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

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Early Summer Gallery Guide

I spent about 2+ hours making a list of shows my students might be interested in seeing after school finished up(today!).  I try to do this every semester, as my gift to them.  So its not comprehensive, more geared towards the interests of painters and my students specifically.

Some were enthusiastic to receive such a document, some were not, but I only work with about 30 people so I figured I would throw it up here in case it is helpful to anyone else.  Makes me feel like my time was well spent...please feel free to add other good things to see in the comments section...

Portrait of a man, full-length, handing a letter to a boy, in an interior (The Young Messenger), Attributed to Gonzales Coques, c. 1640s from Unfinished @ the MET's new Breuer building

NYC Uptown (near the MET and Central Park)
Alex Katz @ the MET through 6/26 -- 82nd st and 5th avenues
Expressionist Nude (Soutine, Munch etc) @ Neue Galerie through 6/13 – 86th st and 5th avenue
Unfinished @ the MET Breuer (supposed to be excellent) through September – 945 Madison ave (@75th)

Louisa Matthiasdottir, Icelandic Village Scene with Boat, n.d., @ Tibor de Nagy Gallery

NYC Midtown (near MOMA)
Degas: A Strange New Beauty @ MOMA through 7/24 – 11 w 53rd st
Kirchner Watercolors @ Galerie St. Etienne through 7/1 – 24 w 57th st
Louisa Matthiasdottir @ Tibor de Nagy through June 17 – 724 5th Ave

Brian Alfred,

NYC Chelsea/Downtown (near the Whitney, High Line)
Tom Wesselman @ Mitchell Innes Nash through 5/28 – 534 w 26th st
Lee Krasner @ Robert Miller through 6/4 – 524 w 26th st
Brian Alfred @ Ameringer opening 5/26 – 525 w 22nd St
Luiz Zerbini @ Sikkema Jenkins through 6/4 – 530 w 22nd st
Nicole Eisenman @ Anton Kern through 6/25 – 532 w 20th st
Paul Resika @ Lori Bookstein through 6/4 – 138 10th ave
Diana Horowitz @ Lori Bookstein through 6/4 – 138 10th ave
Jordan Wolfson @ David Zwirner through 6/25 -- 525 w 19th st
Luc Tuymans @ David Zwirner through 6/25 – 533 w 19th st
Philip Guston @ Hauser and Wirth through 7/29 – 511 w 18th
Morandi @ Center for Italian Modern Art through 6/25 – 421 Broome St (Soho area) Open Fri/Sat
Nicole Eisenman @ the New Museum (Lecture 5/12 @ 7pm) – 235 Bowery
June Leaf @ The Whitney through 7/17 -- 99 Gansevoort Street
Michael Berryhill @ Kansas through 5/22 – 210 Rivington
Ryan Nord Kitchen @ Nicelle Beauchene through 5/22 – 327 Broome

Claire Kincade, A Collection of Three, Oil on canvas, 24 x 22.5 inches @ Gross McCleaf


Jane Irish @ Locks Gallery through 5/31 – 600 Washington Square
Alyson Shotz @ Locks Gallery through 6/11 -- 600 Washington Square
PHILADELPHIA COLOR AND LINE: The Influence of Jane Piper and Arthur B. Carles curated by Jan Baltzell @ Cerulean Arts 1355 Ridge Ave  5/25-6/18
Michael Gallagher @ Schmidt Dean through 5/21 – 1719 Chestnut st
Claire Kincade at Gross Mccleaf through 5/27 – 127 s 16th (at sansom)
International Pop @ Phila Museum through 5/14
Creative Africa @ Phila Museum opening 5/14
Mariel Herring@ Automat Gallery opening 5/6 – Vox Building 11th and Vine
Group Show @ Snyderman-Works Gallery 5/6-6/11 – 303 Cherry St