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Speaking With Living Museum Artist Robert Chin

I discovered Queens-based artist Robert Chin‘s intriguingly diverse artwork awhile back at the Living Museum. I was delighted to finally meet him and find out a bit about him.  

When did you begin to draw?

I was in 3rd grade when I started. I drew an Easter bunny for a class assignment, and I decided this is what I want to do the rest of my life…draw!

What inspired you at the time?

I was terrified of everything else

And what inspires you these days?

It is my way of expressing my vision of the world. It is how I can best express my thoughts.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Van Gogh, Picasso, and Jackson Pollack are among my favorites. When I look at the art of the masters, I see what’s possible.

What about cultural influences?

Rock music and art films are among my main influences.

How has your art evolved through the years?

It changed dramatically five years ago when I started doing caricatures. My main inspiration was Philip Burke.

How long do you usually spend on a piece?

Anywhere from a month to six weeks.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

I work on my art about five hours a day.

What are some other activities that engage you?

I like to write and I like to sing.

I was introduced to your work here at the Living Museum.. Have you exhibited elsewhere?

I’ve shown my work at Hofsta University, at the Queens Museum and in a group exhibition in Korea.

Is the viewer’s response to your work important to you?

Not at all. I don’t care what others think about what I am doing.

Have you any favorite media?

I like working with acrylic.

Have you a formal art education?

I attended the High School of Art and Design. I, also, studied art at Pratt for three years.

What was that like?

It was horrifying.

Where are you headed?

To bigger and better things.

What do you see as the artist’s role in society?

To reveal all of society’s hypocrisies, mistakes and treacheries.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; images of artworks by Lois Stavsky

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Yesterday afternoon, we joined ARTBreakOUT co-founder and art educator Bonnie Astor, along with a group of young artists supported by AHRC, at the American Folk Art Museum. It was our second visit to the wondrous exhibition, “Memory Palaces: Inside the Collection of Audrey B. Heckler,” featuring dozens of intriguing artworks form Audrey Heckler’s personal collection. On her passion for outsider art that she had begun collecting after a visit to the Outsider Art Fair in 1993, Audrey Heckler told ARTnews: “All this art speaks to me, a lot more than other forms of art.”

The image featured above is the work of the late noted English visionary artist Madge Gill (1882-1961), whose artwork often references a longed-for daughter who was stillborn. A small sampling of our favorite works follows:

Japanese visionary artist M’onma, one of several otherworldly, often unsettling, surreal artworks created with graphite, ink and colored pencil

One of the first artists to be identified with the outsider art movement, the late Swiss artist Adolf Wölfli (1864-1930) created thousands of intricate drawings of imaginary adventures while confined to a psychiatric hospital in Berne. As the one featured below, they picture a fantastical world created from the artist’s imagination.

Czech artist Anna Zemánková (1908-1986), one of her many striking botanical images that she created to help her cope with her depression

French artist Augustin Lesage (1876-1954), one of many drawings inspired — according to the artist — by voices from invisible spirits, including that of his dead sister

Wide view of one segment of the sprawling exhibition featuring a range of artworks in different media

Linen tapestry fashioned by the late English visionary artist Madge Gill, with City-as-School intern Sage Ironwood to its left

“Memory Palaces: Inside the Collection of Audrey B. Heckler” continues through January 26, 2020. Located at 2 Lincoln Square (Columbus Avenue between 65th and 66th Streets), the American Folk Art Museum is open Tuesday–Thursday: 11:30 am–7:00 pm; Friday: 12:00–7:30 pm; Saturday: 11:30 am–7:00 pm and Sunday, 12:00–6:00 pm. Admission is always free.

Research for this post: City-as-School intern Sage Ironwood;

Photo credits: 1-5 Sage Ironwood; 6 & 7 Lois Stavsky

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What began in November, 2005 as a month-long gathering at the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center during Puerto Rican Heritage Month, BORIMIX has since evolved into a vibrant city-wide project showcasing Latinx artists working in film, theatre, dance, music and the visual arts. Among this month’s festivities is sierra/COSTA — a gallery exhibition spanning two galleries at The Clemente featuring an eclectic range of works by over two dozen artists. The intriguing image featured above is a close-up from Mazmorra, fashioned with ink on vinyl in 2018 by Ecuadorian artist Ivo Uquillas. Several more images of artworks — many by Ecuadorian artists — captured during my recent visit to the exhibition follow:

Jersey City-based Athena Toledo, For My Village, 2019, Mural

Ecuadorian artist Toofly, Close-up from “Free Spirit Remix” — a huge mural painted onto the wall

Puerto Rican artist Carlos Dávila Rinaldi, Naranjito, 2015, Tar gel

NYC-based Argentine artist Julia Justo, Altar for Sylvia Rivera, 2019, Installation

Ecuadorian artist Carla Torres, Lord of the Flies, 2006, Mixed media on Masonite

Colombian artist Edwin Salgado, Green 2018, Oil on canvas

The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center is located at 107 Suffolk Street on the Lower East Side. Its gallery spaces are open Wednesday-Sunday 12PM-7PM and by appointment, 212-260-4080.

Photos of images: Lois Stavsky

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Over 400 original, alluring artworks in a range of media and styles are on view through December 20 at Fountain House Gallery’s annual pre-holiday exhibition. Measuring 6 X 6 Inches inches or less, each is priced at $100 or under. The image featured above is the work of self-taught artist, Roger Jones, whom I first met earlier this year at Fountain House Gallery Open Studios in Long Island City. A small sampling of images of artworks from this must-see exhibit follows:

Elizabeth Atlas, Sewn mixed media

Dubblex, Acrylic and marker

Lewis Pujol, Acrylic

Barry Senft, Acrylic

JoAnn Berman, Silkscreen, mixed textiles and watercolor

Martin Cohen, Collage

Founded in 2000, Fountain House Gallery showcases the works of artists living with emotional challenges, providing them with opportunities to share their creative expressions with others. Located at 702 Ninth Avenue at 48th Street, Fountain House Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday: 11am-7pm and Sunday: 1-5pm.

Photos of images: Lois Stavsky

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On September 15, 1983, Michael Stewart, a young African American, was brutally assaulted by New York City Transit Police following his arrest for writing graffiti in the First Avenue L train subway station. Thirteen days later, Stewart died in a coma. Soon afterwards, Jean-Michel Basquiat painted The Death of Michael Stewart, informally known as Defacement, on the wall of Keith Haring’s studio.

With The Death of Michael Stewart as its centerpiece, “Basquiat’s Defacement: The Untold Story” features several additional socially and politically conscious artworks by the legendary self-taught artist Jean-Michel Basquiat,  along with a selection of artworks by several of Stewart’s contemporaries. The first image featured above, La Hara, was fashioned by Basquiat with acrylic and oilstick on wood panel two years before Stewart’s death. Several more images of artworks on display in “Basquiat’s Defacement: The Untold Story” on view at the Guggenheim Museum on Manhattan’s Upper East Side follow:

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Charles the First, 1982, Acrylic and oil stick on canvas

Keith Haring. Michael Stewart — USA for Africa, 1985, Enamel and acrylic on canvas

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Self Portrait, 1983 Oil, acrylic, oilstick, graphite and pen on paper collage on wood with metal attachments

George Condo, Portrait of Michael Stewart, 1983, Oil on wood panel

Eric Drooker, The Cover-Up Continues, Charcoal on board

Organized by Chaédria LaBouvier, “Basquiat’s Defacement: The Untold Story” remains on view through November 6 at the Guggenheim Museum. Located at 1071 5th Avenue between 88th and 89th Streets, the museum is open seven days a week. and on Saturdays — from 5pm until 8pm — you can pay what you wish.

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky; the second image features the cover of the book accompanying the exhibit.

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Since its establishment in 1997, the non-profit organization UrbanGlass has advanced the non-traditional use of glass as a creative medium. Currently on view in its spacious gallery at 647 Fulton Street in Brooklyn is HIGH NOON, an extraordinary surrealistic exhibition and installation by Einar and Jamex de la Torre, featuring a frightening reality, “where we clumsily juggle the fate of our planet with every lurch towards global meltdown.”

Born three years apart in Guadalajara, Mexico, brothers Einar and Jamex de la Torre now live and work on both sides of the border, providing them with a unique transcultural perspective. While Jamex holds a BFA in Sculpture, Edgar is largely self-taught. Collaboratively, they fashion an extraordinary range of mixed- media work with blown glass sculpture and installation art. Featured above are two close-ups from Patho Genes, a huge vinyl and mixed-media wall installation. Several more images of artworks featured in the brothers’ current exhibition follow:

Chingonl!, 2017, Blown glass and mixed media 

Remorse, 2018, Blown glass and mixed media

Age of Uncertainty, 2019, Archival lenticular print and mixed media

Ya Sabritas, 2014, Archival lenticular print and mixed media

Curated by Ben Wright, HIGH NOON continues through November 2 at 647 Fulton Street in Brooklyn. It is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10am to 9pm; admission is free.

Research for this post: City-as-School intern Angelize Santiago; photos by Angelize Santiago and Lois Stavsky

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Currently on view at White Columns, New York’s oldest alternative gallery space, is HEALING ARTS!, a selection of over 100 works from the archives of Healing Arts Initiative. Founded in 1970, the Healing Arts Initiative — aka Hospital Audiences Inc./H.A.I. — provided opportunities for “the culturally underserved in the New York City community” to actively engage with the arts.

Until its permanent closure in 2016, due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, H.I.A. supported a community of mostly self-taught artists, many living with disabilities, for close to five decades. Instrumental in helping preserve H.I.A.’s decades-long archive of art produced under its auspices, White Columns is now introducing it to a larger audience.

The image featured above was created by the late Julius Caesar Bustamante, a member of the Arawak/Caribe Indian nation, who began drawing in 2000 at age 43 following a diagnosis of post traumatic stress syndrome. Several more images on exhibit through November 2 follow:

 The late Rocco Fama, noted for his colorful drawings of imagined skyscrapers

The prolific Roger Jones, now active with Fountain House Gallery

The late Brooklyn-native Derrick Alexis Coard who struggled with schizo-affective disorder and was best-known for his drawings of bearded African-American men

Caribbean artist Adeyinka Perry

Wide view of small segment of installation featuring (top to bottom): Mercedes Jamison, Roger Jones, Julius Caesar Bustamante and Donna Caesar

Located at 91 Horatio Street in the West Village/Meatpacking District, White Columns is open Tue – Sat, 11AM –6 PM.

Research for this post: City-as-School interns Angelize Santiago and Sage Ironwood; photos by Angelize SantiagoSage Ironwood and Lois Stavsky

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Organized in collaboration with Ricco/Maresca, an exhibition of paintings by the celebrated African-American artist William Hawkins is on view at Demisch Danant, a distinctive gallery space that specializes in twentieth century  French design. Titled Jazz, the exhibition highlights the “unexpected syncopation and rhythms” shared by 1950’s French designers and the self-taught artist William Hawkins .

Born in 1895 in Kentucky, Hawkins began making art in the 1930’s, experimenting with house paint on found wood. But he didn’t exhibit his work until he was 87, after a local artist, Lee Garrett, discovered his paintings while visiting Hawkins’ Ohio home. William Hawkins has since attained global recognition for his authentic, expressive aesthetic.

The work featured above, Interior with Arched Windows, was fashioned with enamel on Masonite in 1989, just one year before the artist’s death. Several more images of Hawkins’ works on display at Demisch Danant follow:

State Capitol, Albany #2, 1986, Enamel on Masonite

Old Town Square #3, 1987, Enamel on Masonite

Cathedral, 1988, Enamel and collage on Masonite

Arched Park with Nationwide #3, 1989

WHAT’S IT WORTH?, 1987, Enamel on Masonite

150 Arch Park with Nationwide, 1986, Enamel on Masonite

Jazz continues through October 19 at Demisch Danant. Located at 30 W 12th Street in the Village, Demisch Danant is open Monday – Friday from 10AM to 6PM and on Saturday from 12PM – 5PM.

Photos of images by Lois Stavsky

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Currently on view at the American Folk Art Museum is “Memory Palaces: Inside the Collection of Audrey B. Heckler,” a wonderfully eclectic selection of works in a variety of media by over 80 outsider or self-taught artists from across the globe. The image featured above was fashioned by Felipe Jesus Consalvos, a Cuban-American artist who largely worked as a cigar-roller. After his death in 1960, over 750 collages on a range of unconventional surfaces — from found photographs to musical instruments — were discovered.

What follows are several more images from this rich, tantalizing exhibition — that we plan to revisit several more times before it closes on January 26, 2020:

Italian artist Carlo Zinelli, Untitled, Gouache paint. While hospiralized with a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, the late artist created almost two-thousand works with paints and colored pencils between 1957 and 1974.

Italian artist Giovanni Battista Podestå, Untitled, Paint on ceramic, mirror, glitter and cardboard. Born into a peasant family in Northern Italy in 1895, Podestà’s artworks often expressed his distate for the materialism of post-war Italian culture.

Swiss painter Christine Sefolosha, Birthgiving, Oil on canvas. Born in Montreux, Switzerland in 1955, the artist’s distinct aesthetic was largely influenced by the years she spent living as a white woman in apartheid South Africa.

French duo Alfred and Corrine Marié aka ACM, Untitled, Pieces of typewriters, alarm clocks, transistor radios and electronic parts — with cables and glue. An art school dropout, Alfred Marié, along with his partner Corrine, creates whimsical assemblages that evolve into complex architectural objects.

Southern preacher and artist Howard Finster, The Devil’s Vice…,Paint on board. Known for his visionary art and passionate sermons, the Reverend Howard Finster created thousands of spiritually-inspired paintings. along with remarkable environmental sculptures, until his death in 2001.

Ethiopian artist Gedewon Makonnen, Untitled, Tempera on paper. Trained as a cleric in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Gedewon was also a healer, who created strikingly elegant talismanic art.

Located at 2 Lincoln Square (Columbus Avenue between 65th and 66th Streets), the American Folk Art Museum is open Tuesday–Thursday: 11:30 am–7:00 pm; Friday: 12:00–7:30 pm; Saturday: 11:30 am–7:00 pm and Sunday, 12:00–6:00 pm. Admission is always free.

Research for this post: City-as-School intern Angelize Santiago 

Photo credits: 1, 2 & 7 Angelize Santiago; 3 – 6 Lois Stavsky

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The following guest post is by City-as-School intern Angelize Santiago

On view through October 23 at Fountain House Gallery is Heavy Sauce, a group exhibition featuring a diverse range of artworks by seven artists. Curated by Gerasimos Floratos, a local artist who has been attending Fountain House Gallery exhibits since his teens, Heavy Sauce presents several unique perceptions of our city — some created with acrylics and others with fabrics, collages and varied media. The image featured above, Times Square Day, was painted by Gary Peabody.  A few more images of featured artworks follow:

Maybellene Gonzalez, Artist’s Quote, 2019, Acrylic on canvas

Alyson Vega, The Five Boroughs, 2019, Acrylic, wool felt, collage on canvas

Issa Ibrahim, Mad City, 2017, Acrylic and oil on canvas

Aracelis Rivera, The Tree, 2019, Mixed media and found objects on wood

Founded in 2000, Fountain House Gallery showcases the works of artists living with emotional challenges, providing them with opportunities to share their creative expressions with others. Located at 702 Ninth Avenue at 48th Street, Fountain House Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday: 11am-7pm and Sunday: 1-5pm

Photos of images:

1, 2 & 4 Lois Stavsky; 3 & 5 City-as-School intern Angelize Santiago

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