John Yau reviews Gladys Nilsson at Garth Greenan Gallery, New York, on view through December 6, 2014.
Yau writes that the works might drive away "those who want things simply and clearly spelled out for them. They run away from confusion and contradiction because they might not want to acknowledge how much of that is in their own lives. Nilsson is having none of that. Her work is weird, funny, creepy, screwball, sexual, unabashed and impolite. On more than one occasion I felt as if I were looking at a bland family who secretly tore wings off insects and ate them for breakfast. The people Nilsson is looking at have no idea how embarrassing they are, which is what gives the work its special twist, but, more importantly, she is unfailingly sympathetic to them."
John Yau recounts a visit to the studio of painter Denis Farrell.
Yau writes: "Farrell shares something with the reductive impulses that are central to Minimalist artists such as Robert Ryman, Brice Marden and, to a lesser degree the Radical Painting of Marcia Hafif. What distinguishes Farrell’s work from these American painters is the connection he makes between making and time passing, which seems to be of little interest to them. It is his consciousness of time passing, of art as a repeated act, combined with an intense material sensitivity, and, in the watercolors, a sensitivity to color and light that spans the spectrum between materiality and immateriality, that sets Farrell’s work apart from these two generations of older artists. I brought up Ryman while looking at a painting with a creamy white impasto surface punctuated by pimple-like protrusions scattered almost evenly across the surface, to which he responded, 'Sometimes I wander into someone else’s garden and have to find my way out.' This observation conveys Farrell’s innate faith in the process he has devised for himself, secure in the knowledge that by moving across the surface something unexpected will happen, leading him into an unanticipated direction."
Nathlie Provosty talks to painter Ron Gorchov about his work and career.
Gorchov remarks: "I really think that painting is about space and proportions and where things go; it’s what painting is. Form, if it isn’t the right color, it is not in the right place. And you know you can actually change the relationships a lot by changing the color a little... To me, art is really very much about the irrational. I don’t think you can rationalize why something is good, for instance. There are many definitions of art, but what strikes me as art is when something’s much better than it should be, when you just can’t figure out why it’s so good. In other words, you can’t use craft—that it’s meticulously made or that the colors are absolutely right. Something can be really good, and nothing’s right about it; it’s irrationally good."
Halasz writes that in Nolde's painting Phantasie (Drei Köpfe): "Everything is very definitively outlined. This is the only painting in the show whose label concedes it was made with graphite and ink in addition to watercolor. But the precise details of the outlines – and the way that they almost miraculously cleave to the edges of the different color areas in the painting – contrast with the common claims of the German Expressionists – and particularly with the claims of Die Brücke – that their art was made quickly and freely, that it was not only 'expressive' but 'spontaneous.' Expressive, I entirely agree. But spontaneous? To me, it’s pretty obvious that after the first fine careless rapture, a lot of care and dedication went into making these little pictures as perfect as possible."
Williams writes: "The two artists are represented by paintings and watercolours. In fact, water is one clear link between them: the way it carries colour, extending its reach into the corners, lapping against the edges, the bleeding and flowing of pigmented washes, suggestive of form or simply evocative of place as felt experience... I mused what [Turner] would have made of Frankenthaler’s work and even more so how would he have painted today? Would he still be painting landscapes? I wonder if it was landscape as a theme which eventually allowed him to paint as he wanted to paint, rather than always wanting to paint landscapes per se. The title of the show seems to reinforce this point. This is an exhibition that deals with how paintings get made rather than any specifics of subject matter. Many of Frankenthaler’s quotes about her work could equally have been uttered by Turner -'There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about.' "
Vasey writes: "Atypically for a painter, Otto-Knapp creates images through a subtractive rather than additive approach, building up and dissolving washes of watercolour and gauche on primed canvas. Paint sits in the tooth of the canvas rather than on top – surface and image are entwined. The image appears as though a mirage, at once seductive and unattainable. This is further dramatised by the removal of any colour: these new canvases are entirely painted in charcoal grey and silver. Otto-Knapp often adds an iridescent medium, so the surfaces of her paintings yield to light in unexpected ways... All of Otto-Knapp’s work, in different ways, is about movement. Her paintings depict mobility yet they also encourage you to walk up to and around them. From one side they appear monochromatic, at different angles subtle details are revealed. For images that remain at a point of dissolution they resolutely return us to our own physicality."
Eliot Markell blogs about an exhibition of watercolors by Ron Gorchov at Lesley Heller Workspace, New York, on view through October 13, 2013.
Markell writes that "a Gorchov trademark that does seem to have remained virtually unchanged are the familiar vertical slashes. This move animated what might otherwise result in a clunky looking attempt at mask making. But then Gorchov has never pretended to be a virtuoso; his wobbly, concave structures carve curvilinear boundaries in space, while his mark making espouses the virtues of loosely informal technique. What does seem to have evolved in the recent works on paper is a textural integrity. The thick, wafer-like ground provides stability for inherently diffuse, lightly pigmented forms floating in their constrained, yet unframed ether."
Joanne Mattera blogs about the exhibition Suzan Frecon: paper at David Zwirner Gallery, New York, on view through March 23, 2013.
Mattera writes: "There's something appealing about seeing small work in a large space. The individual pieces are dwarfed, requiring you to move in close. Intimacy in a large space seems like an oxymoron, but Suzan Frecon's watercolors--reductive compositions on Indian ledger paper--simultaneously assert themselves while letting you in."
Meyer writes: "The overall impression of Paik’s works is synesthetic, not kinetic. The unique combination of musical notes, feelings and colors evoked by each piece could be different for any viewer depending on his/her sensibilities. The alteration of elements in each piece captures some degree of prelude and fugue, but only in the order and pattern that the viewer determines."
He continues: "Phungrasamee Fein’s Where features the tranquil, ordered and precise watercolors for which the artist, of San Francisco, has become known. Her colors waver on the edge of perception, presenting an atomized form of brush-dots that openly partakes in its own structure."
Jacob Feige writes about discovering a room of Charles Demuth's watercolors at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.
Feige writes: "Easily missed and slightly out of place, these small gems of color and bygone entertainment are endearingly awkward, full of a strange anemic energy; they are a rare note of levity in an otherwise fairly stern collection. Nearly a hundred years on, Demuth’s watercolors from this period express gender and sexuality in ways that are now an essential aspect of contemporary art practice. The physicality of bodies, androgyny, and abstraction inform one another as they do in works by Kai Althoff and Leidy Churchman, contemporary artists whose projects take on such issues in direct lineage of Demuth."
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.