Johnson writes that Neel's images of "parks, beaches, political rallies, and even illustrations for the Brothers Karmazov (1938)—that offer some respite from a show otherwise defined by portraits that expose the sitter in some way. Take, for example, her portraits of Kenneth Doolittle, a drug-addicted sailor who was also her lover. In one watercolor rendering, he sits in a rocking chair, smug, with his legs split open. He looks like the actor Sean Penn. In another piece, he sits hunched over, his eyes half open and his body withered. He’s pathetic, and Neel’s pen is unsparing. For me, those portraits were amongst the best in the show because they show people exactly as Neel sees them. And Neel is unusually perceptive—sensitive to both her own feelings and those of others."
Keane writes that "the show offers uninitiated visitors a chance to discover an American artist who redirected techniques of twentieth-century vanguard painting into a form of portraiture that is as much about the rhythms and processes of human recognition as it is about the diverse characters who were her subjects... her ability to paint this glimpse may explain her paintings’ intentional 'absences,' as discussed by critic Ann Eden Gibson. Gibson claims, in her penetrating essay, that Elaine de Kooning deliberately and variously integrated into her portraits incomplete features and implicit cognitive gaps. According to Gibson, she did so to generate an invisible, evocative vortex of sorts in each portrait, within which (as Roland Barthes claims happens in portrait photography) three human subjectivities can merge in a visual continuum – that of painter, sitter and viewer."
Harris recalls: "I had a break-through in my painting when I began thinking metaphorically. It started with a vein in a forehead, then the realization that everything could be vascular. So tendrils of hair became capillary, as did tendrils of light, stripes in a shirt were arterial, a scrunchie hairband a thrombosis. This was a key for me to unlocking invention... I want my paintings to function like an eyelid, veering from dry to wet, inside to outside, opaque to transparent, form to formless, mute to aggressive, space curved outward toward the viewer, held in by fragile surface tension, the picture plane as membrane, the entire painting an eyelid."
Carr writes: "Speicher studied painting with William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri in New York City. Georgia O’Keefe and Edward Hopper were art school friends ... Despite winning early acclaim as a portraitist, by mid-career Speicher limited his lucrative commissions, preferring instead to paint friends or hired models in classical poses ... Unlike his contemporary Thomas Hart Benton, whose maximalist murals are loaded with information, Speicher’s art is restrained, with his motifs limited to portraits, landscapes and traditional still lifes. Speicher merged classical, idealized forms with observed phenomena in figurative canvases that are refreshingly clear."
Catherine Kehoe posts an essay by painter Tim Kennedy, written for his exhibition Paynetown, on view at First Street Gallery, New York, from March 3 - March 28, 2015.
Kennedy writes: "Working directly from the motif without an intervening filter such as photography, at least for now, is important to me. I think of my eye and my consciousness as a kind of funnel into which the world is poured and from which judgments about color, space and shape emerge in the form of a painting. This has seemed the simplest and best way for me to produce work."
Charles Kessler blogs about the exhibition Madame Cézanne at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, on view through March 15, 2015.
Kessler writes: "I don't think capturing [Madame Cézanne's] personality, or the personality of any other of his sitters for that matter, was Cézanne's concern, any more than capturing the personality of an apple or a landscape was... Furthermore, I disagree with the common description of Cézanne's art as composed of massive, rounded, solid forms... Instead of massive, rounded and solid, I perceive Cézanne's work as elusive, evanescent, and unstable... Cézanne's compositions are always a little off – slightly (and sometimes not so slightly) out of balance. They can be asymmetrical, elongated, broken up, tipsy, uncentered; and forms fluctuate back and forth between inhabiting three-dimensional space and lying flat on the surface. This is what gives Cézanne's art energy and dynamism, and its expressive, if often disconcerting, power."
Malone comments: "A painting should be more than proof that the painter had an experience that was personally meaningful to them. The result of their work should be meaningful to the viewer as well. Maybe not in the same way as it was to the painter, but meaningful in some shared human way... I’m simply trying to get back to a kind of painting that doesn’t need a written explanation — that doesn’t need a statement on the wall next to it. I want people to talk about my work. Understanding is up to them. I don’t like explaining. I think there’s more than enough room inside a rectangle to share the world with another person. I want painting to work in its simplest form."
Yau writes that "Gale’s ostensible subject is the record of an encounter between her and someone else, whether it is a model or her own face, which she presumably uses a mirror to scrutinize. However, unlike Philip Pearlstein, who is also a studio artist, Gale resists photo-like resemblance, overt signs of virtuosity, and the theatrical. But where observers have connected Gale to Freud and Pearlstein, as well as Alberto Giacometti, I think that the differences between her work and theirs, which elevates it into a category all its own, lie in her unlikely affinities with the Abstract Expressionists and the Minimalists. Virtuosity, which Pearlstein and Freud find many ways to demonstrate, is something many of the artists associated with Abstract Expressionism either tried to subvert or flat-out scorned. Mark Rothko was interested in making a painting that was naked, a work pared down to its essentials. Gale is also committed to stripping down her paintings, to getting rid of everything that she considers inessential. Gale wants to depict a figure in a real space, but refuses to rely on a viewpoint or schematic lines. It is a direct one-on-one encounter. This is what connects her to Giacometti, while her preoccupation with the phenomenology of seeing connects her to Paul Cezanne. For all the modesty of her marks and means, Gale is an incredibly ambitious painter devoted to a meticulous inquiry of the act of looking at another human being, to registering the optics of her inquisitiveness."
Xico Greenwald reviews Madame Cézanne at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, on view through March 15, 2015.
Greenwald writes: "Though this exhibit is, indeed, marvelous, [curator Dita] Amory’s revisionist history is a distraction. Claiming 'a tender interchange' can be detected in Madame Cézanne’s gaze, museumgoers searching for signs of affection in these portraits will be disappointed. What is remarkable is how unrecognizable Hortense Fiquet is from one painting to the next. Going from portrait to portrait is disorienting precisely because these paintings are not concerned with likeness; nor do these works seek to express Hortense Fiquet’s personality. Rather, the paintings here seem to convey the inevitable gulf between people. Trapped inside his limited perspective, these works reflect the artist’s unbiased study of the outside world. Cézanne said above all he hoped for 'certainty.' Careful not to project his personality onto his subject matter, he struggled to see his environment with fresh eyes while composing beautifully designed paintings."
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.