Nature by Numbers

Nature by Numbers
The golden ratio, alternately known as the golden mean or the golden section, and often represented by the greek letter φ (phi); along with its relatives the golden rectangle, the golden spiral (a special type of logarithmic spiral) and the Fibonnacci sequence of numbers; are all associated with that shimmering twilight zone where mathematics, geometry, natural forms and the human perception of beauty mix, merge, shift and flow into, through and around one another.

So do the images in Christóbal Vila’s animated ode to these and similar concepts, Nature by Numbers.

This is a short (4 minute) animated movie in which Vila visually displays and explores some of these relationships. It starts with the Fibonnacci numbers, a sequence that starts with 0 and 1 (or two ones) and in which each subsequent number is the sum of the preceding two, goes on to construct a Fibonacci spiral consisting of golden rectangles, and builds out from there.

The golden section has long been associated with architecture and art, and has been called “the divine proportion“. This is one of the more poetic visual demonstrations of the concept that I’ve seen.

[Via BoingBoing]

Donald Jurney

Donald Jurney
Looking at the work of painter Donald Jurney puts me in mind of a number of English, French, Dutch and American landscape painters who were at their peak in the years just prior to the advent of French Impressionism.

His pastoral countrysides and sweeping mountain views are often framed in intriguing plays of light and dark; large areas of shadow lie across the land, punctuated and accented by glimmers of light against mountains or between crowns of trees.

In the limited size of the images on Jurney’s web site and the sites of galleries representing his work, you can only get a vague idea of the texture of the paint strokes in his approach. Fortunately, there is at least one close up of his work, and another slightly smaller close up image on the blog of Quidley & Company galleries that allow you to see his richly textural paint surface.

Jurney uses a carefully controlled, muted palette, with subtle variations in color accompanied by strong value contrasts.

His paintings carry a wonderful sense of place, but simultaneously suggest a feeling of timelessness, as if carrying the traditions of several centuries of landscape painters forward in an unbroken line.

[Via Lia Waichulis and The Hidden Place]

From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection

From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection at The National Gallery - William Merritt Chase, Henri Fantin-Latour, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Amedeo Modigliani, Eugene Boudin
American art collector Chester Dale, who had a passion for late 19th and early 20th Century Avant Garde painting (a phrase that, of course, refers to different artists at different times) left a bequest to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC that includes 85 works from French and American artists.

The museum has mounted an exhibition of highlights from the collection, From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection, that features outstanding works by Corot, Van Gogh, Picasso, Leger, Matiesse, Renoir, Cassatt, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec and and many others.

Dale served on the board of the National Gallery from 1943 on, and was president until his death in 1962. He was a well known collector while many of these artists were active, and the exhibition includes portraits of him by Salvador Dalí and Diego Rivera, as well as portraits of his wife, Maud, by George Bellows and Fernand Léger.

I haven’t see this show yet, but I’ve seen many of the pieces listed as part of the permanent collection over the years, and it should be a very strong show, even if your interest, like mine, is more focused on one end of the collection’s time frame.

The National Gallery, if you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting, is one of the best art museums in the U.S.; and one of the highlights of Washington’s cornucopia of cultural treasures (almost all of which have free admission, see my post on The National Portrait Gallery).

To my mind, the exhibition would be worth the visit just for William Merritt Chase’s beautiful A Friendly Call (image above, top).

There is a slideshow of highlights on the museum’s site, along with a PDF version of the exhibition brochure (PDF link).

From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection is on display until July 31, 2011.

(Images above: William Merritt Chase, Henri Fantin-Latour, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Amedeo Modigliani, Eugéne Boudin)

Rudy Gutierrez

Rudy Gutierrez
Illustrator Rudy Gutierrez began his professional career while still a student at Pratt Institute. In addition to his freelance career, Gutierrez now teaches illustration and is the Illustration Coordinator at Pratt. He was awarded the Distinguished Educator in the Arts award for 2005 from The Society of Illustrators.

His clients include The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Playboy, HarperCollins, Viking/Penguin and several recording companies, including Verve Records and Arista Records. One of his most widely recognized images is his CD cover for Santana’s 2002 release Shaman.

Gutierrez has had the opportunity to do illustrations of a number of musicians and other well known figures.

His illustration style is a bright burst of orchestrated chaos — swirling patterns, rough marks and scribble-like lines surround and flow in and out of rendered representational images. Faces and figures appear and disappear within the compositions, which are often complex, but never lack focus or definition.

His visual elements show influences of op art, cubism, expressionism, urban grafitti, distorsions from African masks, patterns from other ancient cultures, and the free lines of children’s crayon drawings. Into this mix he stirs realistic rendering, bright colors and a variety of textures.

Gutierrez’ own web site is under construction, and points interested parties to his portfolios on Altpick, Richard Solomon and Pratt Talent. You can also find a gallery of his work on The iSpot.

He occasionally does murals and large scale work, and is part of Richard Solomon’s Art On a Grand Scale slate of illustrators.

Ken Auster

Ken Auster
California artist Ken Auster studied for his BFA at Long Beach State University in the midst of the 1960’s surfing craze, and applied his talents to successful lines of silkscreen prints and T-shirt designs that became icons of surfer culture.

In the 1990’s Auster moved into plein air painting, capturing immediate scenes in a painterly realist manner, but maintaining a strong graphic sensibility from his previous experience. The result is painterly evocations of cityscapes, landscapes, interiors and, of course, beach scenes, that have an uncommon graphic and geometric strength.

Auster pushes up against the line of “just enough” to suggest his scenes and convey the light, color and textures of the place and time. He fills his geometric shapes with lush, textural brushwork, wonderful squiggles and blobs of thick paint that make their own drama within the larger image.

His interiors are often of restaurants and bars, finding patterns in walls lined with wine bottlers and glasses, visual texture in the kitchens, and value contrasts in the white shirts and dark vests of servers.

Some of his paintings include scenes in restaurants or bars that have noted works or art on the walls, like several of the paintings currently in the New Masters Gallery that show patrons in front of the Old King Cole mural by Maxfield Parrish in the St. Regis Hotel Bar in Manhattan (image above, bottom; see here for a closer view of the Parrish mural).

I particularly like Auster’s cityscapes, in which he reduces urban complexity to geometric simplicity with apparent ease, finding just the right level of suggested detail to carry the impression of place.

Auster’s own web site, though it features a variety of his work and subjects, suffers from images that are inexplicably small; so much as to be almost pointless, and certainly not large enough to get any appreciation for the textural qualities of his paint surface.

Fortunately, he fares better in the reproductions on the sites of galleries in which he is represented, New Masters Gallery and Jones & Terwilliger Galleries. There are also sources for reproductions of his work, though I haven’t listed them here.

Auster conducts painting workshops in various parts of the country. There are some time-lapse videos of Auster painting, both on his site and on YouTube.

Alexa Meade

Alexa Meade
When is a painting not a painting?

Mixed media artist Alexa Meade presents that question in images that look like somewhat painterly expressionist/realist paintings but are in reality painted objects, including people.

For her living paintings series Meade applies acrylic paint to the surfaces of objects and walls in way that mimics the appearance of brushwork in a painting, so that the scene, when viewed in a two dimensional photograph, appears to be an oil painting.

The effect is convincing, so much so that it’s difficult to tell until you see an accompanying photograph that shows the scene out of context. In the Portfolio on Meade’s site, the images that pop up when you click on the initial image are usually part of a series, in which the last image is often the one that reveals the “reality” of the scene.

Meade posts her most recent works to a Flickr set.

[Suggestion courtesy of Mark Miller]