February 29, 2008

On the waterfront: Diana Horowitz at Hirschl & Adler

Diana Horowitz's second solo exhibition at Hirschl & Adler features close to twenty new paintings, ranging in size from 8 x 10 inches to 22 x 34 inches. Horowitz is known for her open-air urban panoramas of Brooklyn and Manhattan, but she's also presenting some purely abstract paintings. In the NY Sun, Maureen Mullarkey reports that there's "strength in Ms. Horowitz's lucidity and ability to convey a great deal of information in a contained space, and with a minimum of brushwork. 'Yellow Smoke Stacks' (2006) is a jewel of a thing, less than 6 inches square. Yet the chromatic range, the interplay of suggested and depicted detail, lends the piece a sweep and a solidity that many painters do not achieve on larger canvases." Read more.

"Diana Horowitz: Recent Paintings," Hirschl & Adler, New York, NY. Through March 15.
Related posts:

On painting outside: Cindy Tower paints in St. Louis's abandoned factories
On size: Tuymans the new Mr. Big

Smokestack symbolism in Demuth's paintings at the Whitney

In the NYTimes, Ken Johnson writes that gay precisionist Charles Demuth might have felt marginalized by the mainly heterosexual art world. "If true, that interpretation casts the Lancaster paintings in another intriguing light. You could read the series as Demuth’s attempt to shuck off any stigma of effeminacy that might have accompanied his career as a watercolorist and flower specialist. Certainly the Lancaster paintings represent an ambition that his critics at the time would have favorably regarded as more virile. Having entertained that notion, you reconsider those unmistakably phallic water towers and smokestacks. What was Demuth thinking? Marcel Duchamp was his good friend; Freud’s ideas about the possible meanings of inanimate objects were in the air. Could Demuth have been unaware of the thrusting urgency in his pictures? I like to think he was having a bit of fun with the expectations of his day, that he said to himself: 'They want manly paintings. I’ll give them manly paintings!' What he couldn’t help doing was to make them beautiful." Read more.

Chimneys and Towers: Charles Demuth’s Late Paintings of Lancaster,” curated by Dr. Betsy Fahlman. Originally installed at the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, TX. Traveling to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY. Through April 27.
Related Posts:
Precisionist Charles Demuth's chimney and tower paintings in Fort Worth
Precisionist Elsie Driggs retrospective at Michener Museum

Tower news

Proto-Bohemian Gustave Courbet arrives at the Metropolitan

Courbet would be glad to know that everyone's still talking about him. In the NYTimes, Roberta Smith writes that Courbet only grudgingly accepted the title of Realist. "Even in front of his most realistic work, you often find yourself wrestling not so much with lived reality, as with the sheer — very real — uncanniness of painting itself. Observe the shifting veils of palette-knifed pigment in 'The Stream of the Puits-Noir,' from 1855, which almost turn abstract. And Courbet’s is a continually shape-shifting uncanniness that mixes not only genres and styles, but also sexes, proportions and spatial logics with a subtle visual irony that might as well be called postmodern as modern." Read more.

In Newsday, Ariella Budick finds the show deeply engaging and reports that Courbet may have been the first painter to realize how handily shock could be parlayed into triumph. "Well before Paris Hilton's antics, Lenny Bruce's profanity, Stravinsky's dissonant assaults and Oscar Wilde's silver-tongued eroticism, Courbet realized that succès-de-scandale was a terrific alternative to slogging through a reputable career. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's deeply engaging and utterly fascinating retrospective makes it clear that Courbet was a mercurial talent who could paint with grace, feeling, subtlety and eloquence - and just as often buried his gifts beneath muddy coats of pigment. Especially early on, in the 1840s and '50s, when he deployed deliberate awkwardness to steal the attention he flamboyantly craved. " Read more.

In the Star-Ledger, Dan Bischoff says that Courbet was the first artist in history to define himself in his press clippings, deliberately courting scandal to advertise his art. "More than 130 paintings and drawings by the radical artist have been brought across the pond to the Met, where they are joined by dozens of contemporary photographs, mostly images of the serial self-portraitist himself, along with more than a score of female nudes, some of them the 19th century version of pornography....Peculiar as the subjects often are, they can be, once you get to know them, as densely packed with meaning as any contemporary Conceptual art work. In fact, their very strangeness arises from the painter's determination to make his work more interesting to talk about than it is to see." Read more.

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

February 28, 2008

The backstory: Poons and Taylor

In the NYSun, Stephen Maine writes that the absence of an artistic vanguard makes everything old new again. "Among the wildly disparate features of today's art-world landscape, two modes of pictorial thought with venerable lineages have recently re-emerged: materials-oriented abstract painting, and a linear approach to the investigation of the third dimension that may conveniently be referred to as 'drawing in space.' Shedding light on the respective histories of these trends are the current and altogether absorbing exhibitions of encrusted, cascading paint events by Larry Poons, from the 1970s, and playful tinkerings with line, both flat and not, from the second half of the 1980s by Al Taylor.

"Mr. Poons's 1970s work is both hip to history and thrillingly go-for-broke. The artist took advantage of the fast-drying property of acrylic paint to pile it on and let it flow. He would line his studio walls with a roll of cotton duck, prop it out from the wall a bit with a few boards, climb a ladder, and start pouring. After the paint dried and the dust settled, the artist cropped and stretched sections. This brilliant, deceptively simple approach was in tune with (primarily sculptural) materials-based Process Art, simultaneously mindful and skeptical of the autographic mark of Abstract Expressionism.....The Al Taylor show adds another chapter to the unfolding backstory of 'drawing in space.' Taylor, who died far too young in 1999, insisted that his objects be seen not as sculpture but as logical extensions of his work on paper. Twenty examples of those are on view, including two resounding 'Wire Instrument' drawings (both 1990) in ink wash and crayon, as well as 'Untitled (Pet Stain Removal Device)' (1989/1991), which serves as proxy for Taylor's perpetual fascination with puddles and pools — a found, involuntary form of drawing educed from the vagaries of the household." Read more.

"Al Taylor," Gagosian Gallery, New York, NY. Through March 2.
"Larry Poons: Throw, Pour, Drip, Spill & Splash," Jacobson Howard, New York, NY. Closed this week.
Related posts: NYTimes Art in Review: Martin, Bradford, Poons
Larry Poons exuberance
Saltz: Old is gold

Anyone can have a dog

In the Palm Beach Daily News, "'The world of dogs is a very small one,' said author William Secord at the outset of his discussion with moderator Parker Ladd at Friday's Brazilian Court author breakfast. As the head of the American Kennel Club's Dog Museum of America in Manhattan during the early 1980s, Secord realized that very little was known about canine portraiture, which became his specialty and prompted him to open a Manhattan gallery devoted to this highly specialized area of art history soon after the museum relocated to St. Louis.'One thing I learned was that you cannot write about dog paintings unless you know dogs,' said Secord, the author of Dog Painting 1840-1940. Secord has researched hundreds of breeds to become an expert in the field. Interest in dog paintings has grown during the past 20 years, said Secord, noting that horse paintings were popular during the late 1970s. The author-dealer cited the fact that 'anyone can have a dog,' as the explanation for dog paintings' increased value — and 'most people don't have horses.'" Read more.

The Berkenblit girl

At artnet, Adrian Dannatt reports on Ellen Berkenblit's recently closed show at Anton Kern. "Her recent exhibition at Anton Kern Gallery consisted of 11 large canvases depicting in consistent black-and-white the profile of a woman who is clearly not a physical ideal, most obviously due to a snub nose so protrusive and dominant it shocks. This same woman occupies each painting and her expression remains constant. Along with big round button eyes and a dark circular bouche is that outrageously upturned nose, something like a baby’s pacifier or a jigsaw puzzle promontory, or perhaps some sort of phallic plug.

"An artist’s mature style often has a curious affinity with the art that was being produced during her childhood, and so it would be with Berkenblit and hand-painted Pop. The pleasingly artful artlessness, the casual traces of the brush, the throwaway evidence of each stage of the painting, smudges and charcoal outlines, the spontaneous accidents of gravity and grace, they are all there....Though the oil paint is laid flat and thin, it has many tonal variations and subtleties. Berkenblit’s seemingly simple blackness has patches of gloss which catch the light. It holds subtler shades of gray and even, when you look harder, traces of bruised yellow, pinkish purple, a white-tinted blue. Like the scumbled tonal range hidden in Ryman’s whites, or the smeared variants of gray deployed by Berkenblit’s longtime friend Christopher Wool, these paintings graduate their apparent naiveté to a sophisticated casualness. In their kooky sprezzatura and use of restricted tones, too, these works could be paired with the impressive black-and-white paintings of Carroll Dunham.

"This girl figure might have come straight from Bruno Bettelheim and his Uses of Enchantment, a fictional embodiment of sexuality among our apparent innocence, a figural focus for us to follow throughout this bravura demonstration of painting for its own sake, an abstraction of attraction and its necessary opposite." Read more.

"Ellen Berkenblit," Anton Kern Gallery, New York, NY. Closed this week.

February 27, 2008

Cindy Tower paints in St. Louis's abandoned factories

Malcolm Gay reports in the Riverfront Times that ex-New York sculptor/installation artist Cindy Tower is painting in St. Louis. "For the past two and a half years, Tower, a petite woman with shoulder-length auburn hair, a surfeit of fierce opinions and a mannequin fashioned from old sofa cushions to look like a bodyguard, has ventured into abandoned local factories to continue crafting her 'Workplace Series,' a nostalgic paean to the nation's vanished industrial past. The series of oil paintings, a nearly decade-long project whose tremendous canvases capture both the cathedral-like scale of the abandoned factories and the echo of the human industry they once hosted, is the subject of a solo show that opens Friday, February 29, at the Crisp Museum in Cape Girardeau.

"'It's kind of like life is more interesting than art. Life already is art. This already is a perfect sculpture. You have little pointillist bits of broken glass, and beautiful little trees reclaiming it through the windows. It's gorgeous,' says Tower, moving nimbly through the Armour plant's wreckage. 'But I don't want to just run in and take a photo like a snuff film. I want to live it, experience it, breathe it, be part of it, so I can deserve to talk about it, because I'm sick of glibness. It's easy to be facile. It's harder to just be. That's kind of my thing.'

"Tower first made a name for herself as a promising young artist in late 1980s and 1990s New York. Her willfully anarchic work — hanging more than 500 pairs of rock-filled pantyhose from a gallery's walls, disassembling her old truck and turning it into a pirate ship, replete with an engine for anchor, sails made of painted canvases and a front end-cum-treasure chest — blurred the lines between painting, performance and installation....In 2000 Tower began her 'Workplace Series' in the Brooklyn's rotting shipyards, then relocated it to St. Louis, where she has been a visiting assistant professor of art at Washington University since 2005. It hasn't been easy, and she says her decision to simply paint has been questioned by many in the art world.

"'They say: Maybe you could project slides on your paintings, or maybe you could put some LEDs on your paintings. They were trying to make me hipper,' Tower explains. 'They were embarrassed that I was going out and just painting like an old fogy from the 1800s. They didn't think it was funny at all — but it's perversely funny in this age of technology with its special effects and trust-fund babies hiring fabricators to make their work.'" Read more.

"Cindy Tower: Workplace Series," Rosemary Berkel and Harry L. Crisp II Southeast Missouri Regional Museum, on the River Campus of Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau, MO. February 29-April 27.

Tower news

A new observation tower is in the works. Five designs (after clicking, scroll down for images)by British architecture firms have been shortlisted in the competition to build the Mersey Observatory, an £11m viewing point and gallery space for the beach. The designs - which range from a dramatic, pier-like structure to a tower shaped like a lava lamp - are on display around Liverpool until Friday. Follow resident's comments about their favorite designs at the online forum, merseyobservatory.com, before the winner is announced on March 17. (via The Guardian)

DetroitArts sets up shop in Berlin

Former Detroit art blogger Ann Gordon, recently relocated to Berlin, reports that her new blog, BerlinArts, will take a look into the Berlin arts scene. The main focus is on visual/fine arts.'"Berlin is a city of youth and culture where just about everyone you run into is an artist, musican, dancer, designer or writer. It shares similarities to the city I come from, Detroit (high unemployment, missing buildings, graffiti, an underdog trying to beat its reputation) but mixed with a metropolitan coolness like NY, but without the snootiness. Over the next month or so I will be covering the scene as I see it...and look forward to the new adventure." So far, it looks like Berlin is a painting town.

February 26, 2008

New National Gallery Director Penny nixes blockbuster shows

Nicholas Penny, the new director of London's National Gallery, said yesterday that the 184-year-old institution had a duty to display art with which the public is unfamiliar rather than yet another parade of a famous artist’s greatest hits. speaks with Penny about the forthcoming exhibition of the Italian Divisionists. "Dr Penny, who took up his post last week, said that 20 years ago people expected exhibitions to introduce them to new art. Too many blockbusters today show people images that they already know. 'The responsibility of a major gallery is to show people something they haven’t seen before,'Penny said. 'A major national institution should be one that proves a constant attraction to the public. What is important is encouraging historical and visual curiosity in the general public.'" Read more. The Italian Divisionists were featured in New York at the Metropolitan Museum last year. 40 paintings, including work by Giovanni Segantini, Angelo Morbelli, Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, and Emilio Longoni were presented.

Boston flooded with Cuban water metaphors

In the Boston Globe, Cate McQuaid reports that "Surrounded by Water" is too small to cover such a broad theme successfully. "These works of art are often striking; they were made by a range of artists, from established to emerging. But it's a smallish exhibit, with work by about 15 artists. Natania Remba makes a sturdy effort, but the giant topic of water as a metaphor in Cuban art could go much deeper. 'Surrounded by Water' just skims the surface." Artists include Belkis Ayón, Luis Cruz Azaceta, José Bedia, Iván Capote, Yoan Capote, Los Carpinteros, Patricia Clark, José Manuel Fors, Rocío García, Carlos Garaicoa, Kcho (Alexis Leyva Machado), Meira Marrero, Manuel Mendive, Ibrahim Miranda, Manuel Piña, Ernesto Pujol, Sandra Ramos, Tomás Sánchez, José Ángel Toirac and José Ángel Vincench. Read more.

"Surrounded by Water: Expressions of Freedom and Isolation in Contemporary Cuban Art," Curated by Natania Remba. Boston Unversity Art Gallery, Boston, MA. Through April 6.

Two Coats of Paint renovation complete

I hope you enjoy the new three-column format and a new header image that actually fills the entire banner. The images are from les Musees royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, where I went in search of Moby Dick last year (it's a long story), and from the National Portrait Gallery in DC. For all you bloggers out there, tinkering with the HTML to customize the TCOP blog template wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be, although I had to remake the entire blogroll (still in progress).

February 24, 2008

Douglas Florian's 613 pages of light

Douglas Florian's diminutive gouache/collage paintings on paper at BravinLee programs are part of a 613 page book project called “Sefer Shel Or," which is Hebrew for "The Book of Light." The paintings, made over the past eight years, have a charmingly rumpled insouciance and run the emotional gamut from sadness and anxiety, to peacefulness and joy. "My drawings are abstract regressionist… movingly still, but still moving, emotional notions about motion, configurations of constellations… both drawn and withdrawn," Florian writes. "My drawings are bottle-fed and battle-torn, drawn from the natural and unnatural."

"Douglas Florian The Liars and The Moonstruck," BravinLee programs, New York, NY. Through March 8.

Astrid Preston lives in Lux

In 1998, a group of San Diego area art patrons and philanthropists joined with Reesey Shaw, the founding director of the California Center for the Arts Museum, to discuss how they might encourage a better understanding of visual art. They agreed that what was needed was something more than a museum—a place where visitors would be directly exposed to the artistic process in a way that was demystified and immediately engaging. In 2007, the Institute’s first permanent structure, the Artist Pavilion, opened to the public and welcomed its first resident artist. Currently, painter Astrid Preston is in residence and her work will be on view through March 22.

San Diego Union- Tribune art critic Robert L. Pincus visited the show, and reports that Preston's work updates the plein-air tradition. "Through the decades, she has mastered different kinds of landscapes. While 'Surrender' is quasi-photographic, 'First Morning' (2003) verges on the ethereal. It includes an amalgam of rounded shrubs and trees, partially distinct in the foreground but increasingly soft and hazy as they recede into the distance, as if a bright haze were enveloping them. 'Mountain Path' (1989), Preston's oldest work on view, is precisely painted but not photographic. It is a vertical panorama, in which the meandering trail carries your eye up and down the 8-foot-tall canvas. Every tree and shrub looks different than the next, as if she were subtly redesigning the scene in the process of painting it. The view is utterly believable as a mirror of nature but halfway hallucinatory at the same time. All of her work has this quality. Even the new paintings, so detailed in their presentations of hedges and plants, appear both real and unreal. Perhaps that's because there is no sky or earth to orient the eye. What she hasn't abandoned, in the process of updating the plein-air tradition, is a passion for natural form and organic beauty. " Read more.

Astrid Preston: In the Stuido,” Lux Art Institute, Encinitas, CA. Through March 22.

February 23, 2008

Even Charlie Finch loves Chris Martin (but hates Chelsea)

"After Yale, Chris embarked on a haphazard journey of shows in galleries like John Good, Bernard Toale, Daniel Weinberg and Sideshow. A small band of devoted collectors followed him around, dropping a few dollars on the bright boy to keep him going. Gallery director Jay Gorney told me, 'I am a HUGE Chris Martin fan.' Well, Jaybo, better late than never. An artist who awakes with joy in his heart every morning and seamlessly implants that joy, with subtle goofiness, in every piece, is a rare thing, and Martin's new beauties are the last picture show you'll ever see in the new pumped-up and sucked-down Chelsea." Read more.

"Chris Martin," Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, NY. Through March 1.
Related posts:
NYTimes Art in Review: Martin, Bradford, Poons
Chris Martin's dare at Mitchell-Innes & Nash
Finch flogs blogs

February 22, 2008

Luc Tuymans and Mickey Mouse

Luc Tuymans is, as they say, a painter's painter, and in his show at Zwirner, his new paintings glow. Zwirner's press release explains that Tuymans has turned his attention to Walt Disney's legacy, examining how the animation studio grew into a family-oriented media giant with quasi-utopian ambitions. Zwirner asserts that this new series of paintings "offers a critique of the hegemonic control of economic and cultural capital and the implicit dangers in a reality based on the production of magic." And I thought his work was about more painterly concerns. Tuymans's paintings are beautiful and mysterious, but this kind of overblown, unsubstantiated statement about the artist's intent should be restricted to grad school critiques.

At Bloomberg.com, Katya Kazakina agrees that the conceptual underpinnings outlined in the Zwirner press release are hard to apprehend in the work itself. "Tuymans's paintings explore the global influence of one of the most successful U.S. entertainment brands, the Walt Disney Co. It's not obvious. I happen to know that only because I read the gallery's dense press release and spoke to the artist himself during a visit to his Antwerp studio last October. Nothing in the artist's washed-out pastel palette or cropped, dissolving images suggests the vibrancy and cuteness of, say, the Little Mermaid or Mickey Mouse. His 11-1/2 by 18-foot oil- on-canvas, 'Wonderland,' is based on a photo of the entrance to Disneyland's 'Alice in Wonderland' cave in Anaheim, California. Even diehard Disney fans would be hard-pressed to recognize the location." Read more.

On the blog Curiosity to Survive, a few Tuymans quotes from an interview in Art Review are posted. "Life is politics, basically, but you don't just go to a gallery and put the words 'art' and 'politics' on the wall. An artwork should point in more than one direction, not be this sort of placating, self demonstrating, witnessing element. It is not important to convince people; they should convince themselves, they should look with their own eyes." Read more.

"Luc Tuymans: Forever, The Management of Magic," David Zwirner, New York, NY. Through March 22.
Related post: Tuymans: The new Mr. Big

Heath Ledger portrait story sounds fishy to me

Megan Lynn from pagesix.com reports that painter Vincent Fantauzzo has entered a Heath Ledger portrait into the 2008 Archibald Prize competition. The Archibald Prize, sponsored by the Art Gallery of New South Wales since 1921, is given for portrait painting, preferably of some man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters, Science or Politics. In creating the prize, J.F. Archibald's primary aims were to foster traditional portraiture, support artists and perpetuate the memory of great Australians. Fantauzzo claims that during a break in Ledger's frenetic schedule, he painted the portrait while Ledger and his family were in Perth during the 2007 Christmas break, and completed the painting later in Melbourne. All portraits entered in the competition must be painted from life, not photographs, and according to Fantauzzo, Ledger signed a form to vouch for the painting's authenticity, although he "signed it in the wrong spot." The painting is one of 249 entries. The winner will be decided on March 7. Read more.

February 21, 2008

Ghada Amer's threaded paintings in Brooklyn

While she describes herself as a painter and has won international recognition for her abstract canvases embroidered with erotic motifs, Ghada Amer is a multimedia artist whose entire body of work is infused with the same ideological and aesthetic concerns. The submission of women to the tyranny of domestic life, the celebration of female sexuality and pleasure, the incomprehensibility of love, the foolishness of war and violence, and an overall quest for formal beauty, constitute the territory that she explores and expresses in her art. In the NYSun, Alix Finkelstein visits Amer's retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum and reports that while Ms. Amer's cross-disciplinary approach may be seen as a power struggle pitting the masculine muscularity of abstract painting against the feminine wiles of embroidery, Ms. Amer admires the grand gestural brushwork of Abstract Expressionists such as Robert Motherwell and Jackson Pollock. Amer views the unpredictability of the painting process as a necessary complement to the linear precision of embroidery. "Painting, for me, is expressionist," Amer told Finkelstein. "It's a moment. You don't know when it will end. It's not something you think about. It's just that you are upset, happy, or whatever you are. You have a very strong feeling and you go with this. It's messy and undefined. The thread is the total opposite of the paint. It's extremely structured and meticulous and repetitive. I like the tension between the two mediums." Read more.

"Ghada Amer: Love Has No End," organized by Maura Reilly. The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY. Through October 19.

February 20, 2008

Tuymans the new Mr. Big

On everyone's list of favorite painters, Luc Tuymans is usually near the top. His early abstract-ish paintings, small and wan, were nothing if not winning...but does the old formula (near-monochromatic color, sketchy brushwork, mysterious fading imagery) still work when the scale is monumental? Zwirner's press release explains that Tuymans has turned his attention to Walt Disney's legacy, examining how the animation studio grew into a family-oriented media giant with quasi-utopian ambitions. Zwirner asserts that this new series of paintings "offers a critique of the hegemonic control of economic and cultural capital and the implicit dangers in a reality based on the production of magic." And I thought his work was about painting. Perhaps Tuyman's grand scale (one painting measures 144.88 x 200.39 inches) may reflect another of his concerns: growing his own legacy. Making mega-paintings is no longer merely a development for painters whose work runs naturally in that direction; it seems to be a requirement for those who hope to join the A-list. Clearly size counts in contemporary collections these days, and painters are forever being encouraged to "go bigger," even if the scale shift defies their intuitive attraction to smaller dimensions. Stay tuned for a full roundup of reviews.

"Luc Tuymans: Forever, The Management of Magic," David Zwirner, New York, NY. Through March 22.

Related post:
Luc Tuymans and Mickey Mouse

Chan, Molnar and Wozniak at Platform

Launched in September 2007, Denise Bibro created Platform to highlight local New York-area curators, emerging artists and spotlight works outside of the mainstream. Currently on view is work by Amy Chan, Cheryl Molnar, and Karla Wozniak, who met during their undergraduate studies at Rhode Island School of Design. I'm not sure how their work is outside the mainstream, but it depicts America’s ever-evolving architectural landscape, and addresses issues like the juxtaposition of the vernacular, natural, and imagined landscapes; the relationship of industrial development to historical sites; and the homogenizing effect of suburban sprawl. Wozniak's lazily painted, colorful images of chain restaurants and roadside signage capture a sense of playfulness rarely apprehended in the worn out American landscape haphazardly created over the last fifty years. In The Village Voice, RC Baker writes that Wozniak transforms the blanched banality of suburban sprawl into beautifully bedraggled vistas. "The electrical tower in 2007's 'Fireworks, I80, IN,' has first been swiped with a rusty stroke of watercolor, then the paper has been rubbed raw, implying Midwestern heat, dust, and ennui. Her deft touch with materials is also evident in the oil painting 'WACK, Los Angeles, CA,' where thin sweeps of orange that mimic L.A.'s petrochemical haze drip onto a diamond-shaped schmear of yellow surrounding a black stick-figure pedestrian." Read more.

"Everywhere and Nowhere," Denise Bibro Platform, New York, NY. Through March 1.

February 18, 2008

Precisionist Elsie Driggs retrospective at Michener Museum

Known primarily as a Precisionist painter, Elsie Driggs (1898-1992), in the course of her long career, also painted still life and the figure. After studying at the Art Students League and in Italy, she settled in New York City, where she enjoyed immediate success. During the 1920s Driggs became associated with the Precisionists, also known as New Classicists or Immaculates, a group that painted the modern landscape of factories, bridges, and skyscrapers with geometric precision and almost abstract spareness. After marrying painter Lee Gatch, whose work she admired, Driggs moved to Lambertville, New Jersey in 1935 and devoted herself primarily to supporting her husband's career, a choice many female artists of her generation made.

In the Philadelphia Inquirer, Edward J. Sozanski reports that Driggs didn't have a studio during the Lambertville years. "She and Gatch lived in a small house, and he, being the man and having the bigger reputation, got the only studio space. She got the kitchen table, where she painted watercolors. More important, Driggs was never content to belabor a single line of inquiry. Brilliant as she was at precisionism, she was more interested in testing variations on her basic aesthetic formula - classical order and repose tempered with what she described as 'something happening,' and which we experience as liveliness or vibrancy. This 'classical quickness' is the engine of her creativity. Subject matter and media change through the years, but Driggs' remarkable ability to impart the quickness of life to inanimate objects and static tableaux remains constant." Read more.

"Elsie Driggs: The Quick and the Classical," curated by Connie Kimmerle. James A. Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, PA. Through

Dada London

This spring the Tate Modern presents a big Dada show that includes over 400 works, among them Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase (No21) , Fountain 1917, L.H.O.O.Q , Man Ray’s rayographs, and Picabia’s paintings. The Times gives the show four out of five stars. "As far as art history is concerned, it was like mixing ammonia, nitrate and a match. When Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia and Man Ray all met, swilled into each other's circles by the international art scene and wartime migrations, they formed an explosive cocktail of talents. Together, most famously, they were responsible for launching Dada on New York....Duchamp's sense of humour is an acid test. It is this restlessly teasing, relentlessly testing, provocatively playful imagination that, made all the clearer in the context of intimate friendships, lends life to this show. The trouble is, Duchamp was only in his mid-thirties when he abandoned art, hardly ever to return. And with his withdrawal the impetus of this show peters out. " Read more.

"Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia," Tate Modern, London. Through May 26.

February 16, 2008

Mara Korkola paints Toronto

Mara Korkola, whose current show is up at Nicholas Metivier Gallery, paints the humble, the everyday. Her weakness is for representational painting that dissolves into painterly abstraction, so naturally she counts Morandi, Celmins, Richter, Downes, and Tuymans among her favorites. In the Globe and Rail, Gary Michael Dault gives Korkola a mixed review. She may be a gifted painter, he writes, but her recent paintings seem stupefyingly similar. "The little oil paintings on aluminum that take up most of the gallery's exhibition space - all of them part of a series called No Place - are far too formulaic. But the paintings in the back gallery are another story - and a much better story, too. This series, also small oils on aluminum, bears the overall title Winter Was Hard (the title of a famous album by the Kronos Quartet), and is about winter light and snowy uneventfulness - specifically, the bleak, undifferentiated pearlescence that is the all-pervasive hue of an airport in winter. Runways are just barely landscapes, but Korkola gives them an otherwise overlooked presence and character, daubing in light standards, snowbanks, snowplows, fuel trucks, distant utility buildings, receding roadways, a faraway city skyline - all bathed in a frigid, silvery ambience. The difference between the No Place paintings and the Winter Was Hard paintings is profound. The former are unspecific, generic, and without context. The latter - despite their seeming emptiness, teem with incident. And by so minutely and exquisitely attending to those incidents, Korkola gives her airport paintings a roundness and believability that makes the wet nocturnal cityscapes into a clever painterly game by comparison." Read more.

"Mara Korkola," Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto. Through March 1.

February 15, 2008

NYTimes Art in Review: Loren MacIver

I spent the day yesterday in the MoMA archives researching a story about Loren MacIver for the March issue of The Brooklyn Rail, so I'm pleased to see that Holland Cotter reviews MacIver's current show at the Alexandre Gallery today. MacIver, a self-taught painter who lived in NYC with poet and soulmate Lloyd Frankenberg, died in 1998 at the age of ninety. "Like many non-mystical visionaries, she painted what was in front of her: right there on the kitchen table, or out the studio window. But along with each object she included its aura. A potted crocus, its tiny pink buds as vivid as match flames, seems to exist in an earth-colored mist. Pastries in a bakery shop case glow like so many flares. Antique pots in a museum vitrine brighten and fade in liquid twilight, like microbes on a slide," Cotter writes. His favorite painting in the show is “Spring Snow” (1958)which he describes beautifully. "An out-the-window image of a city fire escape at dusk in a blizzard. The drifting snow resembles ocean waves; the fire escape bars a door. Beyond them is a ghostly white tree branch, and beyond that the lights next door, dim but warm. Who could ask for more?" Read more.

Related posts:
Tracking proto-feminist Loren MacIver

"Loren MacIver: The Poetry of Objects," Alexandre Gallery, New York, NY. Through February 29.

Alfred Harris's shredded words

The paintings in Alfred Harris's third solo show at Froelick Gallery in Portland reference the poem "Drummer Hodge" by Thomas Hardy. The poem describes the informal burial of a young English soldier killed during the Boer Wars of colonial South Africa. Like the poem, Harris’s paintings are about dislocation and reassemblage. D.K. Row in The Oregonian says that the numerous cut-and-pasted sections that Harris uses in his collaged paintings suggest an affinity for printmaking techniques and a desire to push the limits of two-dimensionality. "He uses this technique in the Froelick show to create images of rangy, biomorphic shapes infused by a variety of colors that again attest to his brilliance in that regard. From a distance, some of the figures look like a group of swimming amoebas seen through a microscope, though a group never out of synchronization. Though he cuts and pastes different parts often in each work, Harris still achieves a kind of compositional unity, a musical symmetry in these surreal images that owe inspiration to the works of Paul Klee and Joan Miro." Read more.

"Alfred Harris: Drummer Hodge," Froelick Gallery, Portland, OR. Through March 5.

February 14, 2008

Fire in Florida destroys over 100 paintings

In a fire at an Army Navy store in Lakeland, Florida, over 100 Robert Butler paintings were destroyed. The store’s owner was an avid collector of Butler's work, and now decades of his artwork are lost. At tampabays10.com, Kathryn Bursch reports that for 40 years, Butler traveled Florida’s highways and byways documenting nature scenes; it is his way of sharing a disappearing world with others. "'I wanted to have them experience the beauty, the pristine beauty of Florida,' Butler told Bursch from his Lakeland home. "The loss is literally too much to comprehend. All the brush strokes, all of the heartfelt brush strokes, all of the thoughts, you can see yourself standing in front of a canvas doing… all of that’s gone.” Butler belongs to The Highwaymen, a group of African-American painters from Florida's east coast. Read more.

February 13, 2008

Harriet Korman's stubborn streak

Harriet Korman's sixth solo show at Lennon, Weinberg is comprised of paintings made in the past three years, as well as several black and white pastel drawings that serve as studies for the paintings. For the past decade, Korman has pursued hard-edged form and pure color, while forging a connection to earlier periods in which process and mark-making were emphasized. In the new work, fresh elements include looser marks, patches of grid and parallel lines. In a 2004 review in Art in America, Faye Hirsch called Korman's paintings "delightfully stubborn."

"Harriet Korman: Recent Paintings and Drawings," Lennon, Weinberg, New York, NY. Through March 8.

February 12, 2008

Gouache-apolooza in Chelsea

Gouache, an expensive opaque watercolor-like paint, has been around for millennia. It dries fast, yields a sublime matte finish, and gains in richness over time. For many artists, it's the favored medium for work on paper. On February 15, Jeff Bailey Gallery and Andrea Meislin Gallery present a huge group gouache-fest curated by Geoffrey Young. I'm happy to report that, among other friends, work by my grad school painting instructor (and one-time Williamsburg landlord), Kathryn Myers, is included in the show. Veterans Kay Rosen, Thomas Nozkowski, James Siena, Dike Blair, Judith Linhares, Bruce Pearson, Amy Sillman, Fred Tomaselli, Barbara Takenaga, and Steve diBenedetto are joined by mid-career and younger gouache-ophiles.

Here's a selection of artists and the imagery they paint: Jessica Hess (urban doorways defaced with graffiti), Erik Schoonebeek (architectural fantasies painted on old cloth book covers), Alexander Gorlizki (Indian miniatures), Garth Weiser (bright abstractions with slanting light), Julie Evans (mandalas in hot light), Don Doe (infants suckling louche Madonnas), David Ambrose and Robin Mitchell (dense layerings of matted color), Clint Jukkala (stylized robot katchinas), Scott Brodie (plates of advertising food), and Fred Valentine (kitschy houses with their reflections in water), Lucas Reiner (trees altered by power lines and Los Angeles traffic), Derek Buckner (birds-eye views of the dense, urban life of blocky buildings and looping highway systems, visited by flying saucers), Katia Santibanez (abstractions based on observation of plant forms), Zoe Pettijohn (textural conflations of pattern and figure), Louise Belcourt (sweeping views of the North Atlantic as seen through a coastline of sculptural hedges), Kirsten Deirup (room interiors and detritus filled landscapes), Morgan Bulkeley’(bees hovering over recreations of his now decaying outdoor sculpture).

Participating artists: Kay Rosen, Warren Isensee, Thomas Nozkowski, Oona Ratcliffe, Louise Belcourt, Garth Weiser, Jessica Hess, Derek Buckner, Joyce Robins, Philip Knoll, Zohar Lazar, Alexander Gorlizki, Erik Schoonebeek, James Siena, Max Maslansky, Judith Linhares, Don Doe, Gary Petersen, Katia Santibanez, Fred Tomaselli, Cary Smith, Lucas Reiner, Scott Brodie, Sophie de Garam, Beth Shipley, Fred Valentine, Erick Johnson, Larissa Bates, Barbara Takenaga, Ann Wolf, Sutton Hayes, Sue Havens, Steve di Benedetto, Dike Blair, Quentin Curry, Dan Schmidt, Amy Sillman, Chie Fueki, Elena Sisto, Bruce Pearson, Zoe Pettijohn, Kathryn Myers, Jim Gaylord, Julie Gross, Robin Mitchell, Sue Muskat, Kirsten Deirup, Clint Jukkala, Andrew Small, Jason Stewart, Jackie Saccoccio, Morgan Bulkeley, Walton Ford, Heather Brammeier, Linda Stillman, Nichole Van Beek, Cynthia Atwood, David Ambrose, Chuck Webster, Will Yackulic, Ann Thornycroft, Jered Sprecher, Lisa Sanditz, Katherine Bradford, Michelle Segre, Benji Whalen, Deborah Kass, Liam Everett, Sarah Brenneman, Martin McMurray and Julie Evans.

"It's Gouache & Gouache Only," curated by Geoffrey Young. Jeff Bailey Gallery and Andrea Meislin Gallery, New York, NY. Through March 15.

Is Danny Ocean in Zurich?

The art thefts in Switzerland this week would make a worthy sequel to Oceans Thirteen. Carol Vogel reports in the NYTimes that three men wearing ski masks walked into a private Zurich museum in broad daylight and grabbed four 19th century paintings. "They tossed them into a van and sped off, pulling off one of the largest and most audacious art robberies of all time. It was the second multimillion-dollar art heist in Switzerland in less than a week. Switzerland was stunned, not just by the loss of half a dozen masterpieces by the likes of Picasso and Monet but, based on police reports emerging Monday, by the seeming ease with which they disappeared....The Wednesday before, in a nighttime theft in the nearby town of Pfäffikon, thieves stole two Picassos worth an estimated $4.4 million." Read more.

February 11, 2008

Yau on Schnabel: Pedestrian at best

In The Brooklyn Rail, John Yau compares Julian Schnabel to Jean Cocteau, another self-agrandizing artist who was a better filmmaker than a painter. "What aberration allows bad artists to make terrific films? Why is it that the clichés that make for turgid art become acceptable and engaging when they are translated into celluloid?...In his exhibition of Navigation Drawings—some are already billing it a triumphant reentry into the art world—Schnabel recycles a strategy that has previously served him well, but which underscores the essential weakness of his work; he begins with a compelling but distracting found surface (he has previously used animal skins, velvet, corduroy, broken crockery, Kabuki theater backdrops) over which he applies the paint. The found surfaces help hide the fact that Schnabel, who likes to make big, sloppy strokes, has no feel for paint’s possibilities. It’s as if he is wearing boxing gloves and carrying a hammer when he picks up the brush. Paint on canvas and drawing on paper, not to mention conceptual rigor and curiosity, are not among this artist’s strong suits. He is good at other things, but not the basics....The play between the brushstrokes (figure) and maps (ground) is pedestrian at best, lazy at its worst. The marks were made by someone who is easily satisfied by everything he does. And that has been the problem since he began believing that he was the closet thing to Picasso, and many critics and curators were all-too-quick to agree with his inflated self-estimation." Read more.

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

Related posts:
Fathoming the depths of Schnabelia

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

Heart as Arena says leave Julian alone!
Julian Schnabel nominated for Gucci filmmaking award

February 9, 2008

Yvonne Jacquette: night owl

"Under New York Skies: Nocturnes by Yvonne Jacquette," Museum of the City of New York, New York, NY. Through May 4.

For 30 years, Yvonne Jacquette has made night paintings from aerial vantage points of such cities as San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, Hong Kong, and Tokyo—along with bird’s-eye views of Maine and Midwestern farmland—but her paintings of New York City presented by the Museum of the City of New York are the best known. In Newsday, Ariella Budick reports that Jacquette's paintings glory in the lights, the colors, and the vitality that leaks from downtown windows even after midnight. "A native of Pittsburgh who came to New York via Connecticut in the 1950s, she started as an abstractionist. It wasn't until the mid-'70s when she discovered her métier by transforming herself into an aerialist. She has scouted and sketched the outlines of her oversized canvases from real places, enduring many lonely nights in empty offices at the World Trade Center. But though her magnificent vistas seem real, they are more like meta-views of a metropolis that's been slightly remapped to serve her compositional requirements." Read more.

On Jasper Johns at the Met

At artnet, Donald Kuspit suggests that Johns is a good avant-garde conformist, and that his gray is evocative of the "man in the gray flannel suit." "Modernism was no longer a terra incognita of art when Johns entered its ranks, but an established phenomenon, if still a little risqué, at least in the United States. If art hangs like a cross around the necks of Duchamp and Pollock, signaling that they are blessed by it -- even if they mortified it on a cross of their own making -- then art hangs around Johns’ neck like the albatross that hung around the Ancient Mariner’s neck, signaling he is cursed by it....Each gray hallucination in the exhibition seemed like a silent film of a staged explosion or its aftermath. The violence seemed to whimper, and the whimper grew more excruciating with every hallucination. There was a sense of anti-climax, mined for all it was worth. Modernism was re-playing itself like a broken record, squeezing every last bit of enigma and insinuation out of the medium. But the uncanny was exhausted. This gray was not oceanic, as in Pollock’s Ocean Grayness (1953). This gray seemed stale, flat, unprofitable and sometimes pedestrian. I thought I was looking at the suicide of art in process. Even when the gray -- it had certainly lost a lot of subtlety from Whistler’s Arrangement in Gray and Black (1871), more commonly known as "Whistler’s Mother" -- was punctuated by bright spots or energetic streaks of color, or a photograph of Leo Castelli, Johns’ art dealer father figure, or Johns’ own scowling face on an advertising campaign-for-myself button, I felt suffocated by the paranoid boredom grimacing in John’s hallucinations." Read more.

In the NYSun, Lance Esplund writes that Johns' gray is reflective or icy. "It is ghostly, smoky, or hairy. Gray is scumbled, worked up into a frenzy; or it is sluggish, a primeval sludge. Generally, though, Mr. Johns's gray, no matter what face it puts on, is as dense and unresponsive as cement; gray shuts down as soundly as the door of an iron tomb. In what almost can be described as Mr. Johns performing a feat of magical misdirection, his art closes down and deadens; pushes us away, rather than bringing us closer. We are made aware not of Mr. Johns's artworks' substance (if, in fact, they have any), but of their banal and meaningless gray surfaces — the brushstrokes and materials out of which they are made, as well as the objects that are attached to the artworks, or to which the artworks refer....In Mr. Johns's art we are made aware of the means by which it was constructed — where it began and how it ended; but we are allowed little, if anything, in between. An engagement with the artwork on any other grounds is a dead end, a rather useless endeavor. The poet and playwright Samuel Beckett correctly observed about Mr. Johns's work (although he was voicing approval), 'No matter which way you turn you always come up against a stone wall.' I guess this show's message, then, is 'Hail to the master of the stone wall.' I prefer art, however, that opens doors, rather than shuts them." Read more.

Dan Bischoff in The Star Ledger: " There are gray maps, flags (Johns' encaustic painting of an American flag was for a time the most expensive painting by a living American artist back in the 1980s), targets, numbers, alphabets, handprints and skulls in this show. They have an elegance of reference that is understated and notional, as if gray were the new black." Read more.

Roberta Smith in the NYTimes: "Moody, opulent and eloquent, it examines his many encounters with shades of gray and discovers a veritable shadow career. It also offers a supremely clear account of Mr. Johns’s maturation from brilliant, methodical young artist to a deeper, more lyrical, less predictable one....This is a marvelous show, a shadow retrospective of a career within a career. It amplifies gray into a color spectrum all its own. And it illuminates 50 years of a life saved by, and lived for, the incessant pursuit of art." Read more.

Jerry Saltz at artnet: "Although the show is ravishing and brings you into close contact with the numinous ways Johns combines process, materials, tangibility, language, thought and seeing, it’s too big. That in turn robs it of some of the radiance it had this fall at the Art Institute of Chicago. At the Met, the works are set too close together; a small alcove is crammed with ten pieces; shiny black floors, stark white walls, and a lack of natural light impede the resonant sensuality and obdurate otherness of Johns’ work. As alluring as "Gray" is, it reminds us that although the Met gets the first 50,000 years of art so right, it often gets the last 50 wrong." Read more.

Blogger (and encaustic virtuoso) Joanne Mattera: "To be honest, I find his painted grays leaden, the achromatic version of the Roach Motel—the light goes in but it doesn’t come out. On the other hand, the lead, as rendered in cast flags and numbers, fairly scintillates with light and shadow, warm and cool. That’s one of the surprises of this show. You think you know Johns’s work, and then you get hit with a realization like that." Read more.

"Jasper Johns: Gray," curated by James Rondeau and Douglas Druick at The Art Institute of Chicago. Metropolitan Museum, New York, NY. February 5 - May 4. Check out the NYTimes slide show of images.

Related post:
Jasper Johns: Eminence gray

Strode in St. Louis

"Thaddeus Strode: Absolutes and Nothings," curated by Sabine Eckmann and Meredith Malone. Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, St. Louis, MO. Through April 21.

Strode's first major museum show, the exhibition includes two dozen mixed-media paintings that conflate California surf and skateboard culture, Zen philosophy, rock music, literature, film, and comic books. In the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, David Bonetti reports that Strode's show will be the first solo painting show organized by Kemper director Sabine Eckmann, who is known more for her interest in conceptually based work than in painting. 'I'm really excited to do a painting show,' Eckmann told Bonetti, 'It will look great in our building. We will be able to open the skylights and show how the building looks in natural light.'" Read more.

February 8, 2008

NYTimes Art in Review: Martin, Bradford, Poons

"Chris Martin," (click through for good set of images) Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, NY. Through March 1. Roberta Smith: "It makes sense that Mr. Martin had his first solo show in 1988. Although he rightfully counts the painters Alfred Jensen and Forrest Bess among his inspirations, his style might be called ’80s mongrel; a mélange of outtakes from Julian Schnabel, Keith Haring, Elizabeth Murray and Sigmar Polke. But he takes possession of all this by infusing it with his own sense of funky materiality, quasi-psychedelic color and hallucinatory light. Mainly he knows how to make a surface come to life with a fuss so minimal that it seems like showing off."

"Mark Bradford: Nobody Jones,"
Sikkema Jenkins & Company, New York, NY. Through Feb. 23. Karen Resenberg: "Fresh off his solo exhibition at the Whitney, which honored him with the Bucksbaum Award for his work in the 2006 biennial, Mark Bradford is at a crossroads. His latest large-scale collage paintings have plenty of pizazz, but they seem alternately overloaded and stripped down."

"Larry Poons: Throw, Pour, Drip, Spill & Splash,"
Jacobson Howard, New York, NY. Through Feb. 25.
Roberta Smith: "The nine canvases here date from 1975 to 1981 and look very much of their time, an example of push-the-envelope Process Art that remained true to stretched canvas. They also look quite prescient, given recent random acts of painting from artists like Rudolf Stingel, and various postmodern evocations of Mr. Poons’s distinctive technique, starting, I believe, with the Swiss artist John Armleder. But by now the ’70s Poons paintings also seem eminently traditional, visually lush and rather well composed. The colors build and subside across the heavy downpours of paint, which often erupt in thick patches of splashes and splatters, or dissipate into exposed bits of canvas."

Read more.

Related posts:
Chris Martin's dare at Mitchell-Innes & Nash

Larry Poons exuberance

February 7, 2008

Aaron Bagley: Experimental guy

In The Stranger, Jen Graves profiles her friend, artist Aaron Bagley. "Given that he's everywhere, you'd think it would be possible to synthesize his style, to describe in a few words what to expect from a show of his. But Bagley, who graduated from Cornish in 2004, isn't narrowing down his interests and honing his style the way many art-school grads feel they should in order to get galleries and attention. He's not shaping a career. He's too busy shaping his constant creative impulses into drawings, paintings, performances, and projects....Bagley says he's worried. He's worried he won't ever settle down into a recognizable commodity. He's worried that giving away his art for free, even only in the form of printed postcards—one of my favorites depicts Kate Moss with a watercolor 'fro, rising out of an upturned Rauschenberg-style stained couch—makes it seem worthless. 'I'm worried I'm not Tom Friedman–clever, Paul McCarthy–shocking,' he says....This mood does not, however, shut down the Bagley operation. The to-do list that hangs over the desk in his apartment says, 'Homeless signs, More abstract paintings, More pants.' He is starting a project that will include homeless signs. He plans to buy them from homeless people. And do what with them? 'I only have a rough outline of what I want to do,' he says. A week later, he's bought his first sign, for four dollars, from a woman who rides his bus. He's considering what's next." Read more.

Miami Beach: Swimming in pigment

Here's an excerpt from my report on the Art Basel Miami Beach experience in the recently released February issue of The Brooklyn Rail.

"To feed Two Coats of Paint, my daily blog about painting, I comb the Internet for art reviews and commentary from all over the world. It’s an enriching process but not very tactile: online, the artwork, galleries and museums remain distant and two-dimensional. Joanne Mattera, an artist and blogosphere pal who maintains several art blogs, urged me to go to the annual Miami art fairs–headlined by Art Basel Miami Beach, the original, biggest, and most highbrow, situated in Miami Beach’s huge convention center off Collins Avenue–which she argued was an efficient and potentially edifying way to make real contact with a good number of theretofore virtual entities. She was right on both counts. Yet the Miami fairs do not play merely like a compressed series of quaintly distinct gallery visits during a brisk walk through Chelsea. The experience is unlike any other....Purged of the customary organizing principles of art exhibition—artist, school, epoch, theme—the Miami art fairs deprive the viewer of the filters through which art is ordinarily apprehended. Because of the fairs’ inclusivity and the sheer volume of their offerings, they squelch depth, reflection, and deliberation, and compel speed, efficiency, and snap decisions. These are not generally seen as constructive modes of behavior in viewing, making, or buying art. Yet, the same features also focus an immense amount of popular as well as critical energy and attention on an impressive sampling of art and only art. So, if one key aim of the broader artistic endeavor is to develop and sustain art as a unifying social force, the growth of the annual Miami enterprise audaciously represents progress..." Read more.

February 6, 2008

Thanks Joy!

At All Things Visual, the University of Chicago Visual Resources Collection's blog, Megan Macken asked Joy Garnett, the Associate Library Manager at the Robert Goldwater Library in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and NEWSgrist editor, to compile a list of the top twenty art blogs. Thanks, Joy, for including Two Coats of Paint. Check out the full list. Note: Joy must be incredibly busy because she also has a show of paintings opening on Feb. 21 at the Edward Winkleman Gallery.

Artists Space busted by jargon police

David Everitt Howe complains in The Village Voice that Artists Space is suffering from excessive, overwrought verbiage. "Curator Jeffrey Uslip splashes in puddles of academicism—his sprawling statement for the group exhibition 'Nina in Position' finger-paints with rhetoric like 'legibility of lack,' 'post-sculpturalism,' and 'Left Melancholia.' Gag. It's like bingeing on all 122 volumes of the journal October and then purging them on Artists Space marketing material. He should stop talking and continue doing—because while much of the work is individually unexceptional, as a whole the show beautifully interrogates cultural and environmental indifference and its obvious consequences. More akin to an elegy than a diatribe, the exhibition unravels with a hushed post-post-minimalist aesthetic, heavy with the specters of Andres Serrano, Anish Kapoor, and Glenn Ligon, among others." Read more.

"Nina in Position," curated by Jeffrey Uslip. Artists Space, New York, NY. Through March 9. Artists include Kelly Barrie, Justin Beal, Huma Bhaba, Anya Gallaccio, Wade Guyton, Barkley Hendricks, Roni Horn, Igloolik Isuma Productions, Mary Kelly, Charles Long, Michelle Lopez, Andrew Lord, Robert Mapplethorpe, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Jack Pierson, Michael Queenland, Marco Rios, Amanda Ross-Ho, Julia Scher, Haim Steinbach, Lisa Tan, Josh Tonsfeldt.

Related post:
Honesty in art criticism at Brandeis

The trouble with JPEGs

Baltimore Museum of Art presents an intimate show of Ellsworth Kelly's paintings and drawings selected from local collections and the museum's vault. In the City Paper, Bret McCabe explains why Kelly's work has to be experienced in person. "Sure, it's big--not imposing enough to dwarf anybody standing before the rectangles, but sizable enough that you can stand in front of each single panel and get lost in its hue. The panels are also exceptionally well made: they look durable, framed in metal that lends them an almost industrial temperament. And something about the colors themselves feels important, although it's hard to explain why. The red isn't merely red--it's a specific red, but specific to what remains elusive. So yes, 'Green Red Yellow Blue' is a series of four vertical rectangles, and yet there's something about the modular paintings on the wall that makes you seek something in them that a mere four colored rectangles couldn't possibly convey.

"The above observations only spotlight that the digital age has not been kind to those generations of post-war American male artists that include the abstract expressionists and minimalists. Not saying they're in any sort of danger, mind you: Their stories, histories, and status where it counts in the art world--in museums' permanent collections and on their galleries' walls--is firmly entrenched, arguably to the detriment of other artists contemporary to the time period. But, they don't truck the same weight they once did. The grandiose ideas of abstract expressionism and the sleek formalism of minimalism don't always translate well into a world where computer-aided design and reproduction can make the physical demands of such works feel a bit overindulgent. Worse, if you've only seen a Jackson Pollock or Robert Motherwell in a 72 DPI image on a computer screen, well, you haven't really seen the painting at all." Read more.

"Front Room: Ellsworth Kelly," curated by Darsie Alexander. Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD. Through Feb. 17.

February 5, 2008

Doig retrospective opens in London

Using photographic images from newspapers or snapshots as a starting point, Peter Doig recasts everyday imagery to make imaginary landscapes and figure scenes. All are imbued with a strong sense of atmosphere – his figures seem out of time, and his landscapes possessed of a strange, haunting presence. (See images of his work at Werner and artnet.) Spanning the last two decades, this show at Tate Britain brings together over 50 paintings and a substantial group of works on paper, including work made in the five years since his move to Trinidad in 2002. In the Guardian, Adrian Searle reports that not all the work is entirely believable or an unmitigated success, but Doig is incapable of making a boring painting. "Genuine disquiet pervades Doig's newest work. The man climbing a palm in one appears oblivious to the shadowy forms in the sky filling the rest of the canvas. The stories are dissolving, leaving only emptiness and murmurs. Elsewhere, leaves hang thick and fleshy like swollen tongues in the heat. They have a sexual menace that needs no further explanation. There are things happening at the edge of vision, but they stay understated and are more troubling for it. To tell the truth, as a former painter, I am almost jealous of Doig's recent paintings, of their presence and frankness; they have the kind of authority that can't be striven for, but only arrived at like an unexpected gift - one that may pass." Read more.

In the Evening Standard, Ben Lewis compares Doig's paintings to work of the early 20th century. "In the Nineties, there was nothing apologetic about Doig's painting. Rather, he returned to that moment, at the beginning of the 20th century, on the eve of abstraction when painting ruled the world, its proud purpose to be beautiful....It may be too neat a formulation, but just as in the works of the early 20th century, one can see modernist painters struggling to evolve abstract compositions from real scenes, with Doig it's the reverse - he is pulling real scenes out of an abstract surface. It's traditional and original. As the saying goes, he's an old dog with new tricks. But is it too nice? Way too beautiful? Walking-around this exhibition, the thought kept crossing my mind. Some of the paintings, I worried, resembled an over-iced child's birthday cake - the spatters of white, yellow, blue and green like hundreds and thousands and the congealed dots of thick oil paint like Smarties." Read more.

In The Observer, Laura Cumming gushes that Doig's retrospective is the most enthralling show in town. " Its achievement is to mystify even as it compels. Doig's paintings have always been singular - narcotic, yet intensely stimulating, beautiful yet way out on a limb - and they seem to grow more original and mesmerizing by the year....Every scene suggests an idee fixe, some sight or experience perpetually trapped in the mind that can never be exorcised. Doig's gift is for making these memories seem not just his own, but the viewer's as well, as if we, too, could not forget these peculiar moments in films, novels or scenes skimmed from life with a camera that keep flashing back on the mind's eye." Read more.

"Peter Doig," Tate Britain, London. Through April 27. The exhibition will travel to ARC/Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris from 29 May – 7 September 2008, and Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Germany, from 9 October 2008 – 4 January 2009.

Related posts:
Finding painting's pulse
Painting modern life (from photographs)

February 4, 2008

Matthew Langley's dangerous proposition

In the Washington City Paper, Kriston Capps reports on Matthew Langley's first solo show at the DCArts Center. "Langley gets points for audacity. His paintings draw easy comparisons to a host of latter-day abstract-expressionist titans, from Agnes Martin and Sean Scully. Make no mistake, Langley courts those comparisons—his emphasis on the grid places him squarely within that Lacanian camp that finds the sublime through repetition, variation, and trauma. It’s a dangerous proposition—Langley risks being derivative—yet in several respects his work proves to be more recidivist than redux." Read more.

Matthew Langley: Paintings + Paperworks,” curated by J.W. Mahoney. District of Columbia Arts Center, DC. Through Feb. 17.

Isensee at Danese

On Joanne Mattera Art Blog, Joanne continues her hunt for geometric abstraction. She writes that Warren Isensee is kindling some retinal heat at Danese through Feb. 8. "There’s both a textile sensibility (like a Navajo chief blanket) and an architectural structure to the work (columned temples, perhaps) that come together to create intimacy and grandeur at the same time. They’d be hallucinogenic except that the palette is grounded in saturated earthen hues—like Fiestaware without the kitsch. On second thought, forget trippy. Those celadons and ochres, sienas and corals are rubbing up against one another to the point of retinal orgasm. Ahem, chromatic fervor." Read more (and see some great installation shots).

"Warren Isensee: New Work," Danese, New York, NY. Through Feb. 8.

February 3, 2008

Domesticated street art for sale at Bonhams

In The Independent, Charles Darwent reports that on Tuesday, a sale of urban art will be held at the Bond Street auction rooms of Bonhams. Along with a number of Banksys, this sale will include works by Paul Insect, D*Face, Invader, Toxic and Cyclops. "There will be no walls for sale, though, nor Tube carriages or ventilation shafts. The auction is billed as the 'first devoted solely to urban art', a term notable for its avoidance of the words 'street' and 'graffiti'. In terms of technique, the works in Bonhams' sale are no different from those in most art auctions. "

February 2, 2008

Jasper Johns: Eminence gray

"Jasper Johns: Gray," curated by James Rondeau and Douglas Druick at The Art Institute of Chicago. Metropolitan Museum, New York, NY. February 5 - May 4. Check out the NYTimes slide show of images.

"Jasper Johns: Drawings 1997-2007," Matthew Marks, New York, NY. Through April 12.

According to the press release, Johns has worked in gray, at times to evoke a mood, at other times to evoke an intellectual rigor that results from his purging most color from his works. This exhibition is the first to focus on this important thematic and formal thread in Johns's career. In anticipation of the opening at the Met on Tuesday, NYTimes reporter Carol Vogel interviewed Johns at his home in St. Martin. "To hear it from curators, gray is not just a familiar color for Mr. Johns but the essence of a long metaphysical journey, an exploration of 'the condition of gray itself.'" Vogel begins. "At least that’s the premise of a sprawling exhibition of his work that opens Tuesday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. But when pressed on the show’s focus, he said simply: 'Yes, gray has been important to me. But I don’t tend to think of it as separate from the rest of my work.' The response is classic Johns. In a parallel to his mysterious grays, suggesting both effacement and a resolute ambiguity, Mr. Johns seems to have perfected the art of talking about his work without ever revealing too much. Always courtly, he answers questions in a measured, seemingly straightforward manner that leaves a listener wanting to know far more. It’s as if he is aware that a myth surrounds him that he must be careful not to dispel."

Vogel points out that, unlike so many contemporary artists producing in today’s overheated art market, Mr. Johns relies neither on dozens of assistants nor a computer to make his creations. "He executes his work by hand. 'It’s a different art world from the one I grew up in,' he said, relaxing in his living room in a pair of khaki shorts, a light blue shirt and sandals. 'Artists today know more. They are aware of the market more than they once were. There seems to be something in the air that art is commerce itself.' I haven’t really been a part of it, although I’m sure in some way I am. It just doesn’t interest me.' Asked what influence he feels he may have had on those young artists, Mr. Johns paused. 'To me,' he said, 'self-description is a calamity.'" Read more.

Related post:
On Jasper Johns at the Met

Chris Martin's dare at Mitchell-Innes & Nash

"Chris Martin," Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, NY. Through March 1.

Chris Martin investigates color, form and texture, ranging from bold and graphic to gestural and expressionistic. The surfaces are often distressed or collaged with elements including shellacked Wonder Bread, broken vinyl records and papier mâché forms. Martin, thoroughly engaged with the history of abstraction, incorporates homages to artistic influences such as Paul Feeley, Yayoi Kusama and Alfred Jensen. In an old ArtForum review, Bruce Hainley writes that "however densely worked his canvases are, there is a lightness to Martin's proceedings, a relishing of the 'wrong' or 'ugly' that becomes a dare: Why not?" Check out the images at Michell-Innes & Nash.

NYTimes Art in Review: Judith Bernstein

Holland Cotter reports: "This small, punchy overview of Judith Bernstein’s work is set to close a week before 'WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution' opens at P.S. 1, which is too bad. Although Ms. Bernstein has been producing a pointedly feminist art since the 1960s, she’s not in the big survey, and she should be. Her art started out political and has stayed that way. One of the earliest pieces at Algus, 'The Fun-Gun' (1967), a relief image of a big phallic handgun pieced together from real bullets, made a direct connection between violence, sex and war in the Vietnam era. Then came her monumental charcoal drawings of screw-shape forms, abstract but distinctly penile. One of them, 'Horizontal'(1973), got her booted out of a show titled 'Woman’s Work: American Art 1974' at Philadelphia’s Civic Center. It’s at Algus, and it’s pretty sensational....When she encountered censorship in 1974, the art world protested; the names on a public letter issued in her defense were many and illustrious. Today the equivalent names flock to admire John Currin’s pornography paintings. Mr. Currin’s naughty pictures end up in the swankiest places; Ms. Bernstein can barely get her foot in the art world’s swinging door." Read more.
"Judith Bernstein: Signature and Phallic Drawings: 1966-2008," Mitchell Algus Gallery, New York, NY. Through Feb. 9.

February 1, 2008

Honesty in art criticism at Brandeis

"Empires and Environments," curated by Dominique Nahas and Margaret Evangeline. Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, Waltham, MA. Through April 13.

Critic Dominique Nahas, who wrote an excellent essay for one of my exhibition catalogues, and artist Margaret Evangeline selected work from the Rose Museum's permanent collection. Student reporter Rachel Pfeffer, baffled by the show's press release, was not afraid to say it. In The Justice, Brandeis's independent student newspaper, she writes that "the Rose website offers an explanation of the meaning behind the title: 'Empires and Environments proposes to address the interface of environments (psychological, natural, and cultural) with drives that entail the structuring of 'empires' in symbolic, imaginary, and real terms.' To be perfectly honest," Pfeffer continues, "this made very little sense to me. As an art major with an English minor, I felt obligated to understand such convoluted art language, but it soared over my head like seagulls on a beach. I would just have to see the exhibit for myself....I finally began to understand the exhibit's title better, but right when I thought I had something, it slipped away from my brain like a soggy matzo ball. Nevertheless, being able to see works from such a large time scale in one gallery makes for some introspective art viewing and is certainly worth taking a look at."

In Waltham's Daily News Tribune, reporter Chris Bergeron had a similar reaction. "Sometimes bewilderment is the best reaction to art that grabs you in unexpected ways. I hope the organizers of 'Empires and Environments' consider that a compliment....I stopped taking notes or even thinking how to explain the exhibit in writing and really liked 80 percent of what I saw. In their curatorial statement, Evangeline and Nahas said the show's title 'insinuates interplay between cultural and natural energies.' I was skeptical. They wrote they'd hoped the show made viewers 'reflect what living in this moment of 2008 feels like.' I felt a little better. For me, this strange, funny and profound show feels just like 2008 so far, and I still can't figure out what the title means." Read more.

Artists include Andy Warhol, Max Beckman, Bryan Hunt, Elizabeth Murray, Florine Stettheimer, Eduoard Boubat, R.B. Kitaj, Ross Bleckner, and Jackson Pollock. Joing them will be Rudd Van Empel, John Powers, Nathalie Frank, Kate Gilmore, Kris Lukomski, Wayne Gonzales, Nicole Cherubini, Michael Combs, F:T Architecture, Joan Mitchell, Karl Klingbiel, Tonya Ingersoll.

Also at the Rose, “Arp to Reinhardt: Rose Geometries,"curated by Adelina Jedrzejczak. The exhibition investigates geometric abstraction’s rise to prominence in America in the 1950s and 60s, its roots in European art of the 1920s and 30s, the GeoAb artists' reaction to Abstract Expressionism's emotive histrionics, and ultimately the emergence of Minimalism. Centered on two paintings by Ellsworth Kelly – Yellow Curves (1954) and Blue White (1962) – the exhibition includes works by Jean Arp, Josef Albers Leon Polk Smith, Mary Heilmann, Brice Marden, Robert Mangold, Al Held and Ad Reinhardt.

Last call for John Morris at D'Amelio Terras

Obviously a labor of love and obsession, Morris' small paintings on wood are like an introverted mash-up of early Robert Ryman, James Sienna and some wacky Islamic pattern and decoration. The paradoxical knowing-ness and uncertainty of the hand-drawn line, the layered opacity/transparency of the surfaces, and the subtle color ooze painterly sophistication, and yet the overall impression is charming vulnerability. The show is up through February 3. "John Morris: Paintings on Panel," D'Amelio Terras, New York, NY.

Related posts:
John Morris knocks on wood
Mysteries of Pittsburgh
The Blogger Show