Megan Abrahams reviews Julie Heffernan's recent exhibition Pre-Occupations at Mark Moore Gallery, Culver City.
Abrahams begins: "Dramatic, intense, surreal and rich with metaphor, Julie Heffernan’s recent series of large figurative tableaux transport us to an apparently post-apocalyptic place and time conceived from the artist’s imagination. In her elegantly realized, often disturbing vision, the earth’s environment appears to have deteriorated, propelling humanity back to a more rustic, primitive and desperate way of life. Layered with beauty, conflict and tension, there is much at stake in the world as portrayed by Heffernan. Her overriding concern is the man-made destruction wrought by climate change, overpopulation and ecological imbalance, which she articulates in the tradition of historical narrative painting interwoven with her own surreal vernacular and elements of the Baroque."
Jennifer Samet interviews painter Henry Taylor about his life and work.
In her introduction Samet notest that Taylor's "paintings bear that emotional porosity. His painting world is his personal world, and our shared cultural world. He makes solo and group portraits of his brothers, his lovers and friends, and people truly living on the edge, along with black athletes, heroes, legends fallen from grace, and iconic victims of societal racism and hate. Broad, color-saturated forms with painterly moments are orchestrated into clear arrangements. Bits of text are often incorporated, as well as singular symbolic attributes (the objects the sitters hold, the clothes they wear) that tell the story of who they are — glimpses of their internal lives, their relationship to the world and each other."
Faith McClure interviews painter Alex Katz on the occasion of the exhibition Alex Katz, This Is Now at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, on view through September 6, 2015.
Katz comments: "Style makes everything cohesive. The old guys said style becomes content and content becomes form. That’s the abstract expressionism bible. In my paintings, style is not form. There’s this interview with Francesco Clemente where we argue. He thinks it’s form, but I think style is the real content... Willpower and character, and trusting yourself and the parts of yourself that don’t make sense. Painting is sort of like a community activity. You represent a lot of people when you paint. It’s not a genius thing. It’s a collective thing. And the other part of it is that you have an idea of what art should be, and you hang onto that. It changes its faces. Dealing with something like reality, you’re dealing with a variable. So every solution you make is obsolete, and you have to make another solution."
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."
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.