May 31, 2009

Critics turned bloggers? Maybe not.

Note to art bloggers: If you think mainstream journalists and art critics who have lost their jobs are going to jump in and embrace blogging, think again. When Jen Bekman, Olympia Lambert, and a few other bloggers (including myself) suggested to a prominent art critic that he should start a blog and take his popular Facebook discussions to the streets, he insisted he couldn't. Here are the five reasons the critic gave why he can't start a blog.

1. Meeting one weekly deadline gives him enough anxiety.

2. Good blogs require daily updating and constant tending, and he thinks he wouldn't be able to keep up.

3. A self-proclaimed "techo-caveman," the critic says he has no idea how to do anything except type in his Status Bar and to go to "His Name."

4. He thinks he has more control over the audience on Facebook because he can de-friend the wingnuts. On blogs, commenters aren't required to sign their names and when they do, there's no guarantee that they are, in fact, who they say they are. Being a regular reviewer, he's made plenty of enemies over the years and is afraid he'll be harassed.

5. The critic doesn't know how to use a digital camera, doesn't want to learn, and thinks blogs without pictures are boring. (Note to self: Include more images on Two Coats of Paint.)

UPDATE: The critic responded via the Wall on my Facebook page. Here's what he posted:
"Thanks for posting my thoughts on blogs. You left [out] one of my entries on blogs. I tried to post it in your comments but couldn't figure out how to post a comment (!):

I love reading blogs but I find them more Royalist than democratic; they center around 1 NAMED PERSON & a hive of unnamed others. The reason I like FB is that we all have to be more VULNERABLE. That is the key element.

On blogs I'm often attacked; no problem; bring it on. I sometimes hate my own work too. But no one signs their own name. Often it is the same person writing under different names, an artist who feels slighted by me, or an artist who I have given a bad review to, or the friend of an artist who I gave a bad review to, an artist who feels ignored by me, a dealer cross about getting a bad review or no review. That is the reason that unsigned entries provide no resonance for my work, no true sounding. Again, it lacks the crucial element for me: Radical Vulnerability.

Jerry Saltz's special request

In 1991 I was the only woman in my graduate school class, so I have an inkling of what Mia Westerlund Roosen must have felt like among this group of guys; still I find the photo shocking. It was taken at the 25th Anniversary party of Leo Castelli Gallery in 1982. Standing left - right: Ellsworth Kelly, Dan Flavin, Joseph Kosuth, Richard Serra, Lawerence Weiner, Nassos Daphnis, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenberg, Salvatore Scarpitta, Richard Artschwager, Mia Westerlund Roosen, Cletus Johnson, Keith Sonnier. Seated left - right: Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Leo Castelli, Ed Ruscha, James Rosenquist, Robert Barry. Photo by Hans Namuth
_________________

Art critic Jerry Saltz continues to engage his Friends in lengthy, heartfelt discussions on his Facebook page. This week his topic was gender bias at MoMA and he asked bloggers to repost the topic to see if the conversation would get any traction outside his Facebook page. Happy to oblige, here's the original post as well as his subsequent comments and clarifications.
"The Museum of Modern Art practices a form of gender-based apartheid. Of the 383 works currently installed on the 4th and 5th floors of the permanent collection, only 19 are by women; that’s 4%. There are 135 different artists installed on these floors; only nine of them are women; that’s 6%. MoMA is telling a story of modernism that only it believes. MoMA has declared itself a hostile witness. Why? What can be done?"

Saltz response 1. To those who have complained that installing the work of women will mean too much so-called "lesser" work will be on view. You can't develop what Oscar Wilde called "the critical spirit" if you're mainly seeing the story as it has always been told. Seeing only what... Read More’s already been seen doesn't tell you how good or bad this work may be. As André Malraux wrote, "We can feel only by comparison. The Greek genius is better understood by comparing a Greek statue to an Egyptian or Asiatic one than by acquaintance with a hundred Greek statues."

Saltz response 2.The programmatic exclusion of women is partly attributable to the art world's being a self-replicating organism: It sees that the art that is shown and sold is made mainly by men, and therefore more art made by men is shown and sold. This is how the misidentification, what Adorno called a "negative system," is perpetuated.

Saltz response 3. Here is a list of 57 women artists already owned by MoMa, none of whom are on exhibit on the 4th & 5th flrs. perm. collection (work before 1970): Alice Neel, Georgia O... Read More’Keefe, Florine Stettheimer, Joan Mitchell, Hannah Hoch, Anni Albers, Louise Nevelson, Claude Cahan, Leonora Carrington, Leonor Fine, Dora Maar, Lee Miller, Jo Baer, Elaine de Kooning, Romaine Brooks, Ree Morton, Howardena Pindell, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Alma Thomas, Emma Kunz, Eileen Gray, Clementine Hunter, Adrian Piper, (cont in next post)...

Saltz response 4. cont from last post): Dorthea Rockburne, Lee Lozano, Vija Celmins, Maria Lassnig, Gego, Helen Frankenthaler, Grace Hartigan, Maya Deren, Pat Steir, Hedda Stern, Barbara Hepworth, Gwen John, Jay DeFeo, Jane Freiliecher, Minnie Evans, Merit Oppenheim, Betty Parsons, Bridget Riley, Claire Zeisler, Kay Sage, Grandma Moses, Sister Gertrude, Hilla Af-... Read MoreKlimnt, Niki de Saint-Phalle, Dorothea Tanning, Janet Sobel, Atsuko Tanaka, Francoise Gilot, Anne Truitt, Ruth Vollmer, Jane Wilson, Sylvia Sleigh, Paula Rego, Marguerite Zorach …

Saltz response 5. The point is, when it comes to being artists, women can be as bad as men. The problem is that even now, decades after the onset of women's liberation, women aren't being allowed to demonstrate this. I doubt that there's a conscious effort to keep women from showing, yet the percentage of women exhibiting in museum PERMANENT COLLECTIONS is grievously low.
_____________________

Frankly, I'm interested in looking ahead, not browbeating MoMA into rethinking their existing collection. My goal is to work toward future inclusion, and I hope writing about women on this blog and elsewhere will help boost more women's careers. Better careers today will translate into higher auction prices and better museum representation tomorrow. As women exercise more control over curating exhibitions, writing art criticism, directing museums, the bias against female artists will inevitably fade. Thanks to affirmative action, the number of female faculty members teaching in art schools and universities continues to grow as well.

What do Two Coats readers think?

UPDATE: MoMA sent this response to Jerry Saltz:
Hi all, I am (Kim Mitchell) Chief Communications Officer here at MoMA. We have been following your lively discussion with great interest, as this has also been a topic of ongoing dialogue at MoMA. We welcome the participation and ideas of others in this important conversation. And yes, as Jerry knows, we do consider all the departmental galleries to represent the collection. When those spaces are factored in, there are more than 250 works by female artists on view now. Some new initiatives already under way will delve into this topic next year with the Modern Women's Project, which will involve installations in all the collection galleries, a major publication, and a number of programs. MoMA has a great willingness to think deeply about these issues and address them over time and to the extent that we can through our collection and the curatorial process. We hope you'll follow these events as they develop and keep the conversation going.

Related posts:

Art Fag City has posted a summary of the original Facebook discussion.

John Haber weighs in at haberarts.com


Why Saltz prefers posting on Facebook rather than using a more open blog format

Join Jerry Saltz's group on Facebook

And anaba sent a link to this image:


Artists pictured in 1993 are John Chamberlain, George Condo, Donald Judd, Robert Ryman, Claes Oldenburg, Joel Shapiro, Robert Mangold, Lucas Samaras, Saul Steinberg, and Jim Dine.

Antoni Tàpies at Dia

I'm still in the Hudson River Valley after the opening at John Davis Gallery yesterday. Thanks Martin Bromirski, Maureen Burke, Tracy Helgeson, Chris Quirk, Amy Madden, Beth Gilfilen, and everyone else for making the trip. Today I'm headed to Dia:Beacon to see the Antoni Tàpies exhibition.

Tàpies was born in Barcelona, Spain, in 1923 into a family of booksellers and Catalan nationalist politicians, and during protracted periods of illness in his adolescence, he developed a serious interest in literature and drawing. In 1944, after abandoning law studies at Barcelona University, he began to work as an artist. Tàpies first exhibited his work in the late 1940s in Barcelona and had his first solo exhibition in 1950 at Galeries Laietanes, Barcelona. In 1953 he had his first NYC solo show at Martha Jackson Gallery. He first traveled abroad, to Paris, in 1951, where he met Picasso, and in 1953 he visited New York, where he met Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, and Hans Hofmann. In 1984, he established the Fundacio Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona.
 Antoni Tàpies, Palla i fusta, 1969, (Straw and Wood), assemblage on canvas, 150 x 116 cm

Comprising approximately twenty major large-scale works from the 1950s and 1960s, the show explores how Tàpies developed the language and signature iconography—informed by the political upheavals of his native Spain—that shaped his practice throughout his career. During the same period, he began to use unconventional materials and media, mixing traditional paints with such purposefully commonplace materials as sand, ash, marble powder, paper, cloth, and string. Typically called “matter paintings,” these pieces incorporate gestural form and thickly worked, scraped, torn, and incised surfaces. Together, the works shed light on Tàpies’s commitment to contemporary political and social issues, especially in relation to his Catalan heritage.

The exhibition was curated by Tàpies scholar Manuel Borja-Villel, director of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reína Sofía in Madrid (Museo Reína Sofía) and former director of the Fundacio Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona. It initiates a series of institutional exchanges between Dia and the Museo Reina Sofía, Spain’s national museum of modern and contemporary art.

"Antoni Tàpies: The Resources of Rhetoric," curated by Manuel Borja-Villel. Dia: Beacon, Beacon, NY. Through October 19.


Antoni Tàpies, Armari, 1973 (Wardrobe), object-tapestry, 231 x 201 x 156 cm. Work executed in collaboration with Josep Royo.


Antoni Tàpies, Porta metàl·lica i violí, 1956, metal shutter and violin, paint on object-assemblage, 200 x 150 x 13 cm.


Antoni Tàpies, Creu de paper de diari, 1946-1947, (Newsprint Cross), paint, ink and collage on paper, 40 x 31 cm.

All images are art work by Antoni Tàpies, courtesy of the Fundacio Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona.

May 29, 2009

Abstract painters swim upriver this weekend

John Davis Gallery in Hudson, NY, kicks off the summer season this week with a group of solo shows by five women artists. I asked John why he was showing all women, and he said that it wasn’t a conscious decision—he just sees more women making interesting art than men these days. He has installed work by four abstract painters (including me) in both the front galleries and the sublimely quirky Carriage House, and a figurative sculptor in the Sculpture Garden that separates the two buildings. I’ll be at the reception this Saturday, May 30, from 6:00 until 8:00 p.m., so if you’re in the area, please stop by.

Main Galleries: Rosanna Bruno

Rosanna Bruno’s interest lies in the process of painting itself. What especially engages Bruno is the challenge of making non-mimetic images that sublimate her ongoing (and entirely natural) struggle with line and color to exude a loose playfulness and apparent spontaneity. “I feel it’s possible to work out the jumble of constant visual stimulation through the experience of just making,” Bruno says. “It is a form of translation, utilizing the language of paint to speak to endless experiences.” According to John, eminent painter Louise Fishman thinks Bruno is one of the best painters out there right now, and I'd have to agree.

Carriage House, Fourth Floor: Sharon Butler

Regular Two Coats readers might remember that I worked in a solitary 4' x 5' shack in Beacon, NY, last summer. I had heard of a project called "Habitat for Artists" from Chris Albert, a blogger I met during the Blogger Conference at the Red Dot Fair in the spring. "Habitat For Artists" was organized by artist Simon Draper, who built twelve small sheds on the grounds of Spire Studios and invited a group of artists to use them for the summer. Traveling to Beacon was more time-consuming than working in one stationary location, and I painted less on days spent there, but expanding my world enriched my work.

The shack was just a few blocks from Dia:Beacon, which is known mainly for a resolutely intellectual brand of minimalism, but installations by colorists Blinky Palermo and Imi Knoebel impelled me to consider color. As the summer unfolded in the shack, I extended the limited, austere palette I'd been using for years to include the entire spectrum. The scale, handmadeness, and intuitive form of these small paintings constitute an emotive and spontaneous counterpoint to the cerebral and exhaustive exploration of mathematical and geometric constructs and the meticulous experimentation with industrial materials I confronted at Dia:Beacon.

Carriage House, Second Floor: EJ Hauser

In a semi-free-associative process, EJ Hauser conjoins thickly painted canvases with text panels based on her notebooks. “My notebooks serve as a kind of personal repository for images and words that I think of as energy and force. While working in the notebooks, I also make drawings, clip images from the newspaper, and write down strings of words,” Hauser says. “ These drawings and lists become the origin for my paintings. I basically develop the heavy paint paintings similarly to how I develop the word paintings. An idea (word or image) goes up on the panel, and I react to it building layers, adding and subtracting, looking for something resonant.” Shown at Never Work (2008) and selected by Brent Burket last year for "Unbreak my Heart" at Pluto, Hauser's beautiful and mysterious paintings are about the act of uniting: chaos and control, thought and feeling, high and low. Can't we all just get along?

Carriage House, Third Floor: Molly Herman

Molly Herman began this series by asking how she could reduce painting to its most basic elements without losing the fleshy physicality. She limited her scope to obvious and repeatable marks and simplified palette. “Quickly, this process evolved and broke from a methodical printed pattern into a kind of layered and textured ‘Free Verse.’” Herman says. “Compositions are arrived at through an open-ended search; a process embedded in the painting.” Herman's thick, juicy paintings can be seen in the films "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Maid in Manhattan."

Sculpture Garden: Mary Ellen Scherl

In 2001, Mary Ellen Scherl began working on “Monumental Woman,” the first of a series of life-size, classically rendered obese figures which went beyond the intention of merely achieving verisimilitude. “Whereas my artistic practice previously featured realism and attention to detail, with ‘Monumental Woman’ these aspects were married to emotional content,” Scherl says. “Body image issues, dignity, pain, and healing. These qualities continue to influence my figurative work.”


Here's an image of John, showing me the first portfolio produced by John Davis Editions. Nine gallery artists created original pieces using traditional printmaking processes, in a limited signed edition of 50. Collectors can subscribe to the entire series or buy prints individually. Artists include La Wilson,McWillie Chambers, Renee Iacone Clearman, Daisy Craddock, Paul Hamann, Joseph Haske, Christine Heller, Jon Isherwood, and Sara Jane Roszak.

John Davis Gallery, 362 1/2 Warren Street, Hudson, NY. Through June 21.

May 28, 2009

Twitter notes

  1. TJ Carlin's picks for the best new additions to the creative world http://bit.ly/12rLsJ
  2. Joan Banach at Nicole Fiacco Gallery in Hudson (opens Saturday) http://bit.ly/3SfqS
  3. Margaret Murphy's Celebration at hpgrp (opens tomorrow) http://bit.ly/1as9a0
  4. RT @aczine: A.A. Rucci at Mixed Greens: http://bit.ly/OnN0s
  5. Studio Update: Scans of my sketchbooks for 246 Editions http://bit.ly/fz58K
  6. After 46 years, Boston's eminent Nielsen Gallery calls it quits http://bit.ly/i1dLP
  7. LA TIMES Christopher Knight says Barkley Hendricks show somewhat disappointing http://bit.ly/zpn9M
  8. RT @artnetdotcom: Very cool: Pierogi's famous Flat Files, with work by over 900 artists -- now online http://bit.ly/3kj9Bv
  9. Delivered my paintings to John Davis Gallery today. A mysterious, sublimely quirky space. Show opens THIS SATURDAY. http://bit.ly/gkwZn

May 27, 2009

Studio Update: 246 Editions selection committee

When Matthew Langley asked me if he could publish my work in the first round of affordable digital prints at 246 Editions, I quickly agreed. Matt has a good eye and fine attention to detail, and the Peter Dayton print I received in the mail this week is stunning. Now, after much dithering about what image to submit, I've decided to use a drawing-collage from one of my sketchbooks. I hate to admit that I watch TV while I draw, but I've found that it keeps me from overthinking the images, and so every night I work on my books in front of the boob tube. I scanned the pages into the computer, then composited them in Photoshop. Big thanks to John Davis and JH, a low-profile work-on-paper collector who stopped by over the long weekend, for helping me decide what to select. Here are scans of a few spreads. The books are nothing fancy, just 8.5" x 5.5" perfect-bound vinyl-covered books from Utrechts.



















"If wall text leaves us feeling neither more informed nor more enthused, it’s just visual junk."

At Frieze, Hayward Gallery curator Tom Morton considers museum wall text. "Major museums and galleries provide wall texts because of three problems – or, at least, what are perceived to be problems. The first of these is simply identification, which is solved by the classic ‘tombstone’ label, detailing a work’s author, title, date, dimensions (surely unnecessary in the exhibition space itself? Has anyone ever exclaimed ‘2440 x 1830mm, whouda thunk it?’) and provenance. The second and third are a little more complex, and might be characterized as the perceived absence, among a broad audience, of the art historical knowledge to put a work into context, and the assumed inability of the work to communicate to that audience on the work’s own terms. If these problems actually are problems – and most large institutions seem to think they are – then it follows that the devices with which they address them are absolutely vital to the enterprise of exhibition-making, and should be of a corresponding quality. Why is it, then, that so many museum and gallery wall texts are so reductive, so intellectually unambitious, so badly written, and so physically intrusive that they feel less like the handiwork of Jeeves than of some shambling Igor?



"One response to this might be that these texts are not written for a specialist audience, but I’m left wondering exactly what assumptions are being made about a non-specialist audience, and why their authors think that the best way to reach them is through leaden analysis, delivered in the most leaden of language. A typical example I recently chanced upon described an artist’s work as ‘investigating issues surrounding gender, power, community, and one’s place in our mass-mediated society’, a construction that serves next to no elucidatory purpose (if the artist was indeed concerned with this check-list of big, bold abstractions, surely it would be obvious from their work?) and fails to communicate anything in the way of excitement about looking and thinking. A wall text should make the viewer – any viewer – want to look at the work again. If it leaves us feeling neither more informed nor more enthused, it’s just visual junk, pointing at something that, if the artist who made it is any kind of artist at all, is already doing a pretty good job of pointing to itself." Read more.

May 26, 2009

Ken Johnson's career advice

In the NY Times Ken Johnson suggests a time-tested recipe for success."Fail at what you want to do, then do what you really can do. It worked for Luis Meléndez. He desperately sought appointment as a salaried court artist like his contemporary Francisco Goya, but his petitions to the king were rejected. So instead of producing unctuous portraits of nobles, grandiose history paintings and saccharine mythic scenes, he painted small, intensely realistic pictures of fruit, vegetables and kitchenware. Today he is considered the greatest still-life painter of 18th-century Spain." Read more.

Luis Meléndez: Master of the Spanish Still Life,” National Gallery of Art, May 17–August 23, 2009; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, September 23, 2009–January 3, 2010; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, January 31–May 9, 2010

The painting underground: James Little

In the midst of preparation for his show at June Kelly Gallery, James Little took time to visit Brooklyn Rail Headquarters and chat with Managing Art Editor Benjamin La Rocco about his life and work. Here's an excerpt.

Rail (Ben): As an African American growing up in the segregated south, it must have been difficult to avoid issues of race in your painting. Some of your titles are very suggestive in that regard.

Little: Yeah, well, I lived it. It’s a juicy subject. Always has been. But now there’s this small type culture, people are being featured as major artists because they’re making statements about their social conditions or political conditions or gender and that kind of thing. I think they are separate entities. Gender is not art. Race is not art. Politics are politics. To take those things and put them under the caption of art, or to try to displace art with politics, is a mistake. And the fact that some of my paintings have titles that refer to different racial issues or ethnic issues—I have a painting called “The First Black.” There’s not a speck of black in the painting, but the reason I called it “The First Black” was because it seemed endless that anytime there was a black person to accomplish something, in any area of our society—school teacher, track star, baseball player, computer analyst, scuba diver, first black person to ever be a scuba diver, the first black person to ever work at Macy’s—you would hear about it. There’s all these “The First Blacks.” But that title, that was my way of getting beyond it. Not that we all got beyond it, but it was my way of getting beyond it. Painters have always made some sort of social comment. There’s a whole history of black artists’ social awareness. When it comes to their work, sometimes to their detriment. I am who I am. I’m black now. I’m gonna be black tomorrow. I mean it’s not something that’s unique to me. This is my genetic makeup. It’s not something that I’m going to spend the rest of my life sitting here and dealing with. It’s somebody else’s problem. The most that I can do in terms of race, gender, and politics, is to be the most successful painter I can be, break new ground, and that’s a political milestone in and of itself. That’s the way I’ve always looked at it. Take painting and try to do something heroic and successful and ambitious....



Rail: You seem quite positive about the future of art here and I just wonder what you see coming out of this financial mess we’re in now as potentially positive.


Little: I think in a way there’s a silver lining to it because I think the art world needs a correction, and its just been like a runaway freight train lately. Anything goes. It’s like publishing a book that didn’t get edited. It doesn’t happen that way. It never did. It takes time to get there. It really does. The best art is still in the shadows.



Rail: Do you see yourself as part of a painting underground?


Little: I do think there’s an underground. I think there’s a handful of painters that are busting through this thing. I think that there are some good things being done. I think its more important to make painting by consensus among artists rather than by committee. It’s more important to me that a person like you, or a painter like Thornton Willis, or my friend Al—people who are knowledgeable about art, who do this stuff day to day—it’s more important to me that they understand what I’m doing and have an appreciation for what I’m doing than say, a room full of four or five people trading names with each other. Read more.

"James Little: De-Classified: New Paintings," June Kelly Gallery, New York, NY. Through June 9.

May 23, 2009

Sigmar Polke sees the light

In Time Out New York Howard Halle reports that Sigmar Polke's "Lens Paintings" are further testament, if any is needed, to the power of an artist's "late" style." This is the first show of new works in New York by Polke in 11 years, and in it, the German artist seems to gaze retrospectively at his career through the metaphor of the lenticular process—most commonly associated with those postcards that flicker back and forth between two images. Though they don't create the same kind of illusion, the canvases here are faced with a ribbed material that ranges in opacity from transparent to translucent to opaque. But behind and on top of this surface treatment, you can see Polke reprising motifs that cover his 40-plus years of production. There are snatches of the cartoony figuration and blown-up benday dots that characterized his earliest efforts from the '60s, when he and Gerhard Richter embarked on the critique of American Pop Art they labeled Capitalist Realism. The kooky found fabrics and gestural passages that made their way into his oeuvre at the end of that decade and into the '70s are also here, as are the blown-up old-timey bookplate engravings that Polke began to appropriate in the 1980s. The last are probably the most relevant to the new paintings, since they evince the love of vintage books that led Polke to his inspiration: a treatise on optics by a 17th-century monk named Johann Zahn.

"Zahn was a key figure in the development of the camera obscura, the device which presaged photography, and in his text he describes a "teledioptric artificial eye"—what we'd call a telephoto lens—while noting that every luminous object in the universe varies in appearance depending on the viewer's position. A dry observation to be sure, but one that ran contrary the certainties of Renaissance perspective that defined painting in Zahn's time. And indeed, the science of lens grinding, which began in the 1600s, was one of the developments that would eventually lead to the modernist revolution. But more compelling to Polke, perhaps, was Zahn's implication that perception was necessarily democratic, dependent on the individual's point of view. This notion comports with what Polke learned as a student of Joseph Beuys, a big believer in the idea of art as a populist arena....

"It's no coincidence, then, that the fragmentary images that Polke employs appear to make references to prestidigitation, magic lantern shows and spirit photography. More to the point, however, he hints at the threshold where vision meets the divine. More than just taking a trip down memory lane with these "Lens Paintings," Polke is looking back over a career and seeing the light."



"Sigmar Polke: The Lens Paintings," Michael Werner, New York, NY. Through June 19.

May 21, 2009

Twitter notes

A few items cut and pasted from the Two Coats Twitter Feed.
  1. RT @fecalface: We got some photos from Clare Rojas show at Kavi Gupta Chicago - http://tinyurl.com/olcdsm
  2. Painters scrutinize my Louise Fishman review here: http://bit.ly/635Ll
    And here: http://bit.ly/17ukNl

  3. RT @aczine: Dannielle Tegeder at Priska C. Juschka: http://bit.ly/CWbu0
  4. I'll be talking about "Status Update" on CT Public Radio's "Where We Live'" tomorrow at 9:45am http://bit.ly/8zFac
  5. Two Coats is envious: RT @hragv: "Just bought a Kindle http://bit.ly/raeDI
  6. RT @artnetdotcom: Video of Cosmo Joe at the Madison MoCA, rep of the burgeoning trend of "performance painting" http://bit.ly/11JpfX
  7. Loving Charlie Finch's latest headline: http://bit.ly/11Cafz
  8. What I'm giving for graduation gifts this year: http://bit.ly/i2rqn
  9. Chained myself to the desk writing about the Guggenheim's Frank Lloyd Wright show for the next issue of The Brooklyn Rail. http://bit.ly/3KHlW
  10. Since when are artists such Pollyannas? http://bit.ly/QMAJ6
  11. RT @artnetdotcom: A blog devoted to Pre-Raphaelite art http://bit.ly/177jHi
  12. Pundyk on Holstad, Jones, Hoeber, Schutz, Tegeder and Simonson at MOMA's Pecha Kucha night http://bit.ly/AOqQM
  13. Via MWCapacity (http://mwcapacity.wordpress...): Joseph Noderer's paintings http://bit.ly/Tifry
  14. B'MoreArt's images of the May 14 MICA Artwalk http://bit.ly/GMIrs
  15. Futuristic interiors of 60s furniture designer Verner Panton http://bit.ly/6AdxJ
  16. Laurie Fendrich appalled by the sheer bombast of Anselm Kiefer's studio in Barjac http://bit.ly/L5RCh
  17. Everybody loves Carrie Moyer http://bit.ly/MlgV7
  18. Art Observed presents George Condo http://bit.ly/CUXdN
  19. Regina Hackett's images of abandoned places in art http://bit.ly/xXFi4
  20. Two Coats review: Francis Bacon at the Met http://bit.ly/aL3lE

May 20, 2009

Hernan Bas: A newfound interest in Futurism and 1920s Absurdist performance

At BlackBook Ray Rogers talks to Hernan Bas about his paintings at Lehmann Maupin. Here's an excerpt.

While there is definitely a through-line, the new body of work has a different feel from what’s on view across the bridge at the Brooklyn Museum.
The whole show is based on a newfound interest that I had in Futurism and 1920s Absurdist performance. The title of the show is Unpopular Forms of Expression. I feel that after the last eight years, a lot of things have been suppressed. As silly of a reference as it is, I was watching RuPaul on The View and she was talking about how she disappeared for a couple of years. She said that during the Bush Administration, she felt that the climate was such that she couldn’t be out there doing her thing. I thought it was really interesting that she made that comment. In talking about unpopular forms of expression, drag queens may be one of the top ones. I thought it felt timely to look back at that time period and relate it to the future. It’s also, coincidentally, the 100th anniversary of Futurism. I swear I didn’t know that when I started doing the work.

What led you to this fascination?
I was sent a book on the history of absinthe and artists. People always talk about the hallucinogenic properties of absinthe, and it’s really that Gauguin and many other artists just drank so much of it. I learned about Alfred Jarry who is an Absurdist playwright who wrote the Ubu Roi. One of the paintings is based on the Absurdist play by the same title, which was the first absurdist play in documented history. That led me into the whole realm of Absurdist Theater and weird accents, and that led to Futurism and early Dadaist performances. I overlooked so much of this work myself, because the Dadaists and Surrealists were so popularized through high school and art school in the same way that college kid posters rape Gustave Klimt. I found out, to my detriment, that it was important for a reason. Just because it can be a little tacky, doesn’t mean that it should be overlooked.

I also wanted to reinvestigate the painting elements of these periods. One of the paintings here is based on a Russian Futurist play called,
Mystery Bouf. In the play, based on turn-of-the-century Russian politics, the whole world gets flooded, except for Antarctica, and only seven people from the Bourgeoisie class and seven people from the working class survive. They all go to Antarctica to battle it out for supremacy and, of course, the Bourgeoisie loses. The working class builds this monument dedicated to Futurism and the new ruling class. I painted the scene in Antarctica of them building the future temple, or the Kingdom of Heaven, as they called it. I like the reactions people have to political struggles and how they dealt with this on an Absurdist level. I think that’s something that’s lacking on a contemporary level, and it goes back to RuPaul, I think she is an Absurdist protester.

Hernan Bas: The Dance of the Machine Gun and other forms of unpopular expression," Lehmann Maupin, New York, NY. Through July 10. Note: I tried to stop in on Sunday and the gallery was closed.
Hernan Bas: Works from the Rubell Family Collection," Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY. Through May 24.

Related Links:
Young Man on the Half Shell Bespeaks Nostalgic Longing (Ken Johnson, NYTimes)
Hernan Bas Fails to Impress (Paddy Johnson, L Magazine)

May 18, 2009

Why Bacon?

Francis Bacon is one of those painters every beginning painting student adores because Bacon’s work is so much more accessible than the abstract painters who were exploring similar existential themes during the same period. The accessibility of Bacon’s corporeal vision is undoubtedly why his work appeals so strongly to new collectors short on art theory. Not surprisingly, during today’s opening remarks at the press preview for the Bacon exhibition that opens this week at the Met, curator Gary Tinterow cited Bacon’s influence on later artists (primarily Damien Hirst and the YBAs) as one of the primary reasons that this show is so important. The second reason, Tinterow declared, is the fact that Bacon is dead.

Huh? Well, it seems that many of Bacon’s friends and colleagues who were reluctant to dish while the painter was alive, have come forward to give us a more fully formed picture of Bacon’s life and working process than was available during the last Bacon retrospective twenty years ago. Additionally, after Bacon died, the source material in his notoriously cluttered London studio was sorted and catalogued, and 65 pieces from the archive are included in the exhibition. The dog-eared magazine images, crumpled photographs, and torn book pages, many painted over or altered by the artist, are my favorite part of the show. Bacon’s sketches and notes reveal that he was, to use Jung’s categories, a thinker who struggled to reconcile his need to explain and tell with his desire to make the viewer feel.

The exhibition, arranged chronologically, shows a self-taught artist earnestly learning how to paint in the early years. According to Tinterow, one of the reasons that Bacon framed his paintings under glass was so that the reflections and sheen would camouflage his technical shortcomings. The later work shows a mastery of materials and a much richer understanding of color, but the early immediacy and agitation have been replaced by a more placid, decorative approach, not unlike DeKooning’s path from edgy action painter to lyrical abstractionist.

Bacon's paintings aren't all that influential among young artists today, but perhaps, thanks to this show, we can look forward to some screaming, yelping angst emerging from grad school studios in the near future, instead of the text-heavy theoretical constructs we’ve become accustomed to.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by Tate Publishing, with essays by Martin Harrison, David Mellor, Simon Ofield, Rachel Tant, Gary Tinterow, and Victoria Walsh.


Charming and articulate, curator Gary Tinterow leads the press tour through the exhibition.


Tinterow, giving one of many interviews surrounded by a gallery of Bacon's brighter paintings. (The Met's press kit for the Bacon show, a work of art itself, is entirely digital, which is very much appreciated.)


"Men Wrestling," lower half of a plate from Eadweard Muybridge's The Human Figure in Motion (Philadelphia, 1887; New York: Dover, 1955) 10 3/4 x 7 13/16 in. (27.3 x 19.9 cm). Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane


George Dyer in the Reece Mews Studio,ca. 1964. Gelatin silver print, torn and ripped, with scotch tape and paint additions. 11 15/16 x 11 15/16 in. (30.3 x 30.3 cm) unframed. Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane.


Photo-booth portraits of Francis Bacon, George Dyer, and David Plante in Aix-en-Provence, mounted to the inside cover of a book 1966–1967. 10 3/16 x 8 11/16 in. (25.9 x 22 cm) The Estate of Francis Bacon, courtesy Faggionato Fine Arts, London, and Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York


Bacon's Reece Mews Studio

"Francis Bacon: A Centenary Retrospective," curated by Gary Tinterow, Matthew Gale, and Chris Stephens. Organized by Gary Tinterow, Anne L. Strauss, and Ian Alteveer. The Metropolitan Museum, New York, NY. May 20 –August 16. Exhibited at Tate Britain and the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid before its presentation at the Metropolitan Museum.

Related post:
A roundup of reviews written when the show was at the Tate: "Francis Bacon was one of the greatest painters of the twentieth century..."

May 17, 2009

Twitter notes

A few items cut and pasted from the Two Coats Twitter Feed.
  1. Louise Fishman's generation vs. Younger than Jesus http://bit.ly/3m2fni1 minute ago from TweetDeck
  2. The impossibility of painting, the impossibility of not painting http://bit.ly/2luxmP2 minutes ago from TweetDeck
  3. RT @artfagcity: "Angela Dufresne's figurative paintings at CRG is the best work I've seen in Chelsea today." http://bit.ly/IzH25about 15 hours ago from TweetDeck
  4. "You could buy a couple six packs...or you could buy some artwork." http://bit.ly/i2rqnabout 20 hours ago from TweetDeck
  5. Talk about affordable art: Matthew Langley's 246 Editions is up and running http://bit.ly/i2rqnabout 20 hours ago from TweetDeck
  6. RT @bhoggard: They're talking about Artsjournal.com and culture blogging on Studio 360 right now. http://bit.ly/153Wixabout 21 hours ago from TweetDeck
  7. DIY summer artists residency? Bring your own tent, invite your friends. http://bit.ly/6R6Ecabout 21 hours ago from TweetDeck
  8. Notes from the Status Update/Big Love panel discussion: http://bit.ly/IqijQ #hlsu Comments welcome.6:41 PM May 15th from TweetDeck
  9. Cabinet Magazine: Images of rocks that look like food--bacon, gorgonzola, tripe and more. Unfortunately, not online. 6:02 PM May 15th from TweetDeck

The impossibility of painting and the equally persistent impossibility of not painting

In Art in America, Raphael Rubinstein reports that he's become increasingly aware of a kind of provisionality within the practice of painting. "I first noticed it pervading the canvases of Raoul De Keyser, Albert Oehlen, Christopher Wool, Mary Heilmann and Michael Krebber, artists who have long made works that look casual, dashed-off, tentative, unfinished or self-cancelling. In different ways, they all deliberately turn away from 'strong' painting for something that seems to constantly risk inconsequence or collapse. (See slide show below.)

"Why would an artist demur at the prospect of a finished work, court self-sabotaging strategies, sign his or her name to a painting that looks, from some perspectives, like an utter failure? It might have something to do with a foundational skepticism that runs through the history of modern art: we see it in Cézanne’s infinite, agonized adjustments of Mont St. Victoire, in Dada’s noisy denunciations (typified by Picabia’s blasphemous Portrait of Cézanne), in Giacometti’s endless obliterations and restartings of his painted portraits, in Sigmar Polke’s gloriously dumb compositions of the 1960s. Something similar can be found in other art forms, in Paul Valéry’s insistence that a poem is 'never finished, only abandoned,' in Artaud’s call for 'no more masterpieces,' and in punk’s knowing embrace of the amateurish and fucked-up. The history of modernism is full of strategies of refusal and acts of negation....

"Provisional painting is not about making last paintings, nor is it about the deconstruction of painting. It’s the finished product disguised as a preliminary stage, or a body double standing in for a star/masterpiece whose value would put a stop to artistic risk. To put it another way: provisional painting is major painting masquerading as minor painting. In their book Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature (1986), Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari described how Kafka’s linguistic and cultural condition (as a Jewish author writing in German in Prague where the type of German he spoke was 'minor' in relation both to the locally dominant Czech language and to standard German) involved the 'impossibility' of writing in German and the 'impossibility of not writing.'Kafka’s solution was to fashion a mode of writing that seemed to erase all literary precedents, and to create an oeuvre that barely survived into the future. Faced with painting’s imposing history and the diminishment of the medium by newer art forms, recent painters may have found themselves in similarly 'minor' situations; the provisionality of their work is an index of the impossibility of painting and the equally persistent impossibility of not painting." Read more.

Here's the slide show that runs with Rubinstein's excellent article.


Thanks AiA for finally publishing your articles online.

May 15, 2009

Big Love: My notes from the panel discussion at "Status Update" exhibition in New Haven















Read more about the panel and exhibition, and see pictures, in the New Haven Independent.

Related post:
"Status Update" in New Haven

Kindle news update

Today's news: Two Coats of Paint is available on Amazon's e-book, the Kindle. I don't generally swoon over fancy electronics, but I admit I want one of these babies. During summer residencies, I could load up the Kindle with the books, magazines and newspapers on my reading list and hit the road-- so much easier than carrying a sackful of ink-on-paper. NY Times, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, The Nation, The Atlantic, New Yorker and more are available, and blogs, which cost about 1.99 cents for each subscription, can be downloaded, too. One of my favorite features is the adjustable typesize so that when I forget my reading glasses I can just scale it up. 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 $360. Note that as you read this short ode to the Kindle, the choice of art blogs keeps growing.

May 14, 2009

Alex Katz on supersizing

In The Brooklyn Rail, Phong Bui talks with Alex Katz about his paintings and process. In this excerpt, Katz explains his early decision to scale up.

"When I started to paint directly from nature, the paintings were focused behind my head. Somehow I understood how to put paint in focus just instinctively. Also, it may relate to when I was in school working from life models. The teacher would say, 'twenty minute pose'—I couldn’t do anything in twenty minutes. So I realized that I better pay attention to it. That was when I began to draw around the clock every day. I drew in subways, buses, restaurants, and bars. I just kept drawing for about two years, and I got to be able to draw pretty rapidly. But it took another six years until I was able to draw on both sides of the line. The early drawing was more descriptive, which is part of the application of imagery. And with the paint it was the same thing. At Cooper Union, Braque was considered the best painter, and he painted dry, in layers, but when I saw Pollock I thought that his paintings weren’t exactly wet on wet, but it’s much more direct painting. That was when I started doing the direct painting, I just accelerated, like what I was doing with the drawing, I did a painting a day for at least ten years. And at the end of that ten years I destroyed nearly a thousand paintings—I didn’t care because they were just about experimentation. When anyone said, 'Alex is a good painter' at that point it was almost like a putdown. Anyway, the problem with painting is that it has to do with the craft, so you really have to figure out how to do it yourself. And the problem was to paint a larger painting in the same direct way.

I found myself in the middle of a road painting a six foot square painting and a car came and blew the painting away. I said, 'This is not going to work. I was lucky today but I might not be so lucky tomorrow.' That’s when I started to make sketches. Then when I got to the big one I could paint it in about the same time as the sketches pretty early on. The important thing was I realized that there wasn’t any large figurative painting that I thought was that interesting. I already knew the Abstract Expressionists in New York got around Paris by going big. (Matisse could have painted great big but he didn’t, and Picasso—I don’t think he was so hot on large paintings.) But as far as big paintings of the figure were concerned, no one had been there. It was problematic whether or not you could do it but since I had spent the first ten years dealing with those problems, it just worked out okay when I took a risk. And if that works, then you say, 'Well, let’s go further.' As the technique got better, I was able to figure out how to deal with group compositions." Read more.

Alex Katz: Fifteen Minutes at Pace Wildenstein, through June 13; Alex Katz: Reflections at the Museo delle Arti di Catanzaro, Calabria, Italy, through June 13; and Alex Katz: An American Way of Seeing at the Sara Hildén Art Museum in Tampere, Finland through May 30.

May 13, 2009

Twitter notes

Some recent posts from the Two Coats of Paint Twitter Feed.
  1. Nominations for the $20,000 award are due Friday: http://bit.ly/zJM5I
  2. Opens tomorrow: Moyna Flannigan, Trouble Loves Me http://bit.ly/11F56z
  3. BAM auction results for paintings (with value, opening, and and leading bids): http://bit.ly/9sbsH
  4. RT @anniebissett: Grants, fellowships, residencies, resources for artists: Mira's List - http://miraslist.blogspot.com/
  5. New gallery opens in P-town: http://bit.ly/C6gvD
  6. RT @visitnewhaven: RT @newhavecultural: May 14. Status Update Artist Reception. 5-7pm @ Haskins Laboratories. http://www.newhavenarts.org
  7. Go ahead--read Rita Ackermann's diary: http://bit.ly/10ATNZ
  8. Architectural Digest editor miffed that art director Jeffrey Nemeroff is a painter: http://bit.ly/LVWFq
  9. What's with the security at those small Dutch museums? Second heist this month: http://bit.ly/tXiJj
  10. Is it better to have someone do something, no matter how stupid, than nothing?? http://bit.ly/yyzZA
  11. Prince William declares,"I am Banksy!" http://bit.ly/xRAZ

George Nick: Still loose and experimental

In the Boston Globe Cate McQuaid reports that George Nick, one of the teachers at Massachusetts College of Art when I got my BFA back in the day, may be 82, but he's still growing as a painter. "His exhibit at Gallery NAGA is alive with texture, and tone, and particularly with light, as if Nick is constantly reawakening to its beauties and pitfalls. Nick continues to paint looming, sun-wracked visions of Back Bay architecture, interiors, and still lifes. His brushwork gets looser and more experimental; many of these paintings have the shimmer of hallucination about them. In 'Robert Treat Paine's Stonehurst, Waltham MA 23 Oct 2007,' the arched stone entryway and the mansard roof look more organic, in their curvature, tilt, and swell, than architectural.


"The bravura 'Tribute to John Updike 26 Jan 2009' (Nick and Updike were friends) has us looking across a Concord storefront to a church in the distance, with piles of many-colored snow along the way. Glance through two windows of the corner store and glimpse the church beyond: The light and reflection bounce through those layers of glass and space and accumulate into a cocktail of built-up yellows and peaches. Call that Nick's nirvana."

"George Nick: The Coded Process," Gallery NAGA, Boston, MA. Through May 30.

May 12, 2009

Jim Isermann's squareness

In ArtForum this month, Annie Buckley picks Jim Isermann’s elegant psychedelic paintings, which have graced the walls, floors, and ceilings of galleries, hotels, universities, stores, and museums over the past twenty-five years. "Using vinyl, plastic, linoleum, and—perhaps most memorably—a product called Put-in-Cups, Isermann culls and amplifies the basic principles of visual art: color, pattern, and design. Because of this, and the ease with which his fanciful geometries climb walls, adorn furniture, and span fences, his work is often understood as a fusion of art and design. Yet just when it would seem simplest to categorize or label the work as installation or design art, Isermann has turned to the elemental in another way, making paintings on canvas for the first time in twenty-two years.

"A recent exhibition, which includes four acrylic-on-canvas works and two drawings on graph paper, suggests a different way to look at Isermann’s work while posing a subtle challenge to the impetus to judge a work of art’s contemporary-ness by the nature of its form or materials. The four paintings on view are not novel, nor do they break down walls or charge ahead, but they are fresh, and—particularly in light of their eye-popping color and dimension-stretching matrices—surprisingly contemplative. Recalling ancient Greek architecture and Buddhist mandalas more readily than Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings or the subdued emotions of Agnes Martin’s grids, each of Isermann’s works is based on a system of squares within squares, which are stretched or condensed as the shapes make their way around the canvas and return to a square. Wholly self-contained, they seem to embody the beginning, middle, and end of an imaginary trip—whether roller-coaster ride or metaphysical journey—in one fell swoop."

"Jim Isermann," Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles, CA. Through May 16.

Rita Ackermann's Texas diary

As part of the Artist-in-Residence program at The Chinati Foundation, Rita Ackermann packed her bags, headed to Texas and chronicled her adventures with gun smugglers, drug lords and a dog named Mouse for BlackBook.

"I only brought with me one drawing to work on. It has a cave painting–like simplicity to it, showing bodies caught in provocative, violent movements. Mixing the urban primitive with nature’s brutishness, I befriended a man named Ty, an outlaw gun smuggler and El Salvadoran war veteran. A slashed-faced, broken-boned, 7-foot-tall cowboy, Ty has royal style and grace. He is the archetype of cool, the last American gentleman. He lives outside of the rules, as does the painter Christopher Wool, who has a studio down here. One day, the three of us drove around together in Ty’s pickup truck, Christopher sitting in the back next to the giant guns and the beer cooler, me in the front with Ty’s tiny black dog named Mouse. We shared an instant connection, despite our clashing backgrounds, while Ty told us stories about Mexican drug lord Pablo Acosta (his former boss), being bothered by border patrol and bandits, and explained that, in the end, gun size settles most disputes.

"It’s on this afternoon that I’ve decided to write this diary. I love driving and have an obsession with wrecked and crashed cars, with their chipped paint and the scratch marks on their metal bodies. These, to me, are beautiful paintings. And there are a lot of them here, blending into the landscape, bleeding into the wilderness and taken apart in backyards. The backyards here scream freedom. Nothing is thrown away; it’s never tidied. Everything is allowed—even games of tic-tac-toe using spray-paint on the walls—which is really what art should be about: freedom." Read more.

Check out Ackerman's images of Marfa.

May 11, 2009

Weekend Twitter links

From the Two Coats of Paint Twitter feed.
  1. Sharon Arnold (remember the art blog Artomaton?) curated this year's Seattle Erotic Art Festival http://bit.ly/uaVVO
  2. Cindy Tower's video response to David Bonetti's hatchet job of her show at Bruno David Gallery http://bit.ly/3QpvFb
  3. Shared DNA: William Powhida's art world pandering and Tom Hebert's Art Dealer Series 2002-07 http://bit.ly/19IUrv
  4. New York art collectors Julian and Josie Robertson donate big-name paintings to Auckland Art Gallery http://bit.ly/GufoX
  5. RT @culturepundits: RT @bhoggard Here is our piece by Ian Pedigo from the Momenta benefit http://is.gd/y6QC
  6. Another Jon Lutz (The Old Gold) production : http://bit.ly/BnrbO
  7. FB RT: Amy Lipton ecoaartspace open today 12 -6, 53 Mercer, NYC. Only 3 more Saturdays for the Habitat for Artists show.
  8. RT @Pocketopia: Amazing painter Dorothy Robinson opening at Slate gallery in Williamsburg: http://www.slategallery.com
  9. @Pocketopia Hey!
  10. Thomas Nozkowski poster project based on four of the seven Acts of Mercy http://bit.ly/ZnYlu
  11. Timothy Buckwalter's on Twitter @timbuckwalter (Hi Tim!)
  12. What to give your mother for mother's day: http://bit.ly/4gAETq
  13. Communitarian artist steps up to help other artists weather the lousy economic times: http://bit.ly/14zniZ
  14. Two Coats supports The Pulitzer Foundation in St. Louis because they support blogging: http://bit.ly/RaDsw

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