February 4, 2016

Sculptural objects around town

The return of the sculptural object that was highlighted so beautifully in "Greater New York" at MoMA PS1 continues this month in many of the galleries. Some pieces are freestanding, others wall-mounted, and most refer to the sculptural tradition (rather than painting) for meaning. Even Frank Stella, whose tightly-hung solo is on view at the Whitney through Sunday, seems ultimately to have realized that he is more drawn to sculptural form than to painting. With his massive unpainted sculptures, what you see is really what you see.

[Image:  Hawkins Bolden, "Scarecrow" series. Through February 14 at Shrine (Lower East Side)]

February 2, 2016

Email: Meeting Alan Neider

Connecticut-based artist Alan Neider has been making art for over forty years, and for the past few we have been corresponding. Long before combining painting and sculpture became a popular strategy for painters, Neider was constructing three-dimensional objects – including lamps, chairs, curtains, and non-objective forms – to paint on.

[Image at top: Alan Neider in his Hamden, Connecticut, studio.]

Fred Valentine’s grunge sensibility

Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Fred Valentine made his wryly haunting charcoal chiaroscuro drawings of real people “some sweet and tender others damaged and horrific” – on view in "The Pumpkin Festival and other portraits" at Schema Projects in Bushwick – in the early 1990s. That was when Kurt Cobain and kindred spirits’ croaking about happiness forsworn, and whatever twisted substitutes could be conjured, became part of the zeitgeist. Accidentally or intentionally, Valentine’s sad, elegant drawings of people in darkness struggling for light fit nicely into that cultural warp.

[Image at top: Fred Valentine, The Pumpkin Festival, charcoal on paper, large drawing.]

January 26, 2016

Recommended: "Introductions 2016" at Trestle

When viewing big group shows of unfamiliar artists, I always find something to like. But at “Introductions 2016,” an exhibition of fifty artists at Trestle Projects, I liked nearly everything. Apparently guest curator Jim Osman, a gifted artist a well as director of the Foundations Program at The New School, and I have a similar aesthetic. For both of us, materials carry meaning. In addition to appreciating their quirky uses, Osman likes a little humor, odd sculptural objects, and enigmatic, thoughtfully-crafted paintings and photographs.

[Image at top: Julia Staples, from the series You've Gotta Play It To Win, 2015, photograph.]

January 25, 2016

Raphael Rubinstein in conversation with Jonathan Lasker

When Raphael Rubinstein sat down with Jonathan Lasker at Cheim & Read, they discussed Lasker's process, imagery, and his relationship to Abstract Expressionism and Action Painting. "The execution seems very conscious and constructed, and yet the origination of the works is an imaginative process...Things lead into other things, sometimes along the way. In the middle of a painting something else can enter in, even though I'll often have a study...but nonetheless changes and alterations do happen..." Check out the full video below.

January 23, 2016

What's so strange at Fredericks & Freiser's "Strange Abstraction"?

At this stage, abstraction is no longer considered confusing or iconoclastic. So what kind of abstract work might earn the title "strange?" Fredericks & Freiser's buoyant group show "Strange Abstraction" provides a sharp answer. Each of the artists employs his or her materials in an uncompromisingly idiosyncratic way. Like many of the outsider artists whose work is on display at the Outsider Art Fair this weekend, those in this exhibition have developed vocabularies that, although rooted in Modernist abstraction, are deeply personal and visually unique.

[Image at top:  Joanne Greenbaum, Untitled, 2013, oil, acrylic, and ink on canvas, 90 x 70 inches.]

Tracking Loren MacIver

The snow on the fire escape this morning (courtesy of superstorm Jonas) reminded me of this 2008 piece about Loren MacIver that I originally published in The Brooklyn Rail:

In my first college painting course, which I took several years after completing an art history degree, my teacher Arnold Trachtman said that my painting of the bathroom sink reminded him of Loren MacIver’s work. I had no idea who she was, and without the convenience of the Internet, never looked her up. But 20 years later, when I saw that the Alexandre Gallery was presenting an exhibition of her paintings, I recalled Arnie’s offhand remark and made a pilgrimage of sorts up to 57th Street.

[Image at top: Loren MacIver, Spring Snow, 1958, oil on fiberboard, 45 3/4 x 27 1/8 inches. courtesy of Alexandre Gallery]

January 21, 2016

UES: Rudolf Stingel, Alex Katz, Jane Kent, David Storey, Richard Diebenkorn

Long, long ago, when paint-on-canvas art making was deemed irrelevant, painters began exploring experimental processes to make painting-like wall pieces that might wrest the conversation away from "new media" back toward object-making. One such artist is Rudolf Stingel. Nahmad Contemporary presents some of Stingel's 2001-03 Styrofoam and Celotex Tuff-R panels that were created during installations and performances at the Fran├žois Pinault Foundation, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the 2003 Venice Biennale.

[Image at top: Rudolf Stingel, Celotex panel, detail.]

January 20, 2016

Starry night: Katherine Bradford at Canada

According to her son Arthur's poignant post on Facebook, Katherine Bradford moved to New York in the 1980s with two small children in tow. For ten years she slept on a pullout couch, sent them to school, and cooked on a hot plate. All the while she studied painting and dreamed of becoming a respected painter and making her mark on the world. The family struggled, but Bradford was able to get to the studio each day, working nights. Now, decades later, she is presenting her work at Canada, one of the Lower East Side’s most prominent galleries. The opening was such a mob scene we joked that had a fire broken out, much of New York’s painting community would have perished.

[Image at top: Katherine Bradford, Fathers, 2016, acrylic on drop cloth, 70 x 96 inches. All images courtesy Canada, New York.]

January 19, 2016

Art and Fiction: Petrushevskaya and the painter's whirl

Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / If they are successful, artists transport those who view their work to a different visual and psychic environment that nonetheless bears some crucial familiarity to the objective one that most people consciously share. The overlapping frames of reference enable critics, artists, and others to talk about art coherently. That much is fairly obvious. Harder to grasp are the varying psychological and existential gyrations to which artists are subject – or to which they subject themselves. In her profoundly deadpan “The Story of a Painter,” published in the January 18 issue of The New Yorker, Russian writer Ludmilla Petrushevskaya clamps her talons onto her readers’ temples and hurtles them through the inner life of an artist.

[Image at top: Illustration by Henning Wagenbreth]

The Painting Center: When color matters

Color is slippery. Anyone who has ever tried to translate a casually observed color into pigment on canvas knows that the hue will never be the same as what he or she remembers. Variables like light and shadow change the same basic color from warm to cool, light to dark. And, as Albers taught us, chromatic context is also a critical factor. The lively exhibition, "Color Matters," at The Painting Center, comprises paintings by thirteen artists for whom the exploration of color's transience is a driving force.

[Image at top: Becky Yazdan]

January 18, 2016

Is the east end of Connecticut the new Hamptons?

Finally someone is giving Mystic the love. Troy McMullen reports in the NYPost that the Connecticut shoreline, particularly the stretch between New Haven and Rhode Island, may be the new Hamptons. An easy drive from Manhattan and Brooklyn and accessible via Amtrak and Shoreline East, towns such as Guilford, Clinton, Westbrook, Old Saybrook, Mystic and Stonington offer a cheaper and less crowded alternative to the east end of Long Island.

[Image at top: Mystic, CT. Chris DeLaura, via http://www.MysticRestaurants.com]

January 17, 2016

Quick study: David Bowie and art

Like many artists last week, I was surprised and deeply saddened by David Bowie's death. After spending hours gorging on the massive amount of Bowie-related Internet content, I'm inspired by his life and work--his enduring commitment to making art, his brilliant ability to transform his experience into music, his willingness to help other artists, his humor, and of course his limitless talent. Here are a few art-related links for articles and videos I stumbled across.

[Image at top: Stephen Finer, David Bowie, 1994. Photograph: Nils Jorgensen/Rex Features}

January 14, 2016

Revisions and resurrections: "The Silo" curated by Raphael Rubinstein at Garth Greenan

Getting recognition in the art world is difficult, but remaining relevant over the course of a lifetime is nearly impossible. Raphael Rubinstein is fascinated by old art magazines from the 1960s and 1970s, where he finds images of work by artists who were once widely admired but have fallen off the art world’s radar. "I can’t quite explain the strange allure of vintage art magazines, though I think it may have something to do with the satisfaction of knowing what people back then didn’t: which artists were destined for fame, which critics would be proved embarrassingly wrong, etc.” he wrote in a recent essay. “I’d see a reproduction in an old Artforum article or an ad with work reproduced in Arts Magazine or Art in America and think how contemporary the sculptures looked."

[Image at top: Jonathan Borofsky, Untitled, 1978, ink on paper]

January 13, 2016

Interview: Clare Grill in Sunnyside

Contributed by Rob Kaiser-Schatzlein / In late November, I rode my bike to Clare Grill's Sunnyside apartment-studio, where we talked about her technique, the mental space required to paint, and her new-found freedom from having to work a second job. A warm and serious painter, Clare makes abstract paintings that are filled edge to edge with variegated color. At first the color appears to be in a narrow spectrum, but closer inspection reveals an infinite range of hues. The variations within each color create the illusion of a veiled surface with a matte, dull lustre. The paint is thinly applied but the effect is more diaphanous than stingy. A distinction between line and shape is difficult to pin down, one often merging into the other.

[Image at top: Clare Grill, Paw, 2015, oil on linen, 53 x 42 inches]

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