Cathy Breslaw's Installation

Cathy Breslaw's Installation
Cathy Breslaw's Installation:Dreamscape

Friday, November 11, 2016

Power Of Architecture: Louis Kahn

Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture
The San Diego Museum of Art
On view through January 31st

Article by Cathy Breslaw
Salk Institute, La Jolla, California         Designed by Louis Kahn             buildings completed 1963

 Louis Kahn is widely known as one of the most important American architects of the twentieth century. His personal story is as compelling as the work he created. His contemporaries and personal friends remember him as a brilliant architect and a visionary who led a nomadic life traveling the world. Spending most nights in his studio working alone, he is often described as an architect with an ‘artist’s sensibility’.  

Kahn’s personal life was complicated – he was married once but had two additional major relationships where each bore one child. His youngest child and only son Nathaniel Kahn, is a film-maker who created a documentary tracing his father’s life.  In search of his own identity after losing his father at age eleven, the spirit of the film about his father’s life is present throughout the exhibition.  The extensive and detailed timeline of Louis Kahn’s life is displayed at the entrance to the exhibition, providing viewers with a ‘map’ of the following rooms which focus on various time periods of Kahn’s architectural pursuits and buildings he created.

While simultaneously creating building plans and pursuing his architecture career, Kahn was also professor of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania for many years. He urged his students to “honor the materials  you use, to glorify, not short change it”.  A residency in 1951 in Rome Italy greatly influenced Kahn’s work as he pursued the creation of buildings that have the feel and presence of ancient ruins while also possessing a timelessness and monumentality. The influences of Roman architecture can be seen in his wooden models of buildings displayed as well as metal structural forms that evidence some of his ideas.

Kahn’s major accomplishments are the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, the Richards Medical Research Labs in Philadelphia, Kimbell Art Museum in Ft Worth Texas, Philips Exeter Academy Library in New Hampshire, Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art (both on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut), and the National Assembly building in Dhaka, Bangladesh completed in 1983 after his death.  It is interesting to note that the building in Bangladesh took 23 years to build and was built almost entirely by hand.

Aside from these important buildings, there were many buildings that remain unrealized and the architectural models for these are displayed throughout the exhibition. Kahn also created a limited number of private residences whose photos, plans and models are also included in the show.  There are also a number of preliminary drawings and sketches of Kahn’s ideas about various building structures presented. Also included are a group of oil and watercolor paintings that Kahn created throughout his life which are on loan from the personal collection of family members.

Interspersed with photos, paintings, drawings, wooden architectural models and lots of textual explanations of Kahn’s work, are video short interviews with important architects influenced by Kahn’s work, video film of Kahn speaking in various locales and other details of his work life. Architect Frank Gehry commented that his own first works came out of a reverence for Louis Kahn.

In honor of Kahn's buildings at the Salk Institute in La Jolla California, the students at the Woodbury University School of Architecture exhibit a series of photographs of these buildings. The photos allow viewers to see the buildings through the eyes of 'future' architects and highlight the materials, the spaces and geometries of the outdoor building spaces.

From a man whose family immigrated to the United States from a small island off the coast of Estonia to Philadelphia in 1903,  Kahn went on to captivate the world with his buildings that he hoped would influence and improve peoples’ lives. His buildings are described as possessing symmetry, order, geometric clarity and enormous weight.  Separating himself from other architects of his time, Kahn wanted to elevate architecture from utilitarian forms to meaningful spaces with inspirational and transcendent qualities.

Designed by Louis Kahn      National Assembly Building      Dhaka Bangladesh             1960-1983   

Designed by Louis Kahn      National Assembly Building      Dhaka Bangladesh      1960-1983

Designed by Louis Kahn    Kimbell Art Museum   Ft Worth Texas   1972

Designed by Louis Kahn   Kimbell Art Museum   Ft. Worth Texas   1972

Monday, October 24, 2016

How I Used Aluminum To Teach Creativity

My time as a visiting artist & teacher
Working with Students, Faculty and Time Spent at a University in the Midwest

For the last two years, I've been working/planning on an exhibition at Viterbo University. Along with showing my work, I had the opportunity to give an artist lecture & work with the faculty and students at the university. It was an amazing and rewarding experience that I wanted to share with the world.

My show: Vibrations

These photos display the range of works in this exhibition.

The show included wall works, floor art work, and mixed media works on plastic.
Wall and floor works are a mixture of commercial mesh, paint, and found materials.

La Crosse Wisconsin from the air
La Crosse Wisconsin from the air

My teaching in Wisconsin centered on 'Creativity', a subject I have been studying for several years alongside the development of my art practice. I wanted to share my knowledge with students and guide them. It's the cultivation of this voice that is present in the creative process.  Identifying what moves us, and helps us grow in our art practice deserves at least as much focus and attention as learning formalized art techniques.

I call this process "Tapping Into the Well". As famed psychologist Carl Jung believed in the collective unconscious, I share the idea that all humanity draws from a 'source' of ideas, history, archetypes and mythology which encourages and feeds our voice over a lifetime. Whether we listen is another thing altogether and this is where a conscious process of 'paying attention' is required.

It's not something that can be directly taught, like skills in art, but I believe we can gain an awareness of those parts of ourselves that build upon this 'original' voice. A discussion of the ways we can develop creativity in ourselves and our work, (as well as stumbling blocks) followed. 

By providing students with an accessible and ubiquitous material like 'aluminum foil', they were given a timed period to experiment and develop ideas without the pressure of making a piece of 'art', per se. First, the goal was to access ideas via a 'brainstorming' process, jotting down ideas on post-it notes for a short timed period centered on the idea "Who Am I?"

Teaching a class on Creativity

I had a wonderful time meeting and working with students and  an extremely dedicated faculty. It is always an inspiration to see student/artists at work. The distinctive aspect of the curriculum at Viterbo is the individualized instruction and extended periods of time faculty spends with students, which is unique for an undergraduate art program. It was evident that this advantage for students played out in their focus and enthusiasm for their own art-making process.

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Look Back at Art, Politics and Culture of San Diego through Photography - Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (La Jolla location)

The Uses of Photography: Art, Politics, and the Reinvention of a Medium

Through January , 2017

Article by Cathy Breslaw
Martha Rosler   Boys’ Room from House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, c. 1967-72 photomontage
Courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, NY

Anyone interested in recalling or learning about cultural life in San Diego county during the time period from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, will be fascinated by this historical journey that curator, Jill Dawsey shapes for us through the eyes of sixteen widely known artists. These artists came together at University of California San Diego when the art department was newly formed in the 1960’s with a common focus on conceptual art. The exhibition features one hundred photographic works including photographic series, installation, slide projection, video, audio recordings, artist books, ephemera, and a program of film series. The art practices of these artists examined the social issues of the time including first wave feminism and struggles with identity, their position in the workplace and the nuclear family, the Vietnam War, racial issues between African Americans and whites, immigration as it relates to Mexico and border issues, and social unrest. Many of the social and political issues highlighted in these artworks mirrored the issues shared with other Americans across the United States.  As a medium, photography is often evaluated in terms of techniques used, its ability to replicate ‘reality’ and is often judged along with its painting and sculpture peers in terms of composition and elements of beauty. In the case of this exhibition, this typical framework  takes a back seat to historical documentation. This is not to say the artworks are less than stellar, but these works can’t help but strike an emotional chord with viewers. For some, the art works may illicit memories of personal experiences, as well as gaining a perspective on a time past. For others it is a fresh look at some of the important social issues of the 1960’s and 70’s and surprisingly, beg for us to draw comparisons to some current social, cultural and economic challenges.
Artists in the exhibition include David Antin, Eleanor Antin, John Baldessari, Jean-Pierre Gorin, Helen Mayer Harrison, Newton Harrison, Louis Hock, Allan Kaprow, Fred Lonidier, Babette Mangolte, Martha Rosler, Allan Sekula, Lorna Simpson, Elizabeth Sisco, Phel Steinmetz, and Carrie Mae Weems.

Elizabeth Sisco’s installation, “Flashcards,” incorporates text and photography to create a piece simulating Spanish vocabulary practice cards examining the complicated relationship between the economics of Mexican workers and their movement across the border to find work, calling attention to immigration issues. Martha Rosler’s photomontages  were a critique of fashion photography, and it’s use of the female body as a selling tool. The series, “Body Beautiful or Beauty Knows No Pain” uses photomontage to create images like “Cargo Cult,” depicting a group of containers that become frames for women’s faces derived from advertising placed on the deck of a ship, ready for “shipping”. Carrie Mae Weems “Family Pictures and Stories” is a series of text and image works seeking to portray the African-American family in public and private moments, in a more realistic way. Fred Lonidier’s work portray’s labor issues and one of Eleanor Antin’s works highlights the issue of the female figure, and the pressure to be an object of beauty, through her photo-documentation of herself through 38 days of being on a diet. Phil Steinmetz, Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison experimented with expanding the use of photographic landscape, creating some of the first instances of ecological art.  This important exhibition engages in a socio-political critique of a pivotal time in American history and culture as well as the unique and particular history of San Diego.

Allan Sekula     Untitled Slide Sequence 3      pigment prints 1972-2011
Collection of Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego
Eleanor Antin     Caught in the Act       black and white video/sound still     1973
Courrtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, NYC

Thursday, September 15, 2016

With Abandon, An SDSU Alumni Exhibition of Recent Grads, SDSU Downtown Gallery, San Diego

With Abandon
Group exhibition of former students, SDSU
Guest curated by Ginger Shulick Porcella, Executive Director, San Diego Art Institute
Through November 6th

Article by Cathy Breslaw

With Abandon is a group exhibition of fourteen former students of San Diego State University who graduated within the past five years, and one student working toward an MFA. The artworks include a fabrication of materials, metal and wood craft and the repurposing of found objects in the form of installation, sculpture, ceramics, video, painting, book-making and photographic prints. Though each artist offers varying perspectives in the nature and purpose of their work, there does appear to be a commonality of an almost obsessive attention to craft and detail.  Ainsly Buhl’s installation created with coffee straws, wood and wire, and Aren Skalman’s mixed media and found objects installation seem to bounce off of one another – the former lending an exacting display of layers of carefully constructed very long strands of two toned red straws emanating from the wall equally from a wood and wire central base, while Skalman’s work appears to be a randomly placed mixture of various short and long colorful shapes hanging from the wall suggesting some kind of communication system we are not familiar with. Chelsea Herman’s Artist book (Chiné-colle etchings, text handset Bembo and printed letterpress on Stonehenge paper) and Tammy Young Eun Kim’s 3-D printed sandstone, alumide, brass, steel and silver small sculptural forms share a quiet and poetic sensibility with a delicate and subtle sense of beauty and focus on craft. Lee M. Lavy’s installation of found posts are arranged within the gallery’s central space, each fulfilling a different size and character, mostly all weathered by time from their former ‘home’, telling a story seemingly marked by territory, allowing viewers to roam within and around each post, giving us access to a ‘close up’ view. Adam John Manley’s two 12 foot wood and acrylic installation works share Lavy’s marking of territory with his works’ pointing of ‘to’ and ‘from’ arrows giving directions to viewers within the landscape of the gallery space. The works of Maricarmen Olimón and Amanda Packer share a vulnerability in their more personal and intimate art pieces created from clay(Oliman) and copper, silver and brass with thread and paint jewelry(Packer). Kaiya Rainbolt’s minimalist sculpture(65” x 38” x36”) sitting only inches above the floor, uses twin mattresses twisted in a symmetrical ‘knot’ – This work seems to sit between a humorous and sober theme. Artist Phil Rowland uses the objects of hammer and axe heads, using ash, maple, oak and walnut woods to create his highly well-crafted conceptual works. Rowland’s pieces reflect a surprising sense of humor.
Michael Rybicki’s 8 foot concrete and wood installation leans on a central column adjacent to Lavy’s posts and while they relate to one another, Rybicki’s ‘sculpture’ seems to have the hand of the artist in it’s making. Marisa Scheinfeld’s chromogenic prints are both formally and compositionally very beautiful.  In contrast, the subject matter is of abandoned buildings reminiscent of old-school soda fountain seating in a restaurant that saw better days. There is a certain feeling of nostalgia and good memories in these richly hued prints. Kurosh Yahyai’s oil on canvas and adjacent installation of wood, steel and mixed media is a heavy themed work portraying a  'looming' female figure, in a dark environment with light shone on her face. Ashley Fenderson’s installation created in the loading dock area of the gallery is a huge roundish art piece dense with organic and man-made materials filled with the stuff we see along highways blowing in the wind. It is mysterious, and both visually appealing and raw in its presence. There are no hidden agendas in the works of this exhibition – with a range of materials, techniques and artist’s intent, the works serve viewers a fascinating look at nicely crafted, distinctive and personal works by artists trained at San Diego State University.
Adam John Manley    Itinerant Landmarks

Chelsea Herman    Artist book
(Chiné-colle etchings, text handset Bembo and printed letterpress on Stonehenge paper)

Artist Lee M. Lavey  with his installation   Outposts

Amanda Packer Recollect: A Collection of Pendants, 2013

Kaiya Rainbolt     Aposiopesis #3 Confusion,      2016

Artist, Ashley Fenderson working on her installation     Ghost