November 30, 2008

Meet me at La Biennale di Venezia in June

Although I won't be at Art Basel Miami this year, I'm going to Venice for the 53rd International Art Exhibition in June. The exhibition opens to the press on June 4, and, unlike recent incarnations which cleaved toward video and installation projects, 53 will embrace traditional media such as painting and drawing. Director Daniel Birnbaum stressed that the exhibition will not be divided into sections but instead weave a few themes into an articulated whole. In the press release, he points out three aspects in particular:
• The proximity to the processes of production, which “will result in an exhibition that remains closer to the sites of creation and education (the studio, the workshop) than the traditional museum show, which tends to highlight only the finished work itself. Some of the works will represent worlds in the making. A work of art is more than an object, more than a commodity. It represents a vision of the world, and if taken seriously it can be seen as a way of worldmaking”
• The relationship between some key artists and successive generations: “A number of historical reference points will anchor the exhibition. These artistic roots are still active, productive. They give energy to the branches of the tree of art, and perhaps also to that which emerges today, to the ‘sprouts’. I would like to explore strings of inspiration that involve several generations and to display the roots as well as the branches that grow into a future not yet defined”.
• An exploration of drawing and painting, with respect to recent developments and the presence in the latest editions of the Biennale of many videos and installations: “the emphasis on the creative process and on things in the making will not exclude works in classical media." Read more.

The U.S. State Department, perhaps not realizing that the era of the cowboy is over (goodbye Crawford, hello Chicago), has selected Bruce Nauman to represent the US in Venice. " The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs selected Nauman following the unanimous recommendation of the Federal Advisory Committee on International Exhibitions (FACIE) that reviewed proposals received through an open competition. Carlos Basualdo, Curator of Contemporary Art, and Michael Taylor, the Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art, will serve as the U.S. Commissioners and will organize the exhibition from the Philadelphia Museum of Art."

Related posts:
"Miami Beach: Swimming in Pigment," The Brooklyn Rail, February 2008.

November 25, 2008

St Louis: Max Cole and Eva Lundsager

In the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, art critic David Bonetti picks a couple of abstract shows in St. Louis. "Max Cole is a nonobjective painter; her work is determined by the components of its making: the linen surface, the acrylic medium, the pigment restricted to tones of black and white. The image — a composition of horizontal and vertical lines and bands — is not dependent upon anything outside the canvas. It is not an abstraction of either objective or subjective reality...Light and time are really what these paintings are about. Light experienced, captured, released, reflected. And time. You can imagine the amount of time required to complete even a small work. All that time and the energy expended in making the painting are contained within it. That's why they seem so alive. And it explains why you want to spend so much time looking at them."

"Eva Lundsager paints nature-derived abstractions, primarily landscapes, and although we've seen this kind of gestural abstraction based on Willem de Kooning and Joan Mitchell before, she brings a distinctive sense of vivid color and a personal touch to them that makes them her own. In a talk a couple of years ago at White Flag Projects, Lundsager spoke about how she was influenced by the Venetian rococo painter Giambattista Tiepolo. You can see Tiepolo's clouds in several of her paintings here....In any case, they are surreal little worlds that reward the exercise of imagination." Read more.

"Max Cole," Schmidt Contemporary Art, St Louis, MO. Through Nov. 29.
Eva Lundsager, Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, St. Louis, MO. Through Dec. 12.

Enrique Martínez Celaya: "Shiny paint makes me feel like I can’t breathe"

In the NY Times, Jori Finkel profiles Enrique Martínez Celaya, whose show recently opened in LA. "The questions he explores in painting (and in his related writings) belong to religion and philosophy: the meaning of life and death, the purpose of consciousness, and what it means to be good or do good. He is as likely to talk about Schopenhauer and Wittgenstein, or Herman Melville and Paul Celan, as Joseph Beuys and Lucian Freud. Although he shows regularly with John Berggruen Gallery in San Francisco and Sara Meltzer in New York (and has a retrospective that will open next year at the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg), he recognizes that he is not exactly of the moment. 'So many contemporary paintings have this wink to say we’re both in on the joke,' he said. 'Any time I find myself being witty or clever, I paint over it.'

"For all of the paintings in his studio that day, he relied on the same basic technique. He mixed wax into oil paint (about a 1-to-3 ratio), building up one thin layer after another to achieve a matte finish and translucency of color. ('Shiny paint makes me feel like I can’t breathe,' he said.) Some paintings have as many as 20 layers. In the process he often painted over shapes or even human figures so that the finished canvas could contain less by way of content than it once did. One muddy, mountainous painting originally showed a boy sitting off to one corner holding the head of a deer. Now both the boy and head are gone. In another canvas a boy stands in a deep field of dandelions, his face popping out like an overgrown flower. But the more you look, the less the image yields. There is no expressive or virtuosic brush stroke, and little realistic detail, to flesh out the figure or reveal the boy’s age or size. Mr. Martínez Celaya said it was intentional. 'There’s not enough there to hold you emotionally. You begin to sink into a black hole.'

“'It’s strange to love painting and be so much anti-painting,' he added. 'I’m not interested in luscious, sexy, virtuosic painting, but the destruction of the image, undermining the certainty of the image.'” Read more.

"Enrique Martínez Celaya," L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice, CA. Through Jan. 3.

November 23, 2008

Questioning Canadian painting's carte blanche

The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art presents "Carte Blanche/Vol. 2: Painting," a comprehensive survey of contemporary Canadian painting; at Toronto's Power Plant, the RBC Canadian Painting Competition is underway. In the Globe and Mail, Sarah Milroy suggests that the idea of exhibitions limited exclusively to painting feels dated. "All-painting exhibitions seem, today, like hackneyed holdovers from the 'painting is dead' debates of decades ago. Having survived conceptual art, the advent of electronic media, and the seductive allure of the supersized Cibachrome photograph, it seems clear that painting - the practice of smearing coloured mud on a supporting surface, whether it be a cave wall, a wooden board or a piece of stretched canvas - will be with us to stay, a deep and enduring compulsion of humanity championed still by such international front-runners as Gerhard Richter, Lucian Freud, Tomma Abts, Luc Tuymans, Marlene Dumas and sometime-Canadian Peter Doig. Do we really still need to keep acting as if this is a beleaguered medium, struggling on life support? Clearly, some people think so. Both shows aim, simply, to celebrate the medium, surely a defensive stance. And, as usual, when a show is mounted as a celebration, that tends to be code for brain-dead; i.e. not curatorial premise, just an inventory stockpile.

"To a certain extent, that's the case here. 'Carte Blanche, Volume 2: Painting,' an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, culls from the pages of the just-published Magenta Foundation book of the same name, a compendious national roundup of fledgling, mid-career and established Canadian artists working from coast to coast. (Magenta's president, MaryAnn Camilleri describes her modest mandate thus: 'I just wanted people to get beyond the Group of Seven, Alex Colville, Bateman and whatnot.') " Read more.

"Carte Blanche: Vol. 2 Painting," curated by Clint Roenisch and David Liss. Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, CA. Through Dec. 28. Artists include Shelley Adler, Iain Baxter, Mike Bayne, Joe Becker, John Boyle, Matthew Brown, Chris Cran, Kim Dorland, Dorian Fitzgerald, Alexandra Flood, Graham Gillmore, Martin Golland, Dil Hildebrand, Thrush Holmes, Alexander Irving, Dan Kennedy, Harold Klunder, Wanda Koop, James Lahey, Elizabeth McIntosh, Medrie MacPhee, Wil Murray, Anders Oinonen, Ben Reeves, Melanie Rocan, Derek Root, Tony Scherman, Monica Tap, Carol Wainio, Shirley Wiitasalo

"RBC Painting Competition," The Power Plant, Toronto, CA. Through Nov. 25. Traveling to Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, London, St. John's, Saskatoon, Edmonton, and Vancouver. The semi-finalists are Eli Bornowsky, Andrew Dadson, Jeremy Hof, Collin Johanson, Lorenzo Pepito, Martin Golland, Sarah Jane Gorlitz, Amanda Reeves , Drew Simpson, Emmy Skensved, Patrick Howlett, Rick Leong, Wil Murray, Jeanie Riddle, and Justin Stephens. Jurors included Pierre Dorion, James Baird, Louise Déry, Jessica Bradley, David Liss, James Lahey, Kitty Scott, Monte Clark, Neil Campbell

November 22, 2008

Carol Padberg's type at Real Art Ways

In the Hartford Courant Roger Catlin reports that the newspaper world doesn't pay too much attention to the fonts of type "that march our ideas along, line by line, day in and day out, in column inches. There's little time to consider the spurs, tails and eyes of the letters: the neat little shoes of the serif or the sleeker simplicity of the sans-serif. The artist Carol Padberg has studied typography, especially the modernist fonts of Bauhaus, Futura and Helvetica, in her work in encaustic paintings and in polymer resin. Her newest large-scale work at Real Art Ways, opening today, shatters and recombines parts of type in a wall-sized collage in shades of red and burgundy. Her 'Helvetica Mash Up' is vivid and striking and suggests perhaps a message in there somewhere, backward or forward, or in parts, or even in the negative spaces."

"I choose materials with which I can create a tension between the flat graphic voice of typography and the fluidity of paint and handwriting," Padberg says. "Sometimes comical, sometimes minimal, these images ask questions about design, nonverbal language, and the modernist lineage of abstract painting."

Check out the installation video here.

"Carol Padberg: Face Value," Real Art Ways, Hartford, CT. Through Jan. 11. Padberg will give a talk about the work on Thursday, Dec. 4 at 6 pm.

November 20, 2008

Terry Winters: Haltingly optimistic

In The Village Voice RC Baker writes that there's something hard-fought and heartening about Terry Winters's new paintings at Matthew Marks. "Chunks of intense color tumble and collide across garish or sooty or muddy matrices. Like our times, they're fraught, complex, and scarred over, but also haltingly optimistic....In a 1992 Bomb magazine interview, Winters recalled a 'famous quote from Leonardo's notebook about seeing figures in the stains on a wall,' adding, 'There seems to be almost a biological need to invest images with those kinds of readings.' But if we have a driving instinct to discern faces in clouds or the Virgin Mary's visage in a grilled-cheese sandwich, how can abstraction persevere? That has been Winters's quest for nearly three decades. While his early observations led to paintings as pungent as the deadfall of leaves, roots, and worms in a dark forest, the later work seems an acknowledgment that the material world of our senses is being transcended—not by the philosophies or religions of yore but by cutting-edge science and computers. Paintings in one of his mid-'90s series were as flat as CAT scans, yet the curved, cratered contours were volatile, even sensuous; colors became hybrids of nature and technology, like radioactive dyes injected into the bloodstream to throw disease into high relief. In the new 'Knotted Graphs' paintings, Winters deploys strata of often-transparent pigments that bleed into one another, a crazy quilt that at first looks disparate and random until the ragged grids and cascades of bulbous shapes slowly, even laboriously, coalesce into beautiful bloom, an organic cyberspace." Read more.

"Terry Winters: Knotted Graphs," Matthew Marks, New York, NY. Through Jan. 24.

November 19, 2008

USA Painting Fellows: Barkley L. Hendricks and Rodney McMillian

Of 50 fellows selected for United States Artists Fellowships this year, only two are painters: Barkley L. Hendricks, and Rodney McMillian. According to Hamza Walker's summary of the selection process, "there was unbridled zaniness, calculated zaniness, and garden-variety zaniness. There was no-punches-pulled politics, and there was formalism for formalism’s sake. Questions of race, gender, and age were ultimately folded into, if not outright overshadowed by, the eclectic nature of the work. Given the heterogeneous nature of the applicant pool, 'diversity' need not have been an explicit mandate. At the end of the day, when the list of finalists was drawn up, there was no mention of race, age, career level, or gender. It was only over the issue of region that diversity reared its head. My sense, however, is that the burgeoning network of regional artist awards will make this anything but a systemic problem."

United States Artists (USA) is a grant-making, artist-advocacy organization dedicated to supporting American artists working across diverse disciplines. After decades of dwindling public support, USA gives unrestricted cash grants of $50,000 to 50 individual artists each year.

Panelists included Valerie Cassel Oliver, Curator, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; Aimee Chang, Director, Academic and Residency Programs, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Adam D. Weinberg(chair), Alice Pratt Brown Director, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Hamza Walker, Director of Education and Associate Curator, The Renaissance Society, Chicago; Daniel Joseph Martinez, Artist and USA Broad Fellow 2007, Los Angeles. Read more.

Miquel Barcelo sees the world dripping toward the sky

Spanish painter Miquel Barcelo used over 100 tons of pigments from all over the world to make a 16,000-sqare-foot brightly-colored abstract painting for the United Nations offices in Geneva. "On a day of immense heat in the middle of the Sahel desert, I recall with vivacity the mirage of an image of the world dripping toward the sky," Barcelo said. "Trees, dunes, donkeys, multi-colored beings flowing drop by drop." As the work was unveiled, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon thanked Barcelo for putting his "unique talents to work in service of the world". He added: "The artwork you have created for this room is innovative and radiant. I have no doubt that people will come to see it whether they have business here or not." The painting, on the ceiling of the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room, has been criticized for it's $23 million price tag. (via BBC News)

November 17, 2008

Grace Hartigan is dead

In the Baltimore Sun passed away Saturday after a long illness. "Grace Hartigan was adamant, even imperious about the arrangements for how she would be memorialized. And she will get her way, as Hartigan, a seminal figure in the U.S. art world and a longtime Baltimore resident, usually did. 'There will be no memorial service. She said that her memorial should be more about her body of work than about her physical body. She's always felt that way,' says Rex Stevens, chairman of the drawing and general fine arts department at the Maryland Institute College of Art. The 86-year-old painter will be cremated, he said. Hartigan's friends and former students - and there are legions - can remember her by visiting the five dozen prints, collages, drawings and paintings (including four currently on display) at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Or, if they happen to be traveling out of town, they can check out her muscular, bold, highly colored canvases in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, or in the Art Institute of Chicago." Read more.

Read Richard Lacayo: Grace Hartigan: 1922-2008

Related posts:
85-year-old Grace Hartigan shows new work in Baltimore

Grace Hartigan opens Nov. 29 at Grimaldis Gallery

November 16, 2008

Eyal Danieli: Helicopters, bombers and camouflage

Israeli-born, New York-based Eyal Danieli paints metaphors for aggression that explore the contradictory emotions of being both victim and victimizer. His show at Elizabeth Harris came down on the 8th, but I wanted to mention it nonetheless. In The Brooklyn Rail Tom Micchelli reports that the paintings' "irresistible graphic sensuality pulls us in while their sharp, sometimes nasty, sometimes ludicrous imagery holds itself in abeyance, ready to bite. Translated as they are into a Western modernist vocabulary reveling in painterly incident, we tend not to notice that Danieli’s work is teeming with images from the Middle East. Instead, we look at a picture of a helicopter and think of Apocalypse Now. Caught up in our own media-obsessed provincialism, even as two prolonged, ruinous wars continue to wreak havoc in Iraq, Afghanistan and neighboring countries, we persistently skirt the complexities of the issues roiling the region in favor of simplifications rooted in ignorance, fear and self-absorption. Danieli’s paintings may recall photography or film, advertising or aesthetic theory, but these all-too-common associations are distractions from contemplating the real lives being lived beneath those helicopters, or the depth of our complicity in their plight." Read more.

"Eyal Danieli: In the Mood For Love," Elizabeth Harris Gallery, New York, NY. Through Nov. 8.

November 15, 2008

Heading to Oneonta

I'm taking a road trip upstate to Oneonta this week to help the Art Department at SUNY do an academic program review. University of Connecticut's printmaking professor Laurie Sloan will be joining me, and we're both looking forward to seeing old friend Rhea Nowak and meeting the rest of the hardworking (omg--a 4 /4 teaching load) faculty. That, plus looming deadlines mean that posting might be sparse until Thursday, so bear with me. I'm working on an article for the December issue of The Brooklyn Rail that addresses contemporary artists' approach to (gasp) motherhood, as well as finalizing plans for "Lost & Found," a show at the Hartford Commission on the Arts Gallery that opens in December.

November 13, 2008

Obama's favorite painting?

From Alistair Sooke at the Telegraph: Barack Obama's favorite painting is a famous canvas by the visionary Victorian artist George Frederic Watts. "In 1990, Obama was captivated by a sermon delivered by the Rev Jeremiah Wright, his controversial former pastor. The focus of the sermon was 'Hope,' Watts's melancholy painting of a hunched and blindfolded girl who sits atop a globe and tentatively plucks at a single string on her crude wooden lyre. At first glance, it is hardly the most comforting of images, with its pea-soup greens and murky greys; indeed, GK Chesterton quipped that Watts might more accurately have called his painting 'Despair.' Watts actually painted two versions of "Hope:" one hangs in Tate Britain; the other, from a private collection, went on show at London's Guildhall Art Gallery this week, as part of a substantial exhibition of Watts's work....But the painting's message of faith in the face of adversity fascinated Wright. 'The harpist is sitting there in rags,' he preached. 'Her clothes are tattered as though she had been a victim of Hiroshima… [yet] the woman had the audacity to hope.' The phrase stuck irrevocably in Obama's mind. He adapted it as the title of his rousing address to the Democratic Convention in 2004. In 2006, he used it again, as the title of his second book." Read more.

Doug Harvey's untidy whatever

LA Weekly art critic Doug Harvey has a show up at the Los Angeles Valley College Art Gallery this month. LAVC Dean of Arts Dennis Reed writes that Harvey’s work is lively, slyly humorous, wryly hip, and at times crude. "These works exhibit the wit of an art world insider who chooses to appear at times either erudite or common, skillful or untrained, sophisticated or naïve. Like most good art, Harvey’s work is subversive and iconoclastic. The broad range of Harvey’s artwork, from drawings to sound pieces, pack the Art Gallery from floor to ceiling with the detritus of his untidy, unabashed creative energy."

"It's the beauty of the language versus the function of the language. If people come away from my work wanting to make their own work, or seeing the world differently, more creatively," said Harvey. "Then I think the message has been received."

Harvey maintains the art blog DougH On The Go!

"Untidy: The Worlds of Doug Harvey," selected by art collector Diana Zlotnick. Los Angeles Valley College Art Gallery, Valley Glen, CA. Through Nov. 25.

Related posts:
Love letter to painting in LA

More about "Some Paintings"

November 11, 2008

Shows I'd like to see: "Oranges and Sardines" at the Hammer

Curator Gary Garrels worked with six abstract painters—Mark Grotjahn, Wade Guyton, Mary Heilmann, Amy Sillman, Charline von Heyl, and Christopher Wool—to select one of their own recent paintings as well as works by other artists who have influenced their thinking. The artist's choices, which are presented in separate galleries, include work by Paul Klee, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Francis Bacon, David Hockney, Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston, Eva Hesse, Pablo Picasso, and Dieter Roth, and other less-well-known artists. Wide ranging but very specific, their choices are informed by their own work, their studio processes, their appraisals of art history, and the state of contemporary art. According to the press release, the title for the exhibition is borrowed from American poet Frank O’Hara’s poem "Why I Am Not a Painter," which reflects on the elusiveness of the creative process, often resulting in a finished work that bears no resemblance to its initial inspiration.

Over at As the Art World Turns, Christopher Kuhn reports that all the artists participated in the discussion held at the Hammer on Sunday. "
Topics veered from the state of abstract paintings (basically an all-encompassing, unanswerable question) to the role of the sublime in abstract paintings (if there is any). Conversation got a little heated around this last point, specifically between Von Heyl, who believed the sublime has something to do with contemporary abstract painting (what, I am not sure) and Amy Sillmann who more or less told her she was full of shit (but in a more polite way). I completely agree with Amy here, that the sublime is a crisis that occurs upon discovering a phenomenon that cannot be explained rationally. Now I have never been to a museum of gallery and found something on the wall that I was unable to explain how it possibly could exist. Typically, the answer is something along the lines of: it’s paint, or that’s a photograph. Sometimes art is tricky, sometimes things appear to be other than they are, but never in my experience have I found a work of art to be crisis inducing. Now, the word 'sublime' is also used vernacularly to mean 'awesome' or “great.' It’s fine to use the word in this way, but don’t then pretend that it has some deeper philosophical meaning, cause it doesn’t." Read more.

David Pagel in the LA Times:
"...fantastic: a six-show combo that puts art front and center by demonstrating how arguments can be made visually and that, better yet, lets artists flaunt their visual intelligence by giving them the space and the resources to be their own personal curators."

"Oranges and Sardines: Conversations on Abstract Painting," curated by Gary Garrels. Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA. Through Feb. 8. (Hopefully the museum will throw up more images on their attractive but, as of this post, image-poor website.) Artists include Mark Grotjahn, Wade Guyton, Mary Heilmann, Amy Sillman, Charline von Heyl, and Christopher Wool

Eric Karpeles: Paintings in Proust

Randy Kennedy wrote in the NY Times that long before Marcel Proust died in 1922, his novel about art and memory, In Search of Lost Time, was being dissected for wisdom on a stunning variety of topics. Painter Eric Karpeles's book, Paintings in Proust: A Visual Companion to In Search of Lost Time is the first to focus on the works of art that inspired the novel. "Mr. Karpeles has now helped translate the dreamlike visual passages of Proust back into the images that inspired them. His guidebook, just published by Thames & Hudson, makes up a kind of free-floating museum of the paintings, drawings and engravings that figure or are evoked in the novel. Even for those who have never scaled the 3,000 pages of Mount Proust, the book presents a lush coffee-table snapshot of the artistic spirit of Third Republic France as filtered through Proust’s keen sensibility, formed mostly in the Louvre, with excursions (real or imaginative) to Florence, Venice, New York and London.

“'This grew out of my own desire to be able to see these paintings in one place — and looking to see if such a book existed, I couldn’t find anything,' said Mr. Karpeles, who added that he had come across only a doctoral dissertation that focused on paintings in Proust and a book published in a small printing in Bogotá, Colombia, in the early 1990s with a number of black-and-white reproductions. 'If you can’t conjure up the visual analogy that Proust is making,' he said, 'then I think you lose many of the insights in the book.'" Check out the slide show of images included in the book.

Process trumps product for late blooming artists

In The New Yorker, Malcom Gladwell contributes an article about late bloomers in which he looks at David Galenson's research comparing the careers of Picasso and Cézanne. "The examples that Galenson could not get out of his head were Picasso and Cézanne. He was an art lover, and he knew their stories well. Picasso was the incandescent prodigy. His career as a serious artist began with a masterpiece, 'Evocation: The Burial of Casagemas,' produced at age twenty. In short order, he painted many of the greatest works of his career—including 'Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,' at the age of twenty-six. Picasso fit our usual ideas about genius perfectly.

"Cézanne didn’t. If you go to the Cézanne room at the Musée d’Orsay, in Paris—the finest collection of Cézannes in the world—the array of masterpieces you’ll find along the back wall were all painted at the end of his career. Galenson did a simple economic analysis, tabulating the prices paid at auction for paintings by Picasso and Cézanne with the ages at which they created those works. A painting done by Picasso in his mid-twenties was worth, he found, an average of four times as much as a painting done in his sixties. For Cézanne, the opposite was true. The paintings he created in his mid-sixties were valued fifteen times as highly as the paintings he created as a young man. The freshness, exuberance, and energy of youth did little for Cézanne. He was a late bloomer—and for some reason in our accounting of genius and creativity we have forgotten to make sense of the Cézannes of the world.

"Prodigies like Picasso, Galenson argues, rarely engage in that kind of open-ended exploration. They tend to be 'conceptual,' Galenson says, in the sense that they start with a clear idea of where they want to go, and then they execute it. 'I can hardly understand the importance given to the word research, ' Picasso once said in an interview with the artist Marius de Zayas. 'In my opinion, to search means nothing in painting. To find is the thing.' He continued, 'The several manners I have used in my art must not be considered as an evolution or as steps toward an unknown ideal of painting. . . . I have never made trials or experiments.'

"But late bloomers, Galenson says, tend to work the other way around. Their approach is experimental. Their goals are imprecise, so their procedure is tentative and incremental.” Read more.

Julia Fernandez-Pol in Denver

In the Denver Post Kyle Macmillan writes that New York artist Julia Fernandez-Pol's solo show at Sandy Carson Gallery proves that pure painting may overcome non-visual conceptual projects yet. "With concept often trumping craft and the entire medium regularly receiving death notices, revelry in the physical act of painting has hardly been a prized commodity in the contemporary art world for many years. But if a striking exhibition on view through Nov. 14 at the Sandy Carson Gallery is any indication, it just might be primed for a comeback....One of the show's standouts, 'Green Chaos' (2007), a 96-by-80-inch oil on canvas, takes up where famed second-generation abstractionist Joan Mitchell left off. Like the variegated topography of her works, multiple methods of paint application abound in this spirited composition. Subtle washes and graceful drips commingle with thicker, more assertive sections, including an unruly heap of paint that juts as much as an inch from the canvas. It is chaotic, as the title suggests, but it is controlled, pleasing chaos. The largest portion of paintings consist of more manicured, evenly textured canvases, whose lush, creamy surfaces look like frosting on a cake. Indeed, Fernandez-Pol's use of a large syringe to apply thick, squiggly lines of paint is similar to techniques used by cake decorators. "

"Julia Fernandez-Pols: Recent Paintings and Prints," Sandy Carson Gallery, Denver, CO. Through Nov. 14.

November 10, 2008

Painting the Polar landscape: Majesty and awe

In the Boston Globe Sebastian Smee reports that "To the Ends of the Earth, Painting the Polar Landscape" at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem "shows us what happened when 19th- and early 20th-century painters finally decided they were ready to see - and get excited about - the polar regions. Assembled and researched by Samuel Scott, 'To the Ends of the Earth' is a marvelous show. You could be forgiven for feeling that it presents rather too much of the same thing: Sea, sky, and ice, after all, can make for a monotonous stage set. What's more, although the artists here were among the most intrepid of their time, they were not all of the highest caliber. It doesn't matter. Among the smattering of banal and mediocre things on display are some of the most mysterious and haunting images ever painted. The trick is to sniff them out....Some saw the polar regions as a stage set for heroic drama. Others were driven by a quasi-scientific impulse to bear witness to parts of the world previously unseen and unexplored. A third response was more spiritual, tapping the power of the poles to evoke majesty and awe." Read more.

"To the Ends of the Earth, Painting the Polar Landscape," organized by Samuel Scott. Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA. Through March 1.

November 8, 2008

Gregory Amenoff: Radiant little pictures

In the NY Times Ken Johnson reviews Gregory Amenoff's show at Alexandre. "In most of Mr. Amenoff’s easel-scale pictures, a large, mysterious form — botanical, geological or geometric — looms close against a distant vista. Color and contrasts of light and dark are pumped up to melodramatic effect. It’s as though you were seeing through the eyes of someone having a transcendental revelation. In 'Fingal’s Cave,' with sea and sky in the faraway background, a cavernous opening in a rocky outcropping is filled by a blinding burst of yellow light. Mr. Amenoff lays on color in generous, brushy strokes, grounding cosmic ecstasy in viscous paint.

"These pictorial devices may be effective — even, at best, thrilling — but Mr. Amenoff repeats them too predictably, which is why the show is stolen by his smallest works. Made with a loose, prehensile touch on a 10-inch-square panel, each in a series of nine features one or more flowers surrounded by smeary, summery colors. The incandescent white blossom in 'Summer Flower #6' is like an epiphany out of William Blake. Other works drift toward the pleasurescapes of Monet and Matisse. In these radiant little pictures Mr. Amenoff seems to be discovering untried registers of form and feeling." Read more.

"Gregory Amenoff: Paintings," Alexandre Gallery, New York, NY. Through Nov. 15.

Four artists on Morandi: Irwin, Celmins, McCleary, Barth

In the LA Times Leah Ollman asks Robert Irwin, Veja Celmins, Dan McCleary and Uta Barth how Morandi's paintings have influenced their work.

Robert Irwin:
We put on a Morandi show at Ferus. We were trying to explain to some people what a so-called abstract painting was about, and what Abstract Expressionism was all about. The best example in the world was Giorgio Morandi. Morandi, in my opinion, was the only genuine European Abstract Expressionist. When you look at the work, you think he's painting bottles, little still-life paintings, but they weren't. Morandi came in the back door. It was almost a Zen activity. He painted the same bottles over and over and over, so it wasn't really about bottles anymore. If he was a still-life painter, he wouldn't have painted the same bottles over and over. They're about painting -- the figure-ground relationship, structure and organization. Morandi's were paintings in the purest sense of the word. They were like a mantra, repeated over and over until it was divorced from words and became pure sounds.

Vija Celmins: I tried not to mimic him, but I did a series of paintings of objects then. He helped me drop the color I was into and helped me explore light. I think he was an influence in a broader way, saying let's just go back to looking and letting your hand make decisions. That's basically what I did. I went back to painting without trying to project so much, to express so many opinions, my ideas about what great painting was. [Morandi's is] not really humble work, either. It's really ambitious work. It's about painting a world. The thing that amazed me most in his studio was how big the bottles were, and they were painted. He painted the bottles in various shades of gray, which catches all the light. The paintings were about a world that came from his interior, and he painted the reality to go with what he was already looking for and feeling and wanting to see. Later, when I learned to look at painting in a more complex way, I began to see how strange and controlled the still lifes were, how strange the space was, how alive the paint was. There was this exquisite balance between the extreme stillness and the movement in his paintings. My work is quite restrained. Maybe I recognized that holding back in Morandi's work and it helped me. It gave me the courage to try, to go in that direction instead of trying to be someone else, someone more exciting maybe.

Dan McCleary: The shyness and humbleness of his work is so attractive. He's so equivocal. He just stayed in his little world and made magnificent work. He turned his back on the world, the violence of the world. He was clearly influenced by Modernism, but [the works] feel outside of time. I find the monk-ness of him fascinating, the smallness of his life. I feel I aspire toward that. His work gives me license to repeat the same Styrofoam cup over and over, the same napkin holder. It's always challenging, never boring and never easy. There are times I look at Morandi's work and think, 'Another . . . bottle?' but when you get into it, they all have their own essence. Each operates in its own universe and has its own thing to say.

Uta Barth: The history of Western art teaches us to interpret images, to search out and decipher symbolism, to find the narrative of what is being told. Morandi gives us none of that. He gives us silence, observation and a deep love of vision itself, vision divorced from interpretation. He invites us to see, rather than read. This is not an easy task; I know all too well, since it is what I strive for in each body of work I have made throughout the years. I want my viewer to engage and submerge themselves in the act of looking and not in thoughts about what they are looking at. Repetition, redundancy are a path to this end. Look at one chipped and clumsy group of bottles and odd vases and one may think about what they mean; look at countless repetition of the same objects and it becomes clear that something else must be at play.

Related posts:
Morandi: "I don't ask for anything except for a bit of peace which is indispensable for me to work."

November 7, 2008

"Whether you like it or not, you’re a fool"

The press release for Joe Bradley's show at CANADA declares that his new grease-pencil paintings "draw on the paradox between the modernist impulse towards a raw source of art in the 'primitive' and the seamless presentation of a resolved art object. The Schmagoo Paintings are comparable to both Jean Dubuffet's use of the art of the insane as a road map to authenticity and Robert Crumbs sketch books full of aggressively comic and self aware thought bombs." In Frieze Magazine Chris Sharp suggests that Bradley's new work responds to the minuscule art-fair attention-span of our time. "It can (and should) be consumed in no less than the time it takes to walk in, chortle, and walk out of the gallery. When Martin Barré (a very generous reference) did just as little with white canvases and black spray paint in the early 1960s, it was radical and even beautiful. But here and now with Bradley it is just plain dumb, though that is the point. Whether I, or anyone, likes it or dislikes it is actually beside the point. Which is also very much the point. This kind of work wields the uncanny ability to render all who enter its orbit complicit. It’s a kind of 2008 Lower East Side counterpart to Jeff Koons - though rendered much more poorly. Squarely operating within a paradigm of post-sincerity - it is neither sincere or insincere, having transcended such issues - its mere existence acts as a cerebral black hole, engendering critical paralysis. Any possible reaction you may have to it has been foreseen and theoretically integrated into the work, such that reacting is vain. Whether you like it or not, you’re a fool. And if you profess indifference to it you’re likewise a fool, because such painterly antics require a stand that no one can make. It’s like a work of high modernist fiction - Borges, or Cortazar perhaps - in which you realize that you are part of the plot, but by the time you do - standing in front of the painting or reading this review - it’s too late." Read more.

"Joe Bradley: Schmagoo Paintings," CANADA, New York, NY. Through Nov. 30.

November 6, 2008

"Part of an artist’s job is to do something that hasn’t been done before, not something that has been done to death."

In the NY Times, Roberta Smith writes that déjà vu is an occupational hazard of art criticism. "You walk out of one gallery and into another only to see what appears to be the show you just left, all over again....Yet, as art formulas go, nothing beats paintings based on photographs. There must be hundreds of such works in progress at all times around the globe, usually involving newspaper images, opaque projectors and any number of materials: traditional oils, buttons, you name it. It is something of an art-world plague, and the point is driven home by current shows at the Charles Cowles Gallery and at Luhring Augustine in Chelsea. In both galleries, steps apart on West 24th Street, you encounter large brushy grisaille paintings based on newspaper images or other photographs. The elephant in the room in both cases is the German painter Gerhard Richter, especially his drizzly gray images of the members of the Baader-Meinhof terrorist gang and their funerals.The paintings at Cowles are by Xiaoze Xie, a 42-year-old Chinese-born painter who teaches art at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa....At Luhring you’ll find the New York debut of Johannes Kahrs, a German painter born in 1965 who lives in Berlin.

"I am sure that advocates of these two artists (especially their dealers) could argue at length, and probably convincingly, for the marked differences between their work. The harder you look at each show, the more differences you may even be able to eke out. But for me it’s all too close for comfort as well as derivative of the influential Mr. Richter. Part of an artist’s job is to do something that hasn’t been done before, not something that has been done to death." Read more.

"Xiaoze Xie," Charles Cowles Gallery, New York, NY. Through Nov. 8.

"Johannes Kahrs: Eyes on His Body," Luhring Augustine, New York, NY. Through Nov. 8.

Cristina Toro's cheery dissonance

In the Boston Globe Cate McQuaid reports that "Toro's tender, bright, riotous canvases at LaMontagne Gallery captivate with their abundant detail and their range of references. One painting may include nods to Victorian valentines, Turkish decorative arts, needlework, and Josef Albers's color theory. Toro, a Puerto Rican-born artist who now lives in upstate New York, makes paintings so apparently cheery and stuffed with information that they both soothe and challenge. The party of colors and patterns, the enticing figures and animals, pull a viewer in and serve up odd juxtapositions and pleasingly unsettling dissonances." Read more.

"Cristina Toro: Throw away the lights and say of what you see in the dark," LaMontagne Gallery, South Boston, MA. Through November.

November 4, 2008

Craig Kauffman on paper

Craig Kauffman, said to be one of the most prominent and influential artists to have come out of the Los Angeles art scene of the 1960s, currently has a drawing retrospective at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena. In a 2001 NY Times review of a show at Sandra Gering, Ken Johnson wrote that Kauffman contributed to the Los Angeles ''fetish finish'' movement, with Minimalistic, vacuum-formed plastic shapes, slickly spray-painted in ways that bespoke enthrallment to California hot-rod and custom-car culture. In its technical fanaticism, it was what some might call "guy art." David Pagel reviews Kauffman's Armory show in the LA Times. "There is plenty of gentle captivation, quiet vitality and restless pleasure in the survey. Organized by Jay Belloli, it consists of 57 pieces, most the size of sketchbook pages and all made between 1949 and 2008. It's as if Kauffman, now 76, had spent a good part of the last 50 years going out of his way to make drawings that are invisible to people who see things only in terms of their ability to deliver instant gratification. Many of the drawings here have never been publicly exhibited.

"The get-it-all-in-an-instant attitude that fuels so much current behavior -- visual and otherwise -- plays no part in Kauffman's best drawings. They are slow reads that fly in the face of urban life's rapid pace by flying beneath the radar, where they make little places -- or create simple occasions -- for delightful discoveries, serendipitous insights and see-for-yourself satisfactions. An exceptionally light touch, which is never called on to do too much, is evident in the wispy scratches, casual scribbles and occasional smudges of color that Kauffman lays down with a fine brush or sharp pencil. The tentativeness that dribbles from the surfaces of his works is neither scrappy nor exquisite but somewhere in between. Less than suggestive of his own insecurities, it is more indicative of an unassuming manner, one that avoids pretense, prefers obliqueness to directness and behaves as if the best things in life happen by accident." Read more.

Check out a 2008 video interview in which Kauffman discusses the relationship between drawing and painting. "I keep trying to find an answer and the next day I just go back."

"Craig Kauffman: A Retrospective of Drawings," organized by Jay Belloli. Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA. Through Nov. 16.

Two Coats of Paint endorses Obama for president

Stop reading the blogs and go vote! And take a book, the lines may be long. I'll be reading Sarah Thornton's new release, Seven Days in the Art World. According to Publishers Weekly, Thornton offers an elegant, evocative, sardonic view into some of the art world's most prestigious institutions. "The hot, hip contemporary art world, argues sociologist Thornton, is a cluster of intermingling subcultures unified by the belief, whether genuine or feigned, that 'nothing is more important than the art itself.' It is a conviction, she asserts, that has transformed contemporary art into 'a kind of alternative religion for atheists.' Thornton, a contributor to Artforum.com and the New Yorker, presents an astute and often entertaining ethnography of this status-driven world. Each of the seven chapters is a keenly observed profile of that world's highest echelons: a Christie's auction, a 'crit' session at the California Institute of the Arts and the Art Basel art fair. The chapter on auctions (where one auction-goer explains, '[I]t's dangerous to wear Prada.... You might get caught in the same outfit as three members of Christie's staff') is one of the book's strongest; the author's conversations about the role of the art critic with Artforum editor-in-chief Tim Griffin and the New Yorker's Peter Schjeldahl are edifying."

In The Guardian Matthew Collings reports that Thornton gets to the "heart of the problem of art-culture, which is that art has become trivial, whereas in previous eras it had some dignity. But she's too wrapped up in playing a role to realise it: she doesn't nail the problem but acts it out, and so ends up perpetuating it." Read more.

November 3, 2008

Moira Dryer's creative process

Blake Thorne reports in the Kalamazoo Gazette that shortly after spotting work by Moira Dryer in NYC, Don Desmett, the director of exhibitions at Western Michigan University's Gwen Frostic School of Art, wanted to curate an exhibit around her art. "Charismatic Abstraction" -- featuring the work of Dryer, Mike Cloud, Chris Martin, John L. Moore and Dona Nelson -- is what Desmett has put together. "Dryer, who died in 1992 of breast cancer at 34, broke out in the late 1980s, working outside of conventional restraints of the abstract community. In interviews, she called her paintings theatrical, a creative process that changes as she paints. Desmett said her approach emphasizes that the final product is about the production of the piece. Put more simply, the artists don't know what they're painting until it's finished. 'They really let the paintings have absolute control of the product,' Desmett said. 'They're very spontaneous; they're very active; they're very energetic.'"

"Charismatic Abstraction," curated by Don Desmett. Albertine Monroe-Brown Gallery of the Richmond Center for Visual Arts, Kalamazoo, MI. Through Nov. 25.

Miró Miró on the wall

The New Yorker's Peter Schjeldahl on the Miró show at MoMA: "'I want to assassinate painting,' Joan Miró is reported to have said, in 1927. Four years later, the Catalan modern master elaborated, in an interview: 'I intend to destroy, destroy everything that exists in painting. I have utter contempt for painting.' (He is quoted, along similar lines, as having put the Cubists on notice: 'I will break their guitar.') Brave words, for a painter....'Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting, 1927-1937,' explores dizzyingly rapid-fire, experimental developments in the artist’s work, influenced by Dadaism, Surrealism, and the savage materialism of the writer Georges Bataille. (In no other period was the ingenuously intuitive Miró so receptive to intellectual impetus.) With cultivated 'automatist' spontaneity, he worked on raw canvas, copper, and the recently invented Masonite; employed gross materials, including sand and tar; made thoroughly abstract pictures; and hatched funky varieties of collage and assemblage, whose influence would extend to Robert Rauschenberg. It’s not his fault—or is it?—that the show leaves an impression of being distant and dated, and strangely tame." Read more.

"Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting, 1927-1937," organized by Anne Umland. Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. Through January 12.