Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Subject Of Art #7: Drips And Squares - The Extremes Of Abstract Expressionism

It took a long time for art made in the United States to gain recognition in the rest of the world. There were a few painters who made their mark early, Benjamin West and Thomas Eakins being good examples, but for the most part America was seen as provincial and it's artists lagged behind the pioneering work that was coming out of Europe.

The famed Armory Show in New York, 1913, which brought paintings and sculpture by some of Europe's most progressive modern artists, such as Picasso, Kandinsky, Matisse and many others marked a turning point as American artists discovered non-objective art and unfettered expression for the first time. Although the art culture in the U.S. had been very conservative up until that time, many artists embraced the new ideas they were exposed to and began to explore the as-yet-uncharted realms of Modern Art.

It took a couple of decades for the Americans to really catch up and they may not have if it hadn't been for the cataclysmic destruction of Europe that resulted from two World Wars. As Europe lay in ruins after World War II, the U.S. remained strong and stood ready to take the forefront, economically and culturally. In addition, there were a number of influential artists who had fled Germany, France and other countries to escape the clutches of Nazi oppression. These expatriates, most notably Hans Hoffman, settled in America and, besides creating and selling art, began to teach a new generation of American artists.

In the 1950's, those artists came of age and banded together to become known as Abstract Expressionists. Backed by rich, powerful patrons like the Rockerfellers and the Guggenheims, these young artists became the new avant-garde, and their art and ideas would have a lasting impact on visual expression in both America and Europe. Though European concepts and teachers directly influenced Abstract Expressionism, it was the first truly American art movement that achieved prominence and respect throughout the Western world.

Among the most well-known and daring of the Abstract Expressionists are names like Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. Pollock and Newman were born in America, while Rothko and de Kooning immigrated from Europe as children. These artists worked consistently on a monumental scale, creating huge canvases that would completely fill the visual field of a person standing before them, immersing that person in the environment of the painting. They all were also interested in bold, intense colors, often squeezed directly from the tube without mixing to maintain the saturation of the hue. However, there were major differences as well and, in many ways, the art of these painters might not seem to fit together into the same category.

On the one hand, painters like Pollock and de Kooning created works that used flowing, improvised brushstrokes to create a complex, organic composition that served to record the movements of the artist. While most of us are familiar with Jackson Pollock's method of working with long drips of fluid paint, it was actually a series of photographs by Hans Namuth of Pollock at work doing what seemed like a shamanic dance over a canvas laid flat on the floor, with drips of paint flying everywhere, that served to cement the reputation of the Abstract Expressionists in the mind of the art establishment. This was something new — a way of working that had never been accepted as art before.

On the other hand, painters like Newman and Rothko worked with geometric forms and flat planes of color to create more serene, meditative paintings. Barnett Newman systematically dissected the concept of visual composition until he arrived at the basic foundation: a ground, which was the entire canvas painted in one or two flat colors, and a figure, which was a vertical line (he called them "zips") painted in a different color that ran from the top to the bottom of the canvas. This primal figure-ground relationship served as a platform for Newman to experiment with color relationships and proportional compositions on the most basic level.

What united these two very different ideas about painting was the understanding that they were simply two different expressions, or perspectives, on the same thing: the relationship between the artist and the work of art. Abstract Expressionists helped to dissolve the traditional conceptions of what art is and how it should be made. Taking the paths of abstraction and expressionism to their fullest extremes, they brought Modern Art to it's end, as it seemed there was nowhere else to go from there.

Inevitably they were eclipsed by the artists that were to come after them in the movement known as Postmodernism, which attempted (and is perhaps still attempting) to make sense of what happened during the first half of the 20th century and understand what the role of art is in society.

What is your understanding of the role of at in our society? Please share! And don't forget to visit BINDERS website and get stocked on the supplies you need for your next masterpiece!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

An Interview with BINDERS: Chad Cartwright

This blog post is the first in a series of interviews with BINDERS staff members and sales associates.

Chad Cartwright is a self-taught photographer and mixed media artist from New Jersey. Since July 2009 he has been working as a Sales Associate at Binders Art Supply in Charlotte, NC and in March 2010 Chad began working in The Frame Shop at BINDERS as well.

BINDERS: Tell us how you became interested in art.

Chad: As long as I can remember I've gotten a lot of pleasure from drawing - and I was good at it. I think most 7-year old boys want to be a scientist and discover dinosaur bones. I definitely had this dream for myself for a brief time, but by the third grade I remember that I wanted to be an artist.

As an adolescent, I remember being drawn to graffiti, but as a teen I don't think I really made much art - projects that had a beginning, middle, or end. I just doodled and sketched furiously and on everything. In high school I took up drafting but decided toward the end of my junior year not to pursue architecture upon graduating (though architectural drawing still floods my aesthetic). In my early 20's, I decided I wanted to be a graphic designer, so I would always sketch projects and play with ideas and share them with my best friend, who was also very creative. I mainly wanted to design t-shirts and album covers but I never did anything with the ideas.

When I was 23 a friend of my mother's piqued my interest in photography. I had some extra money so I bought a camera and started shooting. But still (outside of occasional days spend wandering and shooting pictures), anything related to art was something that existed mostly in my head and my sketchbooks. It wasn't until I moved to Charlotte in 2007 that I really began creating.

BINDERS: What types of things have you been working on lately?

Chad: I’m mainly working on creating a body of work and honing my creative process. I've been doing some mini-collages that I use just to get ideas out in a small and simple format. The small format allows me to experiment more, which is how I learn some techniques to apply to larger pieces.

I'm also trying to be more conscious of always carrying my camera with me - being more prepared to capture the moment. I am shooting more engaging portraiture and working on a series about beauty and culture.

When I moved to Charlotte, I started going to school for graphic design but couldn't afford to keep going. So now I'm also continuing my education in other practical ways - internships, a lot of reading and hands-on learning, and taking on jobs from established graphic designers and getting critiqued while getting paid. Currently I'm focusing on logo design.

BINDERS: That's one thing that we've all noticed about you here at BINDERS, that you really seem to enjoy your photography. Tell us a little more about that.

Chad: There are a few reasons why I love photography. First, when I shoot a picture I'm capturing something available for everyone to see and enjoy. I enjoy capturing images that highlights people's ability to look at the same thing and see it from a unique perspective. I especially love when I can take a subject out of context and create something fresh and interesting or beautiful that wouldn't usually be thought of as such.

Also, creating something takes time and sometimes I just need some instant gratification. When I just don't have it in me to create something I'll walk around and explore for a few hours and come home with a few new pieces of art, just by capturing things that I found interesting on my walk - and that experience (or the pictures themselves) will refresh and inspire me to create something new.

BINDERS: When you first started working at BINDERS, you came straight from an internship at a local gallery. Can you tell us about that? Would you recommend others complete art-related internships?

Chad: The internship was at one of Charlotte's premier galleries and came about through a relationship I created networking. The internship was a very positive experience for me because I got just what I wanted out of it. I wanted to see what the business side of the art world looked like and how it operated. I learned how to hang work and to maintain correspondence between artists and the gallery. Receiving, photographing, packing, and shipping artwork were among my responsibilities at the gallery. I edited photographs to be put on the gallery website and I put artist profile books and resumes together. I learned what makes artists attractive to galleries, how galleries determine the value of an artist's work, as well as how to approach galleries. One of the biggest things I learned is that a gallery is a business and not validation of whether you are a good artist. Every artist’s work will appeal to a specific audience. If a gallery doesn't think they will be able to sell your work to their clients they probably won't represent you. Rejection is not a statement about your skill or worth as an artist. You just have to find your audience.

I think my internship helped me immensely but I would offer a word of caution for those looking into any kind of internship. An internship is free work. You are not an employee, and many places look at interns as free labor. Even those situations can be positive but it's ALL about what you want to get out of it, and what you put into it. You HAVE TO make it your own. If you choose to do an internship, set some goals and make your goals clear to the person in charge of your internship. In your internship you might not be doing the job you want to do but you should be learning the skills that transfer into making you effective in that job.

BINDERS: Finally, tell us about your new position in the BINDERS Frame Shop. You started out on the sales floor but recently have been working in our frame shop. What attracts you about our Frame Shop?

Chad: I wanted to work in the frame shop because I figured it would be a good skill to have as an artist (knowing how to frame and present your own work). And it has already proven very beneficial. But the reason I enjoy working in the frame shop is because it's such a gratifying job. It's not easy to find words that express how much picking the right presentation for your art amplifies its beauty. I particularly enjoy when I've helped the customer select the framing for their piece(s) and I am there to see their face when they pick up the completed job. Even though they saw and selected their framing purchase they are blown away by how good the finished product looks. Framing can be pricey, but it really is worth the money. The framing process makes things so much more than they already were - and it makes the beauty last longer.

Check out Chad's blog at - it's also listed to the right under "staff blogs". If you'd like to include a link to your blog please email with your name and blog address!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

This Week @ BINDERS - June 21-27


The Art School at BINDERS is full of activities this summer! This weekend we've got the Adult Watercolor Workshop with Barry Sholder and there are a few spaces left if you want to ramp up your watercolor skills. It's also a great time to pre-register for July classes! Fearless Watercolor Landscapes with Susan Bradford begins July 8th, Leap Ahead Color Theory Workshop with Denise Nogueiras is happening July 10th or July 11th (your choice) and Paper Paintings: A Unique Figurative Collage Technique Workshop with Elizabeth St. Hilaire is on tap July 16th-18th. These are all wonderful teachers with a lot to offer, so check out our online registration or you can sign up in person at BINDERS.


Monday, June 21:
Guided Open Studio with Kay Powell
10:30am-2pm, Every Monday | Beginner to Intermediate | Fee: $17/per session. Please pay the instructor. No registration necessary

Tuesday, June 22:
4 Day Watercolor Class with Judy Greenberg
9:15am-12:15pm, Tuesdays, 4 sessions, June 8- 29, Intermediate | Fee: $ 220

Painting-Design and Technique with Charles Y. Walls
1-4pm, Tuesdays, 6 Sessions, June 8-July 13, Open to all levels | Fee: $140

Bookmaking with Anne Elser
6-8:30pm, Tuesdays, 6 sessions, June 1-July 6, Beginner to Advanced | Fee: $140

Painting-Design and Technique with Charles Y. Walls
6-8:30pm, Tuesdays, 6 Sessions, June 8-July 13, Open to all levels | Fee: $140

Wednesday, June 23:

Impressionist Paintings From Photos with J.Z.Torre
1-4pm, Wednesdays, 6 Sessions, May 26-June 30
Advanced Beginner to Intermediate | Fee: $160

Copperplate Calligraphy with Anne Elser
6-8:30pm, Wednesdays, 6 Sessions, June 2-July 7
Beginner to Intermediate | Fee: $140

Thursday, June 24:
Italic Calligraphy with Anne Elser
6-8:30pm, Thursdays, 6 Sessions, June 3-July 8
Beginner to Intermediate | Fee: $140

Friday, June 25:
No special art events today.

Saturday, June 26:
Beginning Adult Watercolor with Barry Sholder
Sat. 11-4 pm, Sat.& Sun., June 26-27
Beginner | Fee: $140 | Min. 6/ Max. 12
Sign up now!

Sunday, June 27:
Beginning Adult Watercolor with Barry Sholder
Sun. 12-5pm, Sat.& Sun., June 26-27
Beginner | Fee: $140 | Min. 6/ Max. 12
Sign up now!

Please note: Classes on this schedule are in our Atlanta store unless otherwise indicated. For more information please email or call Eli Pelizza at 404.237.6331 ext. 203.

Check out the full list of our upcoming art classes and art workshops! Sign up for 5 classes, workshops or demos and receive 25% OFF of your next sign up.


After Hours | Showing until July 2

Artwork by: Angela White • Carol Violanda Haslach • Chris Van Beneden • Dawn Kinney Martin • Gillian Theunissen Horsley • Elizabeth McAllister • Karen Barron • Kathy Vashaw • Marion George • Martha Elena Diaz • Sam Alexander • Suzi Howard • Terry Hamrick

Visit BINDERS website!