July 29, 2010

Sharon Butler, Joy Curtis, Cathy Nan Quinlan at STOREFRONT

Sharon Butler, "Brightly Colored Separates 6," (detail) 2010, oil on canvas, 30" x 40"

This month my paintings will be in "On Display," an exhibition curated by Hrag Vartanian, with work by Cathy Nan Quinlan and Joy Curtis at STOREFRONT. Stop by the opening on Friday, August 6, 6 – 9 pm and say hello. A full-color catalogue with essays by the artists and Vartanian accompanies the exhibition.

Press Release
“On Display” offers three challenging new perspectives on abstraction. Each artist employs familiar forms, but in different and idiosyncratic ways. Their work thus embodies an inventive and wide-ranging exploration of crucial elements of visual language: framing, illusion, and ultimately imperfection.

Sharon Butler’s paintings embrace the slightly off-kil­ter, the not-quite-right, the un-straight line, discordant color, and awkwardly placed shapes. “Uncertainty and doubt are central to my painting practice – I’ve learned to respect the tentative and contingent.” Butler blogs at Two Coats of Paint, writes for The Brooklyn Rail, and is a professor in the art department at Eastern Connecticut State University. She divides her time between New York City and Mystic--her hometown in Connecticut.

Joy Curtis’s sculptures explore bad form and anxious psychological space. The familiar, the irrational, the discarded, and the imperfect particularly intrigue her. Her re­cent solo shows include exhibitions at Klaus Von Nichtsaggend, and “Amphibological Displays” at HQ, both in Brooklyn, NY. Curtis’s work has been in many group exhibitions in New York and Los Angeles, including shows at CRG, Lehmann Mau­pin, Triple Candie, and Workspace.

Cathy Nan Quinlan’s paintings crosshatch, separate and reintroduce pictorial space. “Every so often, standing at the easel, I say to myself, about myself, ‘She paints like an angel.’ Slightly more frequently, I think the painting is shit and say, like Faust, ‘I am a wretched fool and still no wiser than be­fore.” Quinlan is a passionate cook, founder of The 'temporary Mu­seum, author of “The Platonic Solids,” sometime art critic (The Brooklyn Rail and Artcritical) and co-writer with Su Friedrich of the film “Hide and Seek” (1996). Quinlan lives in Brooklyn.

Hrag Vartanian is a Brooklyn-based writer, blogger, and cultural worker. He edits the art blogazine Hyperallergic.

"On Display: Sharon Butler, Joy Curtis, Cathy Nan Quinlan" curated by Hrag Vartanian. STOREFRONT, 16 Wilson Avenue, Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY. August 6-22, 2010.

Joy Curtis, "AMPHIBOLOGY F,"  2006, plexiglas, acrylic mirror, silicone, 36” x 18” x 30.75”

 Cathy Nan Quinlan, "The Morandi Series: The Glass Bowl," 2010, oil on canvas, 24” x 20”

UPDATE (September 9): The electronic version of the catalogue for "On Display" is now available. Click here for details.

UPDATE (September 7): Thanks to everyone who made the exhibition a success:

Thanks Time Out New York for selecting "On Display" as the weekly "Critics' Picks: Painting" exhibition.
Thanks Loren Munk for covering the opening on the James Kalm Report.

Thanks Paper Mag for selecting "Brightly Colored Separates 8" as the Work of the Day
Thanks Emmy Thelander for a thoughtful review at Brooklyn Exposed.
Steven Truax "smells a blogger conspiracy" in BushwickBK.
We're honored that the show is an ArtCat PICK.
Thanks Gallerina @ WNYC for including "On Display" in the weekly datebook.
Thanks Art Fag City both for flagging the show and then doing some shots with us at the opening.
Thanks editors at Artlog, BushwickBK, and Artcards for recommending the show.
Thanks NY Art Beat, Brooklyn The Borough and Soho Journal for the shouts.
For coverage of the opening reception, check out Hrag Vartanian and A Brooklyn Art Critic's Notebook.
Thanks Heart as Arena for writing about the show and describing my work as overdrive minimalism.
At Instress of Art, Kianga Ellis writes about the show from the heart.
"Great show! Uncannily satisfying..." --Stephanie Theodore @ Theodore:Art

Part I: Artists-in-Residence at Rouses Point, New York

Fernand Léger, "Les Loisirs sur fond rouge," 1949 ©ADAGP, Paris, 2002

This week I attended Camp Pocket U, an experimental artists' residency/kids' art camp in Rouses Point, New York. A small town on Lake Champlain on the Canadian border, Rouses Point is completely unlike the wealthy waterfront town where I grew up. It's a working-class community of about 3000 people with beautiful lakefront property still selling for under $100,000. Most residency programs cloister artists in isolated woodsy compounds, but Camp Pocket U, organized by Austin Thomas and Norte Maar,  housed us in a local lakefront motel, organized lectures and events throughout the town, used the auditorium in the grammar school as studio and rehearsal space,  arranged meals in local diners, created an arts camp for the local kids, and facilitated interaction with the community at large. Camp Pocket U, distinct from recent insular art projects involving pedagogy and social practice, such as the Bruce High Quality Foundation's art school or Smack Mellon's "Condensations of the Social," has taken contemporary art practice out of the artists' studios, galleries, and museums into the non-art community. Scarfing down Michigans, dancing to Guns 'n' Roses, and drinking Labatt's at the annual barbeque on the town dock, we were like emissaries from the NYC art community building a bridge to the general public.

But we aren't the first artists to appreciate Rouses Point. From a presentation on Sunday night by Norte Maar founder Jason Andrew, I learned that painter Fernand Léger was also smitten with this tiny, unaffected town, and, having fled France before the German occupation, spent several summers in the 1940s in a rented farmhouse on the edge of town. Here is an excerpt from Andrew's research about Léger's time in the northernmost corner of the Empire State.

"Born in France, Léger was an enthusiast of the modern. His early compositions, along with those of his friends Pablo Picasso and George Braques, formed the basis of Cubism. He served in WWI, and at the onset of WWII, to avoid Hitler’s invasion, he moved to America where he remained throughout the duration of the war. In America, he found new inspiration: first in the muscle of the working class and later in the industrial refuse seen in the landscape. In 1960, the Musée Fernand Léger was opened in Biot, France....In Fernand Leger: A Painter in the City Serge Fauchereau described Léger's work as an attempt to make people happy… it is because he was an optimist that he could define a painting as 'a condensed joy' to be shared by as many people as possible."

MARCH 1943: Cubist painter Fernand Léger discovers Rouses Point when his train is delayed for several hours on a journey to Montreal. 'The Champlain Valley, with its fresh green orchards and French-speaking population, bore a resemblance to Normandy which captivated Léger.' (1) He returns July 1 of that year and spends the summer at an old farm. Abandoned farm machinery overgrown with vegetation inspires many new compositions for paintings.

JULY 1944: Léger begins his summer again in Rouses Point spending time with his friend Siegfried Giedion who was writing his book, Mechanization Takes Command Contribution. In August Léger works on "The Girl with the Prefabricated Heart," a sequence for Hans Richter’s film "Dreams that Money Can Buy."

Fernand Léger, "Les Plongeurs polychromes," 1942-46, ©ADAGP, Paris, 2002

"By 1944 Léger had completed the 'Divers' series, wherein figures are strewn through the picture space with top and bottom, hands and feet virtually interchangeable.”(2) “That summer too (1944), Léger was continuing to develop the spectrum of circus personalities that would fill the enormous canvases of his last decade, such as 'La Grande Parade' (1954).” (3)

Fernand Léger, "La grande parade [état définitif])," 1954, oil on canvas, 9 feet 9 3/4  x 13 feet 1 1/2". Guggenheim Museum © 2009 ARS, New York/ADAGP, Paris

“Among the sketches I saw at Rouses Point were some of a subject Léger had broached a couple of years earlier, jauntily attired cyclists and their machines – partly inspired, he said, by the American taste for outdoor sports and eye-catching clothes.”(3), as seen in Léger ’s "La Grande Julie" (1945).

“A special atmosphere emanates from the group of works, frequently called the American Landscape series, created during Léger’s summers in Rouses Point. All of Léger’s American oeuvre displays a pictorial area densely covered with compositional elements. The group of Rouses Point landscapes is no exception. In "Tree in Ladder" (1943) manmade objects are intertwined with and devoured by the overgrown vegetation.”(5)

Léger spends his last summer in Rouses Point in 1945 before returning to France at the end of WWII.

Stay Tuned for Part II: Camp Pocket U.

(1) Kotik, Charlotta. “Léger and America.” In Fernand Leger. New York: Abbeville Press, 1983, p 56.
(2) James, Martin. “Leger at Rouses Point, 1944: A Memoir” The Burlington Magazine, vol. 130, no.1021
(April 1988), p 281.
(3) ibid
(4) ibid
(5) ibid p 57.

July 21, 2010

Guest Judge Will Cotton's Candy

Will Cotton, "Pastoral," 2009, oil on linen, 60 x 72 inches

Will Cotton, "Rose," 2009, oil on linen, 34 x 24 inches

Will Cotton, "Untitled," 2003, oil on linen, 80 x 120"

Tonight on episode seven of "Work of Art" the contestants must "reflect on their childhoods and create artwork by utilizing kid-friendly materials." The guest judge is painter Will Cotton whose sickeningly sweet 2009 exhibition at Mary Boone was shrewdly reviewed by David Frankel at ArtForum.

"It must have seemed a good idea at the time: to symbolize habits of consumption—habits of appetite and its indulgence—with images of candy and confectionery. Will Cotton began doing that over a decade ago, painting increasingly elaborate, increasingly accomplished landscapes made up of sugar products of all kinds, and as the years passed, and the stock market rose, his work felt to some all the more acute. His sweet tooth also attracted him to portraying conventionally beautiful women, usually naked or nearly so, except that they’re often decorated—you can’t really say they wear these things—with top-heavy headgear made of lollipops, marshmallow, or cake. Looking alluringly out from under their edible architectures, these women reprise the National Airlines ad campaigns of he 1970s, whose sexually inviting stewardesses ('I’m Mandy…fly me') infuriated feminists.

"It looks like fun to paint these things—I can stoke up a rush just describing them—and how does Cotton stay thin? He builds three-dimensional models to depict in paint—the way James Casevere builds them to photograph—out of sugar, and must have a kid’s dream of candy on hand in his studio at all times. Supposedly, though, he has a moral purpose” 'It seems to me,' he has said, 'the typical American appetite goes…straight into gluttony.' The sensory overload in his pictures comes out of his interest in the point where sweetness 'becomes cloying, even repulsive.' These paintings, in other words, are meant to both attract us and turn our stomachs.

"I was interested to see Cotton’s latest works with the financial debacles of recent months weighing down my gloomy footsteps. They’re mostly dated, 2008, which leaves unsaid whether they pre-or postdate the crisis, but I think were inspired by Thomas Cole’s 'Course of Empire' cycle of the 1830s, which traces the rise and fall of an imperium somewhat like ancient Rome, through Cole had America in mind. Monument, at any rate, painted in 2009, must surely have been made in full awareness. The building it shows--part Swiss chalet, part classical temple, though with peppermint-stick columns and whipped-cream snow—seems in relatively good shape, but I guess the misty white fog around it is meant to portend doom, like the shadow creeping up the sides of the ice-cream-cone castle in The Consummation of Empire, 2008. Meanwhile the roof of the gingerbread house in Alpine Ruin, 2008, has definitively fallen in. But the women seem pretty much unchanged, all coy promise.

Like his slightly older contemporaries John Currin and Lisa Yuskavage, Cotton treats a jokey pop-culture iconography with a good deal of traditional brush skill in the hope that the latter will give meaning to the former. Yuskavage makes the trick work, in spades, but I wonder about Currin and Cotton. To satirize a culture of consumption, to stick its gourmand habits down its throat, at a time when it may already be choking to death—is that delivering sweet comeuppance or, alternatively, is it gratuitous and a little clueless? Cotton may have to do some thinking to gear his trademark topic to a different age. The real question, though, is whether his art has ever been that subversive. He is someone who knows how to paint, and who I’m sure gets real pleasure out of painting, out of his own ability to turn the mucky past of oil and pigment into syrup and spun sugar. For an audience that cares about paintings, that’s not nothing—but socially relevant? Please."

OK, I can see how Jaclyn's going to solve tonight's assignment. Off with her shirt!

And here's a bonus:  Will Cotton was the artistic director for this Katy Perry/Snoop Dogg video. Sweet. UPDATE: Embedding was disabled for the video, but readers can check it out here.

Related (must read) post in which bloggers/arts writers/comediennes Paddy Johnson and Carolina Miranda propose challenges for next season's show: 

July 20, 2010

Sarah Morris: Artistic industrial complex

Sarah Morris, Alpine Coil [Knots]," 2009, household gloss paint on canvas, 84.25 x 84.25"

Sarah Morris, "Portuguese Bowline [Knots]," 2009, household gloss paint on canvas, 84.25 x 84.25"

 Sarah Morris, "Utility [Clips]," 2009, household gloss paint on canvas, 84.25 x 84.25." All images courtesy Friedrich Petzel.

I wrote about this visit with Sarah Morris so long ago, I'd forgotten all about it, but it's finally in print at the Brown Alumni Magazine.  Morris's best-known paintings and films are preoccupied with cities and the social impact of urbanization, so it seems apt that her studio, on the fifteenth floor of a high-security building, has a spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline. There, she and her assistants juggle multiple large-scale projects destined for cities around the globe. On her slate this spring were solo exhibitions in Seoul and Biot, France; and public art projects in Germany, Norway, and New York City. Here's an excerpt from the article.

"Morris's workspace looks more like an office than an artist's studio. In the front room, two big iMacs face each other on white desks stacked with reference books. The walls are lined with digital proofs and metal shelves full of books, many of which are about Morris's own work. At Brown University, Morris concentrated in political science and literature and society, and as she talks it becomes clear that studying political philosophy and aesthetics has shaped her art. For her, the history of a color and the particular references it evokes are just as important as its visual qualities. Tellingly, she says her favorite course was one that modern culture and media professor Neil Lazarus taught on "commodity aesthetics," which explored the political content inherent in aesthetic choices.

"After graduation, Morris moved to New York, where she entered the Whitney Independent Study Program.... By the mid-1990s, Morris was beginning to make the abstract geometric paintings and films for which she is best known. Her early paintings were cropped views of modern skyscrapers, as seen from street level. Politically, they seemed to question the urban experience, the illusion of corporate transparency, and the individual's relationship to corporate globalism. On an aesthetic level, they challenged the line between abstraction and representation. A meticulous painter, Morris has developed a time-consuming process of masking and layering paint on stretched canvas...."

"Although her stark imagery suggests isolation, Morris insists that the work is full of people, in the sense that it compels them to view it. As she undoubtedly learned in her post-modern theory classes, the artist must relinquish control to the viewer. The prospect of that inevitable sacrifice may be what moves her to retain such tight command over her work until it is publicly shown. 'Ultimately,' she says, 'the audience completes the work.'"

Related posts:
Sarah Morris is everywhere
Brown team takes two at the Whitney Biennial (Dawn Clements and Kerry Tribe)
The critics respond: What is painting?

Sargent's seascapes: What was he thinking?

  John Singer Sargent, "Atlantic Storm," 1876 Curtis Galleries, Minneapolis

John Singer Sargent, "Mid-Ocean, Mid-Winter," 1876, private collection.

John Singer Sargent, "Neapolitan Children Bathing," 1879, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.

John Singer Sargent, "Beach Scene," 1880, private collection.

Growing up near the Mystic Seaport, I developed a robust appreciation for marine art and wrote several early art history papers on the subject, so trust me when I tell you that the Royal Academy's "revelation" that society portrait painter John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) painted seascapes isn't all that surprising. Nonetheless, this summer they're presenting 80 paintings, drawings and watercolours that Sargent made during his summer trips from Paris to Brittany, Normandy and Capri, as well as two transatlantic voyages. In The Observer Laura Cumming slams the show, declaring that it may be a summer crowd-pleaser, but the lack of sincerity and faint boredom in Singer's early seascapes foreshadow the shortcomings of his later work.

"Sargent's plein-air spontaneity looks even less persuasive when you look at all the preparatory sketches shown alongside it, figure after figure carefully rehearsed picking his or her way across the beach. In a Monty Python moment, a sketch of a lively little boy gets blocked from view in the final composition by the addition of an absurdly large basket. What was he thinking? The question presents itself over and again. Why was Sargent even drawn to the sea in the first place? He is not interested in being out there in it, like Turner lashing himself to the mast in a storm. He is not interested in being confronted by it, like Monet, grains of sand trapped in the oil paint as he works against the tide, cropping his image so radically the field of vision contains nothing but waves.

"Sargent's sea is neither experimental nor abstract. It is not liquid and it has no volume or depth. It isn't numinous or mysterious or unfathomably beautiful. It isn't even expansive or wild. He seems, in short, to be indifferent to almost all of its obvious qualities, let alone its attractions for an artist. Indeed its pull seems mainly social: a chance to paint chubby little toddlers in water wings, and naked boys flat out on the beach. The latter are smooth, glib, picturesque; the former are sentimental nonsense.

"Which would have been a pretty good reason for leaving them out, except that the case for Sargent as a sea painter would have looked even thinner in terms of figures; as far as art is concerned, it seems his least interesting side. And an unfortunate aspect of this exhibition, given the curators' eloquent enthusiasm in the catalogue, is that these early paintings only seem to prefigure the shortcomings of Sargent's worst work: the lack of sincerity, the evasiveness, the faint boredom, the sense that everything is seen, but very little felt."

Reader Opportunity: If Two Coats readers have paintings they've made of/about the water (sea, pond, pool or lake) within the past year, please send a link to the image, or a jpeg with image info (Format: Name, "Title," 2010, medium, size) before July 30 to twocoatsofpaint{at}gmail{dot}com. Several artists will be selected for a curated online exhibition (and possibly a Two Coats publication).

"Sargent and the Sea," Royal Academy of Arts, London. Through Sept. 26, 2010.

July 17, 2010

Farrell Brickhouse: The slow burn

Farrell Brickhouse, "Struggle 5, Dancing Bear," 2009, oil on canvas, 18x18"

Farrell Brickhouse has been selected as the grand-prize-winning commenter in the recent Two Coats contest launched to promote the new Facebook page. Thanks to readers Kim Neudorf, Mira Gerard, and Timm Mettler who were our other finalists, and to all FB friends who added the Two Coats Facebook page to their favorites.

Farrell Brickhouse's paintings are small, jewel-like emotion-objects, brimming with authentic, unmediated feeling that seems to flow directly from Farrell's heart onto the canvas. I would like to offer Brickhouse the same prizes that the "Work of Art" winner receives--$100,000 and a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum--but our slender budget and modest connections only permit a blog post about his paintings and an article in the new arts section of the Huffington Post. The grating irony is that, unlike the eventual winner of "Work of Art," Brickhouse, who has been making remarkable paintings for over forty years and teaching at the School of Visual Arts since 1980, actually deserves a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum. But no one ever said the art world was fair.

I've been familiar with Brickhouse's work since the late Eighties, when he used to show regularly at Pamela Auchincloss in Soho,  so I was happy to reconnect via Facebook last year. Since the early Aughts, when his work was primarily abstract, he has moved in a more figurative direction. But the paintings continue to be enigmatic. In Brickhouse's Facebook photo albums, he often reveals the story behind his images, which are frequently everyday events or images from the newspaper.  Here are some images of Brickhouse's recent work, excerpts from our correspondence, and a list of what he considers the  six most important influences on his current work.

Farrell Brickhouse, "A Dubious Catch," 2009, oil on canvas, 20 x 16"

Farrell Brickhouse, "Dance of the Bombed, Last Dance, LA Riots," 2010, oil on canvas, 20 x 26"

Farrell Brickhouse, "Big Top #7," 2010, oil on canvas, 20 x 16"

Farrell Brickhouse, "Stage # 10 for BP,"2009, oil on canvas, 12  x 9"

Farrell Brickhouse, "Alter 1," oil on canvas, 18 x 24"

About the painting process:
"For me art is a personal odyssey. A vehicle to carry me forward and find some deeper unity in what is happening in and around me." Brickhouse writes. "I've never expected my art to overtly carry my political concerns. Art is a slow burn, working its gift on individuals. It is based on memories arrested in liquid space. I want my paintings to be a haunted living presence that reveals to the viewer passion, intellect, mystery and that changes with each day's new light. My work is experiential, non-formulaic. Painting is a belief system that demands, as Borges put it, 'a momentary act of faith that reality is inferred from events not reasonings. That theories are nothing but stimuli: that the finished work frequently ignores and even contradicts them.'... For me, there needs to be an epiphany, a trace of how the imagery conveyed through paint was discovered and experienced by the artist. Not a graphic notation of the language of experience, but the mystery of it."

About community:
Brickhouse is a vibrant presence in the community of painters on Facebook, where he frequently posts images of his new work and generously comments on work posted by others. "In Tribeca, as a young artist, I had been used to a constant exchange of studio visits, crits and an all-hours ongoing dialogue. Historical events [9/11] more or less ended that thriving discourse but as we dispersed {Brickhouse moved to Staten Island] we created new communities for artists to work and carry on this exchange. Facebook has emerged as one of these new communities; a bulletin board/studio visit/keep-in-touch/found-you-again/webpage to share ideas, events and what you are thinking. It’s perfect for visual artists short of an actual studio visit. We make albums and post our passions in this new way but it's what artists have always done. I’ve been truly touched by the level of support and informed by artists’ work I never would have seen but for the ever- expanding list of 'friends' from all over the globe."

Six important influences:
1. Museum of Natural History – As a child I was mesmerized by the dioramas. I would go home and try to build worlds like those I'd seen at the museum.
2. Man and His Symbols by Carl G. Jung – Jung's book made me aware of the deep, mysterious creative spirit shared by all humankind.
3. Arthur Dove – Dove possessed a singular way of depicting his physical surroundings that was both personal and full of emotion.
4. Chaim Soutine –Soutine demonstrated the power of paint to reveal an image and express what it means to be alive and in the world.
5. Ralph Hilton – Hilton was an “early years” friend who I met at Skowhegan School. Through Hilton I began to understand what comprised the creative life of an artist. “To walk with you is to walk ahead of myself,” Ralph used to say.
6. Goya – Goya taught me how an artist can change over time, painting about current events as well as works of the imagination.

In August 2010, Farrell Brickhouse's paintings will be featured in the Project Room at John Davis Gallery in Hudson, NY.

Related post:
Farrell Brickhouse: A collection of palette pics

July 15, 2010

Worlds collide: Larry David in Chelsea

The other day I went to Chelsea to check out "Making Sense," Jen Dalton’s Saltzy exhibition at the Flag Art Foundation, when I ran into comic genius/ conceptual artist Larry David. Completely unprepared for the early-afternoon downpour, I had no raincoat or umbrella, and Larry, wearing gobs of pancake makeup and a hooded plastic slicker, had a hovering, umbrella-wielding assistant pushing him forward while shielding him from the driving rain.

“Hey Larry!” I blurted as we passed.
“Hello!” he shouted, turning slightly (perhaps trying to initiate a stop-and-chat?) but I kept moving due to the deluge. The neighborhood was lined with film production trailers, a buffet was set up under a tent outside Betty Cuningham (sensitive Rackstraw Downes charcoal studies on toothy tinted paper, btw) and Moti Hasson’s old space on 25th Street had been fenced off for the shoot. According to signs taped to the trucks, they were filming an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," David’s exquisitely mean-spirited, darkly funny show on HBO.

Down the street when I passed Jeff Garlin, who plays Larry’s ever-enabling agent/sidekick, I dopily thanked them for including the art world in an episode. But then I began to worry: what kind of twisted plotline would bring Larry to a gallery in Chelsea, and more importantly, what kind of outlandish skewering is in store? No doubt it will be unimaginably humiliating and hilarious all at once. I’m looking forward.

Related post:
Larry David Films "Curb Your Enthusiasm" in the East Village

July 11, 2010

Where I'll be today: Famous Accountants

Crystal Wagner in front of her print/drawing/collage installation at Famous Accountants.

Crystal Wagner, "Mechanism (detail)," 2010, a drawing and collage.

 Crystal Wagner, "Morphotic II," 2010, screen print.

 Rico Gatson in front of Wagner's wall of screen prints.

Today I'm heading for Famous Accountants, a newish Bushwick space known for it's immersive, obsessive installation projects. The current show, "Hybrid Jungle," curated by Chris Howard, features work by Crystal Wagner, an artist based in Montgomery, Alabama. “I am fascinated by the idea of the natural environment,” writes Wagner, “but find more and more that I am being alienated from it.” "Hybrid Jungle," an installation of drawing, collage and prints, reflects her ambivalence toward the natural world. Using sour, lurid colors and deep oily blacks, Wagner transforms the space into a near-impenetrable forest-like environment. Howard writes that the floral–insectoid forms in Wagner’s work are "beautiful yet repellant, marvelous yet insidious. Nature becomes completely unnatural in the hybrid jungle, like a twisted idea of the Garden of Eden manufactured by a Chinese plastics factory."

"Hybrid Jungle: Crystal Wagner," Famous Accountants, 1673 Gates Avenue, Bushwick, Brooklyn. Through July 25, 2010. Open on Sundays 1-6PM, or by appointment.

Ab hinc: Camp Pocket U update

I just got a note from Austin Thomas with more details about Camp Pocket U, an artists residency project that I'm participating in at the end of the month. Since Thomas's Bushwick salon Pocket Utopia, closed last year, she has tirelessly continued to organize events and exhibitions throughout the city and elsewhere. When Jason Andrew of Norte Maar for Collaborative Projects in the Arts told her he had a place at Rouses Point in upstate New York, they came up with the idea for an artists' summer camp based on the Black Mountain College model. Thus Camp Pocket U was born. The Opening Ceremony takes place on Wednesday, July 21 at 6:00 p.m.

Inspired by a Joseph Beuys-type thinking of what artists are, Andrea Zittel's ongoing investigations into living and building, and Jen Dalton and William Powhida’s examinations of the way art is made and seen, They have put together a schedule of free classes and evening salons which include dance, drawing, ethics, knitting, mural making, chess, and wordplay. In addition, on Wednesday, July 21, there will be an opening celebration for "Ab Hinc," (Latin for "From Here On"), an exhibition featuring work by Drew Ali, Sharon Butler, Elisabeth Condon, Diane Fine, Brece Honeycutt, Ellen Letcher, Matthew Miller, Lars Kremer, Kevin Regan, Adam Simon, Kay Thomas, and Brenda Zlamany.

Later in the week, Jen Dalton and Rico Gatson will give lectures on issues of art and identity. Each night Kevin Regan, artist and founder of Famous Accountants, will gather campers for inspirational, planetary, cosmic speeches and guided meditations, Jason Andrew will teach everyone about Fernand Léger’s life in Rouses Point, and Julia Gleich will discuss her unusual vision of movement and the science of vectors. Kay Thomas (Austin's mother) will demonstrate orizomigami, suminagashi, and milk resist painting. Plenty of other activities and discussions are in the works.

On Sunday, July 25, I'll be leading a discussion on art in the Blogosphere that will include Dalton and Powhida, and later in the week, independent curator and writer Klaus Ottmann will lead a discussion about curating in the 21st century. The multimedia financial-services company the Motley Fool is sponsoring a 100-yard dash and pancake breakfast. I'm not sure which comes first-- but I hope the 100-yard dash.

If you're looking for a cheap art-intensive vacation/artist residency where the kids are welcome, sign up for a few days at Camp Pocket U. Take Amtrak to Rouses Point for $100/rt, stay at the only hotel in town for $75/a night, eat a sublime grilled cheese at the Best Friends Diner and enjoy a communal supper at Jason’s place nightly. Attend the salons, swim in the lake. In short, join the communal table. Everyone is welcome but pre-registration is required at nortemaar.org or by email at ats@toast.net.

More Information:
Camp Pocket U, 20 Pratt Street, Rouses Point, NY 12979
Information on all events will be posted on Norte Maar’s facebook page and on pocketutopia.com.

Image above: Norman Jabaut, "Camp Pocket Utopia at Sunset," 2010.

July 9, 2010

Jakub Julian Ziolkowski: A just-paint painter

 Jakub Julian Ziolkowski, "Caligula," 2010, oil on canvas, 63 x 52 3/4 in

Jakub Julian Ziolkowski, "Untitled (King of Israel), " 2010, oil on canvas, 74 3/4 x 65"

Jakub Julian Ziolkowski , "The Clash," 2010, acrylic and oil on canvas, 68 7/8 x 82 5/8"
In the NY Times, Roberta Smith reports that young Polish painter Jakub Julian Ziolkowski is currently the subject of quite a bit of buzz among collectors. "Born in Zamosc, Poland, in 1980, he had his first three solo shows in his homeland in 2004, starting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, where he studied. In 2005 he had his first solo outside Poland, at Galerie Martin Janda in Vienna. In 2006 his second non-Polish solo took place at the London gallery of the contemporary art juggernaut Hauser & Wirth, on view during the Frieze Art Fair. I remember seeing that show and finding it riveting but retro, like some unexpected Eastern European offshoot of the Italian Transavantgarde of Sandro Chia and Enzo Cucchi....

"All 28 of the paintings and gouaches in this show — titled 'Timothy Galoty & the Dead Brains,' in tribute to an imaginary rock band — date from this year. The band is conjured in several colorful, vaguely Neo-Expressionist paintings that resemble concert posters; one features a figure with two faces and a split skull from which his brain is emerging like a jack-in-the-box. The brain wears the same striped shirt and eyeball-patterned bow tie as the larger figure. (Brains and eyeballs recur in other works here, as do self-portraits of the bespectacled artist, who in this piece waves from behind a candle in the lower right corner.)

"He might be called a just-paint painter. In contrast to artists like Luc Tuymans, Michael Krebber, Josh Smith or Tomma Abts, his efforts involve no photographic sources; thick, bravura brushwork; eccentric techniques; degraded everyday materials; or Conceptual frameworks. He avoids extremes of pure abstraction or precise realism, and he seems completely uninterested in painting as an object or an installation-art element...

"There’s a grossness to this work and its bodily extremes that wasn’t as visible last year at the New Museum, where Mr. Ziolkowski’s efforts looked, in the main, a bit more mature and varied. Maybe it is just a phase he is going through. Maybe he wants to counter the chic gallery setting with some unsettling rawness, letting us know that success is fine, but that he doesn’t intend to take it easy, or be easy to take."

"Jakub Julian Ziolkowski: Timothy Galoty & The Dead Brains," Hauser & Wirth, New York, NY. Through July 30, 2010.

July 6, 2010

Bochner's black velvet paintings in Paris

Mel Bochner, "Complain," 2010, oil on velvet, 160 x 119.4 x 4.4 cm

Mel Bochner, "Blah, Blah, Blah,"2008, oil on canvas, 152.4 x 114.3 cm

Mel Bochner, "No,"2010, oil on velvet, 160 x 119.4 x 4.4 cm

Mel Bochner, "Scoundrel,"2010, oil on velvet, 160 x 119.4 x 4.4 cm

Mel Bochner, "Blah, Blah, Blah," 2010, oil on velvet, 160 x 238.8 x 4.4 cm

Anne Thompson reports in ArtForum that text-loving Mel Bochner has begun making paintings with a hydraulic press, a new process that further complicates his career-long consideration of language. "In the 1970s Bochner declared 'Language is not transparent.' Now, formally, that’s literal. On black velvet grounds, the press imprints letters in thick, multicolored oils for a Thiebaud-icing-meets-Richter-squeegee effect. The letters’ edges stay crisp but bleed into the velvet, creating a tie-dye-like atmosphere that emphasizes the juicy physicality of the text.

"This exhibition is divided between his 'Thesaurus' paintings, which list synonyms devolving into obscenity (COMPLAIN becomes THROW A SHIT FIT), and paintings that repeat the phrase BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. This is familiar Bochner territory, but the printing technique ups the impact. The dense paint and tacky-sumptuous velvet somehow embody the weight of the press with a strange intensity; earlier works in a careful sign-painter’s hand seem reserved by comparison. Paradoxically, the removal of the hand makes the work more confrontational.

"These paintings shout from the walls, and the installation suggests an argument––'Thesaurus' paintings on one side, 'Blah' on the other. A Jenny Holzer–esque horizontal streams BLAH, BLAH, BLAH while the painting across demands first SILENCE! and finally JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP! Bochner has claimed that any voice here is ambiguous: It could be the paintings, the artist, or the viewer’s thoughts. This show reveals something personal, a bipolar smackdown between the cool Conceptualist and a wound-up Bochner on a rant. There’s no doubt about the winner."

"Mel Bochner," Galerie Nelson-Freeman, Paris, France. Through July 31, 2010. 

Related posts:
Back in the Day: Mel Bochner and Marcelo Bonevardi 
Barry Schwabsky on words

July 4, 2010

Happy Fourth of July!

Read the book:

A founding member of "The Club," Jack Tworkov was pivotal to the development of Abstract Expressionism in New York in the 1950s and 60s. Red, White and Blue chronicles the development of three series made between 1956-64, a time when he was represented by the Leo Castelli Gallery. On July 9 "Jack Tworkov: Against Extremes--Five Decades of Paintings," curated by Jason Andrew, opens at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Provincetown, MA.

Image courtesy Mitchell-Innes & Nash.

Related posts:
Red, Blue and White
America's Lessness
Tworkov's contribution to the New York School: An interview with Jason Andrew at Hyperallergic
Tworkov's writing: Another artist worth reading

July 2, 2010

Maggie Michael's team players

Maggie Michael, "Between Björk and a Lame Duck President," 2008, latex, ink, enamel, spray paint, nails, nylon strap and wood on canvas, 30 x 38"

Maggie Michael's studio.

Maggie Michael, "Two Worlds Collided," 2008, latex, ink, enamel, spray paint on canvas, 96 x 72"

The Arlington Arts Center presents "Art Scouts," a group show in which six artists with strong DC presence explain their art practices by presenting other artists who use the same materials or methods. The artists include Zoe Charlton (drawing); Mary Early (sculpture); J.J. McCracken (performance and installation); Maggie Michael (painting); Jefferson Pinder (video) and Kerry Skarbakka (photography). Together these "art scouts," each curating an individual gallery space, have created a show that highlights six distinctive ways of working.

In "Beyond Pavement and Windows," painter Maggie Michael has selected artists who, despite the strong pull toward developing a self-centered, independent art practice, have chosen to help other artists. "I admire and appreciate each person included here for the time and resources she or he offers to other artists, providing them with opportunities, exhibitions, and audiences," Michael writes. "In addition to making their own work, they create an environment in which others can do the same--assured of a concrete location/context in which to exhibit. Each of these artists develops an individual (in some cases collaborative) studio practice and a public exhibitions program; maintaining both of these simultaneously requires patience, commitment, and a strange level of belief in the system of artists in the art world. This is no tea party. It is closer to open source, and serves as a grass roots bridge from the brewing hermetic state to the Coming Community."

Artists include Dustin Carlson and Jason Hughes, co-founders of Gallery Four, Baltimore, MD; Nicholas Frank, founder of Hermetic (1993 - 2001) and curator at the Institute of Visual Arts (Inova), University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI; Michelle Grabner and Brad Killam, Suburban, Oak Park, IL; Felicity Hogan, formerly MoCADC and Flat, NY, currently at Artist Alliance, Inc. NY and (NYFA) New York Foundation for the Arts; John Riepenhoff, Green Gallery, East and West, Milwaukee, WI; José Ruiz, formerly Decatur Blue (DC) and Queens Museum of Art (NY), and currently at the Bronx River Art Center (NY) and the Bronx Museum of the Arts (NY); Bill Thelen, Lump Gallery and Projects, Raleigh, NC; Austin Thomas, Pocket Utopia, Bushwick, NYC and mobile

In her statement for the show, Michael makes a case for building community. "When there is no end in sight," she suggests, "consider opening a gallery or building a platform."

"Are ideas dangerous?" she asks. "What do protection and advocacy have in common? How brave are you? Do you trust language? How do you want to communicate? Continue?...

"Translate with a neighbor. Share food. Walk to a corner. Wait. Ask someone to help you understand a street sign. Listen to their answer. Then ask: 'What is painting?' Cross the street together. Look both ways and see what happens...."

Artist links for Michael's picks: Dustin Carlson, Jason Hughes, Felicity Hogan, Michelle Grabner, Brad Killam, John Riepenhoff, Nicholas Frank, Bill Thelen, Austin Thomas and Jose Ruiz

"Art Scouts, Arlington Arts Center, Arlington. VA. Through August 21, 2010. Curating artists include Zoe Charlton (drawing); Mary Early (sculpture); J.J. McCracken (performance and installation); Maggie Michael (painting); Jefferson Pinder (video) and Kerry Skarbakka (photography).

Related post:
The Arlington Show: Images from the opening

The French connection at Cheim & Read

Louise Fishman, "Violets For My Furs," 2010, oil on jute, 50 x 42"
Jean Paul Riopelle (1923-2002), "Untitled," circa 1967, oil on canvas, 10 1/2 x 7 1/2"
In the 1950s, while the NYC Abstract Expressionists approached painting like a theoretical chess game, often reducing their investigations to a single trope (Pollock--spatter, Rothko--Sfumato, etc.), painters in France continued to explore the possibilities, rather than the limitations, inherent in the medium. French painters worked within painting's traditional boundaries, but investigated its rich complexity. "Le Tableau," a show organized by artist and critic Joe Fyfe, attempts to uncover the influence these painters had on contemporary practice, with a particular focus on the contribution of French abstraction from the post-war era. Created by both French and American painters, the selectted work places an emphasis on materiality and structure.

According to Roberta Smith, the show is a good reminder that quality is as much a matter of authenticity as invention. 'What counts is the impact of the individual work on the individual viewer, and the way painting echoes through painting. There’s plenty impact and echoing here. A tiny clogged canvas by Jean-Paul Riopelle from 1967 could easily have been painted by Louise Fishman, whose more expansive work hangs opposite. Between them a large fluttery work by Daniel Hesidence contradicts the compression of its opposite number: Jean Fautrier’s small slab of white paint tinted pale red on green. The sparse, tilelike geometry of a 2009 work by Bernard Piffaretti parses the voluptuous blues and greens of a 1977 canvas by Joan Mitchell. Adjacent paintings by Richard Aldrich and Juan Uslé sparkle on the subject of bare canvas, hard edges and green. Works by Merlin James, John Zurier, Katy Moran, Sarah Rapson and Jean François Maurige are among several others that reward close attention."

Joe Fyfe, "The Red Fort," 2010, felt and cotton, 70 x 108" (Not in show)

Daniel Hesidence, Untitled ( Autumn Buffalo )," 2009, 0il on canvas, 102 x 138"

Jean Fautrier (1898 - 1964), Terre D'Espagnet," 1956, oil on canvas, 8 3/4 x 10 3/4"

 Bianca Beck, "Baby," 2009, oil on wood, 16 x 12"
 Merlin James, "Cat," 2004-07, acrylic on canvas, 13 x 22"

Katy Moran, "The Source," 2006, acrylic on canvas, diptych, 38 x 46"

Miquel Mont, "Pore XXXIV," 2007, acrylic on plywood, 76 3/4 x 47 1/4 x 2 1/2"

 Jonathan Lasker, "Lessons in Reality,"2010, oil on canvasboard, 12 x 16"

Bernard Piffaretti, "Untitled," 2009, acrylic on canvas, 118 x 71"
"Le Tableau: French Abstraction and Its Affinities," Cheim & Read, New York, NY. Through Sept. 3, 2010. (Make sure to check out C&R's excellent website for the show.)