Friday, May 16, 2008

Cass Bird

Cass Bird is a photographer whose work confronts gender roles in our mainstream world. The women in Cass Bird's pictures are pushing at the edges of their defined space: they are sexual, defiant, and open. Additionally, Cass bird has an easy eye for a moment, so her subjects live in unique and very real worlds-- sunlight angling in, dust, strange looks, complexities.

Listen to her Artist Talk at Brooklyn Museum here.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

fresh kills

Fresh Kills, Curated by David Kennedy Cutler, at the Dumbo Arts Center, March 15 - May 4, 2008. Beautiful, fascinating, important...

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Vogel

Amy Vogel at Larissa Goldston, Feb 29 - March 29, 2008. Amy Vogel works with both pencil and paint on special plaster surfaces which are smooth and inviting. She seems to work differently with the two mediums; her painting big general tones (lines which recall trees, or wires, or shadows), her drawing delicate specifics--a rope tied quietly to a post. There is emptiness in these paintings, and an unfinished quality which works.

Eddie Martinez

Seeing so much interesting work, I am just going to Show rather than Say for a while and get the work up.

Eddie Martinez is at ZieherSmith March 13 - April 12, 2008. I like the space; the crowded plane and jumbled items introduce Philip Guston, while the handling is updated for our modern times.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

why Not?

The paintings of Chris Martin are not to be liked. Awkward, alternating between visionary and goofy, they are rumpled, bumpy, expressionistic, bold, quiet, and most importantly, seeming to defy all labels, expectations and codes of behavior.

There is something adept and convincing about Martin's work: one has the impression of his total freedom, from himself first and foremost. His surfaces are alive, and seem to be arrived at effortlessly, and he embraces the ugly and wrong joyfully. As a result, his work stands as a testament to the virtues he admires in others.

Roberta Smith on Chris Martin: review here.

Chris Martin is at Mitchell-Innes & Nash January 26th–March 1, 2008.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

As absent as if we were asleep

Above image, Spencer Finch, Cloud (H20).

The work of Spencer Finch explores the intersection of actual/ perceived (physical, sensory), remembered (constructed inner experience), physical/ empirical ('actuality' of objects as objectively recorded), and individual/collective emotion (loss, shared psychology). It asks the questions: what is the objective representation of a subjective phenomenon? As well, Finch points out: in between the objective, and the subjective, there is the feeling of loss.

Working alongside the philosophers, Finch examines the relationship between outer (perception, experience, sensation) and inner (memory, emotion). Does replication of an exact visual experience (the ceiling above Freud's couch, the light in Emily Dickinson's garden) allow the viewer to enter the inner experience of a participant?

The relationship between recorded/empirical 'data' (photographs and images, light, scientific data, etc) and the subjective experience which occurs because or in spite of such 'data' is at play. In the work "Trying to Remember the Colour of Jackie Kennedy's Pillbox Hat", 1995, a series of 100 drawings present 100 parts of the exact pink the former first lady was wearing on the day of her husband's assassination. This marriage of 'hard evidence' (exact color pink) to our collective memory: that pink is forgotten, but now we are returned to it, and there is something poignant about seeing the objective within an experience that emotional and collective.

In "Sky over Cape Canaveral (Challenger)", 1994, Finch presents us with the exact location in the sky where the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986. Again we cannot separate our experience of the visual 'data' from our emotional inner scape; we see the sky anew, surprised at how blue it was.

Spencer Finch "What Time Is It on the Sun?" is on view at Mass MOCA through Spring 2008.

To read more on "What time it is on the Sun?, an eloquent review in the NYTimes by Bridget Goodbody: Review here.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Process is the Idea which is the Process

The paintings of Magnus von Plessen fall in the center of the philosophical and conceptual debate around painting itself. His paintings are built of paint and also of the physical removal of paint, in a way that immediately invites the viewer to think on painting as a physical object in and of itself. The construction and physicality remain obstinately present, even as the viewer drifts into the 'imagery', often traditional portraits, self-portraits, or architectural/interior views. A student of traditional European painting, von Plessen suspends us in a place with any resolution: the imagery is impaired by the physicality; the physicality broken by the invitation of imagery.

From The Art Institute of Chicago "Focus" Series:
Plessen’s canvases are built with a careful amalgam of discrete vertical, horizontal, and diagonal applications, alternatively thick and translucent, resembling bars: “The one straight stroke has to denote all that is supposed to be happening in the painting,” he says. Regarding Felicity, which he has at times called Felicity, 146 Brushstrokes, the artist states, “on one occasion I counted up the number of strokes in a painting. I was able to reconstruct the time in which the work had been painted. . . . It is not what I see that determines where I put the brushstrokes. They tend rather to follow a mental image of what I can touch. That’s what makes them so independent. But you can only do it in places; you can’t cover the whole painting that way. You can’t grasp hold of everything. The things you try to grab hold of slip away.”

Through the intersecting ideas of the vertical/horizontal line as a structural atom (representative of everything, crucial and perfectly expressive) and the addition and subtraction of these vertical and horizontals we experience the created experience of creation: we are taken to the act of creation itself, to the relationship between the eye and the mind, which again von Plessen alludes to with the idea of "touching" within the mind.

That his created experience of creation, mental and physical, yields an image which quotes a traditional portrait is an even greater feat. But without said image we would not work so hard in front of his paintings: the imagery keeps us looking, expecting, and putting together. (We tend not to work for abstract paintings, we assume that what we see is what we get). Von Plessen's experimentation with the mental mechanics of painting excites me, I feel along for the ride in his world of construction and creation, where the focus rests on the process of both artist and viewer.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Little Air

The artist Jacob Hashimoto works with traditional Japanese kite forms-- handcrafted of bamboo sticks, off-set prints and string-- and catches the air. His kites are hung together, creating 'works' which read on the surface and yet are swaying in the wind. Other directions of his work include installations with similar air-displacers: wooden trees with balloons as leaves, a beautiful hanging of white bamboo discs which move in the air whenever a viewer passes by.

These delicate moves, registering the change in air and environment, are the spirit (it seems to me) of Hashimoto's work. Instead of fixed objects, his are alive and responding to their surroundings. There is mobility and also delicacy: the thin paper, the small amount of air needed. Air we would not have even notice-- but these works are designed to be attuned to the subtle atmosphere.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Commute

"Something for the Commute", a three-person show at brookyn fire proof, includes the work of Karla Wozniak (and Ethan Greenbaum and S.E. Nash). (Until Jan 13 2008).

The image above, Latitudes, Panama City Beach, FL, is a iconic American landscape, the kind Wozniak typically presents us with. Void of irony or malice, her work feels both optimistic and loving, as she caresses this American Utopia with her line.

Interest in signage, especially quirky, vintage americana. Interest in the fraternity that franchised signage brings to divergent landscapes. These paintings and works on paper remind me of riding in the car of my childhood, surburban signage passing above, comforting with its mysterious promises.

Monday, December 3, 2007

what are you looking at?

A show of Banksy works-- prints, some original works on wood and canvas, some quirky "installations"-- is on view at Vanina Holasek on 27th street Dec 2- 29 2007. Apparently this show of Banksy's work is unauthorized by Banksy-- a symbol of the machinery of the art world turning on its own.

The unauthorized show in NYC is perhaps not more than the shaking of a cash cow, yet it touches the very conundrum of Banksy. Banksy, a British graffiti artist who has been writing on the streets of Bristol, London, and wherever else he finds himself since the late 1980's, now finds himself very much in the art world spotlight. Graffiti is illegal in the UK, as here, and Banksy has attempted to maintain his anonymity even while his profile is on the rise. Our hunt for Banksy reflects our hunt for all we treasure and yet which evades us: we must trap it, and unravel it, in the process extinguishing it.

It is also a story of worlds colliding. Graffiti writing is by definition self-expression in public, to a wide public audience, without the presence of self, ego or identity-- not that writers don't have these, but that they are channeled through the work, not alongside it. Nowadays, in the ship on fire that is our contemporary art market, the personality is essential to understanding and appreciating the artwork. A recent New Yorker interview with Jeffrey Deitch notes that he "admires most the [artists] whose work is indistinguishable from their life." This is the view often taken by people who are not artists, a demand for virtue of some sort.

What separates Banksy from other graffiti writers is his aesthetic, and his intended audience. Banksy clearly has a keen and sensitive mind. His work is cutting (anti-government, -war, -coppers, -media, -culture, etc) and also incredibly sentimental. I would venture that it is his romantic disposition that has driven all of this: a desire to make a grand statement, the belief that it would stir others, and the continual return to doing. A true cynic would never have kept it up.

In the framework of language, his work trades in the currency of recognizable imagery, paired with a "true" statement-- a statement which evades our sugar-coating, they way we are programmed to think when we see something, even if that thought is not really ours. In example: a Banksy work in which across an empty wall-level billboard, Banksy writes: "The joy of not being sold anything". This is the pairing of something which you are numb to-- the continuous presence of advertising-- with the sudden realization that it doesn't have to be so.

That Banksy has had to remain anonymous-- for obvious legal reasons-- initially kept him on the outside of an art world which honors the celebrity. Now, in full reversal, he is a celebrity-- a celebrity of the mind and media. His "stuff" gets harder and harder to do, as people seek him out in the night, cameras ready.

I think in a way Banksy is one of our cultural heroes. We have so few of them now. Someone who gives to all of us a sentimental and bold gift, that frees us for one minute from the dull rigidity of our expectations. Someone who defies the societal machine we give so much of our lives to, a defiance that we feel by proxy when we apprehend his work. Then again, maybe Jeffrey Deitch is right after all: we seek to ascribe virtue, passion, dedication, heroism, and asceticism to our artists. Those qualities long since vanished from American culture, we look for them in the world of fantasy, of infinite possibility, of art.

More on Banksy:
A New Yorker article on Banksy May 2007.
Interview with Banksy by Simon Hattenstone.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Looking at Thinking

The most intriguing photographs I have come across recently are those of Patrick Lakey. A body of work entitled "German Photographs (1794-2005)" is a fascinating intersection of art, history, and philosophy.

Here is what he does. Lakey goes around Germany and photographs the homes and landscapes of celebrated German philosophers, including Schiller, Engels, Schopenhauer, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Goethe. (Technically I think these represent the 'German Enlightment'?) The resulting photographs are still and beautiful, revealing and withholding.

For what is the relationship between external and internal? What clues might the external offer as to what went on internally? The cool, sparse rooms reveal both somber chambers of thought and also ordinary rooms, which could have belonged to any German family of the time. Is there a clue in the outside world, Lakey seems to be asking. A clue to what leads certain individuals to think for their entire lives, and be able along the way to offer great theories of thought and being. Would the thoughts of such an individual leave an imprint on his external surroundings? Is there any physical manifestation of so much thinking?

Another satisfying aspect of this series is the use of photography as a device, rather than an end in itself. While the photographs are beautiful, it is the concept that deepens the experience, and the medium truly functions as tool to bring the viewer to this idea.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hello Mordechay

The work of Shiri Mordechay is on view at Plane Space gallery Nov 28- Dec 30 2007. Her meticulous works on paper combine (and confound) deeply psychological imagery: beasts, violence, dismemberment, erections. That the images are bathed in her laborious sincerity carries the work; Mordechay's attention to detail and deft ability to work small well give her work a serious and strong presence.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Twombly

Cy Twombly has new work on view at Gagosian on 21st Street in NYC. This work is different, bold and full of color.

From the Gagosian Press Release:
Twombly conceived these vast and exuberant panel paintings with the décor and balanced order of the typical eighteenth century hôtel particulier in mind. This most recent group of paintings are of a large horizontal format, each comprising six wooden panels. Across their broad surfaces, ideogrammatic blossoms of vivid crayon and viscous pigment, and haikus pencilled in the artist's tremulous scrawl, combine and contrast with drips and efflorescent flows of startling, sometimes offbeat, mannerist color – burgundy, damask yellow, vermilion, rose, and mint green. Each of these so-called "peony" paintings is a daring invention, combining influences as diverse as French Enlightenment art, furnishings, and architecture, Japonisme, and the élan vital of Twombly's own original Abstract Expressionism.

Twombly's previous Bacchus series (2005) seethed with the visceral energies of war. In "A Scattering of Blossoms…" war cedes to flowers, for which the hero of the famous haiku disarms himself. Peonies are the favored flowers of Japanese aesthetic contemplation, appearing frequently in illustrations, folding screens, and haikus of the Edo period. Once in bloom, they offer a rush of color and texture. Here, their fragile headiness is captured and memorialized in both image and inscription. By adding his own recollections of haikus by the famous seventeenth century Japanese masters Basho and Kikaku, Twombly points to the human implications that these full-blown, elegaic paintings hold for an artist in the later stages of his life and career.

Additionally, I will add that I always feel a connection between Cy Twombly's intimate mark making and the sense of the present moment. There is something so mindful and delicate in his work, all the surrounding going-ons collapse into a perfect awareness of the stillness and engagement of the moment. I think that time is a major element in Twombly's work: the present, the past, the lack of actual relationship between the two.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


The sculptures and photography of Jeff DeGolier are an other-world into which we escape to only to be confronted with strange systems which evoke our own strange systems. That you can walk into a factory, or cannery, or even boiler room, and see industrial elements which you have no way to grasp or even visually understand...such the feeling DeGolier preys on in his abstract worlds. The sense of another world is strong, as the scene is meticulously arranged and the photos luminous with a strange energy.

The concept is as interesting as the product. DeGolier makes the sculpture and 'scenes' from industrial left-overs. Part of the process is in the sculpture, but yet the photography is actually a more powerful representation. In front of the sculpture, one faces a miniature industrial other-world, part fairy tale and part factory, and one grapples with the substance of this real thing. The photographs are beautifully composed and vignetted, with a dramatic absence of any markers of scale or function. While with sculpture we know immediately we are seeing a thing that is not anything else, in front of a photograph we are unsure: are we seeing pictures of a real place? No, it seems staged. But what is it? There is a much longer period of suspended understanding, as we hang in the limbo between "real thing" and "fake thing"--- although as far as photography is concerned anything photographed is "real" because the image automatically becomes the "fake" in relation to the "real". So, DeGolier's photographs bring us, in a very elegant manner, to a moment where that which we suspected was "fake", the elaborate stage of a uncertain industrial world, becomes "real" through its photographic documentation.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Exploration in the Domain of Idiocy was the title of Tamy Ben-Tor's show & performances at Zach Feuer Gallery in 2005. In her work, of course, she dons costumes and wigs and transforms herself in a menagerie of satirical characters. What these characters have in common are their pompous egos and their lack self-critical thinking. Each of these figures is in center of their own ideological melodrama. We have been transported to, or presented with, the domain of idiocy, which is uneasily familiar.

In panel discussion in 2006, Ben-Tor came out against ideology: "Ideology hides the truth. Once you have ideology, people have interests.” More than true, this is the heart of her work: the raw exposure of our "ideology", our personal and cultural paradigms about our history, other cultures, and why we are right. Her characters share the same trapped-in quality-- trapped in their own minds and worlds and truths, shouting at each other.

I saw Ben-Tor at Salon 94 on Nov 4, performing Judensau. It was the first time I had seen her live and it was incredible, transportive and persuasive. Ben-Tor has been compared to comedians such as Tracy Ullman and Sarah Silverman, but that seems to miss the point of her work (that she is not in this for entertainment, but in a quest for our self-reflection-- that haunting feeling that follows you out, thinking, I'm not like I?). There is a deep feeling of commitment which emanates from Ben-Tor which separates her from the entertainment-industry, or maybe its just the myth of the noble artist talking.

video link: Suspeseous Tourists - project by Tami Ben Tor, Daniel Sinichkin and Boom
TLV, "Cosmonaut", 14 August, 2004

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Symphony of a Great City

Berlin: Symphony of a Great City. (Link goes to GoogleVideo where you can watch the first 1 hour 12 minutes of this full-day, 5 reel silent movie (Walther Ruttmann, 1928).)

This film is profound for so many reasons. 1. The human desire to capture the whole, the entirety of an experience through the collection of as many viewpoints, factual tidbits and stories...the idea that there is one absolute truth or essence that these composite documents will build for us. Ultimately is an exhaustive endevour, but it is within us individually and collectively. Nowadays I think we doubt the possibility that such measures could point to a 'universal experience' but the idea in the 1920s can be seen in all facets of human action, from Joyce's Ulysses to Dorthea Lange's photographs of families in the US Depression. Additionally, in the twenties there were other "city films" made, attempting to capture the whole of a city-- physicality, people, feeling, rhythm-- including Sheeler and Strand's Manhatta (1921).
2. You can't help but thinking, at some point when watching either of these films, that everyone in them, everyone that you, that passed by the camera, is no longer alive. (Exception, of course being babies carried past the camera-- they are now 86.) An entire city, populated and bustling, people sharing in the time in their city and in the fabric of that city. And only the buildings remain, that the new people--us-- live in, the buildings that used to be home to those people.
3. In a more specific way, you think of the film, released in May 1928; and you know-- although they don't know-- that in 5 years Adolf Hitler will come to power and their city will enter a very dark period of war and death. It is strange that you the viewer know all this, and as you are pulled into the scene in a way only film can take you, you are with them and also watching from beyond, as history rolls massively along its course.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Where we're going, we don't need roads...

The work of Dannielle Tegeder is thoughtful and visual. She seems to be "mapping" her external world in a genuine way. Her early works (pre-2004/5) are these beautiful "architectural plans" for fantasy, underground cities.

These maps recorded not physical spaces (real or imagined) as much as cultural needs, wants, and dearth. The title of the above work? Community Under Construction w/ Jumbo Love Dot Boiler; Six Safety Vessel Station, Containing Habitats & Rainbow Structures; Five Square Tower High Rises; Dangling Safety Chrysalis; Abandoned Oz City; Side Room w/ Circle Storage. Ink, gouache, acrylic, colored pencil, marker & pastel on paper, 56 x 80 in., 2004.

The city plans engaged with the point where physicality interfaces with societal metaphysicality. That "point" lies in both the spacial and emotional realms- a physical structure which bears emotional burden. Her underground cities live out these fantasies, carefully constructing the appropriate physical structures to dispel fears, promise safety, and provide love.

The trajectory of her work has lead her on this tightrope of the physical/emotional interface. She began to engage with the physical representation of her structures (as installations), which of course departs somewhat from the neutral terrain of the pure fantastical-- how do we trace the emotional lineage of our structures when we are confronted with them as structures?

Her 2006 show at Priska Juschka (and subsequent 2007 work) brought her to a new place: the third dimension. Her physical/ emotional point of interface (as I like to think of it) morphed in three-dimensional drawings of angles, lines, and colors. Her "point" had abstracted. It was as if she had gone deeper into the point of interface, on a cellular level, say, and was now examining the actual thought-molecule of human desire and destruction, encapsulated in the cell before it can be made into a city. Title of a 2007 work? Instructions for Utopian Gray World, Machine & Copper Inner Structure, Ink, dye, pencil, marker, acrylic, gouache on Fabriano Murillo paper, 59 x 82 in., 2007

It is a perfect widening of the lens, or narrowing of it. From the physical community space, emotions registered in space... to the "Instructions" for a Utopia...instructions are the DNA of what is to come, they exist only in thought. In fact, they are thought! I applaud the sincere journey into a realm that could use some mapping.

Friday, October 26, 2007

You can put the cat in the oven...and dream it's a biscuit.

The paintings of Erica Svec are juicy and free, and tantalizing surrealist. She uses imagery, recognizable in form but contextually out-of-place. This contextual ambiguity is different from the language-content ambiguity I so often espouse. The content-content juxtaposition demands consistent language, and the out-of-context ambiguity of two clearly discernible (and utterly exclusive) objects or events.

Are they mutually exclusive? They can be mutually inclusive once divorced from reason and the logic of the outer world. This contextually juxtaposition exists most naturally in our dreams, hence Surrealisms connection with the ream state (and use, vis a vis Jung et al) to explore this terrain.

And what of the consitent language? Erica Svec is inhereting the langauge of painterly abstraction as much as she is the surrealist leanings of Dali and Picabia, and also more recently Elizabeth Murray and others. She paints recognizable objects (here a chair, there a bed) and also paints unclear objects (are those wings? bacon frying?) with a simplicity and certainty that urges us to accept them as objects, doubts begone. Her painting is clear, bright and strong, with a solidity that recalls the great muralists as much well as Matisse. That her language is loose and 'abstract' is true, but I feel her explorations to be in imagery instead of language. Her imagery, bold and out-of-context, is in the small vein of a long, and rational, tradition.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Karlis Rekevics is an artist trying to find meaning in the shapes, forms and motifs of the urban world. He appropriates said elements, repositioned for your own examination. The resultant lines and forms often find a pleasing rhythm, a group of many elements then opening onto a quiet passage. I encourage his quest towards the essential form and function of the world around us.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Artist as Your Assumptions

Julie Heffernan is at PPOW until October 20, 2007. Her work is delicate and also bulldozing. Heffernan works in the midst of a sea of heavily appropriated imagery, painting in a style we associate with "traditional" portraiture and landscape. However, one quickly sees she is tongue- in-cheek, and the rest of one's viewing is spent putting ones finger on what she is up to.

Truthfully I can't figure her work out. There are 18th/19th century modes (games, morality, hunting, big skirts) contrasted with current issues. "Self Portrait with Men in Hats" surrounds our protagonist with ornaments detailing men in hats-- current men in power, such as our esteemed Leader and his Associates.

Also, the question of the game. Skirts made of freshly dead (not yet stiff) game animals-- deer, hare, pheasant. Another mode of our ornamentation/ vanity/ greed?

Another issue is that of identity. Somewhere in the literature about her work I read the red-haired protagonist is not actually the artist-- the title "Self Portrait as..." is itself a study in identity and assumptions. Role playing. What about questions of veracities in art? What about the metaphor of "self-portraits", of our roles and identities, especially as social construct?

There is a lot of smart in these paintings, and I admire her wit and intellect. I also admire her pairing/ playing language against content, and her explorations of our unexamined assumptions and social identities.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Organic and The Inorganic

The work of Sarah Lutz and Laura Battle are juxtaposed at Lohin Geduld right now. Sarah Lutz examines the outer vestiges of the organic world: cellular structure, forms dividing upon themselves, the structure which supports all of life. Laura Battle engages with the outer, universal world through the patterns she finds in time and space, relentless marking shifting intervals across broad planes of paper. Her work, at first overwhelming, opens into delicate rhythms which explore the rhythmic cycling of natural phenomena. Two worlds represented: the clean, patterned world of fact, time, interval and geometry, and the fecund divisions of organic matter, confined by gravity to the earth floor, dividing and decaying forever more.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I am as you will be

The real and somber exhibition "I Am As You Will Be" at Cheim & Read is amazing. I use the word "real" in this context to describe something substantial, examined and profound. I applaud Cheim & Read for cultivating a show of tremendous visual exploration across extremely personal and philisophical ground.

The show explores artist's treatment of mortality; the skull being of course both metaphor and actuality. (We each have a skull inside of us, it is too delicate for us to think about. It is it's own time-bomb ticking, waiting to become all that we are. ) The work is in almost all cases intimate and personal. There is no way to consider death without an (unexpected) intimacy.

Exhibition up September 20 - November 3, 2007. Works at top are, in order: Alice Neel, Marlene Dumas, Adam Fuss.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Nasty Nice

The work of Melissa Ichiuji has been garnering a lot of attention these days, deservedly. Her strange cloth sculptures are somewhere between "Cirque de Soleil" and "the Brood": strange girlish creatures who are in turns sweet and predictable, and then, suddenly disturbingly destructive or sexual. The above image, "Caught," is one of the more frightening sculptures I have come across probably ever-- how many truly physically frightening sculptures are there (as opposed to those that are metaphysically disturbing)?

I applaud Ichiuji for making work that is both accessible and charming, and then, once having lulled you, unrestrainedly violent. Her details are unsparing: strange ovular tubes descending from young girls (or animals), strange lumps...she has honed in on our inherent fear of our flesh and innards, and our fear of the loss of innocence these girls represent.

Her work was exhibited at Irvine Contemporary in Washington DC this past spring.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Jules de Balincourt and the meaning of kitsch

Jules de Balincourt's new work is up at Zach Feuer Gallery (LFL) Sept 6-oct 13 2007. The painting above is my favorite from this show. I love the kitsch, ski-lodge meets sci-fi feel of the work. I have noticed more and more kitsch painting in the last years. In terms of language exploration, we could characterize kitsch as the serious and earnest painting (language) of a narrative scene that we appears to be in discord with outside context. To be certain something is kitsch, the narrative scene depicted and the outside information the audience has about the artist's intention or personal are in contrast. The narrative scene is a joke. But you can only know it is one is you have prior, outside information that contradicts what the artist is saying in particular work.

Think about this. You go to a flea market, and find a painted scene of a waterfall, in feathery, airbrushed language. The artist (unknown to you) may have painted that painting as a joke (the rest of the artist's work may be hard edged minimalist). It is kitsch to the artist. You may sincerely love feathery waterfall paintings: it is not kitsch to you. Or, you may love it because it goes against your aesthetic principles (you are a hard edge minimalist). Then it is kitsch to you. It is in its relation to its surroundings that kitsch is inferred; nothing is kitsch in the absolute.

Within that in mind, what do we think about kitsch in painting. Is it fun, funny, a conundrum, or an escape? Jules de Balincourt's work is refered to as "outsider" and "democratic". The fun of his work - and there is always a lighthearted tone of uncertain purpose-- is welcoming as it confounding. It is may be kitsch, be we really need more information.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Jim Houser at Jonathan Levine, Sept 6- Oct 6.

Jim Houser (and Jeff Soto) at Jonathan Levine Gallery Sept 6-Oct 6. More thoughts after I go check it out... here is another blog while you wait.

Gallery info: 529 West 20th Street, 9E New York, NY 10011 ph:212-243-3822. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 11am to 6pm.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Echo Eggebrecht paints smartly. Her focus is on content and narrative, as opposed to language, and within that context she enters a world of double-meaning and ironic presenations. The above painting "Nick in Time" (2004) refers to the carvings on trees, made permanent even as the lovers have come and gone, and then gone for good. Also, with the throw-back to realism and landscape painting, perhaps that too was a 'nick in time'? Thirdly, there is a remix quality here, an old thing editted and presented again, and the old and new meanings form a third meaning: human alteration of the natural world.

I may be reading too much (no such thing as too much)-- but I do so because Eggebrecht brings it on. The ironic ambiguity in her work is between the narrative picture and what we know to be true of the world. She knows this, of course and plays with this ambiguity, pushing it further one way or the other. Sometimes the ambiguity, the punch line, lies in the title, a play of the meaning of a word and its visual equivalent. The painting below is entitled "Stars and Stripes" (2004):

Eggebrecht has had two solo shows in NYC, first at SixtySeven Gallery in 2004 and then last year at Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery, October 21 - November 25, 2006. Hopefully more to come.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Big Empty

Dike Blair is a painter I have long enjoyed, for his sparse, quiet paintings, their meanings obliquely closed to me. It seems clear to assume that he works from photos. His imagery is modest, small views easy to walk past. His attention to them is our attention to them. What is he on about-- the essence of life, the modern life, our own impatience with things without clear meaning?

It is this interaction that I have with Dike Blair that brings me back to him. His reticent narrative points me back to the big questions: what does it all mean? Why should I sit and look at this? Isn't there more? Like a koan, DB's only answer is a swimming pool in the snow.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Swain Song

Scottish-based artist Tony Swain invites you into a strange world where all is familiar, yet altered. There is a closeness and intimacy in his work, which is perhaps owing to the materiality, the matte colors and the tactility of the newspaper. But perhaps the intimacy is constructed out of the particulars Swain introduces into each compositions, specifics which feel very routine, even as, in their new configuration, they are quite alien. All in all, there is a fresh, unexpected appeal in Swain's work.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Squares of Brillhart

Jenny Brillhart, a Miami-based artist, explores the abstract structural values of reality. To achieve the cool purity of abstraction, her real-scapes must be devoid of particulars, and people. Her interest in shapes against each other, nuanced color, thin lines across the page recall artists like Rackstraw Downes and other pared-down realists (whose names are escaping me momentarily...). However, Brillhart and Downes appear to be after a different set of aesthetics: he, enquiry into space and structure; she, enquiry into two-dimensional composition.

I see Brillhart's interest lying in the achievement of an actived rectangle, read on the same two-dimensional plane. Compositionally speaking, one can conjure Piet Mondrian, arrangement of squares. That the squares stand for theosophical functions adds the second-layer of meaning to Mondrians work. Brillhart's second meaning maybe a statement on the cold, bleached world of Miami. Or, maybe at the moment it's just squares.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

JIM rocks the HOUSE...R

To experience Jim Houser's work is manifold.

1. It is in the vein a graphic, "skater" style along the lines of Barry McGee, Phil Frost and Shepard Fairey. But it departs from these harder works into something more intimate, sweet and uncertain.

2. The honesty and candor in Houser's works is almost unsettling: completely unfussy, with strange simple language.

3. The medium is the message. In Houser's work, one comes to understand that the way of making and what is made are one and the same. The work is about life and life is about work in a manner more seamless and clear than with other artists. Houser's work is his own way of talking; constantly, restlessly, honestly, without theory or facade. There is no "other", the art and self are one...More of Houser's work HERE. and HERE.

In speaking about Jim Houser and the fusion of his interaction with life, and the art that records that interface, he asks us to know him. Some of you may already know Jim Houser and his work, and you may know that a huge part of his life has been his wife Rebecca Westcott, whose death in 2004 was a truly terrible tragedy. More on Rebecca Westcott HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE.

From the Jonathan Levine Gallery, NYC: "Jim Houser's paintings are the system by which he actively catalogs the images and noises which command his attention. His installations act to create a map of the contents of his head over the course of a particular period in time. His interests include: listening to the cadence of speech. science and science fiction. sickness and disease. plants and animals. sport. time travel. ghosts. the art of children. secrets. radio. codes and code breaking. words that sound beautiful and mean something terrible, words that sound horrible but mean something wonderful. codes and code breaking.

Jim resides in Philadelphia, with his best friend Brian, his dogs Stuckley and Ella, and his cat Birdy. He is a founding member of Space 1026, a Philadelphia-based artist colelctive. First organized in 1997, the artist-run collective focuses in silk-screening, printmaking, painting, audio/video production, graphic design and schedules month rating exhibitions. He has done graphic design work for toy machine, Designarium, and Nike. A book cataloging his life in the arts, called BABEL, was published in 2005 by Gingko Press. "

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ma Yanhong

Ma Yanhong is a Chinese artist who just graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, in 2002. While she has studied with two of China's forerunning "Realist" painters --- Yu Hong and Liu Xiaodong-- she nevertheless departs from their social realism into the world of tongue-in-cheek social commentary. Ma Yanhong's sexy portraits of her female friends mock the modernisn messaging that confronts the idea of the 'good woman' in Chinese society, sending traditional roles and expectations amuck. At the same time, Yanhong is sympathetic with her subjects: the freedoms of the new era in China are full of conflict, and the young women negotiating them, Ma Yanhong implies, are equally empowered and undone. More of her work HERE and HERE.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Wrath of Everyman

David Rathman's
current work is on view at Mary Goldman Gallery (LA) until Oct 13 2007. His new work features rock bands and the adolescent dream. In the years preceding, his work has featured football players, stock cars and boxers, and before that were the cowboys for which he became best known. Each world is depicted simply, with the sparse, unimpressed recording of a document. While the worlds appear very different at first consideration, they share an integral commonality: at once the archetype of the American fantasy of life at its best and most free, and at the same time, a barren collection of empty gestures.

Rathman's original cowboy work (2004) was the beginning of the exploration of the unconscious American archetype of freedom and virility. The emptiness to which our 'everyman' --whether a cowboy, teenage rocker, boxer or football player-- is condemned is clearly palpable. The clear graphic narrative, and cryptic, dark text work together, painting overlapping images of sad futility and confused, wasted efforts. That the cowboys stands as much for our national identity (in the US) as it does the individual heroic ideal of decades past is not coincidence. In subsequent generations, our national heroes did become sportsman, and rock stars. The very meaning of the American everyman lies both in its possibility and impossibility: that you could grow up to be this, but that you never will. The graphic novel quality of Rathman's work speaks to the children of past decades, whose belief in the good world that would come to pass has dried up in the silent, desert expanse of dreams deferred.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sato Sato Sato Sato Sato Sato

The photography of Tokihiro Sato sits at the intersection of spirituality, science, and aesthetics. Not a bad view from there. Using a large-format camera with a neutral-density filter that permits long exposures on even the brightest days, he photographs himself moving through space, periodically flashing a tiny hand held mirror or penlight. He himself is not in one place long enough to register on film, but the light marks his journey. In the buddism tradition, his absence and presence are one.

That his presence/absence would be recorded as spots of light would have pleased Einstein. Without straying too far from our aesthetic ground, we can safely remark that contemporary physics is finding that, underneath it all, we are little bundles of light-emitting energy, blinking in the night. (In this regard, were there fewer of us, we could look to the rest of the galaxy the way stars look to us-- dots of light traveling for eons, a record of position once held, by a being who has since moved on.) That Sato has utilized a seemingly simple or low-tech way to explore this intersection of old-and-new beliefs is to his credit.

There is a refined qualilty to the aesthetic of Sato's images which seems distinctly Japanese. The concept of transience, embodied in wabi-sabi as in other Japanese aethetic practices, is much alive in Sato's work. The changes of time and position, and the indifference of nature to our plight, is the at the core of the exploration into our transient and metaphysical existence. Tokihiro Sato elegantly depicts with great tenderness our fragil, beating energy, fleeting against the backdrop of nature and our won onward-rolling civilization.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

David Lynch on vacation

I can't get enough of Gina Magid's work right now. It is so Santa Cruz meets David Lynch. Very free and strange. The language and color are so delightful; and then as you get into the painting you find that the content is unsettling, and you realize you have been ambushed by the classic juxtaposition of language and narrative. More of her work HERE.


The synthesis of paint and idea is freshly at work in the paintings of Elizabeth Neel (yes, we all know by now, she's the granddaughter of Alice). The paint becomes decay, violence, nature; instead of describing, it simply IS. The oneness is appealing. Equally appealing is the content-- exploration into our own violence, contamination of nature, decay and death. Deep, layered meaning, and the unselfconscious uniting of language and idea. More of her work HERE.

Power Stockholder

At a lecture recently, the speaker alleged that Jessica Stockholder's work is about power. To the pages of my (still unread) blog, I want to disagree. Stockholder's work, in my opinion, rests on three primary "ideas":

1. the idea of painting in space.

2. the idea that materials have their own associated meanings/resonations in the minds of each of us, and thus incorporating and manipulating materials evokes these mind meanings: and the mind struggling to synthesize these fragementary associations is performing its own art: creating a cubism of the mind.

3. the idea of art as manifest destiny.

I think that one of the myriad roles of art in our culture is that of a manifest destiny, a place to aspire to: Just as there were bible stories on fresco walls and decadent society women in 18th century painting, art has been a projection of our promised land, on an individual level and a societal level. Stockholder's art--large, enveloping, familiar yet strange, playful-- is a 3-dimensional fantasy world of the mind, embedded with the rustic materiality of our human experiences. It is the best possible future we could image for our minds.

For more on Jessica Stockholder and her work click HERE.

The Baker is In.

In addition to his name, I like the work of Baker Overstreet. He strange configurations of color and structure-- tribal, 80's-sci-fi, and Martin Ramirez-esque-- are both facile and surprisingly fresh. His work can feel both "outsider" and "insider" in alternating moments, which invigorates the narrative: enter viewer ambiguity. The true strength in color and scale hold the viewer, questioning, and the resultant experience is seductive and satisfying.

But don't just take my work for it, here's Roberta Smith:

BAKER OVERSTREET: NEW PAINTINGS Like Keegan McHargue and Devendra Banhart, this young artist has a penchant for tribal motifs, which he flattens into symmetrical compositions and renders with an outsider roughness. The works in his debut show evoke the imagery of the space-ship-obsessed, self-taught artist Ionel Talpazan, as well as Alfred Jensen and Forrest Bess. Their notion of the visionary is both self conscious and familiar, but they are painted with energetic dispatch and a sure sense of scale, color and wit that encourages you to stay tuned. Fredericks & Freiser, 536 West 24th Street, (212) 633-6555, through March 17. (Smith)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Future is Now.

It's funny how our humanity, at least our Western, technology-driven culture, has maintained a dread of the very future we were creating even as we created it. Actually, the relationship is more of a wedge narrowing: Think of 2001 Space Odyssey (1968!) and Bladerunner (1982). Dramatic views of our potential damage to ourselves if we keep messing with these machines. In literature, A Brave New World (1932), 1984 (1949), and The Handmaid's Tale (1985) all focus more on the damage we could do to ourselves. What these great works all have in common is one thing: the future world portrayed seemed reassuringly far from reality.

Now, I think the future is here. Anyone see "Children of Men'? How frightening was in it's resemblance to our current state of affairs? The wedge is narrowing.

In this vein; check out the work of Christoph Morlinghaus HERE. These images are haunting in their beauty and in the real/unreal question: is this a set, a fake future world-- or is this a moment in our real world?...and if so, we are moving frighteningly forward in our prophecy.

Monday, July 16, 2007

how do you say...?

Painting is a language intended to be complex and layered with meaning. I believe that both the meaning and the paint itself act together. Think of this: beautiful form, color, line; in conjunction with meaning, content purpose. I am tired of quick, appearance-only, or content-only art.

Thus I am embarking on my quest to survey what is OUT THERE and note it for the future. I am looking for three criteria:

1. engagement with visual language.
2. exploration of specific and complex content. (Narrative, concept).
3. relation of visual language to content or narrative: reinforcing, contrasting, or expanding the the narrative through the language itself

In example:

Amy Sillman. You know her, you love her. Her work satisfies all the above criteria with freshness and immediacy. Actually, to me the narrative is often unclear-- but there is a specificity in her language which leads me in: I feel there is something in this world, something going on, and I look towards the use of language to unravel the content. And the specificity of her language is the first clue that the language embeds a content.

On the other end of the spectrum, consider the paintings of Emily Noelle Lambert. Her paintings are strongly narrative/ content driven. Some of her works are very powerful, particularly those with also have strong abstract form. Where she loses the internal structure of the painting is where they are weakened. But overall, her strange stories are a dream to be pulled into.