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a blog of painting, abstraction, and contemporary art
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Ingrid Calame / From #258 Drawing (Tracings from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the L.A. River) / 2007 / enamel paint on aluminum / 72 X 120 inches

Ingrid Calame / From #258 Drawing (Tracings from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the L.A. River) / 2007 / enamel paint on aluminum / 72 X 120 inches / James Cohan Gallery

I came across Ingrid’s work yesterday. I am not familiar with her and have never seen her work before. I spent some time looking at her work online trying to engage with the paintings themselves, which of course is impossible online. If nothing but intrigued, I read a bunch of reviews, mostly mixed with critics bemoaning the conceptualism of her work. This made me laugh because I had just read a piece by the poet and writer David Lehman this morning referring to the joke that if you crossed a mafioso and a deconstructionist, what you got was someone who makes you “an offer that you can’t understand.” So I began to think that maybe that’s why I couldn’t really make heads or tails of this work, because the deconstructionist mafioso got crossed with a painter, which is certain to be messy.

Anyway, John Yau, whose writtings I really enjoy, opened a review of Ingrid Calame’s work for the Brooklyn Rail with the following quote from James Hillman, “We sail against the imagination whenever we ask an image for its meaning—requiring that images be translated into concepts.” I thought this was a great thought/observation. He goes on to conclude with the follow:

When you stand close to one of Calame’s visually packed paintings, you are likely to forget that you are looking at a brightly colored copy of stains. It is in the small areas that the juxtapositions of color and layering become visually engaging, and you might get lost in the looking. Standing near to the surface, and narrowing your focus, you don’t see what looks like a big tire track and immediately think speedway. This enables you to overlook, if only briefly, that the painting is made up of literal signs that are meant to remind you of all the little details of everyday life that you failed to notice. After all, there is something contrived and didactic about this equation. With their faint traces of brushstrokes, Calame’s densely crammed surfaces really are something to look at. And spatially, the unpredictable shifts between small and large, near and far, defy any simple reading. The forms begin to float free from their literalness, while the staccato colors and asyndetic transitions bounce you all over the place. Calame ought to aim for more than being mentioned in the same sentence as Pollock, who has seldom been given credit for all the different ways in which he worked.  {Read More…}

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December 3, 2008   No Comments

Christopher Wool

Christopher Wool / Untitled / 2007 / Enamel on linen / 126 x 96 inches / (320.04 x 243.84 cm)

Christopher Wool / Untitled / 2007 / Enamel on linen / 126 x 96 inches / (320.04 x 243.84 cm) / Luhring Augustine

I guess there is a famous quote by Christopher Wool that goes something like “The harder you look, the harder you look.” I find that the longer I look at his work, or the more that I look at his work, the more I want there to be and it just isn’t. I want there to be more paint, more layers, more color, more erasures. I want it to be something more than a spray painted Brice Marden de Kooning Basquiat derivation. To be something more than a derivative work or a simulacra. I find myself asking, are they alienated pictures, cool intellectual, ironic, sad, frustrated? I don’t know. Standing in front of them I feel an absence, a loss, a longing for something, or a searching for something that I’m just not getting. There is something elusive about these paintings, something always out of reach, yet right there in front of me hanging on the wall.
However, this seems to me to be their goal or function–to frustrate or disturb the tranquility–to crack apart the security of my own assumptions about painting. In fact my first thought- and a dangerous thought for an abstract painter- was to assume that the work was somehow derivative, that Marden, de Kooning, and Basquiat are original, authentic, and superior, while Christopher Wool’s work is secondary, derivative, or even “parasitic.” Though I know very little about Christopher Wool, I would like to imagine that to overcome this idea- that artists in the past were original, authentic, or superior and artists working in the present are derivative- and move beyond this pattern of thinking, is a fundamental theme of Christopher Wool’s work. If not, it’s at least something I am thinking about in response to the paintings at Luhring Augustine and the more I look at them and reflect, the more I see them.

Wool is an American painter known for creating pictorial forms, often void of color due to his loyalty to black and white. First gaining notoriety from his ‘word pictures’ of the late 1980s, Wool now works frequently with enamel paint on canvas, creating layered pieces, marked with paint spatter and sporadic drips.

Other characteristic tendencies include erasing almost-entire pictures then writing over them with black spray paint. He approaches art as a process that needs revision and often makes visible corrections within his works. (artobserved.com)

Chirstopher Wool at Luhring Augustine, 531 West 24th Street through June 21.

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June 6, 2008   1 Comment

Meaning in Art

Robert C. Morgan has a nice piece in this month’s Brooklyn Rail, in which he reviews Thomas Nozkowski’s recent show at Pace Wildenstein and discusses the state of current abstract painting.

In recent years, meaning in art is rarely discussed by critics in terms of abstract painting. The implication is that the survival of meaning in art hovers somewhere outside of abstract painting. The alternatives range from illustration on canvas to digital photography, from deconstructive texts to destructive installations, from kitsch assemblages to interactive cyber-pods. Is the concept of meaning in art long-gone, out-of-fashion, overspoiled? In theoretical jargon, it may appear too close to epistemology, as if epistemology—being the study of knowledge—has been inadvertently removed from the aesthetic, conceptual, and productive components of making art. In the wake of this insouciant exhaustion of consciousness, is it possible that substance in art may have reverted back to abstract painting? After two visits to Pace Wildenstein Gallery, the site of the recent Thomas Nozkowski exhibition, I am willing to place my bet that abstract painting is back in the saddle not because of the market, but that it means something…

…To paint abstract form suggests an intuitive process by way of a carefully constructed dexterity. This may or may not add up to being epistemological or even ontological. But is it still about meaning. In abstract painting—in the formalist sense—meaning is closely related to the result obtained from the process, that is, whether the coherence of shape, color, line, and texture hold together. Whether the mediumistic definition of abstract painting is essentially practical is finally the artist’s decision. While meaning may refer deductively to the material, pigment, and process, this does not negate the possibility that whatever appears as form is subsequently about meaning. Meaning is ultimately a linguistic extension of the manner in which the work is painted. This relates to a sense of connoisseurship in art, a pre-Modernist idea that suddenly is beginning to appear again, as if something had been missing for decades, and no one seemed to know exactly what was missing. This may sound like a standard definition of late Modernism—which, perhaps, it is. Yet there are exceptions to this hackneyed paradigm that occasionally come into view. These exceptions subvert the quotidian semiotic nuances, such as the quixotic manner in which palsy-ridden theories and ornery hybrids begin to ascend to the constellation of speculation and investment, relinquishing aesthetics and epistemology along the way. [Read More...]

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May 8, 2008   No Comments