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.]

May 18, 2016

"Bill and Ted" at Freddy (new location)

The formerly mysterious Baltimore gallery Freddy has relocated to an old church in Harris, New York, a small town between Liberty and Monticello of Route 17. I recently received a press release from gallery director Joshua Abelow about the inaugural show, "Bill and Ted," which features work by Bill Adams and Ted Gahl. Apparently Freddy is only open by appointment, and you must email the gallery at to get the location. The following is an amusing conversation that took place between Adams and Gahl in April.

May 17, 2016

An artist's DNA: Jessica Weiss

At Outlet Fine Arts through Sunday, in her first solo exhibition in eight years, Jessica Weiss presents dazzling large-scale paintings of life-sized animal hybrids. Mashups of big floral prints, the paintings feature tangles of collaged fabrics, screened floral prints, and painted patterns that coalesce into anxious four-legged creatures with mask-like faces. 

[Image at top: Jessica Weiss, Dressed to Kill, 2016, silkscreen, acrylic, collage, pushpins on burlap, 70 x 68 inches.]

May 16, 2016

Preview: Bernard Piffaretti's doubles in Berlin

If you're in Berlin in June, don't miss French painter Bernard Piffaretti's show at Klemm's. Pifferetti (b. 1955 in Saint-Etienne, France) is known for painting paintings--that is, he divides each canvas in half vertically, makes a painting on one side, and then copies it on the other. By introducing the simple act of duplication, which he's been doing since the 1980s, Piffaretti introduces a conceptual twist that distances his vibrant work from pure painterly expression. Questions of authenticity, hierarchy (copy vs. original), and time come into play. In this upcoming exhibition, called "No Chronology," Piffaretti continues to explore the "impossibility of retracing a temporal development within the painter’s practice." He is also working toward a solo show at the Pompidou Center in Paris next year.

[Image at top: Bernard Piffaretti, "No Chronology," Klemm's, installation view.]

May 13, 2016

Interview: Justine Hill in Bushwick

I first saw Justine Hill's paintings in "Metamodern," a 2015 group show at Denny Gallery that explored the contemporary fusion of Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, and Primitivism. Her shaped canvases seem to jump off the wall with their unexpected amalgamation of Modern abstraction, postmodern humor, and the uninhibited brio of old-school graffiti taggers. In a recent studio visit, Hill shared work that she's making for her forthcoming solo at Denny, and we talked about her process. [Image at top: Paintings on the wall in Justine Hill's Bushwick studio.]

May 12, 2016

Catalogue essay: Kirsten Swenson on Peter Soriano's Permanent Maintanence

Kirsten Swenson originally wrote this catalogue essay for Permanent Maintenance, Peter Soriano's wall drawing project, on view through August 21, 2016, at the Colby College Museum of Art. // Drawing on the wall is a natural, immediate kind of expression, even as it remains at odds with the idea of an “art object” that we associate with museums. Children draw on walls, as do protestors and street artists. Walls have always been sites for art: from cave paintings, to frescos on the walls of Pompeian homes, to the Renaissance cycles from Giotto to Michelangelo and the socially engaged murals of Diego Rivera in the twentieth century. Framed, transportable paintings or drawings need not possess a discernible relationship to a particular time and place; drawing directly on the wall, by contrast, necessitates engaging with the rituals and temporal concerns of a specific environment. A wall drawing is part of an interior space (whether lobby, nave, or cave): it responds to a situation, a context, and, in turn, helps shape the intellectual and social environment that surrounds it. In 1968, the artist Sol LeWitt decided to draw on the walls of the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York’s SoHo district, where experimental galleries were taking root in former warehouse and factory buildings. How could one acquire a work of this sort? In a commercial gallery, this question was inevitably front and center. When the drawing was first exhibited, the gallery’s price list did not provide the customary dollar amount. It simply listed LeWitt’s drawing as “per hour.” The hourly wage of the artist-as-laborer would determine the drawing’s cost for a collector or institution wishing to have it remade elsewhere. LeWitt’s first wall drawing was visible for less than two weeks before it was painted over. He soon began to work with other drafters and had others execute his wall drawings, including students with whom he frequently collaborated. Thanks to LeWitt’s precedent, the idea of artistic labor is often understood as something communal and even transferable. Peter Soriano’s wall drawings, including Permanent Maintenance, a commission for the Colby Museum’s lobby, recall LeWitt’s example but proceed in a different direction: Soriano’s process of generating a drawing involves a far more interconnected and experiential approach to site and institution.

[Image at top: Peter Soriano, Colby #1, 2015, ink, gouache, watercolor, graphite, crayon, and spray paint on paper. Artist's gift to Colby College Museum of Art in honor of Gabriella De Ferrari.]

May 11, 2016

IMAGES: Student work

Since I skipped the art fairs last week, I had time to stop by a few vibrant (but short-run) student exhibitions. Here are images of promising work from "Thru-Line," the Brooklyn College MFA program show and "Anti-Pro," the Open Studio event at the New York Studio Residency Program. The BC MFA show, curated by Ambre Kelly and Andrew Gori, was spaciously installed on the third floor of Moynihan Station, and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of painters graduating this year.

[Image at top: Javan Grover, The Gate, 2015, oil on canvas, 19 x 21 inches. Brooklyn College MFA exhibition.]

May 9, 2016

Art and Film: Children as materials in The Family Fang

Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Artists’ instrumentalization of their children in their work intuitively seems to breach the parental duty of protection, and to exploit their youth at the risk of maladjustment. Sally Mann’s infamously risqué deployment of her sometimes naked children in her photographs is well short of pedophilic, often disruptively revelatory and moving, and undoubtedly true art. The pictures are intended to take people aback and thereby make them think. Still, the kids themselves probably couldn’t yet fathom the boundary between art and real life. So the upshot, as Richard B. Woodward observed in a 2015 article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, is that the pictures unnaturally “seem to accelerate the children’s maturity, rather than to preserve their innocence.” To such a remark Caleb Fang, a notorious patriarchal performance artist played by Christopher Walken with electrifying petulance in  The Family Fang, would say, “So what?”

May 8, 2016

Invitation: $50 Stock Club and a conversation with Peter Soriano

UPDATE (Sunday, May 8, 3pm): Both events are fully booked. // This week I'll be leading two events. The first, $50 Stock Club, takes place on Tuesday, May 10, 6-8pm, and is part of MONTH2MONTH, a public art project initiated by artists William Powhida and Jennifer Dalton. The second, on Wednesday, May 11at 6:30, is a public conversation with Peter Soriano on the occasion of his installation, "Permanent Maintenance" (image above) on view at the Colby College Museum of Art through August 21, 2016. Hosted by Skowhegan, our conversation will include Soriano's move from away from sculpture toward instructions for ephemeral installation projects that are created by others and his working process.

May 4, 2016

Frieze Weekend

UPDATE: Fair paralysis set in this year, and, overwhelmed by the number of things going on (Frieze, NADA, Portal, etc.), I opted to go to a few local events and invite some fair-goers to visit the studio rather than attend the fairs myself. The Kentucky Derby Party and Benefit Auction at Smack Mellon, "Anti-Pro" at New York Studio Residency Program, David Thomas at Minus Space, Jane Swavely's lovely solo at AIR, the opening reception for MONTH2MONTH, and Thru-Line, the lively Brooklyn College MFA show at Moynihan Station (on view through Tuesday) were all on my itinerary. I'll have a round up of other publication's fair coverage later this week.


Frieze Preview

Frieze New York takes place this week, May 5-8, on Randall's Island. In addition to seeing a slew of glorious and challenging paintings, I'm looking forward to checking out the special tribute to Daniel Newburg Gallery, an artist-run space in operation 1984-1994. I went to Tufts with Danny back in the day, and when I finally moved to New York after studying painting at MassArt, I stopped by his gallery (Andrea Rosen was working the front desk) to show him my slides. The paintings were dark, emo-minimalist constructions--handstretched canvases combined with shaped wooden panels, stained dark, drippy colors with lots of wood grain. He held the slide sleeve up to the light and suggested I start thinking about images. Funny in retrospect, right? For the tribute at Frieze, Maurizio Cattelan, whose U.S. debut was Newburg's last show, will restage Enter at Your Own Risk—Do Not Touch, Do Not Feed, No Smoking, No Photographs, No Dogs, Thank you (1994), an installation that features a bare room, a live donkey, and a baroque chandelier.

[Image at top: Portrait of Maurizio Cattelan, 2007, Photo Pier Paolo Ferrari.]

May 3, 2016

Studio visit: Elizabeth Hazan in DUMBO

Recently stopped by Elizabeth Hazan's studio to check out her glowing new abstractions--lyrical paintings that reference the landscape of her childhood. We talked about her process, color strategies, surfaces, and what it was like growing up with notable New York School painters Jane Freilicher and Joe Hazan as parents. They divided their time between Manhattan and Water Mill, a town on the eastern end of Long Island where the farms and open fields that were so familiar to Hazan have begun to disappear.

Two Coats of Paint: You have a lot of new work! I'm struck by your excellent eye for color relationships. Tell me about the color choices and your process.
Elizabeth Hazan: When I originally started painting abstractly, I intentionally reduced my palette. At that point I was painting trees, largely from photographs and I loved the emulsion. I started doing ink drawings-- isolating sections, pixelating spots, and painting them. It wasn’t a conscious move away from representation at all, more that I followed where the work took me. I looked a lot at Mondrian, making the work more geometric. As much as I tried to be reductive, I was producing very busy pictures. The ones in which I tried to tamp down my natural exuberance were pretty dull, I have to admit. This was 2007-10, I had an idea that I would use seven or eight colors, like a music scale, like jazz variations. They were bright, but they were limited in terms of the palette. I’ve been thinking a lot about editing, how learning to edit your own pictures is a hallmark of making more mature work. Some people, like Alex Katz apparently are born with the eye for it. It’s something artists have in common with writers, how much of the work is in the editing.

[Image at top: Elizabeth Hazan, Jamaica Bay, 2016, oil on canvas, 47 x 50 inches.]

May 1, 2016

Amy Lincoln: Twilight zone

Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Luminous, though an overused adjective in art writing, is an apt one for Amy Lincoln’s edgy new paintings, mainly of plants, on display at Morgan Lehman in Chelsea. Their vivid color, exacting line, and exotic detail leap out at the viewer, so that the initial impression is straightforwardly Rousseau-esque, maybe with a nod to earnest Regionalist and Symbolist landscape painters. Her work isn’t merely gorgeous or wistful. She imparts to her paintings an arch, expansive ambivalence that gives them depth, mystery, and a little darkness.

[Image at top: Amy Lincoln, Pink Caladium, 2016, acrylic on panel, 20 x 16 inches.]

April 29, 2016

Alicia Gibson: The awkward early years

I'm squeamish about revisiting all the sketchbooks and journals from my early years, when I had no idea what art was about but still had a peculiar desire to be an artist. Like Gerhard Richter and Jasper Johns, I'm inclined to take a box cutter to the oldest work and toss it in a dumpster. Alicia Gibson, a 36-year-old artist who graduated from Hunter's MFA program in 2009, on the other hand, has used all of her old composition books, sketches, and diaries as fodder for a new series of raucous paintings, on display at Canada through May 1.

[Image at top: Alicia Gibson, Summer Sublet, 2013, oil on panel, 20 x 30 inches.]