March 24, 2008

Show of the week: James Siena At Pace Wildenstein

From the press release: James Siena’s new work, completed in 2006 and 2007, includes approximately 20 enamel paintings on aluminum or copper and 60 works on paper created with mixed media, including ink, graphite, gouache, color pencil, and Conté crayon on paper or board. This exhibition includes Siena’s signature abstract paintings but also debuts a new working method, as evidenced by the drawings on view. Known for densely patterned paintings, gouaches and drawings generated by the artist’s adherence to algorithmic systems, Siena has, in recent years, begun to vary the rigidity of those systems and the rigidity with which those systems are implemented. The result has been works which appear more chaotic and most recently, and surprisingly, a series of drawings where the twisting lines and forms transform into tortured faces of old men and women.

James Siena first experimented with images of the human figure in 1994. In these early works, he abstracted and flattened the body into one continuous line. Its compression into a single plane resulted in what reminds us of immense line drawings created in Ancient Mesoamerica. Thirteen years later, the figure reemerges in Siena’s work, this time in the form of abstract personages and “little old men” drawings. The Personages, which are similar to the earlier line contours, provide a bridge between the algorithmic and purely figurative works. Siena’s recurring motifs—the recursive comb, the non-slice and the like—and his experimental ways of working, continue to emerge and evolve through the familiar and not so familiar work exhibited in this show.

A catalogue with writings by artist Mark Greenwold and Mark Strand, a recipient of numerous literary awards including the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry (1998) and an American Poet Laureate (1990-91), and contributions by poet and curator Geoffrey Young and the artist himself will be available at the exhibition.

"James Siena," Pace Wildenstein, New York, NY. March 28— April 26

Related posts:
In conversation: James Siena with Chris Martin in The Brooklyn Rail, November 2005
"Let me tell you this story—Fred introduced me to Mike Ballou and Amy Sillman. Two bodhisattvas of the art world. Amy put together a show at Four Walls about painting, I showed a really oddball work that has never been shown since called “Meltdown.” It’s 48 by 40 inches; it’s just black and white. It’s the endless line painting; it’s very much like what I did when I was a kid. It’s incredibly stupid and I kind of scandalized the crowd by saying I was a stupid artist and artists were basically stupid. I was trying to make an anti-elitist remark. I didn’t know I was being provocative. I was trying to level us all—make us see that we’re all just cultural workers. We are no better than bus drivers; let’s just chill out… But there was an uproar! It was awful! I mean, people were furious with me. And I’d see them at openings, you know, and they’d say, 'You’re that guy who said that stupid thing about stupidity!'"

At Ed Winkleman's blog in 2005, Ed declares Siena "Artist of the Week"

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