5/14/09

Adam the Art Critic

Well I have been busy writing again. I am sorry my dear blog that I have forsaken you. If your interested in what I have been doing, I am writing art reviews...http://www.berkshirefinearts.com/index.php

5/7/09

Local Art Legend


Allen M. Hart, Violinist, 2007, Oil on canvas

A little late. This event happened towards the end of April...However in a few weeks there will be some great artwork shown in Westchester, NY. I will be focusing on the local art scene in the upcoming posts. Being an artist who does most of my work in suburbia (because NYC apartments are too small), this topic has great significance to me.

The annual Rivertown Arts Open studios happen once a year (this was the 16th year), and for the last two years I have visited the studio of Allen M. Hart. Hart’s studio is in an old riverfront building in Dobbs Ferry, New York, with a fantastic view of the palisades and the river. Mr. Hart has been painting for over sixty years and his latest paintings look just as brilliant as his first. In fact they are even more alive with intense color and moving gesture. My favorite paintings by Hart are his monumental series of anti-war canvases, “The Orchestra of the Damned.” These oil paintings create a paradox between something beautiful like music and something terrible and bestial like war. Anti-War painting becomes even more powerful when it is full of emotional expression. The gestural strokes that come from the artist’s hand are reflective of his consciousness and being. They are an outlet for his angst and a journey into irony and absurdity. Everyone who is conscious of our world will feel something from Allen’s artwork.

The technique that Hart applies to his painting is indicative of expressionism and action painting influences. He started out in the fifties when painting in America was shifting to abstraction. Hart never painted abstractly but his figures have the same gestural expression and energy as the artists who did. While he doesn’t have any personal links to the second-generation Abstract Expressionists, his work is stylistically comparable. The thick-caked layers of oils make the canvases look heavy, and the figures project a sense of his figuration being alive. Besides the paintings there are the works on paper. These are mixed media constructions with very personal and symbolic imagery. These works are indicative of medieval illuminations, Bosch, Goya and Durer. Most remarkably, Mr. Hart has an archive of book art he has been creating for many years and continues making them today. There are cabinets and shelves that are filled with handmade books. These books are the visual equivalent of a personal journal for the artist to record his thoughts and experiences. Collage and newspaper clippings are accompanied by images, illustrative of a narrative or event. Throughout the eight disastrous years George W. Bush has been in power, images of burlesque and morbidity are frequent in his books. Wounded veterans, grotesque elephants, animals and figureheads in yearning and despair are all attributed to the prevailing human condition.

Mr. Hart is a wealth of information for many facets of life. He is a very knowledgeable teacher of art, a historian, a theologian, and a sharp and informed man regarding socio-political happenings. His experience makes him more then a viable source for almost anything art-related and he is more then happy to engage in conversation with anyone who seeks his insight. A very particular and careful notion of Allen M. Hart’s experience is his evolution and metamorphosis. Flipping through a binder of archival prints, I noticed that Mr. Hart is very interested in addressing age. Age can be a very sensitive subject, but its unavoidable and vital for our existence. Coming to terms with the fact that we are all getting older is hard. Things that we used to be able to do like walk freely and hear well might become a hardship in the aging process. This is a source of Mr. Hart’s expression. He has been making expressionistic self-portraits since he began his career in the early fifties. The artist pays tremendous attention to every detail and change that occurred on his face during his transformation from youth to the present. His self-portraits are documentaries show the artists most personal side. They remind us that we will age won’t look like the youthful versions of ourselves twenty years down the road. We might lose the ability to hear, walk, or take care of ourselves. There is no escaping death. This topic is not great Saturday night conversation, but it’s unavoidable. Thinking about this makes searching for your self and accepting your purpose in the world all the more important. Hart has come to this conclusion and his work has become even more vivacious. You should be able to value life, or at least acknowledge both the miracle and burden that is the human condition. We are spiritual beings living in a physical world. Hart’s work is definitive of such an aspect.

Allen M. Hart has been painting in New York since the early 1950’s. He made early sojourns to Mexico where he hooked up with Ignacio Aguerre, Pablo Higgins, Mendez and Siqueros. After meeting his wife Mildred in 1952 at his solo show at the Roosevelt House on East 65th Street, the couple traveled extensively. They settled in Spain for a while and journeyed throughout Europe and North Africa. He has had solo exhibitions in Europe, and Mexico and t. Currently he is part of the artist run Upstream Gallery located on Main Street in Dobbs Ferry. The Upstream Gallery is the venue for Hart’s next solo show: Recent Work – Metamorphosis. The opening reception is Sunday May 31st, 2-5 pm.

If you go:
The Upstream Gallery is located at 26B Main Street, Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522.
Phone: 914 674 8548/
Email: upstream26@aol.com.
Gallery Hours: Thursday – Sunday, 12:30-5:30 pm.