November 30, 2012

EMAIL: Art Basel Miami Beach edition

Artist Tony Fitzpatrick, whose work will be on view in the Pierogi section at SEVEN, wins the prize for the most amusing Miami press release. Here it is in it's entirety:

-- Hey--

I'm going to Miami next week....I'm not fond of Art Fairs-- but bidness is bidness......this one is for Art Basel/Miami...and I mean this in the nicest possible way....

 Tony Fitzpatrick, The Art Racket #2, 2012, sollage, size unspecified.


Editor's note: What is SEVEN? SEVEN is an alternative to the big art fairs that take place in Miami every December.A collective comprising BravinLee programs, Hales Gallery, Pierogi Gallery, Postmasters, P.P.O.W, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts and Winkleman Gallery,  SEVEN "looks beyond the art fair model to create a new platform for viewing and acquiring works of art." Note that SEVEN has a new location this year.

Related posts:
New traction for art bloggers evident at Art Basel Miami (2010)
A report from my first trip to Miami: Swimming in pigment (2008)


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November 27, 2012

House party: Q&A with Derrick Quevedo

JOE BUN KEO: Color is an unspoken language, and your work reflects that you’re fluent in it. Can you compare the power of color and shape to that of written and spoken language or overt imagery?

DERRICK QUEVEDO: There are musical intervals that affect us for one reason or another. They are not tied to any particular idea, but they are phenomena in the sense of hearing that stirs us. When notes on a composition are free of association, free in behavior and interaction, they're offered multiple ways to affect us. Words are associative--they have meanings and are stand-ins for particular ideas and distribute particular kinds of information in a particular way. Associations are very powerful, sometimes unbreakable, and often bring an unwarranted element into things. Music is non-mimetic, doesn't need lyrics, doesn't need the notes to symbolize or be associative to make an intended impact. Color is similarly capable. Sometimes you have to lose your sense of things to use your sense of things.

Derrick Quevedo, 5 x 7 x 7, 2012, acrylic on hardboard, 5 x 7 inches.

JBK: The size of your work is intimate, like a daydream. The proportion emits some sort of comfort and ease, as if you can hold it and take it with you, an implied mobility. What is the behind your decision to work in variety of smaller dimensions?

DQ: You know whether you'd rather be at a nightclub or a house party. House parties are more about intimacy; a room to dance closely, a room to talk closely, a room to have sex, and you're with all your favorite people. I'm very much a "house party" painter--I prefer intimate or private relationships. My studio/work spaces have always been small and temporary, my living spaces have typically been small and temporary, and while there's practicality as an artist, there's also practicality as a viewer since the work is meant for intimate, domestic, continued engagements. This type of intimacy is familiar in an age where things are viewed on smartphones and iPads. We can get close with a painting.

Derrick Quevedo, 6.8.23, 2012, watercolor and gouache on paper, 6 x 8 inches.

JBK: To what extent does “art therapy” play in your color associations? Do certain colors and color combinations initiate specific reactions emotionally and psychologically?

DQ: I'm not using yellow because it makes you hungry or anything like that. When I'm talking color I'm talking color and surface interactions; the distribution or direction or vibrancy of a color in relation to another color in relation to another color... its role or effect is never static. I'm interested in a format where a color or even a set of colors (like "Christmas" colors) aren't limited by their associations. Roles aren't assigned to them; they work together to find their roles in their community.

Derrick Quevedo, 8.10.14, 2012, acrylic on hardboard, 8 x 10 inches.
JBK: When you do integrate an image into your color compositions, what justifies the integration? I find that your work aims to focus more on how powerful color is and how it can be the dominant means of communication without using text or clear images.

DQ: It's not intentional. Color comes first, but things just exist sometimes. Forms or direction or combinations of colors on the painted surface might just happen to harmonize with things I find out in the world and it makes sense to let them be playmates if they behave together so well. I wouldn't close myself off completely from allowing paint to mimic things but I'll compromise with paint if color failed to be the recognizable voice. If you happen to see an image and then walk away challenging yourself to notice colors coming from everywhere around you, the colors of the natural world, the manmade world, the imagined world, and sensing the effect that has on you, then I've still done my job once you're engaging in color.

Derrick Quevedo, 8.10.33, 2012, watercolor and gouache on paper, 8 x 10 inches.
JBK: Tell us about what’s next for Derrick Quevedo? Are there any upcoming exhibitions or other creative opportunities?

DQ: I'll be part of "Painting the Periphery," a group exhibition curated by Aubrey Levinthal and including a bunch of great painters, at Millersville University starting December 3rd and running until February 7th. Also, lately in the studio I've been excited about painting surfaces other than paper and panel rectangles. Now you WILL get to see me focus on "painting things." :P

Image at top: Derrick Quevedo, 5 x 7 x 6, 2012, acrylic on hardboard, 5 x 7 inches. Images courtesy of the artist.


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November 24, 2012

Analia Sabon: Slight traumas

In the November issue of ArtForum, Charles Marshall Schultz reviews "Gag," LA artist Analia Saban's first New York solo show, which was at Tanya Bonakdar in October.
Saban's work is grounded in sensual characteristics of tactility and weight, so it's perhaps unsurprising that her subject matter often relates directly to the body. In one piece, Saban casts a king-size bed sheet in white acrylic paint and mounts the flowing form on a large canvas. She does the same in Two Stripe Bath Towel with Tag and Stain-though with the addition of the brown blemish Saban introduces another layer of meaning. It gives the work a sense of personal history beyond any conceptual or formal conceits. The stain, like the pinhole, functions as a kind of wound on an otherwise pristine surface. Saban wants us to notice these slight traumas, perhaps because they stand for a breach of the body, which may itself signify the moment when we become most aware of our physical presence in the world.
  Images:  Installation views, Analia Saban at Tanya Bonakdar.


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Quick study: Forgotten, lost, missed, and sincere

 At Bomblog George Negroponte writes about William Baziotes, an AbEx painter whose work, although included in most major museum collections in his lifetime, is not as well known as that of his contemporaries. "So where is Baziotes in our consciousness today, nearly 50 years after his untimely death and on the centennial of his birth in 1912?  Probably somewhere at the edge of a discussion, respected but lost in the art world reality show of today. There are no astronomical prices by Baziotes recorded at auction. There’s not much critical attention. In a more attentive culture, Baziotes would have been safeguarded from this inexcusable neglect."

Image above: William Baziotes, Dwarf, 1947. Collection Museum of Modern Art. Last exhibited in the AbEx show at Moma.

 I saw the new James Bond movie, Skyfall, yesterday (my new favorite Bond film), and paintings are surprisingly plentiful. One subplot includes a stolen painting that looks very much like a Modigiliani, and in fact, it is. According to BBC News, Woman with Fan, painted by Amedeo Modigliani in 1919 (pictured above), was stolen in May 2010 from the Museum of Modern Art in Paris in a heist that included work by Picasso, Braque, Matisse and Leger. The paintings have never been recovered. (via Judith Bridgland)


Walking from the Upper East Side to Midtown yesterday, I braved the glut of Black Friday tourists to visit a few galleries, only to find that the Baldessari show, a series of new paintings based on fragments of art historical sources, on display at Marian Goodman, had closed on Wednesday.  Note to self: pay more attention to dates. "On one hand I think the older an image is the more it is exhausted of meaning – where it is a cliché," Baldesari said in a 2004 conversation with Ann Goldstein. "It’s dead. Because clichés are dead. I like the idea of playing Dr. Frankenstein and reinvesting the dead, a metaphor, with life again. Because clichés are true – they just have lost their meaning. And I can pump another kind of meaning back into it, but you are still aware of the source and where I’m directing the traffic." The new paintings are inkjet prints, around 100 x 60 inches, overpainted with oil and acrylic. Image above, New Coat of Paint, 2012.


Window display, Upper East Side. I'm sure this isn't meant to be ironic. In his Artschwager review, Scheldahl says "in culture, successful hype is prophetic, and fashion is destiny." Argh.


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And, continuing the debate about sincerity vs. irony:

"on/sincerity," at Boston University's 808 Gallery through December 16. Curated by Lynne Cooney and Liz Munsell. Artists included: Magda Archer, Ivan Aragote, Juan Betancurth, Davis/Cherubini, Charles Gute, Jessica Gath, Kalup Linzy, Institute for Infinitely Small Things, Jesse Kaminisky, Carlos Martiel, Rob Matthews, Anne McGuire, Taylor McVay & Jordan Tynes, Laurel Nakadate, Platform2, William Powhida, Jordan Tynes, Analia Saban, Wayne Stokes, Douglas Weathersby, and Suara Welitoff.

"The theme of sincerity is approached through four fluid narratives to engage a few of the myriad readings of this commonplace yet enigmatic term: Artists who describe their collaborative processes and interactions with materials as both the means and the content of their work; artists whose work serves to build relationships and community through generosity and exchange; artists who employ their own bodies as expressions of intimacy, vulnerability, or the complexity of human relations; and artists who appropriate the manipulative visual languages of mass-media to create self-reflexive forms of communication..."

Image above: Analia Saban, Representation of a Cactus, 2011, acrylic on linen 40 x 40 inches. Courtesy Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

(Thanks @bigredandshiny for pointing out the show)


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November 23, 2012

Walk through: Rosemarie Trockel at New Museum

Thanks to artist Brece Honeycutt, who visited the Rosemarie Trockel show at the New Museum earlier this month and has shared the following report.


Occupying three floors of the New Museum, Rosemarie Trockel's exhibition "A Cosmos" is one of the most surreal and earthy exhibitions currently on view in New York.

Wandering from floor to floor and contemplating the multitude of objects on display, I wondered: Is Trockel asking us to consider what something is--a relic, an actual item, an artwork or a replica? Furthermore, does she ask us to contemplate the longevity of an object on this earth, should it be used, appropriated or discarded?

 Rosemarie Trockel, installation view at the New Museum. Photos courtesy New Museum, Benoit Pailley

Questions abound. By titling some of her ceramic works, Made in China, is she asking us to consider by whom and where an object is made? For example, is the 27.5 pound lobster in the Perspex case real or an enlarged model? At first glance when seen from afar are the pulsating works by Günter Weseler sea anemones? Are the glass pieces by Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka merely imaginary works or perfect renditions of jellyfish? The title of Trockel’s sculpture consisting of a cast leg clad in gray tights with pink flip flop in baroque style glass cabinet might provide a clue—Was ein Ding ist, und was es nicht ist, sind in der Form identisch, gleich”[What a thing is, and what it isn’t, are identical in form the same] (2012).

On the fourth floor Replace Me (2011) holds court amidst her ceramic pieces. Resembling a modern leather couch, with painted plastic cover and wool textile/‘blanket,’ the piece could comfortably sit as furniture in any contemporary loft space. However, would one abandon/replace this for the latest style? Prior to descending the stairs to the third floor the digital print Emission (2012) further begs consideration. Are the images broken pieces of plastic packing that once held something made in China and now discarded, or an inspiration for her ceramic sculptures, or soon to be an archaeological record?

At the foot of the long staircase, one sees a suite of Trockel photographs, From a French Magazine (2005) depicting a woman clad in various garments with grids and stripes. Both geometric patterns reverberate in the crisp wool lines and rows of knitting in Trockel’s textile works. These contrast with the obsessive bundling and wrapping in the sculptures made by Judith Scott. Trockel’s pieces harmonize with Scott's, and both accentuate the patterns in the garments.

Venturing down to the second floor, one steps into a “wunder cabinet” and walks amongst Trockel’s works as well as those of other invited artists--- Morton Bartlett, James Castle, Ruth Francken, Manuel Montalvo and Günter Weseler. The art works may be contemplated one on one, for instance Ruth Francken’s Four and Seven (1969), but more importantly in context and as a whole with the other works. Two Perspex vitrines hold center stage and are filled with curious objects made by Trockel and her invitees. One cannot help but think of Damien Hirst’s glass and steel works; however, Trockel’s collaborative juxtapositions, more conceptually complex, blow them out of the water.

Around the corner, Trockel’s slide piece, Park Avenue (2006/11), flickers on the wall next to her beautifully rendered works on paper entitled Mechanical Reproduction (1995). The slides show leaves, roots, flowers arranged, singularly and in groupings. While watching the images, I wondered had Trockel walked Park Avenue and gathered cast-off plants discarded by urban gardeners? The current practice of disposable gardening—replacing viable plants seasonably, i.e. mums to poinsettias to violets---provides materials for others. Turning back to the vitrines, one sees slides scattered on the ground in her collaboration with Günter Weseler, Living Means to Appreciate Your Mother Nude (2001).

The abundance of images and elements from the natural world abound in this exhibition: the large shell of the crab, the stuffed birds, the drawings of plants and insects by Trockel and other naturalists. The handmade objects---James Castle’s birds, Weseler’s baby, Bartlett’s dancers, Blaschka glass jellyfish, Trockel’s red ceramic piece Touchstone (2012)--resemble and echo the “real” world, but at the same time stand alone as things unto themselves.

“The only thing I can do, I think," Trockel says, "is to try and work out my own idea of the world or of art (they are identical for me) with whatever curious things are at hand.”

---Brece Honeycutt

"Rosemarie Trockel: A Cosmos," New Museum, New York, NY. Through January 20, 2013.


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November 21, 2012

We never know what we don't know: Q&A with Joyce Conlon

JOE BUN KEO: Your work is about accumulation and peeling away, the creation of a visual trail. I love the reference to palimpsest. It’s archival. It’s archaeology. What’s your reaction to the idea that you’re creating your own history within your work?

JOYCE CONLON: Great question! I spent time working as an archeologist. I am very aware that I am creating my own history within the work. I enjoy looking back at older work in search of common threads. About 10 years ago I made a drawing of some coiled up fencing material. I loved the way the similar square shapes were altered as they curled around and overlapped themselves. About 5 years later an antique wire fence became the inspiration for an entire body of work. The paintings go through so many stages from start to finish. Often, they have been exhibited in a different form more than once before being realized in their final state. One painting and a recent show were named Time Lapse, a reference to what is left on the surface after all those layers of history have been compressed into one.

Joyce Conlon, Camouflage, 2012, acrylic on rag paper mounted on wood panel, 30 x 44 inches.

JBK: You’re creating a past and displaying the present. Your work acts as point of departure for time travel. If I had DeLorean, what would you want me to take away from traveling through all the layers and patterns of your work?

JC: I would have you take away a taste of something familiar and yet previously unseen. James Elkins has said that "painting is liquid thought." I believe painting, like literature, gives us metaphors for understanding our own reality.

Joyce Conlon, Cover Up, 2012, acrylic and oil on canvas, 24 x 24 inches

Joyce Conlon, Jalan-Jalan, 2009, acrylic on wood panel, 24 x 24 inches

JBK: The act of adding on and building up only to scrape off and reveal previous marks creates an understood endurance, tension, and conflict. There’s never one refined image, but rather a compressed offering of many visible trials and tribulations. There’s a back and forth and it requires so much patience. How do you handle this?

JC: Having a sense of humor helps. I spend a copious amount of time sanding and painting over things. It is not a very efficient process. Earlier marks are altered when sanding or scraping reveal them anew just as they are changed by being painted over. In addition to patience I think optimism and forgiveness are invaluable. The image, such as it is, emerges from an application of marks that make sense out of what has preceded.

Joyce Conlon, Time Lapse, 2012, acrylic on rag paper mounted on wood panel, 22 x 30 inches

JBK: Colors, patterns, forms and shapes, all overlap and veil each other, but also unveil. You play with privacy and publicity, delving into the world of “under paintings” and cover-ups. Are you intentionally masking over the progression, or is your goal to show everything that has lead up the image before us?

JC: It's a little of both. The colors, patterns, and shapes are sometimes related and sometimes opposed. As the surface is built up and reduced those relationships shift and reveal others. It's a game of hide and seek. If visual art is about perception then what is the other side of that; blindness? What is under that rock? I have been thinking about how we never know what we don't know. My current show is called Camouflage after a painting of the same name and it refers to the illusion that is inherent to paint on a surface and the mystery it creates.

Joyce Conlon , Ungulates, 2012, acrylic and oil on wood panel, 24 x 24 inches

JBK: Tell us about what’s next for Joyce Conlon? Are there any upcoming exhibitions or other creative opportunities?

JC: I currently have a show of 28 paintings up at the East Wing Art Gallery at Mt. Wachusett Community College in Gardner, MA through November 21 and another at the Oxbow Gallery in Northampton, MA in November 2013. In December, I will be part of an international collaborative printmaking exchange with five visiting artists from Montenego that takes place at UMass-Boston and culminates in a show at the Harbor Gallery there. I am also looking forward to creating a series of prints with master printer, Peter Pettengill at Wingate Studio in Hinsdale, NH.

Joyce Conlon, Uphold, 2012, acrylic and spray paint on wood panel, 16 x 20 inches
Image at top: Joyce Conlon, Bilateral, 2009, acrylic on wood panel, 48 x 48 inches. Images courtesy of John Polak.


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Humor vs. irony

Blogging at the NYTimes last week, Princeton French prof Christy Wampole, assailing the hipster mentality, suggested that our culture needs to move beyond irony.
Moving away from the ironic involves saying what you mean, meaning what you say and considering seriousness and forthrightness as expressive possibilities, despite the inherent risks. It means undertaking the cultivation of sincerity, humility and self-effacement, and demoting the frivolous and the kitschy on our collective scale of values. It might also consist of an honest self-inventory.
 Then, at Hyperallergic, Kyle Chayka suggested that irony is, in fact, a good thing, especially for art.
[I]rony is a less direct, more complex method of communication than superficial honesty or transparency might prove to be. But there’s a responsibility and a weight to that complexity and the choice to use it, and that weight, its particular emotional spin, can sometimes prove useful, in life as well as in art.
He cites Warhol's Marilyn, Richard Artschwager, and recent paintings by Amy Feldman and Tatiana Berg as examples of how artists are making complex, slippery statements that may be both sincere and ironic at once.
I guess I no longer understand the line between irony and non-irony, between sincerity and sarcasm. Maybe instead, it’s just an aesthetic continuum, where sincerity can continue to have its lofty perch at one end of the spectrum and the blackest of morbid humor can anchor the other? It would be more fun that way.
When he mentions "the blackest of morbid humor" Chayka is getting at an important idea. Artists who amuse themselves and their audiences are not necessarily engaging in irony, although that may be a component. Instead of using the blanket term "irony" then,  we should (if compelled to attach a label) start thinking more specifically about the type of humor, and combinations thereof, that artists are deploying. The label "ironic" flattens the dialog, draining the work of richness and complexity. Some other categories to consider:  slapstick, whimsy, dirty, droll, morbid, deadpan, farce, caustic, self-deprecation, satire, parody, sophomoric...

BONUS VIDEO: Art21 did an episode on Humor in 2003. Here's a video by Charles Atlas that they used in the intro, featuring comedian Margaret Cho explaining Aristotle’s “Theory of the Four Humors."

 Image at top: Norman Rockwell (American, 1894–1978). The Tattoo Artist, 1944. Oil on canvas, 43 1/8 x 33 1/8 in. (109.5 x 84.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the artist, 69.8


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November 20, 2012

" A painting is worth looking at when I feel an intense curiosity about every decision that has gone into its making."

At The Silo Raphael Rubinstein writes about Shirley Jaffe's paintings. "While so many contemporary works of art seem to develop through closing off choices or sticking to a initial plan, Jaffe proceeds by keeping every option open until the last possible moment. And even once the painting is finished, a sense of dizzying complexity and joyous invention sustain this openness. For me, I usually know a painting is worth looking at when I feel an intense curiosity about every decision that has gone into its making. That’s how I feel in front of Jaffe’s work: tantalized by countless questions, patiently waiting for the painting to “answer” them, even as new curiosity-inducing relationships keep surging up, prolonging to apparent infinity this perfect fusion of thinking and looking."

Shirley Jaffe, The Gray Phantom, 2009, oil on canvas, 80 by 78 inches. Installation at Galerie Gerta Meert, Brussels, 2011-2012.

Related posts:
Postwar occupation: American painters in Paris

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Chicago's Midway Art Fair: A model for fostering art communities?

Still in its honeymoon phase, Chicago’s Midway Art Fair (MDW) – a collaborative effort between Public Media Institute (PMI), Document, Roots & Culture, and threewalls – showcases alternative spaces and independent artist-run collaborations. Earlier this month,  Mana Contemporary, hosted MDW in their converted warehouse space, with nearly 75 organizations participating, including 20 publications and a handful of performances. Much of the painting spoke in a highly uniform formal language, with resounding exceptions of Teresa Albor’s performative “100 Paintings in 24 Hours,” which is exactly what it states, as well as Anna Kunz’s “HONK IF YOU LOVE PAINTING,” a public art piece on view at Terrain last winter.

Fun with art. In the background, a few of many Morgan Sims on view at MDW.

Albor at work. In terms of mission of the fair, the most promising ventures were ACRE (Artists' Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions) and Terrain, a public exhibition space. ACRE ran a highly-curated booth, but the set-up was inviting and informative. Volunteers were eager to converse with fairgoers while serving coffee and food, and wall text explained the various projects on display. Terrain’s booth was less formal than some of the others, with tables made from OSB and 2 x 4 planks holding relics from and documentation of a variety of past installations. In both instances, the spaces participated as exhibitors with an intent to inform fairgoers, not just show work.

Installation view,  ACRE. 

Nicholas Wylie, co-Director of ACRE, talks about the residency and curatorial programs.

HONK! After the fair, I was able to spend some time at Terrain to chat with Sabina Ott, founder of the project. She was hosting the opening for “Ben Roethlisberger Trade Rumors,” an installation by Ben Fain. An art professor at  Columbia College Chicago, Ott has a vested interest in providing a space for artists – emerging, midcareer, and otherwise – who might not have much exposure. All installations take place in the front yard of her private home, sometimes spilling onto the porch, facilitating interaction between an artists' work and the general public. Located  across the street from an elementary school, Ott says the children and parents both enjoy the project. Back in Detroit after my weekend trip to Chicago, a fellow student mentioned they were unsure of what purpose projects like Terrain really serve.

Many students, artists, and educators remain skeptical of the benefits of running an alternative space. As a graduate student set to enter the job market next spring, I think a lot about what I’ll be doing in six months. Projects like ACRE and Terrain are, in so many ways, the future for emerging artists, and I’m reminded of an excerpt from Claire Bishop’s Artificial Hells:
The dehierarchising rhetoric of artists whose projects seek to facilitate creativity ends up sounding identical to government cultural policy geared towards the twin mantras of social inclusion and creative cities. Yet artistic practice has an element of critical negation and an ability to sustain contradiction that cannot be reconciled with the quantifiable imperatives of positivist economics. Artists and works of art can operate in a space of antagonism or negation vis-à-vis society, a tension that the ideological discourse of creativity reduces to a unified context and instrumentalizes for more efficacious profiteering.
MDW reminds me of what might be possible in other cities with no major arts community, let alone identity, to speak of. Ten years ago Chicago was struggling and, with the help of organizations like PMI and threewalls, is in the process of becoming an art hub of its own. Despite the fact that the event is classified as an “art fair,” selling work is not its central purpose, and most complaints about this seem to be an issue of semantics. Maybe organizers should drop “fair” from the event name altogether. Even with all the work left to be done – many fairgoers commented on unpainted walls, braided wires hanging from ceilings of most booths, and work shown that seemed homogenous – part of the burden is on the Chicago art scene itself in terms of what work will be shown.

Thus MDW is, in my opinion, off to a compelling start. A huge strength of cities like Chicago and Detroit is that they have the capacity to develop rich artistic identitie, fostering alternative spaces that provide a home for niche communities that allowing artists to take control of their practices – it's the "dehierarchising" that Bishop describes. Events like MDW serve an important purpose for artists who aim to remain, in some capacity, independent from greater art markets in NYC and LA. Learning from and working with each other to create alternative spaces is difficult in places like Chicago and Detroit, especially with few networking opportunities outside of academia. In its current iteration, MDW is a successful jumping off point for Chicago artists to make connections and continue developing a solid community. In the past, Detroit has looked after Chicago for ideas – for instance, a Community-Supported Art (CSA) program was founded in the city last year, a project begun at threewalls. With any luck, events like MDW will soon emerge in Detroit to support the burgeoning alternative arts community.

Note: Images by Ethan Tate and Molly Brandt.


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November 16, 2012

Artists as curators: Brooke Moyse

Continuing the "Artists as Curators" series this week, let's look at "The escape from the banal of everyday life to the world of the ideal," an exhibition at NURTUREart curated by Brooke Moyse, a Brooklyn-based abstract painter known for vivid color and casual landscape imagery. Moyse begins her essay, which seems like it could be used as a statement about her own work, with a wonderful poem from painter Dorothea Tanning's recent book of poetry Coming To That:


If Art would only talk it would, at last, reveal
itself for what it is, what we all burn to know.

As for our certainties, it would fetch a dry yawn
then take a minute to sweep them under the rug:

certainties time-honored as meaningless as dust
under the rug. High time, my dears, to listen up.

Finally Art would talk, fill the sky like a mouth,
clear its convulsive throat while flashes and crashes

erupted as it spoke—a star-shot avalanche of
visions in uproar, drowned by the breathy din

of soundbites as we strain to hear its august words:
“a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z.”

Jonathan Allmeier

Maria Walker
Tamara Gonzales
 The title of this exhibition, however, is taken from painter Charles Burchfield’s sketchbook. Moyse writes that
Burchfield worked in relentless pursuit of the elusive center of his artistic practice. His sketchbooks are filled with elaborate notes and codes, which he would deliberately refer to in crafting his surrealistic landscape paintings. Burchfield’s paintings and drawings are unique in that they do not fit into conventional formal categories. They are simultaneously surreal, abstract, and representational descriptions of the natural world. The sincerity of his marks make it difficult to know if he thought that he was fabricating environments, or if he believed that he was painting from life. These fantastical landscapes gave Burchfield a framework through which to investigate his true subject: the ability of a work of art to transcend the constrictions of its own physicality. 
Presenting uncharacteristic work by abstract artists Jonathan Allmeier, Tamara Gonzales, EJ Hauser, Stephen Truax, and Maria Walker that is conceptual, formal, and sincere all at once, Moyse is interested in the objects' history, the mark-making, and the way that the artists combine the two to create powerful new experiences, linking the late 19th-century Symbolist movement, mysticism, and transcendental experience to recent approaches in abstraction. Moyse continues, suggesting that
American artists who were interested in mysticism at that time often used nature as a departure point in exploring those ideas. Many artists, like Arthur Dove or Georgia O’Keefe, gradually moved on from nature into formal abstraction as their interests in the occult and mysticism became essential source material for their paintings. The intuitive and non-representational nature of formal abstraction lent itself to the investigation of the more personal (rather than institutional) type of spirituality that these artists were considering at the time. The new form of art thus became more about exploring the human mind and the role of the artistic object towards deepening our understanding of it, than about literally telling a story. The first half of the 20th century was an incubator for the formal and ideological developments of abstract art, introducing concept and notions that would become establishment by the 1960s. While the critical establishment was preoccupied by the formal elements of abstraction, the artists who were exploring it were primarily interested in its power for conveying a transcendental experience.

The subsequent years of modernism and post-modernism have changed the way that we experience art. Our relationships with images and with objects have evolved as these things become more disposable and less precious in this age of excess and remote living. Digital reproduction has helped to make the impossibility of creating an original image increasingly obvious. However, the great secret behind this notion is the knowledge that it has always been the case, and that there probably has never been an original image, since it all first appeared in nature. What makes this time interesting for art and for abstraction in particular, is the way that abstract gestures have become less precious and more colloquial. Companies like Apple have brought modern design into mainstream life, causing those lines to become more familiar and prevalent in places like street signs or web design. This attention to form and design affects the way that we interact physically with the art object, and perhaps even what that experience means, since looking at a painting is a uniquely slow and meditative interaction.

“I’ve always felt with her a sense of common purpose, ambition and predicament: that painting should engage an urgent sense of responsibility to life in this moment, yet with no roadmap for how to even begin, there is a void which begs the question: what is real? What can be made vivid? What is the cost of launching oneself into this act against all odds of making it new and vital?”
--Jacqueline Humphries on Charline von Heyl for Tate Liverpool exhibition

The artist Jacqueline Humphries’ observation of the inherent impossibility of making a “new and vital” image in art directly reflects not only the digital age’s wealth of resources, but also the always-present weight of art history. Charline von Heyl is an example of an artist who does not discriminate between sources or influences. She has a deep and varied body of work that is at once current, ancient, and futuristic. In a 2010 interview with Shirley Kaneda for BOMB Magazine, von Heyl states that “What I’m trying to do is to create an image that has the iconic value of a sign but remains ambiguous in its meaning. Something that feels like a representation but isn’t. Something that looks as if it has a content or a narrative but hasn’t. Something that is kind of hovering in front of the painting instead of just being it.”

Von Heyl is talking about the desire to somehow present or create a vital and authentic experience that balances between having no roots, and remaining deeply integrated with all aspects of history and culture. Additionally, the idea of creating an image that hovers in front of the painting reflects the timelessness and spacelessness of the Internet, and brings us back to the non-linear commonality between it and art history.
Moyse concludes that the work she has selected has a similar authenticity and reflects
both the sincerity of ambition and the pointed power and presentness where Charles Burchfield intersects with Charline von Heyl. The power of the work is located in that ambiguous experience between the viewer and the painting in which the image attempts to transcend its objecthood (thus “hovering in front of the painting”). In bringing these artists together, I hope to facilitate such an experience of groundlessness in the gallery, as boundaries between new and old, virtual and real disappear to reveal something similar to Burchfield’s vibrating auras.
Stephen Truax

EJ Hauser
"The escape from the banal of everyday life to the world of the ideal," curated by Brooke Moyse. NURTUREart, Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY. Through November 30, 2012. Check out Art Blog Art Blog for installation images.

Related posts:

Artists as curators: Christopher Joy
Artists as curators: Stephen Truax 
Dear Tamara, and other letters about art
Hyperallergic, Jason Andrew, Brooke Moyse, and me


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Student report: Highlights from Brooklyn College Open Studios!

MFA Open Studio season is upon us, and since Brooklyn College is at the bitter end of the 2/5 lines, only the adventurous tend to make the trip. Our group is diverse (I'm in the class of 2013), with plenty of individual voices; these samples, an attempt to highlight the dialogue and cross-pollination taking place between students, are mostly works in progress. For readers who didn't make it out there, here are a few highlights.
Anna Hoberman
Anna Hoberman
Alexander Doolan
Alexander Doolan
Christina Malfitano
Christina Malfitano
Sasha Spare
Sasha Spare
Jeannine Bardo
Mitch Patrick
Mitch Patrick
John Ros
Dallas Ownes
Linda Lee Nicholas
Kate Ostler
Julie Paveglio
Caitlin Clifford

Related post:
MFA Open Studios @ Brooklyn College and Parsons


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