August Kleinzahler reviews Richard Estes’ Realism at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, on view through February 8, 2015.
Kleinzahler writes: "Estes is identified with the photorealist school of painting. With their glossy, often hard finish, an almost enamelled quality, and photographic degree of verisimilitude, his work looks at home in that context. But it might be more useful to compare his pictures with those of the veduta painters of the 17th and 18th centuries, with Vermeer’s View of Delft and The Little Street, or the views of Venice by Canaletto and the Guardis. ... his interest in reflection ... seems to have been ignited by the pictures he saw at the National Gallery during his travels as a young artist: small Turner watercolours ‘with distorted reflections in windows – or mirrors perhaps’, Van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait, in which the mirror behind the couple reflects two figures at the door and The Rokeby Venus by Velásquez, in which she admires her own reflection in a mirror – all these pictures, Estes says, ‘seemed to open up a lot of possibilities for painting’."
Larry Groff blogs about the paintings of Lisa Breslow on view at Kathryn Markel Fine Arts, New York through December 20, 2014.
Groff notes: "The emotional register of this body of work is dialed to a more serious channel for visual contemplation. Despite the loose touch everything here seems carefully considered and finds its place. There is nothing jarring, awkward or extraneous; it feels resolved. Formal issues such as the abstract structure, tonal unity and resonance of the colors, adherence to the grid and maintaining the flatness of the picture plane seem to be more important than describing and making inventory of the elements in a particular view."
Elisa Jensen shares the backstory on the work currently on view in her show Street Lines at The Painting Center, New York, through November 23, 2014.
Jensen notes: "My painting is rooted in a place—Brooklyn, at the moment—but as a general matter I am not a faithful copyist of the everyday... And speaking of combining the ancient and the modern, I see a tremendous connection between what’s happening on the corner of Nassau and Manhattan Avenue and The Book of Kells, the Lindesfarne Gospels, and the Book of Durrow."
Keane writes: "This show brings Wilson’s rarely seen cityscapes from the mid-1960s into meaningful dialogue with her sky-and-landscape paintings completed over the last twenty-five years. Through supple brushwork and radiating, overlaid chromatic arrangements of paint, these mostly large oil paintings capture the gradual, scattered and tinctured nature of sunlight, the natural impressions and undulations caused by wind patterns, the brooding textures of storm fronts, and the wild effects of humidity on light. Most interestingly, the weather depicted in Wilson’s paintings provides an immersive experience for the viewer, steeped in human vulnerability and anomie, an inspired tradition which extends back to epochal paintings like J.M. Turner’s 'Sunrise with Sea Monsters' (1845) and Gustave Caillebotte’s 'Rainy Day' (1877). Into the twentieth century, the same spirit also informs the moodier landscapes and portentous cityscapes of Wilson’s like-minded New York School brethren, such as Fairfield Porter and Jane Freilicher. In Wilson’s work, clouds and light appear so viscous and so tenuous that they carry self-referential weight. Her outdoor transformations point to the constant re-visioning of reality that is the very reason painters paint."
On the occasion of his upcoming exhibition at Prince Street Gallery, New York ( July 29 - August 16), Larry Groff writes about his new paintings and his career as a painter.
Groff notes: "To me great landscape painting is abstract painting that also has a structure and is intrinsically bound to certain visual restrictions. These restrictions paradoxically can make the process more freeing. I increasingly find that by narrowing the range of choices you free up your mind to push ideas further and to look at design possibilities more fully... Each painting has its own rules about how closely to follow observed facts. Sometimes the most interesting thing to me is the chance arrangement of forms found in the chaos of nature that is far more interesting visually than the order I might impose on it. The visual surprises from nature can be a catalyst for bigger abstract ideas that would have been difficult or impossible from invention alone. Other times nature is just a jumbled mess and you first need to wipe out everything in order to see where a painting might come out of all of it. On occasion, a more laborious (and often less successful) manner involves putting in everything that might be tried, then as the painting progresses, gradually removing the non-essential – which is somewhat like how I’ve lived my life for many years."
Barbara Morris reviews the recent exhibition Judith Belzer: Paths of Desire at George Lawson Gallery, San Francisco.
Morris writes: "Belzer explores the edge where the natural world interfaces with the industrialized landscape, emphasizing how rhythms and patterns found in nature are echoed in the structures that man has created. An underlying subtext to Belzer’s work is that the 'unspoiled' landscape is almost a thing of the past, conveying our anxious energy as we struggle for equilibrium in a world permanently altered by our actions... With dynamic, gestural line quality of paint whipping around, and surefooted and energetic areas of deftly applied color, Belzer’s churning and writhing skeins of oil manage to nonetheless convey a formal quality bordering on austere."
Maine writes: "Demonstrating formal finesse, visual wit and disarmingly direct technique, the recent paintings of Olive Ayhens are a pleasure to behold. The profusion of anecdotal detail in this artist’s work (in particular, her obvious fondness for certain members of the animal kingdom) suggests a dreamlike narrative symbolism, but that doesn’t obscure the fact that she’s also an abstractionist of the first order... nine medium-sized paintings — in oil on canvas or linen, from the last five years — that attest to Ayhens’s command of her pictorial means: elastic or distorted space, a distinctive palette, and a willingness to allow realism to dissolve into pure abstraction. That these elements are knit together just a bit uneasily adds to the works’ power and charm."
Richard Benari posts a podcast recording of painter Arnold Mesches in conversation with Robert C. Morgan, Irving Sandler and Michael David on the occasion of the recent exhibition Arnold Mesches: Eternal Return at Life on Mars Gallery, Bushwick.
Mesches comments: “What was going on [in the early 1950s] was an awareness of the technique of the form of art — because they stopped making images. They made art! I began thinking that something else was happening, and that something else had to be brought into my thinking as a social realist painter — how the hell can I bring that into my thinking as an image maker?... By combining unlikely juxtapositions, both in painting techniques and disparate imagery, I have tried to re-create the sense of utter instability and sheer insanity that I feel has so often permeated my years. Instead of, as in my salad days, veering toward the overt, I have, for some years now, found myself depicting our time with a sense of unreality bordering on the more unsettling absurd."
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.