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a blog of painting, abstraction, and contemporary art
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Strange Solutions

 Katy Moran / Carla’s Garden  / 2007

Katy Moran / Carla’s Garden  / 2007

Coming back to a contemporary abstract painter I have written about before, and whose work I was struck by back in the spring at the Andrea Rosen Gallery, I was google-stalking the London based painter Katy Moran. Hoping to find some new work or upcoming shows or something, I came across a video interview on the Tate website for an exhibition back in Feb-April 2008 called Strange Solution. Anyway, I thought Katy had some interesting comments on abstract painting, issues that Paul Ching-Bor and I, along some other painters, have been discussing recently at the Art Students League, particularly working from photos and images and pushing toward abstraction. Around the 1:05 mark she comments that for her it is about finding an image that is interesting enough to get started and then leaving that image at the right point. Check out the video here since I can’t post it to the blog. Below is a snippet of what she had to say.

‘They’re finished when I can see a figurative element in them … through the paint I’m searching for the thing it reminded me of, or suggested to me, and trying to get close to that thing.’ The exuberant spontaneity of the gesture is genuine rather than contrived, Moran comments, ‘When I’m making a painting, I get quite excited by how close to awful I can push it, while getting something quite lovely from it as well’.  {Read More…}

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December 19, 2008   No Comments

Eva Hesse Paintings

Eva Hesse / No title / c. 1962 / Oil on canvas / 49.5 x 49.5 inches / Andrea Rosen Gallery

Eva Hesse / No title / c. 1962 / Oil on canvas / 49.5 x 49.5 inches / Andrea Rosen Gallery

Willem de Kooning
Lucio Fontana
Eva Hesse

In cooperation with
The Willem de Kooning Foundation and
The Estate of Eva Hesse

October 25 – December 6, 2008
Andrea Rosen Gallery
525 w 24th St.

All of the works in this exhibition display a sense of violence, uncertainty and aggression, and yet, are bound together by their abundantly joyful palette. Evoking a tension between abstraction and figuration, the figure in all of these works is present as much as it is not.

Hesse’s work in this exhibition were made following a much more figurative body of paintings and just precede her transition to a sculptural practice and like so much painting being made in the early 1960s, have an indebtedness to de Kooning and his ethereal line between abstraction and figuration. As Helen Molesworth astutely notes, Hesse’s early production is marked by “jumbles of energetic abstraction held in a kind of violent contrapusto with figuration.” {Read More…}

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November 13, 2008   1 Comment

biggy smalls or does size matter?

Katy Moran / Smokers Junction / 2008 / Acrylic on canvas / 18 x 15 inches (46 x 38 cm)
Katy Moran / Smokers Junction / 2008 / Acrylic on canvas / 18 x 15 inches (46 x 38 cm) / Andrea Rosen Gallery

Roberta Smith of the New York Times picks up on an issue I’ve been thinking about and struggling with in my own work.

Excerpted from the NY Times 

Small may be beautiful, but where abstract painting is concerned, it is rarely fashionable. Big has held center stage at least since Jackson Pollock; the small abstractions of painters like Myron Stout, Forrest Bess and Steve Wheeler are mostly relegated to the wings, there to be considered eccentric or overly precious. Paul Klee was arguably the last genius of small abstraction to be granted full-fledged membership in the Modernist canon.

But what is marginalized can also become a form of dissent, a way to counter the prevailing arguments and sidestep their pitfalls. It is hard, for example, to work small and indulge in the mind-boggling degree of spectacle that afflicts so much art today. In a time of glut and waste on every front, compression and economy have undeniable appeal. And if a great work of art is one that is essential in all its parts, that has nothing superfluous or that can be subtracted, working small may improve the odds.

Small paintings of the abstract kind are having a moment right now in New York, with a luminous exhibition at the New Museum of Contemporary Art spotlighting the wry, fastidiously wrought work of the German painter Tomma Abts; and PaceWildenstein presenting in Chelsea the latest efforts of James Siena and Thomas Nozkowski, two older American whizzes at undersize abstraction. Even post-war Modernism could be downsized a bit, with a show titled “Suitcase Paintings: Small Scale Abstract Expressionism” opening next month at Baruch College.

Four young painters who embrace smallness are now having solo shows — three of them New York debuts — that challenge the importance of the big canvas.

Small abstractions avoid the long realist tradition of painting as a window, and also the shorter, late-Modernist one of painting as a flat wall. Instead these smaller works align themselves with less vaunted (and sometimes less masculine) conventions: the printed page, illuminated manuscripts, icons and plaques.

And yet, as each of these four exhibitions demonstrates, abstraction allows a serious exploration of process despite the limited real estate. This expands the already considerable pleasure of looking at paintings that are not much larger than your head. [Read more...]

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April 21, 2008   1 Comment

Katy Moran

Katy Moran / Pecking Order / 2008 / Acrylic on canvas / 18 x 15 inches (46 x 38 cm)

Katy Moran / Pecking Order / 2008 / Acrylic on canvas / 18 x 15 inches (46 x 38 cm) / © Katy Moran. All rights reserved. Courtesy of the artist and Andrea Rosen Gallery

Today I got over to Andrea Rosen Gallery to see the abstract paintings of UK artist Katy Moran. An artist of my own generation, it was great to see how she is struggling to find her own way in abstraction. Walking into the space I was pleasantly surprised to see tiny canvases hanging at eye level on the two-story bare walls. A quick loop around the gallery, at the relatively safe 5 ft to 6 ft distance from the canvases, left me feeling a bit disappointed – a disappointment that seemed to be magnified by a longer more considered glance across the room. My first response was that they paintings had no life. They appeared to lack spacial development, to be centralized compositions of oval or kidney shapes in a rectangle, the colors had no juice or luminosity.

However, first impressions are often deceiving and this is definitely the case with Katy Moran’s paintings. As I stood on the precipice, considering whether to wander on to another gallery, or stay and give her work a more considered visit, I asked myself, “What’s really going on here? What is she up to?” Having these thoughts, I stepped up to a painting titled Pecking Order and got in real tight – maybe I was a foot or 10 inches away. Suddenly the whole painting came alive. The space opened up, they gestures and strokes had energy and movement, the colors that a moment ago seemed washed out, tired, and just the plastic of acrylic, found some pizzaz. I could see the foam bubbles of acrylic paint too vigorously stirred, that had burst and been captured in the surface. I could see the lint and the studio dust and I felt compelled to brush off the surface, like brushing the lint on the back of a friend who has just taken off her sweater. I chuckled realizing that she had drawn me in. Brought me in physically and that in close proximity, Katy Moran and her paintings began to speak. Or maybe they always already had been speaking, just in a quiet and soft voice. I made another loop around the gallery, sliding right up close with my nose in the pictures.

After, I read the press release and the write-up on the web, my opinion is forget what they have to say because the person writing has no idea how to look at an abstract painting. The dichotomy between abstraction and realism is not relevant to the viewer’s experience of the painting. Sources and references to recognizable imagery seem to be only a curious piece of trivia. If trying to find the image is your game, then it is better to pick up a Where’s Waldo? book, you’ll have more success. Otherwise if you fall into that only too human trap of finding the image on the cave walls or in the clouds then you miss the whole experience of the paintings. You miss the intimacy of standing with Ms. Moran as she brushes her canvas.

Katy Moran is on view at Andrea Rosen Gallery thru April 23

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April 17, 2008   1 Comment