Ruo Li

Seascapes are rarely subjects that capture my attention. The seascapes of Ruo Li, however, are striking exceptions.

Sweeping carpets of foam vibrate over rough edged rocks, throwing up volumetric plumes of spray; or quietly seep through crevices and channels on their way back to join the greater sea. Flat planes of water lay against the sand, carrying reflections of the sky in their glistening surface.

His depiction of foam and spray, as well as other white subjects like snow or the white decks of boats, are handled with masterful aplomb.

Li’s rich, painterly approach revels in the textures of his subjects, whether seascapes, landscapes or still life. He often works with a very controlled palette, though he will employ brighter busts of color in his landscapes.

Li was born in Hunan, China and received his BA degree from the Fine Art Department of Guangzhou Academy. He went on to teach in the Fine Art Department of Henan University. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1989 and is currently based in California.

Unfortunately, the galleries on his website are slightly awkward. You can choose easily enough from subject categories along the bottom for Seascapes, Watercolor (image above, bottom), Sketches, Landscape and Floral, as well as “Other” which includes more conceptual pieces, usually involving animal themes.

Once in a particular gallery, however, you have to click on a thumbnail before any images from that gallery appear, and need to take note of the small indicator under the thumbnails of how many pages of thumbnails are in the gallery (the Seascape gallery has 17), and use the small symbols to navigate to the next batch.

There is a mention of his work on the PaintAmerica site, where he won top honors in the 2009 competition. The image there is linked to a larger version than the images on his site, allowing for a better sense of his brushwork and use of texture.

In addition, there is a book of Ruo Li’s Art available on Blurb.

[Suggestion courtesy of James Gurney]


Mattias Adolfsson (update)

Since I wrote about Mattias Adolfsson back in 2009, he has continued to fill his blog, Mattias Inks, with his marvelously whimsical illustrations, sketches, drawings and watercolors.

They range from finished illustrations, a number of which are for Wired, through complex Moleskein drawings to simple but charming doodles.

He has recently collected a variety of them into a book titled The first in line.

He has stuffed a lot of drawings and illustrations into the 160-page book, judging from the video flip-through on his site, which gives a good idea of the range and scope of the contents. There is also a picture of the cover here, and more info here.

If you order before June 1, Adolfsson will sign your copy and include a small doodle.


Rooms with a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century

Rooms with a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century: Martin Drolling, Jacob Alt, Martinus Rorbye, Giovanni Battista de Gubernatis, Leon Cogniet, Georg Friedrich Kersting
As blockbuster exhibitions have become more prohibitively expensive to mount, museums have had to work to fill their exhibition schedules with more modest shows, usually based on a fairly specific theme.

Far from being disappointing, I’ve found this trend to be filled with unexpected delights and often enlightening twists on how the works and artists are viewed.

A case in point is Rooms with a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century, on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York until July 4, 2011.

The theme here is a simple one, compositions in which the artist has used an open window as a major component, if not the overt focus of the work. This was a common theme in the 19th Century, and the exhibition is even more specific, focusing on the early two decades of the century and works by German, Danish, French, Italian and Russian artists, several of them artists’ studio interiors.

The museum’s feature on the exhibition includes a gallery of selected works, each linked to a slightly larger image. Presumably, you can look up the image and artist on the web site of the institution from which the original is on loan if you are interested in pursuing the works further.

I happen to particularly enjoy this subject, and would love to see an exhibition in which it was expanded across eras and genres to include works like Young Woman Drawing by Marie-Denise Villers, the open windows of Pieter de Hooch and the enigmatic window/canvas paintings of Rene Magritte; but that’s a thought for the future.

For the moment, the Met has opened a window on a specific, fascinating aspect of the early 19th Century.

(Images above: Martin Drolling [att.], Jacob Alt, Martinus Rorbye, Giovanni Battista de Gubernatis, Leon Cogniet, Georg Friedrich Kersting)


M.C. Escher: Impossible Realities

M.C. Escher
One of the things that visual art does at its best is allow us to see the world through fresh eyes, reframing the ordinary as extraordinary.

Sometimes, however, the artworks become so iconic and familiar as to need reframing themselves in order to be seen freshly.

M.C. Escher, despite being treated for years by art critics as a piece of gum on their mental shoe, something nasty and annoying that won’t go away, has found his way into the general consciousness and popular culture as a prime example of the unfamiliar made familiar.

Escher was an extraordinary printmaker who slipped between the worlds of art, mathematics and psychology like a psychic eel, finding the distinctions others see as barriers easily porous. He brought back from his introspective journeys evidence of impossible worlds, postcards from inner space; not the fevered dream state imaginings of the Surrealists, but hard edged artifacts of geometric purity.

Through some Klein bottle-like twist of inter-dimensional sleight-of-hand, Escher connected the tenuous vapor of imagination to the rigid solidity of mathematical certainty; in the process giving each a wrenching turn that reveals their hidden sides.

Escher’s reorganizations of space and planes, his defiance of gravity and time and his insistence on showing us the impossible not only as possible but as in-your-face obvious as a brick in your hand, has become the stuff of T-shirts, mugs and desktop wallpapers.

The challenge, as I pointed out in my previous post on M.C. Escher, is to see his artwork as artwork, free from cultural baggage. I think the most promising path for this lies in his less familiar work, delving into the pieces not often reproduced, particularly his early work, and viewing it side by side with his more iconic pieces.

M.C. Escher: Impossible Realities is an exhibition currently at the Akron Art Museum in Ohio that promises to do just that, featuring 130 works, drawn largely from the extensive Escher collection of the Herakleidon Museum in Athens, Greece.

I don’t know if the images above are in the Akron show or not, I just picked a few of my favorites, some iconic, some less so. M.C. Escher: Impossible Realities is on view at the Akron Art Museum until June 5, 2011. The museum’s Facebook page has some photographs of the installation.

For those, like myself, who can’t easily get to Akron, there are numerous books on Escher. One I recommend in particular is The Magic Mirror of M.C. Escher by Bruno Ernst, which not only features some of his early and lesser-known works, but delves into his influences, process and working methods.

I’ve also attempted to collect some web resources below. There is an official M.C. Escher site, maintained by a foundation that Escher himself started. They seem to have submitted to the kind of web image paranoia that makes them reluctant to post images large enough to be really useful in many cases, but their selection may be the most complete.

There is now an Escher Museum in the Hague, called Escher in het Paleis (Escher in the Palace), though their site doesn’t seem to have a gallery of images.

World of Escher, despite its commercial bent, has some larger images. Note that there are more in the drop-down list than are displayed as thumbnails. Art Renewal has good images, if a limited selection. Cuidad de la pintura has a nice selection (note second page).

The National Gallery in Washington has a good selection, as well as a page on his life and work.

The M.C. Escher bio on Wikipedia has a fairly extensive list of linked images, most of which are linked in turn to larger versions.

If you spend some time with Escher, looking at both the familiar and lesser-known works, you may discover that he has more ways than you realized to show you the ordinary as extraordinary.


Rembrandt and his School at the Frick

Rembrandt and his School at the Frick
The Frick Collection in New York, which I wrote about here, is remarkably deep with masterworks for a collection of its size. One area of depth is 3 superb paintings by Rembrandt (images above, top three), as well as a collection of prints and drawings.

These form the core of an exhibition ending May 15, 2011, Rembrandt and His School: Masterworks from the Frick and Lugt Collections. 66 works on paper are on loan from the latter collection in Paris (images above, bottom two).

Inexplicably, the paintings mentioned in the website pages about the exhibition are not linked to the zoomable detail images available in the display of the permanent collection, but you can access them here and here.

You can also supplement your viewing with the Rembrandt van Rijn: Life and Work site.


Amy Casey

Amy Casey
In her most recent series of paintings Cleveland based artist Amy Casey takes familiar structures, largely typical urban and suburban houses and commercial buildings, and arranges them in the context of unfamiliar structures — strands of webbing, extended strings, coils of roads or walls — effectively reframing them and forcing us to look at them in a different way, to delightful effect.

Her colorful, graphically rendered compositions are full of movement and energy, though the subjects are objects seldom associated with movement.

Her online gallery is arranged chronologically. As you go back in time, you’ll find different variations on her themes, and get a sense of the development of her current direction.

[Via Escape Into Life]