By the time we got to Woodstock and walked into the Artists Association and Museum, we really needed a cup of coffee. My friend and art colleague Carl Van Brunt invited me to judge an exhibit at the legendary art space, home to Philip Guston and George Bellows. Got a cup of mud across the street where we heard the most interesting story from Roger, one of the art guys associated with exhibit.
Get this, he actually travelled on the Magic Bus with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters! And as a kid while working at a job near Woodstock, the grooviest event in music history, he jumped the fence and got to see the whole show. Very cool. This tale emerged as we waited 15 at the coffee shop take out counter. Hey you, where’s our order? “Ooops, I forgot” said the beaming young lady, apparently distracted while taking photos of some fascinating item stuck on the restaurant wall.
The space was a cacophony of paintings, resting on tables and leaning against walls in the four rooms. Over 90 to be sifted down to a manageable number of 35 or so. The nice thing was that as an out of towner, I did not recognize anyone. The kindly staff just laughed when asked ” Is there anyone we should toss as they may be a great artist but just a total dick?” Alas, no c-note bribes discretely taped on the stretchers for the esteemed judge.
A wide range of pieces: two works by separate artists combined to make a story about a kid fishing startled by a nude woman posing in a forest photo, a tiny realistic painting of clouds coupled with the same billowy cloud forms painted in wild abstracts. A painting of two realistic eggs next to the same shapes blown up in a huge black & white Franz Kline like gestural oil. A theme emerged about realism moving one step further.
Another piece employed Purple Passion soda cans, maybe the first time ever? A surprising amount of soft and extremely well put together abstracts. Some very strong from-the-gut type abstracts, the kind you don’t see anymore. The kind we don’t think artists could paint anymore. But then we have all been overwhelmed by the relentless art reviews of the usual art superstars in Chelsea galleries.
The point that really comes across is that these artists are all delightfully enjoying the process of painting. “The opposite of Jeff Koons.” Carl Van Brunt proffered. And he is right. All that creatively bankrupt art-made-by-art-assistants junk really is the antithesis of art. Hire someone else to do the art piece? Why bother to do it at all? That’s what hits like a lighting bolt. These artists love what they are doing. It means something. And since most are not in big commercial galleries, you can bet that their dealers are not telling them what to paint.
So pull the canvas tarp off the VW micro bus, take the trip up the road and see the show. Feel again the glorious, true and righteous power of painting. This is why we like art. And the area is super groovy. I will bet you a cup of joe you come home not only with a real estate brochure but tuned in, turned on, and ready to go make some art.
Phillip Guston (1913 – 1980). My Coffee Cup, 1973. Oil on hardboard. WAAM Permanent Collection, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Karl E. Fortess. Photo of Carl Van Brunt.
The show runs through August 18. The Gallery is open 12 – 5 Sunday, Monday, Thursday and 12-6 Friday and Saturday (closed Tuesday and Wednesday).