Friday, April 3, 2009

Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY

The Albright-Knox Gallery is always well worth a visit both for the quality of the permanent collection and the special exhibits. The gallery is comparatively small and tends not to tire or overwhelm viewers ; the current exhibit is Action/Abstraction; Pollock, deKooning, and American Art, 1940-1976, February 13-June 10, 2009. A day after returning, the image of one early Pollock stays with me....I'll need to look more closely at all of his early work. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed on the upper floor, but included here are a few favourites from the permanent collection.

When you teach, you tend to always write projects. An exercise for a few of my upper year students working with design and expression problems might go something like this, based on the Franz Kline shown in the first photo:

1) base-coat 3 full sheets 22" x 30", with blue acrylic, one with pink acrylic, one with, let's say, brown acrylic....mix for opacity. In the overpainting, allow some aspect of the underpainting to 'peek through'. Create a short series of 3 works.

2) use gestural application of black first to create an intuitively arrived at design over the paper. Pay attention to the negative spaces created by the application of the black. Try to create an asymmetrical balance between the shapes.

3) fill the negatives with white acrylic, paying attention to how this 'locks in' the positive spaces.

4) if the overall design created by this stepped procedure is not pleasing or balanced, keep slowly and gradually removing sections of the composition with white, and re-entering other sections of black.

5) let the paint and brushwork retain its natural other not beat the paint to death by over brushing.


  1. Dear Harry,
    As an art teacher myself, I LOVED the lesson you cooked up here. Wonderful!
    Also your photos from the gallery visit. Isn't it frustrating to see wonderful visiting exhibits and not be able to photograph them? I go through the same thing here in the Wash DC museums! But how great to see such exhibits.
    Just found your site via Aaron Liffert. So glad I did.

  2. Thanks, Lynne. I thought it might be a good idea to write a few project ideas here as they come to there's more chance that I'll actually use them. I write so many, and use so few.

  3. Hi Harry,
    Looks like the Albright-Knox Gallery has all my favourites. Pity I can't get to see them in person!
    Would also like to see the 'Action/Abstraction' exhibition since there is nothing to beat getting right up close and personal with some of those paintings. I bought the book a while back and am sorry to say I'm a bit dissappointed, with Kleeblatt trotting out much the same old thing that I can recite in my sleep.
    What does interest me hugely atm, however, is the idea of painting direct from the subconscious, and when I see paintings by Franz Kline I thought instinctively (of course) that here was an artist who knew the meaning of spontaneity. Alas, only in as much as his initial marks in a telephone directory were from his inner being. It seems thereafter he very carefully reproduced these "doodles" to a larger scale. Is that right, or do I have him wrong?
    Presently I am making a study of "free" abstracts for an art course I am engaged in and was pleased to find this project process on your blogsite. I had already been making my own attempts but was encouraged by your programme to go out to my studio this afternoon and do some more.
    On a technical point (item number #1) can you tell me whether you would stretch the paper first or just work on it laid out flat taped to a board? I chose to work on sheets of corrugated packaging cardboard which gave me a mid-brown to start with and less chance of warping. I'll post them up somewhere and let you see them sometime, perhaps on Flickr, but more likely my own blogsite (

    Hope this is not too long for you, but you did say you were lonely in Bloggerland!!!
    All the best,

  4. Hi David. Sorry for the delay....I just noticed there was a response on this entry....I'm not a very good blogger :) The 'working from the subconscious' is there a great deal I think, but I always see every strong artist insert conscious control in the form of design considerations into almost all the things they produce. I very much like the element of surprise that I often see in Kline, and very often in the best pieces by many of the AE school. I wouldn't stretch the paper...I'd just work on any heavy stock and prime it with a latex base. I'll go check out your blog...