October 31, 2007

Jesse Reichek retrospective in New Mexico

Jesse Reichek: Concerning the Mystical in Art," curated by Sara Otto-Diniz. University of New Mexico Art Museum, Albuquerue, NM. Through Dec. 21.

Eva Dameron reports in the University of New Mexico's Daily Lobo that "in 1971, painter Jesse Reichek withdrew from the New York art world. He felt the commercial aspect of creating art would taint his artistic integrity. 'He was one of the fortunate ones who could make a living working as a teacher of design at Berkeley, so he did have a job and could just keep painting and painting and not show it to anyone,' curator Otto-Diniz said. In the exhibition, which features three different series of paintings, his work clearly shows a change after his withdrawal. It's less minimal, featuring paintings he did for each of the 117 verses of the book The Song of Songs. 'This was his discovery of what it was to be human,' Otto-Diniz said. 'The Song of Songs, in the Old Testament, is one of the most beautiful love poems in the history of literature.' Reichek died in 2005 at 89. He left behind more than 3,000 paintings." Check out images of Reichek's paintings on the web site for his 2005 posthumous retrospective.

October 30, 2007

Courbet retrospective in Paris

"Courbet," curated by Laurence des Cars, Dominique de Font-Réaulx, Gary Tinterow, and Michel Hilaire. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. Through Jan. 28. Schedule: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY. Feb.27 to May 18; Musée Fabre, Montpellier, June 13 to Sept. 28.

The exhibition, which includes over 130 paintings and is due in NYC in February, explores Courbet's development of a Realism manifesto, his relationship to Romanticism, and the importance of his work to the beginning of Impressionism. In The Guardian, Jonathan Jones writes that Courbet, like Caravaggio, is a mesmerizing painter of sex and death, whose stark, realist paintings foretold the alienation of the modern age."His sensual brush grasps at everything in the material world, even tries to catch water as it flows away. From the first room with its series of self-portraits in which the young Courbet tries to work out who he is - a pale cellist or a wounded soldier? - his art has a rare human directness. You end up agreeing with his contemporary who said he produced masterpieces as simply as an apple tree produces apples....It's hard to draw lines across time and say this is where something new begins. Many things that have been written about the originality of A Burial at Ornans are excessive - such as the art historian Linda Nochlin's claim that nobody had ever painted death in such a desolate, godless way before. There are Old Master pictures in which death appears utterly final and unredeemed. Caravaggio's Death of the Virgin is one; so is Holbein's The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb, in Basel, which happens to be relatively near Ornans. Courbet's painting is unprecedented not in its depiction of death but in its recognition of a new social world."

New reviews: Kara Walker's racy cutouts

"Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love," organized by Philippe Vergne and Yasmil Raymond, both from the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN. Whitney Museum of American Art, , New York, NY. Through Feb. 3. UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA March 2 to June 8, 2008.

At Time Out New York, Howard Halle addresses the difficulty in reviewing such a racially-charged show. He asks "What do you say about an artist you can’t really criticize because doing so exposes your own squeamishness and contradictory views about race? That, I suppose, is the beauty of Kara Walker’s work, from a strategic standpoint anyway: It’s virtually criticproof. As for visual rewards, Walker’s multimedia depictions of an antebellum Grand Guignol of sexual violence and abjection certainly make ugly verities alluring. Still, I can’t say I’ve ever been a real fan of the artist, and this survey at the Whitney does little to change my mind. Walker may be important, but her work has always struck me as being more of an excursion into her personal hang-ups than an exorcism of the country’s racial psychosis. Her cotillion of horrors—the pickaninnies trailing feces, the Negroes choking on massa’s cock—grabs you by the throat, but to what end? As an object lesson in history, or as a form of elitist titillation? I’ll leave it to others to enjoy Walker’s visual equivalent of erotic asphyxiation, but as Samuel Goldwyn once remarked, include me out."

In The Village Voice, Christian Viveros-Fauné swoons over Walker's "uniquely nimble artistic performance. ....A perfect melding of subject and object, Walker's silhouettes—which, as she points out, ultimately read clear as Rorschach tests—proved coal-black, diamantine receptacles with which to carry a welter of purposely conflicted values. A Trojan horse containing small devils of smiling malice, her gorgeously drawn comedies of miscegenation have, for more than a decade now, consistently pushed all the right buttons and a good many of the wrong ones, too."

In the Washington Post, Robin Givhan would like to see an end to the soul searching aroused by clichéed symbols of oppression. "It is impossible to feel good looking at Walker's work. It comes at you like a relentless nightmare. Walker drags everyone who dares to view her work down into the muck. The show's title, 'My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love,' points to the complexity of the black-white relationship. Her work has been criticized by other artists, intellectuals and collectors as exploiting stereotypes. Of mocking or aggravating the victim's suffering. And maybe she does. Is that unfair? Or tough love? Will it ever be possible to remember the horrible history of lynching while neutering a loop of rope of its ability to incite?...Walker's artwork questions how much power is robbed from victims and how much power they give up. In that spirit, the next time a loop of rope is hung from a tree -- and surely, sadly, there will be another -- instead of asking 'When is the vigil?,' one might also ask: 'Should this cowardly declaration of power be validated by so much righteous outrage?' "

Related link:
Kara Walker's racy cutouts arrive at the Whitney

October 29, 2007

Schjeldahl visits Frida

"Frida Kahlo," curated by Hayden Herrera and Elizabeth Carpenter. Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN. Through Jan. 20. Scheduled tour: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, February 20 - May 18; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, June 14 - September 28, 2008.

In The New Yorker, Peter Schjeldahl reports that Kahlo's paintings hold up to the legend that surrounds her: "Kahlo’s ascension, since the late nineteen-seventies, to feminist sainthood is ineluctable, though a mite strained. (Kahlo struggled not in common cause with women but, single-handedly, for herself.) And her pansexual charisma, shadowed by tales of ghastly physical and emotional suffering, makes her an avatar of liberty and guts. However, Kahlo’s eminence wobbles unless her work holds up. A retrospective at the Walker Art Center, in Minneapolis, proves that it does, and then some....The meaning of Kahlo’s art comes across in reproductions, but not its full dynamic, which involves brooding subtleties of surface and color. The reproduced images are shiny and bright. The paintings are matte and grayish, drinking and withholding light. (Their display calls for intense illumination—that of the Mexican sun, say. They should not be hung on white walls, as they are at the Walker, where the contrast makes them look like holes in a snowbank.) The lovely, highly varied, blushing colors (even Kahlo’s browns and greens blush) don’t radiate." Read more.

Check out Jessica Mador's audio story on Minnesota Public Radio.

Related links:
Frida in Minneapolis
Kahlo's hidden letters published in Mexico
Frida Kahlo retrospective in Mexico City
Frida Kahlo centennial exhibition to premiere at Walker Art Center

Judith Geichman in Chicago

"Judith Geichman: soak," Alfedena Gallery, Chicago, IL. Through Nov. 10.

Kevin Nance reports in the Chicago Sun-Times: "There's neither much sense of pattern here, as in Pollock, nor of stillness, as in Rothko, and yet Geichman often comes close to matching them in intensity. If these paintings are not about actual storms, they clearly reflect some stormy interior weather: tempests of the mind. In the end, many viewers may feel that both ways of looking at this work -- as pure abstraction or as a semi-transparent set of references to the material world -- are far from mutually exclusive. 'Soak' can be both a gorgeous exercise in the handling of paint and, if you're so inclined, a stirring signifier of a delicate, brooding, magnificent planet, dangerous and endangered." Read more. Check out images of Geichman's recent paintings on artnet.

October 28, 2007

Finch flogs blogs

On artnet, Charlie Finch takes on art bloggers. “The proliferation of art blogs has taken all the day-tripper fun out of criticism by circle-jerking, recycling and regurgitating the effluvia of critique beyond the wildest fantasies of Rosalind Krauss. An example is Sharon Butler of the ‘Two Coats of Paint’ blog who is so exhaustive in her summaries of current art writing that someone could start a (short) blog on how Sharon Butler spends her nonexistent spare time.” Charlie continues by calling art blogs conformist, reactionary, redundant and self-referential. Other blogs Finch flogs are Edward Winkleman, Modern Art Notes, Art Fag City, Militant Art Bitch, and Art To Go, which are at the top of TCOP's daily reading list. Will CultureGrrl be offended at being left out? I'd cover the story in more detail, but as Charlie points out, my time is limited.

Portraiture in Pop

"Pop Art Portraits," curated by Paul Moorhouse. National Portrait Gallery, London. Through Jan. 20.

PAP examines the role and significance of portraiture within Pop Art. Marilyn Monroe is a featured player. Artists include Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Peter Blake, Richard Hamilton, David Hockney and Patrick Caulfield.

In The Observer, Tim Adams reports: "Without Warhol, Pop would have had no focus, though: it would have had Peter Blake's unquestioning Beatles' album covers and Roy Lichtenstein's comic-book epics, it would have had Patrick Caulfield's one-size-fits-all humans and Mel Ramos's Playboy centrefolds. The National Portrait Gallery dates the end of the high-water mark of Pop Art to Richard Hamilton's 1968 portrait of Mick Jagger and art dealer Robert Fraser handcuffed together in the back of a police car on drugs charges. Their hands cover their faces, an attempt to escape the public gaze, the trademark gesture of the decades that followed. Swinging London depicts the backlash against pop culture, the end of its innocence."

In the Telegraph, Jane Neal writes that the timing for the show is perfect. "Pop Art Portraits is engaging and insightful and Moorhouse's argument that 'Pop Art is about people in a world of objects' is convincing. The show is a Who's Who of 1950s and '60s icons, punctuated with unexpected treasures such as Claes Oldenburg's chilling sculpture Ghost Wardrobe (for MM) (1967). In common with all the works on display in the dimly lit 'Marilyn' room, the sculpture refers to Marilyn's death, and, in this case, the annihilation of her personal identity as the price of fame....In an age of rampant consumerism and the glorification of celebrity, the exhibition couldn't be more timely."

October 27, 2007

The Takashi Murakami brand at Geffen Contemporary

"© Murakami,"curated by Paul Schimmel and organized by Mika Yoshitake. Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Los Angeles, CA. October 29- Feb. 11.

Takashi Murakami, conflating the worlds of fine art and popular culture, is best known for the colorful cartoon-like imagery he dubs Superflat. In LA Weekly, Dani Katz takes a walk through the half-installed exhibition with curator Paul Schimmel. "The museum has denied press previews until now. As Schimmel guides me through, Schimmel notes adjustments that need to be made, support structures to switch out — endless details to worry about — all while a cacophony of clanking hammers and whirring power tools fills the background with white noise as MOCA staffers wearing laminated badges and the unmistakable sheen of exhaustion unpack shipping crates and erect plinths....Murakami doesn’t just toe the line between art and commerce; he’s built an empire upon it. Though easily reduced by some (and you know who you are) as just 'more of that Japanese cartoon crap,' what with the vapid smiling daisies and ubiquitous neon mushrooms, there’s too much behind his work to dismiss it with a superficial flick of the wrist — too much schooling and too many degrees, too much theory, too much thought, too many 'posts' and 'isms' around all those damn mushrooms.... 'I thought, maybe it would be good for America, now living under war, to encounter this ultimate nihilism,' says Murakami, referring to the Zen notion that there is no right or wrong, everything merely is." Read more.

In the LA Times, Christopher Knight reports: "Fantastic myths and legends find contemporary form in candy-colored works whose forced cheerfulness can, in this colossal quantity, become wearing. Halfway through the show, when I entered a raucously floral-wallpapered room filled with floral paintings bursting with the same smiling flowers and dominated by a topiary sculpture whose flowery tendrils reached 13 feet into the air, my teeth began to hurt. Chuck E. Cheese for grown-ups, it's a bit like eating a whole box of See's candy for lunch. I suspect, though, that nausea is part of what Murakami is after. The demotic hysteria of commercial culture infects everything now, including once-sober political discourse. It's our global patois." Read more.

Bruce Wallace reports in the LA Times that "Murakami has never been shy about moving merchandise, and the volume is sustained by a cadre of artists at his company, Kaikai Kiki. But he remains a controversial figure in Japan. The idea of producing fine art as a collective project offended Japan's insular art establishment. And there were plenty of cries of 'sellout'in 2003 when Murakami took up Louis Vuitton designer Marc Jacobs' offer to splash some colorful Superflat flowers and decoration onto the company's famously brown bags. But Murakami has been single-minded about seeing art as an enterprise. His most recent book is called 'The Theory of Art Entrepreneurship.' He's the artist as CEO."

Wallace wonders if Murakami's vision has passed its sell-by date. "Murakami's art speaks to the sensibilities of the generation born in the 1960s, those who grew up with the reverberations of World War II's disaster pulsing through the culture. They were raised on a media diet of anime and manga, with their anti-technology, antiwar story lines and themes. And they came of age in an era when Japan could throw up little more than Marxist jargon in resistance to the deluge of imported American culture. The inevitable question posed by a retrospective, however, is whether there still is life in Superflat. Does the style speak to the Japanese of the digital age, a generation largely ignorant about the cultural upheavals of the postwar period and that has economic anxieties unknown back then? Or is it a movement whose time is passing?"

In Coagula, Mat Gleason feels, er, strongly about the show. "By all means, go see the Murakami show - for it is certainly a spectacle, although it is NOT art - unless Disneyland, too, is art. If Disneyland is art, then MOCA is foolish to charge such a low admission. If Disneyland is art, its Alice in Wonderland and Winnie The Pooh rides utterly destroy the Murakami exhibition on every level - from their fantastic psychedelia to their paradox of childhood innocence broached by intimacy. But MOCA does have cleaner bathrooms than the Disney parks. After you have visited the Takashi Murakami show, this bombastic, empty plastic palace of sterile child abuse, caucasian humiliation and Hyper-capitalism making even Beijing envious, well you can say you saw it. And you can forever look MOCA director Jeremy Strick right in the eyes and call him a WHORE."

Check out the video of Marc Jacobs, artistic director for Louis Vuitton, as he discusses his collaboration with Takashi Murakami. The exhibition features a fully operational Louis Vuitton boutique, which showcases the purses TM designed for LV.

Related posts:
The superslick, superflat, superexpensive paintings of Takashi Murakami

Seurat's light and shadow

"Georges Seurat: The Drawings," curated by Jodi Hauptman. Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. Through Jan. 7.

This exhibition, the first NYC show of Seurat's work in fifteen years, includes conté drawings along with a few oil sketches and paintings. Surveying the artist's entire career, from his academic training through to the studies made for his famous pointillist paintings like A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, the exhibition presents new ideas about his artistic strategies and materials. Roberta Smith reports in the NYTimes: "It could be argued that the future that Seurat helped create for pictorial space and figurative art did not really flower until near the end of the 20th century, when Conceptual art interrupted the linear march of abstraction and reopened all mediums to narrative. It is now more widely accepted that representation and abstraction can coexist within a work of art. Really, they can’t live without each other, and never have, as Seurat so sublimely affirms." Read more.

In the NYSun, Lance Esplund suggests that the Seurat show makes up for disappointing Kara Walker and Richard Prince retrospectives, and gives curator Hauptman a pat on the back. "Seurat's black forms are fleeting, and they swallow light. They hover like apparitions and they rise and fall, and open and close, as if they are breathing. They are shadows that shift into volumes that quiver at their edges and twinkle like stardust at their centers. Seurat makes the ephemeral tangible, lasting, and classical; and that which is solid he makes diffused — transformed into something mysterious, if not religious....'Georges Seurat: The Drawings' towers above the throwaway exhibits of Kara Walker and Richard Prince. Ms. Hauptman, a Joseph Cornell scholar who also brought us last year's stellar exhibition 'Beyond the Visible: The Art of Odilon Redon,' is one of the bright lights in MoMA's dim present. Part of the pleasure of 'The Drawings' is that walking through its galleries feels like old-home week at MoMA. As I was pulled by masterpiece after masterpiece, across gallery after gallery, I thought, 'This show, and its curator — as well as the promise of more shows of this caliber — are what make the Museum of Modern Art so damn important and essential.'" Read more.

October 26, 2007

Jed Perl on R.B. Kitaj

R. B. Kitaj died on Sunday, October 21, at seventy-four years old. Jed Perl writes in The New Republic: "Kitaj was a connector, an engager, both in the complexity of the themes that he embraced in his painting and in the richness of the social world that he inhabited. He had the old-time bohemian feeling for the life of art as an adventure to be savored, to be approached with a certain deliberateness, and maybe even with a certain sense of ceremony. Whether you were going with him to an exhibition in London or, more recently, after he moved back to the United States, having a glass of juice with him at the little table in his kitchen in Los Angeles, there was a sense that something important might happen--that feelings and ideas were in the air." Read more.

Frida in Minneapolis

"Frida Kahlo," curated by Hayden Herrera and Elizabeth Carpenter. Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN. Through Jan. 20. Scheduled tour: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, February 20 - May 18; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, June 14 - September 28, 2008.

46 paintings and over 80 photographs from Kahlo's photo albums are included in this retrospective, organized jointly by the Walker Art Center and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Amy Carlson Gustafson reports in the Pioneer Press how the curators came up with the idea. "The idea was to find an artist whose works are well known, highly valued and admired by the public but aren't seen very often. 'I feel like a lot of people are familiar with Kahlo and her self-portraits through reproductions, but probably haven't ever seen one,' said Walker associate curator Elizabeth Carpenter. 'It's a collection of emotionally driven paintings that are as haunting as they are beautiful. Her provocative self-portraits serve as a visual response to what was happening in her life - be it political, social or internal. One of her strengths is that she made art personal. You know that saying the personal becomes political? It is really true with her. '" Read more.

Guadalupe Marin Rivera, Diego Rivera's daughter, is less than loving toward Frida. AFP reports that she recently told a Costa Rican newspaper that Frida was a lousy artist. "She was a perfectionist. When she was working on a painting, it would take her a long time and my father would help her so that she would finish them and sell them," she said. "I lived through this, that's why I say it....It has been said that my father made Frida suffer and I can tell you that ... Frida made my father suffer. Society today, in my opinion, is completely decadent and needs a decadent icon. Frida is the symbol of this decadence,"

Mary Abbe in Minneapolis' Star Tribune recommends a visit to "Graphic Reality: Mexican Printmaking Today," a show of contemporary Mexican printmaking curated by Artemio Rodríguez, of La Mano Press originally for International Print Center New York. Artists include Marcelo Balzaretti, Mizrain Cardenas, Oscar Camilo de las Flores, Demian Flores, Verónica Gómez, Rogelio Gutierrez, Darío Ramirez, Joel Rendón, Artemio Rodríguez, Jose Hugo Sanchez, and Cesar Alberto Chavez Victoria. The show runs through Nov. 28.

October 25, 2007

Google Search: Rufino Tamayo

This week , Carol Vogel reported in the NYTimes that a colorful painting found in the trash was in fact painted by well-known Latin American artist Rufino Tamayo. Tamayo (1899-1991) was a Zapotecan Indian born in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. He moved to México City where he attended the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plasticas "San Carlos." Tamayo was exposed to the cultural wealth of pre-Colombian México as he worked as a draftsman at the Museo Nacional de Arqueologia. While his contemporaries Siqueiros, Rivera and Orozco were advocating art with a message, often political, Tamayo's work focused on plastic forms integrated with a masterful use of colors and textures. Searching Google Images, over 5000 listings popped up for Tamayo.

In Boston: Robert Ferrandini, William Bailey

"William Bailey," Alpha Gallery, Boston, MA. Through Nov. 7.
"Robert Ferrandini: New Paintings on Paper", Gallery NAGA, Boston, MA. Through Nov. 3.

In the Boston Globe, Cate McQuaid reports: "Six years ago, artist Robert Ferrandini had a stroke that paralyzed his right painting hand. When he recovered sufficiently to return to his art, Ferrandini taught himself to paint with his left hand. The touch isn't as delicate, the majesty is diminished, and the darkness can never be as deep and aching if he continues in watercolor. Yet Ferrandini's fervent visual intelligence makes these works intriguing in their own right. The density of his marks, which have a nervous, buzzing energy, pushes his landscapes to the edge of dissolution - and that's something that hasn't changed....William Bailey, the iconic American painter of still lifes , stuck to his serenely formal subject while waves such as Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, and Minimalism rolled past him. The paintings are purely modernist in their formalism, despite their old-fashioned subjects. This artist has no narrative agenda, no underlying moral to take away, like the 17th-century Dutch still-life painters. He's more like a Zen gardener, raking the same patch of sand every day, finding beauty anew in it." Read more.

October 24, 2007

Jonathan Jones dubs "Renaissance Siena" souvenir shop kitsch

"Renaissance Siena: Art for a City," National Gallery, London. Through Jan. 13.

A hundred paintings, sculptures, drawings, manuscripts and ceramics are presented. Artists include Matteo di Giovanni, Francesco di Giorgio, Benvenuto di Giovanni, the Master of the Legend of Griselda, Signorelli, Pintoricchio and Beccafumi. In The Guardian, Jonathan Jones suggests that the curators are chasing their tails down a scholarly blind alley. "The National Gallery has developed dangerous signs of failing to edit its curators' ideas. Instead of looking hard at the shortlist of possible exhibitions, it leaps on 'interesting' notions that, in reality, are eccentric hobby-horses. Some of its recent and planned exhibitions - notably Renoir Landscapes and the retrospective of a minor 18th-century portraitist, Pompeo Batoni, to which we can look forward in the New Year - are the National Gallery's answer to Spinal Tap convincing themselves that now no one cares what they do, they can finally dust off that free-form jazz odyssey....We're seriously supposed to admire a painting such as Sano di Pietro's Virgin and Child With Saints Jerome and Bernardino and Four Angels, painted in about 1455-60, the product of a workshop that churned out this type of image? The catalogue enthuses that it's like 'a piece of goldsmith's work, and its superb condition ensures that its craftsmanship is undimmed'. But to me, with its smooth, not to say bland, rendition of soapy-looking flesh, its cheap gold glitz, its all but expressionless faces, it resembles nothing so much as an icon you might buy from a sacred souvenir shop in the Vatican today. It bears about the same relationship as such a pastiche would to the great medieval religious art of Duccio: that is to say, none of any interest." Read more.

In the Evening Standard, Brian Sewell tends to agree. "Many of these Sienese painters were either consciously archaic, deliberately echoing the painters of the brief period more than a century before, when their city was indeed in the grip of a Renaissance, or, with such echoes, they were satisfying the demands of their patrons to bridge the great gap between the then present and the noble past by constantly referring to it. Florentine influences are occasionally evident - hard-worked perspective in one painting, a hint of naked bodies akin to those of Pollaiuolo in another, the sinister whisper of Leonardo in a third - but the gap in years is always telling, as though news of Fra Angelico and Domenico Veneziano had not, in as many years, travelled the 30 miles from Florence. Donatello, the greatest sculptor of the century, travelled those miles himself to make a handful of small masterpieces, but the fervour and invention that he carried in his baggage might as well have been stale varieties of pasta for all the influence he had - the great commission for the cathedral doors was quietly aborted." Read more.

October 22, 2007

Worshipping Van Gogh online

In the Sunday Times, the Auberge Ravoux may someday be a video cyber shrine to former resident Vincent Van Gogh. "Dominique-Charles Janssens, who owns the country inn near Paris where Van Gogh spent his last days, intends to bid for The Fields, one of his last paintings, at Sotheby’s on November 7 so that he can hang it in the room in which the artist died. Janssens is raising money on the internet by offering donors a personal access code. It would allow them to view the painting at any time through a webcam in the attic room above a cafe where Van Gogh died two days after shooting himself in a field. 'This has become my challenge, my obsession, my dream,' said Janssens last week, complaining that Van Gogh’s paintings were mainly in museums or private collections far from where they were painted." Read more.

October 21, 2007

Lucy Hunnicutt's words

Self-taught painter Lucy Hunnicutt is profiled by Arnold Wengrow in the Asheville Citizen-Times. "Hunnicutt's house had a wood stove. 'It was a real cold winter,' she said. "People think Florida doesn't get cold, but you know it does.' One night when she was feeding some scraps of cypress wood into the stove, she had a sudden thought, 'I could paint on this wood.' Using leftover house paint, she painted a dream from the night before. "It was white birds that turned into angels," she said, and she wrote on the finished painting, 'My dream.' Hunnicutt painted other dreams and memories on scraps of wood but then fed them into the fire until a friend saw some and asked to hang them in his barn. A Florida gift shop owner saw them there and bought them. She soon visited Hunnicutt for more....Hunnicutt is currently making 'word paintings,' in which strings of vividly colored text meander across the canvas. 'I've realized lately that I'm always telling stories to myself,' she said. 'I start the letters, and each letter becomes a little abstract painting.'" Read more.

Lawrence Weiner's words

"Lawrence Weiner: As Far As The Eye Can See," co-curated by Donna De Salvo, Whitney Museum Chief Curator and Associate Director for Programs, and Ann Goldstein, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Senior Curator. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY. November 15, 2007-February 10, 2008. At MOCA April-July 2008. In conjunction with the exhibition, Weiner's films and videos will be screened at Anthology Film Archives in New York.

In the NYTimes, Randy Kennedy chats with Lawrence Weiner, whose retrospective opens at the Whitney Museum of American Art in November. "40 years ago Mr. Weiner decided that words would serve almost exclusively as raw material for his art: words spoken, sung, painted on walls, printed in books and on matchbooks, stamped on coins or manhole covers or elsewhere....In much that has been written about Mr. Weiner it is this relationship between the work and the viewer that is central, with the artist left all but invisible. And that is just how Mr. Weiner likes it. 'Your personal enlightenment of your personal angst is not a fit subject for art,' he once said. 'It might be a fit subject for literature, or poetry perhaps, but art is about material objects.' So when he was asked to participate in the retrospective, as when he has been asked to do previous ones, he went through what he described as a crisis about whether to agree to the kind of museum show that shines a heroic spotlight on the artist as sage and creator. In the end, though, it didn’t take him long to say yes. 'It really is almost a rhetorical question,' he said. 'Of course you’re going to do it. But you want to question yourself beforehand to make sure you know exactly why.' And what was the answer? He smiled. 'Social pressure.'" Read more.

For LW fans: Bushwick's Pocket Utopia has organized an experimental Lawrence Weiner salon featuring a reading room, a re-creation ("A 36" x 36" Removal to the Lathing or Support Wall of Plaster or Wallboard From a Wall," 1968) and a text piece. 2 November- 25 November, 2007

On Artnet, blog hating anti-conceptualist Charlie Finch suggests experiencing Weiner's work in the same state of mind Weiner created it. "First, find a small amount of high grade pot. (Or, since drugs are bad for your health and still illegal, imagine that you have found some high grade pot the way you would imagine building the imaginary art delineated in Lawrence Weiner’s instructions). Next, roll up that pot in a joint and light it up and smoke it, or, as I am doing now, pretend to do it. Isn’t fairyland fun? Look at all your imaginary friends!" Read more.

On the other hand, in the NYTimes, Roberta Smith believes Weiner's show should be required viewing, especially for the auction-addicted glitterati. "Driven by the joy of language and quite a bit of humor, Mr. Weiner’s ebullient work asks tough questions about who makes or owns art, where it can occur and how long it lasts. It reminds us that while art and money may have been inextricably entwined throughout most of history, art’s real value is not measured in strings of zeros, high-priced materials or bravura skill, but in communication, experience, economy of means (the true beauty) and, yes, the inspired disturbance of all status quos. It also affirms that art ultimately triggers some kind of transcendence that can only be completed by the viewer. Mr. Weiner has elevated Robert Rauschenberg’s famous dictum — to the effect that “this is art if I say so” — to the more inclusive “this is art if you think so.” His polymorphous efforts create situations in which such thoughts feel not only natural, they feel like our own." Read more.

Other recent Weiner exhibitions:
"Lawrence Weiner," Cristina Guerra, Lisbon, Portugal, April 12 – May 5, 2007.
"Lawrence Weiner: Inherent in the Rhumb Line," National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, March 22 – December 9, 2007.
"If Silence Was," Alfonso Artico, Naples, Italy, September 7, 2006.
"Have & Take Give & Get," Cerealart, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 1 –October 31, 2006.
"And It Can't Go Wrong," Galerie Pietro Sparta, June 2006.
"Lawrence Weiner," Balwag Foundation, Wien, Austria, March 17 – May 27, 2006.

October 20, 2007

NYTimes Art in Review: Chris Ofili, Elif Uras, Thomas Eggerer

"CHRIS OFILI: Devil’s Pie," David Zwirner, New York, NY. Through Nov. 3. Holland Cotter reports: "Mr. Ofili has always been forthright about the devotional spirit of his art; here he makes the cross-cultural nature of the spirit clear, and a little too clear. Time and further experimentation should bring the synthesis he’s after. I take the Zwirner show as a laboratory — a laying out of developmental material, a sorting through of ideas — and I like it for exactly that reason. We get a lot of airtight minor shows in Chelsea; it’s not every day that you get to see a major artist thinking. You do here." Read more.

Related link: Ofili shows us the long journey, the big picture

"ELIF URAS: The Occidentalist," Smith-Stewart, New York, NY. Through Nov. 4. Karen Rosenberg reports:"Born in Ankara, Turkey, and educated in the northeastern United States, the painter Elif Uras has seized on the buzzword Occidentalism — a retort to Edward Said’s Orientalism....Ms. Uras can be both decorative and topical. Otherwise, her “clash of civilizations” is more an arranged marriage." Read more.

"THOMAS EGGERER: Run River," Friedrich Petzel, New York, NY. Through Nov. 10. Martha Schwendener reports: "Art in galleries is appearing more frequently with a literary accompaniment: an artist-written news release or stream-of-conscious text. It arrives here in the form of a poem by the artist R. H. Quaytman, composed from recordings of Thomas Eggerer speaking about his paintings. The poem is distributed as a handout to gallery visitors....Mr. Eggerer is aware of the challenges facing contemporary painters. 'As if one’s own liberated language could speak for itself/in a medium as overdetermined as painting,' the poem says. But here the pressures of forging that liberated language nearly drown out the visual pleasure. The poem, unfortunately, doesn’t pick up any of the slack. Read more.

October 19, 2007

Act your age

"The art student was shocked. The carefully prepared presentation collapsed under a surprisingly simple if not quite obvious question the visiting guest professor posed: Why do your paintings look like those of a fifty-year-old man? Why would a well educated young artist want to emulate the historic gesture of a different generation?" Read more. Excerpted from an Andreas Schlaegel review of sculptor Isa Genzken’s work in Flash Art.

October 18, 2007

Interview with Lari Pittman

In the LA Times, Dean Kuipers spends 60 seconds with Lari Pittman. Pittman will be featured on PBS Art: 21 on Oct. 28 and has a show at L.A.'s Regen Projects II. "'l always take the time to look at the women's clothes and shoes. It's not that I'm interested at all in wearing them, but I am interested to see how they're made and what ornamentation is taking place. It's not that it's a correct view of American culture, but it is a view." Read more.

In Boston: Hannah Barrett and Sharon Horvath

"Hannah Barrett: The Secret Society," Howard Yezerski Gallery, Boston, MA. Through Oct. 30.

"Sharon Horvath: Paintings and Drawings," Victoria Munroe Fine Arts, Boston, MA. Through Oct. 31.

Sharon Horvath's new series of densely layered line paintings at Victoria Munroe Fine Art is made with dispersed pigment and polymer on canvas. In the NYTimes, Grace Glueck has described Horvath's magery as rebus-like and bizarre; she praises the imaginative draftsmanship, "which seems to make mystical contact with the unseen as well as the visible." For more info and images, check out Horvath's website.

Since 2000 Barrett has been painting invented portraits that are based on collages. Using sections from photographs or paintings, she reassembles these various parts into a new figure of ambiguous gender, pushing conventional male/female roles in portraiture. In the Boston Globe, Cate McQuaid suggests that the paintings are delightful and funny, but thinks Barrett is mining old material. "I don't think she should abandon androgyny. Rather, a couple of paintings here with more context - such as the craggily handsome 'Demoiselle Blackheath' standing dockside - point her in a new direction, away from formal portraiture and toward narrative. To see these people as actors on their own stages, rather than stiffly posed for scrutiny, would open them up even more." Read more.

October 17, 2007

Georg Baselitz, Ellsworth Kelly, Giuseppe Penone, and Dorothea Rockburne select

"Drawing Connections: Baselitz, Kelly, Penone, Rockburne, and the Old Masters," curated by Isabelle Dervaux. Morgan Library and Museum, New York, NY. Through Jan. 6. "Drawing Connections" explores the correspondences between contemporary and old master drawings. Georg Baselitz, Ellsworth Kelly, Giuseppe Penone, and Dorothea Rockburne have been invited to select drawings from the Morgan's old master collection to be displayed next to their own drawings. The conceptual, visual, or technical relationships between them are emphasized, showing not only what contemporary drawings owe to the art of the past but also how our interpretation of old master drawings is indebted to contemporary practices.

In the NY Sun, David Cohen reports: "Where Messrs. Kelly, Penone, and Baselitz relate their own work to old masters in terms, respectively, of form, process, and style, Ms. Rockburne's selection and self-presentation are based on what could be called a phenomenology of drawing. Her own work has taken its cue from the material properties of paper — what happens when the material is subjected to various procedures. She has found drawings in the Morgan that underscore her thoughts about drawing during different moments of her career. Like Mr. Penone, Ms. Rockburne gives us three case studies of herself and her chosen masters. Big minimal geometric drawings on shaped pages where the line follows folds of the paper, such as 'Conservation Class #5' (1973), keep company with a squared-up Tintoretto of a man falling backward in an open, indeterminate space — the sky, perhaps. There is almost a sense of the space being defined by the act of drawing rather than, as would be normal, the other way around. In works reflecting her interests in astronomy, such as the vibrantly colored "The Conjecture" (2007), drippy but dense watercolor is used to impart a sense of bodies moving in different dimensions. The corresponding old master drawings, such as Domenico Beccafumi's 'Head of an Old Man with Open Mouth' (ca. 1529–35) also use the medium to suggest the weight and movement of the head turning in light. And complex relief structures in different paper supports, such as 'The Plan of St. Gall' (1988–89) are placed with a study of interlocking hands by Guido Reni, to underscore the artist's conviction that mannerist abuse of conventional space accounted for her burgeoning fascination with mathematics and astronomy." Read more.

In The Brooklyn Rail, Isabelle Dervaux, the curator of modern and contemporary drawing at the Morgan, and Dorothea Rockburne talked with publisher Phong Bui as the exhibition was being installed. "I made these choices intuitively," Rockburne explains. "Continuity in art has to do with a shared sensibility toward nature. Everything in nature is related to everything else in terms of its material make up. So when the movement in a Mannerist drawing seems to vibrate in tune with one of my own works, I know that they are saying something similar about the world and that they should be paired with one another. Again, it all has to do with issues of movement in space." Read more. Check out Rockburne's website to find out more about her work.

Gaylen Hansen retrospective in Seattle

"Gaylen Hansen: Three Decades of Paintings," curated by Keith Wells. Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA. Through Jan. 6. Organized by the Museum of Art at Washington State University, Pullman, WA. See images of his work.

A retrospective of Washington-based painter Gaylen Hansen features more than 30 paintings drawn from public and private collections. Hansen first came to the attention of the art world during the heyday of neo-expressionism in the late 1970s. His paintings, sometimes compared to Morandi's still lifes for their painterliness, are humorous and dreamlike, populated by animals, insects, trout, and a cowboy named Kernal Bentleg. In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Regina Hackett is charmed by Hansen's work. "Seattle's art museums rarely give Northwest artists solo shows and almost never mount retrospectives. Taking their cues from their audiences, museums here would rather bloom where they're not planted....Using mostly oils and rarely extending his painted ground beyond a grown man's hand span, he staples his canvases onto a wall, rips them off when he's done and considers them finished without frames. His colors are orchestrated, but he makes a fetish out of flatness. Like Japanese scroll painters, he conveys distance in layers." Read more.

The Stranger's Jen Graves says "Gaylen Hansen's irrepressible retrospective is gooey with presence. The only people who will get nothing from this show are the ones with a constitutional disdain for paint." Read more.

October 15, 2007

Trying to say what it means to be human

"Timothy Hawkesworth," Redbrick Studios, Beverly, MA. Through Nov. 2. “I paint the experience of being in a landscape, painting your body’s response,” Timothy Hawkesworth says. “To me that’s the power of landscape, to open us up to experience.” Read more.

Note: This is TCOP's official Blog Action Day Post. "The best way to participate," the BAD blog tells me, "is to post on your blog something that relates to the environment....anything to do with the environment." Done.

Ofili shows us the long journey, the big picture

"Chris Ofili," David Zwirner, New York, NY. Through November 3.

This is Ofili's first NY solo show since The Holy Virgin Mary came to the Brooklyn Museum in 1999 and sparked a huge controversy. Ofili now lives in Trinidad and no longer uses elephant dung on his canvases.

In New York Magazine, Jerry Saltz reports that Ofili is in a transitional phase. "Some have said that Ofili has been living too far from the art world for too long, and that no one is saying no to him anymore. But Ofili, always a maverick, may be trying to see where only saying yes will lead. He knows this will mean periods of unevenness—now being one of those periods. Yet amid intense critical scrutiny and the distorting glare of the market, Ofili is doing something quite bold: He’s giving up his formulas and looking for new forms. Cynics will say all the work will sell anyway. Perhaps, but this kind of jadedness dismisses an artist for all the wrong reasons. Obviously, an unknown painter couldn’t mount a show this big and uneven at this gallery. In 'Devil’s Pie,' Ofili is asking us to understand that an artist’s work is not only about a slice but about the whole pie—about a long journey and the big picture. He wants you to see the arc of a career, the experimental parts, not just chart-toppers. Ofili is trying to create his own history and context, and I would take any drawing or print here. Additionally, four of the paintings suggest numerous ways through the perilous straits he finds himself in. Two canvases have rich swirling surfaces of aluminum paint; another is layered with collage atop a surface of aluminum foil. Ofili is still a champion. It would be a huge mistake to think otherwise." Read more.

David Cohen in the NY Sun calls the show big-hearted and boisterous."A cynic might think that working on a grand scale and volume to meet his market success has determined this shift in style, but I do not sense any sellout in Mr. Ofili's change of gear. On the contrary, there is a sense of maturity and authority in these graceful, lush canvases. His work always straddled a divide between different cultures; now Western modernism is the primary source, although black culture still permeates the imagery and the religious sensibility of these works. The biggest influences on these paintings are Picasso and Matisse, seen for instance in "The Raising of Lazarus" (2006), but tellingly, the results often recall the African-American expressionist Bob Thompson in the luxuriant elongations of the figures and the lyrical strength of color." Read more.

In The Village Voice,
Daniel Kunitz says Ofili's new work falls just short of failing. "To my mind, what makes Ofili consistently perverse—aside from his habit of turning ostensibly religious subjects into lewd jokes—is that his paintings often flirt with being outright terrible. In the wrong hands, the hyperstylized retro look he employs in these new works could, with just a few bad choices, easily turn into overweening poster art, glib parodies fit only for suburban malls....'Devil's Pie' might at first seem shockingly decorative. Eventually, I suspect, it will win over its critics with its Mephistophelian guile." Read more.

IMHO: Don't stop me if I'm repeating myself

"Déjà Vu? Revealing Repetition in French Masterpieces," organized by Eik Kahng. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD. Through Jan. 1. Phoenix Art Museum, January 20 through May 4, 2008. Check out the NYTimes slide show of the exhibition.

"America's Presidents," Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC. Permanent exhibition.

Repetition has always been a common practice among painters. For a few recent examples, look at Brice Marden’s vine, Sylvia Plimack Mangold’s tree, Sean Scully’s square and rectangle. But if the exercise is recurrent, artists have different reasons for indulging it. Several years ago, Louise Belcourt, a painter and friend, and I were both working on paintings in which, from an outsider’s viewpoint, little changed from one image to the next. “What are you trying to do?” she asked. “I’m trying to make it better,” I said. “How about you?” She responded, “I’m trying to make it different.”

Indeed, painters may tackle the same subject generation after generation. In my poky seaside town, the harbor, river, and drawbridge have been artistic fodder for over a hundred years. The light changes, new buildings appear, trees come and go, and painting styles evolve. The popularity and bankability of the repeated motif tell us something about art history, community aesthetics, and the artists themselves.

As a theme, “repetition” is often embedded in the content of exhibitions without being specifically articulated by the curators. I recently saw "America's Presidents" exhibition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. The perspective afforded by the shared format of portraiture illuminates interesting differences that wouldn’t emerge if the portraits weren’t all displayed together. That Nixon chose Norman Rockwell to paint his historic portrait, Kennedy chose Elaine DeKooning, and Clinton chose Chuck Close reveals how the presidents see themselves, and how they want to record their place in history, as well as their knowledge of art and appreciation of art history.

At the Walters, “Déjà vu? Revealing Repetition in French Masterpieces,” examines the practice of repetition among French painters in the 1800s. “Why do painters repeat themselves? What did repetition mean within the Academic tradition? How do the motivations for repetition change in the modern period?” the press release begins. To anyone who has ever seen a show of Monet’s water lilies (who hasn’t?) the fact that French painters explored recurring themes is well established, so the exhibition’s thematic conceit is not exactly a revelation. Repetition is a given for painters, and nearly every non-narrative painting show demonstrates it. Still, there are enough fine paintings in the show at the Walters to make a visit worthwhile.

Related Links:
Check out an earlier TCOP post with links to the NYTimes, Washigton Post and Baltimore Sun reviews of the Walters exhibition.

From the archives: Donald Kuspit on Sean Scully

Sean Scully and Eli Broad

Sylvia Plimack Mangold: tree, view, season

October 14, 2007

Art attacks

Why do grown people physically attack art? In the Chicago Tribune, art critic Alan G. Artner examines the motivations behind art vandalism. "At one end stands Laszlo Toth, the unemployed geologist who in 1972 strode into St. Peter's Basilica and struck Michelangelo's 'Pieta' 15 times with a hammer. At the other is Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan who issued the decree against graven images that in 2001 brought down two colossal ancient Buddhas in Bamiyan....Each act is, obviously, a transgression of law, but perhaps more important, a going beyond the limits of behavior imposed by museums or galleries, which are secular equivalents of places of worship. To shout there is a violation, to assault another person a sacrilege, but to attack an artwork is the ultimate infringement as the art is unresisting and on view because of tacitly agreed upon benefits not just to one individual but the many....Whenever private collections have been broken into, the aim generally has been thievery, not destruction. So even in more extreme examples of derangement, the act was committed for all to see, as a public transgression, assertion, protest or performance." Read more.

NYTimes art reviews: Talese, Ossorio

"Pamela Talese: Working Waterfront, Paintings of the Brooklyn Navy Yard," Atlantic Gallery, New York, NY. Through Oct. 20. Talese paints straightforward images of the working ships, tugboats, and docks of the industrial waterfront. Roberta Smith reports that "the total effect is unexpectedly convincing, all the more so because each painting is accompanied by a brief text explaining its subject. The added information suspends this work somewhere between a belated W.P.A. project and a conservative variation on Conceptual Art’s image-text combination, by now a tradition of its own." Read more.

"Alfonso Ossorio: Masterworks from the Collection of the Robert U. Ossorio Foundation," Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY. Through Oct. 27. Ken Johnson, back at the NYTimes, reports "Viewers happening upon works by Alfonso Ossorio (1916-90) for the first time might guess he was a great hippie artist. He was actually one of the most original, albeit underappreciated, members of the Abstract Expressionist generation. Born into a wealthy Philippine family, he attended Harvard and settled permanently in the United States in 1952....Influenced as much by Surrealism as by the formal innovations of vanguard European and American artists, Mr. Ossorio made intensely sensuous paintings and wall-mounted assemblages that seem imbued with otherworldly vision and shamanistic magic." Read more.

October 13, 2007

Before cut-and-paste, copies were made (gasp) by hand

"Déjà Vu? Revealing Repetition in French Masterpieces," organized by Eik Kahng. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD. Through Jan. 1. Phoenix Art Museum, January 20 through May 4, 2008.

In the Baltimore Sun, Glenn McNatt says that by seeing the paintings side-by-side, the painting process is revealed. "
How did Monet manage to show that it's morning in one picture and evening in another, or that it's wet and foggy in one and bright blue skies in the other? When you look just at the rainy-day painting or the night scene, you tend to take it for granted. You enjoy the picture, and who cares how he did it? But when they're hanging side-by-side, it makes you want to explore the differences: How in one the painted highlights are slathered on in thick swipes of pink and gold that give the impression of the sun's slanting rays when it's low on the horizon; how in another it's all cool mauves and purples that re-create the shimmering effect of moonlight." Read more.

In the NYTimes, Karen Rosenberg suggests that profit was a big motivation for thematic repetition, but technical refinement and new interpretations often resulted . "More than 50 years after Jean-Dominique-Auguste Ingres first painted an image of Oedipus and the Sphinx, he revisited the myth in a striking canvas. Ingres reversed the direction of the figures and dramatically altered the Sphinx’s expression. In the first version she casts a mysterious, sidelong glance; in the second, painted when Ingres was in his 80s, she recoils in horror. Like the Sphinx’s riddle, the painting is a meditation on mortality." Read more.

In the Washington Post, Blake Gopnik notes that a copy, although visually similar to the original, may not have the same energy or freshness. "Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot's 'Evening Star,' painted in 1864, is a mass of very personal, suggestive brushwork, conveying the artist's intimate response to a sunset in a woods, perhaps the forest of Barbizon he helped make famous in his art. There's still a relatively old-fashioned 'subject' in this picture: We see a sentimental figure of a woman looking at a star, backed up by a shepherd with his flock. But you could easily imagine getting rid of those figures and still having as good a picture, if not a better one. In fact, when Walters himself asked Corot to make him a smaller copy of the work (Walters was still thinking according to the old model of doing things), he asked the artist to ax the sheep. Corot made the copy and kept in the sheep. But the striking thing is that the new painting is notably weaker than its big sister: Without much in the way of information to do its heavy lifting, the painting leaves you time to notice how, in the act of repetition, the brushwork that is so crucial to this new kind of picture has lost a lot of its energy and freshness; how the woman's hand, rendered by that weaker brushwork, has now become more like a claw. In an object meant to be a one-off product of artistic personality, rather than a carrier of data, you simply lose too much in copying. The copy becomes almost a fraud; it's more like a lousy, mechanical bootleg than a worthy repetition of the original, inspired artistic act." Read more.

Another niminy-piminy titillating survey..or the most brilliant show of the season?

"Seduced: Art and Sex from Antiquity to Now," curated by Martin Kemp and Martin Kemp. Barbican Art Gallery, London. Through Jan. 27.

In This is London, Brian Sewell reports: "We have had enough of niminy-piminy titillating surveys, enough of donnish picture books for dons who never touch young flesh; we need, instead, a disciplined enquiry, not just by art historians but by specialists who know something of medicine and the erotic workings of the mind, for on the one hand we have great works of art at which we gaze and genuflect, and on the other we have the sex shop selling goods that employ the same imagery, but in such ways and with such objects as may appall the aesthetic sensibility....Have the curators responded to my plea for an academic study of pornography? Alas, no: they have compiled a survey of pornography that is utterly unenlightening and stale. Read more.

In a lengthy piece in The Guardian, Jonathan Jones disagrees. He says the show is brave and intelligent. "People have been making erotica, or pornography, or whatever you want to call it, far longer than the 2,500 years this exhibition surveys. And you have to ask: has art ever been about anything else? As soon as the Greeks invented a lifelike way of depicting the human form, in the sixth century BC, they exploited their discovery to portray sex - as this show illustrates. Who was the beautiful Sapphic red-figure painting of two slender women with triangular breasts and curvy buttocks meant to be enjoyed by? ...It's a risky business, admitting to how much you enjoy looking at sex. I loved this show, but left feeling sad and ashamed; then I had to come back the next day and look again. It is the bravest and most intelligent exhibition of the year." Read more.

October 12, 2007

What does Pettibon think?

"Raymond Pettibon: Here’s Your Irony Back (The Big Picture)," David Zwirner Gallery, New York, NY. Through October 20.

Other Pettibon sightings:
"Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock and Roll Since 1967," curated by Dominic Molon. Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL. Through Jan. 6.
"Running Around the Pool:
Contemporary Drawing," curated by Terri Lindbloom. Florida State University Museum of Fine Art, Tallahassee, FL. Through Nov. 18.

Pettibon continues to blur the boundaries of high and low, pulling freely from sources that span the cultural spectrum. His visual and textual pairings spin from the quirkily connected to the bafflingly enigmatic, while always remaining emotionally and intellectually provocative.

In ArtCal Zine, Deborah Fisher says she has loved Pettibon's work since she was a teenager, but that our times call for meaningful action, not empty political gestures in blue chip galleries. "
Art cannot accomplish the act of overthrowing the motherfuckers in the White House. But it can inspire the act, envision the possibility, even define a viewership’s relation to power. Punk did this and Pettibon helped. But by limiting outrage and action to the sphere of individual expression and romanticizing futility, they have created a 'counterculture' that the empire has actually come to rely on. I do not doubt that this show is a sellout, and that the buyers feel vindicated because of their purchases. But right now, when it seems the entire op-ed staff of the New York Times is straightforwardly begging the American people to do more, it seems like a good time to stop luxuriating in this futility." Read more.

In the NY Sun, Daniel Kunitz reports that Pettibon's inscrutable, sardonic installation is begging Americans to think. "
The irony in Mr. Pettibon's 'Big Picture' is at times slippery though, to his credit, rarely ungraspable. The show's title, for instance, can be taken to mean that this is no time for sentimentality — one of the better sheets here offers a 1950s-era girl kneeling by her bed below the words, 'We Grew Up In A Mattel World.' Or it can be taken as invective, thrusting ironies back in our faces — the naked, hooded prisoner seen throughout the show has become the international symbol of our land of liberty." Read more.

For more insight into Pettibon's psyche, check out excerpts from his installment of the PBS series, Art:21.

Kara Walker's racy cutouts arrive at the Whitney

"Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love," organized by Philippe Vergne and Yasmil Raymond, both from the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN. Whitney Museum of American Art, , New York, NY. Through Feb. 3. UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA March 2 to June 8, 2008.

“It’s interesting that as soon as you start telling the story of racism, you start reliving the story,” Walker says. “You keep creating a monster that swallows you. But as long as there’s a Darfur, as long as there are people saying ‘Hey, you don’t belong here’ to others, it only seems realistic to continue investigating the terrain of racism.” The 200 paintings, drawings, collages, shadow-puppetry, light projections, and video animations presented here span the artist's career, conflating fact and fiction to expose the living roots of racial and gender bias.

In the NY Times, Holland Cotter calls Walker's style magnetic and absorbing. "Whether in large cutouts, or notebook-size drawings, or in films that are basically animated versions of both, her draftsmanship is excitingly textured — old-masterish here, doodlish there — and all of a piece. Brilliant is the word for it, and the brilliance grows over the survey’s decade-plus span....In refusing conclusions, Ms. Walker draws an important one: The source and blame for racism lies with everyone, including herself. It seems we are addicted to it. We claim to hate living with it, but we cannot live without it." Read more. See slide show of installation images.

In Newsday, Ariella Budick finds the work morbid but, at the same time, darkly humorous. "Her work is neither anti-black nor anti-white; it is broadly misanthropic. Both groups, as far as she is concerned, have forgone their claims to nobility or integrity. Walker scoffs at the notion of progress. To her, the distortions in self-image wrought by slavery's power relations have been completely internalized by both groups, which remain helpless in the face of history." Read more.

In the NY Sun, Lance Espland suggests that Walker's work is notable for the subject matter and the controversy surrounding it, but lacks visual eloquence and depth. "Her art often feels less like an exploration and more like exploitation — of both its subject and its viewers. When charged subjects remain too close to their source, when they are not transformed, and when they are reduced to platitudes and caricature, images merely push our buttons....Images float like islands, and, without rhythm and musicality, they do not interrelate. The individual forms are sometimes difficult to make out, and their flickering edges do not speak to one another. Also, the cutouts, with few exceptions, are dead at their centers. Leaden between their contours, they have no buoyancy or tension in the plane. They never become volumetric and alive. The 800-pound gorilla in this show is that Ms. Walker, who believes drawing issues are 'superficial,' cannot draw." Read more.

At Bloomberg.com, Linda Yablonsky finds the work unsettling. "
The naive charms of the silhouette form only make her pointedly obscene tales of sexual and cultural oppression more grotesque. Most unsettling, however, is how easily she wrings beauty from brutality....Walker can be crudely simplistic, but her levitating silhouettes and delicate drawings have an arresting beauty and an ambiguity that is both alluring and deceptive. First it draws you in with kisses, then it pummels you with its fists." Read more.

October 11, 2007

Jay DeFeo, after "The Rose"

"Jay DeFeo, Applaud the Black Fact " Nielsen Gallery, Boston, MA. Through Oct.27.

"Only by chancing the ridiculous, can I hope for the sublime." said Jay DeFeo in a 1959 Museum of Modern Art catalogue statement. "Only by discovering that which is true within myself, can I hope to be understood by others." The Neilson Gallery in Boston has installed a show of work DeFeo completed after she finished "The Rose," a paiinting that took eight years to paint. Cate McQuaid reports in the Boston Globe: "Jay DeFeo, a San Francisco artist of the Beat Generation, is known for one monumental painting, 'The Rose,' which she painted and repainted from 1958 to 1966. Close to 11 feet tall by 8 feet wide, the painting, now owned by the Whitney Museum of American Art, carries more than a ton of white and gray pigment, built into a pattern of radiating lines that look carved out of a rock face. Born from Abstract Expressionism, it was finished as Pop Art was on the rise, a little late for its time. DeFeo didn't work at all for a couple of years after she finished that project, and when she did return to the studio, she made photos, paintings, collages, and assemblages that were much more modest in scale. " Read more. Defeo died in 1989, but her estate maintains a website which includes updated information about current exhibitions.

October 10, 2007

Laura Newman's paintings of air

"Laura Newman," Lesley Heller Gallery, New York, NY. Through Oct. 27.

"I would like to be able to paint air, but in order to paint air, I need to paint the things in it," says Newman. "Large expanses of color play against fragments of window frames, which imply both the point of view of the viewer and what is being perceived. I'm interested in the contradiction between flatness and the extreme depth suggested by those elements, and also by how color makes light. Each painting suggests a model or diagram, even as it evokes a particular yet fictional place. By stripping down the vocabulary of the painting, my aim is to have access to both the freedom of abstract painting and the referenced framework of representation."

Stephanie Buhmann reports in The Brooklyn Rail: "At times reminiscent of Mary Heilman’s work, Newman’s compositions fuse expressive planes of luminous color with highly stylized fragments of rooftops, clouds, or electric wires. Color is employed as definite light source, as well as an emotional correlative. Her work leaves the impression of distinct sentiments that dramatize her graphically simplified descriptive elements. She also employs a kind of improvisational unpredictability that is as refreshing as it is unusual in hard-edged geometric forms." Read more.

Steve Parrino's sex and death paintings

Steve Parrino, Gagosian Gallery, New York, NY. Through Nov. 3.

Gagosian presents Steve Parrino's paintings, drawings and sculpture. Parrino died in a New Year's morning motorcycle accident at the age of 46 in 2005. "When I started making paintings the word on painting was 'PAINTING IS DEAD,'" Parrino said. "I saw this as an interesting place for painting… death can be refreshing, so I started engaging in necrophilia….. Approaching history in the same way that Dr. Frankenstein approaches body parts… Nature Morte… my contemporaries were NO WAVERS… BLACK FLAG-ERS… and this death painting thing led to a sex and death painting thing… that became an existence thing… that became a 'Cease to Exist' thing… A kind of post-punk existentialism. I am still concerned with 'art about art', but I am also aware that 'art about art' still reflects the time in which it was made. Content is not denied… Content is not obvious… Content is sustained in the air or the vibe of the work."

In the Village Voice, R.C. Baker reports: "These works combine the stiffness of erection with the frenzy of the 'little death,' followed by the flaccid realization that you didn't flame out at the height of ecstasy after all but are left to grub around for your next wild ride. In this scrumptious show of slashed, bent, and twisted canvases, you can feel Parrino manhandling postwar art movements—Pollock's gestural dance, Stella's monochromes, Warhol's fabulous fatalism—with a lover's passion."Read more.

In New York Magazine, Jerry Saltz writes that "overestimating Parrino would be as much a disservice to him as underestimating him would. He wasn’t a radically original artist. But he was radically dedicated to his narrow idea of what painting could be. He may have talked about death and nihilism, and he wore a black leather jacket everywhere, but Parrino didn’t want to annihilate painting.... He vividly demonstrates that no matter what you do to a canvas—slash, gouge, twist, or mutilate it—you can’t actually kill it. Painting lives, and so, for the moment, does Parrino’s work." Read more.

October 9, 2007

Dawn Clements talks about drawing

"Dawn Clements: Conditions of Desire," Pierogi Gallery, Brooklyn, NY. Through Nov. 12. Opens Friday Oct. 12. Check out James Kalm's video of the opening.

Dawn Clements talks with Eve Aschheim in The Brooklyn Rail. "When I start out to make a panoramic piece, I often work from left to right. But when a small scrap of a drawing turns into a giant drawing the progress is less linear, a more intuitive process. 'Untitled (Color Kitchen)' started with the flowers. Mariah Corrigan cut me these beautiful old roses, which I put in a yellow pitcher. The next day I was all packed up and walking out the door to go to my studio when I saw the roses and thought, 'Those flowers are going to be gone by tomorrow.' So I stayed home and painted them just to always remember them. Eventually the drawing grew to include the table, the wall, the curtain, and the next wall....In the Pierogi show, in one big drawing, 'Movie,' I reversed the perspective; things appear to get larger as you go back. And also I’m bringing the figure back into some of the work. I’m excited because there are a lot of transitions right now; lots of exploration." Read more.

In The Village Voice, Jillian Steinhauer reports that Clements' oversize drawings dominate the room. "Clements has re-created domestic interiors while also skillfully re-creating the inner workings of her own mind. The drawings are marked by her characteristic personalization of physical space—whether that be of her apartment or the rooms inhabited by the characters of old movies—and the results are striking: hallways so intricately detailed that you could get lost in them for days, floral-patterned curtains whose colors leap off the page, tables and chairs with such depth and texture they seem to deliberate their own existence. Clements has scrawled occasional notes or lines of soap-opera dialogue in the margins, only enhancing the overall effect of still lifes that refuse to be still."

Ghent MFA presents "British Vision"

" British Vision: Observation and imagination in British Art 1750-1950", curated by Robert Hoozee and Andrew Dempsey. Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent, Belgium. Through January 13.

"British Vision" is an overview of two centuries of British art, representing every major artist, including William Hogarth, Thomas Gainsborough, George Stubbs, William Blake, John Constable, Joseph Mallord William Turner, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, Stanley Spencer, Graham Sutherland, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. Maev Kennedy reports in the Guardian that the exhibition includes "show stoppers from many private and regional galleries, mixing paintings, watercolours, books, sculptures and photographs, that would have queues out the door in London or any British city. Instead, the show reopens the beautiful museum of fine art in Ghent in Belgium, after major reconstruction work, representing a lifetime's passionate interest by its director Belgian scholar Robert Hoozee....'No British gallery would do this show in this depth,' Andrea Rose, head of visual arts at the British Council, said.'In a way this exhibition is an answer to globalization. It is a once in a decade show which is only possible because it is not going to travel, otherwise the loans would not have been made. So people will just have to go and see it.'" Read more.

October 8, 2007

Art gallery project, mistaken for gang graffiti, removed by cleaning crew

"James Cauty - The Rize and Fall of the Portslade Massif," Ink_d gallery, Brighton, England. Through Nov. 3.

In The Argus, Ben Parsons reports: "Following in the footsteps of thinkers such as Immanuel Kant and Leo Tolstoy, a Brighton and Hove Council cleaning crew decided to make a small contribution to the debate. When they came across a slogan painted on an art gallery window, they made a quick assessment of its aesthetic value - and decided it could only be the work of vandals. They set to work removing the phrase Portslade Massif from the Ink_d gallery in North Road, Brighton, after they decided the reference to ghetto-style gang warfare on the west side of Hove proved it was just another piece of illegal graffiti. Unfortunately, like many critics before them, they had mistaken a piece of modern art for a talentless daub. In fact, the slogan was part of the title of an exhibition by controversial musician and artist James Cauty, whose works were on sale inside the gallery for more than £4,000." Read more.

IMHO: Artists Retreat

In the October issue of The Brooklyn Rail, you can find my essay that explores how an art market crash might affect rank and file artists. "With the economy slowing down, hedge funds getting shaky, and investors seeking refuge, the art market seems certain to contract in a big way. 'We’ve seen an unprecedented appreciation of contemporary art in the 35 years that I’ve been collecting,' billionaire collector Eli Broad told The New York Times in August. 'We’re bound to have a correction.' Large-scale investors will start to worry about the illiquidity of their art holdings, and abruptly lose their taste for art. The Damien Hirsts and Brice Mardens are safe, but the emerging battalion of artists on the thin margin of commercial viability is imperiled, and so is the fragile infrastructure that supports them.

"In a fairly typical scenario, the gallery an artist has worked diligently to cultivate, having been powered by the bull art market, doesn’t make the rent when it turns bearish. The artist is left without representation. He or she may lose artwork kept 'in storage.' Furthermore, as Edward Winkleman has chronicled in his well-regarded art blog, check kiting becomes de rigueur in times of financial distress, and even formerly fair galleries may resort to withholding payment for work previously sold. Widespread gallery closings also mean fewer exhibition opportunities for younger artists. The abundant part-time jobs—often at the galleries themselves—that kept them solvent dry up." Read more in The Brooklyn Rail.

October 7, 2007

Karl Benjamin's hard edge abstraction

"Karl Benjamin: Dance the Line," Louis Stern Fine Arts, West Hollywood, CA. Through Dec. 22.

"Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury," Curated by Elizabeth Armstrong. Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA. Through Jan. 6. Traveling to Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA; Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA; Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX.

“I am an intuitive painter, despite the ordered appearance of my paintings, and am fascinated by the infinite range of expression inherent in color relationships.” says 81-year-old geometric abstractionist Karl Banjamin. Benjamin stopped painting several years ago for physical reasons, but has recently seen a renewed interest in his work. Jori Finkel reports in the NYTimes: "Mr. Benjamin’s devotion to geometric abstraction has never wavered. Not even when abstract painting has come under fire for lacking political relevance.....Now that his work is getting more play at Louis Stern Fine Arts, Mr. Benjamin is taking it in stride. 'As an abstract painter, you’re always flying in the face of your country’s values,' he said. 'All of a sudden Louis is selling a lot, but I’ve never made a lot of money. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about getting the colors right.'" Read More.

Ten of Benjamin's paintings are also featured in "Birth of the Cool' at OCMA. Hugh Hart of the LA Times speaks with curator Elizabeth Armstrong. "'Benjamin really wasn't on my radar,' Armstrong says. 'But when I'd see these paintings by him, they looked like what artists today are painting. I was struck by how fresh they are, yet for the most part, these painters aren't even footnotes in art history books. I was also struck by the formal parallels between this very pure kind of painting and the Modernist architecture going on at the same time. The show is a way to do justice to these painters by seeing what else was going on at that time and exploring the context for their work.'" Read More.

At the Claremont Museum of Art, curator Steve Comba organized "A Conversation With Color: Karl Benjamin Paintings, 1953-1995" that was installed last summer. In the LA Times, Christopher Knight fills in some of the details about Benjamin's place in history. "Benjamin was one of four artists in the landmark 1959 exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that coined the term 'hard-edge painting,' now in common usage for geometric abstraction that relies on color as a primary subject. (The others were John McLaughlin, Lorser Feitelson and Frederick Hammersley.) Color is the engine of perceptual experience and visual knowledge, and it's the platform on which the radical Light and Space art of the 1960s was built....The painting is supremely sophisticated. When Benjamin began to develop this direction nearly 20 years before, Abstract Expressionism ruled the roost and art was driven by a narrowly restrictive idea of linear progress. But neither autobiography nor the outward expression of an interior psychology — both hallmarks of Abstract Expressionism — has any place in his work. That absence made Benjamin's work appear provincial. But now that the Modernist ideal has collapsed, it's the utopianism of its program that has come to seem quaint, not Benjamin's worldly art. He's a little master of hard-edge painting." Read More.

October 6, 2007

Blockbuster artists van Gogh, Renoir, Monet on view in Philadelphia, NYC and Columbus

"Painted With Words: Vincent van Gogh’s Letters to Émile Bernard," Morgan Library & Museum, New York, NY. through Jan. 6. To complement the letters, more than twenty paintings, drawings, and watercolors by van Gogh and Bernard are on view. These works document their exchange of ideas—among them are paintings and drawings discussed and sketched by van Gogh in his letters to Bernard. Holland Cotter in The NYTimes reports: "Paris, with its buzzy, rivalrous art scene, was hard on van Gogh. At once stimulating and brutalizing, it fired his ambition but left his body and spirits in ruins. When he decided to leave, it was partly from exhaustion, but also from wounded idealism. Shouldn’t a community of artists be based on collaboration rather that competition? Yes, it should, and he would establish such a community elsewhere with the help of like-minded colleagues, Bernard being one, Paul Gauguin another. He would be the pioneer, paving the way for the others. So he headed south alone, keeping in touch with Bernard by mail." If he were alive today, I bet van Gogh would be a dedicated art blogger. Read more. See slide show of images.

"Renoir Landscapes: 1865-1883," Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA. Through Jan. 6. The museum calls the paintings remarkable for their freshness and immediacy, and presents these paintings as evidence that nature was a deep source of inspiration for Renoir, who is better known for his figure painting. Roberta Smith reports in the NYTimes: "Pierre-Auguste Renoir may be the last numbingly famous Impressionist painter whose achievements can still be fought over. There are, of course, his sensitive portraits of adults and children; enthralling images of men and women relaxing in the sun-dappled parks of Paris; lush still lifes; sparkling landscapes; and his demure yet voluptuous nudes. But what about his saccharine images of buxom young women and apple-cheeked mothers with children? Or the acres of late nudes whose ponderous staginess looks back to Rubens and forward to Botero? The aspersion 'kitsch' has been cast their way." Read more.

"In Monet's Garden: The Lure of Giverny," organized by Joe Houston, Dominique H. Vasseur and M. Melissa Wolfe in partnership with the Musee Marmottan Monet, Paris. Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus OH. Through Jan. 20. At Musee Marmottan Monet, Paris, Feb. 12- May 11. The exhibition features a dozen paintings by Monet, and 44 works by American Impressionists and contemporary American artists, some of whom participated in the Giverny residency sponsored by the Lila Acheson Wallace Foundation and the Art Production Fund. In The Columbus Dispatch, Bill Mayr reports: "Monet planted flowers and dug a pond for waterlilies. Other artists, mostly Americans, soon arrived to paint in Giverny....Monet was irked by the influx of artists." Read more.

Painted word and reductive abstraction in Philadelphia

"Anthony Campuzano: Note on Door," Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, Philadelphia, PA. Through Oct. 27. "Kevin Finklea: I know what I want and I'm certain I can't have it," Pentimenti Gallery, Philadelphia, PA. Through Oct. 27.

Edith Newhall reports in the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Campuzano's paintings convey a sense of potential menace lurking in their background, and each is different from the other and vaguely reminiscent of the works of such painters as Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, Clyfford Still, and Piet Mondrian - enough so you wonder if Campuzano's project is actually about the viability of painting in the 21st century, and whether he has tweaked the 'dead man' of the original note into a reference to famously groundbreaking artists, dead and alive....At Pentimenti Gallery, the partly translucent paintings on acrylic panels in the gallery's Project Room, from Finklea's 'Empty Pages' and 'White Room' series, are the most obviously transcendent works here, however, seemingly hovering on the walls and achieving precisely what Finklea describes as their inspiration - trips on a high-speed train over the Chesapeake Bay, and the sensation of floating they induced." Read more.

October 5, 2007

Close scrutiny

"Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration," organized by Blaffer Gallery, the Art Museum of the University of Houston. Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR. Through Jan. 26. The show is on an eleven-stop tour. The final stop will be at Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine. February-April 2008. "Chuck Close: Recent Prints," Augen Gallery, Portland, OR. Through Oct. 25.

To kick off the mini Close-fest taking place in Portland this season, Close chatted with The Oregonian's D.K. Row about the prints, the process, and what it means to be Close. "I've stuck with the head. I'm surprised that I still find it engaging and that it has urgency to me after all these years. It's because I love recycling, and I also love recycling an idea or image through other mediums. That's more interesting to me than making an entirely new something. Secondly, I care more about heads of people than rocks, bottles or fruit. I'm glad that Morandi (the Italian still-life painter) exists. Phil Glass (the composer and friend of Close's) said that he was to me what haystacks were to Monet -- subject matter upon which to make variations. Monet made haystacks in all of those different colors." Read more.

And don't miss Close's snarky interview with Shira Levine in New York Magazine. "I don't work with inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs. I just get to work."Read more.