November 11, 2008

Shows I'd like to see: "Oranges and Sardines" at the Hammer

Curator Gary Garrels worked with six abstract painters—Mark Grotjahn, Wade Guyton, Mary Heilmann, Amy Sillman, Charline von Heyl, and Christopher Wool—to select one of their own recent paintings as well as works by other artists who have influenced their thinking. The artist's choices, which are presented in separate galleries, include work by Paul Klee, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Francis Bacon, David Hockney, Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston, Eva Hesse, Pablo Picasso, and Dieter Roth, and other less-well-known artists. Wide ranging but very specific, their choices are informed by their own work, their studio processes, their appraisals of art history, and the state of contemporary art. According to the press release, the title for the exhibition is borrowed from American poet Frank O’Hara’s poem "Why I Am Not a Painter," which reflects on the elusiveness of the creative process, often resulting in a finished work that bears no resemblance to its initial inspiration.

Over at As the Art World Turns, Christopher Kuhn reports that all the artists participated in the discussion held at the Hammer on Sunday. "
Topics veered from the state of abstract paintings (basically an all-encompassing, unanswerable question) to the role of the sublime in abstract paintings (if there is any). Conversation got a little heated around this last point, specifically between Von Heyl, who believed the sublime has something to do with contemporary abstract painting (what, I am not sure) and Amy Sillmann who more or less told her she was full of shit (but in a more polite way). I completely agree with Amy here, that the sublime is a crisis that occurs upon discovering a phenomenon that cannot be explained rationally. Now I have never been to a museum of gallery and found something on the wall that I was unable to explain how it possibly could exist. Typically, the answer is something along the lines of: it’s paint, or that’s a photograph. Sometimes art is tricky, sometimes things appear to be other than they are, but never in my experience have I found a work of art to be crisis inducing. Now, the word 'sublime' is also used vernacularly to mean 'awesome' or “great.' It’s fine to use the word in this way, but don’t then pretend that it has some deeper philosophical meaning, cause it doesn’t." Read more.

David Pagel in the LA Times:
"...fantastic: a six-show combo that puts art front and center by demonstrating how arguments can be made visually and that, better yet, lets artists flaunt their visual intelligence by giving them the space and the resources to be their own personal curators."

"Oranges and Sardines: Conversations on Abstract Painting," curated by Gary Garrels. Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA. Through Feb. 8. (Hopefully the museum will throw up more images on their attractive but, as of this post, image-poor website.) Artists include Mark Grotjahn, Wade Guyton, Mary Heilmann, Amy Sillman, Charline von Heyl, and Christopher Wool

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