G. Peter Jemison, Manhattan Fur Trade, 1983-84 (photo: Randee Silv)
Patrick Brennan reviews the recent exhibition The Old Becomes The New: New York Contemporary Native American Art Movement And The New York School at Wilmer Jennings Gallery at Kenkeleba, New York.
Brennan writes: "There are lateral and reciprocal relations between the New York School and these contemporary Native artists. American artists of comparatively recent European origin, each seeking a language for one’s own voice and experience, had to listen for the pulses of their Turtle Island home. Many, as were Will Barnet, the Indian space painters, Pollock, Gottlieb and Rothko, responsive to the homologies between their evolving abstract and iconographic syntaxes and the precedents already long applied by Native artists ... G. Peter Jemison takes advantage of visual art’s capacity to collapse multiple associations within an image in a way the linearity of language can barely deliver. To the left is what looks like concentric tree rings in blue river water lined around an almost blood red silhouette map of the island. To the right seems an English green, eerily empty and disembodied, where a rabbit pauses in the foreground within clear view of a perambulating wolf off a ways to the back. Directly behind the wolf, as if seen from New Jersey, rises the old World Trade Center. Predation regards live fur through business as usual while the painting still remembers yet another way."
Brody remarks that Wheeler "always had fans –– the work’s sheer persistent quality keeps it alive. As the wheel of poetic injustice turns, Wheeler now begins to seem, to many contemporary artists, more directly relevant than the canonical New York School artists. Art history pinches back on itself all the time –– particularly American art history, in which, for example, the dogged conservatism of Albert Pinkham Ryder, Charles Burchfield, or Edward Hopper becomes avant-garde in retrospect."
Brody continues, noting that "[Wheeler] packs signs into a resolute, atomic-age aesthetic crush, then works the variables of color and linear hierarchy into critical mass. A plurality of contemporary painters have used a similar strategy, for example Pearson, Burckhardt, and Murray; they get to abstraction by submitting found objects, or found fragments of style, to enormous pressure. This additive, sign-saturated version of abstraction, not invented by Wheeler but pushed to a limit case by him, allows many contemporary painters to manifest, like Wheeler, a quality of true belief in painting, above and beyond artistic ideology. Yes, we respond to Wheeler because he is a believer, and more than that –– something close to a prophet."
Joan Waltemath reviews an exhibition of new work by Jeffrey Gibson at Marc Strauss Gallery, New York, on view through December 23, 2012.
Waltemath writes: "The generous yet restrained surfaces of his reflective acrylic paintings are framed with a glimpse into the deep and sonorous smooth matte of an animal hide. The pairing appears so perfectly attenuated that it is impossible to separate them, therefore impossible to bring a politically correct fur coat-animal cruelty discourse to them. In the hands of this artist another, deeper character emerges, something beyond the reach of contemporary issues. Yet Gibson’s work is also firmly tied to cultural politics. As a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and half Cherokee, the artist draws on his heritage of Native American iconography for his work, which also takes equally from the history of modernism."
"I went back to my own idioms, envisioned, created, and thought through. And the insight and the momentum established altered the character of the whole concept of the practice of painting." - Clyfford Still 1
The Clyfford Still Museum's inaugural exhibition provides new insight into the development of Clyfford Still's groundbreaking abstract paintings. In addition to rarely seen early landscapes and early figure paintings, a gallery of never before seen works on paper reveals the process behind Still's visionary work. Though only a small selection of Still's 1,500 drawings are on view, they reflect a practice of lifelong visual inquiry and show drawing to be an important, perhaps crucial, tool in Still's dramatic evolution from regional artist to icon of the New York School.
Still's transformation from a regional painter of the pacific northwest to a celebrated avant-garde artist has, until now, seemed uncanny. The shocking way Still's paintings fused figure and ground so completely left his 1940s contemporaries (as well as art historians) flummoxed and awe-struck. His 1946 show at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery was, in Robert Motherwell's words, "the most original. A bolt out of the blue. Most of us were still working through images... Still had none." 2
Still's works on paper suggest the key to his originality lay in his willingness to explore, test, and reflect upon his vision. Still's drawings contain clues to his initial motivations and to what interested him within his own work. In them, we also see Still as an artist committed to direct observation and investigation. A traditional approach, it seems, provided the starting point for Still's innovation.
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.