a blog of painting, abstraction, and contemporary art
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stan gregory

stan gregory / solitary dime / 2007 / oil on tinted gesso on canvas / 64 x 64 inches / sundharam tagore gallery

stan gregory / solitary dime / 2007 / oil on tinted gesso on canvas / 64 x 64 inches / sundharam tagore gallery

I hadn’t been to see any exhibits in about a week or two…Today I went down to Sundharam Tagore Gallery to see the show of Stan Gregory’s work, whose work I’ve been waiting to see for a while now. His paintings are deceptively simple. I found myself drawn into the fluctuating shapes and the interpenetrating spaces. The arabesque lines of the paintings and the dynamic positive and negative shapes call to mind Islamic calligraphy and images of whirling dervishes. The paintings are joyful and both the lines and the colors have a lot of movement and energy. However, and maybe this is just because I am a painter, I found myself drawn past the lines, the shapes and the colors, right up and into the surface. The thick heavy layers of paint smoothed down with a knife and sandpaper to create a soft luminous ground. The contrast with the thin impasto lines. Semi-transparent colors, subtle brush marks next to smooth matte flat areas. Paint mixing around the lines, layers upon layers of paint, giving the feel of smooth heavy fresco. I could go on, but what the surface revealed to me was a painting that took time. It grew and evolved and changed…and will continue to do so as the painting ages and the layers become more transparent.

From the catalogue:

These are the paintings of a sensualist.

Admittedly when looking at Stan Gregory’s work from across the room that might not be the first adjective that springs to mind, though at any distance the standard terminology of styles and “isms” is mostly misleading. The spareness of these paintings will sooner or later suggest the labels “minimal” or “reductive” as well, but only to those whose tolerance for overall abstraction is contingent on bravura effects or atmospheric auras. Gregory doesn’t invite such associations, and they don’t take the attentive viewer much of anywhere except back to the same starting point…

That is what paintings like Gregory’s are all about. Looking once and getting you bearings, looking longer and losing them, looking away and then back and finding a new optical purchase or path, looking at one part and then jumping to the furthest point from it and trying to account for all the transitions and liaisons that map their connection. The best thing about doing this is that there is no “X marks the spot” to these mazes, no predetermined course through them, no one way traffic, no privileged entrance or exit, no inside or outside and no price to pay for perceptual or conceptual pleasure except that of paying attention. These are the works of a rigorous sensibility but also of a generous one, and they are delivered to the viewer in move-in condition without further explanation needed and with no theoretical strings attached. To spurn an offer made with such painterly know-how and conviction would be foolish; to accept it is to yield to that intelligence and that commitment and so make a self-rewarding commitment of one’s own.

Robert Storr – 2008

Stan Gregory @ Sundharam Tagore Gallery, 47 West 27th Street through July 19th

www.stangregory.net 

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June 25, 2008   No Comments

alastair michie

Alastair Michie / Crows Nest / Acrylic on board / Shirley Crowther Contemporary Art
Alastair Michie / Crows Nest / Acrylic on board / Shirley Crowther Contemporary Art

I am not familiar with Alastair Michie’s work, but after reading his obituary in today’s Guardian. I thought I would check it out. This piece has a wonderful palette and sense of rhythm. The composition and division of space is pleasing and draws me into the painting.

A visit to the Venice Biennale in 1962 dramatically changed Michie’s amb-itions and professional life. It was there he encountered the work of the great American abstract expressionists: the scale and sheer energy of Robert Motherwell, Franz Kline and Mark Rothko were decisive in him becoming a painter. He always maintained that he was never influenced by his mother’s work, though he shared something of her facility and strong feeling for colour and texture. His belief in the power of abstract art to convey strong emotions was confirmed by a meeting with Rothko at an exhibition of paintings by his friend John Plumb at the Axiom gallery in London in the late 1960s.

Michie’s abstract works, whether sculptures or paintings, were always influenced by his own experience. He believed that the two activities complemented and cross-fertilised each other, and much of his work, whether in two or three dimensions, is closely linked to the coastal landscape of his beloved Dorset. His abstract paintings can be read as images of land and sea viewed from the air. A favourite haunt, Studland beach, proved a rich source of found objects, including driftwood and wartime remnants such as shrapnel, which formed the basis of most of Michie’s sculpted pieces from the 1950s onwards. [Read More...]

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June 18, 2008   1 Comment

The freedom of philip guston

Philip Guston / Untitled / 1968 / Courtesy McKee Gallery, New York/Morgan Library
Philip Guston / Untitled / 1968 / Courtesy McKee Gallery, New York/Morgan Library

I’ve must admit I wasn’t too familiar with Philip Guston’s work until the big retrospective at the Met a few years ago, but have become a huge fan since. If you haven’t read Musa Mayer’s biography of her father, Night Studio it definitely a great read. Anyway, as with Nick Stillman in his recent essay in The Nation, I find that what draws me to Guston is his movement between figuration, abstraction, back to figuration. The freedom not to be stuck in a style, a motif, or direction. A process unfolding from personal dictates or needs. It goes without saying that the circumstances of the art world are much different now than they were back in the ’60s and ’70s. More than at any other time today artists have a freedom to choose their own direction, their own materials, process, etc., some have called it a free for all. However, there is a pressure to settle on a style, develop a personal brand, and stick to it. This satisfies both the expectations of the market and helps prevent a type of emotional paralysis in the face of an overwhelming array of decisions and choices by providing a sense of direction. I think it’s an unreasonable expectation for artists to remain committed to a certain style for their entire career. First, with a few exceptions, I don’t think anyone is naturally that obsessive or rigid. Second, it would be no fun to be that rigid. For me it is fun to jump around between abstract, figure, landscape, etc. It helps me maintain that element of play necessary to my own work, which is not to say its not work, it just has to be playful.

Anyway, check out Nick Stillman’s review of the Guston exhibit at the Morgan Library and Museum through August 31. Here’s a brief excerpt:

If, like in Clement Greenberg’s ’50s, art critics were still considered arbitrators, I would argue that Philip Guston’s art got better as he got older. His transformation late in his career from a successful and comparatively polite Abstract Expressionist into a conjurer of cartoonish tableaux of internal unrest and lowbrow humor garnished with uncomfortable personal admissions was an act of bravery, especially given the public’s lack of enthusiasm for his ribald new direction. As long as he is remembered, Guston’s need to reintroduce concrete subject matter into his art will be his legacy. This is ground firmly trod on by a gaggle of essayists, biographers, critics and friends of the artist; there’s no shortage of recent literature on Guston’s late work that praises it as deliciously, perfectly, bathetic–work that never descends into the flippancy that tends to mar the majority of art that is expressly funny, explicitly political or both.

Honestly, though, it’s difficult for me to think about Guston from an art critic’s perspective. Among the countless explanations of Guston’s return to figuration, the one I most agree with was pronounced by an artist, Willem de Kooning: “It’s about freedom.” Guston’s black humor, his exploitation of the absurd and grotesque, his merger of the political with the personal and his spirit of defiance in the face of complacency and aging is something to be appreciated on a gut level. You get it, or you don’t. I’m not suggesting that Guston’s work is anti-intellectual or even particularly populist. What I’m saying is that Guston’s work–especially from 1970-1980–is borne of intuition and inexorability, qualities that can be alienating as often as they are inspiring. [Read more...]

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June 18, 2008   No Comments

sheetal ghattani

Sheetal Ghattani /Untitled / Watercolour on paper / 36 x 36 inches / Bodhi Art

Sheetal Ghattani /Untitled / Watercolour on paper / 36 x 36 inches / Bodhi Art

What sets Gattani’s works apart are her philosophy and attitude towards painting. Her manipulation of the medium, watercolour on paper is to mediate through colours without them suggesting any referential reality. Encountering her abstractions leaves one puzzled since they are large areas of colour, which defy definition in terms of specificity, for instance, red or mauve. In the delicacy of soft textures lie the subtexts in her canvases, which gradually settle upon one’s sensibility and one begins reading into them, forms that bring forth the character of her otherwise placid works. Her abstractions do not beckon but gently whisper, and once that whisper becomes audible it translates into a communion, wherein one is compelled to respond. In evoking these gentle persuasive responses from the viewer lies the success of her abstract compositions. Sheetal’s process of creation largely conditions the nature and character of her works. She predominantly employs black paper on which she brushes layers of paint washes, completely in communion with her materials and tools. With her contemplative wide stroked gestures, Sheetal builds up layers of paint that in the end leave an impression of her self. And this form of abstraction is clarified by Sheetal, who says, “Abstraction is in its deepest sense, based on realism, as in reality — reality of the present moment, free from any thoughts, memory conditioning. Only that pure present moment exists. So painting is a `time-manifested’ process and I become only a means.”

A silent journey through her most recent show titled Silent Soliquyoy, Bodhi Art, Singapore (2007) may freeze the viewer to one description namely ‘similar.’ Yet her similarity is built into the very idea of difference and this difference is the basis of her ‘magical moments’ and ‘inspirational relationships’. This is where Sheetal strikes at the heart of the matter, reconceptualizing her ‘moments’ according to the quality of light and poetic play with materials through an active imagination that enables her to create similarly different works that offers varying significations

The artist lives and works in Mumbai.

www.bodhiart.in

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June 17, 2008   No Comments

Present Tense

Mary Heilmann / Weave / 1992 / Oil on canvas / 40 1/8 x 30 inches / Spanierman Modern

Mary Heilmann / Weave / 1992 / Oil on canvas / 40 1/8 x 30 inches / Spanierman Modern

Don Christensen / Eastbound / 2008 / Oil-based enamel on wood / 31 x 22 inches / Spanierman Modern

Don Christensen / Eastbound / 2008 / Oil-based enamel on wood / 31 x 22 inches / Spanierman Modern

Chris Martin / Crystal / 2007 / Spanierman Modern

Chris Martin / Crystal / 2007 / Oil and spray paint on canvas / 31 x 26 inches / Spanierman Modern

Present Tense: A group exhibition curated by Don Christensen with Mary Heilmann
Spanierman Modern
June 12 – August 2, 2008

The works were selected on the basis of their ability to produce instant and visceral responses in the viewer, without the necessity of contextualization.  The artists included share a preoccupation with eccentric structures and tend toward the use of unexpected materials and techniques.  Working in the abstract formalist tradition, they seek new vocabulary and materials, redefining their boundaries, even to the degree of leaving the confines of the canvas altogether. Diverse in the methods by which they were created, the works in Present Tense reveal the boundless potential now associated with abstraction and demand our immediate engagement with the objects before us.

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June 17, 2008   No Comments

paul christopher flynn

paul christopher flynn / work 1 / oil on canvas
paul christopher flynn / work 1 / oil on canvas / www.pcflynn.com

paul christopher flynn / work 2 / oil on canvas
paul christopher flynn / work 2 / oil on canvas / www.pcflynn.com

Two paintings from a fall 2007 exhibit at the Beijing 798 Space entitled The Homeward Collection by Irish artist Paul Christopher Flynn.

Paul said “It is obvious to anyone who sees my work that I have a great love of certain styles of Chinese painting. During my long absence from painting, the art which spoke most to me was usually Asian, mostly Chinese – it was only natural therefore that when I began painting again, those influences resonated most in my work. The opportunity to create a body of work expressly for show in China was a great joy to me. As I painted I felt a sense of coming home, not so much for me as for my paintings. It is my wish that these emotions – peace, hope, joy – are evident in the work.”

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June 9, 2008   No Comments

Jasmina Danowski

Jasmina Danowski / Brazen Truths / 2007 / Oil and alkyd on panel / 19 x 19 inches / Spanierman Modern

Jasmina Danowski / Brazen Truths / 2007 / Oil and alkyd on panel / 19 x 19 inches / Spanierman Modern

Created with thin washes overlaying thick paint surfaces, the colors and forms in Danowski’s panels are compressed and charged, drawing energy from the confinement of the small, square supports. The strength of these intense works is seen in the way they hold their own against the much larger works on paper, with the two groups “forming a field of connections and interactions.”

The artist states that in the panels, it is “as if the paintings are searching to break out continuously from their own rules.” Many capture a suspended moment between control and release, with forms strained to the breaking point and pressurized as if to thwart an explosive chain reaction that has already begun. An inevitable hilarity appears about to burst forth at any moment but is barely restrained. This sense of play, using broad humor and subtly curbed energy, evokes the brilliant comedic physicality of Buster Keaton, whom Danowski cites as a hero.

Danowski’s process entails allowing her marks and colors to develop their own implicit potential, “the story they carry within them,” and the tales they unfold are to be generated as much by the observer as by the artist.

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June 4, 2008   No Comments

shirley jaffe

Shirley Jaffe / Criss Cross Center / 1991

Shirley Jaffe / Criss Cross Center / 1991

Shirley Jaffe / The Chinese Mountain / Tibor de Nagy Gallery

Shirley Jaffe / The Chinese Mountain / Tibor de Nagy Gallery


Shirley Jaffe / Champ de Mars / 2004-5 / oil on canvas / Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York

Shirley Jaffe / Champ de Mars / 2004-5 / oil on canvas / Courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York

Seeing the Bruce Porter exhibition today got me thinking about Shirley Jaffe’s work. Ben La Rocco wrote a good review in the Brooklyn Rail back in November 2005 for the show of her work at Tibor De Nagy Gallery making this great statement about abstraction.

The process of abstracting from reality is a process of making things one’s own, of acknowledging that to paint anything at all is to represent it in one’s own terms. Jaffe’s painting grows from one of the early tributaries of this relatively new trend in western painting. It illustrates the way the hand and mind transform what the eye sees. Her sensibilities are contemporary while the esteem in which she holds her forbearers strengthens her painting and her tradition. [Read More...]

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June 4, 2008   No Comments

Pamela Jorden

Pamela Jorden / untitled / 2006 / oil on linen / 50 x 50 inches / klaus von nichtssagend gallery

Pamela Jorden / untitled / 2006 / oil on linen / 50 x 50 inches / klaus von nichtssagend gallery

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May 29, 2008   No Comments

Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe

Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe / Thought in a Garden / 2008 / Oil on linen / 86 x 38 x 1-1/4 inches / alexander gray associates

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.

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May 28, 2008   No Comments