April 1, 2015

Jack Davidson: Snippets and memories

Jack Davidson’s paintings are humble, from their mid-scale size and lightweight stretcher bars to their enigmatic lowercase titles. The paint handling is purposefully inconspicuous, like the uninflected voice of a realist novelist. Davidson wants to show what happens when a painter refrains from using all the jaw-dropping tricks we associate with paint. No sfumato or chiaroscuro, no pentimenti, no scraping, squeegying or thick repainting, no veiled glazes or mimesis. Just shape, line, and color. it's as if once he decides what to paint, he puts the paint on the canvas with little fuss. Davidson has a minimalist’s restraint: he doesn’t want to transform the paint into something other than what it is. Yet the color is pronounced, hovering on the border between bold seventies graphics, eighties pomo design, and Easter pastel.

[Image at top:  Jack Davidson, i want to lead the sporting life, 2014, oil on canvas, 45x63.75 inches.]

March 31, 2015

March 31: Andrew Ginzel's list of NYC shows, opening and events

SOME but not all NYC SELECTED SHOWS TO SEE / March 31, 2015  / 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.

[Image at top: William Eckhardt Kohler @Brian Morris]

March 30, 2015

Studio update: Preston Hand Built

Having settled into my new studio at 55 Washington Street in DUMBO, I've started a batch of new work, none of which is ready to share yet. Moving from sublet to sublet for the past five years, I've come to expect a few unproductive weeks every time I move into a new space, though often that uncertain transient feeling has eventually borne fruit in my work. Now that I have signed a three-year lease (thanks to the Two Trees Cultural Space Subsidy Program), the relative stability will inevitably affect my art practice.

 My new neighbor Jared Preston

The biggest change so far has been that I've decided to use stretched canvases for the large-scale paintings. As luck would have it, Jared Preston – woodworker, art handler, all–around studio assistant and nice guy – has opened a new stretcher-building company, Preston Hand Built, at 20 Jay Street, not too far from my studio. Last week he delivered five stretchers (pictured at top) made from kiln-dried basswood. Most of Preston's stretcher bars (and trainers, too) use a two-part construction with meshed-tooth joinery that ensures dimensional stability, and he uses a ingenious fastening system that holds miter joints tight when expanded without those little wood keys. If you need stretchers, I highly recommend him.

Stay tuned for images of new paintings in the near.


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March 27, 2015

Surface prep at Centotto: Dunlap, Mahler, D’Acunto, DaWalt

Guest contributor Jonathan Stevenson / “Something Naught,” the new group show at Centotto, Paul D’Agostino’s redoubtable Bushwick salon, gathers four abstract artists who take very different approaches to resolving surfaces. The fact that surfaces themselves have aesthetic value in paintings sets painting apart from, say, digital work. So deciding how to exploit the surface of a painting to establish and convey content is key to realizing that painting’s full expressive potential. D’Agostino, with this clever selection, offers a trenchant visual essay on the full range of conventional strategies, variations thereon, and more experimental approaches.

[Image at top: Christopher Dunlap. Dunlap's solo show "Deep Space / Shallow Grave," opens tonight at GCA  in Bushwick.]

Answers to the Spring/Break quiz

One submission to the Spring/Break Quiz included this fantastic jpeg, and the answers have also been added to the original post here. I had a tie: two artists (you know who you are!) submitted all the correct answers. Thanks, everyone for participating. 


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March 24, 2015

On Kawara: Carpe Diem


Little about On Kawara’s life is evident from looking at his work. Much of his exhibition at the Guggenheim consists of compilations of journal-like data, which unfold like life itself – one day at a time.

[Image at top: "On Kawara—Silence" at the Guggenheim. Installation view. All images courtesy of the museum.]

March 20, 2015

The Asymmetric Armory Show

Guest contributor Jonathan Stevenson / The Modern section of the Armory Show was like an unruly museum-quality exhibition, showcasing one anointed (and usually dead) artist after another, but in no particular order. If that dispensation fell short of framing the artists’ work as respectfully or systematically as some might have liked, it did make for a gratifying kind of treasure hunt.

After (or before) beholding a wall of Picasso etchings and prints or a couple of big Jim Dines (who got a lot of love this year), turn a corner and find a solitary little Morandi gem (pictured above), a brace of serene Lee Krasner gouaches and watercolors, a titanic Georg Baselitz, a Diebenkorn and a Frankenthaler on angled facades, an array of Imi Knoebels, a tandem of cool Lewitt aquatints, several opaque Milton Avery landscapes, Doves and Hartleys. Pause in the middle aisle and pick a vector, then point and walk to a pair of signature Stella paintings or a magnetically odd 1959 Alfred Leslie canvas that insists on perusal. The Modern section is such a pleasure, it's no wonder Frieze New York, which takes up residence on Randall's Island in May, has announced the introduction of "Spotlight," a section dedicated to work made in the 20th century. At "Spotlight" Frieze promises a series of solo shows that offer a "fresh look" at works by under-appreciated artists.

Starting with the Modern stuff, though, set up the Contemporary section to disappoint – at least as far as painting was concerned. This year – except, it seemed, for Alex Katz’s work – there was not much interesting painting. Conceptually overloaded work trying too hard to capture the world’s celebrated complexity crowded it out. Perhaps fittingly, most of those paintings that were on view seemed besieged, lurching between dispirited and desperate. The dearth of prepossessing painting, of course, also made it relatively easy to zone in on the paintings that were truly outstanding – another Baselitz, and enterprising but neatly contained work by artists like Mark Francis, Anne Nieukamp, and Janaina Tschape

Anne Nieukamp @ Valentin

 Mark Francis @ Kerlin


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March 19, 2015

Alien terrain at Storefront Ten Eyck

Guest contributor Peggy Cyphers / “New Narratives,” a large group show of recent representational painting at Storefront Ten Eyck, includes KK Kozik’s Orion’s Belt, an image of a traditional farmhouse, covered in snow and illuminated by a deliciously starry blue-black sky. Kozik is known for creating quasi-surreal scenarios, full of sardonic humor and mystical imagery. I first saw her paintings two decades ago at Bill Maynes in Soho and was struck by the range of subject matter – suspiciously silly groupings of objects, scenes and figures. Her stories, although often indecipherable, continue to verge on the mystical, stirring up peculiar childhood memories and nostalgia.

[Image at top: KK Kozik, Orion's Belt, oil on linen, 46 x 57 inches.]

March 14, 2015

Political violence and abstraction: Suzanne McClelland

Recalling Warhol’s 13 Most Wanted Men project, which debuted controversially at the 1964 World’s Fair, Suzanne McClelland in “Call With Information,” her latest show at Team Gallery, continues her series about a kindred subject: Americans citizens wanted by the government for domestic terrorism. For the past several years McClelland has been compiling information about seven US citizens, each wanted for domestic terrorist activities; some have been on the lam for more than fifty years. Silkscreened images of wanted posters, cut and embedded in paper pulp made during a residency at Dieu Donné, and copies of news reports (filed into dossiers for each missing person) form the basis for the work in this compelling exhibition that, unlike much recent abstraction, weds gestural painting with political content.

March 8, 2015

Channel surfing with Tomas Vu

I was watching House of Cards last night, Season 3, Episode 3--the one in which the coarse and cagey Russian President Petrov makes a state visit to the White House. At one point (spoiler alert) , before his relationship with the Underwoods goes south, Francis gives Petrov a gift of an exquisite, one-of-a-kind surfboard, telling him it was made by "Tomas Vu, a very talented American artist." I sat up, wondering if it could be the same Tomas Vu I met during a meeting at Columbia a few weeks ago. I immediately friended Vu on Facebook, and sure enough, images of the scene were displayed on his timeline.

So here's a bit of backstory: Vu has been at Columbia, where he holds a LeRoy Neiman Professorship in Visual Arts and also serves as the Artistic Director of the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies, since 2008. Born in Saigon in 1963, his family moved to El Paso when he was ten and he graduated from Yale's MFA program in 1990. According to his website, when he was a young boy, Vu lived in China Beach in Da Nang, site of one of the largest American air bases during the Vietnam War. He made money taking care of surfboards for American GIs, whose fondness for surfing was immortalized in Apocalypse Now. "You either surf or fight," Robert Duvall's Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore told his men as combat raged and the waves rolled into China Beach.

Here's an excerpt from Vu's website:
One GI in particular took a liking to him, and introduced him to the Beatles. The modern technologies that made this man into a literal killing machine also allowed him to play the Beatles for a young boy from half a world away, changing Vu’s life and giving the GI a sense of personal redemption. This inherent tension of technology – its possibility to both enhance and destroy life – was apparent to Vu at a young age, and is the inspiration for his surfboards. 
Vu’s imagery describes a dystopian vision of our future, an epic clash between man and machine, nature and technology, which he sees as the defining tension of our modern era. His drawings are burned multiple times onto the surface of the boards through the mechanized process of laser cutting, and their meanings and implications shift as they do.
Complicating this further are the Beatles songs with which the imagery is paired. Although the Beatles often explicitly protested “deeper meaning” being projected onto their works, the songs have become transcendent and universal. The songs are laser cut onto the boards at variable speeds and depths, with the lyrics often repeating and overlapping. Much like the possibilities for meaning created by the layering and repeating of drawings, the words lose their sense of narrative and context and are opened up to a wholly new set of implications.
By using a surfboard as his canvas, Vu forces these works back into the world. Just as the imagery will continue to mutate in the mind of the viewer, the boards will literally change, picking up history as they are used. The surfboards are modeled on the alaia, a pre-20th century Hawaiian surfboard that was traditionally between 7 and 12 ft long and made from koa wood. Vu’s boards, like many modern alaias, are constructed from paulownia wood rubbed with linseed oil. They are produced using natural material shaped with human hands, and are thus variable and imperfect. By using a mechanical, computerized tool to mark a surfboard made of natural materials and shaped by the human hand, these works hint at the redemptive potentiality of technology.
 Tomas Vu, Why don't we do it in the road, front, paulownia wood rubbed with linseed oil. This piece isn't the one featured on HOC, but it's from the same surfboard series, which he's been making since 2011.

 Tomas Vu, Why don't we do it in the road, back.


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March 7, 2015

Quick study: Mini fair, the Triennial, Saltz gets the boot, Edith Schloss, end of ART BLOG ART BLOG

If you want to support artists but can't face visiting 199 booths in one go at a mega-fair like the Armory, I recommend stopping by Salon Zürcher on Bleecker Street (image above) where gallerist Gwenolee Zürcher always invites a handful of galleries to mount exhibitions in her space during fair week. This year galleries include Jiali (Beijing, China), Makebish (New York, NY) Novella (New York, NY), ON/gallery (Beijing, China) THEODORE: Art (Brooklyn, NY) Vane (Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK), and, of course, Zürcher Gallery (New York, NY). 


"Surround Audience," the New Museum's Triennial opened recently. Co-curated by Lauren Cornell and artist Ryan Trecartin, the exhibition, which bills itself as predictive rather than retrospective, asks these questions: What are the new visual metaphors for the self and subjecthood when our ability to see and be seen is expanding, as is our desire to manage our self-image and privacy? Is it possible to opt out of, bypass, or retool commercial interests that potentially collude with national and international policy? How are artists striving to embed their works in the world around them through incursions into media and activism? In an insightful, positive review at Art News, Andrew Russeth reports that "there is no retrograde abstract painting and very little postminimal sculpture. There is visual delectation but no spectacle. The works they do include—about 150—are, on the whole, expertly installed. There’s no room to spare, but nothing feels crowded." Sounds like a must-see.  Read more. [Image above: Avery Singer, Untitled, 2015.]


At Hyperallergic Weekend Thomas Micchelli writes about the lively Edith Schloss retrospectve organized by Jason Andrew, at Sundaram Tagore Gallery (install image above, runs through March 28). "These paintings give off a heat commensurate with the inspired abandon of their creation. Modest in scale, they trade Abstract Expressionism’s existential struggles for an unadulterated rapture in the presence of daily life and the legacies of culture. Taken together, they embody the elusive gift bequeathed by the postwar generation to the rest of us — freedom." I wrote about Schloss in 2013 when one of her paintings was featured in "To Be A Lady," a sprawling group exhibition that Andrew curated in 2013.


I wrote about Jerry Saltz in The Brooklyn Rail when he first joined Facebook in 2009 and marveled as he developed a community of over 55,000 followers. Now it seems that Facebook has given him the boot for numerous complaints about the lewd medieval drawings Saltz has been posting with eye-roll inducing captions. Read about it in the NYTimes. Saltz reacts to his ouster and explains his love/hate relationship to social networking media here. Hey, remember my prediction in the L Magazine at the beginning of the year....? [Saltz's caption for the image above:  "Speculator-collector Stefan Simchowitz looking for even deeper discounts from artists."]


I don't know if I'll do more fair coverage--after going to three, I have fair fatigue. FF sets in when I take too much time away from the studio to attend art fairs. Don't forget to submit your answers to the Art Fair Quiz by tomorrow at midnight!


After five years of daily posts, Joshua Abelow has begun winding down ART BLOG ART BLOG. Read the story here. I sent him a note and he said he's down in Baltimore concentrating on another project.



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March 6, 2015

Picks from VOLTA NY, 2015

This year VOLTA has taken up residence at Pier 90, a lovely spot on the Hudson right next to The Armory Show, which sprawls across Piers 92 and 94. A more manageable size than many of the other fairs, VOLTA is selective, and galleries that have been invited to participate present curated exhibitions of single artists. This year plenty of good paintings are on view, though some of the figurative work seems out of synch with the most compelling contemporary work in that vein. Although well painted, many of the pictures come off as too earnest and overwrought, perhaps reflecting the difficulty of finding a new subject amenable to traditional painting techniques.

The most impressive work in the show considers the relationship between physical and digital space. Artists continue to be fascinated by the distinction between what's real, what's on our screens, and how we make sense of the two worlds in our heads. Here are some snaps from the press preview yesterday.

[Image above: David Hayward presents an inventive series of small-scale abstractions at Frosch and Portmann that rely on a rigorous process of reworking and overpainting.]

March 3, 2015

Art Fair Quiz: Spring/Break--Answers have been posted!

Although the Spring/Break Art Show is known more for installations, dimly lit rooms and video projections, there were a fair number of paintings on the walls this year. Can you identify these? Send your answers to twocoatsofpaint@gmail.com with SPRING/BREAK QUIZ in the subject line. Whoever has the most correct answers will receive a post about his or her work or upcoming projects. Deadline: March 8, midnight. Get out there and see some art. Good luck!

UPDATE: Two artists have submitted perfect lists! Thanks everyone for your submissions--I hope you enjoyed the show.

 [Above: Image 1 / Charlotte Hallberg, $$]

March 1, 2015

Joan Waltemath: Sew

After painting with acrylic pigment and binders for the past few years, I recently returned to oil, mostly because I like the way oils darken and age over time. Working with oil paints involves forethought about layering, drying, and mixing mediums—even the brand of paint can make a difference in the stability of the surface over time. Centuries ago, artists were a bit like chemists, mixing secret recipes for binders and varnishes that least would affect the lightfast quality of their pigments and the surfaces of their canvases. Joan Waltemath, who has a handsome show of abstract paintings on view at Hionas this month, is something of a throwback to those times, grinding her own pigments, experimenting with minerals, concocting mediums, and undertaking other painting-related investigations. The resulting paintings are elegant and spare in terms of imagery, which is based on mathematically-generated harmonic grids, but rich and complex with respect to surface and color. I wonder how the subtle relationships she coaxes from her materials will change over time.

The biggest surprise of the exhibition is the inclusion of several small pieces, made of canvas and black fabric rectangles, roughly sewn in geometric arrangements.

February 22, 2015

Richard Aldrich on "progress"

The February issue of Art in America features a Ross Simonini interview with Richard Aldrich in which the artist discusses the notion of artistic progress. Here is an excerpt in which Aldrich deflates the traditional idea that an artist makes formal progress over the course of a lifetime, embracing a "stylist non-progression." I agree completely.

[Image at top: Richard Aldrich, Untitled, 2013-2014, oil, wax, charcoal, oil bar and enamel on linen 84 x 58 inches. Courtesy of Bortolami, New York, NY]

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