December 31, 2009

2009 Top Ten list for painters

Simply put, here are ten eleven exhibitions (and two innovations) from 2009 that I won't forget.

Ten Exhibitions:

Cordy Ryman at DCKT

Above: Pablo Picasso, "Personnage," 1971, oil on canvas, 45 3/4 x 35 inches"

Alice Neel at David Zwirner

 Mary Heilmann: To Be Someone at the New Museum

Vik Muniz  Rebus, an Artists' Choice installation culled from the collection at MoMA. Video: Fischli and Weiss, "The Way Things Go," 1988. Another artist-curated exhibition worth mentioning is Robert Gober's Heat Waves in the Swamp: Charles Burchfield at the UCLA Hammer Museum. Also Oranges and Sardines at the Hammer Museum.

Pierre Bonnard: The Late Interiors at the Met

Richard Tuttle: Walking on Air at PaceWildenstein

Nicole Eisenman at Leo Koenig

UPDATE (January 4, 2010):
I can't stop thinking about the James Ensor show at MoMA, so let's make it a "Top Eleven" instead of ten. 

Two Innovations:
The Artworld on Facebook: I'll remember 2009 as the year everyone joined Facebook. Here's an excerpt from an article I wrote in the March 2009 issue of The Brooklyn Rail.
What’s so good about Facebook? Most art bloggers will tell you it’s a good way to connect with the people who read their blogs. They were at the forefront of innovative social networking in the artosphere, and began setting up their Facebook profile pages back in early 2007, shortly after Facebook lifted the requirement that members be affiliated with an educational institution. Links posted on blogs announced Facebook membership, and a few readers began joining, but initial interest was halting and tentative. Skeptical friends either ignored email invitations to join, or joined but discreetly eschewed their newly created profile pages. The digitally unconnected didn’t feel any need for a “social networking” site at that point, and thought Facebook was for lonely computer geeks, singles looking for love, and college kids. But then, on November 1, 2008 at precisely 9:53 pm, a seismic shift occurred. New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz, whose account had been set up by one of his students, joined Facebook. By January 2009, it seemed as though the entire art world had jumped on his bandwagon.
Smartphones and microblogging: OK, maybe these aren't new, but in 2009 they changed the way I record my ideas and working process. In June I got an iPhone, and by July I had created a new photographic-sketchbook blog on Tumblr (@ Bushwick & Main) to document my art practice at home and on the road. I particularly love the iPhone Brushes app, which seemed gimmicky at first, but it's a terrific tool for making color studies.  

For 2010, my resolution is to outfit my poorly-lit attic rooms with better light so I can paint late into the night. Happy New Year!

December 29, 2009

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.

 Inglenook: Recent Ariel Dill and Christian Sampson installation at Southfirst
  1. Old Gold Interview with Ariel Dill and Christian Sampson 32 minutes ago  
  2. Kind of like Tehching Hsieh: My temporary roommate lives in a cage  39 minutes ago 

    Fitzgerald the parakeet: Excellent tweets.

  3. Support an art blogger: Order a Mandala Calendar from Pretty Lady 42 minutes ago

    Stephanie Lee Jackson's mandala images.

  4. Mattera on the spirit of Arte Povera in Miami: about 1 hour ago 
  5. Check out Elise Engler's residency blog from Antarctica about 1 hour ago 
  6. Dear Ada features paintings of rocks by Carly Waito about 1 hour ago
  7. Kill some time exploring aesthetic DNA: Check out Artists' Family Tree about 1 hour ago 
  8. Nothing goes with a looming deadline like a big slice of rum cake. about 16 hours ago

  1. New space opening in Bushwick this weekend! about 17 hours ago 
  2. Cool. RT @joygarnett: The Awl's "The End of the 00s" includes Joy's "A Guide to the Unmonuments": about 19 hours ago

    Joy Garnett, image from "Unmonumental" series.

  3. Charlie Finch 2010 predictions: NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman debuts a grants program for artbloggers about 20 hours ago 
  4. RT @maykr: kork Advent: 9:37 AM Dec 27th (Look for my calendar image on the 30th)
  5. RT @joygarnett: Top Ten Most Scathing Art Review Zingers of 2009 2:21 PM Dec 26th 
  6. It's OK to buy gifts for yourself...right? RT @JenBekman: @20x200 FedEx Overnight Deadline: 3:00 p.m. Still time to give the gift of art! 8:59 AM Dec 23rd 
  7. Hell yeah! (My zeitgeist moment: Finally my work fits into a fashionable -ism...!?) RT @artnetdotcom: The rise of "emotional minimalism"? 1:22 PM Dec 22nd 
  8. Worthy Cause Dept: The Art Fag City Fundraiser Continues! 9:55 AM Dec 22nd 

December 28, 2009

New space opens in Bushwick this weekend


Installation views of the inaugural show at Storefront in Bushwick.

Jason Andrew of Norte Maar and artist Deborah Brown have announced the opening of Storefront, a new space at 16 Wilson Avenue in Bushwick. "The inaugural show features work of artists we know, the artists we like, and the artists we'd like to get to know better." Artists include Roland Allmeyer, Bill Adams, Michele Araujo, Deborah Brown, Jeri Coppola, Judy Dolnick, Hermine Ford, Rico Gatson, Theresa Hackett, Arnold Helbling, Andrew Hurst, Norman Jabaut, Mary Judge, Justen Ladda, Ellen Letcher, Amy Lincoln, Mathew Miller, Jimmy Miracle, Brooke Moyse, Steve Pauley, Olivie Ponce, Kevin Regan, Aurora Robson, Mira Schor, Hilda Shen, Adam Simon, Stephen Truax, and, last but not least,  Austin Thomas. Stop by the opening reception on Saturday, January 2, 6:00--10:00 p.m. Thereafter, gallery hours will be Saturday and Sunday, 1-6 pm

DIRECTIONS: L train to Brooklyn, Morgan Avenue Stop. Walk four blocks on Morgan to Flushing. Cross Flushing to Wilson Avenue. Gallery located between Noll and George Streets.

Paul Gauguin, not Vincent Van Gogh, cut off the ear!

In an attempt to stir up some buzz in the blogosphere about their January 4 issue, The New Yorker sent me a PDF of Adam Gopnik's story, a retelling of the Van Gogh ear-removal myth. "I thought you would be interested in Adam Gopnik’s piece from the Jan. 4, 2010 issue of The New Yorker, in which he explores the newly postulated idea that it was Paul Gauguin, and not Vincent Van Gogh himself, who cut off Van Gogh’s ear the night before Christmas Eve," PR flack Cappi Williamson writes. "The two artists—out of shame on Van Gogh’s part, guilt on Gauguin’s—decided to keep the truth to themselves.” Although a subscription is necessary to read the entire article online, I love this Cliff Notes version at the New Yorker website:

"On Christmas Eve, 1888, in the small Provençal town of Arles, the police found Vincent Van Gogh in his bed, bleeding from the head, self-bandaged and semi-conscious. Hours earlier, the Dutchman had given his severed ear to a whore. The painter was known throughout the town as a crazy drunk who shared a squalid house with Paul Gauguin. After the incident, Gauguin wound up in the South Seas, where he became the first modern 'primitive;' Van Gogh was hospitalized, then brought to an insane asylum, where he painted 'The Starry Night' and 'Cypresses.' After Van Gogh’s suicide in 1890, the story of the severed ear became a talisman of modern painting. Modernism became an inspiring story of sacrifices made and sainthood attained by artists willing to lose their sanity on its behalf. Discusses Van Gogh’s upbringing in a Dutch village; his breakdowns and literary influences. Tells of his move from Holland to Paris, then to Arles, and his desire for a collaborative community. Tells of his relationship with Gauguin, who had made his name as an original, an adventurer. There was something erotic, ardent, if unrealized, about Van Gogh’s excitement in Gauguin’s presence. Gauguin’s paintings have more of an “abstract” quality; Van Gogh had embarked on 'sacred realism.' When you see a Gauguin, you think, This man is living in a dream world. When you see a Van Gogh, you think, This dream world is living in a man. Discusses the exasperating character of Van Gogh, and the character of Gauguin. Gauguin is a prime real-life case where doing the wrong thing appears to be morally justifiable, since the art made was great. Discusses Gauguin as an early example of moral luck, and as a model modern artist (of whom Picasso is the most famous realization). Discusses the revisionist version of the story put forward by Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans, in which Gauguin, a skilled fencer, slices off Van Gogh’s ear. Tells of Van Gogh being thrown out of Arles and sent to the asylum. Quotes from Van Gogh’s last letters to his brother, in which he appeared to accept his isolation and understand that, one day, there would be a community of readers and viewers who would appreciate him. The only authentic community he found was among the insane. Talks about the decisive break marked by the Christmas crisis. Van Gogh’s ear makes its claim on our attention because it reminds us that on the outer edge there is madness to pity, meanness to deplore, and courage to admire, and we can’t ever quite keep them from each other. We gawk as painters slice off their ears, but we rely on them to make up for our own timidity. We all make our wagers, but the artist does more. He bets his life."

Of course this alternative ear theory was dismissed by the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and by van Gogh scholar Martin Bailey who will present proof that the artist injured himself after learning of his brother Theo's engagement in the January edition of The Art Newspaper.

NYTimes Art in Review: Volker Hueller

Volker Hueller, "Strohpiefke," 2009, straw and lacquer. Image courtesy Salon 94.

Volker Hueller, "Drei Halunken und ein Halleluja," 2009, mixed media on canvas, 94.49 x 70.87." Image courtesy Salon 94.
Volker Hueller, "Happy Dog," 2009, etching, watercolours, shellac on paper. Image size: 9.65 x 7.68." Paper size: 11.81 x 9.45." Image courtesy Eleven Rivington.

Volker Hueller, "Humbert," 2009, clay, pipe. Image courtesy Eleven Rivington.

"Volker Hueller," curated by Anna-Catharina Gebbers and organized by Augusto Arbizo. Salon 94, Upper East Side. Through Jan. 8. "Volker Hueller," Eleven Rivington, Lower East Side. Through Jan. 8. Roberta Smith: German artists do nostalgia better than anyone. Perhaps World War II still inspires a sense of remorse and loss. Maybe their connection to history is more confident. Or maybe they simply understand that sincerity and irony are not mutually exclusive. You can be nostalgic without meaning it completely. The latest evidence is the double-gallery debut of the young Berliner Volker Hueller: a study in style-mongering that consists of large, abstract paintings and smaller, stylized portraits at Salon 94, and semi-abstract etchings at Eleven Rivington. Both shows are punctuated with painted porcelain vases and busts. Mr. Hueller has a delicate hand with etching and an amiable roughness with painting. But he seldom manages to be ironic and sincere at once. The ceramic objects function as props that whisper, “I don’t really mean this....”

Read the entire Art in Review column here.

December 26, 2009

Helmut Federle's facture

Helmut Federle, " Japanische See im Mondlicht," 2009, acrylic on canvas, 23 5/8 x 19 5/8"

 In ArtForum Ian Bourland recommends Helmut Federle’s exhibition at Peter Blum, which may not be spectacular, but that's the point. "In an art market in which painting jostles with photography and sculpture in pursuit of epic scale or self-conscious smartness, the exhibition of delicate, smaller paintings is a breath of fresh air. 'Scratching Away at the Surface' is a suite of five canvases from a series of nine that explore rotations around their geometric centers. Paint is applied here in thin washes so that even as the intersecting planes of color collide and accumulate, the luminosity of underlying layers shines through.

"At first the paintings feel unremarkable, which is unsurprising: Federle is a veteran of the European exhibition circuit, and he appears here like a relic of the 1970s, working through painterly problems of color, facture, and the formal possibilities of abstraction. Make no mistake: This is the strength of the show, which rewards repeat viewings with a quiet, numinous tranquility. In looking at these paintings, the tension between the cerebral and the spiritual running through German painting since the Romantic period is made manifest, distilled to its barest essence."

Read ArtForum Critics' Picks.

"Helmut Federle: Scratching Away at the Surface," Peter Blum Soho, New York, NY. Through January 9, 1010.

Video: Jonathan Lasker in his New York studio

Courtesy of Lars Bohman Gallery, Stockholm, Sweden. The video was made in January 2009.

December 23, 2009

Is it too late?


I'm grading student projects today (nothing like waiting until the last possible minute) and working on my Top Ten list for 2009. FYI, Christmas Paint-by-Number kits (pictured above) are still available at Herrschners.

December 22, 2009

Craigie Aitchison is dead

Craigie Aitchison, "Still Life with Guitar and Clarice Cliff Sugar Sifter," 2006, oil on canvas, 15.9x15.9"

Craigie Aitchison, "Cypress Tree with Dog," print, edition of 75.

Craigie Aitchison "Still Life Vase and Flowers(April)," 2009, oil on canvas, 20x16."

Craigie Aitchison, "Bird in Tree, Yellow Background," 2009, oil on canvas, 5x4"

Craigie Aitchison, an idiosyncratic painter of simple, flat forms outlined against backgrounds of glowing colour, died yesterday at 83. In the Telegraph obituary, Aitchison is described as a gentle and whiskery man with a halo of snowy hair and a look of permanent astonishment. "He was engagingly other-worldly and blissfully ignorant of contemporary culture....Although the Tate owned four of his works, he had no time at all for what he called 'the kind of shocking rubbish that appears in the Turner Prize' and was happier at the Royal Academy, which held a major and well-attended retrospective of his works in 2003.

"Aitchison was a lonely figure in 20th-century art and it may, perhaps, have been his sympathy with the plight of the besieged visionary which stimulated his interest in the Crucifixion, a frequent theme of his work. Although he was not a regular churchgoer, he saw the subject as central to human experience. 'The Crucifixion is the most horrific story I've ever heard,' he said. 'They were all ganging up against one person. As long as the world exists one should attempt to record that. It was so unfair....'

"After leaving the Slade, Aitchison returned to Scotland; but in 1963 he and his mother moved to London, buying a house in Kennington which he painted in a kaleidoscope of vibrant colours and filled with an eclectic clutter of books and knick-knacks picked up from local markets. He taught part-time at the Chelsea Art School from 1968 to 1984, and in 1988 was elected a member of the Royal Academy of Arts.

"Aitchison's first one-man show took place in 1959 at the Beaux Arts Gallery in London, where he was given two further one-man shows in 1960 and 1964. As well as at the Royal Academy, a major retrospective of his work from 1953 was held at the Serpentine Gallery in 1981, with further retrospectives at Harewood House near Leeds (1994) and the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow (1996). Last year there was an exhibition of his prints at the Abbot Hall gallery at Kendal, in Cumbria."

Read the entire Telegraph obituary here.
Read the obituary in the Guardian here.
Check out the Guardian's slide show here.

December 20, 2009

Video is dead

Gerhard Richter, "Abstract Painting (894-2)," 2005, oil on aludibond, 11 3/4 x 17 3/8"

In Time Out New York this week Howard Halle begins his Gerhard Richter review with this tired declaration: "It’s a widely held belief in the art world that painting is dead..." Why, I wonder, do artists and critics insist on dragging out this simpleminded proclamation when painting is clearly alive and well? Is it just an easy trope for the doubtful painter and /or lazy writer? It's certainly a disingenuous way for painters, especially those who have been painting as long as Richter, to position their practice not as painting per se, but as a more fashionably conceptual undertaking. Some individuals who declare that painting is dead may have lost faith in the process of painting, and perhaps others have gotten tired of looking at paintings, but this hardly warrants a death certificate for such a challenging medium. If I had to choose a candidate for most lifeless medium, video, not painting, would be my unequivocal first choice simply because I'm tired of it, regardless of how stylish and new the equipment and installation techniques appear.

"Since Richter's work appears to give lie to this assumption, you have to wonder whether he means what he says, or is just parroting a line that allows otherwise right-thinking critics to swoon in front of his canvases." Halle writes. "I’d bet that even Walter Benjamin would piss his pants over Richter’s latest offerings at Marian Goodman, they are that sublime. Benjamin, of course, famously postulated that the advent of photographic reproduction had irrevocably terminated art’s 'aura,' or ability to inspire awe, but what are you going to believe? The conventional wisdom, or your own prevaricating eyes? Richter’s compositions, however, are more than just beautiful. They present the paradox of seemingly opaque treatises on “painting” (complete with scare quotes), plumbing the deepest quandary of the human condition: the choice between good and evil....

"Richter’s conceptualist deconstruction of painting into genres (portrait, landscape, still life) and styles (Expressionism, Minimalism, Realism) has never been as neutral as it’s purported to be. Rather, I’d argue that his process rehearses the weighing of actions and their consequences: Do you paint a clear picture for yourself? Do you rely on abstractions? Do you make up your mind before changing it again? In this respect, his work rediscovers the moral center for a relativistic age: a metaphor for what we all go through when faced with the judgments that history compels us to make."

"Gerhard Richter," Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, NY. Through Jan 9.

UPDATE (January 1, 2010): Howard Halle, suggesting that his position has been misunderstood by readers, responded via FaceBook this afternoon. "I like painting; I don't think that painting is dead. But based on the relatively small percentage of painters who are typically included in major surveys of contemporary art like the Biennial, you have to wonder what curators think on the matter."

UPDATE (January 6, 2010): Robert Smith's end-of-decade wrap-up includes this declaration: "All this has moved beyond the simpler days of art movements, trends and warring claims for the supremacy of one medium or another. If it seems otherwise, you’re not looking hard enough or without blinkers. To beat a dead horse: even painting remains very much alive. It is a language that is too complex, widely spoken and beloved to expire, but you can bet it is changing all the time."

December 19, 2009

Artist's Statement of the Day: Allison Gildersleeve

Allison Gildersleeve, "Flying at Knee Level," 2009, oil and alkyd on canvas, 46 x 44." Images courtesy the artist and Michael Steinberg Fine Art.

Allison Gildersleeve, "Passage," 2008, oil and alkyd on canvas, 54 x 54" 

"When the logical progression through time and space is hijacked by memory, there is a certain collapse of what was there, and out of this disintegration, a  third distinct place emerges as a physical presence. My work pieces together  this place, combining the familiar with the unfamiliar, the past and the present.  What results is a hedge inside a room, a table leg in between branches, an  armchair sitting inside a deserted pool. Space is restructured by the emotions it houses and what might have been a linear internal narrative becomes a topography of recollection, uncertainty, loss, and retelling."
--Allison Gildersleeve

I met Allison Gilderlseeve in Miami earlier this month at the Art Miami blogger panel (for a full report on the discussion and images, click here). While we waited out Saturday's afternoon squall at a covered outdoor cafe, we agreed emphatically that painting is NOT dead...especially for all the artists who continue to paint.

December 18, 2009

Robert Storr on the talk circuit: Grueling

Robert Storr drinking champagne at The American University of Paris. Photo: Susie Hollands (, courtesy The Artblog

In a report on the "trials and tribulations of the international lecture circuit" in the new issue of Frieze, Yale Art & Architecture Dean Robert Storr writes that the most dependable but generally least lucrative art world gig is as a ‘visiting artist/critic’. "It usually involves showing up in a place starved of information and contact with the wider world, giving a public slide presentation, a seminar and studio critiques – interrupted by breakfast, lunch and dinner – with local faculty, patrons and eager young artists. It can be fun if one savours the eccentricities of people and places as I do, but it is gruelling nevertheless. If one does not enjoy being ‘out there’ and, worse, if one is inclined to condescend to audiences assumed to be less sophisticated than those in big cities, then things can go very wrong. I have often been in the slipstream of certified Gotham players – the scold of a major daily paper, for example, or the gadfly of a glossy weekly – and listened to tales of their inattention to the hosts and their lazy performance of an overly familiar act, usually aggravated by glibness, snarkiness or outright arrogance. Roadshow hot-shots beware! Busy boom-towners flip through what you write and fear your power; out-of-towners read it and can quiz you on what you said and derisively repeat your shtick while ignoring the clout they’re sure you’ll never use to their advantage.

"Visiting artists who are welcome on the tour give good weight. Those who make a lasting impact give much more than expected. Plus, they have a sense of timing with regard to what they offer. I still remember Lynda Benglis at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine, in the late 1970s ducking into virtually all of the studios after her lecture, and, a glass of Scotch in hand, spending most of the afternoon and much of the evening engaging one-on-one with every student who risked showing her their work. Nayland Blake did the same a few years later. Their insight and generosity changed lives." Read the entire report here.

Butler gets a Jackson Pollock valued at 2 million

Jackson Pollock, "Silver and Black," 1950, oil and metallic paint, 21.25 x 15.75."

The Business Journal Daily reports that a painting by Jackson Pollock, valued at $2 million has been donated to The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio, by William Roemer and his wife Linda, who reside in Warren. Roemer’s parents, James and Helen, purchased the painting for $3,000 in 1958, when Pollock was an unknown, unrecognized artist ["Wait, who wrote that? 'Unknown' and 'unrecognized artist' in 1958? I'm pretty sure that's not true," Todd correctly points out in the Comments below. TBJD got the Pollock bio mixed up. In fact, Pollock was struggling in the early 50s to move beyond the drip paintings while continuing to fight his ongoing alcoholism. He died in August 1956 and had a posthumous retrospective at MoMa the following December. He was far from "unknown" by 1958. --Ed.] James Roemer and his father, Henry, each served as president of the former Sharon Steel Corp. “This is indeed a very special holiday present, and I am still pinching myself about it,” said The Butler’s executive director and chief curator, Lou Zona. “The Butler can now boast that we have a very rare work of art by America’s most renowned 20th century artist, a man who literally redefined world art. Pollock was a troubled genius whose magnificent art has engaged generations.”

Miami mania

One of my dogs enjoying the pile of trash handouts I gathered at the fairs in Miami.

At the Miami Fairs, since my only assignment was to cover the experience from the blogger's perspective for the New Haven Advocate (look for it in next week's edition) my approach was fairly casual. I went to Art Basel and the other major fairs where I lingered over the work that caught my eye. Artist/blogger Joanne Mattera, on the other hand, documented absolutely everything. In fact, she's still in the process of posting her exhaustive reports, which include excellent images and links. Check her progress here.

NY Times Art in Review: Eric Fischl, Richard Hawkins

Eric Fischl at Mary Boone, installation view.

"ERIC FISCHL: Corrida in Ronda," Mary Boone, Chelsea. Through December 19. Karen Rosenberg: For centuries, bullfights have been catnip to artists. Adding himself to a list that includes Velázquez, Manet and Picasso, Eric Fischl made a recent pilgrimage to the Corrida Goyesca in Spain. Held each fall in the Andalusian town of Ronda, it features toreros in Goya-inspired attire: rich stuff for any figurative painter. But Mr. Fischl’s nearly life-size canvases are hardly nostalgic. Instead they reckon with the current status of the bullfight, a sexy but endangered tradition losing ground to other forms of entertainment and under threat from animal-rights activists....In this particular contest, anyway, Mr. Fischl may be choosing sides. The animal looks harmless, or at least neutralized; in most of the paintings, he sits or lies on the ground, sword hilts protruding from his coat. And in a painting at the gallery entrance, Mr. Fischl presents a solo and very sympathetic bull, in a pose that implies vulnerability and reflection.

Richard Hawkins, "Shinjuku Boy No. 6," 2008, collage, 59x47cm, Courtesy Galerie Daniel Buchholz

Richard Hawkins, "Urbis Paganus," 2006, Installation view at Richard Telles

"RICHARD HAWKINS," Greene Naftali, Chelsea  Through Jan. 23. Ken Johnson: Few artists who write about their works seem to realize how painful their verbiage can be for viewers to read. But there are some who reward the effort it takes to read while standing up. The Los Angeles artist Richard Hawkins is one. Mr. Hawkins’s enjoyably diversified exhibition includes messy collages revolving around pictures of pretty young men cut out of magazines and clothing catalogs; slapdash abstract paintings that look like rejects from Mary Heilmann’s studio; and garishly colorful, cartoonish paintings of men in erotically suggestive poses and situations. Most engaging is a series of collages called “Treatise on Posteriority.” That is not a typo: each page presents several pictures of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures of athletic men shot from behind to show their well-formed buttocks and backs. The reproductions are accompanied by delightfully comical commentaries, hand-printed in white on black, that sound as if they had been written by a lascivious, homosexual art historian.

Keen to emphasize the erotic appeal of classical statuary, Mr. Hawkins suggests that it might even have served as a form of pornography....Mr. Hawkins offers a refreshingly ribald corrective to the high-minded, asexual decorum of traditional art history. (Note to gallery: Web sites featuring Flash animations are not blogger friendly, so I was unable to include images from your show in this post.)

Read the entire Art in Review column here.

December 17, 2009

Marjorie Welish and James Siena: Doing and undoing

Oaths? Questions? First spread of a collaborative book by Marjorie Welish and James Siena.

 Oaths? Questions? Second spread.

 Oaths? Questions? Third spread.

Oaths? Questions? Seventh spread.

In Art on Paper Frances Richard reviews Oaths? Questions?-- a book collaboration between Marjorie Welish and James Siena. "The first page is blank, but not empty. There is nothing on it, but rather something in it, a postage stamp–size transparency set in the thick, folded paper. The image is captioned, so we know it reproduces a painting called 'The High Valley 19' (1983–4) executed in oil on canvas and measuring a room-size 6 by 8 feet. A close look reveals an image divided in four. The left-hand quadrants are tessellated in yellows and ochers above and white and red below, while the right-hand quadrants are a multicolored crazy quilt; those familiar with the collaborating artists will recognize the work as Welish’s.

"This close looking must be accomplished in the act of turning the page, since light shines through the tiny slide only when the stiff leaf is upright. By foregrounding the radical scale shifts that printing can accomplish, as well as the in-between moment when neither recto nor verso fills the visual field, The High Valley 19 draws the viewer optically, cognitively, and also bodily into the space of the book. On the next page—actually on an overleaf of clear Mylar—the first words to appear in Oaths? Questions? ratify the insistence that looking and/or reading is not simple: 'AND IT WENT BLIND.'

"Ten full-bleed, double-page linear and geometric abstractions follow, all in more or less primary colors and all made specifically for the project. Each spread is interleaved with clear films on to which are letterpressed poetic passages by Siena and Welish—who worked separately, for two years, in response to each other’s prompts. The exchange evolved from an invitation to Welish by Steve Clay at Granary Books. Writer/artist collaborations are a Granary specialty, and as Welish is both, she could have been her own interlocutor. Instead, she invited Siena, stipulating that he also write. 'I immediately understood . . . the tactical headspace that he and I share,' she explained in a public conversation hosted by artonpaper at the Editions|Artists’ Books Fair last November, before the book was completed. 'I was searching for, in a way, the proper antagonist, one with whom I would share a mentality, but with whom I wouldn’t necessarily share the same thought-process in the specifics.' The upshot of these tactical antagonisms is a study in what Siena calls 'doing and undoing,' in which reading, looking, page-turning, and pattern-tracking interlock in an almost musical dynamic. Syncopated by not-quite algorithms, in Oaths? Questions? text and image, transparency and substrate come together and peel apart, their interactions rule-bound but always just a smidgen off the beat." Read more.

Oaths? Questions? published by Granary Books. Edition of 50, 36 of which are for sale @ $4000 each.

December 16, 2009

The continued under-valuation of art bloggers

Last year we all cheered when New York's Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation, which "aims to support the broad spectrum of writing on contemporary visual art," included a blogging category in their program, and this year, I received several emails from colleagues urging me to apply. As an academic, I thought it seemed greedy to seek grant funding in addition to my salary when most bloggers are struggling to pay the bills. To be honest, I had good, grant-worthy ideas about expanding Two Coats of Paint in new directions, but I was too busy to complete the application. In addition, I was leery of adding new duties to my already overwhelming workload (teaching, writing, blogging, painting, parenting...).  It turns out, however,  that over 150 bloggers actually found the time to apply, but only one, Greg Cook (New England Journal of Aesthetic Research), was selected. In the LA Times blog, Christopher Knight wonders why.

"Twenty-six mostly N.Y. scribblers were the happy recipients of anywhere between $5,000 and $50,000, designed to help them ply their typically underpaid trade.... As writers on art, bloggers just don't seem to measure up. Although the Internet has gobbled up the globe, just one blogger made the cut. The remaining 25 grantees mostly proposed projects for print, including books, magazines, newspapers and other dead-tree media. In fact, in the four years that Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grants have been awarded, only three have gone to writers who produce blogs. Given a total of 87 grants since 2006, bloggers have racked up less than 4%.That's not a very good ratio.

"In fact, it's dismal.... Maybe art blogs are generally a waste or only really bad bloggers submit applications or the jury doesn't like the form. The bad news doesn't stop there. Two successful applicants this year got grants to start blogs. That's a nice vote of confidence in those established writers' abilities, but it also suggests the jury's rather sizable degree of dismay with existing bloggers who applied for assistance."

Isn't it obvious that with funding, existing bloggers could devote more time to their blogs and the quality would improve? Comments are welcome.

December 13, 2009

Art for Darwinian times

Matthew Miller, "Untitled (Self-Portrait), 2009. Detail.

In the latest edition of The Brooklyn Rail I reviewed "Social Curiosities," a show at the New York Academy of Art that features work by the 2008-09 postgraduate fellowship recipients—Matthew Miller, Annie Wildey, and Phillip Thomas. "Tens of thousands of debt-ridden art students are scheduled to graduate this year. When they started school, the art market was thriving. Galleries, curators, and collectors trawled MFA open studio events for new talent. Jobs were plentiful. Being an artist seemed like a legitimate, practically defensible career path rather than an eccentric calling that would lead to noble pauperism. Now, tenured professors can no longer afford to retire, and university art departments and art schools face staff reductions despite the inexplicably growing number of applicants. Art school graduates can’t even count on finding low-level positions like studio assistant, university studio technician, art handler, or gallerina. A good many of them will shake their heads, plead temporary insanity, cast off the whole idea of the artist’s vocation as frivolous and head to law school. The upside, of course, is that Darwinian times force the fittest—the most dedicated and ambitious as well as the most talented—to shine. "Social Curiosities" comprises three young artists determined to find their voices during these difficult times.

"For the past year Miller, Wildey, and Thomas have been afforded studio space, an annual stipend, tutorial support, and opportunities for teaching assistantships. The New York Academy is known for its classical figurative curriculum and unswerving commitment to rigorous perceptual study, so the challenge the three have faced is to find relevant content and inventive approaches while continuing in the classical tradition. To varying degrees, they have all succeeded. Wildey, who paints monochromatic perspectival studies of road and subway trestles, and Gordon, who mashes up references from paintings past, are still finding their way, though with considerable promise. The standout is Matthew Miller, who has clearly hit his stride...." Read more.

December 12, 2009

"I’m not an original thinker, but I think I’m an original painter."

Sylvia Plimack Mangold, "Summer Maple," 2008, drypoint and aquatint on paper, 16 3/4 x 21 in

Sylvia Plimack Mangold, "Maple Tree Detail 2008," 2008, oil on linen, 24.25 x 30.25." Photo by Jason Mandella.

On the day before her exhibition "Natural Sympathies: Sylvia Plimack Mangold and Lovis Corinth Works on Paper" opened at Alexander and Bonin, Brooklyn Rail Art Editor John Yau sat down with the artist at the gallery to discuss her recent work. Here's an excerpt.

Rail: But you somehow found this way and it wasn’t reactionary. Your work absorbed, but didn’t become like what else was going on. In your work you are clearly aware of conceptual art, minimalism. In the ruler paintings and works on paper I felt that you were commenting on conceptual art—that you were saying that conceptual art can be turned into painting.

Mangold: It was also conceptual in a sense that I would say about relationships. I was involved especially then in relationships, and truth, and how you experience something and how you can experience the same thing any number of ways. In the end, the kind of decisions that I made that I liked, that were most personal, were color decisions like the metallic quality of the exact ruler on this vinyl material, so that the palette is more of a decisive part of the work than what seems to be conceptual.

Rail: It gave you a way to think in painting terms. And that’s always been foremost in everything you’ve done—how can you think of this in painting terms.

Mangold: Yes, I think in terms of painting. I’m not an original thinker, but I think I’m an original painter. The painting language comes naturally to me, I understand and think through this form. And it is where I feel the most freedom.

Rail: I guess because I’m trying to get at something here—people seem to think that you have to be an original thinker, which is often predefined, but they are unable to acknowledge, much less pay attention, to the fact that you can be an original painter.

Mangold: But you can.

Rail: It seems to me that that way of thinking about painting is neglected or overlooked.

Mangold: That’s because we live in this media time where artists are expected to write articles and talk about their work, sell their work, and promote their work. The thing is painting is a language but it never really ever translates. I love the world of verbal language, but it’s not what I do....

Mangold: But I have to say this. I’m a painter, you know, I’m not a poet. I’m not a writer. So you’re coming at it how you see these paintings, but when I did the floors, I wanted to learn about perspective because I did not know how to draw things in diminishing space—three-dimensional space. So I would set up this grid that was like the floor of my bedroom or living room and I would learn about how to place things in space. When I had my first show of floors and mirrors, I remember Mel Bochner came in and he was saying all the things I was doing with these mirrors, about illusion, and I didn’t know I was doing all those things. So then I went back and thought about what he and other people said and wrote and it started to open up another way of thinking about my work.

Rail: I also feel like in your paintings that you feel your way through the paintings....

Mangold: Don’t you think all really interesting painting has a conceptual element to it?

Rail: Absolutely. I think it just gets left out of the discussion about painting. Like somehow you can’t be conceptual and observational at the same time.

Mangold: I think conceptual doesn’t just mean that it’s minimal. Conceptual could mean having layers to what is obvious. It is like the machinery that you don’t always see but gives the work endurance so the viewer’s attention is held. It could be a memory or a relationship or a system, whatever it may be it needs to be intrinsic, not applied.

Mangold: I do. I feel my way through my life [laughs].

Read the entire interview here.

"Natural Sympathies:  Sylvia Plimack Mangold and Lovis Corinth Works on Paper," Alexander and Bonin, New York, NY. Through  January 16, 2010

Related post:
Joanne Mattera in Miami: Out of the Woods

December 11, 2009

NY Times Art in Review: Fischer, Halvorson, Santore

Dan Fischer,"Mondrian Studio II," 2008, graphite on paper, 2.125 x 9.625."

DAN FISCHER: Unique Forms of Continuity in Space," Derek Eller Gallery, Chelsea. Through Dec. 19. Roberta Smith: Dan Fischer’s art could be called retro-appropriation. Instead of rephotographing photographs like a card-carrying postmodernist, he painstakingly converts them into graphite drawings. The compressed velvetiness and devotional air of these small works go against the grain of most postmodernism, yet except for the small patches of grid that indicate the artist’s handiwork, they can almost be mistaken for photographs. The images Mr. Fischer copies are well-known photographs of famous 20th-century artists and artworks that play off one another. ....The show’s most beautiful image is a form of continuity unto itself: a wall of Mondrian’s New York studio, where paintings, shelves and tacked-up squares of color form an irregular grid of grays so subtly modulated they might as well be colored.

Josephine Halvorson, "Shaker Shelf," 2009, oil on linen, 16 x19 ."

"JOSEPHINE HALVORSON: Clockwise From Window," Monya Rowe Gallery, Chelsea. Through Jan. 16. Roberta Smith: Josephine Halvorson’s small realist paintings seem to have it both ways. They neither function as windows on an illusionistic world, nor do they foster the absolute agreement of flat image and flat surface basic to, say, a Jasper Johns flag or target. Instead, Ms. Halvorson’s works — usually painted from one sitting — hold steady in the middle with closely cropped, relaxed renderings of shallow, boxed-off volumes and forms that are forthright but not so simple....Ms. Halvorson’s art adds, as yet infinitesimally but credibly, to visions of late Manet, Morandi and William Nicholson, all of whom enlivened pure painting with reality.

Joseph Santore, "Garden," 2008-09, oil on linen, 42 x 36"

"JOSEPH SANTORE: Recent Work," Lohin Geduld Gallery, Chelsea. Through Dec. 24. Ken Johnson: Why is hard to say, but a lot of interesting painting is bobbing around in today’s recessionary waters. One kind that you don’t see a lot of, however, is realism, which makes it potentially the most interesting approach just because it is so unfashionable. A case in point is the work of Joseph Santore. Exhibiting solo for the first time since 2001, Mr. Santore, 63, has evidently backed down from the kind of big-scale, awesomely ambitious painting he has favored. On canvases ranging from 6 inches square to 3 by 3 ½ feet, he has been painting still-lifes and self-portraits with a tender touch, a sharply observant eye and a spider’s patience, and without photographic aids.

Read the entire Art in Review column here.