Category Archives: A Closer Look Series

A Closer Look: Katharina Grosse

This week, I wanted to share the work of Katharina Grosse, a prolific German painter and installation artist.

She is known for the vibrant palette and exuberant gestures of her large-scale canvases and raucous installations which merge painting, sculpture, and architecture.

Wielding a spray gun instead of a brush, Grosse often paints directly on the walls, floors, or facades of her exhibition sites, altering the logic and scale of architecture itself.

In an effort to liberate her works from the Euclidian space of wall and floor, Grosse also incorporates into her multidimensional paintings a variety of unexpected objects, including beds, clothes, balloons, shaped canvases, and soil.

I saw her installation at the University of Chicago’s Renaissance Society in 2007 titled Atoms inside Balloons. It was a tribute of sorts to the world’s first nuclear reaction, and featured huge balloons that deflated or popped throughout the exhibition.




images: katharina grosse

some text: Mass MOCA

A Closer Look: Matt Woodward

I love architectural drawings, especially historic ones of the hyper-realistic variety.  So you can imagine my delight when I came across the work of Matt Woodward, a contemporary artist whose drawings are inspired by historic examples of architectural ornament.


Much of Woodward’s work is a reflection on Louis Sullivan, the famous Chicago Architect who coined the phrase “form follows function” and was responsible for such buildings as the Chicago Stock Exchange and Carson Pirie Scott Department Store.  He became famous for using elaborate ornamentation on the surface of his buildings.

Matt Woodward’s large drawings capture the massive scale of Sullivan’s architectural ornament, filling the walls of even the largest galleries.   At first glance, I thought the drawings were made with charcoal rubbings – but it these pieces were in fact meticulously drawn by hand using discarded construction materials.

Chicago artist_Matthew Woodward_Ritz drawing detail

(above: detail of a drawing by Matthew Woodward, below: detail of Louis Sullivan’s ornament)

It is fascinating how these drawings seem to conduct the space around them with their architectural scale.   The Ritz Carlton Residences in Chicago apparently liked this effect, and recently commissioned a series of drawings by the artist (below):

Chicago artist_Matthew Woodward_Farwell Building

Woodward’s solo exhibition “Louis Sullivan’s Idea” opens this weekend at Chicago’s Cultural Center.


images: Matt Woodward and Ritz Carlton Blog

A Closer Look: The RDU Tech Shop

On Wednesday, I took my first class in MIG Welding at the RDU Tech Shop in Durham.  MIG welding is a type of welding that uses an electric current and shielding gas to create strong bonds in mild steel.  It’s an easy, versatile method that can be used in making furniture, sculpture, or almost anything else you can imagine.  I’m excited to use my new skills in the shop.

How to Weld - MIG Welding

But the Tech Shop offers a lot more than just metal working; if you’ve ever wanted to learn how to sew, make a birdhouse, or cut 3″ thick steel with a plasma CNC machine, this is your place.   The Tech Shop has a wood-working shop, metal shop, computer-controlled milling machines, laser cutters, sewing machines, lathes, and more.   They also offer a wide selection of classes to get you up-to-speed on most of the equipment — and everyone is welcome, no matter your skill level.

If you have a do-it-yourself project you’ve been meaning to do, chances are the Tech Shop can help.  Happy welding!




image 1 & 2: instructables.com

A Closer Look: Full Frame Film Festival

Did you know Durham hosts one of the world’s best film festivals every year?  The Full Frame Film Festival began in 1998 as a small event hosted by Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies.  Nowadays, it takes over downtown Durham for 4 days and plays host to over 100 films.  It runs April 12th – 15th.  You can purchase your tickets online or at the event.

Here are my top picks for this year:

1. Samsura, April 12th at 10pm

“Through an intricate synthesis of images, and without a single word of dialogue, this intoxicating film takes us on a cross-continental journey through our modern world. Samsara is a Tibetan word that means “the ever-turning wheel of life.” Contributing to the cyclical rhythm at work, music builds and drifts away throughout this vast array of images, impeccably captured on 70mm film.”


2. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, April 13th at 7:20pm

“With intimate access to the artist, Alison Klayman presents a portrait of Chinese photographer, sculptor, architect, and activist Ai Weiwei. Captured over the course of three years, this portrait is as much about the current state of China as it is Ai Weiwei’s art and character. Exhibited all over the world, his pieces present a unique collision of grand imagination and pointed politics…”


3. The D Train, April 14 at 1:50pm

“A man enters the subway, paying with a token. To the accompaniment of a jaunty Shostakovich waltz, archival images tell a life story—at once singular and universal. The latest inspired composite from Jay Rosenblatt (Phantom Limb,The Darkness of Day) features a dynamic collection of found images, mostly black and white but with the occasional splash of vibrant color. Texture, movement, and connections spark as life passes before our eyes.”


4. Detropia, April 13th at 4:40pm

“[This film is] an affecting and modern symphony of Detroit, a casualty and the epitome of fin de siècle industrial and urban abandonment. The city’s rapid decline (half of its inhabitants have moved since 1970 and half of its manufacturing jobs have been lost since 2000) triggered a fight-or-flight response on a massive scale, resulting in unprecedented political and civic challenges and corresponding radical countermeasures.”


5. How to Survive a Plague, April 14th at 7:20pm

“In the early 1980s when the number of AIDS cases in America began to soar, many organizations with the resources to help turned a blind eye to the epidemic. Enter ACT UP, a group of activists who felt they’d been backed into a corner by society’s complacent attitudes. Many of ACT UP’s members were HIV-positive and saw this unifying political action as their only hope of survival.”


I hope to see you there!



images and quoted text: http://www.fullframefest.org

A Closer Look: John Chamberlain

John Chamberlin (1927-2011) is a great example of an artist who made a career out of exploring one material.  For him, that material was crushed car parts.

His sculptures are surprisingly delicate  & elegant considering their source.  I am always amazed at how Chamberlain was always able to find new colors, shapes, and configurations to explore.

Some belive Chamerlian’s use of metal is akin to translating Abstract Expressionist brushstrokes into three dimensions.  Others simply see beautiful compositions.  Whatever the source, these are some of my favorite sculptures to look at.  I hope you enjoy them too.



image 1: blogspot

image 2: daily art fixx

image 3: whitehot

A Closer Look: My Favorite Painting in North Carolina

There are a lot of paintings in North Carolina.  But of all the ones I’ve seen, my favorite is Berkeley No.8 by Richard Diebenkorn.  Part of the North Carolina Museum of Art’s permanent collection, this painting is an iconic example of Diebenkorn’s signature style, in which he used landscapes to inspire abstract compositions.  The subleties of color and delicate application of paint make this painting interesting and beautiful.  It always holds my gaze for a long while…

Berkeley No. 8 is hanging right now in the modern galleries of the North Carolina Museum of Art, so go see it soon!


image: NCMA

A Closer Look: Louise Nevelson

Louise Nevelson is one of my favorite artists.  A master of found object sculpture, she was known for her room-sized wall pieces made of wood & painted in monotone.  Almost all her work is flat black, but she also created work in gold, white, and green.


By working in monotone, Nevelson was able to emphasize the formal qualities of her objects, elevating scraps of wood to beautiful compositions.   She was a master at joining together disparate forms to create a sense of balance and mystery.


Many people acknowledge a connection between Nevelson’s work and the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1940s-1950s.  This movement emphasized grand themes like masculinity, the subconcious, and the sublime, and included painters like Jackson Pollack and Franz Kline.

In addition to working in wood, Nevelson also created a large number of outdoor steel sculptures.  These works maintain the vitality of her more intimate works, but on a grand scale.  They can be seen in many public places across the country, inluding a plaza named after her in New York’s financial district.

Louise Nevelson’s unique style continues to influence artists and designers up to the present day.  Take a closer look and see what you discover.


image 1: sfmoma

image 2: art ideas

image 3: dna info

image 4: mutual art

A Closer Look: Frank Lloyd Wright in the Southeast

When you think of Frank Lloyd Wright, his iconic midwest Prairie style probably comes to mind – homes with expansive eaves and horizontal lines that seem to extend toward the horizon.  But this sought-after architect designed many projects in other locations, including a few in our own backyard.

The following examples are within a day’s drive from Raleigh:

1. Auldbrass Plantation, Beaufort County, South Carolina.  Frank Lloyd Wright designed a complex of buildings including a main house, guest house, and stables for this plantation, originally established before the Civil War.  It is privately owned, but tours are occassionally offered.

2. Broad Margin, Greenville, South Carolina.  The only other building by Wright in South Carolina is this beautiful private residence, made from thick concrete walls and cypress wood.  Wright even designed the furniture for the home out of cypress.  The home was positioned on its wooded lot so it wouldn’t be seen from the road or neighboring properties.



2. Pope-Leighey House, Fairfax County, Virginia.  This is a prime example of what Wright called a “Usonian” home, defined as an affordable, modestly-scaled dwelling that responded to its surroundings.  Regular tours are offered, find out more here.

File:Pope-Leighey House - North east facade - HABS VA,30-FALCH,2-10.jpg

images 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7: library of congress

image 4: amazing sites

image 8: wikipedia

A Closer Look: Giorgio Morandi

What better place to look for color inspiration than a master Painter?  And who better than Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964), an Italian painter who specialized in still life?

After 1922 he developed the signature style he would become known for, focusing on subtle gradations of hue, tone, and objects arranged in a unifying atmospheric haze.

His beautiful paintings, though created decades ago, are surprisingly fresh. In fact, Morandi’s color palettes seem surprisingly contemporary.

Take a look: they might be the perfect inspiration for your next design project.  Can you imagine a room painted in these gorgeous tones?



image 1 & 2: Art News

image3 & 4: Heidi Haseltine Photography

A Closer Look: Beverly McIver

An artist from Durham is currently being featured with a solo show at the North Carolina Museum of Art.  And you won’t want to miss it!

Reflections: Portraits by Beverly McIver celebrates the last decade of work from the native of North Carolina.  She is renowned for her expression-filled, emotive canvases that commemorate her life and the lives of those closest to her—in particular, her mother, Ethel, who passed away in 2004, and her sister, Renee, who is mentally disabled.

The exhibition highlights these two subjects in McIver’s work, focusing solely on her self-portraits and on portraits of Renee and other family members. “All of my portraits are self-portraits,” says the artist. “I use the faces of others who reflect my most inner being.”


The show runs through June.  For more info: http://ncartmuseum.org/



image 1: contemporary art co

image 2: nccu.edu

image 3: westcityfilms

text: http://ncartmuseum.org/