Saturday, August 10, 2013

Historical Co|So :: The Armory Show in Boston Part II

Every city on the Armory Show tour was taking a risk in exhibiting the controversial art of the Modernist painters.  Even New York City, the American art capital was nervous to see the work of the degenerate artists arrive.  While New York may have been taking a risk, Boston was causing a scandal! In the historically more conservative city, the works in the 1913 exhibition were considered downright outrageous to some of the members of the Copley Society of Boston.

John Monteiro, Horse, 14 x 16 1/2, scratchboard.

Before arriving in Boston, the Armory show stopped in in New York and Chicago.  Often thought of as the most famous event to link the European movements of Fauvism, Cubism, and Futurism to the U.S., the show took both cities by storm.  Hosted at the 69th Regiment Armory in NYC the show featured over 2,000 paintings by both European and American artists.  In comparison, space constraints at the Copley Society of Boston only allowed for 244 paintings, all by European artists, to be displayed.  Before traveling back east, the exhibition had a tumultuous reception at the Art Institute of Chicago, where students and patrons incited a protest against the art on display. 

Floor Plan of Copley and Allston Halls in the Grundmann Studio Building, 194 Clarendon Street, Boston.
Despite the willingness of the Copley Society to take a chance with the Armory Show, there was significant debate between the members.  A letter written by Frank Gair Macomber to fellow Copley Society member Edward R. Warren expressed his concern in being associated with supporting provocative European artists:

“We all feel that the Society should avoid seeming to give any sanction to the movement.”
               -Letter from Edward Warren to Frank Macomber, March 31, 1913

The Society made it clear that the exhibition was brought to Boston purely as an educational tool: they wanted to give the public a chance to form their own opinions of the art without seeming to endorse any of the movements. Even so, the Society worried about the immediate reception of the Boston public. In his letter to Walt Kuhn, secretary of the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, Warren lamented:

“It takes time in Boston, even in the case of an unusual exhibition to awake public interest.” 
               -Letter from Edward Warren to Walter Kuhn, March 21, 1913

Unfortunately, this turned out to be true as the Boston show attracted only a fraction of the number of New York and Chicago visitors. 

Vcevold Strekalovsky, Addison County I, 20 x 26, oil.
Though it may have taken a bit more time to awaken interest in Boston, the Copley Society is proud to have been a part of the historic show!  Join us in celebrating the centennial of this significant and momentous period of art in America with two unique exhibitions – a members show of contemporary artworks inspired by the Modernists represented in the Amory Show, and a historical show of archival print materials from the original 1913 exhibition. Both exhibitions run through August 21, 2013, and can be viewed online here:

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Historical Co|So :: The Armory Show in Boston

This year marks the centennial of a hallmark of art in America – the 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art (commonly referred to as the Armory Show), and the Copley Society is celebrating! With a series of events and exhibitions centered on the historic show, this summer Co|So will explore the impact of the exhibition that first introduced Americans to European Modern movements such as Fauvism, Cubism and Futurism.  The show originated in New York City at the 69th Regiment Armory (hence the common name), spent two weeks at the Art Institute of Chicago, and then made its final U.S. stop in Boston at the Copley Society.

Tom Stocker, Armory Show Nickel, 30 x 30, acrylic on board.

The artists featured in the Armory Show have since become household names (including Marcel Duchamp, Henri Matisse, Constantin Brancusi and Wassily Kandinsky), but in 1913 they were unknown to American audiences. These controversial works were brought to America by members of the Association of American Painters and Sculptors (AAPS) including Walt Kuhn, secretary and Arthur B. Davies, president, with the goal of educating the American public about modern European art. Under the auspices of the AAPS, over 2,000 paintings were shipped from Europe and the U.S. and exhibited at the Armory on Lexington Avenue from February 17 – March 15, 1913. 

Letter from Warren to Macomber of March 31, 1913 discussing the merits and demerits of the exhibition.
Reviews panned the exhibition.  The reception of the show was strongly felt, with the majority of viewers and art critics regarding the works as “degenerate” and “bad art.” During the planning stages of the Boston leg of the show, Arthur Davies and Edward Warren of the Copley Society discussed the impact and educational merits of the exhibition:

It is interesting to note the sentiment which is being expressed here.  Deep interest on the part of some and violent disgust and opposition on the part of others.  All that the Copley Society aims to do in giving this exhibition in Boston is to satisfy the desire of the public for knowledge of a type of work which has excited great curiosity.  We think it is fair that the people of Boston should be given this opportunity of judging for themselves the merits or demerits of this movement.
-Edward R. Warren of the Copley Society of Boston in a letter to Arthur B. Davies, president of the Association of American Painters & Sculptors, dated March 29, 1913

In time, the majority of artists featured at the Armory show would go on to join the pantheon of great 20th-century artists. 

Wendy Hale, Bridge Crossing, 36 x 28, watercolor.
The Copley Society is excited to celebrate the centennial of this significant and momentous period of art in America with two unique exhibitions – a members show of contemporary artworks inspired by the Modernists represented in the Amory Show, and a historical show of archival print materials from the original 1913 exhibition. Both exhibitions run through August 21, 2013, and can be viewed online here:

Friday, June 7, 2013

Artist Interview :: Kate Huntington

Get to know a Copley artist! Kate Huntington's works are currently featured in our "Fine Arts Work Center Fellows" exhibit in the upper gallery. A fellow in 2012, Provincetown was the perfect setting for Kate to develop her genre and style. Popular for her beach scenes, Kate experimented with a new style and refined her sense of the figure and light. Recently, the Co|So staff interviewed one of our popular painters of Summertime about this work and her artistic career. 

1. Who is your greatest influence?

First I would have to say my mother. She was quite a talented artist herself but couldn’t pursue the field due to various circumstances the most prominent being that she had six kids to occupy her time. As a result, she strongly encouraged me at a very young age. In my teens, I met a terribly eccentric Italian- American artist named Antonio Dattorro. I became a protégé to him for a number of years getting quite an education in the process. He really taught me how to learn how to see. As far as notable artists, there are just so many that touch my heart and soul both past and present that I can’t even begin…however, I must say that I’ve always held a special place in my heart for Toulouse-Lautrec. I guess it’s because he conveys a sense of communication between his subjects (and what a cast of characters) that in my opinion is equal to no one. Plus, he owns the gesture.

Kate Huntington, Catch Me If You Can, 20 x 24, oil.
2. Tell us about your work in the FAWC show.

My main passion is the figure in the landscape and two of the paintings are representative of this. “The Sun is Shining on Narragansett Beach” captures a typical summer beach day, lots of people, lots of activities and lots of little speckles of color. The beach is placed on the bottom of the canvas and it is very bright with a sense of harmony. Wrestling with this scene however, is a large eerie sky that has formed on the other side of town.

The Bocce Ball players depict a bunch of guys communicating with one another while playing a popular game on the beach. It is also a celebration of the human figure.

A few years ago, I did a series of paintings depicting dogs playing. There’s a dog park across the street from where I live and paint and one day I realized that outside my door was an unlimited supply of new subject matter. I thought that if I could convey a sense of spirits among my human subjects, why not try the same with the dogs. They have so many different personalities and their mannerisms are priceless. “Catch Me if you Can” and “Tell You a Secret” are two examples of this series. It was just a lot of fun painting the dogs because they come in all different colors, sizes and shapes. The juxtaposition of multiple dogs created intriguing shapes and allowed me to experiment with space in an unfamiliar fashion.

 Kate Huntington, Bocce Boys, 30 x 40, oil.

3. When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?

At a very young age. My mother became a secretary at Brown University when I was in the first grade. It’s hard to believe but scrap paper was somewhat scarce in the early 60’s. She would periodically return home with a ream of paper with typing on one side but blank on the other. All six of us kids would sit around the dining room table and create drawings. It was pure heaven. I also remember painting the typical “landscape” in kindergarten…the house, sky, and grass etc. Mine was held up for all to see because I brought the sky down to the horizon as opposed to the top of the painting, which is normally where a little kid would logically think a sky should be. I guess I was a rather visual person even back then.

4. How did your experience at the FAWC affect your art/artistic voice?

At the FAWC, I found myself playing and experimenting more then usual. I worked on a series what I call “mud” paintings. I got this idea to depict children (adult children included) playing in the wet sand. I had a fun time building up the textures and imprints in the muddy sand. I kind of felt like I was playing in the mud myself. It’s a nice marriage between the representational and the abstract. I guess I did about a dozen paintings. Some were successful, some not so much, but definitely a theme I’m continuing to explore. I also did a little Plein Air painting and took plenty of photos while exploring for future paintings when I’m back in a landscape mood. (The Cape landscape definitely lends itself to large canvases). I like to think that my works are a little looser and the paint applied in a different manner. I have been told that the light on my paintings is brighter.


Kate Huntington, The Sun is Shining on Narragansett Beach, 40 x 50, oil.

5. Describe a poignant moment/experience from your time in Provincetown.

Well, there are so many to choose from. Provincetown is such an incredible place from people watching on a busy Saturday night on Commercial Street to watching the sunset off Race point. I would say a very poignant moment for me takes place in the Dunes off Snail Rd. After hiking for a spell, I took a moment to take in this magnificent landscape. The dunes are humongous. The sun is beating down and it seems everything that surrounds me is white. I can hear waves crashing in the distance but other than that, there’s stillness in the air. It’s so strange and a bit eerie that I feel like I’m on another planet.  And I’m thinking how lucky I am to be a part of this.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Artist Interview :: Ellen Rolli

 Get to know a Copley artist! Ellen Rolli's works are currently featured in our "Fine Arts Work Center Fellows" exhibit in the upper gallery. A fellow in 2009, Ellen's month in Provincetown changed her style completely from representational to abstract. Recently, the Co|So staff interviewed one of our accomplished abstract painters about this work and her artistic career. 
Ellen Rolli, Verde, 48 x 36, mixed media.

1.   Who is your greatest influence? 
        My greatest influence is Hans Hofmann. A strong proponent of abstract expressionism, Hofmann was passionate about the creative process.  A painter and teacher, his approach to painting and his unique philosophy of art truly resonate with me.

2.     Tell us about your work in the Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship Show.
    The works I have chosen for the FAWC Fellowship show are works completed within the last several months. The paintings are part of a series completed after a trip to Venice and Florence last fall.  To see the experience and influence of place come through in my work is thrilling.  I did not plan to do an “Italian Series,” it just happened.  To work non-objectively and interpretively allows for that element of unpredictability and intuition in my paintings.  That is an important common thread in these pieces.

Ellen Rolli, Venezia, 48 x 36, mixed media.

3.     How would you characterize the arc of your career?
        I would characterize the arc of my career as a commitment to the painters life nearly 20 years ago that has continued to grow and evolve along the way. This artistic growth is a result of both a strong work ethic, and taking steps to achieve recognition of my work.  I begin painting from life, still life, plein air and from the figure.  My paintings for many years were representational, but expressive and painterly.  Very early in my career I made it a point to join art organizations, submit paintings to juried shows, have both solo and group exhibitions, find Gallery representation and stay connected in the art world in general.  Maintaining a studio outside of my home, (in Boston’s South End), for the last 7+ years has greatly helped to support my commitment to my work.. I left a part time job nearly 5 years ago to paint full time.  After my month long residency at FAWC, I began painting abstractly, exclusively, and have not looked back!  I am currently represented by 2 New England Galleries and a Florida Gallery. 

Ellen Rolli, Toscana, 30 x 30, mixed media.

4.      How did your experience at the Fine Arts Work Center affect your art/artistic voice?
     My experience at the FAWC was truly life changing for me, profoundly influencing my art and artistic voice.  To spend a month in a place with such an incredible history, where some of my heros lived and worked and painted was a dream realized. To devote myself completely to my work for one month allowed for an important transformation in my work.  Rather than stay with what I knew, I decided that I needed to take full advantage of this opportunity and take a leap of faith to try something new.  My work pre-residency, though representational, had been working towards abstraction for some time.  Why not get out of my comfort zone and spend a month exploring abstraction.  Taking that risk started me on a path of self-discovery and opened up a new world of expression for me.

5.     Describe a poignant moment/experience from your time in Provincetown.
     A very poignant moment from my time in Provincetown was not while I was creating. After my first couple of days at FAWC, and after settling in to my apartment, I was outside chatting with one of the center employees.  I mentioned to her that Hans Hofmann was a hero of mine.  She told me that at one time he had stayed in the exact apartment I was staying in.  The apartments were quite bare bones and simple and perhaps not all that different from the way they appeared when Hofmann was there.  When I was back in my apartment, I sat on the sofa, looked around and thought about Hofmann being there, trying to tap into his spirit!  A perfect way to begin this very special adventure.