Tuesday, May 24

"Painting is not dead, it's just hard."

The Things They Carried 2011 Sarah Awad (via Sarahawad.com)
Painting is the latest release in the Documents of Contemporary Art series by MIT. The Brooklyn Rail has a loving review of it here.

The book defends and celebrates the medium - as anything on painting today does. I think it's clear painting didn't disappear and it won't. It's almost as if the original declaration of Painting is Dead was simply to generate good conversation around the complex merits of painting for it's own sake in today's world.

Painting (via The Brooklyn Rail)
An artist in a studio near my own once told me that "installation is where it is" and followed by something to the affect of, "painting is over."

I don't buy it. I stick to painting simply because of it's tangibility - the tactility and almost humming quality of the act itself. And painting seems to involve depths I'll never exhaust.

But I do use other mediums - like photography - to paint. One included article in Painting is Jerry Saltz's The Richter Resolution. Saltz's article laments current painting's handicap on photographic reference. He misses what he calls paintings "weapons of mass destruction" or "drawing, color, surface, touch...."

One of paintings greatest wonders is it's ability to distill information. The medium is inherently about choices. And a good painting directs you and makes you believe in those choices. Meaning also that what is absent is believable too.

Photography does the same, but with different refinement. Painting as an act in itself, as in a repeated process of re-articulating something or re-imagining things, has taught me how to choose and to think. And it's sometimes painfully slow or nostalgically fast. But it carries layers and each painting ultimately has multiple moments of understanding of one thing.

Adding to that notion, The Rail's review ends with the anonymous quip, "Painting is not dead, it's just hard."

Friday, May 13

Letting Go with Style: Ben Grasso

Construction Proposal II Ben Grasso 2009 (via Phaidon)
Ben Grasso's paintings start as something whole - houses, sometimes tankers, cars or structured landscapes - and then let go into wood planks, shadows and shapes. Most often these things are being blown up or unhinged, as if someone were to introduce a tornado or disaster into the Americana landscape ideals of Winslow Homer.
Untitled (House) Ben Grasso 2006 (via I Heart My Art)

His images seem to straddle logic - or beg to be reconstructed with logic - but actually reveal pretty orderly painted relationships. For example even as unreal those houses pulling themselves apart into a cross sections may be in a literal sense, the pieces cast shadows, the walls and structures exist exactly in space.

It's where Ben Grasso decides with the paint that makes these images so interesting. Those planks of wood or explosive motions become strips of color - and the decisive choice colors making a form in space - become delicious. It doesn't matter after that what violent act surrounds those forms - although that just makes them even more interesting.

See also Ben Grasso's current exhibit at Thierry Goldberg Projects. Or see also Julie Mehretu who takes this into an entirely different abstract idea.