Friday, February 27, 2015

Queens Chronicle Features Ai Fiori and GCA

Check out the latest press about our new studio and Eleventh Street Arts!

Studio Teaching Classical Techniques Blossoms
by Cristina Schreil, qboro edito

Flowers, anyone?
In a pocket of 11th Street in Long Island City, among a network of forward-thinking institutions reinforcing the neighborhood’s modern art reputation, one studio reaches back to the 19th century, acting as a temple to mastering the classical discipline.
Grand Central Atelier — once known as Water Street Atelier and located on 44th Street in Manhattan — moved to Queens last year. Behind its unassuming entrance, instructors aim to create a structured workspace for artists aspiring to creating drawings, sculpture and paintings from life.
And, as it happens, the studio’s gallery, Eleventh Street Arts, which displays selected works from portraits to still lifes to landscapes, also offers a burst of color with a temporary exhibit of flower paintings.
Until March 20, the first day of spring, a radiant collection of more than 20 flower paintings created by apprentices, graduates and instructors graces the walls. Resplendent renditions of flora such as sunflowers to peonies to roses to crimson asters to quince blossoms to tulips to birds of paradise seemingly sprout from the walls, pulling viewers into stunning little worlds.
While the pieces are not reality-recording photographs or even glossier, hyper-photorealistic paintings, the works are clearly drawn from life.
“These kinds of paintings, they’re so charming,” Patrick Byrnes, gallery manager and painter, said. “They’re easy, I think, to interface with.”
The pieces were painted in the back studio space over a period of one to four days, based on flowers brought in from a nearby Queens florist. Byrnes said the painters had to work quickly with the delicate freshly cut blooms before they wilted.
Although all apprentices undergo the same rigorous, meticulous instruction, adhering to the methods of ateliers of yore, the gallery reveals a refreshing range of voices, styles, flavors and interpretations. One piece depicting dried flowers, “Winter’s bouquet,” by Katie Whipple, employs a silvery palette and unusually thick texture, Byrnes pointed out. Tiny, complex details abound in Whipple’s interpretation of a bouquet of dried flowers — the only dried ones featured in the exhibit. In another, “Roses in a mason jar,” by Rodrigo Mateo, a thinly painted, muted background suggests a simpler approach, but the roses pop toward viewers, appearing to have velvety petals people can reach out and touch.
“The birds of paradise,” by Sam Hung, is rendered crisply and smoothly as it captures summery sunlight hitting the tropical bulbs in one radiant moment. Tiny rubber ducks are scattered around the bouquet and look so real within the painting’s world.
In “Flower study,” by Emilie Lee, some roses appear to slump with fatigue. Presenting the blossoms in the state in which most people see flowers evokes the feeling that Lee painted a slice of everyday life.
The exhibit quickly invites a deep affection for the pieces and for the discipline of capturing life.
But in an age when snapping photos is the go-to way of preserving memories, the studio’s return to a painting-from-life approach also comes against some artists’ and art critics’ views that the discipline is retroactive or reactionary, Byrnes said. Especially as many art programs stress artistic message over perfecting the craft, he said, Grand Central Atelier has lured many artists who crave honing their techniques.
The gallery’s regular exhibit showcases landscapes, still lifes, portraits and sculptures.
“This is so much more than a photo — it’s Sam’s way of processing information in front of him,” Byrnes said of one still life in the main exhibit space.
He pointed out the glints of light on bottles and the brightness of a strip of paper in the scene, reinforcing how the paintings unveil how each artist scrutinizes the world. “The camera flattens so many beautiful moments,” Byrnes said.
Ai Fiori: The Alla Prima Floral Sketch
When: By appointment, until March 20
Where: Eleventh Street Arts, 46-06 11 St., LIC

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