RA 252nd Summer Exhibition

 

Royal Academy of Art
Summer 2019

In 1769 the Royal Academy first set about creating a space for showcasing new works of art, two hundred fifty two consecutive  years of discovering, exhibiting and promoting  contemporary art to the public. The Summer Exhibition is the longest open call opportunity for artists of all rank to present their vision to the Academy and to the world. 

That is quite an impressive feat.

Through the centuries this progressive mission became associated with an institution that might have seemed stodgy and which one rebelled against. I’m guessing all that has changed , I really do not know but for a boy growing up in New Jersey the tales of Varnishing Day, the glamour of opening day, the imagined pithy comments from Oscar Wilde, all created a siren’s call impossible to resist.

I’ve dreamt of submitting for years (decades) but hadn’t the nerve. I still lack the nerve but this year I submitted anyway. It wasn’t an overnight decision. At my solo show last year I met a British couple enthusiastic about my work, amidst their welcomed flattery they pulled out their phones and showed me glimpses of the Summer Exhibition 2018 fantastically curated by Grayson Perry, encouraging me to submit my work for they felt it would be right at home. It was exhilarating  this thought, feeling so out of place in Los Angeles, adrift in where to next turn, it seemed a dream;  this Royal Academy was FAR from stodgy, far from my conceived notions of what “academic” art was. This was a magical place of wild color, classical architecture, and wall after overcrowded wall of diverse and distinct art just begging for attention. I was floored. This was an oasis, far removed from the frequently tedious , muted, reserved, overly-curated, predictable  gallery exhibitions found here in surprisingly conservative , tight-laced and conventional Los Angeles.

When we visited London for the first time last summer the RA Summer Exhibition 2019 was a must-see. I had already toyed with the notion of submitting after having seen glimpses of  the Perry show but heading into solemnly magnificent Burlington House, situated in glamorous Piccadilly, in the very heart of London, then finding inside these impressive walls an abundance of art, art of all sorts, a staggering diversity of material, style and approach, all this sealed the deal.I was immediately convinced that I must at least try. 

The long anticipated open call was announced this week on Monday. I was prepared and at the gate: all work freshly documented; a revised, suitably Anglophilic artist statement self-consciously composed; measurements and prices converted to metric and pounds. I was ALMOST confident. Nervously I typed in all the necessary information, exhibition submissions are always harrowing for me, but because this was so personally important it  was especially so. But I soldiered on, all in order, all checked, double and triple checked, and then just when I attempted to pay the entry fee (entry fee is due before you can submit) I hit a wall, an unmovable glowing , unyielding wall on my laptop screen.

ERROR, error, error, unable to process. I tried again and again, rechecking triple checking every entry information, David checked, my publicist checked, we resubmitted, shut down, rebooted, cleared cookies and caches (whatever the heck they are), different browsers, computers, laptops, I-phones all to know avail. I contacted the RA support, they responded but  the suggestions made proved unfruitful. I despaired, over-reacted, overwrought and self-pitying I was convinced I of course wasn’t worthy to even submit to the RA. I was such a loser they wouldn’t even take my money. In my pathetic state, eager to have them like me I became a Friend of the Academy…something I wanted to do anyway, but felt , hey, they’ll see I’m not some obnoxious self absorbed American.  All absurd of course, it was some glitch, my rational brain knew this but I possessed such desire to just submit that I became quite abject in my disappointment and despair. It was resolved of course, my subsequent, pitiful emails were returned , a helpful assistant recognized the problem immediately and the Error message miraculously disappeared. With the error corrected (my fault of course) all was well, the submission window hadn’t suddenly closed in twenty four hours as I had ridiculously obsessed over, fees were paid, all was processed, entered, and the submit button nervously pressed.

The glitch? I had spelled out “California” instead of the required CA…damn California.

If I was irrationally anxious about the submission, I was irrationally proud of myself for actually having completed the task. The work that follows is what I, in the end , decided upon submitting. Perhaps not the wisest choices or most prudent, for they are large and unwieldy , and if the heavens allow and I am ,on the slimmest chance, shortlisted, the work will need to be seen up close and personal. This will be enormously expensive, but let me tend to that when and if it must be tended to. For now I will bask in the glow of an overly inflated sense of accomplishment.

I will receive first round results mid March …wish me luck. 

Goblin Market
2017
Oil on canvas
122 by 152 by 5 cm
48 by 60 by 2 inches
Goblin Market, detail
Goblin Market, detail

 

Robin Goodfellow
2018
Mixed media: acrylic painted canvas, recycled fabric, embroidery floss, pipe/plywood interior structure, Poly-fil
161 by 92 by 81 cm
63 by 36 by 32 inches
Robin Goodfellow, reverse
Robin Goodfellow, in situ

I will close with a happy memento from our visit last summer , my Herakles and that Farnese imposter.

Herakles , Redemption & Borage

I visited the Getty Villa this morning with my sister Pamela who is visiting from back east . We arrived early enough that there weren’t many slack- jawed tourists incessantly snapping selfies . Instead we had the old gods and newly born spring blossoms to ourselves.

It was heavenly .

There is currently an exquisite exhibition devoted to the classical world’s understanding of the Underworld. Monumental funerary kraters dominate the plum tinted galleries , elaborate narrative paintings scrawled upon the earthen surfaces. There is of course Queen Persephone and her dark consort Hades , Sisyphus can be found toiling eternally under that terrible darn rock and Hermes flitters about oblivious to the sorrows of the shades .

But I was particularly drawn to mighty Herakles , seen time and again battling the fearsome Cerberus- one of his tasks meant to redeem his terrible crimes, the murder of his wife Megaro and their sons the Herakleidai. From one funerary vessel to another his muscular frame could be seen wrestling that multi headed canine fiend .

I’ve drawn inspiration from Herakles all of my life . His madness , the fit of rage that drove him to his terrible sins , although the result of a divine curse from almighty Hera, caused him great anguish. His suffering has always resonated personally as I’ve had a lifelong struggle with at times severe depression and chronic anxiety . He has been in some ways a patron saint .

So much so that I painted a near life sized icon of the weary redeemed hero in my Herakles Tapestry seen here with Parsifal in the foreground.

 

On one funerary vessel there was a touching image of the ill fated Megara and the sons she bore our hero , they are found forever languishing in dank Hades.

Between visiting darkened galleries devoted to Persephone and her vassals my sister and I popped in and out to delight in the gardens the Villa is so famous for . Glorious spring ephemerals were popping out of the ground as if the dark queen herself was emerging.

Borage being my favorite, with an added joy in the hosts of honey bees darting about .

Perhaps less photogenic but nonetheless important to the Herakles narrative was the hellebores, pale green and tender and so easy to overlook , it however cured our long suffering Herakles from his madness .

I was pleased to see how well it grew and am now encouraged to try it in my own cottage garden . I’m going to close with a few photographic mementos from this fine day with the Shades and the Quick.

The sovereigns of the Underworld

And pretty youths basking in the gifts of Helios

 

And one less youthful but certainly appreciative of being above Hades realm… for now .

My sister Pamela, this being her first visit to the Getty Villa was dazzled and thrilled as is to be expected.

I’m planning another visit very soon as this featured exhibition Underworld :Imagining the Afterlife closes March 18th.

I recommend catching it before it slips away as easily as Eurydice.

Flower Power

Detail : The Herakles Tapestry
Image: Ken Moffatt

Given that it is a new year, why not start it off with something delightful.

Flowers fit that bill perfectly. I’m obsessed with flowers: in my home, multiple bouquets are generally scattered about, I’m seemingly unable to pick upholstery fabric without selecting a floral chintz or needlepoint, and of course the garden. But it is in my studio that florals frequently make their strongest appearance. I’m drawn to the seeming disharmony between  the floral and the fine arts. I delight in challenging the dismissal of  floral and vegetal motifs to the decorative arts .

I’m also interested in  refuting the gendering of the floral, this feminizing of floral motifs leads to an insidious  misogynistic homophobic  mindset.  One I experience externally by society at large and  more disturbingly, internally- I am often embarrassed by my affection for the “feminine”, this post a testament to that discomfort.  It frequently seems serious art cannot be floral or possess prettiness, and yet I am very serious about my work and floral patterns and motifs bud abundantly-it is in this fact, that my work is perhaps most “queer”.  It is the incongruity  between  the floral prettiness of my work and some of its  disquieting aspects that I am drawn to in the first place.  My desire is to challenge this bias, both externally and internally.

My latest painting, a large unbound “tapestry”canvas embodies this gendered split. It is of a repentant, tearful Herakles, far removed from the bravado chest thumping posture in which he is usually depicted. This is of the post mad Herakles, after the wife slaying, after the brutal slaying of his own children, the broken man seeking redemption , rived with grief. Ostensibly the Twelve Labors were to be his redemption, but tradition maintains that  the modest hellebore is what cured his madness.

Again the flower.

 

The Herakles Tapestry
2018
acrylic on canvas, embroidery floss
99 by 55 inches
Image:Ken Moffatt 

 

Notebook sketches of Helleborus.

 

 The other day I approached a restroom at a restaurant and encountered this very gendered placard- it made me chuckle as the establishment was earnestly trying to be progressive yet did so in a rather gendered binary way.

 

If I were choose I would certainly choose the floral.

 

That aside, this  latest tapestry/painting is part of consistent floral motif throughout my Fairyland body of work (and I imagine will continue for quite some time) and until Fairyland is installed I will be snipping and sewing away on many elements, but perhaps most especially, flowers.

Floral garland
Recycled fabric, embroidery floss, poly-fil
Flowers, recycled rainslickers, IKEA bags,. embroidery floss, poly-fil

Of the gendering of “women’s work”, be it embroidery, stitchery, floral motifs etc, The Subversive Stitch is a wonderful examination.

 

 

My supplies shelves are crammed with vintage floral patterns from my boyhood-essentially the patterns I was denied as a little gay boy.

But I’ve made up for lost time. With that, happy 2019!

Detail : The Herakles Tapestry
Image: Ken Moffatt

The Labors of Herakles ( 7 out of 12 ain’t bad)

New drawing just completed, I believe this may be it . I’ve depicted the first seven Labors but to be frank , aside from our hero’s wrestling match with the fearsome Cerberus, I’m not particularly interested in drawing them . I’ll wait and see if inspiration strikes . But for now the first Seven:

1- the Nemean Lion , slay the poor thing

2-Lernean Hydra, slay that poor thing

3-Ceryneian Hind, capture that poor thing

4- Erymanthian Boar, capture that poor thing

5- Augean Stables, clean that filthy place

6-Stymphalian Birds, kill those man-eating things

7- Cretan Bull, capture that randy thing

Leonard Greco

The Labors of Herakles

2018

Sanguine pencil with chalk highlights on toned paper

18 by 24 inches

When and if I return to the balance of his Labors I will continue with the continuous narrative composition as a diptych.

But for now , calling it a day .

New work: The Temptations of St. Anthony of the Desert

My relentless fascination with the blessed anchorite continues:

Leonard Greco
“The Temptations of St. Anthony of the Desert”
2018
oil on panel
18 by 36 inches

My enthusiasm for this hermit continues to delight me, so much so, stumbling upon a friend’s FB feed , I found the perfect hermitage.

Dream hermitage.
Leonard Greco
“The Temptations of St. Anthony of the Desert”
2018
oil on panel
18 by 36 inches
detail, Herakles in tears from “The Temptations of St.Anthony of the Desert

 

Family Friendly

I’m very pleased that two of my favorite  and decidedly not “family friendly” paintings have been included in this exciting group show curated by the talented Gwen Freeman.

Show details follow:

“Family Friendly” is a loaded phrase for those who do not conform to the hetero-normative model–the paradigm often described as “normal,” “just regular,” or “traditional.”

This phrase, “family friendly” can be interpreted by the LGBTQ community as code for “not including me.”

But, of course, gay, lesbian, transgender, non-gendered, gender-fluid, cross-dressing and queer people are very much a part of families all around the world.

This exhibit seeks to explore that fact, and to celebrate a broader more inclusive definition of family.

PARTICIPATING ARTISTS:
Joanne Chase Matillo * Natalie Egnatchik * Michael Frey * Leonard Greco * Kerry Thorne

CURATOR:
Gwen Freeman

LOCATION:
The AAC Blue Wall Alcove @ Ave. 50 Studio
131 N. Avenue 50, Los Angeles, CA 90042

EXHIBITION DATES:
February 10 – March 3, 2018

OPENING RECEPTION:
Saturday, February 10, 2018, 7 -10pm

Herakles & Telephos
2015
watecolor on paper
12 by 9 inches
The Castration of Uranus
2015
watercolor on paper
11 by 14 inches