November 2023

Art and Music... continued
Philip Gerstein

My October Scene4 Art Feature, which is reprinted directly following this presentation, served as an introduction to the Art & Music exhibition, that was about to open in Boston in late September. At the time, however, I was unaware of the full extent of the musical and art events surrounding this show, something worth a longer look-see. We are now able to repair that omission, via this sequence of live photographs -- to invite you inside the Piano Factory Gallery, to the well-curated musical concerts, and a lively and informative Artists' Panel*.


The show co-curator, Virginia Cannella,

unabashedly welcoming one and all!


A general view of the Piano Craft Gallery hosting a concert
(view south)


A talented jazz duo Veronica Leahy (sax, flute, piano & voice)

& Emmanuel Michael (base guitar), both performing
original compositions


John Kordalewski (on piano) and his Trio,

with masterful jazz standards and classic
jazz improvisation


East end of the gallery (with the entrance
to the alcove on left showing partial view
of my paintings)


The gallery alcove

(for closeups of the paintings see my October Art Feature, below)


The Art & Music exhibition turned out to be an unexpectedly joyful experience for me. The co-curators, Eric Grau and Virginia Cannella, selected three large paintings from my post-minimal series, being seen in Boston for the first time. The general show installation was impeccable, and I simply loved what they did with my work. I got a whole wall in a separate alcove. The recently installed LED lighting brought out beautifully the color and texture -- two characteristics most easily lost in indifferent lighting or in reproductions, but essential to the impact of my work. Here, they shone happily with reflected and partially scattered light, filling the whole alcove with colored radiance..!


I had never seen these 3 paintings hung together... so well lit and presented -- an incomparable experience for the artist! I can only liken it to the feeling of participating in a slow ecstatic dance -- with music to match, of course..!


The following sequence of live shots is from the Artists' Panel*, with Victoria Cannella (moderating), DaNice Marshall, and yours truly, held at the conclusion of this exhibition.





The panel discussion touched upon the exalted position of Music at the top of the Arts pyramid -- as the purest, most directly affecting vibratory aesthetic experience; it enriches our lives as artists; it is clearly essential to every human culture. Painting cannot compete with that -- and on the whole does not need to, having its own visual, sensory and temporal advantages of, correspondingly, optical color, visible texture, and physical presence.


Among the many correspondences between these two arts, is the role of the intervals , exemplified quite graphically by my three interval paintings in this show. The inescapable intervals in Music need no explanation. But just as clearly, my post-minimal paintings in this exhibition are the rhythm, the interval itself made visible!


Their musical titles are likewise hardly accidental. Years ago I placed this welcoming note on the landing page of my website; it makes clear why I jumped at the opportunity to participate in this show:

"These paintings arise from my perception and use of color as a vital, intense, electric, animating force. You may be tempted to consider them in musical terms -- color, movement, interval, balance, direction, duration.  You need not resist this temptation..."


Another shared correspondence between Music and Painting has to do with the way they evoke emotions and the means by which they accomplish it. I have been known to claim that most of my paintings are done in a major key, and as one of their complex messages, can lead to the emotion of joy -- borrowing a singularly musical analogy. I am fascinated by the musical distinction between minor and major keys, and have long wondered how and why they affect us differently physiologically. Singing/hearing the blues seems to inevitably lead to a downward mood/emotional state. Yet, I am also cognizant of how permeable the boundary between these emotional states is. Have I not heard the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald, alone among blues performers, sing happy blues -- and succeed..! (listen to e.g.: Ella Fitzgerald in London.)


Ultimately let it be known that I simply do not paint without music!  


*The Artists' Panel, live, 8 Oct. 2023 at the Piano Factory Gallery, is now available on YouTube (~25min.) --> ?v=fUm5tHvZcAw


* * *


October 2023 Scene4 Art Feature reprinted:

Music and Art, Art and Music



"White, therefore, has this harmony of silence,

which works upon us negatively,

like many pauses in music that break temporarily the melody.

It is not a dead silence, but one pregnant with possibilities... ."

~Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art



In an academically-oriented town like Boston, the new exhibition season rolls in in the Fall, in reluctant harmony with its relentless academic calendar.


My own exhibition season this year begins with a pair of group shows, the most notable of which concerns a subject that is bound to make a color abstractionist's heart beat more rhythmically. It's entitled

Harmony: Art and Music

This show takes place, fittingly, in a historic building of a former piano factory in the South End of Boston. I am told that once upon a time, before the massive project of filling in part of the Charles River basin in the 19th century, this factory sat on the very shore, so the freight barges could sail right up to the building to pick up baby grands and uprights and grand concert pianos made of exotic woods, to deliver their fancy delicate loads to any destination.


But back to the exhibition, which features three of my paintings. They were created within a year of each other, on birchwood panels of the same size, with shared spatial concerns and compositional preoccupations. The distinctions, however, are also telling: the comparative starkness and greater textural complexity in "The Minstrel Show (Intermission)" underscores the "softer" focus and freer coloristic expressiveness of the other two panels.


  "The Minstrel Show (Intermission)",  40 x 30 in. (102 x 76 cm),

  Acrylic & mixed media on wood panel, 2020


  "The Day of Singing",  40 x 30 in. (102 x 76 cm),

   Oil stick, acrylic & & mixed media on wood panel,  2020


In the Epigraph quote above, Kandinsky speaks of the many pauses that create a musical composition. Finding and staying with that distinguishing rhythm is what makes each of these paintings unique.


  "Lightness of Being",  40 x 30 in. (102 x 76 cm),

  Acrylic & mixed media on wood panel, 2021


The musical titles that go with these paintings are hardly accidental; rather, they are revelatory of the vibratory language in which these paintings are 'written'. (In fact, in some languages, such as Russian, "to paint a painting" is literally "to write a painting" -- "napisat' kartinu"!) The visual analogy to a sheet of musical notation perhaps is not coincidental either. The pattern thus created underscores the interval-based nature of organized information and, broadly, of any deliberate creation.


You may have heard Walter Pater's deservedly famous dictum: "All art constantly aspires to the condition of music." What you may not have been given a chance to see, is the following full quotation in his original article of 1877*, where Pater flashes out this elegant proposition:

"All art constantly aspires to the condition of music. … It is the art of music which most completely realizes this artistic ideal, this perfect identification of form and matter. In its ideal, consummate moments, the end is not distinct from the means, the form from the matter, the subject from the expression; they inhere in and completely saturate each other… ." Pater then sets an interesting task -- and a high bar -- for aesthetic criticism, as he continues:

"Music then, and not poetry, as is so often supposed, is the true type or measure of perfected art. …[T]he arts may be represented as continually struggling after the law and principle of music, to a condition which music alone completely realizes; and one of the chief functions of aesthetic criticism… is to estimate the degree in which each of those products approaches, in this sense, to musical law."


Yes, by the time Kandinsky was tackling music's ecstatic role in his own art, Music has long been "in the air" as inspiration and aspiration for the Art of Painting.


*Walter Horatio Pater (1839–94), Essay on "The School of Giorgione", Fortnightly Review, 1877.


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Born and raised in Moscow, Russia, Philip Gerstein began exhibiting his work in the 1980's, while pursuing a PhD in Art History at Harvard University. He studied painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Japanese calligraphy with Toshu Ogawa. Gerstein exhibits in NYC, Provincetown MA, and extensively in the Boston area, as well as organizing and curating painting and photography shows. For his paintings – extensively reviewed and widely collected see For his other work in Scene4, check the Archives

©2023 Philip Gerstein
©2023 Publication Scene4 Magazine




November 2023

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