Contributed by Suzanne Joelson / In Hudson, New York, among the soap shops and home furnishings boutiques are a few galleries where painting thrives, notably John Davis, Jeff Bailey, September, and Galerie Gris. The oldest of the group, John Davis, has shown esteemed painters such as Amenoff, Bradford, and Brickhouse and is first on my list. I’m curious to see what Davis has on display.
In the old carriage house behind the gallery are wondrously awkward and wildly rangy paintings of Linnea Paskow. In Sotterly Visit the paint handling and the image converge to skew gravity. A tiny painting of a blue boy in a lavender box is a reminder of Mantegna’s dead Christ or a peephole into a coffin. These vary in size (from five inches to five feet) and in subject, but thick or thin, fast or slow, Paskow pushes until the image reveals itself.
In the main gallery, Michael David, co-founder of David & Schweitzer Gallery in Bushwick, reconnects scraps of encaustic and paint on slathered canvas. He seems to find reverie in the residue of the isolated artist’s studio. If in Paskow’s work the image wrestles with the material, in David’s work, the material becomes the subject. Slabs of paint on fragmented surfaces reassemble as he builds and breaks through walls and floors. A puddle or a floor rag feels enshrined on the wall.
Where John Davis’s choices run toward paste scratching an itch, the work at Jeff Bailey leans towards precise optical effects–compulsive and proud of it. Jason Middlebrook paints on vertically and horizontally cut tree slabs. Sometimes his geometric patterns are indifferent to the constraint and other times he reiterates it. In the next room Joshua Marsh’s delicate pocket-sized drawings contain worlds. Exultant harmonies are echoed by dread and gloom. Drift seems like a meditation garden built over a burial ground. The ghost is in the pictures, and in my eyes.
Like Middlebrook, Lisa Corinne Davis variously defines and disrupts the contours. At Galerie Gris, her new paintings have less detail and more space than her last show here. The abstract systems propose different ways to order knowledge, in a variety of syntaxes. In Preternatural Engineering she plots a space and the code by which to read it. After a week of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the networks feel like multiple screens describing a disaster, the struggle to map Houston, or gerrymandering and its effects.
I usually end a trip to Hudson with a visit to Henry, a shop that belongs to artist Nancy Shaver and has a shifting relationship to her artwork. Ebullient handcrafted rugs, fabrics, and furniture elude usual categories of taste. They compose an idiosyncratic humanisch thread that runs alongside and often counter to mid-century modernism. In the window of the storefront next to Henry, Shaver, Allyson Strafella, and Maximilian Goldfarb have organized a project called Incident Report Viewing Station. It features the overlooked, and sometimes it both encourages and prevents overlooking. Last month I almost walked by Barbara Ess’s seemingly neglected window but the purposeful positioning of the images arrested me.
One on the floor, one in a corner perpendicular to the street, and one posted to the glass itself. I was lured by the sign saying “KEEP OUT” which appeared on a monitor that now included me upside down as I approached to examine an image taped to the glass of a solarized balloon with eyes that was the kind of big image one gets from low-end equipment. By the time I gazed back at the black cat in my path and across to the cracked mirror that reflected the frame of the shop, my reflected image released me from the tunneling sense of getting lost in a Robbe-Grillet novel. The eyes Joshua Marsh depicts are here conducting my physical interaction with a cool light hand. Who is keeping and who is kept out? The Matisse-like dancing figure in a red disc on a grassy ground is actually a warning for the electrified fence.
While a window display requests the passerby to look in, the sign in the video monitor says Keep Out. The framed photo of the sleek cat lies on the floor and dares us to cross its path. The mirror reflects the frame of the window through which we see it, deflecting even as it enhances a view of ourselves and the world beyond.
This week Incident Report celebrated ten years and 101 installations with a show at September, Kristen Dodge’s year-old gallery. Last month Dodge showed Odessa Straub’s blunt but tender paintings. This week the space feels completely different as body knowledge surrenders to cerebral strategies.
The Duchampian tradition that holds sway in this show is as far as one gets from the gestural romance with authenticity two hours earlier at John Davis. The windows at Incident Report undermine one’s expectations of the street, of window display, and of art presentation.
To find out who did the window you look it up on your cell phone. This changes when the work is seen in the context of an art gallery. The overlooked gets a spotlight.
Coming upon Joan Linder’s dropped grocery bag, spewing bills and junk mail, one knows to look closer. Much closer … until one gets the shivering realization that each document was drawn by hand. It is the detritus of our interface with the system, with the grid. The stuff I most want to ignore is here the subject of Lindner’s manual dexterity, the object of her keen attention. My preference is for work I can read with my body; I prefer somatic to semantic interpretation. Most of what I need to know about Joan Linder’s work I know by looking.
Nearby Taylor Davis’ silver plinth is soft, made of seed-filled lame. It resists its associations with pillow or William Tucker sculpture and seems to mumble “hard, soft, sit, feel, do not touch.”
Due to its size and estranged location, it was hard for Tyler Rowland’s meticulous recreation of the storefront itself to avoid being the centerpiece of the show even if the very notion of centerpiece goes against the low radar aesthetic. He confounds Duchamp’s lesson on context by putting the shovels, hand tools as it were, back into the hardware store, and brings the whole store into the gallery, thereby translating experience into document and then back to experience.
In Hudson the Warren Street sidewalks have handsome slatted wood structures around the garbage cans but the “frame” on the can near Incident Report was missing, so artist Max Goldfarb recreated it. Many IR pieces involve observing the overlooked, and creating the uncanny feeling one has when something familiar seems off.
Goldfarb doesn’t just notice what he sees; he recreates it. This is appropriation’s craft-nerd brother. The ashcan school romanticized the can. Guston brought it subjectivity. Maximilian Goldfarb framed it. Separated from its cosmetic purpose, the recreated frame becomes sculpture. Michael David and Nancy Shaver represent parallel lines in recent art. They both piece elements into a grid of sorts, but David is in the tradition of Pollack, and Shaver that of Jasper Johns. One gets lost in the studio, the other is found in the world.
This afternoon, which began with the assembled grids of Michael David, came full circle to those of Nancy Shaver’s piece in the show at September. Her mix of patterned fabric and lightly painted irregular cubes reveal and reward slow looking. Connections follow from one block to the next, from harmony to dissonance. Her choices of surface and the conversation that ensues in even one piece feel like the threads we follow as we go from show to show.