[Image at top: Daniel Heidkamp ]
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.
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.
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