Paul Behnke’s curatorial criteria for the show Eight Painters are compellingly straightforward: “an individual, rigorous vision; a certain ambition without regard for scale or a specific way of making a painting; and an abiding belief in the ability of paint - and specifically, the genre of abstraction - to best communicate the artist’s appetite and inventiveness.”
In other words, the show features painters deeply engaged with the medium of paint. It’s a powerfully simple premise. Eschwing trends and labels, the tools of the art market, Behnke puts the focus where it should be - on the paintings themselves. He generously agreed to discuss the show with Painters’ Table. - Brett Baker
Painters' Table (PT): Your decision not to organize the show around a visual “theme” is uncommon these days - even somewhat radical. Can you expand a bit on how you came to believe that the commitment of each artist to the internal language of their work was the most worthy organizing principle?
Paul Benke (PB): I think as a painter I’ve always felt this.
Recently, the predominant way that paintings have been presented and viewed has been in the context of a curatorial theme. The more in depth statement of the one person exhibit is being pushed aside in favor of a “hook” that I think art spaces feel they need to draw in viewers. These curatorial themes start to seem necessary to make painting feel relevant. To submit a body of work to almost any art space’s open call you must have a “project”, a hook, and it’s even better if your idea involves some sort of play on Relational Esthetics or is community based. All of these approaches have their place but this type of exhibition has become prevalent at the expense of a deeper, more encompassing experience of the painter’s work.
Good painting is as varied and multi-layered as the person who made it. Thoughts, memories, visual associations – the sum of a painter’s daily life - personality and experiences feed into a work. And that’s just the conceptual content. To say nothing of the subtleties or boldness of a paintings formal qualities and the staggering number of decisions that go into realizing a piece. To reduce all of that to a fragment of its intent runs the risk of doing the medium and painter a disservice, especially if the viewer is easily swayed or lazy.
I did what I could to negate this approach in Eight Painters. I intentionally kept the number of exhibiting artists under ten and asked for one piece or a concise grouping of work from each. I wanted something closer in feel to a museum display rather than an over-hung, chaotic presentation. Within those parameters I felt I had the best chance of giving the work, the painter and the viewer the kind of experience they deserved.
Howard Hurst reviews the exhibition Color Line, curated by Rico Gatson, at Outpost Artist Resources, Ridgewood, Queens, on view through October 25, 2013. The show includes works by Liz Atzberger, Robert Otto Epstein, Rico Gatson, Ben Godward, Alex Lee Harris, Bjoern Meyer-Ebrecht, Brooke Moyse, Ellie Murphy, Ursula Schneider, Patrick Todd, Siebren Versteeg, and Tamara Zahaykevich.
Hurst writes: "To classify those artists making abstract painting today under one umbrella would be a misstep. Color Line... provides a comprehensive and honest look at the various approaches being applied to abstract painting and sculpture. It must be said that the exhibition (and this article) provide only a specific look at a limited number of approaches. What it does do is illustrate that painting (and/or sculpture) today is not embodied by one movement, but exists at an intersection where any number of practices overlap."
Paul Behnke's photo-blog series features a look at the studio process of painter Brooke Moyse.
Behnke writes: "While her work could be cited as an example of Bushwick's recent New Casualist esthetic, the formal qualities of Moyse's painting have been evolving steadily, into a studied offhandedness, for some years. The quick appearance of her paint application is butted against a sophisticated palette, and accute sense of composition, that lend an air of urbanity to Moyse's paintings. These varied, formal contrasts, along with the ambition and scale of much of her work, make her seem right at home in the current group show at Loretta Howard Gallery in Chelsea. In DNA: Strands of Abstraction, she shares wall space with Kline, Motherwell, Frankenthaller, Poons and Rockburne without missing a beat."
Kalm notes that this show, and several other summer abstraction paintings (including Xstraction), "gives viewers a chance to reevaluate the many facets of this practice and with 'DNA' see the works of at least three generations of artists side by side. This show includes views of works by Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler, Franz Kline, Al Held, Louise Nevelson, Jules Olitski, Larry Poons, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Joshua Abelow, Ronald Bladen, Brooke Moyse, Kenneth Noland and others."
Yifat Gat posts an interview with painter Julie Torres, curator of What I Like About You at Parallel Art Space. The exhibition which opens during Bushwick Open Studios weekend features a work by 19 international artists who have each selected an artist from Brooklyn to participate in the show.
Torres comments that "it never hurts to surround yourself with inspiring artists...... and LOTS of them. When a big group of wonderful people get together, the energy is palpable and the possibilities seem limitless. I think it makes my own work braver, less timid, and more joyful. It definitely gets me out of my own head. It's exhilarating. [The stylistic groupings] happened pretty organically... I naturally gravitate toward other painters, specifically those who radiate in a very human, very raw exuberant way. Since those are the artists I follow online, those are the folks I invited. Not everyone I invited could come, but it's a very exciting group. And because they are each selecting a Brooklyn artist to showcase, it will expand further from there."
The must-see exhibition includes work by Julie Alexander, Jamie Powell, Karl Bielik, Henry Samelson Valerie Brennan, Rodney Dickson, Brian Cypher, Michael Voss, Jack Davidson, Frank Holliday, Brian Edmonds, Patricia Satterlee, Justine Frischmann, Clinton King, Erin Lawlor, Lael Marshall, David T Miller, Brooke Moyse, Lucy Mink, Chris Moss, Sean Montgomery, Yadir Quintana, Melanie Parke, EJ Hauser, Julia Schwartz, Sharon Butler, Peter Shear, Katherine Bradford, Wilma Vissers, Tatiana Berg, Ian White Williams, Paul Behnke, Douglas Witmer, Alex Paik, Pier Wright, Lipke, Stephen Wright, Ky Anderson, Liz Ainslie, Lauren Collings, and Saira Mclaren.
Butler writes: "Presenting uncharacteristic work by abstract artists Jonathan Allmeier, Tamara Gonzales, EJ Hauser, Stephen Truax, and Maria Walker that is conceptual, formal, and sincere all at once, Moyse is interested in the objects' history, the mark-making, and the way that the artists combine the two to create powerful new experiences, linking the 19th-century Symbolist movement, mysticism, and transcendental experience to recent approaches in contemporary abstract painting."
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.