Monday, January 24, 2022

Classes and Exhibition coming to Ocean Grove


Last night I got an email from Nichole with news and specifics about some upcoming events at the Jersey Shore Arts Center.  Things I knew about before, but now I know a bit more.

One email was regarding classes, this time including a form to be filled out.  My computer didn't seem to do it, so I printed out a copy and filled it out the old fashioned way-with a pen.  Nothing here I didn't know but all in one place now. Five classes are being offered in this go round, with two from me.  I am scheduled to be teaching Basic Drawing and Beginner Acrylic, on Saturdays, starting April 2nd.  My plan is to go in tomorrow, and drop off my form, and give them a copy of my vaccination card.  Whether either or both of these classes actually run is anybody's guess.  The first time classes were offered, I had drawing (the above photo is from one of those classes in the room I should have this time) and woodcut, which I did twice that summer for each.  I also did a pop-in drawing thing in the 3rd floor cafe that late fall and winter, but we didn't get a single person until the last of four nights, so I didn't make much money for that.  Of course we got shut down for Covid, and then when we started up again, twice I offered classes and no one registered.  Could be fear of the pandemic, or improper promotion- we don't know.  This time we have a new item, acrylics, so that may make a difference.  And we are starting sooner with announcing it.  On the other hand, there is no plan as of now to promote things through newspaper ads, only through social media and other free locations.  I plan to go in tomorrow to ask some questions, and when I know more, I will announce it here.

We also got information about an upcoming exhibition that I will be a part of, with some information due this week.  I'll save details on that until tomorrow, when I should know a little more.  What I can say now is that I expect to put in three framed works (one completely new to exhibiting) and that the show has an opening reception now, scheduled for Friday, February 18th, and will run through the end of April.  

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Artificial Intelligence and Art

 About a week ago an article ran in a regional paper, the Star-Ledger.   Finally got around to reading it today.   The article is called, "Artificial Intelligence is restoring lost artworks, but not everyone is happy about it", by Kelsey Ables of the Washington Post.  What the article is about is that artificial intelligence programs have been used recently to create or repair what had been considered lost artworks.  Over the years many historical artworks have been cleaned and/or repaired, but not to everyone's satisfaction.  I used to show my college students examples of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel paintings, before and after cleaning.  The first time I saw the actual work, it was before the cleaning, while the second time I saw it, parts were original, parts were cleaned, and parts were covered by the scaffolding of those doing the work.   It was done one square inch at a time.  What had happened was that a proper cleaning had not been done since the original fresco had been done about 500 years ago.  Some repairs with glue had been done, but there was centuries of soot, grime, and exhalations up there, too.  So it was cleaned, that top layer of dirt taken off the plaster that had been painted into.  However, no one was prepared for the result.  Suddenly there was a lot more color than anyone was used to seeing.  There was some debate over what was meant to be there.  The painting had never been this bright and colorful before.  Was some of that glue put on by Michelangelo himself, to darken it and create shadows?  Was it brighter to account for the distance to the ceiling, and the poor lighting that had existed 500 years ago- just a few clerestory windows and some candles, now augmented with numerous electric lights?  No one was alive now who was alive when it was painted, to say what should have been.  

There are examples known to art history where the artist was to blame.  For example, Albert Pinkham Ryder, in his quest to make his new paintings look much older, applied layer after layer of oil paint, until they were sometimes inches thick.  And he put on layers of varnishes, rubbed on dirt, and other substances to make them look more like old master paintings.  Even in his lifetime these were recognized as problems, and in some cases, the back canvas was pulled off to reveal still wet paint underneath.  Much of this wet paint was removed, and some of those paintings still resemble what he painted.  Those that were not restored have done worse, as the paint continued to age and mature, and the images have all but disappeared. In some cases, black and white photos taken more than a century ago provide a better idea of the painting, than the paint that's on them today.

The paintings mentioned in this article were all in museums, and not nearly as old or exposed to the world. Some of the damage came at the hands of people.  A Rembrandt that had been cut down to size by the museum, and now people wanted to know what it would look like in its original dimensions.  Some Klimt murals that had been considered too odd in their day and had been unseen since.  A Picasso painting that had been painted over by Picasso himself, but people wanted to know about that original painting.  Toward this end, modern artificial intelligence systems have been employed to provide some algorithm to recreate what the artist intended. But getting people to agree to what that is can be a challenge.  Adding to the problem is that the more people love the original artist and artwork (or what they consider to be what it should look like), the more they oppose anything that could change it, even if it was what the artist intended.  I've seen this problem in the world of television, where fans have been up in arms because long running shows they loved have ended differently from what they wanted.  And sometimes art historians have been left out of the loop in this process, casting some doubts on the results. 

In the Rembrandt case, at some point it seems someone at the museum decided to take the large painting and remove the far ends, cutting it down to the part that is known now.   But what about the original painting?   Artificial intelligence, notes and copies of the original, and photographs were all used to develop copies of the parts removed.  The new version is probably the most accurate of all these modern works, related to what was originally painted.  (no one is trying to pass off any of these works as originals, just a guess to what the artist intended)  Does seeing this expanded view of the original painting make it better or worse? That is up to viewers to decide.  

Those Klimt paintings are a little different.  When created as public murals, they did not look much like the work he was known for, which can be attributed to the artist trying new things.  They were not liked, so Klimt took them back and never created any public murals again.  The original paintings haven't been seen since, and only have existed as black and white photographs.  Artificial intelligence has been used to color those images.  The problem is they look so little like what he was know for, many doubt the accuracy.  These new versions use bright, bold colors, and don't fit with anything Klimt was known for.  And art historians weren't contributors to this plan, and don't much like the results.  Klimt has been dead for a long time, so we can't ask him what he intended.  

The Picasso case hits a little closer to home.  In the example given here, Picasso had done a figure painting, and decided to put a newer painting over the top of that one.  No copies are known to exist of the original, but x-rays and such can be used to see the underpainting, as has been done for many other artists, usually done to see how paintings change and develop.  In this case, it's a completely different painting.  Artificial intelligence has been used to recreate that original figure painting.  Again, no art historians or Picasso experts were consulted (which makes them quite unhappy on principle) but the computers looked at other examples of his work from that time to help create this lost painting.  Left unanswered is why he painted over it.  Was he very displeased or unsatisfied with the result and wanted it gone, replaced with something much different?  Or did he just not want to waste a canvas and put a new painting over a primed canvas he didn't want to discard?  

 Where this hits closer to home is that I am a huge fan of the Beatles, and their songs and lives have been more documented than almost anything else on earth.  The recent Get Back film took over 50 hours of filmed footage, showing them developing songs for a new album, and then recording it.  A small portion of this would be turned into the movie Let It Be.  Along the way, we see dozens of songs that would appear on later Beatles albums and solo albums being worked on.  As a result of this new 8 hour documentary, viewers have developed some new opinions of this somewhat contentious time for the band.  They knew they were being filmed, so none of this is really a surprise, and all the music has appeared on bootlegs (including some I own), so for fans there is no real surprise.   We do learn that the band members sometimes played guitars while talking, so that their conversations wouldn't be heard by by the 1969 technology.  Modern technology makes it possible to hear these conversations now.  Is this an invasion of privacy?  The two surviving Beatles and the spouses of the other two have agreed and endorsed this new film, so this invasion of privacy has been accepted.  Possibly more of concern is all the other studio material.  As their power and profitability increased, the band was given more and more studio time to develop ideas and experiment with recording.  For example, the band was given a single day to record their entire first album (which also used the four songs recorded for their first two singles) in 1962, but by the time of Sgt Pepper in 1967, they were given 6 months to make it, and whole orchestras to work with.  The Anthology sets that came out over a decade ago contain dozens of alternate takes, early versions, bits of recordings that would be used to make other things, finished songs stripped down to hear just music or just vocals, etc.  For a fan and an artist, this is valuable material.  For example, we get an early version of I'll Be Back with a waltz tempo (something the Beatles did a lot) but when it was too hard to sing, they changed it and we hear an early version with a 4/4 time, close to the final version.  Or there's part of an instrumental of I'm Only Sleeping performed on a vibraphone, much different from what was used eventually.  We only have part because the rest was taped over by other performances.  Was this because the Beatles were unsatisfied with this version (no vocals were ever put on it, so this may be the case) or was the record company being cheap, and was making them reuse tape to work on their songs?  Did the Beatles want the public to hear this stuff?  Three surviving band members and one widow did agree, so it was done with their permission, but these versions never appeared on any records, so I have to wonder.

The point is, we don't know if these artificial intelligence systems are giving us what artists may have intended, or creating new styles of artwork that make sense to them.  And we may never know.  So what viewers make of these new items remains to be seen.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Opening the Frame Shop Again


Last week I sent Nichole requested information for two items- possible classes in the spring, and a tenants exhibition that may happen sooner.  As far as I know, she has received all this information now, but that means I have work to do.  For the class stuff, it's two classes that are scheduled for April, a basic drawing, and an acrylic painting. I have taught the former there twice before, in the pre-Covid days, the only difference now is that I have fewer still life objects, and the classes then were four week sessions, but these now are 6 week sessions.  Pay still has to be worked out, but I merely had to take the 3 four week sessions (beginner, intermediate, and advanced), and reworked them as two 6 week sessions, the same 12 steps now divided into beginner and advanced.  I've never taught acrylic paints there, but we used acrylics in all the 2D classes I have taken or taught, so I just came up with six weeks of activities that seem important to me, and put that together.  All that was submitted a week ago, as requested.

The exhibition may happen sooner, but there are a number of steps, the first of which happened back in January, giving an intention of being part of it.  I did that, choosing to show 3 framed works.  I haven't put these in writing yet, but I have picked them out. selecting three prints that I don't think I have shown there before.  (used photos on the blog and the blog itself to figure this out)   Two are older works, already in frames, though I will attach the long wires favored by the building for hanging, moved from other framed works that have been hung there.  But one thing needed a new cut mat and frame job, my newest print.  I don't have a frame that will fit this print exactly (it's a little larger than the supermarket prints), but I found one that is close enough that I can adapt it.

So early this afternoon I set off to the Studio to take care of business.  On the way I stopped off in Belmar to get a meatball parm sandwich from the place I think makes the best one, and continued up to Ocean Grove.  I had packed one of my large Belmar tote bags with the framed print I had, various things I could use, and my blues/jazz set of discs. In my Studio, ate half the sandwich, packing half for another day and bringing it to my car (which I figured would be about the same temperature as a refrigerator on a day like today)  then got to work.  I took out my mat cutting machine, and the framed print I had.  It was a collaboration between myself and David Lasky, a tribute to our former art professor, Henry Coleman.  It's not a bad print, but I haven't shown it for a while, and I need that frame soon. 

For music I selected a disc from the book I had, New Moon Daughter from Cassandra Wilson.  This album came out around 1995, very mellow, her variety of jazz singing, a collection of originals and covers of famous tunes.  The album opens with a pretty good version of Strange Fruit but what probably got the most press was her take on Last Train to Clarksville much bluesier and sadder than the one made famous by the Monkees.  Only about an hour, but that's all I would need.  

The original print held by this frame was vertical, but my new use would be horizontal, however, I had taken that into account.  I had to take apart the old frame, remove the wiring, remove the old print, kept what had been the two bevel cut horizontal edges of the window, which now became part of the two vertical edges.  I cut two new edges to be the new long horizontal edges of the window, extending the now two vertical edges to meet them and form new corners, attached the new print to the backing board (I had learned that the reversible neutral glue on the linen tape was no longer holding as well as it had, so I substituted some white glue here.)  Wouldn't do this normally, but it was the only frame and mat board I had to deal with.  And with that done, I put away everything, packed and cleaned up, and took off for home.

Saturday, January 01, 2022

Art Continues in 2022

Last year began with me going to a hospital, for the fourth time I think.  So far I don't have that problem this year.   I hope I am past the worst of my health issues, but as of now I have a therapy appointment on Monday, and a neurological exam the week after that, so who knows?  

I am hoping for a better year.  I think I am done with printing for the time being, but I need to decide what will hang in the next show by Monday, and get those framed in the near future.  Also once they are decided, produce wall tags for those pieces.  Framed works to be delivered to the gallery early next month.  Have to settle some decisions about local classes very soon, then do some preparation, but some can wait until people actually sign up for those classes.  With another wave of Covid coming our way, that may not happen.  

I have some vague ideas about another piece of art, but I'll save those thoughts until I am ready to start something.  By then I should have tested my new saw, and maybe purchased some additional materials. 

Beyond that, I am not planing anything yet, but these things have a tendency to happen as they do, so I will be ready.