Mira Schor writes about Leon Golub: Riot at Hauser & Wirth, New York, on view through Jue 20, 2015.
Schor observes: "Golub is a painter. He is a political painter, consciously so. He strives for the heroic, via the anti-heroic, but irony is not his calling card and materiality, flayed scumbled paint on unstretched raw linen, is the embodied expression of his moral vision of the world. His sources are often photographic, but the body of marble aged by millennia, of paint applied expressionistically in action painting, are the means of communication. He is our Delacroix, our Gericault, our Courbet, not our Duchamp, our Warhol, or Koons, nor even our Haacke, but we have preferred to honor the artists who it is felt by some as having fulfilled the narrative of institutional critique, commodity culture, new imaging technologies. Despite everything that has happened since abstract expressionism, we still seem to be in a Greenbergian revolt against the political in painting, especially if it takes place within the language of abstract expressionism, of old fashioned painting. This gets close perhaps to the source of the curious case of Leon Golub, famous and honored yet not honored as he should be in his native land."
Christopher Joy and Zachary Keeting visit the studio of painter Heidi Hahn.
Hahn comments: "I'm such a figurative artist that ... it's not a painting until there's a person in it... even though there's a lot of abstracted moments within this figuration that come together ... I've always been that kind of person where I'm interested in the story of how people live, how they interact with others, how they carry themselves..."
Nicholas Wroe profiles painter Frank Auerbach. An exhibition of Auerbach's work will be on view at Tate Britain from October 9, 2015 - March 13, 2016.
Wroe writes: "... why has [Auerbach] adhered to a regime over much of the last 60 years that is far more restrictive than anything an employer would impose, often working seven days and five nights a week and barely leaving the small patch of north London near the studio where he both works and sleeps? 'Well, [Auerbach comments] you start to realise that painting is not quite as easy as you thought. In fact what you are doing isn’t really painting at all. You gradually see how much of a historical backlog there is, and if you don’t take it into account you are doing nothing more than fiddling about. At first I had to struggle to find the time to work, and then when I got a bit of time it seemed absolutely bonkers not to use it for painting."
Goodrich writes: "Kahn vigorously characterizes the elements within these scenes, not through illustrative descriptions but through pictorial events. What does this mean? Simply put, if you look at the paintings and absorb their most elemental effect – the impact of their colors and the intervals between them – you’ll gain, sooner or later, an uncanny sense of presences filling the surface, and even your relationship to them. Kahn’s colors are keenly active, not in simply pushing forward and back, but in their pressures across the surface. They turn her compositions into spacious but tightly-knit meshes, with each color – whether spreading as open space, condensing as detail, or connecting as a tensile gesture – leveraging the next."
McNay writes: "As the artist put it: 'What I am searching for is neither the real nor the unreal, but the subconscious, the mystery of what is instinctive in the human race.' Modigliani’s figures therefore blend the life model or muse with the sculpture, the present with the past, the 2D with the 3D, the marble with the flesh. Without much recourse to shading, it is Modigliani’s exploitation of negative space that gives both weight and volume to his bodies – and this is the negative space both without and within the figures."
Zellen writes: "Larsen’s paintings have a purposeful naiveté, a quality that is also prevalent in the works of younger painters including Jonas Wood and Avery Singer, who are known for works that flatten space and figures. The figures and the world they inhabit are somewhat reminiscent of Edwin Abbott’s novella Flatland, a story about cultural hierarchies and class, subjects that also inhabit Larsen’s paintings. To this end, the perspective in Larsen’s work is often intentionally wrong—forms and figures do not recede in a realistic fashion—making the depictions of natural, urban and domestic spaces unsettling and claustrophobic. Each figure is a quasi-robot comprised of interlocking rectangles styled to represent heads, hair, arms, legs and other body parts."
Susan Silas interviews painter Joan Semmel. Across Fives Decades, a retrospective of Semmel's work is on view at Alexander Gray Associates, New York, through May 16, 2015.
Semmel comments: "I never thought of myself, when I switched over, as a 'figurative painter.' Never. I never made the break. I was never figural. What I was looking for were images that were iconic. I was looking for ways of making images that women would see as sexual for them, and so I wanted those images to register, and that is part of why I left the abstraction behind — because the abstract images are more diffuse... I knew that in taking that step I was isolating myself more and more from the mainstream of painting, and I was trying to find the bridge to connect to the mainstream also. So, by using both ways of working, I was hoping to establish that bridge. So for me, the abstraction was the external... The abstraction was the connection to the culture. And the image was an internal expression of what I was feeling."
Ellen Gamerman interviews painter Alex Katz whose work is on view at Gavin Brown's Enterprise, New York, through June 13, 2015.
Gamerman begins: "One morning. That’s how long it takes Alex Katz to start—and finish—a painting. This high-speed routine has repeated itself many mornings, for many years. Such remarkable productivity would be a feat for any artist, but especially an 87-year-old whose towering pictures demand exacting brushwork across canvases that span entire walls."
Bienvenu comments: "If you get personal in the work it’s more likely to resonate in a universal way. My friends show up in the paintings, drinking buddy as muse. They all start as automatic drawing, abstract marks and then I see an image in the mess and it seeps up from the mud. I lay in some colors and start to see an ex-girlfriend peeing or a bearded buddy sitting at a bar so I let it happen and if I like looking at it, the image sticks around. A huge part of it is communicating my feelings; humor is a great way to deal with anxiety and fear. Also the lapsed Catholic thing, live your life, that plays some role in the imagery I’m sure."
Thomas Gebremedhin interviews painter Lisa Yuskavage whose work is on view at David Zwirner, New York, through June 13, 2015.
Yuskavage comments: "I’ve gotten cease and desist letters. They’ve called me pornographic, like it’s a bad thing. We are living in a world where you have to go to battle to have an open mind. People are a little more used to seeing what I do now, but when I was making my early work they were really not prepared for it. And I loved what I was doing so much, because I knew it was right. If it feels so good, it’s got to be right. I stopped thinking about making art that looked like anything else. I had a direct line to this thing inside of myself. It’s like cooking and saying, I have a hankering for this and a little bit of that. You’re not working from a recipe because the goal is not a known goal. You’re putting something together based on cravings. I wanted to make art that I was hoping to see and hadn’t seen. To be able to get back to painting was a real act of defiance for me, especially against myself. When I got back to it I felt like I was breathing air for the first time."
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.