August 28, 2015

Studio visit: Sue McNally

Sue McNally is working on “This Land is My Land,” a series of large-scale landscape paintings, one for each of the fifty United States. During the summer months, she takes road trips to states she hasn’t visited, camping along the way, sleeping under the stars, and gathering material. She returns to her studio, located in a converted mill in North Kingstown, RI, and begins to craft the paintings. When I stopped by, paintings of Missouri and Illinois, recently completed, were hanging on the walls and she had just returned from a trip to Wyoming.

[Image at top: Sue McNally in her North Kingstown studio.]

Painting chair, painting table and painting: Sue McNally, The Old Muddy, IL, 2015, oil on canvas.

Small studies.

The series began with a painting of Ruby Beach in Washington state. Piled with mounds of driftwood and tree stumps, the scene features black outlines (not visible on JPEG), suggesting that at this early stage, McNally was navigating the transition from drawing to painting. In later work, her brushwork and color become more refined, confidently capturing both the vastness of the landscape as well as rendering the textures of the objects within it.

Sue McNally, Ruby Beach, WA, 2011, oil on canvas, 84 x 96 inches.

McNally’s feeling for the landscape is palpable, from snowstorms in Oklahoma to mesas in the desert, the land holds meaning beyond pastoral beauty. After a quick sandwich in McNally’s spacious studio, we talked about her process and she began pulling paintings from the racks. As she paints, if she reaches a difficult juncture, she'll make small studies to tease out ideas about color, shape and line. Hung throughout the studio, the studies have a charmingly loose directness that she says doesn't come easily in the larger work.

McNally pulling her paintings out of the racks. 

Overall, the larger paintings are finely executed, and when substantial poured and dripped passages appear, they are deliberate and controlled. The colors, bright and clear, sparkle with energy. We discuss the notion of “looseness,” but it seems to me that McNally’s paintings are distinctive because of her singular focus, tight control, and the diligently applied brushstrokes that coalesce into convincing tree bark, rock face or pebbles. The nuance is in the detail.

This  was  
 Sue McNoally, Cow Pond, MA, 2015, oil on canvas, 90 x 114 inches.

In 2014, McNally showed a series of self-portraits at Auxiliary Projects in Bushwick that Paddy Johnson dubbed "middle age bad ass." This fall several of McNally's paintings are included in "Land Ho!" a contemporary landscape exhibition at the Fitchburg Museum that features work by New England artists Carrie Crane, Sally Curcio, Leila Daw, Warner Friedman, Michele Lauriat, Sandy Litchfield, and Shona Macdonald. Organized by Curator Mary M. Tinti and Koch Curatorial Fellow Emily M. Mazzola, the show, opening on September 27, aims to "to reboot and refresh more traditional preconceptions of the landscape genre."

 Sue McNally, Prime Hook, DE, 2014, oil on canvas, 64 x 66 inches.

McNally's process--both the roadtrips and the intensive, deliberate painting at such a large scale--presents an antidote to the congested schedules and information overload we’ve come to expect in contemporary American life. I have to confess that after my visit, I wanted to hit the road for points unknown and spend some time sleeping under the stars. I'm looking forward to the week in October when McNally will be the resident artist at Two Coats of Paint.

Related posts:
Joan Nelson: Lost and found

Symbolist landscapes in Scotland, including Munch, Gauguin and Ensor

August 19, 2015

Quick study: Art bus, Rauschenberg as bad parent, sexism in arts writing, Abelow, Two Coats Residency, Stanley Whitney, Stella retrospective, more

Art in a bus: According to The Art Newspaper, "works by Scottish Turner prizewinners and nominees will be seen across Scotland in a traveling show due to crisscross the country in a specially adapted bus (image above). Artists featured in the touring exhibition, 'Eyes on the Prize,' include Martin Boyce (Turner prizewinner, 2011), Ciara Phillips—a nominee in 2014— and Douglas Gordon (1996 winner)." So wonderfully DIY. Read article here.


In a two-part series at Art F City, Corinna Kirsch explores sexism in arts writing. "Yes, sexism exists. Journalists should take stock of not just how sexism affects the artists, administrators, and professors we surround ourselves with—but how it plays out for writers, too. Are we so concerned with objectivity, or focusing on the field we’re covering, that we ignore ourselves?" Read Part I and Part II. Good luck to Corinna, who, after more than 600 posts, has decided to leave AFC in order to pursue a Ph.D.


Artists as parents: writes about Susan Weil's interviews for the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Oral History Project. She was married to Rauschenberg and mother of son Christopher, who often felt Rauschenberg cared more about art than he did about his son. Read Greg's gloss on Weil's interview here

Speaking of Rauschenberg:  The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation has just announced the third season of the Rauschenberg Residency in Captiva, Florida. Read about the residents here


In the July/August issue of Art21 Magazine blog, which focuses on sincerity, Jacquelyn Gleisner wrote an excellent profile of Two Coats of Paint Resident Erin Wiersma. "In June, I visited the studio of Erin Wiersma at the Two Coats of Paint Residency in the neighborhood of Downtown Brooklyn....The program encourages artists based outside the New York City area to use the space for studio visits with curators and critics...." Thanks for getting the word out there about the program. Note: For the time being residencies are by nomination and invitation only due to space and time constraints. Read the entire article here.


Must see: "Stanley Whitney: Dance the Orange" at The Studio Museum in Harlem through October 25, 2015. Image above: My Name is Peaches , 2015, oil on linen, 96 × 96 inches. Courtesy the artist and team (gallery, inc.), New York.


Looking forward: Frank Stella's retrospective at the Whitney Museum opens October 30! Read more.


Baltimore gallery Freddy sent a press release today (with the image above) announcing a one-day show on August 22nd at a church in Harris, NY.  Joshua Abelow's "Running Witches" paintings will be on view. If you want to go, contact them at to get the exact location.

Related posts:
Recreating Richter's destroyed paintings
Part I: Where is Joshua Abelow?

Part 2: Joshua Abelow's painting process


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.

Stern verve: Joseph Zito at Lennon Weinberg

Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / The artist’s weight in ominous lead slabs, a combat helmet spilling with rose petals – in another artist’s hands these conceptual pieces would probably seem trite or overbearing. But Joseph Zito’s unerringly fine calibrations of irony combined with his formidable technical range and astutely Gober-esque deployment of different materials – all on full display in installations cagily concatenated for a thirty-year retrospective at Lennon Weinberg in Chelsea – enables him to steamroller cliché and proceed directly to cool-eyed poignancy.

[Image: Joseph Zito at Lennon Weinberg. Installation view.]

August 15, 2015

Facebook IRL

Since they started using social media in 2009, painters have been able to connect directly with one another over vast geographic regions outside the gallery system and mainstream media. Facebook has been a particularly enriching community for many, a friendly place where artists discover each others work, form collaborative groups, and network without having to leave the studio. The latest exhibition to bring Facebook friends together "in real life" is "Going Big," an exhibition comprising small abstractions by 111 artists, curated by artists Suzan Shutan and Susan Carr.

[Image at top: Suzan Shutan, courtesy of the artist.]

August 14, 2015

Connecticut news

Thank YOU, Fernando Luis Alvarez Gallery. Two of my paintings (pictured at top) are included in "Thank You, Connecticut," an annual group show that was curated this year by gallery artists Rex Prescott Walden, Shelby Head, Nathan Lewis, Joe Boginski, and James Gortner. The show features artists who have ties to Connecticut, as a place to live and/or work. Did I ever mention that my family, full of pastors, publishers, and bankers, has been in Connecticut since the 1600s? Other artists in the show include Hollis Dunlap, Jaclyn Conley, Camille Eskell, Steven DiGiovanni, Jonathan Waters, Molly S. McDonald, Scott Paterson, George Phelps, Roland Becerra, Connie Pfeiffer, and Charles McIlvane.

Located at 96 Bedford Avenue in Stamford, Connecticut, Fernando's gallery specializes in international emerging artists, secondary market, and estate collections. He has shown work by Richard Diebenkorn, Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Longo, Louise Fishman, Frank Stella, Robert Motherwell, Jim Dine, Sean Scully, Jacqueline Humphries, Arturo Di Modica, Jena Thomas, John J. Bedoya, Rex Prescott Walden, Kirsten Reynolds, Damla T. Faro, Evelin Velásquez, Shelby Head, and Nathan Lewis. 

Thanks to James Gortner, for selecting my work for the show. Image at top: At left, Red Column (Text to Come), 2015, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches. At right, Blue Alloy, 2015, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches.

Another group show of note:

"Perfect Stangers" (pictured above) at the Ober Gallery, in Kent, on view through September 25, 2015. Artists include Jason Stopa and Eric Shaw (image via Jason Stopa on Facebook).

August 13, 2015

Your August Horoscope! by Crystal “Kitty” Shimski

Transcribed by guest contributor Jennifer Coates / Kitty divides her time between New York City and Montauk. She is a freelance Intuitive Technique Specialist and part-time Trance Inducer. She was recently certified in Trauma Re-alignment and holds a dual Associates Degree in Breath Dancing for Painters and Creative Shock Control from the Online Academy of Spiritual Transit. She is devoted to helping painters live out their truth on the surface of their choosing.

Invitation in Seattle: Slow Enhancers

Rober Yoder, artist and director of SEASON, a gallery he runs out of a beautiful mid-century modern house in Seattle, has taken over Platform Gallery this month to present a summer group show called "Slow Enhancers." The exhibition includes a couple of my paintings alongside work by ten other artists who are engaged with conceptual content but dedicated to traditional materials--paint, stone, collage. If you are in the Northwest, I hope you'll stop in and check out the exhibition.

[Image at top: Marius Wilms (left), Christopher Moss (right), Sharon Butler (bottom). Installation view.]

Arturo Herrera: Reading abstraction

Few contemporary artists have a stronger urge to explore process and materiality than Arturo Herrera, who is best known for his collages and large-scale drooping-felt abstractions. In "Opener 29: Arturo Herrera — Day Before," a delightful exhibition at the Tang this summer, Herrera presents 100 hardcover books that he has selected at flea markets and used as supports for small abstract paintings.

[Image at top: Arturo Herrera, Untitled, 2014, mixed media, 8 1/4 x 6 x 3/4 inches.]

August 11, 2015

Art and Film: Jem Cohen’s faith in art

Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / New York independent filmmaker Jem Cohen’s laconically moving Counting is quintessentially an artist’s movie. It is divided into fifteen segments, and owing to the absence of a script, their logic is obscure. This Delphic quality makes Counting similar to a solo painting or photograph exhibition. A title (e.g., “The Blues”) precedes each segment. A longer description of what has just been shown – including geographical locations (usually cities, such New York, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Istanbul, and Porto), often more – follows the segment. It’s as though the viewer has looked at a painting assisted only by a wall panel, then consulted the artist or his proxy for a little more guidance, which naturally has been coyly and parsimoniously provided. The effect is a cumulative and subtle revelation of the artist’s worldview. Although the only direct reference in the movie to art and its consumers is a sequence on the Hermitage Museum that zones in on Malevich’s Black Square, Cohen’s confidence in art’s existential merit is very much in line with his more structured and equally insightful Museum Hours (2012).

August 7, 2015

Barbara Campbell Thomas: Ten Images (or An Abstract Painter’s Pilgrimage to Italy)

Guest Contributor Barbara Campbell Thomas / Journeying to Italy in order to bask in the perfectly toned muscular glow of High Renaissance art is a well-worn artist narrative. But while visiting Italy this past June, I bypassed the usual cast of characters entirely, taking in Florence mostly while dragging my luggage between the train station and bus terminal. Ultimately bound for a beautiful studio space at the Siena Art Institute, I came to Italy to draw and think, but also to locate an abstract painter’s alternate art history, one perfectly contoured to the needs of my own studio practice. Traversing centuries with ease and finding unexpected sustenance in viewing the conversant nature of contemplative space in paintings, mosaics, and performance art, I charted an entirely subjective course through the Italian cities of Siena, Bologna, Ravenna and Venice.

August 6, 2015

Pop abstraction: Nicholas Krushenick at the Tang

Last week at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, I got a chance to catch the Nicholas Krushenick retrospective, which is up through the end of August. Krushenick, who died in 1999, is best known for fusing popular culture with non-objective abstraction. The result is an aggressive, eye-popping style, full of bold line, highly saturated color, and visual ambiguity. “We are stuck with three basic colors and thirteen basic shapes on this universe,” Krushenick said in 1978. “Those sixteen elements are all we have. I think it’s unfair, so I am trying to figure out a way to unstick ourselves, to expand our intellect one more time.”

[Image: Nicholas Krushenick, installation view at the Tang.]

August 2, 2015

Revitalization by contamination: OBJECT'hood at Lesley Heller

Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / The premise of “OBJECT’hood,” a group exhibition at Lesley Heller Workspace curated by Inna Babaeva and Gelah Penn, is that sculpture, though less celebrated than painting, is enjoying a stealthy resurgence. Fueling what they impishly call this “revitalization by contamination” is the willingness of its practitioners to draw on a wide range of other artistic disciplines to generate art in three dimensions.

[Image at top: Nicole Cherubini, The Great Disruption, 2014, pine , earthenware, paint, glaze, 28 x 24 x 4.5 inches. Image courtesy of artist and Tracy Williams Ltd.] 

July 31, 2015

Warp and weft: The grid at Mixed Greens

Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Mixed Greens’ enterprising group exhibition "Common Thread," on view through August 28, positions a 1973 Bauhaus grid study by Anni Albers and Ellen Lesperance’s 2009 grid-based gouache deconstruction of her pre-Josef Albers sweater pattern as aesthetic and cultural springboards for work by nine contemporary female artists. Restively contemplating traditional gender associations, these artists jettison the “iconic brushstroke” in favor of extrusion and fiber art. While duly recognizing their antecedents, they appear determined to move forward.

[Image at top: Ellen Lesperance; 1921, Anni Fleischmann Demonstrates Simultaneous Contrast Herself with the Help of a Knitted I-Cord Necklace; It Would Be a Year Before Even Meeting Josef Albers; 2009; gouache and graphite on tea stained paper; 22 × 29 inches.]

July 28, 2015

Albert Oehlen's genius

If paintings were guests at a dinner party, Albert Oehlen’s would be the most popular raconteurs. Everyone would clamor to sit next to them, leaving the rest of the paintings sulking at the end of the table by themselves. His current exhibition at the New Museum, “Home and Garden,” curated by Massimiliano Gioni, with Gary Carrion-Murayari and Natalie Bell, seems too intimate – I would have preferred a bigger party with twice as many guests. Nevertheless, the show is a tour de force, full of robust irony, dynamic observation, art-historical allusions, and painterly brio. One installation and twenty-seven canvases, spanning his 35-year career, embody manic duels of line, shape, color, texture, and image. The paintings don’t necessarily fit together in some larger plan; their impact and significance lies in the process each reveals, the energy it emits, and its unfettered wit.

[Image at top: Albert Oehlen, Streithelfer, 1997, oil on canvas. Gagosian Gallery/courtesy the artist and Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin.]

July 25, 2015

Ruth Root’s deep integration

Guest contributor Jonathan Stevenson / Ruth Root’s seven striking shaped canvases, on display at Andrew Kreps Gallery in Chelsea and all untitled, might recall Elizabeth Murray’s transcendent household paintings, Hermine Ford’s erudite explorations of nature and artifice, or, more distantly, Kelly and Stella’s hard-edge Minimalist works. Indeed, Root has freely and openly acknowledged her antecedents. But this serially innovative painter is also onto something distinctly her own.

[Image at top: Ruth Root, Untitled, 2014-2015, fabric, enamel, Plexi, spray paint, 84 x 103 inches. ]

To advertise on TWO COATS OF PAINT via Nectar Ads, click HERE.