Ed Schad writes about unexpectedly encountering Alexander Rodchenko's triptych Pure Red, Pure Yellow, and Pure Blue (1921) on a trip to Mexico City.
Having been fascinated by the story of this work for decades, Schad notes: "I poured over the surfaces, but there was nothing to see other than cracks and age and fraying edges. The paintings obviously remained rolled a long time, and their condition spoke of a great fall from history ... They seemed naïve, a vision of the monochromic impulse as merely political, a vision of color as something fundamental and platonic that could somehow be 'pure.' ... But I remained stunned by my encounter with the work, by how it leapt ... into the sudden reality of my visit to Mexico... When one thinks of revolutionary art—when one thinks of democratic reform predicated on socialist principles—this is the art that one thinks of. Rodchenko put forth his equation, but these were other equations put forth by Mexican artists on the other side of the world. But do they hold their power? Are they really revolutionary? Or does form only hold what its creator requires of it at the time, only to evaporate when the winds of history shift?"
George Lawson interviews painter Alan Ebnother on the occasion of Ebnother's exhibition twelve paintings at George Lawson Gallery, San Francisco, on view through February 20, 2016.
Ebnother comments: "With my love of a paint structure thicker and heavier then history provided me, I was forced to study and learn how to create a thick paint that would not crack and self-destruct over time. The affirmation that I needed was found in Rembrandt’s impasto whites, and Van Gogh's rhythms. Seeking painting that included one step more than a flat, colored plane, I really have spent the last 30 years attempting to merge structure, rhythm, surface, and color into paint that offered not an explanation, but a small world in itself, a world that hangs on a wall and waits for a viewer to spend the time pondering it."
Roberta Smith reviews works by Robert Ryman at Dia:Chelsea, New York, on view through June 18, 2016.
Smith writes: "In effect, Mr. Ryman has spent his career circling Point A, proving that there are an infinite number of ways to meet painting’s basic requirements... It helps to think of Mr. Ryman as a kind of philosopher-carpenter with an inborn, almost mystical love of paint as paint. He wants us to understand its sensuousness while he demonstrates that paintings are in effect 'built' from scores of decisions and details, and then proceeds to challenge our definition of his medium. 'Is this a painting?' 'Is that a painting?' could be taken as the main credo of his art. He doesn’t always provide easy answers."
Mary Hrbacek reviews a recent exhibition of works by Anders Knutsson at Van Der Plas Gallery, New York.
Hrbacek writes: "Knutsson's hues are emphatically mixed; they are not comprised of raw paint taken straight from the tube in undiluted pigments. Instead, he combines his own pigments in an attempt to explore pure unadulterated light through color that cannot be easily explained... Unlike Yves Klein, known for the idiosyncratic blue paint, or Frank Stella, whose early works are exclusively black, Knutsson investigates the entire color spectrum, focusing on one hue at a time. These veils of see-through paint create in solid form a depth of reflective light with the colors one perceives obliquely in the rainbow."
Goldner writes: "By studying, 'the colors of the sea, the sky and the sand, the seashells and seaweed, the dark clouds over the horizon in the evening,' Hafif says, she made these vibrant paintings using colors as Indian yellow, green earth, rose and ultramarine blue, and muted shades of indigo, silver and violet grey. Joan Waltemath explains in the catalogue, 'The pure sensation of light that bounces off the surface of each of her canvases seems to indicate colors so precisely calibrated that each emits a single frequency of light.' As [curator Mike] McGee observes, 'We experience her colors on a tactile, physiological and even feeling level.'"
Kenneth Baker reviews John Meyer: Diptychs at George Lawson Gallery, San Francisco, on view through June 13, 2015.
Baker writes: "The installation at Lawson permits visitors to see that the incidence of light on the paintings’ surfaces matters crucially to their definition, or self-definition. Yet even the surest perception of such aspects, under what seem close to ideal viewing conditions, feels tentative, subject to vagaries of changing daylight, viewing angle and our common incapacity finally to see as others see. Explicitness and elusiveness converge in Meyer’s work with an intensity we seldom see in contemporary art, irrespective of style. That flavor of experience can reach an exquisite, almost excruciating intensity in paintings where Meyer brought color into play, such as “Untitled Diptych #6 (Blue/White)” (1994)."
Tulsa Kinney visits the studio of painter James Hayward.
Kinney writes: "I ask [Hayward] if painting is a physical thing for him—I have this vision of him in his studio vigorously slathering globs of thick crimson onto a canvas with a paintbrush in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other. In my mind he’s wearing only his cowboy hat and cowboy boots, and a pair of red boxer shorts—the same color as the painting he’s working on—and Hank Williams is blaring in the background. He answers, 'The physicality is part of it, but the heart and soul of it is the marking. In my monochromes I try to avoid there ever being a special place. There’s no chosen place. It’s totally proletariat, the marking. I want the corners to be as important as the center and I want every mark to be equal in terms of importance. Ideally, the last marks just kind of blend into the earlier marks and disappear.'"
Robert C. Morgan reviews works by Ha Chonghyun at Blum & Poe, New York, on view through December 20, 2014.
Morgan writes: "These scribbled, marked, and incised paintings are a challenge to consider the importance of our tactile sensations in discovering fulfillment within the cycles of nature. The force contained within these paintings is a vibrant one, directed toward those willing to contend with some kind of mediated posthuman reality on the verge of pushing us outside ourselves, thereby depriving our sense of awareness about how to live. This is the locus in which the Conjunctions intervene, the place where Ha’s terrestrial vision becomes a form of meditation. It is where the Conjunctions emit their healing power and where they connect us to art, not by conceptual anecdotes but through feelings."
Richard Benari interviews painter Daniel Levine about his monochrome paintings.
Levine comments: "I tend to work in groups, and also different applications. By groups I would mean the same paint - the titanium group by 'x' brand... the titanium group by 'y' brand... the titanium group by 'z' brand. Then there would be the zincs. There'd be many, many, many different types of whites. And then different mediums as well... In each session I ... generally work on one type of paint, one brand... but they're all individual pieces.. different scales, different surfaces, different applications, different tones, different depths of the the canvas, so [it's] a narrative, jumping from one to the next to the next."
Carl Belz writes about the exhibition Nothing is Everything at Pagus Projects, Norristown, PA, on view from March 22 – May 2, 2014. The show features works by Alan Greenberg, Karen Baumeister and Stuart Fineman.
Belz notes that Greenberg, Baumeister, and Fineman "face a challenge in wanting to find a responsive audience for their pictures within the ebb and flow of today’s cultural environment – an environment ubiquitously laced with cynicism and irony, bound to mass media, visually glutted, serving up art as spectacle and entertainment, and promising instant gratification while racing breathlessly and inexorably to the next great thing. Against that backdrop, which is nothing if not challenging, they present us with lean-looking pictures that picture nothing, that are reticent, that are slow to reveal themselves and their pleasures, pictures of the sort that are at their best when encountered not in clusters before crowds but one-on-one and face-to-face, the way we encounter one another, which is how we come to know fully everything they are. Our current cultural environment puts such pictures at risk, not only in increasing the odds against our getting their meaning right but against our finding time to get any of their meaning at all."
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.