Cecily Brown / Skulldiver IV / 2006-2007 / Oil on linen / 85 x 89 inches (215.9 x 226.1 cm) / gagosian.com
Willem de Kooning. (American, born the Netherlands. 1904-1997). Woman, I. 1950-52. Oil on canvas, 6′ 3 7/8″ x 58″ (192.7 x 147.3 cm). Purchase. © 2008 The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. moma.org
So I’ve been thinking this week about these two paintings and painters, specifically about how they develop their forms and the space of the paintings. If we look first at Skulldiver IV we see that the figural elements are drawn and painted to develop a sense of volume. The legs and arms are cylindrical, in fact, the forshortening on her arm reminds me of the outstretched arms of the figure in Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaeus that wants to reach out of the canvas. In the same way, the figure in Skulldiver IV nearly wants to fall out of the bottom of the canvas on to the floor of the gallery. This is important because it functions to draw the viewer into the scene as a voyeur or participant standing in the room with the copulating figures.
More to come…Tags: museum of modern art, Skulldiver, Willem de Kooning, linen, skulldiver iv, Emmaeus
October 10, 2008 2 Comments
Cecily Brown / Untitled (#38) / 2007 / Oil on linen / 12-1/2 x 17 inches (31.8 x 43.2 cm) / www.gagosian.com
A number of people have been asking lately why I haven’t posted anything recently. The answer is that I have been meaning to, but I’ve just been super busy and the blog has gotten the short end. Anyway….
I’ve been down to Gagosian a few times over the last couple of weeks to see the Cecily Brown show. The first time I went I was impressed with the work but something bothered me and I couldn’t figure out what it was. After going back and spending a good amount of time looking at the work and being in the space I realized the problem, the lighting in the gallery kills the drama of the paintings. It is just too bright in the gallery to really enter into the paintings. The drama of her paintings is in the swelling volumes and the internal character of the light she creates. The bright lighting of the gallery illuminates the dark areas, renders visible all the brush strokes, and the reflected light off the white walls of the gallery overwhelms the light areas of the canvas. The overall effect is to flatten the canvas into a collage of energetic brushstrokes with color.
This actually struck me when I was looking at some of the smaller canvases in the show. Looking at these works I could really see the connection to Rubens, Tintoretto, El Greco, both in the compositional structure and the swelling weightless forms hovering and suspended in space. I also began thinking about how those paintings were painted for candlelit cathedrals and castles. How the dim lighting of the space really elevated the drama of the darks and lights, allowing the swelling figures to really explode out of the canvas. When I turned around to look at the larger works in the show, especially the Sam Mere series, I really felt like I was missing something.
I’ve often read Cecily Brown’s work compared to De Kooning’s, and while they both engage in figurative abstraction, I think it will be interesting to examine their approaches over the next few days to see how differently they put paintings together. In the meantime, definitely check out the show.
Cecily Brown @ Gagosian, September 20 – October 25, 2008, 555 West 24th StreetTags: linen, paintings, painting art, oil painting, composition, contemporary abstract art
October 6, 2008 1 Comment
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.Tags: abstract painter, luhring augustine, american painter, American, deconstruction, christopher Wool
June 6, 2008 1 Comment
Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe / Thought in a Garden / 2008 / Oil on linen / 86 x 38 x 1-1/4 inches / alexander gray associates
Got to this small exhibit a couple of weeks ago. Lush colors, probably need to spend a lot more time than I did looking at each piece to get more of a sense of the spacial shifts and the color effects. The colors are certainly visually enticing.
From the gallery:
In the four abstract paintings in this exhibition, Gilbert-Rolfe revisits the grid and the vertically oriented canvas. The grid, which possessed a more architectural look when it first appeared in his paintings in the late 1970s and early 80s, becomes a mesmerizing force in new paintings such as Pynchon. Covering the entire canvas with a meticulously rendered rectangular grid, Gilbert-Rolfe uses the grid in Pynchon to suggest the depth of a screen and the temporal duration associated with music. An empathetic relationship with the viewer’s body is encouraged by all of the paintings’ verticality, which also shifts their compositional foci to the center, where a crevice runs down the center of each painting.
Gilbert-Rolfe has said that he “want[s] to reverse the relationship between color and drawing in painting.” In this new body of paintings, he has continued this pursuit by almost completely abandoning painterly gesture and instead using the grid to feature color in its most exuberant forms. Using a technique that involves building layers of glazes, Gilbert-Rolfe flaunts color, punching up the brightness of his pinks and yellows by juxtaposing them with dark browns and blues.
Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe @ Alexander Gray Associates, 526 West 26 Street #1019, through June 14.Tags: color, grid, pynchon, abstract, canvas, conceptual art
May 28, 2008 No Comments
Jake Berthot / The Ridge, Night Haze and the Moon / 2008 / Oil on linen / 35 1/8 x 45 1/8 inches / Betty Cuningham Gallery
I hadn’t intended to walk into this show when I went down to Chelsea last week, but I’m glad I did, and I’ve been back a couple of times since. This is a great show. Unfortunately, the web images do a grave injustice to the paintings. These are paintings that you have to sit with and look at for a long time in an area where there is natural changing light. As the light changes the paintings change. This is oil painting at its richest. Each is a quiet contemplative, typically dark, space with reference to landscape. Landscape entered into Berthot’s painting following his move from from New York City to upstate New York in 1996. These new works continue to have the central deep meditative space of his earlier work, in the 1970’s a gently touched rectangle, in the 1980’s a bar or hovering oval, and now a quietly emerging tree or glimpse of light.
Entering from the street on a bright sunny day, at first, it was hard to see anything. Impenetrable dark rectangles on the wall, flat geometrical black masses. As my eyes adjusted the paintings slowly began to reveal themselves. In the dim lighting of the first room ochres and venetian reds began to glow, prussian blues flowing and vibrating, the solid masses of chromium oxide green standing still against all this movement – trees against the wind. I was mesmerized as my eyes strained to see more. To make out shapes and forms, a tree, a lake, a horizon, a forest, a scene. Dark moody lighting. Dusk. Ominous. Tumultuous nature. Contemporary echoes of the Hudson River School.
Jake Berthot at Betty Cuningham Gallery, 541 West 25th Street through 5/10painting intstructor, School of Visual Arts, New York, jake berthot, woodstock, new york artist
May 8, 2008 No Comments
Thomas Nozkowski / Untitled (8-100) / 2008 / oil on linen on panel / 22 28 inches / © Thomas Nozkowski. Courtesy of the Artist and Pace Wildenstein Gallery
If you haven’t figured out yet, I am qute enthusiastic about the Thomas Nozkowski show at Pace. I’ve been twice so far and will probably have to head back again before it closes. My first impression was the colors. The glowing lights emitting from these small paintings were fascinating and drew me in, like the sideways pyramid of light beaming out of a television in a dark room (except of course Pace is well light, come to think of it, it would be interesting to see these paintings under different light). They reminded me of the Fra Angelico show at the Met a couple of years ago. Small paintings, radiant colors, small, intimate. They also triggered some memories of Monty Python-like animations, or Yellow Submarine, or the Great Space Coaster that I used to watch back in the 70s and 80s. Each piece struck me as a glimpse into a world, a moment in time, a thought, a memory, a scene, or drama – tightly cropped so I couldn’t see everything in total. A small window.
The shapes and forms, whether pure invention or distillations of something observed, feel alive and moving with an energy across the surface. I wonder if I turn away or blink will it still be the same. Their purpose however, seems to be as vehicles for the color – an excuse for color. The specificity of the shapes feel to me to be of secondary importance to the color. It could just be that I find the color so exciting. On the other it may be that it appears as if the shapes and forms have been drawn in and decisions on their size and position were not questioned, changed, reworked, etc. The colors, however, have been changed. over and over and over. Painted in, wiped down, rearranged, reworked, glazed over, warmed up, cooled off, toned up and toned down. Like a game or a play I just imagine little shapes running around geared up and enjoying all the fun. It’s as if hanging on the gallery wall the shapes are resting. Taking a break. on intermission. or maybe nozkowski’s just hit the pause and is waiting for us to hit play again when we walk in through the door.
As a side note – John Yau, who writes reviews for the Brooklyn Rail, has written an excellent essay for the exhibition catalog in which he speaks to both Nozkowski’s concerns as a painter and his position in relation to contemporary painting and the historical tradition. It’s definitely worth picking up a copy.
Thomas Nozkowski: Recent Work is on view through May 3, 2008 at Pace Wildenstein 534 w 25th StreetTags: contemporary art, great space coaster, thomas nozkowski, abstract painting, shapes, oil painting
April 17, 2008 1 Comment
Thomas Nozkowski / Untitled (8-104) / 2008 / oil on linen on panel / 22 x 28 in. (55.9 cm x 71.1 cm) / © Thomas Nozkowski. All rights reserved. Courtesy the artist and Pace Wildenstein.
Over thirty years ago, Thomas Nozkowski made a commitment to specific decisions regarding the scale and material of his work. Although he has followed this approach persistently, painting small-scale works on canvasboard or panel for several decades, John Yau contends that Nozkowski is not interested in making “reiterations of past accomplishments. He is determined to remain open and inventive, to understand that each experience, however ordinary and meditated, is unique, and to transform that into an abstract painting.” In an interview earlier this year, Nozkowski remarked about his painting process, “I believe that what I’m doing is actually very close to our normal way of looking at and thinking about the world. We slowly build up a whole web of associations and meanings.” [Read More...]
Until May 3 at PaceWildenstein (534 W. 25th St., between Tenth and Eleventh avenues, 212-929-7000) www.pacewildenstein.com
Until April 14 at Fisher Landau Center for Art (38-27 30th Street, Long Island City, New York 11101 Telephone 718.937.0727) www.flcart.org
April 10, 2008 No Comments
Bill Jensen / LUOHAN (PERSONA) / 2005-2006 / Oil on linen / 28 x 23 inches / © Bill Jensen. Courtesy ofthe artist and Cheim & Read Gallery
I read two reviews of the paintings of Bill Jensen, a painter living here in NYC and an instructor at the New York Studio School, over the past month – Bill Jensen Notes from the Loggia by John Yau in the Brooklyn Rail and Art in Review; Bill Jensen By Martha Schwendener in the NYTimes. InJohn Yau’s review in the Brooklyn Rail of Bill Jensen‘s recent painting exhibit at Danese Gallery here in New York City. He discusses the centrality of drawing to Jensen’s practice and his debt to both Chinese calligraphy and Abstract Expressionism, both important sources of inspiration for my own work. Yau also goes on to state that Jensen is, “…exploring a territory that is connected to very divergent aspects of Abstract Expressionism (Ad Reinhardt, James Brooks and Jackson Pollock)—lightless light, the interplay between order and disorder, and gesture as form. In all three areas of this territory, which abut and overlap, larger chaotic forces emerge as the shaping feature.” For Schwendener this means that, “Bill Jensen has never settled down with one style,” a trait usually frustrating to galleryists and historians.
A frequent topic of conversation in the studio is what we refer to as the two schools of abstract painting – on the one side there are the gestural, expressionist painters and on the other side are the geometrical, color-field, lyrical abstactionists, and minimalists. This leads to a lot of useless conversations about left brain vs. right brain, emotion vs. intellect, expression vs. conceptual, etc., that really have nothing to do with painting, and devolve into figuring out which camp you belong to and sticking to it. However, I am more interested in mining the territory between the two poles and Jensen’s paintings are a great example of the many possibilities available. In his work we see both gestural marks, bimorphic or automatistic shapes, as well as brilliant colors and transparencies, shifting planes and moving spacial relationships. Jensen will lay in a gesture in a rich pure color opaque color and then come back and run a transparent right over top. Or lay in a thick opaque colorful gesture and then while the paint is still wet scrape it to create a film with transparent and opaque areas.
Finally, Schwendener indicates that while Jensen paints in oil he makes his own paint, allowing him to regulate its viscosity. I think this is a particularly important point for painters and something I have tried to bring into my own practice (I’ll talk more about this in the future). The ubiquity of artist supplies has lead to a plethora of easily available tube paints and painting mediums, the quality of which varies from brand to brand. While this frees up the artist from having to spend copious amounts of time and energy grinding pigments, cooking mediums, and making paint, it brings a certain uniformity and homogeneity to color and surface of paintings. Making ones one paint not only allows the artist to control the viscosity but to control pigment content, pigment mixtures, fillers, etc., as well as the drying time, finish and whole lot of other qualities that come into play in the process of painting. Jensen’s work shows us how important mastering the craft of painting really enables us to explore the limitless complexities of painting.Tags: Reinhardt, geometrical, pigment, james brooks, luohan, Cheim & Read Gallery
April 2, 2008 No Comments