Month: June 2015

Featured Artist: Adam Cohen

Photo Credit: John Merriman. Contributed Photo.
Adam Cohen. Photo Credit: John Merriman. Contributed Photo.

Adam Cohen earned his BFA at Philadelphia’s Tyler School of Art at Temple University. He also studied abroad in Rome. Using Photo Shop 1, Cohen was one of the very first artists ever to use the computer for art-making, launching his career as a top illustrator. He worked for clients such as Disney, Visa, MasterCard, Coca-Cola, CBS-TV, McGraw-Hill, Pfizer, Orion Pictures, Verizon, AT&T, The Atlantic Monthly, Dean-Witter, The New York Times and others.

In 2015 Adam’s painting Intuition was selected among the finalists in the Art Olympia International Competition held in Tokyo, Japan. Judges from prestigious art institutions in the United States, France, Japan and other countries looked at 5000 entries from all over the world in two categories: Open Category, and Student Category. Eighty works, including Adam’s Intuition, were selected for the final. Also, in 2015 Adam signed a contract with Morren Galleries to be represented in the Netherlands.

Simona David: Adam, you have formal training as a painter – you studied at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. When did you start painting?

Adam Cohen: I started painting when I was 12 year old. A friend of mine was studying with this teacher – Lillian Marzell, who was to become a pivotal figure in my life. I studied with Marzell for a few years. What was great about her was that she wanted us to listen to and bring out what was inside us; she was not telling us how to do things. I think that’s what really kills creativity – the idea that if you draw the sky it has to be blue. Marzell was an abstract painter. She knew all these artists like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Merce Cunningham – she would go out to Provincetown and hang out with them in her earlier days. Bob Dylan used to go there too. Marzell was ahead of her time, and very dynamic. At that time, when I was 12 year old, I was doing figurative painting, and I wanted instructions. If I asked how to do clouds, or how to draw the sky, she would say “You know how. You do it the way you feel it inside.”

SD: When did you switch to abstract painting?

AC: About three years ago. I was feeling lost, and got the feeling that there was something else that I wanted to express, but it wasn’t clear to me. In college I didn’t like abstract, and didn’t understand it. I wasn’t really interested in it. Everyone else was doing abstract painting, I was doing figurative. But students were doing these hideous abstract paintings, and the teachers were upset with them – it was the worst year of painting at Tyler. From 1967 until 1975 the work was amazing in the school. Those years were like a Renaissance in art. My class wasn’t living up to that.

Adam Cohen in the Studio. Photo Credit: John Merriman. Contributed Photo.
Adam Cohen in his studio. Photo Credit: John Merriman. Contributed Photo.

SD: What painters did you like around that time?

AC: I liked de Chirico. I liked Léger at one point. I never liked representational work. I prefer dream like, surrealist works. There is a mysteriousness in them.

SD: Who is your favorite painter today?

AC: I like Gerhard Richter. He’s a German painter. There are many things that I like about his work. He’s using a big squeegee to rub the paint. My approach is different. But I like a lot the early abstract painters.

SD: These days you paint abstract only – Carter Ratcliff characterized your style as Gestural Abstraction. Let’s talk about your toolbox: what materials do you use in your work?

AC: I use acrylics, some oil paint. I work mostly on canvas, and some wood panel. I go to art supplies stores and buy gels that I mix in my own formula.

SD: Let’s talk a little bit about your style.

AC: I’m an intuitive painter. But I can always do what I did as well: once you know that it’s part of your language. Carter said that I’ve taken every nice thing from every earlier phase and carried with me what I thought was the best. I do a lot of line work, and cutting, and slicing through the paint. I’m doing all this vascular work: the paintings are very much sculptural; they look visceral.

SD: How do you name your paintings?

AC: My partner, John Merriman, who does PR for celebrities, usually steps in and captures both my inner drive and the mood that a certain work of art is set to convey. Sometimes he even tells me when the work is done, although at night I may sneak back in the studio and add a few more brushes.

Adam and John. Contributed Photo.
Adam and John. Contributed Photo.

With abstract painting, John says, “There are so many things that you can get out of the painting, and what it’s supposed to tell. Some people would look at an abstract painting, and they’ll find all kinds of little faces in it. Others may very well see fire and ice.”

Asked about the naming process, John adds: “I tend to go after unexpected contrasts in the name. Adam paints so intuitively that at times it tends to be emotional. For instance, this one is one of his earlier works – it’s called Enigma: it’s kind of dark, but you don’t quite know what’s at the bottom of the whole thing. Life is not all black and white: there is the grey, and then there are different colors, it can be paradoxical. Enigma is one of his first carving paintings – it’s when Adam started to carve his paintings.”

Enigma by Adam Cohen
Enigma by Adam Cohen. © Simona David

SD: Adam, what inspires you? You divide your time between New York City, the Catskills, and Ocean Grove, NJ. Are there any external sources of inspiration or just inner experiences that trigger your creativity?

AC: Consciously or unconsciously the environment influences me. For example, this winter was so long, and I painted Early Spring a few days before the equinox – I was dreaming of spring, hence these colors: reds, pinks, oranges, greens and blues. I spend a lot of time on Instagram these days. For instance, this painting was inspired by a photo I saw on Instagram with shimmering flowing water. I wasn’t trying to copy, but rather use these reds in a way that inspired me. There is also an internal color palette that changes for me. It’s a little mysterious. For example, I go to my studio in a particular week and for some reason there is a color that I feel attracted to. I don’t question why I’m feeling drawn to that particular color. But then, as I start to work, a whole color palette emerges. And then I realize that I want to do the same color palette in the next painting, and the next, and the next, like I can’t get enough of it. Maybe a month or so I’m in love with this color palette, and then all of a sudden that changes. I see paintings as living experiences. And to me they need to have a life of their own, and energy. I think Carter Ratcliff put it best when John asked him one day what makes a great work of art. Carter said “if I was going to use one single word, I would say that it’s inexhaustible.” When you look at it, there is no beginning, and there is no end, and you always discover new things. He once said about my work that the entire surface was connected and alive. I like how he brings definitions to me about something I can’t define. The intuition and the experience come first, but then you need someone to define it. However, once I do define something, and it really resonates with me, I look for that experience in it.

Early Spring by Adam Cohen
Early Spring by Adam Cohen. © Simona David

SD: What kind of message would you like people to find in your work or you’re not concerned about that?

AC: It’s that kind of question that people have: how do you know when it’s finished? It’s such a deeply personal feeling, and so critical. Yes, I want the surface to be connected and alive, and the painting be inexhaustible, and look at it forever and still find something you haven’t seen before. It’s almost like a magic trick.

SD: You mentioned Carter Ratcliff before. He wrote a beautiful essay about your work. “A painting by Adam Cohen is like a sudden burst of light,” he said.  

AC: Carter was actually the closest to my very private and personal experience, and the decisions that I’m making in the process of painting. It felt like he was right there in the room with me, but he’s never been there. He interviewed me, but he was never there. He got the process so right. In his essay Carter said that the viewer looks at the painting and tries to look back at how the painter painted it.

SD: That’s right. The artist starts with a blank canvas, and keeps adding to it. The viewer sees the final product, and strives to understand the artistic process that led to that accomplishment. 

AC: It’s a little bit like a maze. Really the entire world is abstract. The closer you get to anything that you magnify – your skin, a table, a rock – it’s abstract; everything is abstract and our eyes pull it together. I think it’s very natural to create that way. If you go very close to a Renoir painting you don’t see something that looks like a face or a shirt or an object on a table. You see all these very abstract marks. If you get really close, you can see every brush mark. It’s extremely abstract. You have to step back ten or fifteen feet, and then it comes together.

SD: Let’s talk about your contract with Morren Galleries.

AC: I signed a contract with Morren Galleries to be represented in the Netherlands. They have four galleries. My work is shown in Amsterdam. I have five paintings there: Infinity Blue, which was done by the ocean, and November Moon, done in November during the full moon. Usually John names my paintings, but this one I named myself. There is also Spring Sequence, which I named myself, and Mystic Marsh, named by John. I’m the first abstract painter to be shown in Morren Galleries in Amsterdam.

SD: You are getting ready for a show at Carrie Haddad Gallery in Hudson: Abstraction, opening date July 18. Let’s talk about that.

AC: I have nine paintings in this show, including Paleolithic, Reflecting Pool, Enchanted, Clairvoyant, and Dragon Fly. Abstraction is a group exhibit showing the works of five artists, including mine. There will be a reception on Saturday, July 18 from 6 to 8 pm. I invite everyone to come.

Adam selecting works for Abstraction, a show opening at Carrie Haddad gallery on July 18
Adam selecting works for Abstraction, a show opening at Carrie Haddad gallery on July 18. © Simona David

To learn more about Adam Cohen, visit http://www.adamcohenstudio.com/.

© 2015 Simona David

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Weekend in the Catskills – 6/26/2015

This weekend in the Catskills:

  • An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde at Franklin Stage Company;
  • Oklahoma! (music by Richard Rodgers, and libretto by Oscar Hammerstein) at Bard College;
  • Art House Tour at the Woodstock Brydcliffe Guild;
  • And, the Founders’ Day at Bevier House Museum.

Read more at Upstater.com.

Bevier House Museum. Contributed Photo.
Bevier House Museum. Contributed Photo.

Featured Destination: Maverick Concert Hall

Source: Facebook
Source: Facebook

Maverick Concert Hall, founded in 1916, is the oldest continuous chamber music festival in the country. The festival, running from June to early September, presents an eclectic program of the Catskills folk songs, jazz as well as classical music. On June 28 this year the original 1916 concert, which featured music by Joseph Haydn, Max Bruch, and Robert Schumann, will be reproduced to mark the beginning of the Maverick’s centennial program. In 2016 the festival will celebrate its 100th anniversary.

I spoke with conductor Alexander Platt, the music director of the Maverick Concerts.

A research scholar for the National Endowment for the Humanities before he entered college, Alexander Platt was educated at Yale College, King’s College Cambridge (where he was a British Marshall Scholar), and as a conducting fellow at both Aspen and Tanglewood. At Cambridge he was the first American to hold the coveted post of Assistant Conductor of the Cambridge University Musical Society, and as conductor of the Cambridge University Opera Society he led revivals of both Berlioz’s BEATRICE AND BENEDICT and Britten’s OWEN WINGRAVE, to high praise in the London press. During this time he also made his professional conducting debut at the Aldeburgh Festival, his London debut at the Wigmore Hall, and reconstructed the lost chamber version of the Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, which has gone on to become a classic of the repertoire. In addition to recording for Minnesota Public Radio, National Public Radio, the South-West German Radio and the BBC, his recording of the Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy with violinist Rachel Barton Pine is still heard frequently on radio stations across America. 

Simona David: Alexander, you are the musical director for several symphony orchestras: the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra, the Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra, the Marion Indiana Philharmonic, and the Wisconsin Philharmonic. You have conducted other orchestras as well. Talk a little bit about your work: what does it take and what does it mean for you to conduct orchestras?   

Alexander Platt: It’s important to gain valuable experience over years and decades. Conducting an orchestra whether you have twenty-five people in front of you or a hundred and twenty-five it’s like being in the middle of Grand Central Station at rush hour. You’re hearing all these disperse sounds, and your job is to sort out all those sounds and mold them together. Ultimately it’s a very mysterious process like telepathy, when without saying a word you, as a conductor, blend the sounds together by your physical movements and your inner vision of the music. Some of the greatest rehearsals in the history of orchestras happened without the conductor saying a word.

SD: Your repertoire is so extensive: the level of familiarity you have with hundreds of works – all major composers from the Baroque era, Classical era, modern composers, and you’re also engaged with other musical genres such as folk and jazz – it’s impressive. Let’s talk a bit about your repertoire and what you like most.    

AP: What I like most as a conductor is the central line of mid-19th century great composers, starting in the late 18th century with Haydn and Mozart, and then going through Schubert and Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Dvorak, Elgar and Sibelius. I’m actually very old-fashioned in that regard. I do have a special love for the music Mahler because my graduate thesis at Cambridge was to reconstruct a lost Chamber version from Vienna in the 1920s of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony. I think the works of Dvorak, the great Czech composer, are vastly underplayed. We literally hear two or three pieces by Dvorak, we hear the great New World Symphony, which is great work that brought joy to millions and millions of people, but the man did write eight other symphonies. Each of them is a gem. I’m probably the only American conductor of my generation who has all nine of the Dvorak’s symphonies in his active repertoire. I very much live in the 19th century as a conductor.

Contributed Photo. Credit: Dion Ogust.
Contributed Photo. Credit: Dion Ogust.

SD: You conduct both symphony orchestras and operas. How are they different, and how do you approach them?

AP: That’s a wonderful question. Conducting opera and conducting orchestras are two occupations that are completely different. On the more mundane level they’re completely different in regard to scheduling – one of the reasons why now I’m mostly working with orchestras. If you work with an orchestra to prepare a concert it’s one week of rehearsal, it’s three – four rehearsals over a week, and then one or two concert performances. When you prepare an opera, that is a six week project minimum, often a couple of months with many weeks of rehearsals, and at least two weeks of shows. Also, more importantly, on a musical level, it’s a totally different mode of rehearsing. When you’re a symphony orchestra conductor, you basically run the show. Even in the most egalitarian structure, somebody has to be the boss. It’s just not enough time to open up every question of interpretation. In opera rehearsal it’s inherently much more complicated. The conductor is just one of many planks of leadership, if you will. The conductor is in constant collaboration with the stage director, and the principal singers. So there are two vastly different experiences.

SD: You’ve been the musical director of Maverick Concerts since 2002. The festival will celebrate its centennial this summer. Let’s talk a bit about the beginnings of the festival.

AP: In the midst of WWI a bunch of free thinking artists in the hills around Woodstock decided to mount a festival of classical music for the relief of Belgian war refugees, which was a very noble cause at that time. It was Hervey White who founded the festival. Hervey and his buddies found a book of drawings of French cathedrals and without any engineering or architectural experience they built the concert hall in the fall of 1915 – spring of 1916. The concert hall still stands today. In 1916 began the first series of what we call the Maverick Concerts. The festival has literally been going ever since. It’s a very simple, very pure experience which I think is part of the festival’s charm: the festival has not been over publicized or over engineered. It’s a festival that is really all about the music.

Contributed Photo. Credit Dion Ogust.
Contributed Photo. Credit: Dion Ogust.

SD: On Sunday, June 28 you will recreate the first concert performed in 1916.

AP: Yes, on June 28 at 4 o’clock we’ll have the Shanghai Quartet with pianist Ran Dank recreating the very first program at the Maverick Concert Hall – one of the great later String Quartet by Joseph Haydn, Max Bruch’s lament for cello and piano Kol Nidrei, and after the intermission the evergreen Piano Quintet by Robert Schumann. A great program that will take us back to the very first summer at Maverick.

SD: The festival includes folk and jazz in addition to classical music performances, and there are also poetry and acting moments as well.

AP: Yes, this will be a glorious season. On Friday, July 3 the great pianist Simone Dinnerstein will be playing the complete Goldberg Variations by Bach, a work that she has literally performed all over the world. Saturday night, the 4th of July, we have a brilliant young pianist Adam Tendler who will play the complete Sonatas and Interludes for Solo Piano by John Cage to celebrate Maverick’s historic connection with John Cage: as you know, Cage premiered his landmark work 4’33” of silence at Maverick in 1952. It will be a great season.

Contributed Photo. Credit: Alan Carey
Contributed Photo. Credit: Alan Carey

120 Maverick Road, Woodstock, NY 12498

(845) 679-8217

For more information, visit

http://www.maverickconcerts.org

© 2015 Simona David

Weekend in the Catskills – 6/19/2015

This weekend in the Catskills:

  • Bryan Adams at Bethel Woods;
  • Andy Warhol at The Hyde Collection Art Museum;
  • An opening reception at GCCA art gallery in Catskill;
  • And, a hot air balloon festival in Ballston Spa.

Read more at Upstater.com.

 

Weekend in the Catskills – 6/12/2015

This weekend in the Catskills:

  • Livingston Manor celebrates its 12th annual Trout Parade;
  • Olana State Historic Site is hosting a lecture exploring Frederic Edwin Church’s reading interests;
  • Blakeley White-McGuire, principal dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company, performs in Roxbury;
  • And, Melissa Etheridge performs at the Bardavon Theatre in Poughkeepsie.
  • For details, go to Upstater.com.

Also, Saratoga Springs is celebrating its 100th anniversary. For more information, go to http://saratogaartsfest.org/.

Photo Credit: Kate Hyden
Trout Parade. Photo Credit: Kate Hyden

Weekend in the Catskills – 6/5/2015

This weekend in the Catskills:

  • A nature walk at the John Burroughs Memorial Site in Roxbury;
  • Clara and Robert Schumann Piano Demonstration in Hunter;
  • Robert Plant at the Mountain Jam Festival, also in Hunter;
  • Open Studios at the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild;
  • And, an Exquisite Corpse Surrealist-inspired art project at Catskill Art Society in Livingston Manor.

Read full article at Upstater.com.

Woodchuck Lodge in Roxbury. (c) Simona David
Woodchuck Lodge in Roxbury. (c) Simona David