July 31, 2008

Wendy White: One more day

Tomorrow is the last day to see Wendy White's show at Leo Koenig, Inc.--my apologies for not posting it sooner. White's loud abstract language alludes to the bombardment of the everyday. Urban sprawl, space junk, graffiti, buried hazardous material, and the accumulation of refuse, punctuated by heavy black areas that map a direct trail from the ubiquitous to the subconscious. In New York Magazine's Critics' Picks, Jerry Saltz recommends it, too. "There are so many artists inspired by Christopher Wool, Albert Oehlen, and Charline Von Heyl right now that you’d think those people were Greek Gods. While many of their imitators’ work can look dandy-like and mannered in its nonchalance and quasi-expressionism, a number of younger folks are hitting pay dirt. One is Wendy White, who balances wildness and withholding, with a dose of something almost diabolically planned. She delivers three punches at once: Color, graffiti-like agility, and formal structure. This prevents her work from looking angsty, imitative, and fake. Her paintings have a presence the reminds one of billboards and websites, something at once physical and disembodied." At Time Out, Jennifer Coates describes White's paintings as athletic and spastic, like Abstract Expressionism on Gatorade.

"Wendy White: Autokennel," Leo Koenig, Inc., New York, NY. Through August 1.

July 30, 2008

Everybody hearts painting, 4eva

"Painting: Now and Forever, Part II," billed as "a highly subjective, celebratory survey of contemporary painting," is a wonderfully seductive, understated show, at least the installation at Matthew Marks. The highlight for me was seeing one of Blinky Palermo's sewn fabric pieces for the first time. In The Village Voice, on the other hand, RC Baker calls the show an "enervated and cynical melange." I agree on one of Baker's points: Josh Smith's small, muddy abstractions in the MM side gallery were indeed disappointing. What Smith calls a "casual anti-art aesthetic that intentionally defies the rules of artistic convention in an ironic and informed manner" I call bad painting. Roberta Smith reports that "the arrangements at Greene Naftali, especially, convey the impression that the only way to take painting seriously is to treat it as some kind of joke." She gives the Matthew Marks section a higher rating. "Things are considerably more hushed at Marks. The large gallery mixes usual and unusual suspects. Abstraction dominates, as do canvas and other stretched fabrics, along with an air of studied nonchalance, especially in works by Michael Majerus, Michael Krebber, Blinky Palermo and Reena Spaulings (spots of red wine on a tablecloth — how daring)." The show marks the tenth anniversary of "Painting: Now and Forever, Part I," which was held at the Pat Hearn Gallery and Matthew Marks Gallery in 1998.

"Painting: Now and Forever Part II," Matthew Marks Gallery and Green Naftali, New York, NY. Through August 26. Artists include Kai Althoff, Cosima von Bonin, Merlin Carpenter, Mathew Cerletty, Wojciech Fangor, Katharina Fritsch, Gelitin, Isa Genzken, Poul Gernes, Daan van Golden, Jack Goldstein, Rodney Graham, Wade Guyton, Richard Hawkins, Mary Heilmann, Sophie von Hellermann, Charline von Heyl, Ull Hohn, Sergej Jensen, Mike Kelley, Ellsworth Kelly, Karen Kilimnik, Martin Kippenberger, Michael Krebber, William Leavitt, Michel Majerus, Bjarne Melgaard, Laura Owens, Blinky Palermo, Stephen Prina, R.H. Quaytman, Ugo Rondinone, Paul Sharits, Josh Smith, Reena Spaulings, Lily van der Stokker, Atsuko Tanaka, Paul Thek, Anne Truitt, Kelley Walker, Christopher Wool, and Katharina Wulff.

Damage report

In The Guardian Laura Barnett reports that sometimes visitors damage artwork, but more likely gallery staff are to blame. "Incidents of damage involving gallery visitors are few and far between; works of art stand a far greater chance of being destroyed at the hands of curators, picture handlers or cleaners. Most of the major galleries have had to issue shame-faced apologies for breakages at one time or another. Four years ago, a rubbish bag which formed part of an installation by Gustav Metzger, entitled Recreation of First Public Demonstration of Auto-Destructive Art, was innocently gathered up by a cleaner at Tate Britain and thrown into a crusher. In 2001, a delicate shell-shaped glass sculpture by the US artist Dale Chihuly, valued at £35,000, was smashed by a contractor setting up for an evening function at the Victoria and Albert museum in London. And in 2000, a Lucian Freud drawing, worth £100,000 and still in its packing case, was accidentally put through a shredder at Sotheby's auction house....'The kind of incident where people fall across a cordon in a gallery is very unusual,' Robert Read, a fine art underwriter at the specialist insurers Hiscox, says. "Far more common is works being wrongly packed, dropped, or left on the tarmac when a plane gets diverted. If you left a painting out on the runway in Mumbai during monsoon season, for instance, you would have a problem. Sometimes, of course, the circumstances in which a work of art gets wrecked are far more prosaic. Consider for a moment the case of the millionaire casino owner and art collector Steve Wynn. In October 2006, Wynn was showing off Picasso's "Le Rêve" to friends in his Las Vegas office, a masterpiece he had just agreed to sell for £70m, when he put his elbow through the canvas. He swore - I bet the woman at the Royal Academy swore, too." Read more.

July 29, 2008

Studio pin-ups from Germany

The little pictures and postcards that artists hang on our studio walls create a visual guide to our artistic DNA. Over in the corner, or above our desks, images (often paint-smeared) are haphazardly taped to the wall as both reference for visitors and technical reminders to ourselves. I was chatting with a weary gallery owner about studio visits recently. "You know, the studios all blur together," she said. "They have the microwave, the coffeemaker, and the Dürer image of the bunny pinned up on the wall." Well, Dürer lovers, the Museum of Biblical Art is presenting a chronological presentation of Dürer's innovative graphic work, borrowed from the Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt, Germany. In the NY Sun, Lance Esplund admits that, thanks to the Met, New Yorkers are rarely at a loss for Dürer prints, but it's a pleasure to see so many of his prints in one setting. "Part of the pleasure of experiencing a large gathering, such as this, is seeing Dürer's range in black-and-white; seeing how many unbelievable blacks and grays he can concoct; seeing how many qualities — marble, sky, fur, feather, leaf, fruit, bark, male and female flesh — all within a single print, with which he can imbue the white of the page." Esplund points out. "Dürer is such a great draftsman and colorist that his black-and-white prints have more light, more color, than many artists' full-color compositions. Dürer understands that line is emotive; that it can vibrate and quiver; feel liquid, velvety smooth, and coarse, even scratchy. Like Leonardo and Titian, he understands that contours must energize their surroundings, and vice versa. And like Michelangelo and Raphael, he understands that power is a matter of inventiveness and clarity." Read more.

At the same time, the Neue Galerie presents an exhibition focusing on another common studio pin-up, Max Beckmann's "Self-Portrait with Horn," which was painted in 1938, just after Beckmann fled Nazi Germany to seek refuge in Amsterdam. The exhibition has other paintings and drawings by Beckmann, as well as portraits and self-portraits of that era from the Neue Galerie collection by such artists as Otto Dix, George Grosz, and Christian Schad. In the NY Sun, Maureen Mullarkey reports that the show provides a good opportunity to see Beckmann's work in context. "The third-floor room in which their work is grouped is not large. Nevertheless, the selection is powerful, a fitting sequel in quality, if not in size, to 'Glitter and Doom,' the Metropolitan Museum of Art's 2006 benchmark exhibition of German portraiture from the 1920s."

"Albrecht Dürer: Art in Transition," organized by Mechthild Haas and Paul Tabor. Museum of Biblical Art, New York, NY. Through Sept. 21.

Max Beckmann: Self-Portrait with Horn,” Neue Gallery, New York, NY. Through Sept. 1.

Related post:

German history paintings: Dix, Grosz, Beckmann, Meidner and Steinhardt

July 28, 2008

Bussing in Harlem

On Saturday, August 9, everyone is invited to Harlem for a tour of the art galleries. Home of Romare Bearden (master collagist), Norman Lewis (abstract expressionist) and Jacob Lawrence (expressive figurative), Harlem is also a good place to find some less well known contemporary artists, too. Building on the success of the first ArtCrawl Harlem tour, Taste of Harlem Tours and Canvas Paper and Stone Gallery have organized a 6-hour guided bus tour of the local art galleries, culminating in a catered reception. Galleries include Canvas Paper and Stone Gallery, Striver’s Garden Gallery, Straight Out Of Harlem, Essie Green Galleries, Heath Gallery, Simmons Gallery, Karibu Gallery, Rio II Gallery, Hamilton Landmark Galleries. Or, if the idea of signing up for a bus tour is unappealing, just check out the galleries on your own.

Harlem Art Crawl, New York, NY. August, 9, 12-6pm.

Sharon Louden lights up Birmingham

In The Birmingham News Michael Huebner reports that The Birmingham Museum of Art has commissioned New York artist Sharon Louden to create 12 paintings that will connect the museum with its outdoor sculpture garden. As well as the 13x13-inch paintings, the exhibition, 'Taking Turns,' will include video animation and LED cable. Before the Sept. 28 opening, the artist will be at the museum installing the paintings and twisting glowing cables into the trees to create three-dimensional drawings. "I wanted to embrace the Birmingham Museum of Art's architecture," Louden said. "The spaces enable a visual connection and physical experiences between the gestures in the painting and animation inside the galleries to those in the trees in the outdoor garden."

July 26, 2008

Roberta Smith's advice to young artists: Learn to paint

In the NY Times, Roberta Smith reports that the artists included in “How Soon Is Now?" the 28th version of the annual culmination of the Bronx Museum’s Artist in the Marketplace, or AIM, program for emerging artists, need to think more deeply about the art they're making before they begin to address career advancement. "The show is a cacophony of mediums, materials and styles. The only relief, initially, are a few paintings or painting-like objects," Smith writes. "In this rather undifferentiated morass of feints at video, photography, sculpture and above all earnestly political, identity-based Conceptual Art, the paintings spring out like little oases of personal thought, concentration and effort. Some nonpainting efforts come into focus with time, but the first impression is a telling lesson in why painting doesn’t die; it is at the very least a good way for young artists to grasp the kind of density of expression that any art medium requires. (It helps to remember that most of the first generation Conceptualists were educated and began their careers as painters.)...Perhaps an overfamiliarity with Conceptual Art and especially the theories it inspired can leave young artists with no sense of how to make an artwork that holds together as an experience. You can sense the lack of connection to either materials or self in their statements, which appear on the wall labels beside the work. They mix overblown, one-size-fits-all artspeak with quite a bit of wishful thinking about their work’s impact, as if they could control the meaning or effect of their work. Different artists claim that their efforts 'contend with codes of power, authority, race and class,' 'question man-made constructs,' 'challenge the anthropological categorizations of early photography' or 'reveal the latent power of the public’s collective intelligence.'...

"Not much else here will slow you down. It does gives me pause that 26 of the 36 artists have master’s degrees in fine arts from respected universities or art schools. I think most of them should ask for their money back. On the evidence here, at least, they have only a meager understanding of what being an artist entails. 'How Soon Is Now?' suggests that there is no point in spending time on 'professional development' or learning how to advance one’s work in the marketplace if artistic development is not well under way. That requires lots of long, hard looking at all kinds of art, in all mediums, from all periods and cultures. Aspiring artists need to expose themselves to the sheer intensity and variety of art, to learn what they love, what they hate and if they are actually artists at all. New York’s galleries and especially its great museums offer ample opportunity for this kind of self-education, which leads to self-knowledge. Anything is possible when artists set to work knowing they have something they urgently need to say, in a way it hasn’t quite been said before." Read more.

"How Much is Now?," organized by Erin Riley-Lopez. The Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, NY. Through August 18. Artis include Negar Ahkami , Blanka Amezkua, Keliy Anderson-Staley,Daniel Bejar,Charles Beronio,Matthew Burcaw,Si Jae Byun,Brendan Carroll ,Vidal Centeno,Margarida Correia,Rä di Martino, Emcee C.M., Master of None,Jason Falchook , Michelle Frick, David Gilbert, Kyung Woo Han, Cosme Herrera, Catherine Kunkemueller, Luke Lamborn, Sujin Lee, Bill Lohre, Rebecca Loyche, Giuseppe Luciani, Brian Lund, Kelli Miller, Laura Napier, Dulce Pinzon, Christy Powers, Risa Puno, Ronny Quevedo, Sa’dia Rehman, John Richey,Irys Schenker, Mark Stafford, Jeanne Verdoux, Angie Waller

Image at top: Jeanne Verdoux, "Living Room," 2008, drawn animation and wire. Courtesy of NYTimes

Holland Cotter says weird can be cool but....

Gavin Brown Enterprise and Maccarone released an interesting curatorial statement for their star-studded joint group show, "Pretty Ugly." "When you wake up in the morning, walk into the bathroom, and look at yourself in the mirror-raising the toothbrush to your stinking mouth-do you feel pretty or ugly? Dried drool in the eyes of the beholder. That must really sting. Breathe through the pain. It's alright. You are beautiful. It's true. I saw your face in a crowded place and I don't know what to do because I'll never be with you."

I like unusual statements that take the form of fictive narratives (I've written some myself), but they aren't necessarily an indication that the exhibitions will be equally unconventional. Holland Cotter visited "Pretty Ugly" and reports that too much of the work at Gavin Brown is predictable and obvious. "Multiple Kilimniks, Murakamis and Picabias take up space that might have been given to less familiar fare. Can’t Paul McCarthy and Martin Kippenberger have been given a rest? And how many Hans Bellmers do you need to make a pretty-ugly point? In the end the problem with 'Pretty Ugly' isn’t that it celebrates weirdness, but that it stops at weirdness. And weird is too easy, too obvious, too thin. Like Surrealism, which is weirdness psychologized and academicized, it delivers a quick thrill but ends up being a snore. I was glad to spend a summer afternoon poolside with the 'Pretty Ugly' crew, ruffling brackish water, pushing flotsam around. But the art establishment’s vacation should be over now. It has gone on too long. And artists, caught up in a New York market that prospers from a million little weirdnesses, should take a head-clearing plunge back into work and see if there aren’t some other ways to go. Weird can be cool; it can be powerful. (The paintings of John Currin and Peter Saul are good examples.) But as an end-in-itself exercise, which is what this show looks like, it’s a waste of time." Read more.

"Pretty Ugly," curated by Alison Gingeras. Gavin Brown Enterprise and Maccarone, New York, NY. Through August 29. Artists include Pierre Alechinsky, John Alexander, Ida Applebroog, John Armleder, Kristin Baker, Hans Bellmer, Lynda Benglis, Carol Bove, Glenn Brown, Guy Bourdin, Louise Bourgeois, Günter Brus, Bernard Buffet, Chapman Brothers, James Lee Byars, Brian Calvin, Borden Capalino, Chivas Clem, Ann Craven, Roberto Cuoghi, John Currin, Verne Dawson, Otto Dix, Richard Diebenkorn, Louise Fishman, Mark Flood, Llyn Foulkes, Sam Francis, Gelitin, Isa Genzken, Nan Goldin, Leon Golub, Mark Grotjahn, George Grosz, Marsden Hartley, Eva Hesse, Jonathan Horowitz, Gary Hume, Jörg Immendorff, Tony Just, Alex Katz, Karen Kilimnik, Martin Kippenberger, Bruce LaBruce, Nathan Lerner, Eugéne Leroy, Lee Lozano, Markus Lüpertz, Edward Middleton Manigault, Paul McCarthy, Corey McCorkle, John McCracken, Otto Muehl, Takashi Murakami, Alice Neel, Hermann Nitsch, Jim Nutt, Albert Oehlen, Laura Owens, Raymond Pettibon, Elizabeth Peyton, Francis Picabia, Jack Pierson, Rob Pruitt, Carol Rama, Charles Ray, Milton Resnick, Anselm Reyle, Julian Schnabel, Rudolf Schwarzkogler, Tamuna Sirbiladze, John Sloan, Eddy Smith, Agathe Snow, Frances Stark, Pat Steir, Haim Steinbach, Stanislav Szukalski, Richard Tuttle, Piotr Uklanski, Kaari Upson, Stan VanDerBeek, Erik van Lieshout, Abraham Walkowitz, Andy Warhol, Hans Weigand, Franz West, Hannah Wilke, Sue Williams, Stanislaw Witkiewicz, Joel-Peter Witkin

July 25, 2008

Anthony Lane's tour de force

Anthony Lane's seriously funny New Yorker review of "Mamma Mia!" is a must-read for anyone who likes criticism."Like many people, I was under the impression that the new Meryl Streep film was called 'Mamma Mia.' The correct title is, in fact, 'Mamma Mia!,' and, in one keystroke, the exclamation mark tells you all you need to know about the movie....The legal definition of torture has been much aired in recent years, and I take 'Mamma Mia!' to be a useful contribution to that debate. In a way, the whole film is a startling twist on the black art of rendition: ordinary citizens, often unaware of their own guilt, are spirited off to a secure environment in Eastern Europe, there to be forced into a humiliating and often painful confession of sins past. 'I tried to reach for you, but you have closed your mind,' in the bitter words of Sam. I thought that Pierce Brosnan had been dragged to the edge of endurance by North Korean sadists in his final Bond film, 'Die Another Day,' but that was a quick tickle with a feather duster compared with the agony of singing Abba’s 'S.O.S.' to Meryl Streep through a kitchen window." Read this!!!

John Moores Painting Prize: Shortlist released

The shortlist for the John Moores Contemporary Painting Prize, the UK’s largest contemporary painting competition with a first prize of £25,000 and total fund of over £35,000, was announced yesterday. Artists Jake & Dinos Chapman, art critic Sacha Craddock, and artists Graham Crowley and Paul Morrison, both former John Moores Prize winners, are the judges. According to the Liverpool Museum's press release, the forty shortlisted entries "demonstrate that far from being ‘old-fashioned’, an artist’s decision to paint is exciting and challenging. The paintings have absorbed the legacy of conceptual art and incorporated it into the work; they are not in opposition to it. The works, selected from a record 3,222 submissions, represent the best of the UK’s current and future painting talent. Over the last 50 years, this biennial competition has given prominence to artists including David Hockney and Richard Hamilton, who went on to find fame and acclaim after winning the prize, and Peter Doig, who described winning the John Moores in 1993 as a pivotal moment in his career." Check out the online slideshow at The Guardian.

In his new art blog, Guardian critic Jonathan Jones moans that this year's shortlist is "another nail in the coffin of the greatest western art form. 'Mr Picasso - he dead' might be an alternative title for Tim Bailey's painting 'Cadet Congo Ganja,' supposedly inspired by Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, although I see no inspiration here at all. What I see in the shortlisted works is more of the same deadening irony, disbelief and smallness of mind that has reduced painting in modern Britain to a stale, repetitive, self-parodic eunuch. Our painters have become like pathetic courtiers of some Caligula-like despot. Video, photography etc so rule the idea of art in Britain now that, like desperate ministers trying to survive the tyrant's reign, painters cavort in clown masks, mocking themselves and their art. The result is the awful array of kitsch jokes and cod surrealism in today's John Moores shortlist." In the online Comments, plenty of readers respond. Snarky Swarf22, in response to Jones' swooning reference to Cy Twombly's work, would "love to see a return to the Abstract Expressionistic painting of the 1950's and 1960's. Let's put the male machismo on the agenda again, the problem with art today is that there are too many women artists! Cy Twombly is a good painter because he paints BIG and ejaculates all over the canvas!" Read more.

Here's the list:
1. Georgina Amos – No Place
2. Tim Bailey – Cadet Congo Ganja
3. Richard Baines – Mickey’s Trailer
4. Christopher Barrett – Pirosmani in Tbilisi
5. David Bowe – Obst & Gemuse
6. Julian Brain – Special Relativity
7. Tom Bull – Black Flag
8. Louisa Chambers – Mechanical Coat
9. Clare Chapman – Still Life, No. 2
10. Jake Clark – Cornerways
11. Sam Dargan – Middle Management Meltdown
12. Geraint Evans – An Ornamental Hermit
13. Damien Flood – Uncharted (Island II)
14. Grant Foster – Hero Worship
15. Jaime Gili – A132 (AKIKO)
16. Gabriel Hartley – Dog
17. Georgia Hayes – Oportuno 111
18. Gerard Hemsworth – Frightened Rabbit
19. Roland Hicks – Sometimes We Sense the Doubt Together
20. Ian Homerston – Four
21. Neal Jones – Bruegel Camp
22. Stephanie Kingston – 252 Solitude
23. Richard Kirwan – As Above, So Below
24. Mie Olise Kjærgaard – Watchtower with Green Stick
25. Matthew Usmar Lauder – Untitled (Hole)
26. Geoff Diego Litherland - My Flag is Better than Yours
27. Marta Marce – Flowing 2
28. Peter McDonald - Fontana
29. Michelle McKeown – C**t
30. Eleanor Moreton – Prince (titled)
31. Alex Gene Morrison – Black Bile
32. Kit Poulson – Nought Lovely but the Sky and Stars
33. Sista Pratesi – Black Farm II
34. Ged Quinn – There’s a House in My Ghost
35. Neil Rumming – The Baptism
36. Robert Rush – The Dream
37. Michael Stubbs – Virus Maximizer
38. Matthew Wood – S-CAT LRAB1
39. Stuart Pearson Wright – Woman Surprised by a Werewolf
40. Vicky Wright – Extraction 1

All shortlisted entries will be shown in a major exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool from Sept. 20 through January 4. The winners will be announced on September 20.

July 24, 2008

Revisionaries: Tad Wiley, Laurie Fendrich, and Luke Gray at Gary Snyder

Gary Snyder/Project Space, which has primarily focused on historically rooted abstract art, is having its first exhibition of contemporary painting. In the NY Sun Stephen Maine writes that Snyder's show offers "the delicious paradox of a tightly curated exhibition attesting to the fecund sprawl of contemporary abstract painting. The show's title, "?Abstraction," implies that no single modifier of 'abstraction'will suffice to characterize a currently dominant trend; reductive, gestural, and hard-edge proclivities are represented by accomplished mid-career painters. As always, more interesting than genre classifications are specifics of procedure, and Tad Wiley, Laurie Fendrich, and Luke Gray have adopted distinct approaches to the central issue of abstract narrative: revision." Read more.

"?Abstraction," Gary Snyder Project Space, New York, NY. Through August1.

Related posts:
Laurie Fenrich: Why do painters have to justify being painters?

July 23, 2008

Shipping Guernica

At Looking Around, Richard Lacayo has a good summary of the situation with Picasso's "Guernica," and a little history lesson about the Spanish Civil War to boot. "Probably the most famous work of art about wartime suffering, 'Guernica' has been for years at the center of a tug of war itself. Madrid has it. The Basques want it. The subject of the painting is of course the 1937 bombing raid on the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. It was an attack enthusiastically carried out by German pilots at the urging of the rebel general Francisco Franco. Not long after, Picasso, who was living in Paris, was approached by a delegation from the beleaguered Spanish Republic, who asked him to produce a major work for the Spanish pavilion at the upcoming Paris world's fair. His response was 'Guernica.' When the fair ended the much publicized painting went on a tour of four Scandinavian cities to raise funds for the Loyalist cause, then on to London and the U.S. for the same purpose. All in vain. Franco prevailed in the Spanish war. Then came World War II and the German occupation of Paris, where Picasso would glumly sit out the war...I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the still ongoing Reina Sofia study of the painting's physical condition, which has so far turned up 129 'changes' to the canvas, most of them due to being repeatedly rolled up during that world tour 70 years ago. But the conclusion that it can't be moved again, which certainly serves the interests of the Reina Sofia, needs to be seen in the context of the regional struggle between Madrid and the Basques. I'm guessing a move could be handled much more gently this time. It's not like they'd be shipping it in a FedEx tube." Read more.

Supporting Warhol's Time Capsule project

Remember Andy Warhol's "Time Capsules?" This serial work, spanning a thirty-year period from the early 1960s to the late 1980s, consists of 610 standard sized cardboard boxes, which Warhol, beginning in 1974, filled, sealed and sent to storage. Warhol used these boxes to manage a bewildering quantity of material that routinely passed through his life. Photographs, newspapers and magazines, fan letters, business and personal correspondence, art work, source images for art-work, books, exhibition catalogues, and telephone messages, along with objects and countless examples of ephemera, such as announcements for poetry readings and dinner invitations, were placed on an almost daily basis into a box kept conveniently next to his desk. Tom Sokolowski, Director of the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, recently sent me a note asking for donations to support the project. He's asking for $5000 per capsule, which would pay for the documentation, archival processing and cataloging, scanning every object (and digital photography of large objects) and properly re-housing each item in acid-free folders and Mylar sleeves. "Once the cataloging is complete," Sokolowski writes, "we'll be able to to start really researching what we've found and, eventually, put the entire Time Capsules collection on the web, so everyone can access it." Perhaps ten of your friends could each donate $500? Or fifty friends $100 each? Here's a video from the opening of Capsule #91.

Related posts:
What's in Warhol's time capsules

July 22, 2008

Sanford Wurmfeld's non-mimetic panorama painting in Edinburgh

At the Edinburgh Art Festival, which starts this Thursday, Sanford Wurmfeld is presenting an E-Cyclorama - a 21st Century version of the once popular 19th Century panorama paintings. The "E" stands for elliptical - the project itself is a giant painting on the inside of a huge cylinder. Pauline McLean reports for BBC News that Wurmfeld's inspiration was Baroque churches - for both the shape and the colour. "But it is also apt that it is Edinburgh where it will first be shown. For it was here that Irishman Robert Barker created the first panorama in 1788. It was, he said, the only way to get the entire view of the city from the top of Calton Hill into one painting. He subsequently opened his own Cyclorama in Edinburgh. The result inspired a tradition which was hugely popular in 19th Century Britain. The Cyclorama comes from the Greek word 'to circle' and 'orama' which means to view and these huge circular or hexagonal constructions would have been familiar sights in cities across the country. As the viewer stood in the centre of the painting, there would often be music or a narrator telling the story of the scene. Hundreds were created - although only a handful survive today - mostly epic battle scenes. And for many people, they were the forerunners of modern cinema entertainment. Wurmfeld has been working on the new project for a year - and since the four canvasses were painted separately in New York and then shipped here for assembly, its unveiling will not just be the first time the artist has seen the E-Cyclorama, it will be the first time anyone has seen it." Read more.

Other panorama paintings:
Gettysburg cyclorama restoration

Panorama Mesdag The Hague

July 21, 2008

Could Reality TV be (gasp) good for the artworld?

When I first graduated from art school, Stefan Stux looked at slides of my work and proclaimed, "This may be good, but it's not going to change the course of art history!" Wouldn't this make a suitably idiotic catch phrase for Sarah Jessica Parker's new art reality TV show? According to The Hollywood Reporter, the show, which is being compared with "Project Runway," has recently been picked up by Bravo. Aspiring artists will compete to produce various styles of artwork (painting, sculpting, etc.), which will then be judged by a panel of (as yet unnamed) experts. Parker's Pretty Matches production company is developing the project with Magical Elves, the production company that created "Top Chef" and "Top Design." Rather than mocking artists and the art world, perhaps the show will help make outsiders more comfortable with contemporary concepts and approaches to art making. Although described vaguely, the format will somehow pit artists working in the same media against one another. Let's hope the show will try to reflect current art practice accurately. Any ideas as to who might be selected for the "panel of experts?" Not Stefan Stux, I hope.

July 20, 2008

Retinal probe at Laguna Beach

In "In the Land of Retinal Delights: The Juxtapoz Factor," The Laguna Art Museum presents the work of 150 artists who have a visual affinity with merch-happy Juxtapoz magazine. Founded in San Francisco in 1994 by Robert Williams, the Juxtapoz aesthetic references movies, TV, advertising, black-velvet painting, psychedelic posters, pulp porn, sci-fi and horror, carnival art, comics books, and other lowbrow ephemera. Sixties icons Von Dutch, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, R. Crumb, Stanley Mouse, and Rick Griffin are among their patron saints. In the OC Weekly Greg Stacy reports that the show is not just an art exhibit, it’s a reason to live. "Seriously, if you’ve been contemplating suicide, 'The Juxtapoz Factor' is a very good reason to reconsider. At the very least, postpone your plans to jump off a bridge until after you’ve had a chance to make it to this thing. That way, when your life flashes before your eyes as you plummet toward the jagged rocks below, you’ll get to enjoy flashes of artists such as R. Crumb, Mark Ryden and Elizabeth McGrath. Believe me, there are worse ways to go....Wall after wall is covered with complicated, brain-straining art, each work boasting obsessive craftsmanship and all sorts of weird, personal symbolism. There are approximately 150 artists on display here, all vying for your attention. Try to take it in all at once, and you’ll leave with your eyes so bugged-out and your skull so swollen you’ll look like one of Ryden’s girls." Read more.

In the
Union-Tribune, Robert L. Pincus reports that the show is entertaining but poorly focused and barely explained. "Where curator Meg Linton goes wrong is with her inclusion of artists that draw on pop culture or use styles loosely related to this lowbrow circle. Jeffrey Vallance is one of the most brilliant appropriators of pop culture around, but his deadpan wit developed wholly separate from the Juxtapoz crowd. Jon Swihart is a realist painter who occasionally diverges into a surreal subject, as in the painting on view. But his sensibility really doesn't fit. These are just two of several questionable choices."Given these problems, it's unfortunate that the catalog won't appear until close to the end of the show. This is one exhibition where you really want to know more about the curator's point of view. Why didn't she focus more tightly on the artists central to the movement? Why only one Robert Williams painting – the one that gives the show it's title? Better to have more works by him, since he is so central, and less by artists who blur the focus. There are plentiful highlights in Linton's tour of this 'land,' but sometimes the guide seems to have lost her way – and we do too." Read more.

"In the Land of Retinal Delights: The Juxtapoz Factor," curated by Meg Linton. Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA. Through Oct. 5. The list of artists is way too long to post, but go to the website for artist info.

July 19, 2008

NY Times Art in Review: Hopper, Ellis, "Constraction," Pearlstein

"Edward Hopper: Etchings," Craig F. Starr Gallery, New York, NY. Through Aug. 15. Ken Johnson: "Early in his career, when the demands of commercial illustration left him little time to paint, Edward Hopper turned to printmaking and produced some of the most moving and memorable graphic images in 20th-century American art. This small gem of a show presents 13 of those works from 1915 to 1923. Framing his scenes like a movie director with a keen sense of visual and narrative intrigue, Hopper drew with vigorous directness, conjuring emphatically black-and-white imagery out of densely layered hatching. His prints tell stories of existential loneliness and the search for emotional connection."

"David Ellis: Dozens," Roebling Hall, New York, NY. Through July 25. Roberta Smith: "The show's tour de force occupies a separate space: “FAMS 1 (Fine Art Moving and Storage)” is one of Mr. Ellis’s exhilarating stop-action painting performances which uses the floor as the canvas and is shot from above. During this 10-minute work, Mr. Ellis and the occasional assistant transform the floor with rapid-fire sequences of cartoons, speech balloons, graffiti lettering (words like okay, fly and see) and abstraction (geometric, monochrome and swirling deluges of color)....Two less ambitious videos and a mass of large drawings in which the flow motif swirls across collages of letters and manuals pertaining to the construction of the work in the show are handsome but understandably inert. His best efforts operate in terrain populated at various points by Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Tim Hawkinson, Tom Friedman, Jon Kessler, Christian Marclay, Aaron Young and Ian Burns. His particular kind of Rube Golbergian, street-wise Guy Art veers closer to pure entertainment than any of his neighbors, but that doesn’t mean he’s out of the running."

"Constraction," Deitch Projects, New York, NY. Through Aug. 9. Curated by Kathy Grayson. Artists include Tauba Auerbach, Joe Bradley, Peter Coffin, Xylor Jane, Mitzi Pederson, Ara Peterson. Ken Johnson: "The title of this diverting group show organized by Kathy Grayson, conjoins the terms conceptual and abstraction. The overall experience, however, is more visually fizzy than intellectually challenging."

"Philip Pearlstein: Then and Now," Betty Cuningham, New York, NY. Through Aug. 8. Karen Rosenberg: "Those who think Philip Pearlstein’s art has changed little (or not at all) over the last four decades may be surprised by this pairing of the figurative painter’s early and recent works. His nudes are as smooth-skinned and glassy-eyed as ever, but in the newer paintings they are surrounded by a garage sale’s worth of toys and lawn ornaments. Curiously, all this clutter only emphasizes Mr. Pearlstein’s clinical treatment of the body."

Read the complete NY Times "Art in Review" column here.

July 17, 2008

Imi Knoebel's restoration at Dia: "24 Colors--For Blinky"

In the July/August issue of The Brooklyn Rail, check out my article about Imi Knoebel's 1977 installation, which, thanks to generous funding from Gucci, has been recreated at Dia:Beacon. "After Palermo's mysterious death at 33, Knoebel took the essential components of Palermo’s mostly small-scale work (color, shape, carefully conceived site-specific arrangement, subtle humor), and brilliantly incorporated them in a way that was both elegiac and celebratory, seamlessly fusing the aesthetic signatures of both artists. Although the color sensibility is completely Palermo’s, the careful construction, stacking, and enormity of scale recapitulates Knoebel’s earlier work with fiberboard. To accompany '24 Colors,' Dia invited artist Helen Mirra to install another Dia acquisition, Knoebel’s 1968 piece 'Room 19,' composed of 77 wood and fiberboard components, stacked and arranged like furniture in a dim storage room. The objects, simply presented in their time-worn condition—dented, darkened, and water-stained—illuminate how Knoebel’s previously monochromatic approach had evolved in the execution of '24 Colors.' As if possessed by Palermo’s spirit, color investigation became Knoebel’s predominant focus for the next three decades....Upon further inquiry, I learned that the panels weren’t merely restored. Rather, each was reconstructed from scratch...The wholesale recreation of Knoebel’s paintings has purged them of a not insubstantial measure of their authenticity. Remaking Donald Judd’s plywood boxes, say, or Dan Flavin’s fluorescent light installations does not detract from their real or intended artistic import because the visible subtlety of the artist’s hand is not germane to the aesthetic experience of viewing the work. But a painting itself perceptibly reflects the artist’s creative process, and cannot be reconstructed without effacing the artist’s original experience of making the piece. In painting, the aging and wear inevitably revealed over time metaphorically converts the artist’s contemporaneous emotions into emotional memories...."

"Imi Knoebel: 24 Colors--For Blinky," Dia:Beacon, Beacon, NY. Ongoing.

Cy Twombly's juggling act

In the NY Sun David Cohen writes that the Cy Twombly retrospective at Tate Modern is a reminder that no matter how intellectually ambitious, above all else, painting is smearing and drawing is scribble. "In room after room, this survey offers spare yet dynamic canvases, or cruddy yet evocative sculpture. However nonchalant his painterly marks may seem, they are taut and expressive nonetheless. Scatological as they can be in their oozing and dribbling, his paintings are unfailingly elegant. There is a dichotomy in Mr. Twombly's work between the verbal and the nonverbal: Writing is key to his work — often there is text scribbled into his canvases, and titles manifest connections with poetry — but equally vital is a sense that splodges and gestures form an arcane system of pre-verbal expression. This juggling act, sustained over half a century, is essential to Mr. Twombly's achievement. But it also accounts for his rocky ride in terms of esteem. Because he taps reserves of brutalism and classicism in equal measure, he is apt to appear too effete to one camp, too grubby to the other. The combination of rough textures and smooth literary references may well account for his greater success in Europe than in America." Read more.

"Cy Twombly: Cycles and Seasons," organized by Nicholas Serota and Nicholas Cullinan. Tate ­Modern, London. Through September 14.

Relates post:
Studio visit with Cy Twombly

Retro fashion: John Armleder, Olivier Mosset, Haim Steinbach

In Time Out Nuit Banai reports that this "gang of old-timers" at Nicole Klagsbrun are back in fashion. "While not veering far from their respectively well-trodden paths, all three artists appear more relevant than ever. Armleder, known for his performances of the 1960s and ’70s and hard-edged abstraction of the ’80s, shines in the glitter-suffused drip painting 'Baptisia leucantha.' His embrace of pop culture, echoed in 'Flush,' a double-toned, floor-to-ceiling silver wallpaper, never compromises his commitment to aesthetic investigation. Similarly, Mosset, a member of the Paris BMPT (Buren, Mosset, Parmentier and Toroni) group of the ’60s, continues to question the value of originality with 'Untitled,' six deep-green monochromes sensually painted in acrylic and Rhino coating (a material used as a sealant on houses). For his part, Steinbach, a staple of the early ’80s New York scene, consistently exposes the intersection between commodification, desire and aesthetics in 'the critic…2,' an arrangement of ordinary objects (glitter party hat, polyester witch hat and rubber dog chew) on a display shelf.These warhorses haven’t just aged gracefully: They appear not to have aged at all. Without appearing either cynical or moralistic, Armleder, Mosset and Steinbach comment on the marriage of youth and mass culture while noting just how intensified that combination has become since this triumvirate first emerged." Read more.

"John Armleder, Olivier Mosset, and Haim Steinbach," Nicole Klagsbrun, New York, NY. Through August 15.

July 15, 2008

Laurie Fendrich: Why do painters have to justify being painters?

Fendrich recently returned to New York from a stint as a Visiting Artist at Painting’s Edge, a summer painting workshop in Idyllwild, CA. She reflects on the experience at Brainstorm. "I encountered, firsthand, the intense pressure that’s now on painters to justify why they are painters. When I was in art school in the late ’70s, I saw it begin, but the young painters today, unlike my generation of painters, find it almost impossible to locate truly inspiring contemporary artists for whom painting’s meaning can be derived from what a painting looks like. Instead, the few remaining artists who are sticking to painting who are making any name for themselves are making paintings that derive their meaning from the 'ideas' behind their paintings. The result is that young artists feel compelled to offer long, complicated explanations about their intentions (many of which I dutifully listened to during the critiques I conducted with the painters who signed up for me).

"It takes an extremely talented and mature artist to hold together a big theme, yet many of the young artists I encountered were desperately trying to make their paintings 'reflect their interest' in some enormous idea or other. Some of them wanted to address themes so big that they really should first earn a Ph.D. in anthropology or Chinese before putting brush to canvas. Yet to my way of thinking, it’s hard enough to paint a still life, let alone paint something that carries multiple cultural references." Read more.

Image courtesy of Geoform.

Related post:
Laurie Fendrich: jetlagged visiting artist

July 14, 2008

Elizabeth Peyton's status update

Elizabeth Peyton's paintings, based on photographs, can be read in chapters, each of which feature portraits of friends, family, personal heroes, and, of course, fleeting passions. In October, The New Museum is presenting Peyton's first big museum survey, "Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton," which will feature over 100 pieces made over the last fifteen years. The show then travels to "the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London; and the Bonnefantenmuseum, in Maastricht , The Netherlands. Meanwhile, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, which awarded the Connecticut-born artist the $50,000 Larry Aldrich Award in 2006, has mounted an exhibition of Peyton's photographs this summer. After seeing the show, an unimpressed Karen Rosenberg reports in the NY Times that Ms. Peyton photographs with the acquisitive determination of someone amassing Facebook friends. "The lines of her social network can be traced to her galleries: Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in New York and Sadie Coles HQ in London. Here are Gavin Brown and Rirkrit Tiravanija; there’s Rirkrit again, with Olafur Eliasson; and that’s Urs Fischer; and Franz Ackermann. This mix of artists and dealers (most of them are not exactly household names) is enhanced by the occasional celebrity: Marc Jacobs, Chloë Sevigny. (Ms. Peyton’s shots sometimes bring to mind the studied insouciance of Mr. Jacobs’s advertising campaign photographed by Juergen Teller.) Again and again her camera seeks out pale young men with mussed hair.... 'Portrait of an Artist' extends the promise of a less fussy, more authentic Peyton, but it certainly doesn’t strip her paintings of their mysterious aura. Admirers will be left wondering how Ms. Peyton’s brushwork converts her awkward photographs into graceful, intuitive portraits."

Elizabeth Peyton: Portrait of an Artist," Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT. Through Nov. 16.

Related posts:
"Elizabeth Peyton can really paint"

Eric Elliott and Carlos Vega in Seattle

In the Seattle P-I Regina Hackett writes that James Harris Gallery's two solo shows are worth checking out. "History floats in the collages of Carlos Vega, borne along on receipts, invitations, letters and fragments of literary texts, presided over by figures who flout the laws of gravity....History is what we say it is. Vega tugs at our understanding of it, and carries us, painlessly, along....Where Vega is light, Elliott is heavy. His blue-gray to dark-green flowers in pots on tables of the same shades are pressed by the clot of dense air they live in. Air for Elliott is a contagion. It sticks to leaves and cramps their blooms, and yet they powerfully press back and hold their own. One test of a painter is how well his work looks in its own company. Elliott limits his subject matter to free his content, which is painting itself. Within a narrow subject range, he suggests endless possibility." Read more.

"Eric Elliott," James Harris Gallery, Seattle, WA. Through August 23.
"Carlos Vega," James Harris Gallery, Seattle, WA. Through August 23.

July 12, 2008

Kehinde Wiley: Likenesses

In Time Out, Sophie Fels writes that painter Kehinde Wiley is like the hero of a children’s story. "Wiley grew up as one of six siblings raised with more love than money by a single mom who was an antiques dealer in South Central Los Angeles. His father, who works in architecture, was from Nigeria, and had left Wiley’s mom before he was born. At age 20, Wiley, then studying art in San Francisco, set out for that country’s largest city, Lagos, to find his dad—which he did, remarkably, by asking around. After about a month in Africa, Wiley returned to the U.S., where he started a series of portraits based on his father.

"Since then, likenesses have made Wiley his name. The artist, 31, starts with a striking formula, juxtaposing elements from 18th- and 19th-century portraiture—billowing clouds, shining swords—with the figures of young black men in jeans and athletic jerseys. Currently, his work is installed in the lobby of the Brooklyn Museum and can be seen in a group survey, 'Recognize!,' at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. And on Wednesday 16 at Studio Museum in Harlem, Wiley opens 'The World Stage: Africa, Lagos ~ Dakar,' a new series he produced in temporary studios in Lagos, and Dakar, Senegal. In these canvases, Wiley placed local subjects against African textiles. 'It’s taking what he does and moving,' explains the Studio Museum’s director, Thelma Golden (the subject of one of Wiley’s few renderings of women, where she’s limned Queen Elizabeth I), adding that this new work signals the artist is entering his 'early midcareer.'' Read more.

Kehinde Wiley: The World Stage: Africa, Lagos ~ Dakar” Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY. Through Oct 26.

Studio update: Studio visits, exhibitions, new work

In preparation for a studio visit from collectors (and friends) over Fourth of July weekend, I manically re-organized the warren of attic rooms I’ve adopted for a studio in my Mystic, CT, house. The visit went well, and I sold a couple paintings from the 2007 Tower Series, which I’ve rarely shown publicly. At the same time, I realized that however lucrative selling work from the studio may be, the audience is so limited it's ultimately unsatisfying. I emerged from the long weekend determined to line up some new shows, and sent letters to friends asking for advice. I want to thank everyone who has graciously stepped forward with suggestions and help.

In my new paintings, I’m engrossed in the subtleties of color. Sure, I took a Bauhaus-type color class at art school, but in previous work, using color struck me as both thorny and precious, so I always worked with an austere, severely limited palette. But this summer, due in part to time spent at the studio shack in Beacon, NY, where I visited Dia:Beacon and saw installations by Blinky Palermo and Imi Knoebel, I became fascinated by color mixing and color relationships. Dia is certainly an odd place to discover color, but gradually I've overcome my chromophobia. I started a series of color studies on cardboard (which will be available in my Pierogi file in the fall), several 40" x 54" canvases (unstretched so I can get them out of the attic), a dozen small constructed wood pieces, and some sewn canvas collages. I’m at that anxious beginning stage in a new series when anything can happen, good and bad. In my next Studio Update, I’ll let you know what happens. Of course, now that the attic is presentable, if you feel like coming to Mystic, let's arrange a studio visit.
Images: My painting room in the attic (above, right) is small but thankfully air conditioned. Dog Fiona is sleeping near the easel that I found in the trash a few years ago. At left, above, unstretched paintings are hanging to dry. At right, the front attic windows from outside.

Note: Look for my article about Dia's Imi Knoebel installation, "24 Colors--For Blinky," in the July/August issue of The Brooklyn Rail.

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)

July 11, 2008

NY Times Art in Review: Danica Phelps and Ata Kwami

"Danica Phelps," Zach Feuer, New York, NY. Through July 18. Karen Rosenberg: "For the last decade Danica Phelps has chronicled her personal and financial lives with an exhaustive system of lists and charts accompanied by diagrams of colored stripes. In this show, her fifth at the gallery, she clears the decks. “I would rather remember and record with a more selective memory,” she writes in a statement. Only major life events — most recently a pregnancy achieved through in vitro fertilization in India — make the cut. Ms. Phelps describes her experience in India in a charming series of scroll-like drawings and prints. Self-portraits, hospital scenes, tourist landscapes and snippets of Mughal miniature painting are all entangled in a fine descriptive line. In a kind of apology for abandoning writing, Ms. Phelps sculptures letters out of paper from her trash. She displays them as mobiles, floor sculptures and abject wall texts. ('It made me too sad to write down every fight we had.') These works are eye-catching but juvenile."

"Atta Kwami: Harmonium," Howard Scott, New York, NY. Through tomorrow. Roberta Smith: "Cultures gently collide in the small, colorful abstract paintings of the Ghanaian painter Atta Kwami, who is having his first exhibition in New York. His compositions of intersecting freehand lines or abutting squares and blocks echo the textiles of the Ashanti and Ewe peoples, many of whom live in Ghana and Togo. But Mr. Kwami is also fluent in the tendency of relaxed, post-Process Art abstraction as pursued by American and European painters like Raoul De Keyser, Mary Heilmann, Stanley Whitney and Juan Usle."

Read the entire NY Times "Art in Review" column.

July 10, 2008

Gary Hume's hospital doors

Twenty years after Gary Hume emerged onto the British art scene with his Door Paintings, Modern Art Oxford presents the first survey of the series. In ArtForum Ana Finel Honigman writes that Hume’s seemingly simple and potentially constrictive conceit (all the paintings are lifesize copies of institutional hospital doors) offers access to a surprisingly wide range of issues. "Modernist conventions, modernism’s (mis)use in institutional settings, the relationship between depressing decor and depression itself, and the questionable link between visual pleasure and its conceptual context. The eighteen paintings in the museum’s light, airy, TARDIS-like space are predominantly ice-cream-colored and easy to like. Hume re-created the frames, windows, and kickplates typical of standard hospital doors, but his paintings’ glossy shine, pleasant palette, and clean surfaces are antithetical to their maudlin and distressing inspiration. Twin circles, placed side by side at the top of many of the panels, resemble vacuous eyes, giving the doors a friendly anthropomorphic appearance, and the simple patterns are soothing and sweet. Wherever else the doors may lead, they make the museum’s interior a delightful destination." Read more.

In The Independent, Tom Lubbock suggests that The Door Paintings aren't just "clever non-paintings, blending the detachment of Pop Art with the rigour of Minimalism, and saying: 'Ha ha, you thought you were going to get something out of me, what with me being a painting hanging on the wall, but you will get nothing, nothing, ha ha.' No, their point-blank refusal of normal painterly satisfactions is not their conclusion. It's their premise. The effect is: blank, yes – but oddly, more than blank. They have powerful presence. There's the sheer reality-effect of their resemblance to doors. It's almost a kind of trompe l'oeil. Their rounds and oblongs, their door-sizedness, presses some simple cognitive button so that you can't help feeling you are looking at, not paintings, but institutional doors themselves. And yet they have more formal activity than you might expect. The colour schemes look bad, almost random, but turn out to be rather subtle and moody. The template shapes are always slightly wonkily drawn. In later ones, other motifs intervene, as a flowing stripe cuts across." Read more.

"Gary Hume: Door Paintings," Modern Art Oxford, Oxford. Through August 31.

July 9, 2008

Landscape girls at Jeff Bailey

According to Andrew Johnson in The Independent, art dealer Iwan Wirth, who represents Louise Bourgeois, admits that women artists face prejudice and discrimination, with their works selling for a fraction of the price of their male counterparts. The huge gap in prices between the likes of Lucian Freud and Bourgeois was "a constant source of disappointment" for Wirth. Of course, maybe we should look at this shabby, well-worn fact slightly more positively: work by women is a bargain. Dealers should show more, and collectors should start snapping it up. After all, Wirth is certain things will change. "The problem has been that female artists have been historically excluded from museums," he told The Art Newspaper. "Now there are more female curators and a new generation of male curators rewriting art history."

So let's start the ball rolling. Opening today at Jeff Bailey Gallery, "This Is Not About Landscape," features the work of three accomplished women: Louise Belcourt, Sarah Brenneman, and Mie Yim. Treating landscape as stage sets, Belcourt, Brenneman and Yim use anthropomorphic shapes, spatial arrangement and high-keyed color to evoke a range of phenomena and emotion.

In terms of their careers, all three artists are certainly ripe for collecting. Canadian-born New Yorker Louise Belcourt has had numerous solo exhibitions in New York (two with Bailey), Paris and San Francisco, and has been featured in many group exhibitions, including ones at the Brooklyn Museum, the Fleming Museum, Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, Daniel Weinberg Gallery and Geoffrey Young Gallery. Ohio-born New Yorker Sarah Brenneman has had two solo exhibitions with Bailey, and her work has been featured in numerous group exhibitions. She received a BFA from Columbus College of Art and Design and an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. She attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and was an artist in residence at Chashama and The Millay Colony for the Arts. Korean-born New Yorker Mie Yim has had solo exhibitions at Galleria in Arco, Turin and Lehman Maupin Gallery. Her work has been featured in numerous group exhibitions, including ones at ATM Gallery, Ise Cultural Foundation, the Drawing Center and the Weatherspoon Art Museum.

"This Is Not About Landscape," Jeff Bailey Gallery, New York, NY. Through August 8.

Related posts:
Interview with Sarah Brenneman at The Old Gold

July 7, 2008

Masterpiece theater: Edward Albee's Occupant

Louise Nevelson was a sculptor rather than a painter, and thus outside TCOP's usual focus, but I saw Albee's play last weekend, and I'm sure all artists will appreciate it. Set on a sparsely furnished stage, the play begins with a smarmy interviewer, archly played by Larry Bryggman, explaining to the audience that we are about to see him conduct a posthumous interview with artist Louise Nevelson. Nevelson, by way of a finely nuanced Mercedes Ruehl, enters, and, after a bit of discussion about her introduction, the interviewer describes her as “a great American sculptor.”

“You said it not me,” Nevelson says shaking her head. She may hesitate to call herself great, but clearly she agrees with his assessment, and confesses that she always knew she was special. Not that special meant better, she carefully points out, just different from everyone else. Albee uses Louise Nevelson’s biography to tell his own story, which for many artists will sound strangely familiar.

Nevelson was born in Russia and moved to Maine with her family when she was a small child. At nineteen, she married a wealthy New Yorker, and moved to the city, where she played the role of a socialite and mother. Nevelson, as Albee portrays her, knew that she wasn’t living the life she was meant to live, and eventually she left her husband and abandoned her son to pursue art making. She tells how she eventually got a show, only to be devastated when none of the work sold. After the gallery returned the artwork, she burned it all. Nevelson endured twenty difficult years that included long bouts of depression and alcoholic binges before her work was finally recognized, but she persevered nonetheless. She was looking for something, Nevelson tells the audience, but she just wasn’t sure what it was.

As the interviewer and Nevelson unwind her story, trying to sort out what actually happened from the oft-repeated legends the artist had fabricated over the years, a compelling portrait of single-minded determination and grit emerges.

Edward Albee's Occupant, Signature Theater, New York, NY. Just extended through July 13.

July 6, 2008

J.M.W. Turner's poetic visualization of British history

Turner has arrived in New York. In The New Yorker, back in September, when the exhibition was opening at the National Gallery, Simon Schama wrote an engaging article about Turner's critical reception during his own time. "Poor old Turner: one minute the critics were singing his praises, the next they were berating him for being senile or infantile, or both. No great painter suffered as much from excesses of adulation and execration, sometimes for the same painting. 'Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying—Typhon Coming On' had, on its appearance at the Royal Academy, in 1840, been mocked by the reviewers as 'the contents of a spittoon,' a 'gross outrage to nature,' and so on. The critic of the Times thought the seven pictures—including 'Slavers'—that Turner sent to the Royal Academy that year were such 'detestable absurdities' that 'it is surprising the [selection] committee have suffered their walls to be disgraced with the dotage of his experiments.' John Ruskin, who had been given 'Slavers' by his father and had appointed himself Turner’s paladin, not only went overboard in praise of his hero but drowned in the ocean of his own hyperbole. In the first edition of 'Modern Painters' (1843), Ruskin, then all of twenty-four, sternly informed the hacks that 'their duty is not to pronounce opinions upon the work of a man who has walked with nature threescore years; but to impress upon the public the respect with which they [the works] are to be received.'

"The reasons for both the sanctification and the denunciation were more or less the same: Turner’s preference for poetic atmospherics over narrative clarity, his infatuation with the operation of light rather than with the objects it illuminated. His love affair with gauzy obscurity, his resistance to customary definitions of contour and line, his shameless rejoicing in the mucky density of oils or in the wayward leaks and bleeds of watercolors—these were condemned as reprehensible self-indulgence. Sir George Beaumont, collector, patron, and, as he supposed, arbiter of British taste, complained noisily of Turner’s 'vicious practice' and dismissed his handling of the paint surface as 'comparatively, blots.' The caustic essayist William Hazlitt was especially troubled by Turner’s relish of visual ambiguity: the sharp line melting into the swimming ether. Contrary to Ruskin, Hazlitt thought it was unseemly for Turner to fancy himself playing God, reprising the primordial flux of Creation. Someone, Hazlitt commented, had said that his landscapes 'were pictures of nothing and very like.'" Read more.

In 1966 the Museum of Modern Art installed “Turner: Imagination and Reality." Curator Lawrence Gowing spoke with Calvin Tomkins and Geoffrey T. Hellman in The Talk of the Town. “'All but four of the oils were selected from the work Turner did in the last twenty years of his life, in order to show the revolutionary aspect of a period in which he developed a new consistency of painting that eliminated linear draftsmanship and classical composition and glorified light and shade. During this time, he demolished the separate categories of classic and romantic, and so on. The work is very structural, with lots of tension in it. It’s not just a prototype of American abstract painting, as has sometimes been said, though it certainly is that. The situation is much more complex. Although structural, the pictures are very informal and very free at the same time. They reach out into the borderland between representation and the abstract. A unique achievement.'"Read more.

Roberta Smith: "The Metropolitan Museum of Art's 'J. M. W. Turner'is a beast of a show. With nearly 150 works in oil and watercolor spanning more than half a century, it will either win you over or wear you out. Or it will alternate, gallery by gallery, or wall by wall, as the art swings between overblown and moving, inspired and mechanical." Read more.

Linda Yablonsky: "Incredibly, this most dependable of cultural institutions seems to have miscalculated the deadening impact of laying out 140 similar paintings and drawings with little variation or context. The show serves up a Johnny One-Note whose brilliance was undermined by an aversion to experiment. " Read more.

"J.M.W. Turner," The Metropolitan Museum, New York, NY. Through Sept. 21.

"J.M.W. Turner,"National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Oct. 1-Jan. 6, 2008. See images of Turner paintings from the National Gallery's collection.

July 5, 2008

Peter Saul: Genuinely scary

Long known for his acid-hued paintings melding cartoon imagery with biting social and political commentary, Peter Saul, 74, has influenced generations of contemporary artists. In the 60s, Saul was associated with a group of imagists in Chicago called the “Hairy Who” that disavowed the various New York styles and schools to focus on the human image. Conflating elements of high and low culture, Hairy Who paintings oozed an intensely anti-authoritative political critique. In the LA Times, Christopher Knight reports on Saul's 40-year retrospective at the Orange County Museum of Art. "Saul wields his brush in ways certainly meant to get a viewer to look at his pictures long and hard, using complex color and refined form in sophisticated, eye-grabbing ways. But the contemptible, despicable and even humiliating are what you're likely to encounter in his imagery. The clanging dissonance between hot form and chilling content can be oddly riveting." Read more.

"Peter Saul," Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA. Through Sept. 21. Traveling to Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA, October 18, 2008-January 4, 2009.

Chuck Connelly's close up

Chuck Connelly, a rancorous Neo-Expressionist whose paintings were popular in the 80's, is the subject of a new HBO documentary, "The Art of Failure: Chuck Connelly Not For Sale." In the NY Times, Daniel E. Slotnick visits Connelly in his Philadelphia studio to chat with the painter about the film. "The interior of the rambling Victorian house is dark. The sparse furnishings in the front rooms are covered by a patina of cigarette ash, gobs of dried paint and coffee cans filled with paintbrushes. Hundreds of paintings lean against walls and are piled against the porch windows. Lounging comfortably amid the detritus is their creator, Chuck Connelly, 53, a tall, graying man whose easy laugh belies his careworn face, occasional rants and long career slide. Mr. Connelly’s professional fortunes, chronicled in a documentary that will be shown on Monday on HBO, have gone from selling 'Ausburg,' a painting from his first New York show, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1984 to compensating his accountant with a painting in recent years. Yet the film does not entirely blame a fickle art world for his setbacks. As the documentary recounts, Mr. Connelly alienated many dealers, patrons and buyers with his hot temper, insulting remarks and wild ways. Mr. Connelly has mixed feelings about the film. 'They only had the worst shots of me, they only shot when I was drunk,' he said. He added that he was 'not a failure like the movie says.' Read more. Check out clips from the film on YouTube.
"The Art of Failure: Chuck Connelly Not For Sale," HBO, Monday, July 7, 9 pm. Directed by Jeff Stimmel.
"Chuck Connelly: Selected Works 1977-2008," DFN Gallery, New York, NY. Through July 18.

July 2, 2008

Laurie Fendrich: jetlagged visiting artist

For the next few days, Laurie Fendrich and husband Peter Plagens are the visiting artists at Painting's Edge art colony in Idyllwild, California. They are among the 17 artists and critics scheduled to give lectures and critiques during the two week residency, which, unlike others, is exclusively for painters. Fendrich writes about the experience on Brainstorm, her blog at The Chronicle Review. Here are her entries from Day Two.

5:45 a.m. Wide awake for at least an hour. Desperately hungry. Cafeteria doesn’t open for breakfast until 7:15 a.m.
7:15 a.m. First in the cafeteria line. Sheepishly smile at server standing behind scrambled eggs. Experiencing Hans Castorp’s ravenous appetite — is it really the altitude? Greedily stuff in a breakfast twice the size I normally eat.
9:00 a.m. Hubby begins the first of his ten critiques for the day. His lecture will be in the evening. My critiques don’t start til Tuesday, but since I give my lecture (it’s supposed to be about my paintings) tomorrow night, I plan on writing it today. (Problem: I selected the paintings I want to show during the lecture a long time ago, and they’re ready to project on a screen; but the lecture itself is only roughly formed in my mind.) Say goodbye to hubby and set off in already hot morning sun, through scrubby pine trees, to write lecture in cool of campus library.
11:00 a.m. Stare at my notes for two hours while chomping my way through one complete pack of gum. Realize I’ve been transformed into a David Lodge character — the one who’s always breaking out in a sweat whenever he remembers the rapidly approaching lecture he’s supposed to give — the one he’s had months to write, but for which he hasn’t yet penned a word.
Noon. Gratefully leave off working on lecture (now up to three sentences) to rush to cafeteria to meet with Painting’s Edge residents and fellow visiting artists for lunch. Inhale lunch. Talk about painting and painters. Somehow still vaguely hungry. Swig down cup of coffee. Read more.

Read about Day One at Painting's Edge here.

Kimmelman's in Spain

Wouldn't we all love to have Michael Kimmelman's job? Today he reports from Madrid on The Prado's exhibition, Goya in Times of War. Not only does he travel throughout Europe, but he chats with interesting artists. "The sculptor Richard Serra saw the Goya show recently and told me, with a kind of rapture, that he was amazed by all the different ways Goya painted white. 'The Third of May,' in particular, depends on whites: under a black sky, the white of the shirt of the captive who kneels before the firing squad, arms flung open, is illuminated by the glare of the square yellow-white lantern before him. The picture’s punctum, the detail that lingers in the mind after registering the bloody pulp of the dead man’s head in the foreground and the silent rows of bayonets and shakos, focused on their victim, is the semicircle of white in the Spaniard’s eye, disbelieving, beseeching." Read more.

"Goya in Times of War," The Prado, Madrid, Spain. Through July 13.

Fergus Binns wins Australia's juiciest painting prize

Last week Fergus Binns, 28, was named winner of the $40,000 Judges’ Prize in Australia’s 2008 Metro 5 Art Award for painters under 35."Winning will mean I can put some money back into my practice as an artist." Binns said. "I currently work part time in hospitality as well as painting in my studio in Collingwood. It's the first prize I've entered so it's wonderful to get this recognition of my work." Fergus created his winning work, entitled "Mount Kosciusko with receding snow dome," in the backyard shed at his parents’ house in Goonellabah after he and his girlfriend of more than six years, Misty, returned from a trip around the world. According to Binns's artist statement, the painting of Mount Kosciusko trapped forever in a toy snow dome, pays homage to Eugene von Guerard’s famous 1863 painting "North-east view from the northern top of Mount Kosciusko" and contains a stark message about the damage inflicted on our environment. In what Misty described as “true Fergus style” he got the time of the presentation wrong, realised he was late, jumped in a taxi and arrived at the Melbourne gallery to a waiting former Victorian premier and a media pack flashing their cameras. Misty said Fergus was “pretty overwhelmed” at winning the competition and all the media attention surrounding him, not to mention the $40,000 prize, which will buy a lot of paint and canvas for a young artist. (Via Northern Rivers Echo)

July 1, 2008

Painting blitzkrieg in London

"Blitzkrieg Bop," curated by painter Clare Price, brings together work by 20 different artists. According to the press release, the show aims toward an unapologetically expressive aesthetic and raucous attitude, an explosive almost ‘punk’ feel characterized by its energy and spontaneity. "Each artist makes work that is infused with an uninhibited looseness of expression, in which the individuality of the mark-making is of paramount importance." Guardian art blogger Catherine Bruton wonders if the show does what it says on the tin, or is it just a nostalgic tribute to what she naively calls a long-dead tradition. "I reckon it's the first." she concludes."This is a show which not only reasserts the value of the painterly but seeks to re-contextualize the tradition. The eclectic mixture of artists being shown here creates disturbing moments of visual dissonance and unsettling juxtapositions. Looking round and seeing Peter Lanyon (leading figure in the 1950s St Ives Group) next to paint-pouring YBA Ian Davenport, I sometimes wondered if Price had accidentally hung Cliff Richard next to Johnny Rotten. Yet somehow it works....Are we really witnessing the revival of the painterly tradition? Is this really the beginning of a cultural revolt that will dethrone Emin and Hirst and put painters back where they belong - on the anti-establishment throne of British art?" Read more.

"Blitzkrieg Bop," curated by Clare Price. Man & Eve Gallery, London. Through August 3. Artists include Gillian Ayres, Simon Bill, Melanie Carvalho, Clem Crosby, Ian Davenport, Howard Dyke, Sophie Eade, Russell Eade, Katrine Hjelde, JohnFrumPress, Neil Kilby, Scott King, Peter Lanyon, Rich Littler, Yo Okada, Daniel Pasteiner, Clare Price, Ben Sansbury, Peter Saville.

Steve Roden: Systematically intuitive and smart

Californian Steve Roden translates sound systems into visual form. His work, based on musical notation, develops from complex sets of self-imposed rules, then folds intuitive strategies into the process. In the LA Times, Holly Myers wonders what makes Roden's work so appealing, especially to other artists. "The first point is methodological," she suggests. "Contemporary artists love systems, especially systems that are largely arbitrary and likely to go awry. The predilection dates at least to the '60s, when Minimalism and Conceptualism turned to geometry, mathematics and theories of chance in an effort to eradicate the romantic tendencies of Modernism. Today, the interest seems to be as much in the failure of systems as in their integrity, and Roden straddles the divide brilliantly, often following his rules but often breaking them, exploring the tension between geometry and gesture, intention and accident, pattern and variation. That his visual works feel both systematically generated and intensely handmade, even instinctual or intuitive, is evidence of the careful balance he maintains. The second point is formal. Although conceived in multiple media, Roden's work stems from a close and rigorous connection to materials....Finally -- most ineffable but most important -- the work feels like the product of someone who thinks. And looks. And reads. And listens. And thinks some more, and looks again, and keeps looking. It is inquisitive, attentive, responsive." Read more.

"Steven Roden: Lines and Spaces," Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Los Angeles, CA. Through August 2.