April 30, 2009

Ross Bleckner recruiting artists to fight child enslavement and trafficking

On Tuesday Simone Monasebian, the New York chief of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, announced that Ross Bleckner will be the next goodwill ambassador for United Nations’ agencies. Randy Kennedy reported in the NY Times yesterday that earlier this year Bleckner, who has long been involved in AIDS-related causes, went on an official mission to the Gulu district of northern Uganda. Gulu has been terrorized for many years by the rebel force known as the Lord’s Resistance Army, which has abducted and conscripted thousands of children, forcing boys and girls to become killers and sex slaves.

"Using thousands of dollars’ worth of paint, brushes and paper shipped from New York Central Art Supply in the East Village, Mr. Bleckner, 59, worked with a group of 25 children — former abductees and ex-soldiers — for more than a week at a Roman Catholic aid center. The children made 200 paintings that will be sold at a benefit at the United Nations headquarters next month at which Mr. Bleckner will be appointed goodwill ambassador. Several of the luminous paintings are now on view in the front window of the clothing store Moschino in the meatpacking district, whose company is providing money to support the Gulu project.

"'One of the things we realized about a fine artist, a painter, in this role is that the work that emerges from it really needs no translation, no dubbing like a documentary or music — it’s immediately accessible to anyone who sees it,' said Ms. Monasebian, whose office estimates that human trafficking generates $32 billion a year in profits, third only to drug and arms trafficking."

"...Bleckner said that after several days of teaching them rudimentary painting and drawing skills, many began to open up to him and to create work that powerfully expressed their experiences. (Mr. Bleckner said one haunting portrait made as part of the project is thought to be that of a henchman of Joseph Kony, the infamous commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Mr. Kony is wanted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, whose Trust Fund for Victims helped identify the children who participated in the painting project.)Mr. Bleckner said that he planned to return to the area early next year to enlarge the painting project and that — in his role as ambassador — he hoped to enlist many more artists to become involved in efforts to fight child enslavement and trafficking." Read more.

April 27, 2009

Press Release of the Week: Stuart Cumberland at The Approach

"In a detached manner, alone in the studio, Stuart Cumberland begins painting by dropping his trousers and pants to his ankles and howling the names of his forebears. Wielding a brush loaded with juicily coloured dripping paint he doesn’t consider himself to be any different to the suburban so-called sexual deviants who install a wet room for sex and pissing in the second bedroom of the house – the painter and art world in all of their sophistication call it the studio. Freud defined most of the above as sublimation..." Read more.

"Stuart Cumberland: Fort/Da," The Approach, London, UK. Through May 9.

Bruce Pollock: Nothing is what it seems

In the Philadelphia Inquirer Edith Newhall reports that Bruce Pollock's new paintings at Fleisher/Ollman Gallery represent a two-dimensional distillation and multiplication of the sculptures he made in the early 1980s. "They employ some of the same geometry (albeit a miniaturized version) and sublime coloration as the sculptures. But you could also argue just the opposite - that the fractals of minuscule patterns in his paintings appear to inhabit a vast, uncontained, infinite space. Nothing is what it initially seems to be in Pollock's paintings. You might assume that six square paintings, each an exploration of a single color using several shades of several hues of the same family and comprising mostly circular forms, would share some other organizing principle. They do not. Pollock's imagery, suggestive of multiple mandalas, nuclei, or wildflowers in a field, seems to have multiplied organically, even with impunity. Look carefully, and you'll see that some of those tinier circles have squeezed their way into these compositions like last-minute subway passengers.

"Another series of paintings on rectangular canvases also gives a first impression of having undergone some preliminary plotting and design. But when you study Pollock's "Cube Net," for example, its floating cubes are all different, and it's the painting's palette of pale violet, blue, and gray that makes it appear to be composed of precisely repeated patterns. Pollock's tour-de-force is an ink-and-pencil drawing on an 8-inch-wide, 20-foot-long scroll of white paper, in which patterns of aggregations of rectangles give way to honeycomblike formations, which give way to multiple circles, and so on - produced, one imagines, like the surrealist game Exquisite Corpse played by one. It looks like sheet music and an aerial map of a city combined, and it's clearly a Baedeker to Pollock's micro/macro worlds." Read more.

"Bruce Pollock: Figure," Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, Philadelphia, PA. Through May 9.

April 25, 2009

Perle Fine: Another tough broad from the New York School resurfaces

Last year, while I was researching an article about Loren MacIver, I came across work by Perle Fine, a dedicated painter who showed with MacIver in NYC in the 50s. I'm looking forward to seeing the traveling retrospective Susan W. Knowles has organized of Fine's work, currently at the Hofstra University Museum. Fine is one of many under-recognized female painters from the New York School who are finally getting some attention.

Benjamin Genocchio apologetically reports that Fine, who was among the most prominent female artists associated with Abstract Expressionism during that period, is unknown for a reason. Although her work is technically accomplished, he writes, her work feels derivative and less original than that of her peers. In addition to the originality issue, Genocchio also points out that, unlike artists such as Lee Krasner, Fine wasn't married to a famous painter. I think it's hard to know whether Fine's work really would have seemed derivative when she was making it, or whether it merely looks derivative in retrospect simply because our contemporary eyes are so familiar with the painting of her more famous colleagues.

According to Genocchio, Fine studied with the influential German émigré abstract artist Hans Hofmann, was included in pioneering group exhibitions of abstract art at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century gallery, the Art Institute of Chicago and elsewhere, and showed with the powerful Betty Parsons Gallery. "In 1950 she was nominated by Willem de Kooning and then admitted to the 8th Street Club, a group of prominent New York abstract painters; she was one of the first female members. For a while there she was a celebrated artist. So why has her star dimmed so dramatically in the intervening decades?

"Partly I think it was because, unlike Krasner, she was not married to a famous artist; her husband, Maurice Berezov (1902-1989), was a talented photographer who documented the Abstract Expressionist circle and parlayed his art school background into a Madison Avenue advertising job. Several of his photographs of Fine and the Abstract Expressionists — Pollock, Krasner, de Kooning and many others — are showing in a companion exhibition on the ninth floor of the nearby Axinn Library.

"Another reason for her obscurity lies in the work itself. Fine could paint; there is no doubt of that. She even produced several really beautiful and successful pictures, ranging from an early, harmonious work, 'Untitled' (c. 1938), on loan from the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, to 'Astraea' (1956), a raw, charged abstract with collage. But when you walk around this exhibition, it quickly becomes apparent that she never settled on her own style. Art history can be cruel, tending to rank and reward artists based on innovation and originality. In the absence of those qualities, an artist, no matter now talented, is overlooked or ignored. Fine falls into this category, for her work tends to look a little too much like that of her more famous peers. Her best paintings from the 1940s remind you of Pollock, Joan Miró and Arshile Gorky, while during the 1950s she often seemed to turn to de Kooning, Pollock and Franz Kline for ideas."

I'm looking forward to seeing the show. Stumbling upon the life's work of an unknown artist, even though the work may reference that of his or her better known contemporaries, can be enormously satisfying.

Tranquil Power: The Art of Perle Fine,” organized by Susan W. Knowles. Emily Lowe Gallery, Hofstra University Museum, Hempstead, NY. Through June 26.

Darren Waterston: What's up with the sublime?

In the San Francisco Chronicle Daniel N. Alvarez reports that Darren Waterston's paintings are sparked by his interest in past artists' attempts to depict the vast, all-encompassing world of the sublime. "Waterston took more than 18 months to craft the show, a process he says involved exploring the abstracted ideas of the sublime by looking at 'the mental, physical and metaphysical states of the sublime' and using 'imagery around auroras, while looking at natural phenomena around how the sublime has been represented over history.' The show features three large-scale paintings, numerous mid-sized works and a salon-style wall with several small panel paintings and works on paper. The centerpiece, 'Assumption,' is a massive, overwhelming 2-by-12-foot, oil-on-wood panel piece. The painting is of an ethereal landscape, littered with shadowy figures that are in stark contrast to the bright white atmosphere all around them.

"'It's about a 14-foot-long, horizontal piece. It's a stretched out sort of landscape, where the sky has centrifugal gradations, that build this pictorial space in the heavens.' While images that deal with what he calls 'the architecture of heaven' may lead one to believe that this will be a wholly peaceful landscape, Waterston warns us otherwise. 'The sublime is not always supposed to be a calming, sort of meditative state. It can be a place where nature destroys you. The rush of the sublime is that something can be beautiful and horrific at the same time, that it has the power to break you down. These paintings play with that a lot. They are not necessarily all quieting images.'" Read more.

"Darren Waterston: Recent Paintings and Works on Paper," Haines Gallery, San Francisco, CA. Through June 13.

April 24, 2009

The New York School at Bowdoin College

Surveying Lower Manhattan’s disparate art world in the 1950s and early 1960s, "New York Cool," at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, Maine, features over 80 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints culled from the collection of New York University. While the post-war period witnessed tremendous creative ferment in the New York art scene, the Abstract Expressionists overshadowed everything else that was going on. Fully aware that New York was the new center of the art world, artists were taking risks, experimenting, rejecting accepted styles. By 1965, two new movements—Pop and Minimalism—coalesced out of the ferment of the previous decade. The power and clarity of both have tended to obscure the richness and complexity of the non-AbEx art of the previous generation.

In the Boston Globe, Sebastian Smee reports that "New York Cool" is a breezy but quietly provocative survey. "By emphasizing the sheer eclecticism of the period, the show's curator, Pepe Karmel, suggests that this standard historical account is inadequate. Pitting canonized names (de Kooning, Rauschenberg, Stella, Frankenthaler, and Guston) against less obvious candidates (Norman Bluhm, James Lee Byars, Louise Nevelson, and Miriam Schapiro), Karmel tries to complicate our idea of what kind of painting mattered in those years. In the process, he reminds us that, in any given period, there's more than one way for an artist to be cool." Read more.

"New York Cool: Painting and Sculpture From the NYU Art Collection," curated by Pepe Karmel. Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine. Through July 19.

April 23, 2009

Matthew Fisher: Civil War troops and high school marching bands

In ArtForum Joseph R. Wolin reports that Matthew Fisher loves a man in a uniform. "His faux-naïf paintings depict soldiers dressed in fanciful costumes and arranged in elaborate tableaux, as if staging narrative allegories. Yet, for all their folk-art charm, their import remains obscure. What might the artist intend, for instance, by the five stiffly posed figures in front of a narrow cottage in 'June,' 2009, two of them inside a birchbark canoe, the others on the lawn? Their diverse garb somewhere between that of Civil War troops and a high school marching band, the unsmiling men stare ahead or askance; one peers through a small telescope. Another in a cockaded hat and tasseled sash sits on the grass in the attitude of the naked lady in Manet’s 'Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe,' 1862–63, a parrot perched on his shoulder and another bird on his finger. A pair of dodos peck at blue and red berries behind a jeweled crown and scepter, while a skull rests between two enigmatic piles of stacked rocks. Certainly, the juxtaposition of extinct birds, men in military finery, and imperial accoutrements calls to mind some sort of cautionary tale about overweening pride and the history of colonialism (did I mention that fire consumes a church in the far distance?), but the story is subsumed by the scene’s oddness and the artist’s obsessive detailing of every blade of grass, every feather, and the wood of the canoe and the unstrung guitar that lies before it.

"Even more cryptic, 'A Thousand Seasons to the Year,' 2009, features seven black hussars around a campfire. A couple in mitered helmets play a fiddle and a saucepan, a man in a blue suit capers like one of Bingham’s jolly flatboat men around his plumed hat, initialed with a W, and a fat officer holds a bunny rabbit and straddles a cask, which leaks its contents from between his legs into a puddle on the ground. This rebuslike, racially charged, moonlit bacchanal feels pregnant with meaning, but the meaning itself is elusive."

"Matthew Fisher: Forever is," Rare, New York, NY. Through May 2.

Big Love: Artists and Social Networking Technology

"Big Love," a conversation I'm organizing via the FaceBook Event Invitation feature, is part of the "Status Update" show at Haskins Laboratories in New Haven. Confirmed guests include Matt Held (I’ll Have my Facebook Portrait Painted by Matt Held), Paddy Johnson (Art Fag City), Sharon Kleinman (author of Displacing Place), An Xiao (Thatwaszen), and other Facebook Friends and Twitter pals. Watch as the RSVPs roll in (This morning: Jerry Saltz is out, New Haven Advocate is in), and feel free to leave a message on the Invitation Wall, which will be included in the show.

Related post:
The Event I Planned: Nancy Baker at Tire Shop on FaceBook Event Invitations
"I get invitations to at least 10 of these a day. And why not my own? So I put together a nice little mixer, inviting all the artists in my hood that I never get to see because my career is more important than theirs and that's why they need to come to MY place. So a few people came, and it was a fucking wake, for sure. (oooooops again!) Since I'm hoping to sell everything I make, and what I haven't made yet, this was really a downer. So the economy sucks donkey dong, so no one hasn't sold anything in four months, so no one can afford health insurance, so my husband doesn't have a real job, so none of the artists I know are trained to do anything but make some useless unsaleable stuff, so shut the fuck up with our whiny selves.!!!!!! Yesterday, my clown outfit did not cheer anyone up, so I decided that we should all get together and sing a chorus of 'Tomorrow!'"

April 21, 2009

Martin Kippenberger shines at MoMA

I finally saw the remarkable Martin Kippenberger retrospective at MoMA yesterday, which is a must-see for anyone who doubts that the physical act of making objects holds meaning. "The career of the German artist Martin Kippenberger, who died in 1997 at 44, was a brief, bold, foot-to-the-floor episode of driving under the influence. What was he high on? Alcohol, ambition, disobedience, motion, compulsive sociability, history and art in its many forms. But art in its many forms was exactly what he made — specifically paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, prints, posters, books — all in madly prolific quantities. In every sense, he took up a lot of space, and he continues to in this first American retrospective, which spills out of top-floor galleries and down into the atrium. Not everything has equal punch. If messy and bad aren’t your thing, and pristine objects are, he’s not the artist for you. Yet in each work, the model he set for what an artist can be and do shines through." (via NY Times, Holland Cotter)

Check out Tim Paul's Museum Hours for a complete roundup of reviews.

Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective," curated by Ann Goldstein and Ann Temkin. Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. Through May 11. Organized by The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Another nude painting of politicians

The painting, by Italian artist Filippo Panseca, features a nude Mr Berlusconi leaning close to an equally unclad Mara Carfagna. Two years ago, the prime minister told the television starlet, and millions of Italians watching on television, that he would marry her like a shot if he wasn't married already. The comment enraged his wife Veronica Lario, who demanded and obtained a public apology from her husband. However, last year Mr Berlusconi made Miss Carfagna Minister of Equal Opportunities in his new government.

Now the couple have been united on a wall in a gallery near Savona in Liguria, the Independent reports. In the painting, Mr Berlusconi is depicted with a pair of giant wings extending around Miss Carfagna. The pair are posed as if the prime minister might be about to whisper something into his protegée's ear. Ms Carfagna's gaze is directed down towards the premier's (discreetly covered) genitals. In the same exhibition, Ms Lario stars stark naked in a canvas of her own. In the painting she has angelic wings, a pair of large breasts and a ghostly smile on her chalk white face. Speaking to his local paper, Mr Panseca said he wanted to "pay homage to the Prime Minister" through the pictures. He said he copied the likeness of Mr Berlusconi from an image on the internet, while he borrowed Ms Carfagna's body from a 19th century artist. He added that if Mr Berlusconi bought the paintings he would donate the money to the earthquake victims of Abruzzo. Mr Berlusconi has yet to comment.(via Telegraph)

Related post:
Sarah Palin nude scores in Chicago

April 19, 2009

Maine painters awarded prizes in Biennial

At the members’ opening reception for the 2009 Portland Museum of Art Biennial last week, Purchase Prizes were awarded to three painters in the show. Recipients are Mary Aro for her paintings "Trailer Home on Polka Valley Road," "Microwaves," and "End of the Burn;" Julianna Swaney for her drawings "Wolfgirl," "Beebeard," and "Central Park," March 6, 1890; and Sean Foley for his painting "Accuser." The Purchase Prizes are chosen by select members of the Museum’s Collection Committee and will become part of the Museum’s permanent collection. The three jurors were Elizabeth Burke, art consultant and former co-director of Clementine Gallery in New York; Dan Graham, a video, installation, and performance artist based in New York; and Denise Markonish, curator at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams.

"2009 Portland Museum of Art Biennial," Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME. Through June 7, 2009 at the Portland Museum of Art.

Related reviews:
Elena Sarni's review in Big Red and Shiny.
A Biennial to Bitch About

Jobs overseas

This job posting just arrived in the Two Coats inbox, and I thought someone out there who is "highly distinguished and internationally visible" might like to weather the recession in Vienna. Note that "applicants will not be reimbursed for travelling and accommodation expenses incurred as a result of their participation in the application process."

University Professor of Art and Research at the Institute for Fine Arts
This position for professor will be awarded for three years and begins as soon as possible.
Scope of duties:
▪direction and coordination of the School for Art/Knowledge Research at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna in addition to the PhD in Practice program, both of which are done in cooperation with the Academy's professor of Epistemology and Methodology of Art Production;
▪studio teaching;
▪supervision of post graduate projects (within the framework of the PhD in Practice program);
▪development and submission of proposals; realization of research projects;
▪initiation of exhibitions, screenings, publications, symposia, workshops etc.;
▪active participation in university committees.

Applicants are expected to exhibit:
▪an artistic practice that is highly distinguished and internationally visible, which demonstrates an articulate discursive approach to issues concerning artistic knowledge production and research;
▪experience in related non-university fields (exhibitions, publications etc.);
▪experience in related areas of teaching and communication in the context of artists' education;
▪competence in the conceptual and practical development and realization of a program that conducts innovative research within the School for Art/Knowledge Research at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna;
▪ability to coordinate events and publications;
▪readiness to actively participate in university committees and form cooperation’s with colleagues.

Prospective applicants are to include the reference number 15/2009 and submit their application by May 21, 2009 (postmarked) to the following address:

Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Human Resources Department, Mag. Eva Moor
Schillerplatz 3 | 1010 Vienna | http://www.akbild.ac.at Tel.: 01 588 16 - 1601 | Fax: 01 588 16 - 1699 | e-mail: recruiting@akbild.ac.at

The Academy of Fine Arts Vienna intends to increase the number of women in all areas of staff, particularly in managerial, scientific and artistic staff positions. Therefore, the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna greatly encourages qualified women to apply. In the event that several applicants are equally qualified, women will be the preferred candidates. The Academy of Fine Arts Vienna is committed to implementing anti-discriminatory measures in its personnel policies. Applicants will not be reimbursed for travelling and accommodation expenses incurred as a result of their participation in the application process.

April 18, 2009

Squeak Carnwath: No ordinary objects

In the Contra Costra Times, Laura Casey reports that Squeak Carnwath's paintings are not the type of creations you slap on your wall because they match the drapes. "Through pigment and canvas, they can cry out angry frustration. In her 1999 work 'Promise,' she scribbles vows to the viewer that she will 'try' to be good. And even in their somewhat nerve-racking complexity, Carnwath's work becomes rather lovely and meaningful, especially to those who attempt to decode what the 62-year-old Oakland artist is trying to say. But don't ask Carnwath to interpret her paintings for you. She is intentionally vague about the stories behind her works. She wants her viewers to read and analyze her paintings themselves.

"'You can't worry about what anybody thinks when you are making art,' she says. 'I just put it out there.'

"'I think they are beautiful,' says Oakland Museum of California senior curator Karen Tsujimoto, organizer of 'Squeak Carnwath: Painting is No Ordinary Object.' 'She's masterful with paint, but her work is a combination of thinking and looking and feeling.'"

"Squeak Carnwath: Painting is No Ordinary Object," organized by Karen Tsujimoto. Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA. Through August 23. The exhibition’s companion book, Squeak Carnwath: Painting Is No Ordinary Object, is a 160-page retrospective of Carnwath’s career. It features more than 80 color reproductions and essays by Tsujimoto and art critic and poet John Yau (co-published by Pomegranate, 2009).

NY Times Art in Review: Dana Schutz and André Ethier

(NOTE: This is Two Coats of Paint's thousandth post! To read our very first post, from May 9, 2007, click here.)

"Dana Schutz: Missing Pictures," Zach Feuer Gallery, New York, NY. Through April 25. Roberta Smith reports: Dana Schutz’s new paintings look a tad better on the gallery’s Web site than in person. Compression helps, which suggests the larger, more complicated canvases might be better at two-thirds size and that the bright colors could be intensified. Or maybe their complexity of palette and composition is not mutually enhancing; these canvases need to get away from one another. Still, Ms. Schutz deserves credit for not repeating herself. She continues her ambitious exploration of color, technique and history, both political and painterly. She now works in oil and acrylic, with thicker paint commingling with wispy, Color Fieldy stains.

"André Ethier: Heading South," Derek Eller, New York, NY. Through May 16. Ken Johnson reports: André Ethier’s funny, faux-naïve paintings resemble the works of a self-taught, semi-talented high school stoner steeped in heavy-metal music, fantasy novels and the visionary arts of the French Symbolists....The appeal of Mr. Ethier’s work is in the tension between lowbrow and highbrow. He’s a canny semiotician toying with kitschy craft and romantic signifiers of longing for an earthier and more soulful kind of world. The viewer stretches between opposite states of mind: one conceptually knowing, the other imaginatively tantalized. This is a good deal: you get to have it both ways.

Read the entire Art in Review column here.

April 17, 2009

Roberta Smith on art theory: "It's not useful to most people"

Roberta Smith recently visited Rail Consulting Editor, Irving Sandler, at his home to talk about her life and work. Here's my favorite part of their chat, which was published in the April issue of The Brooklyn Rail.

Does art theory inform your work? And what do you think of the academic criticism that’s being written by young critics in growing numbers trained by art theoreticians and academia?

Smith: I went to school before theory became fashionable. I tried to catch up a little, but I really didn’t have much use for it. It’s too narrow and it’s written in a specialized language that seldom explains what art does visually. The way artworks communicate to the eye and the brain. Theory might explain the context and the context is interesting, but only up to a point. On the other hand I know there’s a trickle-down effect; I can’t reject it totally because it’s in the air, and it’s also in a lot of art. To make a different point: I don’t think criticism is an academic discipline; it comes out of yourself. Some people can absorb all kinds of stuff and make it their own. Others are hobbled by it. Either way you have to find your own voice and you have to work mainly from your own reactions. I guess there’s academic criticism with footnotes and all, but that seems written in a private language for a specialized audience. It’s not useful to most people.

Picasso: "Unless your picture goes wrong, it will be no good"

In the NY Times Roberta Smith writes that the show of late Picasso paintings at Gagosian proves that, in the main, Picasso only got better. "That’s the take-away from the staggering exhibition of Picasso’s late paintings and prints at the Gagosian Gallery. One of the best shows to be seen in New York since the turn of the century, it proves that contrary to decades of received opinion, Picasso didn’t skitter irretrievably into an abyss of kitsch, incoherence or irrelevance after this or that high-water mark....This is not the first big exhibition of late Picasso. But it may come at an unusually receptive time, when art is wide open, and the understanding of what it takes to be an artist has gotten a bit fuzzy around the edges. Or perhaps this show represents an unusually rigorous sampling of the last decade, having been chosen by John Richardson, Picasso’s formidable biographer, and superbly installed by him in the elegant, austere, sky-lighted galleries in Gagosian’s West 21st Street space in Chelsea.

"It makes as much sense to call it deconstructionist as Expressionist. The images disintegrate and recombine as you look, keeping every particle of paint and every scintilla of gesture in view while often cracking wise. In one of the show’s most haunting images, the terrified, seemingly flayed face of a matador is rendered in offhand smearings of lavender. The bullfighter may be looking at death; the surface laughs in its face. In his catalog essay Mr. Richardson writes that Picasso said that technique was important, 'on condition that one has so much ... that it completely ceases to exist.' But according to a short film playing in a small side gallery, Picasso also said that 'unless your picture goes wrong, it will be no good....'

"Anything this charged and unforgettable is bound to nourish anyone who sees it, but especially artists, regardless of affiliations of style or medium. It reveals one of their greatest going all out, providing a breathtaking reminder that art can be anything an artist wants it to be, as long as it is driven by inner necessity, ruthless self-scrutiny and a determination to make every attempt not to repeat the past. In the end, such inoculations are the only real protection against the vicissitudes of opinion. Art that successfully internalizes them will in all likelihood come to be seen as part of its own time and retain a vigor that is capable of inspiring the art of the future. That is the feat of Picasso’s extraordinary final offerings."

April 16, 2009

New flatfile project grows in Brooklyn

Kris Graves Projects and Pocket Utopia are teaming up to create new a works-on-paper flatfile project in Brooklyn. The flatfile, which will be on view at +KGP as of tomorrow, will include work by 20 artists: Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson, Michele Araujo, Tamar Cohen, Anna Collette, Guy Corriero, Jed Devine, Libby Hartle, Brece Honeycutt, Dana Gentile, Terry Girard, Liz Jaff, Carin Johnson, Peter Mallo, Maggie Michael, Matthew Miller, Michael Robbins, Kevin Regan, Adam Simon, Brian St. Cyr, Christopher Williams

Post-gallery situated practice: Crockett Bodelson and Sandra Wang

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Novella Carpenter reports that Crockett Bodelson and Sandra Wang have become street dealers. "Bodelson, who tends to wear big metal eyewear, attended art school at California College of the Arts, did a residency at The Cooper Union in New York and started a gallery in Philadelphia. He knows only too well how rarified the art world can be, and rails against the notion that artists aren't successful unless they are selling their works in galleries for thousands of dollars.

"'People are programmed -- even my friends -- to think their work has to be in a gallery, but I've never met a cool gallery owner,' he said. 'And look at the crap at a gallery -- there's all this stuff that goes on behind closed doors in order to even get into a gallery!'

"In 2003, after dropping out of art school, Bodelson, who lived in the Mission district at the time, found himself in Hayes Valley buying some liquor at a corner store. He liked the vibe on the street and asked the owner if he could sell paintings in front of the store. The owner agreed, and Bodelson soon had a thriving business. After a few months he had to move the operation several blocks away to the sidewalk in front of a hamburger joint called Flippers. He met Wang a year later, and she joined the enterprise.

"By taking their operation to the street, Bodelson felt like he was making the process of consuming art more transparent. If people liked his work, they would buy it. He didn't have to convince a gallery owner to take him in, or plan a show and hope the media would show up to offer words of praise. What's more, he didn't have to keep just a percentage of the money he earned from sales. Last summer the couple raked it in, at least in terms of their modest expectations. They sold $6,000 worth of art -- enough to buy tickets to Europe -- simply by placing their work on the street, hanging out and talking to friendly, curious people." Read more.

Related article:
Living In a Van Down By the River: San Francisco Studio Apartment Gets 15 Miles Per Gallon

April 15, 2009

Andrew Cranston's dense claustrophobic rooms

In the Guardian, Jessica Lack continues her series on contemporary artists with Andrew Cranston, whose dense claustrophobic paintings are inspired by rooms in great works of literature. "Like Francis Bacon, Andrew Cranston's currency is claustrophobia, imprisoning both viewer and subject in a hellish nothing. By using fiction as his source material, he ensures that his subjects remain forever suspended in an impenetrable isolation. Cranston makes paintings of rooms alluded to in literature. Perhaps the most obvious example is a split-panelled piece, Illustration for a Franz Kafka story (2nd version) (2007), depicting the bedroom of Gregor Samsa, the hapless travelling salesman who transforms into an insect in Kafka's Metamorphosis.

"What is disconcerting is Cranston's tendency to suggest that these rooms are stage sets. In many of his paintings the walls are merely partitions, and a dense background encroaches and encircles the picture, trapping whatever is within. As a viewer of these solitary scenes, the experience is intensely unsettling. There seems to be no recourse. In the few paintings where Cranston has painted a door, it opens on to an impassable grey expanse; there is little indication of another world outside the murky confines." Read more.

"Andrew Cranston: What A Man Does In The Privacy Of Is Own Attic Is His Affair," International Project Space, School of Art Bournville, Birmingham City University, Birmingham, UK. Through April 25.

Get Well Soon, Nicole Gagne

"The artists at the condemned Queens building where a staircase collapsed on top of jeweler Nicole Gagne last week did what they do best Tuesday - they painted. In large, sweeping strokes, they sprayed 'Get Well Soon, Nicole' on the Jackson Ave. side of the Long Island City building, the one side that has not been condemned by the city Buildings Department since Friday's collapse. 'When she's able to see what we did and understand what we did, I think she will appreciate it,' said Jonathan (Meres) Cohen, 36, who has run 5Pointz, the building's exterior mural space, since 2002.

"An external staircase collapsed on top of Gagne, 37, a Parsons School of Design-trained jeweler, asshe left her artist studio to head home around 5:15 p.m. She was pulled out of the rubble and transported to Bellevue Hospital, where she remained in critical condition Tuesday. To help pay for her medical expenses, Cohen and other artists are organizing a fund-raiser, which they are hoping to hold within the next two months at nearby P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center." (Via Dorian Block at the NY Daily News)

Reported in the NYTimes April 18.

April 13, 2009

Tony Fitzpatrick's gallows humor

The other night I revisited the Hector Babenco film Ironweed, based on William Kennedy’s 1984 novel about Francis Phelan, a one-time baseball pitcher turned alcoholic drifter who returns to his hometown. The movie reminded me of Tony Fitzpatrick’s latest series of collages based on hobo legend and lore, and then, today, Tony sent a note about a new piece inspired by Francis Phelan and other characters from Kennedy’s novels. “I think part of what has drawn me to Kennedy's novels all of these years is that they are set among the Albany Irish-- and we're not all that different after many generations -- we are still easily shamed by improprieties real and imagined, we love our mother's and we are the most vengeful, grudge-carrying, motherfuckers on earth,” Tony writes. “The deep well of bitterness wired into our history of being the conquered has imbued into our DNA a gallows humor, so black and yet so funny; it makes people think we are a cheery bunch of happy assholes. We're not. When crossed our hearts are as deeply black as the north Atlantic ocean-- and when untethered-- we wander the earth looking for grace.” Tony’s hobo collages, cobbled together from vintage print ephemera and handmade papers, are at Dieu Donné through May 16.

"Tony Fitzpatrick: Big Rock Candy Mountain," Dieu Donné, New York, NY. Through May 16.

Matvey Levenstein and Phong Bui

While preparing for his one-person exhibition at Larissa Goldston Gallery, on view from through May 9th, Matvey Levenstein stopped by Brooklyn Rail HQ to talk to publisher Phong Bui about his life and work. Here's an excerpt from their conversation.

Rail: When did photography come into your process?

Levenstein: It was probably around 92-93. I was making those self-portraits from observation. At the time I didn’t use photography whatsoever because from my earliest training in Moscow, rendering from photography was considered a real taboo. But, since I had already committed to doing everything backwards, the way Degas did it, why not try my hand at it? I remember going to the Met on a Friday night and seeing a small group of young people in their thirties and forties sitting on two or three benches and looking at paintings. And I was thinking, “They’re not artists. They’re not part of the art world. What are they looking at? Literally?” I realized what these paintings represented to them was a reflection and a picture of their own specificity in the world. I also realized, at least in Western culture, that paintings serve this almost biological need of representing back to us that which will never be again. So an autonomous painting represents an autonomous individual, both politically and emotionally, literally uniqueness. It made me rethink what I originally had abandoned: “How do you make a painting on a stretcher?” A painting has a discreet boundary. It does not dissolve itself into the nexus of life. It’s definitely not a piece of plywood leaning against the wall and so on.

All of a sudden all of those questions, however reactionary as concepts they may appear, became utterly interesting to me. It’s almost like people are being told something is wrong and yet there’s a guilty pleasure in knowing what is considered wrong. It’s a dirty secret and yet it’s a vital need. T.S. Eliot once wrote about Virgil, where he’s talking about the existence of a temporal provinciality, and universalizing a particular—not the place you’re from but the period that you’re living in. I think we’re definitely living in these kinds of provincial moments. Though most people think that that kind of autonomous painting was not possible after postmodernism, the least I could do is depict a condition under which it was possible. Through the act of painting I could create a theatrical situation. As long as these paintings were hanging together, you could believe in that condition of possibility. I wanted to avoid the splitting of painting into form and content. All of a sudden there were all these paintings that combined progressive content with reactionary forms and people started talking about technique and subject matter. I thought that was really reactionary in all the worst possible ways—like we’re back to 19th Century painting.

"Matvey Levenstein," Larissa Goldston gallery, New York, NY. Through May 9.

Last chance: Geometrics II

From Joanne Mattera Art Blog:
"For "Geometrics II," curator Gloria Klein selected 12 artists from the Geoform website. Geoform is a fabulous online resource dedicated to abstract geometric art maintained by Julie Karabenick. Gloria and Julie are two of the 12 artists in the show. The others are Steven Alexander, Laura Battle, Mark Dagley, Julie Gross, Michael Knutson, Bruce Pollock, Lynda Ray, Larry Spaid, Lorien Suarez and me. I'm not sure what drove Gloria's selections--because the work ranges from hard edged and mathematically inspired to intuitive and more organically developed, and from maximal to minimal--but you can see from the installation that it works. All the paintings are modest in size, in keeping with the gallery's modest (well, shoebox) proportions. Given the economic downturn, there was something comforting about the scale, though at one point artists and friends were packed in pretty much check by jowl." Read more.

"Geometrics II," curated by Gloria Klein. Gallery OneTwentyEight, New York, NY. Through April 19.

Lois Dodd: Like a house on fire

Alexandre Gallery presents six recent large-scale paintings that octogenarian Lois Dodd painted during the final years of the Bush Presidency. Each depicts the image of a rural house set fully ablaze; bright orange, red and yellow flames with billowing smoke engulf the house that will surely burn to the ground. In two paintings a stream of water or a lone fireman seem ineffectual in reversing the devastation. Dodd's paintings have an unsentimental, no-nonsense directness grounded in observation. Let's give thanks that the Bush years are over and the rebuilding has begun.

"Lois Dodd: Fire," Alexandre Gallery, New York, NY. Through April 25.

Marilyn Minter: It's about maintaining the integrity of the ideas

Marilyn Minter's work examines glamour and its seedy underbelly through a juxtaposition of photorealistic paintings and painterly photographs which hone in on the moment where "clarity becomes abstraction and beauty commingles with the grotesque." In her upcoming show at Salon 94, Minter will present "Pop Rocks," her largest painting to date. An exploration of painting with the tongue, Minter directed her models to lick brightly colored candy on a sheet of glass and then photographed them from the other side. The tongues mixed the “paint” with saliva, slurping and pushing the color around the glass surface. In the Time Out New York "Studio Visit" column, T.J. Carlin visited Marilyn Minter last week.

You have a show coming up at Salon 94, as well as a video project in Times Square for Creative Time, for which you've created a trailer. What's that about?

While I was taking photos for paintings, my makeup artist Regina Harris picked up my 10-year-old digital camera and started shooting me shooting. And it looked so good that we decided to hire a professional, Austin Lynn Austin, to make a video out of it. This is going up in Times Square and also in a couple of museum shows. I always see movie trailers, and think, I'd love to make an ad for a show! So we made one. It's going to be showing at the Sunshine theater on Houston Street. Austin is used to shooting MAC products, so I knew he'd be able to do this. We edited it together, actually. We're trying to get it into theaters in L.A., but they don't understand it. They're like, "What do you mean you have a trailer, but not for a movie?!?" They can't wrap their brains around it....

Your work has always been about crossing boundaries, hasn't it?
About collapsing boundaries, yeah. I love my paintings, but I don't see them as precious. As long as I maintain the integrity of the ideas, I make T-shirts for the Whitney, I make skateboards. Because the paintings are so expensive, I love getting things out there that anyone could have if they wanted to.

When one gets close to your paintings, it seems like they're abstract. Would you agree?
Yeah, that's what we do. You go close to my paintings and they fall apart. I'm not really a photorealist. I'm a photo-replacer. I coined that term. It means I replace the photos with intense, rich surfaces that really turn me on. You can't get that in oil paint. You can only get that with translucent layers of enamel, which is something I invented around 1993, I guess. I started softening the enamel with my fingers because you couldn't do it with brushes. If you look close, all the paintings are covered in fingerprints.

"Marilyn Minter: Green Pink Caviar," Salon 94, New York, NY. April 28 -June 13.

April 11, 2009

Carl Plansky: "The more I see contemporary painting distrust feeling, the more feeling I put into my painting"

In the Wall Street Journal, Lance Esplund reports that Carl Plansky's paintings of flower bouquets -- some nearly seven feet tall -- threaten to leap from the canvas and strangle the viewer like full-frontal assaults. "Looking at his exhibition of a dozen paintings of bouquets, a hard maple tree and a life-size, nude self-portrait, 'Poseidon' (all 2009), is to be immersed in a colorful garden, as well as a pit of writhing snakes. Born in 1951, Mr. Plansky, who claims 'the more I see contemporary painting distrust feeling, the more feeling I put into my painting,' has feeling enough to spare. And he spares none of it. For Mr. Plansky, who wrestles every form into being, a rose is a leaping flame or a serpent on Medusa's head -- but, a realist at heart, his rose is, ultimately, still a rose. I am not completely convinced that Mr. Plansky's flowers -- his glass vases of wildflowers, roses and lilies, his flurries of brushwork reminiscent of Joan Mitchell's abstractions -- need to be blown up to mural scale, dimensions that compete with their naturalism. The artist, obviously, is of differing opinion. And he may be right. Although his smaller, life-size bouquets may be more manageable and believable, they are also more conventional. The mammoth bouquets, beautifully strident, are more daring, convincing and engulfing as works of art." Read more Lance Esplund's painting reviews.

"Carl Plansky: Oil Paintings," Fishbach Gallery, New York, NY. Through April 25.

April 10, 2009

Fran O'Neill: Slow evolution, constant undulation

At online mag ArtCritical, David Cohen selects Fran O’Neill's second solo show at the John Davis Gallery in Hudson, NY, as the Pic of the Day. "Her latest series is a breakthrough: these sumptuous, all-over abstractions built of mind-bogglingly intricate details are oceanic in their fusion of decorative and labor intensity. Like the ocean, there is slow evolution and constant undulation. The little teeth-like tessarae in "Reel" are negative shapes, revealing the white ground of the canvas exposed from the painstakingly filled-in spaces between. The impact is somewhere between the aboriginal painting of O'Neill's native Australia and Gustav Klimt."

"Fran O'Neill: Paintings," John Davis Gallery, Hudson, NY. Through April 26.

Multitasking painters like me

As if in response to my discussion with hyperallergic Hrag last night about multitasking vs. concentrated monofocus, in the NY Times this morning Holland Cotter reports that most of the painters selected for "Younger Than Jesus" are committed multitaskers. "The artists Tala Madani, born in Iran, and Jakub Julian Ziolkowski, from Poland, do oil-on-canvas pictures of a conventional sort; Emre Huner, from Turkey, combines painting with animation; the German-born artist Kerstin Brätsch uses hers as performance aids; and the New York artist Josh Smith treats his like prints, churning out dozens of pictures at a time and stacking them for distribution. Ryan Trecartin uses paint cosmetically, as an extreme form of makeup. Applying it directly to the body, he transforms himself and the other performers in his videos into frenetically walking, talking surrealist abstractions. Born in Texas in 1981, Mr. Trecartin is probably the best-known artist in the show, though with his extroverted, look-at-me spirit, among the least representative. He’s certainly one of the most versatile. A blogosphere baby, a child of the chat room, a YouTube native, he shifts effortlessly among realities while pushing sculpture, film, performance, music and language — so much language — through digital scramblers and mixers. There is some danger of his motormouth wizardry sliding into shtick, but right now it’s mesmerizing." Read more.

"The Generational: Younger Than Jesus," organized by Lauren Cornell, Massimiliano Gioni, and Laura Hoptman.New Museum, New York, NY. Through July 5.

Related posts:
Younger than Jesus: Thomas Roberts

Wiser than God

April 9, 2009

Lance Rutledge: "I don't know what the message is. I don't want to send a message anyway."

At The Old Gold, Jon Lutz visits Lance Rutledge's studio. Here's an excerpt from their conversation.

JL: Some of the works function more as “signs” than others. In some cases, a kind of horizon line separates a phrase from a group of silhouettes. In others, there is no language at all. How important is it for you to work in these different modes?

LR: I think it's important to feel the freedom to work in any mode that works for me. Sometimes it's very satisfying to make a painting that's simply all text. I like the abstractness of it visually, as in a Chinese calligraphic ink painting. That same Chinese painter would also be known for his landscapes. There was a contemporary Chinese artist in a show in the Asian galleries at the Met, who painted landscapes that were built up with Chinese calligraphy. The words/symbols functioned as marks to compose the landscape. Quite beautiful and smartly done. Basically I don't like to be hemmed in and not feel the freedom to work in a way that suits my purposes. When I don't feel the need to use words... I don't. I don't want to force anything. I don't ever want to feel a prisoner to a style or way of working. In that case you might as well be illustrating hot dog packages.

JL: How do you think this changes the “message” that using text implies?

LR: In terms of how language or no language changes the "message", I'm not at all sure. I don't know what the message is. I don't want to send a message anyway. I want to engage the viewer enough to return again to experience the painting. Hopefully there is always something left over after each viewing. Something hanging in the air. Otherwise I consider it a failure.

How to increase value of your art collection despite market downturn

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers stopped a drug-smuggling attempt when they seized 6 large paintings with the frames full of packages of marijuana. On April 3 at about 8:30 p.m., CBP Officers selected a large van driven by a 55-year-old man from Phoenix for a routine inspection. CBP Officers became suspicious when a special K-9 team alerted to 6 large paintings that were being transported in the back of the van. The paintings were professionally done with very nicely constructed frames. An x-ray of the large frames revealed packages concealed within the frames. More than 90 pounds of marijuana with an estimated street value of $153,000 were removed from the 6 large painting frames.(via Douglas Dispatch)

April 8, 2009

Wiser than God

If you stop in to see "Younger than Jesus," the New Museum's first triennial survey of new art from around the world, check out "Wiser than God," May 27-July 27, 2009, an exhibition organized by art critic Adrian Dannatt at the BLT Gallery, located across the street. According to Dannatt, "Wiser than God" presents artists born before 1927, making them 83 at the youngest. Among the artists in the show: Ellsworth Kelly, Louise Bourgeois and Lucian Freud.(via Artnet)

Related post:
Younger than Jesus: Thomas Roberts

Celmins painting slasher sentenced in Pittsburgh

Remember last year when a former guard at the Carnegie Museum of Art slashed a Vija Celmins painting? Timur Serebrykov, 28, who slashed Night Sky 2 because he didn't like the painting, was sentenced yesterday to house arrest and ordered to pay $245,000 and wear an electronic monitoring device for 11 to 23 months. He may leave home only for appointments with his lawyer and doctor and to attend religious events. 500 hours of community service and four years probation are also part of Serebrykov's arrangement. The museum paid $5,000 to repair the painting, and says it is worth $240,000 less than before because of the damage. I wonder if the painting's estimated $1.2 million value takes into account the recent drop in art prices. (via AP)

April 7, 2009

Younger than Jesus: Thomas Roberts

In lieu of attending the press opening of the New Museum's "Younger than Jesus" exhibition today, which features fifty artists under 33-years-old, I'm posting about an Irish painter who died in 1777 at 28. Whenever I see work in major museums by people under thirty, I always wonder whether their work is strong enough to survive if the artist were to drop dead tomorrow. Of course I also wonder if they're in it for the long haul. Will they continue making art regardless of the inevitable fluctuations of their fame and fortune, or will they move on to something more financially rewarding and less insecure?

Thomas Roberts (1748-1777), who died of consumption, was a remarkably productive artist and regarded by many as the finest Irish landscape painter of the 18th century. William Laffan and Brendan Rooney, who have curated the current exhibition of his work at the National Gallery of Ireland, have recently written a book about the artist, whose work was valued and much sought after during his lifetime, even though his reputation didn't survive his demise. Rehabilitation commenced only in the 1970s, when the late, unfailingly perceptive Michael Wynne focused his attention on Roberts and organized an exhibition, comprising 16 works, in the National Gallery. He was a capable, intelligent painter and was responsive, for example, to the restless, shifting nature of Irish light falling across the landscape. More than one observer praised his virtuosity at conveying the vaporous spray of rushing water. He is not generally thought of as a painter of people or animals, but the show includes examples – one previously attributed to his brother, Thomas Sautelle – that suggest he was more than capable in that regard. (via Irish Times)

Thomas Roberts; Landscape and Patronage in Eighteenth-century Ireland by William Laffan and Brendan Rooney, published by Churchill House Press for the National Gallery of Ireland.

"Thomas Roberts, 1748-1777," National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin. Through June 28.

April 6, 2009

Rail Review: The Mood Back Home

I wrote about The Mood Back Home, an exhibition at Momenta Art for the April issue of The Brooklyn Rail. Here's an excerpt.

"Immediately confronting visitors to The Mood Back Home, a thoughtful and evocative group exhibition organized by Suzy Spence and Leslie Brack at Momenta Art, is Jessica Jackson Hutchins’s 70s-vintage spring-mounted hobby horse, whose head has been covered with crudely applied wads of clay in tumor-like growths. It is a piece that, as intended, renders palpable both the frustration and the playfulness that results when contemporary artists are ensnared in domestic life.

"Brack and Spence conceived of the show as a tribute to an update of the feminist art classic, Womanhouse, a 1972 collaborative project created in an abandoned Hollywood house by CalArts grad students and their teachers, Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro. While male artists like Donald Judd and Richard Serra were using spare construction materials to create cerebral Minimalism, the women involved in Womanhouse mastered construction skills to renovate the dilapidated house and explore radical ideas about homemaking. Once the renovation was complete, they held performances and created installations with titles like 'Eggs to Breasts,' 'Aprons in Kitchen,' and 'Bridal Staircase' that frankly and mercilessly examined the female experience, traditional gender roles, and domesticity. At the time, this type of guerrilla project was rare, and an uninitiated public was invited to walk through the project. Johanna Demetrakas’s documentary, also titled Womanhouse, which was screened for a packed audience in conjunction with the Momenta Art exhibition, captures their often bemused reactions.

"The Mood Back Home shows that both art and feminism have come a long way since 1972. Womanhouse enlisted earnest art students who chafed at the limitations that domesticity and motherhood bode for them, and were intent on rejecting them. In contrast, Spence and Brack have assembled work by older artists who have experienced the difficulties and contradictions of domesticity firsthand, and apprehended it as something more complex and rich than the Womanhouse artists speculated it would be. Of course, it was Womanhouse that made The Mood Back Home possible: without the brave combativeness of the early feminists, the next generation of women would scarcely have had the freedom to choose the lives they have...." Read more.

April 5, 2009

Upcoming show: "Status Update" in New Haven

"Status Update," curated by Debbie Hesse and Donna Ruff, at Haskins Laboratories in New Haven, April 29 through August 1, explores social networking technologies. My contribution to the show involves organizing a panel discussion via Facebook (look for an "Event Invitation") that will take place on May 14th at 5pm. Stay tuned for more details.

UPDATE: Click here to find the FaceBook Event Invitation for "Big Love: Artists and Social Networking Technology." "Big Love" is a conversation organized by Sharon Butler (that's me) and featuring Matt Held (I’ll Have my Facebook Portrait Painted by Matt Held), Paddy Johnson (Art Fag City), Sharon Kleinman (author of Displacing Place), An Xiao (Thatwaszen), as well as all our other Facebook Friends and Twitter pals who are certain to stop by.

Links to each of the participating artists in the exhibition are listed below (via Katie Ring).

Kevin Van Aelst: kevinvanaelst.com
Cat Balco: catbalco.com
Sharon Butler: sharonlbutler.com
Heather Freeman: epicant.com
Greg Garvey: quinnipiac.edu/garvey
Matt Held: heldstudios.com
Keith Johnson: keithjohnsonphotographs.com
Katie Ring: KatieRing.com
Jeremiah Teipen: teipen.com/jeremiah
Lee Walton: leewalton.com
Rachael Perry Welty: rachelperrywelty.com
An Xiao: anxiaostudio.com

Christopher Willard: On being thin

I'm a little behind with my reading (this review is from March), but wanted to post Nancy Tousley's Calgary Herald review of Christopher Willard's show at Herringer Kiss because I'm interested in writers who paint, painters who write, and how the two practices overlap and inform one another.

"Christopher Willard is a smart, busy man who wears several hats. He is an expert on colour theory, an artist, a teacher, head of the painting department at the Alberta College of Art&Design, and a writer. The combined influences of these pursuits show up in 11 new paintings and one silkscreen print on view at Herringer Kiss Gallery, but not quite in the way one might expect. Willard's new work reads as an academic exercise executed with a touch of playfulness that cannot deflect attention from the thinness of the idea....

"In the new work, it looks as if Willard is trying to break the hold of formalism with a stab at the conceptual. He has changed his format from an overall geometric composition on a diamond to a long rectangle upon which he puts the colour bar to work as a compositional element and adds words to the painted surface. The paintings and print, all made this year, display beautifully controlled colour and precisely graded colour bars. The compositions of most of the paintings are variations on a diagrammatic serial theme. A white-on-black grid runs across the top of the rectangle, while below it the geometric composition opens up into larger areas of solid colour juxtaposed with a colour bar.

"In 'Read Between the Lines,' two colour bars are stacked one above the other. one bar beginning with blue, the other with orange, and both grading out into the same hard-to-name colour, presumably by mixing the two colours together. The simpler image of 'A Sign of the Times'comprises two colour bars, laid one on top of the other. The top bar goes from white, through shades of grey, to black; the bottom bar reverses the same colour sequence.

"Then there are the words. These works bear legends that say things like It Isn't What You Think,' or 'Let That Be A Lesson,' or 'Not An Afterthought But A Before Thought.' The acrylic paint is laid down on Plexiglas into which the words are engraved by laser. The legends, which are also the titles of the works, are directions to the viewer that seem to want to strike up a relationship. Like most pickup lines, though, they are either too clever or not clever enough. And they do not sit well on these paintings, but instead call attention to their kinship with graphic design, the kind seen in glossy advertisements for pharmaceuticals in which a white-on-black grid is involved."

I wish I could have seen the show. Tousley may have found the work "conceptually thin," but from her description, the work sounds pretty interesting. Perhaps "thinness" is Willard's concept.

"Christopher Willard: It Isn't What You Think," Herringer Kiss, Calgary, AB, Canada. Through March 31.

April 4, 2009

Suddenly, Mira Schor

For the April issue of The Brooklyn Rail, which is probably already in the racks and should go online shortly, I wrote about a show at Momenta Art called "The Mood Back Home." The show, organized by Leslie Brack and Suzy Spence, was inspired by the 1972 feminist art project, "Womanhouse," and featured work that addresses the stubborn nature of gender prescribed domesticity and its effect on women artists. Back in 1972, Womanhouse, organized by Judy Chicago and Miriam Shapiro, was a collaborative project by the women in their CalArts feminist grad seminar. One of the students involved was Mira Schor, whose recent paintings are currently on view at Momenta. Schor hasn't had a one-person show in New York in over a decade, and her new paintings mark a departure from her earlier depiction of language as image, to the suggestion of its lack in a space where we expect to see it. "Suddenly," marks the moment when personal loss or political babble creates a loss for words. "Schor has turned to the most basic form that came to mind: the empty thought balloon, where language was or will or should be. Richly surfaced, bold, witty, notational, provisional, the paintings in this show were made in quick gestures, taking five minutes to an afternoon. They function unpredictably, as existential encounters that emerge from political absurdities or epochal tragedies – experienced in the everyday."

Don't miss Mira Schor's Artist Talk on Friday, April 10, at 8pm.

"Mira Schor: Suddenly," MomentaArt, Brooklyn, NY. Through April 20.

NY Times Art in Review: Richard Tuttle, Richard Phillips

"Richard Tuttle: Walking on Air," PaceWildenstein, New York, NY. Through April 25. Ken Johnson reports: Richard Tuttle’s new fusions of painting and sculpture are a joy to behold. All 12 pieces in this buoyant show have the same basic structure: two narrow, horizontal lengths of fabric, one above and slightly overlapping the other, are fitted with rows of grommets by which they hang from projecting finishing nails. Each diptych is 10 feet long and 1 foot high. From a distance they resemble Color Field paintings in which the upper and lower halves harmonize or play off each other formally. In “Walking on Air, 4” both pieces are lime green except that the lower one is stained chocolate brown along its bottom edge. No. 6 has mottled purple above a black panel punctuated by six red spots. As you draw closer, the optical, painterly aspect gives way to the tactile, sculptural dimension. You notice the grommets, the nails, wrinkles and creases in the fine cloth, machine stitched lines of colored thread and, in a few cases, added pieces of rope....Tie-dyed textures and blurry white lines nostalgically evoke hippie consciousness, and the sensuously philosophical marriage of the material and the immaterial is at once austere and sweetly seductive.

"Richard Phillips: New Museum," Gagosian Gallery, New York, NY. Through May 2. Ken Johnson reports: Richard Phillips is known for large-scale paintings based on pornographic photographs of women, which he copies in a flatfooted, photorealistic style. His intentions are ideological, not erotic. Here he has taken the opportunity of exhibiting at one of the world’s most powerful galleries to initiate a remarkably offensive and simple-minded attack on the art industry. In the show’s most striking painting, a woman lies on her back with a rolled copy of the art magazine Frieze protruding from her vagina. It suggests that art criticism is just a way to funnel money into a business that is always ready to sell its soul. It is an appalling image and a dumb idea, but it certainly has a vivid impact....

Read the entire "Art in Review" column here.

April 1, 2009

My new neighbor: Sol Lewitt's "Wall Drawing 978"

Four students from Eastern Connecticut State University, where I've been a faculty member since 2000, are in the process of creating a Sol LeWitt mural, “Wall Drawing 978.” Located in the Akus Gallery on Eastern's Willimantic campus, the mural is part of “Taking Shape: Selections from the Collection of Eastern Connecticut State University,” a group show curated by gallery director Elizabeth Peterson. From March 30 until April 3 stop by and watch Lewitt assistant Jesse Good and Visual Arts students Christina Ciacci, Hanna Shea, Patrick Donahue, and Katherine Riotte meticulously mask and paint a vibrant blue pyramid on a sea of red. The work, which has never been created in the US before, is on loan to Eastern courtesy of the Estate of Sol LeWitt.

Also included in “Taking Shape” are selections from Eastern’s permanent collection including screenprints by Ilya Bolotowsky and Manuel Facal; ceramic macquettes by Dorothy Mayhall; and the Sol LeWitt, “Pyramid #5,” 1986, a sculpture gifted by the artist to Eastern in 1993. The show runs from March 19 through May 7, and will include “Shape Up!”, an interactive area for preschool children. The Akus Gallery collaborated with Eastern’s Child and Family Development Resource Center to present “Shape Up!,” a fun corner for the preschool set. Children ages 2 to 5 find and identify shapes and colors in the exhibition and create geometric designs.

"Taking Shape: Selections from the Collection of Eastern Connecticut State University," curated by Elizabeth Peterson. Akus Gallery, Eastern Connecticut State University, Willimantic, CT. Through May 7, 2009. Reception & Unveiling of Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing 978: April 9, 5 – 7 p.m.