Click image below for more "still life"

Click image below for more "still life"
Francis Cunningham "Three Baldwin Apples" (1964) Oil on linen 5'' x 16''

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Set-up, Color-spots, Clean-up with Francis Cunningham (Video)

Francis Cunningham is in the country, in his summer studio, painting while vacationing. Before he left we recorded some footage for the third in a series of video about the painting process. I've edited it into a new, hypnotic video. Hopefully it'll be as pleasant to watch Francis in his studio silently preparing for a short quite theoretical session of painting and at the end revealing some behind the scenes - cleaning-up, as it was recording and editing it. Here is the link to the whole series and below is the most recent video.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Canvas and the Easel with Francis Cunningham

Today we're posting the second installment in the series about the painting process with Francis Cunningham. This video is about setting up the canvas on the easel and positioning the easel.

Mixing Color with Francis Cunningham

Two weeks ago we started a new video series in which Francis Cunningham will introduce technical basics of painting. Our first installment was on mixing color.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spring in the Berkshires by Francis Cunningham

In this slideshow Francis Cunningham returns to the summer house and barn and what surrounds them in the Berkshires. It's interesting to see how he returns with a fresh photographer's eye to the same subjects we know so well from his paintings. But, the spring green is so different from his usual oil palette. Like the apple blossoms, it will last only for a few days.

Early Spring in NYC by Francis Cunningham

Late Fall in the City: photography by Francis Cunningham

After making several videos in a row, we're not quite ready for a new one. Therefore, we're returning to featuring photography by Francis Cunningham which he started just about one year ago. He uses a simple point-and-shoot Lumix DMC-FP1. Here are some of the backlog photos from NYC's Upper West Side Riverside Park, Fall 2010.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Perceptual Painting and Larry Groff art blogs discovery.

Last week this entry on our blog got a comment from Larry Groff who thanked us for putting together a great blog for painters.  We were especially pleased to learn that he likes our videos.

He left us a link to his own blog where he interviews and posts extensively about what he calls perceptual painting.  Many of the painters discussed on the blog are Francis Cunningham's peers such as Israel Hershberg, a former student and teachers such as Robert Beverly Hale, to mention two.

Larry Groff is an avid art blogger, both blogging about perceptual painting in general at and about his own work on his own website and blog

His blog is a goldmine including lots of great links to other art bloggers and blogging painters as well as original writing.

Looking at Simon Dinnerstein's work with Francis Cunningham.

If you've been following this blog from the beginning, you know that we've been covering mostly Francis Cunningham studio work and exhibitions in our videos.  However, recently we've ventured out to cover more.  We started with a group exhibition at Westbeth, Grid/ Off the Grid in this video and this blog entry. We liked our readers' and viewers' reactions as well as enjoyed expanding our repertoire to covering painters Francis Cunningham enjoys. We've been inspired to do this by the tireless efforts of  James Kalm aka Lornen Munk to cover NY gallery scene in video reports. You can find his ouvre as a "reporter on a bike" here and here. We can only dream to be as prolific as him, and while we can't do that, we can cover more of the unchartered territory of more traditional painting, which James Kalm sometimes covers himself.

Here is Francis Cunningham at Tenri Gallery walking through the exhibition of Simon Dinnerstein, a gifted draftsman/ painter, discussing his large scale paintings and drawings. Before you look at the video, here is his website.  And below is our video report. Don't be deceived by the video's top image of Paulus Potter's painting, which is going to change in the next 24 hours,  it's all about Dinnerstein!

Francis Cunningham: One Year in Painting (Full Video)

Today, we are catching up with our blogging, having recently completed a couple of videos.  Weeks ago, we gave you a preview of a longer video we were working on, which was a video about the development of Francis Cunningham's large three figure piece (2009-2011). In the video Francis Cunningham talks about all the stages of the painting's development, ending with how to look at painting. His model makes a brief appearance, too.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Grid/ Off the Grid Walk-through with Francis Cunningham (Video)

Francis Cunningham is in a group show, "Grid/ Off the Grid" at Westbeth focusing on the use of the grid in landscape. Most of the artists in the show, Violet Baxter, Bill Kennon, Simon Carr, Valerie Mendelson, Robert Feinland, Robert Ludwig, Francis Cunningham and Peter Colquhoun, live at Westbeth. We decided to do something new for our YouTube channel and cover the show with a long walk-through. The video is quite long, but with 60 or so paintings by eight artists, it was only fair to spend a long time with them in the great exhibition space Westbeth Gallery is.

More details on NY Art Beat
Note, the exhibition ends on Sunday, April 17, 2011.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Francis Cunningham: Over the Years (Paintings from 1962-2011)

Since March 19th about two dozen paintings, large and small: still lifes, premier coup, landscapes, portraits and a major landscape, which were completed between 1962 and 2011 have been hanging on the walls of the Laurel Tracey Gallery in NJ. If have not seen that show, which is due to come down on April 9, or would like to have a walk through with the artist, we have a video report narrated by Francis Cunningham ready. Take a walk through the gallery and through the years of his painting.

New Three Figure Piece Opening Sequence (Video)

Francis Cunningham has just recently completed a major figure piece, which he's worked on with a model from December 2009. We announced it here and reported on the process here.  We've been documenting the process, between the painting sessions, on video and today we have the opening sequence of our 40 minutes video ready to share on YouTube.  Like a true painter's video, it'll be worked on for a while, but today, it wants to get out, at least in a small part.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tour of the Italian Renaissance in the Metropolitan Museum with Francis Cunningham.

Today instead of meeting in the studio for a session of video editing and blogging, Francis Cunningham invited me to the Metropolitan Museum for a tour of some of his favorite Renaissance paintings. In addition, he pointed out a few relevant pieces. We also looked at a group of Venetian works, which were on my mind, since I'm now reading Berenson's Italian Painters Of The Renaissance, the section on Venetian painters.

For a warm up, we started with an ancient Greek sculpture of Diadoumenos, originaly cast in bronze: a Roman copy from 1st or 2nd century A.D. and a modern cast with only the feet and fragments in the shoulders from an ancient copy. Francis pointed out the enormous gap separating what appears at first glance to be identical sculptures. The Roman copy has life - movement and tactile values, which are absent in the modern cast figure. "The harmony in the proportions of the parts of the body and the overall movement of the body are clearly visible in the Roman copy, but inarticulate, as if they had been "smudged," in the modern cast. Consequently, what matters  does not come across."
Roman marble copy statue of Diadoumenos, 1st-2nd century A.D.

Modern cast of the Diadoumenos, copy of Greek bronze statue of ca. 430 B.C. by Polykleitos.

Detail of the modern cast of the Diadoumenos.

Detail of the Roman copy of the Diadoumenos
After spending 15 minutes with the Diadoumenos going back and forth between the statues, comparing them, we headed to the Italian section.
Francis Cunningham in the room with the early Italian Renaissance paintings.

Sasetta, Italian Sienese, active by 1423, dies 1450. The Journey of Magi. Tempera and gold on wood.
One of the Metropolitan Museum's treasures, but difficult to photograph behind glass.

Giovanni di Paolo, Italian Sienese, 1398-1483. Madonna and Child with Saints. Tempera on wood, gold ground.

The Greek and Roman sculptures still fresh in mind, Francis pointed out the movement in the figures and the linear paths the artist created throughout the painting.

 Giovanni di Paolo's Paradise.

Giovanni Bellini, Italian Venetian, active by 1459, died 1516. Madonna Adoring the Sleeping Child. Tempera on wood.
This early Bellini masterpiece was followed by one of Francis' favorites.

A later, Giovanni Bellini, Italian Venetian, active by 1459, died 1516. Madonna and Child. Oil on Wood.
Francis pointed out the background and the mastery of light: "One of the most beautiful expressions of the poetry of light of any painting I know."

Andrea Mantegna, Italian Paduan, born no later than 1430.The Adoration of the Shepherds. Tempera on canvas, transferred from wood.
Another masterpiece, we looked at "the space and the crystaline character of the forms."

Vittore Carpaccio, Italian Venetian,  born about 1455, died 1523/26. The Meditation on the Passion.
Oil and tempera on wood.
Here the point of particular interest was the storytelling.

Domenico Ghirlandaio, Italian Florence, 1448/49-1494 Florence. Saint Christopher and the Infant Christ. Fresco. 
From far away this has great energy, three-dimensional form and space.

Perugino, Italian Umbrian, active by 1469, died 1523. The Resurrection. Tempera on Wood.
This was our main destination and if I remember correctly, if Francis had only one choice of all works at the Met, he might choose this Perugino for the sensations of space in the landscape.

Francis Cunningham looking at Perugino.

Perugino, Italian Citta della Pieve, active by 1469-died 1523. Saint John the Baptist, Saint Lucy. Oil on wood.

In contrast with the previous work, Perugino's Resurrection, and his admiration of its landscape space, Francis was critical of these figures. "They lack clarity of form and understanding of how one part of the body works with the others, in comparison to what we've already seen in the Diadoumenos sculpture and the Ghirlandaio fresco."  This was also our transition to Luca Signorelli.

Luca Signorelli,  Italian Cortona, active 1470-died 1523. Cortona, Madona and Child. Oil and gold on wood.

The decorative flatness of the figures in the background makes the Madonna and Child jump out. We powerfully respond to the plastic form.
Fra Carnevale, Italian, active by 1445, died 1484, The Birth of the Virgin.
In passing we noted the wonderful use of perspective in the placement of the figures in architectural space.

Raphael, Italian, Marchgian, 1483-1520, The Agony in the Garden.

In contrast to the structured, angular architecture and the figures in Fra Carnevale this small work feels real in its softness and roundness and it feels somehow contemporary in its storytelling.

Raphael, Italian 1483-1520, c.1504, Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints.
In this large scale, early altarpiece by one of the great masters of storytelling and space composition, whose early training was under Perugino, we admired the composition  of the figures in space. 

Bronzino, Italian, 1503-1572, Portrait of a Young Man.

We made a chronological jump  to this superb Bronzino, noting it as being a portrait of a historical man rather than a religious or mythical subject.

Finally, after Giovanni Bellini and Carpaccio, earlier, we returned to later Venetian painting: Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto. All three below are more opulent than anything we have seen in depicting mythological and religious stories.  The Tintoretto is almost Baroque in the choreography of its composition.

Titian, Italian Venetian, died 1576, Venus and Adonis.

Paulo Veronese, Italian Venetian, Mars and Venus United by Love.

Tintoretto, Italian Venetian, 1518-1594, The Miracle of Loaves and Fishes.

Paolo Veronese, Italian Venetian, 1528-1588, Saint Catherine of Alexandrian in Prison, ca.1590

Like the above Tinoretto, which feels as though it could be an exquisite picnic in contemporary Venetian dress, this Veronese has a religious subject, a saint, but she can hardly pass for one. The figure feels like a contemporary (to Veronese) portrait commission, with the most gorgeous gown showing the subject's status.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Three Figure Piece Finished & Jerry Saltz's Abstract Manifesto

Since December 2009 Francis Cunningham has been working on a large, three-figure painting and today was the day he reached the final stage.  Today was also the day his model, who modeled for two of the three figures, was here probably for the last time.
I've been documenting the painting process in photographs and video, staying away from the studio, having Francis talk about the painting when the model was not here. Today we added a major amount of footage and the editing will begin very soon.

Some of the issues I've heard about from Francis that related to the just finished work as well as his life work in general was "abstraction" as a tool in representational painting. Color spots technique, the use of limited and specific palet are just the most immediately striking "abstract" tools in my view in the case of Francis Cunningham works.  He's some more to say about it in the long video we're making. Visit his YouTube channel here, to watch the growing collection of video commentaries by Francis Cunningham.

Aching to make a blog entry after a long hiatus here, I'd inadvertently brought it about by showing Francis, related to our talks about abstraction, The Jerry Saltz Abstract Manifesto, in Twenty Parts." This telling manifesto, which struck a chord with Francis Cunningham, is an answer to a seemingly simple question, posed by a reader of Jerry Saltz's art column in New York Magazine. The manifesto has been circulating Facebook, Twitter and art blogs. You can read it in the magazine here along with two other another questions and answers, or below:

Dear Jerry,

Over the past few years, I've noticed a lot more abstract art being made, and I often find myself stymied by something a little bit embarrassing. Jerry, is abstract art for real? I mean, I often don't really get it. Isn't it just smudges and stripes and squares and stuff?
Dear Embarrassed,
You are not alone. I too have heretical thoughts like yours. It can also take 30 years to understand why an all-white painting by Robert Ryman or a pencil grid on canvas by Agnes Martin is art.
I can't tell you what abstraction is, but I can tell you a number of things that I think that it allows artists to do. What I say about abstract art could also be applied to representational art. With that in mind here's “The Jerry Saltz Abstract Manifesto, in Twenty Parts."
1. Abstraction is one of the greatest visionary tools ever invented by human beings to imagine, decipher, and depict the world.
2. Abstraction is staggeringly radical, circumvents language, and sidesteps naming or mere description. It disenchants, re-enchants, detoxifies, destabilizes, resists closure, slows perception, and increases our grasp of the world.
3. Abstraction not only explores consciousness — it changes it.
4. All art is abstract. A painting of a person or a still-life is a two-dimensional representation of three-dimensional reality and therefore infinitely abstract. Whenever an artist sets out to make something it turns into something else that he or she could never have imagined or predicted.
5. Think of an abstract painting as very, very low relief — a thing, not a picture.
6. Abstraction exists in the interstices between the ideal and the real, symbol and substance, the optic and the haptic, imagination and observation.
7. Abstraction brings the world into more complex, variable relations; it can extract beauty, alternative topographies, ugliness, and intense actualities from seeming nothingness.
8. Abstraction, like ideas, intuitions, feelings, and life, is not mimetic.
9. Abstraction is as old as we are. It has existed for millennia outside the West. It is present on cave walls, in Egyptian and Cypriot Greek art, Chinese scholar rocks, all Islamic and Jewish art — both of which forbid representation. Abstraction is only new in the West.
10. Abstraction gained ground in Western art after centuries of more perfected systems of representation. By the mid-nineteenth century, representation felt like a trap, and seemed empty, false, or limiting. A similar situation existed in the early aughts, after artists of the nineties re-deployed realisms in numerous ways. The field appeared closed off for younger artists. That’s why contemporary artists have not only begun to reexplore the possibilities of abstraction, they’re shedding much of the Greenbergian cant and academic-formalist dogma that attached themselves to it over the last 50 years. Abstraction is breaking free again.
11. Abstraction offers ways around what Beckett called “the neatness of identification.”
12. Rothko’s glowing floating rectangles of color are more than abstract patterns. They are Buddhist TVs or what Keats called “good oblivion. One sees what nothing looks like in them. They make you ask, “What light through yonder painting breaks?” (Now do you see how full emptiness and abstraction can be?)
13. Abstraction is just a tool. It is no less “real” than philosophy or music.
14. Abstraction is something outside of life that allows us to be present at our own absence or alternatively absent in our own presence.
15. Abstraction creates patterns of meaning and its own extremely flexible intricate syntax. It is astral synthesis.
16. Abstraction teeters on making empty gestures while also making deep statements.
17. The camera was supposed to supplant painting but didn't. Instead, painting — ever the sponge, always elastic — absorbed it and discovered new realms.
18. Abstraction may speak in a sort of intra-species visual-electronic-chemical-pheromonal code, creating optical-cerebral networks and wormholes, organic maps of unknown yet familiar territories, may have a kind of plant intelligence that allows it to grow, proliferate, flower, change directions, and survive relentless aesthetic predation from a lay public.
19. Abstraction contains multitudes.
20. I’ve left out No. 20, because I want to hear your opinion: What else does abstraction do that’s special? Comments are open below.
By Jerry Saltz

Francis Cunningham has yet to add #20 as invited by the author above.