March 29, 2009

Alex Katz's "delicate craquelure"

In my little attic workroom, progress continues on a series of small paintings I started this past summer in Beacon, NY. While squeezing the ivory black onto my palette this morning, I kept thinking about "Swamp Maple," a 1968 painting by Alex Katz that I saw at the National Gallery last week. Everywhere Katz used black or a black mixture, the paint has cracked. At first it looks like he did it on purpose to mimic the texture of tree bark, but on closer inspection the cracking, which appears throughout the picture, is clearly unintentional.

Here's what the NGA web page says about the recently (2008) acquired painting. "Katz beautifully captures the glow of weak sun on leaf and water and the contrasting textures of soft grass and rough bark. A delicate craquelure on the tree trunk emerged during the course of painting, and Katz took advantage of it to convey the bark itself. His color choices, such as the tan sky and the white reflection of the black shore, are both memorable and puzzling, leaving the viewer to wonder whether it is 4:30 a.m. or p.m. The former is not out of the question: Katz has said that he wants to explore times that few people have seen, and in Lincolnville, the sun rises that early in the summer. In fact, Katz recalls that the painting was based on oil sketches he made in the afternoon, although the title leaves the time of day ambiguous."

I got out my well worn copy of The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques by Ralph Mayer and looked up "black." Sure enough, full strength oil colors with high absorption, especially lamp and ivory black, should never be overpainted with pigments of lower oil content. If layering is necessary, Mars black is a better choice. Blacks are notorious for causing unwanted cracking as the paint dries, even when thinly applied. Most painters won't be lucky enough to have a team of NGA restoration experts holding their paintings together, so if they want the paintings to last, they should make sure not to put thin over thick.

Other pieces on view in the East Building, Concourse Gallery Lobby with the Katz painting included:
Robert Gober "The Slanted Sink," 1985, plaster, wood, steel, wire lath, and semi-gloss enamel paint, 2006.37.1
On Kawara "Title," 1965, acrylic on three separate canvases, 2006.40.1.1
Robert Morris "Untitled," 1967/1986, steel and steel mesh, 2005.142.28
Barnett Newman "Achilles," 1952, oil and acrylic resin on canvas, 1988.57.5
Tony Smith "Die," model 1962, fabricated 1968, steel with oiled finish, 2003.77.1

March 27, 2009

Last chance: Dawn Black at Curator's Office in DC

Curator's Office, a tiny corner space in one of DC's few gallery buildings, has one more day with Dawn Black's mysterious and delicately painted watercolor, ink, and gouache works on paper. Black paints small-scale portraits of individuals wearing masks, uniforms, couture fashion, prison garb, ethnic attire, and other random eccentric forms of concealment.The figures are all "real" people (none being from imagination) painted from images found on the Internet and in various periodicals. Oscar Wilde once remarked, "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth." When I was in DC this week I got a chance to peer in and see the show. If you can, stop by and see it tomorrow.

Kriston Capps, who reviewed the show at Art in America, reports that Black depicts the U.S. that much of the world knows despite -- and possibly notwithstanding -- the election of Barack Obama. "Black's drawings provide a global gloss of the bizarre social customs that frame material culture -- from the glammed-out Los Angeles toddler to a Kabuki theater dancer. Adhering to found images and viewer expectations, Black is able to deliver a nuanced impression of the world -- or of the U.S., from the world -- that might have very well gotten lost over the exultant months leading up to and following Obama's election. In Black's work, the surreal is sobering-people aren't who they say they are, but what they pretend to be." Read more.

"Dawn Black: The Conceal Project," Curator's Office, Washington, D.C. Extended through March 28.

March 26, 2009

Picassify it

In the NY Times Carol Vogel wonders what Picasso was thinking during the final years of his life, when he was living in Notre-Dame-de-Vie on the French Riviera, obsessively producing images of musketeers and matadors, twisted couples and haunted women laced with obvious art-historical references or simply drawn from his fertile imagination. His unflagging confidence and complete belief in the brush remind me of the late Gustons I saw at the National Gallery this week. A show of Picasso's late work, which has sold pretty well in the last few years, opens this week at Gagosian's Chelsea gallery. "These works were created when Picasso was married to Jacqueline Roque, his second wife and one his many muses. He was ostensibly living in retirement, surrounded by a small group of old friends. While his output was immense, even his dealer, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, was skeptical about the work. 'People thought he had lost it,' Picasso biographer and friend John Richardson said. 'But this was actually an amazing burst of volcanic energy. He wanted to somehow assimilate the whole Western figurative tradition and Picassify it.'...That the show is being held in one of Gagosian’s Chelsea spaces rather than its uptown site might at first seem curious, but the decision was deliberate. 'To have it in a contemporary art area in Gagosian’s most contemporary space is to show Picasso as if he were a young artist,' Mr. Richardson said. 'You suddenly see him in a new light.'" Read more.

See a slide show of Richardson installing the show at Gagosian.

"Pablo Picasso: Mosqueteros," curated by John Richardson. Gagosian Gallery, New York, NY. March 26 -June 6.

The nature of space: Reading list

Rhizome Contributing Editor Marisa Olson has put together a basic reading list that will interest anyone exploring experimental geography. In recent years, access to geographical tools and data collection has expanded rapidly, allowing many artists to rethink their relationship to the earth and geographical study. The list (pasted below) includes key theoretical texts on the nature of space, texts on locative media, and works on radical cartography. Many of them cross over into game theory, cyberfeminism, relations between real and virtual spaces, surveillance, tactical media, psychogeography, situationism, sound art, networked cultures, site-specific installation art, and other related sub-themes. Rhizome admits this is just a starting point. Feel free to add other texts in the comments. On Saturday, March 31, at 3pm, The New Museum presents "Experimental Geography Panel Discussion: An Aesthetic Investigation of Space."

Janet Abrams and Peter Hall (eds), Else/Where: Mapping -- New Cartographies of Networks and Territories, Univ Minnesota Design Institute, 2006

Saul Albert, "Locative Literacy," Mute, July 12, 2004

Marc Augé, Non-Places: an Introduction to the Anthropology of Supermodernity, London & New York: Verso, 1995

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, Beacon, 1994

Walter Benjamin, "The Author As Producer," New Left Review Issue 62, July-August 1970

Marsha Berry, "Locative media: geoplaced tactics of resistance," International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media, Volume 4, Issue 2-3, 2009

Hakim Bey, "No Go Zone"

Hakim Bey, The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism, Autonomedia, 1985

Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture Routledge, London, 1994

Alexis Bhagat and Lize Mogel (eds.), An Atlas of Radical Cartography, pub. Journal of Aesthetics and Protest Press, 2008

Joline Blais, "Indigenous Domain: Pilgrims, Permaculture and Perl," Intelligent Agent, Volume 6, Number 2

Julian Bleecker, "A Design Approach for the Geospatial Web," O'Reilly Media, June 2005

Joel Bonnemaison, Culture and Space: Conceiving a New Cultural Geography, I.B. Tauris, 2005

Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, Les Presse Du Reel, 1998

Benjamin Bratton and Natalie Jeremijenko; Laura Forlano and Dharma Dailey, Situated Technologies Pamphlets 3: Situated Advocacy, Summer 2008

Victor Burgin, In/Different Spaces: Place and Memory in Visual Culture, University of California Press, 1996

Mike Davis, City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles, Verso, 2006

Guy Debord, "Theory of the Derive," International Situationiste #2, 1958

Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, University of California Press, 1984

Gilles Deleuze, "Postscript on the Societies of Control," OCTOBER 59, MIT Press, Winter 1992

Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, "Tunable Cities," Architectural Design 68, no. 11/12, November-December 1998

John Fels and Denis Wood, The Natures of Maps: Cartographic Constructions of the Natural World, University Of Chicago Press, 2009

Michel Foucault, "Of Other Spaces, Heterotopias, 1967

Michel Foucault, "Panopticism," in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Vintage Books, 1995

Anne Galloway, "Intimations of Everyday Life: Ubiquitous Computing and the City." Cultural Studies, Volume 18, Numbers 2‚ 3, pp. 384-408, 2004 [pdf]

Petra Gemeinboeck and Atau Tanaka, "A framework for spatial interaction in locative media", Proceedings of the 2006 Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression, June 04-08, 2006, Paris, France

Kevin Hamilton, "Mobility as Freedom in Critical Art and New Media," 2006

Kevin Hamilton, "Absence in Common: An Operator for the Inoperative Community," (ISEA 2006)

Katharine Harmon, You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination, Princeton Architectural Press, 2003

David Harvey, Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography, Routledge, 2001

Emma Hedditch, "Locative Feminism," Mute, September 18, 2005

Drew Hemment (ed) Locative Media Special Issue, Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Volume 14, Issue 3

Drew Hemment, "The Locative Dystopia" (2004)

Jeremy Hight, "Narrative Archaeology," Xcp: Streetnotes: Summer 2003

Anthony Hoete, ROAM Reader On The Aesthetics of Mobility, Phaidon/ Black Dog Press, 2002

Jeffrey Kastner (ed), Land & Environmental Art (Themes & Movements), Phaidon, 2005

Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, Wiley-Blackwell, 1992

Lucy Lippard, The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society, New Press, 1998

Lucy Lippard, On the Beaten Track: Tourism, Art, and Place, New Press, 1999

Miwon Kwon, One Place after Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity, MIT Press, 2004

Kevin Lynch, The Image of the City MIT Press, 1960

Tapio Mäkelä, "Ars Memorativa in the Interactive City: Private Layers, Sublime Technologies in Public Spaces, (ISEA 2006)

Lev Manovich, "The Poetics of Augmented Space: Learning from Prada," 2002 [pdf]

William J. Mitchell, Me++: The Cyborg Self and the Networked City, MIT Press, 2003

Malcolm McCullough, Digital Ground: Architecture, Pervasive Computing, and Environmental Knowing, MIT Press, 2004

Trevor Paglen, Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon's Secret World, Penguin, 2009

Paraskevopoulou, Charitos, Rizopoulos, "Location-specific art practices that challenge the traditional conception of mapping," Art Nodes Issue 8

David Pinder, Visions of the City: Utopianism, Power and Politics in Twentieth-Century Urbanism, Routledge, 2006

Simon Pope, "The Shape of Locative Media," Mute February 9, 2005

Howard Rheingold, Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, Basic Books, 2002

Irit Rogoff, Terra Infirma: Geography's Visual Culture, Routledge, 2000

Simon Sadler, The Situationist City, MIT Press, 1998

Alison Sant, "Redefining The Basemap," Intelligent Agent, Volume 6, Number 2

Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory, Vintage, 1976

Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization and Perception of Time and Space, University of California Press, 1987

Robert Smithson, Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings (Jack Flam, ed.), University of California Press, 1996

Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust, Penguin, 2001

Erika Suderburg, Space, Site, Intervention: Situating Installation Art, University of Minnesota Press, 2000

Pall Thayer "On narrative, abstract and location: A few words on lacation-based data in art," 2004 [pdf]

Nato Thompson (ed), Experimental Geography: Radical Approaches to Landscape, Cartography, and Urbanism

Anthony Townsend, "Envisioning the ubiquitous city"

Anthony Townsend "Digitally Mediated Urban Space: New Lessons for Design" Praxis (2004) [pdf]

Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience, University of Minnesota, 1977

Marc Tuters (ed), "Acoustic Space: Trans Cultural Mapping," Riga: The Center for New Media Culture RICX, 2004

Marc Tuters and Kazys Varnelis, "Beyond Locative Media," Networked Publics blog

Urban Tapestries essay collection

Kazys Varnelis and Anne Friedber, Place: Networked Place, Networked Publics blog

Kazys Varnelis, The Infrastructural City: Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles, Actar, 2009

Robert Venturi, Learning from Las Vegas, MIT Press, 1977

Denis Wood, The Power of Maps, Guilford Press, 1992

March 25, 2009

Ian Whitmore and Graham Caldwell: DC artists move to NYC

Ian Whitmore, who, according to Washington Post's Blake Gopnik, is one of DC's most promising young painters, has recently moved to Brooklyn. "In NYC, he gets 'a big inspiration from something' at least once a week, from the music scene to the latest art in Chelsea to the Old Masters at the great museums (Whitmore's art looks back as well as forward). Above all, in New York, there is the sense that 'everybody is making art.' At first, Whitmore says, he was unnerved by the competition, but then he came to realize that it 'really helps you focus on what's special in your art.' To learn how to make significant work, Whitmore points out, 'you've got to know where everybody else is at.' And no matter how good a smaller art scene may be -- thanks partly to its museums and art schools, Washington's is better than those in many cities of the same size -- it doesn't provide the fodder of a major center like New York.

"In his first shows in Washington, Whitmore achieved a slick, signature look that made him stand out from the local crowd: He mixed flamboyant brushwork with pop references that ranged from Snow White to NASA. His work looked like French rococo painting channeled through de Kooning channeled through Disney. In New York, he seems to have been forced into a broader scope of subjects, approaches and techniques. Paintings in his latest show at G ranged from a woman's silhouette smeared in white onto raw canvas, to a tasteful landscape crossed-out in fluorescent green, to a surprisingly straight -- but slyly satiric -- portrait of Nancy Reagan.

"Whitmore lives in Bushwick, an artist-friendly, grubby neighborhood of cheap housing and light industry. That's a mix that artists love, because it gives them living and studio space without a big commute between them. And it's hard to find in D.C. Whitmore's Brooklyn rent is about the same as when he lived in a group house in Mount Pleasant. The tight railroad apartment he shares with his pregnant partner, who designs clothes, costs about $1,300 a month; their rear bedroom doubles as a joint studio. He says day jobs are no harder to find than in D.C. (He's working as a carpenter.) There was no reason not to make the move, he concludes....

"So far, neither Caldwell nor Whitmore has managed a deep penetration into the New York scene. They don't have dealers there, and have only started to make contacts that might lead to non-commercial shows. But both feel the move north has put them closer to where they want to be in their careers."

Gopnik's piece covers both Ian Whitmore and glass artist Graham Caldwell, who relocated to Greenpoint eighteen months ago from DC. If you see them around town, say hello.

Two Coats' movie pick: Adventureland

Director Greg Mottola (Daytrippers and Superbad) has been called the new John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Pretty in Pink, etc.), but Mottola's films are much grittier, infused with a singular indie-angsty sophistication. In New York, David Edelstein writes that Mottola "plays old songs in new keys and strikes dissonant, unsettling notes." The film tells the story of a recent college grad who is forced to take a job as a lowly local theme park attendant during the summer of '87 after his parents refuse to finance a post-grad trip to Europe. Mottola, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon's School of Art (notable grads: Andy Warhol, Jonathan Borofsky, John Currin), was originally a painter, so Two Coats roots for his continued success. A gifted artist, Mottola opted to submit a graphic novel instead of a script when he applied to film school at Columbia. After graduating with an MFA in the early nineties, Mottola wrote and directed The Daytrippers (1997) which was shown at the Cannes Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival. His most recent film was Superbad, which, artists will recall, featured an unforgetable montage of adolescent dick drawings and doodles. Besides directing episodes of Undeclared, Mottola directed several installments of HBO's The Comeback, Lisa Kudrow's hilarious but inexplicably short-lived satire of celebrity reality shows.

Check out Mottola's playlist at iTunes (he always made great mix tapes back in the day). Hear him discuss his favorite coming-of-age movies in the Washington Post. Read an interview in Village Voice. And here's a Profile in the LA Times.

Upcoming shows: Inside and out

"HOME," Westport Arts Center Main Gallery April 3 – June 1, 2009
Westport Arts Center’s exhibition HOME, curated by Eric Aho, features paintings and drawings that touch on the mental, physical and emotional connections to home. According to Aho, “These artists point out that the range of our associations with ‘home’ is as wide and varied as our own unique circumstances. Through their work we are reminded that the notion of home is seldom a fixed idea. Instead, it is as conditional as our memory and vulnerable to change without notice.” The drawings and paintings Aho selected for the exhibition range from the 1920s to the present, highlighting artists’ perennial interest in and the shifting attitudes toward the topic of home. Artists include Debra Bermingham (b.1953), Charles Burchfield (1893–1967), Quentin Curry (b. 1972), Edwin Dickinson (1891–1978), Soren (b. 1975) and Rayna deNiord (b.1978), Lois Dodd (b.1927), Kim Dorland (b.1974), Duncan Hannah (b.1952), Lousia Matthíasdóttir (1917-2000), Kristine Moran (b. 1974), Shane Neufeld (b.1982), George Nick (b.1927), Devin O’Neill (b.1971), Fairfield Porter (1907–1975), Charles Ritchie (b.1954).

May 7: Curator talk with Eric Aho, 7:00 pm

"Valeri Larko: Urban Edges," Hunterdon Art Museum, Clinton, NJ. April 5-June 21, 2009. Larko, who spends a lot of time wandering around the vast industrial parks that have become a common part of our environment, paints en plein air at the fringes of the city.
For more information check out www.hunterdonartmuseum.org/
Check out Larko's paintings at www.valerilarko.com

March 23, 2009

Guston: Laugh out loud?

On Spring Break this week, I've been invited down to DC for a day or two where, besides staying in a swanky Jetson-style hotel, I'm looking forward to visiting a few galleries at Logan Circle and stopping by the National Gallery of Art to see the permanent Mel Bochner installation and the Philip Guston show. In the Washington Post Paul Richard takes four excruciating pages to explain why Guston's paintings are important to the history of art. "Usually the National Gallery presents 20th-century New York paintings unlike Guston's, paintings that are monuments of dignity. Barnett Newman's solemn 'Stations of the Cross,' Mark Rothko's clouds, Jackson Pollock's mists are visions as august, decorous and stately as the National Gallery itself. No grinning allowed. Guston's paintings of hairy knees and cigarette butts are another kettle of fish....

"'There is nothing to do now but paint my life,' Guston wrote in 1972. 'My dreams, surroundings, predicament, desperation . . .' Not much of a life. One of Guston's oils is called 'Painting, Smoking, Eating' (1973), which pretty much sums it up. In 'Midnight Pass Road' (1975) he seems to be stuck at his studio table. What does he see? Not much: the green lampshade, a coffee cup, a sagging flower, a stretched canvas (waiting to be painted), a ghostly thought of his wife (distressed, of course, her hand over her eyes), a triangle, a ruler, his watch. Time passes. Nothing happens.

"'The sense of being thrust into a scurfy internalized world is almost unbearable,' wrote scholar Robert Hughes. 'Guston may have been the first painter to paint that frame of mind so well known to artists and writers: slothful regression. You pee in the sink. You put out your cigarette in the coffee cup.' Guston may have been the first artist to depict the place, but Herman Melville had been there, and so had W.B. Yeats. In 1939, at the end of his life, he had also lost what had worked so well before. He couldn't go up and out. Guston couldn't, either.

"Guston, who smoked three packs a day, died of a heart attack at 66. You might expect his pictures, the late ones in the tower, would turn out to be downers. They're not, of course, they're lifters. That's why they're art. Courage shines out of them. Light shines out of them. And, right from the core of all that sad, dim wreckage, so does a saving nutty glee. 'If someone bursts out laughing in front of my painting,' he wrote, 'that is exactly what I want.'" Read more.

"In the Tower: Philip Guston," National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Through Sept. 13.

April Gornik: Painting has an "undeniable gravitas"

In qi peng's Salt Lake City Fine Arts Examiner interview with April Gornik, qi asks Gornik, who had a solo show at Danese in November 2008, how she feels about current trends in new media and conceptual art. Here's an excerpt from their lengthy conversation.
qi peng: Do you feel that there is a certain strength in more traditional forms of expression within the scene where curators are hunting for the latest cutting-edge work that may diverge from painting or printmaking on a support?
April Gornik: Conceptual art was popular in the mid-70s when I was in school, and I liked some of it then and feel the same way now, but the intersection of art & technology is not something I'm particularly fascinated by, nor am I adverse to it. As I said before, painting remains unique. The embedding of a person in a work of art by the time, intent and use of paint with which a work is made can't be imitated by any other medium, and the history of painting also gives it a certain undeniable gravitas. To oppose that history by trying to do something that references and rejects it is nonetheless dependent on it, and it takes the culture to give it meaning. This is why much smart-ass work will probably not survive over centuries, but I could be wrong. It's imaginable that the culture could become so historically removed that people wouldn't even have that reference–a frightening thought.

Read the entire interview here.
Look for "The Luminous Landscapes of April Gornik" at The Heckscher Museum, Huntington, NY. May 2–July 5, 2009

Some old gold: 2006 interview with Howard Hodgkin

Thanks Jen Mazza for posting this link to novelist Colm Tóibín's 2006 Guardian interview with Howard Hodgkin. Apparently Hodgkin dislikes talking about his paintings and has never let anyone watch him work, so Tóibín's interview is fairly rare.

"The term colourist, Hodgkin says, has no meaning except in terms of very bad art. The idea of having a favourite colour irritates him. He believes that great nonsense is spoken about colour. Take red, he says. It is the colour of sunset, of tumescence, of blood, but it is also the colour of a pair of trousers. Just as blue can be the colour of your jacket. He has always thought of himself as a representational painter. There is no colour for its own sake; he is not involved in making decoration. The paintings arise from precise occasions, precise emotions. He begins work in the same way as a certain sort of novelist can operate. You suddenly find that a hidden memory, an event that is lost, carries with it an emotion.

"I ask if his interest in, say, Indian painting, arises from its flatness, its belief that a small plant or a tree could be given equal significance to the human presence in a painting. Patiently, he draws me two diagrams to show me how a painting is constructed, but he must realise that I can make no sense of them. He is, I think, irritated by my saying that there is a central figure in a painting and then a background and they are painted differently. He knows someone in the art world, he says, who met Margaret Thatcher at a party when she was prime minister. She could tell, Thatcher said, whether a painting was good or bad. How so, asked her interlocutor. Focal point, Thatcher said, means good painting. No focal point, bad painting. Howard Hodgkin laughs, having told the story. The idea of a focal point is rubbish, he says." Read more.

Incidentally, Jen Mazza's paintings are included in "Hysteria: Past Yet Present," a group show at Rutgers's Paul Robeson Gallery through April 9. From the press release: "Hysteria is a medical condition of non-specific origin, and its potency lies in its ambiguity - its fickle nature acts as a cloak of invisibility. The nuances of the hysterical condition defy convention, thus negating the usefulness of standard scientific approaches to the rigorous examination and cure of affected individuals. Hysteria is the earliest medical condition to be defined, and yet the precise nature of the disease remains elusive. The ever changing, mercurial nature of hysteria has never actually been pin pointed to a specific, or common, symptom set that remains constant over time within an identified group of diagnosed individuals. "

March 22, 2009

Thornton Willis: Stripped down guts and lived wisdom

Blogger/artist Steven Alexander reports that "anyone who is a lover of painting will inevitably feel a rush of recognition -- that increasingly rare sense of being in the presence of an authentic voice. At once familiar and challenging, this rich new body of work is like the visual equivalent of a great Muddy Waters record that takes the traditional 12-bar blues, strips it down, opens it up, and invests it with an abundance of guts and lived wisdom. Now well into his 70s, Willis is in peak form, achieving here an important breakthrough that exudes momentum and clarity. Compared with the complexity of his previous triangular cluster configurations, the new paintings, which revisit a configuration he touched upon 30 years ago, have a much simpler pictorial space consisting of interlacing horizontal and vertical color bands on a solid color field. By simplifying the image, Thornton has cleared the way for a new emphasis on color and material -- acidic and nuanced color relations glowing from luscious layered oil surfaces with plenty of ragged edges and pentimenti."

In conjunction with the show at Elizabeth Harris, Michael Feldman's documentary, "A Portrait of an American Painter: Thornton Willis," debuts.

Check out James Kalm's video of Willis's opening at Sideshow Gallery in 2007.

"Thornton Willis: The Lattice Paintings," Elizabeth Harris Gallery, New York, NY. Through April 18.

March 21, 2009

R.C. Baker's fictive, painterly narratives at Zone

In April, Village Voice art critic R.C. Baker has a show at Zone:Contemporary Art (formerly Zone: Chelsea Center for the Arts) that combines art, fiction, and design to create a multifaceted narrative that arcs from the Moscow show trials of 1937 to President Nixon’s resignation, in 1974. Divided into four sections, " . . . and Nixon’s coming” views the turbulent artistic and social ferment of the mid-20th century through the experiences of the story’s main character, Kirby Holland, and through his artwork, including academic drawings and studies after the old masters, comic-book illustrations, and amalgams of Abstract Expressionism, Pop, and graphics. According to the press release, whether figurative or abstract, none of the art functions as illustration; rather, the images "create a parallel track to the text. Kirby progresses from earnest art student to member of an army unit charged with repatriating Nazi loot to comic-book illustrator caught up in McCarthy-era witch hunts to determined and eclectic painter at a time—the 1970s—when painting was viewed by many as irrelevant, if not completely dead...." Read more.

On Saturday, April 18, at 1 pm, MISTER Baker will read from “ ... and Nixon’s coming” and discuss the work in the exhibition as well as the relationship between criticism and fiction.

"R.C. Baker: ... and Nixon’s coming," Zone: Contemporary Art, New York, NY. April 2 through May9.

NY Times Art in Review: Leon Kossoff and Xylor Jane

"Leon Kossoff: From the Early Years, 1957-1967," Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, NY. Through March 28. Roberta Smith reports: This show is an informative treat. The early paintings of the British artist Leon Kossoff are not well known in this country. No American museum even owns one. Of the 10 works here, all but one are portraits or nudes painted when Abstract Expressionism was peaking, and Pop and Minimalism were ascendant. Mr. Kossoff, born in London in 1927, was in his 30s.Their first impression is of the artist as a mumbling, stumbling brawler. The thick surfaces and ridged images seem pugnacious, painted with fistlike brushes. The subjects are more enchained by paint than depicted. Add a palette of muddied colors and the effect tends toward dour and inarticulate.

"Xylor Jane: N.D.E.," Canada, New York, NY. Through March 29. Roberta Smith reports: Xylor Jane shares with many painters a sense of touch, color and craft, but she has something else: a private, intuitive mathematics in which prime numbers, calendars and the passage of time figure large. Her systems add another wrinkle to the use of grids (Agnes Martin, Sol LeWitt, Jennifer Bartlett), progressions (Donald Judd, Mario Merz) and counting (On Kawara, Roman Opalka) in modern art. Ms. Jane’s grids are superfine; their squares are anointed with a single slightly raised dot of color or they are left blank to form negative motifs defined by surrounding dots. In the most amazing works these motifs are extended numbers that repeat down entire surfaces, forming columns of pattern that fade in and out of legibility, as in the rainbow spectrum of “13,831” — a prime number that is also a palindrome.....The stunning variety and handmade imperfections of Ms. Jane’s art reflect its autobiographical nature. N.D.E., the show’s title, stands for Near Death Experience, in reference to one she recently had. Her counting systems often begin with her birthday and measure different periods of her life. In ways alternately explicit and subtle, her work reveals the miracle and the drudgery of art-making as well as the wonders of the human mind and its needs.


Read the entire "Art in Review" column here.

March 20, 2009

Art blogs on Kindle

Are you familiar with Amazon's electronic book called the Kindle? I want one. The online Kindle Store, accessible through the Kindle itself, features a couple hundred thousand books, available instantly for around ten bucks each. If traveling, load the Kindle up with books on your reading list and hit the road-- so much easier to carry than a sackful of ink-on-paper. Forgot your reading glasses? No problem. The Kindle's type size is adjustable. Newspaper and magazine subscriptions for publications like the NY Times and the New Yorker are available, and blogs, which cost about 1.99 cents for each subscription, can be downloaded, too. Unlike RSS readers which often only provide headlines, Kindle blog feeds provide full text content and images, and are updated wirelessly throughout the day. The cost of the wireless connection is included in the price, which is about $350. The choice of art blogs available for Kindle is growing.

Update: As of May 15, 2009, Two Coats of Paint is
available on Kindle.

March 19, 2009

Bouncing blogger Regina Hackett

Regina Hackett, the longtime art critic at the Seattle P-I, which recently laid off all but twenty staffers and ceased publishing a print edition, has joined Lee Rosenbaum (CultureGrrl) over at Arts Journal, the daily digest of arts news and commentary. Hackett and Arts Journal's editor Douglas McLennan used to work together when he was an arts writer for the P-I, so moving to Arts Journal was a no-brainer for Hackett.

According to Hackett, whom I spoke with yesterday from my faculty office in dreary Willimantic, Connecticut, blogging changed her life. “I used to get up in the morning knowing that no one cared what I wrote, very few people read it--and I was fine with that. I didn’t see the big picture. I was too busy crafting my little sentences to lift my head and look around me. When I started writing the blog, I realized I could have an impact. There was an immediate connection with a larger audience that you don’t have when you work at a regional newspaper.”

And Hackett says she won’t miss the click-counting mentality at the P-I, where Art To Go astounded the newspaper's suits by garnering over 60,000 hits a month. No more stories about American Idol and other pop culture stat bait. Her new blog, dubbed Another Bouncing Ball from a line in Delmore Schwartz's poem "The Ballad of the Children of the Czar," will concentrate on more in-depth reviews, with plenty of images. She looks forward to finding a larger audience for Northwest artists, and joining the larger art dialog on occasion. Naturally, I wondered how Arts Journal pays the bloggers."Well," she paused. "They’ve just started putting ads on the blogs. That should lead to some revenues…although not enough, according to CultureGrrl."

Hackett’s modest severance package will keep her afloat for the time being while she looks for other revenue sources. Unlike other P-I staffers who were devastated by the layoffs, Hackett is electrified about the future, primarily because she sees so much potential in the evolving blog format. For regional art criticism, Hackett believes that traditional newspapers are useless, but blogging and other online formats offer new opportunities to engage a wider audience, promote artists and help regional arts organizations. "Arts Journal is moving in the direction of online regional arts coverage, and it's going to be really big. Lots of advertising." Now that daily print newspapers are dying, Hackett is sure it’s just a matter of time before advertisers turn to blogs and other online publications to promote their products and services.

In addition to the blog, book projects are underway. Hunting Requires Optimism (titled after a Vanessa Renwick installation) examines contemporary landscape in the Northwest, and another is about the work Jacob Lawrence produced after he moved to Seattle in 1970. “I’ve got about ten more years, give or take, to do some interesting work,” Hackett told me. “I want to make them count."

March 17, 2009

Superabundant: Pattern power in UK

This is the final week for "Superabundant," an exhibition at Turner Contemporary Project Space that declares itself a celebration of pattern power. Artists Jacob Dahlgren, Jim Drain, Richard Woods, Lesley Halliwell, Paul Moss, Henna Nadeem, Jacqueline Poncelet, Wim Delvoye and Daniel Sturgis all use pattern and decoration in very different ways, some utilizing a systematic approach and others adopting more fluid, organic strategies. In Frieze, Colin Perry reports that the show’s curators have attempted to satisfy two competing impulses. "What could be more crowd-pleasing (and please the Arts Council more) than an exhibition subtitled ‘A Celebration of Pattern’? Equally, what could be more current within art world discourse than a critical re-engagement with pattern? Emblematic of this duality is Jacob Dahlgren’s work, which seeks to readdress pattern’s tendency to slip into anti-social formalism: his 'Heaven is a Place on Earth'(2006-9) is a sort of family-friendly Carl Andre floor piece made from Ikea bathroom scales. Another option is explored by Jim Drain, whose baroque sculptural assemblages are the only works here that really have faith in pattern as a transformative form of social agency. His 'Hex' (2008) is a camp mannequin dressed in an outfit of gaudy sequins and an iron frame sculpture encrusted in beads and tassels. Clearly, pattern has a radical potential. Yet ‘Superabundant’ is caught between populism and the fuller development of this theme. It seems like a missed opportunity." Read more.

"Superabundant: A Celebration of Pattern," curated by Sarah Martin. Turner Contemporary Project Space, Margate, UK. Through March 22.

March 16, 2009

Joan Snyder: Fleshy physicality and broken-bones impact

In the LA Times art blog David Pagel reports that the six paintings and four prints in Snyder’s L.A. solo debut at SolwayJones Gallery are vintage Snyder. "Chewy clots of mismatched materials wrestled into abstract images that are lyrical without being lightweight, visceral without being heavy-handed. The fleshy physicality and broken-bones impact begins with the stuff Snyder uses. Into her gooey mixes of dripping acrylics and runny oils she sprinkles seeds, herbs, twigs, glitter and nails. She contains these stews with nest-like enclosures sculpted from papier-mâché and torn strips of fabric. When they dry, they have the presence of wounded flesh, freshly scabbed over yet too sensitive to touch. Think of these parts of her paintings as scars in the making. The soaring lyricism in Snyder’s otherwise dark art comes through via her capacity to make paint sing. She slaps gestures together with the best of them without wasting a move or missing a beat.

"There’s a no-nonsense frugality to her funky art, which is nothing if not serious. There’s also great pleasure, which comes with the wisdom of knowing what you can do and then doing more than that for reasons you can’t quite explain. It’s odd for an artist of Snyder’s stature to be having her first solo show in L.A. It’s doubly so because her go-it-alone, category-be-damned, DIY-style rhymes so well with so much of the best painting made in L.A."

"Joan Snyder: Paintings and Prints," SolwayJones Gallery, Los Angeles, CA. Through April 11.




Serban Savu: Ruins of a recent future

David Nolan features work by Serban Savu this month. Savu, part of a group of artists from Cluj, schooled in the tradition of Social Realism, grew up during the 1989 overturn of the Communist regime. He is one of the few painters from this group who still lives and works in Romania as it transitions into a democratic, capitalist state. In ArtForum Adina Popescu calls Savu one of the most interesting artists to emerge from post-Communist Romania. "His paintings depict vast postindustrial landscapes in which people walk around, swim, and engage in everyday activities. His titles, such as 'Early Days of Summer' (all works 2008) and 'The Traveler,' recall Romantic motifs. Although the titles suggest landscapes in which people might feel safe and at one with nature, this is by no means the case in the paintings. 'Genre Scene' and 'Mountain of Nostalgia' depict concrete ruins and junkyards. In another work, an enormous industrial highway overpass casts a shadow on a figure trying to sunbathe.

"One wonders whether Adorno’s contemplation of the Romantic concept of nature, in which a wall overgrown with moss is experienced as a natural landscape, might also apply to a dilapidated industrial road running through a farming village in one of Savu’s paintings. There is nothing Romantic about the Communist infrastructure, now scattered about the landscape, as functionless as Duchamp’s urinal. One could also describe Savu’s paintings as the ruins of a recent future, since his paintings entail an almost existential engagement with Communist utopia: These urban landscapes, which once promised to pave the way to the future, have, in the course of a decade, become relics. People, however, must continue to live in them. Romanticism devalues the present in favor of the elevated and the remote. Savu, however, diminishes both the present and the so-longed-for transcendent. Somewhere in the middle stand his figures, lost, doing what they do every day––primarily, just living."

"Serban Savu: The Edge of the Empire," David Nolan Gallery, New York, NY. Through March 28.

Charlie Finch on Kathleen Gilje's 96 breasts

"I stopped by Francis Naumann's 57th Street gallery last week to watch Kathleen Gilje install her altered series of 48 female portraits by John Singer Sargent, women that Kathleen has undressed and given the breasts of 48 living women....Now, with a brace of breasts, Kathleen seeks to have us open our mouths and drink from her work. On TMZ's television gossip show the other night, one of its female correspondents remarked that, apropos of a snap of a famous actress handling two ripe melons at the supermarket, 'one is always bigger than the other,' and, indeed this peculiar metonymy drives the 96 breasts that Kathleen has painted. They cannot help but obliterate the fine society of faces which were the locus of Sargent's eroticism and, of course, they eliminate the fashionable clothes which veiled his desires." Read more.

Kathleen Gilje: 48 Portraits / Sargent’s Women, Restored,” Francis Naumann Fine Art, New York, NY. Through April 10.

March 14, 2009

Shelly Adler's romantic loneliness in Toronto

After spending the afternoon hosting a birthday party for a ten-year-old in a freezing ice rink, Canadian art seems appropriate, so here's a piece about Canadian artist Shelly Adler, who currently has a portrait show at Nicholas Metivier in Toronto. In the National Post Leah Sandals reports that Adler's earlier paintings may have seemed flat to the point of uninteresting, but now the flatness is better balanced by more rigorous use of colour and light. "Also more compelling now is Adler's perspective on gender. Her current riffs on this call to mind both the pointed portraits of Janet Werner and (when Adler dips into dreamlike Technicolour shades) the wild fantasies of Eliza Griffiths. Adler's newest works, opening today at Nicholas Metivier, include a shadowy, blue-on-blue androgyne who lingers in the mind long after one has left its presence. The more bubblegumand-wine flavoured 'Other Girl' also succeeds at instilling a romantic loneliness into everyday formats. Adler also does more conventional presentations, like a sideways-glancing square of a bikinied body and a close-up portrait of a steely-eyed face. These latter works offer a palette not unlike that of an overexposed colour shapshot, suggesting perhaps the resilience of female strength and beauty despite an occasional excess of surveilling light and lenses." Read more.

"Shelly Adler: Ambivalent Light," Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Through April 4.

March 13, 2009

NY Times Art in Review: Robert Mangold

"Robert Mangold: Drawings and Works on Paper 1965-2008," PaceWildenstein, New York, NY. Through April 4. Holland Cotter reports: "Taken in isolation, none of these abstract forms are particularly gripping. But when they’re arranged together, salon style, across the gallery wall, as they are at PaceWildenstein, their invention and variety are a thrill. Possibly, scale is again a factor: when concentrated down to the dimensions of drawings or prints, Mr. Mangold’s color and line have unsuspected vivacity and depth, at least on the evidence of this show, which has sent me back to his paintings with an involved eye."

Mangold also has a solo show in London at Parasol Unit through May 8. The exhibition concentrates on three dynamic groups of painting that Mangold executed between 1980 and 1986, entitled "X, Plus and Frame Painting" series.

Related Post:
Calling all Robert Mangold fans


Last chance: Peter Doig

In The Brooklyn Rail, Greg Lindquist looks at Peter Doig's new large-scale paintings, which are up until tomorrow at Gavin Brown and Michael Werner. "While Doig’s current work reflects his recent relocation to Trinidad and the unaccustomed imagery this has inspired, the paintings lack material presence. The canvases in these galleries are murky, thin (the surfaces almost appear stained) and compositionally flat, leaving a feeling of aesthetic (as well as geographical) estrangement from his prior brightly chromatic, lush, multilayered, dripped and splattered canvases. Doig recently commented on this shift, 'I think it was just an attempt to escape mannerism…the things people liked about those paintings were the surfaces… and I wanted to break that formula. I also just wanted to explore.' This work by contrast reads often as underpaintings, lacking the material engagement of Doig’s previous efforts or of Bonnard’s Met show." Read more.

"Peter Doig: New Paintings," Gavin Brown Enterprises and Michael Werner Gallery, New York, NY. Through March 14.

March 10, 2009

Real life at Capricious Space

Beginning this past weekend a leading group of art bloggers, internet artists, online curators and critics began taking up residence at Capricious Space in Williamsburg for "In Real Life," an exhibition showcasing some of the artosphere's leading lights through revolving 4-hour residencies at the gallery. Laurel Ptak of iheartphotograph curated the show. "'In Real Life' explores how the distribution, production, analysis, and consumption of culture are rapidly evolving in an online context," writes Ptak in the exhibition statement. "In particular the exhibition aims to render the labor of these online practices transparent, providing 'real life' access to these cultural producers, and overall inspiring public dialogue around their practices." Residents include Rhizome, Art Fag City, ASDF, Club Internet, Ffffound, The Highlights, Humble Arts Foundation, iheartphotograph, Loshadka, Netmares/Netdreams, Platform For Pedagogy, Private Circulation, UbuWeb, VVORK, and Why + Wherefore.

"In Real Life," curated by Laurel Ptak. Capricious Space, New York, NY. Through March 28.

Calling all Robert Mangold fans

Today the Times has a feature called "Modern Art Explained" in which they ask people to send an email note responding to an image of Robert Mangold's painting, "X Within X."

"What do you think of this painting?" the Times asks readers. "View it here or in person at Parasol Unit, London, where "X, Plus and Frame Paintings," Mangold’s first solo exhibition in the UK, is on until May 8. Then send us an e-mail with your opinion to mae@thetimes.co.uk. Please include your full name. We’re not looking for art historians or academics. Whatever your thoughts, we want to hear them. We will print a selection of your comments, alongside our expert’s verdict, in Times2 on Tuesday, March 17."

Here are some of the readers' comments so far:
"Looks like he ran out of orange paint and didn't bother buying any more." --R J, Perth, Australia
"Mangold offers a uniquely personal view of 'art that gives you the opportunity to think without requiring judgment.'" ---RD, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
"A boring architect's plan, livened only by the nasty orange colour. The visual cue connecting it to a certain religion is unwelcome. Do people really pay good money for this rubbish?" ---Raquel Azalea, Fort William, Scotland

Grrr. I find this whole exercise incredibly offensive.

Tomory Dodge turns viscous brushwork into levitating clutter

Christopher Miles reports in the LA Weekly (didn't we all have enough of New York last week?) that Tomory Dodge paints with a kind of verve "no doubt fed by digital culture, sci-fi, 'post-abstract' painting and the punk, new-wave and hip-hop music that fuel his age rather than the ashcan/surrealism/tragedy/jazz diet his AbEx predecessors noshed on. Tomory Dodge, in his latest work, makes barely imagistic images comprising mostly color, shape, gesture and plays of surface. And impressively, he achieves a genuine relevance, even a prescience about the now.

"An icy composition of slashed and slathered blues, riddled with a multihued confetti, is both a summit to conquer and an ice-agey emblem of havoc. An arrangement of saucy warm colors titled 'Kicker' is all reverie and reveling, and also hangover. And multiple canvases that convert viscous brushwork into levitating clutter against dark, flat backgrounds peppered with blurry starbursts are surely the product of a kid who grew up in the era after Han Solo jumped the Millennium Falcon out of hyperspace in the middle of a debris field that had been the planet Alderaan. But they’re also the product of an age in which it’s only seemed like a matter of time before what actually happened three days before Dodge’s show opened — the first accidental satellite collision, resulting in an orbiting array of space junk.

"Though he clearly indulges in some of the transcendence-chasing that led Mark Rothko to abstract the luminous atmospherics of the Romantics, Dodge seems as well to follow Adolph Gottlieb’s assertion (as he tried to give image to the conflated aspiration, awe and angst of the postwar midcentury) that 'so-called abstraction' could be 'the realism of our time.' And in succeeding at timeliness in his age, Dodge succeeds in a timelessness toward which his forebears also aspired." Read more.

"Tomory Dodge," Acme, Los Angeles, CA. Through March 14.

The Constructivist's battle against aestheticism

In case you've heard the term "constructivism" bandied about in discussions of Shepard Fairey and ObamArt, but aren't quite sure what it actually means, check out the Tate Modern's current exhibition, "Aleksandr Rodchenko and Liubov Popova: Defining Constructivism." In the Telegraph Richard Dorment reports that Rodchenko and Popova thought abstraction was a universal language that could put art at the service of the people. "Rodchenko and Popova rejected symbolism of any kind and came to believe that art should not exist on its own, but must serve a practical purpose. Behind everything they did was the wish for art to reach not the educated elite but the workers. One of the first drawings by Rodchenko in the show consists of nothing but a vertical rectangular plane intersected by a horizontal ellipsis. Unless you read the label you'd never guess that you are looking at a design for something of domestic use: a lamp. Later, we come to his design for a kiosk. Though it is easier to read, it's still a giddy arrangement of colourful geometric shapes. For Rodchenko, architecture is an intermediary between the world of pure aesthetics and everyday life.

"And yet there is a discrepancy between what these artists said they were doing and what we see in this show. Both thought of the artist as an engineer and the work of art as an impersonal, quasi-scientific design, like a building or a machine. It followed that the artist's ego had no place in the artwork. Rodchenko used a ruler to draw lines and applied paint to canvas mechanically, so that nothing of his personality should find its way into the things he created. Despite all their conscious efforts, however, their work positively trembles with the joy of discovery, of creation, of optimism and hope for the future. And so, although she often paints on cheap plywood and in some works adds a layer of dust to give the surface the look of something built or made by a machine, Popova can't eradicate the powerful force of art-for-art's-sake aestheticism that had characterised Russian art from the 1890s until the Revolution. Her battle against aestheticism, I think, lies behind all of her work in two dimensions and is the reason why she finally had to abandon painting for fabric and theatre design." Read more.

the resulting cascade of solutions and proposals one of the most exhilarating stretches of creativity ever seen at the Tate. "The show traces an extraordinary progress from revolutionary painting to the creation and design of everything that was needed in the new Russia: aircraft hangars, dresses, chairs, kiosks, tables, teacups, cigarette packets, workers’ uniforms. In a brilliant trajectory, the display actually seems to pick up speed as it progresses."

"Rodchenko and Popova: Defining Constructivism," Tate Modern, London, UK. Through May 17.

March 7, 2009

The artworld on Facebook: A primer

What’s so good about Facebook? Most art bloggers will tell you it’s a good way to connect with the people who read their blogs. They were at the forefront of innovative social networking in the artosphere, and began setting up their Facebook profile pages back in early 2007, shortly after Facebook lifted the requirement that members be affiliated with an educational institution. Links posted on blogs announced Facebook membership, and a few readers began joining, but initial interest was halting and tentative. Skeptical friends either ignored email invitations to join, or joined but discreetly eschewed their newly created profile pages. The digitally unconnected didn’t feel any need for a “social networking” site at that point, and thought Facebook was for lonely computer geeks, singles looking for love, and college kids. But then, on November 1, 2008 at precisely 9:53 pm, a seismic shift occurred. New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz, whose account had been set up by one of his students, joined Facebook. By January 2009, it seemed as though the entire art world had jumped on his bandwagon....

Read the entire article in the March issue of The Brooklyn Rail

March 6, 2009

Pepe brings old-school lesbian feminist imagery to Las Vegas

Sheila Pepe's collaborative installation, "Yo Mama" is on view in Las Vegas through the end of the month. In the Las Vegas Weekly Danielle Kelly reports that the flying crocheted form suspended from all corners of the main gallery is spidery in its organic accumulation, and appears to be many things; soaring majestic vagina is just the most obvious. "It’s also a sweepingly beautiful dimensional drawing—commanding, fuzzy, funny. The sculpture extends far enough into the space that interaction is unavoidable. The viewer literally enters the piece, a move ripe with both formal and metaphorical implications. Proximity to the sculpture allows for a ridiculously intimate exchange. In complement to the humble materials she is known for (shoelaces, etc.), Pepe has used silver shimmering yarn in homage to Vegas. The moments when these materials intersect and fray are particularly charged. Whether you find the piece threatening or inviting, its detailed method of fabrication is alluring.

"The politics of the piece extend beyond fabrication. 'Yo Mama' is also a collaborative project celebrating maternal lineage. Pepe invited a number of artists from across the country to contribute crocheted and knitted elements to the sculpture. The pattern the artists utilized was based upon the number of letters in the name of their mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, etc. The letters of the text become textile, woven into a grand celebration of feminine strength in perceived vulnerability—the domestic, the handmade, the humble, the vaginal.

"A series of paintings and sculptures by various artists further expands a critical gaze toward the female. Conceptually, as articulated by Pepe, this work is 'engaging different points of view toward women.' This collection is a gem, with strikingly lovely work by Angela Dufresne, Carrie Moyer, Vera Iliatova and Frank Lind (no link available). Each is a window into the many ways we look at women."

“I wanted to know what happens when you bring this old-school lesbian feminist imagery to Las Vegas in a sex-positive, ‘I love my vagina’ kind of way,” Pepe told Las Vegas Sun reporter Kristen Peterson while installing the exhibit last month. “The purpose of art is to bring people together and to generate conversation. I like to see what’s possible when reaching across distances.”

Naomi Arin Contemporary Art, Las Vegas, NV. Through March 29.

Note: Vera Iliatova's wan small-figures-in-the-landscape paintings are on view at Monya Rowe this month.
"Vera Iliatova: Closer Than They Appear" Monya Rowe, New York, NY. Through April 12.

Related posts:
Angela Dufresne: Immediately from life

March 5, 2009

Brooklyn: Saturday Night Fever

This Saturday take the L, the JMZ, or the G train to Brooklyn where the Williamsburg Gallery Association (WGA) presents Williamsburg Armory Night and Bushwick stages SiteFest. The organizers say it's the dark side of Armory Week—where Brooklyn’s own and their worldwide conspirators throw a wickedly chic, secret celebration.

Here are some openings to check out.

Adam Simon at Pocket Utopia in Bushwick. Adam's work explores the poetry of painted subdued surfaces that both achieve and conceal evidence of the artist’s hand. "One could say that the paintings investigate the commonality of all human experience, were it not for the specificity of the images, which warns us that we are dealing with a prescriptive form of contemporary western culture. These are ‘generic moments,’ derived from the low end of commercial stock photography. In addition to the paintings the exhibition will include a wall-sized installation of 15 years worth of arranged acetate silhouettes, the forms from which these and other paintings were made."

Rachel Beach, "Towers and Portals," at Like the Spice in Williamsburg. "Situated firmly in the border between sculpture and painting, illusion and reality, masculine and feminine, representation, abstraction and decoration, Rachel Beach’s wooden portals and towers are crafted around cultural and biological limits. By playing painted illusion against sculptural reality each sculpture/painting creates a crisis of perception, an irresolvable tension between what you see and what is possible."

The Boiler, Williamsburg. Joe Amrhein (Pierogi) includes three gallery artists in the grand opening of this new huge space: Tavares Strachan, Yoon Lee, and Jonathan Schipper. "We will show, for the first time in New York, an ambitious project by Strachan, 'The Distance Between What We Have and What We Want (Arctic Ice Project).' The centerpiece of this installation is a 4.5 ton block of ice, brought from the arctic and kept frozen in a solar-powered glass freezer. (See attached press release for full details.) We will also show a dramatic twenty-foot painting by Yoon Lee and Jonathan Schipper’s '215 Points of View'—a 6-foot diameter sphere covered with 215 surveillance cameras and corresponding monitors—suspended from the ceiling." Pierogi also has an opening (Brian Dewan and Nadja Bournonville) that features a 9pm performance of Dewanatron. Special guests expected.

For more Brooklyn event listings, click here.

Jon Lutz and Jim Lee talk in the studio

Jim Lee, who has a show at Freight + Volume this month, talks to Jon Lutz at The Old Gold. "I’m not sure if it’s that Lee's paintings are getting better over time, but I'm always surprised with where he takes it,"Lutz writes in the intro. "In the way that Eggleston's color reverberates, Lee's work has a palpable hum from the studio. Nothing moves fast and there’s no bullshit." Here's an excerpt of their conversation.

Lutz: For some reason, it’s hard for me to imagine you doing still lifes and figure drawing. Did you follow a traditional path to art making?

Lee: I have done one still-life…I was about 12 years old…about 24 x 32…the usual grapes and round objects that resembled some sorta fruit you’d eat on a beach…and a skull tucked among the other objects. Everything sorta morphed into each other. I was looking at the Cezanne’s (you know the ones with the skulls) and I love figure drawing. I occasionally go up to the illustration society up on Lex and 64th (I think). You go in on a Tuesday or a Thursday night and they always have 2 models, some live jazz or a lounge singer and a bar. I always sit at the bar to avoid the crowd.

As far as making the work…and the path I took. I guess the first artist I really fell for was Kurt Schwitters. I grew up in a small town in Michigan of about 1,400 people, but the town was home to a very small university that had a decent library. I discovered inter-library loan and would request books from say the University of Michigan. So here I am about 18 or so, graduated from high school, getting ready for junior college and I’m looking at Schwitters. It was Schwitters that allowed me to work with materials. I would also go see shows in Chicago. I remember I liked going to the old contemporary space and they had a Julian Schnabel drawing show…large frames, huge gestures and bravado…pony skins. I bought the catalog…my first art book. I usually only looked at pictures but this time I read the essays and it mentioned Joseph Beuys as a influence on Schnabel. So I looked up Beuys and then read about him and discovered some of his students…Imi Knoebel and Blinky Palermo. When I saw this…well, I guess that is a sorta path to my work.

Lutz: I sometimes wonder what response those outside of the art world might have to certain work. It’d be hard to say the most common comment, “my kid could do that” about your work, but what do you think they would say?

Lee: That’s a good question. I hope people just take time to look. Vocabulary gets in the way of a lot of things in this world. People get nervous if they can’t say to their friends I saw this beautiful painting of a kitty cat…it looked so real. I wish someone would say, “I saw this White painting today and it looked so real”. But I guess, most would say, “what am I supposed to be looking at?” Read more.

"Jim Lee: Paranoid," Freight +Volume, New York, NY. Through April 4.

March 3, 2009

Artwork delivery: Platform Project Space, NYC

Update (March 9): For snaps of the installation, check out Joanne Mattera Art Blog here. Watch VernissageTV's video of the blogpix opening.

Today (March 3) I'm delivering 5 paintings for the "blogpix" show to Denise Bibro Fine Art's Platform Project Space. Organized by Olympia Lambert, the show is view March 5 – 28th, 2009, with an opening reception scheduled for this Thursday, 6-8 pm. Lambert invited four top art bloggers to curate the show: Roberta Fallon & Libby Rosof, Joanne Mattera and Hrag Vartanian. Each bring to their blogs an unparalled voice and writing style. "As art lovers demand more topical coverage with added visuals, once-a-month review simply cannot compete with daily feedback, as the information superhighway has become 24/7 on demand full-access." Lambert writes in her press release. "blogpix is a dedicated showcase where the digital intersects the human. In 2009 everyone is pressed for time, fed by instantaneous information on demand. From Twitter 'tweets' to Facebook 'status updates,' today’s internet is a rapid, ever-evolving pixelated organism made up of conjugal ones and zeroes. With the influence of art journalism’s printed media in decline, the art blogosphere is rapidly stepping up to fill the void. With their curatorial choices, our blogger curators spotlight six talented artists working in a variety of mediums and genres." Artists include myself, Ben La Rocco, Christopher Davison, Steven Alexander, Reese Inman, and Julie Karbenick. Last week the recently redesigned (and renamed) ArtCat flagged the show as a Pick.

"blogpix," organized by Olympia Lambert. Platform Project Space, New York, NY. Opening reception, March 5, 6-8pm. Through March 28.

On Saturday at 5pm, a blogger panel will convene. Panelists include show curators Joanne Mattera, Hrag Vartanian, Roberta Fallon, Libby Rosof, as well as Bill Gusky, and Brent Burket.

March 2, 2009

Online Art in America: Schwabsky on words

Art Fag City reports that Art in America has at long last gone online, which means I can finally share Barry Schwabsky's recent essay about the uses of words in art. Schwabsky considers Mel Bochner's new collection of writing and interviews, Solar System & Rest Rooms: Writings and Interviews, 1965–2007 (Writing Art) and Liz Kotz's Words to Be Looked At: Language in 1960s Art. "Kotz’s readings are richly exploratory but very selective; one sometimes wonders if she isn’t generalizing from too few examples. Among the many artists who are less crucial to her study than might be expected is Bochner. Reading through his criticism, statements and interviews from a period of more than 40 years, one is more impressed than ever with the power of his restless mind, so ready to stake everything on an extreme view yet equally able later to calmly reconsider and revise the view so passionately espoused. The principle Bochner never gives up on is that of self-criticism. Reading Bochner with Kotz’s analyses of representational modalities in mind, one notices with interest that his book includes not only various genres of writing (exhibition reviews; critical, speculative and historical essays; collages of quotations; notes; interviews; etc.), as one would expect, but also various modes of representing those writings visually, and it mixes them up in a canny and unconventional way. Writings here may be newly typeset (with or without illustration); they may be reproduced as facsimiles of the original layout of a publication, pictorially preserving its illustrations and typography; or they may be presented as photographs of handwritten note cards or notebook pages. Moreover, texts may be presented not as 'texts' but as 'illustrations' (e.g., Self-Portrait, 1966, one of a series of ink-on-graph-paper text 'portraits' that Bochner made using Roget’s Thesaurus). By mixing these various modalities, Bochner continues to do what he has been doing all along: questioning the relation of language to representation and the manifold ways language can be a medium for artistic work." Read more.

Booksigning: On Saturday, March 16th from 5:00 – 7:00 pm Printed Matter, Inc. is hosting a Mel Bochner book signing. Published as part of MIT Press’ "Writing Art" series, Solar Systems and Restrooms may be purchased through Printed Matter’s storefront or online at www.printedmatter.org. Requests for signed copies may be arranged in advance.


Charlie Finch on Yusavage and Rothenberg: The not-so-innocent girl child vs. the older woman who has actually lived

At artnet Charlie Finch compares new work by Lisa Yuskavage and Susan Rothenberg. "Echoing Inka Essenhigh's controversial use of unicorns and other fantasias in her recent work, Yuskavage has sunk her erotic smurfs into a lime green never-never land that veers a little too close to the juvenile tastes of Michael Jackson's Ranch Art collection, about to go up for auction. Little people journey into the forest past giant Cabbage Patch dolls with pulsating clits. Some of them have come on their faces , or perhaps it's whipped cream. The color coordination is dismally nauseating, but the undeniable sexual thrills which Yuskavage summons forth are undiminished, if more pedophiliac than ever. Leaving the show, I required not only a brisk wind, but a more mature painterly vision, and I found it in the new Rothenbergs, which examine a very different vision of childhood, the one which molders in the attic.

"Alarmingly, Susan has channeled her husband Bruce Nauman's broken limbs as her subject. They are those of a marionette, a defenestrated Pinocchio stripped of the formerly human. They are very much not alive, but through Rothenberg's superb impasto paint handling, they remain animated. The two mournful head paintings, a kind of serious response to Baselitz, are especially moving in their dangling mortality. Other limbs, orange or fleshy or cerulean blue, dangle from hooks and ladders, as if a child God had thrown his creations repeatedly down the stairs.

"These two shows demonstrate two kinds of courage from their mature creators: the not-so-innocent experimenting of the girl child and the fearless recognition of the older woman who has actually lived. Speaking for myself, I prefer the latter" Read more.

"Lisa Yuskavage," David Zwirner, New York, NY. Through March 28.

"Susan Rothenberg," Sperone Westwater, New York, NY. Through April 11.

Related posts:
Another Yuskavage show in NYC


March 1, 2009

NY Times Art in Review: Art Green and Josh Smith

"Josh Smith: Currents," Luhring Augustine, New York, NY. Through March 14. (Note: The paintings look better as JPEGs than they do in the gallery.)
Ken Johnson: "Josh Smith made his mark about five years ago with sloppy paintings and drawings based on the letters of his name. He has also exhibited so-called palette paintings: small, muddy canvases on which he mixed colors to paint other paintings. Lately he has expanded his repertory to include expressionist painting — abstract and representational — and pasted-on digital prints. Still, there is an irritating, juvenile quality about what he does. His work resembles that of a manically industrious undergraduate with vague conceptual pretensions gleaned from art history courses. "In two standard sizes — 5 by 4 feet and 4 by 3 feet — the 38 paintings in this show hang cheek by jowl, creating a pleasing, wrap-around, decorative effect. Some depict fish, leaves and other natural objects in a clumsily exuberant, expressionist manner. Others involve digital paper reproductions of paintings glued onto panels in grids and messily overlaid by real paint. In any given piece you may discover passages of beauty and insouciant verve, but the overall impression is kitschy, as if Mr. Smith meant not to make good paintings but to mock clichés of Modernist aesthetics.

"The way the paintings are installed — like anonymously cranked-out products in a factory store — suggests a subversive, quasi-Marxist intent. But if Mr. Smith means to critique the marketing system, it is not at all clear. There seems to be a mindlessness about his work that makes you wonder if even he knows what he is doing."
When Two Coats of Paint saw the show last week, our reaction was exactly the same: exuberant quantity masquerading as content.

"Art Green," Curated by Jim Nutt. Cue Foundation, New York, NY.Through March 28.
Ken Johnson: "Made with a meticulous touch in luminous, confectionary colors, Green's new paintings assert a kaleidoscopic complexity whose order takes considerable time to figure out. On star-, diamond-, circle- and otherwise eccentrically shaped panels — as well as on rectangular ones — representations of ceramic tiles, panes of glass, pieces of masking tape, interwoven colored ovals and wood-grained inner frames are intricately layered. Shadows of airplanes, birds, scissors and other objects add more illusory layers. In some, a much enlarged woman’s finger with a glossy red nail rises up from the bottom of the picture. In all this, Mr. Green plays extensively with illusions of semitransparency, so that you are often unsure whether you are seeing through one layer to another or seeing one layer painted atop the other. There are also ambiguous relations between two and three dimensions. Like the famous duck-rabbit image, which you can see as one or the other animal, but not both at the same time, Mr. Green’s paintings conflate contradictory illusions to visually gripping, mind-stretching effect."


Read the entire Art in Review column here.