Sunday, April 27, 2014

'Color Bar' A Painter's Prison Experience

Breyten Breytenbach, 1962, gouache. (you can buy this on ebay)

I listened to an episode of This American Life while painting from 1999 last week.  One 'act' has really stuck with me titled Color Bar. It is about a man's experience of prison and how it changes your visual life and takes away your freedom in seeing.  He is a painter, Breyten Bryetenbach, who was imprisoned in South Africa and the way he discusses his experience is so poignant.

Here is an excerpt:

"It's like if you deprive somebody of colors for a certain time, and then you introduce color, however small the area of color may be that you introduce, there will be an intense sort of a pang of recognition of that color. A real experience of that color. We live in a surfeit of colors every day. We no longer even notice. We're sitting, looking at pink roses on the wallpaper, you know? The white cover over a bed, or the darkness of a shirt, or whatever it is. These are so much part, we are washed over with the richness of colors all the time. But in a situation like that, when all of a sudden there's this eruption of a toffee wrapper, for instance, or a leaf that got blown over the wall, or even a thread that somehow got blown into the wall, a thread of material, blue, something like that, you can not possibly imagine the intense awareness experience of that color, as if you'd never seen color before."

I had never thought of this aspect of prison before, the visual change.  He talks too about the depth of seeing only ever being a few feet in front of you and how as a person we are constantly being visual excited by different depths and colors and how that affects your interaction with the world. I would like to ask him if it helped his work or hurt it, looking back years later.  Listen here.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

New York Highlights

Yesterday I went up to NY on a usual full studio day.  I debated giving up the studio time but hadn't been on a full gallery day since the late fall.  There was the good, the bad and the ugly of course but I had done some research ahead of time so the majority of things were quite good to see.  

I also planned the travel in a quite perfect way, I have to say, I took the 8am bolt bus up to the new stop at 12th and 33rd, and walked about 5 minutes down to Chelsea.  Spent about 2 hours there, then took a nice route through NYU's campus down to the LES.  I had a bowl of Pho before spending 2.5 hours rambling around there, meeting a friend and heading back on the 4:15 that departs from 6th and Grand nearby.  It was a 12 hour day, but one that involved no subway and a $12 tab.  It was fun.

Here are my highlights:

Romare Bearden @ DC Moore
This show was seriously good.  I felt the kind of love where you don't want to share it with anyone kind of love.    
Jules Olitski @ Paul Kasmin

This one was more undecided for me.  Something in me loved the visceral quality of the paint.  Something in me hated the gold frames and certain color decisions that felt oh so 80s.  Still it was a highlight because it has stuck with me.

Rackstraw Downes @ Betty Cuningham

I don't think anyone could say Rackstraw Downes isn't a good painter.  This show has a span of many paintings in different light and locales.  They were a little consistent in the small brushwork for me, but there were many more magical moments within the paintings that kept me looking, like this beautiful barbed wire detail.

Gary Stephan @ Susan Inglett
Didn't love this whole show but liked the smaller paintings, particularly this one.

Eve Aschheim @ Lori Bookstein 
A really nice show of work within narrow parameters that does surprising things with color and space. 

Eleanor Ray @ SHFAP
So many gems in this exhibition.  

Pius Fox @ Pablo's Birthday
This was my surprise of the day.  I never had heard of Pius Fox before seeing this show and it was excellent.

Pius Fox @ Pablo's Birthday

I also enjoyed the group show at Brian Morris, but didn't snap any shots.  At that point I guess I was getting a bit worn out.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Pick: Anthony Palocci Jr.

Dishes in the Sink, 2012, oil on canvas, 60"X48"

Drain, 2013, oil on canvas, 10" X 8"

Burner, 2012, oil on canvas, 8" X 10"

Rack Shadows, 2014, oil on canvas, 30 X 40
Drawing 5
Drawing 5, 2014, charcoal on paper, 22 X 30
I've been discussing ad nauseam the idea of making a lot of work that is generated simply from looking around your life and investigating the same subject thoroughly.  Its something I think about in my own studio but mainly something I have been pushing my students to understand.  They always want their work to be about something that has never been done, but I keep telling them everything has and its a matter of them approaching looking and the world in their own way.

Anthony Palocci Jr. is a fantastic example of this type of investigation.  Moving from the things in his life like dirty dishes and refrigerators to the repetitive shadows of an oven rack he has richly complex paintings that vary in color, structure and scale.  The progression of these works is very interesting and apparent, moving organically, it seems you can almost watch him look at the work, reflect and then work again.  Looking at and questioning these few forms in his surroundings and how to represent them or use them generated a mine of questions that has years of exploration embedded in it.  Students -- take note!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Shows to See

Neysa Grassi,  Floating Lake, 2013, oil on wood panel, 13 1/4 x 13 1/4 inches

I went to a great opening on Friday night at Locks Gallery.  Both shows, Neysa Grassi: Endless Source and Warren Rohrer: Message Bearer, were strong and I recommend catching them before the close on April 30th.  Pictures just don't do the in-person experience any justice.

Warren Rohrer, Mauve Shift, 1977, oil on linen, 72 x 72 inches

Friday, April 4, 2014

Fresh as Form on Curating Contemporary

 I am happy to share a group show I am a part of on Curating Contemporary.  It is a wonderful website run by Brian Edmonds which hosts online exhibitions each month.  Even though it is a virtual show, it provides the opportunity to see works in dialogue that otherwise might not have been possible.  Our show consists of six artists from thousands of miles apart.

Melanie Parke  (Michigan)

Derrick Quevedo (Baltimore)

Virva Hinnemo  (New York)

Lauren Garvey (Philadelphia)

Judith Farr (Spain)

The idea hatched when talking to Derrick and Lauren about the community of painters we have had great discussions with and influence from, all through online communication (email, facebook etc.)  How amazing it is that people living so physically far apart can have many similar threads in their paintings and the way they approach their work.  So it seemed fitting to have an online exhibition highlighting this.  Here is the essay the three of us wrote collaboratively:

"Fresh as Form brings together painters who are united in their approach to form. To them, it is not something forewarned, to be considered and worked around. There are no rules or compositional guidelines that must be adhered to. 

Instead, form is in constant flux, being extinguished and renewed as the painting develops. Form is sought out like a rare pearl, wading through muddled terrain, shoveling paint across the surface, uncovering old marks and redefining them anew. 

Like some sort of painter's code; brush lines carve out new contours, positive space becomes negative space, blue lines become an ocean in the distance and then settle back into their pictorial space once more. 

Change is welcome and necessary in the pursuit of forms that satisfy the painter’s own hand, mind and the painting itself. Perhaps form is not finite, but as fresh as the moment of the gaze...”

Then selected artists were invited to choose three works that they felt best represented this statement in their work.  And so the show came together and in quite a beautiful way (if I do say so myself).