March 31, 2014

New art jargon: Overculture

From the press release for William Powhida's second solo show at Postmasters (pictured above):
Overculture 1:
1.a small cultural group (artists) within the larger culture, often affirming the beliefs or interests of the ruling class (collectors).
"The two parties thus engage in an uneasy courtship around unspoken divisions and unacknowledged aspirations, where each seeks the perceived (and performed) freedoms of the other." -David Geers

1. a negative or ambivalent feeling about culture often in relation to socio-economic conditions.

"If art comes from everywhere and everyone thinks differently, why does so much of what we see these days look the same?"
--Jerry Saltz

"We have a great big art world with a lot of stupid people in it. It's just about sales. We don't do negative reviews. We love everything. It's all mainstream. Look at what's out there. I don't think that's good, but that's the way it is."
--Dave Hickey, semi-retired art critic

Recognition of overculture is necessary to avoid misidentifying it as subculture (marked by resistance to ruling class values). Overculture and its capital may be identified as the cultural knowledge and commodities traded between members of the overculture, raising their status and helping differentiate themselves from the majority culture or resistant subcultures.

The sphere of the visual arts has increasingly become associated with overculture in a market-oriented ontology where price functions as the sign of absolute cultural value (Art) that subordinates all other relative cultural values (creative labor). The principle form of judgment in overculture is an expression of capital through the market. Price functions as a single variable for the success (or failure) for the participants in the exchange (artist to collector, seller to buyer, reporter to public).

"The danger here is less that this art promotes an illusory autonomy or cynically concedes to the market than that it reveals the discourse of art as now consisting of nothing but the market."
-- David Geers

Overculture poses significant challenges to the visual arts. It proposes that art no longer has any role in theoretically resisting the 'superior' values of the ruling class and market-orientation has turned it into a closed system of exchange between members that ceases to be relevant to the larger culture.

"Want to see a very big show of very bad art? Sure you do, to be up on present trends in bigness and badness...Gigantic in scale and pipsqueak in imagination, the show must be seen to be properly disbelieved. You'll want to talk about it."
--Anonymous Critic, New Yorker
In-case-you-were-wondering Department:
Because Powhida is primarily known for his pencil drawings of notebook pages, artists speculated that he hired a Chinese paint mill to make the paintings rather than painting them himself, but he told me that all the paintings were made in his studio. "No one individual made any painting except me," he said. "Whitney Kimball and Eric Trosko assisted on the hard edged grid, lines, and color comp."

"William Powhida: Overculture," Postmasters, Tribecca, New York, NY. Through April 19, 2014.

Related article:
Jerry Saltz on Stefan Simchowitz, the Greatest Art-Flipper of Them All
"They bring their skill set, honed on IPOs and flips, to make some fast money, draw attention, and gain social currency. Simchowitz admits it: 'The art world has become the new movie business — it's the new cool ... the de facto definer of social hierarchy in Los Angeles.' There’s a saying in the poker world that, if you don’t know who the sucker is at the table, it’s you. Any gallerist or editor who thinks that Simchowitz puts art first — or is anything more than an opportunistic speculator — is handing him money."

Related posts:
Don't kill Bill: Powhida at Charlie James in LA (2013)
#class demonstrated the unequivocal power of social media...but now what? (2010)


Two Coats of Paint is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. For permission to use content beyond the scope of this license, permission is required.

Update: Moving day

Readers may remember the old studio updates I used to post from an attic in southeastern Connecticut...? For the past two years, I rented the house to a British couple who have finally returned to England. Now I'm in the process of relocating two year's worth of paintings and projects, which I've had stashed in my NYC apartment and various other studio sublets, into the attic of this lovely old house. I'm looking forward to getting some closet space back in the apartment once I move everything up to Connecticut. Posting may continue to be slow until I get everything organized. Please bear with me. And let me know if you want to sublet your NYC (BK or Manhattan) studio this summer.

In the attic, circa 2008.

Two Coats of Paint is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. For permission to use content beyond the scope of this license, permission is required.

March 24, 2014

Rebecca Morgan: Country girl

After earning an MFA at Pratt, unlike many new grads who set up studios in Brooklyn, Rebecca Morgan returned to central Pennsylvania to paint. Back in Appalachia, where drawing skill and porcelaine figurines are especially cherished, Morgan has incorporated these forms into resonant paintings that can hold their own both for a sophisticated New York art audience and for the less privileged patrons of, say, an Appalachian coffee shop.

[Image: Rebecca Morgan, Depression Blanket, 2014, oil and graphite on panel, 28 x 22 inches.]

March 20, 2014

Leslie Wayne: Absorbed and wiped out

In the last few years, much has been made of hybrid paintings that re-purpose canvas and stretcher bars to create sculptural objects. In her solo at Jack Shainman, Leslie Wayne takes a brilliant tangent, presenting small-scale objects made from oil-paint skins that she folds to look like cloths.

Quick study: Pocket Utopia / Hansel and Gretel Picture Garden merger

At Art Fag City Corinna Kirsch let the cat out of the bag reported that Austin Thomas is closing Pocket Utopia on Henry Street at the end of April and merging with Hansel and Gretel Picture Garden. The idea is to combine artist rosters at the HGPG Chelsea location, where Austin will join forces with Jason Vartikar and Sarah Christian to direct the larger gallery. I'm looking forward to the new arrangement, but of course I'll miss 169, the amazing empanadas around the corner, and growlers from the Malt 'n' Mold. (Image: Looking out onto W. 22nd Street from the upper level at Hansel and Gretel Picture Garden and Pocket Utopia)

UPDATE: Upcoming exhibition at HGPGaPU: "Drew Beattie: Betty re:Testers," opening on March 28.

Drew Beattie, I Am the Grasshopper Who Hops into Your Lap and Sings, 2014.


Two Coats of Paint is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. For permission to use content beyond the scope of this license, permission is required.

March 20: Andrew Ginzel's list of NYC shows and events

SOME but not all NYC SELECTED SHOWS TO SEE / March 20, 2014  / Listed south to north. Compiled by artist Andrew Ginzel for his students at the School of Visual Arts. Note: Images have been selected by Two Coats of Paint.

 Joanne Greenbaum @ Uffner

March 13, 2014

ON FILM: Wes Anderson's big picture

Guest Contributor Jonathan Stevenson / Art – especially painting – is an honored cinematic metaphor for culture, particularly as a symbol of civilization under siege. Movies like John Frankenheimer’s somberly gripping The Train (1964) and this year’s less successful The Monuments Men have cast the rescue of art from the ravages of war and the depredations of fascists as a stand for the promise of a better world. With The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson has lent his sly quaintness and offbeat humor to this endeavor, and emerged with a subtly layered picture of history and how it is rendered.

[Image: Boy with Apple, painted by British figurative painter Michael Taylor but attributed to a fictional Flemish master in the film.]

March 11, 2014

Heads and tails: The figure @ Volta

At Volta, the small art fair affiliated with the much larger annual Armory Show, galleries presented a curated exhibition featuring a single artist. I saw an unusual amount of figuration, much of which was highly skilled, bordering on illustration. Although some of the work was more painterly, I wondered if symbolism and narrative were on the rise or whether the members of Volta's curatorial committee simply had a personal preference for the figure. In any case, here are some images of the figurative work at the fair. (Note: I had to take some of the images from Volta's excellent website because halfway through the fair, my camera's memory card became full. Damn those enormous RAW files I took in the studio earlier that day.)

[Image at top: Seth Michael Forman @ Frosch & Portmann, New York]

March 6, 2014

These threads are queer

“Let the threads be articulate.” – Anni Albers
Guest Contributor Clarity Haynes / The wall text at the portal to the exhibition "Queer Threads," currently at the Leslie-Lohman Museum in Manhattan, bluntly states, “Is this work ‘gay?’ You bet.” The show, with its confluence of queer and feminist sensibilities, is the perfect subversive, fuzzy, neon, rainbow, glittery storm. Transgression has never felt so friendly.

[Image at top: Larry Krone, Then and Now (Rainbow Order); 2008; yarn, wood, and hanging hardware; 44 x 39 inches. Courtesy of the Artist and Pierogi Gallery, New York]

March 5, 2014

Loren Munk's world view

We are all in the process of spinning invisible webs, tied together by geography, ideas, cyber connections, and imagery. In "You Are Here," Loren Munk again presents a thought-provoking group of intricate map paintings that illuminate an intimate yet sweeping inter-generational New York art world. Munk's spirited and inevitably subjective work reinforces the notion that we each have a unique point of view and that we all understand and organize facts differently. Artists who have lived in the neighborhoods Munk depicts or participated in the movements he chronicles can't help but look for names of other artists, seeing who makes the cut and who doesn't.

March 4, 2014

March 4: Andrew Ginzel's list of NYC shows and events

SOME but not all NYC SELECTED SHOWS TO SEE / February 15, 2014  / Listed south to north. Compiled by artist Andrew Ginzel for his students at the School of Visual Arts. Note: Images have been selected by Two Coats of Paint.

Donelle Woolford @ Wallspace

March 3, 2014

2014 Whitney Biennial: Curators' statements, painting links

I'm looking forward to the opening of the Whitney Biennial this week because the selection includes a surprising number of painters, including a special nod from Michelle Grabner toward contemporary abstract painting by women. Perhaps reflecting the wide range of approaches artists engage today, the Whitney rejected a team approach and selected three separate curators: Anthony Elms, Associate Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; Stuart Comer, Chief Curator of Media and Performance Art at MoMA; and Michelle Grabner, artist and Professor in the Painting and Drawing Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; to organize their own independent sections of the show. Here are curatorial statements from each, and a list of participating artists with links to most of the painters.

[Image at top: Laura Owens. Courtesy of artist's website.]

Good news: "Some of this work is quite good"

"Right now the 'consensus' is that serious art involves raw canvas, a smattering of paint, possibly an exposed stretcher bar, and a 'who the fuck cares if it looks done' attitude - some of this work is quite good, by the way. The 'context' that this work is presented in is the hippest galleries and art fairs in the world. And collectors who do more listening than looking are lapping it up in large amounts and at absurd prices." Via Steven Zevitas in The Huffington Post.

"Categories are only generalizations; what is important are the specifics of the artwork and the relationships in question." Via Brian Dupont in a new essay responding to the ongoing debate about Provisional/Casualist painting.

Related posts:
The Casualist tendency
Quick Study: Enough already, what's next?

Image courtesy of Utrecht's Art Supply.


Two Coats of Paint is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. For permission to use content beyond the scope of this license, permission is required.

Speaking Deborah Brown's language

For several years, Deborah Brown translated the world around her Bushwick studio into paint. Celebrating the neighborhood's metal scaffolding, makeshift welded architecture, abandoned cars, fenced compounds, and ubiquitous graffiti, Brown's paintings, through her vivid use of color and loose paint handling, evoked French Romantics like Eugene Delacroix and Flemish masters such as Peter Paul Rubens. In her new paintings, on view at Lesley Heller through March 9, Brown appears to have segued from Bushwick to art history, translating old master portraits and historical paintings, like Jacques-Louis David's Napoleon Crossing the Alps, into the robust language of tangled line and vivid color that she developed in the Bushwick paintings.

 [Image at top: Deborah Brown, Napoleon Crossing the Alps , 2014, oil on canvas, 70 x 80 inches]

March 1, 2014

25 hours in New York: Jenny Zoe Casey

Guest contributor Jenny Zoe Casey (Orlando, FL) / Art critic Jerry Salz says that "vampires need to be with vampires." With this vivid advice in mind, I planned my late January hit-and-run to NYC.

It began at the Newark International Airport mid-day Monday, after some creative re-routing for reasons I won't go into. I headed straight for a printmaking workshop run by Fumiko Toda, a wonderful artist who shows with Susan Eley Fine Art and whose work I had seen online. At the workshop, I created several monotypes and experienced a heady mix of nostalgia for art school, some challenges a little out of my comfort zone, and an atmosphere of collaboration and camaraderie. I was thrilled; I love printmaking and share an interest with Toda in combining narrative and abstraction.

[Image at top: Jenny Zoe Casey, Venn, 2012, oil on panel, 18 x 18 inches.]