April 30, 2011

A very narrow line: Malevich and the American Legacy

"Malevich and The American Legacy," an exhibition at Gagosian, traces a line from the geometric work of post-war American artists (all male except for Agnes Martin) back to Kazimir Malevich's Suprematist paintings, but the connection constructed between the Americans and Malevich often seems overly reliant on visual tropes rather than substantial philosophical underpinnings. Had curator Andrea Crane included a wider range of work, the exhibition would have yielded a livelier, more engaging experience. My favorite pieces were the less religious, more playful selections, and I kept thinking that Elizabeth Murray's work might have provided a counterpoint to the stolid monochromatic approaches of Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Ellsworth Kelly, Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, Richard Serra, and Frank Stella. In the context of the new offhand, provisional strategies artists are applying to abstraction today, the rigor and heft of Minimalism are beginning to feel old-fashioned. Malevich's quirky, intuitive, small-scale abstractions, on the other hand, seem fresh.

Kazimir Malevich,"Suprematist Composition: Airplane Flying," 1915, oil on canvas, 22 7/8 x 19," Courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

In the center, Agnes Martin's "Homage to Life," 2003, acrylic and graphite on canvas, 60 x 60" looks like it's being held captive in Richard Serra's paddock. I would have liked to look at it more closely because at a distance the tactile nuance of Martin's surface is unreadable.

At left: Richard Serra, "One Ton Prop (House of Cards)," 1969, lead, four plates, each 48 x 48 x 1."  In the back, check out Brice Marden "Red, Yellow and Blue III," 1974, oil and wax on canvas, 74 x 72." It reminds me of Blinky Palermos' 1976 piece "To the People of New York City," which is included in the Palermo retrospective at the Hirshhorn right now.

Ed Ruscha, "You Will Eat Hot Lead," 1999, "Say Yes to Our Demands or Else," 1999, "I Will Wipe You Off the Face of This Earth," 1999, "and "Stick up Don't Move Smile," 2001, each is bleach on linen-covered board, 20 x 16." Although the subdued colors fit in, the arch humor and intuitive approach of these modestly scaled paintings seemed out of place.

Robert Ryman, untitled paintings from 1963, vinyl polymer acrylic on aluminum, 60 x 60." These peices have a high-spirited playfulness that I've never seen in Ryman's work before. They almost look like they could have been made by Cordy Ryman.

 Kazimir Malevich, "Painterly Realism of a Football Player—Color Masses in the 4th Dimension,"  1915, oil on canvas, 27 1/2 x 17 3/8", The Art Institute of Chicago.

 Kazimir Malevich, "Suprematist Painting: Rectangle and Circle," 1915, oil on canvas, 17 x 12 1/8"

Elizabeth Murray," Druid," 1979, oil on canvas, 54-1/2" x 56-1/2" 

"Malevich and the American Legacy,"curated by Andrea Crane, Gagosian, New York, NY. Through April 30, 2011. Artists include Carl Andre, John Baldessari, Alexander Calder, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, Ed Ruscha, Robert Ryman, Richard Serra, Frank Stella, James Turrell, and Cy Twombly.

April 26, 2011

Abstract Friday in Bushwick and the Bronx

Tisch Abelow, Untitled (very tizdayle), 2009, gouache on paper, 68 x 82" (Note: Images are from the artists' websites and may not be in the show.)

Saira McLaren, "blue mountains," watercolour on canvas, 48 x 36, 2010

 Sheldon Sean Moyer, Untitled (alphapbet #1), 2010, acrylic on panel, 24" x 30"

Meghan Petras, ceramic head

Curator Jon Lutz's latest project, "Beach on the Moon," an exhibition co-curated with Jamison Brosseau, is on display at WILDLIFE this Friday, April 29, 7-11pm. Artists include Tisch Abelow, Martin Bromirski, Mairikke Dau, Saira McLaren, Sheldon Sean Moyer, Meghan Petras and Mitchell Wright.

Also on Friday: The closing party for "The Working Title," a 32-artist survey of recent abstraction curated by Kris Chatterson & Vince Contarino at the Bronx River Arts Center. If you can't make it to the show, a full color catalog with essays by artist Shirley Kaneda and indie curator Jon Lutz is available on Blurb.

  Jered Sprecher, "Ahab," 2010, oil on canvas, 20” x 16," in the BRAC exhibition

(L to R) Joy Curtis, "St. Magnet," 2011; Osamu Kobayashi, "Eternal Gathering," 2010; Tamara Zahaykevich, "glowing teef," 2009; Douglas Melini, "Fluent Green," 2011; Kris Chatterson, Untitled, 2011.

 Amy Feldman, "Whole," 2009, acrylic on canvas, 80” x 90” 

To put the new abstraction in context, check out "70 Years of Abstract Painting – Excerpts," at Jason McCoy through May 20 , 2011.  Artists include Josef Albers, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Peggy Bates, Norman Bluhm, Giorgio Cavallon, Cora Cohen, Gene Davis, Friedel Dzubas, Joe Fyfe, James Gahagan, Al Held, Maxwell Hendler, Hans Hofmann, Sharon Horvath, Terrell James, Paul Kelpe, Martin Kline, Nick Lamia, Jim Lee, Sarah Mattes, Martin Mullin, John McLaughlin, Rob Nadeau, George Negroponte, Thomas Nozkowski, Paul Pagk, Charles Pollock, Jackson Pollock, Man Ray, Willy Bo Richardson, Jennifer Riley, Russell Roberts, Charles Seliger, Leon Polk Smith, Hedda Sterne, Robert Thiele, Gwenn Thomas, Marc Van Cauwenbergh, Vaclav Vytlacil, Leslie Wayne, Helen Miranda Wilson, and John Zinsser. Installation images below.

And keep in mind: This is the last week to see "Geometric Days," an excellent abstraction show rooted in geometry, at Exit Art, and Li Trincere at Minus Space.

April 23, 2011

Greetings from Nudashank and the Transmodern Festival

"The Shape of Things to Come" at Nudashank, installation view.  Tracy Thomason (left) Stacy Fisher (right)

I recently received a note from Seth Adelsberger and Alex Ebstein at Nudashank, an independent artist-run space in Baltimore, about their new exhibition, "The Shape Of Things To Come." The show features abstract, sculptural paintings and objects by Brooklyn-based artists Stacy Fisher, Tracy Thomason and Maria Walker. "Falling somewhere between sculpture and painting, works balloon off the walls, hang from the ceiling, sag in imperfect shapes and collectively posess a subtle animation that ties into the Transmodern aesthetic* while remaining grounded in abstraction and object art."

I like the images of the show, but I wonder if the days of "casual, wonky posture" are numbered. Is this experimental strategy (which I love) beginning to slide comfortably into grad school schtick?

Maria Walker, "Island of Health" and "Untitled."

Stacy Fisher,"Green Plaid Sculpture"

Maria Walker

"The Shape of Things to Come," in conjunction with the Transmodern Festival, Baltimore, MD. Through May 13th.

*The Transmodern aesthetic: Provocative work by cultural experimenters who defy traditional genres and embrace radical innovation through transmedia, clashes of organic vs. artificial intelligence, psychogeography, dislocation of consensus reality, real politic and collective cultural action.

Related post:
Gahl and Berg @ Nudashank in Baltimore

Studio update: Recent interview at Studio Critical

I haven't done a studio update in a while, so here's an excerpt from a recent interview at Studio Critical, a new painting blog based in Madrid, in which I tried to articulate some of my thoughts about painting, irresoluteness and impersonating a modernist. 

Studio at the Elizabeth Foundation.

SC: Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
SB: I have a warren of rooms in the attic of an old New England house in my hometown and a small studio at the Elizabeth Foundation in NYC that I share with a fairly well known, frequently traveling, conceptual artist. I’ve adapted my art practice to suit my circumstances – that is, by working on some projects that are essentially portable, such as blogging, writing, and digital compositions.

Working in small spaces affects my painting as well. Scale is content. I like figuring out ways to make big work within my limitations: I work alone in two small spaces, spend little money on materials, and transport things in a small station wagon and via the US mail. Large pieces that I see in Chelsea’s hangar-sized spaces often seem institutional – as if they were funded by corporate interests, made by an army of assistants in an assembly-line fashion to fill museum walls. I’d like to work at that scale while keeping the work as personal and introspective as it has been with smaller pieces.

The attic studio.

SC: Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
SB: These new paintings have been hovering in an unfinished state for a couple months. I like drawing out the process, so I’m using pencil and acrylic on small wood panels to make interim studies of details in the paintings. I used to do this on the computer, but now I do it by hand. I’ve enjoyed working on the studies so much that I’m reluctant to finish the paintings, the very incompleteness of which has provided a good subject for new work.

SC: What are you having the most trouble resolving?
SB: I suppose trying to accept the fact that things may never be resolved. I’m not trying to be glib. Accepting profound irresoluteness is harder than finding more superficial resolution...

Read the entire interview here.

Unfinished painting, 2011, oil on canvas, 40 x 60"

Of course, incompleteness is relative...

Related posts:
Interview: Sharon Butler at London-based [standard]Interview (January 2011)

April 21, 2011

Elisabeth Condon: Walking in her own landscape

Elisabeth Condon, "Hello Yellow," 2010, acrylic on linen , 37" x 48"

Elisabeth Condon's exhibition at Lesley Heller  reveals a painter in the prime of her painting life. Condon's colorful, trippy paintings exude the confidence and energy of a seasoned artist who knows how to unfurl an image with both abandon and control.  Exploded paint pours determine the initial compositions, then she compresses space into shallow veils and films of paint that convey her experience of layered and compacted cultures. Disparate approaches and images emerge and dissolve--Yuan Dynasty landscape, 1960s Los Angeles, Brooklyn construction sites and Dr. Seuss co-exist in Condon's own world, operating between reality and dream. Willem deKooning once said that there's a time in life when you just take a walk, and you walk in your own landscape.

Elisabeth Condon, Sky Tree River, 2010, acrylic and oil on linen, 110" x 65"

Elisabeth Condon, "Trees at Yaddo Autumn," 2010, acrylic and oil on linen, 44.5" x 72"

Elisabeth Condon, "Slippery Slope," 2010, acrylic and oil on linen, 48" x 48"

"Elisabeth Condon: Climb the Black Mountain," Lesley Heller Gallery, NewYork, NY. Through May 15, 2011. 

In the back gallery: "New Monuments," a sculpture exhibition curated by Ben Godward. Artists include Liz Atzberger, Jesse Bercowetz, Ben Godward, Audrey Hasen Russell, Letha Wilson.

Small pictures from Jimbo Blachly and Workroom G

 Jimbo Blachly, "Pyre," 2009, oil on canvas, 6” x 8.” Photography by Etienne Frossard

Time Out New York selected "Lanquidity," Jimbo Blachly's show at Winkleman as the Critic's Pick for painting this week. Although Blachly shows regularly with Winkleman as part of the Chadwick Family collaboration with Lytle Shaw, this is his first solo show of paintings at the gallery. The story is that Blachly, who has a day job in an art conservator's studio, secretly took up painting four years ago after a 30-year hiatus. The quality strikes me as uneven, but in the best of them, evocative color, easy brushwork and diminutive size remind me of Albert York's enigmatic landscape paintings combined with Bill Jensen's paintings from the eighties. There's something about Blachly's paintings that makes me want to buy one. Or two. Or three. The exhibition also features piles of moleskin sketchbooks and some framed drawings. I wonder how many other conceptual artists are secretly painting in their spare time...?
Jimbo Blachly, "Double Homage," 2009, oil on canvas, 10” x 8."

  Jimbo Blachly, "Summer #5," 2009, oil on canvas, 12" x 9"
 Jimbo Blachly, installation view at Winkleman.

 "Jimbo Blachly: Lanquidity," Winkleman Gallery, New York, NY. Through April 30, 2011.


In the Curatorial Research Lab at the back of the gallery, don't miss "Signs on the Road," a three-part installation organized by Workroom G and curated by Gogue Projects (Phase 1), Cathouse FUNeral (Phase 2), Camel Collective (Phase 3). I contributed an image of the mustard-colored Royal Safari typewriter I use to keep track of ideas while I'm painting.

"Signs on the Road," installation view of Phase 2, curated by Cathouse FUNeral. Photography by Karen Miller.

"Artists often fixate on particular found material (imagery, objects, quotes, fragments of text, etc.) that reveals no direct connection to their practice but that possesses for them an enigmatic, resonant meaning. This material may serve as a beacon for their practice, suggesting an unrealized and indeterminate potential for future work. Perhaps this material is the uncanny of artistic practice. For this exhibition we collect such material from over a hundred and fifty artists, each invited to submit a single-page digital file to be printed on an 8×10-inch sheet. This small archive will be handed over to three curatorial collectives, each of whom will mount a treatment and exhibition in the diminutive (10-foot by 10-foot) Curatorial Research Lab at Winkleman Gallery."

April 18, 2011

Julie Green's Last Supper project

For the 2012 College Art Association Annual Conference in Los Angeles, I'm co-organizing ArtExchange, an open forum for sharing work that is free and open to the public. This year the exhibition will have it's own web page with links to the artists' websites. Participants, who must be members of CAA, apply for a table where they can exhibit prints, paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, and small installations. Performance, sound, and spoken word are also welcome.

Interestingly, speaking of art for tabletops, in 1999 my ArtExchange co-organizer Julie Green began painting the final meal requests of death row prisoners on ceramic plates. This month her project was featured on The Artblog. Green is committed to making the plate paintings until capital punishment is abolished. She's made over 400 plates to date.

Julie Green ‘Florida 23 September 2008; Final meal request of two fried-chicken breasts, turkey sausage, fried rice, prison-made chocolate-chip cookies and Coca-Cola," painted ceramic.

Julie Green, "Texas 28 October 2008; Final meal request of a grilled cheeseburger, four fish patties, six hard boiled eggs and coffee," painted ceramic.

Julie Green, "Virginia, 1 September 1999, Stay of execution, Ate what would have been his last meal of oven-fried chicken, rice pilaf, a cucumber and onion salad, and bread and margarine,"painted ceramic.

April 16, 2011

An afternoon at the New Britain Museum with Carol Padberg

 Carol Padberg, "Ada Lovelace," 2010, textiles and mixed media, 36"x36"

Hartford Art School professor Carol Padberg's interactive quilts at the New Britain Museum  continue her exploration of encoded abstraction. In this rich new series, Padberg uses layered colored papers, scraps of fabric, a sewing machine and paint to construct each piece. "The quilts synthesize the influences of African textiles, American crazy quilts, and European modernism with my family's own sewing tradition," Padberg told me when we walked through the show this week. Riffing on the textile tradition of incorporating narrative and symbolism in handmade quilts, Padberg uses barcode software to develop the patterns for each quilt. Like the barcodes on packaging and products, information is embedded in the codes and can be accessed with a Microsoft Tag Reader smart phone app. Locking into each barcode takes viewers to a website that explains the symbolism and wide ranging ideas behind each  piece.

Padberg's work both demonstrates and comments on how information technology has shaped the contemporary world. It bulges uncomfortably with a multitude of ideas, yet information overload is perhaps the most salient characteristic of our time. Whether Padberg celebrates or laments this irreversible reality isn't clear, but any surfeit of ideas will provide a cache for her next body of work.

 Carol Padberg, 'Interactive Crazy Quilts," installation view.

"Carol Padberg: Interactive Crazy Quilts," a New/Now Exhibition, New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT. Through April 24, 2011.

While you're at the museum, don't miss these unexpected gems from their collection, which includes sixty works by members of the Ash Can School and a five-panel Thomas Hart Benton mural, "The Arts of Life in America." 

 Barbara Kassel, " Flowers in February," 2006, oil on panel, about 30" x 60"

 James Montgomery Flagg, "San Francisco--Treasure Island Salad," 1939, oil on canvas, about 24 x 24."

 Balcomb Greene, "Blue World," 1938, oil on Masonite, about 30" x 50."

Jack Ogden, "Jay's Parade, 2001, oil on canvas, 50 x 63."

 Georgia O'Keeffe, " East River From the 30th Story of the Shelton Hotel,"1928, oil on canvas.

 Albert York, "East Hampton," 1960, oil on canvas, about 10 x 10."

Jackson Pollock, "T.P.'s Boat in Menemsha Pond," 1934, oil on tin, about 5 x 7." Pollock made this painting for Thomas Hart Benton's young son T.P. when Pollock served as Benton' studio assistant and sometime babysitter. T.P. donated the painting to the museum in 1973.

April 12, 2011

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.

 Christopher Joy, Untitled, 2011, oil on canvas on wood, 3 x 4'

1. This morning Zachary Keeting and Christopher Joy from Gorky's Granddaughter are stopping by for a studio visit. http://bit.ly/gub9nM

2. So many things to disagree w, so little time MT @artfagcity: on painting and advancement in art, with pictures http://bit.ly/gHTxDG

Iain Andrews, "The Eat Me," 2010, acrylic on canvas, 500 mm x 600 mm 

3. Iain Andrews wins the 2010 Marmite Prize for Painting http://bit.ly/gCrclb Other artists: http://bit.ly/dGXSn2

oil on canvas (detail). 16"x12" 

4. Woot! Katherine Bradford awarded a Guggenheim! http://bit.ly/gxo6gp  

5. A 2009 film about London artworld that makes your skin crawl. Art curated by Damien Hirst http://bit.ly/RenQR  

6. Great tour of "Photo Identities" w curator Eve Perry @ Benton Museum (cc @UconnMAAH)  

7. Did I already invite everyone to this? I can't remember (Post has been updated w installation shots) // http://bit.ly/eHKro2

Nancy Spero, "Female Bomb," 1966, gouache and ink on paper, 86.4 x 68.6 cm. Collection of Barbara Lee, Cambridge, MA, USA

8. Nancy Spero at Serpentine Gallery through May 2 http://bit.ly/giodI7

 Susanna Heller, "East River Drop," 2008, oil on canvas, 45 x 50"

9. Love her work//MT @franklin_e art pick at the New York Sun: Susanna Heller at John Davis  http://www.nysun.com/arts/thinness-and-thickness/87286/

 The Alpine Rooster (Dannielle Tegeder and Pablo Helguera) performing at Zinc Bar

10. Lights, microphones, cozy dark bar: I performed onstage (volunteers please?) yesterday w The Alpine Rooster  http://conta.cc/i7BzRB about 24 hours ago.