Monday, April 29, 2019

Installation Shots and Gallery Talk 5/4

Here are installation shots of my show courtesy of Nancy Margolis.  

I'm going to be giving a talk in the gallery this Saturday, May 4th at 2pm.  I'm talking doubt and anxiety -- should be fun!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Exhibition Catalog and Announcement

The catalog for my show has arrived!  Click here to view the digital version.  

Here are details for the show:

Nancy Margolis Gallery
April 18th - June 1st, 2019

Opening Reception: Thursday, April 18th, 6-8pm
Artist Talk: Saturday, May 4, 2-3pm

Below is the text from the catalog essay by Samantha Mitchell.  I feel so honored to have such a thoughtful and gifted writer and artist respond to my work.

"In his definition of heterotopia(of which utopiaand dystopiaare types) Michel Foucault writes about the mirror as an agent of transformative realization of self in place – simultaneously illuminating and falsifying our own image: “I see myself where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the surface… [f]rom the standpoint of the mirror I discover my absence from the place where I am since I see myself over there.” 

Mirrors are a frequent theme in Aubrey Levinthal’s work, both literal and implied. Her self-reflexive paintings often feature figures that resemble herself and her family – a brunette woman, a bearded man, and a young child – and self-portraits in the studio with brush at hand are an homage to a classical tradition that is very much alive in her technique.   The work creates a narrative thread that explores a specific kind of contemporary domestic life that mirrors her own. These reflections present a complex, brooding image of young motherhood, at times a bright floral haze, at others a dimly lit miasma. 

Nursing (Boot)is at once an aggressive and tender depiction of motherhood, a feminist reimagining of Madonna and child. The body of the infant, almost indistinguishable, melts into its mother’s body, while the mother confronts the viewer with a direct, withering gaze and the sole of her boot. In Breakfast on 13thSt, a scene at a nuclear family breakfast table, mother and father appear completely consumed in deep, dark, thought while a baby stares intently out from the background. Seemingly unnoticed, a bouquet of flowers morphs into a surrealistic globular lozenge, bubbling out of a vase, suggesting the existence an alternate reality within the grim intensity of this one. Echoes of influences like Nicole Eisenman and Berthe Morisot reverberate through Levinthal’s uncanny mealtime scenes, where figures congregate with brooding expressions, rendered in thin, feathery strokes and washes.

Where Levinthal’s paintings are often celebrations of sumptuous offerings – food, flowers, ornately patterned wallpaper and textile – this current body of work casts these joyful trappings in a distinctly ominous and foreboding light, operating instead as memento mori. The bouquets are dark and wilting, flowers bent at the stem. Tables are littered with Chinese takeout containers and various fruit rinds, and the refrigerator is only occupied by condiments and milk. A scene from a flesh-toned office where a fashionable young therapist charges her Apple device while in session is a bright pink foil to the other largely greyed-out paintings, and features the same confrontational boots, now submissive in their spot on the analyst’s couch. In Double Mirrors, a woman stands in a bathroom with baroque wallpaper while the faucet runs, considering reflections of her shoulder and half of her face cut up between two mirrors above the sink. These moments of decorative indulgence are counterpoints for the figures within, who are at once intense and absent, slipping between presence and invisibility. 

With this work, Levinthal offers the viewer a world within her own that is simultaneously real and surreal. Familiar visual themes that appear throughout the work – face, flower, earbud, boot – are a refrain, arresting in the same way that one might recognize their own body within a dream. Like the mirror, the paintings both reflect and dissociate, opening an illusory space where narrative becomes fractured and plays out in a suspended reality."

- Samantha Mitchell, 2019

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Shows NY and Philly

I've seen a bunch of good shows recently.  Here are some highlights from Chelsea and LES, most of the shows are up through mid April:

Alice Neel at David Zwirner on 20th was freakishly good.  I have always loved her and felt a certain pride as she went to art school and spent time in Philly but something about the curation by her daughter-in-law Ginny was so spot on and timely, I felt even more in awe and thankful to her.  Mostly depicting pregnancy or stays in hospitals, this work was the pulsing, riddled, racing human condition at its rawest.

Milton Avery at DC Moore, its a small show of four paintings but these were gems.

Jackie Gendel at Thomas Erben

These three paintings Temma Bell(detail above), Gwen Strahle(left) and John Goodrich(right) were part of a nice show at First Street Gallery put on by the still life collective Zeuxis.  A lot of good perceptual work there.  

I need to get better at taking more pictures and also taking better pictures.  
These basically function as notes, but there were a ton of good things I didn't take: John Bradford, Susan Lichtman, Ying Li...I know everyone takes photos and galleries probably like it at this point.  But I still feel like I have .005 seconds to snap a covert photo before getting yelled at for some reason...

Angela Heisch at Davidson Gallery

Polina Barakaya (detail) at Monya Rowe Gallery

Jonathan Gardner at Casey Kaplan

Susan Jane Walp at Tibor de Nagy, this show was all paintings around a foot square simply framed and hung in an even order around three walls.  They were so cared for and had such integrity, I don't think a painter could not admire them.  I love her work so much.  Its a reminder among a sea of loud and slappy stuff in LES about the kind of painter I want to continue to aspire to be so I can be working in 30 years.  These are paintings that I would kill to live with because they will continue to give the slow secrets that went into their making.

In Philly two of my favorite people and painters are having concurrent solo shows at Gross McCleaf Gallery.  These are Evan Fugazzi, and the color embraces you.  Its a welcome relief from the shitty weather and state of the world.  Thank you Evan.  Nice review of this show in Hyperallergic by Stan Mir here.

Rebekah Callaghan's work is generous like that in its color but much different in process.  The relentless search and rich subtlety that results from that in person is sublime.  (Side note: I started thinking about a few words: sublime, haunting and exquisite.  If work in person can hold any of those it's tops.  I've been trying to demand that same feeling for myself in the studio...easier said than done)

It also got a well deserved review on Two Coats of Paint by Bea Huff Hunter here.

And next week Sarah McEneaney has a solo opening at Locks Gallery.

It's finally feeling like a hopeful season.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Create Magazine Interview

Happy to share an interview I did with Ekaterina Popova, a Philly based painter and founder of Create Magazine.  It's a beautiful publication and I'm thrilled to see it in print.  They have a very active Instagram but also have issues available for purchase here.

Here is the full transcript at a legible size:

Tell me about yourself. Were you always interested in becoming an artist? What has your creative journey been like so far?

I think I have that typical, boring story of a painter which is I always liked to draw and always felt like it was the thing I was good at. But I think a lot of people love to draw as kids, I’ve just been fortunate enough and stubborn enough for it to keep working out.  I get a lot of satisfaction out of creating something tangible though, I think graphic design would be a much harder job for me than something like tailoring. I’ve always found ways to work with my hands, I love to cook and rehab furniture and stuff like that.  

I went to Penn State for undergrad which was a good program, I had a great experience on a semester abroad in Florence at a tiny art school too during that time.  And that made me really commit to doing my MFA at an art school, which led to PAFA. I wanted to be in Philly, I’ve always found it an interesting place to live, and a place that is affordable.  So I stayed and after a few years I found a great shared studio space in a quiet building and have been there for 3 ½ years now. This is the first year since my MFA in 2011 that I am not teaching alongside my practice.  I am in the studio four days a week now working towards my show at Nancy Margolis in April.

What are your paintings about?

I hope my work is a real, tender accounting of my particular visual life.  The paintings can be inventive and distorted, as I often work from memory and through process, but I want them to carry resonance of my experience, which happens to be as a painter, woman, mother.  I am influenced by the work of painters of intimacy and autobiography like Bonnard, Porter, Hockney.  But I think by the very virtue of being a woman painting ‘the domestic’, ‘the intimate’, the ‘everyday’ there is a slightly different assumption there.  I want to take that expectation and not subvert it, but kind of nudge it open a bit for the multifaceted, nuanced, difficult, anxious, lonely way it can feel.  So I’m not making a statement by painting myself pregnant or nursing or my husband or child, I am just trying to add my perspective as authentically as I can. 

I am also very interested in the relationship of efficiency and complexity.  Meaning, I like to make paintings that feel approachable and simple, I am mindful of having careful, purposeful marks and decisions.  But I am trying to see how much complexity can be revealed after that initial read.  I think this way of working speaks especially well to my content.  Everyone feels they contain multitudes, but ‘mother’ may be the most flattening of all titles. To make a still image, a painting, which contains these suspended layers feels like an equal and appropriate challenge.

How has your work evolved over the years? What was your early work like?

I’ve always liked to paint the tangible things around me – food, people, objects.  I really always felt I was terrible at large spaces and landscapes.  Since I was little that was not of interest for me. I like things that hold some kind of human scale and resonance for the most part.  

The thing that has shifted the most is as I started working seriously in high school and college I felt like I could no longer work from memory or imagination.  I got obsessed with the anatomical rightness of things and relied on working from life or photos.  Looking back that seems fairly normal, I was trying to get a grip on rendering, but it didn’t feel inventive enough, it got tedious.  Once I got to the point where I felt I could render anything, then came the real investigation as to what and why and more importantly, giving myself permission to let that be open ended.  I think the most important thing I have consistently done since then to help my work evolve is look at other work, it’s a way to grant yourself that permission to experiment.  

What advice would you give emerging artists in regards to taking creative risks and finding their voice?

I would say the answers are in the paint.  I used to sit in my studio and bite my nails, racking my brain for an idea that would give me a justifiable reason to paint.  But it’s kind of like brainstorming for writing where you need to just let things flow and then judge them later.  The best thing I found to do is use any impulse for a painting, whether it’s a color combination on a restaurant placemat or a desire to make a copy of a famous work in the museum.  Trying things as far out as can be imagined helped me realize what I wanted to paint by working backwards.  Meaning, I figured out what I never wanted to do again, whether because I found it boring or unsatisfying and that took off pressure of ‘figuring out’ what my work was about.

What are you currently excited about in your studio practice?

Infrastructure! I spent the last month installing new racks in the studio and organizing my work both physically and on an external harddrive.  And I just finished cradling these 20 new paintings and making the mouldings for their frames. So I’m feeling productive, even when the painting is tough and slow.  

What's coming up next for you?
I have a solo exhibition at Nancy Margolis Gallery in Chelsea, opening April 18, 2019.  

*All images are new work which will be on view in this upcoming show.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Tamayo Painting

Rufino Tamayo, Man and Woman, 1926, Philadelphia Museum of Art

I keep revisiting this painting at the PMA, Man and Woman, by Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo. (The blue lines in hair are not in the painting but a reflection of lights). 

It's the rare kind of painting I don't just admire or know to be good but that I really want to have made.  I think this is a perfect painting.  He must have been so satisfied.  It touches back in time, a couple, a story simple and well known.  And it touches forward to today.  

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Hockney and a PSA

David Hockney at 18.  I feel like you can tell from his fingers that he is going to be a great painter.

Here is a great section of Hockney's essay in his book 'Pictures'.  I love the way he allows his paintings and writing to be approachable even while clearly understanding and executing extremely difficult and inventive things.  

I took this book and two others on Hockney out of the Phila Public Library.  I was going to buy one but checked the library first and I've been pretty impressed with the books they have.  The thing that really blew my mind is their subscription for films.  There is basically a Netflix for independent movies (not just offbeat stuff but really good stuff -- moonlight, lady bird etc) called Kanopy.  You literally just type in your library card number and get free movies and most library systems are members.  How did I not know about this?  Seems like a lot of people don't, so I've been dragging it out as my new trick in social settings.    They have every art doc I've ever tried to illegally download, even A Life Lived -- the one about Guston that everyone talks about but no one knows where to watch.  It is there!  And so is one on Hockney.  Check it out