Allie Biswas interviews Ruth Root on the occasion of Root's exhibition Old, Odd and Oval at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut, on view through April 3, 2016.
Root comments: "'Odd', to me, means 'hard to describe'. The paintings are almost like flattened sculptures that have been turned into paintings. Otherwise, they could be thought of as paintings that are sculptural and have their backs to the wall. Sometimes, when a painting is 'odd', it is a surprise and also unfamiliar. Often, a goal of mine in the studio is to surprise myself, and make something work that I didn’t think would work. The result is frequently a quality that I like."
Albers writes: "Among the most powerful in the de Young’s exhibition is SFMOMA’s 7 x 9-foot oil and charcoal Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 57. Here, as in all of the Elegies, rough-edged vertical black bars and ovoids scaffold a horizontal field, co-existing with areas of activated white. A charcoal line runs along the bottom. A black-on-white-on-black mostly horizontal element commands the top. Behind it in one corner is a washy cinereous patch. Surfaces are rugged, and the ponderous matte blacks feel implacable. The proportions are perfect."
Jeff Jahn remembers painter Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015).
Jahn writes: "As one of my favorite artists what I appreciated most in Kelly's work was his way of sharing the otherwise impossible world of pure, concentrated observation. As subjectivity demands, conveying what one individual apprehends necessitates a kind of distillation and transposition into abstraction. Usually something is lost in that process, but not with Kelly. It ends up being visually and spatially richer and more pervasive... closer to an alphabet for the basic architecture of reality than painting... The act of looking for Kelly... in a very personal way was directly related to Matisse, someone few artists have been able to build upon. But Kelly did and similarly his work remained vital right to the end. Perhaps that is the greatest of his Kelly's gifts as a an artist... the way things in his eyes/hands never seemed to be diminished in vitality, observation and specifics."
Peter Schjeldahl reviews a retrospective of works by Robert Ryman at Dia:Chelsea, New York, on view through June 18, 2016.
Schjeldahl writes: "Ryman’s reductions of painting to basic protocols are engaging only to the extent that you regard painting as an art that is both inherently important and circumstantially in crisis. You must buy into an old story, which bears on Ryman’s extreme, peculiarly sacramental standing in the history of taste. Ryman’s is a kind of mute art that, generating reverent and brainy chatter, puts uninitiated citizens in mind of the emperor’s new clothes... Yet, actually, the populist fable rather befits the serious aims of Ryman and his avant-garde generation, who insisted on something very like full-frontal nudity in artistic intentions. The emperor—roughly, high-modernist faith in art’s world-changing mission—could retain fealty only if stripped of fancy styles and sentimental excuses. That was Ryman’s formative moment. It was succeeded by a suspicion, now amounting to a resigned conviction, that contemporary art is an industry producing just clothes, with no ruling authority inside them."
An interview with painter Svenja Deininger whose show Untitled / Head was recently on view at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York.
Deininger comments: "My work can be like a sentence. It is about combining single paintings in a space like there are single words in a sentence and finally in a story. In their combination there is often a range of intensity... For the first view [my paintings] mostly seem to be very straight and logical, but once you spend time looking at them you realize they are not. I wouldn’t describe my work as abstract paintings though I wouldn’t see them as being figurative either. It is more like a visualization of a general higher idea and, with its materiality and different layers, like a concrete description without bringing the idea to a physical appearance."
Ken Johnson reviews an exhibition of paintings by Cary Smith at Fredericks & Freiser, New York, on view through January 9, 2016.
Johnson writes that "[Smith's] works don’t aim to deflate Modernist art à la Sherrie Levine and others of the Neo-Geo trend of the 1980s. There’s a sense, rather, of personally expressive import to his paintings, most evident in those where blobby shapes radiate from straight-edged geometric forms, like flowers growing out of eccentric pots, as in “Painted Splat #4 (pale blue — yellow with color block).” Cool formal order contains a warm spirit of expansive exuberance."
Kleberg observes that "[the] idea of expectation and disappointment goes back to the form. I love this idea. These paintings are like frames within frames within frames within frames. There’s a lot of framing. There are stripes. Everything is rhythmic. And some have curtains drawn back and everything is vibrating into the middle… and the thing is empty. But those empty spaces are also the only place where any kind of illusion happens. They are very flat paintings. The illusion is kind of fleeting. It always collapses, but that is what paintings forever have done. They give us these moments of magic where this flat space becomes another world. So on one hand those spaces are empty and on the other hand, that’s the only place where the painting magic happens."
Allie Biswas interviews curator Courtney J. Martin about the work of Robert Ryman on the occasion of an exhibition of works by Ryman at Dia:Chelsea, New York, on view through June 18, 2016.
Martin comments: "it was never just white paint: at the very beginning, he was simply experimenting. In many ways, it’s not just the achromatic factor, there is also the question of surface depth. Sometimes he applied paint with a palette knife, resulting in dense, encrusted surfaces. In other works, the paint is sheer and thin, like a wash. Viewers get caught up in looking at the white and yet we're missing what’s really happening. We are missing the application and the method. For many of the works, colour has been applied underneath, and then been painted over with white. When you look at the work chronologically, each painting is a challenge or a question that Ryman answered or complicated with the next painting that he completed."
Laurence Noga interviews Simon Callery whose show Flat Paintings was recently on view at FOLD Gallery, London.
Callery comments: "The questioning of flatness, which I believe is very important, is that I recognized that flatness is the product of image-based painting. It had to be flat to communicate as clearly as possible. I am not working with images so there is no reason why it has to be flat, although in this case - through a sense of contradiction - they are flat by choice... One of the things which is very important to me is to continue to ask: what is a painting, what is its function, its role? When I was growing as an artist, there was a backlash; a wave of anti-painting from all directions, everybody was climbing on the bandwagon waving their hands and saying that painting was dead. It made me want to question and define what makes a painting and what makes painting unique. I began taking it apart, questioning those roles from a contemporary viewpoint, redefining, reassembling, and re-casting its function."
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.