ARTISTS: Ron Throop and the Russian Stuckists

Throop Miller

Ron Throop “Henry Miller Went To Paris in 1932” 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 18′ x 14″

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I first noticed the works of painter Ron Throop on the Facebook page for Stuckism: The Ant-Anti Art Movement.  There’s always lots of fascinating works getting posted there, but his stood out to me for several reasons.

Stuckism is truly an international phenomenon, but here was another United States artist, from Oswego, New York, puzzling his way through  the dynamics of the independent art scene.  He was very productive, constantly putting up images of new paintings. When I see someone so dedicated it sparks my interest; it resonates with my own compulsive approach. I always say painting is my healthiest obsession, so to see someone else with that drive gives a sense of camaraderie.

Even more intriguing were the painting themselves, spontaneous, boldly colored, freely rendered, and full of stream of consciousness musings and humorous asides. As Ron and I began to communicate I was not surprised to discover he was also a fan of author and painter Henry Miller. They tap into the same kind of liveliness, cheerfulness and velocity in their work.

Throop Squirrel

Ron Throop “Is the Squirrel My Spirit Animal, or Am I Just Hyper-paranoid?” 2015

Acrylic on canvas, 14″ x 11″

I invited Ron to take part in Spineless: The Invertebrate Art Show, an exhibit I curated in Phoenix, Arizona. He sent a couple of pieces that made a big impact. During the opening, I witnessed one visitor experience a revelation. This shy young girl could not stop speaking about how blown away she was by the show, the energy in the pieces, how the colors just popped. When we asked her to pose next to her favorite work she chose one of Ron’s.

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Inspired by Throop

I would not be surprised if a new artist was created right there on the spot. Her eyes had been opened to the possibilities of painting.

Recently I learned of an exciting new development in Ron Throop’s career. Using the global connections of Stuckism and the power of contemporary communications technology, he started a project with a group of Russian Stuckist painters. He is tracking their interactions in his new blog, Round Trip Stuckism.

Throop Snow

Ron Throop “Which China Snowflake Is Wrong?” 2015. Acrylic on canvas, 24″ x 18″

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 Ron Throop took some time to answer a few questions about art, life and collaboration. He also shared some wonderful images from his Russian painting partners.

How did you initially get involved in the visual arts? Who were some of your inspirations?

Ron Throop: As a younger man and aspiring writer, I often dabbled with paint at the suggestion of Henry Miller. He would suffer writing, its joys and frustrations, to a cracking point, and then he would gather his watercolors, paper, and brushes, and go on a painting jag for however long it took to feel like writing again.
So I did this too, as practice. Over time I realized that painting is so much more joyous than writing. It allows for tremendous variation, can be spiritual, silly, expressive like fireworks—and still play the music loud. The viewer decides her own feeling (or not) without needing the imagination hand held and maneuvered by the writer.
Miller also introduced me to the picture poems of Kenneth Patchen. I copied his style to flow text in my paintings. I still do.
I raised my girls, tutored them myself, up until their teen years, when they enrolled in school. I cooked in restaurants to make ends meet. My children came first, always, so my lust for expression (which is terribly strong), always sat on the back burner until it boiled over. In my 30’s I began to nurture it into a regular regimen. Found a feel so to speak, and haven’t looked back.

How did you discover the Stuckist movement?

RT: My good friend who is the most enthusiastic educator of visual art I know sent me a video one day of a Stuckist show in London, which led me to the Stuckist manifesto.

What makes an artist a Stuckist?

RT: I don’t know if I am one entirely. I would tell someone who paints regularly to read the manifesto. Does he/she agree with most of its precepts? I do. I paint recognizable figures mostly, but am open for change. I think my limitations keep me where I am, which is good for now. Still, I believe the word “whim” should be printed above any creative door.
I like this from the manifesto:

“The Stuckist paints pictures because painting pictures is what matters.”
“The ego-artist’s constant striving for public recognition results in a constant fear of failure. The Stuckist risks failure wilfully and mindfully by daring to transmute his/her ideas through the realms of painting. Whereas the ego-artist’s fear of failure inevitably brings about an underlying self-loathing, the failures that the Stuckist encounters engage him/her in a deepening process which leads to the understanding of the futility of all striving. The Stuckist doesn’t strive — which is to avoid who and where you are — the Stuckist engages with the moment.”

And my favorite:

The Stuckist is not mesmerised by the glittering prizes, but is wholeheartedly engaged in the process of painting. Success to the Stuckist is to get out of bed in the morning and paint.

 

And I do. Until I drop dead.

Throop Paint

Ron Throop “Like de Kooning, I Set Out To Make Something Very Ugly With Lots of Paint. Unlike de Kooning, It Took Me Only a Few Hours” 2015. Acrylic on birch board, 24″ x 24″

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Tell us about some of the art events you’ve created locally.

RT: This upcoming project is the first group organizational effort I will sign my name to. I open up my house twice a year to show my own work. I have had some luck getting admitted in galleries, both group and solo shows, but truly I prefer the home show over all the rest. A bar would be okay. I like cheerful noise. I like being a happy host. Galleries are just rooms. The social psychologists have been telling us all along that it is others who authenticate achievement—rarely oneself, the achiever. I like to think I am crazy enough to love what I do, and what I have become as a man cut up into many roles. If some gallery wishes to invest in me, wonderful! I also like money, no matter how never easy come, always easy go it is for my family.

You’ve launched an international collaboration with a group of Russian Stuckist painters. How did this come about?
RT: This is about reverence first and foremost. I met Alexey Stepanov through the Stuckist Facebook page. I messaged him to ask if he would be willing to sell me one of his beautiful paintings. He suggested we trade instead. Voila! A painter-to-painter relationship was born.  (See Ron’s post on the topic: When a Stuckist Trades, Does a Tree Fall in the Woods?)

Alexy

Alexey Stepanov “FPS Russia in St. Petersburg and Leningrad. Execution of Sentences. Wednesday / Cloudy evening ” 2016

From that day on I became very interested in his work, and discovered through social media (mainly Facebook and VK) that Alexey did not do all his work in a frown-bubble like I did. He hosted figurative painting sessions in his studio, and went out plein-airing Moscow architecture, people and nature. The Russian Stuckists had shows, friendly auctions, painting parties, what have you. I “friended” several of Alexey’s friends (painters too) on social media, and continued to cheer on their works and exhibitions from my lonely writing desk of woe.
Then they had a show in the woods, and posted pictures of paintings hanging on trees. I was smitten! Kindred spirits at last! Over the past few years I too had taken my paintings to the woods and hung them on trees. This was the culture I had longed for all my life! Non-existent in my town and country. In the U.S., avarice seems unavoidable in the arts. Avarice, and even a creeping arrogance. And among artists! A gargantuan oxymoron. (Ron’s post: Homage to Painters Alive Who Understand What I’m Getting At)
So, I kept finding myself wanting to travel to Moscow to paint with Alexey and friends. I came up with the idea to ask The Russian Stuckists if I could sit in on some of their sessions through Skype.
I applied for a New York State Decentralization Grant as an individual artist, and got it. A modest award of $2,500. Giving myself an imaginary minimum wage, by project’s end, I estimate I will have “spent” in lost wages, over $40,000, maybe more. All artists understand this labor of love, at least in some point in their lives.
I informed Alexey and friends the day after I received the award. By week’s end I was nervously participating in my first international live painting session.

Girlfriends

Lena Ulanova “Girlfriends” 2016

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How are you working together? What are your goals for this project?

RT: I would like to paint with The Russian Stuckists via Skype possibly 10 times by August. Meanwhile as painters we keep painting, individually, in groups—any way we can, while I keep to my promotion. In no time we will amass 50+ precious works to exhibit. I will have their chosen pieces shipped to the United States, and hang our work for public show. There will be movies, photos, written accounts, a showbook, artist talk and education on Stuckism. I will do extensive outreach to fill up the place. I will also apply their work to established galleries (whether the galleries like it or not). I wish to promote Stuckism of course, but I am mostly intrigued by the work of these painters. Still, if it wasn’t for Stuckism, I never would have met Alexey and friends, and I would continue to rot in that frown bubble I spoke of.

Kassandra

Alena Levina”Cassandra” 2016 Oil on cardboard, 25 x 30 cm

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Colors

Andrew Makarov “All the Colors In the Field. The Ministry of Defense”

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Bridge

Peter Generlov “Bridge” 2015

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What is happening in your own art now?

RT: After the first Skype session, I realized how much I need to improve. I persuaded a master to let me audit his figurative drawing course at the local college. This is a huge leap for me. I have always been a confident and joyous painter. Last week, after attempting to paint a model on demand, I got smacked upside the head with a blast of overwhelming confusion. Already this grant has proven its potential. It made an old dog seek a new trick. (Ron’s post on the collaboration in Round Trip Stuckism: Nero Lyred While Rome Burned But Was He Any Good And Did He Know?)

Why does art matter in the 21st century?

RT: Not everyone is born to be a dentist or a plumber. Rather than a blank slate, I think that all of us moderns are born misfits seeking communion. Unfortunately in our time, the dentists and plumbers can always find a pal to drink with. Not so with painters. Yet we abide, desperately at times. I guess the more art that gets made, the more communion artists will share with one another. Working with and admiring the work of the Russian Stuckists has already improved my life significantly. I feel I can arrive in Moscow wearing my Walt Whitman hat, push my hands down into my pockets, and head over to Alexey’s flat to gesture draw and share a round.
Painters need to know painters. Social media is a good introduction, but something more must jump from that, or else all acquaintance turns stale.
Stuckism is the most modern, human painting movement on earth right now. Nothing else comes close.

Norway

Ron Throop “The Mysteries of Norway” 2015  Acrylic on canvas board, 20 x 16”

 

PAINTINGS: The Collective

The Collective

Richard Bledsoe “The Collective” acrylic on canvas 30″ x 30″

Our society is having undead issues.

Zombies are all the rage right now, along with vampires. The vampire approach tries to make it seem all sexy and brooding, but only melodramatic teenage girls fall for that delusion.

From zombie movies to hit TV shows to zombie-themed walks, marathons, and proms, people are gathering to drool over rituals of cannibalism and decay. What does it say about the direction of our world that this is our version of entertainment?

There’s something more at work here than just some harmless hipster/geek trend. This kind of seepage into lite pop culture of such nihilistic decadence signals the death throes of the Post Modern era. The New Aristocracy of the Well Connected, who have used relativism as a shield for their presumptions and privileges, have been effective in whipping up mindless followers to enforce their will.  Just look at Facebook for 3 minutes, and the manipulations are clear. The remaining humans-free thinking people-are up against partisans would prefer to see civilization collapse rather than lose their grip on power.

The Zombie archetype is a manifestation of the state of soullessness that has been inflicted on our culture.The zombie horde is an accurate depiction of the consequences that come from the systematic denial of the spirit. Humanity is reduced to a rampaging, rotting mob, trying to hunt down, tear apart and devour those who are not part of the swarm.

Fortunately, the soul is stronger than anything this world can throw against it.

Remodernism stands for what endures:

“Remodernism embodies spiritual depth and meaning and brings to an end an age of scientific materialism, nihilism and spiritual bankruptcy.”

ART QUOTES: Giorgio De Chirico

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Giorgio De Chirico “The Melancholy of Departure”

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“Profound statements must be drawn by the artist from the most secret recesses of his being; there no murmuring torrent, no bird song, no rustle of leaves can distract him.”

-Giorgio De Chirico

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Italian painter Giorgio De Chirico (July 10, 1888-November 20, 1978) understood the power that comes from experiencing the stillness inside. For a brief period running about a decade, from 1909-1919, De Chirico worked in a mode he described as Metaphysical painting. He explained:

“Everything has two aspects: the current aspect, which we see nearly always and which ordinary men see, and the ghostly and metaphysical aspect, which only rare individuals may see in moments of clairvoyance and metaphysical abstraction.

“A work of art must narrate something that does not appear within its outline. The objects and figures represented in it must likewise poetically tell you of something that is far away from them and also of what their shapes materially hide from us.”

 

Giorgio de Chirico Melancholia, 1916 The Menil Collection, Houston Photo: Hickey-Robertson, Houston

Giorgio De Chirico “Melancholia”

 These early works were hugely influential. An exhibit of these paintings hanging in a Paris gallery helped launch the Surrealist movement in the 1920s. While creating paintings under the Metaphysical influence, De Chirico created a visual metaphor for the haunted emptiness of the Modern era. The eerie depictions of timeless landscapes filled with a vague atmosphere of foreboding  captured a sense of dreams and the unconscious, which Surrealist writers and artists used as a departure point for their own mysterious explorations.

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Giorgio De Chirico “The Nostalgia of the Infinite”

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The_Disquieting_Muses

Giorgio De Chirico “The Disquieting Muses”

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Ultimately De Chirico evolved into a different kind of artist. He rejected Modern art and followed the example of Old Masters like Peter Paul Rubens.

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A later Giorgio De Chirico: “Two Horses by a Lake”

His more classical works never generated the same excitement that his youthful paintings did. Di Chirico spent the rest of his long life alternately denouncing his Metaphysical phase, and wickedly making profitable, backdated self-forgeries of his innovative early pieces.

de chirico

It must have been frustrating to be considered a has-been, but it seems to me working without integrity must have inflicted its own kind of terrible punishment. It’s hard to account for what goes on in the hearts of men, especially artists.

But for at least a few years, Giorgio De Chirico revealed an accurate vision of the Twentieth Century, with all its dread, precision and solitude.

“To become truly immortal, a work of art must escape all human limits: logic and common sense will only interfere. But once these barriers are broken, it will enter the realms of childhood visions and dreams.”

-Giorgio De Chirico

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Giorgio De Chirico “The Great Tower”

STUDIO: A Full Day in the Studio

Crystal world

Richard Bledsoe “The Crystal World” acrylic on canvas 20″ x 24″

My first completed painting of 2016

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2016 and suddenly we find ourselves inundated with projects. I always say there’s nothing like a deadline for inspiration. Well, Michele Bledsoe and I have lots of inspiration right now.

This past Saturday, having so many time sensitive requirements pending led to a wonderful event: pretty much a full day in our studio, painting together.

Michele and I were both accepted into Inglorious Arizona, an upcoming exhibit co-sponsored by Artlink (a downtown Phoenix arts organization) and the Arizona Republic newspaper. We’ll be part of an upcoming Art Detour 28 group exhibit commemorating some infamous Arizona history. I’ll share more details on the true story I was assigned to depict in a future blog post.

Pieces for this show are due by early February, so we are in a real time crunch to get them done. Michele especially takes a long time to craft her elaborate and detailed imagery, so she has already been in extreme painting mode for days now, ever since we were notified of our acceptance.

On Saturday, when Michele woke me up at 7am she had already been at her easel for hours. Before I joined her I had to take care of some typical tasks and errands: exercise, shower, an abbreviated internet news and Facebooking session, then a quick run to the grocery store for the week. But by about 10am I was done and at my own easel, where I more or less spent the next 12 hours.

There will meals long the way, and even a brief nap. But the majority of the time we were both blissfully painting away.

Did I say blissful? You might not think so if you heard the way we act when painting. There is cursing sometimes. And screams of horror.

As we are intuitive artists, working out our own imaginations, we are trying to create something never seen before. Sometimes the struggle to get it right leads to some raving. We are passionate people, very engaged with a complex task, and occasionally we need to vent. Loudly.

However, the appearance of being upset is misleading: we are having the time of our lives. Like the Stuckist Manifesto counsels, “Painting is the medium of self-discovery. It engages the person fully with a process of action, emotion, thought and vision, revealing all of these with intimate and unforgiving breadth and detail.”

Like usual in the studio,  we played music to keep our energy up. Yesterday’s play list included:

Woven Hand – Woven Hand

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – Soundtrack

Mark Lanegan – Blues Funeral

Electric Light Orchestra – The Essential ELO

Kaizers Orchestra – Maestro

Paul McCartney –Ram

Rimsky-Korsocov – Scheherazade

Inglorious Arizona is just one of the projects happening now. Another is a show I’m curating at the Firehouse, one of Phoenix’s leading alternative art spaces. The exhibit is Epilogue: Contemporary Literary Art.  It’s kind of a sequel to Booked, a previous literature inspired show I assembled at the Trunk Space.

I’ve been working on my own contribution for this show, and during yesterday’s painting frenzy I completed it: a work inspired by author J. G Ballard’s strange apocalyptic novel The Crystal World.

I’m looking forward to many more days like this in the upcoming months as we keep making art happen.

ARTICLE: The Bluesman and Artistic Entrepreneurs

Tigercat Blues

Richard Bledsoe “I Woke Up to a Song Called the Tiger Cat Blues” acrylic on canvas 12″ x 16″

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Article-DELTA DAWN: How Sears, Roebuck & Co. Midwifed the Birth of the Blues

I love blues music, especially the early acoustic recordings, with their air of mystery and eeriness. Despite the drawbacks of the crude audio technology from the beginning of the twentieth century, the archetypal power of the performers, their soulful and impassioned delivery, reaches across time to speak on the human condition in a universal way.

Such is nature of all great art. The significance of the individual experience of the vast cosmos during a specific time, in a specific place, is given a specific form. The artist’s work creates a world, and seeing their world informs us about our own existence. That person’s particular story becomes the story of us all. Art is a vital reminder of the fellowship of life.

The heyday of the blues was long ago, despite the mighty influence it continues to exert on our music and culture today. Part of the fun of appreciating this type of entertainment is identifying and following the ongoing traces of blues which still surface in contemporary creative efforts.

But once upon a time, the blues wasn’t just a obscure hobby for culture junkies-it was party music for hard working people, being played live in juke joints and house parties. The article linked above gives a different perspective from the usual undiscovered-genius-of-the-Delta, romanticized vision of these musical innovators.

Blues musicians were entrepreneurs-they used their talents to improve their situations, despite the harsh conditions and limited opportunities they faced.
Now we have resources undreamed of by earlier generations. Our technology has brought us incredible communications and education. Such amazing potentials exist! This is what gives me such hope and excitement about the future of the arts. Starting almost 100 years ago, a small group of rural folk changed the course of culture with nothing but cheap mail order instruments and their own determination. How much more is possible to us now?

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Pokeweed

Richard Bledsoe “Pokeweed Foster” acrylic on canvas 16″ x 20″