When Alfred Sieglitz & Edward Steichen opened the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession in New York (the 291 Gallery), it was one of the most historic moments in American Art History. It would become the hub of artistic activity, changing the American art scene forever.
In 1913, Gallery 291, Modern Art and Photography all got a tremendous boost when a Modern Art Exhibit, which included Europeans as well as Americans, went on display at the Armory of the 69th Regiment in New York. The 1913 Armory show had 1250 pieces by three-hundred artists. Dadaist and cubist art were first introduced to the American Public at the show. Marcel Duchamp’s "Nude Descending a Staircase" became one of the controversial center points in the discussion of "Modern Art". (now on a US Postage Stamp)
Stieglitz used the run-up to the Armory Show to best advantage, pushing new ideas about photography as Art. And the Armory show amplified the efforts of Stieglitz by introducing Photography as Art to both critics and the public. Reaction was quick, varied and sometimes very rough. There was a lot of criticism of photographers who used "trickery" by gum layer manipulation of their final photos, or who altered photos by etching or drawing on photo plates. (sound familiar?)The photo secession group answered back with the term "Straight Photography" – manipulated only when it did not interfere with the original "pure" intent of the photo. In other words, removing an overhead power line from a photo that depicted an important social event was still within the bounds of "straight photography"
In the end, the 291 proved to be the pivot point for American Art - and a safe haven for new ideas and discussion amongst artists. The crowd there included people like Rodin, Picasso, Matisse, Duchamp. Man Ray, Cezanne, Brancusi, and a very young Georgia O’Keeffe. WoW, what a crowd!
Well, as an act of "performance art", Ana and I have opened the first and only Gallery in Tehama County - "The Red Bluff Art Gallery". It opened three months ago and is already proving to be a popular safe-haven for local thinkers, artists and writers. One creative type who visited the Gallery today, for the third straight day this week, claims it is a "magical place". (He has already made connections to other artists, a wood turner and a new political ally.) My idea of performance art is taking on new meaning...and the "audience" seems to be taking over the "performance". What great fun!
We opened with "The Beauty of Lassen" and the new Park Superintendent and the Head Ranger attended the Receptions (2) - about 100 people turned up each night. This month, our second exhibition opened with a Valentine/romance theme. Over 150 people showed up on opening night. And we didn't even have live animals to draw the crowd. (Which is how retailers in this impoverished rural community often entice new visitors.) We had visitors from Sacramento, Chico, Shingletown and many points inbetween. The Redding newspaper gave us a full page spread with pictures of art and artists. The Red Bluff paper followed up with a front page story and photo in the next day's edition - which brought even more people in this week. The reception for our "performance art" is basically out of control. We are even selling art.
Stieglitz and the 291 Gallery were the inspiration for this new adventure, but we had no idea what we would encounter. We've had creative types break into tears when they arrived and discovered what an "art Gallery" looks and feels like. We've had abstract painters come in and show us work they have been sitting on for - some of them - over 50 years, because they didn't have a safe place to show it in this neck of the woods. We have introduced "giclee prints" and are doing a brisk business, although "editions" seem to be in the single digits! This is a fun project.
I don't know what to expect next. We have an "Abstract and Impressionist" Exhibit coming up in March (opening March 7) and there seems to be more interest than there was in the "romance" exhibit. Since new artists and new visitors seem to be coming out of the woodwork almost daily, there is no telling what the exhibit will contain, or how much attention it will garner. One thing for sure, it will be a blast.
You can take a look at the Gallery online by clicking here. There are slide shows for each event we've held and some shots of Phil and Ana opening the place, putting up the new sign, etc. And, you can buy some art - just click on an artist's name (the linked names) and see what they have. Your support will be greatly appreciated - and you might just find something unlike anything you've ever seen at Walmart!Lastly, I would like to add, that since the government has now come up with an absolutely brilliant plan to "save the economy" it is is your patriotic duty to spend your "tax rebate" at the Gallery. But you already knew that...