June 27, 2011

Don't forget the sunscreen

 Sheila Barbone, "Watch Hill 15," 18"x23" oil on panel. Courtesy of Trade Winds Gallery, Mystic, CT.

I'll be at on vacation for the week but will return with "Against the Tide," a long overdue exhibition of paintings by Two Coats of Paint readers. See you at East Beach.


June 22, 2011

Mythological creature: Susan Bee

Susan Bee, "Woman Tormented By Demons," 2009, oil on linen, 18 x14."

This week, after a trip to the Venice Biennale, Jerry Saltz worries about the state of the art world and suggests that younger artists have hit a rough patch. At the Biennale he "saw the same thing, a highly recognizable generic ­institutional style whose manifestations are by now extremely familiar. Neo-Structuralist film with overlapping geometric colors, photographs about photographs, projectors screening loops of grainy black-and-white archival footage, abstraction that’s supposed to be referencing other abstraction—it was all there, all straight out of the seventies, all dead in the ­water. It’s work stuck in a cul-de-sac of aesthetic regress, where everyone is deconstructing the same elements....Instead of enlarging our view of being human, it contains safe rehashing of received ideas about received ideas."

Mira Schor responds on her blog with an essay and some excerpts from her 2009 book, Decade of Negative Thinking. "Saltz doesn’t seem to question his own underlying assumption that interesting new work would come only from the young or that it would be easily visible or foregrounded in mainstream exhibitions and media. This is a reflexive point of view shared by many in art journalism and academia, where only the new and the young are conceived to be contemporary or marketable, even though given the generational political conditions many including now Saltz have noted and that I describe in my book, it is possible that this new and young generation has been shaped for conformism to a corporate ideal, albeit a newly global one, in such a way that they are the last place to look for interesting art that would break any molds."

Lending considerable force to this point, Susan Bee, Schor's co-editor for M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artists Writings, Theory, and Criticism (and of M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online), at A.I.R. presents three separate series of bright, small-scale paintings that explore emotional conflict, trauma, and personal narrative in a movingly idiosyncratic way. The first series translates stills from old film noir. The second focuses on romantic landscape paintings by artists like Caspar David Friedrich, Marsden Hartley, and Charles Burchfield. The third series, which incorporates illustrated collage elements, features mythological and religious figures. When I see shows like this, it becomes clear that  talented mature artists are making penetrating and imaginative work. They just don't get invited to the international biennials.

Susan Bee, "Shattered,"2010,  oil on linen, 18 x 14."  Collection of Norman Fischer.

Susan Bee, "Through a Glass Darkly," 2010,  oil, enamel, and sand on linen, 14 x 18." Collection of Peter and Susan Straub.

Susan Bee, "Autumn Fantasy," 2011, oil on linen, 18 x 14." Collection of Leslee Smoke.

 Susan Bee at A.I.R., installation view.

"Susan Bee: Recalculating (New Paintings)," A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY. through June 19, 2011.

Bonus video: Mira Schor reads from her essay "Recipe Art."

June 16, 2011

IMAGES: Clare Grill

 Clare Grill, "Tape," 2011, oil on linen, 11 x 11."

Clare Grill, "Gimcrack, 2011, oil on linen, 20 x 19."

This week I saw a few of Clare Grill's paintings at "A Review," Edward Thorp's eclectic group painting show that's up through July 29. Grill relies on small scale and sensitive brushwork to capture intimate and seemingly incidental details from everyday life, but sometimes her imagination runs off with the image. A head may develop two faces, or a wood grain might float off a door. Grill's new work is moving in an interesting, less nostalgic, more abstract direction than previous work, some of which was based on old family photographs. Maybe Grills, who graduated from Pratt's MFA program in 2005, has realized that the present turns into the past soon enough.

Clare Grill, "Yoke," 2010, oil on linen, 12 x 12."

 Clare Grill, "Map," 2010, oil on linen, 21 x 25."

"A Review,"Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY. Artists include Patrick Brennan, Rosanna Bruno, Neil Farber, Clare Grill, Judith Linhares, Paul Pagk, Judy Simonian, and Andrew Spence. Through July 29, 2011.


IMAGES is a regular feature devoted to work by painters who deserve more love.


June 15, 2011

"Unapologetically carnal and verging on the grotesque"

Ion Birch, "Le Papillon," 2010, graphite on paper, 25x22"

How can we not love the bawdy irreverence of summer group shows like "Romantic Agony," which is on display at Horton Gallery through the end of the week. The title for this post comes from the press release, which earnestly calls the work "fleshly [sic] but never gratuitous."  I'm not sure if I buy the idea that the artists, like the Romantics, are interested in depicting the sublime.

Jacques Louis Vidal, "My Special Parts," 2011, MDF, aluminum, mason jars, barbershop droppings, condoms, pennies & Gowanus Canal water samples, 48x24x36”

Summer Wheat, "Scratchpad," 2010, oil and acrylic on canvas, 72x96"

"Romantic Agony," artists include Ion Birch, Doron Langberg, Jacques Louis Vidal and Summer Wheat. Horton Gallery, New York, NY. Through June 18, 2011.


Kara Walker: The wilder shores

  Kara Walker at Sikkema Jenkins, installation view.

"This new work is also an object lesson for artists. Walker’s discipline and willingness to return to something as fundamental, intimate, and seemingly mundane as drawing—a medium that’s all about the marvels of movement, often passed over in the rush to new media—are remarkable. The astonishing ­reminder is that something so primitive and simple can take us to the wilder shores of consciousness, pain, and the imagination."
--Jerry Saltz in New York

I agree.

 Check out the gallery's website for more images.

"Dust Jackets for the Niggerati- and Supporting Dissertations, Drawings submitted ruefully by Dr. Kara E. Walker," Sikkema Jenkins, New York, NY. Through June 11, 2011.

June 14, 2011

Who is Kay Sage?

Kay Sage, "Tomorrow is Never," 1955, Oil on canvas, 37 7/8 × 53 7/8 inches, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund

A few years ago I was at the Mattatuck Museum checking out the Connecticut Biennial, and I ran across a haunting painting by Kay Sage in the permanent collection. From the painting's label I learned that Sage had died in 1963, but I didn't know anything else about her--other than the fact that she was a talented, evocative painter who seemed to have steered clear of the Ab-Ex mandate. A few weeks ago, I ran across another one in the permanent collection at the New Britain Museum. And then, this week, I learned from Karen Rosenberg's article in the NYTimes that Sage was married to Yves Tanguy, with whom she shared an 18th-century farmhouse studio in  Woodbury, Connecticut for many years. Originally they met in Paris, but fled to New York to escape World War II, and eventually followed Alexander Calder out to what was then rural Connecticut. The two surrealists, who spoke French despite their New England locale, painted side-by-side for fifteen years, until Tanguy died unexpectedly of a cerebral hemorrhage. Sage continued to paint for several years until, partially blinded by a botched cataract surgery, she began making small constructed objects. In 1963, still grieving for Tanguy, she shot herself in the heart. “The first painting by Yves that I saw, before I knew him, was called ‘I’m Waiting for You,’" she wrote in a suicide note.  "Now he’s waiting for me again — I’m on my way.” In 1964, the Kay Sage Estate donated her collected work to the Mattatuck Museum, where it can be viewed in their online database. The Smithsonian also has some of Sage's papers in their archives.

This summer, the Katonah Museum of Art is featuring a retrospective of Sage and Tanguy's paintings, which promises to be an amazing show. After its run in Katonah, the exhibition will travel to the Davis Museum at Wellesley College and then to the Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, North Carolina. I'm looking forward to curator Stephen Robeson Miller's book about Sage. 

 Kay Sage, "The Unicorns Came Down to the Sea," 1948, oil on canvas, 36 1/4 × 28 1/4,"  Philadelphia Museum of Art, Bequest of Kay Sage Tanguy.

 Kay Sage, White Silence, 1941, Oil on canvas, 30 × 40 1/4 inches, Private Collection,
Photograph by Stewart Clements

 Kay Sage, I Saw Three Cities, 1944, Princeton University Art Museum, photography by Bruce M. White.

 Kay Sage, "The Answer is No," 1958, Oil on canvas, 39 × 32," Yale University Art Gallery, Bequest of Alexandra I. Darrow, BFAP 1933, in memory of Judson S. Darrow. This was Kay Sage's final painting.

"Double Solitaire: The Surreal Worlds of Kay Sage and Yves Tanguy," curated by Stephen Robeson Miller and Jonathan Stuhlman. Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY. Through Septmeber 18, 2011.

NOTE: Metro North is offering a one-day package to the exhibition that includes discount round-trip rail ticket to Katonah Station, discount admission to the Museum, and a discount at the Katonah Restaurant. Take a short taxi ride from the train station for $4-$6. For more details on the Metro-North Getaway package, click here.


June 13, 2011

Chris Martin's bigness

Chris Martin, "Staring into the Sun… (4 → 7 → 11)," 2003, oil on canvas, three parts, 143 x 129" each.

When I first started writing for The Rail, in an article about the Tomma Abts show at the New Museum, I took a quote from a  Chris Martin interview out of context, suggesting that he preferred working in a small scale. "I actually LOVE working on a huge scale and have done so for years," he wrote to me. "What I had a hard time with was 'medium' size paintings - 4' - 6' - so I actually felt compelled to paint smaller." His show at the Corcoran, which opens on June 18th, will prove beyond any doubt Martin's love of LARGE. The exhibition is divided in three parts: one section brings together large-scale works from the past nine years; another is a wall of small paintings hung salon-style in the Rotunda, and the third features a site-specific installation of  paintings in the museum’s central atrium in which three paintings, each 26 feet high, will be suspended from the second floor of the museum to the ground, creating monumental walls of color and pattern. 

I'm looking forward to visiting the show later this month. 

Chris Martin, "Here Comes the Sun…," 2004-2007, oil on canvas, 143 x 129." 

Chris Martin, "Ganges Sunrise Asi Ghat Varanasi…," 2002, oil on canvas, 129 x 143." All images courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash. Photos: Jason Mandella.

"Although abstract, Martin’s paintings are a direct response to the physical world around him. Many of his works integrate objects from his immediate environment into their surfaces, including kitchen utensils, records, photographs, and Persian carpets. The works are as much about daily life—music, travel, and language—as they are about mythology, storytelling, the endurance of symbols, and the role of painting in art history.

"Martin’s interest in bringing painting into the realm of lived experience and his own history of performance are essential elements of his work. In the 1970s and 1980s, he created collaborative paintings during Happenings with other artists and musicians. He has placed works in bus stops, on the sides of buildings, and in nightclubs, fabricating them with phosphorescent paint to respond to the lighting and conditions of the location. He has taken large-scale paintings for 'walks' around the block, involving his neighbors and local shopkeepers in creating the meaning and experience of his work. In more traditional gallery spaces, Martin has blurred the distinction between the art object and the viewer, placing paintings on floors, ceilings, and displayed among household objects." (excerpt from the press package, which also included a set of children's watercolors that I'll be breaking open in the studio later today. #schwag)

Chris Martin, "Garden at 11 Munn St.'" 2008–2009, oil on canvas, 52 1/8 x 42 1/4"
"I grew up in a great old house in Washington DC that actually was filled with paintings and old family portraits. I particularly loved this life sized Sir Thomas Lawrence portrait my mother had inherited with an elaborate carved wooden frame. And my grandmother was a gifted landscape painter. My most vivid memory as a kid happened at Beauvoir School. We made a giant mural of dinosaurs in the refectory. Every year the third graders would repaint this wall and we did dinosaurs. I was thrilled."

"These forms come from a long process of unconscious drawing. Then there is this desire to see it in paint—a kind of compulsive curiosity that drives me to choose colors, mix up buckets of paint, and prepare a surface. The actual performing of a painting involves giving oneself over to a series of actions and trusting in the body and what the body knows. And when I step back to look at this thing, I’m still trying to figure it out just like everybody else.... It’s funny - recently I’ve been asked to teach. When I show up the students think here comes the teacher—he knows what he’s doing. The students imagine that some day they’ll grow up to be like the teacher and then they will know what they’re doing. But I don’t know what I’m doing. And I try to communicate that to my students.

-- excerpts from a 2008 conversation between Chris Martin and Craig Olson

Chris Martin, "Hemlock, 2010," oil, gel medium, and collage on canvas, 135 x 118."

"Chris Martin: Painting Big," Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Through Oct. 23, 2011.

Related posts: 
The New Casualists
Holland Cotter: Unadventurous painting is everywhere (at least in New York)

Jukkala doesn't name names in New Haven

June 9, 2011

Seeing silver

At Martos Gallery: Davina Semo, "THEIR NOSTRILS SNIFF THE ORGY BEHIND THE WALL OF FLAME AND STEEL," 2011, spray paint on safety glass, reinforced concrete, 36 x 36"

In a recent New York Mag review about Mark Grotjahn's show at Anton Kern, Jerry Saltz admired the paintings for what they are not. "Unlike much art of the past decade, Grotjahn isn’t simply working from a prescribed checklist of academically acceptable, curator-approved isms and twists. His palette isn’t only the voguish trio black, white, and silver...." When I first read the review, I was helping another artist come up with some ideas for silver-themed projects, and I, too, had recently cracked open a can of silver Krylon for some new paintings on raw linen.

One of my new paintings in the studio, "Three-Sided Cage," 2011, Krylon metallic on linen, 72" x 65"

Who hasn’t been tempted to grab a can and instantly turn everything metallic? Who hasn’t wanted to unwind a roll of silver duct tape and just cover stuff with it? Who hasn’t been drawn to metal chain for all the symbolism it embodies? When Peter Schjeldahl noted that “silver is everywhere and nowhere” in Pollock’s revolutionary drip paintings, he fastened on to the color’s magical versatility.

In "We Regret To Inform You There is Currently No Space Or Place For Abstract Painting," a delightful group show at Martos Gallery on display through June 18, several of the artists also understand how compelling metallic can be.

Daniel Turner, "Untitled 5250," 5/5/2011, encased tar, vinyl, wood, 17 x 15 x 3"

Jules de Balincourt, "We Regret To Inform You There Is Currently No Space Or Place For Abstract Painting," 2004, oil, enamel and spray paint on board, 10.25 x 12.75"

 Clare Woods, "Untitled," 1999, enamel on wood, 12 x 12"

 Installation view with Nathaniel Robinson, Sarah Crowner, Jim Lambie

 Wayne Gonzales, "Grey Pentagon," 2005, acrylic on canvas, 92 x 92"

"We Regret To Inform You There Is Currently No Space Or Place For Abstract Painting," Martos Gallery, New York, NY. Through June 18, 2011. Artists include Jules de Balincourt, Lisa Beck, Sarah Crowner, Wayne Gonzales, Tony Just, Alex Kwartler, Jim Lambie, David Malek, Chris Martin, John Miller, Curtis Mitchell, Olivier Mosset, Nathaniel Robinson, Eva Rothschild, Ben Schumacher, Anja Schwörer, Davina Semo, Lincoln Tobier, Daniel Turner, Nick Van Zanten, Clare Woods

"Mark Grotjahn Nine Faces," Anton Kern, New York, NY. Through June 25, 2011. Installation view.

Stay tuned for Part II: More artists who use metallics.

Related post:  


June 4, 2011

The New Casualists

 Martin Bromirski, “Untitled” (2011). Acrylic, sand, paper on canvas. 20 × 16˝.

The pioneers of abstraction—the Cubists, the Abstract Expressionists, the Minimalists—emerged from firm and identifiable aesthetic roots and developed their own philosophies. In the competitive maelstrom of 20th century art, those philosophies became dogmas, and the dogmas outright manifestos. In the new century, many abstract painters are saying goodbye to all that didactic thinking and exuding a kind of calculated tentativeness. Raphael Rubinstein, in a 2009 Art in America essay and for a 2011 painting exhibition he curated in London, dubbed this new type of abstraction “provisional painting.” Similarly, artist and critic Stephen Maine homed in on the “incipient image” in a March 2011 show he curated at Lesley Heller. And the Brooklyn curatorial team Progress Report (aka Kris Chatterson and Vince Contarino) styled its survey of contemporary abstraction at the Bronx River Art Center The Working Title. All three labels suggest the centrality of the open proposition in contemporary abstraction.

 Patrick Brennan, “Flow and Fade” (2011). Mixed media on canvas. 72 × 48˝.

There is a studied, passive-aggressive incompleteness to much of the most interesting abstract work that painters are making today. But the subversion of closure isn’t their only priority. They also harbor a broader concern with multiple forms of imperfection: not merely what is unfinished but also the off-kilter, the overtly offhand, the not-quite-right. The idea is to cast aside the neat but rigid fundamentals learned in art school and embrace everything that seems to lend itself to visual intrigue—including failure. The painters take a meta approach that refers not just to earlier art historical styles, but back to the process of painting itself. These self-amused but not unserious painters have abandoned the rigorously structured propositions and serial strategies of previous generations in favor of playful, unpredictable encounters. Pervading the work of artists like Lauren Luloff, Cordy Ryman, Amy Feldman, and Joe Bradley is an enervated casualness that may at first recall sophomore-year painting class.
 Amy Feldman, “Ever After” (2010). Acrylic and spray paint on canvas. 80 × 90.˝

If this sounds disparaging, it’s not meant to be. By reassessing basic elements like color, composition, and balance, based on 1920s-vintage Bauhaus principles taught in every 2-D foundations course, the new painters are exploring uncharted territory. They are looking for unexpected outcomes rather than handsome results. Dashing our expectations of  “good painting,” painters like Martin Bromirski, Patricia Treib, Patrick Brennan, Jered Sprecher, and Keltie Ferris have challenged their validity and thus moved painting in a direction that requires a different way of looking. If a painting seems lousy, perhaps with a poorly constructed support and amateurish paint handling, look again.... Insofar as the new abstract painters employ old tropes and methods with a certain insouciant abandon, one might call them the new casualists....

Read the rest of my article in June issue of The Brooklyn Rail.

 Rebecca Morris, “Untitled (#06-10)” (2010). Oil on canvas. 59 × 59˝.

Related posts: 

June 3, 2011

Artists who curate: "Creating opportunities for felicitous constellations"

 "Reverie," a group show  curated by Stephen Westfall. Installation view, Zurcher Studio.

The other day Austin Thomas, who is feeling overwhelmed with emails from struggling artists,  blogged some career advice. Rather than continually ask other people for career help, Thomas urges artists to simply do something interesting (curate a show, organize a salon, write about other artists' work, etc.) that helps others. In the process, artists would be building a community and engaging in creative activities that will ultimately help their own careers. Good idea, right? 

Sylvan Lionni
, Shirley Jaffe

One obvious way of helping others and benefiting yourself in the bargain is to a curate a show. Today, for inspiration to all the aspiring artist-curators out there, I'm featuring images from "Reverie," an excellent group show curated by artist/writer/professor Stephen Westfall, who has a solo show running concurrently at Lennon Weinberg. Here's the lovely curatorial essay he wrote, which  discusses the process of selecting the work. 
Thinking about this group show has been a little like launching a waking dream. The painters are all abstract artists who are working with hierarchically presented planes of color. But the similarity between them seems to end right there. Some are brushy, even ecstatically gestural in their paint application, while others organize their compositions geometrically. There are hard edges and soft edges, younger painters and lifers, larger scaled compositions and compression, brilliant plumages of color and introspective tonalities. I don’t think any of these artists regard their work as cultural or aesthetic “production,” to use the deliberately lifeless term assigned by Frankfurt-schooled theorists. Rather, they celebrate the surprises their evolving languages of form-giving spring on them in the process of their unfolding. If anything, the cottage industry of the individual painter is a happily or grotesquely inefficient form of production. Sometimes both. These artists, like many others, will occasionally find in repetition an “accident,” or a surprise, that will attach and become another element of consciousness going forward. Thus, their imagery changes meaningfully over time, something like the slow forms described by George Kubler.

Seeing more than one work by each artist might leave a deeper impression of his or her individual sensibility while creating opportunities for felicitous constellations and across the room conversations akin to internal rhymes and alliterations in a poem. Eileen Myles once reminded me that “stanza” means “room” in Italian. I have dreams of paintings installed in rooms. They are not paintings I recognize as mine upon waking, their image structures are invariably less defined, but the rooms themselves may jog a memory of other rooms I have been in: galleries, studios, museums, and raw spaces. Sometimes I think these are paintings I should be making, as if the dream was a directive from another. When I am struck by someone else’s paintings I experience a temporary and pleasurable sense of appropriation, for a moment I feel I made that painting. I mean I could have, if I had taken that path. Does anybody else feel like this? Or, doesn’t everybody? [Yes!--ed.]

So this is a collection of paintings, a glimpse of the sensibilities of the painters who made them, and an effort to see how they might hang together. A show like this is a structure that seeks to hold their differences together in order to form a coherent offering, a nostrum, a visual poem, if you will. Painting is dead, but the holly and ivy are twining together from out of the ground where it was buried. It’s spring, after all.
 Patrica Treib

 Stephen Westfall. Yeah--it's OK to include your own work if you're curating the show. That's one of the things that makes curating so interesting: artists choose the context for their own work.

 Stanley Whitney

Julia Rommel

 Andrea Belag

 Alix Le Méléder

"Reverie," curated by Stephen Westfall. Zurcher Studio, New York, NY. Artists include Andrea Belag, Shirley Jaffe, Alix Le Méléder, Sylvan Lionni, Julia Rommel, Patricia Treib, Stephen Westfall, Stanley Whitney. Through July 3, 2011.

"Meet Me At The Market," organized by Austin Thomas. Moore Street Market during Bushwick Open Studios, New York, NY. June 3, 4, 5, 2011. 

 "Ben Godward, Harry Gold, Evan Green, Paul Saint Savage," organized by Ben Godward. Bushwick Open Studios, Brooklyn, NY, June 4 & 5, 2011. 

"Mary Judge and Friends, Works on paper by Julie Gross, Jim Conboy, Wally Rheinhart, Polly Saputo and Simona Frillici," organized by Mary Judge. Bushwick Open Studios, Brooklyn, NY. June 4 & 5, 2011.

"Dunkle Wonkle," curated by William Powhida. Artists include Ellie Ga, David McBride, Bjoern Meyer Ebrecht, Jenny Vogel, and Bill Abdale. STOREFRONT, Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY. Through June 26, 2011.

"Forget-me-nots," organized by Sharon L. Butler. Hygienic Arts, New London, CT. Artists include June Bisantz, Lula Mae Blocton, Sharon L. Butler, Ted Efremoff, Tom Hébert, and Jane Rainwater.  Through June 25, 2011. I'm working with Dannielle Tegeder to organize "Silver Bullet," an exhibition in Chelsea in July. 


"Surface Attraction," organized by Joanne Mattera and Marla Rice. Rice Polak Gallery, Provincetown, MA. Artists include Joanne Mattera, Peter Arvidson, Blair Bradshaw, Lynda Ray, Willie Little and Rusty Wolfe. Through June 12, 2011.

"Chase the Tear," curated by Timothy Buckwalter. Artists include Val Britton, Cederick Brooks, Jeremy Burleson, Kristi Dean, Luis Estrada, Sam Gant, Brent Hallard, James Ham, Heather Hamann, Willie Harris, Shana Harper, Scott Hewicker, Chris Johanson, Jeffrey Cortland Jones, Michael Macfeat, Ann Meade, Philip King, Rosita Pardo, Tony Pedemonte, Dean Smith, Rochelle Peterson, Wendell Singleton, Lisa Solomon, Micke Tong, Rebecca Whipple, Billy White and Douglas Witmer. NAID Art Center, Richmond, CA.  June 20-August 19, 2011.

"Stephen Westfall: Seraphim, Paintings and Works on Paper," Lennon Weinberg, New York, NY. Through June 11, 2011.