January 19, 2012

Stopping time: On Kawara and Danica Phelps

On Kawara and Danica Phelps, two single-minded artists obsessed with documenting life, are on view in New York this month. David Zwirner has over 150 of On Kawara's date paintings spanning 1966 to the present (known collectively as the "Today" series) hanging in both galleries, and Brennan & Griffin is presenting Danica Phelps new series, "The Cost of Love."

For the past ten years, using a signature system of brightly-painted stripes, Phelps has charted her income, expenses, and debt. In "The Cost of Love" she focuses on the recent breakup with her longtime girlfriend. Using the court papers and documents from the subsequent financial fallout, Phelps has produced an emotionally fraught series of panels that don't track the passing of time in the same way that her earlier work did, but rather chronicle the phenomenon of loss.

On Kawara, on the other hand, creates calmer, more philosophical paintings that meditate on the nature of human existence. In 1966 he started painting dates, meticulously centering handpainted white, sans serif letters and numbers on monochrome canvases. For the artist, who has made the paintings in more than a hundred different cities, each date evokes a specific location, and a scrapbook with facsimiles of clippings from local newspapers is included in the exhibition. His monk-like dedication is astonishing--I can't imagine making the same painting (give or take the subtle variations) for more than forty years. On Kawara's endeavor is smart and thought provoking, but Phelps works emphatically from emotional necessity.

  Danica Phelps, The Cost of Love (Paragraph 6), 2011-12, gouache, watercolor, and pencil on paper mounted to panel 44 x 26 inches


 Danica Phelps, installation view at Brennan & Griffin

Danica Phelps, The Cost of Love (Paragraph 6), 2011-12, detail.


 On Kawara, installation view at David Zwirner. July 16, 1969--only three years into the project.

 On Kawara, installation view at David Zwirner.

"Danica Phelps: The Cost of Love," Brennan & Griffin, New York, NY. Through February 12, 2012.

 "On Kawara  Date Painting(s) in New York and 136 Other Cities," Zwirner, New York, NY. Through February 11, 2012.

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