Tag Archives: Huffington Post

John Seed on VONN SUMNER in Huffington Post

12 Aug

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Vonn Sumner: The Crowd Within

08/09/2016 09:52 pm ET
This post is hosted on the Huffington Post’s Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and post freely to our site.

“Within any one person there are crowds of people, different characters that show themselves at different times.” – Gay Talese

Vonn Sumner, Crowd, Oil on linen, 66 x 60 inches

In Vonn Sumner’s new painting Crowd—a kind of group self-portrait—eighteen hooded figures jostle for a place in the lineup. Some, with their eyes hidden, seem to be lost in private reveries, some seem aware of the presence of others, and a few stare out at the viewer, alert and even a bit hostile. One pair of figures seems to attempt a conversation while others look away, beyond the borders of the canvas. Others just sulk.

Crowd (detail)

The individuality of each figure is deflected by his similarity to his moody clones, making any and every variation in posture and facial expression especially telling. The overall effect is decidedly weird, as Sumner seems to be teasing his audience, summoning up their voyeuristic interest while also deflecting it. “I’m willing to tell you some things about myself,” the painting seems to say, “but I’m still wrestling with myself to figure out just what those things might be.”

Crowd somehow manages to be both an image of self-absorption and a set of partial confessions at the same time. It’s about being yourself while finding yourself, and about giving just enough of yourself to others. Sumner has clearly been thinking about his place in the world, but he also knows that over-thinking is a danger: if you don’t put yourself and your ideas out there to face judgment your life may become an eternal funk.

Sock Hat Trash Can III, Oil on linen, 14 x 11 inches

The sock hats that appear in Sumner’s recent paintings are an inexpensive “found object;” they are sold in hardware stores for use during spray painting and wall texturing. The hats remind Sumner of a wide variety of types of headgear including the turbans and other head-coverings he glimpsed in the works of the 15th century Siennese artist il Sassetta, as well as Muslim hijabs and the hoodies of urban teenagers. The artist is content to let all of these references and implications run wild, so that his viewers have to make their own assumptions about whether to be perplexed, threatened or amused by his imagery.

Sock hats on view in Vonn Sumner’s studio

“People tend to be right on,” Sumner muses, “and I honestly don’t care that the characters are all me: its not a goal for them to be me.” In his leanings towards idiosyncratic means—and a hint of comic funk—Sumner bears the influence of U.C. Davis, where his mentors, including Wayne Thiebaud, reminded students that without humor there is a loss of perspective. In regards to the duality of “funny or not” Sumner doesn’t have a preference: “It doesn’t have to be one or the other. As in the works of Philip Guston, I think that imagery can be both tragic and comically absurd at the same time.”

Vonn Sumner

Pink Pop is a portrait of Sumner’s father Richard, whose Palo Alto frame store provided early exposure to art and to the bohemian intellectuals who spilled out the edges of the nearby campus of Stanford University. “He was a magnet for interesting people,” Sumner recalls, “and I certainly benefited from having a front seat in that little theater. I miss it.” The same paradoxes that apply to Sumner’s images of himself apply to those of his father: he is both utterly familiar and somewhat hidden. It’s a reminder that you can love someone while still respecting their mysteries.

Pink Pop, 2016, Oil on linen,18 x 20 inches

Perhaps the greatest strength of Vonn Sumner’s work is that he respects the power of mystery but also understands its limits. Knowing how much to say and how much to withhold is a vital skill for diplomats and painters. Saying too much veers towards gossip and saying too little risks rendering a work of art forgettable, which Sumner’s art most definitely isn’t.

Vonn Sumner: To Be Seen

July 30 – August 27th, 2016

KP Projects

170 S. La Brea

Los Angeles, CA 90036

Artist’s Talk and Walkthrough with Vonn Sumner and John Seed

Saturday, August 20th at 2:30


Click here to view Available Artwork by VONN SUMNER.

VONN SUMNER’s artwork featured in Huffington Post by John Seed

17 Nov

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Hot Off the Easel is a monthly blog feature designed to showcase a cross-section of vital and varied contemporary paintings. – John Seed

Lid-Head web

Vonn Sumner, Lid-Head, 2015, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in.

“I wanted this painting to contain as much silence and atmosphere as possible, while retaining a sense of humor and painterly pleasure.” – Vonn Sumner

Read More at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-seed/hot-off-the-easel-novembe_b_8380826.html

Click HERE to view available artwork by VONN SUMNER


15 Jan

New arrivals to the gallery by artist MAYA FREELON ASANTE!

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About MAYA FREELON ASANTE (Chapel Hill, b. USA):

Maya Freelon Asante is an award-winning artist whose artwork was described by poet Maya Angelou as “visualizing the truth about the vunerability and power of the human being,” and her unique tissue paper work was also praiseed by the International Review of African American Art as a “vibrant, beating assemblage of color.” She was selected by Modern Luxury Magazine as Best of the City 2013 and by the Huffington Post’s “Black Artists: 30 Contemporary Art Makers Under 40 You Should Know”.

Maya has exhibited her work nationally and internationally including Paris, Ghana, and US Embassies in Madagascar, Italy, Jamaica, and Swaziland. She has been a professor of art at Towson University and Morgan State University. Maya has attended numerous residencies including Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the Korobeity Institute and Brandywine Workshop. She earned a BA from Lafayette College and an MFA from the School of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


Please contact Morton Fine Art for artwork availability.
(202) 628-2787


Huffington Post interview with VONN SUMNER : ‘Somewhere Else’

28 May

Huffington Post, Posted 5/16/2013

by John Seed, Professor of Art and Art History, Mt. San Jacinto College

Vonn Sumner: ‘Somewhere Else’ (PHOTOS/INTERVIEW)

There is a silence about the works of painter Vonn Sumner. His canvases ask his viewers a question that takes a moment to consider: do you want to laugh, or cry, or both?

Vonn Sumner, "Defense," 2013, oil on panel, 18 x 18 inches

Vonn Sumner, “Defense,” 2013, oil on panel, 18 x 18 inches

Vonn’s upcoming show “Somewhere Else” features a suite of paintings that form a kind of personal Commedia dell’Arte, whose main actor has a tragic, muted air. Sumner is wise enough to know how to engage you in his theater and also smart enough to stand back and let you react on your own terms. The paintings are generous, funny and just a bit opaque.

Sumner, whose father Richard ran a Palo Alto frame store and gallery grew up looking at art and thinking it over very carefully. Echoes of Bay Area painting, flavors gleaned from Morandi, Guston and Magritte and a hint of Buster Keaton come together in his recent works through the filter of a sly, discerning intelligence.
John Seed Interviews Vonn Sumner

Vonn Sumner -- Photo: Eric Minh Swenson

Vonn Sumner — Photo: Eric Minh Swenson

Vonn, you grew up in the Bay Area and got your MA at UC Davis. How have the traditions of Bay Area painting stayed alive in your work?

In many ways: There was a David Park show at the Palo Alto Cultural Center when I was in high school that was a life changing event. I went to see it every weekend, it had a physical effect on me. Also, those painters had a love of art history, of the traditions of painting, but also could not ignore the new artistic developments and anxieties of their time. With the “Bay Area Figurative” painters especially, there was a desire to bring the processes and premises of non-objective painting together with the timeless project of representing the human form. That same question is something I try to grapple with every day in my own way.

Your images often manage to mix humor and commentary. Is it important for you to have both of these elements in everything you do?

Well, they need each other, don’t they? Lisa Simpson needs Homer; Chuck D needs Flavor Flav; Karl Marx needs Groucho. Social commentary alone can become didactic, orthodox, simplistic and boring. Pure silliness and absurdity can become nihilistic and trivial. I am for the complexity and contradictions that come when both of those elements are simultaneous — I think that is more honest, more fully human, and therefore more subversive.

Vonn Sumner, "Reliquary," 2012, oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches

Vonn Sumner, “Reliquary,” 2012, oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches

Your painting “Reliquary” includes a shrouded figure decorated with roses. What are some of the ideas behind that image?

For me, the decisions in making a painting are largely intuitive. There is no literal idea or narrative I am trying to execute or illustrate. I can say generally that I work with materials and imagery that feel “right,” and that I work toward an image that resonates with me at the time. I’m also interested in breathing new life into old conventions, like portraiture. With “Reliquary” in particular, it felt both ridiculous/absurd and also somehow melancholic or mournful.

Vonn Sumner, "Neo-Byzantine," 2013, oil on canvas, 20 x 18 inches

Vonn Sumner, “Neo-Byzantine,” 2013, oil on canvas, 20 x 18 inches

Many of your recent works appear to be self-portraits: are they?

I actually don’t think of them as self-portraits, even though I am often using my own body/face as the figure. Instead, I think of them as just “heads” or “figures” in a generic sense.

An analogy might be that a filmmaker can write a script and then act in a particular part because he knows what he wants for the role more than the role is autobiographical or about “self.” Also, since I am often putting the figures in a state of potential humiliation, I think on some level I feel more comfortable doing that to myself than to other people.

Since we don’t — as far as I know — choose our bodies when we are born, I think of it almost as a kind of “readymade” or a given; like Jasper Johns using the stencil letters and numbers you get from a hardware store, a kind of neutral decision in some way. Bruce Nauman’s work was influential in this regard, as was Joseph Beuys, though he was more overtly “autobiographical”– if perhaps fictional. I do take photos, but don’t stay too faithful to them and throw them out as soon as possible so as to let memory and invention take over and just be present to the painting.

Can you tell me the names of artists who have influenced you? What have you borrowed from them?

That is a dangerous question, I could talk all day… First, I will say that I give myself permission to steal from anyone and anything. My job is to make it my own. But some of the main influences: Philip Guston, Balthus, Giacometti, de Chirico, Morandi, Goya, Piero, Giotto, and the Italian “Primitives” — especially the Siennese like Sassetta, Duccio, etc.

Among current painters, I like Peter Doig as well as the “New Leipzig School” painters from Germany, I feel a certain kindred spirit with some of them. But I also love abstract painters like Sean Scully, Terry Winters, Brice Marden, Nozkowsky. I loved Amy Silman’s last show in New York, I think she has found an exciting way to address the question of how to combine abstract painting and figuration.

I have to add that many of my main influences are from cartoonists and filmmakers. People like Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware, Art Spiegelman, R. Crumb. The Marvel comics of the ’80s had a profound effect on me growing up.

At Davis, my teacher/ mentor Wayne Thiebaud introduced me to George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat.” And Wayne made it clear that he took that very seriously: that cartoonists and “commercial artists” like that were not to be condescended to but to be seen as artistic equals. That had a huge impact on me and validated how much comic books and even children’s book illustrations had influenced my wanting to draw in the first place. Some of the earliest and most impactful pictures that anyone sees are the drawings and paintings in children’s books.

Similarly, I think Alfred Hitchcock and the old film noir movies are probably a major influence on my work, as is Buster Keaton. I worship Buster Keaton.

Vonn Sumner, "Action," 2013, oil on panel, 18 x 17 inches

Vonn Sumner, “Action,” 2013, oil on panel, 18 x 17 inches

You have explained that your work “attempts to reconcile the exterior objective world with my subjective experience of it.” Can you expand on that?

It’s hard to talk about. I remember since childhood being struck by the distance between what was going on in the “objective” /observable world and what I was feeling and experiencing in my “subjective” inner world. I think that is one of the main reasons that artists make art: to bridge that gap and communicate, to bring what is inside and show it to the outside, to make the invisible visible. And this is not only an intellectual or an emotional thing; this is also about the physical experience of being in a body. Painting is uniquely equipped for addressing the body, for projecting the physical experience of the painter and producing an empathy in the body of the viewer.

Vonn Sumner, "Parlance," 2013, oil on panel, 24 x 20 inches

Vonn Sumner, “Parlance,” 2013, oil on panel, 24 x 20 inches

What direction do you expect your work to take in the future?

Of course, I don’t know, and the not-knowing is part of the point. In general, though, I hope to grow and push my work into a place that I can’t yet envision. More specifically, one thing I can say is that I have always really been interested in the territory where painting and drawing overlap and the boundaries between the two disciplines are blurred. That is part of my interest in Giacometti, and I think late Guston addresses that. Picasso’s black and white paintings deal with that directly. And I am increasingly interested in the ink painting traditions of China and Japan. The directness and simplicity of that painting is amazing. So there is something there that I have yet to fully explore and I hope to find a way to invent my own version of that painted-drawing or drawn-painting thing. That is very exciting territory to me.

To view available work by VONN SUMNER please visit http://www.mortonfineart.com



Huffington Post’s Black Artists: 30 Contemporary Art Makers Under 40 You Should Know – MAYA FREELON ASANTE

28 Feb
Maya Freelon Asante, Boom, 53”x35”, tissue ink monoprint

Maya Freelon Asante, Boom, 53”x35”, tissue ink monoprint

Morton Fine Art’s MAYA FREELON ASANTE – Image #17 !

Posted 2/26/13

As Black History Month comes to a close, we’ve picked 30 young black artists who are contributing to the ongoing conversation of race and representation in contemporary art. Whether through sculpture, photography, video or performance, each artist illuminates the complexity of the self with a unique and bold vision.

From Kalup Linzy’s soap opera shorts to Kehinde Wiley’s traditional portraits updated with black models, the following young artists show there is no single way to address race in contemporary culture. Playful or meditative, sarcastic or somber, the following artists tackle the subject with a ferocious curiosity, passion and vulnerability.

Congratulations, Maya!

To view available work by the artist, please click HERE

Huffington Post Top Ten Artists to Watch – Image #6 Hadieh Shafie!

27 Apr
Hadieh Shafie '12245 Pages' (detail), scroll artwork, 30"x30"

Hadieh Shafie '12245 Pages' (detail), scroll artwork, 30"x30"

Need I say more? This is a very exciting year for MFA artist, Hadieh Shafie! Not only has she been shortlisted for the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Jameel Prize (London), but as of today she has also been featured on the Huffington Post’s Top Ten Artists to Watch list!  Her solo exhibition of scroll artworks and drawings titled The Sweet Turning of the Page opens at Morton Fine Art on Friday, May 6th. Don’t miss the opportunity to meet this exceptional artist – she will be in attendance!