November 30, 2010

Anselm Kiefer's grim extravagance

 Anselm Kiefer, "Next Year in Jerusalem," installation view. Photo by Rob McKeever. Images © Anselm Kiefer / Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery
Anselm Kiefer, "San Loreto," 2009-2010, oil, emulsion, acrylic and shellac on canvas, 185 x 220 1//2 x 3 7/8"

 Anselm Kiefer, "Next Year in Jerusalem," installation view. Photo by Rob McKeever

Anselm Kiefer, "Winterwald," 2010, oil, emulsion, acrylic, shellac, ash, torn bushes, synthetic teeth and snakeskin on canvas in glass and steel frames, 130 11/16 x 226 13/16 x 13 13/16"

In The Village Voice R.C. Baker reports that Anselm Kiefer's new work at Gagosian may be beautiful, but feels conceptually overwrought. "Kiefer has long struggled to wrest a proud national culture out of the abyss into which it was plunged by his grandfather's and father's generations, but his aesthetic reach sometimes becomes entangled with an overly conceptual grasp. Much of the show is viscerally beautiful: Paintings of gloomy, tree-clotted forests and mountains crusted with clouds in Kiefer's signature burnt blacks, smoky grays, sepulchral whites, and dried-blood browns, coalesce into desolate, brooding quiet. The vistas call to mind the wastelands, still strewn with long forgotten ordnance, that surround the eradicated Austrian village of Dollersheim, which Hitler had blasted off the map in an attempt to destroy any trace of a family past he feared might be tainted with Jewish blood. To this day, locals refer to the place as verfallen—'ruined.' Hitler tried to hide his origins. Kiefer wears his like an outsize badge."

In the NY Times Roberta Smith admires Kiefer's ability to put on a monumental show, but resents being manipulated and sees a vast divide between the artists' aesthetic choices and his conceptual intent. "The dour and dusty copse of art with which he has forested the vast Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea may elicit awe, skepticism or disdain — or perhaps a conflicted combination of all three. But its initial power is hard to deny....Portentously titled 'Next Year in Jerusalem,' the exhibition is effective middlebrow art as catharsis, spectacle with a message. As with many a successful Broadway drama, we leave feeling that our heartstrings have been exercised or at least manipulated.

"There’s a disconnect in most of these pieces between the ideas and the extravagant materiality. The themes are rarely in the forms; they’re more in the titles, their explanations or the heavy-handed associations, not to mention the extensive Anselm Kiefer glossary on the Web site, which accounts for the feeling of being manipulated. The strongest, freshest paintings — which are also glass-encased and depict wintery sun-shot expanses of barren trees — personify the emotional push-pull typical of Mr. Kiefer’s art."

"Anselm Kiefer: Next Year in Jerusalem," Gagosian, Chelsea, New York, NY. Through December 18, 2010.

Related Post:
Anselm Keifer's factory

November 29, 2010

How Coco Young hooked John Currin up with that old fur

John Currin, "The Old Fur," 2010, oil on canvas, 50 x 38" Image courtesy Gagosian. 

Coco Young's story: “I was interning for the art magazine Tar and Bill Powers—he’s an art director and gallery owner in New York and he’s also [fashion designer] Cynthia Rowley’s husband—wanted to introduce me to his friend John Currin. At the time I had no idea who he was. I was Googling ‘paintings by John Currin’ and what was coming up was his pornographic work, so I was a bit concerned and I even remember showing them to my mum. But I decided to meet him anyway—I say yes to most projects because you never know what might turn out. At his studio I really fell in love with his current work (while I like the pornographic paintings, I personally did not want to be posing like that) and so we decided to work together. One work––I think he is painting it now––features a fur coat that I had, which I posed with many times, both naked and wearing it. It reminded John of a fur coat his wife, Rachel Feinstein, had back when they met, so he was excited to be using it. I actually ended up giving it to him because I was mugged in Brooklyn last December when I was wearing it; it got torn and there is a lot of blood on the lining. It was my favorite coat, but there was no way I was going to wear it again, and I decided to give it to him for the sake of art. I know he often changes his ideas at the last minute, so I hope there will be a painting of that coat—for the memory if it.” (via Newness)

Currently Currin has an exhibition at Gagosian. Here's an excerpt from Charlie Finch's review at Artnet: "What has made Currin tolerable, even enlightening in the past is his warped sense of humor, whether it be turning his small son into an old man in one painting or watching his female relatives eroticize a Thanksgiving turkey. Absent this fey perspective, Currin is reduced to kitsch, a vast puddle of amorphous flesh too finely draped in pointless luxury, a trope which may fit his new luxurioso collector cohort, but is way too low on the taste scale for past fans of Currin's weirdo perspective like myself."

Ken Johnson reports in the NY Times: "Mr. Currin’s painting style is elusive. It resembles the work of a mid-20th-century anti-Modernist illustrator who has steeped himself in museum favorites from Velázquez to Renoir but never learned to draw properly. The way Mr. Currin hides genuine feeling behind coy facades is irritating, but his paintings remain fascinatingly bizarre."

"John Currin: New Paintings," Gagosian, Madison Avenue, New York, NY. through December 23, 2010.

Related post:
John Currin: "Just don’t do things that depress you."
John Currin confesses in British press that stupidity is liberating

November 27, 2010

Micro-mark making at Steven Zevitas in Boston

 Jacob el Hanani, fine Line Gauze (detail), 2008, ink on paper, 6 x 10"

 Julie Miller, " p (18), detail, ink on paper, 12 x 11.5"

When she visited  “On the Mark,’’ a group show at Steven Zevitas Gallery featuring drawings made with itty-bitty gestures, Boston Globe critic Cate McQuaid wanted to push her nose right up against the drawings. "The piece 'Circle and Line NOF,' by the granddaddy of the micro-mark, Jacob El Hanani, is covered in circles the size of soda bubbles and lines the length of 5-o’clock-shadow stubble that add up to a plane of flitting shadows and odd breaths of air. It’s a wonder how these artists have the control to make such small marks.

"Julie Miller has several works at the center of the show. Previous pieces swam mainly in one palette; now she’s creating multicolored patterns. She, too, works in champagne-fizz circles. The work 'o(32)’' looks like two Persian carpets laid side by side, each with bubbling borders and fringed edges. The deliciously complex 'o(42)' loops strings of red and pink, like beaded necklaces, over a pattern of stripes, all held within a jigsaw-puzzle assortment of shapes....

"In all the works here, the emphasis is on accretion — there’s a sense that when these artists first put pen or pencil to paper, they don’t have a clue what will gather under their hands. The process of drawing, not some preconditioned idea, gives birth to these fantastical and surprising works."

"On the Mark," Steven Zevitas Gallery, Boston, MA. Through December 11, 2010. Artists include Astrid Bowlby  Jacob el Hanani, Xylor Jane, Alexander Kvares, Julie Miller, Evelyn Rydz, Daniel Zeller.

November 23, 2010

Wangechi Mutu's enchanted forest

Wangechi Mutu, "Sprout," 2010, mixed media ink, paint, collage on Mylar; 54 x 51"

Wangechi Mutu, "Oh, Madonna!," 2010, mixed media ink, paint, collage on Mylar; 91 1/2 x 54"

 Installation view.

Wangechi Mutu, Detail, "Moth Girls," 2010, mixed media porcelain, leather, paint feathers and chalk; 14 feet 5" by 23' 7" by 21'10" installed

Anne Wehr reports in Time Out New York that Wangechi Mutu's collages, which are at Gladstone through Dec. 4, seem ill-conceived and somewhat opportunistic. "Hunt and bury? Sure. But flee? That seems an unlikely prospect for the beleaguered female dynamos in Wangechi Mutu’s latest large-scale collages, gloriously encumbered by decorative encrustation, contact-paper patterning, and glossy cutouts from fashion, porn and National Geographic magazines. For her first Gladstone Gallery show, this Kenyan-born artist continues to create dense, arresting art that takes on modern beauty myths and popular depictions of non-Western cultures. In 'Oh Madonna!,' a Josephine Baker–like creature sporting ostrich feathers and a bare breast conjures the West’s historic fascination with 'Le Noble Sauvage' exoticism, while her kaleidoscopic bod tells a more contemporary tale: With knees made of artillery pieces and stacked cans of crude for high heels, oilmongering geopolitics insinuate themselves in her very contours.

"Too bad Mutu’s work has increasingly come to resemble exactly what she aims to critique.... Yet the thread of violence (along with a certain visual monotony) that connects Mutu’s work seems opportunistic, even misogynistic, especially in visually simpler works like 'Sprout,' an inverted Daphne buried up to her elbows in scorched earth. Mutu’s saving grace is her ability to elicit seductive, alchemical effects with paint on Mylar. Her jewel-toned, marbleized renderings of mottled flesh, textured with hair and fishnet patterns, ground her compositions and, one hopes, will be good fodder for whatever comes next."

In the NY Times, Karen Rosenberg writes that Wangechi Mutu is one of the most exciting artists working in collage today, but that the same can’t be said of her storytelling and her sculptural installations, included in the show. "Tree stumps made from felt bunched over cardboard boxes and anchored with packing tape are clearly meant to extend the enchanted-forest theme but look like dull set design. And in the rear gallery, the installation 'Moth Girls' — figurines with porcelain legs and wings of leather and feathers, affixed to the wall in neat rows — is a curio cabinet of disappointing sameness. Why Ms. Mutu would want to experiment with seriality and uniformity when her collages relish the subjective and unique is anyone’s guess."

"Wangechi Mutu: Hunt Bury Flee,"  Gladstone Gallery, New York, NY. Through Dec. 4, 2010.

November 19, 2010

NY Times Art in Review: Charlotte Park

Charlotte Park, "Blue Warning," ca. 1953, oil on canvas, 32-3/4 x 34-3/4"

Charlotte Park, "Untitled (Red, Pink, Orange, and Black)," ca. 1955, oil on canvas, 28-1/2 x 36-1/2"

Charlotte Park, "Zachary," ca.1955, oil on canvas, 36 x 47"

"Charlotte Park," Spanierman Modern, New York, NY. Through November 27, 2010.

Roberta Smith reports: "It is probably too late for Charlotte Park, now over 90 and suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, to witness her ascension into the ranks of widely known Abstract Expressionists. A natural painter and gifted colorist, she is as good as several of the artists — both men and women — in the Museum of Modern Art’s current tribute to the movement, which was drawn almost entirely from its collection.

"At this point the Modern does not own any work by Ms. Park, who was born in Concord, Mass., in 1918 and graduated from the Yale School of Fine Arts in 1939. This may be because she decided to let her career take a back seat to that of husband, the painter James Brooks (1906-1992), who is represented by one canvas in the Modern’s show. One day an art historian may unravel some of the tangle of circumstance, personality and affection behind that choice....

"Ms. Park effortlessly reconciled painting and drawing, deriving a lively formal vocabulary from clusters of loops and spheres. Its compositional roots lay in still life, which she was not afraid to revisit. In “Untitled (Red, Pink, Orange and Black)” the strong, clear colors easily dominate intimations of fruit and platter. And in “Zachary,” the shapes dissolve into to an energetic back and forth between blue and green, cascading down a field of white. This painting in particular deserves prominent placement in a museum."

Nathan Oliveira is dead

Nathan Oliveira, "Adolescent by the Bed," 1959; painting; oil on canvas, 60 1/4 in. x 60 1/8" Collection SFMOMA, William L. Gerstle Collection, William L. Gerstle Fund purchase; © Estate of Nathan Oliveira

William Grimes reports in the NY Times that Nathan Oliveira, a leading Bay Area artist who achieved national prominence fusing Abstract Expressionism and figuration in psychologically charged canvases that explored human isolation and alienation, died on Saturday at his home in Palo Alto, Calif. He was 81. According to his son Joe, the cause was complications of pulmonary fibrosis and diabetes,

Check out  SFMOMA video interviews with Oliveira here.

November 18, 2010

The Estate of Robert De Niro, Sr. announces a prize for mid-career painters

Robert De Niro, Sr., "Two Trees," date unavailable, oil on canvas, 22 x 28." Private collection

Robert De Niro, Sr., "Still Life with Vase of Flowers, Lemons, Chair and Guitar," date unavailable, oil on canvas, 34 x 40" Private collection.

Robert De Niro, Sr., Landscape with Houses," 1970, oil on canvas, 28 x 30." Estate of Robert De Niro, Sr.

Last night the Estate of Robert De Niro Sr. announced The Robert De Niro, Sr. Prize, which will honor an outstanding mid-career American artist. The prize, which includes an award of $25,000, recognizes achievements in painting. Robert De Niro, the artist's son, along with Megan Fox Kelly and Jeffrey Hoffeld, advisors to the estate, made the announcement last night at a reception held in the elder De Niro's Soho studio. De Niro, Sr., died in 1993, but his son has kept the studio exactly as it was when his father was still alive.

Administered by the Tribeca Film Institute, which is co-chair by the younger De Niro, the prize has been established to recognize an American artist whose work has made a significant contribution to painting. A selection committee of "distinguished individuals in the art world" will be appointed annually to nominate three finalists and select a winner. The goal is to celebrate and bring attention to mid-career artists who may have been overlooked by the fickle art world, but continued to paint nonetheless. The first prize will be awarded in 2011, and the selection process will include an exhibition of the finalists' work.

“I am proud to honor my father as an artist and pay tribute to his painting through the Robert De Niro, Sr. Prize,” said Robert De Niro. “By annually awarding an American artist who is recognized for exceptional quality in painting, we hope to support artists, like my father, who are making a lifelong commitment to their art.”

Who would Two Coats readers like to see nominated for the prize? Feel free to leave suggestions in the Comments section.

Maria Lassnig: Less sensational?

Maria Lassnig, "Don Juan d'Austria," 2001, oil on canvas, 78.74 x 59.06"

Maria Lassnig, "Assistance," 2008, oil on canvas, 78.74 x 59.06"

Maria Lassnig, "Optimisten/Optimists, 2009, oil on canvas, 78.74 x 59.06"

 Maria Lassnig, "Schlafende/Sleepers,"2009, oil on canvas, 78.74 x 59.06"

In Time Out New York, Maria Lassnig's show at Friedrich Petzel was selected as  a Critics' Pick for Best Painting this week. The exhibition comprises twelve paintings, created over the past four years, in which Lessnig continues her exploration of gender relationships and all their angst-ridden unruliness. The paintings  blend the realism she mastered as a student and the spontaneity of automatic drawing. She has said that automatic drawing enables her to describe the body not as it is perceived from the outside but as it is experienced from the inside. Over the course of her long career, Lassnig, who is in her nineties, has embraced a number of styles, including Realism, Surrealism and Expressionism. In this show, the most recent paintings reveal that Lassnig may be turning in a more refined, less sensational direction.

"Maria Lassnig," Friedrich Petzel, New York, NY. Through December 22, 2010.

Related post:
Maria Lassnig: Embarrassment is a challenge

November 13, 2010

Charline von Heyl takes on Ellsworth Kelly at the Worcester Art Museum

 Images above show Charline von Heyl's installation in progress at the Worcester Art Museum. They will be working throughout the weekend to complete it by November 19th.
 The original study for the mural.

Sebastian Smee reports on the Boston Globe's culture blog that Charline von Heyl's mural at the Worcester Art Museum opens to the public on November 19. "Worcester Art Museum's Renaissance Court is one of the most impressive and beautiful gallery spaces in New England, with its marvelous Roman floor mosaic, its high ceilings, and its stately twin staircases. WAM also commissions art works from contemporary artists to fill one long wall in the court, which shakes things up a bit. The latest has been commissioned from Charline von Heyl, a German artist who is sometimes a resident of Marfa, Texas."

According to the museum's press release, von Heyl's project "pays homage to Ellsworth Kelly's Orange White, a 1961 abstract canvas in the Museum's collection that explores the relationship between clarity of form, ambivalence between figure and ground, and resistance to interpretation. Von Heyl, who described her drive towards abstraction as the desire to invent something that has not yet been seen, often borrows gestures and techniques from painters preceding her then proceeds to bury them in a vigorous process of destruction and creation. Her paintings are characterized by a sense of conflict between defined and indeterminate forms, sometimes jarring use of color, and various strategies of paint application—all within a single work. Adopting formal aspects of the Kelly and adapting her studio practice—an abstraction created by overload, blotting out, and superimposition—to mural scale and an architectural setting, the intrepid von Heyl plans an ambitious new project resulting in several kinds of pictorial experiences co-existing."

Other artists who have been invited to paint the wall include Arturo Herrara, Sophie Tottie, Annette Lemieux, Denise Marika, Julian Opie, Jim Hodges, Alexander Ross, and the collaborative THINK AGAIN.

"Wall at WAM: Charline von Heyl," organized by Susan L. Stoops. Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA.Opens November 19 and stays up for quite a while.

November 11, 2010

Drawing links

Maureen McQuillan, "Untitled Photogram (QCG/3)," 2010, unique silver gelatin print, 29 x 36," courtesy of the artist and McKenzie Fine Art

 Rosemarie Fiore, "Firework Drawing #26", 2009, lit firework residue on Fabriano paper, 41 x 48," courtesy of Priska C. Juschka Fine Art

Amy Pleasant, "Untitled (Green Cloud I)," 2009, ink and gouache on paper, 24 x 22.25"," courtesy of the artist and Jeff Bailey Gallery

"Art on Paper 2010," curated by Xandra Eden, is up at the Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, through February 6, 2011. Too often in large group shows like this, small museums, due to understaffing and limited resources, don't list all the artists or give any info about their work on the website, but the Weatherspoon has thoughtfully put together a link list for all the participating artists. Here it is--enjoy.

Mequitta Ahuja, Diana Al-Hadid, Michael Ananian, Ky Anderson, Walead Beshty, Huma Bhabha, Nina Bovasso, Natasha Bowdoin, Nicholas Buffon, Tom Burr, Barbara Campbell Thomas, Emilie Clark, Dawn Clements, Gabriel de la Mora, Brian Dettmer, Josh Dorman, Jason Dunda, Will Duty, Jenny Eggleston, Bryan Ellis, Mark Fox, Rosemarie Fiore, Roland Flexner, Heather Gordon, Maximo Gonzalez, Belinda Haikes, Jacob Hashimoto, Elana Herzog, Carter Hodgkin, Katie Holten, Rebecca Horn, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Fritz Janschka, Lisa M. Kellner, Eun Hyung Kim, Elizabeth Leal, Tonya D. Lee, Maria (Eun-Hee) Lim, Cynthia Lin, John Maggio, Cameron Martin, Frank McCauley, Elizabeth McIntosh, Maureen McQuillan, Jennifer Meanley, Alison Moffett, Roy Nydorf, Paul P., Angela Piehl, Howardena Pindell, Amy Pleasant, William Powhida, Amy Purcell, Lauren Rice, Charlie Roberts, Chris Scarborough, Aurel Schmidt, Frank Selby, Julie Shapiro, Leah Sobsey, Duston Spear, Mariam Aziza Stephan, Dirk Stewen, Matthew Stromberg, Susanne Thomas, Christopher Thomas, Scott Treleaven, Michael Velliquette, Sarah Walker, Lee Walton, Robert Watts, Ruby Wescoat, Paula Wilson, Lisa Woods, and Rachael Wren.

"Art on Paper 2010: The 41st Exhibition," curated by Xandra Eden, Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, NC. Through February 6, 2011. Exhibition images are on Facebook.

Matt Connors knows

At Time Out New York Anne Doran reports that Matt Connors, in his second solo show at Canada, continues to develop his idiosyncratic painterly language.  "Matt Connors’s paintings, like those of his contemporaries Joe Bradley and Richard Aldrich, are scruffy, minimal and coolly cerebral. In his promising debut at Canada two years ago, he employed various tropes of modernist abstraction, from bright, geometric compositions to filmy washes to wavering grids and stripes. In his second solo show at the gallery, Connors seems increasingly focused on the process of art production and display, even as he continues to reference stylistic conventions drawn from recent art history....

"Presiding over the show is a poster-size photograph taken from a documentary of a 1970s protest, showing a placard that reads 'you don’t know.' Its boldly lettered but absurdly vague message suits a body of work that appears, at first, inchoate. Little here, however, has been left to chance. Out of such small incidents and gestures as a crooked rectangle, a scuffed surface or a doodle writ large, Connors has devised a painterly language that is smart, original and stealthily persuasive."

"Matt Connors: You Don't Know," Canada, New York, NY. Through Nov. 21, 2010.

Related post:
Two Coats slams Matt Connors's first show at Canada
"Kind of like a cocktail party at a really nice loft, where the drinks may be weak, but the atmosphere and conversation make hanging around worth your while. Frankly, I find the installation fetishization currently permeating gallery and museum exhibitions a bit like overwrought interior decoration."

November 7, 2010

Thomas Nozkowski: Making pictures with "as much intelligence and depth as I can muster"

 Thomas Nozkowski, "Untitled (8-136)," 2010, oil on linen on panel, 22" x 28"

Thomas Nozkowski,"Untitled (8-134)," 2010, oil on linen on panel, 22" x 28" 

Thomas Nozkowski, "Untitled (8-135)," 2010, oil on linen on panel, 22" x 28"

 Thomas Nozkowski, "Untitled (8-137)," 2009, oil on linen on panel, 22" x 28"

In latest issue of The Brooklyn Rail there's a must-read conversation between John Yau and Thomas Nozkowski, who has a solo show up at Pace through December 4. Here's an excerpt of the discussion, but make sure to go read the whole thing.

Rail: Okay—you had a diary and you made an abbreviated note. Like, I’m going to do a painting based on this thing that struck my attention, or whatever, right?

Nozkowski: I’m more likely to do that today. But the original function of the diary was strictly factual, as a tax record. It’s a good idea for any artist to keep a narrative that can help identify what was part of the art-making process. Trips taken, materials bought, and so on. Once I developed the habit of keeping a diary, it just grew. Today my diary has a little of everything, from art stuff to anecdotes, business matters to an occasional observation. So it hasn’t been a tool in the life of my paintings. On the other hand, it would probably be very interesting for someone further down the line to track when paintings were done with what was going on in the diary. Do you know Rosemary Mayer’s great translation of Pontormo’s Diary? Written while he was painting some of his most profound and beautiful work and it is completely mundane—his diet, his friends, even his constipation! A wonderful book.

But why not use a diary if you are drawing on your experience? Well, I wasn’t aware of this at first, but now it’s very clear to me that I am as interested in my failures of memory, the lapses, mistakes, and self-delusions, as I am in any kind of putative accuracy. A diary like mine—a string of facts and opinions—is pretty useless for my paintings. The reality my paintings draw upon is as complex, varied, and self-examining as I can make it. What’s interesting is my desire to want to do something—and I tell this to my students. If you don’t want something from your work, you can’t have anything. Purpose makes things come into focus. How come this feels right? Why do I love this and hate that? There’s a lot to be said for doing something as well as you can and not striving for some idea of perfection. Ideas of perfection are usually based on what we have seen in the past, on what we already know. You can give anything a shot, any idea—no matter how odd or impossible seeming. Here: let’s try to make a picture of, say, how I feel about John Yau. And I’m going to try to do this with as much intelligence and depth as I can muster. I now have a place to begin, an area to work in, and I can put forth some propositions: what is the color of this and what is the shape of that? What is the light in this place? All artistic propositions, excluding only the most trivial, look ridiculous upon close examination. I don’t believe success in a project like this can be measured by how easily readable my image is to other people—it is instead measured by how visually rich and complex the painting is. The picture will be of John, but it is really about what I can find in trying to see him.

"Thomas Nozkowski: Recent Work," Pace Gallery, New York, NY. Through December 4, 2010.

Related posts and articles:
Nozkowski clip at Two Coats TV
Drawing as an End, Not a Means
Ted Loos reports in the NYTimes:  "For an exhibition at the Pace that opened this month, the veteran abstract painter Thomas Nozkowski took a different approach. He used drawing as a cool-down exercise rather than a warm-up. The show features 19 pairs of works, each one a painting and a smaller, corresponding work on paper in ink, pencil and gouache. The drawings are still studies of a kind, but they all reflect back on a just-finished major canvas filled with the artist’s signature squares, triangles and rounded biomorphic forms."
How Thomas Nozkowski scaled back the rules and rhetoric
"One unexpected turn leading surprisingly to the next and culminating in a small triumph."

November 5, 2010

Compulsive exuberance: Cary Smith

 Cary Smith, "Splat #12 (cerulean)," 2010 Oil on linen, 17 x 17"
 Cary Smith, "House Of Circles (green)," 2009 Oil on linen, 17 x 17"

  Cary Smith, "Splat #13,"  2010 Graphite on pink Smythson writing paper, 4 7/8 x 4 1/4"

In the studio

  Cary Smith, "Untitled (rectangles #25)," 2010 Graphite on pink Smythson writing paper, 6 1/4 x 8"

Cary Smith, whose new work is on display at Real Art Ways in Hartford, Connecticut, through December 12, says his interests include courage, loyalty, generosity, compassion, fear, anxiety, pain, weakness, love, kindness, humanity, and awareness. That runs a pretty long gamut, so he’s either very smart and pensive, or he’s ADD. Having seen his work, I’d say he’s closer to the former. Smith's paintings exude an ebullience rarely captured in paintings these days. The animated loops, airy color, and buoyant lemon-slice shapes that populate his small and mid-size canvases (from 2009) and the cartoonish splats (from 2010) seem to form a symbolic shorthand for the painter's intimate experiences. At first glance they may seem casual, but the meticulousness evident upon a harder look suggests an obsessive, brooding mind lurking behind the happy-go-lucky demeanor.

The exhibition also includes a new series of graphite drawings depicting more somber squares and rectangles that resemble architectural details or repeating textile patterns. Like the paintings, these carefully drawn geometric forms embody a quirky, personal iconography and process from which we can try to decipher what he’s about – and maybe what we’re about, too.

"Cary Smith: We Are The Dollars and Cents," Real Art Ways, Hartford, CT. Through December 12, 2010. Catalogue available with an introduction by artist Lisa Beck.

November 4, 2010

Tom Hébert's night vision

Tom Hébert, "Summer 2010 #4," 2010, inkjet on paper, laminated onto masonite cutouts, inlaid in linoleum tile construction; 32" x 26"

Tom Hébert,"Summer 2010 #2," 2010, inkjet on paper, laminated onto masonite cutouts, inlaid in linoleum tile construction; 32" x 26"

Tom Hébert, "Trashing Skies #2," 2009, inkjet, Linoleum tile construction; 36" x 24"

My colleague Tom Hébert has a show up at a local college this month, so if you're in southeastern Connecticut, you should check it out. I love running into Tom in the hallways at Eastern Connecticut State University, where we both teach, because he always has something interesting to say about shows he's seen or what he's working on in the studio. He has won many awards and had numerous shows, including exhibitions at O.K. HarrisExit Art, and, most recently, Real Art Ways, an innovative non-profit org in Hartford.

After presenting paintings that depict New York art dealers (Joe Amrhein, Derek Eller, Magalena Sawon, and others), in 2005 Tom began a series of NYC gallerinas that featured paintings of aloof gallery workers inset into carefully crafted wooden constructs. These  recalled his early abstract work. The new pieces on display at the beautiful Three Rivers Community College gallery provocatively replace the gallerina images with lifesize inkjet prints of trash accumulated in his studio over the past year. This unsettled trompe-l'oeil world, in which bleach bottles, construction debris, and boxes hover ominously in the night skies, seems like a promising new direction.

"Tom Hébert: Trashing Skies (Collage/Constructions) 2010," The Gallery at Three Rivers Community College, Norwich, CT. Through November 12, 2010.