Figures
Manipulated found objects, wax, wire, metal filings, glue, and soot over welded steel, 31.75 cm. h.
Gift of the artist

Ronald Mario Gonzalez was born in Johnson City, N.Y. in 1952, the third of five children to Phillip Gonzalez and Lilia Finelli. His father was of Spanish and Jewish descent and worked at E J. shoe factory in Johnson City NY.  and sold used cars. His mother was Italian, a devout catholic, who preached and did healings. In his childhood Gonzalez underwent several stomach surgeries to correct a birth defect from his mother having German measles during pregnancy.  He filled these recuperative years in front of a small black and white television, and played with gumball machine trinkets and dollhouse miniatures that he collected.  “Growing up in fifties consumer culture of talking appliances and mass-produced excess led to my defective television mentality” and a lifelong preoccupation with caricatured personalities.  This preoccupation with the new transforming medium of TV also created a kinship with Hollywood sci – fi films, monsters, robots, alien creatures, and corpses, along with the post-cold war threat of nuclear apocalypse.  Gonzalez’s subjective encounter with the co- existence, of beauty and repulsion, humor and sadness as well as the undercurrents of social turmoil, absurdity and distortion in those formative years set the stage for his overwhelming desire to represent, in figural form, the substratum of the human soul. In 1973, after returning to finish high school, Gonzalez saw a Time Life book on Rodin’s “Gates of Hell.”  Also, showing photographs of boxes of collected fragments. He recalls being obsessed by the idea of creating imaginary worlds of figures inseparable from the life and death drama of existence, “The boxes themselves were a collection of ideas having to do with time, memory, disintegration, the serialization of form, and the power of collections.  “That day he bought a bag of clay and began to work in his bedroom making his own collection of small figures and fragments.  He soon assessed so many figures that he bought and pitched a used tent in a friend’s back yard to store his work. In 1976, he enrolled in the Fine Arts Department at Harpur College, Binghamton, New York, to study sculpture and to use the studios to work on his figures.  During this time, he learned to weld, allowing his figures to take on a greater scale and to incorporates a more varied assortment of objects.  After graduating in 1983, he travelled to Italy, France, and Greece, to see “the history of scarred bodies and souls in art.”  During his trip Gonzalez visited the studios of Giacomo Manzu in Rome, and Manuel Neri, in Carrara Italy. In 1999, Gonzalez joined the Art Department at Binghamton University where he continues to teach as a professor of Art and Sculpture.  His recent work consists of life size figures and fragments, always painted black; the pieces are often exhibited individually or in groups staged on long runway platforms.  These works are dominated by the use of corroded found objects and steel armatures that evoke a wasted, desolate realm where blackened heads and bodies are marked by trauma and loss.

“I prefer things with all the marks of desolation and ruin to create empathies. For me, sculpture begins with the human body as the supreme object of mystery and imagination. My affinity is for the tradition of transformation; to seek and find is not enough. The lessons of nature always bring me back to the transitoriness of things. In art, the collector amasses materials in the face of death in order to preserve expression. My work is rooted in the unity of metaphoric anatomies and measured by the beauty of presence. I search for the blended energies of forms reinvented, reconfigured and reassembled in space as part and whole. These In-animates have been ravaged by possession. As entities, they conceal lived experience as commonplace and transitory. Like us, things are tempered and shaped by their environment from hands that have conducted memories, histories, analogies and resemblances into them. These figures stand as imaginary beings of real life existence, a repertoire of decaying personas reborn as things that I can see.” Ronald Gonzalez, 2015

Art of the Week

Garth Weiser (b.1979)
Twenty Thousand Leagues, 2004
Oil on canvas, 157 x 188
Gift of John Raimondi

Garth Weiser is an artist based in New York. Weiser was born in Montana. He earned his MFA from Columbia University of the Arts, New York, NY, 2005; his BFA from Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York, NY, 2003.

The work of Garth Weiser is concerned with languages of abstraction and the physicality of the painted surface.  Marked by a sense of materiality and texture, as well as a striking synthesis of addition and subtraction, Weiser’s densely textured oeuvre underlines the artist’s fascination with the evolution of painting. His work is created by overlaying abstraction upon abstraction, each unique layer representing a distinct history in terms of content, form and materiality, resulting in a gestural surface burnished with shimmering strata of thick pigment. Highly textured, his paintings resemble fossilized slabs, their facture near tangible to the viewer. The vascular surfaces of the works trigger chromatic vibrations and optical illusions. Multiple perspectives and after-images emerge and recede with tributaries feeding and looping back into one another, giving rise to a new and complex visual lexicon, rooted in the canon of abstract painting.

A departure from his early work, which demonstrated a strong interest in graphic and geometric design, drawing on elements of the Op Art movement, Weiser’s recent work reveals a new engagement with composition, agency and intention, confronting abstract expressionistic tropes with the use of different effects, procedures and materials. The layering of pigment in the paintings complicates the distinction between areas of colour and line, generating a sense of uncertainty to the identity of each. Surfaces absorb light and reflect it unevenly, keeping the viewer mobile via optical instability and a lack of figure-ground distinctions. While abstract, the works are still illusionistic, and shadows, gradations of colour, a sense of movement, variations between light and darkness, rippling waves, wood grain, and reverberating contours are evoked in the undulating palette and seismic surfaces of the artist’s multi-faceted practice.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: Vingt mille lieues sous les mers) is a classic science fiction novel by French writer Jules Verne published in 1870. It tells the story of Captain Nemo and his submarine Nautilus as seen from the perspective of Professor Pierre Aronnax. The original edition had no illustrations; the first illustrated edition was published by Hetzel with illustrations by Alphonse de Neuville and Édouard Riou.

Art of the Week

George McNeil (1908-95)
Henry and Mara, 1980
Lithograph, 28 x 22 cm.

George McNeil (1908-1995) had a career that spanned the entire postwar American art era. McNeil attended Pratt Institute and the Art Students’ League, where he studied with Jan Matulka. From 1932-36, he studied with Hans Hofmann, becoming Hofmann’s studio classroom monitor. In 1936 he worked for the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project and became one of the founding members of the American Abstract Artists group. McNeil was one of the few abstract artists whose work was selected for the New York World’s Fair in 1939. During World War II, he served in the US Navy. In the late 1940s McNeil taught at the University of Wyoming and then taught art and art history at Pratt Institute until 1980, influencing generations of young artists. A pioneer Abstract Expressionist of the New York School, McNeil had over forty solo exhibitions during his lifetime. Between the ’40s and until the mid ’60s his art was decidedly abstract but it was always joined to metaphor. From the ’70s onward, McNeil explored ways to expand beyond the cannons of the Abstract Expressionism. In this period his work became more figurative, drawing inspiration from the dynamic life of the city, its dancers, discos and sports. Throughout his career as a painter McNeil commanded a mastery technique, capable of creating paintings of rich texture depth and color. In 1989, McNeil was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. George McNeil’s work is represented in numerous museum collections around the country, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York; Whitney Museum of America Art, New York, New York; San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, California; Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Sometimes art is wild and fun, rather than serious and pompous!

Howard, Richard. George McNeil (1908-1995). Salander Oreilly, 2005
“Sensibility of the sixties.” By: Rose, Barbara; Sandler, I. Art in America, January 1967, Vol. 55, p44-57
“Heroes of myth and of the morning after: George McNeill.” By: Higgins, Judith. ARTnews, September 1986, Vol. 85, p90-99