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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Color! Composition!: Clare Rojas and Darryll Schiff

            Only a recent fan of Clare Rojas’ work, I first came across her talent while working as a gallery assistant to Shepard Fairey this past summer at “Art Alliance: The Provocateurs” pop-up show held in Chicago.  Having an art history background, a bachelors degree in fine art and an eye for retro sixties abstraction, Clare Rojas’ pieces resonated the most with me out of the forty-some artists exhibiting in the show.  

World famous contemporary artists such as Keith Harring were among the artists being shown, a diverse group from Fairey himself and rising star Cleon Peterson to wheat paste and paper artists such as the talented Swoon and rock star, artist singer and guitarist of Rancid and The Transplants, Tim Armstrong, many of which I had the pleasure of meeting during the five-day long art show. 

Above are  images from Art Alliance, the first of Clare Rojas' work and the second of myself in front of Shepard Fairey's work.

Shepard of course curated the show and I was responsible for gallery sales and general up-keep of the show, which led to research on many of the individual artists and collaborators. This is where my infatuation with Rojas’ work first began.  Being that I came across Rojas later in her career, I was first exposed to a painting in the show that acted as pure geometric abstraction using flat geometric shapes and a limited color palette. I have since had the chance to see Roajs’ work exhibited at Kavi Gupta Gallery located in the heart of Chicago’s West Loop art community. Her recent art strongly resembles the works of Ellsworth Kelly, an American artist known for his hard-edge painting style and simplicity of form.  Rojas uses instinct and observation of forms in nature to inspire her painting style that features shapes floating in space.  Flat forms and space are referenced in the title of her solo show “Everyone Has Those Spaces.”

©Clare Rojas All Rights Reserved

©Clare Rojas All Rights Reserved

I welcome Clare Rojas’ recent return to abstraction on account of its sheer aesthetic appeal.  Still referencing both traditional female roles as well as geometric shapes that bare resemblance to the craft of quilting, Clare’s paintings have a link to fiber and material traditions in addition to appearing in likeness to modernist paintings.  These patterned motifs are far from accidental, as Rojas has immersed herself in contemporary and cultural studies on women and their traditional roles in society.  In the past Rojas’ works reflect this examination on the female’s subordinate roles and often portrays it’s opposite through narrative. This body of work differs in that it is about purely visual aspects of style and form.  The pieces are as much about color as they are about line and composition.  Moving away from female iconography, this work is more visceral than it is intellectual.  

©Clare Rojas All Rights Reserved (example of past works)

Her abandonment of heavy social context puts her in a direction that celebrates Modernist properties expressive through color and form.  Clare explains that working with abstraction, shape and color have become a way of seeing in terms of feeling rather than intellectualizing.  For her, this transition can be described as a way of getting out of her head and into her body, where the work becomes instinctual rather than premeditated and carefully researched. Her work is captivating as a geometric abstractionist, exploring color theory and color extension and the roles sharp, clean and round edges can play in the reading of her art.  

©Clare Rojas All Rights Reserved

There is excitement that can be derived from Rojas’reduced color palette, especially when opting to express ideas through saturated primary colors.  Playing with hot and cool colors of equal color intensity and pairings of complementary colors, Rojas is able to express seemingly complex ideas that are ultimately primal. Rojas knows how to cause tension in her abstract works as with dissonance in music, or the relief of a minor chord giving way to major. Instinctually, she orchestrates the way planes of color can be read exemplifying the importance of perception in terms of art.  Motifs of sharp and round edges allow the viewer to react to visual cues rather than reading into historic or cultural context. This work provokes emotion from the viewer, reminding us of the importance shape and color play in a body of work whether planes of color are touching, colliding or floating in space. 

©Clare Rojas All Rights Reserved
©Clare Rojas All Rights Reserved

Darryll Schiff is also known for his brilliant use of color extension in photography.  His photographic works are a beautiful, unexpected interaction of color.  Though most of Darryll’s published works are representational pieces, he does have an exciting new series in the works, titled “Quintessence.”   This new series is entirely abstract with a focus on light and color.  Some areas are denser with light than others, creating a dispersion of depth and motion one might expect given the title and it’s reference to both a cosmic force and the purest form of energy. Even with Darryll’s representational works, you can see he takes spatial relationships into great consideration when composing an image.  Darryll has tight control over what recedes visually and what comes forward in his color palette; this is in part what makes a masterful composition.  Contrast of extension is all about proportion; this is why Darryll’s work has such a strong noticeable balance.  In other instances, Darryll intentionally makes one color more active than the others as a contrast to draw emphasis on important areas of the image that hold significance to the message of the piece. 

©Darryll Schiff All Rights Reserved

©Clare Rojas All Rights Reserved

The instinctual color knowledge both Clare and Darryll possess goes beyond design elements, it is integral to the work they create.  The use of color greatly impacts the message of their compositions.  Emotions are generated largely based upon balance of equivalence or disproportionality in a work of art.  In some of my favorite works composed by Darryll, I find myself drawn to cool color schemes with washes of bright color and light.  This technique is applied throughout Darryll’s famed “To Heaven” series.  It is especially compelling to look at side by side comparisons from this series to see his inversion techniques. Similarly, Rojas has paintings from the same series of work that seem to invert areas of space and form.  

©Darryll Schiff All Rights Reserved
©Darryll Schiff All Rights Reserved 
©Clare Rojas All Rights Reserved
©Clare Rojas All Rights Reserved

Stay tuned for a future post covering Darryll's exciting feature in one of Spain's leading magazines! Accompanying this post Darryll and I will relay his passion for Spain as a great source of inspiration for his art. Until next time - Lauren Ike 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Art and Sensation

With over thirty-five years of dedicated work, one can understand Michael K. Paxton’s metaphor for growth in art, “You can’t pull on a plant and expect it to grow.  You have to nurture it.  Be dedicated and invested in order to see results.”  Paxton has an extremely strong foundation in life and still life drawing.  He can render the most believable bodies, carving realistic beings with luscious curves and muscular flesh.  There is no doubt his handwork is masterful, but what sets him apart from the rest is his artistic process. Paxton uses materials such as waxy drafting film, pen and ink allowing accidental flows of washes across a non-absorbent surface to influence his mark making.  This tactic allows Paxton freedom as his work springs to life from mistakes and transitions through undetermined mark-making, creating a flow that is natural and bold as it branches out into new exciting directions.
"Alpestrine" Installation ©Michael K. Paxton All Rights Reserved
            Paxton describes his artistic process as a search for a better way to see and experience space.  He reminds the viewer that we are tainted by the technology of the 21st Century.  Technology offers a different experience of reality that becomes more embedded in our culture everyday. As a result, we understand the physical world less.  Creating by hand, Paxton trains the eye and hand to understand the information that is available here in the third-dimension word. In fact, the eye and hand have become Paxton’s subject in an abstract sense, a fairly new direction for his formerly representational work.

Studio Shot of Work in Progress ©Michael K. Paxton All Rights Reserved

Paxton creates layers of thin washes that build from previous marks moving spontaneously and instinctually across a large surface.  This work is done without using preliminary sketch work, allowing him an uncertainty to grapple with and grow from.  This art transcends any preconceived ideas getting to the root of what it means to picture the world.

©Michael K. Paxton All Rights Reserved

 Paxton’s work is a fluid process that often appears radiating with life forces.  Fluidity and movement carve new imagery, like a glacier making a pathway over time showing space and depth to the viewer over a flat surface. Paxton showcases breath taking control through instinctual mark making that builds masses from hard, rigid mountains with cavernous depth and sleek slopes to vaporous clouds of smoke, a delicate wisp moving in all directions across a wall, marks that portray the act of burning or marks reminiscent of streamline bodies of water, sifting cascades flowing and falling in unexpected yet completely natural directions, forces of nature in all of their awe inspiring stages.

"Riven" Installation Wall Three ©Micahel K. Paxton All Rights Reserved
"Piney Drawing One" ©Michael K. Paxton All Rights Reserved
Paxton offers a variety of unique perspectives in his abstract drawings and paintings.  Each series of work showcases a new inventive process.  Some pieces recede with layers of washes, while others take on beautiful properties of nature through a splotchy technique that evokes the subtle pitter-patter of rainfall.  Paxton is a visionary to keep an eye out for in Chicago whether his exhibiting work is representational or abstract, each of his works exemplify his stunning and extraordinary drawing skill and incredible talent as an artist.
"Riven" Installation Wall One ©Michael K. Paxton All Rights Reserved
"Riven" Installation Wall Two ©Michael K. Paxton All Rights Reserved
©Darryll Schiff All Rights Reserved
©Darryll Schiff All Rights Reserved
Similar to Paxton’s large-scale bodies of work, Darryll Schiff paints dramatic and beautiful motion with his camera.  Each piece has its undeniable entry point where larger than life it absorbs the viewer. Unlike other still life photographers, whose work is well-composed but ultimately lacking as an immediate reaction, Schiff’s work is a meditation, much like a drawing.  This can help explain why both Paxton and Schiff are able to coax the viewer to a prompt response to their work; it is a sensory reaction to feel strongly about the uniquely beautiful perspective that is being offered. The work provokes immediate sensation because it is can be recognized as an experience to stand before and take in reflections of the world that cannot be obtained sheerly by will without the aid of tool or the knowledge to do so.   Paxton and Schiff bring audiences into a welcome trance with their incredible skill and most pensive bodies of work.  
"Nameless and Mute" ©Michael K. Paxton All Rights Reserved

©Darryll Schiff All Rights Reserved
Michael K. Paxton is a Chicago based artist, see more of his work at:

You can find Darryll Schiff's work at:

I'll leave you to look forward to next month's DSFA Featured Artist, Clare E. Rojas, another favorite artist of mine! 

-- Lauren Ike 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tony Tasset and Darryll Schiff: Fine Art and the Passage of Time

            The Abstract Expressionist canvas is an affirmation of the ego.  It reads subjective free will, yet Pop-Art exemplifies both industry and an “ordered world.”  This frame work helps explain why Tony Tasset’s spill paintings have such a profound affect on an educated art viewer.  Tasset’s work appeals to intellectuals as well as a wider audience of viewers who can respond to familiar things recontextualized.  By large, Tasset’s work is something all people respond to.          
"Convergence" Jackson Pollock (Abstract Expressionism Movement)
"Campbell's Soupcans" Andy Warhol (Pop Art Movement)
  If you do not have an art background, I can explain to you why these colorful kitchen disasters are so important conceptually. Many are familiar with the work of Jackson Pollock, though not all people realize he could be credited for a drastic change in art direction that led artists to become preoccupied with the space and objects of our everyday lives.  Pop Art focuses largely on the everyday life and was brought on in the 1950s-1970s inspired by popular culture and mass media.  Tasset’s work is the lovechild of these two drastically different art movements.
"Mr. Miracle" Tony Tasset

One could say the individual gesture and autograph of Abstract Expressionism moved on to the commodity of mass media, as opposed to the individual.  Again, this is why Tasset’s spill paintings are such an extraordinary appropriation.  Pop Art is meant to act as something everyone can recognize, it is not intended to be perplexing.  It is art everyone has had an experience with.  Pop focuses largely on the idea that we are not makers of things, we are buyers of things, yet the fabrication process Tasset achieves to create believable resin replicas of the spilled condiments and cleaning products is astonishing.  Tasset uses the appropriated imagery property of Pop Art by applying the empty bottles of the substances he replicates. 

On the left is detail on Tony Tasset's "Deluxe French." The right shows Andy Warhol's "Brillo Boxes"

Typically, Abstract Expressionism is a “hot art” being that it is emotional, expressive, improvisational and spontaneous, which Tasset’s paintings evoke, however the substances made to be spilled in Tasset’s “spill paintings” are carefully calculated to look believable in consistency, color, thickness and translucent or opaque properties. These qualities fall more in line with “cool art” traits relating to Pop Art where the hand of the artist is not meant to be seen.  In fact, the first time I viewed Tasset’s paintings at Kavi Gupta Gallery I did not realize the liquids were fabricated and not in fact actual spilled chocolate sauce, wine, mustard, Lysol and lysterine being poured and dried on canvas board.      
"Night and Day" Tony Tasset
With traditional Pop Art, the end result is an art piece that intentionally looks to be mass-produced.  Again, this is where Tasset’s paintings differ, looking far too spontaneous and expressive to be replicated.  There are few artists who make work as exciting and thought provoking in this manner, in a sense Tasset can be compared to post-minimal artist Eva Hesse, known for blurring the lines between properties of Minimalist art work and it’s complete opposite.  The spill paintings are much like her textured cube “Accession II which holds properties thought to be minimal.  Hesse’s work is both process art and a cube, but it is decorative and complex. Hesse’s “Accession II” is not flat surfaced nor sleek like Donald Judd's cube, which is the signature look for Minimalist works of art. Again with Hesse’s piece “Hang Up” she initiates conversation from the viewer, is the piece sculptural, or a painting?     
"Untitled" Donald Judd (Minimalist Movement)

"Accession II" Eva Hesse (Post-mimalist Movement)

Tasset’s spill painting is always challenging the viewer in this manner.  A very simple truth about Pop Art is how it should be representational, where Abstract Expressionism, as suggested in its name, is abstract.  Pop will always reference something else, the aspect of culture the spill paintings represent is of course Pop Art’s predecessor, Abstract Expressionism.  Being, an art historian, this work excites me, but even without this prior knowledge other viewers can respond to the beautiful color choices and fantastic textures of these paintings.  These pieces are the perfect size to let the medium spill and melt into gorgeous puddles of seductive color. 
"Untitled" Jackson Pollock

"Deluxe French" Tony Tasset

The true magnetic quality of Tasset’s body of work is the impressive amount of diversity.  Tasset is an inspiring contemporary multimedia artist, with a variety of mediums and styles focused under unwavering artistic direction.  Another body of work that speaks volumes to me on a more sentimental level are his spectacular hyper realistic sculptural works made to look like melting snowmen, rotting jack-o-lanterns and drying mud pies.   
"Mud Pie" Tony Tasset
These faux nature play creations preserve the ephemeral, seasonal man-made traditions.  The pieces generate memories and conjure emotion in the viewer as they recall the sadness a child feels when their new friend is reduced to a pile of snow, or Halloween night is a week old memory and they’ll have to wait another year to carve a silly face into a pumpkin.  Tasset recreates the familiar, not unlike Jeff Koons with his balloon animal sculptures, thought I prefer Tasset’s creations that evoke nature’s cycle of life and death reflected in seasonal activities. 
"Snowman with Scarf" Tony Tasset
The power this work holds is the ability to make the viewer nostalgic through the alluring qualities of ephemeral art.  It is art we have all had an experience with, it is playful with grim undertones as it captures a fleeting moment near the expiration date of a perishable play object we have given life to with our own hands and imagination. 

Above are two images of Tony Tasset's "Smashed Pumpkin" the first a full image, the second detail.

"Evanescence" ©Darryll Schiff All Rights Reserved

Like Tasset, Darryll Schiff’s photographic body of work conveys the beauty reflected by the impermanent and ephemeral qualities of life.  The camera is well-equipped to capture fleeting moments, yet the medium is used more uniquely than a simple snapshot.  The style in which Schiff expertly seizes his various photographic subjects is always done so in a way that explicitly captivates the essence of a passage in time, like a sophisticated time lapse that only a professional artist of his caliber could hope to achieve. 
"In Vista" ©Darryll Schiff All Rights Reserved
"To Heaven" ©Darryll Schiff All Rights Reserved 
His signature style includes an emotionally charged essence that comes through with each of his photographs that speak for all of humanity in this modern age.  Schiff’s color palette is never short of amazing as it lures the viewer in to contemplate not only how his work is made, but the deeper meaning behind it.  The painterly movement and flow is deliberate to convey the romantic notions of a contemporary artist exploring the digital world through a digital medium.  

"Goo" Tony Tasset

"Apt. Moments" ©Darryll Schiff All Rights Reserved 

Both Tony Tasset and Darryll have expansive bodies of work that cover a variety of subjects and styles.  It is their ability to generate emotion through their art that makes their work so gravitating in each drastically different series.  

- Lauren Ike

Friday, December 5, 2014

One Family: Three Incredible Artists of the 21st Century

Top Left ©Molly Schiff, Top Right ©Lesley Schiff, Bottom Center ©Darryll Schiff, All Rights Reserved

It isn’t uncommon for a family to share a talent, or even an athletic ability, maybe your uncle is musically inclined and so are you, or your mother wrote beautiful poetry in college and your sister developed a romantic way with words by the time she was a freshman in high school.  Sure, certain talents do run in the family, but the caliber in which the Schiff family possesses raw artistic talent is overwhelming.  Molly Schiff, Darryll’s mother, Lesley his sister and Darryll himself each share the mindset of an artist and have flourished into three of the most progressive artists of the 21st century due to their instinct, training and dedication to their practice.  In fact, all three members of this family are present in the leading museums and art institutions. 

        @Molly Schiff All Rights Reserved

       Knowledge and experience is often what guides an artist in creating their most significant works of art.  This is true of talented painter, Molly Schiff.  Molly creates visual narratives as she draws from experiences in the tangible world.  Happening upon Molly’s portfolio of work one will respond to a variety of drastically different paintings, from content to style, even her pallet changes from warm to cooler tones depending on where she draws her inspiration from.  This is not at all surprisingly considering Molly has traveled to over 90 countries around the world and it is reflected in her art.  In fact, Molly has 18 textile based art pieces that each draw inspiration from Chimu and Ancient Paracas textile and ceremonial garments.  The viewer may not have experience with these cultural traditions, but they can feel the reverence through the sensation in Molly’s carefully crafted portrayals of these important colorful cloths. 
@Molly Schiff All Rights Reserved

        The work Molly creates is always an artist’s carefully reflected reaction to the world that surrounds her.  Some of Molly’s larger works are based on sketches she made over time during performances by The Chicago Hubbard Street Dancers. These studies helped her capture the dancer’s action through instinctive mark making, the final project evokes this spontaneous reaction while framed within a well-thought out composition and perfected use of color that suggests movement and vitality.   Other works by Molly are independent of a series, yet the exploration of various motifs exists throughout her body of work. 
        Molly is a master of all her subjects, whether they’re landscapes, interiors, still lives or figures at rest or in motion.  There is a way she handles her created environment perfectly which expresses a feeling for her viewers to pick up on.  There is a serene quality to many of her works, as they use cool colors and space that reflects a quiet, still mood.  The pieces that are loud are made so intentionally through active imagery and bold, high color contrasts. 
@Molly Schiff All Rights Reserved

          Molly’s Selected one person and group exhibitions include Art Heritage Gallery, New Delhi India, Art Institute of Chicago, Arts Club of Chicago, Cultural Center Chicago, Florence Italy Bienalle 2003, Freeport Art Museum, Illinois Arts Council, Illinois State Arts Museum, Spertus Museum, Stanislaus State College, USA State Department Arts in the Embassies; University of South Carolina, Union League Club Chicago, University Club Chicago, LUMA (Loyola Museum of Fine Arts).

@Molly Schiff All Rights Reserved

        Connect the dots, don’t be afraid to draw the connections between artists Darryll Schiff, Lesley Schiff and their mother Molly Schiff.   These are each educated highly talented and successful artists of the 21st Century.  While Molly is a traditional painter, Darryll and Lesley, also have their roots in traditional art education that lead them to adapt these properties through new technology.  In fact, Lesley and Darryll are pioneers of their new mediums.  These are fine artists using contemporary tools to make their art pieces.  Using the properties of painting, color contrast, shape and shading – the mark of a trained painter, is ever-present in their digital mediums. 

©Lesley Schiff All Rights Reserved

©Darryll Schiff All Rights Reserved

        For Lesley, the compositions she creates often read as a painting.  Consider “Ghost Man”, the mark making and gesture achieved looks as if it is done through an additive process by brush and pigment.  The work appears to be a paint wash.  Similarly with her “Shadow of Light” it appears as though she uses a gestural process, having a modern day Franz Klein affect.  The process reflects the style of a modernist painting.  Lesley was one of the first to use digital copies making everything from collages to manipulating the internal mechanism of the machine to achieve her desired affect. 
"Ghost Man" ©Lesley Schiff All Rights Reserved

        Some of Lesley’s achievements include her presence in noteworthy collections such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Museum of Modern Art in New York, Buckingham Palace in London, Whitney Museum of Art in New York, New York Public Library, Chase Manhattan Bank Collection in New York, Goldman Sachs in New York, Massachusetts College of Art, Prestige Art Limited in New York, Canon USA, J.P. Morgan in New York, David & Alfred Smart Museum in Chicago, Sony Music-Columbia Records, and Epic Records among others. 
"Shadow of Light" ©Lesley Schiff All Rights Reserved

©Darryll Schiff All Rights Reserved

        Darryll approaches the camera in a similar manner, using it as a tool to paint with, bend and use abstractly rather than as a form of documentation.  More can be said about Darryll, his artistic process and great success as a fine art photographer, if you are unfamiliar with Darryll as an artist I encourage you to read the previous two blog posts that take an in-depth look at his interests and motives as an artist.  ‪‪‪Darryll’s photography is part of the collections in renowned museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, George Eastman House, Norton Simon Museum Pasadena and Museum of Contemporary Photography and many private collections from coast-to-coast. 
        This doesn’t cover all of the artists in the Schiff family, there are more still, including both of Darryll’s children.  More to come on the unparalleled talent that runs in one prolific family! 

 - Lauren Ike