Sunday, January 29, 2017

NY Sun Review and Images

Microwave Mug, 2015, Oil on Panel
 Today my show, Refrigerator Paintings came down.  With New Year's starting the month and the apocalyptic hate-mongering Trump presidency beginning to bookend January, it has been a hard time to think about painting and really a time that feels a bit selfish to be holed up in the studio.  

I was really happy to have a review by Xico Greenwald in the NY Sun which gave me some reflection on the show that I can think about in months ahead.  But for now, I'll just share that and some images and move on to calling Pat Toomey with all the things at the forefront of my brain.  Here's his DC number if you are interested too (and a PA constituent):   (202) 224-4254.  I'm aiming for calling every Monday with my three biggest issues of the previous week.  Trying to find a way to cope that is both productive and self preserving...

Cereal Eater, 2016, Oil on Panel

Raiding the Fridge for Inspiration
By XICO GREENWALD, Special to the Sun | January 25, 2017

Philadelphia-based artist Aubrey Levinthal (b. 1986) raids her fridge for inspiration. She repurposes her leftovers, turning Tupperware containers packed with fruit salad and spaghetti into inventive still lifes. Milk jugs and the condiments in the icebox are arranged into formally rigorous compositions that show off Ms. Levinthal’s feel for paint. Stroked, glazed, scraped and sanded, textured canvases here depict late-night binges and bubbling lasagna.

“Refrigerator Paintings,” a little exhibit in Chelsea now in its final days, is a breath of fresh air. Ms. Levinthal is a student of art history, and her unpretentious canvases of everyday subjects dialogue with modern masters, particularly School of Paris artists. Visitors to her show will leave reassured that the great tradition of painting is alive and well in the able hands of this millennial.

In “Microwave Mug,” 2015, the lonely light of a microwave oven nuking coffee updates Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks,” 1942, the urban American noir masterpiece. Here the glow in the night comes from a kitchen appliance, not a corner coffee shop, but both pictures capture after-hours solitude.

In “Cereal Eater” 2016, the vantage point is from inside the refrigerator, letting viewers peer out to what seems to be a loose self-portrait of the artist at the open fridge door, perhaps about to grab the last of the milk. The nearly all white picture is suffused with refrigerator light and the roughly painted figure recalls the Art Brut characters of Jean Dubuffet.

All but a sliver of canvas is covered over with a white refrigerator door in “Fridge Closing,” 2016. The off-kilter design recalls playfully lopsided compositions by Pierre Bonnard. In an artist’s statement, Ms. Levinthal explains, “I had painted an entire composition of food stacked to the ceiling, like it would be before a party. It was too crowded and flat and I didn't know what to do. And then I thought, I'll zoom out and put the door on top of the stuff.” The formula-free artworks here are worked and reworked, each piece achieving its own unique pictorial resolution.

Ms. Levinthal is expecting a baby in February and papier-mâché sculptures of food displayed on shelves are labeled “Things I Crave, Pregnant” (Pop-Tarts, soft-serve) and “Things I Can't Have, Pregnant” (lox, beer). The artist says these sculptures are “sort of like characters from the paintings.”

Though the artworks here are fun, even funny, Ms. Levinthal’s achievement is profound. After all, translating the human experience into compelling works of art is what painting has always been all about.

Aubrey Levinthal: Refrigerator Paintings, on view through January 28, 2017, The Painting Center, 547 West 27th Street, Suite 500, New York, NY, 212-343-1060,
More information about Xico Greenwald's work can be found at

Monday, January 23, 2017

Second Look: Will Barnet

The Three Brothers, 1964

Will Barnet is one of those painters I have known of since I can remember but I didn't always appreciate.  I didn't like his work much in school and the irony is now I show him to students and they don't really see the exquisiteness either.  But I think he is a real master.  

A lot of times the term 'wooden' is negatively used in critiques of figurative work that doesn't have life or emotion.  Barnet's figures are certainly wooden but they are full of life and emotion.  He is able to simultaneously hold the most simplified, flat, closed shape to stand for a figure and capture a feeling in their pose, a mood in the face.  He uses shape and composition to add that gravity and the simplicity is like a poem.  

Nothing is in excess, everything is consciously decided on.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Few Install Shots of The Painting Center

I hung my show Refrigerator Paintings at The Painting Center in Chelsea yesterday.  It went better than expected.  Someone with a strange (read: bad) abstract spatial sense like me sometimes can really mess up visualizing a space and scale of things.  But I think I brought the right work and it hung well together.  This work plays much more with value and low saturation than some of my other work so the color didn't fight as much.

The show is all paintings with the subject of the refrigerator as a jumping off point (with a microwave and oven thrown in for good measure).  I don't know why I started with this subject but once I did I found it touches on so many of the things I like to challenge in my work.   


These are intimate spaces but they are also isolated and matter of fact.  They are like stages for still life, objects stacking and overlapping in fortuitous ways.  These are spaces where the sense of light is dramatic, especially in value.  They are spaces where the point of view can be surprising.  Compositionally there are deep spaces and occlusions of that space in the shape of a door or shelf.

In one piece, Fridge Closing, (I don't have a close up image of that one installed) I had painted an entire composition of food stacked to the ceiling, like it would  be before a party.  It was too crowded and flat and I didn't know what to do.  And then I thought, I'll zoom out and put the door on top of the stuff.  Knowing that it was all in there behind the door was pretty freaking satisfying.

Then I read this snippet from Guston interviews:  "...then I just covered it up with a brick wall.  It felt good.  So in my mind, everything's behind the brick wall."  He does everything first.  But I still felt good knowing I got there too.

The other thing that feels unexpectedly good about the show is how the space mimics the idea of a refrigerator.  The project space is very narrow and feels like you must enter into a compressed area.  That was the reason I felt the show needed a tight relationship in terms of subject.  But the space adds to that impression and my content I think.

The last thing I was able to do because I have control of the curation, is show my paper mache sculptures.  I have made these off and on since graduate school but I never show them and never intended to.  There is one wall in the space which has a door on it, and is hard to get any distance from, and I thought-- I don't want to put any paintings there.  Then in my studio one day making the sculptures for no obvious reason but enjoyment I thought, hmm, these sculptures might be just related enough and more playful, sort of like characters from the paintings.  I expanded on them and made one shelf Things I Crave, Pregnant and the other Things I Can't Have, Pregnant.  

These are the only things I think non-pregnant people want to know about pregnancy.  They want the middle of the night pickle peanut butter story which I don't have (and question its origin haha).  But food is definitely on the mind at nearly 9 months pregnant and for me pop tarts, banana cream pie and spaghetti are the top.  I also think pregnancy feels taboo as a painter.  It seems like some people expect you will stop painting (what?) and is a physical reminder of being a woman in a man's profession.  So I  wanted to put it out there loudly and continue to allow my work to touch on my life in whatever way that seems to crop up.