Recently, Kerry Schuss moved his gallery from Leonard Street to 34 Orchard, where his first exhibition is Robert Moskowitz: Envelopes (1962–1963). He also changed the gallery’s name from KS Art to Kerry Schuss.
I met Kerry around 1991, and it was through him that I learned about Freddie Brice (1920–1998). (Check out Freddie Brice Paints Two Paintings: Part 1 on YouTube). Kerry met Freddie in 1988 at a senior center on the Upper West Side where he held weekly art workshops for ten years. He got Freddie to start painting, bought him supplies and sold his work for him. Whenever he got something by Freddie, he would mention it to me, and I would go over and see it. I remember that Kerry bought Freddie a portable TV, but instead of watching it, he decided to cover it with paint.
Kerry’s interest in self-taught artists started in 1973, when he saw a show of Elijah Pierce (1892–1984) at Ohio State. Schuss visited Pierce in his barbershop/studio, which was in Columbus, and he looked for other self-taught artists in the area. In 1987 he moved back to New York and shortly afterwards, through his job and through his curiosity he was able to meet self-taught artists there. I remember spending long hours at his place going through piles of works.
* * *
By all accounts, Pearl Blauvelt (1893–1987) was a recluse who lived in northeastern Pennsylvania in a house without running water, plumbing or central heating. Her neighbors referred to her as the “Village Witch.” In the mid 1950s, she was declared incompetent and moved to a facility where she resided until she died. The house she lived in stood vacant for nearly fifty years, until it was bought and restored. The people who bought the house discovered Blauvelt’s drawings in an old wooden box lodged under long-abandoned piles of things.
The drawings were done in pencil on three-holed, ruled notebook paper, the kind every child still scribbles on, even in the computer age. Blauvelt drew things she saw in mail order catalogues, often misspelling the words she was copying (“Linnings All Coolors”).
Sometimes she did aerial views and worked on all sides of the paper, arriving at an omnipotent vantage point that conveyed her alienation from the commonplaces of the everyday world, as well as her desire to be more powerful than she was. Blauvelt wanted to rule a world that consisted of a decent-sized, well-furnished house with a bed, clothes in the closet, a well-stocked kitchen and a paved street nearby.
Mimicking her source material, she would often label every object in the drawing. Given her dire circumstances, the drawings are wish lists of things she wanted — linens, for example — as well as the houses she imagined living in. Her grids of women’s nylon stockings and of store shelves call out to artists as different as Christina Ramberg and Andy Warhol.
I suspect that the items advertised in mail order catalogues, such as the one sent by Sears Roebuck to mailboxes all across America, quietly influenced generations of artists, from the naïve to the sophisticated — Blauvelt and James Castle to Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg.
According to Rosalind Krauss in her 1978 essay, “Grids,” the flattened geometry of the grid is “antinatural, antimimetic, antireal. It is what art looks like when it turns its back on nature.” This is a rather narrow view of the grid and those who used it, a form of exclusion based on an agenda.
It occurs to me that the artists that I have cited got to the grid via the mail order catalogue, which was decidedly real for them — it was their view of another, possibly better world. The repeated desire to cleave art from life, to have it turn “its back on nature” seems to me based on something other than fact.
There is nothing exotic about Blauvelt’s desires — she wanted to live in a nice house and have her creature comforts satisfied. In his poem, “On the Debt My Mother Owed Sears Roebuck,” Ed Dorn wrote:
On the debt my mother owed sears roebuck
we brooded, she in the house, a little heavy
from too much corn meal, she
a little melancholy from the dust of the fields
in her eye, the only title she ever had to lands —
and man’s ways winged their way to her through the mail
saying so much per month
so many months, this is yours, take it
take it, take it, take it…..
Blauvelt’s desires were modest, in that sense. Her drawings are direct and plain yet rich with nuance. She wanted things, but never got them, while Warhol bought things by the truckload — cookie jars, Navaho rugs, and Fiestaware — and never used them.
To understand contemporary art, it is necessary to investigate the connections that are sometimes omitted or undervalued in art history.
Gearhart founded a print gallery with her sisters and was at the center of the Arts and Crafts movement in southern California.
Curator, educator, and transdisciplinary artist Jova Lynne is coming from MOCAD to lead Temple Contemporary exhibitions and public programs.
Video art was something you watched “with the lights on,” as França insisted, without pretenses of high art.
PHASE 2 would emerge as an innovator in New York’s burgeoning subway art movement, creating elaborate murals that would shape the evolution of both the spray can and the art form.
Featuring underwater recordings from around the world, this immersive, site-specific installation is on view at the Lenfest Center for the Arts in NYC from February 3 to 13.
While the South Asian diaspora is one of the largest and most widely dispersed in the world, the Indo-Caribbean community is often overlooked and excluded from discussions of South Asian art.
The Bay Area artist believed in shaping artists rather than relaying rules.
BRIC’s multidisciplinary program in Brooklyn has cohorts in Contemporary Art, Film & TV, Performing Arts, and Video Art. Applications are due March 10.
Open-ended, community based, and collaborative, “esolangs” serve as a reminder that digital art has other histories and other futures.
Working with what they had, Cass Corridor artists scrapped and repurposed anything they could get their hands on, attempting to find some salvation for their city through a literal process of salvage and reuse.
Throughout the 1970s and into the ’80s, artists in Los Angeles created organizations and exhibition spaces to develop the resources they lacked.