January 31, 2008

James Lavadour's geology

"James Lavadour: The Properties of Paint," curated by Rebecca J. Dobkins. Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Willamette University, Salem, OR. Through March 30. Traveling to the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute in Pendleton and Ashland's Schneider Museum of Art at Southern Oregon University. See images of his work at the Grover Thurston Gallery website.

"I use two elemental structures, a landscape and an architectural abstraction (a vortex and a grid). There’s the flow of landscape and then the intersection of the architectural structure, which is just like being in a room looking out a window, with floors, angles, walls, doors, ceilings, pathways. A painting is a complex event with many things going on at multiple levels. Close, far, color, layers, scrapes, and drips all swirled around by memories. I keep it all organized with structure. Structure is the bed to the river. " —James Lavadour

The Hallie Ford Museum presents James Lavadour's paintings from the past eight years. In The Oregonian, D.K. Row reports that the difference between Lavadour's pre-and post-2000 work could best be summed up as the difference between drama and melodrama. "The artist's early paintings were about his emotional responses to the land, and they appropriately produced deeply emotional effects in viewers. The newer, post-2000 works aspire to a more complex dialogue with Lavadour's readings of jazz, Abstract Expressionism, Asian philosophy and art, and more. But Lavadour's increasingly worldly dialogue would be a more direct, rigorous one if he relied less on multiple-paneled paintings, which seem dangerously close to looking like a strategy. Sure, some paintings are the equivalent of short stories; others are closer to novels. But there's greater courage in the single painting that dares the artist to put all that he has into one space. " Read more.

Read Eva Lake's 2005 interview with Lavadour.

January 30, 2008

Symbolic terrain in Cleveland

"Curious Terrain," curated by Tim Knapp. Art Gallery at Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH. Through March 8. Artist include Robert Robbins, Randall Tiedman, JenMarie.

According to Knapp's curatorial statement, when most people hear the word landscape an image likely comes to mind, and that image is often of something outside of them. A place, a photograph, a drawing, or a painting - something previously observed or a representation of a place observed by another. In this exhibition, the three artists presented explore landscape imagery's power to convey complex emotional truths.

In the Cleveland Free Times, Douglas Max Utter writes that visual art wouldn't be possible if the human eye only saw what was there. "Everywhere it looks it perceives the reverberations of earlier encounters; collating, comparing, identifying, much as the ear works with the brain to imagine the shape and texture of sound, or with the sense of smell to associate a taste with an aroma. It's hard not to see images even in random natural configurations, and painting always presents something other than mere surface and substance - if not an image then a question, an absence, an ideal. The three artists at Curious Terrain, on view at CSU's Art Gallery, generate shadowy landscapes composed largely of echoes and mood, based on a moonlit, muted palette. Having that much in common, each goes on to claim quite different territory. Easily the most gripping of the three is long-time exhibiting Cleveland artist Randall Tiedman, known during most of his three-decade career as a painter of human presence and the psychological power latent in physical movement. Those paintings and drawings, while reminiscent of the expressive range and manner of artists like Francis Bacon and Nathan Oliveira, follow an intricate logic of substance and accident to make creative statements of their own." Read more.

January 29, 2008

Masterpieces found in deceased curator's home

Martin Hodgson reports in The Guardian that a former curator's house in Oxford held an unknown collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings and books worth millions. "Two Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces found in the kitchen and above the electric fireplace of an unassuming terrace house in Oxford have been uncovered and are to be put on public display. When retired curator Jean Preston died in 2006, experts called in to value her estate discovered a treasure trove of paintings and valuable books worth millions of pounds. Two paintings by the Renaissance master Fra Angelico were identified as 'lost' panels from a Florentine altarpiece, and subsequently sold at auction for almost £2m.... Preston, who died in 2006, was a curator of manuscripts at the Huntington library in California, and at Princeton University Library. An expert on medieval texts, she lived an unassuming life, travelling everywhere by bus or on foot, buying her clothes from a catalogue and eating frozen meals, not realising she had a fortune hanging on the walls of her home." Read more.

Related posts:
John Everett Millais at the Tate Britain
Bancroft Pre-Raphaelite collection returns to Delaware

January 27, 2008

Brouhaha in Baltimore when local conceptual artist swipes painter's visual tropes

"Christine Bailey: New Work," curated by Jordan Faye Block. Corporate lobby at 100 East Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD.

Christine Bailey's new work is painted in the style of one of Baltimore's well-known painters, Cara Ober, who often blogs about the city's scene. Bailey claims it's a conceptual project about branding and originality, while angry Ober says it's not fair. In the Washington Post, Blake Gopnik, friend of Bailey, explains that the single most important thing about Bailey's new work is that it looks as though it might be new work by Cara Ober; Kriston Capps points out in the Washington City Paper that the exhibition's original documentation failed to mention this conceptual spin.

Annoyingly, Gopnik takes the opportunity to ridicule Ober's work while defending Bailey. "Bailey's paintings capture all of Ober's telltale tricks and tics. Nostalgic imagery is pulled from older sources. Bird books, old encyclopedias, decorative wallpapers? Check. Tender, pastel colors -- soft washes of pale yellows, blues and pinks -- with brooding splashes of black on top? Check. Scraps of dictionary definitions, presented in old-timey fonts? Check. An overriding sense of capital-P Poetry, without ever making clear quite what that poetry's about? Check.

"However much the paintings might look like Ober's, Bailey isn't using that look to the same ends that Ober, or an Ober forger, would. Imitation may often be the sincerest form of flattery, but in this case it's hard to imagine that a cerebral artist such as Bailey would like Ober's work enough to want to truly claim it as her own. Bailey's previous projects have included grabbing photographic faces off the Web, then paying craftsmen in China to do them up as oil portraits. Currently, at Baltimore's School 33 Art Center, Bailey has 'curated' a show of three imaginary artists, of her own creation, one of whom exists only in the cyberworld of Second Life while another is based on Anna, Ikea's automated online assistant." Read more.

Apparently unsympathetic to appropriation (Mark Kostabi, Richard Prince,Sherry Levine, and the rest) Ober was outraged that someone had stolen her style, and she threatened to sue. You can read Bailey's defense posted on Ober's blog. "From what I’ve heard, people want to know why I chose Cara Ober’s work as my point of departure for this project. First of all, it was somewhat of an arbitrary decision; I could have worked in the style of any number of artists. Cara is someone I don’t know, so I had no personal connection and could be dispassionate about the work. Additionally, she and her paintings have a strong presence within the local art scene- analogous to a sort of 'brand' identity. Finally, it was important to me that I appropriated from someone whose work was already based in appropriation. I really had no personal agenda to do any harm to Cara."

Kriston Capps points out how Bailey's claim that she was exploring brand identity may be disingenuous, since the artist's statement neglected to mention Ober, her work, or any reference to appropriation. "The original text that hung with the show made no reference to Ober’s work. In fact, it’s arguable that Bailey obscured the fact....Bailey didn’t mention Ober at all—not even in a roundabout fashion—until Ober threatened legal action. (Block has since posted a 'clarification,' a revised statement in which Bailey writes that she 'used the work of Ms. Ober, among others, as a point of reference' in pieces that adopted the notion of 'designer replicas.') " Read more.

January 26, 2008

Barkley L. Hendricks retrospective at the Nasher Museum

"Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool," curated by Trevor Schoonmaker. Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC. February 7-July 13. The exhibition will travel to the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Santa Monica Museum, Los Angeles, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston.

Born in 1945 in Philadelphia, Hendricks's work resides at the intersection of American realism and post-modernism, a space somewhere between portraitists Chuck Close and Alex Katz and pioneering black conceptualists David Hammons and Adrian Piper. He is best known for his stunning, life-sized portraits of people of color from the urban northeast. This is his first career retrospective.

In the NY Times, Benjamin Genocchio describes his visit to Hendricks's New London, CT, studio. "Dressed in black jeans and a buttoned vest on a brisk December day, the artist pottered about his studio, which occupies just about every room of a two-story house in this quiet blue-collar town. One of this state’s most gifted but least-known artists, Mr. Hendricks, who also plays trumpet and saxophone in a local band, has been photographing women’s shoes lately. 'I can’t help it,' he said, almost apologetically. 'Pairs of shoes appeared in one of my paintings in 1975, and it just opened the door to something. Now I photograph them, include them in my paintings and have even begun to collect them through donations and purchases from yard sales and thrift stores.'

"Funky and hip are terms often used to describe Mr. Hendricks’s painting style, which mixes pop art, photorealism and black nationalism. He mostly paints full-figure portraits of people, often of color, from the Northeast. At least this is the sort of artwork he is known for. He pays particular attention to a subject’s attitude and style. “How people dress is how they want to be seen by the world,” he said. Shoes are a part of that. Critics and curators have come to regard Mr. Hendricks’s portraits as some of the most distinctive in recent art. 'He has always done his own thing and avoided easy categorization,' said Trevor Schoonmaker, curator of contemporary art at the Nasher and organizer of the exhibition." Read more.

More about "Some Paintings"

"Some Paintings: 2007 LA Weekly Annual Biennial," curated by Doug Harvey. Track 16 Gallery, Santa Monica, CA. Through Feb.16.

In the LA Times, Christopher Knight reports that the only thing missing from the exhibition is an exclamation mark at the title's end. "A whopping 81 paintings by 80 artists, most made recently; here is a show that wants to make a point. And it does, with wit, verve and considerable taste. If the taste is not always mine, or yours -- well, that seems to be part of the point. The absurdly large numbers of artists and works lampoon the similarly absurd yet now nearly 40-year-old pseudo-argument over whether the practice of painting is alive or dead....Still, for a show that means to mock the dilapidated idea of painting's demise, which lingers among autocratic types in dusty corners of the academy, the absurdist attitude is more than apt." Read more.

Related posts:
Love letter to painting in LA
LA painters work like there's no tomorrow, er, I mean yesterday

January 25, 2008

Saltz: Old is gold

In New York, Jerry Saltz writes that the art market bubble has enabled long-overlooked but hard-working artists to move a little closer to the limelight. "One of the good things about the supposedly evil art boom—setting aside for the moment the notion that it may be destabilizing right now— is that underknown mid-career artists are getting second chances at recognition. In November, Mary Heilmann, who is 67 and whose work has always been respected but never A-listed, scored the covers of Artforum and Art in America simultaneously. Today, she’s the subject of a traveling retrospective, selling paintings for upwards of $200,000. Amy Sillman, 52, made the cover of Artforum last February, and her prices have reached $85,000. After decades of neglect, Marilyn Minter, now 59, not only ended up in the last Whitney Biennial; her work was featured on the cover of that show’s catalogue, and her paintings now sell for more than $130,000. Recent seasons have seen the reemergence of Robert Bechtle, Olivier Mosset, and Michael Smith, all of whom, along with Heilmann, will be in this spring’s Whitney Biennial."

Saltz continues with a review of Joyce Pensato's show at Friedrich Petzel. "In her gnarly Petzel show, Pensato gives us a rogues’ gallery of raving, debased, pop-eyed beings—a pale fright-mask Homer Simpson, a psychotic-looking Felix the Cat, a slaphappy Daisy Duck, South Park’s Stan Marsh looking like a Warlock out of H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine. A few of Pensato’s new works are as voracious and haunting as anything she’s ever made. In fact, I would’ve liked to see representative samples of the rest of her art: Because all the works are paintings of around the same size, depict similar subjects, and display consistent surfaces and palette, the show gets repetitious. Pensato is an extraordinarily versatile artist who also makes amazingly physical wall drawings and lush works on paper, and, had she included a few of these wonderful monstrosities, she might not need another show after this one to prove her point." Read more.

Related posts:
Mary Heilmann retrospective: injecting vernacular juice into abstract art
Amy Sillman's "Suitors & Strangers" in Houston

Diebenkorn arrives in New York

"Diebenkorn in New Mexico," curated by Charles Strong and Charles M. Lovell; organized by the Harwood Museum in Taos, New Mexico. Grey Art Gallery, New York, NY. Through April 5. Click here to see images.

Save those paintings from grad school. Between January 1950 and June 1952, Richard Diebenkorn was enrolled in the graduate fine arts department at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, and these are some of the paintings he made while he was there. Supported by the G.I. Bill, Diebenkorn was able to paint twelve hours a day without racking up the towering mountain of debt that many of today's MFA students have to repay. In the NYTimes, Roberta Smith calls it "a radiant hodgepodge of a show, full of striving, stumbling and sudden effortless glides. Diebenkorn would later go on to make grander, more complex paintings, both figurative and abstract, than the ones here. But too many of these later works are tamped down by his studious reserve and exquisite touch; they balance on the cusp of vitality without really getting their feet wet. In many ways his painting was never freer, less predictable or more full of the future than in New Mexico." Read more.

When the show was at the San Jose Museum of Art, Kenneth Baker wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle that "a muted sense of mischief ripples through Diebenkorn's Albuquerque work, a quality hard to detect in even the most buoyant of his later abstract paintings. For me, that is the mark of this phase of his art. It even informs the rare, praying-mantis-like welded steel sculpture on view, possibly Diebenkorn's only extant sculpture. But the mischief shows most clearly in the drawings, which frequently flirt with the look of unsprung or unfinished cartoons." Read more.

Related posts:
Harwood Museum presents Diebenkorn's work from grad school
At SELLOUT, artists wonder how important an MFA degree is today: Tuesday Survey MFA

January 24, 2008

The Thrust is abstraction

"Freeze Frame," curated by Elizabeth Cooper. Thrust Projects, New York, NY. Through February 17. Artists include Lisa Hamilton, Jasmine Justice, Joyce Kim, Alisa Margolis, Carrie Moyer, Veronica, Tyson-Strait, Wendy White.

According to the curator's statement, "Freeze Frame" explores a moment in abstraction at which there is no dominating style or agreed upon direction in painting, though cues are taken from a range of art historical stylistic tendencies, from process and minimalism to gestural, lyrical and pictorial abstraction. In the NY Sun, art critic Stephen Maine reports that the show isn't an earth-shattering interpretation of abstraction, but it's a compact, live-wire presentation nonetheless. "Freeze Frame gathers one canvas apiece by eight painters who have developed a distinct approach to abstraction. The exhibition is curated by gallery regular Elizabeth Cooper. Contrary to the slightly hyperbolic press release, the work doesn't really 'break through the boundaries of abstraction' so much as find an idiosyncratic place of its own within abstraction's extraordinarily diverse landscape. The best works in the show are tough, a bit nasty, and happen also to be the five largest." Read more.

January 23, 2008

Big fat art books for sale

Bankrupt NY gallery Salander-O'Reilly is selling it's 35,000 volume library of art books. At Bloomberg, Philip Boroff reports that the collection includes volumes about individual artists, art history surveys and catalogs from past shows held at Salander-O'Reilly and at auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's International. A sampling of what's going on the block: ``Italian Paintings of the 15th Century,'' published by the National Gallery of Art (which is available for $86.03 from Amazon.com); ``Leonardo da Vinci: The Complete Paintings and Drawings,'' by Frank Zollner ($269 from Amazon); and the six-volume ``Drawings of Rembrandt,'' edited by Otto Benesch ($937 from Amazon). Read more.

Mauve-elous

In Cabinet Magazine this month, Shelly Jackson sorts out the color mauve. " What is mauve? That pale violet that makes certain flowers seem to fluoresce at dusk, or the sullen, sullied rose of Victorian lampshades and mourning dresses? A cooler magenta, a gooier violet? Mauve, the color of ish, is defined most clearly by hedging negatives: not quite pink, not quite purple. It's less a hue in its own right than a diminution or intensification of some other hue; it has about it, simultaneously, an air of petulant retreat and overweening assertion. 'Pink trying to be purple,' sniffs Whistler. Or the visited link, its vitality depleted. Mauve is a 'feminine' color, but not a yielding one. It is adult, imperious. But its strength is ambivalent. Though pugnacious, it is not candid. Like Victorian fashions, it stresses femininity while repressing the frankly female." Read more.

From Russia in London

"From Russia: French and Russian Master Paintings 1870-1925 from Moscow and St. Petersburg," Royal Academy of Arts, London. Through April 18. See images of the show.

Because André-Marc Delocque-Fourcaud and Pierre Konowaloff, heirs of two of the most assiduous Russian tsarist-era collectors whose art was confiscated by Lenin in 1918, claimed to be the rightful owners of paintings in this show, the opening was held up for months, but "From Russia" is finally on view. In the Guardian, Adrian Searle says it's one damn masterpiece after another. "Great, ghastly, revolutionary and hilarious - what a strange ride 'From Russia' is. Opening on Saturday, this long-awaited, on-and-off affair, resolved only by a last-minute change in English law, has finally arrived at London's Royal Academy. To be honest, I never altogether cared whether this exhibition came here or not. The imploring, the pleas and the goings-on about how much it mattered seemed to me a bit forced, as well as slightly absurd." Read more.

At Bloomberg, Martin Gayford agrees that the show is a blockbuster, but quirky. "There is a wall of magnificent Cezannes, another of superb Gauguins, a third -- even higher on the wow register -- of Matisses. These are by no means the whole show. As a whole, it is a more uneven experience, full of abrupt surges and drops in quality not unlike the graph of the world's stock markets over the past few days. There are quite a few duds on view as well as some kitsch -- and not all the dross is by Russian artists. This show consists of late 19th- and early 20th-century paintings from both Paris and Russia. So what it deals with is the game of catch-up that Russian artists and collectors were playing with advanced French culture in the years leading up to the 1917 October Revolution." Read more.

Related posts:
Jonathan Jones: A political ploy that's a cultural disaster

David Hockney update

Time's critic/blogger Richard Lacayo chats with David Hockney about his living situation, designing theater sets, landscape painting, the big British press and more.

"Lacayo: When I saw you two years ago you thought you might be involved with landscape painting for just a year, a single cycle of four seasons. But obviously you've stayed with it.
Hockney: I think you can open up landscape painting. Most people would regard it as finished. I don't think it is. When we realized we could open up landscape painting on a large scale with the help of a computer, I got very excited." Read more.

Lacayo includes a link to the Royal Academy of Arts online magazine. Last summer Hockney talked to Martin Gayford about "Bigger Trees Near Warter," which was touted as the biggest landscape ever made outdoors. "The painting is massive. It is made of 50 small canvases, adding up to an area measuring 40-foot wide by 15-foot high. The subject is what you might call the ordinary English countryside: a small copse of trees, with another in the background, and one large sycamore in front, spreading its network of branches above your head. To the right is a house, to the left a road curves away. In the foreground, a few daffodils bloom. The work is the solution to a problem that perplexed and defeated many of the great painters of the nineteenth century: how do you paint a mighty canvas outside, en plein air? To make the work, Hockney has employed the most up-to-date digital technology, in addition to the most old-fashioned – the human hand, arm and eye." Read more.

January 21, 2008

Art and letters

The following is an excerpt from Denis Johnson's novel The Name of the World (New York: HarperCollins, 2000), pp. 12-13, in which the main character, Michael Reed, describes a drawing that he visits every day in the local art museum.

"This picture was an anonymous work that almost anybody on earth could have made, but as it happened, a Georgia slave had produced it. The works owners, the Stone family of Camden County, had found the work in the attic of the family's old mansion. It was drawn with ink on a large white linen bed sheet and consisted of a tiny single perfect square at the center of the canvas, surrounded by concentric freehand outlines. A draftsman using the right tools would have made thousands of concentric squares with the outlines just four or five millimeters apart. But, as I've said, the drawing, except for the central square, had been accomplished freehand: Each unintended imperfection in an outline had been scrupulously reproduced in the next, and since each square was larger, each imperfection grew larger too, until at the outermost edges the shapes were no longer squares, but vast chaotic wanderings.

"To my way of thinking, this secret project of the nameless slave, whether man or woman we'll never know, implicated all of us. There it was, all mapped out: the way of our greatness. Though simple and obvious as an act of art, the drawing portrayed the silly, helpless tendency of fundamental things to get way off course and turn into nonsense, illustrated the church's grotesque pearling around its traditional heart, explained the pernicious extrapolating rules and observances of governments—implicated all of us in a gradual apostasy from every perfect thing we find or make.

"Implicated. This wasn't my reaction only. I talked with lots of people who'd seen this work, and they all felt the same, but in various ways, if that makes sense. They felt uneasy around it, challenged, disturbed. I suppose that's what made it art, rather than drawing."

Oly curates show at Bibro

"Winter Salon: Gallery & Invited Artists," curated by Denise Bibro, Almitra Stanley, and Olympia Lambert. Denise Bibro Fine Art, New York, NY. Through Feb.2.

Blogger Olympia Lambert helped curate this all-media group show that includes figurative, realist, abstract, and conceptual work. According to Oly, the show wasn't intentionally organized around a specific theme, but trepidation, danger, and loss suffuse the selections. Artists include Sarah K. Bean, Christa Blatchford, Nora Chavooshian, Sara Crisp, Lisa Dinhofer, Ric Dragon, Sydney Drum, Ruth Epstein, Camilla Fallon, Iona Fromboluti, Daniel Giese, Josephine Haden, Rob Hann, Gerry Hayes, Diana Hobson, John Hrehov, Carol Jacobsen, Joyce Korotkin, Damon Lehrer, Myung-Ock Lim, Charles Olson, Linda Lippa, Shane McAdams, Aija Meisters, Michael Paul Miller, Nancy Nicholson, Christopher Reiger, Tim Ross, Al Sprague, Dennis Tremalio, Martha Walker.

Oly also recommends Robert Appleton's sailor paintings at Paul Sharpe Contemporary in Chelsea. "Appleton possesses an almost cartoonish-style in his brushstrokes, giving his subjects these huge eyes, smeared lipstick, with hauntingly lit backgrounds. It's almost as if Karen Kilimnik has met Toulouse Lautrec and they're tossing a few back while at port with Carol Channing and Napoleon."

January 19, 2008

Leonard Ruder's basement paintings

"Leonard Ruder: Evidence of a Life's Work," guest curated by Silas Cook. Art Gym at Marylhurst University, Marylhurst, OR. Through Feb. 13.

90-year-old painter Leonard Ruder reminds me of my father, also something of a reclusive artist, who used to hole up in his basement studio and paint. After Ruder graduated from the Cranbrook Academy in 1950, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston included his work in a national traveling exhibition. Ruder moved to Portland in 1950, and the Portland Art Museum presented his art alongside works by Louis Bunce and Carl Morris in several Oregon Annuals in the 1950s. Over the ensuing decades, Bunce and Morris gained public renown, while Ruder worked quietly in the studio and supported his family as a Portland Public Schools custodian. He regularly sold work through the museum's Rental Sales Gallery, but rarely exhibited elsewhere. His daughter brought his paintings to Silas Cook's attention, who says Ruder is "among the best artists ever to pick up a brush in Portland."

In The Oregonian, D.K. Row visits Ruder in his studio where Ruder talks about his life as an artist. "Wearing black slippers, a heavy sweater and a plaid wool coat against January's chill, Ruder stepped down his basement stairs last week with the cautious gait of a man in his 10th decade. His hair and the stubbly whiskers on his chin are white, but he still cuts a handsome figure, lanky and elegant. A shelf on the basement's far wall holds a photo of the artist around 1950, when he finished up at Detroit's Cranbrook Academy of Art. In the picture, he sports a tweed blazer, dark hair slicked back in the style of the day and the serious expression of a man immersed in his work. He doesn't look up --doesn't turn his attention to the camera lens or anyone who might be watching. All these years later, Ruder seems to feel the same way about his art, a lifelong pursuit that he mostly kept private. 'I love to paint,' he said, 'but it's still something very personal.' So personal he's reluctant to share details about his motivations or artistic evolution. But his family and friends indicate that Ruder needs painting the way people need air. It engages his mind, fills his heart and keeps him breathing." Read more.

Striking nude models in Rome

Richard Owen and Ben Hoyle report in the Times that the nude models are striking for better pay and improved working conditions. "Doing nothing for a living is not as easy as it looks. That was the militant message from Italy yesterday where artists’ nude models climbed back into their clothes and went on strike for better pay and conditions. The protesters — male and female — said that they wanted 'professional recognition' and full-time contracts. Only 50 of about 300 models at Italian art schools are on fixed annual contracts, with the rest hired by the hour. Antonella Migliorini, 42, said that it was 'a tough, cold job' posing in the nude, often for eight hours a day. 'We are not porn stars,' she said. 'If you’re lucky enough to have a full-time job you might make ¤25 an hour.'" Read more.

January 18, 2008

Painting in Seattle: Darren Waterson, The Prom

"Darren Waterson: Last Days," Greg Kucera, Seattle, WA. Through February 9.
"The Prom: A Semi-formal Survey of Semi," curated by Alex Ohge. Lawrimore Project,, Seattle, WA. Through February 23. Artists include Tomory Dodge (LA), Ingrid Calame (LA), Eric Sall (NY), Gordon Terry (NY), Nicholas Nyland (Seattle), Yoon Lee (SF), Tiffany Calvert (NY), Robert Hardgrave (Seattle), Joseph Park (Seattle).

In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Regina Hackett reports that painting dominates front-runner galleries in Seattle this month. "At Lawrimore Project, curator Scott Lawrimore has never been shy in expressing his reservations about the medium, until now. Helping him to see the colored light on canvas, panel and clear plastic is Alex Ohge, who curated 'The Prom' with an eye to the vagaries of current practice." Greg Kucera, presents Darren Waterson's paintings. "If there's a more imitated painter in America than Darren Waterston, I can't imagine who it would be. Waterston's silky rot and colored goo are gorgeous. They imply a world in which the air has evolved to carry a weightless and more sophisticated kind of consciousness." Read more.

January 17, 2008

Introducing my electronic mob

Although off the subject of painting, I must comment on Lee Siegel's new book Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob (Spiegel & Grau, $22.95), which seems like it might be a good (if annoying) read for bloggers. Lee Siegel argues that our ever-deepening immersion in life online doesn’t just reshape the ordinary rhythms of our days; it also reshapes our minds and culture, in ways with which we haven’t yet reckoned. In Time Out New York book reviewer Sarah Goodyear outlines Siegel's argument. "Siegel suggests that our unexamined dependence on the Web is commodifying and degrading nearly every aspect of human experience, glorifying page views over creativity and click-throughs over serious inquiry. Not only that: He contends that it is destroying our social fabric. 'It empowers solitude,' Siegel says. 'It makes it easier to be alone.' He writes that 'the laptopization of the coffeehouse…has dispelled…the concrete, undeniable, immutable fact of our being in the world.'"

On the other hand, one could argue that solitary artists, who spend countless hours alone in the studio, use the web to create a rich social fabric where little previously existed. Which brings me to the point of this rambling, off-subject post: Check out the first draft of Two Coats of Paint's new blogroll/reading list over to the right. All the bloggers listed, who have contributed untold hours to provide compelling arts commentary that supplements and enriches the dwindling arts coverage in the more traditional media, are the online colleagues who keep me company while I'm painting.

Alan Saret at The Drawing Center

"Alan Saret: Gang Drawings," The Drawing Center, New York, NY. Through Feb. 7.

Alan Saret was part of the Soho alternative art scene in the late 1960s and 70s, and one of the pioneers of process art and post-minimal art. The Drawing Center presents the artist’s “gang drawings,” made from fistfuls of colored pencils swept across the page, spanning from the 1960s to the present. In the NYSun, David Cohen reports that Saret's use of clustered pencils manages at once to deny the expressive agency of the hand and to generate suggestive chance effects. "The result is a curious fusion of severity and opulence. These drawings have a rigor and clarity that recalls the process art of the 1970s, yet formally harks back to the lyrical innocence of Abstract Expressionism, as do their mystical inclinations. The feathery strokes and singing colors of 'Prana Spectrum Trace'(1989) might bring Joan Mitchell to some people's minds. The general sense of disembodied gesture that animates many of these at once graceful and awkward drawings relates directly to Jackson Pollock, with little acknowledgement of minimalist denial." Read more.

Read more about the show at Catherine Spaeth's art blog, Catherine's Art Tours. Spaeth writes about Saret's shift from sculpture to drawing, and the influence his
studies at the Ramana Maharshi Ashram in southern India had on his artmaking practice.

Parlato and Saccoccio: retooling gestural abstraction

"Jackie Saccoccio: Interrupted Grid," Eleven Rivington, New York, NY. Through Feb. 9.
"Carolanna Parlato: Nature Games," Elizabeth Harris Gallery, New York, NY. Through Feb. 2.

In the NYSun, Stephen Maine reports that art is work, but these painters seem to have a good time doing it. "
Now on view, two exuberant solo shows by accomplished, mid-career New York painters convey the pleasure they take in their very different approaches to materials and application. Jackie Saccoccio and Carolanna Parlato have been on their game long enough to know that the kind of statement they're looking to make arises not from the pursuit of novelty but from a focused and personal engagement with postwar abstraction, a kind of call-and-response with pictorial precedent. Both retool gestural abstraction — 'painterly painting' — with hard-won self-assurance. That the still-expanding contemporary art market makes a place at the table for such an (until recently) unhip idiom inspires optimism." Read more.


In the Gay City News, Stephen Mueller writes that Saccoccio's extensive knowledge of
the history of Western painting and its mechanics in the modernist movement informs her work. "Saccoccio proceeds to disrupt the picture plane either by continually contradicting space or by defining it. Her work calls to mind painters from Italian mannerist masters to Joan Mitchell to contemporaries like Louise Fishman, but with a fresher palette with less depictive chroma. Saccoccio's color can be difficult. Compositionally she uses what Hans Hoffman refers to as 'push and pull,' an approach that ties abstract painting to Renaissance spatial conceits. It's fun to watch Saccoccio's work dance around the modernist canon, which denies spatial concerns to abstract painting." Read more.

January 16, 2008

PaintersNYC returns with Karen Kilimnik

After a six week respite, a new painter has been forced to walk the plank at the unsparing art-crit blog PaintersNYC. Karen Kilimnik, whose paintings are on view at 303 Gallery, NYC, through February 23, is this week's chum. According to the press release for the show, her paintings and photographs reflect her concern with the natural world and her expansion of historical landscape painting. Kilimnik's minimally executed ocean, sky, and mountain paintings refer to moments in time and/or places. Check out the comments at PNYC where the sharks are circling already.

In the NYTimes review of the show, Karen Rosenberg writes that Ms. Kilimnik’s keen color sense makes these works as haunting as they are precious. "This is especially true of the mountain paintings and the circular canvases in the first gallery, among them 'Night Above the Woods' (2001), a deep eggplant, and 'the venusian atmosphere' (2001), a chalky violet. The only miss here is a set of three photographs of 'tropical' cloud formations, taken en route from New York City to Ms. Kilimnik’s home in Philadelphia. These allude to the greenhouse effect, and are both too bland and too solemn for an artist with her head in the stratosphere." Read more.

Kilimnik's first major museum survey is on view through February 3rd at the Aspen Art Museum in Colorado. Warning: AAM's site, although attractive, has an annoying Flash interface.

Related posts:
PaintersNYC creates forum for snarky debate
Karen Kilimnik's Philadelphia salon

National Portrait Gallery hangs Steve Colbert

According to USA Today, comedian Stephen Colbert convinced one of the nation's premier museums to hang his portrait -- in the hallway next to a bathroom. His efforts to get the painting hung in one of the Smithsonian's galleries have made for some much-needed laughs since The Colbert Report returned this month without its striking writers. Now comes word that the National Portrait Gallery agreed to display the 'digital image on canvas' in Washington, D.C. Read more.

For a later-breaking, more comprehensive version from the NYTimes news blog, click here.

January 15, 2008

Alberto Burri: surgeon turned artist after WWII

"Alberto Burri," Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, NY. Through January 19.

Alberto Burri (1915 – 1995) was born in Città di Castello, Italy. He earned a medical degree in 1940, before serving as a surgeon during World War II in North Africa where he was captured in 1943 by Allied troops and sent to the United States, to a prisoner-of-war camp in Hereford, Texas. Burri began to paint during his internment using empty burlap and mail sacks for canvases, and continued to use mail sacks throughout his career. Following his release in 1945, Burri returned to Italy, settled in Rome, and dedicated his self full-time to painting. In 1947, he had his first solo exhibition at Galleria La Margherita in Rome. From that point on, Burri’s work was exhibited throughout the U.S. and Europe in numerous group and solo exhibitions, at venues that include the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, both in New York; the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Burri was awarded Third Prize at the 1958 Carnegie International (Pittsburgh), the UNESCO Prize at the 1959 Sao Paulo Biennale and granted a solo exhibition at the 30th Venice Biennale in 1960. More recently, Burri’s work was prominently featured in Germano Celant’s Italian Metamorphosis exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in 1994, a year before Burri died in Nice, France.

This exhibition covers almost five decades and highlights Burri's experiments with unorthodox materials such as burlap, sack cloth, pumice, tar, plastic, Cellotex , ceramic and glue, and processes such as burning, cutting, collage and other manipulations of materials. In Time Out New York, Anne Doran reports that Burri's work was indeed influential. "Along with those of Lucio Fontana and Piero Manzoni, these works foreshadowed the arte povera movement of the late 1960s, as well as the assemblage art of Bruce Conner. But while Fontana and Manzoni reveled in the anarchic joys of scatology and spectacle, the elegance of Burri’s work marked him as a formalist. Nevertheless, the power of his early period remains undiminished, resonating not only with Beat and Process art, but also with the work of women artists such as Eva Hesse, Ana Mendieta and Sophie Ristelhueber, which likewise conjures a phantasmagorical body by conflating inanimate material with living flesh." Read more.

In the NYTimes, Ken Johnson reports that some works in the show are still repugnantly raw. "Small pieces in which he melted sheets of transparent plastic attached to white panels can queasily evoke burned skin. But what is more impressive is the sensuous appeal of most works. The red plastic film wrapped around a small panel in 'Rosso Plastica L.A.' (1966) may have been blowtorched, but the violence is outweighed by visual and tactile voluptuousness." Read more.

In The NY Sun, David Cohen suggests that Burri's art "exalted in a kind of existential urgency — brutal textures and robust techniques were at the service of immediacy and realness." Read more.

At Current Art Pics' post # 71, Burri's use of materials is contexualized. "
Earlier use of novel materials focussed on recycling and surprising juxtaposition, particularly of printed matter: striking three-dimensional elements (as in the work of Kurt Schwitters (1887-1949), for example). But by mid-century the kind of materials adopted emphasize the imposition of two-dimensional reference upon them. They provide an unconventional base or support that draws attention to the effort or resistance to ascribed pattern, picture or notation. This aspect of painting is often called materiality, the particular phase considered is here termed Traction." Read more.

Brick Banksy on eBay

BBC News reports that online bidding for a wall painted on by graffiti artist Banksy has closed with a final bid of £208,100. However, neither auction site eBay nor seller Luti Fagbenle has confirmed if the bid has been accepted. The painting is on a wall on the side of a media production firm's base in Portobello Road in west London. Mr Fagbenle owns the company. There were a total of 69 bids for the painting.The final bid does not include the cost of removal and repair of the wall, estimated to be about £5,000. Read more.

January 14, 2008

How Pattern and Decoration broadened the artworld's horizon

Pattern and Decoration: An Ideal Vision in American Art, 1975-1985,” curated by Anne Swartz. Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY. Through Jan. 20. Check out Librado Romero's NYTimes slide show.

Holland Cotter takes a ride to Yonkers and reports that P&D was the last real art movement of the 20th century. "We don’t do art movements anymore. We do brand names (Neo-Geo); we do promotional drives ('Painting is back!'); we do industry trends (art fairs, M.F.A students at Chelsea galleries, etc.). But now the market is too large, its mechanism too corporate, its dependence on instant stars and products too strong to support the kind of collective thinking and sustained application of thought that have defined movements as such....They all asked the same basic question: When faced with a big, blank, obstructing Minimalist wall, too tall, wide and firmly in place to get over or around, what do you do? And they answered: You paint it in bright patterns, or hang pretty pictures on it, or drape it with spangled light-catching fabrics. The wall may eventually collapse under the accumulated decorative weight. But at least it will look great. And where do you find your patterns and pictures and fabrics? In places where Modernism had rarely looked before: in quilts and wallpapers and printed fabrics; in Art Deco glassware and Victorian valentines. You might take the search far afield, as most of these artists did. They looked at Roman and Byzantine mosaics in Italy, Islamic tiles in Spain and North Africa. They went to Turkey for flower-covered embroideries, to Iran and India for carpets and miniatures, and to Manhattan’s Lower East Side for knockoffs of these. Then they took everything back to their studios and made a new art from it." Read more.

In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Regina Hackett disagrees. Strongly. "To reply to Cotter in kind, all knowing about the past, present and future, I'd say that P&D was weak then, weak now and will be weak when the sun winks out. The best argument for contemporary decoration was made not by painters but by glass artists, led by Dale Chihuly. Lots of savvy types don't buy the glass version, either. As Charles Mudede likes to say, 'Check yourself before you wreck yourself.' Wise words. Criticism would be easy if art would stand still and allow us wrap it in our declaratives." Read more.

Related posts:
Pattern and Decoration revisted in Yonkers

More Pattern & Decoration in Hartford

Remember Miami?

This weekend was the first art walk of the new year in Wynwood. See Elvis Ramirez's slide show from the New Miami Times. "Anyone passing by would have thought that the art on display was nothing but cartoons. The subject matter of the paintings, however, was far from your Saturday morning cartoon shows. One painting by O’Connell, for example, featured the return of Jesus and everyone running in fear juxtaposed with a drawing of a cute rabbit." Read more.

Related posts:
Painting Miami green

Art Bloggers @

January 13, 2008

Morris Louis investigation

"Morris Louis," Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NY. Through Jan. 19.

Widely recognized as an influential American post war painter, Morris Louis became an inspirational figure for other artists in the Color Field movement in the 1960s. From 1954 to 1962, Louis produced hundreds of canvases that represented a new direction in painting. He worked in his tiny DC dining room on wall-sized pieces of folded, unstretched canvas, endlessly pouring paint. When he died of lung cancer at 49 years old, his house was full of work, stored in rolls, that had never been shown. In the NYTimes review of the Kasmin show, Roberta Smith writes that Morris Louis’s stained paintings can look as if they were made "about a minute ago." When I saw Louis' retrospective at the Hirshhorn last month, I had the opposite reaction.

The unprimed, yellowed canvas and fading colors placed the paintings definitively in the past, back in the day when painters earnestly investigated their medium's endless possibilities. Smith concludes that Louis "painted himself into a corner and didn’t live long enough to work his way out. But in that corner he reached a modernist pinnacle in terms of freshness and immediacy, with his breathtakingly economical conversion of gesture, liquid color and canvas into abstract painting. Louis had a wonderful sense of scale that made his efforts imposing yet not overwhelming. This is because his loose poured forms have no weight and because you see the whole composition — and grasp how it was made — pretty much instantaneously." I had never been a fan of Color Field painting, but considering the scope of Louis's endeavor as revealed in the Hirshhorn retrospective, dismissing the paintings as decorative was misguided. (Note: his paintings were mostly untitled. After Louis died, his wife Marcella Louis Brenner assigned the titles for reference purposes.)

Related posts:
Joanne Mattera Art Blog visits the Morris show at Kasmin
Last chance to see "Colorfield Remix" in DC
Morris Louis unveiled

January 12, 2008

Toenges, Tollens and the love of paint

"Michael Toenges and Peter Tollens," Patricia Sweetow Gallery, San Francisco, CA. Through Feb 23.

German painters Michael Toenges and Peter Tollens, in thrall to the hedonistic, fleshy qualities of paint itself, explore different positions from the big, pluralistic manifesto of abstraction. In the San Francisco Chronicle, Kenneth Baker reports that the love of painting may come down to a love of paint itself - for viewers as well as practitioners. "The very different works of German artists Michael Toenges and Peter Tollens at Sweetow invite us to test this proposition. Many of Toenges' recent paintings, like those he has shown here before, investigate overload, while Tollens' hover close to the zero degree of the art. Toenges heaps his paintings on wood, even those that are only a foot square, with so much succulent pigment that, viewed frontally, they look like billows of paint levitating by sheer surplus of aesthetic richness.... In contrast, Tollens' work goes to extremes of asperity. He offers a few pieces treated in so spare and deadpan a manner as to make us wonder whether he picked them off the studio floor. Rather than work on panels or canvas, he applies paint to bits of scrap wood. They tend to be small, almost pocket-size, but vary considerably in dimensions and shape." Read more.

January 11, 2008

Love letter to painting in LA

"Some Paintings: 2007 LA Weekly Annual Biennial," curated by Doug Harvey. Track 16 Gallery, Santa Monica, CA. Through Feb.16. Artists include Lisa Adams, David Amico, Michael Arata, Josh Aster, Hilary Baker, Lynne Berman, Sandow Birk, William Brice, Heather Brown, Kristin Calabrese, Steve Canaday, Carol Caroompas, Karen Carson, Scott Cassidy, Mike Chang, Brian Cooper, Daniel Cummings, Walpa D’mark, Linda Day, Georganne Deen, Adrian de la Peña, Tomory Dodge, Mark Dutcher, Brad Eberhard, Tim Ebner, Nancy Evans, Amir Fallah, Llyn Foulkes , Charles Garabedian, Alexandra Grant, James Hayward , Todd Hebert, Roger Herman, Gustavo Herrera, David Hockney, Dennis Hollingsworth, Steve Hurd, Charles Irvin, Raffi Kalendarian, Charles Karubian, John Kilduff , Tom Knechtel, John Koller, David Korty, Annie Lapin, Jasmine Little, Spencer Lewis, Nick Lowe, Monica Majoli, Constance Mallinson,Daniel Mendel Black, Sam Messer, Robin Mitchell, Dianna Molzan, Rebecca Morris, Ed Moses, Michael Olodort, Kaz Oshiro, Chris Pate, Lari Pittman, M.A. Peers, Carter Potter, Monique Prieto, Victoria Reynolds, Steve Roden, Allison Schulnik, Brad Spence, Tyler Stallings, Linda Stark, Laurie Steelink, Don Suggs, Marie Thiebeault, Dani Tull, Esther Pearl Watson, Patty Wickman, Robert Williams, Tom Wudl.

This huge show features over 70 painters at all different stages of their careers. In the LA Weekly, art critic Doug Harvey explains his choices. "
Painters in the contemporary art world, particularly those from L.A., have to maintain a chameleonesque indeterminacy about their artistic intentions — be all things to all people — or face ghettoization. Is this an abstract painting? Or a painting of a painting of an abstract painting, wink wink? It’s the emperor’s new clothes all over. The ultimate irony is that the emperor is actually decked out in an Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat — the plausible deniability cultivated by painters for the social sphere creates a temporary autonomous zone in the studio wherein a thousand flowers have blossomed. No one can pin them down, so they can get away with anything. The psycho art-market bubble hasn’t hurt production either." Read more. In case you haven't been there, Track 16 Gallery, on the west side of Los Angeles, is an 11,000 foot space filled with art and lots of Americana. The highlights of the gallery's decor, um, I mean collection, are a 1936 45' long diner, vintage neon signs, 23 foot art deco bar, a patio, and a stage with a full set of stage lights.

Related posts:
LA painters work like there's no tomorrow, er, I mean yesterday

It's so high school

"The Second Annual Williams School Student Exhibition," Golden Street Gallery, New London, CT. Through January 25. "Whalers & Lancers," Hygienic Art, Inc., New London, CT . Through January 19.

CT Art Scene reports. "Downtown New London was awash in teenagers last night as both the Golden Street Gallery and Hygienic Art presented artwork by local high school students....Remarkably, in an age when students face enrichment cutbacks and the time-sucking tyranny of organized sports, over a hundred students hung their work, which bodes well for the art community in New London." Read more.

January 10, 2008

Ken Kelly's impulsively painted grids

"Ken Kelly: Future Perfect," Howard House, Seattle, WA. Through Feb. 23. Ken Kelly's paintings are red, black and white oil and enamel on canvas, and have a slick, shiny surface which belies the heartbreaking nature of the unevenly hand-rendered squares and dashes. If you stopped by the Aqua Hotel during the fairs in Miami, you may have seen three small ones intimately tucked into the far corner of the Howard House installation. According to the press release, Kelly's new work is instigated by impulses instead of relying on premeditated forms. "I have the freedom to do and un-do at a moment's notice,"Kelly says. Reworking his paintings and allowing the compositions to evolve result in little marks which are just as much a part of a pattern as they are a brushstroke. As the patterns shift in scale and orientation across the canvas, Kelly references relationships beyond geometry. The grids interact with one another in a way that resonates with cityscapes, crowds of people, or pixilation -- the kinds of objects that become organized when viewed from a distance or magnified into simple, basic shapes.

Related posts:
Cameron Martin's neonoir experience

Joanne Mattera surveys geometric abstraction in Chelsea

Fathoming the depths of Schnabelia

"Julian Schnabel: Navigation Drawings," Sperone Westwater, New York, NY. Through Feb. 16.

In the catalog for the show, Sounding in Fathoms: Julian Schnabel’s Recent Navigation Drawings, David Moos writes that "Schnabel’s work is rooted in exploring and trying to define the difference between epiphany and the commonplace. In his recent series of drawings on nautical maps this tension is articulated in direct terms. Often a single gesture or cluster of painterly forms depicts the painter’s presence, a compressed or distilled essence…Through his treatment each map becomes a backdrop for events – pictorial events that he acts out, inviting narrative."

On artnet, snarky Charlie Finch didn't find the work so deep. "To own a work by Schnabel is not really owning a work of art. It is more like having a souvenir from the circus. The ringmaster himself was giving a tour of the drawings, as the usual crowd of hangers-on littered the room: Harvey Keitel, Dick Cavett, Charlie Rose. Pointing at the blobs of flesh and yellow paint with which he defaced a map of Hawaii, Schnabel announced to the crowd that he had been inspired by a sunset....He has a beautiful building, a gorgeous family, a fine new movie and a chorus line of celebrity admirers. We should be happy to take home an old map smeared with fingerpaint, at whatever the cost. Pass the popcorn." Read more.

Don't miss the James Kalm video of the Schnabel opening, which features Schnabel signing autographs, and a stop-and-chat with Charlie Finch and his wife, art dealer Marion Callis.

Related posts:
Rave reviews for Schnabel's new film in which a paralysed man dictates a memoir with his eyeball

January 9, 2008

Varnishing truth in LA

"Imitation of Life," Kinkead Contemporary, Culver City, CA. January 12- February 9.

"Imitation of Life" presents the work inspired and influenced by cinema. More specifically, their work deals with cinema of the past, which examines both the history of film and a context within which to observe the present. The title of the exhibition is taken from the famous novel written by Fannie Hurst, which was itself subsequently adapted to film in both 1934 and 1959. The phrase suggests an enigma (if not a paradox) – what and where is reality, or life? Artists include Dawn Clements, Angela Dufresne, Susan Silton and Mark Stockton. As soon as the gallery gets images on their website, I'll add a link.

Copeland, Logan, Huey at Allston Skirt

"Strangefolks," Allston Skirt Gallery, Boston, MA. Through Feb. 16. ASG presents a three-person show of big paintings by John Copeland, Logan Grider and Elizabeth Huey. Each bring a peculiar, multi-faceted vision of a complex world to life in their art – a world that has perhaps gone over the deep-end, physically, psychologically, and technologically. They all depict recognizable objects from our everyday inner and outer lives, but set into dynamic, often dysfunctional, fragmented and chaotic new relationships to each other. “The paintings have separate subjects but nearly all hinge on an organized mess, which is about to collapse," writes Logan about his work. "Much in line with my beliefs about the potential trappings and downfalls due to the rapid growth of technology on the communications front,the paintings usually present this collapse of machinery as inevitable.”

In The Phoenix, Greg Cook writes that "Strangefolks" reverberates with the abject anxiety of our current political climate. "We’ve had a pretty crappy millennium so far: September 11, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (the latter hits its fifth anniversary in March), torture carried out in our name, a steady thumping of terrorist attacks abroad, Hurricane Katrina, global warming, and lately the mortgage crisis and threats of a looming economic recession. All this gloom and doom has burrowed down deep into our common dreams, mutated, and burbled back up in art as disconcerting symbols and off-kilter apocalyptic allegories." Read more.

Joanne Tod's portraits of Canadian soldiers killed in combat

Natalie Armstrong reports at Reuters UK that "Joanne Tod is sickened every time she hears about the death of another Canadian soldier in Afghanistan, even though she plans to paint the portrait of each and every one. It's a work, she says, that will remain unfinished until either the war is over or Canada pulls out its troops." Read more.

January 8, 2008

In Plessen's world

"Magnus Plessen," Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York, NY. Through Jan. 12. “I have asked myself where the image is, is it in front of me or is it within me? When I’m working, I imagine building up the image from behind, stepping into the inside of the picture, turning around and painting the brushstroke from the underside…I was both inside and outside.” Background info: Born in 1967 in Hamburg, Germany. He's had solo exhibitions at the Neues Kunstmuseum in Luzern, K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf, P.S. 1 in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Art Institute of Chicago. His work was also included in the fiftieth Venice Biennale in 2003.

In ArtForum, here's the interesting opening paragraph to Emily Verla Bovino's positive review: "'I consider many amateur photographs better than the best Cézanne,' Gerhard Richter infamously asserted in 1966, prompting critics to once again revisit the question first asked with the advent of photography, Is painting still possible? For many, it is precisely this persistent doubt in painting that permits the medium’s survival in contemporary art practice. Painting’s profound self-reflexivity situates it at the most developed phase of Kierkegaardian despair, a despair that is both consciousness of having a self and consciousness of having a fractured rapport with that self. Ironically, it is this despair that brings painting closest to the synthesis of finitude and infinitude that Kierkegaard calls 'faith.'" Read more.

Abstraction and the Holocaust

"Abstraction and the Holocaust," by Mark Godfrey. Yale University Press, 2007.

Mark Godfrey examines how American abstract artists reacted to the Holocaust. Reviewed by Ross Wilson in Frieze Magazine. "If Godfrey’s book is a history, it is an importantly revisionist one, extending and modifying the understanding of ‘abstraction’ with which it works. Historical argument and reinterpretation are backed up here by many hours of research. Godfrey tracks down esoteric sources for artists’ work, is skilled at imagining his way into the often dully pragmatic process of the commissioning of art works and usefully deploys interviews with, for example, Peter Eisenman, the architect behind the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe , which opened to the public in 2005 in Berlin. This wealth of information is not simply amassed; it is scrupulously attended to. In particular, the main strengths of this book are Godfrey’s powers of attention and, in places, of imagination or even speculation. Not only does he carefully deploy the historical, institutional and biographical context of the works that he considers, but he is also an accomplished commentator on the works themselves." Read more.

In BookForum, Katy Siegel reviews. "The chapters on the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Eisenman memorial—subjects outside the usual modernist canon—are the strongest. Here Godfrey seems to feel the freest, embracing many voices and more social history and developing a full, conflicted picture of the issues at stake. His accounts are gripping, seamlessly combining the debates and desires of the fractured Jewish and artistic communities with the complex phenomenologies of the museum and the memorial themselves." Read more.

January 7, 2008

Stress may lead to tasteless posts

Dan Fost reports in the NYTimes that maintaining a daily blog can be stressful.

For every abstract reference to migration, human beings are involved

"Migration: La Diaspora," curated by Jack Rasmussen. Mexican Cultural Institute, Washington, DC. Through Feb. 2.

Michael O'Sullivan reports in the Washington Post. "In a nutshell, it's that the issue of migration is not just political, but personal. For every map, for every fragment of a national flag, for every abstract reference to geography, there's a human being involved....In the end, what ties the art in 'Migration,' though, is a shared sensibility. It's one underscored by the recurrence of the figure, by the slight but significant edge of the personal over the political. 'Migration' is not about the places people come from, but the people who come from them. At once faceless and universal, they remind viewers that this nation has always been a haven for folks from someplace else." Read more.

Who is Burton Silverman?

Burton Silverman, arguably the top newsmaker in the painting world last week, was the artist commissioned to paint the portrait of W. Richard West Jr., the founding director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. The museum, whose spokesperson says they couldn't find a Native American with similar portraiture skills, paid Silverman over $48,000. According to Silverman, West had seen a portrait Silverman had done of former Smithsonian secretary Robert McCormick Adams and liked his style, but Adams' portrait, which was much smaller than West's cost only half as much. His paintings are included in numerous museum collections, including the Brooklyn Museum, Butler Institute of American Art, Delaware Art Museum, New Britain Museum The Philadelphia Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. In 2006, Brigham Young University hosted a retrospective of his work, which traveled to the Butler Institute of American Art and the Lyme Academy College of Fine Art. Silverman is represented by Gallery Henoch in New York. Check out the Washington Post's story, which has full details about the commission and a jpeg of the portrait.

"In my life’s work, I have tried to reunite form (color and composition) with content (realistic and narrative imagery) to arrive at some kind of synthesis of 20th century formalism with 20th century sensibilities," Silverman writes on his website. "I don't believe I am unique in this process. There has been, and continues to be, a flourishing of art that calls itself 'realist' but it is pluralistic and diverse in its picture making skills. But in placing renewed emphasis on content, on an emotional and intellectual requisite in image making, I, and fellow like-minded artists, hope that it can bridge the world of appearances and the world of insights and thus reconstitute the authenticity of the visual arts and rescue it from triviality; from 'sensation' alone." Silverman offers summer workshops in July and August at his country studio, about sixty miles north of the city, in the Hudson River Valley.

January 6, 2008

Writerartists in Cambridge

"The Writers' Brush, an Exhibition of Art by Writers," curated by Donald Friedman and Jon Wronski. Pierre Menard Gallery, Cambridge, MA. Through January 15.

The first leg of the show took place in New York in September and October at Anita Shapolsky Gallery, and this incarnation is an expanded version of that event. In The Brooklyn Rail, Valery Oisteanu reported that the show is an invaluable resource for those interested in the interconnection between literature and art. "Donald Friedman and John Wronski have masterly gathered art from private collections, some never shown before, by a pantheon of writers, including thirteen Nobel laureates. The beautiful landscapes that Hermann Hesse credited with saving his life have a nostalgic-biographical atmosphere; the manuscript sketches that Fyodor Dostoevsky made of his characters reveal the visual process of literary creation; and the can-can dancers secretly drawn by Joseph Conrad serve as art-cum-memorabilia objects. Ultimately, these works gave me new insights into the lives and minds of my favorite writers and their creative processes." See images of the artwork and the opening at Anita Shapolsky Gallery courtesy of RobertaontheArts.com.

Nina MacLaughlin reports in the Phoenix that the larger Cambridge incarnation of the exhibition offers visitors a chance to analyze the images — not the words — that were sketched, painted, inked, etched, and doodled by some 120 writers. "The works featured in the show aren’t, for the most part, notebook scribblings, but accomplished paintings and drawings — some consistent with the writers’ written work, some quite at odds."

The show is running in
conjunction with the publication of Donald Friedman's book by the same name.

January 5, 2008

Painter Michael Goldberg dies in his studio

Michael Goldberg , an 83-year-old Abstract Expressionist and husband of artist Lynn Umlauf, died in his Bowery studio on Sunday, apparently of a heart attack. Grace Glueck writes in the NYTimes that 'Mr. Goldberg was a painter of strong convictions who in his youth was influenced by the gestural Abstract Expressionist mode of older painters like Kline, Still and de Kooning, and never abandoned it. The improvisational nature of jazz, which he admired, was also important to his work. Stuck like some of his peers with the label 'second-generation Abstract Expressionist,' Mr. Goldberg shrugged it off. 'Labels come and go,' he told Saul Ostrow, the art critic and writer, who was a close friend, in a 2001 interview for the magazine Bomb. 'It makes no difference to what you’re trying to do.' He saw abstract painting, he told Mr. Ostrow, as 'still the primary visual challenge of our time. It might get harder and harder to make an abstract image that’s believable, but I think that just makes the challenge greater.'" Goldberg's last show was at Knoedler & Company in September 2007.

January 4, 2008

Homing-pigeon portraits set free

On January 15 at Bonhams' "Gentlemen's Library Sale," portrait paintings of pigeons go on the block. The winsome paintings, by French painter J Baldaus and British artist Edward Henry Windred, depict champion homing pigeons from World War II. In The Guardian, Mark Brown reports that a spokeswoman for Bonhams said the paintings were part of a number of lots which paid homage to the animal heroes of the second world war. According to Brown, "the birds were indeed elite; they were trained at a secret location in Kent, and dropped behind enemy lines during the second world war, facing the very real threat of being shot indiscriminately. Some posed as German operatives. The auction lots are oil paintings belonging to the man who put together the crack squad of birds, which were based at four secret lofts known as the XX lofts. Jack Lovell's series of paintings of champion pigeons recall the role pigeons played during the war." Check out handsome Lot 813. In 1890, this pigeon won first place in a race at Bordeaux and came 29th in a race at Dax. Then, in 1891 the bird came 4th in a race at Tours and 40th in a race at Bordeaux. He/she also won the Prix d'Excellence a l'exposition internationale de Mons et a l'exposition du National Flying Club.

Hugo Boss shortlist gives painters the brush

In the NYTimes, Carol Vogel reports that this year’s finalists for the Guggenheim's Hugo Boss Prize "include some of the hottest names around, and their work is heavily tipped toward conceptual and installation art. 'A number of painters were nominated,' said Joan Young, the associate curator of contemporary art at the Guggenheim. 'But this is where the jury felt the innovative developments were.'" The finalists are Christoph Buchel, Patty Chang, Sam Durant, Emily Jacir, Joachim Koester, and Roman Signer. Read more.

Related posts about awards given to painters:
The four Turner Prize-winning painters
Baltimore painter Jo Smail wins Trawick Prize
Marlene Dumas receives €55,000 Düsseldorf art prize
Painter Tony Shore awarded Baltimore's $25,000 Sondheim Prize

Literally and figuratively in Houston

"Jackie Gendel and Valerie Hegarty," CTRL Gallery, Houston, TX. Through Jan. 12.

Brooklynites Jackie Gendel and Valerie Hegarty have shipped their paintings off to Houston for a show at CTRL. Gendel, what I call a classic pentimenti-ist, paints and over-paints, obliterating layers of imagery in the process, while leaving some vestiges of the painting's earlier states. Hegarty, who's work is more conceptual, re-creates iconic American paintings by artists such as Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, Winslow Homer, Gilbert Stuart and Charles Wilson Peale, offering various scenarios for the physical deterioration of a work of art. In the Houston Press, Nick Keppler describes the paintings. "At the foreground of Houston-born, now New York-based artist Jackie Gendel’s work are simple faces or groups of stick figure-like people. 'The Stylist' features a simply drawn woman up front, with layer upon layer of oil paint in the background; it’s as if Gendel used the material itself to build up emotional or spiritual complexity....Valerie Hegarty, also a New Yorker, is less abstract but no less thought--provoking. Hegarty re-creates famous works of art and shows them literally destroyed. 'Homer Was Swept Away' shows a classical Greek painting with heavy water damage in a bent frame, as if it had been swept away in a flood, while 'George Washington Eroded' is a portrait of the first president, flaked, peeling and crumbling; it looks like the sort of thing archeologists from the year 3500 would extract from the ruins of what was the United States of America." Read more.

January 3, 2008

Larger-than-life drawing

"Big Drawing," Lori Bookstein Fine Art, New York, NY. Through Jan. 19.

This five-person group show features huge drawings by Sharon Horvath, Graham Nickson, Karlis Rekevics, Michael Volonakis and James Weingrod. Media include ink, acrylic, charcoal, and Plexiglas. In the NY Sun, Alix Finkelstein compares the drawings to Renaissance cartones. "Artists continue to expand the boundaries of traditional graphic expression, not just thematically, but also through a dramatic increase in scale. 'Big Drawing,' at Lori Bookstein Fine Art, features five artists who have produced monumental drawings in charcoal, pastel, and even Plexiglas. Karlis Rekevics's abstract charcoal on paper 'Opinion, Thought, Belief' occupies the entire back wall of the gallery, while Graham Nickson's richly textured 'Departure' measures over 13 feet in width and 6 feet in height. The evocative charcoal drawing of ocean bathers achieves the elegance of figural compositioning found in a Renaissance cartone."

John Morris knocks on wood

"John Morris: Paintings on Panel," D'Amelio Terras, New York, NY. Through Feb. 3.

Selected by ArtCal as a top pick last week, John Morris, who is known primarily for work on paper that features built up surfaces and repetitive forms reflecting his fascination with systems and patterns, has created a series of paintings on wood. Small and translucent universes made up of grids, dots and patterns reference patterns from nature, music notations, and economic systems. Originally from NYC, John has been in Pittsburgh for the past few years where he founded the Digging Pitt Gallery. A Pierogi flatfile alumnus, John's gallery developed a flatfile for Pittsburgh artists. Unfortunately, the gallery will be closing at the end of the month. Check out Heart as Arena, where Brent Burket visits Digging Pitt's last exhibition, The Blogger Show.

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The Blogger Show

January 1, 2008

Michael Fallon: Chronicling artistic failure

In his art blog The Chronicle of Artistic Failure, Michael Fallon studies how art is failing in this country. Part journalism, part concentrated research, part memoir—it’s a series of blog-postings and articles that tell the tale of his own failure as an artist and what this failure has meant to his life’s course. "It is also a record of my odyssey to understand the struggles of myriad failing and failed artists across the communities of this country," he writes, "as well as the failure of the entire structure that supports artists and arts viewing." Today he points to the exhibition High Times, Hard Times. "This traveling exhibition takes as its subject a generation of painters—many of whom who are relatively unknown—who continued painting in their native styles, mostly abstract, into old age even as those styles were deemed increasingly passé by the art establishment. A subtext of the dismissal of the old by the NEW in art is much of this, of course, is a power struggle. That is, the art establishment that determines fashions has long been ruled, generally, by rich white men who get ever richer by their machinations and manipulations. Not to be too paranoid and conspiracy-theorist about this, but there’s a reason why women and people of color are legion among those artists who fall through the cracks." Read more.

"High Times, Hard Times: New York Painting 1967-1975," curated by Katy Siegel, with advice from David Reed. Neue Galerie Graz, Graz, Austria. Traveling through August 2008.

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In the isolation hut