January 31, 2009

Closing reception this week: Lost & Found

If you’re in the Hartford area, swing by the artists’ (closing) reception on Thursday, February 5, 4:30-6:30 for "Lost & Found – Fragments Assembling Realities," at the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism Gallery. Artist/organizer John O'Donnell writes that the artists selected for the show "sift through their cultural, visual and physical surroundings to create new moments and objects from the collected fragments. These works assemble new realities through assorted ephemera, found photographs, dryer lint, personal memories and other compelling components." My 130-slide PowerPoint project, “The Search for Moby Dicks,” is in the show, along with work by other Connecticut Commission fellowship recipients, including Pam Erickson, Bob Gluck, Linda Lindroth, Cynthia Beth Rubin, Susan Schultz, Rashmi Talpade and Claire Zoghb. Claire Zoghb will read a selection of poetry at 5:15 pm.

To download a free audio version of Moby-Dick, click here.

"Lost & Found – Fragments Assembling Realities," organized by John O'Donnell. Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism Gallery, One Constitution Plaza, 2nd Floor, Hartford, CT. Through February 6. For more information, call 860-256-2800.

Line: Evidence of movement and purpose

In Fearful Symmetry, Northrop Frye wrote that a "line is a denial of all inertia and paralysis, all doubt and hesitation...(it) is both movement and purpose: whatever the medium of the art, the line exists neither in time or space, but in their eternal and infinite union." Poet Susan Goldwitz has curated a show about line that was a Curatorial Opportunity Program Selection at the New Art Center in Newton, MA. In her curatorial statement, which begins with the Northrop quote, Goldwitz writes that all of the artists in the exhibition, both emerging and emergent, reinvent and individualize line to explore and redefine the very bones of form, the vowels of visionary language.

"Not a traditional drawing show - there’s not one graphite mark in the collection - this is a challenging, unexpected, and ineffable discussion of the radical possibilities at the very
'opening' of the creative imagination. The exhibition’s purpose is to examine line anew: solid or supple, sensuous or rigid, expansive or contractive, insistent or tentative. Here we see line as means, beginnings, and ends of the process of inspiration and result: equally path, journey, and destination."

In the Boston Globe, Cate McQuaid reports that t
he show "leaps through a startling variety of materials, from the little plastic ties that make up the cinched tube shape of Tina ManWarren Roche-Kelly's gossamer 'Wingspan' to the 12-inch spike nails curled into the daunting thicket of John Bisbee's 'Cradle.' Michael Beatty's gorgeous sculpture 'The Trouble With Painting' has metal elbow joints holding undulating lengths of pale wood; the result looks like logic attempting to contain grace."

Note to curators and artists: The New Art Center has a 31-year tradition of using the Main Gallery for group exhibitions (two persons or more) curated by an exhibiting artist or independent curator. Since May 1991 they have continued this tradition through a public call for proposals. The next deadline for the Curatorial Opportunity Program is April 8, 2009

"Opening Lines," curated by Susan Goldwitz. A Curatorial Opportunity Program Selection
at New Art Center, Newton, MA. Through February 22, 2009.
Artists include Michael Beatty, John Bisbee, Catherine Carter, Christine Hiebert, Masako Kamiya, Sol LeWitt, Anne Lilly, Agnes Martin, David Moore, Jennifer Perry, Tina ManWarren Roche-Kelly, Richard Serra, Jill Weber.

Upcoming lecture:
Strings & Geometry: An Intersection bewteen Art and Modern Physics
Lecture by Dr. Cumrun Vafa, Harvard University
Thursday, February 5, 7pm

How does abstraction run through both science and art? How different- and similar- are artists and scientists? What do lines, strings, and particles have in common? What role does aesthetics play in the work and process of artists & physicists?

Related post:

I like line, too

Cindy Bernard: Can you hear me?

In the Boston Globe, Cate McQuaid writes that Cindy Bernard's poignant show at Boston Center for the Arts' Mills Gallery evokes the far-flung community of ham radio operators who kept in touch long before the Internet and blogging made world-building so common. "Artist Cindy Bernard's grandfather, Bill Adams, got his license to operate a ham radio in 1923 and kept in touch with operators in distant countries until his death in 1999. Each contact was confirmed with a postcard, called a QSL card - QSL is ham lingo for 'I hear you.' Adams kept the cards, creating a treasure trove of documents that, incidentally, chronicle 20th-century geopolitical history. Long before the Internet, ham radio operators built a buzzing web of communication around the world.

"More than 100 of these cards are in 'Deleted Entities 1925-1996,' the centerpiece of 'Silent Key,' Bernard's poignant exhibit at the Boston Center for the Arts' Mills Gallery. Laid out chronologically and geographically, all the cards come from regions in which the system of government has changed. The Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and colonized regions in Asia and Africa are represented here. Bernard has arrayed the cards in a grid, leaving blanks to signify places Adams didn't reach in a given period of time. The result reads rhythmically, visually capturing ham radio's Morse code stutter....The overall effect - right up to a comical cache of erotic postcards Bernard found stashed among Adams's QSL cards - wonderfully evokes the community of individuals who kept in touch across social and political divides, through revolutions and upheavals throughout the 20th century. Interestingly, despite the ease with which the Internet connects people today, ham operators are still going strong." Read more.

"Cindy Bernard: Silent Key," Boston Center for the Arts' Mills Gallery, Boston, MA. Through February 15.

January 30, 2009

Bonnard: Folding together form, color and feeling

Roberta Smith on Pierre Bonnard at the Met: "Working simultaneously on several unstretched canvases tacked directly to the wall, he painted largely from memory with the help of quick sketches and watercolors, burnishing his motifs until they approached incandescence. He said that painting from reality distracted him from the task of making the painting a freestanding entity. (A painting 'is essentially a flat surface covered with colors arranged in a certain order' was how Bonnard’s fellow Nabi Maurice Denis put it.)

"In his best works, seeing and feeling merged in forms that glowed from within; decorative and subjective became one. It’s not just the colors that radiate in a Bonnard; there’s also the heat of mixed emotions, rubbed into smoothness, shrouded in chromatic veils and intensified by unexpected spatial conundrums and by elusive, uneasy figures.

"One of the most interesting things about Bonnard’s paintings is the time warp created by their folding together of form, color and feeling. Everything contributes to a kind of slowness that relates to both art and life. We experience his surfaces as diaries of their own making, accruing with pauses and second thoughts in gentle or erratic brushstrokes, layers of color within color and tracts of contrasting textures. We sense both the time and emotion invested in them."

Pierre Bonnard: The Late Interiors,” organized by Dita Amory. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY. Through April 19.

January 28, 2009

"I'll have my Facebook portrait painted by Matt Held"

For years Brooklyn artist Matt Held painted portraits from old family photos, but this past Thanksgiving he began using Facebook portraits as source material. On his blog he writes that one day his wife was playing around with the computer, took a picture of herself in iPhoto - her interpretation of what she looked like when she was angry - and posted it to her Facebook page. "I loved the shot, decided to paint it and it hit me - what a wealth of source material Facebook could be. Going through the profile shots of some of my friends I started thinking about what the poster's intent is with some of their photos. Choosing a certain photo to post is a form of control and self-preservation. However, whether it's a conscious or subconscious choice to choose a photo as a representation of your 'self' is not something this project addresses. I do hope, though, that an examination of the subjects' character and moral quality will be part of the dialogue.

"There is another piece to this project - the origin of how these people come into connection with me, the artist. Conceptually, the collection as a whole becomes a community of individual's that have opted to be memorialized, much in the same way the original commissioners of portrait painting - the rich and powerful - chose to. The why is here is maybe a bit more obvious. As one new member put it so eloquently - 'we are all just a little bit vain.'"

Naturally, when I learned of Matt's project, I immediately joined his Facebook Group "I'll have My Facebook Portrait Painted by Matt Held." Within days this jpeg arrived in my inbox. My tiny Facebook image, originally taken in a poorly-lit campus stairwell by ECSU staff photographer Nick Lacy, is now 24" x 30," rendered in oils on canvas. Yes, I am a little bit vain: I love Matt's painting, and my nose is long and distinctive, but, for all the Two Coats readers out there who have never actually met me, I swear it isn't quite that broad :===)

Update: After I ran this story, bloggers Tyler Green and Paddy Johnson both ran posts about Matt's Facebook series, where the story was picked up by the mainstream media. After Matt was featured in both the Observer and New York Magazine, blogger Hrag Vartanian (portrait #30 in the series) checked in to see how he was holding up with all the attention. Read Hrag's Q & A here.

Related post:
Paul Campbell's larger-than-life social networking pics

How to get attention: Give blogs the love

Here are some of the artists and bloggers who have recently confessed that they're regular Two Coats of Paint readers.

I recently received a note from Carrie Elston, editor in chief of Mapcidy, that Two Coats of Paint is listed among Mapcidy's top art blogs in NYC. According to their website, which has interactivity galore, Mapcidy is a "blog, hyperlocal guide, and social utility." Elston, a 2003 Yale grad who's currently a Hunter MFA student, and the other contributors certainly seem to be throwing their hearts into it. Go have a look and report back.

I also received a note from William Emm, the sales director at new UK online galleries Loveart and Exemplars.
The sites feature a generous review of art blogs, which includes Two Coats of Paint as well as all the regular bloggers. Lovearts' catchphrase is "Stunning Art, Beautifully Presented." Exemplars slogan is "Quality. Original. Art." I wish them all the best in this lousy deflating economy. If anyone has worked with these galleries, feel free to leave info about the experience in the Comments section.

Two Coats of Paint was included in "10 Blogs I Really Like," which appeared a while back at blogs.com. The list was compiled by guest poster
Renee Coates, who creates an original painting each week and posts it on her blog, 52 Pieces.

January 26, 2009

"I'm like some demented duckling stuck on this island"

Via artnet: "Another month, another art critic shown the door by a major paper. This time it’s Regina Hackett, longtime correspondent for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. A representative of Hearst Newspapers swung by the paper’s office Friday, Jan. 9, 2009, to tell the staff that, 'Journalism is a fabulous profession, but it is a business,' and that the paper would be shut down in 60 days, either to close forever or reopen as a greatly reduced online-only service (the heartbreaking footage of the announcement is available here).

"'I'm like some demented duckling stuck on this island -- stuck on the P-I -- so if I am forced to do something brave and move on out there, it might be good for me, and I am being forced,' Hackett told fellow Seattle critic Jen Graves, who writes for the Stranger. Hackett indicated that she was working on a book about Pacific Northwest art and would continue writing an art blog. Her writing is currently hosted as "Art to Go" on the P-I’s website, and presently features her reflections on Mrs. Lonelyhearts, Nathaniel West’s Depression-era novel about a desperate newspaper columnist. 'I mean, there are no jobs for us,' Hackett told Graves."

Sheila Farr, art critic of the Seattle Times, was also laid off, too, but Jen said it's no big loss.

Michael Dailey's "painterly landscape abstraction" in Seattle

In the Seattle P-I, Regina Hackett writes about old-school painter Michael Dailey. "On the West Coast, from Northern California to Seattle, a gestural kind of painterly landscape abstraction took root in the 1950s and 1960s, sometimes but not always with figures in it. Prime movers included David Park, Joan Brown, Elmer Bishop, Manuel Neri, Nathan Oliveira, Jay DeFeo, Richard Diebenkorn and, in Seattle, William Ivey, Boyer Gonzales, Margaret Tompkins, Robert C. Jones and Michael Dailey. Dailey is one of the youngest and most steadfastly abstract. Once he found his style he didn't change it until forced by health reasons. In the 1960s, using oil paint, he began to make colors float. His canvases were full of ripe colors only loosely contained within their frames. I always had the feeling if I put a finger under one of his buoyant passages, I could flip it into the air. That was enough for him, and he'd undoubtedly be doing it still had oil paint not become more than his balance and lungs could bear. Dailey has lived with multiple sclerosis since his 30s. While he loved the depth and illusion of oxygen he got from oil, he was ready to make the change when change was inevitable.

"Acrylics took away his bounce, but what developed as a replacement has become as intriguing. Dailey paints flat smears of color that drag themselves across space and fight with their frames, which are constantly realigning their positions. Seattle art museums being what they are, none has seen fit to provide one of the Northwest's most singular colorists a retrospective, which is why the Greg Kucera Gallery joined forces with Dailey's gallery, Francine Seders, to provide one. At Kucera are early works, from 1965 to 1999. At Seders, the paintings are of more recent vintage." Read more.

"Michael Dailey: Color, Light, Time, and Place: Selected Works, 1966 - 1999," Greg Kucera Gallery, in conjunction with Francine Seders Gallery, Seattle, WA. Through February 14.

Michael Dailey: Color, Light, Time, and Place: Selected Works, 2000-2008," Francine Seders Gallery, Seattle, WA. Through February 9.

January 24, 2009

Odd but frequent bedfellows, beauty and horror, on Long Island

Artist and critic Stephen Maine sends news that he has curated a show at Alpan Gallery in Huntington, Long Island, "Beauty Marks and Body Parts," that kicks off the gallery's guest curatorial program. Alpan, founded by Nese Karakaplan in 1987, is a non-profit space whose stated mission is to support artistic experimentation, multinational discourse, and well, excellence in general. Maine has gathered work by four New York artists: Cynthia Lin, Ron Meisner, Kevin Regan, and Hector Romero. According to Maine, they each explore the metaphorical heft and frailty of the human figure. "These artists refer to the body in relation to broader themes of vulnerability and resilience, distortion, and the grotesque. Throwing open the doors of figuration, they confront those odd but frequent bedfellows, beauty and horror. Their work conflates glamour and the grotesque, blurs public and private, willfully confuses the Apollonian and the dystopian. While none of the artists in 'Beauty Marks and Body Parts' alludes specifically to the widely published photographs of youthful, limbless Iraq war vets, or to the notorious photos divulging the damage done to detainees in the interrogation facility at Abu Graib, the cultural condition those images document feeds into the exhibition's undercurrent of corporal violence. But a streak of mordant humor lies just beneath the surface, as well."

Also keep in mind that Kevin Regan is currently the artist-in-resident at Pocket Utopia in Brooklyn. Beginning tomorrow, on Sunday afternoons Regan will be serving coffee, and discussing relational aesthetics, collage, sculptural placards, sport figures, newspaper images and working in ink. Stop by and join the discussion.

"Beauty Marks and Body Parts," curated by Stephen Maine. Alpan Gallery, Huntington, NY. Through February 14.

January 22, 2009

I like line, too

McKenzie Fine Art presents "Linear Abstraction," which examines of a few of the ways in which artists are using line in abstract imagery these days. Here's an overview: Mark Dagley paints spherical webs of interlaced lines that reference information technologies and social networking sites. Gilbert Hsiao uses optically-charged, shaped canvases, vibrant color and repeating op-art patterns. Maureen McQuillan's monochromatic networks of shadowy lines created with camera-less photography suggest both natural and virtual phenomena. Gelah Penn's site-specific installation, "The Naked Kiss," is a jumble of colored monofilaments and other tendril-like stuff that explores the complexities of movement, flow, expansion. Sort of like beach debris in winter without the weather-beating. Mary Temple repeats and overlaps elliptical shapes in a series of one million individual gestures. And finally, Gary Petersen's elegantly painted parallel lines playfully flex, angle and curve as they define voids and create op-arty movement.

"Linear Abstraction," McKenzie Fine Art, New York, NY. Through February 7. Artists include
Mark Dagley, Gilbert Hsiao, Maureen McQuillan, Gelah Penn, Gary Peterson, Mary Temple

Press release of the week: Marc Willhite "Tableaux" at kork

Chris Albert, mastermind of kork in Poughkeepsie, sent Two Coats of Paint the most amusing press release this week. "Basking in the glow of its newly recognized influence on the Accounting industry*, kork is mostly** pleased to welcome Marc Willhite's installation 'Tableaux' which will be on view through February 27, 2009. The organizing principle of kork is to provide artists with the broadest possible opportunity to explore their visual impulses to the fullest degree, unhindered by curatorial oversight and with only one stipulation: the resulting work must fit within the footprint of the 24 inch x 36 inch bulletin board/gallery space. Now, with Willhite's project (the third to date), that singular condition has already gone out the window. Apparently unable to restrain himself to the proscribed parameters, the artist's installation incorporates a floor to ceiling photocopy of a lace curtain, creating an environment on which the bulletin board floats - and even drifts. Through the duration of the exhibit, the position of the bulletin board will change, being placed at different points around the field of pixelated lace.

"Located inside the offices of Bailey Browne CPA & Associates, kork is a wholly sovereign conceptual entity; not unlike the nation of Lesotho, nestled quaintly within the borders of South Africa. Willhite's incursion into non-kork real estate manages to fix one's eye on the solidly bland-beige form of the kork space, the texture of which is equally bland compared with that of the lace working depicted in the surrounding photocopy. The mildness of the board is amplified to a nearly oppressive level. The artist's response to the installation is apt, 'I almost feel like it's looking at me more than I'm looking at it!' This mildness is an insinuation of steps not taken, of a life unbegun. Bulletin boards and lace curtains are custodians of our dusty memories. The initial pricks in a bulletin board's cork are imbued with great intention, but more often than not, the surface will bloom with the overgrowth of those expired intentions. The lace curtain captures the benign history of a grandmother's kitchen; remembrances caught on the wind. Here, writ gargantuan in black and white, that past now looms. Before it sits an empty bland agenda. The surface is passive; its form, assertive. It's presence atop the ephemeral curtain is firm and undeniable. Free from clutter, free of looming tasks impaled on its face, the tan monolith is a dull mirror confronting the viewer. It's unspoken query to the viewer may well be 'So, what's in your head?'

*It is unknown whether the presence of kork (Poughkeepsie, NY's most provocative new art venue) in the offices of Bailey Browne CPA & Associates was actually considered as a factor which contributed to Careercast.com's ranking of Accountant as one of the top ten best jobs in America today. Regardless, the creative minds behind the bulletin board gallery/project space will waste no time in spinning this moment of synchronicity to our advantage.

** kork enthusiastically the embraces the impulses of our artists, even when it is forced to question, then violate the laws of its own nature. Rules and laws exist for our own benefit. they protect us. Adherence to rules is a virtue. We are located in an accounting firm after all."

"Marc Willhite: Tableaux," curated by Chris Albert. kork, Poughkeepsie, NY. Through Feb 27, 2009.

January 20, 2009

Studio update: January Residency at Pocket Utopia

I spent the week-long residency creating circle charts, which represent the point in my work where words and images intersect. On Sunday, January 18, Austin and I led a think tank/salon where we talked about the meaning of Obamart, art blogging and world-making. The experiences yielded plenty of raw material for both new paintings and new writing projects. Thanks everyone for venturing out on a snowy Sunday evening to participate in the salon discussion, and also for stopping by to say hello throughout the week. Bloggers at the salon included (in no particular order) Hrag Vartanian, Stephanie Lee Jackson, Matthew Langley, Paddy Johnson, Kai Vierstra, Adam Simon, Lars Swan, Carolina Miranda, Barry Hoggard, James Wagner, Chris Albert, Gordon Fraser, and Martin Bromirski. If you didn't get a chance to introduce yourself, add a link to your blog in the Comments section. A full report on the salon discussion is available in the February issue of The Brooklyn Rail. And let's rejoice that in less than an hour we'll finally, at long last, have a creative, brilliantly competent, articulate President. A President who understands the importance of words. Image above: "Circle Chart Study," 9.5" x 12," Sharpie pen and pigmented shellac on wood panel. At right: Creating a rough circle chart of the discussion during the salon (image via Hrag).

Pocket Utopia, located at 1037 Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, is a relational exhibition, salon and social space run by artist Austin Thomas. Work by Kay Thomas, Elissa Levy, and Björn Meyer-Ebrecht is on view through February 15.

Related link:
Andy Piedilato in Bushwick

Björn Meyer-Ebrecht at Pocket Utopia

Previous studio updates:
So long, little shack (Sept. 9, 2008)
Summer progress (Aug. 30, 2008)
Studio visits (July 12, 2008)
Unplugged in Beacon (June 6, 2008)
Habitat For Artists: Shack update (May 18, 2008)
Itinerant painter (May 9, 2008)

January 18, 2009

Jewel-encrusted vs. diamond-dusted

I spent a few hours rambling around the Met this week and saw the survey of Raqib Shaw's opulent jewel-encrusted paintings based on Hans Holbein the Younger's (ca. 1497-1543) paintings. They reminded me of my daughter's stained-glass craft kits, but of course those don't have the oppresive glut of obvious art historical references. If we're talking about jewel-encrusted, I'll take R.H. Quaytman's cool, modernist-inspired pieces at Miguel Abreu any day. Quaytman's new series, which creates a powerful retinal experience, explores "the blind spot," whether it be from a light source in the picture, an optical illusion, a trompe l’œil effect, or the absence of color in a black and white photograph. Seeing the diamond-dusted pieces together in the intimate space is, in fact, blinding. I had to close my eyes.

"R. H. Quaytman: Chapter 12: iamb," Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York, NY. Through February 1.

Raqib Shaw at the Met," curated by Gary Tinterow. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY. Through March 1.

January 16, 2009

Ryman rejects his tidy inheritance

Cordy Ryman’s new abstract paintings, sculptures and installations at DCKT continue his playful exploration of paint, color, two-by-fours and wooden constructions. According to the gallery’s press release, Ryman is “manipulating and reconstituting an inherited visual language, and defining himself in relation to it.” Well, I doubt Cordy thinks that much about his inheritance (Merrill Wagner and Robert Ryman are his parents) as he works; his spontaneous process and inexhaustible materiality manage to infuse his parents' elegant Minimalism with a giddy, slapdash nonchalance.

Here is an excerpt from a conversation Ryman had with Brooklyn Rail publisher Phong Bui last year.

Phong Bui (Rail): Can you recall any specific event, whether it was seeing a particular work of art, having a conversation with some artists, or simply accepting the strong urge, which drove you to come to terms with the prospect of being an artist?

Ryman: There was no particular episode that I can pinpoint that made me think, “OK. This is what I want to do.” I didn’t plan on doing what I’m doing exactly. Although before high school, I wanted to make comics so that was the first indication of some sort....Anyway, in high school, I became interested in sculpture and was making a lot of very expressive figures, mostly faces with great anxieties. At that point I really felt that art was about emotion and should be expressed emotionally. I remember talking to my dad about art while trying to figure out what he was doing, and it was frustrating because I never got a clear answer. As a teenager there was something inaccessible about his work; I never understood what the big deal was. The fact that they were critically praised made it more difficult for me to access. I really wanted to understand it and figure it out, but since I was trying so hard I couldn’t. That process left me feeling as though I was missing something that everyone else seemed to get. Because if there was one thing that I knew it was the fact that his work was totally genuine... it wasn’t a gimmick. At some point I decided to leave it alone and stop trying to figure things out which in effect enabled the real breakthrough which came a little later. But now, when people don’t get my work, I can really understand. And I can really sympathize with them.

"Cordy Ryman," DCKT Gallery, New York, NY. Through February 14.

January 15, 2009

Putin paints

Telegraph art critic Richard Dorment gives Vladimir Putin a painting crit. "In that special category of world leaders who paint, Putin may not be the Picasso, but at least he's the Winifred Nicholson. I like the way the yellow window frame and white curtain fill the blue canvas, so that we find ourselves looking through four panes of glass in the centre at a night sky filled with snow and stars. Notice the confidence with which those curtains are drawn – how with each long stroke Putin never loses contact with the canvas until the of his loaded brush is dry. There isn't a wasted or unnecessary brushstroke and nothing childish or naïve about this picture.

"Putin gives us all the information we need but nothing more. Look how he uses six quick strokes of bright red paint to suggest the decorative border of the curtain at the right, but only a dab or two of red to convey the same information at the left, or how he lets us see the curtain rail at the left, but doesn't bother to show the one on the right. This is an artist who has been struck by something most of us wouldn't look at twice. With remarkable economy he contrasts the warmth, light, and gaiety of the interior with the cold and darkness beyond."

January 14, 2009

Drew Shiflett: The raw transformative power of obsession

Tonight at Lesley Heller Gallery, Drew Shiflett spoke cogently about her new drawings. Without supplying a fashionably overwrought interpretation of meaning, symbolism or metaphor, Shiflett addressed her frankly obsessive process. She told the standing-room only crowd that time slows down to a manageable pace when she focuses on drawing the thousands of tiny, rapidographed, stitch-like lines in each piece. In an essay for a 2004 solo show at the Islip Museum, curator Janet Goleas suggested that Shiflett's approach to her abstract, eccentrically-shaped drawings requires the fixed idea of meditation and a seemingly infinite dilated vision. "Often she creates mythical worlds or interior architectures of vast horizontality-- wheat fields, horizon lines, seascapes. Shiflett has talked about the influence the written word has had on her apprehension of structure. She is awed by the sheer deftness required to transport a reader from the beginning to the end of a novel, to convey the deeply transformative power of the written word and of the patience and craftsmanship needed to create an environment which can sustain large ideas. In contrast, Shiflett apportions her focus, leaving behind the greater narrative and honing in on phraseology or vignettes. As if excised from an immense field of vision, the rectangular segments in her drawings are like ghosts which have been spirited away from a larger whole. The artist weaves a delicate grid of fragile, tremulous pencil lines which barely graze the paper surface. Subtle, rhythmic and meditative, the lines coalesce into transparent scrims of soft organic geometry -- fetishistic, eccentric and diffuse. These elemental structures, founded on ambiguity and the raw transformative power of obsession, are anchored tentatively at the far reaches of the picture plane where they cleave to its outer margins. Here they lay claim to a geography which is parenthetical, a place reserved for note taking and the residues of subject matter. But like slow moving glaciers these intricate fragments have come to restlessly brake at the paper’s edge as if gradually sliding through the stories of their own Ice Age."

"Drew Shiflett," Lesley Heller Gallery, New York, NY. Through January 31.

The Westbeth retirement community

In The Villager, Bonnie Rosenstock writes about the Westbeth, the largest live/work facility for artists in the world, located in the far western edge of Greenwich Village in New York. "The original supposition of Westbeth was that young, starving artists would come here, become successful within five years and leave. Claire Rosenfeld, a self-described 'career artist' in her 60s who has been living in Westbeth since 1982, joked. 'Anyone who says he lives off his art has a trust fund.'

"Printmaker Christina Maile, now 63, recalls that 1970s fantasy very vividly.'Yeah, that sounded about right, five years,' she said. 'We were all about the same age moving in, and there was a general air of optimism. But then life intruded, we started families, or had more hardship than we thought. Artists need security where they are, even if they talk a great game. Like a scuba diver, you need something to help you breathe,' she said.

"Jack Dowling, the visual arts chair-person of the Westbeth Artists Residents Council and director of the Westbeth art gallery for the past 10 years, also remembers that pie-in-the-sky notion. He is 77 years old, a painter, writer and printmaker. When he moved here from Soho 30 years ago, it was the first time he had a real bathroom. He wonders where artists can go now for affordable living and working space." Read more.

January 12, 2009

Andy Piedilato in Bushwick

Settling in to Bushwick yesterday, I stopped by English Kills to see Andy Piedilato's paintings. The most obvious thing to report is that the paintings are really, really big (144" x 138"). Let's face it, you have to admire an emerging artist who works at this kind of ambitious scale while the market dissolves around us. Apparently the stretchers are hinged so that the paintings fold up like tortillas to fit through the doors. Piedilato, who was born in Athens, Georgia, and attended the Pratt MFA program, clearly loves paint, and isn't afraid to slap it around and play with it. His paintings, which juxtapose sketchily-drawn, off-kilter architectural elements with thick, gesturally painted objects and animals, reminded me of Anselm Kiefer's materiality/scale crossed with Philip Guston's cartoon-like imagery and Ralph Steadman's sardonic splatter. The irony is that while the paintings depict a world dangerously askew, there's such obvious joy in Piedilato's paint handling and color that it's hard to worry. Take a trip out to Bushwick; it's worth experiencing the grand scale of these paintings first hand--it doesn't translate in jpegs.

For more on optimistic artists, read Charlie Finch's report here. "In Portland, Ore., blogger Eva Lake raised money for the documentary Alien Boy, a film about a local rocker shot to death by the police for no apparent reason in broad daylight in front of a local coffee bar. At Pocket Utopia, a new artist-run space in Bushwick, artist Deborah Brown collaborated with gallery owner Austin Thomas on a print of a cardinal escaping from a Schielelike branch, to benefit the Women in Need charity. Another Brooklyn artist, Hannah Corbett of Park Slope, also produced prints based on her painting of 'The Graces,' a seductive nude-in-triplicate of her three too-sexy aunts...."

"Andy Piedilato," curated by Chris Harding. English Kills, Brooklyn, NY. Through Feb. 15.

January 11, 2009

Residency at Pocket Utopia this week, Habitat for Artists goes indoors

I'll be setting up shop at Pocket Utopia in Bushwick this week if anyone wants to stop by. Here are the topics I'd like to discuss: politics in art (health care? environment? race? Did you read The Atlantic this month?), building communities with Wikipedia (warning: this is my new obsession. Read the article on Wiki-government in Democracy's 2008 winter issue), and the use of experimental writing in art and literature. I've got a new sublet overlooking Orchard Street on the LES where, besides visiting all the galleries, I'm looking forward to trying the 11% beer at Spitzers and checking out the fabric stores.

On Saturday, January 17, there's an opening in Beacon, NY, at the Van Brunt Gallery for the Habitat for Artists residents. Mastermind Simon Draper is bringing the HFA project indoors for the month. Collaborators include Chris Albert, Richard Bruce, Sharon Butler, Ryan Cronin, Kathy Feighery, Marnie Hillsley, Matthew Kinney, Grace Knowlton, Sara Mussen, Steven Rossi, Matthew Slaats, Lynn Stein, Dar Williams, Grey Zeien and Donald Kimmel and the Flying Swine Live Theater. Participating artists will create work in the gallery and invite visitors, students and other artists to collaborate and participate in the process. This open studio/workspace/habitat will provide the public with access to understanding the artists’ creative process and will function to blur the boundaries between artist and viewer. The aim is to engage the public and provoke dialogue not normally associated with traditional gallery exhibitions. I wrote about my summer Habitat For Artists experience here.

On Sunday, January 18, don't forget that Austin Thomas and I are planning a Pocket Utopia salon at 4pm, to discuss art making, art blogging and world-making. See you there.

Update: A short report on the residency and salon at Pocket Utopia.

January 9, 2009

"Every feeling waits upon its gesture, and I had to be prepared to recognize this moment when I saw it"

"In the mid-1930s, as her writing career was just starting to take off, Eudora Welty thought she might become a photographer. As a junior publicity agent for the Works Progress Administration, she had traveled around rural Mississippi taking pictures of people coping with the Depression. In letters and while visiting New York, she lobbied publishers and photographers (including Berenice Abbott) in the hope of gaining exposure for her words and images. In 1936 Welty got her chance: her short story 'Death of a Traveling Salesman' was published in Manuscript magazine, and a solo exhibition of her Mississippi photographs was presented at the photographic galleries of Lugene Opticians on Madison Avenue. But eventually she gave up photography to focus on her writing. (Sometime in the 1950s she left her camera on a bench in the Paris Métro and never allowed herself to replace it.)...

"From one photograph to the next we sense a young artist and writer honing her eye and voice. 'Making pictures of people in all sorts of situations, I learned that every feeling waits upon its gesture, and I had to be prepared to recognize this moment when I saw it,' she later wrote in the memoir 'One Writer’s Beginnings.' 'These were things a story writer needed to know.'" (via Karen Rosenberg, NY Times)

Eudora Welty in New York: Photographs of the Early 1930s,” Museum of the City of New York, New York, NY. Through Feb. 16.

January 7, 2009

Art criticism: Alive and well

Village Voice critic Martha Schwendener, in a good piece on the state of art writing and criticism, suggests that, despite the bad economy, things are pretty good right now. "The big narrative in the art world over the last decade has been the market. Money, as you may have heard, changes everything. But now that the market is marching in lockstep with the global recession, the big question for those involved with art is: How's it affecting you? One population, ironically, has been less affected than others, and that's art writers: We're at the low end of the art economy either way....The days of power critics like Clement Greenberg or Harold Rosenberg ended decades ago; writers have been eclipsed by globe-trotting curators, mega-dealers—even, in recent years, collectors. Roundtables and panel discussions have been devoted to the 'crisis in criticism;' recent books include titles like Critical Mess and What Happened to Art Criticism?

"But at the same moment that the old guard has been decrying the sorry state of 'criticism' (a contested term that's come to mean everything from academic papers to exhibition reviews), something has been happening in art writing. While James Elkins, author of the doomsaying What Happened to Art Criticism?, claims that art criticism is 'dying, but everywhere . . . massively produced and massively ignored,' writers are pushing out in new directions, trying hybrid forms, and blurring the distinction between art writing and art making. And then there are the critical writings of artists themselves. These have ranged over the decades from the prickly formalist criticism of Donald Judd to the wacky manifestos of Ad Reinhardt to Agnes Martin's poetic texts. Writing was also important for two artists whose work has set the parameters for many contemporary artists: Andy Warhol and Robert Smithson. Warhol's obsessive cataloging in the diaries and his genre-bending and sleight-of-hand banalities in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (1975) feel intimately linked to Kraus's writing, as well as to Wayne Koestenbaum's Hotel Theory (2007) and Andy Warhol (2001) biography for the Penguin Lives series, and to the novel Reena Spaulings (2005) by the artist-collective Bernadette Corporation. Seth Price, who combines a visual art practice with writing, is perhaps the most self-conscious heir to Smithson's delirious sci-fi-and-George-Kubler-influenced writing..." Read more.

January 6, 2009

Monya Rowe: Doubtfully optimistic? Optimistically doubtful?

Monya Rowe is presenting a group show, 'Perception as Object," which originally stemmed from the anticipation surrounding the recent presidential election and the current post-election uncertainty. The work in the show investigates how individuals perceive and interpret objects and ideas differently, and that sounds like a pretty good theme even without the compulsory Obama connection. Artists included are Kevin Christy, Josephine Halvorson, Farrah Karapetian, Jayson Keeling and Carrie Pollack.

At The Old Gold, Jon Lutz speaks with Carrie Pollack about her images, process and source materials. "
My goal is to make a painting with as little as possible, almost stopping short to keep it open. I want them to be quiet, slow and a little unclear. I think when this happens it becomes more of a conversation then a statement, maybe somewhere in-between deliberation and intuition. I react to specific things in the world. These things have similar qualities so the choice of source is deliberate. Once I have this catalogue of images I know I want to work with I just sit and look at them for weeks. Through the looking at these images I begin to see other things at play, I think I am intuitively responding and arranging images at that point." Read more.

From the press release:
Josephine Halvorson's new small-scale paintings examine familiar objects. In "Problem Set" (2008) an old notebook page from a calculus class is replicated on linen; the word "sin" (a mathematical function) now has multiple readings. The painting is a construct of a problem and an answer, a start and a finish.

In Carrie Pollack’s new mixed media paintings, she examines how perception can change and evolve - for better or worse - over time. Giving rise to ambiguous interpretation, Pollack questions the initial meaning of an object, and then turns it into another meaning. Pollack’s works, echoing the outlines of minimalism – repetition, neutral surfaces - are formal compositions of subject matters ranging from distorted details of woven fabric to blurred photographs.

Kevin Christy presents two large mixed media drawings. In Untitled (2008) - a 3 by 5 foot work on paper - an elongated image of a white t-shirt bearing the American flag is set against a black background. The image, ghostly and rooted in working class values, is Christy’s interpretation of a design for the “Freedom Tower” in New York City.

"Perception as Artist," Monya Rowe, New York, NY. Through Feb. 14.

January 5, 2009

The Limner

This week The New Yorker's short story, "The Limner" by Julian Barnes, is about an itinerant painter. Here's an excerpt.

"Mr. Tuttle had been argumentative from the beginning: about the fee—twelve dollars—the size of the canvas, and the prospect to be shown through the window. Fortunately, there had been swift accord about the pose and the costume. Over these, Wadsworth was happy to oblige the customs collector; happy also to give him the appearance, as far as it was within his skill, of a gentleman. That was, after all, his business. He was a limner but also an artisan, and paid at an artisan’s rate to produce what suited the client. In thirty years, few would remember what the collector of customs had looked like; the only relic of his physical presence after he had met his Maker would be this portrait. And, in Wadsworth’s experience, clients held it more important to be pictured as sober, God-fearing men and women than they did to be offered a true likeness. This was not a matter that perturbed him.

"From the edge of his eye, Wadsworth became aware that his client had spoken, but he did not divert his gaze from the tip of his brush. Instead he pointed to the bound notebook in which so many sitters had written comments, expressed their praise and blame, wisdom and fatuity. He might as well have opened the book at any page and asked his client to select the appropriate remark left by a predecessor five or ten years before. The opinions of this customs collector so far had been as predictable as his waistcoat buttons, if less interesting. Fortunately, Wadsworth was paid to represent waistcoats, not opinions. Of course, it was more complicated than that: to represent the waistcoat, and the wig, and the breeches, was to represent an opinion—indeed, a whole corpus of them. The waistcoat and breeches showed the body beneath, as the wig and hat showed the brain beneath—though, in some cases, it was a pictorial exaggeration to suggest that any brains lay beneath.

"He would be happy to leave this town, to pack his brushes and canvases, his pigments and palette, into the small cart, to saddle his mare, and then take the forest trails that, in three days, would lead him home. There he would rest, and reflect, and perhaps decide to live differently, without this constant travail of the itinerant...." Read more.

January 3, 2009

Second thoughts: Archeology of Wonder at Real Art Ways in Hartford

RAW's Director of Visual Arts, Kristina Newman-Scott's first curatorial effort, "Archeology of Wonder," aims to examine the way we use artifacts and art to approach our relationships to the past. Although any overall coherence to this particular theme is elusive, many of the disparate, individual objects and installations resonate and have the power to move. My favorite piece is Tom Bogaert's "Collines au Mille Souris," a giant pile of black licorice mice teeming into a pointy mound formation on the floor. The artist's statement overreaches by describing it as an exploration of "rudderless third-world humanity impulsively acting out ancient ritual blood feuds," but seen as a metaphor for childhood play and angst, it's an effective, amusing piece. Posting each artist's statement next to his or her work serves to muddy Newman-Scott's already unfocused thematic conceit rather than strengthen and support it. In the NY Times, Ben Genocchio suggests that there's a "collective strangeness to the works in this exhibition, some of which defy an easy explanation." I'd say the strangeness lies in the curatorial opacity rather than in the individual objects. The show presents, for the most part, engaging, thoughtful work, and despite the tenebrous thesis, was worth a trip to Hartford.

At Connecticut Art Scene, Hank Hoffman opts to ignore Newman-Scott's angle, and takes a look at each artist individually. "It is a worthy metaphor around which to organize a show. But it can also be a distraction. Given the multiplicity of ideas and media offered here, trying to consider the works through any one given frame seems a mistake. So I'm not going to."

"Archeology of Wonder," organized by Kristina Newman-Scott. Real Art Ways, Hartford, CT. Through Sunday, Jan. 4. Closing reception 3-5 pm. Artists include Elia Alba, Tom Bogaert, Julia Brown, Brian Burkhardt, Harriet G. Caldwell, Chad Curtis, Valerie Garlick, Heather Hart, Jennifer Knaus, Simone Leigh, Brian Lund, Justin McAllister, Sally B. Moore, Julia Gail Oldham, Javier Piñón, and Yuko Suzuki. The excellent RAW web site has links to all the artists' work.

January 2, 2009

NY Times Art in Review: Tazeen Qayyum, John Wesley, Alexi Worth, Keltie Ferris, Trenton Doyle Hancock

"Tazeen Qayyum," Aicon Gallery, New York, NY. Through Jan. 11. Karen Rosenberg: "Insects also figure in small paintings by Tazeen Qayyum, who renders cockroaches and other household pests with extraordinary delicacy. (Like the well-known contemporary artist Shahzia Sikander, Ms. Qayyum studied miniature painting at the National College of Arts in Lahore.) The pins and small labels attached to several works mimic the conventions of entomology, but they also exude a minimalist vibe."

"John Wesley: Question of Women," Fredericks & Freiser, New York, NY. Through Feb 7. Ken Johnson: "For more than five decades John Wesley has been creating poetically resonant paintings in a formally acute cartoon style. Most of the paintings in this lovely show date from the mid-1990s and depict young women who look like fashion models....The beauty of Mr. Wesley’s paintings is as much in the abstraction as in the imagery. The reduced palette of pinks, coral reds, black and sky blue; the sensuous flux of curvy contour lines; and the perfect fitting of large shapes into the rectangle of the canvas — combine all that with the tantalizing imagery and you have paintings that are nearly impossible to look away from."

"Alexi Worth: Eye to Eye," D C Moore Gallery, New York, NY. Through Jan. 3. Ken Johnson: Painted with sensuous neatness in a nicely simplifying representational style, Alexi Worth’s pictures present curious visual puzzles slyly charged with sexual undercurrents....Looking, seeing and comprehending is a complicated process, driven at its most urgent, Freud and Marcel Duchamp would say, by sexual curiosity. It’s hard to think of another painter these days who has such infectious fun with the philosophical analysis of modern painting."

"Keltie Ferris: Dear Sir or Madam," Sunday, New York, NY. Through Jan. 18. Karen Rosenberg: "Ms. Ferris’s five large-scale paintings, made with oil, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, synthesize Mudd Club-era tendencies toward graffiti and neo-expressionism. At the same time they recall the more esoteric styles of Philip Taaffe and especially Ross Bleckner. A prime example is 'Ragnarok,' with its scattering of airbrushed dots over a rough-textured, woodlike surface....The overall impression is of the art of an earlier generation filtered through a young painter’s own nostalgia for the era of her childhood."

"Trenton Doyle Hancock: Fear," James Cohan Gallery, New York, NY. Through Jan. 10. Roberta Smith: "For his latest solo show at this gallery he has trimmed his epic, racially charged battles between comical color-loving meat-eating blobs and knobby white vegan villains to a single, topical subject: fear. He has also curtailed the eccentric buildup of materials usual to his collage paintings, although he continues to implicate the gallery walls to eye-popping effect....At once tragic and comic, this work makes good on Mr. Hancock’s debts to artists like R. Crumb and Philip Guston with a finesse all its own. As much a drawing as a painting, it is an altogether astounding sight."

Read the entire NY Times Art in Review column.

January 1, 2009

Are today's emerging artists yesterday's Mad Men?

Clever ideas--once confined to the brainstorming sessions of Mad Men and corporate art directors-- have become the backbone of contemporary art practice, especially among recent MFA grads. These emerging artists are perfectly happy to create pieces to suit specific curatorially-prescribed concepts and spaces. Against this cultural backdrop, an exhibition like "Double Lives" at the New Britain Museum of American Art feels a little old-fashioned. But perhaps for that very reason, it is all the more fascinating and refreshing. Guest curator Richard Boyle's conceit is that historically, illustration stands in relation to fine art as prose does to poetry. "In the nineteenth century, the academy looked down its nose at assigned work," says Douglas Hyland, NBMAA director. "Free choice was taken away when you had a book or magazine editor telling you what they wanted from you." Hartford Advocate art critic Alan Bisbort writes that many artists didn't sign their illustration work, or they used pseudonyms. Many artists/illustrators in the exhibition--Elihu Vedder, Henry Farny, John La Farge, Ellen Emmett Rand, Ben Sloweny and others-- are more obscure than their contemporaries who focused on "fine art," like Winslow Homer, Rockwell Kent and Childe Hassam. According to the exhibition's press release, illustration itself has "many functions, but the exhibition emphasizes illustrated books, magazine articles and stories, non-fiction and fiction, directed at an audience of adults, as well as children and young people. Illustrations were based on a given text, with the goal of illuminating that text. Fine art, however, is created according to the artists’ own creativity and inspiration."

"Double Lives: American Painters as Illustrators, 1850-1950," organized by Richard Boyle. New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT. Through Feb. 22.

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

Playing for Fung in Santa Fe