June 23, 2016

Studio visit with Greg Drasler

Visiting an artist's studio before a new body of work is packed and shipped off for a solo show can be a stirring experience. The artist is anxious, perhaps, but by the same token brimming with anticipation and eager to discuss the new paintings and explain the process and ideas behind the work. A few weeks ago I visited Greg Drasler just before his fourth solo show at Betty Cuningham. In 2015 Drasler received a Guggenheim fellowship that he used to drive across country and gather ideas for this new body of work. The new paintings feature small buildings that he saw from his car windows.

[Image at top: Greg Drasler's studio wall.]

June 22, 2016

Street Smarts: Charles Goldman @ Songs For Presidents

Guest Contributor Mary Addison Hackett / I went to graduate school in Chicago with Charles Goldman and still remember one of the first pieces he showed at a crit. It was a thin red line cut from paper, crossing the gallery floor. If I recall correctly, it represented the interstate highway he had driven from his home town of San Francisco to Chicago. It was simple, seemingly direct, yet full of potential meaning. His show "Sidewalking" at Songs for Presidents embodies the same open-ended signifiers of space and time.

[Image at top: Charles Goldman, Tongue, 2016, painted plywood with yellow tie-down straps.]

June 20, 2016

Nicole Eisenman and the triumph of painting

Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Just about every piece in Nicole Eisenman’s nobly minatory exhibition “Al-ugh-ories” at the New Museum, up through June 26, pulses with aesthetic energy, turbocharged by a peripatetic erudition that darts assuredly from one caustic historical (sometimes art-historical) reference point to another. The artist is centrally, though not exclusively, concerned with civilizational discord, and in particular, it seems, with American decline. If the resurgence of representational painting needed vindication, Eisenman’s work, in its substantive sweep and technical felicity, would provide it. It's also bracing to find an artist, in counterpoint to the trend towards the conceptual and visually reductive, who is so firmly committed to expansiveness and specificity.

[Image at top: Nicole Eisenman, Commerce Feeds Creativity, 2004, oil on canvas. Hoyt Family Collection.]

Quick study

This week: Coney Art Walls, job postings, Art Basel report, painterly photographs, residency news from Sharpe Walentas and the Elizabeth Foundation Studio Program (residents announced and juries revealed), a new residency program in the Arctic, an unknown Modigliani discovered (maybe), an interview with Fran├žoise Gilot, the painter and mother of Picasso's kids, on the occasion of an upcoming show at Gagosian, and Oslo.

1. Field trip to Coney Island! The new Coney Art Walls are done. Curated by Joseph J. Sitt and Jeffrey Deitch, the 2016 walls were painted by Nina Chanel Abney, John Ahearn, Timothy Curtis, D*Face, Jessica Diamond, Tristan Eaton, Gaia, Eric Haze, Icy & Sot, London Police, Nychos, Pose, Stephen Powers, Tats Cru, and Sam Vernon. Returning artists who created new works: Lady Aiko, Mister Cartoon, Crash, Daze, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, and Marie Roberts. 2015 Murals on display: by Buff Monster, Eine, Ron English, How & Nosm, IRAK, Kashink, Lady Pink, Miss Van, RETNA, eL Seed and Sheryo & Yok. There are also three community walls. (via Brooklyn Street Art)

June 13, 2016

Chicago: Adam Scott at Julius Caesar

Contributed by Robin Dluzen / Adam Scott’s latest exhibition, "Silent Running" at Julius Caesar in Chicago, is a kind of Helen-Frankenthaler-color-field-painting-meets-Gram-Parsons-desert-pilgrimage experience. The works are arguably Scott’s most pared-down and abstract to date, devoid of all but a suggestion of the representational. The artist fills each canvas, edge-to-edge, with his signature poured acrylic. The all-over compositions undulate with the ripples of metallic paint released onto the canvas and then pulled, creating a mirage effect that conveys the artist’s stated interest in desert landscapes. Scott describes his works as "hallucinogenic" and "phantasmic," and they are, though not in the way one might expect.

[Image: Adam Scott, Terraform VII, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 76 x 70 inches.]

June 11, 2016

Rethinking Howard Hodgkin

For decades, Howard Hodgkin (b. 1932, London) has been known for turning his memories and experiences into brushy, colorful paintings on old wooden panels. He is a painter I'd always wanted to love, but I had never fully understood or been moved by his chunky brushwork and vivid color. The way he slapped the paint on seemed somewhat random and the compositions formulaic. Using vivid, jewel-like color as a surrogate for feeling appeared too easy, too lacking in nuance. But thinking about his current show (on view at Gagosian through June 18), I realized I had misjudged him.

[Image at top: Howard Hodkgin, Love Song, 2015, oil on wood, 43 × 61 1/2 inches, © Howard Hodgkin. courtesy of Gagosian Gallery]

June 9, 2016

Storage or dumpster? Organizing the archives

Readers who have been following Two Coats of Paint since the beginning know that for ten years I taught at a state university in Connecticut and kept my studio in the attic of an old Victorian house in downtown Mystic. In 2010 I moved back to New York and, after commuting for a few semesters and taking a year-long leave of absence, I left the university. The beautiful blue house went on the market, and this month we sold it to a couple of young architects who apparently appreciate history and like living within walking distance to the historic downtown and the drawbridge. The closing is in a few days, and so we're in the process of organizing, packing, and redistributing everything. A lot (but not more than 3000 pounds!) went into a dumpster, some will come to New York, and the rest (mostly furniture and the art collection) has been moved to a temporary climate-controlled storage unit in Mystic. After twelve years of reckless accumulation, I'm having a hard time figuring out what to keep and what to throw out. I thought readers might enjoy snaps of some of the images and objects I found in the archive.

[Image at top: A painting my father made of his father in 1953. The painting is so odd that the first real estate agent asked me to take it down because prospective buyers asked too many questions about it. No brainer: this painting is a keeper.]

Installation view: Drishti, a concentrated gaze

Gallerist Elizabeth Heskin and artist Patricia Spergel, in collaboration with the NURTUREart Registry of Artists and Curators, have assembled a lively exhibition of contemporary abstraction at the 1285 Ave of the Americas Art Gallery. Aptly titled "Drishti: A Concentrated Gaze" after the yoga practice that brings awareness inward through focusing the outward gaze to a concentrated point, this exhibition includes work by 36 artists who value intuition and emotion over intellect. The press release includes a wonderful quote from James Brooks from a 1963 article in Time Magazine on the occasion of his retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art:  “The crucial thing for a painter is getting to the point where he can maintain some sort of pictorial balance between alertness and dumbness, where he is thinking but it can’t be classified as thinking.” For readers who like to look, I highly recommended this exhibition of local and Facebook favorites.

[Image at top: Installation view. Foreground: Mary Schwab, background: Jackie Meier.]

June 7, 2016

Art and Film: Robert Cenedella’s legitimacy

Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Victor Kanefsky’s effervescent documentary Art Bastard casts 76-year old New York painter Robert Cenedella as a kind of aesthetic Robin Hood who robs from hallowed art tradition to give ordinary people bravura paintings that don’t require them to plumb art history or some other arcane discipline to appreciate. Cenedella counts George Bellows as an antecedent, admires El Greco and Hopper, and studied for two years with the great German artist George Grosz, whom he adored and considers under-appreciated.

[Image at top: Robert Cenedella, Broome Street Bar, 1979,  oil on primed linen, 40 x 50 inches. Images via the artist's website.]

June 3, 2016

David Rhodes: Events and incidents

I met David Rhodes (b. 1955, Manchester, UK) in a Greenwich Village loft where his black and white paintings, both large and small, leaned against walls and were propped on all bookshelves and tabletops. The three largest were about to be packed up and sent to Hionas Gallery for "Between the Days," his solo show that opened last night and runs through June 26. Rhodes is a thoughtful, deliberate painter who also writes--primarily catalogue essays and regular reviews for for The Brooklyn Rail. We talked about vertical lines, the v-shape, the color black, writing about art, and the painting experience in terms of both making and looking.

[Image at top: David Rhodes, 2016, acrylic on raw canvas, large-scale.]

June 1, 2016

David Reed: A painter's life

At Peter Blum, the looping brushstrokes and open surfaces of David Reed’s remarkably spare site-specific installation are anything but casual. Entering the gallery, the viewer is faced with a 40-foot long multi-panel horizontal piece along the far wall. From a distance, it’s easy to imagine an old-school action painter laying down what seem to be curving, dripping strokes in a kind of improvised calligraphy. On closer inspection, however, it becomes apparent that some of the “brushwork” is created by means of laser-cut stencils. Like Roy Lichtenstein, Reed is presenting a fictitious interpretation – in this case, a facsimile of gestural abstraction. Like a movie, Reed’s painting speaks of lived experience but isn’t real.

[Image at top: David Reed, installation at Peter Blum.]

May 31, 2016

Art and Film: Eva Hesse’s enduring disruption

Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Eva Hesse, as portrayed in Marcie Begleiter’s superlatively penetrating Eva Hesse, sadly but exquisitely zoned in on mortality as the paradoxical stuff of life and art. She was a vexed woman, her life a tragic mid-century opera. She escaped Nazi Germany as a two-year old with her sister Helen Hesse Charash, was separated from her parents for six months, settled in New York, lost her mother to suicide when she was 12, and married and divorced charismatic sculptor Tom Doyle, who drank excessively and philandered.

[Image at top: Eva Hesse]

May 27, 2016

Brushwork: Philip Guston 1957-1967

Have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend. May everyone get a bit of time in the studio! Here's a quote and some images by Philip Guston to think about: "I do not see why the loss of faith in the known image and symbol in our time should be celebrated as a freedom. It is a loss from which we suffer, and this pathos motivates modern painting and poetry at its heart." These paintings, made during a difficult phase that lasted from 1957 through 1967, are on view at Hauser & Wirth through July. Although in past assessments of his oeuvre, the period was widely considered transitional and the paintings less accomplished, these are among the best Gustons I've seen. Of course, I'm a big fan of the irresolute. Don't miss the show.

[Image at top: Philip Guston, Painter III, 1963, oil on canvas, 66 x 79 inches. Private Collection, London.]

Picks: Sharpe-Walentas Open Studios

Two years ago the Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation Space Program joined forces with the Walentas Family Foundation, the philanthropic element of Two Trees Management Company (my landlord). Two Trees owns the Brooklyn building that houses the Sharpe Foundation, which since 1991 has provided free studio space to selected artists via one-year residencies. Over the years, the program has moved from neighborhood to neighborhood, and competition for the spaces has become increasingly fierce. The artists invited to participate this year range from recent MFA graduates to represented artists and professors. One of Sharpe-Walentas's most popular events for the community is the Open Studios, which took place in DUMBO this past weekend.

[Image at top: Working from small black and white line drawings, Victoria Roth makes large-scale paintings that straddle the line between figure and landscape. A fair amount of athleticism goes into making these, with movement, repetition, and erasure her go-to strategies.]

May 25, 2016

Art and film: David Hockney's world

Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / David Hockney, in Randall Wright’s rather breezy documentary Hockney (at Film Society of Lincoln Center, extended through June 2), appears to be a thoughtful hedonist, in thrall to beautiful moments. He admits to a fairly happy working-class childhood in Yorkshire and seems to have encountered relatively little friction over his emerging homosexuality. The film chronicles more or less linear progress as an artist and the usual personal angst that arises from soured romance and inevitable aging. The only major cloud in the film – in which Hockney himself appears and over which he reportedly exercised some control – is the scourge of AIDS in the 1980s, which indeed hollowed out art communities. Still working at an apparently healthy 78, he will have lived a generous life and enjoyed longstanding esteem.

[Image at top: David Hockney, A Bigger Splash, 1967, acrylic paint on canvas, 2425 x 2439 x 30 mm, Tate Museum.]

May 23, 2016

Jane Swavely: Admiration for the jungle

Contributed by Mira Dayal / There is a sense of unease in the series of paintings that comprise of "Espial," Jane Swavely's latest show at A.I.R. Gallery. I enter the space — not of the gallery, but of the painting itself. Hovering just inches above the ground, the edges of the canvas become the frame of a doorway, beyond which thick brush conceals a dark forest. But the tall grass of Werner's Painting (2015) is not entirely still; as Werner Herzog himself says of the jungle, in Burden of Dreams (1982), "There is no harmony in the universe. We have to get acquainted to this idea that there is no real harmony, as we have conceived it. But when I say this, I say this all full of admiration for the jungle."

[Image at top: Jane Swavely, installation view from the gallery entrance, A.I.R. Gallery]

May 22, 2016

Trudy Benson: Cheerfully kinetic, but...

In her solo show at Half Gallery, Trudy Benson presents easel-size paintings that continue her riff on the digital imagery of early paint software like MacPaint, SuperPaint, and Painter. Working in layers with pattern and line, and using saturated color, Benson creates abstractions that seem to jump off the canvas. Her paint handling is fun and flamboyant, and references 1980s-style post-modern graphics (squiggles, drop shadows, patterns used in architectural renderings) that, in their time, playfully fused the geometric pattern and decoration of 1930's Art Deco and Pop Art. The effect is cheerfully kinetic. In an essay for her forthcoming show at Bernard Ceyson in Luxembourg, Wallace Whitney writes that “there is something exuberant rather than programmatic in the paintings: running late, rushing out the door, down the stairs … off to work. The happy push inside of each painting is urban, fun and utterly free.”

[Image at top: Trudy Benson]

May 21, 2016

Quick study

Links to Nicole Eisenman's shows, Morley Safer's paintings, reviews of recent abstraction shows, a writing competition, and the paintings being called "anti-Catholic" in Virginia -->

MUST SEE: The New Museum has mounted a major Nicole Eisenman solo show, "Al-Ugh-Ories," and she's also having an exhibiton at Anton Kern through June 25. Both look fantastic. I'll be heading out to see them this week. The New Museum promises "an in-depth look at the symbolic nature of the artist’s most striking depictions of individuals and groups—from intimate portraits to more complex narrative scenes."

[Image at top: Installation view, Nicole Eisenman. Courtesy New Museum, New York. Photo: Maris Hutchinson / EPW Studio.]

May 19, 2016

Blurring the boundary between painting and photography

SPONSORED ESSAY /  For the exhibition "Chemistry: Explorations in Abstract Photography," curator Karlyn Benson, director of Matteawan Gallery in Beacon, NY, has selected six photographers who push beyond traditional photographic processes in search of new definitions of what a photograph can be. In this exhibition, on display at Garrison Art Center  May 21 through June 19, process itself replaces the narrative and documentary content of traditional photography. The artists, Ellen Carey, Jill Enfield, Anne Arden McDonald, Amanda Means, Wendy Small, and S. Gayle Stevens, have spent years experimenting with photographic chemicals, processes, and technique.

[Image at top: Wendy Small paints photochemistry onto paper or dips the paper into it, allowing the developer and fixative to mix or repel one another. Variations and random interactions of black and white result.]

Ideas and Influences: Adam Simon

Adam Simon could best be described as a conceptual painter. Based in Brooklyn, he has been painting and organizing community projects like Four Walls and the Fine Art Adoption Network for more than 25 years. Lately, though, he's put community projects aside to work in the studio, where his ironically elegant new abstract paintings riff on the imagery of commercial logos. "I don’t want to just represent logos even though I think there’s a lot of interesting stuff around logos to think about," he recently told Brett Wallace at the Conversation Project. "It’s about walking a tightrope...between the identified image and the total gestalt of the abstraction." On the occasion of "Icons," his third solo exhibition at Studio 10 in Bushwick, I asked Simon to put together a list of the things he's been thinking about.

[Image at top: Adam Simon, installation view, Studio 10.]