Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Meal Paintings and A Curatorial Effort

Paul Gauguin, 1891, A Meal of Bananas

Duccio di Boninsegna, 1311, The Last Supper

Felix Valloton, 1899, Dinner in the Lamplight

Joan Brown, 1963, Noel at the Table with a Large Bowl of Fruit

Antonio Lopez Garcia, 1971-80, La Cena

Fairfield Porter, 1950, John, Richard and Laurence

Jean Cooke, 1954, Portrait of John Bratby
I have had a deep and unwavering love for paintings of food and the meal since I can remember.  It has always found its way into my own work as a theme and is where many of my all time favorite paintings reside.  There is something psychological in the best meal paintings that bumps up against the matter of fact specifics of the things on the table.  Above are some of the paintings I have loved for many years.

I'd had the idea to put together a show of contemporary artists working with this sub-genre of still life (which on its own is underrepresented I think) but never really thought it would come to pass.  But I agreed to be a part of a voluntary curatorial board at the University City Arts League for the year and to my surprise this idea was voted as one of the annual exhibitions.  I'm working on it with a friend and fellow member, Adam Lovitz (painter and enthusiast of food painting himself)

So this October 21st, Baked Goods, a show with 13 visual artists and 4 performance artists will open there, 4226 Spruce Street.  The list of artists is fantastic, I can't wait to share more details.  For now mark the calendar, I'll put up further info in weeks to come.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Harper's Magazine July 2016

I'm honored to have my painting Bed's Edge reproduced in Harper's Magazine's current July 2016 issue.  It is a fantastic publication and I admire the consideration they use in selecting visual components.  Here are some other pages from the issue, and here is a link to their website.

Yutaka Sone, Sky and Palm Tree Head #5, courtesy of David Zwirner Gallery from the Readings Section

Photographs from Havana by Rose Marie Cromwell from El Bloqueo The Cuban Embargo Continues by Joy Gordon

Jan Brueghel the Elder, Aeneas and the Sibyl in the Underworld, 1598 from Subterranean Homesick Muse by Nick Laird

 (left: Cover, Camels, Jerusalem, Martin Parr    right: Concessions and the Cup Holder, Kate Joyce)

Friday, May 27, 2016

Start of Summer

Cressida Campbell

Even though the official start to summer is a few weeks off, Memorial Day weekend here always feels like the start to the new season.  I am going off the grid for a few weeks, but here are some summer time feels -- nothing pulls up the smell of warm weather like a palm tree.

Judith Farr

Pierre Seinturier

Cy Twombly

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Interview of Michael Gallagher for Title Magazine 

I interviewed the great Michael Gallagher at his show Hallucination Engine at Schmidt/Dean Gallery this month.  It's up on Title Magazine here. I first met Michael when I was in graduate school at PAFA, he has been a faculty member of the undergraduate program for many years.  An enthusiastic and fearless painter (he told me he sanded down and entirely reworked and repainted one of the big pieces the weekend before the show opened), we got into topics from how he negotiates imagery to the current acrylic paints on his palette.  
Read the full piece below:

Heat Engine (Dippy) 2016, acrylic on panel, 48 x 60 inches

“Look, a student gave me a dippy bird!” exclaims painter Michael Gallagher as he greets me at his solo show Hallucination Engine at Schmidt Dean gallery recently. His enthusiasm for this little glass figurine that bobs as it drinks from a glass of water underlines the sense of humor and playfulness that he brings to his paintings. One of the most successful works in the show titled, Heat Engine (Dippy) echoes the color and shape of that toy bird, a toy Gallagher admired deeply as a child but never owned. As Gallagher explains in the exhibition catalog , titles are derived by naming something that “lends a degree of specificity without completely shunting [the painting] into a narrow read.” This teetering place at the edge of recognition is the show’s source of power.

At first glance, the scale and prominence of vibrant colors in Hallucination Engine may lead a viewer to falsely believe they are strictly formalist works about shape and construction. Born less of that Hans Hofmann New York School, this work owes more to Arthur Carles, Stuart Davis, Charles Sheeler – the Philadelphia brand of modernism. It operates with a shared belief in instinctive decision-making and solid compositional design, a departure from a most austere approach towards imagery and play.
A sustained engagement with any canvas in Hallucination Engine yields movement, and the enervating discovery of initially unseen elements, such as in Big Pink, where a tiny square becomes an elephant’s eye on a trunk-shaped profile. The paintings unfold and nod back at you when given time and consideration. Michael and I sat down in the gallery to look carefully and discuss questions of process, intention and the best paint colors.

Big Pink, 2016, acrylic on panel, 53 1/2 x 72 inches

AL: In the exhibition catalogue, your artist statement feels very automatic and free, like a record of your mind making jumps and connections. Does this relate to how you allow the work to come together, through freedom and trial, or are you pushing against something?

MG: Very much so – ‘free-range’ – how to get from one place to another without a definitive map – something like that. I think ‘allow’ is an apt way to describe the process – a certain autonomy on the part of the work – letting the painting determine a direction – it just seems more interesting that way. If I were pushing against anything, it would be a resolution that is too limiting and expected

AL: Do you have a certain intention for the work, as in where it should sit between abstraction and representation or what happens with regard to space, color?

MG: I do enjoy images that move between differing degrees of abstraction and representation. These two terms, although useful, are also problematic, due to their degree of relativity and differing usages – I mean, I use them, but they always need clarification.

Of course, space and color are a central concern, inseparable from one another, and I do spend a lot of time considering how forms sit in space and relate to one another. I’m told that an abiding interest in these matters, often referred to as ‘formal’ or ‘modernist’ are no longer sufficient unto themselves, but I don’t quite see it that way. A really good Amy Sillman painting, which connects to a Diebenkorn, that hinges on a Matisse, which converses with a Cezanne, that drinks from a Delacroix, that dreams of Rubens, that sings to Titian, who honors Bellini, who gets so much from the Byzantine tradition of painted icons and, well, let’s just cut to Giotto (and that’s only the Western route). All of these reference points insist on a type of visual language that privileges structure and complexity through space, color and composition.

AL: What is the significance of the magnolia for this series which is the title of a few of the paintings?

MG: I have painted this motif for at least a decade at this point. It began with the more naturalistic paintings – a series of table top still-life’s that concentrated on ‘white’ as the subject of the work, white crockery and the like, which led to the ‘white’ of the magnolia, perhaps influenced by John Peto’s series of magnolia paintings and certain works by Martin Johnson Heade.

They became for me a symbol of Spring. I would run around town clipping a few examples, from
buds just beginning to open to full blown blossoms. They are a real challenge because they bloom so quickly – you have to work fast. They are very sensual forms – the most interesting still-life images have that sensual element – and they have recently been imposing themselves on the more abstract works.

Blackflower (Magnolia 2) 2016, acrylic on panel, 36 x 48

AL: Is color derived more from a perceptual decision or an emotional one?

MG: Both are in play, along with intuition, a conceptual viewpoint and purposeful choices based on color principles. If one spends enough time making and looking, these long-standing color
combinations become second nature. Most painters I speak with don’t seem to premeditate or
systematize their color usage – in fact when I mentioned that I had been using a color wheel in
my studio recently, I got more than a few quizzical looks.

AL: What are your favorite paints on your palette at the moment?

MG: Magenta/various types of blue/greens (Azurite/ Turquoise Green/Yellow Green), Quinacridone Violet, (various grays) – what might be described as high-keyed, saturated ‘contemporary‘ colors. Not unlike the colors in Bonnard paintings painted a hundred years ago. Hah! So much for the contemporary.

AL: What work have you been looking at recently?

MG: I recently visited the Degas exhibition at the Modern, Bill Scott’s solo show in New York, along with the Bonnard retrospective in San Francisco. All great examples of the type of work that allows for sustained viewing: the more you look, the more you get, but you gotta pony up. Of course, I’m constantly looking at books and images online – always.

AL: What couple words or phrases do you hope it boils down to? What do you hope a viewer of your work leaves the show thinking about?

MG: Surprise – the pleasure of looking, and a sense of discovery. Painting can do so much. Paintings, along with other forms of visual art, all art-forms, recalibrate the way we see and think the world. The multiple reads an image can offer are, for me at least, enjoyable and a constant reminder that it pays to pay attention. In the words of Dave Hickey, ‘Art is the antidote to everything else’ – how can you top that?

The show is up through this Saturday, May 28th! Check it out at Schmidt Dean   1719 Chestnut St.

Monday, May 16, 2016

DerHouse Interview

I was just interviewed by Ian Wilson over at  He has been gathering painter interviews for the last three years.  He asks about influences, books, process and feelings on academia, where I get a little huffy about the whole adjunct thing.  But the other interviews are funny and thought provoking and you can see a lot of images of paintings and studios...

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Textiles by BFGF

Museum Blanket, 71 x 53 inches

Tropical Shadows Blanket, 71 x 53 inches

I like the textiles of this online shop BFGF.  Sure its a little hipster but the aesthetic is great.  I know nothing about the origins of the design but I would bet they are a student of art history.  The proportions and color of things are pretty great.  They have an instagram (BFGF) that's pretty funny too....

Parallel Movements Blanket, 71 x 53 inches