July 23, 2014

EMAIL: Mike Cloud's shopping list

I recently received an announcement for "Bad Faith and Universal Technique," Mike Cloud's September solo show at Thomas Erben Gallery. Cloud, born in 1974 in Chicago, graduated from Yale MFA in 2003 and is an assistant professor at Brooklyn College. I have met him at the BC final critiques, where he has a gentle and insightful presence, offering resonant comments to each of the students as they presented their projects, but I've never seen any of his work. According to the press release:
Cloud appropriates well known symbols to reexamine historical events or phenomena, exploring the perspective of survivors rather than winners or losers. His paintings break out of the expected format, taking on irregular shapes and sculptural qualities, sometimes leaving the wall and venturing out into the exhibition space.
I was struck by the image (posted above) included with the announcement. Titled Shopping List, Cloud's painting combines two big structures, shaped like Stars of David, with painterly markmaking that seems to reference landscape. The words inscribed denote everyday items that might be on a grocery list, such as milk, cabbage, ketchup, oranges, and honey. In the lower right corner, a small geometric abstraction painted with a rainbow of colors hangs from the main painting.

I'm curious about the rest of the work in the show. Does Cloud explore other forms of religious imagery? Do everyday elements continue to collide with the iconic? What other kinds of text fragments does he use? I'm intrigued--I can't wait to see more of Cloud's work at Erben in September.

"Mike Cloud: Bad Faith and Universal Technique," Thomas Erben, Chelsea, New York, NY. September 11 through October 18, 2014.


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July 21, 2014

Snaps from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

Last week I went to Philadelphia to visit the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where I'll be teaching an MFA Seminar and serving as a Visiting Critic this fall. Program director and painter Clint Jukkala gave me a tour of the school facilities and the museum, and it was a grand one indeed.

[Image: Ashley Wick, Funny Guy, 2014. On display in a curated exhibition of recent graduates.]

July 18, 2014

Otto Piene is dead


According to BBC News, Otto Piene died on Thursday, shortly after the opening of an exhibition of his work at Berlin's Neue Nationalgalerie. He died in a taxi en route to the exhibition where he was working on "More Sky,"  a sky art event that is scheduled to take place tomorrow.

Here's a statement I put together for Artsy a few years ago about Otto Piene:
A founder of the 1960s Dusseldorf group, Zero, Otto Peine (b. 1928) is best known for his paintings made with smoke and fire. Called "Rauchbilder" (smoke pictures), Peine applied solvent to pigmented paper and lit it on fire, developing images in the residual soot. Piene coined the term “Sky Art” to describe his outdoor projects that floated overhead, including Olympic Rainbow, a project created for the ill-fated 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich where eleven 11 Israeli athletes were killed by Palestinian gunmen. For nearly twenty years, Piene served as the director of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and in 2008, with Heinz Mack and Mattijs Visser, he co-founded the International ZERO Foundation to archive documents, projects, and images produced by the famous Dusseldorf collective.
The Guggenheim is planning "ZERO: Countfdown to Tomorrow, 1950s-60s," a large survey of ZERO artists this fall. 
[Image at top: Otto Piene, Rasterbild, 1957-58, oil on canvas, 8 3/4 x 27 5/8 inches. courtesy of Sperone Westwater. Private Collection]

The Proliferation of the Sun, a recreation of a 1967 project is on display in Berlin through August 31. Piene initially developed the project for a small stage in New York at the end of his time with ZERO in 1967, and performed it again that year in Nuremberg, Cologne, and Dortmund.


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July 15, 2014

Art and Fiction: Rachel Kushner’s molten optimism

Guest contributor Jonathan Stevenson / The view that the 1970s were culturally under-appreciated is now so firmly entrenched that they no longer are. With respect to the New York art world, Rachel Kushner’s audacious novel The Flamethrowers, set in 1975, amplifies the point by linking that percolating milieu with the full-boil political scene in Europe, where homegrown terrorism in half a dozen countries made the stateside Vietnam protests, Weather Underground operations, and Black Panther provocations of the 1960s look like high school pranks.

At a time when artists were beginning to realize that action and process could equal content, woman-child Reno heads to the Bonneville Salt Flats to make a land drawing with her motorcycle. She ends up setting the female motorcycle speed record, showing up her male artist friends in New York, whose sexism allows them to acknowledge her feat only with envy and condescension. With the help of her older boyfriend Sandro – a preening Italian artist and heir to Moto Valera, the company that makes her bike and is a Red Brigades target – Reno parlays her niche celebrity into a fledgling career as a filmmaker and photographer. Through Sandro the mysteries of art and the unsettling power of political violence come together. When she and Sandro visit his wealthy (and dysfunctional) family in Italy she asks herself why the Red Brigades’ shoddily drawn pentagram that she sees everywhere seems more threatening than a precisely drawn one. “It was the hand’s imperfection that made it menacing, I decided. But why that was, I didn’t know.” Kushner is deft enough to leave the thought there, as a spur rather than a snare.

Towards the end of this ass-kicking book, Kushner returns to the idea of menace and progress, now represented by the flamethrowing soldier of World War I, which Sandro’s father described to him as “a harbinger of death” when he was a child. “But then his father told him the flamethrowers were a hopeless lot.” The fuel tanks they carried on their backs “were cumbersome and heavy and they were obvious and slow-moving targets and if they were ever caught they were shown no mercy.”

This full disclosure tinges Sandro’s childish reverence for the flamethrowers with pity. Similarly, after their inevitable breakup, hearing the long roster of Sandro’s infidelities throttles Reno’s wistfulness into outright anguish. This is all testimony to how the full range of facts occlude any singular or pristine vision of the world, and thus to the substantial “uselessness of the truth,” which has only taught Reno how not to trust people or impressions. The truth is mainly awful, and mistrust is simply a tool of survival. But Kushner reaches the hard-earned conclusion that, as “a technique for inhabiting the world” and “for not dissolving into it,” making art keeps brighter possibilities of enlightenment alive.


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July 12, 2014

Roberta Smith on "current painting tactics"

In her NYTimes review of Daniel Heidkamp's show at White Columns, Roberta Smith articulates one of the problems she sees with contemporary painting: that artists are playing it too safe.

[Image at top: Daniel Heidkamp ]

She writes:
The three main shows at White Columns form a meditation on current painting tactics. In one small gallery, Patrick Berran very capably meets the demand for Minimalist paintings made by largely hands-off methods — in his case, layers of photocopy transfers dominated by a pattern that reads as leopard skin or moisture condensation, depending on its size. Nearby, Jennifer Nichols works with thin, bright acrylic, creating abstract tumults of transparent brushwork and, more recently, calmer arrangements of letterlike shapes. Both artists show promise, but so far they are operating within fashionable styles rather than making the work that only they can make.
In the large central gallery, Daniel Heidkamp makes paintings that seem fully his own, while doing more than his bit for a wryly self-conscious representational painting. (Other practitioners include Jonas Wood, Dana Schutz, Josephine Halvorson, Leidy Churchman, Aliza Nisenbaum.) He operates with an effortless, loose-limbed flair and even a bit of newness in an area that would seem pretty exhausted: plein-air landscape painting.
 Jennifer Nichols

 Patrick Berran

 Daniel Heidkamp

Smith has a point--a lot of painting these days has a common aesthetic-- perhaps because artists perceive that they are facing a kind of Catch-22. If their paintings aren't aesthetically unusual enough, painters are accused of bowing to trends and ultimately to the market. Last month Jerry Saltz lambasted galleries for promoting artists who produce "brand-name reductivist canvases, all more or less handsome, harmless, supposedly metacritical, and just 'new' or 'dangerous'-looking enough not to violate anyone’s sense of what 'new' or 'dangerous' really is, all of it impersonal, mimicking a set of preapproved influences." On the other hand, if artists make paintings that are too idiosyncratic, galleries and curators are less likely to put their work in exhibitions, and they risk being left outside the current cultural conversation.

What artists may be overlooking is the value of patience. Rather than catering to current biases, emerging artists today might consider simply forging ahead and developing their own vision in the sensible belief that the dialogue will eventually come around to them. Art history proves that it takes time for pioneering artists to win over the critical and collecting communities. The fact that critics are tired of "current painting tactics" would seem to validate a much more personal, less formulaic approach.

Related posts:
Responses to "Zombie Formalism"
Speculating on Andy Boot


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July 8, 2014

Recommended: Summer Group Shows

I love spending summers in NYC. For artists who stick around and work in their studios during July and August,  NYC is one big art party, featuring a slew of group shows, each with openings, closings and often other events in between. Since list-maker Andrew Ginzel is on hiatus until September, I put together this modest linky list of recommended group shows. Please feel free to add more events (with links, please!) in the comments section.

[Image at top: Gerasimos Floratos, Breathing Temple, 2014, oil, acrylic, spray paint, glue & cotton on canvas, 52 x 62 inches. At Novella]

It’s A Small World, But Not If You Have To Clean It curated by James Prez thru 7/20 / R.Jampol / 191 Henry

Let’s Go, Let Go: In Memoriam: Hudson organized by Jane Kim / 33 Orchard / 33b Orchard / thru 7/26 Opening 6/25

Daughter of Bad Girls / Nichtssagend / 54 Ludlow / thru 7/26

Quality of Life: Aliza Nisenbaum; Claudia Cortinez + Carlos Vela-Prado; Daniel Bejar; Ethan Breckenridge; Reka Reisinger / Bosi / 48 Orchard / thru 7/19 Opening 6/19

Color as Structure / McKenzie / 55 Orchard / thru 8/2 Opening 6/20
Sargent's Daughters / Sargent’s Daughters / 179 East Broadway / thru 7/26

Not A Force But A Curvature curated by Ryan Schneider / Novella / thru 7/20 Opening 6/19

Eccentric Abstraction curated by Bill Weiss with David Hayward; Douglas Florian; Leslie Wayne; Mamie Holst; Richard; Allen Morris; Bill Weiss / Frosch and Portmann / 53 Stanton St, New York, NY 10002 / thru 8/3

Marquee Moon: Rachel Beach; John Bianchi; Amy Feldman; Derek Franklin; Ted Gah; Dave Hardy; Toulu Hassani; Benjamin Horns; Tiziano Martini; Augustus Nazzaro; Rita Sobral Campos;  Jamie Sneider; Bas van den Hurk  / Thierry Goldberg / 103 Norfolk / thru 8/15 / opens 7/10

Eric's Trip curated by Cynthia Daignault and Mark Loiacono  with Victoria Fu; Sheila Hicks; David Kennedy-Cutler; José Lerma; Margaret Lee;  Judith Linhares; Rory Mulligan;  Kamau Amu Patton; Nancy Shaver;  and Mathew Zefeldt  / Lisa Cooley / 107 Norfolk Street / thru 8/1

This is what sculpture looks like / Postmasters / 54 Franklin (new location) / thru 8/2

Frameshift: Wendy White; Barry Stone; Pieter Schoolwerth; Erin O’Keefe, Lorne Blythe; Heather Cleary / Denny / 261 Broome / thru 7/20

Rose Wylie, So does everybody, 2014, watercolor and collage on paper, 35 x 25 1/8 inches. At Zieher Smith

All a tremulous heart requires: M.Eichner; I.Ekblad; T.Gahl; J.McAllister; D.Schutz; F.West; R.Wylie / ZieherSmith / 516 W 20 / thru 8/15

Summer invitational: Rick Klauber; Joanne Mattera; Paul Mogensen; Gary Petersen; Sarah Walker / Harris / 529 W 20 - floor 6 / thru 7/25

Show #21: Momento Mori curated by Deborah Brown / Field Projects / 526 W 26th Street, #807 / thru 8/10 / opens 7/10

 Gilfilen and Reid @ Morgan Lehman

Conversations curated by Sharon Louden with David Ryan; Jean Shin; Timothy Nolan; Cody Ryman; Amy Rathbone; Louise Belcourt; Zachary Keeting; Samantha Bittman; Elizabeth Gilfilin; Laurie Reid  / Morgan Lehman / 535 W 22 - floor 6 / thru 8/22 / opens 7/9

Don’t Look Now Joshua Abelow; Gina Beavers; Brian Belott; Katherine Bernhardt; Charles Burchfield; Caitlin Cherry; Ann Craven; Cynthia Daignault; Mira Dancy; Nicole Eisenman; Al Freeman; Ted Gahl; Van Hanos; Daniel Heidkamp; Jamian Juliano-Villani; Nikki Maloof; Keith Mayerson; John McAllister; Torey Thornton / Feuer / 548 W 22 / thru 7/26

New Hells curated by Isaac Lyles with Huma Bhabha; Violet Dennison; Mark Flood; Jason Fox; Jesse Greenberg; Nancy Grossman; Max Klinger; Ajay Kurian; Peter Linde Busk; Rose Marcus; Lionel Maunz; Félicien Rops; Brad Troemel; Jean Veber; Jamian Juliano-Villani; Julia Wachtel; Michael Wang; Ivan Witenstein / Derek Eller / 615 West 27th / thru 8/8 / opens 7/9

 Installation view @ Asya Geisberg

About a Mountain curated by Holly Jarrett / Asya Geisberg / 537b W 23 / thru 8/15

Another Look at Detroit curated by Todd Levin / Boesky / 509 W 24 / thru 8/8

Another Look at Detroit curated by Todd Levin / Marlborough / 545 W 25 - floors 1&2 / thru 8/8 Opening 6/26

Slip / Mitchell-Innes & Nash / 534 W 26 / thru 7/18

On Being Solid: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts MFA Exhibition with Matthew Carrieri; Matthew Herzog; Augustus Hoffman; Alexandra Jo Sutton; Tiffany Tate / Mixed Greens / 531 W 26 / thru 7/18 /opens 7/10 (NOTE: I'll be teaching at PAFA in the fall)

Some Artist’s Artists / Goodman / 24 W 57 – floor 4 / thru 8/22

Never Mind the Bollocks: Summer Invitational / Life on Mars / 56 Bogart / thru 8/10 

Legend Anew / Centotto / 250 Moore  #108 / thru Friday 7/11 / closing reception 7/11


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July 4, 2014

KIPPLE: First-rate intelligence proliferating in Dublin

Philip K. Dick coined the term "kipple" in his 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? to describe the insidious proliferation of man-made trash like junk mail and gum wrappers. In their exhibition at the National College of Art and Design Gallery in Dublin, artists Natasha Conway, Daniel Jackman, Eveleen Murphy, Andrew Simpson, and George Warren have adopted the word to describe the situation in the studio whereby objects materialize and dematerialize, seemingly unbidden. All recent grads, the artists feel a strong affinity to the intimate abstraction produced in the post-war years. They have dedicated the show to Raoul De Keyser, a painter they admire who died during their degree year. The following is a short essay I wrote for their exhibition catalogue.

[Image at top: Eveleen Murphy, Penance, 2014, acrylic on wood, 36 × 41 cms.]

Images: Jessica Weiss

In Jessica Weiss's ruggedly handsome paintings, strange, puppet-like figures emerge and recede from floral wallpaper patterns that are vigorously screen-printed on large-scale canvases. For Weiss, the crowning virtue of these patterns is their aesthetic versatility: they are both abstract and gestural, and also refer to matters beyond the canvas. "Wallpaper, literally a piece of cultural fabric," Weiss says, "has become a major source of both content and formal concerns in my paintings."

 [Image at top: Jessica Weiss, Carnaval, 2013, screen print and acrylic on canvas, 54"x 42"]