November 30, 2011

Joe Fyfe's studio visit with Bernard Piffaretti, circa 2003

I have a writing deadline this week so posting will be scant, but I came across an interesting 2003 Bomb Magazine interview between Joe Fyfe and French painter Bernard Piffaretti that I had to share. Here's an excerpt.

  Bernard Piffaretti, Untitled, 2001, acrylic on canvas , 59×39 3/8." Courtesy of the artist and Cheim & Read

When: Nov. 24, 2003
Where: In the studio, 11 rue Bichat, Paris

Joe Fyfe I have observed that in French painting the plane is where a transition takes place, where the tableau is porous and the viewer’s point of entry is broken up.
Bernard Piffaretti French painting has always had a relation to simplicity; it is about fact, not effect. This is not because of nationality, but part of the traditional attitude is about continuity. Matisse’s Red Studio is simple—it’s an attitude, what Eric de Chassey called a “decorative violence.”

Bernard Piffaretti paintings at galerie Frank Elbaz, Paris. Installation view, 2011.

JF In the Matisse/Picasso exhibition [on view in Paris at the time], I was surprised to see that expressionism in Picasso’s hands felt like a cabinet drama, while Matisse’s breaking of the larger, decorative language of painting and his awareness of the breadth of light and color on a surface seemed very modern. Speaking of languages, I am wondering about the title of your 2000 exhibition at the Cartier Foundation, Va-et-vient (Come and Go). I am told this is French sexual slang, which led me to think that your work examined the mechanistic aspect of making a painting, as if the act of painting drew from a set of responses, like sex does to a certain extent.
BP Va-et-vient refers to a short play of the same name by Samuel Beckett. Three people in similar dress share a bench. One leaves and another arrives; the permutations and combinations continue for a prescribed period. This pertains to my work inasmuch as the difference between the painting and the viewer is that the painting always has an active attitude, it is always unfinished: a quality of the practice of painting itself. This daily attitude is banal; it’s the opposite of contemplation. The critical moment in making my paintings is the first mark down the middle, which declares, THE SURFACE IS HERE. It is produced very calmly, but it is violent and immediately negates the authority of the tableau, making all the aesthetic decisions unimportant by becoming a simple fact that the first situation will be redone. The quality of subjectivity breaks down. Redoing is a negation of series, of origin. This central mark refers to the emblematic situation of Matisse when he said, “It’s not a woman; it’s a painting.” The image an artist paints begins to have the attitude of image painting; it’s not just the expression of the artist. My definition of the tableau goes back to the origin of the word, tabula, table in Latin. You move things around on a table arbitrarily, without necessity. The stuff is just there, ready to be acted on.

Installation shot at Piffaretti's 2002 exhibition at Cheim & Read.

JF Your paintings remind me of two pages of an open book, like Jasper Johns’s 1976 painting End Paper. The repeated image literalizes the painting. Another instance is Johns’s painting Fool’s House [1962], which has BROOM written on it and a broom attached. In many of your paintings, the patterns seem to nod toward the harlequin, an early modernist theme. This clownlike element is in some Beckett characters, too.
BP Yes, the paintings are lyrical, comic and human....

Read more in Bomb Magazine.

November 22, 2011

Renovations underway

I've been meaning to give the blog a DIY design overhaul for a while, and the time has finally come--please bear with me while I work out the kinks. The new design, based on a free template that I've customized with XML, is cleaner and easier to navigate. You may also notice that the layout includes prominent social media icons for friending, following and sharing. If you would like to receive posts via email, just use the subscription form in the sidebar at right.

Let me know what you think. Thumbs up, I hope.

The old Two Coats of Paint

November 20, 2011

Free reading: M/E/A/N/I/N/G: A Journal of Contemporary Art Issues

In August I was invited to contribute an essay to the 25th anniversary edition of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: A Journal of Contemporary Art Issues, an extraordinary collaboration between painters Mira Schor, Susan Bee, and their extended community of artists, critics, historians, theorists, poets. I'm still in the process of reading all the essays, but so far this issue is terrific. Chockablock with interesting ideas about art, politics and culture, it's available both online and as a downloadable PDF file. If you teach, it would make a great text for your classes. My essay, Free Love, considers why artists are drawn to social media. Here's an excerpt to get you started:
Consumer advocate Martin Lindstrom wrote in a New York Times op-ed recently about a casual fMRI experiment he conducted with smart phones. Testing sixteen participants (eight male, eight female), Lindstrom expected the experiment to reveal that we are addicted to our smart phones — that when the phones buzz, ding, or ring, our brains respond as they do when stimulated by drugs and alcohol. Instead what he discovered was that phone activity led to movement in the brain’s insular cortex — the realm of feeling, love, and compassion. Lindstrom concluded that we aren’t addicted to our devices, but that we love our gadgets the way we love a romantic partner or family member. I would suggest that perhaps we don’t love the gadgets per se, but that we love the feeling of being loved that their apparent attentiveness continually provides. Each ding or buzz indicates that someone is retweeting our tweets, sending us a note, or “liking” our status on Facebook. An iPhone doesn’t actually give us the love, but it transmits it...(Read more)
The contributors list is formidable--here are links to their individual essays, which also include images of their art work:

NOTE: The 2000 anthology published by Duke University Press is now available in Kindle and other e-book formats.

UPDATE (January 22, 2012): The 25th Anniversary Edition (2011) is now available on Kindle

Imageat top: The editors of M/E/A/N/I/N/G, Susan Bee and Mira Schor, 1991, photo: Sarah Wells (via Mira's blog)

November 19, 2011

Sneaky funny in Ridgewood

Artists Jonathan Terranova and Matthew Mahler opened Small Black Door in late 2010 to mount some interesting shows by emerging artists and make a few friends. Their current exhibition, "The Unfunny Show," curated by Matthew F. Fisher, features small work on paper by artists whose idiosyncratic humor comes across not just in the images, but in their choice of materials, in the marks they make, and even the self-effacing installation strategy for this engaging show.

Installation view at Small Black Door

Artists have long used sarcasm, irony, whimsy, and satire in their work to be both critical and amusing, and there's a remarkable amount of nuance in being funny. Fisher's selection is an exploration of what he calls side-door humor. "What you see might not make you laugh out loud. Maybe it will. But over time, a slow belly laugh will rise up and become a smile long after you have walked away. Which is the power of humor. And art." So true.

Artists include Liz Ainslie, Jameson Brosseau, Andy Cross, Ariel Dill, Alicia Gibson, Andrew Guenther, Daniel Heidkamp, Margaret Lanzetta, Billy Malone, Christopher Moss.

Curator Matthew F. Fisher, laughing.

 Liz Ainslie

Andy Cross
Installation view.

Daniel Heidkamp  (Sorry for the blurry image.)

Ariel Dill

 Alicia Gibson

STOREFRONT'S Deborah Brown emerging from the small black basement door. Really, it's very small!

"The Unfunny Show," curated by Matthew F. Fisher. Artists include Liz Ainslie, Jameson Brosseau, Andy Cross, Ariel Dill, Alicia Gibson, Andrew Guenther, Daniel Heidkamp, Margaret Lanzetta, Billy Malone, Christopher Moss. Small Black Door, Ridgewood, Queens, NY. Through sometime in Decemeber (?). 


I stopped by the Guggenheim yesterday to check out the Cattelan retrospective. Taxidermied dogs that look like they are sleeping are displayed on small platforms hanging throughout the installation. I found the whole spectacle brilliant and incredibly sad, so I was surprised at how much fun everyone else was having. Cattelan has spent his career examining the unfunny, the pathos, lodged within humor. Whether you like his previous work or not, definitely go see the show--the entire installation turns the Guggenheim inside out and is absolutely unforgettable.

Related post:  
Matthew Fisher: Civil War troops and high school marching bands

November 18, 2011

Image of Pat Passlof

I love Alice Sebrell's photograph of Pat Passlof that ran with Pat's obituary in the NYTimes.

"A member of the New York school of Abstract Expressionists who was less widely recognized than male colleagues... Ms. Passlof had been immersed since the 1950s in the heady, impecunious cultural ferment of Downtown Manhattan."

Quick Study


Check out Tyler Green's sponsored podcast interview with Charline Von Heyl (one of her paintings is pictured above) in which she explains how there are three distinctive types of artists. FYI, I'm a Type #1. Von Heyl's mid-career survey at the Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia is on display through February 19, 2012. After that, the show travels to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.

 Laurie Danial, "Bird," 2011, oil on panel, 28 x 24"

Also, tune in to  Eva Lake's weekly arts radio program on KBOO in Portland, Oregon. She recently sent me a link to an excellent interview with Laurie Danial, a painter who has an exhibition at Froelick Gallery through December 17.  "I have come to willingly entertain a level of anxiety and exhilaration that comes from not knowing." YES!

Tim McFarlane, "Constant Flux," 2010, Acrylic on Canvas, 60 x 60"

Artblog Radio has an interview with Tim McFarlane this week. All the episodes from Artblog Radio, which is supported by the Knight Foundation, J-Lab‘s Enterprise Reporting Fund and William Penn Foundation, are available at iTunes.

Other projects to keep in mind:

The Dead Hare Radio Hour produced by Chris Albert and Matthew Slaats  broadcasts every other Tuesday at 5pm (EDT) on 91.3 WVKR, Poughkeepsie, NY.  The show is streamed live on the WVKR website and all the episodes are available as podcasts. You may recall that Albert is the director of kork, a gallery located over the Xerox machine at Bailey Browne Associates CPA in Poughkeepsie, NY.

Bad at Sports, founded in 2005 by Duncan MacKenzie, Richard Holland, and Amanda Browder, features a weekly podcast, produced in Chicago, San Francisco, Detroit and New York City. The project presents artists and art worlders talking about art and the community that makes, reviews and participates in it. The archive is available online.


Applications are due TODAY for the Degenerate Craft Fair! A sort of anti-art fair, the Degenerate Craft Fair features over 75 artists, designers and their work. Just in time for holiday shopping, most of the items offered will cost less than $50. On Bleecker Street in December. (Image courtesy of the Degenerate Craft Fair Flickr)


At Studio 10 in Bushwick: Copia Cartacea, a group show curated by Centotto director Paul D'Agostino:  // "A show related to hard copies and paper copies and transposable prepositions, works on – or around or about, or beyond or without – paper."  Don't miss Austin Thomas's accordian-bound sketchbooks, which unfold into floor-to-ceiling columns of color and templated shapes that recall schematic diagrams for garden plans and landscape architecture. Artists include Austin Thomas, Thomas Micchelli, Tim Kent, Zane Wilson, Adam Thompson, Josh Willis, John Avelluto, SMH Kim, Oliver Jones and MaryKate Maher.


I recently learned that a building I thought was a public restroom (pictured above) in my neighborhood is actually an art center. "A lot of people wander into the little building on the median at Broadway and West 96th Street expecting to find a public bathroom — but they get a pint-sized art exhibit instead." Must be the words "Women" and "Men" carved in granite over the doors that confuse people.

The Brooklyn Museum has started a new evening program based around drawing as an artistic and social experience. They think more people, not just artists, should draw.


Audio slide show: New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldahl's lukewarm take on Maurizio Cattelan's Guggenheim retrospective (pictured above). I think the show looks amazing. Look for me on the crosstown bus heading to the Guggenheim this afternoon. On view through January 4, 2012.

From the press release: The exhibition brings together virtually everything the artist has produced since 1989 and presents the works en masse, strung seemingly haphazardly from the oculus of the Guggenheim’s rotunda. Perversely encapsulating Cattelan’s career to date in an overly literal, three-dimensional catalogue raisonné, the installation lampoons the idea of comprehensiveness. The exhibition is an exercise in disrespect: the artist has hung up his work like laundry to dry. Like all of his individual objects, the new installation resonates with multiple interpretive valences. Cattelan has certainly used the motif of suspension before, most notably in the poetically elongated sculpture created from a taxidermied horse, Novecento (20th century, 1997), but here it takes on epic proportions. Hoisted by rope as if on a gallows, the objects explicitly reveal the undertone of death that pervades the artist’s work. In total, the installation looks like a mass execution, and constitutes, for its duration, an overarching, tragic artwork in its own right. (image via jaymug)


Opening tonight at Janet Kurnatowski: Idiot's Delight, a painting show curated by artist and Rail writer Craig Olson. Artists include Peter Acheson, Katherine Bradford, Jim Clark, Tamara Gonzales, S.H., EJ Hauser, Ben La Rocco, JJ Manford, Chris Martin, Thomas Micchelli, Linnea Paskow, Elisa Soliven, Deirdre Swords. "Theirs is like nothing else to be found anywhere– the radio, the television, or even the Internet for that matter. It’s an idiot’s delight, blowing like a circle around our skulls..."

Job listing: UCSD University Art Gallery is accepting applications for the 2012 Curatorial Fellowship Program."This unique program provides a paid fellowship for curators in the early stages of their careers (beginning Fall 2012). During this period the fellow will work with the UAG Director and Exhibition Manager to produce a series of exhibitions and programs for the University Art Gallery...."

Richard Pousette-Dart's East River studio

Richard Pousette-Dart, "Allemande," 1951, oil on linen, 42 x 33 1/2"

From 1946-51, as Abstract Expressionism was taking hold of New York,  Richard Pousette-Dart lived and worked in a former brewery on East 56th Street where he painted "Symphony Number 1, The Transcendental," 1941-42, which now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Born in 1916, Pousette-Dart, the youngest member of the Abstract Expressionist tribe, took a few courses at Bard, then moved to Manhattan, where, over the next fifteen years, he actively participated and exhibited in the combustible art scene, showing first with the Marian Willard, then Peggy Guggenheim, and later with Betty Parsons. In 1951, the same year he was included in “The Irascibles” photograph in Life magazine, he moved his family to upstate New York where space was cheap and there was less distraction from his work. Christopher Wool, who studied with Pousette-Dart at Bard in the early eighties, and P-D's daughter painter Joanna Pousette-Dart (link to an excellent conversation with Joan Waltemath in The Brooklyn Rail) have curated a show for Luhring Augustine which includes paintings and sculpture from the frenetic 56th Street studio days.

Richard Pousette-Dart, "East River Sun," 1947-1949, oil on linen, 55 1/2 x 37 1/2"

According to the press release, some of the works in this exhibition began as larger canvases that he later cut down to accommodate both his working space and the galleries where he showed the work. He reworked the truncated canvases, always experimenting with different materials, from enamels to gold leaf, silver leaf, charcoal and sand, and then stretched them on new supports. “The sizes of my paintings in the early days were often determined by the largest roll of canvas I could afford to buy and the largest wall I could tack it on,” Pousette-Dart once said.

Richard Pousette-Dart, "Icarus," 1951, oil on linen, 41 1/2 x 72 1/4"

In the New York Times, Roberta Smith notes that many of his pieces combine drawing and painting "with astounding freshness and wry (dare I say graffitilike?) self-awareness, " and she suggests that the show should precipitate more admiration for Pousette-Dart's often under-appreciated work. When I stopped by the opening a few weeks ago, I was drawn to the gnarly knotted sculpture, but I didn't find new appreciation for the paintings, which with all their painterly zeal and calligraphic brio, seem overworked to me. I like to imagine what they looked like tacked on the walls of the East 56th Street studio, before he chopped and reworked them for the smaller walls of 1950s galleries. Ah, if only Chelsea's hangar-like spaces had existed back in Pousette-Dart's day...

Richard Pousette-Dart, "Creature of Clouds," 1949-1950, steel wire and metal, painted, 49 1/2 x 28 x 14"

Richard Pousette-Dart, "Arc of the Bird," 1950, steel wire and metal objects, 49 x 23 x 14"

"Richard Pousette-Dart: East River Studio," curated by Christopher Wool and Joanna Pousette-Dart, Luhring Augustine, New York, NY. Through December 17, 2011.

November 17, 2011

Sadcore: Robert Yoder at Frosch & Portmann

Robert Yoder's new collages and paintings combined with found papers have a downbeat quality inspired by the sadcore music he's been listening to lately. The title of his exhibition at Frosch & Portmann, "Beautiful William," is from a song by the The Handsome Family about a man who goes missing under mysterious circumstances. The texture of Yoder’s gorgeous small abstractions is thick and gooey, yet strangely delicate. Upon close inspection, sexual and personal details (which are impossible to see in my images of the work) like phalluses, scars, and bruises emerge, creating an air of gloomy libido. And all the found papers have a story, too.
  Rober Yoder, 2011, oil on panel with found papers, 14 x 14.5"

Robert Yoder, Untitled (The Kiss), oil on panel with found papers, 14 x 14.5"

Robert Yoder, Untitled (The Bride), oil on panel, wood, collage, 19 x 9"

NOTE: If you're at the fairs in Miami in December, check out SEASON, a gallery Yoder started last year in Seattle. He'll be showing a couple of my small paintings in his installation at the Aqua Fair along with work by some other really good artists.

"Robert Yoder: Beautiful William," Frosch & Portmann, New York, NY. Through December 23, 2011.

Related posts:
Inaugural exhibition: Against the Tide (October 2011)
Selected paintings from Scope, Aqua, Pierogi, and Pulse (December 2009)

November 16, 2011

Elizabeth Gilfilen: Pugilist painter

For Elizabeth Gilfilen painting is a collision, an aggressive search in which the object and maker are intimately, irrovocably entwined. Gilfilen's exploration of piercing color and gestural abstraction continues in her exhibition of new large-scale work at Gallery Aferro this month. In many of her untitled paintings (sorry I can't refer to specific ones) Gilfilen wrestles images from a thicker scrum of agitated brushwork than in previous work, but in other less vigorously-worked paintings like "Sit" and "Cricket Fix" a more relaxed direction emerges. Gilfilen is the opposite of a casualist--clearly she likes a good skirmish--and her new paintings look terrific--bolder and more challenging than earlier work. "Two Moons," the title of the exhibition, refers to recent evidence that the earth used to have two orbiting masses which eventually became unstable and merged into one. But I imagine they didn't go without a long and interesting struggle.

 Elizabeth Gilfilen, Untitled, 2011, oil on canvas, 76 x 65."

Elizabeth Gilfilen, "Sit," 2011, oil on canvas, 37 x 31.25"
Elizabeth Gilfilen, Untitled, 2011, oil on canvas, 60 x 48"
Elizabeth Gilfilen, Untitled, 2011, oil on canvas, 78 x 64"

Elizabeth Gilfilen, "Hive Mind," 2011, oil on canvas, 72 x 65"

Elizabeth Gilfilen, Untitled, 2011, oil on canvas, 28 x 19.5"

Elizabeth Gilfilen, "Cricket Fix," 2011, oil on canvas, 43 x 34"

"Elizabeth Gilfilen: Two Moons," Gallery Aferro, Newark, NJ. Through December 17, 2011.


November 9, 2011

Rico Gatson's new paintings at Exit Art

 Rico Gatson, a group of small paintings from 2011 at Exit Art. Acrylic paint on wood with glitter, each about 18" square. Top row: Untitled (Crepuscule), Untitled (Sam Cooke), Untitled (Nigeria). Middle row: Untitled (Time Travel), Untitled (Supernova), Untitled (Starburst). Bottom Row: Untitled (Basquiat), Untitled (Site), Untitled (Portal).
 Rico Gatson, "Untitled(Starburst)," 2011, Acrylic paint, glitter, wood panel. 
Rico Gatson, "Unititled (Time Travel)," 2011. Acrylic paint, glitter, wood panel.

 Rico Gatson, "Soul Food," 2011, acrylic on wood panel.

Rico Gatson, "Magic Stick #11," 2011, acrylic paint on wood.

In the  ArtForum Critics' Picks section, Chris Howard writes about Rico Gatson's excellent show at Exit Art. A mid-career survey, the exhibition includes many new paintings from 2011 that combine a hard-edge geometric abstraction with iconic images, patterns, colors and phrases from African-American culture. According to the press release, the title of the exhibition, "Three Trips Around the Block," stems from "a powerful experience Gatson had with his brother who, after spending fifteen years in prison, reconnected with the artist by taking a long walk around the block. The conversation that occurred during their 'trips around the block' inspired Gatson to creatively explore their own disparate lives – a personal excavation made public in this poignant exhibition."
I agree with Howard that the new paintings are among Gatson's best.
Emblems simplify complex matters and often slide dangerously into propaganda. Using the clean lines and precise forms of familiar signs and symbols, Rico Gatson’s art does the opposite, opening wide a world of resounding significance. As seen in this fifteen-year survey, Gatson’s achievement comes in part from his recurring subject matter—twentieth-century African-American history—but also from his keen exploitation of wide-ranging visual strategies, with sources including hardedge abstraction, Minimalist sculpture, Soviet-era posters, and Emory Douglas’s iconic designs, among others. The exhibition forgoes chronology and skims over earlier breakthrough videos to focus almost exclusively on Gatson’s painting, sculpture, and mixed-media output from the past five years. Nearly half the forty-six works date to 2011 alone; yet many of these pieces should be counted among Gatson’s best. 
"Rico Gatson: Three Trips Around The Block," organized by Exit Art and  Ronald Feldman Fine Art. Exit Art, New York, NY. Through November 23, 2011.

November 3, 2011

Quick study

Rosemary Trockel, Untitled, 1986, ink on lined notebook paper, 8 1/8 x 5 3/4"

SUPERDIGIT: EJ Hauser blogs about Rosemary Trockel, an artist who challenged concepts of sexuality, culture, and artistic production. I love this drawing (above) she ran with the post.

From the November issue of The Brooklyn Rail: Phong in conversation with Josephine Halvorson, Stephanie Buhman on Stephen Mueller, John Yau on Barbara Takenaga,  Linnea Kniaz on Tamara Zahaykevich, and plenty more.


Karen Archey writes about  Toomer Labzda a new gallery on Forsyth Street in the Lower East Side.


Catching up on old reading: Cabinet summer issue's intriguing theme is forgetting. Kind of ironic that I forgot to read it until this week. HIGHLY recommended.


Robert Armstrong, "Island," 2006.

Structure and Imagery: Paul Behnke posts images of Robert Armstrong's beautiful landscape paintings from a 2007 show at Kevin Kavanagh Gallery in Dublin (image above).


Hyperallergic: The 2011 Edition of the 20 Most Powerless People in the Art World. "It was a hard year to figure out who the powerless actually were — there were just too many of them — but don’t worry, we gave it a shot."


VVORK:  A link to “Buster," a brilliant 2011 Kate Gilmore video that features a lot of broken containers, bare feet and paint.

Grant E. Hamilton, “What We Are Coming To: Judge’s Combination Apartment–House of the Future” cartoon from Judge, February 16, 1895 magazine, courtesy of the Maison d’Ailleurs.

New England Journal of Aesthetic Research: Greg Cook checks out Building Expectation: Past and Present Visions of Architectural Future at Brown University (image above). Great illustrations of skyscrapers and transportation. Let's make drawings of the future.


My crone role model: Joan Didion, who recently published Blue Nights, a memoir that examines childrearing, illness, and growing old, was everywhere yesterday. Interviewed on both Leonard Lopate and Terry Gross,  Didion stopped by Paula Cooper for a book signing at the end of the day. She says she never realized she was aging until suddenly she was (gasp) old. I think most artists are the same way.


Sell art books in London?
"You must have the imagination and drive to help transform, a traditional, high end bookshop selling both new and antiquarian art books, into the modern idiom. The right candidate will be encouraged and be expected to take on a significant degree of responsibility. You will be involved in everything from generating sales to the organization of the business. Supervision and delegation of staff and the day to day running of our prestigiousbook shop are all part of this remit."


 Joan Mitchell's last painting, "MERCI," 1992, oil on canvas diptych, 110 1/4 x 141 1/2."

I finished reading the Joan Mitchell bio, Lady Painter, this week. Talk about a high-functioning alcoholic. Thirteen paintings from her final years (1985-1992) will be on view at Cheim & Read through January 4, 2012. Opening reception tonight from 6-8pm.


And, finally,  check out two painters' videos recently submitted to Two Coats TV. Nicole Collins creates a stop-motion animation while she paints (embedded above), and Australian-born, Paris-based Anthony White talks about paintings he made while on a residency in Leipzig, Germany.

Note: Please make videos about your process (crappy phone videos encouraged) and submit them to Two Coats TV!


For more quick links, subscribe to Two Coats of Paint on Twitter.