Feinsteing writes: "Like the Italian masters who depicted scenes from the Bible, Lawrence created extended narrative cycles. He chose to chronicle the stories of normal citizens like himself—largely invisible in the art of the time—and situate them in the history of America. Daily lives, street scenes, and people at play, at worship, and at work feature prominently. So do historical narratives of slaves ... and the mass migration of black people from Southern farms to factories in the North and Midwest. Lawrence created a vernacular visual history, much of which is still missing from history textbooks today."
Mark Stone blogs about two painting exhibitions on view in Venice Sean Scully: Land Sea curated by Danilo Eccher at Palazzo Falier (through November 22) and Peter Doig at Palazzetto Tito.
Stone writes: "Scully’s newer works have gotten much looser, the paint handling is more offhand, drippier, the compositions have opened up and become less structured. The predominant color in these works is an ultramarine blue that occasionally gets lightened, muddied or blurred with acidy yellows or workman reds, dropping the primaries into secondaries and/or tertiaries. In these landscape-y blue works there is a broader swing from dark to light, the stripes open up while the paintings remain more monochromatic. ... Doig’s color is hearty in blocks and stretches, the figuration is respectfully abstracted following Diebenkorn’s and Hockney’s examples, and there’s a bit of Surreal spectacle and art historical play in them. This is Postmodernism done well, and when it works as it does here, it can be pleasing."
John Mitchell blogs about the work of Malcom Morley, on view at Sperone Westwater, New York through June 6, 2015.
Mitchell writes: "There’s a poetic multiplicity of meaning to every aspect of Malcolm’s work. The spirit of playfulness in his painting is joyful and at 83, he’s charged with youthful vigor for his work – as his robust output over the past decade clearly demonstrates."
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..."
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."
Salle comments: "The main quality of image culture is its relentlessness. My experience of my own work is somewhat different. Of course we all grow up awash in images, more or less meaningless, transitory. No doubt that’s in my head, just like everyone else, but I’m interested in trying to make something where the images matter, not as bits of random stuff, but as form. Recently someone was telling me what a young artist said about their work, noting that the same thing has been said about mine, that they like to have the TV on, and the radio, and they’re playing a video game, and so on—saturation and overload being the point. I said, 'stop right there.' In the first place I don’t watch TV, and I never play video games; I’m a noise-phobe and I can’t do two things at once. I mean, I’m not a Luddite, I have all the modern devices, but so far they haven’t changed the nature of the stuff that matters, at least to me. The images I use in my work are specific; they’re not random. They’re not from all over the place; they’re from certain places."
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.