July 30, 2011

Quote of the day: Jacqueline Humphries

Jacqueline Humphries, 2001.

 Jacqueline Humphries, 2001.

"What makes a painting work or not work is something I don't understand; it's the mystical aspect of painting, which is part of its power."
--Jacqueline Humphries in the summer issue of ArtNews

Craig Taylor: Reviving pentimenti

 Craig Taylor, "Amplifier Artifact," 2010, oil on canvas, 72 x 54"

Less precious and more physical than previous work, Craig Taylor's new paintings, both funny and ardent, look great at Sue Scott. The best pieces recall the lush, drippy, heavily-worked abstraction of the 1980s and early 1990s while incorporating the charmingly ham-fisted compositional strategies of contemporary abstraction and the vivid, high-contrast color of street art. Paint artifacts, some blurry and faded, others bright and crisply delineated, seem to waft in and out of the rough, pentimenti-infused fields of paint, suggesting relationships but never quite coalescing as recognizable objects.

Craig Taylor, "My Foamy Decline,"  2011, oil on canvas, 44 x 36"

Craig Taylor, "The Unsuspected Source of Sensations," 2011, oil on canvas, 72 x 54"

"In 'The Unsuspected Source of Sensations,' the composition is dominated by a transparent orange-and-green structure that looks like the top half of a block-letter E in reverse. Appearing to have gobbled up a swarm of sulfur-yellow blobs, it is a self-generating nonsense machine that is part glyph, part megalith."
--Jennifer Coates TONY review

"Craig Taylor: Paintings and Drawings," Sue Scott, New York, NY. Through August 5, 2011.

July 27, 2011

Frans Hals' spontaneity, hundreds of years later

Frans Hals, "The Smoker," 1625, oil on wood, octagonal, 18 3/8 x 19 1/2." Metropolitan Museum of Art, Marquand Collection, Gift of Henry G. Marquand, 1889

 Who doesn't love Dutch painting? Remember that time you were in Amsterdam and stopped by the coffee shop, then spent the afternoon in the Rijksmuseum marveling at those amazing still life paintings? This summer, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has dusted off the Dutch painting collection and put together another special exhibition, this one emphasizing work by Frans Hals, a portrait and genre painter known for his loose brushwork and boozy subjects. Thirteen Hals paintings (two lent from private collections) will be on display with works by other Netherlandish artists, including Anthony Van Dyck, Jan Steen, and Peter Paul Rubens. Contextualizing Hals' work will undoubtedly show how distinctive his animated poses and brushy paint handling were at the time.

 Frans Hals, "Young Man and Woman in an Inn ('Yonker Ramp and His Sweetheart')" 1623, oil on canvas, 41 1/2 x 31 1/4."

In a 1989 NYTimes review of a Hals show at the National Gallery of Art, Michael Kimmelman wrote that Hals had fallen out of fashion by  his death in 1666, and both the artist and his works dropped into near obscurity. "By the early 19th century, Hals was not even mentioned in texts on 17th-century Dutch portraiture, and paintings attributed to him sold for paltry prices. But it was precisely what earlier generations had disliked about Hals that enraptured artists like Courbet. The freewheeling, expressive way he handled paint, the impression of naturalism and spontaneity he achieved, the sheer virtuosity of his technique were qualities they wished to emulate, and they eagerly copied his works. They admired, as well, the fact that he seemed to havemore in common with Rubens than with Van Dyke. Hals became such a hero to the avant-garde and its supporters that by 1883 the influential Belgian art journal Art Moderne lauded him as not only a precursor of Modernism but also as one of the greatest painters of all time."

Check out the website for the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem

At home amid the ruins: Eva Struble at Lombard Freid

Eva Struble, "Admiral's Row 3," 2011, oil on canvas, 64.8 x 71.1 cm

Eva Struble's third solo at Lombard Freid Projects features paintings of the architectural ruins in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Using vivid color and layered, translucent textures, Struble breaks down the realism of her reference images, creating a brassy surrealism. In Time Out New York Paul Laster writes that Struble's drips, pours and masking reinforce the man-made nature of the debris-strewn environments she depicts, creating vibrant images that exist in a metaphysical realm.

Eva Struble, "Navy Yard," 2011, oil on canvas, 60 x 78"

In the L Magazine Benjamin Sutton suggests that Struble's "dazzling palette of neons and push these disintegrating structures towards surrealism and abstraction. In 'Navy Yard' (2011), one of the Brooklyn Navy Yard's dry docks sits empty, its sides glowing a spectacular sunset red under a small splotch of green sky. At the bottom of the dock, an unseen crane is reflected in stagnant waters, an apparent mirage or magical glimpse of the long-crumbled steel tower. The space seems otherwordly, yet the sight of water and ominous skies hint at the landscape beyond. It's Giorgio de Chirico on acid meets post-apocalyptic Le Douanier Rousseau by way of Andrew Moore's monumental, melancholy photographs—encounters between cities and resilient environments as painted by Deborah Brown and William Swanson also come to mind."

Eva Struble, "Shell Pyramids," 2011, oil on canvas, 38 x 54"

Eva Struble, "Laying Keel," 2011, oil on canvas, 38 x 54"

"Eva Struble: Landsmen," Lombard Freid Projects, New York, NY. Through July 29, 2011.

July 22, 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 that I'm referring to another Twitter-er.

“Gee, Joan, if only you were French and male and dead.” —New York art dealer to Joan Mitchell, the 1950s / http://knopf.knopfdoubleday.com/2011/05/03/joan-mitchell-by-patricia-albers  /19 minutes ago

Hot! RT @Tate: NEW on the blog today: MirĂ³ plays with fire in his late paintings (image above) / http://ow.ly/5KUHP / 55 minutes ago

Welcome and thanks for supporting art blogs//RT @culturepundits: We're thrilled to welcome our newest sponsor: @wassaicproject Summer Festival Aug. 5-7 http://goo.gl/XwhJ6

Most popular Two Coats post in the last 24 hours? Lucien Freud, Topless (March 2010) http://bit.ly/d4V9WQ /58 minutes ago

Roberta Smith on Lyonel Feininger http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/22/arts/design/lyonel-feininger-show-at-the-whitney-review.html /15 hours ago

@cmonstah: RIP Lucien Freud http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2011/jul/21/lucian-freud-died-aged-88 / 16 hours ago

Heading to @RealArtWays today to see the Jarrett Min Davis show http://bit.ly/r8yjF1 / 21 Jul

"We have never had an inventory of the vault.” --Guy Wildenstein in French Courthttp://nyti.ms/pXgrh7 / 20 Jul

RT @AndrewRusseth: Talking about the rise of Eastern European contemporary art: http://bit.ly/oyzvTj  / 20 Jul

Obama hangs a Rockwell (image above) to commemorate public school integration in New Orleans. http://bit.ly/naBN04 / 20 Jul

Portrait show in a pop-up gallery in Hudson: http://www.twocoatsofpaint.com/2011/07/pop-up-portrait-show-and-nada-in-hudson.html?m=1 / 18 Jul

Attempted art heist at Westlake, Ohio, Taco Bell http://bit.ly/ogl0RC / 15 Jul

Anaba's got some good images of Joyce Robins's work at John Davis http://bit.ly/oTeEHU / 15 Jul (
More about Joyce Robins http://bit.ly/gR1hWQ / 15 Jul)

Video: Production-mode painting http://fb.me/PohsGeuT /15 Jul

At the very top of MY summer bucket list http://bit.ly/cgR328 / 15 Jul

Let's start the day w some Bob Ross painting lessons http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MghiBW3r65M&feature=related / Jul 15

Nayland Blake blog post: What the hell are we teaching artists? http://naylandblake.net/wordpress/2011/07/14/what-the-hell-are-we-teaching-artists/ / 14 Jul

Joanne Mattera reports on the Chain Letter Show (image above) at Samson Projects http://bit.ly/mTfnVC

July 20, 2011

How-to video: Dutch artist Iepe Rubingh poured paint in the Berlin streets last year

"The team, made up of friends from Iepe’s chess boxing club, rented official German railway bicycles and rigged them with buckets at the front to carry the paint. They then loaded the bicycles and the paint into a truck and drove them to the intersection. After the bikes’ buckets were filled with the wet stuff they set out with cars driven by members of the team...."

Read more at The Star.

July 16, 2011

Michael Berryhill's tabletops

Michael Berryhill, "Conceiving The Design," 2011, oil on linen on panel, 16x16"

Michael Berryhill, a painter who still values a good struggle in his work, has several fine small-scale paintings in 'Monkey Wrench," a group show at Horton, through July 22. Heavily worked and overpainted (in a good way), the paintings depict tabletop objects in the studio, some of which are identifiable, and others which aren't. Although painters are going through a period in which contingency and ennui are hot, I predict that struggle and tenacity may be right around the corner.

Michael Berryhill, "Palette," 2011, oil on linen, 24x18"

Michael Berryhill, "Pop Up," 2011, oil on linen, 11.75x9.25"

Michael Berryhill,"Stache Rack," 2011, oil on canvas, 18x14"

Michael Berryhill, "The View Through You," 2011, oil on linen, 16x12." 

In a NY Times review of his 2009 solo show Karen Rosenberg wrote that Berryhill's paintings were uneven. "Some are worked to within an inch of their lives, while others look as if they were plucked half-formed from the studio." In 2011, the inclusion of both types of work might have a different interpretation. Perhaps part of Berryhill's process has always involved questioning the struggle to resolve his canvases.

"Monkey Wrench: Michael Berryhill, Stacy Fisher, Hilary Harnischfeger, Sally Ross, Kate Steciw, and Wallace Whitney," Horton Gallery, New York, NY. Through July 22, 2011.

Related posts:
NYTimes Art in Review: Greebaum, Thuring, Berryhill (September 19, 2009)
"Unapologetically carnal and verging on the grotesque" (June 15, 2011)
Mary Addison Hackett on Stuggle (Process, July 4, 2011)

July 15, 2011

IMAGES: Christian Sampson

 Christian Sampson, Untitled, 2011, plexiglass construction, 24 x 12"

Using polymers, dyes, wood, and plexiglass, Christian Sampson explores how color, light, and shadow, while shifting between two and three dimensions, create form. I saw two of Sampson's ingenious but humble pieces last week in "itinerant ones," an exhibition at STOREFRONT that was curated by painter Jules de Balincourt.  A 2006 Hunter MFA grad, Sampson lives in Brooklyn and thinks about things like 19th century phantasmagorical use of color, the psychology of the shadow, magic lantern slides, Donald Judd's use of translucency, and Paul Scheerbart's essays. "I think my form is created by combining the amorphous as a catalyst against the elemental frame," Sampson said in a 2009 interview with independent curator Jon Lutz. "I'm interested in painting as a hyperbolic gesture, one that interweaves wave-lengths of light color, and structure into a form both frozen and animated..." Sampson's work riffs on notions that Donald Judd and James Turrell's work explores, but his intuitive, less rigorous approach seems well-suited to our DIY times.

Christian Sampson,Untitled, 2011, plexiglass construction, 24 x 12." At right,  Tyrome Tripoli “Pratt Board II,” 2004, found wood board with oil pastel, 26 x 18"

"itinerant ones," artists include Ariel Dill, Denise Kupferschmidt, Christian Sampson, Adam Sipe and Tyrome Tripoli. Curated by Jules de Balincourt. STOREFRONT, Brooklyn, NY. Through July 17, 2011.

Related posts:
Notes from Bushwick: "Itinerant Ones" at STOREFRONT (via Hyperallergic)
Interview with Ariel Dill and Christian Sampson at The Old Gold.


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

July 14, 2011

Art Guerra: Pigment dispersion + binder + other stuff = an alternate universe

 Art Guerra at Sugar, installation view.

In Bushwick last week, I stopped by Sugar to see Art Guerra's paintings. Guerra is the founder of Guerra Paint and Pigment in the East Village, which, as far as I'm concerned, is the best place for acrylic pigments and binders anywhere. I love the credo posted on their website: Pigment Dispersion + Binder = Paint, Paint + Thickener #1 = Very Thick Paint. In the studio, Guerra likes to experiment, using the brightest, rarest, most colorfast pigments, innovative binders and additives to create wild, glittery abstract paintings piled thick with gobs of beads, tire rubber and paint. Looking into the paintings is like staring into the cosmos. Images can't do the work justice--you have to take a ride out to Bushwick before the show closes in early August. Also on view are Scott Espeseth's small, meticulous, pencil drawings which fuse whimsy with failure and disappointment.

Art Guerra, "Untitled (Blue Hyacinth); canvas, acrylic, urethane, glass beads, tire rubber, interference and magic effect pigments, pigment dispersions; 84" x 64"

Art Guerra, "Untitled (Blue Hyacinth), detail.

"The Plot Thickens: Art Guerra and Scott Espeseth," Sugar, Brooklyn, NY. Through August 6, 2011.

July 13, 2011

In Hudson: Pop-up Gallery Portraits and NADA

Pam Lins, "Charles the VI layout and fog," 2011, oil on panel, 18 x 14"

Austin Thomas is helping Scot Cohen organize "Pop-up Gallery Portraits" at 430 Warren Street in Hudson, NY. The exhibition opens on July 30 and will coincide with NADA Hudson, a large-scale exhibition featuring projects by galleries like Jeff Bailey, Canada, DCKT, Dodge, Derek Eller, Feature, Rachel Uffner and Regina Rex. Located in an office space on the main street, Thomas and Cohen's pop-up exhibition will feature 18 artists whose portraits in photography, sculpture, painting, drawing, collage and abstraction address notions of literal and symbolic personal representation. One of my new paintings will be in the show, along with work by Sascha Braunig, Roz Chast, David Dupuis, Andre Ethier, Dan Fischer, General Idea, Maira Kalman, Sara Greenberger Rafferty, Kristen Jensen, Pam Lins, Keith Mayerson, Jen MazzaMatthew Miller, Judith Page, Alex Prager, Adam Simon, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, Peter Stichbury and Austin Thomas.  

Kristen Jensen, 2011, handmade porcelain objects on table.

Sharon Butler (me), Untitled (Purple), 2011, acrylic on unprimed canvas, 10" x 14" (studio shot)

Sascha Braunig,"Carapace,"2011, oil on linen, 24 x 20"

Austin Thomas, "Rock Man," collage, pencil on paper, about 9 x 12"

Peter Stichbury, "Estelle 5," 2010, acrylic on linen, 23 5/8 x 19 ¾"

Andre Ethier, Untitled, oil on panel, around 30 x 24"

A two-hour train ride up the river from Manhattan, Hudson has attracted international artists like Marina Abromovic and Jason Middlebrook and is home to numerous galleries (including John Davis). The organizers say NADA Hudson isn't an art fair (admission is free) but rather a site-specific project that will showcase contemporary sculpture, installation and performance in an old 8000 square-foot foundry and 10,000 square-feet of outdoor space on the waterfront. Sounds like a great day trip.

"A Pop-up Portrait Show," Scot Cohen Realty, 430 Warren Street, Hudson, NY 12534. For more information, contact (518) 822-1191. July 30 through September 3, 2011. Stop by the opening reception Saturday, July 30th from 6:00 - 8:00 PM.

"NADA Hudson," Hudson, NY. July 30 and 31, 2011.

July 10, 2011

Merlin James: Secret world

Merlin James, "5:30 AM," 2011, acrylic on polyester, wood, beaded necklace in wood frame, 17.5 x 23.375"
Merlin James, "Night," 2011, acrylic on polyester, wood, metal in wood frame, 20.5 x 26.5"

In his current show at Sikkema Jenkins, Merlin James presents handcrafted relief-like objects that look like the backs of framed canvases. The stretchers are covered with translucent polyester onto which James has painted small landscape scenes. Then, behind the polyester, he has inserted little items that look as though they might have been the architectural models for earlier paintings. The paint handling, subject matter and color are reminiscent of decorative tole painting from the 1800s, and may appear at first to be simple, if not-so-meticulous, craft projects. But on closer examination, these pieces are quirkier, smarter and more complex, conjuring, in their apparent reverse perspective, a secret world behind the canvas, and, more broadly, the civilization embedded in geography.

James's 2008 exhibition at Sikkema Jenkins featured small-scale paintings based on model buildings that he made out of wood scraps and other materials lying around the studio floor. The models were both a byproduct and a tool in his earlier work. In this show, by interspersing more traditional older paintings made throughout James's career (some as far back as the 1980s) with his inventive new work, he underscores the notion that an image is simply one superficial coordinate. His new direction is bold and thought-provoking, but after his lifelong commitment to painting, I hope James doesn't move more firmly toward the third dimension, eliminating paint altogether.

 Merlin James, "Night," 2011, detail.

 Merlin James, "Night," 2011, detail.

Merlin James, "Night," 2011, detail.

"Merlin James," Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York, NY. Through August 12, 201.

Related posts:
Merlin James' elusive architecture (2007)
The French connection at Cheim & Read (2010)
The artist's signature: Recto or verso (2010)

July 5, 2011

Cy Twombly is dead

Cy Twombly, "Leda and the Swan," Rome 1962. Oil, pencil, and crayon on canvas, 6' 3" x 6' 6 3/4" Acquired by MoMA through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest and The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection (both by exchange). © 2011 Cy Twombly

 Cy Twombly, "Night Watch," 1966, distemper and crayon on canvas, 190 x 200cm.

In the NYTimes Randy Kennedy reports that American painter Cy Twombly died in Rome today at 83. "The cause was not immediately known, although Mr. Twombly had suffered from cancer....In a career that slyly subverted Abstract Expressionism, toyed briefly with Minimalism, seemed barely to acknowledge Pop Art and anticipated some of the concerns of Conceptualism, Mr. Twombly was a divisive artist almost from the start. The curator Kirk Varnedoe, on the occasion of a 1994 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, wrote that his work was 'influential among artists, discomfiting to many critics and truculently difficult not just for a broad public, but for sophisticated initiates of postwar art as well.' The critic Robert Hughes called him 'the Third Man, a shadowy figure, beside that vivid duumvirate of his friends Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.'”

Anneke E. Wijnbeek penned this Twombly biography for  Grove Art Online:
American painter, draughtsman, printmaker and sculptor Cy Twombley  studied from 1948 to 1951 at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA, at the Museum School in Boston, and at the Art Students League in New York. In 1951–2 he spent a semester at Black Mountain College, an important period for his involvement with Abstract Expressionism. Action painting, in particular, became his point of departure for the development of a highly personal ‘handwriting’ that served as a vehicle for literary content. During this period he traveled to North Africa with Robert Rauschenberg.

In the mid-1950s Twombly began working also in chalk and pencil, and his paintings assumed a more graphic character. The stylistic changes in his paintings were subsequently registered more or less simultaneously in his prolific production of drawings and prints, which were often executed in series; often he drew contrasting, gradually dissolving lines on a beige or greyish-black ground, sometimes when it was still damp. Panorama (1955; priv. col., see Bastian, 1978, pl. 6), the only surviving dark canvas on a monumental scale, is completely covered with dynamic interweaving white lines truncated by the borders of the picture. The potential of gestural brushwork as a form of handwriting was not exploited by Twombly until he settled in Rome in 1957 and found inspiration in classical landscapes and literature. In Olympia (1957; priv. col., see Bastian, 1978, pl. 11), for instance, coloured lines form signs against a light-coloured background with pale yellow spots. In his paintings and drawings Twombly made direct reference to antiquity only in the inscriptions, which at the same time form part of the complex of lines and forms, and he remained committed to a deliberately awkward line verging on a scrawl. The few small sculptures that he produced between 1955 and 1959 are more disciplined, and their forms also suggest references to Classical culture. For example, in Untitled (painted resin, 1959; priv. col., see Zurich 1987 exh. cat., pl. 102) a pedestal of three superposed geometrical forms carries a row with interconnected staves suggesting a pan-pipe.

Cy Twombly, "Untitled," 1970. Oil-based house paint and crayon on canvas, 13' 3 3/8" x 21' 1/8" (405 x 640.3 cm). Acquired for MoMA through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest and The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection (both by exchange).

 Cy Twombly, "Untitled," 1968, oil chalk and tempera on cloth, 172.7 x 215.9 cm.

In the first half of the 1960s Twombly made particular use of subjective, erotic signs in his paintings, and he began to use more intense and denser colours. In Leda and the Swan, red and pink marks gradually emerge from the concentrated turbulence of the brushwork to assume a recognizable form. In the Blackboard Paintings initiated in 1966 Twombly returned to contrasting lines against a light or dark background. Rhythmic marks, spatially projected geometric shapes, words, letters and numbers are characteristically scattered across the painting surface, as in Untitled (1969; Basle, Kstmus.).
 Cy Twombly, "III Notes from Salalah, (Note II)," 2005-07, oil on wood panel, 96x 144."
From 1976 Twombly again produced sculptures, lightly painted in white, suggestive of Classical forms. In the mid-1970s, in paintings such as Untitled (1976; priv. col., see Bastian, 1978, pl. 97), Twombly began to evoke landscape through colour (favouring brown, green and light blue), written inscriptions and collage elements, often distributing these features across the surface by means of right angles that emphasize the legibility of the image and its narrative character. In later works such as Gaeta-Sets (1986; see Bonn 1987 exh. cat., pp. 131–6, 138–44), however, Twombly treated landscape in a more purely abstract manner, freeing it from a literary context.
  Cy Twombly, "Camino Real (IV)," 2010, acrylic on plywood, 99 3/8 x 73 3/4 inches

Related Links:
Twombly's comprehensive website
MoMA acquires Cy Twombly artworks (March 2011)
Cy Twombly Gallery at the Menil Collection: The works on view in the amazing Cy Twombly Gallery in Houston, TX,  comprise a  retrospective of the artist’s career that includes  large canvases, sculptural works, and suites of paintings and drawings. If you've ever wondered how they shipped his work to Houston, check out this fascinating stop motion video of the stretching and installation.
"Twombly and Poussin: Arcadian Painters," Dulwich Picture Gallery, London.June 29-September 25, 2011.
Edwin Parker Tacita Dean's filmed portrait Edwin Parker, the painter Cy Twombly is espied in his everyday life. Edwin Parker is Twombly's given name, Cy an inherited family nickname. The title of Dean's film implies intimacy, an encounter with the man behind the myth.
Video of the 2006 Twombly exhibition at Gagosian. Gagosian's web page for Twombly.
Audio discussion during MoMA's 1994 Twombly retrospective. Curator Kirk Varnedoe invited Brice Marden, Francesco Clemente and Richard Serra  to talk about Twombly.
Studio visit with Cy Twombly


Portraying a painter on film: SEPTIEN at the IFC

Onur Tukel's paintings created for Septien, a Michael Tully film that will be at the IFC this week. 

Septien, a darkly comic narrative film, features a self-taught artist who fetishizes sports and Satan. The film premiered in June at the BAMCinemaFest and will be at the IFC this week. I recently received a note from Onur Tukel, who tells me that besides acting in the film, he made all the paintings--which look like a mash-up of Hieronymous Bosch and illustrations from Mad Magazine. Here's an email exchange we had about the project.

Two Coats: How did you get involved  with the film?
Onur Tukel: I met the director of Septien Michael Tully at a film festival about 10 years ago.  I was showing a feature film that I directed called Ding-a-ling-LESS.  We bonded immediately and kept in touch over the years. Tully is a film journalist for the website hammertonail.com.  He's friends with the film director David Gordon Green (George Washington, All the Real Girls, Undertow, Your Highness) and together they came up with the idea of making a film about three mad brothers on a farm. Tully decided to cast me after seeing me act in the short film The Wallet, which stars me and 11 adorable children.

I got involved with writing the storyline with Tully and co-star Robert Longstreet.  We each play one of the brothers and we each wrote our own back-story.  I've always loved movies about artists (Pollock, Basquait) and relished the opportunity to play one on film. Things started moving along, Tully raised money for the film and i had about six weeks to create the art.  I knocked out about 65 pieces for the movie.   I loved Tully's previous film Cocaine Angel and knew that a lot of people would potentially see the film, so I was very inspired.

TC: How are the paintings you made for the film related to your own work? 
OT: My work is pretty erratic.  I've done everything from political art and comics to children's art.  My first art show "Pictures for the Baby's Room," , was a series of images involving giraffes, bunnies, elephants, frogs, dogs, cats, etc. etc.  All very rated PG!  I was a film director for years and I used to storyboard my films.  It gave me a good sense of visual storytelling.  I got out of films to concentrate on children's books a few years back though I have had little success until recently.  I am having my first children's book published in the Spring of 2012. I did a weekly cartoon series called "Trashlands" for a small paper in North Carolina years ago. It was very playful, sometimes sinister and sometimes downright tasteless. I'm drawn to dark funny images and story-lines but I've never done anything as abject as the work in Septien ! Still, I'm always wavering between dark material and things that are innocent and sweet.  The tag line for Septien is "Smother the Demons."  And the movie is very much about facing things you are scared of. You can't smother the demons if you don't know what they are. Creating the artwork for Septien was like therapy. I just kept reaching for all the muck inside of me.  It felt like pulling weeds. To look at the art now is so much fun. I created the work so fast that I hardly remember doing it.

TC: Do you have any upcoming projects?
OT: I moved to New York in October of 2010.  I'm having my first New York art show at the Pennington Gallery  in Soho (355 West Broadway, New York, NY) from July 6-8, 2011.  It's only up for 3-days but I'm excited about it.  I never imagined I'd be starring in a film that's playing in New York and on top of that, showing my work here as well!

July 1, 2011

Reader response to "Abstract Painting: The New Casualists"

Lauren Luloff, installation shot from "Painting Expanded," at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery through July 29, 2011. The show features work by emerging artists who use new methods and materials to push the definition of what still might be considered painting today. Image via MEP

In the past few weeks, I've gotten many emails responding to "Abstract Painting: The New Casualists," an article I wrote for the June issue of The Brooklyn Rail. Thanks to New American PaintingsPainter's Table and other bloggers for sharing the article with your readers--conversation is good.The majority of the correspondence has been positive, but I wanted to address some questions and respond to a few comments and one Particular Reader's complaints.

This Particular Reader (PR) wondered why I felt a need to write the article at all since, in his mind, it seemed like a rehash of "Provisional Painting" Raphael Rubinstein's excellent 2009 article in Art in America, so let me differentiate between Rubinstein's provisional painters and the painters I described, for lack of a better term, as “casualist.” The casualists use earlier abstract styles and motifs intuitively as a visual language rather than as a conceptual premise. Plenty of artists believe in the premeditated strategic employment of references to historic abstraction, but the paintings I’m discussing are more likely to emerge unplanned through the process of painting – not through the focused exploration of a front-loaded conceptual proposition. All casualists could be called provisional painters, but not all provisional painters are casualists. That many contemporary artists appropriate and strategically quote previous styles  is less relevant to the casualists’ way of working than the way Rauschenberg used, say, a tire or a cardboard box. The idea is that meaning emerges from the act of making, not the other way around. Clearly PR was more interested in the ideas of older artists like Jacqueline Humphries who belong to the “painting is impossible” tradition that Rubinstein teases out. The painters I call the casualists, however, are far less concerned about framing their work in terms of the impossibility of painting than they are with uncovering, with good humor, new possibilities for painting. It’s subtle, but the approach is different.

For those who object to the term "casualist," which PR says implies laziness, “casual” is not an inherently derogatory word. I meant the word to conjure a nonchalant, offhand, and flippant sensibility, but nonetheless a purposeful one--not lazy. The same reader misread the tone of the article as belittling, patronizing and condescending, but actually, I'm fascinated by some of the ideas outlined and am exploring them in the studio myself (although I'm far too much of a handwringer to consider myself a casualist).  Is it cheating to steal phrases from my own artist statement for my articles? I hope not, because for this article, I did. I would never deny that a painting, despite appearing unfinished or sloppy, might be a good painting.

Since the article was published, I’ve had several inquisitive readers write that different influences, exhibitions and sources might also have been included, and PR went so far as to say that the piece was a muddle--under-researched and without appropriate citations. As a university professor, I’m familiar with MLA citation guidelines, but I didn’t write the article for a peer-reviewed journal. I wrote it essentially as an opinion piece, springing from an exchange on Two Coats of Paint about a show at Nudashank, a Baltimore gallery that features work that might be considered casualist. I supported my argument, as any decent writer of this form would, with references to general knowledge and information that most Rail readers would be expected to possess. Obviously I was constrained by The Rail’s standard length and form limitations. A longer article might have referred to "A Painting Show" a terrific survey at Harris Lieberman that I saw just before turning the article in to the editor, as well as artists represented by Tanya Bonakdar, Lisa Cooley, Rachel Uffner, Untitled, and Canada all of whom present excellent exhibitions of work that might be considered casualist. Unfortunately an article like this wouldn't have appeared in The Brooklyn Rail.

And, although I didn't specifically mention it in the article, I cheerfully acknowledge the blatant influence of the early modernist easel-sized abstraction on the casualists. But it just seemed too obvious to mention. My aim in suggesting a link between the casualists and female artists from the 1970s was to illuminate a more intriguing, less transparent connection that readers might not be so quick to identify. For the peeved reader (same one) who questioned the inclusion of less prominent artists like Martin Bromirski (an early advocate of provisional painting who brought it to my attention on Anaba) and groused that I interspersed relatively unknown artists with internationally celebrated artists "without distinction," I say, welcome to the less hierarchical world created by Web 2.0 and social networking media and offer no apologies. Isn't it amazing that we have easy access to info about so many unrepresented artists and images of their work?
Thanks, everyone, for the wonderful feedback--even the negative. And now, back to vacation, where I'm contemplating still life, landscape, the figure, and more --- does the world need any more abstract paintings? And I'm finally reading Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, which, incidentally,  is not unrelated to the new casualism.