June 29, 2009

"When artists get cash, they spend it both quickly and carefully."

Jackson Pollock entering his studio. From the Smithsonian Archives.

Felix Salmon writes in this month's issue of The Atlantic that a good way to jump start the economy would be to pay the artists, who are among the very poorest citizens. "We’re living in a newly frugal world. But the rediscovered values of thrift and moderation should apply to the government as much as they do to households. No more trillion-dollar misadventures abroad: we need to spend money at home, and we need to get the maximum bang for our buck. If the Obama administration is serious about stimulating the economy and creating as many new jobs as possible, one choice is clear: it should announce a massive increase in federal arts funding. Artists are among the very poorest citizens. When they get cash, they spend it both quickly and carefully.

"That’s not what most recipients of federal largesse do, but it happens to be exactly what economists look for in any stimulus package. Arts spending is fantastic at creating employment: for every $30,000 or so spent on the arts, one more person gets a job, compared with about $1 million if you’re building a road or hospital. And such spending has a truly lasting benefit: the Works Progress Administration didn’t just create murals, it subsidized enormous leaps in graphic design, in theater (including America’s first all-black production of Macbeth), and in fine art. One painter lived off the WPA’s Federal Art Project for eight years before finally getting his first solo show in 1943. Maybe a similar program today could produce America’s next Jackson Pollock."

June 28, 2009

Summer break

Image: Sharon Butler, "Sketchbook Scan, Summer Plans," 2009.

I'll be posting less frequently during the summer in order to concentrate on other projects.

June 27, 2009

Michael Chabon: Children are cartographers

Map of Middle Earth.

"Childhood is a branch of cartography. Most great stories of adventure, from The Hobbit to Seven Pillars of Wisdom, come furnished with a map. That's because every story of adventure is in part the story of a landscape, of the interrelationship between human beings (or Hobbits, as the case may be) and topography. Every adventure story is conceivable only with reference to the particular set of geographical features that in each case sets the course, literally, of the tale. But I think there is another, deeper reason for the reliable presence of maps in the pages, or on the endpapers, of an adventure story, whether that story is imaginatively or factually true. We have this idea of armchair traveling, of the reader who seeks in the pages of a ripping yarn or a memoir of polar exploration the kind of heroism and danger, in unknown, half-legendary lands, that he or she could never hope to find in life.

"This is a mistaken notion, in my view. People read stories of adventure—and write them—because they have themselves been adventurers. Childhood is, or has been, or ought to be, the great original adventure, a tale of privation, courage, constant vigilance, danger, and sometimes calamity. For the most part the young adventurer sets forth equipped only with the fragmentary map—marked here there be tygers and mean kid with air rifle—that he or she has been able to construct out of a patchwork of personal misfortune, bedtime reading, and the accumulated local lore of the neighborhood children." (Terrific essay, via The New York Review of Books)

Torsten Slama in Houston

Torsten Slama, "Walt Whitman Memorial Refinery/Walt-Whitman-Gedenk-Raffinerie," 2005, India ink on illustration board, 28 x 40 inches. Collection Beth Rudin de Woody, New York

Rebecca Cochran reports in ArtForum that Berlin-based artist Torsten Slama's first museum show features an unnerving postapocalyptic world. "Part science fiction, part prophecy, his desolate landscape paintings and drawings depict a sinister, mechanized environment where technology and science rule. For his accomplished paintings, Slama utilizes oil, acrylic, and airbrush to create flat surfaces that erase the hand of their creator, a style particularly appropriate for the works here, which are themselves often devoid of humans....

"The exhibition also includes skillfully rendered pencil drawings on paper. While some follow in the same narrative vein as the paintings, another series portrays a bearded elderly gentleman whose well-groomed appearance and friendly face contradict the precarious and often confrontational situations he encounters. One work depicts him in a business suit apparently startling another man dressed only in his undershorts; in another, the protagonist is naked, clasping a pipe in one hand and a briefcase in the other. In most cases, he stands facing the viewer, as if issuing a challenge to decipher the ominous sexual innuendos that riddle the work. Psychological underpinnings and narrative suggestions connect the two seemingly disparate bodies of work into a strong presentation by this promising artist."

"Torsten Slama," Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston, TX. Through August 2.

Rockburne's mural-making at the Queens Museum

In the NY Times, Patricia Cohen reports on the Art in Embassies program. The Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies, a nonprofit group chaired by Robert Storr, works with the State Department to create and donate custom-made artwork for American outposts abroad. They've commissioned about a dozen large-scale installations including one that Dorothea Rockburne is creating this month at the Queens Museum.

"Dorothea Rockburne, with help from a team of artists, is working on a gargantuan mural of deep blues, shimmering aquas and luminous gold leaf that is headed for the American Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica. 'It shows the constellations in the nighttime sky when Colin Powell was born,' Ms. Rockburne explained, referring to the former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose roots extend back to Jamaica. And now, on this rainy June day, the project has hit a bump. Titanium white, the color needed for the underlying coat, is running out, and the paint manufacturer (American this time) said it would take two weeks to deliver more. Ms. Rockburne had been wrangling to speed up the delivery and that airlifted phone call told her she had succeeded.

"After hanging up, she ran her fingers over the canvas. 'I think it needs more texture,' she said. Not so heavy that it looks like stucco, but not flat, she explained. 'And it should be extra heavy in the middle section where the Milky Way is.'

"The artists assisting her have been practicing the unusual technique she developed, which involves dabbing paint on a canvas in layers with round masonry brushes — each about the size of an old 45 r.p.m. record. 'It has to do with getting light between the layers of the paint,' she said. The iridescent colors will cause the night sky to sparkle, giving 'spatial mystery to a flat surface.'" Read more.

Photo of Dorothea Rockburne at top: H Thomson.

June 25, 2009

New post at Art21: Art Reality TV

No matter how hard I try, avoiding reality TV is a challenge. The shows are like invasive kudzu: Nanny 911, Extreme Makeover, The Housewives of New Jersey, Jon & Kate, The Price of Beauty, COPS, I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, and many, many more. This fall I’ll be avoiding American Artist, Sarah Jessica Parker’s collaboration with Magical Elves, the team behind Top Chef and Project Runway. The new show will serve a mash-up of amateur entertainers—that is, real people—engaging in old-fashioned game-show-style competition and unscripted activity. According to press reports, each episode will feature the show’s “contestants” competing in art-themed challenges from a range of disciplines—including sculpture, painting, photography and industrial design—and completing works of art that will be assessed by a panel of “top figures” in the art world, including artists, gallerists, collectors, curators, and critics. If there are any producers out there (PBS?), here’s my suggestion for a better reality show about artists....Read the entire post here.

June 24, 2009

Guest blogger post at Art21: Whatever became of...

Mel Bochner’s new book, Solar System & Rest Rooms: Writings and Interviews, 1965–2007, is a compilation of his writing, both about art and as art. The book opens with thirty-five sharp, pithy reviews he wrote for Arts Magazine in the sixties. The editor paid $2.50 per review whether they were published or not, so Bochner turned in thirty each month, earning enough to pay his rent. After reading the reviews, I wondered whatever became of the unfamiliar artists he had skewered....Read the entire post here.

June 23, 2009

Artist residency looking for applicants in Portland

According to D.K. Row at The Oregonian, the artist condo enclave in Montavilla, Milepost 5, is looking for artist residency applicants. Deadline for applications was recently extended from June 30 to July 15. "According to Milepost 5's Web site, the visiting artist for the program gets to live for free in a furnished space for as long as three months. More importantly, during that time, he or she will work with Milepost 5's creative director on conceptualizing and producing art shows, lectures and other performances intended to expose the progressive artists' enclave to the larger public. No stipend is awarded to the chosen artist for this program, however. All kinds of artists are welcome to apply. The furnished space can accommodate the artist's partner, too. (Similarly, the selected artist could be a two-person team.)" To apply, go to Milepost 5's website and download the application.

The OC: Georgia O'Keeffe, Agnes Pelton, Agnes Martin and Florence Miller Pierce

Agnes Pelton,"Incarnation," 1929

In the LA Times blog, Christopher Knight reports that "the kernel of a powerful idea resides within 'Illumination,' an exhibition of abstract paintings by four women who worked in the deserts of the American Southwest and whose careers pretty much spanned the 20th century. But the kernel never really pops." Read more.

Illumination: The Paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe, Agnes Pelton, Agnes Martin and Florence Miller Pierce,” curated by Karen Moss. Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA. Through Sept. 6.

Smack Mellon relying on young painters for fundraising?

Julian Kreimer, "Barred Arcade," oil on linen, 13 x 13 inches.

To raise money for Smack Mellon, artists Kristopher Benedict, David Goodman, Julian Kreimer, Andy Lane, Amy Lincoln, Rebecca Litt, Jason Mones and Helena Wurzel have agreed to paint portraits for an evening at Michael Steinberg Fine Art. According to the invitation, each sitting will last about 30 minutes, and by the end of the evening the paintings, which cost $250 each, will be packed and ready to go. "Eight contemporary artists, all graduates of noted MFA programs, will paint the subject of your choice from life."

Don't get me wrong, I love Smack Mellon as much as the next guy, but isn't it a little ironic for an organization that cleaves toward site specific installations, and has little interest in contemporary painting, to rely on painters for fundraising? Please, tell me I'm wrong.

UPDATE: Here's a note I just received from Andrea Reynosa, Smack Mellon's founder:

I appreciate your Twitter comment that was forwarded to me by Christina Ray at Glowlab….as the founder of Smack Mellon, I have the honor of bringing it to your attention that Smack Mellon was allowed to thrive in the early years due to two well established feminist painters, Harmony Hammond and Joan Snyder respectively. If it hadn’t been for their gifted work and valuable support, we would not have been able to keep our dedicated space back in the late 90s from a skeptical benefactor yet eager developer, David Walentas…Harmony nor Joan were young painters but I’m sure great mentors, nonetheless, of the young painters that are trying to help support our what used to be a shoe string non-profit stay alive in hard times….
Andrea is missing my point. Asking young painters for help and support in dire financial times, and then giving nothing (i.e. few opportunities for shows or studio space) in return, is at best insensitive and unfair. I urge Smack Mellon to consider opening up their exhibition/studio programs to include more opportunities for painters.

New obsession: Smithsonian's Pollock and Krasner archive now online

Portraits of lee Krasner by Maurice Berezov, circa 1942, 1956.

Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock at the beach, circa 1950

In 2006 the Smithsonian Archives of American Art began digitizing all the Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner papers, photographs and ephemera in the archives. Now that the 15,096-image collection is available online, I can't tear myself away.

According to the Smithsonian Archives website, the papers measure 15.6 linear feet and date from circa 1914 to 1984, with the bulk of the material dating from 1942 to 1984. The collection documents their personal and professional lives, as well as the legacy of Jackson Pollock's work after his death. Found are biographical material, correspondence, writings by Krasner and others, research material, business and financial records, printed material, scrapbooks, artwork by others, photographs, interview transcripts, audio and video recordings, and motion picture film.

The collection is divided into two series, the first of which focuses on Pollock and includes his scattered papers dating from circa 1914 to his death in 1956, as well as Krasner's papers dating from his death to 1984 about managing Pollock's legacy. This series includes biographical materials, including transcripts and audio recordings of an interview with William Wright in 1949; Pollock's and Krasner's correspondence with Thomas Hart Benton, Betty Parsons Gallery, Bill Davis, B. H. Friedman, Reginald Isaacs, Sidney Janis, Violet De Lazlo, Martha Jackson Gallery, Alfonso Ossorio, Tony Smith, and Clyfford Still, and with one another; Krasner's correspondence concerning Pollock's estate and artwork after his death; numerous writings about Pollock, including an original draft of Bryan Robertson's biography and an essay by Clement Greenberg.

(16 Miles of String is responsible for turning me on to this.)

Guest Blogger at Art21

Posts may slow down at Two Coats for the next two weeks while I'm Guest Blogging at Art21. My first post, inspired by Mel Bochner’s new book, Solar System & Rest Rooms: Writings and Interviews, 1965–2007, should be up sometime today. Art21produces the Peabody-winning PBS series Art:21-Art in the Twenty-First Century, as well as books, internet-based resources, and public programs. Founded in 1997, their goal is to broaden the public's knowledge of contemporary art, ignite discussion, and inspire creative thinking. Can't argue with that.

June 21, 2009

In honor of fathers who like to make things

Here's an image of a nail organizer my father made, probably forty years ago, out of a wooden crate, ten cigar boxes, and a handful of nails. He died a few years back, but objects like this, at once utilitarian and poetically off-kilter, embody his idiosyncratic spirit.

Related post:
Growing up Wright

June 20, 2009

Farrell Brickhouse: A collection of palette pics

Farrell Brickhouse has a photo album on Facebook comprising images of his friends' palettes. Lurking within each palette is the roadmap to the painter's process. Many thanks to Farrell for letting me post the images on Two Coats of Paint. If you aren't familiar with the artists' paintings, click on their names for links to their work, all of which is worth a visit.

Farrell Brickhouse's brushes

Francis Bacon
(OK, this image is mine--snapped at the Bacon retrospective at the Met)

New URL address for Two Coats of Paint

I recently simplified the Two Coats of Paint URL by taking out "blogspot." At first, all traffic was automatically rerouted, but now readers need to update their bookmarks and subscriptions to continue receiving updates. If you read Two Coats of Paint through a subscription (Bloglines, Google Reader, etc.), please update the feed address by resubscribing. Just click the subscribe button in the right column or manually paste in the elegant new URL: http://www.twocoatsofpaint.com. If you have a blog, and Two Coats is listed in your blog roll, you should update the URL there, too.

I should have announced this long ago. Sorry for the inconvenience.

June 18, 2009

NY Times Art in Review: Beck, Dorland, Hume, Becker, Woods

Lisa Beck, "Untitled," 2009; acrylic paint on canvas; 24" x 18."
Photo courtesy of Feature, Inc.

"Lisa Beck," Feature Inc., New York, NY. Through June 28. Roberta Smith: Lisa Beck’s new black-and-white paintings are among the best she has ever made. With their clusters of visionary orbs, shimmering reflections and radiating starbursts, they suggest modernist fireworks displays and fuse aspects of the work of the transcendental painter Agnes Pelton, the drawings of Lee Bontecou and the black-and-white 1980s stripe paintings of Ross Bleckner.... A weakness is that parts of Ms. Beck’s surfaces seem a bit brittle and superficial, and painted with insufficient conviction. But this may reflect an attempt to keep painting at arm’s length to conjure images that are thin, weightless and perfunctory and, in this, also subtly linked to photography. Two smaller paintings depart from the usual combination of spheres and straight lines....Although much simpler and perhaps less accomplished than the other paintings here, these are the most intriguing. They make you wonder what Ms. Beck will do next.

"Kim Dorland: Super! Natural!," Freight + Volume, New York, NY. Through Thursday. Roberta Smith: In the landscapes in Kim Dorland’s second New York gallery show, both painting and nature are defiled, but bright, electric color keeps things from getting too ugly. Like many painters today, Mr. Dorland operates in the gap between legible imagery and paint’s luscious, even oppressive materiality. His exaggeration of the medium has precedents in the work of artists as diverse as Eugene Leroy, Leon Kossoff and Joe Zucker....Although smoothness is not absent from these works, paint is mostly slathered on and built up into relieflike surfaces, especially with pine trees. There are sometimes additions of fake fur or butterfly decals....Like his use of color, Mr. Dorland’s paint handling often has a surprising delicacy and control. It offsets the mindless, overwrought machismo that his work both exudes and parodies.

Kim Dorland, "Super! Natural!" 2009.

"Gary Hume: Yardwork,"Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, NY. Through June 27 Roberta Smith: In this exhibition, at least, Gary Hume is at his best when painting the motifs he came up with nearly 30 years ago: big, semiabstract images of doors. They punned on the Greenbergian ideal of flatness by depicting things that really are flat, à la Jasper Johns. In addition, like many of the doors they depicted, the paintings had shiny enamel surfaces that are a Hume staple....The other paintings — similarly reduced and shiny silhouettes of young girls, birds and roses — seem much more tentative and arbitrary. Their liverish colors are intriguing, but they mainly function here as extras, forming a backdrop for the show’s two stars.

Gary Hume at Matthew Marks, installation shot. Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.

"Saul Becker: Vistas and Vacant Lots," Horton & Company, New York, NY. Through July 11.
Ken Johnson: In his eerily calm seascapes, Saul Becker envisions what seems a time after humans have departed for further, metaphysical shores. Mr. Becker, who lives in Brooklyn, paints with meticulous attention to detail, and he renders subtleties of space and atmosphere in a palette of grays and blues reminiscent of Whistler’s. While calling to mind seascapes by 19th-century American Luminists, his near-Photorealist pictures convey an infectious, distinctly contemporary mood of existential perplexity.

Saul Becker, "The Fading Shore," 2009, 46" x 56," oil on linen on panel

"Richard Woods: The Nature Show," Perry Rubenstein Gallery, New York, NY. Through July 15 Ken Johnson: What’s in a name? In the case of Richard Woods, a British artist who has exhibited extensively in Europe, it looks like destiny. Mr. Woods has created a gently transporting installation in which all the walls of the gallery are covered by paneling imprinted with the exaggerated patterns of grainy wooden boards. Except for a central column covered in brightly colored strips, the patterning is black and white, and it was made by means of woodblock printing and high-gloss house paint.... The most obvious point of Mr. Woods’s installation would be about how modern people use artificial means and materials to simulate natural things for the home and otherwise. Think of Formica, for example, the signature material used by Richard Artschwager, who, along with the master of colored tape, Jim Lambie, may be cited as a primary member of Mr. Woods’s extended artistic family.But while Mr. Woods may be construed as a Pop artist, you get the feeling that his intentions are not merely satirical...."

Richard Woods, "song Thrush," 2009, acrylic on plywood, 22" x 20.8 in

Read the entire "Art in Review" column here.

John Currin: "Just don’t do things that depress you."

John Currin, "Rotterdam," 2006, oil on canvas, 28" x 36"

Interview Online Director Kelly Brant just sent me some good links to interviews with painters. Here's an excerpt from Glenn O'Brien's lengthy conversation with John Currin, who never fails to say something amusing. His paintings are included in "Paint Made Flesh," a group show organized by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville that opens at The Phillips Collection on Saturday. On June 25th, Currin will discuss his work.

O’BRIEN: So when did you first paint a nude?

CURRIN: I guess when I went to art school they had models. And they did their best to make it not something you look forward to. It’s, like, early in the morning, and it’s six hours long. And you fall asleep looking at this person, and it’s not very erotic.

O’BRIEN: And the models were probably pretty gnarly, right?

CURRIN: Sometimes there’d be surprisingly great-looking models. There was this one redhead at Carnegie Mellon who was great-looking, andat Yale there were fantastic-looking models. A lot of the acting students would do modeling in the arts school, so there were some gorgeous girls, but the cliché in our school was to get either the really emaciated person or the really obese person—which is stupid, you know? The idea is to get you to be able to draw. It’s better to have good-looking people. But you’d often have the semi-homeless guy—which would be awful, you know? Especially if they got erections while you were drawing them—which is just totally gross. But I didn’t start doing nudes until I was in art school, and I tried to do, like, de Kooning and Polke and Schnabel. I tried to work like that....

CURRIN: Another big realization for me was: Just don’t do things that depress you. I realized if it depresses me, then I just don’t want to get close to it. If it brings me down, I just really can’t get into it. I think a big problem with art school is that it makes people feel like they have to be interested in everything that’s of high quality.

O’BRIEN: Yeah.

CURRIN: Donald Judd’s work is high quality, but it depresses me. And so immediately I could just say, “I don’t have to worry about Donald Judd now.” [laughs] It’s great. And I think a lot of people take a more scholarly approach where they feel like you’re supposed to study things that depress you.

O’BRIEN: Yeah.

CURRIN: But I think there’s not enough time to be interested in those things. And there’s so much that doesn’t depress me. There are aspects of repetition that also depress me. Seriality depresses me. Performance depresses me. Lack of narrative depresses me. All those kinds of cool things bring me down. So that was an important development for me, just realizing that you need to follow your pleasure, at least as a painter. I think any kind of artist needs to, no matter what you’re doing.

"Paint Made Flesh," curated by Mark Scala. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. June 20 through September 13.

Related post:
John Currin confesses in British press that stupidity is liberating

Tobacco-tax money supports 20 artists in Ohio

Amy Casey, "Keeping it together," 2009, 36" x 50"

Cleveland painter Amy Casey was recently awarded a $20,000 Creative Workforce Fellowship. Cuyahoga County commissioned the nonprofit Community Partnership for Arts and Culture to implement distribution of the county's tobacco-tax dollars to 20 local artists. Clevland Scene critic Douglas Max Utter met Casey in her studio to talk about her work and what the grant will mean to her career. "It's good for me, for my career," she says. "I'm a little set aback. It's frankly a little hilarious to think anybody cares what I have to say." In an e-mail she added, "I think the vast majority of artists including myself usually work in a kind of vacuum of polite disinterest for the most part. Of course most artists of any stripe have a few champions and the support of a few vocal, kind family members and/or friends, but generally when presenting work, you can almost hear the crickets chirping, as painting simply doesn't raise the kind of public attention that it might have, say, a hundred years ago. So my experience of leaving that quiet vacuum if only for moments has been a bit disorienting. But it's lovely for the most part. And while I appreciate the attention right now, I would like to point out that I am certainly no anomaly. I was in a group show in a Los Angeles gallery (POV Evolving) early this year which was curated by a collector in California. And I found that, including me, there were four Cleveland area artists in the show — a complete coincidence, all of us arriving from completely different paths." Read more.

Casey will have a solo exhibition at Zg Gallery in Chicago in September.

Painters Donald E. Harvey, Michelle Anne Muldrow, and Seth Rosenberg also received awards.

June 16, 2009

Painters in Venice

In "Making Worlds," the central exhibition at the Venice Biennale, the theme is derived from Nelson Goodman's Ways of Worldmaking. Originally an art dealer, Goodman turned to philosophy and aesthetics later in his career. His slim volume, published in 1978, is a good read, and has undoubtedly influenced many artists, particularly those who have been exploring relational aesthetics for the past few years. Here's an excerpt:

"Never mind mind, essence is not essential, and matter doesn't matter. We do better to focus on versions rather than worlds. Of course, we want to distinguish between versions that do and those that do not refer, and to talk about things and worlds, if any, referred to; but these things and worlds and even the stuff they are made of -- matter, anti-matter, mind, energy, or whatnot -- are themselves fashioned by and along with the versions. Facts, as Norwood Hanson says, are theory-laden; they are as theory-laden as we hope our theories are fact-laden. Or in other words, facts are small theories, and true theories are big facts. This does not mean, I must repeat, that right versions can be arrived at casually, or that worlds are built from scratch. We start, on any occasion, with some old version or world that we have on hand and that we are stuck with until we have the determination and skill to remake it into a new one. Some of the felt stubborness of fact is the grip of habit: our firm foundation is indeed solid. Worldmaking begins with one version and ends with another."

But back to the exhibition. In addition to "Making Worlds," which was curated by Daniel Birnbaum, different countries have curated their own exhibitions (the US has a Bruce Nauman extravaganza which won the Golden Lion award for best national participation), and international institutes and organizations have organized over forty more exhibitions throughout the city.

The press preview took place in the first week of June, but few critics mentioned anything about the paintings in their reviews of "Making Worlds," so I asked Two Coats intern Willa Koerner to put together a list of artists whose work involves some form of painting. Here's what she came up with.

For a list of all ninety participating artists, click here. To read about John Wesley's
huge retrospective in Venice, organized by Italian curator Germano Celant for the Prada Foundation, click here.

The Venice Biennale runs through November 22.

June 15, 2009

New art blogs on the Two Coats link list

Here are a few art blogs/web sites Two Coats recently added to the list.

DC Art Seen: "The DC art scene is full of contemporary artists and art shows that are profound and important. DC Art Seen aims to provide professional level articles of the contemporary art shows in the DC metropolitan area. These articles will not promote or deprecate the reputation of an artist or gallery, rather they will explain what the artist is attempting to achieve and where they fit in current trends and art history. The objective is to make the contemporary art scene accessible for many who otherwise would feel excluded and to help readers decide which shows are imperative for them to see." The blog is maintained by Ophra Paul, Deborah Elizabeth Kadish, Daniella Lager, and Alison Reilly.

Sophie Munns: Visual artist Sophie Munns lives in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. "I have spent years dipping into magazines on Art, Interiors, Design, Food, Gardens, Literature and Ideas.. reading the feature pages of papers, and novels and non fiction, at times quite avidly. Its never been aquiring the fabulous things I'd read about that mattered ...it was simply breathing in what was out there, loving that there is always the new, the fresh, the re-discovered, the recycled, the reinvented. Now is, I believe, the ideal time to keep good ideas moving... and for sharing our creative resources and finer thoughts, for encouraging each other and increasing good will around us, even in small ways. ..."

GeoForm: "Geoform is an online scholarly resource, curatorial project, and international forum whose focus is the use of geometric form and structure in contemporary abstract art. Geoform explores, documents and celebrates the rich diversity of style and aesthetic intent that characterizes this broad vein of contemporary abstraction. Such diversity attests to the profound resonance that geometric form and structure have had for people across time and place. Geoform is edited by Julie Karabenick. The project was collaboratively developed and formally launched in May, 2005 by Julie Karabenick (karabenick-art.net) and Howard R. Barnhart (barnhartart.com)."

Unedit My Heart: Maintained by Leah Sandals. "I'm an art writer and editor based in Toronto, and a regular contributor to the National Post, NOW Toronto and Spacing Magazine. My work has also been published in Sculpture, Flash Art, Metropolismag.com, Canadian Art, the Toronto Star and other outlets. Unedit My Heart provides a blog record of my recent published stories, as well as extended opinion and interview transcripts."

Art critic Christopher Knight wins LA Press Club award

LA Times art critic Christopher Knight just won a Los Angeles Press Club award for his review of the 2008 Bernini exhibition at the Getty Museum. Perhaps not accustomed to reading art criticism on a regular basis, the judges commented that the "crisp, clean words painted a picture in one’s mind of being at the exhibit." Argh--art crit doesn't get any more hackneyed than that. Nonetheless, congratulations to Knight, whose excellent writing appears frequently on Two Coats of Paint. Here's an excerpt from his award-winning review.

"Nothing would seem more dull than an exhibition of portrait busts, those stone-faced dust-catchers representing obscure generals, long-dead clergymen, government functionaries and preening aristocrats that one sometimes encounters tucked away in museum hallways or lobbies but rarely in prominent galleries for painting and sculpture. Typically, the sitter's wearisome vanity outdistances the artist's skill with a chisel and a drill. But then there is Bernini -- Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), the brilliant and prolific sculptor, architect and painter who more or less invented Italian Baroque art. Along the way he also transformed the dreary portrait bust, a tradition largely inert since ancient Rome. He made it into something dynamic and, on occasion, even spellbinding.

"Opening today at the J. Paul Getty Museum, 'Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture' traces that improbable phenomenon with style and intelligence. There has never been a major Bernini sculpture show in the United States. His astounding life-size marble figures and narrative works, such as 'David' and 'Apollo and Daphne' are unlikely ever to be moved from their Roman museums. Others, such as the spiritually delirious and frankly erotic 'Ecstasy of St. Theresa' or the Piazza Navona's 'Fountain of the Four Rivers,' obviously can't be moved, since they are parts of permanent architectural ensembles. That leaves the portrait busts. In 2000 the Getty acquired a flashy Baroque bust of a young noblewoman that is now attributed to Giuliano Finelli, a Bernini studio assistant and later rival. The acquisition evolved into an exhibition idea.

"But the show was almost derailed by the volatile looted antiquities dispute between the Getty and the Italian government, which in 2007 threatened to forbid loans to the Los Angeles museum if certain works were not returned. At least eight of the show's 20 Bernini sculptures come from Italian public and private collections, including the three most critically important portrait busts. Last summer's resolution of the antiquities brawl allowed the exhibition to proceed.

"Bernini was a child prodigy, completing his first commission at 10. (A small marble figure of a chubby infant Hercules slaying a dragon, which Bernini began at the ripe old age of 16, is in the Getty's permanent collection galleries.) At 24 he began work on 'Apollo and Daphne,' a tour-de-force depiction of a life-size nymph escaping rape by a lustful god through her miraculous metamorphosis into a laurel tree. The transformation is uncannily embodied in marble, and the sculpture was instantly the talk of Rome. So extraordinary was Bernini's achievement that he was dubbed 'the new Michelangelo.'" Read more.

Twitter notes

Here are some items cut and pasted from the Two Coats Twitter feed. For readers unfamiliar with Twitter, "RT" indicates the item has been repeated , or "retweeted," from someone else's Twitter feed.
  1. June 20, 7 pm: Scribblefest @ moxie DaDa in Pittsburgh: http://bit.ly/xB7MX
  2. "Information is Incidental" (via MW Capacity) http://bit.ly/MffTs
  3. Shameless self-promotion: RT @MatthewLangley: 246 Editions announces the release of new edition by Sharon Butler. http://www.246editions.com
  4. RT @246editions: 246 Editions is showing at Pocket Utopia (Bushwick, Brooklyn) July 16th - hope to see you there
  5. BMore Art visits Kim Dorland's Super! Natural! at Freight + Volume http://bit.ly/2TlfH
  6. William Powhida self-publishes The Writing on the Wall, available at Blurb http://bit.ly/EP84Q
  7. Geoform Spotlight on artist Alexander Couwenberg

  8. Alexander Couwenberg's paintings at William Turner Gallery, January, 2009. Photo courtesy William Turner Gallery, Santa Monica, CA.
  9. Neomaternalism Dept: Check out artists Fiona Tan and Sarah Morris with their kids at the Venice Biennale. http://bit.ly/IivmL

  10. Tom Micchelli, guest blogger at ART:21, on professionalism in art http://bit.ly/sm0xT
  11. At Art Observed, a review roundup and images for "Abstract America" at Saatchi Gallery in London http://bit.ly/o0iWG
  12. What I'm giving for Father's Day (and all June birthdays): http://bit.ly/i2rqn
  13. RT @artnetdotcom: Julia Chiang’s new mural for the Atlantic Art Walk in Brooklyn http://twitpic.com/72p7q
  14. RT @TylerGreenDC: Dorothea Rockburne's night skies http://bit.ly/BT8pP
  1. RT @PS1ContempArt: Robert Colescott...you will be missed. http://bit.ly/xMUTX
  2. Paddy's first impressions from Basel: http://tinyurl.com/kpn6z6 RT @artfagcity
  3. RT @powermobydick: Crocheted Moby Dick hat http://bit.ly/pNzGT
  4. RT @culturemonster: Obamas check out the Kandinsky show in Paris http://bit.ly/11njer
  5. Jen Graves and Kriston Capps selected Art Journalism Institute Visual Arts Fellows: http://bit.ly/15mdPF

June 12, 2009

Valeri Larko: Industrial plein air

Valeri Larko, "Third Avenue Bridge," 2008, 30" x 55," oil on linen.

Valeri Larko, "Rusting Gantries, Bronx," 2008, 30"x50," oil on linen.

Valeri Larko, "Pier, Bronx," 2007, 20" x 62," oil on linen.

While attending art school in New Jersey Valeri Larko began painting plein air landscapes and soon turned to the industrial settings in and around the city for her subject matter. She worked outdoors, experimenting with panoramic views of industrial parks and close up portraits of tanks and machinery. The artist's early encounters with New Jersey's urban landscape solidified a relationship with the subject matter that continues to inspire her. Her recent work, all painted on location, encompasses the waterways, bridges, highways, warehouses, factories, power lines, and machinery found along the edges of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Undoubtedly the desolate locales must be unnerving for a lone female painter, but Larko manages to instill each scene with a diffident charm and quiet humanity.

"Valeri Larko: Urban Landscapes," Hunterdon Museum, Clinton, NJ. Through June 21.
"Valeri Larko: Bronx Studies," Bronx Borough President's Art Gallery, The Bronx County Building, The Bronx, NY. Through September 10, 2009. Opening reception: Wednesday, June 17 6-8 pm.

Robert Ryman: Creativity is a form of problem solving

In Bookforum, Arthur Danto reviews Suzanne P. Hudson’s Robert Ryman: Used Paint (October Books). "It is part of Robert Ryman’s legend that he is a self-taught artist. He moved to New York in 1952, at age twenty-two, to pursue a career in jazz. A year later, he took a job at the Museum of Modern Art as a security guard. Paintings had begun to interest him 'not so much because of what was painted but how they were done. I thought maybe it would be an interesting thing for me to look into—how the paint worked and what I could do with it.' So he bought some art supplies and began to experiment. At no point, then or later, did he try to depict anything—a face, a figure, a natural object like a tree or a flower, an artifact like a bottle or a guitar: 'I thought I would try and see what would happen. I wanted to see what the paint would do, how the brushes would work. . . . I had nothing really in mind to paint. I was just finding out how the paint worked, colors, thick and thin, the brushes, surfaces.' He evidently found the activity sufficiently absorbing that he put music aside. By the end of the ’50s, Ryman was using white paint almost exclusively, as if color interested him far less than certain physical properties of paint. He had developed a signature style.

"It is striking to learn that in 1953, Ryman enrolled in an adult-education course, at MoMA’s People’s Art Center, on experimental painting. (One cannot but think of John Cage’s famous course at the New School in 'Experimental Composition.') Ryman claims to have no detailed recollection of what went on in this program, but the point remains that he spent seven years off and on in an atmosphere in which John Dewey’s ideas were central to the discourse. One can hardly imagine a more vivid example of 'learning by doing' than purchasing art supplies and sitting down to experiment with them. One of the school’s manuals says, 'Don’t copy anyone . . . anything. . . . Don’t even copy nature....'

"I think that Hudson has to be credited with an art-historical discovery." Danto writes. "Hudson's argument is that while most of Ryman’s peers took sides with either Harold Rosenberg’s view of the artist as existential hero or Clement Greenberg’s Kantian perspective in which the artist reduces his or her medium to its essence, Ryman internalized the curriculum of the People’s Art Center, in which creativity was a form of problem solving. That makes it difficult to fit Ryman into any of the movements of his time, even Minimalism, where his work looked as if it must have belonged but didn’t." Read more.

Ryman working on the wall. Image courtesy of Art:21.

UPDATE: Larry Becker, who represents Ryman in Philadelphia, writes that "Philadelphia Prototype 2002," the piece Ryman is making in the picture above, has a rich installation history. Here's the information Becker sent to Two Coats:
First installation 2002: "Philadelphia Prototype 2002," 2002
Acrylic on vinyl and wall. Overall wall dimensions: two walls adjoined at corner, approx. 10'5x10'2 and 10'5x27'6": [ten vinyl panels, ea. approx. 23 7/8"x23 7/8"], Larry Becker Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA.
Second installation 2006: Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX.
Third installation 2006: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Museum, Philadelphia, PA. Acrylic on vinyl sheets and wall; ten panels, 23 7/8 x 23 7/8 inches each; installation dimensions variable. Alexander Harrison Fund, 2005.19

NY Times Art in Review: Verne Dawson, Karl Haendel

"Verne Dawson," Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York, NY. Through June 20. Ken Johnson reports: A popular strain of contemporary painting combines goofy, juvenile imagery — pirates, exotic animals, fairy-tale characters — with lush, sophisticated painting. Judith Linhares and Dana Schutz are good examples. Verne Dawson is another. In addition to small, deft, loosely painted pictures of birds on tree branches and wires and a landscape with Goldilocks and the Three Bears in the distance, Mr. Dawson’s ninth New York solo features three big paintings made with a generous, brushy touch on toothy canvas and depicting scenes from the story of Jonah and the Whale....Hanging with the Jonah works is a small painting unlike anything else in the show: it hints at what the story means to Mr. Dawson. “A Few Moments,” a hallucinatory, semiabstract composition of bulging eyes, flowers, sky and various unidentifiable elements, makes Jonah’s adventure seem like a metaphor about a kind of mind-altering, soul-transforming experience. You wonder what greater depths Mr. Dawson might go on to fathom.
Verne Dawson, "Jonah and the Whale (Overboard)," 2009
oil on canvas, 108 x 100 inches
Verne Dawson, "A Few Moments," 2009
oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches

"Karl Haendel: How to Have a Socially Responsible Orgasm and Other Life Lessons," Harris Lieberman, New York, NY. Through June 20. Ken Johnson reports: Karl Haendel is a drawing machine. He has filled this gallery with more works of graphite on paper in more different styles and dimensions — from letter-size to near-mural scale — than you’d think any one person could be capable of. Yet it all comes together as one big installation that meditates on the perilous state of the planet.... Impressive as the exhibition is, in pieces and in toto, all that gray graphite can be a little tiring. Two words for Mr. Haendel: colored pencils.

Karl Haendel, installation view.

Read the entire "Art in Review" column here.

June 11, 2009

Studio Update: 246 Editions released my print today

Here's the press release from 246 Editions, where director Matthew Langley's goal is to make high-quality prints that everyone can afford.

"246 Editions is pleased to announce our fifth edition: 'Scanned Sketchbook' by Sharon Butler. When we approached Sharon to publish her work here, we expected to see more of her expressive and thoughtful paintings streamlined into an approach that really works for prints. What we received was far more than we hoped for and in a different direction than we expected. I'm always thrilled when someone's work is robust enough to push itself in a different direction while still maintaining all of the great things you liked about the work in the first place.

"With that said Sharon flipped the switch by allowing us to look into her process by working directly from her sketchbooks and delivering a finely taught piece of art. Sharon's decision to go this route was encouraged by conversations with John Davis (of The John Davis Gallery, where she is currently showing her paintings) and collectors who were interested in her project. We love it when a round table discussion or even a cocktail party brings out great things. We hope you do too."

To buy the print (at fifty bucks, a great deal) click here.

Sharon Butler, "Scanned Sketchbook"
2009, archival pigment print

June 10, 2009

Nathan Lewis needs models in New Haven

This Saturday at Artspace, Nathan Lewis is shooting photos for a monumental history painting. The painting, which he'll be working on for the next two years, will feature many figures in a migration scene, so he's looking for volunteers to pose. All ages are welcome.

Details: Saturday, June 13th from 1:30-4:30pm at Artspace in New Haven, on the corner of Orange and Crown. Send Nathan an email (Nathan247@comcast.net) and let him know if you want to participate. Click on image below for information about wardrobe and props.

June 5, 2009

A weekend in Bushwick

Don't forget that this weekend is Bushwick Open Studios, with performances and parties in every nook and cranny. On Sunday afternoon, look for me lurking at Pocket Utopia which has just mounted the final show before the gallery closes at the end of July. Since the Open Studios event started in 2007, the number of artists participating has tripled. “It’s just such a cool community because anything is possible,” said Deborah Brown, an artist who has been involved with Open Studios since it began. Three years ago Brown bought a vacant factory in Bushwick and converted it to a workspace. Though she lives in Manhattan, she spends most of her time in Bushwick; she sits on the community board, draws inspiration from the industrial landscape and even found her dog, Troutman, there — on Troutman Street. “Bushwick," she said, “takes over your whole consciousness.” (via Melena Ryzik NY Times)

If you're up for mimosas on Saturday morning, check out Norte Maar at 11 am. The exhibition, "DRAW: Vasari Revisited or a Sparring of Contemporary Thought," brings together a tight selection of works by painters and sculptors, architects and designers, choreographers and composers both past and present and "offers insight into modes of seeing and thinking, experiments in imagination, and the direct expression of original thought."

Who needs Venice? Don't forget to check out the 2009 Bushwick Biennial, a collaborative exhibition of Bushwick-area artists hosted by NURTUREart, Pocket Utopia, English Kills, and Grace Exhibition Space.

Note to artists: If you're an artist who's participating in the BOS, feel free to post a link to your website in the Comments section.

Bushwick Open Studios, Friday through Sunday; most artists’ studios will be open from noon to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The schedule of events is at artsinbushwick.org.

Willa's Commencement

I’d like to introduce readers to Willa Köerner, the new Two Coats of Paint intern. Willa just earned her a BFA from Vassar College and, in addition to helping out around HQ, she has agreed to write “Willa’s Commencement,” a regular post about her experiences as a fledgling artist. Remember what it was like when you first got out of school? Here is the first entry, in which Willa admits that graduating in 2009 with a BFA in studio art might be a little dangerous as well as adventurous. She compares the lousy economy to an unfinished painting that just needs to be scraped down and repainted.

The Parisian bohemians of the nineteenth century were historically the first “starving artists,” young idealistic types who packed themselves into dirty single-room apartments, ate potatoes and drank cheap wine. Sound familiar? Welcome to “La vie bohème,” version 2009, the year of making art, eating lentils and romanticizing my own life as a graduated studio art major.

After four years of studying painting, sculpture and digital media, I have been set free with a handshake, a small body of artwork, and zero dollars. While my professors gave me all the advice and training I could have hoped for, wriggling into the art world just doesn’t seem likely at this particular moment, and the idea of applying for more loans to go to grad school seems ridiculous. In 2009, being a 22-year-old artist without a trust fund feels far more dangerous than adventurous.

"No money, no jobs, no fun!" some might say, but that would be so Great Depression. Luckily, my friends and I are resilient, hopeful and eager. We have been told repeatedly that becoming an artist is nearly impossible, but for some reason, this makes us want to do it even more. Art school taught us that paint is expensive and making ugly paintings is wasteful, and therefore, we have stopped making ugly paintings and moved into experimental media, which is so new and unexplored, it cannot yet be deemed ugly. Yes, the economy may be congealed, but luckily this force of rotten energy sparks my desire to make something fresh.

Artists of the new depression era have been blessed with incredible tools to produce and share art ––computers and the Internet to name two. We have also been born at a unique time in which the future inspires art as much as the past does. Have you seen the New Museum’s “ Younger Than Jesus?” Rather than look backward for answers, we’re looking ahead and developing surprising new visual languages.

The status quo, for all it’s worth, has been and will continue to be annihilated by artists who make art that is not only about culture, but ahead of culture. A lot of good art is overlooked simply because people don’t know how to understand it, and it often takes a few years before a new medium is recognized as a legitimate artform. Clearly, there are myriad reasons why my fellow art school graduates and I must continue to make art over the next however many years, even if nobody is going to look at it. They say that patience is a virtue, but it is certainly a necessity within the art world.

I have graduated with the intention of becoming an artist no matter what, and I don’t mind sweating it out. In fact, the current state of the economy might be just like a bad painting---all it needs is some scrubbing, gesso, and some time to settle before the “aha” moment comes along all on its own. Sure, the jobs aren’t presenting themselves to me in neat little packages, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be sitting around doing nothing until Obama fixes the world. Rather, I’ll be making and looking at art, traveling like a nomad, eating cheap food and finding my “raison d’être,” which they didn’t teach me in college anyway.
--- Willa Köerner

Growing up Wright

For the June issue of The Brooklyn Rail, my review of the Frank Lloyd Wright show at the Guggenheim veers into a personal essay about how individuals (specifically me) have been affected by Wright's groundbreaking notions about design and space. Here's an excerpt.

"...Wright is justifiably considered a visionary. Yet in a post-modern retrospective moment, for people like me who grew up in Wright-inspired modern houses, his imagined future looks paradoxically nostalgic. In the ’60s, my parents were among the converted. It’s unclear whether their Wright-ness was an informed decision or not, but they wholeheartedly adopted the same dream that drove him. They engaged an architect to design their home, which embodied a decisive break with the props of their traditional New England childhoods. The house was the envy of my school friends. Most of them had drafty old houses built in the 1800s or raised ranches in crowded neighborhoods.

"Our snazzy, custom-designed split-level house was set at the end of a winding dirt road, nestled into the hillside, and surrounded by woods, with a beautiful view looking out over the reservoir. The open floor plan, built around a central fireplace, featured floor-to-ceiling windows on all the exterior walls. They appointed it with brand-new, neutrally-colored, angular furniture, and my father copied the works of the painters he most admired—Klee, Mondrian, and Picasso—to hang on the pristine white walls. His favorite artist was Alexander Calder, which eventually moved him to make a collection of riveted aluminum sculptures that he installed, shiny and unpainted, throughout our property. In the winter, when the trees were bare, you could see them glinting in the sun through the woods.
My parents, hermetic and reticent by nature, loved that house, and lived there for over forty years. For me, though, it was like living on an island, or, less generously, in a jail..." Read more.

"Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward,"
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY. Through August 23.

NY Times Art in Review: Little, Man, Smith, Tegeder

JAMES LITTLE, June Kelly Gallery, New York, NY. Through June 9. HOLLAND COTTER: Each stripe becomes a self-defined spectrum, each painting a rainbow. Such results could be just pretty; the work’s titles — “Satchmo’s Answer to Truman,” “The Marriage of Western Civilization and the Jungle” — seem designed to make sure we don’t see them that way. And we don’t. What we see, or feel, is an eye choosing, mixing and gradating color the way Mondrian applied paint: as if concentration were a form of expression, which it is.

James Little, "Near-Miss," 2008, oil and wax on canvas, 72 ½ x 94 inches

VICTOR MAN, Gladstone Gallery, New York, NY. Through June 13. ROBERTA SMITH: Victor Man has a considerable reputation in Europe, so it may be pure American provincialism to say that — based on the paintings, sculptures and installation piece in his New York debut — he has apparently received too much encouragement. Mr. Man, a Romanian born in 1974, needs to stop pulling on our heartstrings and go back to the drawing board.... This show suggests some ground rules: taste is not talent; obscurity is not meaning; and the heads and pelts of dead animals should be used sparingly, if at all.

Victor Man, installation shot.

SHINIQUE SMITH:Ten Times Myself, Yvon Lambert, New York, NY. Through July 31. KAREN ROSENBERG: Shinique Smith’s latest solo, her first at this gallery, give off a restless energy. Ms. Smith pushes her collages and bunched-fabric assemblages in multiple directions: Asian calligraphy, monochrome painting, iconic figurative art. ....In her collage paintings, Ms. Smith relies too much on a signature flourish: a swirl of black marker that looks vaguely like graffiti. It’s most visible in “And the World Don’t Stop” and “Mandala.” Fortunately, some of the paintings include unusual found objects — a costumey wrestling belt, a clock with an image of River Phoenix — that resist the homogenizing force of the swirls and squiggles.

Shinique Smith, "Mount Holly Street," 2005,
Clothing, twine on wood, 32" x 32"

DANNIELLE TEGEDER: Arrangements to Ward Off Accidents, Priska C. Juschka Fine Art, New York, NY. Through July 3. KAREN ROSENBERG: In the winning but flawed installation “The Library of Abstract Sound,” 130 abstract drawings propped on shelves line the walls of a small room. They are accompanied by atonal music generated by a computer program that scans each drawing and translates its imagery into a 30- to 120-second “sound guide.” A flat-screen monitor outside the installation displays the drawings one at a time, with their corresponding recordings. It’s amusing to experience the circles, triangles and lines in the drawings as robotic blips, bleeps and arpeggios. But the varied frames in the installation, evidently found or store-bought, have a distractingly cutesy, thrift-shop aesthetic. And the drawings, individually, look like makeshift Maleviches. The four large-scale drawings in the main gallery are just as playful as the “Library,” but here quality trumps quantity.

Dannielle Tegeder, "The Library of Abstract Sound," mixed media installation, 2009

Read the entire "Art in Review" column here.