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American Art on the 4th
What follows is not a “Best Picks” of contemporary art.  This blog-issue bears witness to how I learn art
history.  Writing my impressions helps me to remember.  Sharing this writing hopefully shares the gifts of
viewing art while trying to integrate it into some sort of cosmos.
Midwest Storm
It has been two years since I last made an art pilgrimage to the Midwest and 5 years since I last visited the
museums of northern Ohio.  In this blog I share examples of American art that makes the heartland of this
country a fond art destination.
Glass Pavilion
The Toledo Museum of Art has one of the world’s great collections of glass.  The Glass Pavilion was
designed by the Japanese architectural firm, Sanaa.  This pavilion opened in 2006 and received the Pritzker
Prize for architecture in 2010.  With its ground-to-roof glass walls it is a most poetic building.
Core-Formed Glass 5th Century BC
The glass collection in Toledo (as indeed all of the Toledo Art Museum) owes its endowment, collection, and
Neoclassical main building to the generosity of Edward Drummond Libby (1854-1925) who was the founder
of Toledo’s glass industry and Libby Glass.
These colorful glass vessels were amongst the first decorative glass objects produced in the 5th century
BC.  The Greeks formed these vessels by coating molten glass around a form made of dung and clay that
had been adhered to a metal rod.  The color was added by trailing soft glass around the primary form.
4th Century
Forming glass by blowing and manipulating it using a blowpipe did not originate until 50 BC.  While the
designers of this vessel were Roman, the technicians who executed it were Syrian.  Most of the finest glass
of antiquity (designed around the Mediterranean) was fabricated in Syria and Palestine.  It is sad to
consider how the Middle East conflicts of the last decades have robbed the aesthetic world of much cultural
richness and history.
Lino Tagliapietra
With the fall of the Roman Empire, glass fabrication became centered in Italy.  Venice became a center for
glass making starting in 450 AD.  Venetian glass is mostly linked to the island of Murano.  By Italian law
glass-making was confined to this island which dominated glass fabrication until the 19th century when
Bohemia and England were in their ascendancy.
The Murano-based Lino Tagliapietra (b. 1934) is the world’s current great Venetian glass master.  This is a
horrid view of his “Birds” but offers an appreciation for the transparency of the Glass Pavilion.
Rene Lalique
In the early 20th century Art Nouveau glass was championed by the French, dominantly by Rene Lalique
(1860-1945).  My mother first taught me about art glass.  She used to go to swap meets in the Coachella
Valley where (given her eye and education) she bought many fine examples of glass and formed an
exquisite collection of Rene Lalique’s work.  Her glass collection has passed to me and living with it offers a
chance to maintain her spirit in my contemporary life.
Dominick Labino
The American Studio Glass Movement had its start in 1962.  Folks at the Toledo Museum of Art wondered if
art glass might be made in independent studios (independent of the need for a factory setting).  Harvey
Littleton (1922-2013) was a professor of ceramics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  The Toledo
Museum invited him to come with some of his graduate students to see if a hotshop might be set up on the
Museum’s campus.  His ceramics expertise was necessary to form the ceramic crucibles used to melt glass
and he was independently learning glass techniques.  At the same time an industrial chemist, Dominick
Labino (1910-1987), was just retiring from Johns Manville Glass.  His interest was in the physics of melting
glass and applying color to glass.  This image is of some of Labino’s early test glass samples.
In a garage on the Toledo Museum’s campus in 1962 the American Studio Glass Movement was born.  
Amongst Littleton’s grad students present were Dale Chilhuly (b. 1941) and Marvin Lipofsky (b. 1938).  
Lipofsky went on to form the Glass Department at UC Berkeley and the California College of Arts and
Crafts.  Chilhuly went to start the glass program at Rhode island School of Design (where he befriended
Italo Scanga) and subsequently started Pilchuk Glass School in 1971.
Hot Shop
There is an very active hotshop within the Glass Pavilion where observers are given on-the-spot education
about studio glass fabrication.  Several hours spent in this museum offers a comprehensive education in
the history of art glass.
John Singleton Copley 1767
I think the English have been the world’s great portrait painters.  In the 18th century, portraits were popular
for anyone who could afford to commission them.  In the early years of this nation there were no art schools
or art teachers who could teach American talent the skills of evolved European painting.  So Americans
who wanted to paint went to Europe to learn their craft.  John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), Benjamin
West (1738-1820), Gilbert Stuart, and later John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) all went to Europe/London to
learn.  They mostly stayed there and became prominent in British society.  Still the world considers these
artists to be American (more significantly Anglo-American).
Gilbert Stuart 1818
Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828) is well known to us all given his portrait of George Washington which is on the
$1 bill.  Stuart was one of this country’s most in-demand portraitist.  He had a penchant for not finishing a
painting.  After getting the head and face done he frequently laid the work aside.  In this painting of
Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry (hero of the Battle for Lake Erie in the War of 1812) it was Stuart’s
daughter, Jane Stuart (1812-1888), who later finished the painting.
Winslow Homer 1890
Winslow Homer (1836-1910) was largely self-taught and spent his first 20 adult years as a
newspaper/magazine graphic artist.  He first showed his oil-painterly skills with his paintings from the Civil
War.  At 50 years of age (1886), despite critical acclaim, he moved to Prout’s Neck, Maine to live like a
“Yankee Robinson Crusoe, cloistered on his art island… a hermit with a brush”.  His waves on rocks
paintings are still the best executed of this time-immemorial theme.
Frank Stella
Frank Stella (b. 1936) has been a prolific and very American artist.  The work on the left is dated “1987-
2001”.  The work on the right is 1969.
Ad Reinhardt 1951
New York painter Ad Reinhardt (1913-1967) was purely an abstractionist.  This is an earlier painting in
which his geometric forms give hint of how minimal and monochrome his work would become.  It was
Abstract Expressionism in the mid 20th century that would become the direction of American art.  Social
Realism, Magic Realism, and other new directions in representational art were eclipsed by the heady post
WWII times in New York.  
Jennifer Bartlett 1987
The Toledo Museum of Art is a wonderful general art museum.  It is inviting and offers the visitor a chance
to learn of the history of art while standing in front of a fine collection.
Moondog
Toledo is a one day visit and the only thing Toledo has going for it is the art museum.  Two hours to the
east is Cleveland.  Cleveland is the city in which the phrase “Rock and Ro
ll” was originated.  Cleveland’s
WJW radio deejay Alan Freed (1921-1965) coined the term “Rock and Roll” on his show called the
“Moondog Show” in 1951.  Freed referred to himself as “Moondog” and would talk over the records he was
playing while beating the rhythm on phone books and occasionally howling like a dog (this predates the
Wolfman Jack).  His show was immensely popular in advancing rhythm and blues to an economically
growing Black audience.  In 1952 the Coronation Ball had to turn away 10,000 (mostly Black) fans after the
Cleveland Arena’s 10,000 seats were filled.  This is considered the landmark birth of Rock and Roll.
Rock and Roll
It is appropriate that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is located on the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland.  
This museum can only be sampled in a day.  Its contents are legion and it seriously records the history of
American musical forms.
Bob Marley
Bob Marley (1945-1981) wore this shirt in concert when I saw him at the Civic Center San Diego in 1975.  
Marley said, “One good thing about music.  When it hits you - you feel no pain.”
Les Paul
Learning about the musical prodigy and legend Les Paul (1915-2009) is an hour of engagement in and of
itself.  The Gibson Les Paul solid-body electric guitar was core to the evolution of America’s contribution to
modern and contemporary music.
Fitz Hugh Lane 1846
Five years ago I was only able to visit the newly built East Gallery of the Cleveland Museum due to their
massive remodel.  On this visit, the whole of the new museum is functioning.   The enclosed courtyard that
spans from the front of the old Neo-Classical building to the new addition is heroic.  This museum looks and
acts its role - grand master of Cleveland visual art.  Such is my complaint being a visitor.  The museum’s
handling of wall text is pedantic, academic, and self-puffery. The difference in attitude between the
Cleveland Museum and Toledo and Pittsburgh’s Carnegie could not be more pronounced.

Fitz Hugh Lane (1804-1865), on the other hand, demonstrates the height of American Luminism.  I love the
American Luminists: George Caleb Bingham, Martin Johnson Heade, Jasper Francis Cropsey, Albert
Bierstadt, Frederic Edwin Church; John Kensett.
Winslow Homer 1864
The Civil War (1861-1865) would be a difficult place for a 28 year old graphic artist.  The oil paintings which
came from the battle front and the army base camps are amongst the most powerful and poignant works I
have ever seen.  
John Sloan 1912
In the early 1900s some New York artists rebelled against Impressionism and academic realism.  They
wanted to portray the real world around them - they are referred to as Ashcan artists.  John Sloan (1871-
1951) was a prominent member of this group along with Robert Henri (1865-1929), George Luks
(1867-1933), and William Glackens (1870-1938).  They had all studied together at the Pennsylvania
Academy of Fine Arts.  Sadly realism was on the way out as Cubism, Expressionism and Modern abstraction
were by 1920 dominating.
Charles Sheeler 1920
Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) was most respected for his Modernist photography.  He was also a
Precisionist painter as this work bears witness.  Initially trained at PAFA (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine
Arts) he went to Paris when Cubism was the “thing”.  Understanding that America wasn’t ready for Cubism
he self-taught in photography becoming Ford Motor Company’s best recognized documentary artist.
Edward Hopper 1930
Hopper (1882-1967) was introverted and stoic.  His paintings really reflect his psychic energy.  His seems a
Technicolor Gothic Existentialism.
John Rogers Cox 1942
Cox started his art career as the first director of the Sheldon Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute, Indiana.  
Their collection of American Regionalists is reportedly superb.  I will have to go this museum given their
holdings in Grant Wood, Benton, Burchfield, and Hopper in addition to the Hoosier Group.  This gorgeous
Cox painting is one of the most popular objects in the Cleveland Museum which has been a champion of this
artist’s work. Cox was a respected teacher at the Art Institute of Chicago.  A photograph cannot capture the
drama of this magnificent painting executed at the start of WWII.
Hughie Lee-Smith 1957
Lee-Smith (1915-1999) was one of this country’s celebrated Black artists.  He never achieved the fame of
his contemporary, Jacob Lawrence.  The San Diego Museum of Art is currently showing their fine Hughie
Lee-Smith.
Frank Lloyd Wright
Having been in some dozen of FLW’s architectures - I have never been much a fan.  I experience his
architecture as low-ceilinged, dark, cave-like spaces.  But Fallingwater is a different beast.  I understand
why this is Wright’s masterpiece.  Being in this home, in this setting, is magical.  It defines Wright’s interest
in organic architecture and the melding of nature and nurture.  This should be a “wonder of the world”   - it
is true genius.  I had an incomparable experience with blue sky and a creek running at full head.
Fallingwater
Fallingwater was commissioned by the Pittsburgh Kaufmanns as a retreat from the city (it is about one hour
southeast of Pittsburgh).  Pittsburgh must have been very prosperous in the mid-century.  The Kaufmanns
owned the block-sized department store in the downtown.  Pittsburgh was also an environmental disaster.
Margaret Bourke White 1955
Pittsburgh sits at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers (they meld into the headwater of
the Ohio River which flows into the Mississippi).  Back when it was a steel city (Iron City) the banks of the
rivers were lined by smelters and iron works.
This photograph was taken from an airplane over Pittsburgh in 1955.  Margaret Bourke White (1904-1971)
is the photographer and it is in the collection of the Carnegie Museum.
The black smoke from the iron-works was so dense that municipal street-lights were lit all day as
mid-afternoon could be as black as night.
Pittsburgh
Now Pittsburgh is as pretty as a postcard and offers many interesting things to learn about.  The Duquesne
Incline runs from the Monongahela River to the top of Mt. Washington.
Albertis del Orient Browere 1855
This was the first painting to catch my eye in the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.  Browere
(1814-1887) was mostly self-taught.  It is a tasty painting - but finding any reason why the art world still
cares about the artist is difficult.  He painted a few really good paintings which are in really good municipal
collections.
Frederic Edwin Church 1891
This painting is small by Church (1826-1900) standards.  But it blows off the wall.  
The Carnegie has a wonderful historical collection.  They present it with both evident love and the desire to
teach.  The wall labels are in part conversational and seek to draw in the reader.  Never did I read a
pontification.
Joseph R. Woodwell 1899
Pittsburgh artist Woodwell (1842-1911) wanted to paint in the style of the French Barbizon painters.  Dear,
dear, dear…
He was a friend of Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919; a rags-to-riches steel baron) who put Woodwell on the
Board of Directors of Carnegie’s new namesake museum.  Woodwell was a member of Pittsburgh’s art
movement called the “Scalp Level School”.  (I have decided not to pursue that.)
Thomas Eakins 1904
Eakins (1844-1916) lived and worked his whole life in Philadelphia.  While he was alive he had more
hassles than accolades.  But, art history has credited him with being America’s most profound realist.  In his
day Philadelphia was the most important city in America.  This portrait is of Joseph Woodwell (mentioned
above).  I have thought of Eakins as the “Rembrandt” of early America with his somber, chiaroscuro
technique.  He was a most important art educator and the hundreds of students he taught or influenced are
a who’s-who of American painting.
Edward Hopper 1911
He is the greatest.  Many times I get cross-brained distinguishing a Winslow Homer sailing painting from a
Hopper sailing painting.  
Marsden Hartley 1939
Marsden Hartley (1877-1943) was born and had his early art education in Cleveland.  In New York he was
influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau (in addition by his close friend Albert
Pinkham Ryder).  With these influences, Hartley thought of art as a spiritual quest.  He was the most
mystical and spiritual of the Regionalists.
John Graham 1943
John Graham (1886-1961) seems to have known virtually everyone in New York’s art world.  He was a
painter, “mentor” to a vast number of important artists, and arts impresario.  He was born in Kiev, Ukraine.  
His work strikes me in the same way as that of Marlene Dumas.
Thomas Hart Benton 1944
This painting was purchased from the 1946 Carnegie International.
Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), along with Grant Wood, defines American Regionalism.  Benton stated
he was an “enemy of Modernism”.
David Smith 1951
The annual Carnegie International Exhibition is the oldest juried international exhibition in the United
States.  Carnegie set it up in 1896 and suggested it would acquire works from these exhibitions and
annually collect the art of the “Old Masters of tomorrow”.  Indeed it has done that.  Wall labels attest to a
collection bought in real time and an international art community that fully respects this museum.
Lynda Benglis 1975
Born in 1941, Lynda Benglis has been a resourceful and inventive sculptor.  Over the last 5 years her work
has received the attention and accolades it deserves.
Ed Paschke 1976
Paschke (1939-2004) worked in factories and as a psychiatric aide.  His “media inflected” art found interest
observing the sharp-edges of society.  That he shared with Andy Warhol.  There is no other artist like
Paschke - one of a kind.
Lari Pittman 1986
Lari Pittman (b.1952) is a LA artist.  
Alex Katz 1989
There is no other artist like Alex Katz (b. 1927).  Getting off the hotel’s elevator in the Glidden House in
Cleveland each morning, the first thing I saw was a unique print by Alex Katz.  That was a most happy way
to start the day.
This painting (not a print) is owned by the Carnegie.
Richard Artschwager 1993
Another of my “fish that got away” stories is when, then San Francisco-based, Daniel Weinberg urged me
to buy an Artschwager (1924-2013) painting on celotex.  Must have been in 1979.
John Currin 1999
Currin (b. 1962) got his BA at Carnegie Mellon and MFA at Yale.  He is an excellent painter mixing
Renaissance technique with popular culture idioms.  His “Bea Arthur Naked” was sold by Christie’s just over
a year ago for $1,900,000.
Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol was born and raised in Pittsburgh.  The multi-story Andy Warhol Museum has just been re-
installed.  It broadly tells the story of Andy Warhol (1928-1987).  They have installed a multi-projector room
to re-present “Exploding Plastic Inevitable (EPI)”.  EPI is an immersive theatrical movie/music environment
featuring the Velvet Underground and Nico from 1966.  It is good.
In the early 1980s Andy painted the portrait of fifty clients a year (at $40K per 2 panel portrait.  This added
$2 million per year profit.).  Andy was unapologetic for pursuing lucrative business.  And so it is.  
Contemporary art icons are fashion’s tools.  This really is Pop Art -“money for nothing and the chicks for
free“.
I had eight days of education in the manner I prefer - standing in front of the work.  America is a wonderful
country. America has a very proud heritage and a learnable lineage for its cultural products.
Happy Birthday America.

Get out, look at art, have fun.
Doug Simay  7/4/2014