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Showing posts from August, 2015

Studio Blog: Spit Bite

Over on my studio blog, a report on a tricky printmaking technique:

Spit Bite Test

Fifteen years ago

Fifteen years ago today, I woke up in a hotel room in Boston, quite close to the art museum and Boylston Street. I went to the bus station, dragging a duffle bag on wheels that contained enough clothes to get me through two months in the USA , and a boxed set of my James Joyce Ulysses etchings. I boarded a bus going to Burlington, Vermont, and I settled into my seat with a John le Carré novel to pass the time. I recall how bright the sunlight was, how leafy and beautiful the interior of Massachusetts was, how green and hilly Vermont was.
Fifteen years ago, I arrived in Johnson, Vermont, after being picked up at the bus station in Burlington by someone from the Vermont Studio Center. I think there were three or four other people being picked up at the same time, all heading to the VSC to start retreats ranging from 2 weeks to 2 months. I remember arriving in Johnson and checking into my tiny room in an old 2 storey classic New England house, and meeting Brian from New York, and the we…

Exhibition news

These two paintings are on show in Chicago for the next four months as part of a group show at Robert Morris University Gallery, in the heart of the downtown loop district:



The reception for the show is on October 15th. Links describing the show:

Chicago Artists' Month
Exhibition Blog

Water Towers and Kevin Swallow's Urban Landscapes

As a foreigner living in the United States, I can attest that one of the most striking features of the urban landscape in America is the water tower. European cities may have walls built by the Romans, medieval palaces, and grand eighteenth-century neo-classical boulevards, but as far as I’m aware you can’t look up from a street in Paris, Rome, or London and see these giant wooden cylinders with their little caps, standing on a rickety framework and silhouetted dramatically against the sky. The Chicago water tower, for example, may have been referred to by Oscar Wilde as “a castellated monstrosity with pepper boxes stuck all over it,” but it is revered in the city as one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and it’s just one of several hundred that are still dotted around the city.


A century ago, almost every apartment building had a water tower sitting atop the roof. As modern plumbing was installed, most of these water towers were disconnected or demolish…

Six of the Best, Part 34

After a long break, here is the return of the interview series in which I pose the same six questions to different artists. Today's contributor is Krista Svalbonas, a mixed media artist who is based in Chicago, USA. Beginning September 29th, 2015, her installation Home is a Name will be exhibited at the Spartanburg Art Museum, South Carolina.

Philip Hartigan: What medium do you chiefly use, and why?

Krista Svalbonas: That’s a difficult question for me to answer. I paint, I photograph and I create installations. I have a hard time remaining true to one medium and find myself often mixing or moving fluidly between media depending on the focus of the work. Recently, I completed a series of large-scale paintings on industrial felt that combined silk screens, slats of wood, rusted metal and oil paint. At the same time, I was working on a photographic body of work using aluminum dibond, CNC routers and gold leaf. I find that very often the ideas in the work are what help dictate the execu…

Three Books about Picasso

Continuing my Picasso obsession, I've read three books recently that focus on Picasso to a lesser or greater extent. Given how many books I've read about Picasso and his milieu (particularly in the early years of the twentieth century in Paris), my judgement usually rests not so much on whether I find out new information, but how well the author treats very familiar and often told stories.

The first one is In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse, and the Birth of Modernist Art, by Sue Roe.


I bought this one because I read a book by the same author about five years ago, The Private Lives of the Impressionists, which was full of interesting biographical information about Monet, Renoir, Degas, Pisarro, and others, a vivid recreation of Parisian life before and after the time of Commune (1871), and a real sense of the struggles of these artists during the early years of the first Impressionist exhibitions. Sadly, that perceptiveness seems to have deserted her when it came to talking abou…

A Gift

As you may know, I am a regular contributor to Hyperallergic, the online art magazine that has come to be a significant landmark in the artworld landscape in the last few years, as print coverage of the visual arts has shrunk dramatically. (Just last week, for example, Art in America merged with its rival, ArtNews).

One of the features I write is called A View from the Easel, for which artists from all over the world submit a photo of their studio (no people), and a short description of the space. It's one of the most popular things on Hyperallergic now, regularly getting 1500 Facebook shares. A few weeks ago, I received an envelope in the mail sent by someone whose View was published in June:


The artist is Alan Neider, and the work in the catalogue consists of assemblages of plaster and collage on cardboard. They are reminiscent of Robert Rauschenberg's assemblages, though with more colour. My quick response to the work is that the pieces that contain looping shapes seem less…