Nicole Eisenman and David Humphrey discuss their approaches to narrative and figurative painting.
Eisenman: "My thing is that I’m really into narrative. It’s not about the figure—it’s the storytelling that I’m stuck on. The meat and bones in my practice is somewhere between texture and storytelling."
Humphrey: "Something comes alive right when you’re trying to solve a problem in the picture. It might be: What kind of shoes are on this person? What kind of hat is that? Is that a swivel chair, is there a pattern on it? And in the aggregate of all that problem-solving you end up with a narrative that’s both bigger than, and intersecting with, the manifest narrative of people riding on a train or eating a meal or whatever."
Eisenman: "Somehow what’s happening in the picture gets eclipsed by the meaning of the accumulation of those objects and moments smooshed together. You can look at how those objects and things intersect with texture and structure to deepen the story."
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."
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..."
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.