John Yau reviews an exhibition of work by Gary Stephan at Susan Inglett Gallery, New York, on view through April 26, 2014.
Yau writes: "Stephan’s sense of precision and timing — when to pull a loaded brush over a still-wet area — never announces itself, but is always there. Working with this circumscribed vocabulary, he composes paintings that twist the figure-ground relationship into a Gordian Knot, a layered, two-dimensional Rubik’s Cube that never quite fits together nor can ever be taken completely apart... the beauty of Stephan’s paintings. Everything in them seems to be defined by what is adjacent to it, whether side-by-side or underneath... By dissolving the categories of apprehension that separate the literal from the illusionistic, Stephan subverts the guidelines we use to sort and differentiate types [or genres] of painting. In doing so, he challenges what those categories imply"
Paige K. Bradley writes about the work of painter Amy Sillman.
Bradley begins: "The heritage of conceptualism and minimalism leaves a tendency to interpret a reduction in form as intellectually rigorous. If there is less for the eye to see, so it seems to follow that there’s more for the mind to read into. Amy Sillman swings the pendulum in the opposite direction; her work is formalist to the extent that we see the thought process visually manifested rather than suggested or signified. The proof is in the paint, as opposed to in the accompanying essay or press release. With a practice that grinds to dust a binary of figuration versus abstraction, the purity of abstract painting is corrupted in her work, where forms are blocks of colour floating in gentle encounters or sometimes clamouring for the eye’s attention before spluttering out into a hand, a foot, or a plumbing spigot. Her shapes and colours are gaily capricious; when they stumble and smear, they laugh it off and say ‘I meant to do that’."
Altoon Sultan blogs about two recent New York exhibitions: Pat Steir at Cheim & Read and Harvey Quaytman at McKee Gallery.
Sultan writes: "Many of Steir's paintings appear to be diptychs, as she divides the canvas into two different colors/surfaces. They create a different kind of space, deep and light-filled against one denser and closer to the surface.... both artists have a love affair with the surfaces of their paintings, which go far beyond simply paint on canvas... [Quaytman's] surfaces have an almost romantic voluptuousness within tightly controlled edges. The materials he adds to his paint creates surfaces that shine, have irregular textures, seem to be stuff of the earth itself."
A Bascove interviews painter Jen Mazza whose exhibition Graft is on view at Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York through April 12, 2014.
Mazza comments: "In the paintings, the formalist reproductions are represented still circumscribed within the rectangle of the page, which, with its dog-eared corners or other signs of age serves both to enclose the image and to push it back in time. In this way the images seem to remain in a citational form, as quotations of an original. Though initially, through the process of painting, I really do inhabit these works as a maker, when this layer is complete I subvert the images by overlapping my own interventions: geometric shapes — and constructivist forms as you mentioned; an organic shape quoted from a Moholy-Nagy painting or a red oval taking its color palette from a Liubov Popova painting — add to these the formal compositional elements of written language: punctuation, parentheses, asterisks and so on."
Kerlidou writes: "What the show made clear was that Poliakoff, an unequaled colorist, remained at his best in the smaller, denser oil paintings from the fifties, in which the artist’s use of a palette knife maximized the interplay between the under-layers and the impasto, gesture and color. The later, larger canvases from the early sixties painted with a brush seem to dilute the compressed dramatic energy of the smaller troweled paintings. These early paintings often convey a sense of a centered core, of a painting within a painting: interlocked jigsaw puzzle blocks of color pushing against each other, all on the same plane, as in 'Composition abstraite' (1950). One of the leitmotivs running through Poliakoff’s paintings from the fifties to the late sixties, is a centered cross, as in 'Composition abstraite' (1952), a device that helps reinforce a connection to the crucifixion icons in Orthodox churches." Kerliou also considers the impact Russian painters - including Poliakoff, Nicolas de Staël, and Mark Rothko - had on post war painting both in Paris and New York.
Schor writes that "it is fascinating to see how the artist has taken an unprepossessing photographic scrap and rung so many changes on it yet the image upon which this edifice of studio practice is based is perhaps not all that resonant, either absolutely, or in the way he has chosen to interpret it by enhancing abstraction and deflecting figuration. Or his pressing of the appropriated image through layers of visual analysis does not actually push experimentation with materials far enough in order to get at the core of the content by his deconstruction of the given picture. But, now I think, perhaps I am wrong. As I write, the work becomes more interesting, the fact that the figure is so obscured and the very disciplined and precise thoroughness of the visual analysis of the appropriated image is fascinating in its discipline and rigor and in the emotional reticence. Maybe. And yet…"
Howard Hurst reviews the an exhibition of paintings by Pat Steir at Cheim & Read, New York, on view through March 29, 2014.
Hurst writes that the show "is perhaps [Steir's] most successful in recent memory. We can see a veteran artist flexing her deeply toned creative muscles. Though she’s painted using a drip technique since the 1980s to varying effect, these newest works invigorate that practice. Steir’s technique may call to mind Abstract Expressionism, but the marks that permeate her splashy, washed surfaces suggest the weight of the paint itself rather than her own hand. Her earlier Waterfall paintings juxtaposed two colors in foreground and background, sensationalizing the dramatic force of gravity pulling her splatters down the plane. Then her work seemed to atomize, becoming canvases covered in semi-monochromatic fields of shimmering color and pigment."
Markell writes: "The epitome of Gandy’s oeuvre culminates in his floral paintings. The workman-like stance that inhabits his cityscapes, combines in these still lives with a reverence for the natural world. Pigment bubbles up like some gurgling spring, exuding the essential essence of a delicately fragrant sensibility. Yet these blossoms are encrusted with substantial weight. Their surfaces mask a tremendous burden, exhausted by an exquisite finality. Its as if the slightest additional mark might result in a psychic collapse. This art has reached a peak state of painting that cannot be exceeded. I believe Brodie was a naturalist at heart. His figurative work (both animal and human) inevitably leads to a humanist celebration, but always in the context of architecture as a naturally occurring phenomenon."
Bernadet comments: "I don't care especially about painting, even if this is what I'm doing and even if I like a lot of painting as a viewer like any other. There's no position in what I'm doing, I'm not defending or advertising anything. I didn't choose painting versus something else, I just probably found myself comfortable doing it in order to say what I have to say. I see narration in my works on two different levels: as you point out, there's a lot to read in each painting. The gestures, the actions, the erasures etc. are all recounting the history of the making, the failures and the successes, the time spent in the studio, the bad days and the good ones. Secondly, what is present within the works I'm making and developing is a common quality that I strive for in every painting. This being distance, a mise en abyme, a loss of integrity balanced with a strong presence and attractive aspect. It is the product of decisions I made through the years, and at the same time, something I observed retrospectively. I think I want my paintings to be solid and hold a wall, act on their surroundings and on the viewer in a very physical way, imposing silence, clear as a sound, but at the same time I want them to appear as if they are on the verge of disappearance, corrupted like memories, unstable like feelings."
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.