October 29, 2010

Roger White on the Death-of-Painting problem

Roger White, Untitled, 2009, watercolor on paper, 12 x 8 3/4"

Roger White, Untitled, 2010, oil on canvas, 60 x 40"

Roger White, Untitled, 2010, oil on canvas , 60 x 40"

At Idiom, editor Stephen Squibb talks to Roger White, painter, writer, and co-founder of the journal Paper Monument about the evolution of his work, painting and writing. White's solo show, which was selected as the Critics' Pick for Best Painting in Time Out last week, opens at Rachel Uffner tonight. At one point, Squibb and White discuss the the mistaken notion that painting is dead. Here's an excerpt of their conversation. 

Idiom: I’m always curious how the quotidian concerns of everyday living show up in an artistic process. Can you speak about how patterns figure into your work?
RW: Pattern implies both a repeating motif and a plan. You can sew a shirt following a pattern, using patterned fabric. In the paintings in my first show, there was an overlap between the two senses of the word: repetitive designs made using a template.

The recent paintings are based on several different drawings, functioning as patterns in the first sense of the word. But the important aspect for me is that they’re vague and interpretable in a lot of different ways: ie. they’re intentionally not very effective as patterns. Most of them are based on observational notes, beginnings of sketches of objects or spaces. That connection to representation is important to me. I do a series of watercolors from these, going back and adjusting the drawings, until I feel like there’s enough there to start a painting, but not enough for me to know what it will end up looking like.
My grandmother is a quiltmaker, and that was a big influence on early visual thinking. But I also think pattern and the decorative arts provide a good counter-model for abstract painting to the one we’re familiar with in ‘high’ art: endless appropriation and adaptation without anxiety.

Idiom: That’s fascinating. Can you speak more about this contrast? Is it that there is an anxiety at work in the decorative arts? Or is it that appropriation and adaptation are expected in that field to the point the question of anxiety is moot?
RW: This is probably, a grass-is-greener phenomenon for the most part. I’m sure people who design textiles, for example, are as panic-stricken as people who paint abstract paintings. But I like to think they’re at least free from the teleological problem, or the death of painting problem, which we all seem to be morbidly attached to, still, after all these years.

Idiom: Agreed. It would be nice to read just once about the death of paisley, the crisis of plaid… Why do you suppose this attachment persists? Standing at a distance, painting seems very much alive, certainly in the material sense of the marketplace, so its death must always have been discursive, perhaps. And this death is still with us. still immanent, somehow. Is this just the disconnect between what is sold and what is talked about? Or is there something else at work?
RW: I don’t know, but oddly I keep thinking about it in relation to the vanitas theme in Dutch Golden Age painting. Still lives were at the bottom of the hierarchical genre pile. They sold, but were they as meaningful as the portraits, the history paintings? So a little bit of death went a long way towards elevating those domestic scenes, and legitimizing the pleasure the viewer could take in admiring the fruit, the lobsters, the gleaming silver. Similarly there’s a sort of conceptual solidity – and maybe moralism? – in constantly evoking the specter of The End.

"Roger White," Rachel Uffner, New York, NY. Through Dec. 19, 2010.

October 27, 2010

Gregory Amenoff: Still fascinated by the materials, process and problems of painting

Gregory Amenoff, "Trine," 2010, oil on panel, 32 1/4 x 34 1/2," Images courtesy Alexandre Gallery, New York.

Gregory Amenoff, "Ribbonfall," 2009 - 2010, oil on panel, 32 1/4 x 34 1/2"

Gregory Amenoff, "Quantrantology," 2009 - 2010, oil on panel, 32 1/4 x 34 1/2"

Gregory Amenoff, "Rill, 2010, oil on canvas covered panel, 17 1/2 x 13" 

Gregory Amenoff, "Tower," 2010, oil on canvas mounted on panel, 17 1/2 x 13"

 Gregory Amenoff at Alexandre, installation view.
Gregory Amenoff's exhibition at Alexandre this month comprises sixteen paintings completed in his Ulster County, New York, studio over the past two years. A calligraphic leafed vine, painted in varying forms and colors against different grounds, is a recurring motif in the new work, which continues Amenoff's thirty-year exploration of an intense, romantic, physical, and densely woven semi-abstract landscape vision based both on observation and personal interpretation of the natural world.

Back in the late eighties, when I was a painting undergrad at MassArt, faculty member Dean Nimmer invited Amenoff, who was one of the It painters of the period, to join our final painting critique. I remember Amenoff, swaggering from room to room in cowboy boots, speaking articulately and insightfully about selected student projects. Not surprisingly, he eventually joined the Visual Arts program at Columbia, where he currently serves as Chair. A few years before the memorable crit at MassArt, his work had been included in the Corcoran Gallery's 40th Biennial of Contemporary American Painting, which critics saw as an antidote to the "camp and kitsch" of figurative painters like David Salle and Eric Fischl.

Organized by curator Ned Rifkin, the show included many favorites: Louise Fishman, Mary Heilmann, Bill Jensen, Jonathan Lasker, Robert Mangold, Elizabeth Murray, Harvey Quaytman, David Reed, Sean Scully, Joan Snyder, Andrew Spence and Terry Winters. In the NY Times, Michael Brenson called the show a cogent argument not only for abstract painting but also for the continuing vitality of a late modernist aesthetic. "All are long-distance runners," Brenson observed."The biennial is - of all things - a large museum group show of contemporary art that has nothing to do with trash, camp or kitsch....Each of the 13 painters is committed to surface and anti-illusionistic space. For each one, form and content derive to some degree from an involvement with the materials, process and problems of painting. But however much they may have learned from Formalism, painting for them is never an end in itself. It is a way of touching and defining something within and beyond themselves. Nearly half the artists in the show have been drawn to Oriental art, where painting has been a way of shaping and being shaped by elemental forces."

Seeing Amenoff's new exhibition at Alexandre reminds me that painting is a lifelong process.

"Gregory Amenoff: At All Hours, New Paintings," Alexandre Gallery, New York, NY. Through November 27, 2010.

Related post:
Gregory Amenoff: Radiant little pictures

October 26, 2010

Wendell Gladstone: Nuns, bums, sailfish and soldiers

 Wendell Gladstone, "Devolution,"  2010, acrylic on canvas, 84 x 60"

Wendell Gladstone, "Mob," 2010, acrylic on canvas, 84 x 60."

 Wendell Gladstone, "Headdress,"  2010, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48"

This week in New York Jerry Saltz gives Wendell Gladstone's show at Kravets/Wehby a shout. Gladstone (b. 1972), who lives and works in LA, had a solo show at Roberts & Tilton in 2003. "Gladstone's amazingly intricate, highly crafted, fantastically fussy paintings look more like little slideshows or homemade magic-lantern lectures. His overall images of nuns, bums, sailfish, and soldiers never seem as important as the jigsaw-puzzle or stained-glass-window configurations of pure color, built-up areas of silhouetted figures, airbrushed faces, and other techniques that send the eye racing around his surfaces, trying to take it all in. One looks at this work wishing someone would give Gladstone a huge museum wall and let him rip."

In September, Beautiful Decay featured a visit to Wendell's studio to check out work for the show. Here are a few images of Gladstone and some work in progress..

"Wendell Gladstone: D.O.A., S.O.S., Etc.," Kravets/Wehby, New York, NY. Through November 13, 2010.

October 23, 2010

Blast Radius

Joy Garnett,"Lost," 2010, oil on canvas, 60" x 70"

Joy Garnett, "O.P.P.," 2010, oil on canvas, 60" x 70"

Joy Garnett,"Sploosh, 2010, oil on canvas, 54" x 60"

"Boom & Bust," Joy Garnett at Winkleman Gallery, installation view.

The other day I stopped by Winkleman Gallery to see Joy Garnett’s new paintings, and then hurried up to the Cort Theater where I had tickets to “Time Stands Still,” a uniformly well-acted play featuring Laura Linney as a photojournalist, home from a stint in Iraq where she had been badly injured in a roadside bombing. The two shows made for an excellent double feature.

The play, by Donald Margulies, explores how artists’ lives are affected by the passage of time. Sarah (Linney) and her journalist boyfriend Jamie (Brian d’Arcy James) have spent their twenties and thirties covering wars and other humanitarian disasters overseas. As the play begins, they have just returned to their gritty Williamsburg loft where Sarah, recovering from her injuries, chafes to get back to the action. Meanwhile, shell-shocked Jamie yearns for marriage and a comfortable life – maybe even a couple of kids – along the lines followed by their friends Richard (Eric Bogosian) and his very young fiancée (Christina Ricci).

Margulies, understanding the tradeoffs facing most serious artists, explores the dynamic that occurs when one partner is ready to put the action and ambition aside and the other is not. Living behind the camera and courting the risks of human folly have given Sarah a noble excuse to disengage. Looking through the lens has also afforded her the extraordinary sensation that time stands still. For Jamie, it has marched on. He comes to believe that they have spent decades of their lives under the illusion that their moments in hell perform an indispensable social role, leaving precious little time to do other less grandiose but more joyful, comforting things.

Joy Garnett’s forceful new paintings capture the evanescent bursts of violence recorded by photojournalists (like fictional Sarah) around the world while also acknowledging the comfort of distance that softens the apprehension of a far-off war by an artist in her studio – and which Sarah disdains. Seeking to transform her secondary experience of the depicted events into something more authentic, Garnett culls photographs of military explosions from online sources, reconstituting the harrowing, split-second images using traditional oil paint and canvas. Painting fast and loose, she renounces exactitude to embrace clunky, restless brushwork that fuses painterly glee with exasperated rage, setting the explosions adrift from both their geographical and their political contexts.

Reinventing the news images as luscious paintings rich in art historical referents, Garnett's work, which she calls "apocalyptic sublime," might come off as glib and exploitative to some. But from Margulies’ perspective, even if she’s safe in the studio, enshrining the world’s daily tragedies is worthy enough, and an acceptable existential compromise. A painter can’t make real time stand still the way a great news photographer can. But Garnett's paintings force viewers to contemplate how ugly and destructive its procession can be, and proclaim that physical remove is no excuse for ignoring that reality.

"Joy Garnett: Boom & Bust," Winkleman Gallery, New York, NY. Through November 13, 2010.

"Time Stands Still," written by Donald Margulies,  directed by Daniel Sullivan. The Cort Theater, New York, NY. Through January 23, 2011.


Image above right: Laura Linney and Brian d'Arcy James in "Time Stands Still." Courtesy Joan Marcus at New York

 Related article:
NYTimes photographer Joao Silva severely injured by a mine in Kabul

October 22, 2010

Real Estate for artists

To learn more about the property, click here.

I've recently learned that my old house and barn studio in Stonington, Connecticut, are up for sale. Two hours from NYC via Rte. 95 or Amtrak, the land is amazing, although the house is begging for someone with homeowner (or loft-renovator) know-how and carpentry skills. The secluded property, on a small dead end road, is surrounded by a 45-acre nature preserve that features a flock of wild turkeys, deer and a small granite quarry. The realtor calls it a one-of-a-kind property, "like no other," which is absolutely true, for better or worse. The architecture incorporates a quirky use of natural stone with unfinished wood--sort of like those old handmade hippie houses built in the 1960s.

In 1994 I bought a share in the property just after I'd finished grad school and started my first teaching job at Bergen Community College. It had an old horse barn (they said a horse was actually buried under the floor) and, with lots of help from friends, I turned it into a studio. We tore out the stalls, stapled up insulation, covered the framing with sheetrock, constructed a plywood floor, added a few windows, hung overhead lighting, spackled and painted the walls, and installed a propane heater. The studio was perfect (see picture below, c. 2003), well lit and warm, and I worked there for nearly ten years, originally dividing my time between Stonington and Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But nothing lasts forever, and in 2004 I sold my share. The current owner recently put the property on the market for $299,000--a pretty reasonable price.

October 21, 2010

In favor of improvisation: Angelina Gualdoni at Asya Geisberg

Angelina Gualdoni, "Untitled (Dusty Dusky)," 2010, acrylic and oil on canvas, 47 x 52"

Angelina Gualdoni, "Untitled (Black Swirl), 2010, oil and acrylic on canvas, 28 x 24"

Angelina Gualdoni, "Edges of Presence," 2010, acrylic and oil on canvas, 52 x 47"

Painter Asya Geisberg has opened a new gallery at the old Goff + Rosenthal space on 23rd Street in Chelsea.  Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Geisberg has lived in the US since 1977. She studied literature and history at Wesleyan and received an MFA from the School of Visual Arts. “Shadows Slipping,"  an exhibition of new paintings by Angelina Gualdoni, is her inaugural exhibition.

In earlier work, Gualdoni investigated failed utopias of Modern architecture, portraying decayed, imploded buildings crumbling into pools of paint. In “Shadows Slipping," she loosens control, and, like color field painters before her, begins each painting with a thin veil of poured paint that determines the direction the canvas will take. “The shift in the work," Gualdoni writes, "compared to previous bodies, is in favor of improvisation, and against a photographic basis, in favor of degrees of presence." There's a poignant sense of unknowing in Gualdoni's impressive new work. Whereas in previous paintings she featured lavishly-painted structural elements of defunct worlds, in her new work Gualdoni sheds the nostalgic architectural references and authoritative facture to find meaning in the process itself. Gualdoni is decisively moving forward by imagining how we might build something unfamiliar from our inherited wreckage.

Examples of earlier work:

Angelina Gualdoni, "Given Ground, We Build it Everyday," 2009, oil and acrylic on canvas, 42" x 36"

Angelina Gualdoni, 2006, "In the Sun of Almost April, and We, Without Scarf or ID," oil and acrylic on canvas, 36" x 42"

"Angelina Gualdoni: Shadows Slipping," Asya Geisberg Gallery, New York, NY. Through Nov. 6, 2010.

Related Posts:
Degrees of decay and destruction at the Neuberger Museum
The utopian promise of Modernism at the Aldrich Museum
Cameron Martin's neonoir experience

October 18, 2010

Conversion Party at CMJ

The CMJ Music Marathon is underway in NYC, so we wanted to give a shout out to Conversion Party, one of our favorite bands. They'll be playing Thursday, October 21 at Union Hall in Park SlopeCheck out their new website where their latest songs are posted.

Related Post:

Two Coats house band?

Cordy Ryman's itchy tactility and openendedness

Cordy Ryman, "Dudley!" 2010, acrylic & enamel on wood, 19 x 17 x 1 ¾”

Cordy Ryman, "Waiting for Christopher," 2010, acrylic & enamel on wood, screws - 23 pieces, dimensions variable: 87 x 6 1/4 x 2 3/4" as installed w/ 17 pieces

 Cordy Ryman, installation view.

In the summer issue of Bomb, painter/critic Stephen Westfall wrote about Cordy Ryman, who has an excellent  show on display at DCKT through October 31. Rich in process, improvisation, and materiality, Ryman's work reminds me of the slapdash projects (short on craft, long on duct tape) my father Dudley used to put together in the basement when I was a kid. I was surprised, then, that one of Ryman's pieces is actually called "Dudley!' Weird coincidence, right?

"A typical Cordy Ryman lies in a hybridized zone between sculpture and painting; pieces of wood or perhaps canvas may be isolated like small geometric paintings or even extended into the full expanse of the rooms in which they are installed, following a kind of modular accumulation strategy," Westfall writes. " His sense of geometry and architecture is imbued with itchy tactility and openendedness.... Every shift in material, color, and scale is considered in Ryman’s art, even as the 'found' nature of some of the support materials imposes a lively raggedness where a more polished finish might kill a piece. What exactly would die? I think it would be his sense of spontaneity, wherein viewers can imagine that they are somehow inside Ryman’s thinking process and that they too could make art like this if they could work up the nerve (most won’t)...

"Ryman’s art is less elegant than that of Richard Tuttle, Polly Apfelbaum [at D"Amelio Terras through the 23rd], or Siobhan Liddell, artists to whom he’s earning the right to be compared. It’s a thicker, somewhat more dangerous world he’s negotiating. Gedi Sibony is a closer peer comparison, but Ryman is still rougher around the edges and makes greater use of color. Paul Thek [at Alexander and  Bonin through November 27] comes to mind as a possible avatar and prophet, not for Ryman specifically, but for an expanded sense of formalism that allows for a range of unanticipated temperaments, sometimes prickly and sometimes uncertain. Like Thek, Ryman’s is a post-Minimalism that pushes the unifying verities of Minimalism into the deep background. In the foreground is an artist figuring things out with materials that talk back. It’s a comic performance: of the fragile, articulated gesture that can take over or energize a room."

"Cordy Ryman," DCKT Contemporary, New York, NY. Through October 31.

Related post:
Ryman rejects his tidy inheritance
Selected paintings from Scope, Aqua, Pierogi, and Pulse

October 15, 2010

Anselm Keifer's factory

In The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw reports that "Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow," an often wordless  essay-documentary about lugubrious German artist Anselm Kiefer and his heavy art practice, is a worthwhile film that attempts to respond to his work rather than simply document it. "Filmmaker Sophie Fiennes begins by roaming through the tunnels and corridors of his studio-network: huge, disorienting shapes and forms loom, composed of earth or mud. There are giant, organic pillars, like stalagmites or termite mounds, a visual or conceptual rhyme to the towers built outside. We pass from these claustrophobic, disturbing spaces into more conventional, white-walled studios, where the artist is preparing a giant canvas depicting a forest. Fiennes's emphases are almost abstract: colour, light, texture, form – and to these, she adds sound, using the music of Jörg Widmann and György Ligeti. It is 17 minutes before the first person is seen on screen: one of Kiefer's assistants.

"Like a factory or foundry, Anselm's studio is a place where real, hard work is going on: smelting, sawing and hammering. This is not an artist who noodles over his Mac, wittily tweaking images with state-of-the-art software. His artistry looks as if it could be taking place centuries ago, and yet it feels very modern. The artist is immersed in his vocation and Fiennes's docu-essay immerses us in it, too. It is a film that requires a calm and concerted investment of attention, and a kind of cultivated mental quiet. It is a valuable film that aspires to create an artistic response to its subject matter."

In The Independent, Anthony Quinn writes that "there's a certain rough beauty in liquid lead and broken porcelain, but I couldn't see the point of the tottering concrete towers Keifer places on the quiet pastoral scene outside – as if Europe's landscape lacks for gross industrial defacing. Abandoned pillboxes? A comment on Speer's grandiloquent architecture for the Thousand-Year Reich? Who knows – but I found myself hoping the artist would not leave the site uglier than he found it."

At The Hollywood Reporter, Maggie Lee concludes that the film, which she found long and dull, is aimed at a small elite of art connoisseurs and cineastes. "During an interview in Sophie Fiennes' documentary on German artist Anselm Kiefer, Kiefer pontificates on Heidegger and asserts that 'boredom is the basis of existence.' Viewers who don't care for contemporary art and know nothing about philosophy will be plunged into this said 'basis of existence' for most of its trying 105 minutes as Fiennes records Kiefer making his elemental painting installations in the most straightforward of slow pans, long tracking or still shots, with no narration."

The film opens in the UK today. So far no word on screening dates in the US.

October 14, 2010

Austin Thomas: Consummately visual

 Austin Thomas, "The Travel Diaries," installation view.

 Austin Thomas, "The Studio" installation view.

Austin Thomas, "Conversations," installation view.

 Austin Thomas, "The Studio" and "The Sketches," installation view.

In The Brooklyn Rail, Thomas Micchelli reviews Austin Thomas's remarkable solo show at STOREFRONT, which closes this Sunday. "The installation, which is divided into four sections ('Travel Diaries,' 'Studio Wall,' 'Sketches,' and 'Conversations'), has an immediate and ineffable charge, the kind that makes you take a step back and reconsider what you’re looking at. Most of the pieces are modest in size, humble in materials and self-effacing in effect. The one large work, 'Round Placed Square' (2010), is a hyper-busy collage that, but for a perfectly placed swatch of blankness, skates on the edge of disintegration like the paper maquettes for Frank Frank Stella's Moby-Dick series. The rest of the show, which gives the impression of having been made from whatever scraps were at hand, has more in common with Richard Tuttle.

"But where Stella seems bent on invoking cosmic chaos and Tuttle exudes a laid-back scruffiness, Thomas conveys a quiet, confident serenity. This is one aspect of the spiritual uplift her work engenders. The other is the act of pure invention that each piece represents, and the meaning it lends to the question that, in one manifestation or another, constitutes the nub of contemporary art—how to harness randomness without becoming arbitrary.

"The various unit structures (to borrow a term from Cecil Taylor, which, in this case, feels entirely appropriate) that fill the installation are predominately made from shaped, folded, or crumpled paper that is printed, painted, scribbled upon, or drawn over. Thomas joins these disparate elements with such exactitude that they feel simultaneously antithetical and destined for each other, like star-crossed lovers. Their intermix of alienation, accident, and conciliation may not be all that different, conceptually speaking, from social sculpture, but these works are all consummately visual. You don’t want to stop looking."

In City Arts, Mario Naves writes that stream-of-consciousness is what powers Thomas’s musings on the everyday, the systematic and the vagaries of memory. "The mind wanders and material attempts to catch up with it. That’s the conundrum and the charm....Imagine the precocious love child of Joseph Cornell and Sol Lewitt making origami in math class and you’ll get some idea of Thomas’ flighty, contradictory art....In the approximation of Thomas’ workspace, her scattershot delicacies take root, thrive and, ultimately, win us over."

"Austin Thomas: Drawing on the Utopic," STOREFRONT, Brooklyn, NY. Through Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010.

Also in the back room:
PORTRAITS, new work by Leslie Alexander, Deborah Brown, KK Kozik, Amy Lincoln, Rebecca Litt, Matthew Miller, Mira Schor, Peter Schroth, John Silvis, Mary Jane Ward, Brenda Zlamany, and others.

Related Posts:
Studio Visit With Austin Thomas: Expanding Utopia


October 13, 2010

Abstract Expressionist New York: Line and legacy

Adolph Gottlieb (American, 1903-1974), "Blast, I," 1957, oil on canvas, 7' 6" x 45 1/8." The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Philip Johnson Fund © Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Hans Hofmann (American, born Germany, 1880–1966), "Memoria in Aeternum," 1962, oil on canvas, 7' x 6' 1/8," The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the artist © 2010 Renate, Hans & Maria Hofmann Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Clyfford Still (American, 1904–1980), "1944-N No. 2," 1944, oil on canvas, 8' 8 1/4" x 7' 3 1/4," The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection © Clyfford Still Estate

William Baziotes, "Dwarf," 1947 (No info available)

An artist’s legacy, for better or worse, is always up for negotiation. Drawn from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, "Abstract Expressionist New York" presents work by the usual suspects – Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell – alongside work by less familiar artists like Jack Tworkov, Bradley Walker Tomlin, Theodoros Stamos, Adolph Gottleib, Hedda Sterne, Grace Hartigan, Romare Bearden, William Baziotes, and James Brooks. Despite the ballyhoo that the show would be more inclusive than past Ab Ex offerings, the familiar easily outmuscled the newly anointed both in terms of wall space and inclusion in the press materials. Walking through the galleries I had to remind myself that each painting had been fresh and challenging in the moment of its creation – that the artists themselves, fierce but uncertain, spent hours looking, thinking and arguing about each incremental development, each artist fighting for a place in art history.

At the gala opening reception, the artists’ heirs and estate representatives remained aware of the glory of the Abstract Expressionists’ notorious competitiveness and the legend of their hard-earned struggle. At the same time, though, they understood that the campaign to achieve and maintain eminence continued well beyond the grave. Had the museum included enough pieces? Were they well installed in a prominent location? Did they stand up to the work surrounding them?

Contemporary artists and curators, however, look at the show differently. In particular, "Abstract Expressionist New York" may move them to loosen the rationalist grip on the art world that has recently taken hold. Rather than offering didactic explanations for each aesthetic decision, artists may rediscover the value in enigmatic, emotionally-rooted work whose meaning is intuitively derived and not so easily explained. In addition, the visual language could have an impact on contemporary practice. Early Abstract Expressionist pieces – especially work by Pollock, de Kooning, Newman, Motherwell, Kline, Arshile Gorky, Lee Krasner, and Richard Pousette-Dart – relied heavily on line to convey both symbolic and emotional meaning, but autonomous line, not in service to the grid or created through masking techniques, is rarely the primary focus in painting these days. For my money, there’s nothing quite as poignant as the uneven quality of a hand-painted line. Painters might examine the show and rediscover how powerful line can be.

Artists less celebrated, whose work used to seem flatfooted and obvious to me, now scan as forward-thinking. What I once considered lesser paintings because of the color, composition, brushwork, or surface quality have come to look fresh and challenging in their visual awkwardness. Adolph Gottleib’s symbolic contrivances, William Baziotes’s acidic color, Hans Hoffman’s clunky palette knifery, and Clyfford Still’s jagged edges are more in tune with the uncomfortable aesthetic decisions painters like Charlene Von Heyl, Keltie Ferris, Wendy White, Chris Martin, and Patricia Treib are exploring today. Rejecting the compositional strategies championed by Bauhaus artists (and still promulgated in 2D-Design foundation classes), these artists have opened a path to a new aesthetic, often mistakenly dismissed as bad painting. This kind of creative iconoclasm, which recalls the early days of Abstract Expressionism, might be moving contemporary abstract painting to a crazy upside-down world, somewhere we haven't been before.

Unfortunately, this painting isn't actually in the show--although it's featured in all the press materials, which undoubtedly indicates a heartbreaking, last minute decision not to include it in the exhibition. Jack Tworkov (American, born Poland, 1900–1982), "West 23rd," 1963, oil on canvas, 60" x 6' 8." The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase © Estate of Jack Tworkov, courtesy Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York.


The best retrospectives – and Abstract Expressionist New York rates as one – are those that influence the contemporary dialogue. To get things started, MoMA has scheduled artists to give talks in the galleries.

November 4: Peter Halley
December 2: Josh Smith
January 12: Richard Tuttle
February 16: Amy Sillman
March 16: Robert Ryman
March 30: Ellen Gallagher

Free with Museum admission. Sign-up begins on a first-come first-served basis at 3:00 p.m. outside the fourth floor exhibition entrance, where the tour begins. Groups are limited to twenty-five people. Additional Gallery Talks will take place in spring 2011, with details to be announced.

"Abstract Expressionist New York: The Big Picture," organized by Ann Temkin, with Michelle Elligott, Sarah Meister, and Paulina Pobocha. Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. Through April 25, 2011.

Related posts:
Roberta Smith review in NY Times
Mira Schor review in A Year of Positive Thinking

October 12, 2010

Christopher MIles: The onslaught of everyday life

At Two Coats we have a soft spot for artists who write, and so even though the show is down, we're happy to report that L.A.-based artist, independent curator and critic Christopher Miles had his first solo show of 16 oversize “Noggins,” glazed stoneware heads mounted on stainless steel poles (all 2010), at Acme in Los Angeles.  At Art in America  Constance Mallinson reported that the initial impression was of a grisly house of horrors or a makeup shop for an alien movie, but then a wider range of references emerged—Gothic grotesques, Buddhist demon iconogra­phy, Goya’s Caprichos, a repertoire of Surrealist and Expressionist facial distor­tions, and even animated characters like Shrek and the Incredible Hulk.

"Suited to such playfulness, the mate­rial allows for a spontaneous, muscular sculptural process in which Miles slaps, claws, shapes and pulls slabs of clay into lumpy forms sporting varieties of gnarly ears, clotted jowls, warty snouts, gaping mouths, jagged scars and gills. Comically Freudian touches include crooked protruding noses suggesting droopy phalluses and cyclopean eyes reading as woundlike female orifices. With each work, when viewed in the round, physiognomies morph seamlessly into one another to form freakish com­posites of human and beast, and present conflicting expressions of the ridiculously cartoonish and the frightfully horrific. In places, clay strips mimic mummy wrap­pings or bandages near ragged openings that suggest gunshot exit wounds. The severed necks are nearly all lined with bright red, further conveying a grue­some sense of trophy heads displayed on poles. Painterly glazes and textural finishes heightened with cadaverous greens, fleshy pinks, rubbed-raw reds and bruised blues and yellows impart chancrous, oozing, gangrenous effects.

"Miles’s representations of disfigure­ment, ugliness and disease evidence (like some of Cindy Sherman’s photos) the influence of art history, real-life tragedy and lurid forms of entertain­ment. With their mashup of references, his sculptures could be seen as a metaphor for the toll taken by the onslaught of everyday life."

Christopher Miles, Acme, Los Angeles, CA. Through August 28.

October 8, 2010

Deborah Kass's biggest fan

Deborah Kass, "Isn't it Rich," 2009, oil and acrylic on canvas, 72 x 72"

Deborah Kass, "Frank's Dilemma," 2009, acrylic on canvas, 78 x 156"

Deborah Kass, "Forget Your Troubles," 2010, oil and acrylic on canvas, 72 x 60"

Expanding the ideas of her 2007 exhibition, Deborah Kass continues to explore the intersection of politics, popular culture, art history, and the self in her show at Paul Kasmin. Post war painting tropes, language, and music coalesce in Kass’s new paintings, which, like a barometer, measure her reaction to the uncertain state of current affairs. At Artnet, Kass fan Charlie Finch ponders the ups and downs of Kassdom. "Specifically, how does one elevate Deborah into the pantheon, beyond the simple words 'also represented by Vincent Fremont'?" he wonders.  "Last winter, Deborah (whose work moved me so much as far back as 1995, that I used to spy on her Thomas Street studio across the alley from painter Steve Davis’ loft, to see what Deb was working on) asked me whether she should show again with Kasmin in last March or wait until September. I advised waiting and gleefully informed Kasmin at some Upper East Side cocktail party soon after that not-so-little ol’ me had actually changed his exhibition schedule. The shy toad jumped 30 feet.

"Well, now we have the new show and the question again is, 'Whither Kass?' My advice (a sawbuck and a shoeshine) is a) decouple Kass from her male artist referents and b) think very big....I want to see Kassaganda marketed the way Sean Kelly sells Joseph Kosuths to the Saudis: billboards priced by the square yard. I want the opening bell on Wall Street permanently Kassed and the 14 percent unemployment rate in Las Vegas lowered into single digits because neon Kass signs are being erected all over the Strip. I want the HOLLYWOOD sign redone in star-spangled Kassiolas with Bette, Babs and Cher warbling from atop the 'H'. . . and I don’t wanna hear about no f’ing male artists in the bargain, capiche, Fremont?" Read more.

"Deborah Kass:  MORE Feel Good Paintings For Feel Bad Times," Paul Kasmin, New York, NY. Through Oct. 30, 2010.

Related post:
Intergenerational girls’ clubs at The Jewish Museum
Deborah Kass interview at Thirsty Beach
Deborah Kass at Paul Kasmin (2007)

October 7, 2010

NY Times Art in Review: Joan Snyder

 Joan Snyder, "New Moonfield," 2008; acrylic, burlap, silk, cheesecloth, wooden beads, etc. on linen; 54 x 74"

Joan Snyder, "Brooklyn 2010," 2010; acrylic, pastel, herbs, burlap, rosebuds, etc. on linen; 54 x 72"

Joan Snyder, "Big Blue Two, 2010; oil, acrylic, herbs, seeds, paper mache, twigs on linen; 63 x 96."

"Joan Snyder: A Year in the Painting Life," Betty Cuningham Gallery, New York, NY. Through October 30, 2010. Roberta Smith reports: In terms of painting, it has been quite a year for Joan Snyder, who turned 70 in April. Ms. Snyder continues to work in a spirited, in-your-face, opulently textured, outrageously colorful style that she devised some 40 years ago. As ever, it forces Abstract Expressionist fervor through a Minimalist sieve into its own private Idaho of Post-Minimalism.  Ms. Snyder is doing this better than ever, with a sense of restraint and economy that helpfully brakes her tendency toward excess and self-indulgence. More often than not, she achieves a new balance between built-up and relatively untouched, between overloaded and empty, that gives everyone a needed bit of breathing room.... In all cases, the combination of sensuousness and honesty attracts. The works establish the act of painting as, at base, what it is: a series of episodic gestures, momentary thoughts and local feelings that occur linearly but, meeting on a single surface, accumulate into much more.

Stephen S. Pace: An Abstract Expressionist who moved beyond the brand

In her blog, A Year of Positive Thinking, Mira Schor writes this week that Abstract Expressionism became a brand that many of the artists were simply unable to move beyond. Stephen S. Pace was part of the NYC Ab Ex scene, but eventually moved to Maine where his story went in a dramatically different, more generous, outward-looking direction. On September 23, he died of pneumonia at 91.

 Stephen S. Pace, untitled, 1962, oil on canvas, 64 x 78." Image courtesy Katharina Rich Perlow gallery.

Stephen S. Pace, "Pea Pickers, 1963, oil on canvas, 61 x 80." Image courtesy Katharina Rich Perlow gallery.

Racing Home #2, 1987, oil on canvas, 52 x 72." Image courtesy Maine Masters Curriculum Guide.

Loading the Baithouse, 1989, oil on canvas,  60 x 72." Image courtesy Maine Masters Curriculum Guide.

At the Lily Pond, 2003, oil on canvas, 42 x 60." Image courtesy Maine Masters Curriculum Guide.

 From Roberta Smith's obituary in the NYTimes:
Stephen S. Pace, whose exuberant style applied Abstract Expressionist scale and directness to figurative painting, died on Sept. 23 in an assisted-living center in Harmony, Ind. He was 91 and until two years ago had divided his time between homes in Manhattan and Stonington, Me. The cause was pneumonia, said Katharina Rich Perlow, his New York dealer since 1985.

After his stint in the army, Pace used his GI Bill tuition benefits to study in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he met Milton Avery, one of his strongest influences and closest friends. From there he moved to New York where his landscape and figurative work gave way to large-scale gestural abstraction. Through his friendship with Milton Avery, Pace met artists such as Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollack and Willem deKooning and many others who studied with him at the Hans Hofmann School. He met and married his lifelong partner, Palmina, an art buyer for the McCann Erickson advertising agency, and in 1950-51 traveled to Paris and Italy. Pace used the last eleven months of his GI Bill funds to study at Hofmann’s schools in New York and Provincetown. His large Abstract Expressionist paintings were exhibited in major galleries in New York, including seven Whitney Annual and Biennials.

In 1960, the Paces began to spend summers in rural Pennsylvania where he returned to figurative painting. Eventually they started taking long camping vacations in Maine, and in 1972, bought a house in Stonington, a small fishing village on Deer Isle. Summers in Maine provided plenty of subject matter for new work--landscapes, seascapes and images of the locals.

 The Stephen Pace House hosts an artists' residency program for alumni of the Maine College of Art.

After spending more than fifty years between Maine and New York, the Paces returned to his boyhood home in Southern Indiana where he worked in a studio on the campus of the University of Southern Indiana. They donated their Maine home and many of the paintings in it to the Maine College of art. Pace also donated work to the Evansville Museum and the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville.

(Biography via the Maine Masters Project, a video series that documents Maine’s important but less recognized visual artists)