Magazine of the painting blogosphere.
Painters' Table Blog
Artist Talk: Brett Baker: On Painting & Painters' Table at The New York Studio School on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at 6:30pm.
I would like to invite Painters' Table readers to an artist talk at The New York Studio School (8 W 8th Street) on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at 6:30pm. [Google Map] I will be speaking about my painting and also about my experience as an art blogger and about Painters' Table. Many thanks to the New York Studio School for giving me this opportunity!
Thank you, as always, for supporting Painters’ Table. Hope to see you all at the talk.
Real States featuring paintings by Tom Burckhardt, Clare Grill, and Sangram Majumdar is on view at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects, New York, from February 10- March 13, 2016.
This is the final weekend to see Real States at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects on the Lower East Side. The show features paintings by Tom Burckhardt, Clare Grill, and Sangram Majumdar. The works of each of these artists engage with the notion of image, but also confound it. The press release notes that the artists "all make paintings that engage abstract or abstracted forms on the armature of an implied grid. However, these forms and shapes are simultaneously allowed to fall away from any such structure."
A panel discussion titled The Abstract Image, moderated by art historian and critic Jennifer Samet, was held at the gallery on February 28, 2016. With their paintings around them, all three artists started off by talking about their process and it's relation to image-making.
Sangram Majumdar commented that moving away from recognizable imagery is "a way to arrive at a place that's a bit more unknown. I think there's an anxiety about looking at things. The longer I look at them I start disbelieving... so the painting process for me becomes a way to get closer to what ... drew me into that imagery."
Clare Grill responded: "I want my work to feel specific... [the source material] provides a mood, or a feeling, or a reason to make a painting. And that's it. And then it becomes something else - it becomes a painting."
Noting that Majumdar and Grill work from something that exists in the world, Tom Burckhardt commented: "I work in the opposite way... In terms of the image-making, I really start from absolutely nothing - it's akin to ... surrealist automatic writing ... and out of that generality what I eventually move towards is specificity." Referring to working on cast supports, he continued: "But my relationship to the support is incredibly specific from the beginning... if you [Grill and Majumdar] are working from something in the world, something that has a representational life somewhere, for me the only thing that's like that is the sculpture of the painting."
The full recording of the discussion is below:
If the audio player does not appear please refresh the page or click here.
Craig Manister: Painting the Rhythm of Perception is on view at the Gallery of the College of Staten Island from February 22 - March 24, 2016. An inheritor of a post-war painting tradition that was already rigorously abstract, Manister has continually tested an "all-over" painting approach against a variety of traditions and genres. A reverence for both paint and subject runs throughout Manister's work, connecting his earlier abstract narratives and his more recent group of sensitively observed still lives. Special thanks to Siona Wilson and Craig Manister for permission to reprint the catalogue essay below.
Craig Manister: Painting the Rhythm of Perception
by Siona Wilson
As a child, Craig Manister knew that art was a special thing. This he learned, or perhaps intuited, from family trips to museums where he observed the look of wonder that crossed his father’s face. But he didn’t meet any living, practicing artists until he was in his 20s. Having entered Richmond College (consolidated into the College of Staten Island in 1976) with the pragmatic desire to pursue a business degree, the threat of being drafted into the Vietnam War propelled him to follow his long-buried passion: painting. If enrolling in college was a reason to avoid being conscripted into the military—at a time when your life was certainly in threat—then switching from business studies to painting was undoubtedly a double affirmation of life. This, in reality, meant life without a guarantee of conventional rewards and without the security of making a certain living from his art. But nonetheless, it was a pledge to an aesthetic life as a sustained kind of self-discovery through the rhythm of painting.
Manister learned what it meant to paint and to be a painter in the latter half of the 1970s, first while studying at the New York Studio School (1974-1976) and then through private guidance from Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof. Passlof was his painting instructor at Richmond College back in the early 1970s, and through her he was brought into a circle of likeminded painters (including CSI’s Tracey Jones). Passlof and Resnick came of age as artists in New York in the 1950s during the ascendancy of this nation’s first internationally recognized avant-garde art movement, the New York School of Painting. They were both affiliated with this movement and, in particular, with the Dutch émigré painter Willem de Kooning, with whom Passlof studied in the late 1940s.
By the time Manister joined this milieu in the late 1970s, the art world in New York was a very different place. Already by the mid-1960s, painting had lost its authority as the dominant artistic medium and instead galleries had begun to show much more heterogeneous experimental and sometimes politically and socially provocative work in new media (film, video, and photography), as well as confrontational live art and other kinds of participatory and performance-based approaches. In this context, traditional studio practice was, it seemed, obsolete. As the title of an important survey exhibition of abstract painting since 1970 puts it, this was the era “after the fall” of painting. 1
If the political despair of post-Second World War and McCarthy-era artists, such as de Kooning, Passloff, and Resnick, generated an inward looking, psychologically inflected humanist vision, the post-Vietnam generation had seen the groundbreaking gains and political optimism of the civil rights, feminist, indigenous, and gay rights movements. Together with the sharp polarization of rich and poor that was created by the “conservative revolution” of the Reagan-era during the 1980s, Manister’s formation as a young painter was betwixt very different social and cultural spheres.
These larger historical factors of political and social milieu impact his painting only by very indirect means. Manister’s artistic worldview and method is underpinned by the humanist vision of the older generation, but his commitment to forging an individual practice is not hampered by the same kind of high-seriousness and obdurate self-belief often found with other painters working “after the fall.” This comes through most strongly in the flashes of humor seen in the quirky keyhole figure that emerges in the mid-1990s, see Beachcombing (1998) and the cartoonish saints of a few years later, for example, Martyr (2001).
This exhibition, Manister’s first retrospective, traces the development of his painting through a series of distinct and seemingly contrasting phases. The earliest works in the show date from the 1980s. Untitled 1 and Untitled 2 (both 1984) are “all-over” abstract paintings. This means that there is no particular area of focus within the composition, but instead the viewer’s attention moves across, or “all-over,” the whole surface. At this time, Manister was experimenting with the idea of drawing with the paintbrush, but not in order to circumscribe a particular space or form (as is typical with pencil or charcoal). Rather, as he would put it, to “maintain the plane” through a web or layer of rhythmically applied marks. The painted surface is made up of multidirectional strokes of paint that form a single uninterrupted picture plane. Although there is a desire to refuse visual depth (rejecting the spatial notion of the painting as a window onto another world), this surface is not leaden and impervious to the viewer. Rather, it is buoyant with energy. Helicopter (1985), a title ascribed after the painting was finished, offers a contemporary urban metaphor for the abstract affect created by Manister’s rhythmic mark combined with flashes of vivid color.
Lyrical Directive (1993) represents the next phase in his development, wherein the abstract marks begin to resemble some kind of script. Like an untranslatable language of hieroglyphic figures or runes, this series suggests a visual grammar of painted marks. Here, Manister’s work resonates with a significant aspect of the New York School, in its understanding of painting as its own form of language. But at the same time, this idea intersects with postmodern thought (from the 1980s and 1990s) that began to understand cultural forms through linguistic frameworks. New York’s older modernist tradition resounds in uncertain repetition with a much more contemporary set of concerns.
Carpet Ride (1991-1994) is a painting on which Manister worked intermittently for three years. And as such, it marks another important shift. Here, the ambiguous hieroglyphic figures seem to coalesce into a single recognizable keyhole form. Although the keyhole operates as a flat shape—rather than a portal, or hole into another space—this motif, when it becomes a surrogate for the human figure, introduces spatial depth in Manister’s paintings for the first time. In Beachcombing (1997), we are confronted by two green keyhole figures located on a clearly marked ground line and apparently in some kind of dialog or peculiar dance. If the earlier works maintained a lightness or buoyancy through mark and color, this has now become a playfulness that verges on the humorous. These figures are like strange actors or chess pieces in an absurd drama of their own.
Manister’s embrace of the metaphorical and allegorical aspects of painting intersects at this point with his first trips to Europe. After visiting Rome and Venice in 1998 and 1999, respectively, the keyhole figure morphs into a primitive saint. Martyr (2001) might bring on a wry smile in some viewers since the violence of a tortured Saint Sebastian-like figure is offset by the sweet quirkiness of the childlike form. But when the pinks and apricots of this diminutive character are translated into the monumental dark sibling of Icon (2000), we are more readily able to imagine the awe and fear of a distant time when Christianity was bound up with the violence of political power.
Manister was struck on these trips to European sights and museums as much by the anonymous Byzantine artists as he was by the Renaissance greats. But his “painterly” style—with its emphasis on the visible mark and texture of paint-as-matter—resonated most powerfully with the Venetian oil painters, such as Giorgione and Titian. While there is an emphasis on the energy of the visible painted mark underpinning all of Manister’s stylistic phases, this, in his own view, is always tempered by an engagement with modernist and postmodernist forms of classicism. This is not so much related to subject matter or narrative reference (i.e., to classical mythology) but instead it is more about composition and visual effect. Balance, structure, and stillness are consistent features across this whole body of work, from the all-over compositions of the 1980s to the lateral organization of many of the keyhole works. However, it is in the most recent series of still life paintings that this classical strain becomes most visibly evident.
Painted under strongly directed artificial light using everyday synthetic objects—such as plastic fruit, paint brushes, and jugs—these observational works explore the qualities of balance, stillness, and structure that we associate with the classical composition. Manister began these paintings as a kind of empathetic pedagogical exercise. Observation, both from still life set-ups as well as the nude figure, is still a primary building block for teaching studio art. These still life paintings are a way of thinking through, and working out—with eye, paint, and brush—some of the challenges faced by beginning artists.
But in the practice of an established painter such as Manister, a return to the basics is also an affirmation of his own subjective approach to painting. We might see this through the metaphor of the personal journey with many side roads, unexpected turns, and with no fixed final destination. This retrospective offers an indirect circuit of repetitions, reversals, and deviations that gives form to Manister’s rhythm of perception.
Helen O'Leary: The Shelf Life of Facts is on view at at Metropolitan Arts Centre (MAC), Belfast from January 26 - May 19, 2013.
In the following video, produced by the Metropolitan Arts Centre (MAC), Belfast, artist Helen O'Leary discusses her artistic background and the origins of her current body of work. She comments:
"I ended up in Paris and found myself walking to the Museum of War a lot, and I'd look at all the flawed armour... I'd look at the armour with cannonballs through the heart and they seemed to have real power for me ... started thinking about ... armour with ... holes [in it] and I wanted painting to come out, be like a phoenix out of shreds... So I started thinking about a painting that would be a history painting, that wouldn't just be memoir... I wanted it to be about the world as I knew it through kind of a haptic sense. And I started thinking about making paintings as big as Kiefer, I wanted paintings bigger than Kiefer. But I'd do them bit by bit; I'd do them in a very intimate way. I wanted that you could piece together a language out of false starts or out of small moments."
If the video does not appear please refresh the page or click here.
Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life is on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from October 27, 2015 - January 10, 2016.
“O Nature, and O soul of man! how far beyond all utterance are your linked analogies! not the smallest atom stirs or lives on matter, but has its cunning duplicate in mind.” –Ahab
Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Roman, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and French. These cultures all developed uniquely mannered still-life traditions that so codified the cultural gestalt of each that the works carry associations far beyond visual culture into political, economic and religious history. What about American still-life painting? Have we ever witnessed a stylistic zenith in which our culture’s most critical ideas were codified in the still-life? Are there American painters who captured the cultural zeitgeist the way our greatest novelists and musicians have? Do we have a Zurbarán, a Chardin or a Cézanne? These questions, and many more, come to mind while viewing The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life, an ambitious, scholarly show that traces American still-life painting back to its roots at the birth of our society.
Audubon to Warhol gathers the works of nearly one hundred still-life painters, spanning two centuries, and separates them both chronologically and thematically into four groups: Describing (1795-1845), Indulging (1845-1890), Discerning (1875-1905) and Animating (1905- 1950). These categories give the show some structural support, and help one navigate a sea of images, each of which offers a compelling glimpse into American cultural history.
Our early still-life painters worked from one of two imperatives: a scientific approach to describing discrete natural elements as faithfully as possible, or the more painterly approach of rendering entire scenes illusionistically. Both approaches have their roots in European painting, but a triumph of the show is its suggestion that these modes of working were distinctly American, too.
The first mode is of artist as naturalist, rendering nature faithfully so as to gain a better understanding of it. The second is of artist as magician, conjuring life in paint with a vaudevillian sleight of hand. Such masterful facility motivated the work of Raphaelle Peale, the most accomplished son of Charles Wilson Peale, scion of America’s First Family of painting. Raphaelle’s twin “deceptions”— Venus Rising From the Sea—a Deception (1822) and Catalogue Deception (1813)—open the show. Both paintings play with the illusionism of depiction, and one cannot help but be drawn into their world. Venus Rising is a kind of painter’s pun, showing a white linen cloth hanging from a bit of ribbon. The cloth, rendered with absolute naturalism, covers most of a painting of what promises to be a lovely nude. Under the cloth’s bottom edge a creamy white foot stands on tiptoe. Above it an arm reaches up to tease out a mane of flowing blonde hair. It’s a witty painting. The absolute realism of the cloth and knowledge that we’ll never see what lies beneath it connect the work to the very beginnings of the still-life genre in ancient Greece.
Equally good is the work that stems from the scientific imperative, introduced here by a magnetic pairing of drawings by John James Audubon and Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Latrobe’s Rattlesnake Skeleton (c. 1804) shows in minute detail every vertebra and delicate rib of the snake’s body as it stretches over two long sheets of creamy paper. It is as if the snake sits before us in the bright light of the lab, perfectly preserved for study. Audubon’s Pennant’s Marten is depicted in full flesh and blood, snarling in a menacing crouch. It is one of a handful of Audubon drawings in the show, each of which renders its subject in life-like detail.
Fascinating as they are, the drawings of Latrobe and Audubon seem equally suited to the natural history museum as the art museum. Such is the chief delight, and paradox, of the show: both strains of early American still-life—Audubon’s scientific realism and Peale’s painterly illusionism—seem, in the context of western art history, less like “art” and more like “history.” It’s a nagging feeling that begins with the early works and persists right on through to the exhibition’s end. Viewing one painting after another, nearly one hundred in all, one can’t shake a growing suspicion that the works on view are but a fringe player in a larger drama of cultural identity.
From the mid 19th century to the early 20th, the periods covered here under “Indulging” and “Discerning,” the strictly scientific imperative evaporates and painterly illusionism is employed in the service of still-life-as-metaphor, a Victorian formulation in which every element of a composition has clear symbolic meaning in the culture at large. Severin Roesen’s Flower Still Life with Bird’s Nest (1853) is a lush picture of a vase bursting with exotic flowers. Each would have conveyed a particular message to the painting’s viewers. Painted to provide the focal points and conversation pieces for America’s increasingly opulent homes, the Victorian strain of symbolic still-lifes is perhaps the closest we get to a unified still-life language. But such painting is also a kind of feint, communicating in a system of recognizable symbols, and in so doing subverting true cultural fluency in painting.
It was such a culture that gave us William Michael Harnett’s After the Hunt (1885), a hyperrealist depiction of dead game hanging alongside the instruments of their demise: hunting bugle, rifle, powder horn, hat, water jug, etc. It’s an impressive work, but imagining it hanging alongside contemporary French painting at the Paris Salon—for which it was painted—one is not surprised to learn that the reaction to the painting was chilly. It must have been regarded as a curious anachronism indeed. Upon its return home, the painting found a more appreciative audience after being purchased for display in a lower Manhattan saloon. Its story is instructive. Over a century after the colonial painter John Singleton Copley shipped his work to London to curry the favor of its Royal Academicians, American painters were still trying to prove their chops in the cultural capitals of Europe.
So were we always a step off beat: describing, indulging, and discerning yet never arriving at a fully mature visual art form? Our literature at this time was leaps and bounds ahead. “Moby- Dick” was a contemporary of Roesen’s Flower Still Life with Bird’s Nest. To Melville, the exhaustive descriptions of marine life that characterize the novel were never meant to stand alone. In cataloguing all known facts and legends of the whale, recounting all descriptions of whales in literature and depictions of whales in visual art, and in describing whaling as he had experienced it before the mast, not once does he miss an opportunity to tie his observations back to the habits of men. It is here that the imperatives of the naturalist and the magician are wed, in an art for which the acute description of a Latrobe is but a building block of a larger existential narrative. Hence Ahab, on the deck of his ship, reveling in the “linked analogies” of man and nature when his mate sights a ripple of breeze on the water.
“Animating,” the final section of the exhibition, covers the first half of the 20th century, in which the wave of European modernism reached American shores and changed our imperatives once again. The thrust of this part of the exhibition is to demonstrate how artists absorbed and responded to the mechanical age, illustrated more literally by some (Charles Sheeler, Rolling Power (1939)) than by others (Patrick Henry Bruce, Stuart Davis).
Of greater interest than these, however, is a picture by Georgia O’Keeffe, From the Faraway, Nearby (Deer’s Horns, Near Cameron)(1937), which depicts a deer’s sun-bleached skull and antlers floating in front of a distant mountain range. The most powerful and poetic image in the show, it hums with a symbolic charge. If, by dint of an absolute faithfulness to nature, Audubon convinces us of the viciousness of a snarling marten, O’Keeffe has us believing just as strongly that she found her subject as she painted it, levitating above the desert floor. In Latrobe’s hands, such antlers might be rendered clinically against a stark white ground. In Harnett’s, they would be but a prop in a highly orchestrated mise en scène. For O’Keeffe, they are part of a place, inseparable from and meaningless without the context in which she paints them. It is this relationship of object to space that is unseen elsewhere in the exhibition, and it points to what has been missing all along. The painting opens a window into that truly great genre of American painting, the landscape, allowing light and air into the exhibition for the first time.
O’Keeffe’s painting points us back to where the show begins, with questions of how American identity has manifested itself in our visual culture. The uniquely American theme of place, as evidenced in all our great literature, and much of our popular music and film, is largely precluded by the formal structures of the still-life. Full of natural elements, our still-lifes are above all characterized by their very un-naturalness. From the clinical isolation of Latrobe’s rattlesnake to the contrived illusionism of Roesen’s flowers, the most earnest efforts toward realism in our still-life painting seem to have pushed us further from a truthful engagement with nature.
It is O’Keeffe’s painting that reminds us of the American landscape, our biggest, most reliable and most fitting muse. So did we have a Chardin? No, but we had O’Keeffe, and Marsden Hartley, and Church and Cole and Bierstadt, and a list of pioneering landscape painters that defined our country from its very beginnings. In the end, the greatest value of this fascinating show might be a reminder that place, not things, has always defined us as a nation, and that engagement with that great theme has given us much of our lasting and most important art.
This Thursday, October 15, I am pleased to participate in a discussion with fellow artist and blogger Sharon Butler and artist and UNCG professor Barbara Campbell Thomas titled Building on Maud's Legacy: Place and Being an Artist. The discussion will take place at 6:00 pm at the Weatherspoon Art Museum Auditorium in Greensboro, North Carolina and is one of several events to accompanying the exhibition Remembering Maud: A Selection of Her Paintings at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, on view from September 24 - November 8, 2015.
The conversation will center around alternative career strategies (including blogs) open to artists today, including those who live outside major art centers. These strategies are the manifestation of what Donald Kuspit noted, in a 1977 essay, “technology … has obliterated the meaning of regionalism.” 1 This subject is inspired by Maud Gatewood, an artist who lived nearly her whole life in North Carolina, a fact that often led her to be labeled a “regionalist” painter despite an ambitious and critically successful career far beyond her home state. Even in the early 1950s, when Gatewood was a student, the “regional” distinction was becoming less meaningful.
Coming of age as an artist in that period, Gatewood benefitted from contact with some of the greatest artists of the day, many of whom travelled to North Carolina to teach at Black Mountain College. Gatewood did not attend Black Mountain, but nonetheless, she received critiques from both Philip Guston and Franz Kline. She also travelled to Europe, where she briefly studied with Oskar Kokoschka.
Although Gatewood remained in the south and painted “southern” subject matter, she was keenly aware of trends in Minimalism, Pop Art, and postmodernism. She wed her deep interest in subjects close to home with an affinity for the “coolness” of pop-art. In Gatewood’s words: “Creating a good painting is like walking a tightrope. You’ve got to make the thing work, but almost not work, to get that teetering sensation.” 2
1 Donald Kuspit, "Mythical Regionalism and Critical Realism," Contemporary Art/Southeast, Apr-May, 1977 as cited in Robert Hobbs, Maud Gatewood: Re-visions, p. 13.
2 Hobbs, p. 11.
John Hoyland: Power Stations Paintings 1964 –1982 is on view at Newport Street Gallery, London, from October 8, 2015 – April 3, 2016.
A symposium entitled Colour, Emotion, Non-Figuration: John Hoyland Revisited will be held at Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts London in February 2016. The deadline for symposium proposals is November 16, 2015 and organizers are interested in proposals from artists as well as writers and art historians.
For the inaugural show at Damian Hirst's Newport Street Gallery, the artist has curated a show of paintings by the late John Hoyland. The works, painted between 1964 and 1982 are from Hirst's own collection. In a recent video interview with the Royal Academy's Tim Marlow, Hirst notes: "Threre's a massive difference between owning a painting and visiting a painting... you just have a deeper relationship with it if you walk past it everyday." Hirst also expresses his admiration for the immediacy and complexity of Hoyland's color.
In a 1978 interview in Artlog magazine, Hoyland himself spoke of pursuing ever more complex relationships of color and form. He remarked: "I’ve felt for a long time – about 15 years – that painting can only go forward by becoming more complex. When it all boils down, I’d like to make simple paintings, but I don’t think you can just go for simplicity. You’ve got to put in all these other things that are on your mind too, just to see what emerges, what comes to the forefront. You’ve got to put in all this turmoil, all of one’s ideas. There’s no easy way to make it simple. You can’t go back and emulate Rothko’s late paintings. It has to be complex, it is something artists have got to work through. ... Newman, Rothko, Still and the rest of them. Marvellous as their paintings were they didn’t really give one any room to go into in painting: they opened up the door for minimal art and even conceptualism, but for painting they seemed to close the door. I think Rothko is a really good example of an artist who painted himself into a corner. So I felt – as a young painter – that one had to re-examine the basic things, in the way that the sculptors were doing. At that time most American artists were saying that these were old-type European preoccupations. Maybe so, but the reason Hofmann was so influential was that basically he was an old-type European artist, stuck with those values. He was the guy who really set about complicating the surface again, dealing with illusion again, with the plasticity of paint, using a full chromatic range, using all these things that had been eliminated from painting by the second generation of American artists."
The full interview is available at the John Hoyland website. In addition to the conversation between Hirst and Marlow, the video below shows several closeups of the surfaces of Hoyland's paintings.
If the video does not appear please refresh the page or click here.
In a new video by Molly Davies, Pat Steir discusses her work while painting in her Vermont studio.
Steir addresses both her use of the drip as image:
"The idea of pouring the paint of the waterfall paintings was to use the icon of abstract painting, which is a drippy brushstroke, and make that abstract icon make an image all by itself. And that's what it did, it made an image of the waterfall... "
and painting as performance:
"The performative aspect, especially of the splash up paintings, is extreme. It's really a dance. It's really a ballet. And the picture is the record of the movement. It's a direct record of the movement."
If the video does not appear please refresh the page or click here.
I’ve been writing these September round-ups for a few years now, and I’ve almost always prefaced them with some note of astonishment at the sheer amount of abstract painting I was seeing in the galleries. I usually followed that with a reminder of just how little of it there was in the 90s and most of the naughties. But I’m making a few little changes starting now.
Painting has been back in the limelight long enough that those reminiscences are starting to become distant memories, war stories of a kind that make my painter friends under 40 glaze over – what the hell do they care about the days when everyone thought Matthew Barney was God and the Biennial was a series of video booths that resembled a peep show? Like my young friends who didn’t live through that, I’m just going to look back on it with a shrug, if at all.
The other small change is that I want to discuss some painting that isn’t strictly abstract. I’ve been seeing more loopy figures and semi-abstractions that interest me, and it just makes sense to broaden the discussion – it’s all painting after all.
So without further ado, here are some of the painting exhibitions that stood out from the crush of openings in NYC in September:
I’ve never counted myself a fan of Dana Schutz, so I was quite surprised to discover that her show at Petzel was my favorite of the month. My memory of her Young Art Star period consists of muddy paint and cut canvas – grad school stuff – but the big, lush, confident paintings in the Petzel show fly in the face of those recollections to such an extent that I’m not sure if I remembered wrong or she got an awful lot better. She can make lightning-like strokes that don’t turn the color to mud, then slow things down with cubist hatching, then render in the manner of Manet. The structure throughout the show is fundamentally cubist, which is to say the four sides are trying to convince all of the motifs to correspond to their rectangularity, but the pictures are no retro history lesson - she’s done her homework, but turned it into something her own. The compositions are organized not only around their goofy figures, but around blocks of similar color or value, which form a matrix somewhat apart from and parallel to the ensemble of characters and props. This is especially evident in Swiss Family Traveling, in which the crazy quilt of color zones evokes Bonnard.
More kooky figures can be found alongside colorful hard-edge abstractions in Jaqueline Cedar and Nate Ethier’s two-person exhibition at Brian Morris Gallery and Buddy Warren Inc. (this is one place). I puzzled for a long time as to why this pairing worked so well – on paper, Cedar’s playful dreamscapes and Ethier’s high-key geometry would seem a rough match. But not unlike Dana Schutz, Cedar’s paintings’ rectangular edges have a kind of gravitational pull which yank her figures into a semi-perpendicularity. Within that soft grid, lightning bolts, arrows, and knives fly around obliquely, setting things in motion and speaking to Ethier’s carefully placed diagonals, especially the pointy ones. My two favorite pictures in the show were also the ones that I thought complemented each other best. Cedar’s Time in Thinking shows a nervous looking woman in a kitchen with nervous looking cabinets. She’s holding a knife but other daggers of the mind float in the air along with what are presumably the arms of an intruder. The whole picture exists in a soft atmosphere of light grey and white save for the beam of the flashlight she holds, which is a singing, stinging lemon yellow. Those knives find their corollary in the especially impressive Hike by Ethier. Opposing triangles in bands of saturated color are overlapped with a transparent herringbone pattern of brick shapes, all of which are wading in a sea of yellow at the bottom of the picture. Don’t even try and distinguish foreground from background, just let your eyes float through it.
In Terry Haggerty’s new show at Sikkema Jenkins, his signature ribbon motifs are placed on aluminum supports that extend out from the wall. This crafty bit a gamesmanship brings another level of play to his work; his curling bands have always visually eroded the solidity of the walls upon which they hung, but the new pictures accomplish this while also breaking the pictorial glass that ordinarily separates the viewer from the illusion. My only complaint is that the lighting should have been adjusted in such a way as to control and minimize the shadows – these paintings (?) are at their best when it takes a minute to figure out what’s real and what’s fictive. There were also flat pictures on shaped supports in the show, including a room full of small two-color paintings that were especially wonderful - Haggerty has always handled big scale confidently, but he can make it happen at a modest size as well. The mask-like Pragmatic Hold seemed to be looking back at you as it retreated into the wall.
Stephen Maine, who currently has a solo exhibition at Hionas Gallery, has been quietly working out a language of process-driven abstraction for a number of years, experimenting with various methods of applying acrylic paint that defy easy identification – the pictures sometimes look like photos or photographically derived silkscreens, other passages resemble x-rays, some look like they were eroded by acid or exploit the resistance of oil and water. The resulting enigmatic images are the most prominent aspect of these all-over compositions, but the real glue is the color. Some are in tightly controlled, narrow value ranges – the light ones look backlit and the dark ones look spooky. Some are in colors that self-consciously clash in a loud-shirt, op sort of way. Each color grouping has its own emotional content, strongly influencing the kind of information that paint application supplies – pictures made with the same process might evoke a summer day or an MRI of a brain depending on the palette. The real stars of Maine’s new show are the two enormous paintings in the front room: P15-0701 and P15-0720. At an outsized scale, they begin to lose their identity as the result of a painting process and take on the attributes of natural phenomena – like landslides or cave interiors.
Gabriele Evertz’s work represents a life-long passion for the interplay of color. In the past, her paintings were most often laid out in repeating cycles, but in her current show at Minus Space, she takes a new approach to her signature vertical banding, making color decisions in an improvisational way as opposed to the systematic methodology of previous series. The results are impressive – the pictures visually oscillate between reading as flattened patterns, bevels and chamfers, and hollows with cast shadows. They have a spiritual relationship to Gene Davis, not only because of the vertical bands, but because they continue to surprise as you scan them left to right – just when you think you have a handle on their logic, they subtly shift. Evertz departs from Davis in two significant ways; first, in her continual use of sequential greys with their attendant illusion of optical “fluting,” and also with the long diagonal subdivision of her vertical bands – some of the stripes are not stripes at all, but attenuated triangles, which subtly reference both perspective and motion. I liked every picture in the show, but my favorite was Intensification (Come Closer), in which three clusters of highly saturated stripes were separated by two columns of pale tints – the picture seemed to be inhaling and exhaling as the eye moved across.
I don’t like to make readers suffer my prose in excess of 1500 words, so very briefly:
From his thumbprint pictures to his more recent blob-and-hot-dog paintings, Chuck Close’s gridded work has always resembled the kind of mosaic one sees in witness protection videos or Japanese porn movies, even though he never actually painted them to look like a strictly digitized grid. In his current show at Pace, however, the paintings actually resemble internet thumbnails clumsily manipulated in Photoshop and then blown up to a huge size. I loved them. If you like op and color field painting, run don’t walk up to D. Wigmore Fine Art, where there’s a solid show of 60s hard edge painting. Gene Davis’ Royal Veil from 1971 was a showstopper, and the three Paul Reed canvases were nice surprises from a seriously under-recognized figure. Besides being a process-driven painter himself, Stephen Maine along with sculptor and significant other Gelah Penn have organized a show of process-oriented painting and sculpture at the Fiterman Art Center at BMCC. The show is called Dipthong and features a boatload of interesting work (the gallery is enormous) but the highlights for me were two paintings by Anoka Faruqee and four by Michael Brennan – both are artists I have a huge amount of respect for. Dan Christensen was given a mini-retrospectives at Berry Campbell – it was uneven to be sure, but those swirling spray-gun paintings are killers, and Dorado from 1968 is worth the trip. Frank Stella was also given a mini-retrospective around the corner at Kasmin. There were a lot of his big weird things, and no black or aluminum paintings (oh, well) but Flin Flon from 1970 was impressive, and much better than I remember that series being – it’s important never to make any serious judgments of painting based on reproductions.
New York City
Dana Schutz: Fight in an Elevator is on view at Petzel Gallery from September 10 - October 24, 2015.
To the Edge: Jaqueline Cedar and Nate Ethier is on view at Brian Morris Gallery and Buddy Warren Inc. from September 9 – October 11, 2015.
Terry Haggerty is on view at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. from September 10 through October 17, 2015.
Stephen Maine: New Paintings is on view at Hionas Gallery from September 9 - October 4, 2015.
Gabriele Evertz: The Gray Question is on view at Minus Space from September 12 - October 31, 2015.
1960s Hard Edge Painting is on view at D. Wigmore Fine Art from September 10 - November 10, 2015.
Dipthong, curated by Stephen Maine and Gelah Penn, is on view at the Fiterman Art Center at BMCC from September 29 - Novemeber 14, 2015.
Dan Christensen: A Retrospective is on view at Berry Campbell from September 17 – October 17, 2015.
Frank Stella: Shape is Form is on view at Paul Kasmin Gallery from September 10 - October 10, 2015.
Eating Painting, curated by James Biederman and Lisa Taliano, is on view at 308 at 156 Project Artspace (156 5th Avenue, Suite 308), New York from June 25 - August 15, 2015. The show features works by James Biederman, Cora Cohen, Ben La Rocco, Gerard Mossé, Fran O’Neill, Judy Pfaff, Lisa Taliano, Russell Roberts, and Thornton Willis. Eating Painting presents works that embody painting as an immersive sensory experience - the “consumption of paint as color and substance.” Special thanks to James Biederman for granting permission to reprint his catalogue essay below.
by James Biederman
The multiplicity of the senses and mind mingle in the vaporous state of being. The alertness of the eye opens the door to the pictorial and questions the unknown spacecraft. We hover above, waiting and searching for a point of entry: a safe place to land to begin our exploration. Set adrift amongst the foreign terrain, we float and turn to regain our lost gravity. There is no past, no history. I am center to this world, this tumbling of thoughts and sights. Somehow my feet have lost their grounding. The painter’s presence has entered my being. I enter the painting. I enter the painter. It is now. It is present. The light and dark, the quickness and slowness, the exactitude and amorphous, the overwhelming sense of colors and feelings: where am I? We are falling without weight nor gravity to pull or stop our spinning and turning and going inside out with no ups nor downs.
The thunder of chattering voices and noisy terrestrial things has left a vacuum of silence. The colors appear from drops of dew, blinding yellow and burning red colliding with orange and shattering down purple all smashed and pushed against the emptiness of forever’s ever and nothing’s nothing.
I see and desire and want and feel, it is there but not, steps away, always away, a little too far. The cavities of cells filter the thoughts. No thoughts. Not before. Not then. Only now before it goes away.
Quickly, now, the time, the madness of slowness, let go of handles and hooks, we are looking and eating a painting or two.
- James Biederman, May 2015
Posts about painting, interviews with painters and occasional updates on changes to the Painters' Table website.
Like PT on Facebook