Wednesday, October 20

Defined by Limitations

Luc Tuymans in his studio (via Elle)
An older idea came back yesterday: how much does an artist's limitations define their strengths and direction in their work?

As an immediate example Luc Tuymans came to mind. His paintings aren't limited in their intended capacity. But his work has a distinct style, already influencing a host of young artists, even before Tuyman's own career is finished.

Tuymans admits that his paintings are executed in one day. He claims, "I only have an attention span that's that long". Still they are "captivatingly blurry, washed-out and bleached" conceptual representations. His paintings are derived from banal photographs and television.

I remember a figure from my memory - perhaps in undergrad, maybe a grad student in adjacent studios - explaining to me one afternoon that it was necessary to continually refine your process, throwing out old ideas and experimenting with new ones, until you were able to produce what you wanted effortlessly or at least fluidly. And recently, another friend hearing that I had taken a banal, incremental change in the way I moved paint around remarked: "that's creativity - each time you find a solution to make what you do better."

Saturday, October 16

Feeling Butterflies Again

I took a short walk through the Portland Art Museum the other night. Just enough time to make some notes for a longer visit. I was stunned by the Mark Grotjahn installation. I usually have a hard time relating to work dominated by hard-edged, geometric forms. I like what a friend calls, "a way in" or some sort of broken spot (this is actually a point in my own work that I consciously see lacking).

Weibes Kleid Martina Sauter 2010 (via Ambach and Rice)
Stuhl Und Sessel Martina Sauter 2010
But these have it: as you walk closer, those large black shapes become made up of smaller shapes and marks. A natural noise of colored marks are around and outside those giant abstract butterfly wings. They appear almost hurriedly rubbed. As you step back and you begin to read the larger scale again, these images become tied to a representational sort of emotion. Poetic. The video above, courtesy of the Gagosian, shows some of this.

And these kind of noisy marks dwarfed in scale by the abstract, black, wings are like marks I am also trying to play with. Those marks in Grotjahn's pieces are contained within the larger fog of smudges and movement becoming a general tone. It's always exciting to see something your thinking about reflected in a completely different kind of work. Perhaps a piece of art you wouldn't even have ordinarily enjoyed. And even better, is if that work is doing it even better somehow - teaching you something.

From the book of Cy Twombly Photographs 1951-2007 (via Rare Autumn)
Semi-Related: Via Another Bouncing Ball, Regina Hackett links to some beautiful re appropriated photographs of Martina Sauter. Read her press release. These images change the original meanings of the used photographs - but what I like most, is how they also change the meaning of the surface texture of walls, furniture and film texture. They remind me of Cy Twombly's photographs (which I only have seen through this awesome book). I've always enjoyed the way they exist as something documented and yet with a new life of their own - the camera adding it's own emotional texture.

Tuesday, October 12

Picasso for Me

La Celestina 1904 Pablo Picasso (via Seattle Met)
Now at SAM: Picasso:Masterpieces from the Musee National Picasso, Paris. This is great for Seattle and the Northwest. And especially great for someone like me or for you. I've always respected Picasso, but outside textbooks and short visits to NYC, haven't figured out why I ought to like him. D.K Row of the Oregonian says of the exhibit: strives for broadness, providing an extensive summary of Picasso's career through formidable prints, paintings and sculptures. Every significant period is covered: Picasso's beginnings as an intrepid talent; his Blue Period; the development into Cubism; the many works based on his many wives and lovers (from Olga Khokhlova to Dora Maar to Marie-Thérèse Walter); his absorption of Surrealism and much more.
Jen Graves of The Stranger also has some good first-hand thoughts on the exhibit. It is an extensive exhibit and as Graves points out, full of surprises and pieces not regularly reproduced.

I'm not a fan of a blockbuster. This is an exhibit that could have easily name dropped and been about something else entirely. Or it could have been fluffy (as is probably so tempting for the current climate). But Graves points out how SAM inserts some of it's own curatorial adventurousness: panels are placed throughout the African and other collections linking them to Picasso.

I have yet seen the exhibit - but wish the exhibit could go one step farther and have the guts to place the works throughout the other collections. Besides the security risk, that would be a completely radical and new way to see Picasso's works.

Semi-related: Kelsey pointed out that the PSU Lecture series is happening again. The first was Tina Olsen who talked about museum's role as educating on it's objects. She's also partly responsible for the annual Shine a Light on October 15th.

Saturday, October 9


I'll have some new pieces on display for Art3, presented by The Match. The show is an effort to promote NW 23rd's Third Thursday's and to fill storefronts. The spaces include the former Music Millennium store at 801 NW 23rd and Umpqua Bank at 467 NW 23rd. There are 12 participating artists:

Sidonie Caron
Charlie White
Cory Hanson
Jody Katopothis
Annie Meyer
Stephan P. Ferreira
Matthew DiTullo
Judson Moore
Mitchell Freifeld
Jennifer Zika
Antonio Villagran
Frank Schroder

The Opening Reception is Thursday, October 21st, 2010 from 6-9pm. The spaces are open Friday from 6-9p and Saturday, Sunday 1pm-6pm. Please drop by!

Local Comparisons: Turner Prize 2010

Burroughs in Tangiers Dexter Dalwood 2005 (via Tate Britain)
October 5th marked the opening of the Tate Britain's 2010 Turner Prize Finalist Exhibition.The winner will be chosen from the four participants and announced on December 6th.

Dexter Dalwood has my vote. His paintings are of events or places never seen and usually only previously existing through literary or cultural references. Doesn't sound like he's a likely winner though (see a round-up of press reviews here). Richard Dorment of the Telegraph says of Dalwood:
His pastiches have virtually no aesthetic interest, but that’s OK with the artist because Dalwood’s one big idea is to add a title that evokes the presence of an absent celebrity without actually depicting him or her. For example, you wouldn’t look twice at the image of a tree and full moon against a plain blue ground, but the work’s title Death of David Kelly neatly exploits that good man’s death for the smug consumption of the art world’s least thoughtful fashionistas.
Kurt Cobain's Greenhouse Dexter Dalwood 2000
Mystic Whiting Tennis 2004
(via Harold Hollingsworth)
Hmm...I cannot disagree. But his exact distaste for Dalwood's imagery is exactly what I like about it! Heck, it's what I aim for in my own work. A representational image made up of both objective and non-objective aesthetics that begs you to just look at it! Or not look at it, and miss how quiet it is altogether. Which is an idea I particularly like: how can an image be both boring and exciting?

Dorment is right though: without some of those titles, would these spaces be anything other than mundane little worlds? This is exactly why the paintings are great. Like with Kurt Cobain's Greenhouse, we are led into a serene place with only clues (a guitar, Seattle skyline) and no idea that something is amiss.The title (being used in a way I generally shy from - being that I usually wish they weren't even there) is what gives you the goosebumps.
So Majestic 2010 Grant Hottle (via Half/Dozen Gallery)
Locally, Dalwood's collage-like language reminds me of Whiting Tennis. Also, Grant Hottle is exploring the same idea of "what is real" - and even his recent work, So Majestic, seems to mirror Dalwood's Kurt Cobain's Greenhouse.

Tuesday, October 5

What the Goal Is

Detail of my painting of a Pink Credenza.
Terry Gross interviewed John Stewart for the occasion of his new The Daily Show book, Earth. The interview was recorded in front of a live audience in NY. It wasn't as personal as Terry's typical confessional-like interviews - John Stewart hamming it up for the crowd. But there were some great pieces later, including the excerpt below. It's really great advice about becoming something. And it might even be better advice for artists:
John Stewart: You know, I never in my career have ever thought about what the goal was. The goal was always to be better than I was at the present time at what I was doing. As a stand-up, my break in stand-up was not getting on Letterman. My break in stand-up was - there's a place called the Comedy Cellar in the Village on MacDougal Street, and a great group of guys that were together in those day performing. And they put me on every night at 2 AM.  I was the last guy on every night. And not on the weekends, because I wasnt good enough for weekend. So, Sunday night through Thursday night, it was me, and drunk Dutch tourists in a basement in the Village and I would perform for the plate of humus that would be served to me. Because above the Comedy Cellar is a Middle Eastern restaurant because, of course. And I went on every night and I learned the difference between impersonating a comedian and being a comedian. And that was my break, was learning how to be authentic. Not to the audience but to myself. I developed a baseline of confidence and also insecurity. I knew how bad I was and I knew how good I was. And that is what helped me through a lot of the ups and downs as we went along.
A.O. Scott (via The Hollywood Ham)
Authenticity is really important. If I could say there has been only one success of mine with painting, it has been identifying dishonestly. I'm not sure if I've yet solved those inconsistencies. That in itself could take a career.

UPDATED: Semi-Related: I wish A.O. Scott was an art critic. Or, that someone would write art reviews the way he looks at movies: intelligently, critically and yet culturally broad. Maybe injecting a little lightheartedness into criticism like John Stewart with news. What critic can be so positive and blatantly into all spectrum's of class: "My favorite movie of 2009 has to be Crank: High Voltage....I can just tell that it's gonna be good. The trailer is a flawless display of pop art. Plus, Statham is a bad ass."

Friday, October 1

Gray Area

Lisa Kowalski Gray Area 2010 (via Half/Dozen)
Ruminating on Abstraction, check out the large wet-on-wet abstract works of Lisa Kowalski at Half/Dozen. It's up until October 23rd. A good throw back to the Abstract Expressionists. And I mean good because these 60" images breathe.

Mary Heilmann (via Un Bloody)
I can't help but feel alot of young abstract work feels stiff, copy-cat or caught up on being non-representational for lack of anything else (this coming from a painter who is fixated on representation!). It might take a career to understand how paint relationships work. I can't understand how artists at the student-level ever begin with Abstraction. Where are they working from?

Even though Abstract Expressionism was explored and absorbed into a sort of mainstream art language, I think it might be one of the more difficult things to explore.

Semi-Related: A friend of mine keeps pointing out that a painting I bought from a local painter bears a resemblance to some Mary Heilmann. It's true, but both their bodies of work (and concepts) only intersect at the stripes.

UPDATED: See Lisa Kowalski s installation shots via OpenWide PDX.