Extras on “Lucian Freud: Portraits” at the Modern

This is a quicker check-in than I had anticipated because my week became full of unplanned and fun activities once I bought a weekend pass to the 25th Dallas VideoFest.

So, I want to share a short anecdote about one of the Lucien Freud’s paintings. One of his smallest portraits captures a likeness of Queen Elizabeth II. It’s only 9.3” x 6” – tiny on the easel below.

Lucian Freud Painting the Queen at St. James Palace | 2001
(Photo: David Dawson)

Typically, Freud required his subjects come to his studio, housed in his Kensington London home. The Queen of England was an exception to this rule. He set up a make-shift studio at St. James Palace, not in a grand room with scarlet brocade curtains and ancestral paintings as the backdrop but in a modest, drab room that is used by the Royal’s art conservators. The setting was more akin to Freud’s own shabby studio space.

The Queen, given her responsibilities, could commit to a limited number of sittings between May 2000 and December 2001. To minimize time in the studio, a female staff courtier placed the royal crown on her head and filled in for the Queen because Freud knew that the number of faceted diamonds and complexity of the setting would be very time-consuming to paint. While there, the Queen sat and chatted about their mutual love of horses and betting at the horse track as Freud captured the likeness of her face and hair and studied her inner spirit. The work was a gift from Freud – done for free, not as a commission which was Freud’s mode of operation, giving him full artist freedom. The portrait was hailed as brave and clear-sighted by some and condemned as a travesty by others.

The painting was first shown to the public in a 2002 inaugural exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace. (Photo: Royal Collection)

How do I know this inside story? It comes from a reliable source: specifically, David Dawson who was Lucian Freud’s assistant for 21 years and inherited Freud’s’ home and studio space as bequeathed to him in the final will. (Note: Freud died last year in July 2011.)

Dawson was the first guest speaker at the Modern in conjunction with this exhibition.

The next speaker, scheduled for October 9th, is Martin Gayford who sat for “Man in the Blue Scarf” (see image below). This promises to be another enlightening talk full of back stories.

Martin suggested himself as a sitter to Lucian Freud over tea in the kitchen – not really expecting a positive answer. The best Martin hoped was for Freud to hesitate and say: “Perhaps?” Instead, Freud replied: “What are you doing next Tuesday evening?” What unfolded was 130 hours of sitting sessions in Freud’s studio, between November 2003 and April 2005, and a book about the experience.

Painting: “Man in the Blue Scarf” | 26″ x 20″

The portrait of Queen Elizabeth is not included in the current show at the Modern Art Museum Fort Worth titled Lucian Freud: Portraits which closes October 28th – it stays in her Majesty’s Royal Collection – but there is still much to see in this show, including “Man in the Blue Scarf.”

Enjoy your week.


Recent Paintings

Recent paintings of mine explore the translucency or opacity of color when layered. This is a continuation of my interest in the properties of paint and the use of simple shapes – lines, rectangles and squares – to make compositions influenced by the Bauhaus Modernist Movement and Josef Albers.

Acrylic on board
10” x 12” | Artist: Meg Fitzpatrick

For the painting above, I used Cadmium Red Medium, which is highly opaque and has a strong tint, for bottom layer (or underpainting).  The top layer is a thin wash of aluminum paint (middle panel) which is highly translucent. It is flanked by Unbleached Titanium White (more a buff, beige hue than pure white) mixed with Naples Yellow (left panel) and then Raw Sienna (right panel).

Acrylic on board
10” x 12” | Artist: Meg Fitzpatrick

I used primary blue for underpainting in the image above.  It’s translucent – a beauty, in my opinion. Again, the top layer is a thin wash of aluminum paint (middle panel) flanked by Unbleached Titanium White mixed with Naples Yellow (left panel) and Raw Sienna (right panel).

Acrylic on Arches Archival paper
15″ x 11” | Artist: Meg Fitzpatrick

Look at the painting above. I used cadmium orange, an opaque color, for the underpainting.  Again, the top layer is a thin wash of aluminum paint (middle horizontal panel) flanked by Unbleached Titanium White mixed with Yellow Ochre (upper panel) and Raw Sienna (lower panel).

Acrylic on paper
15” x 11” | Artist: Meg Fitzpatrick

primary yellow is the color of the underpainting, as seen in center square. The shape shimmers, and the effect reminds me somewhat of the lighting on the outside of One Arts Plaza. The surrounding 8 squares are all variations on Mars Black – adding a touch of primary yellow or cobalt blue or cadmium red caused subtle changes in the color. In person, you think there is more going on than solid black, but  initially you are not sure. So, you stare to figure out what is going on with the black color. The next two paintings are a continuation of this theme.

Oil on gessoed paper
7-1/2” x 7-1/2” | Artist: Meg Fitzpatrick
Cobalt blue is underpainting.

Oil on gessoed paper
7-1/2” x 7-1/2” | Artist: Meg Fitzpatrick
Cadmium red is the color used for the underpainting.

I’ve prepped one of my favorite types of canvas – raw linen – across 60” x 48” stretchers. This week I’m ready to work on a new painting which I’ll share with you next Sunday.

Enjoy your week and the Emmy Awards tonight – Go Modern Family and Downton Abbey. Homeland is on my list of need-to-see. What are your favorite TV shows?


Cause for Celebration – Dallas City Performance Hall

Projections on the walls in the lobby entrance of the DCPH logo.
The logo reflects the building’s roofline which resembles an undulating wave.
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Another architectural gem opened in the Dallas Arts District.  The gem is the Dallas City Performance Hall (DCPH). A ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday morning began a weekend-long celebration with 40 events. The concept for the new building was to provide first-rate space in the Arts District to mid-size and emerging performing arts groups who do not own their own facility. This need exists across multiple disciplines – a stage for dance, theater, music or chorale performances, as well as lectures and special events.

On Friday evening, we had the opportunity to hear individuals from the brain trust who joined forces and produced a thoughtful, high quality entry into the Arts District. Here are the professionals on the panel:

  • Leigh Breslau (now partner with Trahan Architects), Design architect, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill | Chicago office
  • Brian George, Architect of Record, Corgan Associates | Dallas office
  • Jack Hagler, Theater and Lighting design, Schuler and Shook | Dallas, TX.
  • Mark Holden, Acoustics, Jaffee Holden | Norwalk, CT.

From the panel, we learned that 70 arts organizations were interviewed to understand their specific requirements. From this feedback, the team collaborated with the City of Dallas and each other to accommodate multiple, sometimes conflicting, performing arts needs.  I observed that the panelist, who have worked together since 2004 on this project, genuinely respect and like each other.

The result is a 750 seat hall – 550 on the lower level and 200 in mezzanine. It’s proof that on a tight, 100% publicly funded budget of $40.5 million an exquisitely designed and engineered structure can be built.

When discussing the unique requirements of the DCPH, Mr. Breslau said that the design was inspired by his admiration of Renzo Piano’s Nasher Sculpture Center (down the street on Flora) and his mentor Louis Kahn’s Kimball Museum in Fort Worth. What he adopted was the layout of a series of linear pavilions. Eventually the DCPH will have three side-by-side rectangles with waving ribbon rooflines. Interaction with the urban setting, said Mr. Breslau, was the reason there is a front two-story glass lobby and minimal setback from Flora Street.  “We wanted a city or village for the arts. The patron in the glass lobby becomes one of the actors on stage.”

Phase One of Dallas Center for Performing Arts (DCPH) – west side profile.
60,000 sf on 100,000 sf site where two more pavilions will flank this one, completing the DCPH performing arts campus.
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Acoustician Mr. Holden shared with us the complexity of addressing the varying sound types, e.g. amplified and acoustic vibrations, inside the hall.  While outside and overhead, the flight path from Love Field had to go unnoticed to the audiences. He said that “out of necessity, this was most flexible hall his firm has designed.” When you enter, notice the cast-in-place concrete walls with the random patterns of “boards simulating wood.” The textured pattern was an intentional part of the sound reverberation calculations. Also, notice the walls and where the acoustic panels, which resemble “roman shades,” have been lowered or raised. To manipulate sound, 13 double-baffled wool panels can be mechanically and individually adjusted (see photos below).

Concrete walls and wool acoustic panels
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Inside view of adjustable wool acoustic panels
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

In a blog post last year, I highlighted work by the local artist Shane Pennington. Much to my delight he is the first artist commissioned by the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs to make public art for the DCPH. Specifically, he was asked to make a digital painting for the theater’s stage curtain.

Staying true to his reputation as imaginative, technically savvy and out-of-the-box, his piece titled, Points of Life, is very cool (see image below). The medium is a programmable LED curtain – an electronic 57’ long grid made of 8” x 8” squares. Each square is like a colored pixel. All squares converge optically into animated images of walking figures. It’s comparable to the way Chuck Close paints his portraits, and how we experience and see his images.

“Points of Life” – 15 minute loop of urban pedestrians | Artist: Shane Pennington
(photo: Front Burner | D Magazine)

In an interview with Peter Simek for D Magazine, Pennington talks about his summer in Berlin and being inspired by people watching in the city’s central plaza, Alexanderplatz:

“I filmed about four hours of material, and brought it back to the states. Then I went through it and hand-selected each character. As you can imagine, there are probably thousands of people really walking through this landscape, so I hand-selected each one. There are over ten thousand images that I had to go through. Each frame of every person had to be cut out and inserted.

Sitting in the plaza, obviously there are certain differences, like their (sic: Germans’) little hot dog stands, but if you really sat back and took the time to just absorb it and just watch life, it is fairly in a beautiful message. We’re all similar. It transcends boundaries and countries and all that stuff. In a sense, that’s kind of the beautiful message of this (sic: Points of Life).

“Dropped ceiling” is part of the acoustics and design which gives space for materials to muffle any overhead sound.
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Proof in the pudding (or actually hearing a performance):

I experienced the first live performance on Friday night which featured Sarah Jaffe, a soulful 20-year old North Texan singer and songwriter. I intentionally sat in the mezzanine, unexpectedly and happily surrounded by Jaffe’s fans. The sound was incredible – clear. My view from Row 11, Seat 11 – fantastic. The seat, covered with acoustically correct fabric – comfortable.

As a nice prelude to her performance, the warm-up band came from Dallas’ Arts Magnet school, conveniently located right across the street. Seven students from Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts, joined on stage by Jaffe, sang delicate acoustic tunes.

As far back as the 1990’s, the DCPH was conceived as part of the grand plan for the Dallas Arts District – a special place for emerging and mid-size performing arts organizations. The opening this weekend was a big success for the Office of Cultural Affairs – a division of City of Dallas. Kudos to OCA for staying true to its mission: “Establish a cultural system that ensures all Dallas citizens and visitors have an opportunity to experience the finest in arts and culture.”

Be back next Sunday with more on art.

Enjoy, Meg

Lots Happening on the Dallas Gallery Scene

Art season marked its start this weekend with new exhibitions at every gallery – or so it seemed given the number of shows – in the Dallas Design District.

Here is a sampling of artists’ work I’d recommend, starting with Holly Johnson Gallery (1411 Dragon Street).

(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Holly opened the season with Electric Labyrinth: New Paintings by Tommy Fitzpatrick.

After years of being asked if I knew the artist with the same last name, I finally met him. He told me, with Gaelic pride, that our name was the only “Fitz” surname of Irish origin. All others are of Norman origin, such as Fitzgerald and Fitzsimmons.

We also talked about his work (see images below).

Black Rhombus | Mock-up | Diagonal Grid
17” x 13” | acrylic on canvas
Artist: Tommy Fitzpatrick (b. 1969)
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

“Grid Form” (2012)
25-1/2” x 19-1/2” | acrylic on canvas
Artist: Tommy Fitzpatrick (b. 1969)
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

The body of work in Electric Labyrinth was inspired by a trip to Tokyo where Fitzpatrick saw Prada Store, a glamorous seven-story glass structure built in the heart of Aoyama (Tokyo’s luxury retail district).  Designed by Herzog and de Meuron, the architects’ early blueprints, models and the actual building under construction provided a framework for many of the paintings in this show. According to the artist, “I wanted to continue my investigation into the language of architecture and the flatness of paint.”

A Grand Opening: Cris Worley opened her new space on 1415 Slocum Street. (Note: Walk to the end of the side alley to find the gallery entrance.)

(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

You’ll enter a room full of the colorful, large paintings by Houston-based artist Howard Sherman in his show, List of Demands.

Howard was there, smiling and engaged with the crowd.

Back when he was a student, Howard drew cartoons for his college newspaper. He became a syndicated cartoonist, and then segued into the fine art world. He said he was thankful he found fine arts because he had grown tired of daily grind with cartooning deadlines.

His painting’s iconography, playful forms and marks are meant to be fun and humorous.

“If you don’t have a sense of humor about your work or life you are “up a creek without a paddle.” The soul of a cartoonist is still seen in each of his paintings and the smile that is usually on his face when I see him in a gallery crowd.

“Press Rewind on Fuck” (2012)
70” x 60” | acrylic and marker on canvas
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Paul Manes (b. 1948) grew up in Beaumont Texas. In 1983, he moved to New York City where he lives today and has a studio. His landscapes, like the one below, are heavily influenced by the swamp images from his Gulf Coast childhood.  With In the Heat of the Night (see image below), I saw mastery in his brush strokes, heavy application of paint and use of high contrast color values.  Manes’ work has been collected by major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim, as well as Yoko Ono (very cool).

“In the Heat of the Night” (2008)
78” x 108” | oil on canvas
Artist: Paul Manes
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Inside Conduit Gallery (1626 Hi Line Drive), there are multiple well-curated shows, which is quite typical of Owner/ Director Nancy Whitenack and Assistant Director Danette Dufilho’s visual talents.

(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

In the front gallery, you’ll be greeted by Mimi Kato‘s One Ordinary Day of an Ordinary Town (see image below). Her digital compositions are influenced by traditional Japanese art formats and her contemporary suburban childhood.  In an interview she said, “I play the role of each character, sew the costumes, create props and direct the narratives.” Theatrical performances, especially Japanese comedy theater Kyogen and the contemporary Butoh style, influence the poses and gestures of her characters.

Kato is an alumna of the prestigious Artist in Residence Program at The MacDowell Colony.

“One Ordinary Day of an Ordinary Town” (2010)
Archival Pigment Print | 7’ x 32’
Artist: Mimi Kato
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

And, in next gallery room are photographs by Texas Women’s University professor and artist, Susan Kae Grant.

Susan Kae Grant in her studio
(photo: James Bland | D Magazine)

Each piece in the exhibition titled, Theatrical Realms of the Whimsical & Tragic will make you stop, want to absorb all the details and ask, “What is happening?”

The work is a continuation of her shadow-based photographic series, Night Journey. For that show (which was also incredibly good), Grant used her interest in sleep research She actually had herself wired to study her brain activity in REM states. Dreams, fairy tales, myths and shadows are the subject matter for the sets and props she designs, stages and photographs.

Detail from “Theatrical Realms of the Whimsical & Tragic”
Artist: Susan Kae Grant
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Barry Whistler Gallery (2909 Canton Street) displays two rooms of Tom Orr’s large and smaller sculptures.

(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Tom Orr (b. 1950), Dallas native with a BFA in Sculpture from Rhodes Island School of Design, works frequently in collaboration with his wife Frances Bagley to create art. Many are accessible to the public, e.g. DART Station, One Arts Plaza Lobby, DFW Airport, Belo Corporation building entrance and a Dallas Opera commission. For this show titled, Delicious Poison, the work continues his experiments with crimping, cutting and layering materials which cause the eye to move from ghost-like cast shadows to hard surfaces to vibrating color lights to shimmering “moire” wavy surfaces.

In 2011, Tom received the prestigious Pollack-Krasner Grant.

detail from “The Moon’s Invention”
Mixed Media | 52” x 35” x 23”
Artist: Tim Orr
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Galleri Urbane Dallas (2277 Monitor St.). The young and talented artist is Jessica Drenk. Her show is Aggregated: Ordinary Objects, Unusual Sculpture (see her work below).

(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

detail from “Cerebral Mapping 2” (2012)
Cut books and wax | 122″ x 40″
Artist: Jessica Drenk
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

I first discovered Drenk when her work was exhibited at this year’s Dallas Art Fair where a friend purchased one of her “pencil “pieces – see image below – from the owners of Galleri Urbane. Drenk glues graphite pencils (the ordinary No. 2 yellow) together. With an electric sander, she shaves the shape which exposes streaks of grey on the outer skin and leaves the guts schoolyard yellow.

from “Implement Series”
Mixed media | 9.75” x 20” x 11”
Artist: Jessica Drenk
Private Dallas collection
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

For those who did gallery walk on Saturday night, who would you recommend – your favorite artist, gallery or piece of art?

On a totally unrelated note, congratulations to Serena. She won the US Open in three sets – 2-6, 6-2, 5-7.  It was a fantastic match all the way to the very last minute. Be back next Sunday with more on art.

Enjoy your week,