August 31, 2010

Call for artists and art swells

Jessica Doyle, "Untitled," 2009, ink, watercolor, acrylic on paper, 22" x 30." Selected from the NURTUREArt  Artists' Registry.

Arden Bender Browning, "Empire", 2010, gouache and flashe on tyvek, 60" X 106." Selected from the NURTUREArt Artists' Registry.

The annual NURTUREart Benefit Party is on Tuesday, October 12, at the ZieherSmith Gallery in Chelsea. As a member of this year's Benefit Committee, I'm urging you to support the event, which is being co-chaired by Edward Winkleman and curator Julie McKim.

About NURTUREArt: In 1997 George J. Robinson founded NURTUREart to help emerging artists. He mounted guerilla exhibitions in donated spaces whenever and wherever possible, and started a slide registry in a filing cabinet in his Washington Heights apartment. As the Artists’ Registry grew exhibits took place in all over the city from the United Nations and Citibank to empty Lower East Side storefronts. In 2003 NURTUREart opened a gallery space in Williamsburg that featured collaborations between emerging curators and artists from the slide registry. In 2006 NURTUREart found a bigger and better permanent home on Grand Street in East Williamsburg/Bushwick and Karen Marston, a longtime volunteer and trustee, became the Executive Director. In 2007 Benjamin Evans bacame the Gallery Director.

About donating artwork for the Benefit: Because exhibition space is limited, a panel of notable curators has been asked to select work for the exhibition: Dan Cameron, Ceci Moss, Jane Panetta, and Krista Saunders. Each curator will view submissions and select work, which will be distributed to the guests (in exchange for the $200 admission fee) at the party. All proceeds go to fund essential NURTUREart programming for the coming season. No auction involved.

Submission details: 
Submissions must be received by midnight Friday, September 3. Artwork can be in any 2D or 3D medium, framed or unframed, maximum 16" in any direction including frame, as long as it is able to be installed on the wall. Sculptors may include a small shelf for display. Prepare a jpeg file no larger than 150 KB, between 200 x 200 and 600 x 600 pixels, and upload it to the benefit submission page for the curators review, one submission per artist only please. For more details, check out the Submission Guidelines here.

To attend: Purchase a VIP Combination Ticket before Oct 1st for $200 ($250 after October 1), which  includes admission fo two people and choice of one artwork. The artwork can be selected during the VIP Preview at 6:30 pm.

NURTUREArt Benefit, ZieherSmith Gallery 516 West 20th Street New York, NY 1000. Tuesday October 12th, 7PM

August 29, 2010

John Baldessari's Pure Beauty: In LA through Sept. 12, then NYC in October

Video interview with Baldessari, 2009. Produced by Tate Modern. 

"Doing art is the only thing I've come across that gives me any idea what the universe is all about....In around 1968 I began to think art might be more than painting..."

In October, the John Baldessari retrospective that was at the Tate last year and at LAMOCA all summer travels to the Metropolitan Museum in New York. In the LA Weekly, Doug Harvey wrote about the exhibition back in June. "Much of Baldessari's extensive oeuvre, in spite of the fact that he cremated the bulk of his early paintings in a 1970 action (complete with commemorative plaque and book-shaped urn), examines not only such epistemological conundra but the specific manner in which they may or may not be embodied in visual language. And the pointing finger was one of his primary and most effective pictorial widgets. In the early '70s Choosing series, in which 'players' take turns indexically indicating their selection of one of three possible parallel linelike vegetables — carrots, beans, rhubarb, etc. — Baldessari simultaneously skewers game theory–based conceptualism and aesthetic taste; the core tenet of conceptualism's nemesis, all that corny formalism so beloved by the bourgeoisie. That's a hell of a fusion kebab.

John Baldessari, "And whenever possible, add a unicorn. Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell," 1966-68. Photo courtesy of C-Monster's June 28 Baldessari post.

"At the same time, the Choosing offers stripped-to-the-bone testimony of the necessity of decision making, even in the form of apparently random, indifferent or uncontrollable choices, as the central engine of creative activity. In Line of Force (1973) Baldessari reduces the signified and signifier to a single, repeated indicative gesture (snapshots of a finger pointing offscreen) seething with exasperation at our species' seeming inability to just look but recalling the Zen admonition to recognize conceptual formulations as 'fingers pointing at the moon.'

"Yet throughout his career, in spite of his conscientious streamlining of the mechanisms of communication (by stripping away anything extraneous to bare-bones pictographic symbolism: surface texture, complex color, illusionistic space, expressive or subjective content), Baldessari has specifically engaged the often technical or arcane language of painting — a language presumed dead, with clues pointing directly at Professor B ... in the library ... with a slide ruler. This heretical current is most obvious in his early works like the classic Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell ("Subjects that sell well:
Madonna and Child, landscapes, flower paintings, still lifes...") and the self-explanatory A Painting That Is Its Own Documentation (both 1966–68), part of a loose series of professionally lettered texts on canvas deriving from art-teaching texts or theoretical writings — usually to put them to the test....

"Baldessari's bittersweet romance with pictures and words cuts to the quick of human perception. And his work may still suggest a way forward: Sit and spin. From the empty hub of communication, all data are decoration. It is a digital revolution of another entire order; profoundly anti-authoritarian but rhizomatically complicit, and constantly searching for a way out. Or in. Baldessari's prescription? When you paint yourself into a corner, simply open the door and step outside."

"John Baldessari: Pure Beauty," curated by Leslie Jones (LAMOCA)  and Jessica Morgan (Tate Modern). The Metropolitan Museum, October 12-January 9, 2011.

August 25, 2010

Charles Deas wild west paintings hanged in Denver

 Charles Deas, "The Voyageurs," 1846, oil on canvas, 13.00 × 20.25." Located at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, gift of Maxim Karolik for the M. and M. Karolik Collection of American Paintings, 1815–1865, 1946

Charles Deas, "Prairie Fire," 1847, oil on canvas, 28 3/4 x 35 15/16." Located at the Brooklyn Museum, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alastair B. Martin, the Guennol Collection.

In the NYTimes, Kirk Johnson reports that Amherst art history professor Carol C. Clark learned of  Charles Deas when she stumbled upon one of his paintings in a Nova Scotia cabin. Smitten with his work, Clark has assembled an exhibition of thirty-nine Deas which are on display at the Denver Art Museum through November 28. Deas, a successful painter in the 1800s, specialized in portraits and scenes of the American frontier in the 1800s, but died virtually unknown in a mental hospital at 48.

"He painted brilliantly and prolifically for a decade in the 1800s, and became, briefly, a sensation on the New York art scene. Then, at age 29, he went insane. He lived out the rest of his life in mental institutions, and by the time he died, at age 48, right after the Civil War, he and his paintings had fallen into obscurity. But dozens of them, it turns out, were only in hiding, and now they are considered national treasures, painted by a doomed artist with a back story made for Hollywood and an eye that captured a fast-fading West.

"And thereby hangs the tale of new exhibition at the Denver Art Museum, the first-ever retrospective of Deas’s work, assembled by an art history professor, Carol C. Clark, who found herself compelled by the art, and the story of Deas’s life, and finally by the hunt for his lost works. The show features 39 Deas pieces. Perhaps 50 more, according to descriptions in the 1800s, were completed and are now missing. Professor Clark, who teaches art history and American studies at Amherst College in Massachusetts, hopes the show will flush some of them out. " Read more. 

"Charles Deas & 1840s America," Denver Art Museum, Denver CO. Through Nov. 28, 2010.

August 17, 2010

On Sunday: Party & Discussion at STOREFRONT in Bushwick

To quote Roberta Smith: Happy Birthday, Abstract Art!

What: A Birthday Party (& Discussion) for Abstract Art
Where: Storefront Gallery (16 Wilson Avenue, Bushwick, Brooklyn)
When: Sunday, August 22, 4-6 pm
Why: Because it’s the centennial of abstract art
Who: Hosted by Storefront Gallery and the artists and curator of “On Display 

"On Display" was selected as the  "Best in Painting" Critics' Pick this week in Time Out NewYork.

Whether you’re an artist, critic, art blogger, collector, art historian, art fan or gallery owner, the term “abstract” is loaded with many associations and we plan to unpack some of its meanings at a special discussion/birthday party for abstract art on Sunday, August 22, 4-6 pm at Storefront Gallery (16 Wilson Avenue, Bushwick, Brooklyn).

One of the preeminent aesthetic accomplishments of the modern era, abstract art may be ubiquitous nowadays but that wasn’t always the case. Join us for a frank discussion about how far we’ve come since Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian and Franciska Kupka’s early abstract art experiments and whether the term is even useful anymore. We want to hear your thoughts and we’d love for you to join us for some birthday cake, coffee, and stimulating (if abstract) discussion about the state of abstract art and abstraction in 2010.
This party/discussion will take place on the final day of the “On Display” exhibition at Storefront Gallery, featuring the work of Sharon Butler, Joy Curtis, and Cathy Nan Quinlan. Curated by Hrag Vartanian, 
Image above: Wassily Kandinsky, "Untitled (First Abstract Watercolor)" (1910), Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris

August 15, 2010

Casting call for second season of "Work of Art"

Striking a Mod Squad pose: "Work of Art" season one finalists Abdi Farah, Peregrine Honig and Miles Mendenhall.

This afternoon I was researching "Work of Art" for a Brooklyn Rail article (Is there anything left to say that hasn't already been said? Hell yes!) and stumbled upon a casting call for a new season. Note that they want "voices that believe in their art and want the world to know who they are and what they can do," so no thoughtful introverts or doubting Post-Modernists need apply.

Here's the pitch at Bravo's casting website:
Are you an emerging or mid-career artist with a unique, powerful voice interested in competing on a future season of Work of Art: The Next Great Artist? We want contemporary artists. Your medium could be one of many (or several of many) - painting, sculpture, installation, photography, mixed-media - we want voices that believe in their art and want the world to know who they are and what they can do. Please send your name, e-mail address and phone number to

POSTSCRIPT: Am I the only one who thinks Abdi's sculptures were meant to be wall pieces but ended up on the floor because they are too fragile to hang? Or who thinks the fact that Miles lives with his parents rather than a bunch of art dudes in an industrial loft in a semi-dangerous part of town is seriously disappointing?

August 12, 2010

Two Coats house band?

The Two Coats music correspondent writes that on Thursday, August 19, after spending the day in the studio, readers should check out Conversion Party at The Rock Shop in Park Slope. According to Pop Matters, the band borrows a little from "some rather unexplosive indie acts (Big Star, Teenage Fan Club, early-era Spoon) to mold a healthy dose of genuine and sobering pop songs, each one bearing its own unique share of big hooks, vocal harmonies and adorably catchy lyrics." There are also sharp hints of The Replacements, Oasis, and Modest Mouse, but this outfit is anything but shallowly eclectic; the sound is thoroughly integrated and customized, and plain inspired. [And our pal Matt Clark plays keyboards.] See you there.

The Rock Shop, 249 4th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. (718) 230-5740 Transit: 4th Avenue-9th Street, F, G

Photo by Will Welch

Soloway: new exhibition space in East Williamsburg

Artists Annette Wehrhahn, Pat Palermo, Munro Galloway, and Paul Branca, are opening Soloway in the old Soloway Plumbing and Heating storefront on S. 4th in East Williamsburg. Their first exhibition, "Parts & Labor," which opens this Sunday, August 15th, will feature a broad range of artists' multiples and editions contributed by Bryan Baker, Glen Baldridge, Jane Benson, Megan Biddle, Sari Carel, Jessica Dickinson, Rochelle Feinstein, Munro Galloway, Marc Handelman, Joshua Hart, Corin Hewitt, Jungil Hong, Fabienne Lasserre, Pam Lins, Becka McKay, Ohad Meromi, Jenny Nichols, Melissa Oresky, Pat Palermo, Dushko Petrovich, Joseph Protheroe, Halsey Rodman, Jessie Stead, Mike Stickrod, Woody Sullender, Joshua Thorson, Jo-ey Tang, Margaret and Mary Weatherford, Annette Wehrhahn, Alex Weinstein, Ry Wharton, Mike Wodkowski.

"Annette was living upstairs in a temporary sublet and saw the storefront space first. She got in touch with Munro, Pat and Paul. Inside, the walls were covered with wood veneer, the floor with linoleum and the ceiling had been dropped down and filled in with panels of particle board. We started planning the gallery. We talked to friends and decided to have the first show in the raw storefront space before beginning renovation, a show of art in multiples. Other artists offered to help and loaned us their time and tools. Munro asked Halsey Rodman to collaborate on the design and construction of a display cabinet for the artworks using left-over building materials we took out of the back apartment, storage area and walls. The cabinet evolved into an artwork. Artists, musicians, designers, printers, book-makers loaned us their work for the first show..." (via AT World)
In addition, on Thursday nights through the beginning of October, Soloway will feature a film program in their backyard. The full film schedule is available at their Facebook Wall, and details of artist-curated programming will be rolling out in the coming weeks.

"Parts & Labor," Soloway, Brooklyn, NY. Opening reception, Sunday, August 15, 3-6 pm, followed by a barbeque in the backyard.

August 10, 2010

The act of abstracting

 Polly Apfelbaum, "Feely Feelies Feeley," 2010, various materials and sizes - Plasticine and non-drying clay.  "Not Extractions, but Abstractions, Part II" at Clifton Benevento 

Henri Matisse, "Bowl of Apples on a Table," 1916, oil on canvas, 45 1/4 x 35 1/4." Courtesy of Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia

 Halsey Rodman "In Here" at Laurel Gitlen

Installation view "You Were There" at Rachel Uffner. From left, Joe Bradley 2005, Sara Greenberger Rafferty 2010, Justin Adian 2005, Sarah Braman 2010 

When I was at the phenomenal Matisse exhibition at MoMA the other day, a grey-haired lady pointed to the date on one of the portraits and exclaimed, "It's almost a hundred years old!" Later in the week, I opened the NY Times to discover Roberta Smith declaring that Western abstract painting (as opposed to Eastern incarnations in textiles, mosaics, etc.) is indeed a hundred years old, give or take, and wishing it a happy birthday. Galleries Smith lists in the article that have abstract work in their summer shows include Miguel Abreu, Lisa Cooley, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Anton Kern, Number 35, D’Amelio Terras, Tracy Williams Ltd., Clifton Benevento, Laurel Gitlen, Rachel Uffner Gallery.  I'd like to add STOREFRONT to the list, where I'm currently in a show with Cathy Nan Quinlan and Joy Curtis, curated by Hrag Vartanian. On Sunday, August 22, 2-4 pm, everyone is invited to STOREFRONT for a birthday party and discussion of contemporary abstract art. Special guests to be announced. Stay tuned for more details.

"Abstraction has spawned styles, schools and opposing camps, not to mention volumes of criticism," Smith writes. "It has repeatedly cross-fertilized with representational painting; absorbed found materials and aspects of popular culture; adopted the strategies of postmodern irony and appropriation. In addition the principles of abstraction have spread to photography and sculpture and beyond — even to the mind-set behind Conceptual Art, with its penchant for systems, categories and repetition that isolate and reorganize, and thereby abstract, aspects of reality. It is worth remembering, when considering the ever-expanding definition of abstract art, that the term refers to the act of abstracting from reality. For whatever reason, such art — in paint and other mediums — is unusually visible in Manhattan galleries this summer. The shows in question don’t always set out to focus on abstraction per se, but that doesn’t stop them from providing a lively account of some of its movements."

"On Display: New Work by Sharon Butler, Cathy Nan Quinlan, Joy Curtis," curated by Hrag Vartanian. STOREFRONT, Brooklyn, NY. Through August 22.

Related post: 
Alan Lupiani's artblogNYC post on Emerging Abstract/Conceptual Painters in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

August 4, 2010

Jerry Saltz's story

Giovanni di Paolo, "The Beheading of St John the Baptist," (1450s). Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

At New York mag, Jerry Saltz recounts the first time he was moved by a painting when he visited the Art Institute of Chicago as a kid. Memory being what it is, he gets some of the details wrong, but I think this is an image of the painting he remembers. "My culture-deprived, aspirational mother dragged me once a month from our northern suburb—where the word art never came up—to the Art Institute of Chicago. I hated it. Art seemed so old and boring and not baseball. Then one day, when I was about 9, we stumbled on a couple of small paintings. In the canvas on the left, a man’s head was stuck between the bars of a jail cell; a soldier outside the cell was raising an ax in the air. In the painting on the right, blood was spurting from the same man’s neck, and the soldier’s ax was at his side. Of course the blood and guts were cool. But something else happened. It suddenly dawned on me that these paintings were telling a story. To this day, the work that moves me most—that sweeps me up, even to the point of rapture—vibrates with that sense of storytelling."

Saltz spent the summer visiting the museums in NYC and put together a list of his favorite paintings.

UPDATE: The following is a recent post from Saltz's Facebook Wall asking for artists' contributions to a book he and Roberta Smith are writing about their favorite paintings:

Thanks for reading this column about my favorite paintings in New York museums.
Do you have an inner art-critic dying to get out and get published.? Maybe I can help. My wife and I are expanding this article into a book. Something like ‘Two Art-Critics Pick their 100 Favorite Paintings in New York Museums.’ We will write 100-word entries on 100 different paintings. We may also ask 100 ‘guest’ artists to each pick one painting and write their one 100 words on it. We’ll probably ask a number of other ‘guest’ critics, curators, dealers, etc.

If you’re up for it and understand that there’s no money in this for you whatsoever, no how-no way, take a crack at writing 100 words about a favorite painting of yours that is currently in a New York Museum. 

The conditions:
1. No more than 100 words. No exceptions. Anything over will not be read.
2. Do not use the word “I.” This entry is not about you; it is about the work.
3. Keep it simple. Don’t use jargon. Write so your grandma or grandpa who knows nothing about art would understand what you’re trying to say.
4. Briefly describe what this work does; why it does this; and HOW IT LOOKS. (You’d be surprised at how many people forget to actually say anything about what they’re looking at.)
5. Don’t natter on about how “beautiful” or “scary” the painting is. Those words mean very different things to different people.
6. All entries must be signed.
7. You may write as many entries as you like.
8. You may write entries on paintings that other people have already written on.
9. All entries are subject to editing.
That’s it. If you’re in the mood, give it a go. You’d be surprised how once you’re in touch with your inner-art critic, how thrilling it is to try to CLEARLY impart to others WHY something turns you on. If your guest-entry is used in the book you’ll be given a by-line. Again, no money. But that’s the art-criticism business. It’ll take around 10 months to read your entries. Be patient. Or just read my piece and forget about writing anything of your own. I just always think artists have such great stuff to say about works of art.

Thank you,
Jerry Saltz 

August 2, 2010

Basking in Basquiats

Jean-Michel Basquiat,"Tenor,' 1985, © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Private collection (courtesy Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Z├╝rich) 

For the rest of the month, posting will be slow as I finish up summer projects and begin to prepare new course materials for the fall semester. In addition to developing a new course in the First Year Program, I've selected new textbooks for my other courses, which always requires retooling the same old same old. Nonetheless, I wanted to point out Alice Gregory's review of Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child at Idiom. It's a new documentary from Tamra Davis, director of Billy Madison, Half Baked, and Crossroads. Gregory likes the film and suggests that the "primary, though perhaps unintentional, success of the film  is the extent to which Davis is able to capture Basquiat’s genius."  Gregory continues:  "Davis claims to have wanted 'to make a film that wasn’t just a biography,' but one that 'when you watched it, you actually felt that you watched a movie, that you had an emotional reaction.' The Radiant Child undoubtedly draws an emotional reaction. But counter-intuitively, our sympathies are not garnered from the central interview, which, it should be said, is actually quite dull, but rather from the way in which the actual art is filmed. The work just looks so good. Davis indulges the paintings themselves, granting close-up detail shots and allowing them bleed to the edge of screen. The primacy of the art is somewhat surprising here, especially coming from such an uncritical, adoring, and personally invested filmmaker, and one with such an undeniably pleasing subject.

"It’s unclear whether the archival footage has been edited so as to exaggerate Basquiat’s charisma or whether Basquiat’s charisma is just potent enough to redeem even most throwaway of reels. Regardless, you half-expect his charms to subsume his talent. To locate Basquiat’s genius in that paradox of personality would be a misstep though, and one that he would hate. In 1981, when Annina Nosei offered him a room underneath her SoHo gallery to use as a workspace, Basquiat’s career transitioned from street to studio. He takes deep offense, however, to an interviewer who jokingly refers to him as an artist 'locked in a basement.' Basquiat, without a moment’s hesitation, responds that if he were white, he would be called an 'artist in residence.'" Read more.