April 30, 2008

Christine Gray's failed geometry, failed architecture, and failed illusionism

Christine Gray's paintings depict models she creates using common craft materials, the works become fantastically abstracted scenes based on objects domestic and kitsch. "I represent landscape through several degrees of mediation (first by building modest micro-sculptures, then through painting) using themes of failed geometry, failed architecture, and failed illusionism." Gray explains. "This removal from the real reflects what I find to be a prevalent contemporary anxiety toward not only so-called 'nature' but also toward 'the real' itself." In the Washington City Paper, Maura Judkis writes that "each oil painting has been given the same treatment as a baroque bowl of fruit, but the elaborate dioramas that she bases the paintings on are far more whimsical and surprising. The picture that emerges from these bits of plastic and wire looks environmental, rather than synthetic—Pet Net, a painting of a collection of lucky rabbits’ feet strung from a climbing-wall carabiner echoes the form of a bushel of bananas. Gray is at her best when painting the pure geometry of her tenuous toothpick-and-pipe-cleaner structures, so delicate that they look as though a breeze in the gallery will send them tumbling." Read more.

"Christine Gray: Spring Thaw," Project 4, Washington, DC. Through May 24.

April 28, 2008

"The lice are part of the art."

According to BBC News, seven German artists are living with lice in their hair in an Israeli museum for three weeks in the name of art. Milana Gitzin-Adiram, chief curator of the Museum of Bat Yam, near Tel Aviv, said: "Art is no longer just a painting on the wall. "Art is life, life is art." Artist Stefan Reuter, 27, and his fellow artists said the exhibition offered the chance to explore the concept of the parasite and to ask whether the word could be "reclaimed" in Israel. The group acknowledged that living with lice was uncomfortable, but said it was worth it for the sake of art, and insisted it was not a gimmick. "We are serious," said Akim One Machine-Tu Nyuyen. "The lice are part of the art."

April 27, 2008

Tony Fitzpatrick's city of ghosts

In the Chicago Sun-Times Kevin Nance profiles Tony Fitzpatrick, whose expeditions with his dad have become the central narrative of his just-completed magnum opus: 'The Wonder -- Portraits of a Remembered City,' a simultaneously intimate and epic series of drawing-collages commemorating his father and the city they explored together. "The product of a decade of memory-keeping and memory-transforming, 'The Wonder' has been reproduced and collected in a trilogy of books -- the third and darkest volume of which, City of Monsters, City of Ghosts, will be published this week, just in time for the opening of a major exhibition of about 60 of the original pieces at the Chicago Cultural Center . 'When my father was dying [of cancer], there was a little box of his stuff -- matchbooks, gambling books, lotto tickets -- and I wanted to make some pieces that I could show him that were about his life,' Fitzpatrick recalls. 'That's when the first two drawing-collages happened. One was called 'The Music of White Flowers,' because we'd go to funeral homes and there'd always be calla lilies and other white flowers in this Roman Catholic atmosphere. There was always this idea of mortality that hung over us. The Catholics never let you forget you were going to die someday.' After Fitzpatrick's father's death, his son continued to pour his feelings about his dad and his city -- love, loss, grief and, at times, no small amount of anger -- into the project for a decade. And although Fitzpatrick now calls himself an atheist, 'The Wonder' is illuminated by the chipped gold-leaf residue of his past as one of eight children in a Catholic family on the South Side of Chicago. 'You can't wash it off,' he says of his religious heritage. " Read more. Check out Fitzpatrick's work at the Pierogi2000 website.

April 26, 2008

Paul Wonner, 87, dies in San Francisco

Paul Wonner, long associated with Bay Area Figuration, died Wednesday in San Francisco of natural causes on the eve of his 88th birthday. Art critic Kenneth Baker wrote the obit in the San Francisco Chronicle. "Mr. Wonner enjoyed collegial support for his work from originators of the Bay Area Figurative style, including David Park (1911-1960) and Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993). He painted in a brushy manner similar to theirs until the late 1970s, when his style turned crisp, emphasizing bright light and sharp shadows, and he concentrated on still life themes. The Dutch Baroque still life tradition served as a historical source for Mr. Wonner, but he typically painted objects from everyday contemporary life. His mature pictures distinctively portray things as separated by almost surrealistically vacant distended spaces. In recent years, he returned to painting human figures in vaguely allegorical arrangements and settings....Mr. Wonner is survived by a sister, Dorothy Kendall of La Mesa (San Diego County), and his longtime companion and fellow painter, Theophilus Brown." Read more.

It's official: Peter Schjeldahl writes good, er, I mean, well

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute have named Peter Schjeldahl the winner of the 2008 Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing. Established in 2006 to recognize writers who advance public appreciation of visual art in a way that "is grounded in scholarship yet appeals to a broad range of audiences," the biannual prize comes with a $25,000 honorarium and an award designed by architect Tadao Ando, who is leading the Clark's current expansion project. Clark director Michael Conforti praised Schjeldahl, who has been the art critic of the New Yorker since 1998, for "insightful, fluid, and concise writing" that has "contributed to our collective critical understanding of sometimes difficult and challenging work." Prior to joining the magazine, Schjeldahl was a regular art critic for the Sunday New York Times, the Village Voice, ARTnews, and 7 Days. In May Thames & Hudson will publish a collection of his criticism, Let’s See: Writings on Art from The New Yorker. (via ArtInfo)

Maria Lassnig: Embarrassment is a challenge

Viennese painter Maria Lassnig, nearly 90, has been producing work over a period of 60 years in Paris, New York and Vienna. An avant-garde pioneer with a feminist viewpoint, Lessnig's work was included in "WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution." Lassnig continues to paint powerful, bold and introspective work that investigates human emotions and bodily sensations. In The Guardian, Adrian Searle calls Lassing a willful individualist of great dignity and extreme candour. "Lassnig's art, which shares traits with expressionism, reminds me intermittently of the American portraitist Alice Neel, and also of one grasping for connections with much younger generations of artists." Searle writes. "Martin Kippenberger was a fan; Paul McCarthy collects her paintings and has contributed an essay to the catalogue for this show, a text purposely disjointed and ripe with images of amputations, bodies turned inside out and impossible actions: 'The finger goes in the mouth up through the nostril cavity and out the eye-socket ... your arm is over here, your head is on the shelf, and your torso is on the chair.'

"McCarthy's disturbing psycho-sexual manipulations echo what Lassnig calls her 'Body-awareness paintings', and her more recent 'Drastic' paintings. These strands of her art are developed from the sensations one has of one's own body, mapped and felt from the inside, rather than from observation or through anatomy and what the mind already knows. In the past, she painted bodies as dumplings, bodies as sacks of potatoes. By contrast, her new paintings are all bulge and spike, thrust and recoil. These bodies are malleable plastic forms, rapidly executed, extruded and abbreviated against cursory or even bare backgrounds. At times, they remind me of Ren and Stimpy cartoons. Bodies are reduced to penile shafts. The mouths are in the wrong places. Limbs wither or bloat, noses become porcine snouts. Lassnig is in there, too, her own physiognomy morphing and struggling. These paintings have a weird filial relationship to Carroll Dunham, to Nicola Tyson, to the strange anthropomorphic plumbing in the early work of sculptor Eva Hesse." Read more.

"Maria Lassnig," Serpentine Gallery, London. Through June 8.

NY Times Art in Review: Substraction, Dieter Roth

"Substraction," curated by Nicola Vassell. Deitch Projects, New York, NY. Through May 24. Artist include Kristin Baker, Dan Colen, Rosson Crow, Elizabeth Neel, Sterling Ruby, Aaron Young. Roberta Smith: "The idea is that the artists in this show fuse the scale, painterliness and frequent performance aspects of postwar abstraction with the grittiness of contemporary street and graffiti art, which this gallery is known to favor. (Nothing like expanding the brand with a bit of halcyon-days history.) The exhibition has been organized by Nicola Vassell, the gallery’s director, and it has a lively veneer that is greatly enhanced by the gallery’s recent white-on-white refurbishment. But it really pays only lip service to the idea."

"Dieter Roth, Drawings," Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York, NY. Through May 3. Karen Rosenberg: "One of the best shows of drawing anywhere in the city packs more than 500 works by a single artist into one Chelsea gallery. The artist, Dieter Roth (1930-98), is best known for his conceptual experiments with decaying foodstuffs; sculptures with chocolate and sausage were the focus of a 2004 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art and P.S. 1. Roth was also a prolific printmaker and — as this show reveals — a tirelessly inventive draftsman....The drawings have an introverted, manic energy often associated with self-taught artists. They show that Roth could make powerfully organic art out of substances that weren’t perishable or pungent."

Read all the Friday art reviews.

April 25, 2008

Dennis Hollingsworth's first LA show in five years

In the LA Times, Holly Myers writes that "the paint -- presumably dry, but only recently so -- fills the room with a lush, heady scent that seems to seep into one's very pores, enveloping the viewer in the work's exceptionally visceral presence....The forms are abstract but made, in large part, from a limited range of specific gestures, each with its own sculptural identity: the push-and-smear, the palette-knife slather, the spiky daub, the loose swirl of multiple colors. Each composition has the feel of a self-contained ecosystem, with these gestures interacting like so many individual species, the whole governed by a sense of organic, if somewhat chaotic, logic. The twists and turns of the pigment itself -- the glossy ridges, gouged furrows, smooth planes and prickly briars -- are endlessly absorbing: liable to draw a viewer to within a foot of the canvas and to tug the eye through a long series of close-range excursions, especially in the case of the larger works. Step back, however, and it's clear that these details acquire their power from a formidable structural integrity. The spontaneous clusters of small blots that hold one's attention in the short term cleave barnacle-like to slower, heavier forms that keep the compositions firmly grounded. Seemingly decorative details are swept up in grander architectural gestures. Patches of dense, frenetic activity open up to broad swaths of negative space that lend each composition the balance and stability of a landscape." Read more.

"Dennis Hollingsworth," Michael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles, CA. Through May 31.

Jen Mazza: "It's easier, maybe it's more honest, to be mocking."

In The Star-Ledger, Dan Bischoff profiles Jennifer Mazza, a painter who lives in Newark above Hobby's Deli at Branford Place and Halsey Street. She's been an artist-in-residence at the Newark Museum and at the Museum of Modern Art's P.S. 1 on the strength of her tiny oil paintings of hands. "Her work is focused for the most part on hands: Hands crammed absently into a mouth, or plunged into the buckling pages of a book, or, in one memorable, early series, squishing a jelly doughnut into globules of scarlet goo. Mazza, 36, has garnered notice for these odd little paintings because, small as they are (usually smaller than a sheet of copy paper, not more than 6.5- by 8.5 inches), they often express the emotional range of an altarpiece. Fingers stand in for Roman soldiers, nailing a chin or a lip with their verticals and diagonals, or occasionally gnarling into a fist pressed against cheek or throat. Convincingly realist and painted in a high blond tone (she sees a correspondence with Jenny Saville, the English artist who first appeared over here in the controversial Saatchi exhibition called "Sensation" and paints colossal, nude, fat women), Mazza's paintings often carry subtle suggestions of both violence and sexuality. But that's not all they suggest.

"'There's a kind of psychological dichotomy in art making,' Mazza says. 'You spend all day in the studio trying to make something sublime, and then you sell it for money... . I think that's why, in the current dialogue about fine art, sincerity is frowned upon. Making something that is both meaningful and intimate in that larger context is really kind of difficult. It's easier, maybe it's more honest, to be mocking.'" Read more.

April 24, 2008

Tony Blair's official portrait: unbuttoned self-reinvention

In his blog at the Guardian Unlimited, Jonathan Jones reports that Tony Blair's official portrait, painted by Phil Hale, was unveiled last night at the Houses of Parliament "There's no point in fussing overmuch about the technical qualities of a painting like this. Short of commissioning Lucian Freud, you're hardly likely to get a masterpiece from a contemporary portrait painter. You could generously compare Hale's style with that of the Victorian portraitist JE Millais or more rudely see something of the Humbrol modeller in his glossy realism. But this is a decent political portrait and its quality surely owes as much to the skill of the subject in putting an image across as to any great insight by the artist. The similarly introspective qualities of a recent portrait of Blair by Jonathan Yeo - for that one he wore a poppy - struck me as Blair's doing. This painting confirms that Blair is using art to try and shape his historical image." Read more.

April 23, 2008

Saltz your enthusiasm

On Monday, Cara Ober attended a Jerry Saltz lecture at MICA , and has posted the highlights at Bmoreart. "More like an episode of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ than a lecture on art criticism, Saltz tormented and tickled the MICA crowd with a wicked glee, mocking art students good-naturedly and, ultimately, encouraging the hell out of everyone who attended....Jerry Saltz is sick of art criticism that likes everything. 'It’s my job to say what I think is good and what I think is bad. I can’t make or break your career. I can shine a light on it, but that’s it.' Then he posed a situation to the crowd, probably something he deals with all the time. 'What happens if I write about you and I am negative to your work? And then we meet at a party and someone introduces us. What do you do now??' He described an irate artist yelling at him that he was 'destroying their market!' and another who simply hissed 'vendetta' into his ear. I actually thought this was the most interesting part of the lecture, because it’s an unavoidable situation - both for artists and for critics. One artist raised her hand and said she’d be cordial and then invite him to her studio. Saltz said that was a good move. Another artist said they’d make polite conversation, which was, apparently, another good move. 'What you DON’T want is to make it so I can never write about you again, so just make me feel a little bit guilty and awkward,' he encouraged."

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

House of Art opens in Niagara Falls

John Robbins reports in the Welland Tribune that there's a new gallery in Niagara Falls. "It's not much larger than a press-box eatery - a small, almost unnoticeable Queen Street store front, with a plain sign affixed above the front window that says House of Art. But step inside and there's a whole new world to discover - one where spirits and fairies come to life. A place where mystical visions are recorded in minute detail on canvas and paper and building materials. A friendly, earthy space where contemplating the deeper meaning of life is encouraged. 'It's about soul searching,' says artist Rick Jacksties, motioning toward a collection of his paintings and drawings hanging on the brightly painted walls. Jacksties' House of Art gallery is the latest addition to the growing Queen Street arts scene. The official opening took place Saturday evening. Jacksties, who also goes by the name Shamandala, has been working for about a month-and-a-half to get things ready for his public debut while juggling a couple of day jobs. Among the several dozen works displayed inside the gallery is one that's particularly eye catching. It's an image of the head and shoulders of a man with a real video monitor implanted into the the back half of the skull. " Read more.

Fearless Selma Waldman, 77, dies of cancer

Regina Hackett writes in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that Selma Waldman, painter of blunt-force trauma, rape, degradation and murder, was practically unknown in Seattle art circles, even though she lived in the city since the early 1960s. "Her subjects tended to be tough, yet nobody holds such content against Leon Golub, Sue Coe or Michael Spafford.... Her support for the cause of the Palestinian people was unwavering and absolute, a stance that her son, Rainer Waldman Adkins, thinks of as embedded in the Jewish tradition of principled dissent. In Seattle, art dealers, critics and curators tended to avoid her. Fearlessly inventive, she deserved attention and support. Save for a few exceptions (the sculptor Phillip Levine, the painter David Allison), she got neither." Read more.

Ann Craven's bird and moon paintings

While Craven first exhibited paintings of the moon in 1996, she began the current series of moon paintings—now numbering into the hundreds—in 2001, working on the rooftop of her Harlem studio, also in Maine, and most recently in France, during a fall 2007 artist residency. Each of the small, square (14 x 14 inches) canvases in this exhibition is a sequential variation on her theme—the moon is depicted in all its phases, with a wide range of atmospheric effects. The moon paintings, as writer Matt Keegan recently stated in Modern Painters (February 2007), explore, “repetition, systematization, permutation, and their intersections with time; a foregrounding of process.”

"Mauve, Naples yellow, and bone-white are among the colors Craven uses for the full or crescent moons in each of these 14-inch-square paintings. The 94 canvases here have been worked wet into wet, the lighter color of the half-dollar-size moons blurring into black or midnight-blue grounds, sometimes surrounded by attenuated halos or fractured by crooked tree branches. Craven's wristy brushwork and misty hues transform oil paint into convincing atmospherics, the rich contrasts offering a sense of clear country air far from urban light pollution." (via R.C. Baker in The Village Voice)

"Ann Craven: Moon Birds," Knoedler, New York, NY. Through April 26.

Related post:
Ann Craven speaks in Cambridge

April 22, 2008

Alexandre Iacovleff painting sold by Attleboro Art Museum: Does Culturegrrl know?

A painting by Russian artist Alexandre Iacovleff donated to the Attleboro Art Museum a half century ago has been sold at auction for $713,000 to raise money for the museum's endowment. The 4-foot by 7-foot painting entitled "Under a Kirghiz Tent" was sold Tuesday by auctioneeer Sotheby’s. Sotheby’s did not disclose the name of the buyer. The painting was donated to the city in 1957 by W. Charles Thompson, who worked at a Boston art gallery and knew the artist personally. The Attleboro Art Museum decided to sell the painting after examining the cost of insuring it and security to keep it safe. (via Boston Herald) Last year, Michael Levinson reported in the Boston Globe that one of Iacoveff's paintings, also donated by Thompson, was discovered hanging on an auditorium wall of a public school in North Attleborough, MA. When the school officials learned it was valued at $600,000 to $800,000 and could fetch twice that at auction, they secretly called Sotheby's and wisked it away, but Greg Smith, Thompson's grandson, read about the planned sale in the Sun Chronicle and managed to persuade town officials to postpone the auction. The North Attleboro School Department hoped to sell the painting and use the proceeds to advance arts programs, but town selectmen unanimously rejected the plan. They are currently planning to bring the painting back from Sothebys and hang it somewhere in town hall.

April 21, 2008

Studio update: Habitat For Artists

Simon Draper has recently invited me to participate in "Habitat for Artists," a site-specific, collaborative exhibition project in Beacon, NY. Draper, who is interested in concepts regarding habitat and shelter in his own art practice, will provide each artist with a basic 6ft. by 6ft. wood shed, to be considered as an artist’s habitat/workspace throughout the summer.

Project co-organizer Amy Lipton curated a 2006 outdoor exhibition at Abington Art Center Sculpture Park in Philadelphia titled “Habitat” in which Draper participated with his shed titled “Private Reserve." This work, which remains on view, acts as a shelter and contemplative space for the viewer. For Draper, the work also functions as a metaphor for his personal art making activity and provokes larger questions regarding marginal spaces, artists as pioneers in developing neighborhoods and communities and the ongoing migration of artists from these places they helped to nurture and create.

In this new project, the sheds will function as temporary studio spaces. The question becomes, in a time of escalating prices for artist’s workspace and as artists flee Manhattan and Brooklyn in search of more affordable workspace such as in the Hudson Valley region - how much space does an artist need to create their work? How will this "shantytown" evolve?

Each artist involved in this project will adapt their shed to suit their own needs. The sheds will come outfitted with simple openings, doors, windows or skylight. As much as possible, the materials used in the creation of the structure will consist of reclaimed and re-used components. How they adapt the space will be dependent upon their own resourcefulness and inclination. They may decide to work independently or collectively.

Participating artists include: Sharon Butler, Dar Williams, Chris Albert, Matthew Kinney, Kathy Feighery, Marnie Hillsley, Sara Mussen, Lori Nozick and Roy Staab.

"Habitat for Artists," Curated by Simon Draper. Beacon, NY. Sponsored by Ecoartspace, Curator Amy Lipton.

April 20, 2008

Where are Amalie Rothschild's paintings?

When distinguished Baltimore artist and museum board member Amalie Rothschild died in 2001 at the age of 85, she left behind more than 1,200 paintings, sculptures and drawings in her studio. In the Baltimore Sun Glenn McNatt reports that soon after her death, the artist's daughter and namesake, filmmaker-photographer Amalie Rothschild, decided to honor her mother's achievement with a coffee-table book documenting her best work, to be published later this year. Rothschild moved the contents of her mother's studio to a storage facility, and began compiling a detailed list of titles and dates. She soon realized that the whereabouts of hundreds of pieces remained unknown. "My mother kept all her records on 3-by-5-inch index cards in a little recipe box," Rothschild says. "No addresses, no phone numbers. So I've been going through all her scrapbooks, all her exhibition lists and every piece of documentary evidence I've been able to find in order to track these things down."

According to scholar Tom Haulck, much of Rothschild's work from 1933 to 1966 is figurative, autobiographical in content and influenced stylistically by Cubism, Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. Between 1948 and 1950 she began to paint geometric abstractions of representational subjects, and in 1951 created her first non-representational abstraction. In the Sixties, Rothschild explored hard-edged abstraction, and began creating sculptural objects as well as paintings. Her work, frequently self-referential and informed by early feminism, addressed the tension between her roles as wife, mother and artist. If anyone has information about works by Amalie Rothschild, please send a note to rothschild_artworks@live.com.

Small talk with Roberta Smith

In the NY Times, Roberta Smith notices that the galleries are full of small abstract painting lately."Small may be beautiful, but where abstract painting is concerned, it is rarely fashionable. Big has held center stage at least since Jackson Pollock; the small abstractions of painters like Myron Stout, Forrest Bess and Steve Wheeler are mostly relegated to the wings, there to be considered eccentric or overly precious. Paul Klee was arguably the last genius of small abstraction to be granted full-fledged membership in the Modernist canon. But what is marginalized can also become a form of dissent, a way to counter the prevailing arguments and sidestep their pitfalls. It is hard, for example, to work small and indulge in the mind-boggling degree of spectacle that afflicts so much art today. In a time of glut and waste on every front, compression and economy have undeniable appeal. And if a great work of art is one that is essential in all its parts, that has nothing superfluous or that can be subtracted, working small may improve the odds." What Smith doesn't mention is that painting small scale abstraction is a completely different process and a more personal experience for the painter than working on unwieldy, made-for-museum, monumental-sized canvases. Read more about the inherent meaning embedded in scale choice in my forthcoming essay to the May issue of The Brooklyn Rail.

The artists Smith cites are Scott Olson, Tomma Abts, Katy Moran, Matt Connors, and Michaela Eichwald.

Related links:
Small work: Fab Fair four
How Thomas Nozkowski scaled back the rules and rhetoric
Matt Connors at Canada

Abts in heaven

April 18, 2008

Jake Berthot: Notes from Notes to Myself

Betty Cunningham presents fourteen paintings and a selection of drawings from the past three years. Each is a quiet contemplative, melancholy landscape-like space, reminiscent of Albert Pinkham Ryder's allegorical landscapes. In a 2005 Art in America exhibition review, Hearne Pardee wrote that Berthot's allusions to 19th-century painting are not superficial appropriations but efforts to recover the sense of discovery artists such as Ryder brought to the medium. "Berthot's concern is not with rendering leaves or bark, but with transforming pigment into substantial form, extending the transcendental impulse of his drawings into paint. His golden glows and ghostly, bluish lights articulate masses more elemental than any particular subject in nature."

In case young readers aren't familiar with Berthot's work, he'
s been exhibiting regularly in New York since the early 1970’s, was included in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Annual in 1969 and again in 1973; The Corcoran Biennial in 1975; the Venice Biennale in 1976---his impressive biography continues for thirteen pages. In other words, the man knows how to sling paint. And, in addition to that, he was a visiting artist while I was in grad school. A catalog, Notes from Notes to Myself, accompanies the exhibition.

"Jake Berthot," Betty Cunningham Gallery, New York, NY. Through May 10.

Modernist Joseph Solman dead at 99

"Joseph Solman, a painter who, with Mark Rothko and other modernists, helped shape American art as early as the 1930s and, into a new century, continued to paint in his studio above the Second Avenue Deli in New York, died on Wednesday at his home in Manhattan," Michael Kimmelman writes in the NY Times obituary. "He was 99. Having visited a gallery and, along with a friend, washed down a light dinner with Scotch in Midtown, Mr. Solman died in his sleep, his son, Paul, said." Read more.

In the Boston Globe, Mark Feeney writes that Solman was known for portraits, but he also painted still lifes, bathers, landscapes, and other genres. The one constant throughout his career was an attachment to figuration. "I like artists who are moved by subject matter," Mr. Solman said in 1998. "That's why I never went for abstraction. The subject has more interest than any shape we might invent. I take what's out there, and that's what lights up my imagination." Read more.

Related posts:
Joseph Solman: last surviving member of "The Ten"
Images of his work: "Paintings from the WPA," Mercury Gallery, Boston, MA. Artists include Herman Rose, Louis Schanker and Joseph Solman. Sept. 15-Oct 9, 2007.

Shag: beehives, pool parties and sophisticated after-five cocktails

In The Age Kylie Northover reports that Southern Californian Josh Agle's ideal world be one long, stylish cocktail party, circa 1965. "Agle, in Melbourne for the opening of his new exhibition "The Birds and the Beasts" at the Outre Gallery, and better known simply as Shag, is the hippest Daddy-o on the modern art scene, creating vibrant '50s and '60s-inspired artworks, using a distinctive flat-plane technique and pop-art motifs. Drawing on his love of mid-century design and films and advertising from the era, Agle's lowbrow works have become hot property among collectors. His art inhabits a romanticised world of '60s hedonism; a time of beehives, pool parties and sophisticated after-five cocktails that didn't end with Cath from payroll vomiting on King Street." Read more. Visit Shag's LA studio, courtesy Guillotine Magazine.

"Shag: The Birds and the Beasts,"Outre Gallery, Melbourne, Australia. Through May 6.

April 17, 2008

The Knutson and Simmons experience in Seattle

In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Regina Hackett reports that Michael Knutson and Jeffrey Simmons paint the way "sailors scrape barnacles off a deck, chipping away at empty space until it disappears into spiraling patterns. Their work relates to the larger community of abstract artists without being in anyone's debt. They dig in not to limit themselves but to extend their grasp. Although they have little in common, they share the most important thing, a determination to reinvent the world purged of sloppy sentiment or chilly reserve. Instead of a single perspective, they offer a myriad-minded range of opportunities to see the edge of an experience open into a frontier." Read more.

In The Stranger, Jen Graves writes that Simmons's paintings are "groovy and trippy, like op art, but they also, like the work of Gerhard Richter, play with the interdisciplinary blurriness inherent in all looking....These paintings also travel in time, like the stars they reference. Just as it's possible, because of the great distance, to see stars in the night sky that have actually, in real time, gone dead, so these paintings seem both products of a single, captured moment, and the accumulated results of an extended travel time over the duration of the artist's process. They record incidents and the residue of incidents; they're time-lapse paintings.Which is true? What's truth in a painting, anyway? " Read more.

"Michael Knutson: Astral and Prismatic Fields," Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle, WA. Through May 10.

"Jeffrey Simmons: NEBULÆ," Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle, WA. Through May 10.

April 16, 2008

Murakami's marketing organism arrives in Brooklyn (yawn)

If you're interested in the Murakami spectacle, check out the roundup of reviews TCOP ran when the show exploded in LA : The Takashi Murakami brand at Geffen Contemporary. Meanwhile, back in the present, in this week's Village Voice, R.C Baker goes Murakami. "Having sold miniature versions of his sculptures as 'snack toys,' Murakami has bested even Warhol in the ancillary-merch sweepstakes—which brings us to the Louis Vuitton shop, installed as part of the show, blunt as a torpedo amidships. After taking in the chromatic amplitude and rarefied surfaces of the sculptures and paintings, the 'Jellyfish Eye'–patterned bags and white-clad salesfolk feel beside the point, but these ostentatious items may actually be the heart of the show. As Scott Rothkopf's fascinating catalog essay points out, Murakami's career is a veritable case study of art-world conflicts of interest, because 'his activities as a curator and critic function as a shrewd marketing device. By framing and advancing a new 'movement' of sorts, he has gained for his cohorts significant traction in both foreign intellectual and commercial markets.' For example, Murakami curated the hugely successful 'Little Boy' show at the Japan Society in 2005, presenting himself and the artists he represents through his company, KaiKai Kiki, as exemplars of a new Japanese avant-garde. He then convinced Yale to publish a catalog laden with his own essays. So peddling exclusive accessories becomes just another tentacle in Murakami's evolving marketing organism. Andy must be bowing his head in admiration.

"As with Warhol, the best stuff here is surprising, gorgeously executed, and darkly alluring. The 11-foot-square canvas The World of Sphere (2003) features more chirpy flowers and the usual bulbous creatures, one with hula-hoop halos spinning like centrifuges around its pointy head. A miasma of Louis Vuitton logos rises like swamp gas in the background, a smog of luxury." Read more.

'© Murakami," curated by Paul Schimmel and organized by Mika Yoshitake. The Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY. Through July 13

Mattera's pics of the NY fairs

Joanne Mattera went into the New York fairs knowing that she couldn’t do the same kind of intensive reporting she does in Miami, so she went to view rather than report. But she couldn't help taking a few snaps. "Perhaps not surprisingly, some of the same artists whose work I've liked in the past were the ones whose work I was liking at these fairs, and at the same galleries. I may never get to Dublin, for instance, but I've come to expect that the Rubicon Gallery will have something geometric by Ronnie Hughes, whom I've never met and whose work I know only through the art fairs, and that I will find it appealing. I also looked for Sarah Morris at White Cube, London; Imi Knoebel at Galerie Nacht St. Stephan, Vienna; and my new favorite, Mindy Shapero at Breeder, Athens, and was not disappointed." If you follow her blog, you know she likes geometry, materiality and color. Check out the images.

April 15, 2008

Modern Art Notes: All Amy Sillman all the time

At Modern Art Notes, Tyler Green dedicates the week to New York painter Amy Sillman, who currently has a show at the Hirshhorn in DC. "There are no shortage of sources in Sillman's paintings. While many abstract artists love to hide the quarries they mined -- such as how Clyfford Still spent decades denying and hiding the influence of landscape on his art -- Sillman flaunts hers. Like many painters who came of artistic age in the 1980s (Sillman first showed her paintings in NYC in 1982), Sillman has grappled with the history of American post-war abstraction. Instead of running away from it, she's cleverly chosen bits and pieces to embrace and incorporate. (The painters she's rejected stand out just as loudly: Her paintings include none of David Reed's finish, Joan Mitchell's free-fall, or Still's disdain for brushiness.)" Read more.

"Amy Sillman: Third Person Singular," curated by Anne Ellegood and Ian Berry. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC. Through July 6. Traveling to the Tang Museum, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY, July 19- January 4

Related posts:
Lame review of the week: O'Sullivan reviews Sillman at the Hirshhorn
Amy Sillman's couple fixation
Amy Sillman's "Suitors & Strangers" in Houston
Saltz: Old is gold
March museum openings

Let's Go: Glasgow

In The Guardian Adrian Searle reports that the Glasgow International Festival, founded in 2004, is slated to become a regular biennial. "Building on its low-budget, do-it-yourself approach, each edition has been better than the last. The project has slowly expanded, occupying not just established venues but studios and abandoned and derelict buildings around the city. It runs until April 27, but some projects will continue into the summer. There are shows, performances and concerts all over town. Glasgow has the most developed arts scene outside London, and many empty spaces. Successful local artists tend to stay (even if, like Douglas Gordon, they spend protracted periods in New York or Berlin), and the city supports a number of commercial galleries - The Modern Institute, Sorcha Dallas, the improbably named Mary Mary, as well as public sector spaces and museums." Searle gives a shout to Tyrolean painter Ernst Caramelle, who has a painted installation at Mary Mary. "As well as making small, discrete paintings, Caramelle paints directly on the wall. Blocks of bright translucent colour slide over lintels. Black rectangles and rhomboids run along the bottom of walls, or complicate corners and doorways. He twists the way we see space, but his art is more than an optical game. It is understated and elusive. Caramelle deserves to be better known in the UK: I can imagine him making a beautiful show at Camden Arts Centre, or the Icon in Birmingham." Read more.

Angolan civil war refugee Nelson Da Costa earns his MFA in Boston

Up at my alma mater, the Tufts University Art Gallery continues its series of MFA thesis exhibitions from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts this month. In The Tufts Daily, reporter Kyle Chayka reports that Nelson Da Costa is the only traditional painter in this soon-to-graduate group of installation and video artists. "A refugee of the Angolan civil war, Da Costa attended art school in Cuba before moving to the United States. Da Costa's paintings engage the language of abstraction, dissolving figures and backgrounds into biomorphic shapes that bring to mind Keith Haring as much as they do contemporary graffiti. The paintings' acid colors are punchy and bright, but they also lend an air of superficiality that is only enhanced by the cartoon-like, rhythmic shapes throughout the pieces. Da Costa recognizes in his artist statement that he is trying to 'rebuild himself' through his work, and perhaps that personal intimacy is needed to truly develop the paintings beyond their energetic surfaces."

In a 2003 Boston Globe article about Da Costa, Susan C. Boni tells the whole story. "When government soldiers murdered his father, mother, and brother in their village of Kwanza Norte, Angola, 12-year-old Da Costa became an orphan. Later, he says, troops came to the orphanage, shot him in the shoulder, and left him for dead. After his recovery, a Cuban doctor arranged for Nelson to flee to Cuba. 'I hoped that I would be with a family when I arrived in Havana, but it didn't happen,' says Da Costa as sadness clouds his usually cheerful face.

"Da Costa, whose fear of persecution and death never left him, held onto his love of art as he was shuffled from school to school. In the 11th grade, Da Costa became more serious and confident about his art under the guidance of his teacher, Julio Cesar Banasco, who would later become a famous Cuban artist. 'Canvas and oils are very expensive in Cuba,' Da Costa notes, 'so I worked with pen and pencil on paper.' Many of his works today are drawings in pen or pencil on paper. One striking piece shows a mother and child locked in an embrace. The child's body winds around the mother, and his head rests on top of hers, signifying his importance to the mother. Da Costa painted wherever possible -- in libraries, shelters, churches, and the Boston Center for Adult Education." Read more.

April 13, 2008

Tom McKinley and Albert Oehlen in San Franciso

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Kenneth Baker reports. "A paradox has always lain close to the heart of abstract painting: the idea of a picture without depiction. Various artists have mobilized this paradox for their own purposes in the past century or so. When Oehlen does it, he produces a sort of burlesque of the crack-up of modernism....Behind his demolition of the modernist idea that art progresses, Oehlen's work winks out the question whether a painter can mean his work in any sense that its history can teach us to recognize. More than a matter of the artist's creative posture, this is a question of the cultural and political pressures bearing on painting and its reception. Oehlen's art does not illuminate those pressures, for their specifics will continue to change; it merely makes us sense them with fresh discomfort....McKinley's paintings come nearly untouched by the anxieties and ironies that inform Oehlen's art. McKinley describes perfected domestic worlds so rigidly ruled by ideas of style as to eclipse any possibility of living. Only his evident pleasure in making the paintings offsets their mood. " Read more.

"Tom McKinley," John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CA. Through May 3.
"Albert Oehlen: Paintings 1988-2008," John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CA. Through May 17.

A message for painters who don't have time to paint

I recently received this note from The Oil Painting Studio, a group of formally-trained Chinese painters who would like to create paintings from your sketches, digital prints or photographs. Note that they claim to have worked with many noted, world-wide artists already, but are sworn to secrecy as to whose paintings they have created. "We have been successfully working with fine art galleries and artists internationally for over a decade. Our museum quality realism is created by 25 of Chinese most skilled artists. Each artist has been formally trained and has received their degree from many of the finest art universities in China and abroad. Our artists have afforded our numerous clients, including art galleries, established artists, private parties and other interested individuals, the ability to increase their customer base, realize a much higher profit margin and acquire perfectly executed fine art oil paintings.

"We are presently working with galleries, fine artists, photographers, digital designers and private parties who are interested in realizing a faster way to create a highly lucrative environment by offering extremely high quality oil paintings at the most competitive pricing in the industry. We have worked successfully with many noted artists world-wide and offer our clients an unconditional binding contract in regard to their privacy and source of their oil paintings. We have always and will continue to respect international copyright laws. Your order of original art whether created from digital, photographic or any other form will never be recreated for another client. Each of our artists works inside the framework of their own specialty whether portraiture, landscape, marine, floral, still life or what ever your personal need may be. Our extensive community of fine artists is capable of creating exactly the fine art oil painting that you order. We offer an unconditional money back guarantee to all of our clients if you are dissatisfied with your shipment.

"We look forward to a mutually beneficial relationship. Please contact us by e-mail with your requirements. Individual orders by private parties are gladly accepted. Deeper discounts are available on larger orders. Please contact us for details." Sounds like a good, er, solution for painters who like the idea of painting better than painting itself. Let me know if you want the OPS contact information.

April 11, 2008

Schwabsky tours the New York galleries in search of genre painting

In The Nation Barry Schwabsky reveals a number of talented artists exploring the possibilities of "bad" representational painting. "'Painting as we know it,' Alberto Giacometti lamented in 1962, near the end of his life, 'has no future in our civilization.... There will always be people who would like to have a picturesque landscape, or a nude, or a bouquet of flowers hanging on the wall,' he went on, 'but what we call great painting is finished.' Giacometti's pessimism aside, it's worth noticing his dismissive citation of those humble, nearly contentless genres that seem to exist for no other reason than to proffer an ordinary pleasure; evidently, landscapes and still lifes represent the abjection of painting. Today, when indifference to Modernist notions of artistic progress has become common, for painting to enact its own abjection by dwelling on the banal or trivial has become an almost self-evident strategy; this must have seemed a much stranger thing to do back in the '50s, when Abstract Expressionism was at its pinnacle and reaching for the sublime was second nature for an ambitious painter.

"Yet that's exactly what a number of talented and sometimes ambitious painters in New York began to do at the start of that decade--artists of whom the senior figure, Fairfield Porter, who died in 1975, remains the best known but among whose ranks were several still active today. These include Jane Freilicher, who recently showed new paintings at New York City's Tibor de Nagy Gallery, where she first exhibited in 1952. Freilicher had been a student of Hans Hoffmann, who spread the gospel of abstraction in America and whose teachings inspired its foremost critical proponent, Clement Greenberg. No provincial, Freilicher was taking a calculated risk: to find a way to paint that could be, as Porter wrote of that first show in 1952, both traditional and radical." Sorry. If you want to read more you'll either have to subscribe to The Nation or swing by the library tomorrow.

Abts in heaven

New Museum is presenting the first major U.S. solo exhibition of paintings by London-based artist Tomma Abts (born Kiel, Germany, 1967). Abts creates surprising, small abstract paintings that are being touted as the antidote to the "florid figuration" that has dominated contemporary painting in recent years. In the NYTimes, Ken Johnson writes that Abts's paintings look otherworldly at the New Museum. "Widely spaced on three white walls under a soaring ceiling with multiple skylights, Ms. Abts’s 14 small works look as though they died and went to heaven....You might suspect that so much bright space would be too much for Ms. Abts’s seemingly modest canvases. Her abstract, hard-edged compositions, each one measuring just 18 7/8 by 15 inches, are the opposite of showy. They have a nerdy, introverted spirit that would seem to prefer more intimate conditions. (No doubt many were surprised when Ms. Abts, who was born in Germany in 1967 and lives in London, won the 2006 Turner Prize, which usually goes to more ostentatious kinds of art.) Far from shrinking under such glaring public exposure, however, her pictures exert a gravitational force that draws you in and makes you momentarily forget the big empty room. Each seems a little world unto itself. The alternation between the expansive space of the gallery and the absorbing compression of individual paintings is exhilarating....Ms. Abts takes a long time to produce her works, and she is not prolific. You can see that she does much painting and repainting. Though flat, the paintings are not smooth: they are crisscrossed by ridges and seams of underlying layers. It is an art of decisions, revisions, corrections and adjustments, and the cumulative textures, like scar tissue, give the impression that the final pictures are hard won." Read more.

"Tomma Abts," organized by Laura Hoptman. New Museum, New York, NY. Through June 29. Traveling to the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles,CA, from July 27 through Nov. 2.

April 10, 2008

Ashley Bickerton's exotic fruit

Bali-based Bickerton hires models and actors, paints directly on their faces and bodies, then photographs them. The images are then altered digitally, printed on canvas, and painted some more. Each is then stretched, and displayed in a hand-carved, elaborately decorated frame. In The Village Voice, Leslie Camhi says Bickerton's eight remarkable paintings depict an inner reality, a monstrous hybrid of exotic beauty, expatriate rapaciousness, and end-of-the-world angst. "The canvases, in particular, are jarring fusions of painting and digitally altered photographs, where photorealist veracity combines with surreal color, scale, and content. They depict our artist/hero/sexual tourist—a man with Caucasian features and blue skin—gone native with a vengeance. In one, he writhes in agony beneath a red devil, in the throes of some unnamed addiction. Elsewhere, beneath a green sky dotted with bloodshot yellow clouds, he demonically proffers exotic fruits while surrounded by multihued, mostly naked native women. (Another canvas shows off the squalling brood he's fathered with one of them.) The frames, inlaid with mother-of-pearl and coins and carved with touristy scenes drawn from island life or mythology, are spotted with holes, as if the painting's very status as an art commodity were threatened with extinction. The work as a whole confronts our voracious desire for beauty with the mirror of its deeply corrupting influence." Read more.

"Ashley Bickerton: New Work," Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York, NY. Through May 3.

April 9, 2008

It's a horse race: Kentucky Derby art auction party in Dumbo

Public service announcement: $250 gets you into Smack Mellon's annual fundraiser, and you're guaranteed to take home artwork determined by a random drawing. It's a great deal: you're supporting Smack Mellon and you get to take home some decent art. If you bet on the winning horse, it increases your odds of getting the artwork you want because you get first pick. The roster of donating artists is impressive, and the silent auction includes work by Ida Applebroog, Ellen Harvey, Vito Acconci, David Ellis, Eve Susman, Dan Zeller, Tom Otterness, and more. Smack Mellon's mission is to support emerging, under-recognized, and female artists by providing studio space, exhibition opportunities, equipment and technical assistance in the realization of ambitious projects.

Smack Mellon Kentucky Derby Party and Art Auction Benefit
Saturday, May 3rd at 4pm at Smack Mellon Gallery
92 Plymouth Street in Dumbo Brooklyn.

Twelve artists, 24 hours, one house

In Philadelphia Weekly, Steven Wells stops by My House Gallery during a 24-hour drawing marathon. "They’re working on a strip of paper taped to the wall. The highlight is what looks like a Viking being unexpectedly sodomized by the Grinch. There are also lots of cockroaches, courtesy of 23–year–old Hannah Heffner. They symbolize the ability to survive civilization, she says. But only after I kinda make her. Turns out artists desperately craving sleep can be made to say almost anything. Which is why sleep deprivation is the favorite torture technique of tyrants and terrorists everywhere. And why parents of newborn babies are always babbling idiots. ...The art I can see looks great—one huge screwball fuck–off psycho–doodle–doo. It’s the Bayeux Tapestry recreated by Philly artists—some of them off their formerly suburban tits on sports supplements. 'And change!' says Alex. They all swap places to embellish or deface each other’s work. This is when the Viking gets a Grinch rooting him up his Scandinavian shitter." Read more.

The Big Draw,” My House Gallery, Philadelphia, PA. Through April 19. The artists include Andrew Brehm, Aimee Christopher, Katie Elia, Hannah Heffner, Jim Grilli, Jenny Kanzler, Adam Oestreicher, Fernando Ramos, Nora Reneck–Rineheart, Hop Bryan Rice and David Staniunas.

April 8, 2008

Visionary artist needs help in California

Will Oremus reports in the San Mateo Daily News that a woman who paints her homes and cars with rants about government conspiracies has been evicted from her house in Belmont, but she refuses to leave. "Estrella Benavides, who already lost her San Mateo house to foreclosure, will go to trial next week for continuing to occupy a home on Beresford Avenue in Belmont after it, too, was repossessed and sold. The new owners are suing to evict her....The 48-year-old Nicaraguan immigrant has fallen into a deep hole since she first began painting cryptic messages all over the front of her San Mateo home in 2006. Two cities are suing her for violations of their residential sign codes, two of her houses have been foreclosed upon for lack of payment, and she has no steady income. Benavides, who believes the government is controlled by a mafia bent on mind control and child abuse, says she believes God will protect her no matter what happens. 'I can guarantee you he will not put me on the street,' she said after her initial hearing Monday. She cited a $5,000 gift she recently received from an anonymous benefactor as evidence of the Lord's intervention in her life." Read more.

The utopian promise of Modernism at the Aldrich Museum

“Painting the Glass House: Artists Revisit Modern Architecture” presents 2-dimensional work that explores the architecture and utopian ideas of the modern period. “The artists are less interested in the built structures themselves and what it might feel like to be inside one, and more interested in the philosophy and idealism they represent," curator Jessica Hough suggests. "The way in which the buildings signal a possibility of utopia is essential—a future that could have been. Sentimentality runs through much of the work.” In the NYTimes, Benjamin Genocchio writes that Modernist buildings — whether in Europe, South America or the United States — were designed to achieve standardization, largely for cost and functionality. "Every feature could be inexpensively duplicated. What is endearing about the works in both locations is how lovingly the artists have embraced the individual buildings — photographing, painting or recreating them with thought, feeling and emotion. They infuse the impersonal with the personal, with affecting results....These buildings have probably never looked better." Read more.

Painting the Glass House: Artists Revisit Modern Architecture,” curated by Jessica Hough and Mónica Ramírez-Montagut. The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT and he Yale School of Architecture Gallery, New Haven, CT. Through July 27. Artists include Alexander Apóstol, Daniel Arsham, Gordon Cheung, David Claerbout, Angela Dufresne, Mark Dziewulski, Christine Erhard, Cyprien Gaillard, Terence Gower, Angelina Gualdoni, Natasha Kissell, Luisa Lambri, Dorit Margreiter, Russell Nachman, Enoc Perez, and Lucy Williams.

April 6, 2008

How Thomas Nozkowski scaled back the rules and rhetoric

I forgot to include the three small Nozkowski paintings at the Armory Show on my list of most compelling small-scale paintings at the recent NYC fairs. At Daily Gusto, Harry reports about the Thomas Nozkowski lecture he attended at the Fisher Landau Center in Long Island City, Queens. The occasion was a small survey of Nozkowski's paintings there (until April 14). Pace Wildenstein also has a show up, of Nozkowski's most recent work (until May 3). "Nozkowski recalled going to a gallery in Soho as a young painter and seeing a show with just one 40-foot long abstract canvas. He realized that something was off in the context of abstraction. 'Our rhetoric was totally someplace else.' He said he thought these huge works were paintings designed for people downtown painters despised. He decided to reevaluate his assumptions -- and instead of creating gargantuan canvases, he started working on a small scale. He wanted to make paintings that would work in his friends' tenement apartments. He said almost half of the paintings at the Fisher Landau Center were done on canvas board out of a deliberate decision to work with a humble, everyday material." Read more.

April 5, 2008

Death by blogging

In the NYTimes, Matt Richtel reports that blogging is stressful. "To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style." Bloggers beware: Expect concern from families and loved ones after they read this article in the Times tomorrow. Just as Richtel suggested, my worried (or perhaps disapproving?) sister sent me a link to this newsflash as soon as she read it.

Poe art in London

In anticipation of the bicentenary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth (1809), White Cube's exhibition "You Dig the Tunnel, I'll Hide the Soil" explores the enduring legacy and cult status of the American writer. Wherever curator Harland Miller noticed a connection to an artist’s existing work, life or practice, he approached them to read the stories and asked them to respond in any manner they saw fit and to interpret the story with a new work. In The Observer, Sean O'Hagen reports. "Given that the great horror writer has been well served by illustrators - Doré and Beardsley immediately spring to mind - it is a brave move on Miller's part to attempt to contemporise Poe's work and, in doing so, drag it out of the Gothic tradition. Ironically, one of the defining aspects of the exhibition is that it highlights not just the extremity of Poe's dark imaginings, but the seam of pitch-black Gothic absurdism that runs through contemporary British art from the Chapman brothers to the Wilson sisters." Read more.

"You Dig the Tunnel, I'll Hide the Soil," curated by Harland Miller and Irene Bradbury. White Cube, London through May 10. Artists include Fergus Bremner, Jake & Dinos Chapman, John Cooper Clarke, Liz Craft, Tracey Emin, Angus Fairhurst, Katharina Fritsch, Paul Fryer, Barnaby Furnas, Douglas Gordon, Rodney Graham, Marcus Harvey, Anton Henning, Damien Hirst, Anselm Kiefer, Abigail Lane, Christian Marclay, Kris Martin, Harland Miller, Polly Morgan, Mike Nelson, Magnus Plessen, Michele Howarth Rashman, Julian Schnabel, Gregor Schneider, Norbert Schoerner, George Shaw, Cindy Sherman, Jason Shulman, Dirk Skreber, Paul Steinitz, Fred Tomaselli, Jane & Louise Wilson and Cerith Wyn Evans.

"Someone is going to come ’round here and buy all my paintings at one time for $40,000."

Earl Cunningham (1893 - 1977), a prolific landscape artist who worked from memory, is considered a "folk modernist" whose work conveys some of the complex meanings about the nature of American life. In the NYTimes, Karen Rosenberg writes that Cunningham's style may have been childlike, but he was hardly naïve. "He was well aware of the 'discovery' of folk art during the Depression (he is known to have clipped news articles about Grandma Moses) and marketed himself accordingly. He signed one of his paintings 'Earl Cunningham, American Primitive' and printed business cards with the label 'primitive artist.' Later he exhibited his works in his St. Augustine curio shop but with a sign that read, 'These paintings are not for sale.' Marilyn Mennello, Cunningham’s most devoted collector, recalled that when she first tried to purchase a painting, his response was, 'Someone is going to come ’round here and buy all my paintings at one time for $40,000.' He seemed to be holding out for the big payday, although his lifestyle suggested that fame on the level of Grandma Moses was more of an incentive than money." Read more.

"Earl Cunningham's America," curated by Virginia Mecklenburg. American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY. Through August 31.

Related posts:
Earl Cunningham's imaginary landscapes

America's Lessness

My contribution to the April issue of The Brooklyn Rail considers the notion of readymade color, the implications of the current Whitney Biennial, and the fleeting nature of symbolic and political meaning.

"At the Museum of Modern Art, the current exhibition 'Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today' examines two separate but related meanings of readymade color. The first category is color that is store-bought rather than hand-mixed, and the second is “found” color appropriated from everyday life. Perhaps a third category should have been established for color that conveys political and emotional baggage. The fiercely-contested presidential race, energized by the Iraq debate, is bombarding us with cadmium red, titanium white, and ultramarine blue patriotic imagery: waving flags; campaign buses plastered with candidates’ logos and slogans; stars and stripes on bumper stickers. At the same time, the small-minded presidency of George W. Bush, during which the status of the United States as an international political standard-bearer has atrophied, is reflected in American artists’ increasing disenchantment with universal themes and greater fascination with the mundane, the non-visual, the personal, and the transitory. The curators of the Whitney Biennial, Henriette Huldisch and Shamim M. Momin, have declared this year’s exhibit to be about “lessness,” and gathered artwork that seems dedicated to the notion that all glory is fleeting—or, more specifically, that our glory has fled." Read more.

Related posts:
Non-bombastic: Blue and white, red
This month's Visual AIDS Web Gallery, "Red, White & Blue," curated by Edward Winkleman and Max-Carlos Martinez

April 4, 2008

Eye-popping, snarling James Siena

In the NY Sun, David Cohen writes that the quality of line in James Siena's new figurative grotesques relates to the quilt- or lattice-like grids and labyrinths of classic Siena pictures. "Not just formally but also in terms of their own morphology: The line seems as subservient to algorithm as depiction, even though they work depictively. In 'First Old Man' (2006), for instance, there is more a sense that the figure emerged from a maze-like algorithm that went awry than that the eye-popping, snarling figure was himself the prime mover of the linear form meandering about the page. And yet this colon-like form, doubling back and forth on itself, perfectly describes the loose gums and folding flesh of a wrinkled geriatric....Works in his new genres exude all the excitement of thematic departure, but the most intense pleasures in this show occur when Mr. Siena is on familiar ground — whether this is a result of this viewer's comfort level or the artist's is a matter of conjecture. Read more.

"James Siena," Pace Wildenstein, New York, NY. March 28— April 26
Related post:
Show of the week: James Siena At Pace Wildenstein

Gretchen Bennett's love letters to Kurt Cobain in Seattle

Gretchen Bennett explores the pop-culture iconography of the Seattle area through drawings of the band Nirvana and its lead singer Kurt Cobain. Bennett's source materials include YouTube video footage and Gus Van Sant's film, "Last Days." In The Stranger, Jen Graves writes that everything Bennett makes is a sort of humbled afterlife of something else. 'Usually something geographic: cut street stickers arranged to represent images of her old neighborhood in Brooklyn; labels from used-up water bottles reassembled and mounted pristinely on paper in the shape of Mount Rainier; and now, colored-pencil portraits of YouTube videos that revolve around a dead man, Kurt Cobain. It isn't that Bennett is stuck in the past; it's as if, like a musician covering a song, she waits for just the right time to pull certain pasts through to now. Drawing may be old-fashioned, but drawing that looks like a cross between Dürer etchings, luminist landscapes, and degraded photographs and that's made from lowly colored pencils is not. Also, this is an official announcement: Unlike, say, five years ago, it is now possible to make art about Kurt Cobain without it being wrong. This moment may soon pass, and he may take on newly unpleasant glosses, but for now, he is the perfect balance of lost and found." Read more.

"I didn't want to say celebrity worship or obsession — but I thought about that because they surround this subject matter." Gretchen Bennett told The Seattle Times' Marian Liu. "I think of these pieces as alternative views, personal views, my personal framing. For me, it's almost self-portraiture or landscape. It's a way of contextualizing myself in this landscape."

In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Regina Hackett declares that Bennett is about materials, "especially those that have kicked around the edges of urban cultures, such as fake wood grain and skateboard decals; black tape drawings of tree trunks, oil tanks and dead animals; and grainy photos of the street. She's an artist of rumors, bumper stickers and bum steers. From these she derives a haunting version of the truth. Like the humor in Kafka, her affirmatives can be hard to discern but once seen they become indelible." Read more.

"Gretchen Bennett: Hello," Howard House, Seattle, WA. Through April 12.

April 2, 2008

Book review: Let's See

In bookforum, Alan Gilbert reviews Peter Schjeldahl's new book, Let’s See: Writings on Art from the New Yorker. "What makes Schjeldahl a pleasure to read is that he loves language as much as art. 'An utterance that sounds good isn’t always right, but one that sounds bad is invariably wrong,' he asserts in the book’s introduction, which consists of his responses to twenty questions from various art-world luminaries. Sounding good in part means neither repeating yourself nor droning on and on. Schjeldahl’s ability to coin unique, illuminating, and nonredundant descriptions of artworks after writing countless reviews for forty years is truly remarkable. It may be a holdover from his days as a poet, since nothing kills a poem more than being able to guess the next word. Schjeldahl’s also very good—stylistically, at least—when the art he discusses appeals more to the emotions than to reason. To get an idea of where his sympathies, and passions, lie, one needs only compare his near swoon in the last two paragraphs of a review of Pablo Picasso’s erotic art with his matter-of-fact, no-smelling-salts-required take on the Russian Suprematist Kazimir Malevich." Read more.

An image, some words, and a sense of humor

Dave Eggers, Jesse Nathan, and Jordan Bass have organized Lots of Things Like This, a show that opens tonight at Apexart. Here's an excerpt from Dave Egger's amusing curatorial statement. "Being loathe to draw conclusions about the artists’ motivations or methods, because, again, so many of these people are dead, we’re instead going to list some questions that occurred to us and might occur to you and might help the show blow your mind completely:

"Why is it that so many of these artists aren’t so great at spelling? And why is it that when they screw up one of their words, instead of starting over, they just cross the word out and write it again? Many people would choose to start over.

"Why is it important to many of the artists that the drawings appear casual, even rushed? Is the loose draftsmanship part of its appeal, in that it seems more intimate and disarming? Is absurdity more appealing when it comes across as humble?

"What is the line between a doodle, a cartoon, a gag, a work of fine art, and will there ever be a time when someone doesn’t insist on writing a similar kind of silly and rhetorical sentence in an art catalog? In some cases does it seem that the artist is defacing his or her own work by adding the text? That’s partly why we included the Duchamp / Mona Lisa experiment and the Goya – in both cases the words are a lighthearted comment on a finished or abandoned image. Sorry, that’s not really a question. Moving on..." Read more."

"Lots of Things Like This" organized by Dave Eggers. Apexart, New York, NY. Through May 10.

Mark Bradford's live feed in LA

IN the LA Times, Christopher Knight reports about a sign that went up over Steve Turner Contemporary, a Wilshire Boulevard gallery directly across the street from the new Broad Contemporary Art Museum at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "On black tarpaulin lying flat on the rooftop, capital letters in white paint implore, 'HELP US.' The sign is by artist Mark Bradford, whose mixed-media collage paintings are usually assembled from handbills, beauty parlor tissue paper, service advertisements posted on neighborhood fences and other such material, which he tears, layers, scrapes and weathers, often on large canvases. He calls his source material 'the white noise of the street.' The dense yet often lyrical paintings seek to tap into the random vitality born of an accumulation of urban signs. 'HELP US' hits a different chord. Its street origins are the same, tracking memories of neighborhoods like the Lower 9th Ward, but its effect on a Los Angeles rooftop 30 months later is very different. This painting is a spectral ghost, haunting the private imagination and the national soul." Read more. Curiously, the gallery is presenting a live feed of this very inactive, stationary project. Perhaps Bradford sees it as a poignant comment on inaction.

"HELP US: An Installation by Mark Bradford," Steve Turner Contemporary, Los Angeles, CA. Through

Jaudon: Greater incident and interest

Current Art Pics takes a look at Valerie Jaudon's show at Von Lintel Gallery, and includes plenty of links to related artists and materials. "Jaudon emerged in the early 70s, and is usually linked with the Pattern and Decoration movement, concerned with the acceptance of a wider range of folk and traditional motifs in painting. Jaudon is positioned at the Minimalist end of such an undertaking, with her interlaced stripes taking their cue from the work of Frank Stella, as well as in use of Asian or Islamic titles, metallic pigments and the pale outlines or rims to stripes....For all its severity, the work finally makes room for more painting, for greater incident and interest. In the latest work, this relaxation surprisingly does without the tension between ‘background’ and ‘foreground’, pattern and painting, instead focuses on variations to motif, and motif reduced to relatively short, broad white lines in close relations. In some ways the work harks back to the early 70s in the density and intricacy of elements, but pattern has now gained a deeper, more sophisticated project, for the moment demands less of painting." Read more.

"Valerie Jaudon: Painting," Von Lintel Gallery, New York, NY. Through April 12.

Schjeldahl on Demuth: Slanting rays of abstracted light

Peter Schjeldahl reports: "Most esteemed for his floral and figurative, often homoerotic watercolors, Demuth in his painful last years, confined to his home town in Pennsylvania, undertook a modest national epic, exalting industrial structures in flat oil colors and incised pencil lines, with slanting rays of abstracted light. In spirit, the series recalls the contemporaneous suite of poems 'The Bridge,' by another gay avant-gardist with patriotic longings, Hart Crane." 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:
Ken Johnson: Smokestack symbolism in Demuth's paintings at the Whitney
Precisionist Charles Demuth's chimney and tower paintings in Fort Worth
Precisionist Elsie Driggs retrospective at Michener Museum

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