December 30, 2008

Bataclan and Hyde give paintings away

Boston-based artist Bren Bataclan is giving 30 paintings away in San Francisco as an antidote to the recession. "I think as an artist during this downturn this is the best way that I can help out - to just spread cheer and be positive," Bataclan told Channel 7's Terry McSweeney. Bataclan attaches a note to each painting saying "everything's going to be alright," and instructing the viewer to help themselves to the painting. He's given away work in 20 U.S. cities and 20 different countries - usually near where there's been bad economic news, maybe an unemployment office, or a company that's had layoffs. But if the artist sends press releases to the media about the project, is he really giving it away? He's expecting payment, just not from the people who adopt the work. In contrast to Batalan's approach, Colorado-based Nicole Hyde started a similar, but less media-savvy, project in 2006 called Finders! Keepers? which she describes as sending a "message in a bottle." She numbered and packaged her small paintings, then left them in a public place "somewhere on the planet." People who find them should contact her by email so that she can track them on her blog.

Modern Painters licenses critics and shortlists artist-collaborators

In a departure from the usual end-of-year roundups and top 10 lists, Modern Painters invited Peter Schjeldahl, Vince Aletti, Sarah Kent, and Matthew Collings to renew their Art Critics License—a document based on an actual US visa application recently completed by one of their editors. They also put together their third annual short list of "the future's best and brightest," which focuses on artists who collaborate. Selected artists include:
Jennie C. Jones and Deborah Grant
Rosa Barba and David Maljkovic
Robin Watkins and Nina Canell
Pratchaya Phinthong + Danh Vo
François Bucher + Ayreen Anastas + Rene Gabri
Benoît Maire + Falke Pisano
Ken Okiishi + Nick Mauss
Oscar Tuazon + Gardar Eide Einarsson
Emily Roysdon + Emma Hedditch

(via Artinfo)

December 28, 2008

Valérie Favre: The rabbit-woman

Berlin-based Valérie Favre is having her first US solo show this month at Susanne Vielmetter in Los Angeles. Favre's ongoing series of "Lapine" paintings blend art-historical references with mythological figures and subjective experiences, weaving together thickly-painted narratives at once bizarre and mysterious. "Lapine" is a French play on words that refers to the paintbrush as a female penis ("la pine") and to the rabbit-woman that repeatedly appears in her paintings. Favre says the rabbit-woman is both her self-proclaimed alter ego and an emblematic logo. With a background in theater, Favre builds dream-like mise en scenes that compile stories from film-like sequences and scenes. Favre is currently preparing solo exhibitions at the Museum Carrée d'Art, Nîmes, France, and at the Kunstmuseum Luzern, Lucerne, Switzerland.

"Valérie Favre," Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Los Angeles, CA. Through Jan. 31.

December 27, 2008

Andrew Morrow: Serious and ambitious, wildly cheeky and corrosively irreverent

Gary Michael Dault reports in the Globe and Mail that Andrew Morrow's work is riddled with contradiction. "It is simultaneously both serious and ambitious, wildly cheeky and often corrosively irreverent (two of the small paintings in his current exhibition are called 'Still Life Painted While Consciously Avoiding the Topic of Vasectomy' and 'Some Asshole Blocking My View of the Apocalypse'). He wields his oil pigments with such brio that his work looks both virtuosic and slick. Indeed his tendency to be smartly illustrative is something he says he guards against all the time. 'There was a time when my work was all about technique,' he says (and you can still see the painterly bravado everywhere). 'But I'm getting a lot more self-conscious about that now.' Basically, he tells me, he's trying to walk a fine line between all of the opposites that lie in wait for him to the right and to the left of his increasingly bravura practice. In a sense, this is no time for narrative painting on a gigantic scale. But ask Morrow if he cares." Read more.

"Andrew Morrow," Edward Day Gallery, Toronto. Through Jan. 11.

John Andrews and Emil Lukas explore the real in San Francisco

In San Francisco Chronicle, Kenneth Baker reports that the complexity in Andrews' work lies in the viewer's encounter with it. "As sharply defined as each piece appears, its color fluctuates unpredictably with changing vantage points and time of day, none more lushly than the big rose-colored piece designated "08-14" (2008), a title, like all the rest, plainly intended to fend off extraneous associations. The ambiguous hues and physical crispness of Andrews' work tends to highlight the spacing and adjacency of his pieces in any given installation. They have been very sensitively handled here. It may seem to some viewers that Andrews' work offers nothing to look at. This is true in the sense that it puts nothing in the way of our attention to the process of seeing. Each piece reads as a quiet manifesto on behalf of reality's overlooked subtleties and our probably neglected capacity to discern them.

"For those who find Andrews' aesthetics a starvation diet, Hosfelt also offers a show of characteristically bizarre works by Emil Lukas. Many of them resemble softly colored paintings, but these white rectangles owe their color to Lukas having stretched across their vacant surfaces countless lengths of fine, colored thread. Black-and-white pieces such as "Clinging" (2008) have a far more bizarre material history. The tangle of attenuating black lines here was made not by Lukas' hand, but by fly larvae that he placed in a dollop of black medium. Taking their own paths out of it, they inscribed the pattern we see. Abstraction, narrative and surrealism in a single work." Read more.

"John Andrews: Reflections on Painting: Paintings on aluminum," Hosfelt Gallery, San Francisco, CA. Through Jan. 31.

"Emil Lukas: Titration: Mixed-media wall pieces," Hosfelt Gallery, San Francisco, CA. Through Jan. 31.

December 24, 2008

The year in Art Blogging

Here are our favorite moments in art blogging from 2008, in no particular order:
• When Pearl Montana, a Canadian oil-and-gas company, wanted to drill for oil near Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, high-minded Tyler Green (Modern Art Notes), pulling out all the stops with in-depth daily coverage, managed to draw enough mainstream media attention to have the drilling proposal suspended.
• The art blogger tribe defended feisty C-Monster against the LA Times’ brazen name grab, which we won’t mention here. And still haven't added to the Two Coats link list.
New York Mag art critic and Pulitzer Prize nominee Jerry Saltz, acknowledging art bloggers’ relevance and wide-spread readership, responded with an apology to Anaba’s criticism crit. Later in the year, Saltz amusingly titled one of his reviews “Two Coats of Painting.” That's a blog reference, right?
During the New York art fairs in March, Art Bloggers @ organized a blogger panel discussion where we met the humble aesthetes responsible for our favorite blogs.
• Bloggers embraced Facebook and Twitter, strengthening our online community through events notification, status updates, and 140-character “What are you doing?” posts. Of course we’re still not sure what to do with all those damn gifts, snowballs, hugs, and pokes sitting in the Notifications file....
• Hardworking CultureGrrl, after reading about blogging addiction, admitted her powerlessness over the blog. She vowed to step back from the daily grind, but predictably has continued posting nonetheless, recently uncovering the unfortunate deaccessions at the beleaguered National Academy.
• And last but not least, powerhouse blogger Paddy Johnson (Art Fag City) teamed up with non-profit Brooklyn gallery Momenta Art and conducted a successful online appeal to fund AFC. Hey Paddy--it's a brilliant idea; our check's in the mail!

December 23, 2008

Schjeldahl hurts David Bonetti's feelings

St. Louis Post-Dispatch art critic David Bonetti has just finished reading Seven Days in the Art World, and he isn't happy. "Rodney Dangerfield ain’t got nothin on me. I’m a loser, baby, so why don’t you kill me. At least that’s what The New Yorker’s art critic Peter Schjeldahl implies. In discussing the role of art criticism with Sarah Thornton for her dishy but well-researched and well-written book, he said, 'You’re not going to get a good art critic in St. Louis.' Imagine me - an art critic in St. Louis - reading Thornton’s account of art world people and events with great enjoyment and then coming upon that bombshell! (On page 157, if you want to check it out.) Didn’t Schjeldahl know that it’s usually my job to put down what passes as the art world in the Lou? He usurpt my role and he didn’t even give me any credit! Okay, I know he was most likely using St. Louis as an example of fly-over cities and he didn’t specifically mean St. Louis, i.e. me. But why couldn’t he have chosen Atlanta or Milwaukee and let the art critics in those cities, if there are any, have that weird experience of being insulted synecdochically in a book they were reading?" Read more.

Related posts:
Two Coats of Paint endorses Obama for president

For the fall reading list

December 20, 2008

"In these scary times, investment in spiritual expansion may be the best investment of all"

In the NY Times Ken Johnson reports that "The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors" in Chelsea will close at the end of this month. "That may not mean much to most of the art world’s hipper denizens, but it will to visionary and psychedelic-art fans for whom the chapel has been a mecca since it opened in 2004. Founded by the psychedelic painter Alex Grey, and his wife, the painter Allyson Grey, the chapel is a curious, over-the-top combination of art gallery, New Age temple and Coney Island sideshow. The main attraction is an installation of allegorical neo-Surrealist paintings by Mr. Grey that, in the context of a carefully orchestrated theatrical environment, is designed to transport paying visitors into states of ecstatic reverence for life, love and universal interconnectedness....

"Visionary art is not new — see Bosch, Blake, Redon and others — but in Western society before the 1960s, it was the province of isolated individuals. Then LSD became widely available, and anyone could have mystic revelations for the small price of a little pill. Two recent, disappointingly flawed exhibitions inadequately addressed the subject: 'Summer of Love' at the Whitney Museum of American Art last year, and 'Ecstasy: In and About Altered States' at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art in 2005. For the most part, mainstream discourse about art goes on as if the psychedelic revolution were just a minor, tangential distraction.

"Yet evidence of psychedelic experience is everywhere in art these days, from the paintings of Takashi Murakami, Steve DiBenedetto and Philip Taaffe to the perceptually confounding sculptures of Charles Ray and the baroque films, sculptures and performances of Matthew Barney. The rapturous video installation by Pipilotti Rist now on view at the Museum of Modern Art is nothing if not psychedelic. The story of contemporary art and the psychedelic revolution remains to be told. What’s unusual about the Greys’ project is not only that they openly acknowledge their pharmacological sources of inspiration but that they are also dedicating their psychedelic vision to the service of a kind of neo-pagan church. A sweetly charismatic couple in their mid-50s who could be mistaken for ministers of a Unitarian church, they have hosted full-moon gatherings every month where they and others sermonize, tell stories, sing and play music, recite poetry and otherwise try to promote spiritual enlightenment.

"Art world sophisticates may call the Greys’ project goofy, but in this scary time of economic implosion, their investment in spiritual expansion might just be the smartest of all." Read more.

Frannsen: Visual gibberish or fearless painting?

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Kenneth Baker swoons over new work by Southern California painter Sherié Franssen. "Her paintings may strike unprepared eyes as visual gibberish, but that's the first proof of her fearlessness as an artist. To comprehend these abstractions, even merely to stay with them, requires moving repeatedly close and far, looking from edge to edge and softening one's gaze to take in a whole picture - rhythms that probably echo her working process. To anyone who would enter deeply into work such as this, painter and art historian James Elkins recommends miming individual gestures on the canvas to get a physical feel for the artist's reflexes and decisions. Even imagining in detail that sort of performance will make Franssen's pictures more intelligible and appreciable. Her bravura as a colorist defies analysis. Few painters can use white, as Franssen does, so effectively that it simply escapes notice at first and announces itself as a color, and not as erasure, when it does catch one's attention." Read more.

"Sherié Franssen," Dolby Chadwick, San Francisco, CA. Through Jan. 31.

December 18, 2008

Chapuis and Mattera: "Stop thinking and just gaze on something beautiful"

In the Boston Globe Cate McQuaid reports that some artists make art not as a means of provocation or cultural commentary, but for beauty's sake. "Katharina Chapuis, who has a show at Alpha Gallery, and Joanne Mattera, who has encaustics (paintings made with pigmented wax) up at Arden Gallery, work in this realm. Both make objects that surprise with nuance, pieces that please the eye simply, after much complicated work....Mattera's new 'Vicolo' series at Arden features dense layers of sprightly toned pigment. Each is opaque, but Mattera makes dozens of horizontal gullies in each, deftly revealing puddles of bright color in the interstices. They read like blinds through which mysterious, swimming landscapes glow. These pieces highlight the artist's delicate, almost surgical touch, as she decides how deep to dig, to which level of color. The joyful tones - periwinkle, buttercup, lollipop red - play together, waking up the weary-eyed. The horizontal veins widen and narrow like rivulets, rushing and imprecise. A lot of contemporary art hinges on meaning - and we can find it in the works of Chapuis and Mattera, who engage in painterly issues about surface. Sometimes, though it's a relief to stop thinking and just gaze on something beautiful." Read more.

"Joanne Mattera: Contemplating the Horizontal," Arden Gallery, Boston, MA. Through Dec. 29.
"Katarina Chapuis: New Paintings," Alpha Gallery, Boston, MA. Through Jan. 7.

December 17, 2008

Miami report: Lazy blogger edition

Cribbed directly from Ed Winkleman:

"It's now officially a week and a day since we returned from Miami, the art shippers have returned our stuff, and we're neck-deep in follow-up (not to mention slush), but I've finally found the time to survey the responses to the annual Artfest in the blogosphere and overall, considering the news out of Washington and Wall Street everyday, it went better than expected. It certainly seemed to be a good year for art. Here's my round-up of the round-ups.

"Providing perhaps the most comprehensive round-up and so many photos you'll feel like you were there yourself, Joanne Mattera takes the prize for in-depth coverage of the art on view.

"Also indepth, but more about the overall scene than just the art, per se, Paddy Johnson's coverage provided plenty of analysis and juicy tidbits.

"Speaking of juicy tidbits, for the best in coverage from the collector's point of view, our man in the aisle, Mike @ Mao highlights some of the best new finds and even prices.

"For analysis of what it all means, you can't beat Artworld Salon founder András Szánt's wrap-up report. Brian Sherwin also takes a long-term view at myartspace. Roberta and Libby offer a fun-fact-filled summary as well.

"And those are just the bloggers I know personally. Here's a list of other blogs who covered the fair as well:

Art Market Monitor
{a MUSE me}
Culture Vulture
Kimberly Brooks
Matthew Langley
Tilly Strauss"

Thanks, Ed, for putting together the links list. B'more Art and Amy Wilson also went down there. And check out The Moment. Blogger Brent Burket reports for ArtCal. More thanks to all the people who covered Miami this year while I stayed home and worked in the studio. If you aren't on the list, and you reported on Miami, feel free to add a link in the Comments section.

Saul, Brown, and Shaw: Invoking creative craftsmanship over formulaic novelty

In LA Weekly, Doug Harvey reports that curating isn’t always as easy as it looks. "It’s rare to find a group of concurrent solo projects that genuinely complement one another — just because two artists happen to use images of trees or refer to cartography or have Photoshop doesn’t necessarily mean their work will have anything more than a superficial verbal resemblance. Museums regularly stumble over this sort of literalism in spite of their long-term scheduling and art-historical resources, and commercial gallerists — with their relatively fast turnover and propensity for attention-grabbing sound bites — are particularly prone. Which is why, when a triple whammy like the current lineup at Patrick Painter crops up, it’s worth looking a little deeper. On the surface, Jim Shaw, Peter Saul and Glenn Brown seem like an almost arbitrary selection from the gallery’s stable — artists from three distinct generations, two of whom work at opposite ends of the U.S., while the third hails from another continent altogether. L.A.-based Shaw works promiscuously across the media spectrum, from highly rendered figuration to abstract video, while recently ensconced Manhattanite Saul is strictly a painter’s painter. Londoner Brown is also an old-school painter as far as materials go, but his near-obsessive appropriationism (which landed him in legal hot water with one of the science-fiction illustrators from whom he cribbed) lies at the opposite pole from Saul’s seething pop expressionism.

"The relentless nudging open of the parameters of prejudice in the human visual realm is the common thread that connects Saul, Shaw and Brown — though the concept is too corny for words. As Modernism invoked the power of creative novelty over formulaic craftsmanship, so these artists — and so many others — invoke creative craftsmanship over formulaic novelty, not because it corrects the balance of the art-historical moment, and not because it deprivileges the intellectual faculty in favor of the other, disparaged senses — but simply because it’s the wrong thing to do. " Read more.

"Peter Saul: Five New Pictures," and "Glenn Brown: Editions and A Unique Sculpture," Patrick Painter Inc., Santa Monica, CA. Through Jan. 10.
"Jim Shaw: Extraordinary Rendition," Patrick Painter Inc., Los Angeles, CA Through Jan. 10.

Fitzpatrick curates artists' stuff at La MaMa E.T.C.

Artist Daphne Fitzpatrick visited 43 artists' studios and chose a single non-art object from each for this amusing group show at La Galleria at La Mama. In The Villager, Jeffery Cyphers Wright reports that the exhibit opens a window wherein we can see our own interpretations of the owner’s and their spaces. "Spread out on five tables the items appeared like archeological specimens from a rich dig. Siobhan Liddell’s gray sandstone with smoothbore holes drilled through it addressed the interface between time and sculpture. Across from it, dozed a dried cotton plant replete with a knot of withered roots, courtesy Robert Buck. A tribe of spoons with tea-bags wrapped around them, rose from a glass. The incongruity of everyday things being in the context of a gallery or museum adds a layer of irrepressibility. Sara Greenberger Rafferty’s spoons are all different. Old, ornate scrollwork on the handle provokes a positively Proustian moment as the mind reels backwards for associations. A sense of decay and deflation (literally in the case of Catherine Opie’s limp balloon souvenir) chimes from one piece to another around the room. Sam Messer’s piece dating from 1919 is a strange taxidermic chimera that practically sends shivers down your spine. Like a tiny dog or a greyhound of a mouse, it’s neck ripped and stuffing showing, it stares with glassy black eyes into a horrific void." Read more.

As curator/museum director Helen Molesworth (I love that name!) once wrote, Daphne Fitzpatrick "reimagines…the commodity as a kind of Surrealist-inflected game piece…[she] uses the castoffs of spectacle culture to create delicate, Lilliputian tableaux inflected with visual puns”.

"Duck Soup," curated by Daphne Fitzpatrick. La Galleria at La MaMa E.T.C. , New York, NY. Through Dec. 21.

December 16, 2008

Art Blogger Think Tank on January 18 in Brooklyn, NY

Austin Thomas and I are planning to have a Blogger Conference/Think Tank/Pre-Inauguration Party at Pocket Utopia (Brooklyn, NY) on Sunday, January 18 at 4pm. Bloggers: Save the date, and please post it on your blogs. With the long-awaited changing of the guard, we have plenty to discuss. Will the despondent installations of the Bush years and the starry-eyed images of "Obamart" give way to, well, something new that reflects both the indelible optimism of the moment and the undeniable challenges of the years to come? Let's prognosticate. Stay tuned for more details.

Update (January 20, 2009): Check out my short report on the conference.

December 15, 2008

Art in the Age of Obama

In the January issue of The American Prospect, I write about a new era in which artists, strongly supported by the new president, will transcend starry-eyed campaign pictures and develop new forms of enduring art. "Like much of America, the art world has fallen for Barack Obama with unguarded sincerity. From Shepard Fairey's widely reproduced poster to Robert Indiana's HOPE sculpture based on his well-known LOVE statue from the 1960s, artworks created to raise cash for the campaign manifest a partisan earnestness rarely seen since the graphics of the Russian Revolution of 1917. In one popular print, Ron English depicts Obama's face morphed with an image of Abraham Lincoln. Visual art, explicitly or implicitly, broadly reflects the politics of its generation. The art world has embraced Obama not only because of his soaring message of hope, firm anti-war stance, and strident call for change but also because he was the only candidate whose campaign explicitly embraced the arts as a policy concern. The Bush years have been a deeply despondent period for American art. With Obama's presidency, though, a new era may be dawning in which artists, strongly supported by an administration as culturally sophisticated as it is politically enlightened, will transcend starry-eyed campaign pictures and develop new forms of enduring art that reflect both the indelible optimism of the moment and the undeniable challenges of the years to come...." Read more.

December 14, 2008

Measuring Marlene Dumas

Roberta Smith on Marlene Dumas: "The consistency of this show suggests an artist who settled too early into a style that needs further development. Stasis is disguised by shifting among various charged subjects that communicate gravity in shorthand. Ms. Dumas’s painting is only superficially painterly. The photographic infrastructure is usually too close to the surface, which makes it all look too easy. Worse, it makes subject matter paramount."

At The New York Observer, Alex Taylor calls Smith's review a bloodletting. "You don't read many pans of MoMA shows in the 'Arts' section. The Times roster, with the exception of Michael Kimmelman, tend to wrap their sentences in 'maybe' and 'tends too much toward' when it comes to big museum shows, thereby blurring the critical line. Considered in such a context, Smith's piece may therefore qualify as a pan."

Linda Yablonsky at Bloomberg: "Though Dumas is not overtly feminist, a female sensibility runs palpably through the show probably because of its emphasis on babies, as well as pregnant or nursing women. Even the figure bowing over a table in the show’s title painting seems female, though we don’t see the face or figure clearly. Painted in a documentary-style black and white, the figure’s outstretched arms suggest both suffering and solace. If the dead don’t look much different than the living here, it is because the departed have only one expression. Like Dumas’s haunting art, it is likely to remain in the mind long after the bearer is gone."

Dumas's biggest fan, Martin Bromirski has posted images at Anaba.

Charlie Finch at artnet: "The Dumas method is simple: She borrowed Francesco Clemente’s overused gouache technique and perved it up. Her subjects are burnished to dullness by her pathetic brush handling. There are some rear shots of masturbation, a blowzy self-portrait, the groups of schoolmates and bridesmaids, in which she throws in a freaky grin or stern look for variety. Every six paintings or so, Dumas throws in a streak of color. Her cat probably got into the paint jar and cruised across the canvas, and a lazy Dumas couldn’t be bothered to change it. For that is the operative word for Marlene Dumas: She is lazy."

Check out James Kalm's video visit to the show.

Dan Bischoff in The Star-Ledger: "What makes this show so unusual is just how good the pictures look in person."

(Joe Strupp reports in The E&P Pub that Star-Ledger's art critic, Dan Bischoff, is on the list of departing staffers. "Wednesday at The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., which is slowly watching some 151 newsroom staffers leave via buyouts, has become something of a goodbye ritual. With that day marking the end of the weekly pay period, regular groups of departing staffers have been making their farewells since October when buyouts were finalized, with their last paydays following on Thursday. Some staffers say they try to avoid being in the newsroom because the tears and farewells are so depressing, while others contend they don't want to miss the last chance to hug and applaud colleagues. Today marked the largest group of exiting newsies so far, with 28 staffers sent packing with a lunchtime cake, according to a leaked memo from Associate Editor Tom Curran, which lists the latest lost workers. One staffer says Editor Jim Willse 'teared up' as he went down the list to salute each one and offer thoughts. Willse declined to comment." Here at Two Coats of Paint we wish Dan Bischoff all the best.)

In The New Yorker, Peter Schjeldahl: "Dumas, fifty-five years old, has been a star in Europe and on the art market since the mid-nineteen-eighties. She has been favored by a fashion for sensationalized moral seriousness which explains the recent prestige of Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud and of younger masters of sardonic melancholy, including Luc Tuymans, of Antwerp, and Neo Rauch, of Leipzig. Is this taste a self-flagellating compunction of the spendthrift rich? It may be a calculated bet on meaningfulness. Surely, no one would paint pictures as aggressively uningratiating as those of Dumas unless she meant them. At any rate, the MOMA show proves her to be a far more formidably creative character than a glance at her style—to appearances, an expressionistic pastiche on modish themes—would indicate." Read more.

In Financial Times, Ariella Budick: "Spread over two floors, the show tracks the non-development of an artist who discovered both her style and her subjects early on and then continued to plumb their shallows over ensuing decades. Rather than organise the show chronologically, which would have thrown the poverty of Dumas' imagination into relief, curator Connie Butler cleverly installed the work by theme. The reality seeps through all the same. Although Dumas tackles the immortal subjects - death, life, bodies and politics - she swathes them in murk, smudging out specificity and seeking a broader profundity that never materialises." Read more.

"Marlene Dumas: Measuring Your Own Grave," curated by Connie Butler. Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. Through Feb. 15.

December 12, 2008

Neo-Maternalism: Contemporary artists' approach to motherhood

The December/January issue of The Brooklyn Rail is online, so go check out my article about contemporary artists' approach to motherhood. I mean, come on, isn't the entire messy process of creation, birth, and childrearing the ultimate unexplored content for conceptually-rooted art practice? "Ever since the Abstract Expressionists held forth at the Cedar Tavern in the 1950s, the unwritten rule has been that making art is a consuming obsession that leaves no time or space for worldly responsibilities like childrearing. Before the AbExers, an artist like Gauguin left his wife and kids in Denmark to pursue painting in Paris, and later Tahiti. With artists—unlike, say, poets, novelists, or filmmakers—there’s an expectation of an ascetic, blinkered life focused exclusively on making art. Artists with kids have often ignored them while spending all their time in the studio. In Night Studio: A Memoir of Philip Guston, Guston’s daughter Musa Meyer tells the heartbreaking story of a disengaged father who had little room in his life for her. So, why then, closing in on the final years of fertility, with scant investigation or evidence that the outcome would be salutary, did I stop using birth control in 1998 and let fate take its course? My decision was more intellectual than emotional. I reasoned that I was an artist. If I did get pregnant, wouldn’t this primal experience strengthen and inform my work? If I didn’t, then I wouldn’t have any regrets. I rolled the dice, and three months later the pregnancy test was positive.

"The iconic mid-century female artists I admire made different choices. Before the feminist movement, ambitious, pragmatic women like Lee Krasner and Elaine de Kooning rejected motherhood. Louise Nevelson and Grace Hartigan both had children, but ultimately left their upbringing to relatives so that they could turn their undivided attention to making art and tending their vocations. Having a serious career like their male counterparts meant denying their reproductive difference, and also eliminating any references from their work that might be construed as 'feminine.' Back then, telling a woman she 'had balls' was a high compliment. In art schools, disparaging male professors made it clear that having a successful art career was nearly impossible for women, and that having children was not only a sign of bourgeois conformity, but an indication that they weren’t serious about art. By rejecting and then condemning parenthood, artists themselves helped institutionalize the self-centered, hermetic behavior that is frequently construed as a sign of genius.

"As the feminist movement blossomed in the 1970s, female artists gained exhibition opportunities and sexual freedom, but their political awakening only reinforced their disinclination to have children. At the same time, first-wave feminists like Judy Chicago recognized the importance of childbearing as a universal life experience that had been missing from male-dominated, Western art. From 1980 to 1985, Chicago worked on 'The Birth Project,' a series of images—made with the help of over 150 skilled craftswomen—in embroidery, needlepoint, crochet, macramé, quilting, drawing, and painting, that reflected her fascination with creation and the birth process. Nevertheless, she never had any children herself. When I was contemplating whether or not to have a baby, my role models were not Krasner, de Kooning, or Chicago. Instead, I emulated painter Elizabeth Murray and photographer Sally Mann. These artists, rather than compartmentalizing their studio work from their domestic lives, elected to combine the two in groundbreaking ways..." Read more.

Related post:
IMHO: Elizabeth Murray, a neo-feminist icon

Talking with Terry Winters

On the occasion of Terry Winters’s show at Matthew Marks, Phong Bui, publisher of The Brooklyn Rail, and consulting editors David Levi Strauss and Peter Lamborn Wilson (who are both writing essays on Winters’s work for a forthcoming book from the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin) met with Winters to talk about his new work. "For me, painting’s capacity to make images through the manipulation of materials seems to be its most powerful and magical quality. How a painting is built is a big part of what it means. Mark-making, gesture and touch—those are the key components as to how to generate images through painting. I just hope that each painting is an extension or an expansion of previous work. In terms of the early work, I wanted to move away from the reductive reading botanical and biological imagery encouraged. I wanted, from that point on, to emphasize what I thought were my own concerns and connections with material, process and architecture. I was interested in developing a vitalized geometry, an abstract force that the paintings could embody." Read more.

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

Related post:
Terry Winters: Haltingly optimistic

December 9, 2008

Pioneering figurative painter Barkley Hendricks at the Studio Museum

T.J. Carlin reports in Time Out that Barkley Hendricks, who for the past thirty years has been a wry, beret-wearing presence in my town's quiet art community, is long overdue for a retrospective. "I’m not sure if Barack Obama’s election had anything to do with it, but upon entering 'Birth of the Cool,' the Studio Museum’s survey of eminent African-American painter Barkley L. Hendricks, I found myself marveling incredulously at the art world’s myopic view of its own recent history, and thinking, not for the first time, that here was a long-overdue show. It’s almost embarrassing that this survey of Hendricks’s work is the first big retrospective for a figurative painter who has clearly influenced—and who in many cases outshines—so many of his peers. Political questions aside, Hendricks needs to be recognized as a pioneer, and 'Birth of the Cool' is an important initial step in that direction....

"On its own, Hendricks’s color sensibility is breathtaking and underscores his love of classical painting; his limited-color series—perhaps ironically most appealing in a number of white-on-white works—is only one tactic among many for cleaving content to painting with the most visceral punch. In his quasi-abstract "Dippy’s Delight"(1969), Hendricks carves up a circular canvas with a choppy, primary-colored Mondrian-style grid, and crowns the top with a basketball rim. In every work, he recombines and pays homage to an impressive array of influences in ways that continue to be striking and relevant today.

"In an era when the image Hendricks was looking for—an African-American figure with deep historical gravitas—has finally come to the forefront of national and international news (and has been reinforced in the public’s mind with appearances on every television and computer screen), it’s worth appreciating not only Hendricks’s skill as a painter, but also his fruitful investigation into his own artistic and personal identity." Read more.

Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool," curated by Trevor Schoonmaker. Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY. Through March 15. Originated at the Nasher Museum of Art, traveling to the Santa Monica Museum, Los Angeles, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston.

Related posts:
USA Painting Fellows: Barkley L. Hendricks and Rodney McMillian

Barkley L. Hendricks retrospective at the Nasher Museum

Say goodbye to Bush's clueless approach to art and artists

In Philadelphia on Saturday, the Union League Club, which has 23 presidential portraits in its collection, unveiled their new portrait of George W. Bush. Birmingham artist Mark Carder told Everything Alabama reporter Michael Huebner that he wasn't trying to make a statement, nor was he trying to capture a presidential attitude. "What I do in all my portraits is to try to stay out of it. I try to catch people the way they are. He came across as a real nice guy. He's really down-to-earth when you meet with him one on one."

Other politicians Carder has painted are Sen. Richard Shelby, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and former Secretary of State James Baker. In 2002, he completed a portrait of George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara that now hangs at the Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas. Preparing for the portrait, Carder spent several hours at the White House. "I was given full access and spent a Friday for about three hours and another couple of hours the following Wednesday meeting with the president and taking hundreds of photographs and doing studies," he said.

At the unveiling, looking at the extremely conservative portrait, President Bush, who knows very little about any kind of art cracked wise. "I was taken aback by how much gray paint you had to use!" Carder's portrait captures a hint of the Bush smirk, but the likeness shows far too much compassion for such an inept, pernicious president.

Related posts:
IMHO: Don't stop me if I'm repeating myself

December 7, 2008

"The wall drawing is a permanent installation, until destroyed"

After nearly six months of intensive drafting and painting by a team of some sixty-five artists and art students, "Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective" is fully installed at Mass MOCA. Conceived by the Yale University Art Gallery in collaboration with the artist before his death in April 2007, the project has been undertaken by the Gallery, MASS MoCA, and the Williams College Museum of Art.

In the NY Times, Holland Cotter writes that Sol LeWitt’s work is famously about ideas before all else. "He was one of the first artists to formally define — in a 1967 Artforum article — Conceptual Art. And he was among the first to make work that fit the definition: work that played down the unique art object, with its associations of individual genius, exchange value and physical permanence, in favor of utopian proposals, collective visions, objects that existed first and last as ideas. ('The wall drawing is a permanent installation, until destroyed,' LeWitt wrote in 1970.) A small show called 'The ABCDs of Sol LeWitt' at the Williams College Museum of Art, near Mass MoCA, zeroes in on that watershed 1960s moment with an archival display of his manuscripts and drawings, including a draft of the Artforum article with the words that put LeWitt’s career on the map: 'When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all the planning and decisions are made beforehand, and execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.' The wall drawings are prime examples of this definition in action."

In the Boston Globe, Sebastian Smee reports that "LeWitt was in thrall to the symmetries and permutations of mathematics, and he didn't especially care who executed his works. But when you see his works in situ, it's hard to hold onto the notion that the idea overrides all. These works give too much pleasure. They may begin with ideas, but eventually those ideas are reduced to a background hum....If it all sounds crushingly dull, the miracle is that it's not. It's as light and airy and joyous as can be."

"Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective," Mass MOCA, North Adams, MA. Through 2033.

December 6, 2008

Mattera looks at shaped canvas: Pousette-Dart and Gorchov

Joanna Pousette-Dart's show at Moti Hasson is down, but Joanne Mattera Art Blog has recently uploaded some pretty good images. "Pousette-Dart makes paintings that are chromatically gorgeous. The shapes are quirky, almost cartoony—like a Jetson’s version of 'modern art'—but they're elegant, with an almost italic flow. Correspondingly, a calligraphic gesture threads its way over the surface of each painting, which is composed of two or three flat, canoe-shaped panels that nest or stack. There's a strong sense of movement within each painting--glide is the word that comes to mind--so perhaps the visual reference to a water vessel was intentional. I’d call the work lyrical geometry, although lyrical abstraction would probably be closer to the mark."

Mattera covers Ron Gorchov's show at Nicholas Robinson Gallery, too. "Whether large or small, Gorchov’s canvases are kind of saddle shaped and the color is by turns odd or beautiful. There are typically two biomorphic shapes in the center of each canvas; sometimes there are four somewhat more geometric elements placed to make an open square or rectangle. These shapes seem to hover just slightly above the surface. And because of the saddle shape of the canvas, which both bows out and dips in, each painting itself seems to hover at the wall. Approach a painting you’re not quite sure how close you can get without hitting your shins against the frame or bumping your nose into the canvas. I love when that happens! Not the bumping but the ambiguity of where the work is in relation to the wall, and where you are in relation to the work." Read more.

NOTE: Joanne Mattera has a solo show at Arden Gallery in Boston this month. The reception is December 12, and the show runs through December 29. If you're in the Boston area, check out Joanne's lushly-colored, encaustic-on-panel paintings, which are even more seductive than the online jpegs.

Cowie and Min in Seattle

In the Seattle P-I, Regina Hackett reviews Claire Cowie and Yunhee Min at James Harris Gallery. Cowie's inspiration is Hokusai, one of the masters of nineteenth-century Japanese painting and printmaking. Min, a recent grad of Harvard's Graduate School of Design, is flat, abstract and color conscious. "Cowie's insubstantial pageant looks as if it might melt into the air. Hung in one gallery, each piece extends into the other. A yellow brick road dips merrily into a middle distance before becoming, in the painting beside it, part of the Great Wall of China and later a ladder bridge failing to span a widening mass of white....The danger for Cowie would be veering off into cute or into illustration, neither of which is a danger here. What distinguishes this series is its silent and austere purity. It operates from elementary principles of the artist's devising, indebted to traditional Chinese landscape painting but richer and more fanciful than that; more private and rooted inside her own head.

"If geometry were a village, Min would be the village architect, and her floor plans would chart what remains after an earthquake cracked all the foundations. Her new work aligns with the great poets of slightly off geometries, such as Robert Mangold and Ralph Humphrey. Instead of flat, her colors give off a dull shine. Deep blue lifts the hem of a hot pink. Dried blood red muscles into baby blue. Perfection is for sissies." Read more.

"Claire Cowie and Yunhee Min," James Harris Gallery, Seattle, WA. Through

December 4, 2008

Critic Douglas Max Utter notices a tendency to stroke and fondle odd bits of material until they die from the excess attention

Douglas Max Utter in Cleveland Scene: "Among other trends in contemporary art is a notable tendency to stroke and fondle odd bits of material until they die from the excess attention. Cool stuff, no doubt; I'm just saying. As an example, there's the work by artists selected from around the country for the exhibit Hyper-Nature at SPACES gallery. Much of it feels like décor for a pet cemetery on another planet. The emphasis here is on 'hyper' more than 'nature,' meaning that some aspect of the world is exaggerated, inverted or bent out of shape. Materials are considered to be, as well as forced to be, deceptive; things aren't what they seem...Much of the art at Hyper-Nature is low-profile stuff, easy to walk past. But it often needs a second, hard look, and some of it is definitely worth the trouble. Even if it isn't, the artists here demand that audiences pay attention to things that may at first glance seem odd, unpleasant or merely inconsequential, eliciting an 'Oh, I'm supposed to look at that?' response. But such moments of incredulity have always been the signature of so-called 'advanced' art. If visitors drive through nearby Ohio City and notice a dry stretch of West 25th Street that looks better than the stuff at SPACES, that just might be the beginning of perceptual growth....The question arises: Can artists be trusted with their pets? You decide. " Read more.

"Hyper-Nature," Spaces, Cleveland, OH. Through Jan. 14. Artists include Sherry Bittle,, Jason Briggs, Alison Carey, Gina Ruggeri, Kimberly Hart, Carin Mincemoyer, Laura Moriarty, Judith Mullen

L.A. Now: A show "based on no idea at all"

“L.A. Now,” opening at the Las Vegas Art Museum next, week features work by 20 emerging L.A. artists, many of whom are painters. Organized by L.A. Times critic, curator, and Claremont Graduate University associate professor of art theory David Pagel, the exhibition was selected from artists who had shows in L.A. galleries in 2007-2008. Pagel wanted to showcase individual artists' achievement rather than present work that explores a particular theme. Most importantly, he wanted to select artworks that created compelling interactions. “I wanted the works in my show to converse with one another, to engage one another materially, intellectually, and emotionally.” Pagel told Las Vegas Sun reporter Becky Bosshart that the "grouping isn't based on a clear idea — it's based on no idea at all."

Painters include Olivia Booth, Lecia Dole-Recio, Brad Eberhard, Wendell Gladstone, Annie Lapin, Michael Lazarus, Jeni Spota, and Don Suggs.

"L.A. Now," curated by David Pagel. Las Vegas Art Museum, Las Vegas, NV. Through March 8.

December 2, 2008

Holiday shopping guide: Buy art for everyone, even small children

In New York, facebooking Jerry Saltz reports that the last time money left the art world, intrepid types maxed out their credit cards and opened galleries, and a few of them have become the best in the world. Now, as money is leaving art again, history could repeat itself—especially in Bushwick and the Lower East Side, experimentation is percolating. Recommended spots: Reena Spauling, Dispatch, Norte Maar, Lumenhouse, English Kills, and Pocket Utopia. In the eighteen months since it opened, Pocket Utopia, where I'll be working at some point in January, hasn’t sold a single work to a collector. According to owner/artist Austin Thomas, she's only sold work to other artists.

Currently on view at Pocket Utopia is a solo show by artist Fred Gutzeit that pays homage to the late artist Lee Lozano. Here's info from the press release: Fred Gutzeit turns Pocket Utopia into a walk-in cosmology of wave, particle and worm hole. In addition, Gutzeit is showing preparatory drawings and relevant sketchbooks. Gutzeit considers Lee Lozano a mentor. The idea for this show came from a notebook that Lozano gave Gutzeit. The notebook, filled with graph paper, was inscribed with this sentiment, “Love to Fred from Lee Lozano.” The notebook was used to plot out the installation for Pocket Utopia. Containing waves (and much, much more) similar in vibe to several Lee Lozano paintings, Gutzeit’s printed and painted whirling, flashing landscape is a spectrumatic fantansia, inspired by Lozano’s rule-based process. Fred Gutzeit expands upons Lee Lozano’s rules, adding higher mathematics and good painterly hunches that map out the space and place of a pocket utopia.

In conjunction with the exhibition, Fred Gutzeit will host a salon discussion this Sunday, December 7, 4:00 pm.