Julie Beckers reviews a retrospective exhibition of works by Balthus at the Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, on view through January 31, 2016.
Beckers notes that "mental isolation is a recurring element in much of Balthus’s work; figures depicted in odd and suggestive angles seem detached from their surroundings, their gaze cannot be caught, giving the viewer the sense of being a voyeur... Balthus was equally fascinated by games, youth and adventure, themes that are important features in his work... This sense of playfulness is mostly felt in the space devoted to the artist’s obsession with Alice in Wonderland and Lewis Carroll. Here, the viewer is welcomed by the self-indulgent and strange self-portrait titled Le Roi des Chats (1937) which Balthus signed 'HM The King of Cats painted by himself'. The artist, accompanied by his muse the cat, addresses the viewer from above in contrapposto pose... The exhibition also examines Balthus’s collaborations with the playwright Antonin Artaud."
Failing writes: "To evaluate the artist’s assertion that some of his ideas deserved 'survival on more than one stretch of canvas' requires a deep dive into his complex vision of relationships between mind, hand, and painting as an 'instrument.' ... In the exhibition’s catalogue and earlier publications, [curator David] Anfam cites evidence that Still conceived 'the real' from the vantage point of Platonic idealism, where 'the visible world is but an imperfect replica of the realm of ideas…. It’s the idea that’s fundamental for Still,' he emphasizes. 'The idea exists in the mind’s eye and in the imagination. Even if it springs from something observed in nature in the first sense, it lives within him on a metaphysical level. Physical printouts, as it were, can be done at will.'"
Julia Jacquette considers Adélaïde Labille-Guiard's Self–Portrait with Two Pupils, Mademoiselle Marie Gabrielle Capet (1761–1818) and Mademoiselle Carreaux de Rosemond (died 1788), 1785 in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Jacquette writes: "An entire symposium could be held on the meaning of this painting. Indeed, the Metropolitan’s wall text for it asserts that it '…has been interpreted as a propaganda piece, arguing for the place of women in the academy.' Although my writing here is about my own response to the painting – and not the art historical interpretation of it – I’m all for the interpretation of this painting, with its stunning technique and glorious, beautiful, and charming imagery, as a propaganda tool for women’s inclusion in the academy ('anything you can do, I can do better', indeed). Not to mention the fact that Labille-Guiard painted numerous portraits of French royalty, yet was sympathetic to the French Revolution (or so says the wall text). But, for me, the painting is the work of an individual reveling in her role as a skilled, highly regarded professional, who could both make knock-out artwork and serve as a mentor to other women. Even as an 11-year-old girl I was onto this and it impressed me indelibly.
Asked about transitioning to abstraction after years of plein-air painting Werfel comments: "I don’t really feel like I’ve left observational painting behind as much as use it in a different way–collaged and improvisational. So I may start a painting based upon one of my son’s childhood drawings but then I turn the painting upside down to free it up from representation and then I’ll layer it with a segment of the view out of my studio window. I am constantly adding stuff from my everyday environment to free my mind from habitual ways of working- whether it is something incidentally observed like how my shoelaces are tied or the wires around my laptop or some flowers in a vase. The difference now is that I am not committed to one view of a motif but use perception as a tool to drive the work in new ways."
Johnson writes that "[Hammershøi's] paintings convey a distinctively modern psychological complexity. But unlike another famous Scandinavian, the Expressionist Edvard Munch, Hammershoi practiced a kind of representational painting dating back to Rembrandt and Vermeer. With their severely muted colors, Hammershoi’s portraits and pictures of women in nearly empty rooms may call to mind the suavely subdued paintings of James McNeill Whistler. Although influenced by him, Hammershoi never pushed as far toward abstract abbreviation as Whistler."
James Kalm talks with painter EJ Hauser at her exhibition Amphibian, on view at Regina Rex, New York, on view through December 6, 2015.
Kalm notes that "As a member of the new generation of painters contributing to the Williamsburg and Brooklyn art scene, EJ Hauser has gained recognition for her focused commitment, and experimentation within the medium. With her latest show 'Amphibian', the artist again defies expectations and presents a series of works in which she reduces her means, simplifies compositions and distills her process to a fine level of brevity and elegance."
Calandra writes: "Baras' painted lines, tactile textural build up, and recurring color themes carry through from one work to the next, but for the most part each painting exists in a category of its own. They bring to mind the stream of consciousness marks on Miro's canvases, or the early cubist constructions that broke the confines of reality and convention... The sense of freedom that I get from not only seeing the work, but also imagining her experience making it, gives me endless pleasure."
Blog post revisiting Geri Trotta's 195 profile of painter Wilfredo Lam, republished on the occasion of an exhibition of Lam's paintings at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, on view through February 15, 2016.
Trotta writes: "[Lam] works with one color at a time in a spurt of passion until he has put it everywhere he wants it. Then he sets it aside, goes on to the next color. He may use it later to mix into a new shade, but seldom returns to it in its original form... he pours a strong grass-green into what’s left of the near-black and makes an olive green. At first, its seems too dark. He adds more green, and lots of turpentine. He dips his brush in it, tests the color with a few strokes. All this time, he’s been using the same flat, bristle brush which he’s wiped on a rag in between changes of colors, or on the daisy-tiled floor that serves, quite casually, as a general palette. He puts the canvas back on the floor, pauses hesitantly, then covers the emerald with the olive-green, working as if pursued and muttering: 'There’s a moment in painting when everything must be stalked; either the work will be killed, or it will be born.'"
Mary Hrbacek reviews a recent exhibition of works by Anders Knutsson at Van Der Plas Gallery, New York.
Hrbacek writes: "Knutsson's hues are emphatically mixed; they are not comprised of raw paint taken straight from the tube in undiluted pigments. Instead, he combines his own pigments in an attempt to explore pure unadulterated light through color that cannot be easily explained... Unlike Yves Klein, known for the idiosyncratic blue paint, or Frank Stella, whose early works are exclusively black, Knutsson investigates the entire color spectrum, focusing on one hue at a time. These veils of see-through paint create in solid form a depth of reflective light with the colors one perceives obliquely in the rainbow."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.