November 26, 2021

Abstract artists: Let’s talk

Art can be the start of conversation

Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Ralph Turturro, left, and Robert Sikora talk about their artistic process while at Sikora’s home in Cortlandville Feb. 13. Below, Sikora holds up smaller examples of his abstract artwork.

This story originally appeared in the Cortland Standard on February 22, 2018. “Major Minor: New Paintings of Ralph Turturro and Robert Sikora” art show will take place 5 to 8 p.m. March 9 at 1010 McLean Road, Cortlandville. Originally set for March 2, the abstract art show has been moved to the new date because of a winter storm.

Robert Sikora was drawn to the art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

An abstract artist, he’s not interested in realism.

“Realism for me is too simple. In abstract, the possibilities are unlimited … Most of my inspiration comes from the galleries in New York City,” he said.

The Cortland High School graduate, 24, now an electrical engineer, has been making his own abstract minimalist work for about four years. “And here and there in high school,” he said.

When he saw the work of Ralph Turturro, an abstract expressionist living in Cortland, he appeared at his studio during an opening.

“I saw Ralph’s paintings. I thought (they were) really cool,” he said. “Ralph had an open house at Homer Avenue. The rest is history,” he said.

Now he and Turturro are pairing up for a group house showing at Sikora’s home in Cortlandville.

“Major Minor: New Paintings of Ralph Turturro and Robert Sikora” will be featured in an opening 5 to 8 p.m. March 2 at 1010 McLean Road, at the corner of Pleasant View Drive.

The public is invited. There will be live music by Cortland Camerata, a classical group, and refreshments.

“It’s just going to be open for that night and by appointment,” Sikora said. Call him at 607-745-1006 if interested.

The two men are showing 11 works each. Two rooms have been cleared of furniture and the works are hung. Sikora’s dad installed track lighting.

Sikora likes to explore space by spare lines and manipulating color. He has several paintings that explore the concept of the void. He loves the work of the late Robert Motherwell, an abstract American artist from the 20th century.

While yes, some of the works are for sale, it’s not about making money, Turturro said.

“We want to communicate. We want dialogue: “What is it? Why do that? What does it mean?” he said.

Turturro said Sikora came to his studio and was picking his brain: “How do you do this. How do you do that … I was charmed by his curiosity … He really responded to my work.”

Turturro and fellow artist Ralph Baptist were asked to judge a show in Groton. The pair were impressed with an abstract Sikora put in and gave it an honorable mention.

“I am taken by his work. There’s a certain courage to it,” Turturro said.

Sikora will have a canvas that has one color and maybe a few lines intersecting at one point. Or, a few lines off the left and the rest is just space. Other works are a series of geometric shapes in various positions, against a white background.

He paints a background first, using acrylic paint, and then selects a sketch from a series of sketches that he has already done. Then he puts one sketch on the canvas.

“It usually doesn’t come out the way I want,” he said. And then he goes from there. Turturro said he was trying to be more minimal in this series of mostly new paintings he’s debuting. He was trying to not have too much color in them.

“I have trouble being minimal. It takes courage. It’s hard to do little. Less is more … like that,” he said, pointing to a Sikora painting that had one color, blue, for most of the painting. And then a line, as if a wall.

“Just that … the purity of blue, holding up the wall,” Turturro said.

He said the art is not about how good you can draw.

“It’s more about communicating what you love.”

“You can come and think it’s not art. That’s OK,” he said.

As an art teacher, he sees his students excited about their sketching. And sketching is important, he said.

“Hopefully people will evolve from there. Not just look how I can draw from a picture. (But) this is what I think is beautiful, what I think is art.”

Sikora loves his “Void No. 39,” an acrylic and charcoal on canvas.

“That was done while I was having surgery. And when I got back from the hospital … that’s what I saw in a coma. I see these as landscapes in a way.”