March 31, 2010

Like "bruised flesh and dried blood, urine stains and sour milk"

 Marlene Dumas, "Under Construction," 2009, oil on linen, 70 7/8 x 118 1/8 x 1"

 Marlene Dumas, "Wall Wailing," 2009, oil on linen, 70 7/8 x 118 1/8 x 1"

 Marlene Dumas, "The Sleep of Reason," 2009, oil on linen,  39 3/8 x 35 1/2 x 1"

In Time Out, Howard Halle reviews the Dumas show at Zwirner. "In spite of its considerable reputation, I’ve never been particularly enamored of the work of Marlene Dumas. She demonstrates a marked propensity for marrying lugubrious themes (like portraits of drowning victims) to a thin, Neo-Expressionistic paint-handling that seems extraneous to the images involved; meanwhile, her palette tends to fall in the spectrum between bruised flesh and dried blood, urine stains and sour milk. The trouble with this package is not that it’s unlovely, but that ultimately, it is unconvincing. Dumas lays claim to a gravitas that feels more assumed than earned, as she often confuses self-importance for a deep unpacking of the human condition. The result is a mannered muddle that hits you over the head with significance.

"Still, I find it hard to shake off the effects of 'Against the Wall,' her current show at David Zwirner. All of her weaknesses as an artist remain amply on display, but this time, they don’t seem to get in the way of her main subject, which is the Middle East, specifically Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Considering the topic, and how easily Dumas could have gone off the rails dealing with it, it’s nothing short of a miracle that these canvases work as well as they do. Yet their impact is undeniable."

"Marlene Dumas: Against the Wall," David Zwirner, New York, NY. Through

March 29, 2010

#class demonstrated the unequivocal power of social media...but now what?

 "Collecting With Your Eye,  Not Your Ear," discussion organized by Barry Hoggard and James Wagner. Image courtesy Winkleman Gallery.

#class, a sprawling and innovative project at Winkleman Gallery in New York, closed last week. Artists William Powhida and Jennifer Dalton had turned the gallery into a “think tank” for guest artists, critics, academics, dealers, collectors, and anyone else interested in examining the way art is made, seen, and sold in our culture. Piqued by the yawning gulf between the generally under-resourced people who make art and the predominantly wealthy people who buy it, the two set out with a smoldering dissatisfaction about the way the art world works. To be honest, few support themselves by selling artwork; most artists work their entire lives with little compensation or recognition (not to mention health insurance), and if they haven’t secured commercial gallery representation by the time they’re 30, they feel as though they have failed. Dalton and Powhida felt this systemic plight merited more organized discussion from all members of the art community.

For the four weeks #class was in session, the project received generous attention. In no small part, its success derived from blogs and other social networking tools. Here’s how it played out: Presented with an opportunity to meet and vent publicly courtesy of Powhida and Dalton, artists, dealers, collectors, curators, academics, critics, and bloggers – most of them affected by the economic decline – gathered in Chelsea. Enough of the participants were connected that the coverage on Twitter, Ustream, and the blogs flattened the traditional hierarchies, enabling remotely situated artists to bypass customary lines of communication and instantaneously establish dialogue built on the happenings in #class. Thus, a new community emerged in which putatively voiceless members of the art community, rather than merely ranting about the lack of career options at the local bar, projected more considered and purposeful opinions in a larger dialogue.

Well known bloggers like Paddy Johnson, Franklin Einspruch, John Haber, Joanne Mattera, Brent Burket, and Austin Thomas turned up to participate. Many artists, dealers, and journalists, previously dismissive of internet-based media, began to take heed as the proceedings gained momentum. With robust participation both in person and online, combined with unprecedented coverage in the blogs, mainstream media latched on to the scheduled events, art critics showed up, and discussions, centered on improving conditions for artists and taking art beyond the cloistered art world to engage the larger community, sprawled out onto Twitter and Facebook.

These developments were not, of course, accidental. Rather, Winkleman, Dalton and Powhida, all social media users themselves, carefully engineered the project’s success by harnessing the power of the blogosphere. They included seasoned bloggers – Hrag Vartanian, Carolina Miranda, Barry Hoggard, James Wagner, An Xiao, Olympia Lambert, Loren Munk, Joanne McNeil, and many others (I organized a discussion about art school and the Ivory Tower) – in all the presentations and discussions, ensuring that blog and related coverage would be abundant. Twitter hashtags, #class and #hashtagclass, were created to channel the Twitter conversation into lively, easy-to-follow feeds, and a video camera was installed in the gallery and video streamed live, so that anyone interested in participating, no matter where they were located, could watch the events and contribute comments and questions via Twitter.

Winkleman, Dalton and Powhida have demonstrated unequivocally how powerful social networking tools can be for our collective advancement. Without embracing larger goals, however, the attention and publicity #class organizers and participants have received are meaningless. Other artists must follow their lead to expand audiences and grow community. In this way interest in art and its social role stands to become deeper and broader – to the benefit of artists and non-artists alike.

Related stories:
New York: The Year in Arts
NY Times: Art in Review
Art Forum: Critics Pick
Art in America: The Art of the Crowd
Art Net: Art Show as Think Tank 
C-Monster: Take on the Art Industry 
Art Fag City: Powhida! Part Two
Art Fag City: Powhida! Part One 
William Powhida: Hooverville Catastrofuck
Art Fag City: Why The Fuck Do You Get Up In The Morning #class
James Wagner: #class Collecting Panel at Winkleman
Wall Street Journal Speakeasy Blog: #class Exhibit Challenges New Museum Show
Ed Winkleman Blog: Multiple #class posts
Down by the Waterfront:
Last day of #class
Alan Lupiani's
video report
Two Coats of Paint:
Performing "The Ivory Tower" at #class
Joanie Gagnon San Chirico
Headed Back to #CLASS
Zachary Adam Cohen's
link roundup
Secrets of the NY Art World  
John Haber's New York Art Crit:
Multiple #class posts 

Note: There are many additional posts about the project, and more are being written each day. If you know of posts or articles that should be included, please post a link in the Comments section.

This article has also been published at the Huffington Post.

March 27, 2010

Roberta Smith on painting today

 "Fellow" by Leidy Churchman. Courtesy Horton Gallery.
Untitled by Jakub Julian Ziolkowski. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

Detail of "Urban Grid, Riffs on the Grid" by Frederick Hayes.

In the NY Times, Roberta Smith, writes a short essay on the state of contemporary painting in which she suggests not  only that ranking art mediums and declaring some of them (like painting) dead is finally passé, but that painters are approaching the medium more freely than ever. "Few modern myths about art have been as persistent or as annoying as the so-called death of painting. Unless, of course, it is the belief that abstract and representational painting are oil and water, never to meet as one. The two notions are related. The Modernist insistence on the separation of representation and abstraction robbed painting of essential vitality. Both notions have their well-known advocates. And both, in my mind seem, well, very 20th century.

"There have been moments of dazzling balance between the representational and the abstract — for example, Byzantine mosaics; pre-Columbian and American Indian textiles and ceramics; Japanese screens; Mughal painting; and post-Impressionism. Painting may be in a similar place right now, fomented mostly, but not always, by young painters who have emerged in the last decade. They feel freer to paint what they want than at any time since the 1930s, or maybe even the 1890s, when post-Impressionism was at its height. In the late 19th century painting was being radically changed by a series of artistic explosions — the newly abstracted figuration of post-Impressionists from van Gogh to Ensor; the extremes of color favored by the Fauves, like the young Matisse, and German Expressionists, like Kirchner; the shattering of representational form by Cubism and Futurism; and finally the flowering of abstraction itself in the work of Malevich and Mondrian.

"By the 1970s, thanks largely to formalist critics like Clement Greenberg and Donald Judd, painting had been flattened and emptied of figures, subject matter and illusionistic space....But with each generation of painters, the authority of Greenberg and Judd pales while the history of the pictorial expands, revealing new possibilities for scholars, curators and artists alike....

"But what really is questionable, and passé, is the implied ranking of art mediums and the leaving of some of them for dead. None of them ever really, ultimately have much of a monopoly on quality. And something else greatly reduces the chances of the death of painting: too many people — most obviously women — are just beginning to make their mark with the medium and are becoming active in its public dialogue...."

Check out Smith's slide show of contemporary figure painting here.

March 26, 2010

Studio visit: Austin Thomas

Here are some images from a recent visit to Austin Thomas's studio, where three-dimensional collages, text-based drawings, and handmade prints line the walls. Small-scale and composed of humble materials like graph paper, colored paper, and pencil, Thomas's thought-provoking work exudes an understated anxiety tempered with wry humor. Working toward a solo show in September, Thomas, who closed Pocket Utopia last year, is determined to avoid any additional projects for the time being--except for organizing Camp Pocket Utopia, an artists' retreat inspired by the legendary Black Mountain College. Camp Pocket Utopia will convene in upstate New York this July.

Thomas's recent curatorial projects include Ocketopia @ Lesley Heller and the Auxiliary Art Exhibition at Tom's Salon.

Mark Grotjahn's personal code

 Mark Grotjahn at Blum & Poe, installation view.
Mark Grotjahn, "Untitled (Face R. Stripped 776)," 2008, oil on cardboard mounted on linen, 60-1 /2 x 50-1/4"
Mark Grotjahn, "Untitled (Red Yellow and Blue Face 821)," 2009, oil on cardboard mounted on linen, 95-1/4 x 72-3/4"

In the LA Weekly Christopher Miles reports that the images in Mark Grotjahn's paintings at Blum & Poe are lousy with influences, but the fusion of renaissance space, cubist space, abstract and nonobjective space with surrealist and dadaist space, pop space and visionary-modernist space makes them undeniably his own. "A baker's dozen of paintings — made from oil paint layered up on cardboard that also has been layered up atop stretched linen — assault you with heavily abstracted and sometimes multiplying eyes that combine with line work to overtly borrow from and reminisce about Picasso's own lifting of styles and moves from 'primitive' art. But as Picassoid as they are, Grotjahn's paintings also are reminiscent of work by a number of proto- and early modernists, as well as a host of primitive-by-way-of-Picasso–inspired artists from Klee to Pollock to Basquiat.... Add to this dashes of both expressionist heat and some Warholian cool, and you begin to get a sense of Grotjahn's personal code.

"But what arguably makes these paintings Grotjahn's own is his compelling play of abstract and representational space. I can't help looking at his paintings without thinking of the Dali sequence in Spellbound, and I also can't help drifting into associations with artists like Hannah Hoch or California modernist and Dynaton movement co-founder Lee Mullican. Such associations are a matter less of style or imagery than of envisioning and giving image to different kinds of pictorial space — the space of the unconscious, the space of the spiritual or otherworldly, the space of collage and montage. The results are works that fuse renaissance space, cubist space, abstract and nonobjective space with surrealist and dadaist space, pop space and visionary-modernist space — a fusion that generates the real sense of the uncanny that the imagery only points at."

"Mark Grotjahn: Seven Faces," Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, CA. Through April 3.

NYTimes Art in Review: Paschke, Hafif

 Ed Paschke at Gagosian, installation view.

"Ed Paschke," curated by his former studio assistant Jeff Koons. Gagosian Gallery, New York, NY. Through April 24. Ken Johnson reports: Imagine a phosphorescent underground peopled by pimps, strippers, hustlers, wrestlers, fetishists and other lavishly accessorized miscreants from the lower depths of American society. Though clearly derived from photographic sources, Mr. Paschke’s portraits of such outsider luminaries are simplified, irradiated from within and cast in sickly colors, as if he’d envisioned them in fever dreams. In the late ’80s Mr. Paschke began painting images that looked as if they were broadcast by a television on acid, with lines of neon-bright visual static coursing over the ghostly heads of vaguely menacing men. Few painters have captured the shifty, electric spirit of postindustrial capitalism so vividly.

 Marcia Hafif, "Black Painting: Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber II," 1979-80, oil on canvas, 215 x 200 cm.

"Marcia Hafif: From the Inventory: Black Paintings, 1979-1980," Newman Popiashvili Gallery, Chelsea. Through April 3. Roberta Smith reports: As usual Hafif simply wanted to put brush to canvas, leaving a certain mark in a certain color and proceeding from one stroke to the next, beside or over its predecessor, until the entire surface was covered to her liking, in a process both devotional and workmanlike. The colors she used here include the darkest of ultramarine blues and burnt umbers applied in loose, substantial strokes that give the surfaces a feathery softness. Each of the four paintings here, all measuring 7 feet by 6 ½ feet, has its own qualities of tone and texture, nearness and farness, like various night skies. Their differences, while subtle, emerge without undue taxation and with a deeply characteristic Hafifian earnestness that seems to say: Just do it and mean it; it will be new enough.

March 24, 2010

Lucian Freud: Topless

Lucian Freud, working at night. Courtesy Centre George Pompidou

Lucian Freud: L'Atelier at the Centre George Pompidou is based on the theme of the painter's studio, which curator Cécile Debray posits as the crucial one for his body of work, and comprises some 50 large paintings produced from the 1940s to today. These are supplemented by drawings and photographs of his now-famous London studio. In Art in America, Debray talks with Alice Pfeiffer about mapping the symbolism of Freud's studio.  "Freud is very famous in England, and with the success of the sales, Freud began to be very well known and written about. But if you walk around European and American museums, you don't see his work. It was time to show Freud differently: not as a retrospective with a closed narrative, but as a punch, a very tight selection with essentially only masterpieces, to give a few reading keys, based around the theme of the point of view of the painter behind his easel, facing the live model. This is a position he isn't going to leave. He still works that way, and it is precisely this that made contemporary art ill at ease with him: it is a very traditional position, but he upholds it so absolutely that it becomes radical. Since the 1940s, he has pushed further and further his exercise of observating a live model."

"Lucian Freud: L'Atelier," curated by Cécile Debray, Centre George Pompidou, Paris. Through July 19.

Unbelievable: Nudes removed from city building in Connecticut town

 One of Roger Van Damme's nudes--but not the one in the story.

According to Channel 3, a painting of a nude figure hanging in Milford town hall was taken down after complaints that it was too racy for public display. Officials also took down other works that had been on display for decades. "There is now a bare spot on the wall of an exhibition of works by the late Roger Van Damme that went displayed in the Parson’s complex in Milford almost a month ago. The painting in question is now tucked away from public view. Bill Meddick, of the Milford Fine Arts Council, said, 'I'm kind of surprised by all the things that are going on.' Meddick has an interest in all of the uproar because, among other things, he painted one of the other works that has been pulled, one that had been hanging in the complex for thirty years without problems. Meddick said, 'I'm not offended by it. I'm trying to figure it out. I guess it's like, I don't know, the idea that kids will see it or something. I mean, I don't think anything would happen to them, but I don't think anything too bad.'

"Some city employees, who did not want to speak on camera, said some of the paintings were OK, but one was a bit over the top for a public building. Tom Ivers, of Milford Community Development, said, 'Content makes a difference and everyone perceives things in their own way. Art that creates controversy is probably a good thing.' The remaining Van Damm paintings will hang in the complex as part of the permanent collection. He left the works in the care of the Milford Fine Arts Council when he died in 2008. The painting that was pulled from the walls will be on display at the offices of the Fine Arts Council."

Video news clip  with images of the paintings.

March 22, 2010

Julie Mehretu's oceanic sweep

Installing Julie Mehretu's mural at Goldman Sachs via Art21 on Vimeo.

In the New Yorker this week Calvin Tompkins profiles Julie Mehretu. "Eighty feet long by twenty-three feet high, Julie Mehretu’s 'Mural' dominates the entrance lobby of Goldman Sachs’s new steel-and-glass office building in lower Manhattan. Hundreds of precisely defined abstract shapes in saturated colors—small dots and squares, straight and curving lines, larger geometric or free-form shapes ranging from several inches to several feet in length—move across it in an oceanic sweep. 'It took me a long time—six months or so—to decide I wanted to do this,' Mehretu told Tomkins. Mehretu is thirty-nine, friendly, and open. 'One reason was this wall, which is so clearly visible from outside the building…I could never make a painting this scale anywhere else....'"

March 21, 2010

Dan Walsh: "Just enough humanity to keep formalist ossification at bay"

Dan Walsh at Paula Cooper, installation views.

In Artforum, Michael Wilson reports that Dan Walsh's artistic approach is so clear and careful that perhaps it's better discussed in terms of gradual shifts than of sudden breakthroughs. "Working slowly through numerous variations on a few established themes, Walsh remains focused on geometric abstraction but invests it with just enough humanity to keep formalist ossification at bay. So even while the artist sticks doggedly to repetition and patterning as picture-making devices, he allows a subtle but consistently discernible imperfection to infuse his art with life. Walsh’s style is at once highly systematic and ever so slightly offhand, displaying a simultaneous commitment to conceptual-minimal flawlessness and the wobbles of traditional production.

"All the paintings in this exhibition, 'Days and Nights,' employ brushstrokes arranged into lines, crosses, squares, and grids. Some of them have the look of fabric designs or circuit diagrams, but there is also a suggestion of improvisational doodling, of responding directly to the proportions of the canvas or simply making use of whatever paint was at hand, as if the artist were determined to finish off one color before moving on to the next. Walsh likes to employ simple layering and translucent effects, allowing his materials to retain their unique properties while bending them to his own project. In several of the works, these techniques give rise to pleasing optical effects; in others, they simply are what they are. And in the multipanel work for which the show is named, they simply chart a painter’s progress."

"Dan Walsh: Days and Nights," Paula Cooper, New York, NY. Through April 3.

Update on the painting horse movement

 Buggs and Carol Jensen working at the easel in the barn, er, I mean studio.
Buggs's paintings.

In the Journal Sentinel, Erin Richards reports that a 13-year-old quarter horse cross has learned to paint. "Buggs is a pioneer in the painting horse movement that has emerged in recent years, fueled by YouTube videos and the Internet, and part of a worldly contingent of 'animal artists' that includes everything from elephants and dogs to chimpanzees. Owner Carol Jensen, a multimedia artist, jewelry maker and musician who taught Buggs to paint two years ago, envisions filling a gallery with her horse's paintings one day, or maybe taking his show on the road, exhibition-style. 'I'm inspired by paintings I see, colorwise, and I think, 'Oh, Buggs could do that,' " Jensen said recently, while dressed in a white button-up smock and mixing paint on the ground next to Buggs' open stall door. A few moments later she dabbed the brush in the paint, pointed the wooden handle at Buggs' expectant mouth and instructed, "Up and down, up and down . . . "

"Jensen, 56, discovered Buggs' aptitude for painting while looking for ways to keep the restless horse occupied during the winter months, when poor weather keeps him cooped up in his stall. She had heard about people teaching horses to paint and figured that Buggs, whose personality equates to that of a smart child who acts up when bored, seemed like a good prospect. In October 2008 she started training the chestnut gelding to hold a stick in his mouth and target the tip on a designated area." Read more.

March 18, 2010

Twitter notes

Here are some recent 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. RT @artwhirled: RT @LAObserved: @LAWeekly editor Tom Christie was behind the hilarious Hitler Deitch-MOCA video spoof.
  2. Woot!//RT @ArtCatNY: RT @HeartAsArena: Best news of the day. Libby & Roberta got a Knight grant for The Artblog!

    Lawrence Kenny @ Geometric Themes and Variations

    @ Geometric Themes and Variations

    Joanne Mattera @ Geometric Themes and Variations
    Steven Alexander @ Geometric Themes and Variations

  3. Speaking of living abstract painters: Geometric Themes. And Variations

    Molly Larkey @ Ocketopia
    Deborah Brown @ Ocketopia

  4. Ocketopia, curated by Austin Thomas @ Lesley Heller Gallery.
  5. Yoga in a gallery? Without @cmonstah?
  6. James Holland's notes from "The Ivory Tower" @ #class have been posted  
  7. Biggest search term at Two Coats today? "Kathryn Bigelow painting"
  8. Update: The Promotion Project
  9. True confession: I think I'm sick of social media.  
  10. Check out Ruth Kligman's website:

The devil-may-care spirit

Henry Taylor, "My Brother Gene the former 'Tunnel Rat,' acrylic on canvas, 72 x 60"
Henry Taylor, "Jesse Owens in ’36," 2010, acrylic on canvas, 87.5 x 77"
 Installation view.

Nana Asfour walked into Rental and found artist Henry Taylor perched on a crate, hard at work, boom box at his side, belting out soul music, and adding the final touches to one of his large paintings. "The sight was as jolting as it was refreshing, yet the devil-may-care spirit with which Taylor pursued his task, as visitors perused his art, is befitting of a gallery that champions intrepidness," Asfour reports in Time Out New York. "Taylor makes paint-laden and purposefully ham-handed figurative works that belie their effortless technique. His portraits, rendered in acrylic swaths and impastos, pay reverent homage to his African-American heritage. The subjects range from athletes to intellectuals to everyday working joes; many of them are seen sitting against monochromatic backgrounds. At first, the paintings and the nearby installations about modern child-slavery and colonialism manifest a stark heavy-handedness. But the works unexpectedly gain dynamism with each subsequent viewing. Meanwhile, Phil Wagner’s swashbuckling assemblages hit the ground running...."

"Henry Taylor/Phil Wagner," Rental Gallery, New York, NY. Through March 28.

March 17, 2010

On the corner of Fifth and Hyperallergic

 Stardust Atkeson, “Night Watch - Bernie Mac,” 2009, 22 x 24"

At Hyperallergic, it's Big Show Review Week. Brent Burket is in the process of reviewing the Brucennial piece by piece, Nancy Agabian is at the Whitney Biennial, and I checked out the National Academy Museum's 185th Annual Exhibition. Here's an excerpt from the post, which went on line earlier today.

"Contemporary artists — especially those who make objects, like painters and sculptors —live in the past. We study art history, freely friending artists from different generations, appropriating styles, and creating imaginary salons of like-minded spirits both living and dead. The National Academy Museum’s Annual Exhibition, often seen as the Whitney Biennial’s dowdy cousin, still privileges the rich traditions that bigger museums, galleries, and curators often overlook when they focus on younger, sexier media like video, installation, and social sculpture. This year, due to the economic downturn, the 185th NAM Annual includes less art than usual, but has continued to choose outstanding artists deeply engaged in traditional studio practice.

"At first glance, the show looked so awkward that I worried that the exhibition diminished the work selected. Since 1942, the museum has been housed in a Beaux-Arts style mansion on the “Millionaires Row” portion of Fifth Avenue at 89th Street. The galleries, originally living quarters for the philanthropic Archer Milton Huntington family, were renovated for exhibition use years ago, but much of the original architectural detail and hardware remain intact. The walls were designed to hold small-scale easel paintings in heavy frames, perhaps stacked salon-style to the ceiling. They don’t work so well for six-foot tall abstract work that begs for breathing room. Large-scale paintings like Judith Bernstein’s aggressive “Dick on a Head #1” hang incongruously on drab curving walls, overlapping the waist-high wooden molding...." Read more.

185th Annual: An Invitational Exhibition of Contemporary American Art, National Academy Museum, New York, NY. Through June 8, 2010.

March 15, 2010

Dix mix

Otto Dix, "Group Portrait: Günther Franke, Paul Ferdinand Schmidt, and Karl Nierendorf," 1923, oil on canvas, mounted on wood, 15-3/4 x 29-1/8." Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

The Otto Dix retrospective at the Neue Galerie includes more than 100 pieces and addresses four themes: Dix’s traumatic experiences as a soldier in World War I, portraiture, sexuality, and religious and allegorical painting. The show includes his best known work—paintings from the Weimar years, and also includes Dix’s work from the early 1920s, as well as his later work, produced as veiled protest against the Third Reich.

Roberta Smith reports that Dix's tour of duty in World War I, as with most German artists of his generation, was a formative experience. "He emerged from nearly four years in the trenches physically unscathed but psychically scarred. He attempted exorcism with 'Der Krieg' ('The War'), a suite of 50 mostly masterly etchings published by Nierendorf in 1924. They convey a searing sense of the physical horror of war — most prominently wounded and rotting flesh — that remains unmatched in the history of art....In many ways Dix looked fresher and more imposing in the 'Glitter and Doom' exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art two years ago. He is especially hurt here by a shortage of black- chalk and pencil drawings. But the show might have gained immeasurably from a chronological installation. It would have been shocking to see the hysterical 'Memory of the Halls of Mirrors' with Dix’s other paintings from 1919-21, which are the most tender and the most tenderly painted in the show....Dix’s achievement deserves a bigger museum. This show leaves us to piece together his wildness as best we can. There are wonderful rewards, but the first Dix retrospective in North America will also be the last for a while. It should have been overwhelming."

In the New York Post, Barbara Hoffman writes that "some, especially the war scenes -- drawn from his time in the trenches of World War I -- are almost too painful to look at. But it's all mesmerizing, thanks to his unflinching eye, acid wit and kinky sexuality."

Learn how to pronounce "Schjeldahl" and "Weimar" by listening to Peter Schjeldahl's  New Yorker audio slide show. He  analyzes several of Dix's major works, including a series of fifty etchings based on his experiences as a machine gunner during the First World War.

Otto Dix, "Reclining Woman on a Leopard Skin," 1927. Courtesy Neue Galerie. 

On Vanity Fair's Beauty Blog, Alannah Arguelles asks "Have you ever looked at a painting and wondered how you could somehow make its beauty your own?" Apparently the Neue Galerie collaborated with Estée Lauder (both Ronald Lauder productions) to launch "a blazing fire-engine-red lipstick and Bauhaus-style mirror compact" to celebrate the Dix retrospective. Shameless. Or brilliant? I can't decide.
"Otto Dix," organized by Olaf Peters. Neue Galerie, New York, NY. Through August 20, 2010.

Quote of the Day: David Reed

David Reed, “Working Drawing for Painting #577," 2008, Mixed media, 17 x 11"

"I heard about Herb and Dorothy Vogel from other artists and first met them in the 70s. They started visiting my studio in the 90s. When in the studio they always asked about drawings. I would hang my head and say, 'I’m a bad artist, I don’t make drawings.' Herb saw diagrams and notes on scraps of paper that I made for myself, reminders of what to do the next morning. He said, 'These are drawings.' I said, 'No they’re not, Herb. They’re just reminders.' He kept after me about this for many years. I never could find the notes when I went back to a painting, so when I moved to my new studio on Greenwich Street, on one wall I put a sheet of paper for each painting in progress. I would make my notes on those sheets about my plans for the next day and anything else I thought was relevant for the painting. Those pages turned into these drawings. I owe a lot to the Vogels. I had been drawing all along, but I didn’t know it. I had an academic view of drawing from my training at the Studio School. I thought that I needed to stop and figure out a way of drawing, but I didn’t. I just needed to look at what I was doing."

From John Yau's conversation with David Reed in The Brooklyn Rail. Reed just had a solo show at Peter Blum Soho.

March 12, 2010

NY Times Art in Review: Avery, Martin, Bradley, Parsons, Crow

 "Milton Avery, "Smokestacks," ca. 1930, Oil on board, 20 x 24 inches

"Milton Avery: Industrial Revelations," Knoedler & Company, Manhattan. Through May 1. Roberta Smith:  The great American modernist Milton Avery always looks a bit dour in photographs. He seems to lack the bright disposition that might logically be expected from the jaunty topographical abbreviations, effulgent colors and lively textures of his best-known landscape paintings. These works expand on the grandeur of nature with sly jokes, and they redesign its vistas into flattened shapes that keep elegance and bluntness in even balance. Avery’s little-known depictions of New York City’s waterways, bridges and railroad yards from the late 1920s and early ’30s appear to be more in character. As seen in this knockout exhibition, they are consistently overcast, bordering on gloomy. Dominated by grayish shades of reds and blues, the images date from the Depression and seem to catch their subjects in the fading light of a long, hard workday....

Betty Parsons, "Autumn," 1965, oil on canvas, 30 x 31"

"Journeys: The Art of Betty Parsons," Spanierman Modern, Manhattan. Through March 20. Roberta Smith: Parsons’s paintings handily evade derivativeness. She had a wonderful, implicitly humorous touch that loosened up her borrowings. “Journey” (1975) has the patchiness of Still’s surfaces, lightened by stain-painting in pink and ochre; occasional bits of dark green striped with orange suggest plaster and lath peeking through peeling paint. More monochromatic works, like “Copper” (around 1971), have randomly brushy fields broken by little shards of colors within colors for an effect that vacillates between abstraction and cheerfully useless cartography. Parsons clearly painted noncompetitively, for herself, which may account for the relaxed mood of her canvases. But they are still a vibrant part of the art history of their time, alongside Parsons’ groundbreaking gallery....

"Joe Bradley and Chris Martin," Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Chelsea. Through March 27. Roberta Smith: In this exhibition of works by two sympathetic but quite different artists, one eats the other’s lunch. Just which one that is probably depends simply on your taste.... (Animated with Flash, the images on the M-IN website are not available for download. Sorry.)

 Rosson Crow, "The Nest," 2010, Oil, acrylic and enamel on canvas 96 x 122 "

"Rossen Crow: Bowery Boys," Deitch Projects, SoHo. Through March 27. Karen Rosenberg: In her first (and last) solo with the gallery, Rosson Crow, a young painter from Texas, explores Mr. Deitch’s favorite territory: 1980s graffiti culture and the downtown haunts of art-world “bad boys.” Her show has plenty of sentimental value, though the attitude it projects is strictly secondhand. Exuberant renderings of Keith Haring’s “Pop Shop” and Kenny Scharf’s “Cosmic Cavern” are here, as is a view of “The Nest,” Dan Colen and Dash Snow’s infamous installation of shredded phone books at Deitch. For good measure Ms. Crow has thrown in opium dens and barbershops from the 1880s, brought up to date with references to Warhol and Allen Ruppersberg....Ms. Crow has talent, and for now, lots of attention. But if it’s longevity she’s after, she should stop hanging out in bad boys’ lairs and find a bad-girl room of her own.

Read the entire Art in Review column here

March 11, 2010

Graham Anderson in Berlin (and Brooklyn)

Graham Anderson, untitled, 2008, oil on board, 54 3/4 x 46 1/2 inches. Images courtesy Klaus Von Nichtssagend Gallery.

Graham Anderson, untitled, 2008, oil on panel, 35 x 29 inches.
Graham Anderson, untitled, 2008, oil on board, 46 1/2 x 38 inches.

Graham Anderson, untitled, 2009, oil on panel, 38 x 31.5 cm.

In ArtForum, Genevieve Allison calls Graham Anderson's exhibition at Nice & Fit one of the more intimate and understated shows on view now in Berlin. "The title of the show is 'New Paintings and Drawings,' despite the fact that these works have emerged over a period of three years, and in 2008, one was exhibited at Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery in Brooklyn, where the artist lives. Anderson’s pace is slow, however, and his rarefied output presents a considered and delicate process of making choices and execution.

"Similar to the ways in which such painters as Gerhard Richter, Luc Tuymans, and David Hockney have explored the influence of photography on painting, Anderson’s pictorial style offers a digital or graphic imagemaking sensibility. His morphing forms, use of motifs, and flattened spatial dimensions bring to mind the stylized and reductive nature of classic cel animation and low-bit computer graphics. Untitled, 2009, a painting of a lone cloud rendered in scalloped brushstrokes, takes as its subject a popular muse for poets, landscape painters, and screen savers alike. While generating a tension between the man-made and natural realms, the work, like several others in the show, also points to oppositions between interior and exterior landscapes, figuration and abstraction, flatness and depth. Like minimal poetry, Anderson’s paintings are products of an economy of means, as well as of a restriction of expression."

"Graham Anderson: New Paintings and Drawings," Nice & Fit, Berlin. Through March 12, 2010.

"Graham Anderson,"  Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery, Brooklyn, NY. Through March 21, 2010.

March 9, 2010

Cathy Nan Quinlan hatches cross

Cathy Nan Quinlan, "The Little Deer," 2009, oil on canvas, 16 x 18." Courtesy of 
Kurt Hoffman and 
Meg Reichardt.

Cathy Nan Quinlan, "Milk Glass," 24 x 20," 2009, oil on canvas.

Followers of @Bushwick & Main, my sketchbook blog, will know that I've been interested in cross hatching ever since I repaired an old fountain pen a few months ago. Thus, when I discovered Cathy Nan Quinlan's cross hatched Morandi series last week I was fascinated. I asked her about the paintings. "These paintings are part of an ongoing series that began with the rare opportunity to see the Morandi etchings and are motivated by the desire to continue them in paint," Quinlan writes. "I was struck by the variety of ways that Morandi used cross hatching to simultaneously describe objects and construct pictorial space and the playful way he uses the viewer’s perception to complete the image, The paintings force together a number of disparate elements, being both observed and calculated, precise and spontaneously painted wet on wet and, at times, using complementary color, local color and cross hatching which seem to work at cross purposes.The Morandi etchings are so small that they can only be seen in close up, while my paintings, on a somewhat larger scale, are seen as resolved at a distance, almost photographic, and dissolve into abstraction on close viewing." Quinlan and I agreed that using both color and cross hatching may seem redundant, but the combination is compelling nonetheless.

March 8, 2010

The Promotion Project: Update

"The Promotion and Tenure Committee has recommended Prof. Sharon Butler for promotion to the rank of Professor."

Related post: The Promotion Project

March 7, 2010

Peter Halley's grim vision

 Peter Halley at Mary Boone. Installation view.

In Time Out New York Michael Wilson reports that Peter Halley's iconography may be austere, but it belongs exclusively to him. "Predictably, this exhibition of new paintings by ’80s star Peter Halley is virtually indistinguishable from his last, a testament to the artist’s exclusive commitment to a hard-edged geometric design in which horizontally barred 'cells' are connected or surrounded by linear conduits. Halley also continues to make use of intense, often discordant color combinations in conjunction with Roll-a-Tex paint. As the terminology that Halley employs to describe his work’s components suggests, these paintings may look like nothing more than formal abstractions, but they in fact offer a thoroughgoing critique of self-referential modernism (albeit one that was rather more contentious when it first appeared). Rooted in a grim vision of technological society as a rigid matrix of institutional control, these airless compositions and impenetrably opaque surfaces (which appear more plated than painted) still offer—even after all these years—little hope of escape. Rather, Halley’s canvases describe a condition that, cosmetic enhancements notwithstanding, only becomes more obdurate over time. And while the cold force that his work once exerted may now feel warmed-over to regular observers, Halley’s uncontested ownership of his powerfully austere iconography remains impressive.

"Peter Halley," Mary Boone, New York, NY. Through March 20.

John Yau on Robert Ryman

In The Brooklyn Rail this month, John Yau writes about Robert Ryman. "Ryman’s works quietly but insistently call for enhanced looking, of becoming aware of the relationship between the physical and visual, substance and light. Because he believes in giving as good as he could possibly get in this dialogue between artwork and viewer, he is extremely economical in the way he transfers his heightened sense of light and materiality to the very things he is working on. There is no elaboration—everything feels necessary to the experience. And it is experience, not an idealized definition of painting or the paint plane, that sparks his curiosity. He wants to see something that he hasn’t seen before. This is what he wrote about the work in this exhibition: 'When I was beginning to work on the small wood panels, I thought I would also do some drawings on Tyvek, an industrial material made of spunbonded Olefin. It is very thin and looks like paper, but is strong and not affected by moisture and repels dust.' You can’t get more matter-of-fact than that. As William Carlos Williams wrote, 'No ideas but in things.'”

"Robert Ryman: Large-small, thick-thin, light reflecting, light absorbing," PaceWildenstein, 57th st, New York February 19 – March 27, 2010.

March 6, 2010

Lousie Belcourt's paradox

Louise Belcourt, "Hedgeland Painting 5," 2009, oil on canvas over panel, 30.5 x 41"

Louise Belcourt, "Hedgeland Painting 9," 2009, oil on canvas over panel, 30 x 41"
Louise Belcourt, "Hedgeland Painting 12," 2009, oil on panel, 22 x 27"

Louise Belcourt, "Hedgeland Painting 14," 2010, oil on canvas over panel, 49 x 59"

In the March issue of The Brooklyn Rail I reviewed Louise Belcourt's show at Jeff Bailey. Here's an excerpt. "For years Louise Belcourt has divided her time between Williamsburg and a small Canadian town on the south side of the St. Lawrence river where she spent summers as a child. More than 12 years ago, she built a studio on a high cliff overlooking the river; the clear Canadian light, majestic water views, and looming, manicured hedges that surround her family’s nearby property have figured prominently in her work ever since. In earlier paintings, sweeping vistas populated by distant hedge-like formations were informed by the isolation and broad vantage point of her surroundings. In the new exhibition at Jeff Bailey, her first solo in almost four years, the magisterial panoramas have given way to a series of fractured, hard-edge spatial illusions that bump up against the picture plane, simultaneously framing and blocking the view. Much good painting demonstrates this paradoxical capacity of the medium to both illuminate and obfuscate, and these canvases continue the tradition..." Read more.

"Louise Belcourt: Paintings," Jeff Bailey, New York, NY. Through March 27.

Related article: Louise Belcourt @ Jeff Bailey, reviewed by David Brody in ArtCritcal.

Related images:

 Hans Hoffman, "Goliath," 1960. Image:

Hans Hofmann, "Silent Night," 1964, oil on canvas, 78¼ x 84"