May 30, 2008

Where the paintings are

"If you emerged from the Whitney Biennial wondering where all the painting went, don’t despair," Karen Rosenberg informs us in the NY Times this morning. "An alternative view of the state of contemporary art can be found at the National Academy’s annual exhibition. This year’s show is a non-member affair (alternate years are members-only), which means that it is about as lively as a juried exhibition organized by committee can be....One of the themes of recent annuals is the battle of gestural versus geometric abstraction. At this year’s show geometry prevails. Danielle Tegeder’s painting 'Tzangrine: The Mechanics of Velocity and Lust' evokes early Duchamp and Italian Futurism with a dynamic group of angular forms linked by thin lines. Ben La Rocco paints symmetrical compositions that resemble race car graphics, while Derek Leka channels Peter Halley’s cells and conduits. Not everything in the exhibition is so shiny and glib. The painters Eric Holzman, Colleen Randall and Stanley Lewis favor a thick, resolutely un-trendy impasto. The sculptor Leonardo Drew exhibits a series of rust prints in weathered frames, depicting the exteriors of run-down buildings. The New Orleans artist Willie Birch’s pair of charcoal drawings, 'The Aftermath of Katrina' (2007), is one of the show’s few bids for social relevance. Original, boundary-breaking concepts are scarce, but interesting and varied techniques abound. ...Love them or hate them, the Academy’s annuals can seem like the art world’s last line of defense against the forces of youth, attitude and the market. That defense might be strengthened by a tighter display and a more relaxed definition of art." Read more.

The 183rd Annual: An Invitational Exhibition of Contemporary American Art,” National Academy Museum, New York, NY. Through Sept. 7.

Artists include: Linda Adato, Tina Amarena, Lisha Bai, Laura Battle, Ken Beck, Jose Bedia, Jaq Belcher, Emily Berger, Willie Birch, Nancy Brett, Becky Brown, Michael Burke, Chris Burnside, Cynthia Carlson, Squeak Carnwath, Simon Carr, JoAnne Carson, Saint Clair Cemin, Beau Chamberlain, Andrea Champlin, James O. Clark, David Collins, Pat Colville, Elizabeth Cooper, Douglas Craft, David Crum, Donna Dennis, Cathy Diamond, Michael DiCerbo, Leonardo Drew, Loretta Dunkelman, Ming Fay, Jean Feinberg, Jeffrey Fichera, Jeanette Fintz, Stephanie Laura Franks, David Fratkin, Latoya Ruby Frazier, Bill Freeland, Linda Ganjian, Brenda Garand, Judith Geichman, Celia Gerard, Bryan Nash Gill, Chambliss Giobbi, Maria Elena González, Peter Gourfain, Elizabeth Gourlay, Grace Graupe Pillard, Jenna Gribbon, C. Gregory Gummersall, Lisa Hamilton, Julie Heffernan, Steven Holl, Eric Holzman, Richard Hricko, Frances Hynes, Darina Karpov, Rhoda Keller, Barbara Kerstetter, Sabina Klein, Ben LaRocco, Nancy Lasar, John Kemp Lee, Sungmi Lee, Derek Leka, Jeffrey Lewis, Stanley Lewis, Ying Li, Cynthia Lin, Pat Lipsky, Arthur Lubetz, Elizabeth MacDonald, Barry Malloy, Elizabeth Marran,, Lee Marshall, Fred Martin, Hunter McKee, Dana Melamed, Melissa Meyer, Ron Milewicz, Leah Montalto, Thaddeus Mosley, Mario Naves, Laura Newman, Caitlin Nolan, Matthew Northridge, Patsy Norvell, Steve Novick, Eve Olitski, Soo Sunny Park, Mel Pekarsky, Marilyn Perry, Richard Pitts, Andrew Raftery, Colleen Randall, David Reed, Katherine Rogers, David Row, Ephraim Rubenstein, Mel Rubin, Mayumi Sarai, Susan Sauerbrun, Bill Scott, Sean Scully, Eriko Seo, Edward Shalala, Elena Sisto, Kim Sloane, E.E. Smith, Shirley Smith, Richard Snyder, Regina Stewart, Leonard Stokes, Barbara Takenaga, Danielle Tegeder, Luigi Terruso, Anthony H. Thompson, Fumiko Toda, Craig Usher, Don Voisine, Erika Wastrom, Ken Weathersby, Joanne Pagano Weber, Martin Weinstein, James Wines, Betty Woodman, Yuriko Yamaguchi, Elizabeth Yamin, Barbara Zucker

The tip of a psychic iceberg at MoMA

In the NY Times Ken Johnson declares that "Glossolalia: Languages of Drawing” is the most exciting exhibition of drawings the Museum of Modern Art has produced in years. "Organized by Connie Butler, the museum’s chief curator of drawings, it presents a delightfully unpredictable mix of about 100 works by two distinct groups: self-taught outsider artists and idiosyncratic but conventionally trained professionals, many of whom have been inspired by outsider art....The show does not distinguish between the two in either the labeling or the arrangement. Outsiders like Henry Darger, James Castle and Bill Traylor are interspersed among insiders like Louise Bourgeois, H. C. Westerman and Jim Shaw. What links all the artists is the drive to work primarily from internal, private sources of inspiration. The word glossolalia, which means speaking in tongues, makes this point succinctly. It suggests that each artist, rather than adopting a familiar, academically certified style has created a unique language with which to express his or her own experience. Unlike real glossolalia, which is typically incomprehensible, most of the drawings Ms. Butler has selected (all from the museum’s permanent collection) are intelligibly representational. Still, there is a more or less obscurely personal dimension in most pieces. Often you have the feeling of seeing just the tip of a psychic iceberg. It’s the opposite of Frank Stella, who famously said of his works, 'What you see is what you see.'" Read more.

"Glossolalia: Languages of Drawing," curated by Connie Butler. Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. Through July 7.

May 29, 2008

Cohen's picks for June solo shows

David Cohen writes in the NY Sun that there are still several solos to catch in June before the galleries hang their summer group shows. I look forward to the group shows, but Cohen complains that writing about them is a bore. Here is his June painting preview, with links to the artists. "Jack Shainman Gallery presents the spirited black history mural painter Kerry James Marshall, while Marlborough Chelsea has Hunt Slonem, known for his exuberant, serial paintings of birds, and his icon-like portraits of saints, sacred or secular (both shows until June 21). Tibor de Nagy has a historic show of Jess, as the quasi-outsider artist and lover of the poet Robert Duncan, Jess Collins, was known (until July 31).

"Also now on view are Darina Karpov's obsessively involved, science fiction-y landscapes in watercolor, at the mainstay Williamsburg gallery Pierogi 2000 (until June 23). Her work ties in with two other artists showing this summer: Fanny Bostrom at 31Grand (the former Williamsburg gallery that has since decamped to the Lower East Side), who also works in aqueous mediums on paper in pieces that can entail schematic constellations imposed on childlike landscapes (May 29 to June 28); and Chris Finley at Lombard-Freid Projects, whose show of swirling, looping abstract forms, each named for a political figure, is titled 'Power Sources' (until July 3).

"More hard-edged and conceptual abstraction is represented by two solo shows: Michael Zahn at Eleven Rivington (May 28 to July 3) is known for monochromatic canvases in synthetic colors that resemble commercial stationery, while Alix Le Méléder at Galerie Zurcher (June 11 to July 23) makes repeating marks in the corners of small white canvases. For freely abstract painting that steers a course equally distant from neatness and obsessiveness, there is Elizabeth Cooper at Thrust Projects (until June 29).

"Figuration, meanwhile, has its devotees among several painters given early summer solo spots. Betty Cuningham's 'Philip Pearlstein: Then and Now' compares late 1960s paintings by the veteran painter of nudes in the interior with work of the last decade to dispel the impression held by some of a lack of development in this artist's work. Angela Fraleigh at PPOW (June 5 to July 3) is known for canvases of faces in a tight realist hand that are then submerged in poured sludges and dabs of viscous oil. Gabi Hamm at Perry Rubinstein (May 29 to July 2) paints the female figure in allegorical poses, and forlorn-looking houses in blasted landscapes. Erotic female figures feature in the politically motivated drawings of Zoë Charlton at Clementine (June 26 to August 2). Zhao Nengzhi depicts a series of grotesquely fleshy male figures he calls phantoms at ChinaSquare (opening June 5)." Read more.

Louis Cameron in St. Louis

In the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, David Bonetti writes that initially he thought Louis Cameron's paintings were in league with the hard-edged geometric abstraction of Mondrian, Ellsworth Kelly, and Burgoyne Diller, but then realized his approach is more conceptual. "The works from his recent 'Tiles' series are composed of rectangles of double squares that remind you of the tiles of domino games. You can almost hear them clack as they are laid down in place. Cameron, who lives in New York, doesn't appropriate his tiles from available sources in commerce or industry. He makes them by casting forms out of acrylic paint and letting them dry and harden. His reference to the everyday comes from other means. Each of his compositions is based on the color palette of the packaging of a commonly available product — Hershey's chocolate bars, Marlboro cigarettes, Duracell batteries. Cameron scans the packaging and lets the computer analyze the amount of each color used. He then applies the tiles in his own patterns to canvas (which is then applied to panel) to create jazzy compositions that look strangely familiar. Maybe it's my own autobiography as a chocolate lover speaking, but 'Hershey's' originally tipped me off that the colors were derived from popular sources. (Others in this hard-smoking city might first get the 'Marlboro' composition first.)" Read more.

"Louis Cameron: Recent Painting, Collage, and Video," Schmidt Contemporary Art (Note: gallery website does not include this exhibit yet), St. Louis. Through June 14.

May 28, 2008

Piet in Pitt

If you've never been to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, you probably haven't seen many of the Piet Mondrian paintings on view at the Andy Warhol Museum this summer. A leader in abstract painting of the twentieth century, Mondrian (1872 -1944), was best known for Neo-Plasticism, which he explained as the absolute harmony of straight lines and pure colors underlying the visible world. In the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Kurt Shaw asks "Who was Piet Mondrian? For the uninitiated, just remember those funky bottles and jars of the L'Oreal Studio Line of hair care products introduced in the mid-1980s. You know the ones -- the pared down packages with spare designs of primary-colored squares and black lines. Never mind that every fashion designer from Yves St. Laurent to Christian Louboutin borrowed the Dutch artist's iconic gridded composition of yellow, blue and red for everything from cocktail dresses to platform shoes." Hmm...when you put it that way, it seems like a perfect show for the Warhol Museum. Read more.

Piet (Mondrian) in Pittsburgh," Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA. Through August 31.

May 27, 2008

Angela Dufresne: Immediately from life

Angela Dufresne's work is included in "Get up off our Knees" at Monya Rowe through June 7th, and presented in a solo show, "Twilight of Mice and Men," at the Kinkead Contemporary in Los Angeles. In the Huffington Post Kimberly Brooks features Dufresne in her weekly "First Person Artist" column.

Kimberly Brooks: How did you personally come to reworking and rewriting history in your work?

Angela Dufresne: It was 1999- I was in Paris at Versailles and was nauseatingly looking around at the Coat of Arms everywhere-the room restorations turns out are paid for by American Investors- another layer of the Skull and Bones classicist need for [Americans] to belong to the European Aristocratic image... Anyway, I realized at that moment: "Screw the cultural history that has been shoved down my throat- I'm making my own." That meant creating my own coat of arms, my own genealogy....populated bastardizations of people and moments I deemed important. It also meant formally- a new set of criteria for meaning and balance.

KB: In a clear nod to Steinbeck, you have a show opening tonite at the Kinkead Gallery in Los Angeles "The Twilight of Mice and Men". How is the current series different than your last?
AD: There is a sort of "Grapes of Wrath", Great Depression feel to the paintings, the light in the work has gone full on twilight, but this was an organic process, unplanned. I titled the show after taking a bird's eye view of the works in the studio. I can't really say how "different" it is, the work is always evolving, changing, but these paintings have their strength in their raw power, their immediacy, their execution is hyper-raw and visibly present, they are unrefined assaults on the senses, perhaps even more so that prior bodies of work. It is also a very figurative show, which to some may seem different but in fact I have always been making paintings of the figure, though some of these pieces are paintings made immediately from life, in combination with film stills. But as I said before, these are the priorities I have, it seams essential to me that paintings have such immediacy.

Read more.

May 24, 2008

Takanori Oguiss: Another painting-in-a-dumpster story

“The colors weren’t attractive. The frame was ugly — this just wasn’t anything I could put on my wall and be proud of,” clueless Tammy Bullock said of "Coin De Paris, Rue de Meaux," a Takanori Oguiss painting she found in a Colorado dumpster ten years ago. Oguiss, born in Japan in 1901, lived in Europe where he painted many Parisian and Venetian street scenes. “The painting fit in my closet — I even stored my children’s school papers behind it,” Bullock said. “I almost gave the painting away several times,” she recalled. After hearing a segment on the local TV station about a website that helps people value their belongings, she realized it may be worth something. Bullock expected around $65,000 when she put the painting up for auction at Sotheby's earlier this month, but the final bid was over $100,000. Takanori Oguiss died in Paris in 1986. (via Farm and Dairy)

30 Chinese painters make quake painting to raise funds

A group of 30 Chinese artists, inspired by the tenacity and unity of their people in the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake, have returned from overseas to jointly produce a large oil painting titled "Warm Blood in May." The painting, divided into nine sections, is inspired by news images of the disaster. The first panels depict the panic-stricken crowds after the quake hit, the middle the spark of new hope after the rescue and relief work began, and the end of the painting portrays the rebuilding process of a new homeland. "This catastrophic disaster has stimulated the most beautiful things in human nature," painter Li Guijun said. "It is all worth our great admiration." The painting will be auctioned off in Beijing on Monday. All the proceeds will be donated to the quake areas. (via CCTV)

May 23, 2008

NY Times Art in Review: Nelson, Mitchell, Rauch

"Dona Nelson: In Situ, Paintings, 1973-Present," Thomas Erben, New York, NY. Through May 31. Roberta Smith: "There are many ways a New York museum could avoid merely validating the art market; one would be to surprise us all and give the New York painter Dona Nelson a survey. She has painted prolifically and innovatively for nearly 40 years, following her own path through the gap between abstraction and representation. She has been sustained by an adventuresome emphasis on materials, an appreciation of outsider art and an athletic (or, more fashionably, 'performative') approach to process that builds on the art of Jackson Pollock and the Minimalist notion of specificity. For Ms. Nelson, however, specificity evolved into a charged compression of feeling, surface fact and optical experience."

"Joan Mitchell: Paintings and Pastels, 1973-1983," Lennon, Weinberg, New York, NY. Through June 21. Karen Rosenberg: "Joan Mitchell’s pastels, the subject of this small exhibition, rival her better-known oil paintings in bravura and complexity. Working during the late 1970s and early ’80s at her studio in Vétheuil, France, she put an Abstract Expressionist spin on a medium more often associated with the French Impressionists."

"Neo Rauch," David Zwirner, New York, NY. Through June 21. Karen Rosenberg: "What comes after a solo show at the Metropolitan Museum? For the Leipzig-trained painter Neo Rauch, room to breathe. At the Met, Mr. Rauch’s paintings looked static and hemmed in by history; references to old masters are still present in this show at Zwirner, but the new work is more of a Fellini film than a costume drama."

Read all the reviews here.

Kate Bright's silent winters in Philadelphia

London-based painter Kate Bright presents eight new paintings which, like her previous work, depict snow-laden trees. The tightly cropped images of the freshly-fallen snow are painted from both memory and photographs. In The Philadelphia Inquirer Edith Newall reports that the scenes, which are covered in glitter to create the effect of twinkling snow, will remind Philadelphians of their own backyards. "The glitter also gives her wintry forests a sweet, sentimental quality: Sugar-coated confections and old-fashioned Christmas cards, advent calendars and tree ornaments come to mind. Bright's paintings would be nice to fall into, even the one showing a distant squall. They conjure a fairy tale's darkness behind the prettiness, too: You might get lost or fall asleep in her alluring, silent wilderness. Or, more ominously, these images may represent the winters of the past." Read more.

"Kate Bright: Between the Woods," Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, PA. Through May 30.

May 22, 2008

Aho at Alpha

In the Boston Globe, Cate McQuaid reports that Eric Aho's earnest new paintings of the icy Vermont landscape are wild in more ways than one. "There's the way he slashes paint over his canvas, with bold, big, unfettered strokes. And there are the places he portrays, plunging his viewers deep into a fire-scorched wood, or bringing us to the brink of a frozen river where the ice has reared up and shattered. In his compositions, brute force comes face to face with vulnerability, and chaos collides with order. These nature paintings capture something of humanity, then, as well." Read more.

"Eric Aho: Wilderness," Alpha Gallery, Boston, MA. Through June 4.
Related posts: Provincetown pigment

May 21, 2008

"It's such a kick, seeing things...that's where it starts"

Alexandre Gallery sent me a link to a thoughtful video interview of Lois Dodd in her studio. Dodd talks about the painting process, why she paints what she sees, and how she survived for so long without a day job. Taped in Dodd's New York studio by Bill Maynes, January 2007.

"Lois Dodd: Landscapes and Structures," Alexandre Gallery, New York, NY. Through May 30.
"Lois Dodd: Directly Considered," Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockport, ME. Through July 19.

Related post: Berthot and Dodd: Compare and contrast

May 20, 2008

Rosa Loy's Leipzig dreamworld

At artnet Charlie Finch absolutely swoons over Leipzig artist Rosa Loy's new paintings. "Rosa is not afraid to blatantly paint-check her influences: languid nymphs sampling a long bolt of orange silk drifting down a hidden staircase are right out of Balthus and the knowing smiles of a tableful of women devouring turkeys are a sly dig at John Currin’s notorious Thanksgiving tableau. Sinister asides, such as a fetus in a brick of ice, evoke Dalí and Francis Bacon. If John Currin’s women talked back, fashioned their own narratives and then sacrificed Currin in a puff of smoke to a nearby wood nymph, they would be transformed into Rosa Loys. Her narrow mythos is seductive and diabolical, the season of the witch, pictures so sly, that you can’t resist. Neo Rauch is arch and wooden by comparison." Read more.

"Rosa Loy: Close to Me," André Schlechtreim Contemporary, New York, NY. Through June 7.
"Neo Rauch," David Zwirner, New York, NY. Through June 21.

Related posts:
Neo Rauch at the Met
John Currin confesses in British press that stupidity is liberating

Clement Greenberg vs. Harold Rosenberg

In The New Yorker Peter Schjeldahl reports that The Jewish Museum’s chief curator, Norman L. Kleeblatt, has focussed “Action/Abstraction” on the writers, interspersing paintings and sculpture with abundant texts, photographs, and memorabilia. "Film clips display the men’s differently impressive rhetorical panache: Greenberg is incisive and imperious, Rosenberg droll and oracular. (Parallel shots witness Pollock dripping and de Kooning stroking.) Born to Jewish immigrants in New York, both critics were public intellectuals in the heroic mold of Partisan Review and other small but scarcely humble organs of cosmopolitan thought. Buoyed by America’s ascendancy among nations after the Second World War, they projected the confidence of New York as the new world capital of progressive culture. Each seemed to covet a throne of high-cultural authority which proved, in the end, not to exist. Their quarrels have been outlasted by the art that was their pretext. The resilient mergers of feeling and form in Pollock’s galvanic fields, de Kooning’s dismembered figuration, Rothko’s transcendent color, and, in sculpture, David Smith’s stately animation mutely chastise lopsided partialities of any stripe. But the notion of bracketing the artistic and the critical audacities of the watershed postwar era is so good it’s a wonder that no museum has tackled it before. The result suggests, to me, the pleasant conceit of considering Rosenberg and Greenberg themselves as types of Abstract Expressionists, in discursive prose: Rosenberg lyrically impulsive, like de Kooning; and Greenberg as starkly decisive as Newman. Both aspired, à la Pollock, to perfect unconventional modes of argument that would knock any would-be antagonist cold." Read more.

"Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art, 1940-1976," curated by Norman L. Kleeblatt. the Jewish Museum, New York, NY. Through September 21.

May 19, 2008

Rodney Graham examines modernist myths and moments in Morris Louis tableau

Rodney Graham' show at 303 Gallery (loathed by bloggers for their "no photography allowed" policy) consists of drip paintings styled in the manner of Morris Louis, and a huge studio photograph in which Graham recreates the fictional livingroom where the paintings were created. In The Washington Post, Blake Gopnik describes the image. "The photo shows a 50-something man in blue silk pajamas -- Graham himself, recognizable from his appearances in many other works -- standing in the middle of an elegant modern living room while he pours paint onto a cream-colored canvas. The piece is a nearly perfect distillation of the myth of Louis, which includes the crucial fact that he poured his massive "stain" paintings in his suburban living room in Chevy Chase, without, it's said, leaving much mess behind. In Graham's version of the myth, carefully spread newspapers protect the living room's parquet floor while the handsome artist -- Louis was known to be the subject of his female students' crushes -- stands immaculate among his paints. The room itself, carefully staged in a photo studio in Vancouver, is a stunning evocation of the best of postwar design. It's got a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired flagstone fireplace, a cedar-lath cathedral ceiling, sliding garden doors in floor-to-ceiling glass, walnut veneer walls and custom shelving done in perfect Danish-modern style. Its accessories are also absolutely right: a vintage Revox reel-to-reel tape recorder as well as art books by the big names of the day, such as Erwin Panofsky and John Russell. (The absence of works by Clement Greenberg, Louis's mentor and the most famous critic of that time, is notable.) The artist's pigments sit in period household vessels such as Revere Ware pots, with their trademark copper bottoms, and Tupperware bowls in 1960s green and pink; a cigarette dangles from his lips, Brat Pack style. (Louis died of lung cancer in 1962.) Even the newspaper on the floor is a legible facsimile of the edition from Nov. 8, 1962 -- two days old by the date of the depicted scene, and therefore ready to do dropcloth duty.

"The whole thing stands as a re-imagining of a crucial moment in history. It's like all those pictures that try to re-create the instant of the Annunciation. And like such pictures, the goal isn't so much strict historical accuracy as narrative power. What matters isn't how perfectly they capture the past but how well they help us enter it. We can be convinced by Graham's imaginary scene, even as we realize that Louis's own living room couldn't have been anywhere as grand as the one in Graham's photo, and the abstract picture that its artist paints is not so much a perfect Louis painting as a generic stand-in for one." Read more.

"Rodney Graham: The Gifted Amateur," 303 Gallery, New York, NY. Through June 8.

May 18, 2008

Habitat for Artists: Studio shack update

(Note: Look for my essay, "Lost in Space: Art Post-Studio," which examines the evolving studio needs and expectations among contemporary artists, in the June issue of The Brooklyn Rail.)

Here are some pictures of the studio shack Simon Draper is building for me up at Spire Studios in Beacon, NY. Spire Studios are on the same road as Dia Beacon, but on the other side of the train station. The shack has a lovely veranda (construction in progress) on the front, which was helpful during the downpour on Thursday. The roof still needs shingling, so currently it's covered with a big brown tarp. Inside there's a built-in desk that's ready to use right below the window. On the outside, instead of putting up wooden siding, I'm plastering the particleboard shell with posters from old projects, both text and image. At the opening reception yesterday, all the visitors who stopped by seemed think they'd like to have their own shack, too. The more extroverted, entrepreneurial artists were across town at Electric Windows.

Related posts:
Studio update: Itinerant painter (May 9, 2008)
Habitat for Artists: Studio shack update (May 18, 2008)
Studio update: Unplugged in Beacon (June 6, 2008)
Studio update: Studio visits, exhibitions, new work (July 12, 2008)

May 16, 2008

Plagiarism scandal in Seattle

At Two Coats of Paint we have nothing but humble admiration for hardworking art critics, so we're saddened to learn that one of the critics of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has been accused of plagiarism. John Marshall reports that the reporter's articles are being examined after one of his art reviews was discovered to have striking similarities to criticism published two years earlier in Art in America."The P-I is looking at dozens of pieces written for the newspaper between July 2006 and April 2008. All links to his articles through the P-I's web site have been withdrawn until they have been thoroughly examined and cleared to return to the site....In an e-mail to the P-I on Wednesday, The writer said: 'I never knowingly plagiarized material. ... I'm completely mortified and ashamed for betraying the implicit trust of my colleagues, friends and readers. I know that I can't undo it or regain that trust but I do offer my sincerest apologies to everyone involved.'" Read more.

At Artdish, editor Jim Demetre wonders why someone as witty, intelligent, and seemingly knowledgeable as this guy would appropriate text from other sources. "The implications can be career-ending and the benefits ($90 a review from Hearst, last time I checked) very minimal. Did he lack the self-confidence to express his own judgments? Was he too lazy to formulate and construct his own arguments?...Just looking at the examples sited by Christopher Frizzelle, I would say that the similar passages are largely used for the purposes of establishing background and context for the show in question. When a New York artist or international art star shows his or her work in Seattle for the first time, many of us have never seen it before but are expected to go to some lengths to provide this to the reader.... When I wrote for the P-I, I would often find myself reviewing a dance piece with very little to go on and would find myself looking through press materials for clues as I approached a deadline and a very limited word count. When was the company established? What were its artistic objectives? How did it fit into the larger art scene in which they existed? These things had to be established at the beginning of the review so that I could follow up with the necessary description, analysis, and judgment. I usually found this to be the most difficult part of writing the piece and an easy place to find myself appropriating information I could not have observed first hand. It seems that plagiarism can be a slippery slope in this gray area..."Read more.

At The Seattle Weekly, Mark D. Fefer admits that he's sympathetic with the guy. "When he became The Stranger's art critic in 2004, he had, by his own admission, very little background in the subject. So he had to learn very quickly how to "talk the talk" in a field awash in pretentious horseshit. You can see this amply demonstrated in the articles he evidently plagiarized—I wouldn't want to read them once, let alone copy them. When phrases like "Their meaningfully transgressive reinscription" are the norm on museum walls and in the field's most respected publications, you can hardly fault a young writer for feeling like he's got to fake it to make it." Read more.

The art of Jersey

Presented by the Morris Museum, New Jersey Then & Now, traces New Jersey's depiction in representational art from the 18th century through today. Dan Bischoff reports in The Star-Ledger that the show is actually pretty funny. "You could say the irony that seems to dominate much of contemporary art had its origins here in the 1960s, with the Fluxus movement and Allen Kaprow, the Rutgers professor who invented happenings with the late New Brunswick sculptor George Segal, if not with Roy Lichtenstein and Pop. But 'New Jersey Then & Now' suggests there was always something funny about Jersey...." Don't miss the Valeri Larko industrial landscapes, which Larko paints year-round on industrial sites throughout the state. When it's really cold, she paints in the car. Read more.

"New Jersey Then & Now, " co-curated by Ann Aptaker and Mikaela Sardo Lamarche. The Morris Museum, Morristown, NJ. Through September 14. Artists include Grace Hartigan, Ben Shahn, Faith Ringgold, Leonard Baskin, Jacob Lawrence, Henry Gasser, Joseph Mora, Valeri Larko, George Segal , Chris Kappmeier, and others.

Painting for umpteen years: Lutes and Dill in LA

In the LAWeekly, Peter Frank's picks this week include Jim Lutes and Laddie John Dill. "Gloriously elaborate and hermetic, Jim Lutes’ invariably small paintings — currently rendered in that most ancient of painting media, egg tempera — are also radiantly, insouciantly gnarly in their cartoonishly but viscerally strange imagery. The denseness and obsessiveness of Lutes’ work skirts surrealism, expressionism and Pop as it sucks up spirit and atmosphere, its urban references finally imploding into almost — almost – inchoate abstraction.

"Laddie John Dill’s new material abstractions, hewn from his usual gritty combinations of stone and steel and stuff, open up the formula on which he has relied for the last umpteen years, revealing a newly found formal, even architectural strength and a surprising lyricism wrought from the hard substances themselves. There has always been an element of the monumental in even the least of Dill’s formations, but here monumentality — tempered by that lyricism and by the human-scale details that relieve these works of their potential ponderousness — is the goal. Still and all, Dill is trying not to overwhelm us, but to elate us, with the expansiveness, and variety, of this recent work."

"Jim Lutes: Cancel the Band," Kinkead Contemporary, Culver City, CA. Through May 17 (tomorrow).
"Laddie John Dill," LA Contemporary, Los Angeles, CA. Through May 17 (tomorrow).

May 15, 2008

Cook unwowed by Decordova Annual Exhibition of new New Englanders

In The Phoenix, Greg Cook writes that all the work in this year’s DeCordova Annual is "proficient, but nothing wows — or freaks you out. The exhibit can be grouped into variations on a theme: landscape as digital animation or a little garden; family memories as deadpan photos or cartoony paintings; technology in painting as surreal scenes or gestural abstractions....In Jamaica Plain artist Matt Brackett’s surreal oil painting, a woman stands in water under a pier at night waving her hand over glowing yellow waves, or a woman in a fur-collared coat scuttles across an icy marsh at sunset with her arm full of oranges. Brackett sketches out compositions, stages them with models, photographs them, pastes various photos together, and then paints the composites. It recalls the photos of Gregory Crewdson, which are alternately cheesy and seductively strange, like something from David Lynch or The X-Files. Brackett’s scenes head in this direction, but they can feel forced, like studio set-ups and still-life props rather than something plucked from dreams. Another variation of technologically backed painting is Bostonian Mark Schoening’s black-and-white abstractions that look like splatters of mud and straw. They’re built from alternating layers of painting and digital print-outs of manipulated images of architectural fragments, but this part-man part-machine hybrid doesn’t come to life." Read more. If you disagree with Greg Cook's assessment, make sure to comment below.
"The 2008 Decordova Annual Exhibition," organized by
Rachel Rosenfield Lafo, Nick Capasso, Dina Deitsch, and Kate Dempsey. The Decordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln, MA. Through August 17. Artists include Mitchel K. Ahern, Matt Brackett, Leah Gauthier, The Institute for Infinitely Small Things, Niho Kozuru, Eva Lee, Yana Payusova, David Prifti, Kirsten Reynolds, Mark Schoening, Vanessa Tropeano, and Marguerite White. See images of the show here.

Hrag Vartanian on Brooklyn's street art

In The Brooklyn Rail, Hrag writes that street artists are rebellious lawbreakers exerting their right to public space, but on the other hand they are the ultimate capitalists monetizing their talents into commodities that sell increasing well. "Free of the stigma of graffiti’s spray-painted scribbling, street art is a kinder, prettier, gentler, more intellectual evolution of the same genre. The consensus of the street art community is that the term refers to work of any medium made on the street. In an email interview with Gaia, a 19-year-old street artist, he explained to me some of the intricacies of this constantly evolving form, '…the one defining factor is that it directly addresses the question of what is the definition of private and public space [and its ownership]...this is a question that street art inherently poses simply due to its illegal nature and that other art inherently does not consider because it is sanctioned.' If London is the global center of street art, New York is only a step behind with north Brooklyn acting as the epicenter of that American hub. Relatively cheap rents, a burgeoning hipster/arts community, the ubiquity of derelict spaces and an established graffiti culture makes north Brooklyn fertile ground for the new experimental world of street art." Read more.

Electric Windows: On May 17th and 18th artists will be painting murals live on the street in front of 510 Main Street in Beacon, NY. The pieces range from 8'x12' to 8'x8' At the end of the day on the 18th all of te pieces will be installed in the windows of the vacant factory building across from 510 Main Street. According to the organizers, both the creation of the art and the installation will be an amazing site to see. Participating artists include Above, Chris Stain, Cycle, Dan Funderburgh, Daryll Peirce, Depoe, Elbow Toe, Jim Darling, ILOVEMYBOO, Lady Pink, Michael De Feo , Mr Kiji , Peripheral, Media, Projects , Peat Wollaeger, Rene Gagnon, Rick Price, Rissssa Boogie, Ripo , Ron English , Tes One , The Love Movement , Tina Darling, Ultra , UPSO , You Are Beautiful. For artist links click here.

May 14, 2008

Eve Plumb paints, too

Eve Plumb may be best known for playing Jan Brady on the dopey but strangely compelling 1970s television series "The Brady Bunch,'" but she's a dedicated painter, too. In the OC Register, Jan, er, I mean Eve, talks to staff writer Christa Woodall about painting. "I started painting about 20 years ago, and it's been very much an off and on process, with life interrupting and crushing rejection, because if I could have chosen two more rejection field careers, I could not imagine more than acting and painting. But painting I can do on my own time, at my own pace. It's completely my own decision, and I have control – that's why I've stayed with it through all those hard times. It's liking something enough stay through the times when you're wasting supplies, it seems like. It's perseverance." Read more.

"Eve Plumb Paintings," Pure Color Gallery, Laguna Beach, CA. Through May 31. Visit her website for more information.

Shameless promotion of an old friend's spellbinding new book

In The New York Observer, Adam Begley recommends Lise Funderburg's recently released memoir, Pig Candy. "If you're after a memoir pure and simple—a life exposed with intelligence and feeling—you could hardly do better than Pig Candy: Taking My Father South, Taking My Father Home--A Memoir (Free Press, $24), in which Lise Funderburg takes us down to Monticello, Ga. (pop. 2,500), the place her father, a light-skinned black man, had escaped from, the place he came back to in his prosperous late middle age. The story is built around her father's attachment to his 126-acre farm—an attachment that grows stronger even as metastasized prostate cancer weakens him. Pig Candy—the title refers to barbecued pork—wears its somber themes lightly. Yes, it's about mortality, race and filial duty, but Ms. Funderburg never lectures, never preaches, never prettifies. She unspools her story with quiet candor and an unpretentious faith in the significance of what she has to say." Funderburg isn't a painter but we've been friends since college, and her thoughtful memoir honestly examines her tumultuous relationship with a difficult father. Visit Funderburg's website for more information. She will be speaking on Sunday at the Philadelphia Book Festival.

May 13, 2008

Rauschenberg is dead

Robert Rauschenberg, the irrepressibly prolific American artist who time and again reshaped art in the 20th century, died Monday night of heart failure. He was 82. In The NY Times, Michael Kimmelman writes that Rauschenberg's primary interest lay in the process, not the product. "The process — an improvisatory, counterintuitive way of doing things — was always what mattered most to him. 'Screwing things up is a virtue,' he said when he was 74. 'Being correct is never the point. I have an almost fanatically correct assistant, and by the time she re-spells my words and corrects my punctuation, I can’t read what I wrote. Being right can stop all the momentum of a very interesting idea.' This attitude also inclined him, as the painter Jack Tworkov once said, 'to see beyond what others have decided should be the limits of art.' Rauscheberg “keeps asking the question — and it’s a terrific question philosophically, whether or not the results are great art,' Jack Tworkov said, 'and his asking it has influenced a whole generation of artists....'” Read Michael Kimmelman's fascinating obit in the NY Times.

2008 Turner Prize shortlist: No painters this year

The Tate today announced the four relatively unknown artists who have been shortlisted for the 2008 Turner Prize. As usual, no painters were selected, although the list is uncharacteristically dominated by women.

The jurors:
David Adjaye
, Director, Adjaye Associates; Daniel Birnbaum, Director, Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste; Suzanne Cotter, Senior Curator, Modern Art Oxford; Jennifer Higgie, Editor, Frieze magazine; Stephen Deuchar, Director, Tate Britain

The shortlist (lifted from the press release):
Runa Islam
: For her solo exhibition Centre of Gravity at Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen and National Museum of Art, Oslo and the presentation of her work at Venice Biennale 2007 for the continuing development of a unique visual language in her films. Islam creates closely choreographed films with open ended narratives that are analytical and emotionally charged.
Mark Leckey: Mark Leckey has been nominated for his solo exhibitions Industrial Light & Magic at Le Consortium, Dijon, and Resident at Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne, which combine sculpture, film, sound and performance. With wit and originality, Leckey continues to find new genres through which to communicate his fascination with contemporary culture.
Goshka Macuga: For her solo exhibition Objects in Relation, Art Now at Tate Britain and her contribution to the 5th Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art for her carefully staged, mixed-media installations in which she draws on the conventions of the historical archive and exhibition making. Enacting a form of cultural archaeology, Macuga enlists the collaboration of artists past and present in dramatic environments that suggest new narratives and associations.
Cathy Wilkes: For her solo exhibition at Milton Keynes Gallery, that showed her personal approach to figurative sculpture. Through rigorous, highly charged arrangements of commonplace objects and materials, Wilkes has developed an articulate and eloquent vocabulary that touches on issues of femininity and sexuality.

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

May 11, 2008

"Elizabeth Peyton can really paint"

In Time Out New York T.J. Carlin writes that to paint people is to watch them grow old on an infinitesimally small scale of time, and that sitting for an artist makes the subject incredibly vulnerable. "That is the truth of portraiture and the reason why I’ve been disinclined to like Elizabeth Peyton’s work. Although allusions to Warhol abound because of Peyton’s penchant for portraying the skinny art and media glitterati, her equally thin way of painting tended to leave me feeling high and dry: Instead of being receptive to the emotive qualities of her subjects, I wondered if her connection to them was real. More important, there has also always been a perplexing split in her oeuvre—between depicting friends who pose for her, and working from magazine photos and movie stills of high-profile actors and celebrities. It’s difficult to be wooed by a painting when you feel unsure of the emotional investment of the artist. In this latest exhibition of Peyton’s work at Gavin Brown, her inconsistency seems only more galling because the truth of the matter is, Peyton can really paint....Given the gems in this show, it’s hard to buy into the metanarrative, advanced by some critics, which constitutes the main praise for Peyton’s work: that the artist’s cursory style and content constitute a commentary on contemporary values. In this show, Peyton appears to turn away from conveying a pop-cultural demimonde that may be relevant to the art world, but is increasingly losing global appeal. Instead, she seems to be answering the lure of painting as a private act, which makes one think of another pop-song quotation: 'Now that we’ve found love, what are we gonna do with it?'" Read more.

In New York Magazine Jerry Saltz reminisces about Peyton's early years and her first show at the Chelsea Hotel. "The times changed, and as Peyton became a star, her paintings became psychically static and claustrophobic. There were startling moments—in her 1999 depiction of the German rocker Jochen Distelmeyer, his baby blues can melt you—but her Prince Charmings seemed lost in time, unthreatening, more elves than flesh and blood. Her visions of modernity floated free of anything vulnerable....That’s changing, especially in the drawings. Her swoony weightlessness is sprouting roots and gaining gravity.... Subtle as these changes are, they are promising for an artist that some have feared has been drifting in her own lighter-than-air meringue style, making bonbon portraits of the cute and famous. We’re getting to see what life is doing to Peyton and what it’s doing to us." Read more.

"Elizabeth Peyton," Gavin Brown enterprise, New York, NY. Through May 17.

Mothers' Day linkfest: Bloggers on painting

Check out Joanne Mattera's post on Thomas Nozkowski, Tomma Abts, and Roberto Juarez. She's chosen to report on these three artists as a group, because "the constancy of elements in their work, as well as the range of expression within their self-imposed parameters, bring greater depth to their painting, and certainly more profound pleasure in our perception of it." As usual, she has lots of good pictures. Read more.

Also, at Catherine's Art Tours, Catherine Spaeth has an interesting update on David Diao. "David Diao’s paintings over time have been oddly resonant with their historical moments. Diao began exhibiting paintings in New York in 1967, and 'Untitled (1969)' stood out in the exhibit “High Times Hard Times: New York Painting 1967-1975” for its monochromatic scale and subtlety of gesture. A glowing pale pink with a gentle moire effect belied the aggressive and rather silly athletics of repeatedly running from a distance to sweep a dripping sponge of paint over the large horizontal field propped against the wall. This entire exhibit was shot through by multiple and varied desires to take painting to the next level at a time that it was under siege, but it was in Diao’s painting that a certain allegiance to Modernist painting was held, even to the medium-specific aim of revealing the supporting stretchers as a mark of tension in painting’s support. For Artforum in 1969 Emily Wassermann wrote of Diao's paintings that '...these are purely optical surfaces which somehow are not sensed as tactile or palpable.' Sheer opticality is code for Modernist painting’s achievement, and at this time it was both notable and belated." Read more.

Steven Alexander visits Anne Seidman's show in Philadelphia. "Although all the paintings are built out of many layers, ranging from juicy amalgamated color fields to loose geometric spacial divisions, the final stage or end product varies greatly from one piece to the next. We can see, imbedded in each surface, the intuitive organic painting process taking place – each action determining the direction of the next. Also evident is a sort of willful inventiveness, an experimental attitude that compels Seidman to avoid formulaic solutions, so each painting has the freshness of a new breakthrough." Read more.

At Dangerous Chunky, Carolyn Zick welcomes NYC blogger and painter Joy Garnett to Seattle. "I’ve been a fan of Joy’s Newsgrist for a long time, and have followed her ambitious rise amongst art bloggers. I honestly fear she might not sleep due to her vast output via both studio and on-line. For those of us who some times feel long in the tooth over this internet stuff, all I can say is 'We’re not worthy.'" Joy Garnett, along with Saul Becker and Michael Schall, are featured in Platform Gallery’s show "Eden’s On Fire!" Read more.

Note: To all you new mothers out there who are dying to spend the day alone in the studio, forget it. As my sister pointed out to me on my first Mother's Day after giving birth (ouch), it's emotionally stingy not to spend a few hours with your kids. Read Musa Mayer's painfully honest book, Night Studio: A Memoir Of Philip Guston, for pointers on how not to be an artist/parent. Guston was her father. FYI, Elizabeth Murray is a better role model for artists who want children. Read why here.

May 10, 2008

Anne Seidman's oddball forms

In the Philadelphia Inquirer Edith Newhall calls Anne Seidman's paintings acts of faith rendered in color on rag board. "Since her show here three years ago, her compositions of shapes have become less reminiscent of views of city buildings and more suggestive of close-up exteriors and interiors. (Perhaps that's why they share an uncanny affinity with the room they're in). Though abstract, they can bring Sarah McEneaney's domestic scenes to mind - minus the figures, animals and furniture - while her thickest, glossiest puddles of paint and oddball forms veer in the direction of the Austrian master of awkwardness, Franz West. You wonder what prompted them, how her slightly off-kilter geometric shapes keep their precarious balance, and how they can be so different but pass for cousins." Read more.

"Anne Seidman: Touching," Schmidt Dean Gallery, Philadelphia, PA. Through June 7.

NY Times Art in Review: Kannemeyer, Quabeck, Bessone, Nilsson, Dodge

"Anton Kannemeyer: The Haunt of Fears," Jack Shainman, New York, NY. Through May 17. Ken Johnson: "A Tintin-style painting for a Bittercomix cover shows a happy white man on safari in an antique car driven by a black servant. The car is filled with boxes labeled Texaco and Halliburton. As a machine-gun-toting black soldier stands guard, and poor black natives with amputated limbs look on, the car rolls across a plain littered with skeletons and pools of blood. In these and many other works Mr. Kannemeyer’s semiotic sophistication, graphic ingenuity and X-ray political vision work together in morally rousing harmony."

"Cornelius Quabeck: Critical Mess," Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York, NY. Through May 17. Roberta Smith: "From an American viewpoint this work stirs together the appropriated images of David Salle, Richard Philips and Martin Kippenberger and the collage narratives of the Los Angeles artist Alexis Smith. They have an attractive nonchalance, but they could have been made 20 years ago. It would be nice to think that this shortcoming has caused Mr. Quabeck to name his debut 'Critical Mess,' and that he intends to straighten it out."

"Amy Bessone: With Friends Like These..." Salon 94 and Salon 94 Freemans, New York, NY. Through May 23. Roberta Smith: "The absorption of the tactics of set-up photography by representational painting has a long, tangled and often retrograde history. The Los Angeles painter Amy Bessone, who was born in New York in 1970 and studied art in Paris and Amsterdam in the early 1990s, gives it a few skillful twists without adding anything new."

"Gladys Nilsson: Recent Watercolors," Luise Ross, New York, NY. Through May 31. Ken Johnson: "Her pictures might be read as allegories of consciousness: mindscapes dominated by large, relatively slow-moving ideas — the big women — with nattering, peripheral thoughts, fantasies and anxieties carrying on like unruly children in the background. Informed by such disparate sources as Indian miniature paintings, Miró and Disney, Ms. Nilsson’s works conjure infectious states of euphoric delirium."

"Tomory Dodge," CRG, New York, NY. Through May 23. Karen Rosenberg: "The young Los Angeles artist Tomory Dodge emerged around 2004 as a painter of prismatic, quasi-abstract landscapes based on the California desert. Mr. Dodge has removed most traces of representation from his latest paintings, the best of which bring to mind the explosive brushwork of Joan Mitchell and the squeegeed surfaces of Gerhard Richter. In the process he has also obliterated the sense of place that makes his work so compelling."

Read all the reviews here.

May 9, 2008

Studio update: Itinerant painter

Every professor has a wildly optimistic, first-day-of-summer-vacation “List of Things To Do.” Here's mine. The most significant decision has been to continue working out of my cramped room in the attic rather than rent a proper studio. In a larger space, I could work on more projects concurrently, but renting studio space can also feel like a burdensome ball-and-chain, both psychically and financially. I've also decided I’d rather get out and work in the world. Inspired by Austin Thomas, who was voluntarily studio-free for three years, I’ll adapt my projects to suit my space-challenged circumstances, borrow larger space as I need it (Brice Marden, if you’re out there, maybe you have some to spare?) and/or work outside. After all, painting en plein air doesn't necessarily mean you have to paint a picture of the landscape. With TCOP reader Valerie Larko’s invaluable advice on packing up supplies to travel, I’m preparing to work outside, which is challenging for a reclusive misanthrope like me.

Habitat for Artists
Simon Draper has invited me to participate in “Habitat for Artists." Draper created a little shantytown of artists studios, shacks really, near Dia Beacon where I’ll be working intermittently throughout the summer. The other artists included are Dar Williams, Chris Albert, Richard Bruce, Alexis Elton, Kathy Feighery, Marnie Hillsley, Matthew Kinney Sara Mussen, and Lori Nozick . The opening reception is Saturday, May 17, so if you feel like taking a trip to Beacon, please stop by. We're located a short walk from the train station. I’ll be chronicling the evolution of our community throughout the summer.

Ongoing painting projects:
In both the “Tower Series” and “Blue and White, Red” paintings, I’ve been exploring the transformation that mechanically-drawn linear perspective undergoes when combined with the vague uncertainty of hand-painted line. Over the summer, I’ll be working on primed, unstretched canvases (40” x 54”) tacked to light board, propped against a building with a couple of milk cartons, possibly on the street where you live.

Book Projects
All the book projects I started over the past year, and never quite finished, need attention. Some are written and need images, some have images and need text, some need only be laid out and sent to press. Eventually I hope that the book projects will be available at independent bookstores that specialize in artist books. Stay tuned for publishing dates. Forthcoming titles include White and Blue, Red; Keeping our Distance; Erfindung (sort of); Sharon in the News (Dedicated to Ariel Sharon); and The Search for Moby Dicks.

Plus I'll continue writing for The Rail, and I have a vague notion to curate a painting exhibition, but more on that later.

Related posts:
Studio update: Itinerant painter (May 9, 2008)
Habitat for Artists: Studio shack update (May 18, 2008)
Studio update: Unplugged in Beacon (June 6, 2008)
Studio update: Studio visits, exhibitions, new work (July 12, 2008)

May 8, 2008

Yau on Helen Miranda Wilson

In The Brooklyn Rail, John Yau suggests that Helen Miranda Wilson, whose show at DC Moore recently closed, has moved beyond the Americana references of her earlier abstract paintings, and, in the process, achieved something quite radical. "For just when nearly everyone thought that nothing more could be done with stripes laid down, one after another, and that various practitioners seemed determined to nudge geometric abstraction into a state of deep hibernation that I would characterize as minute variations on non-spatial stasis, Helen Miranda Wilson lets us know that we might have gotten it all wrong. As Wilson’s recent luminous paintings make clear, geometric painting doesn’t have to be large, static, non-spatial, and hard-edged. It doesn’t have to evoke the spiritual, continue the paradigm of paint-as-paint, or be painterly. It can do something altogether different: it can be intimately scaled, personal and impersonal, optically raucous and bitingly colorful. It can even be dizzying, as if you are standing on a high-speed whirligig, and the world is a bunch of feathery-edged bands of color flying by. And the colors glow, seemingly both solid and transparent....In these paintings Wilson moves into a territory that is all her own. The paintings are color sensations in which a complex range of feelings and possible readings are evoked. It used to be, or so some people claim, that when a painter did something new and different, others would notice it. Except in the case of very few artists, this hasn’t been the case in years. Wilson doesn’t care, and that is to her credit. She has persistently gone her own way for nearly forty years, and never made a single concession to the marketplace or to stylistic trends. That, to me, is heroic." Read more.

May 7, 2008

Abts' traction

My contribution to the May issue of The Brooklyn Rail is a review of the New Museum's Tomma Abts show. "For Abts, honesty and sincerity are guiding principles. In a conversation with Peter Doig reprinted in the museum’s exhibition brochure, she unabashedly admits that her process is intuitive, and that she can’t explain why or how she makes decisions as she paints. In an age of hyper-ideation and inflated art rhetoric, in which ideas may be valued more than emotional insight or intuition, Abts’ ingenuous simplicity, like that of Chauncey Gardner in 'Being There,' is refreshing. From the beginning, she says candidly, her process is directed towards completing the painting. 'I know once a painting is finished, but I never know how to get there.' For Abts, painting is about harnessing her own unconscious, rather than giving visual substance to an external idea or conceptual conceit.

"As to paint handling, Abts says that she 'tries to define the forms precisely.' In keeping with the implied desire to cut off over-interpretation, and evoking minimalism, she adds that 'the forms don’t stand for anything else, they don’t symbolize anything or describe anything outside the painting. They represent themselves.' For the most part, the paintings, all vertically oriented, are spaced evenly around the gallery, and hung at a standard height. Curator Laura Hoptman, to her credit, makes no attempt to force the paintings into a more fashionable context with any sort of coy installation strategy. The curator thus appears to be signaling to the viewer that these paintings, small and traditional though they appear, are discrete entities that can, indeed, speak for themselves....." 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.
Related post:
Abts in heaven

May 6, 2008

Joe Brainard: The Nancy Book

In celebration of The Nancy Book, published by the Siglio Press, Tibor de Nagy has organized a show of Joe Brainard's drawings of the Nancy cartoon character. Along with Brainard's poems and drawings, the book includes essays by poets Ron Padgett, who is also from Oklahoma and one of Brainard’s many friends, and Anne Lauterbach. At Artnet, N.F. Karlins reports that Brainard, who was gay, probably came to know the term "Nancy-boy" after moving to New York from Oklahoma . Both Nancy and 'pansy' were frequent motifs in his many collages and small drawings, transformed by him into terms of acceptance and endearment. (Many of his flower drawings remind me instantly of Fantin-Latour’s). 'If Nancy Was a Boy' shows a grinning Nancy lifting her skirt to show off her penis. 'If Nancy Was a Sailor’s Basket' has our heroine peeping from a sailor’s pants, the sailor being an appropriated photo shown without his head. Nancy smiles and waves. These works have such an insouciant charm, I suspect even the Pope would chuckle if he saw them."

"Joe Brainard: The Nancys," Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York, NY. Through May 17.

May 4, 2008

Taaffe retrospective: Bending the shape of time

In ArtForum, Bob Nickas reviews Philip Taaffe's current retrospective at the Kunstmuseum-Wolfsburg in Germany. "It's not so easy to recall that first hit, that immediate emotional and intellectual warp one felt when confronted by Philip Taaffe’s transformation of a Barnett Newman or a Bridget Riley in the mid-1980s. Maybe that’s what—and who—retrospectives are really meant for: the artist’s original audience who, sent back in time, revisits its initial experience of the work. For some, Taaffe’s early paintings were highly provocative; but for all the attention they first generated it’s clear now that they were often misread. When those early paintings are seen again and in relation to all that came after—within his full body of work—they seem less provocation than invocation, less a nihilistic statement on the “end of painting” than a direct engagement with history and the act of painting....

"It’s always gratifying in a retrospective of a living artist to be able to see new works, to get a glimpse of where the artist may be headed. The paintings made expressly for this exhibition, presented on a second-floor gallery, further reveal Taaffe’s visual and temporal nomadism, with works referencing Coptic panels from Cairo, Viking and Celtic motifs, and images from Mesopotamia. That they follow the paintings that came before is clear—and they often take on the form of the totem or frieze—and yet they feel different, more archaeological, more primal, with a spectral light. 'Tirggel Painting with Lion Encountering Reindeer,' 2008, in fact, seems closer to cave painting than to contemporary representation.

"The spiral is central to Taaffe’s iconography, and the spiral is, after all, not merely a symbol of turning but of return. What Taaffe has been doing now for almost three decades, as his paintings reveal again and again, is nothing less than bending the shape of time. He began by looking at art from the ’60s; today he travels much further back, to earlier centuries, to ancient civilizations, searching for ways to reimagine the world in which we live that acknowledge those “ancestral connections.” It was fitting that the exhibition ended with a room in which one encountered not only 'Unit of Direction', 2003, a complex double spiral, but an early work, 'Aurora Borealis,' 1988, a luminous, twenty-foot-long optical black-and-white horizon that brought the retrospective, perfectly, full circle." Read more.

"Philip Taaffe: Das Leben der Formen, Werke 1980-2008," Kunstmuesum-Wolfsburg, Germany. Thorugh August 3.

Deborah Kass interview at Thirsty Beach

In the May edition of Thirsty Beach, Caroline Cummings visits Deborah Kass in her studio, and they chat about Kass's recent show at Paul Kasmin. Kass, a Brooklyn-based artist who creates works that are historically and politically analytical, draws on a variety of art historical and popular culture references, and speaks poignantly about the state of women in the history of art as well as the current art market.

Thirsty: About the new work, a lot of the reviews of your recent show at Paul Kasmin Gallery have focused on how these works speak of a longing, on your part, to be included in the art world. For example, "A Woman has no place in the Art World Unless she Proves over and over again she will not be eliminated".
Can you elaborate on this longing and why you chose the language that you did to express these emotions?

Deborah: That, by the way, is a quote from Louise Bourgeois. The longing is really for post-war optimism, the notion that the world was a decent place, government was for and by the people, the middle class was permanent, and we had the power and responsibility to change the world, to make it even better. Those good old days had their realization or materialization in the era of the great Broadway musicals, post-war painting, and the liberation movements of the sixties. I seem them as all connected and they are what have informed my life and my work.

Thirsty: We have talked about the longing associated with your work, and your emotions on this topic are surely powerful. At first glance, however, your work is very upbeat. It is only with a deeper investigation that the viewer becomes aware of this sadness. Have you purposely chosen this approachable veneer of pop art and pop culture as a way of pulling the viewer in and not scaring them away?

Deborah: Yes.

Thirsty: There are many Broadway references in the new work. Do you see the individual works as acts in a play? Does the collection have a beginning and an end?

Deborah: I see them more as an album. I see them more as cuts on a CD. My show was constructed that way, around an emotional arc. I think Frank Sinatra made this first concept album using this idea. Barbra Streisand followed this formula. So did I.

Thirsty: Do you see any one of them as the single or a hit?

Deborah: That’s a great question. The idea is to get a lot of hits off an album so whatever one I am doing I think is the hit, and then the next one is the hit. "Daddy I would Love to Dance" was the last thing I painted for the Kasmin show. The lyric is a very emotional moment in Chorus Line. If you’re a women of a certain age and you saw Chorus Line at any point in its whatever-year run, you probably burst into tears when you heard this line, as I did.

So, I had this lyric in my head for years and could not put a form to it. Then I dreamt the painting fully formed. Now I have more ideas for that lyric. I can use these same lyrics in different ways; I can go deeper.

That said, there were others. One person wrote me that she had an enormous unexpected reaction looking at “Mighty Real” because to her it brought back the AIDS crisis. And frankly, that was one of the things I was thinking about while making the painting, Disco and freedom leading to sex and death. Sylvester, the signer of the song, died of AIDS early on.

Thirsty: How did you decide on the Pollock reference?

Deborah: Well I have referred to Pollock in my work consistently since college, as I have Warhol and Johns. He is, after all, one of the very BIG DADDIES, along with Stella and Guston. In my own head I have been in dialogue with these men for as long as I can remember. Being so is a huge part of my generation’s consciousness and the raison d'etre of much of the work made by us. The pain of being excluded from this public dialogue is always with me and every woman painter I know.

After years of analyzing the mechanics of the politics of marginalization, it is the emotion of being marginalized that has become interesting to me. What does being marginalized feel like exactly? One thing I know, it’s about as close to a universal feeling as you can get, since the vast majority of us manage to be marginalized in the culture of the free market and unfettered capitalism that is our brave new world. Read more.

"Deborah Kass: feel good paintings for feel bad times," Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York. Through Oct. 13, 2007.

Related posts:
Deborah Kass at Paul Kasmin

Feminism, painting and New York City in the 1970's

May 3, 2008

Warren Buffett says his job is like painting the Sistine Chapel

"I love painting my own painting. I come down to the office, I get on my back, and I start painting. And I think I'm in the Sistine Chapel. It's my painting. Now, if somebody says, 'Use more red paint instead of blue. Paint a seascape instead of a landscape,' I would hand them the brush in five seconds and I'd say-I'd say a few other things, too - but I'd say, 'Do your own painting. I'll go paint what I want to paint.' I get to do my own painting. And then I get applause - if I deserve it. And I like that. I like having the painting admired, and I like to get to paint my own painting. That's so much more important to me than getting my golf score down three strokes or beating somebody at shuffleboard or something. I mean, it is the ultimate pleasure." Read more.

Newsflash: Some artists can write

Jen Graves reports in The Stranger that some well-known Northwest artists have banded together to write a newsletter. "Last week in a group of artists, collectors, and writers, the painter Matthew Offenbacher handed out a stack of two folded 8 1/2 by 14 sheets of brownish paper printed on both sides and with the title LA ESPECIAL NORTE 1 across the top. It is a brand-new Seattle artist 'newsletter'—a thing like a zine, but not the kind put out by snotty teenagers. It's made by artists. Career artists. Artists like Offenbacher, Joe Park, Gretchen Bennett, and Eli Hansen. Still, I worried it would be tragic. As a rule, writers are writers and artists are artists. I was wrong; the thing is great." Read more.

May 2, 2008

Jennifer Bartlett revisits dotty grids

In The Philadelphia Inquirer, Edith Newall reports that Jennifer Bartlett has returned unambiguously to her past in her current show at Locks Gallery. "At 97 feet long, and taking up two entire walls of the gallery's second-floor space, Bartlett's sprawling new plate painting, 'Song,' may be second in monumentality to 'Rhapsody,' her 153-foot-long enamel plate work from 1975-76, but it is a more rigorous, more abstract work, like the enamel plate paintings she made between 1972 and 1974, several of which are included in this show. There are some vaguely recognizable elements in 'Song.' A waxing and waning moon, perhaps, and a houselike structure come into focus. Now, of course, any Bartlett enamel painting, composed as it is of so many hand-painted dots on silkscreened grids, will seem to be referencing pixels. But what makes 'Song' exciting is its lyrical sense of motion within the confines of those plates and grids, all created with black and tan dots. Bartlett seems to be happier orchestrating many parts moving along the wall, too, than caught within the edges of one stretched canvas." Read more.

"Jennifer Bartlett: From Rhapsody to Song," Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, PA. Through May 24.

May 1, 2008

Berthot and Dodd: Compare and contrast

"Both artists engage in a significant degree of abstraction within their realism in the sense of excluding extraneous detail and homing in on what they take to be essences," declares David Cohen in the NY Sun. "But with Ms. Dodd, the essence is always linked to stuff that is actually observed, to sensations experienced. With Mr. Berthot, the mystery is a priori; the point of the painting is to hammer home the artist’s visionary status. Ironically, while Ms. Dodd takes greater liberties with form, producing paintings that are proudly Modernist in their celebration of their own flatness, insisting on being surfaces covered in gestures and materials that have life of their own, her brushstrokes and color decisions are always perceptual, linked to things seen. You really sense that her vision comes from a lifetime of seeing. His, on the other hand, is conceptual, making manifest its maker’s origins in abstraction. This is not in any way to diminish the integrity of his depictions of specific places on his estate, made clear from titles like 'Old Logging Road Off Mills Wetland' (2007), which has a credible sense of space, of actual trees in their actual locations. But the local decisions all feel studio-bound, and linked to a bigger vision of what his painting means, rather than of what this specific painting depicts." Read more.

"Lois Dodd: Landscapes and Structures," Alexandre Gallery, New York, NY. Through May 30.
"Jake Berthot," Betty Cunningham, New York, NY. Through May 10.
Related post: Jake Berthot: Notes from Notes to Myself

Philip Guston's stories

The Morgan Library & Museum presents the first major survey of Guston's drawings in 20 years. Organized by the KunstMuseum Bonn, and the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung Munich, in cooperation with the artist’s estate, the show examines the importance of drawing throughout key periods of Guston’s career, from the mid-1940s to 1980. While Guston is primarily known for his paintings, his drawings influenced new phases of creativity and served to articulate radically different approaches. His daughter Musa Mayer's painfully honest book, Night Studio: A Memoir Of Philip Guston, convinced me early on that self-obsessed artists aren't cut out to be parents. Of course as I got older, I changed my mind.

But enough about Guston's parenting skills. In the NY Times, Ken Johnson writes that his drawings tell stories of Sisyphean ennui. "The beat-up, bandaged head with the big sad eye gazing uphill; the boards with nails pounded into them; the empty shoes; the man smoking in bed, staring at the ceiling: these images exude that sense of futility that almost all artists must periodically endure. Sometimes there is the relief of simple pleasures: a pile of cherries, a sandwich, sitting with one’s wife and looking out the window at the sunset. And then there is the junk-covered hillside with the gravestone at its foot presciently marked P. G. 1980. Today the drawings don’t look as shockingly crude as they did to critics in the 1970s. They look like the work of a brilliant cartoonist knowingly inspired by “Mutt and Jeff,” “Krazy Kat” and other classic Sunday funnies. They may appear Neanderthal, but they are the products of a sophisticated performance, a kind of method acting. The mandarin playing the stumblebum with passionate, Brando-esque conviction." Read more.

In the NY Sun, Lance Esplund suggests that Guston, like any painter, "did not so much evolve as explore different sides of himself — pushing in one direction and then another. What is clear is that Guston was a metaphorical painter, of which there are basically two types. The first includes an artist such as Paul Klee, for whom each picture is a singular and exacting exploration of a chosen poetic theme (the conflation, for example, of the structure of a stained glass window with that of a plant). Like most of the Abstract Expressionists, Guston falls into the second group. His abstractions of the '50s are more general explorations — a kind of plowing forth through a theme — in which an overarching metaphor or approach to life is explored in series....Guston firmly believed that he was a narrative artist at heart. He wanted 'to tell stories.' And artists, above all else, have to remain true to themselves. They have to follow their gut instincts. Guston's art remains inventive and engaging to the end. The fact remains, however, that, despite Guston's convictions as a storyteller, his earlier pure abstract pictures are much more inventive and engaging as stories than his later stories are as pictures." Read more.

"Philip Guston: Works on Paper,"
organized by Christoph Schreier and Michael Semff, the KunstMuseum Bonn, and the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung Munich, in cooperation with the artist’s estate. Morgan Library & Museum, New York, NY. Through August 31.

Dieter Roth: The radicalism of social disengagement

In the NY Sun, Stephen Maine reports that Dieter Roth's work possesses some of the neo-Dada characteristics of Pop art, but is "as enmeshed with dissolution and decay as his American contemporaries were smitten with antiseptic consumerism. Today, Roth's greatest notoriety proceeds from olfactorily transgressive works confected of fugitive materials, notably chocolate, sausages, and cheese. Boundary-bashing was in the air during this heady time, of course, but in Roth the viewer senses not the stateside theatricality and optimism of Claes Oldenburg or Allan Kaprow, but a distinctly European interiority and skepticism, the radicalism of social disengagement. Institutional validation was utterly unimportant to Roth, which is one reason why he was little-known in this country, outside of art-world circles, before the retrospective exhibition, "Roth Time," at the Museum of Modern Art/Queens and P.S.1 in 2004. Even then, skeptics refused to acknowledge that show's horrific undertow, its circumspect but inexorable explication of bodily failure, and the artist's simultaneous fascination and disgust with the corporeal enormity of human existence."Read more.

"Dieter Roth, Drawings," Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York, NY. Through May 3.
Related post: NY Times Art in Review: Substraction, Dieter Roth