September 29, 2010

Jim Herbert: Where the narrow utility of porn's attraction gives way to the whirling dervish of making

 Installation shot of Jim Herbert's massive paintings at English Kills.

English Kills's new exhibition features fourteen dazzling, floor-to-ceiling paintings based on images of porn that artist Jim Herbert culled from the internet. Herbert, who studied with Abstract Expressionist painter Clyfford Still, says it's mix and match with a lot of changes and edits, a figure from this added to that. "A lot is made up in process," he reports. Thickly painted in acrylics applied directly with his fingers, Herbert's orgasmic, painterly brio recalls Chaim Soutine and  Georg Baselitz. Looking at the paintings, which feature teenagers having sex in quotidian domestic settings or en plein air, the viewer is compelled to ask whether the process, which breaks down the barrier between seeing and touching, is an erotic experience for the seventy-something artist.  "No, because the narrow utility of porn's attraction gives way to the whirling dervish of making - an entirely different kind of focus and excitement," Herbert says. "Art making can be a sensual, playful experience - but with the possibility of a wreck on every turn. Both hands on the wheel please."

"Jim Herbert: New Paintings," English Kills, Brooklyn, NY. Through Oct. 24, 2010.

September 24, 2010

Making our post-neo-faux-expressionist-pre-figurative-proto-conceptual heads spin

 EJ Hauser, "sci-fi," 2010, oil on canvas, 16" wide x 20" high x 1.75" deep.

Rosanna Bruno's studio. Courtesy Elisabeth Condon's blog.

 An image from Paul Pagk's ongoing Lexicon series, 2010,  oil on linen 28" x 27"

Ivin Balin, "Semi-Formal," 2010, fiberglass, Aquaresin, absorbent ground, gouache, acrylic, 23" x 27"  

 Wendy White, "U.R." 2010, acrylic on canvas and foam ball, 40 x 53"

This month two galleries in New York, Artjail and Edward Thorp, are presenting group abstract painting surveys. Here are the press releases for the shows, which feature many Two Coats favorites.

"Geometric Progressions: Eleven Painters," Edward Thorp, New York, NY. Through Nov. 6, 2010.

"Each artist in this exhibition has developed a unique relationship to geometry while succeeding in extending its traditional vocabulary. While some of these artists feel that the grid still expresses the situation best, others argue for a more dislocated experience. All works are executed with intellectual curiosity and seriousness, merging the personal into the preconceived tropes of geometric abstraction.

"The artists selected in Geometric Progressions present contrasting approaches and a diversity of practice is in evidence. Some combine methods that juxtapose painting with object and drawing such as Patrick Brennan and EJ Hauser. Others as Andrew Spence and Lynne Woods Turner state a more rigorous geometry with art history as mediator. Meanwhile, Rosanna Bruno plunges brushstrokes into illusionistic depth while Paul Pagk’s imaging operates as both matter and sign. Natasha Sweeten and Jenifer Kobylarz create formulations of color, form and process with subtlety and lyricism. A vision tending more towards introspection and the idiosyncratic can be found in Craig Olson and Stephen Mueller’s meditations. With intuitively pitched paintings that fall between the hard-edged and the organic, Jered Sprecher completes this dialogue of artists collectively resisting a singular approach to geometry."

"Painting Comes Alive!" Artjail, New York, NY. Through Oct. 10, 2010.

Featuring: Justin Adian, Liz Ainslie, Ivin Ballen, Joe Ballweg, Erik den Breejen, Maria Calandra, Andy Cross, Joy Curtis, William Downs, Ryan Franklin, Jay Gaskill, Zach Harris, Christine Heindl, Ezra Johnson, Jim Lee, Elisa Lendvay, JJ Manford, David McBride, Kelly McRaven, Colin Ocon, Mike Olin, Carl Ostendarp, Courtney Puckett, Mathias Sias, and Wendy White.

"Functioning as a survey of recent developments in abstract painting, the show spans a diverse range of work culled from 25 New York-based artists. We tend to think of abstract art as being non-representational, non-figurative or non-objective, yet all of these terms are used solely to describe what the work is not. This exhibition allows for a chance to focus on what the work is.

"Richard Diebenkorn cited the definition of abstract as simply 'to draw from or separate,' expressing his frustration with the limitations of the term in regards to art. He was indeed in a predicament, having shifted from an abstract expressionist style to a figurative one in a time when most artists were aligning themselves to the notion of 'pure' abstraction. The fact that both modes of working bore similar formal qualities was seemingly lost on dismissive critics. This can also be referred to as the 'de Kooning conundrum,' made apparent when Clement Greenberg said to Bill in reference to his use of the figure, 'you’re dead.'

"In these examples, we can see the problematic nature of the notion of 'progress' in art, especially now that we have seen figuration (and painting) die and come back so many times it can make your post-neo-faux-expressionist-pre-figurative-proto-conceptual head spin. In this way, it can easily be argued that all of the work in the show is both 'abstract' and 'painting,' but by grouping potentially contradictory artistic tendencies together, the exhibition seeks to question assumptions about both."

Note: Images above were taken from artists' websites and may not be included in the exhibitions. Artists: let me know if these links are incorrect and I'll revise them.

Related post:
Abstract painters Bruno, Hauser, Butler and Herman swim up river this weekend

Olitski's small stakes

Jules Olitski, "Untitled Eight," 1960, magna acrylic on canvas, 78" x 80"

  Jules Olitski, "Fanny D," 1960, magna acrylic on canvas, 89" x 89.5"

  Jules Olitski, "Untitled Two," 1960, magna acrylic on canvas, 79" x 66"

In the San Francisco Chronicle Kenneth Baker suggests that the Jules Olitski show at Hackett Mill demonstrates how tame and dated some abstract paintings, which were considered radical back in the day, appear today. "Anyone too young to remember the heyday of color field painting should regard Hackett Mill's show of early work by Jules Olitski (1922-2007) as necessary homework. The explosion of artistic possibilities since 1960 - or the onset of critical glaucoma, as some understand it - makes the accomplishment of Olitski and contemporaries such as Kenneth Noland (1924-2010) and Larry Poons seem academic at best today.

"Olitskis such as 'Untitled-Two' (1960), which began with his staining unprimed canvas, retain a whiff of the radicality they appeared to have 50 years ago. 'Untitled-Two' flouts compositional graces, eliminates line, insists on the identity of form and surface, and plies a defiantly tasteless palette. But how little rides on such decisions in retrospect. Olitski's 'Embracing Circles,' though not without interest, now read as period pieces. Hackett Mill has sensibly included a small 1968 painting, "Sunset," to remind us of Olitski's engagement with deeper artistic issues of that moment: his effort to finesse levitating the imageless painted object into a key of reality all its own."

"Jules Olitski: Embracing Circles," Hackett/Mill, San Francisco, CA. Through October 1.

September 22, 2010

Lari Pittman: Addressing, redressing and undressing

 Lari Pittman @ Regen Projects, installation view

Lari Pittman, Untitled #4, 2010, acrylic, Cel-Vinyl, and aerosol lacquer on gessoed canvas over panel, 102 x 88"

Lari Pittman, Untitled #6, 2010, acrylic, Cel-Vinyl, and aerosol lacquer on gessoed canvas over panel
102 x 88"
Installation view of "Orangerie,"an installation of Pittman's work on paper from the past thirty years.

Lari Pittman's exhibition at Regen Projects includes seven large-scale and three mid-size paintings as well as Orangerie, a comprehensive survey of over 100 works on paper, hung salon style, dating from 1980–2010.  In the LA Weekly, Christopher Miles reports that Pittman's fertile world is still ripely gushing. "His tonal and attitudinal address, redress and undressing of that world functions on sliding scales between the hopeful and the despairing, the utopian and the dystopian, the decorous and the indecorous, with neither end of any duality, dichotomy or opposition ever given free rein to operate in the absence of the other. Meanwhile, his staggering formal acumen — which can be lost upon those who equate formal rigor with consistency and austerity, and therefore can't see it beneath Pittman's stylistic and imagistic promiscuity and often barnacled ornamentation — continues to gain steam and nuance. This arguably is the real story of growth during the span of Pittman's career, given that most of his other smarts seem to have been pretty fully formed from the time he was hatched out of UCLA and CalArts in the 1970s.

"Such is the secret of Pittman's longevity — of his ability to hold the center when nothing much holds anymore. Despite the deeply personal aspects of his work, despite the sometimes confessional (sometimes even signed not like a painting but like a letter) airs they take, while they have always been of that distinctive eye, mind and hand, they have never been about Lari with an I. Instead, Pittman is an artist of the good timing, constitution and sense to be an artist for his age. As his latest work attests, he has the combination of empathy and intelligence to relate to the conflictedness and anxiousness of the epoch that formed him; to process it and make something of it even if not necessarily solving its riddles; to keep steadfast and maintain a sense of urgency while avoiding panic; and to realize how meaning is made no less of pictures, words and looks than of framing, layering, positioning and the plays of margin and center, foreground and background. With a compositional and spatial complexity unparalleled in his previous work, informing a narrative structure that seems more about immersion and surround than about scanning, reading and the tension between the linear and nonlinear, Pittman's latest works are as unnerving, and have as much nerve, as anything he's produced, and provide a full rationale, once again, for why his work warrants our attention."

"Lari Pittman: New Paintings," Regen Projects and Regen Projects II, Los Angeles, CA. Through Oct. 23, 2010. A comprehensive monograph published by Rizzoli will be available in the spring of 2011.

Related article:
David Pagel:"It’s an awesome, jaw-dropping survey"

September 19, 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. The "@" symbol indicates another Twitter user.
  1. Video: Aruna D’Souza talks about feminist artists, gender and institutional bias @MuseumModernArt

  2. Great show//RT @kvvnrggn: Come to Famous Accountants and groove on Alvin Baltrop with us. We'll be here until 6 PM. Yes.  
  3. Disturbing: American Electra @harpers by Susan Faludi // On Feminism's ritual matricide
  4. I love getting up on Sundays mornings and checking out the painting progress from Saturday night.  
  5. @vvork posted paintings by Günther Förg and Silvia Bächli last week.  

    Number 318: Christian Herzig (1975, Bad Salzungen, Germany)
  6. Great blog from Amsterdam: A Thousand Living Painters

    Here I am (in blue) with Austin Thomas (at left) and Culture Pundits mastermind Barry Hoggard at Thomas's STOREFRONT opening on Friday night. Photo: Jason Andrew

    ""This is a wonderful show. It embraces you even as it says to go fuck yourself. Perfect in the small space." --Judith Braun, artist and season 1 "Work of Art" contestant

  7. Austin Thomas at STOREFRONT
  8. RT @artfagcity: raising $10,000 to produce a record w/ over 40 different artists. Help spread the word! #soundofart
  9. Yes. Yes I do. //RT @hragv: You know you want to enter the Hyperallergic tshirt contest, admit it...ADMIT IT!
  10. WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY. Digital Media Visiting Artist. Two-year appointment, non-renewable. Start July 1, 2011
  11. Two Coats house band Conversion Party gets some love, compared to Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, and Wolf Parade
  12. Thinking, well, critically about "Critical Thinking"

    Michele Araujo, work in progress.

  13. Studio visit in DUMBO w Michele Araujo
  14. Thanks @TylerGreenDC for writing about the dearth of women in the NGA collection.
  15. Separtated at birth: John Locke and Loren Munk #finallywatchingLOSTonnetflix
  16. Thanks everyone for adding Two Coats of Paint to your course websites and syllabi this semester.     

September 16, 2010

Quote of the Day: Suzan Frecon

Suzan Frecon, "composition in four colors 1," 2010, oil on linen, diptych, 108 x 87 3/8" overall.

Suzan Frecon,"cathedral series, variation 6," 2010, oil on linen, diptych, 108 x 87 3/8" overall.

Suzan Frecon, "pompeiian persian," 2010, oil on linen, diptych, 108 x 87 3/8" overall.

Suzan Frecon, "version 13," 2010, oil on linen, diptych, 108 x 87 3/8" overall.

Suzan Frecon, working notes from 1977.

Suzan Frecon's dress.

"All my decisions are visual.
I have ideas but...The paint speaks."

I went to Zwirner the other day to hear Suzan Frecon talk about her paintings. Here are my notes.

Looking dwarfed in front of a nine-foot tall painting, Frecon (b. 1941 in Mexico, Pennsylvania) begins by saying that she loves how the natural light in the gallery affects the flatness and shine of the carefully layered surfaces.

She talks extensively about the process of making paintings. Composition is the bedrock. Integrating the reverse curve is key to the new work--her biggest challenge. She worked from an earlier "Euclid" sketch to develop this body of work. She likes that the rounded shapes can be read as either solid forms or entries. The pigments are ground in linseed oil, and sometimes the paint surprises her. For instance, the more layers of the hematite she applied, the lighter it seemed to get. The amount of linseed oil she mixes into each color determines the sheen, and often oil bleeds into the shapes composed of drier pigments. She works the compositions out on graph paper to get the curves exactly right. Getting the  curves right is difficult, and sometimes she works on sketches for years before finding the right composition.

Cezanne quote: Art has a harmony that parallels that of nature.

The Cathedral series. Frecon talks about her paintings in the order she made them and notes that the relationship to actual cathedrals is obscure, but she loves visiting cathedrals and imagining them in their prime--especially the ones that are in ruins. She loves their proportions. Frecon is also attracted to visual phenomena and recalls an old film still from a movie in which light reflects on car windows. She's interested in common denominators--like the earthy colors she uses. She's most passionate about RED. The earthy red colors drink up the oil. She favors these reds because she sees them used across cultures--in cave paintings, Crete, religious icons, and more. The color is a unifying element, although its meaning is enigmatic and ungraspable.

Someone asks, Why diptychs? "I was working smaller, and I wanted more height so I added another canvas on top," she says. She was surprised when the size, which she arrived at intuitively, turned out to be the Golden Proportion. Another person asks about her relation to Minimalism. "I am drawn to Minimalism," she says. But then she admits she's actually more interested in older work that perhaps has common roots w Minimalism--like Cimabue, religious icons, cave, and Japanese paintings.

Cenni DI PEPE, known as Cimabue, "The Madonna and Child in Majesty Surrounded by Angels,"
c. 1280 © R.M.N./H. Lewandowski

"Suzan Frecon: Recent Paintings," Zwirner, New York, NY. Through October 30, 2010.

kork: A bulletin board with cultural aspirations

Installation view at kork. Sharon L. Butler, Habitat (artist's book on shelf), 2010,  "Siding 6," 2008, and "Siding 7," 2008, oil on wood, 12 x 9.75"

 Sharon L. Butler, Habitat, 2010, cover, 32 pages, 7 x 7" paperback. Designed by Sofia Nicander, edited by Jonathan Stevenson, with an introduction by Simon Draper. Print and e-book available at the Two Coats of Paint Bookshop.

kork founder Chris Albert is widely recognized for his amusing press releases, so when he invited me to participate in the project, I readily agreed--just to see what he might write about my work. Here's the press release for the show, which features Habitat, a recently completed artist's book that documents my participation in Simon Draper's Habitat For Artists project in 2008, and two small paintings.
Any Art Star worth his laurels will tell you size matters and in keeping with that age old assertion, the kork project space in Poughkeepsie, NY is pleased to be dominated by two monumental paintings by Sharon L Butler.

Size, of course, is relative.

The two paintings and artist book on exhibit are the results of Sharon's residency with the Habitat For Artists project during the Summer of 2008.

The geometric paintings represent a portion of Sharon’s response to the experience of working in a rustic 4'x5' studio space that was erected as part of an enclave of temporary studios on the grounds of Spire Studios in Beacon, NY. The paintings embody a sense of space much larger than the dimensions of the pieces themselves. The clusters of forms are like expanses of space and time folded origami-like to fit within the confines of the works’ borders. In this way, the paintings are an analog to the circumstance of their creation. Presented with a workspace of extreme limitations of size and amenities, the artist compresses her impulses and intentions in such a way as to maximize the function of the tiny studio without compromising the essentials at the core of her vision. It’s an example of the alchemy of art where, in both process and product, the result is a sum greater than its parts.

When confronted by the expansive habits of the art world elite that populate diary dispatches of Art Forum, it can be easy for a small project space existing on the wall of an accountant's office to feel inadequate or somehow marginalized. Although we at kork are no strangers to the machinations of the international art world (kork's Jan/Feb 2010 offering was a project by Canadian artist Anthony Easton), it would be disingenuous of us to deny that our lustful thoughts occasionally linger over the possibilities of what might be if only we could breakthrough into the big time art leagues that reside somewhere outside the confines of our base in Poughkeepsie, NY. But as Dorothy's experience in Oz made her realize there is no place like home, Sharon's Butler’s installation reminds us that a ‘no’ place can be home for creating and sharing work of significance, whether it’s in an outhouse-sized studio with fewer amenities that your typical outhouse, or a bulletin board with aspirations of some cultural import.
Creating a project space above a copy machine at an accountant's office in Poughkeepsie is brilliant. Thanks, Chris, for inviting me to contribute.
"Sharon L Butler Paintings," curated by Chris Albert. kork, Poughkeepsie, NY. Through Oct. 31, 2010.

Joshua Marsh: What hangs before us

Joshua Marsh, "Bedside", 2010, oil on panel, 30 x 35"

Joshua Marsh, "Chair", 2010, oil on panel, 50 x 32"

Joshua Marsh,  "Mirror", 2010, oil on panel, 35 x 30"

Joshua Marsh, "Pitcher (pink)", 2009, oil on panel, 8 x 11"

Joshua Marsh,"Pitcher", 2010, oil on panel, 18 x 24"

Recently I've been training myself to pay more attention to my physical surroundings rather than bury myself in thought. That is, to register how the sun falls through the morning glory, how the signpost intersects with the pavement, how the linked-chain pools in a pile on the pavement. This week at  Jeff Bailey I saw "Ten Things," Joshua Marsh's first solo exhibition, which reminded me how powerful simply looking can be. "What do we see when we look at these pictures?" Geoffrey Young asks in the diminutive catalogue's essay. "Can we listen-in on the conversation between color and form, between representation and abstraction? Between sensation and thought? Marsh starts with things observed things, then submits his chosen motifs to a willful destabilization by formal means. Color is his trump card; it can all but overwhelm, as light does abrupt things in his pictures. But shape is no less a protagonist, as crucial to the structure of each picture as any voice in the harmonic mix....

"Marsh walks a fine line, not quite sacrificing the thing, not quite losing the setting, not quite abandoning conditions. No. He weaves these elements, a composer as sensitive to evanescence as he is to material fact. If his paintings resist standard-issue readings of still-life, it is because his subject is the light in the mind when all our faculties are humming in the service of understanding what hangs before us. Theatrical as divas, though less easy to hear, Marsh's paintings talk to us in the light of an advanced phase of cognition."

FREE STUFF: If readers would like the extra catalogue I received, send me a note (twocoatsofpaint {at} telling why you would like it. Include a mailing address and I'll select a winner early next week.

"Joshua Marsh: Ten Things," Jeff Bailey, New York, NY. Through October 9, 2010.

September 11, 2010

Intergenerational girls’ clubs at The Jewish Museum

Deborah Kass, "Double Red Yentl, Split, from My Elvis series," 1993, Screen print and acrylic on canvas, 72 1/4 x 72," Courtesy The Jewish Museum, Purchase: Joan and Laurence Kleinman Gift

Eva Hesse, Untitled, 1963-64, oil on canvas, 59 x 39 1/4," Courtesy The Jewish Museum, Gift of Helen Hesse Charash.

Louise Fishman, "Tashlich," 1984, oil on linen, 25 1/8 x 17 1/8," Courtesy The Jewish Museum, gift of the artist in memory of Kristie A. Jayne, 1990-5

Nicole Eisenman, Seder, 2010. Courtesy Leo Koenig Gallery.

Mira Schor, "Silence," 2006, ball point pen and oil on linen, 24"x28"

In the NY Times, Karen Rosenberg reports that, despite its witless title, The Jewish Museum's "Shifting the Gaze: Painting and Feminism" is a raucous look at woman's art, identity and feminism. The exhibition takes as much inspiration from Marcia Tucker’s “Bad Girls” survey of 1994 as it does from more earnest, comprehensive shows of feminist art. "But it has a different feel, perhaps because the artists (almost all Jewish) invoke religious identity as often as gender," Rosenberg writes. "The show invokes not only the stereotype of the 'bad girl' but also the 'nice Jewish girl.' It also includes some 'nice Jewish boys' with feminist sympathies.

"The exhibition begins with a studious but assertive self-portrait by a young Lee Krasner from 1930 and ends with Nicole Eisenman’s brand-new painting 'Seder,' a distinctly untraditional depiction of the festival meal. In between are plenty of other smart, nervy works that grapple with feminism and Judaism, often simultaneously. Organized by the associate curator Daniel Belasco, who is also working on a book about feminist consciousness in New York School art, the 32-painting show is concise yet deep. It’s smartly installed, too: Six themed sections play fast and loose with chronology, creating novel, intergenerational girls’ clubs instead of falling back on first wave/second wave distinctions...."

"It’s both smart alecky and searching....Really, the only “gaze” that matters here is the artist’s gimlet eye."

Artist Talks are at 1:00pm, free with museum admission

Monday, October 4: Joyce Kozloff
Tuesday, October 5: Judy Chicago
Monday, October 11: Mira Schor
Monday, October 18: Curator Daniel Belasco
Monday, October 25: Deborah Kass
Monday, November 1: Robert Kushner

Shifting the Gaze: Painting and Feminism,” organized by Daniel Belasco. The Jewish Museum, New York, NY. Artists include: Ida Applebroog, Judy Chicago, Rosalyn Drexler, Nicole Eisenman, Louise Fishman, Audrey Flack, Dana Frankfort, Leon Golub, Eva Hesse, Deborah Kass,Vivienne Koorland,Joyce Kozloff, Lee Krasner, Robert Kushner, Cary Leibowitz, Lee Lozano, Melissa Meyer, Louise Nevelson, Elaine Reichek, Miriam Schapiro, Mira Schor, Dana Schutz, Joan Semmel, Amy Sillman, Joan Snyder, Nancy Spero, Hannah Wilke.

September 9, 2010

The e-catalogue for "On Display," designed by Su Friedrich, is now available

A screen grab of the cover.

Page 2: Hrag Varantian's essay.

Page 32 design credits: Su Friedrich with production help from Kurt Hoffman.

In case Two Coats readers weren't able to see "On Display," our recent exhibition at STOREFRONT in Brooklyn, an electronic version of the beautiful catalogue is now available. Designed by acclaimed experimental filmmaker Su Friedrich, who had a mid-career retrospective at MoMA in 2006, the full-color, 32-page book features essays by curator Hrag Vartanian and each of the artists. To get an electronic version, just send a note to me at twocoatsofpaint{at} and I'll send the file. Free!

September 6, 2010

Studio Visit: Matthew Miller and the Drama of Subtlety

Contributed by Guest Blogger JONATHAN STEVENSON

A corner in Matthew Miller's Bushwick studio.

Miller's collection of well-worn brushes.

Reading material:  Frank Stella's Working Space, Wyndham Lewis Portraits, and a book about Phillip Guston's late work. 

Matthew Miller self-portrait (no information available).

Last December, Sharon Butler wrote in The Brooklyn Rail about figurative painter Matthew Miller’s “quietly compelling” portraits and the deft incorporation of existential, emotional, and provincial content into his work. I knew Miller and was broadly familiar with his work, having seen his remarkable pencil drawings at Pocket Utopia and perused a few images of his paintings online. After reading Butler’s review, I was eager to see more of his work in person, so I visited Miller’s small, immaculate Bushwick studio a couple of weeks ago.

Unsurprisingly, given the evident meticulousness of his paintings, Miller works slowly and deliberately, and may return to a single painting again and again over the course of several months to perfect a single crucial line. Enthralling results reward the painstaking effort. Miller’s work exudes what I would call the drama of subtlety. In two small self-portraits, for example, visually minuscule divergences – the adjustment of an angle here, a brushstroke there – yield alter-egos in quite stark opposition: one vulnerable and probably gentle, the other impervious and latently threatening. As with his previous work, the depthlessly opaque background in these paintings serves to focus the viewer all the more tightly on the figures themselves and to anchor their qualities in space and time.

Work-in-progress depicting women suggests a more expansive and speculative vision that is just as intensely intriguing as the introverted one reflected in the male figures. In Matthew Miller’s art, whether he looks inward or outward, both heart and precision flourish.

September 5, 2010

Laura Newman: On the verge

Laura Newman, "Swoosh," 2009, acrylic on panel, 21x26"

Laura Newman, "Pavilion," 2009, oil on canvas, 60x44"

Laura Newman, "Bloom," 2009, oil and acrylic on canvas, 72x64"

"I want my paintings to exist at the point where form takes on meaning--where a triangle can be read as a road in perspective, for example. Color is saturated and matte; space is warped; lines are active and almost three-dimensional. The scenes are reduced to sets, pressed against the picture plane, but at the same time imply a frictionless, vast landscape space.  Suggestions of compression and restriction contrast with a sense of breaking free and soaring in thin air."  --Laura Newman

Amy Sillman wrote a thoughtful catalog essay for "Laura Newman: Glass Walls and Billboards," a 2010 exhibition at the Anna Leonowens Gallery, at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in  Halifax. Here's an excerpt from an edited version that appears in the latest Art Critical. 

"If one considers the notion of the parallax view as a function of this work, one quickly arrives at the flipside of the parallax coin: the blind spot.  Sure enough, though seeing is key to Newman’s work, at its core is the implication of a psychic blind spot.  The emphasis on sight, through the many vistas, vanishing points and spatial geometries, implies that there must be some witness, some beholder, some subject at the heart of the action, a gaze that must proceed from SOMEWHERE.  But this spot goes undescribed, and is located only at a vortex of blindness.  There is at the center of Newman’s work a sense of silence, of immobility or non-inflection, as though the psychic subject of her paintings is a gaze from a void.  It is this strangely voided subjectivity in the work that gives Newman’s paintings their feeling of serene, almost majestic, anxiety.  The qualities of emptiness and flatness seem to stand for seeing itself, and a subject who has, to a certain extent, disappeared.  This self is therefore equivalent to the mind’s eye(s): paradoxical, interior.

"Self as disappearance is a contradictory effect in a kind of painting with such strong ties to subjectivity and embodiment as Newman’s.  Her work owes much to a tradition of muscular painterly gestures and the trial-and-error procedures of expressionism.  But as Newman’s work often functions through its dualities – its sets of opposing images, like double windows or walls, twin bands of color, or twin sets of cloud formations – by extension, this is not a simplistic kind of expressionism.  The overarching tension in her paintings is located in a dynamic opposition of presence vs. void, seeing vs. feeling.  It is as though her paintings describe a place between forces or events, like a big optical hug, where two arms come to hug you and yet never quite cross over each other to exert any physical pressure or weight.  A Lacanian would have a field day with this voided location; a Freudian would go to town with these dynamics of parent and child; a Zen monk would love the underlying implication of emptiness; a slapstick director would go crazy for the way everything is on the verge of falling apart.  Newman is a little bit of all of these." Read more.

Newman's work is included in "Rhyme, Not Reason," a group show curated by John Yau at Janet Kurnatowski, Brooklyn, NY. Other artists include Marilyn Lerner, David Rhodes, Sherman Sam, and Karla Wozniak. September 10 - October 10, 2010.

September 4, 2010

Sorry, Brent Burket, but, yes, here's another post about Work of Art

The latest issue of The Brooklyn Rail is the unofficial Work of Art issue. Patricia Milder contributes a roundup of quotes excerpted from the critical debate surrounding the show, William Powhida draws a game board depicting his insular art world reality ("Get Recognition, Get the Gallery, Get in Museums, Make History"), while I try to put our conflicting feelings about the show in context and look forward to the second, let's hope more successful, season.

Here's a post I wrote last year during the initial WOA casting call while I was the Blogger-in-Residence at Art21. In the post, my version of an artist's reality is completely different from Powhida's because it focuses simply on avoiding failure by contributing to the community and continuing to make art, not on clawing our way into the collections at MoMA, the Met and elsewhere. Powhida may wrap his striving and careerism in wiseguy humor, insider jokes, and estimable drawing skill, but his notion of success strikes me as outdated--as retro as his ubiquitous aviator shades.

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

"If there are any producers out there (PBS?), here’s my suggestion for a better reality show about artists. Create a show that’s a little more verité, like an old-fashioned documentary. Forget about vetting 'contestants.' Cast the net wide and choose 100 art grads from all over the country in June by random lottery. No auditions, video entries, or artist statements. Abandon any attempt to frontload charisma or talent. As the competition proceeds, to minimize the artists’ artificiality and self-consciousness (and their inclination to ham it up) they would be forbidden to reveal that they are participating in a reality TV show. Inevitably, some will be genuinely talented, some avidly self-promotional, some charismatic, some absolutely clueless—just as in real life.

"Give them a list of goals to complete over the course of the viewing season. Those who fail to make the benchmarks are gradually eliminated. Here are some purposely vague goals that might be included:
  • Find suitable living/working space that they can afford
  • Get their work in three group shows
  • Contribute in some creative way to the wider art community
  • Publish three reviews (either essay or video format) of their colleagues’ art shows
  • Curate a themed group show
  • Get a grant or a teaching job
  • Arrange five studio visits with gallerists or curators
  • Get a solo show by the end of the year
"Automatic ejection results if an artist:
  • Fails to make art for more than four days during the period.
  • Works longer than forty hours a week at their day job
"In addition, in the early stages the artists are responsible for assembling a three-person crew to creatively document their progress on video, in any way they see fit. Before airing any of the results, a season’s worth of episodes would be prerecorded to avoid special treatment.
For me, a show like this, that creatively and realistically demonstrates the overwhelming challenges would-be artists face, would be must-see TV."

September 2, 2010

Distinctive: A few upcoming shows

An early Austin Thomas collage, "Distinctive," 2006, collage and pen, 8 ½ x 11."

Austin Thomas, "Happy Healthy Life," 2010, handmade print, quite small--around 5 " x 7."

Drawing on the Utopic: A Solo Exhibition of Drawings and Text Pieces by Austin Thomas. Storefront, Brooklyn, NY. September 17 - October 17, 2010. After organizing countless exhibitions for other artists over the past few years, Thomas is having a long-overdue exhibition of her own work. "Austin Thomas's collages, deceptively delicate studies, caught sometimes in the act of unfolding against or through the gridded skin of a graph paper background, explore enduring thoughts about the speciation of drawing and sculpture."

Related posts:
Two Coats Studio Visit with Austin Thomas
Expanding Utopia in Bushwick 
Tracks: Expanding Utopia @ The Brooklyn Rail

Eva Hesse, "Untitled," 1960, oil on canvas, 20 x 20 inches. Verso on upper stretcher 'August 1960 eva hesse Top.' On lower stretcher 'eva hesse 1960.' Private collection, New York. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

Eva Hesse, "Untittled," 1960, oil on canvas. 49 14 x 49 1/4 inches. Ursula Hauser Collection, Switzerland.

 Eva Hesse, "Untitled," 1960, oil on Masonite, 21 1/8 x 16 5/8." The Estate of Eva Hesse, courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

Eva Hesse Spectres 1960, organized by E. Luanne McKinnon, Director of the University of New Mexico Art Museum, The Hammer Museum, September 25 - January 2, 2011. "An exhibition of seminal and rarely seen paintings by legendary artist Eva Hesse (1936-1970). Created when Hesse was just 24, this group of nineteen semi-representational oil paintings stands in contrast to her later minimalist structures and sculptural assemblages, yet constitutes a vital link in the progression of her work. The exhibition focuses on what McKinnon terms Hesse’s 'spectre' paintings for their haunted interiority and attempt to embody emotional states in abstract form. There are two distinct groups within this spectre painting series. In the first, the figures in these intimately scaled (approx. 9 x 12 in.) paintings are gaunt, loosely rendered, standing or dancing in groups of two or three yet disconnected from one another. The second group of works presents both odd, alien-like creatures and depictions that resemble the artist herself, in traditional easel-size scale (approximately 32 x 42 inches)."

UPDATE (Sept. 3): Two Coats has learned that the exhibition will be on view at the University of New Mexico Art Museum, Albuquerque, and will conclude at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum. A full-color publication, Eva Hesse Spectres 1960, has been co-published by Yale University Press.

Abstract Expressionist New York, Organized by Ann Temkin. Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. October 3, 2010–April 25, 2011. "Drawn entirely from the Museum’s holdings, 'Abstract Expressionist New York' underscores the achievements of a generation that catapulted New York City to the center of the international art world during the 1950s, and left as its legacy some of the twentieth century’s greatest masterpieces." And they're even including some work by women in the show.

The Spanish Manner: Drawings from Ribera to Goya, Organized by Jonathan Brown, Lisa A. Banner and Susan Grace Galassi. The Frick, New York, NY. October 5- January 9, 2011. "The greatest Spanish draftsmen from the seventeenth through the nineteenth century — Ribera, Murillo, and Goya, among them — created works of dazzling idiosyncrasy. More than fifty of the finest Spanish drawings from public and private collections in the Northeast will be on display.

Alina Szapocnikow, "Stele," 1968, polyester resin and polyurethane, courtesy Piotr Stanislawski, The Estate of Alina Szapocznikow and Broadway 1602. From Libby Rosof's Flickr photo set of the show.

Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958–1968, organized by the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery of the University of the Arts, Philadelphia. The Brooklyn Museum presentation is organized by Catherine Morris. The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY. October 15, 2010–January 9, 2011. This exhibition has traveled around the country, but this fall it takes up residence in Brooklyn, where readers can also see a Fred Tomaselli mid-career survey. "This large-scale exhibition examines the impact of women artists on the traditionally male-dominated field of Pop art. It reconsiders the narrow definition of the Pop art movement and reevaluates its critical reception. In recovering important female artists, the show expands the canon to reflect more accurately the women working internationally during this period. The exhibition features more than fifty artworks by Chryssa, Niki de Saint Phalle, Rosalyn Drexler, Marisol, Yayoi Kusama, Jann Haworth, Vija Celmins, Lee Lozano, Marjorie Strider, Idelle Weber, and Joyce Wieland, among others."

Paul Thek: Diver, A Retrospective, co-organized by Elisabeth Sussman and Lynn Zelevansky.Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY. October 21, 2010–January 9, 2011. "A sculptor, painter, and one of the first artists to create environments or installations, Thek came to recognition showing his sculpture in New York galleries in the 1960s. The first works exhibited, which he began making in 1964 and called 'meat pieces' as they were meant to resemble flesh, were encased in Plexiglas boxes that recall Minimal sculptures. At the end of the sixties, Thek left for Europe, where he created extraordinary environments, incorporating elements from art, literature, theater, and religion, often employing fragile and ephemeral substances, including wax and latex. After a decade, at the end of the seventies, Thek changed direction, moved back to New York, and turned to the making of small, sketch-like paintings on canvas, although he continued to create environments in key international exhibitions. With his frequent use of highly perishable materials, Thek accepted the ephemeral nature of his art works—and was aware, as writer Gary Indiana has noted, of 'a sense of our own transience and that of everything around us.'