Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Art & Lies: Danielle Durchslag

Yesterday, apart from helping install R. Justin Stewart's sculpture 2 am to 2 pm (2008), I also spent some time with Danielle Durchslag, who had some paper collages to mount and hang.

Danielle next to Adolescent, 2010. Paper, tape, glub. 45 x 66 in.
Danielle never studied art formally, but she's working on her MA in Art Education, and works as a student teacher in the Lower East Side. From her general demeanor (she emanates a level of cheerful humor and positivity that makes Spongebob Squarepants resemble Leonard Cohen), I guessed that Danielle was a kindergarden teacher within ten minutes of first meeting her. She works with children, her collages are of children, and her whole approach to art is in fact driven by a childlike trust in her intuition and playful trial and error.

My original plans were to interview Danielle alone after we finished installing. Instead, I ended up going to dinner with her and Justin. 

The conversation that resulted (it turns out the two artists have known each other for quite a while and had some mighty interesting things to say about each other's work) is something to which I think I can only really do justice with a separate entry.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Art & Lies at the Invisible Dog

Morgan R. Levy, Sleep Sweetly Until It Fades Away, 2010. Digital archival inkjet print. 22 x 38 in.

An Opening Party for Art & Lies will take place on Friday, April 1 from 6PM to 9PM at the Invisible Dog Art Center. This is probably the first art show that I've ever contributed to in a truly serious way. If you are not there, then you are a square. Here's the press release:

Curated by Risa Shoup, Art & Lies features a diverse collection of work focusing on issues that have figured prominently in her life: gender, environment, time, alienation and isolation.  Shoup hopes to provoke the audience to consider the creative role of the curator when viewing work that responds to themes that have been so crucial in the shaping of her life’s trajectory.
The group show features installations, photography, sculpture, video, and collage by six artists: Ryan Frank, R. Justin Stewart, Danielle Durchslag, Sam Vernon, Morgan R. Levy, and Kerry Downey.
“Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring”, an installation by Ryan Frank, portrays a series of figurative sculptures representing one woman’s struggle with how to present her gender and her transformation from femme to butch.  Presented in its NYC debut, is R. Justin Stewart’s “2AM to 2PM”, a 3-D sculptural map of the Minneapolis Bus System. “2AM to 2PM” has previously traveled to the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, MI, the Mesa Art Center in Mesa, AZ and the Gallery of Contemporary Art at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, CO. Collages by Danielle Durchslag and photographs by Morgan R. Levy will be the only 2-D, wall-mounted work in the show.  Durchslag’s portraits of infants collaged from different types of paper depict distress in childhood, while Levy’s large-format composite photographs portray the isolation of the wilderness in Iceland.  Kerry Downey’s videos address alienation with dark wit, and Sam Vernon’s work recalls the disparate influences of Kara Walker and Edward Gorey to create a truly haunting environmental installation about violence, race and psychic trauma.  An Artist Talkback will be held on the afternoon of Sunday, April 10 from 3-4PM.

In conjunction with Art & Lies, Shoup has invited participating artist Kerry Downey to present two film screenings that expand upon the themes of the exhibition. The first screening, Here and There, will be Wednesday, April 6 from 7-9PM, and will feature short films that explore how the social body navigates time and space.  This evening will feature short films by: Kerry Downey, Cybele Lyle, Douglas Paulson, Gordon Sasaki, Lior Shvil, and Jennifer Sullivan.  The second screening, Do Me, will be Wednesday April 13 from 7-9PM, and will address literal and figurative connotations of “getting fucked.” Short films by: Kerry Downey, Rebecca Goyette, David Kagan, Jannicke Låker, Tara Mateik, Jennifer Sullivan and Andrew Steinmetz, and Amber Hawk Swanson.

Additionally, an event to celebrate Jacob Krupnick’s feature-length music video for Girl Talk’s newest album, “Girl Walk // All Day” will be presented at the gallery during the exhibition. Dates to be announced.

Curator Risa Shoup is an Independent Curator and Development Consultant.  Currently she is the Residency Manager of the BRIC House Fireworks Residency Program, a collaborative artists’ residency at BRIC Arts|Media|Bklyn and the development consultant for The Wassaic Project.  She has spoken about nontraditional artspaces at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, NYU and the CUNY Graduate Center, and at Harvard University.  This will be Shoup’s second show at the Invisible Dog Art Center.  An exhibition of new, site-specific installation work co-curated by Shoup and Ryan Frank will open at the Old Hotel, as part of the The Wassaic Project’s summer exhibition program on July 9, 2011.
The Invisible Dog Art Center is located on 51 Bergen Street between Smith and Court streets, accessible through the Bergen F/G stops. Gallery hours during Art & Lies will be noon to 7 pm, Wednesday through Sunday, from April 1-14.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Marc Séguin at Mike Weiss Gallery

Marc Séguin, Prayers, 2011. Oil, charcoal, and ash on canvas. 48 x 36 in.
With kiddy criss-crosses and bulky globs of paint, Marc Séguin's style is individualistic, expressive, and understated. This is particularly true for his portrait of Pope John Paul II (Prayers, 2011), in which the edge of the subject's zucchetto seems to fade weightlessly into a canvas left completely blank. Interviews in NY Artbeat and Artslant support the notion that Séguin paints so that people can get into his head and see his view of the world. He is, in this sense, a sentimentalist and mystic. Like a mid-century Modernist, Séguin's approach is so earnest and personal as to express a certain hope to transcend time and culture.

Like a 21st century Post-Modernist, Séguin chooses subjects that are bound to very un-transcendent themes in current events and recent history. It's clear that he paints from photographs, and almost all of his paintings are of people or places about which people's feelings are strong and divisive (e.g. war, genocide, Roman Abramovich, Lee Harvey Oswald). At times, Séguin seems to feed off of these feelings with a moral symbolism (with tar, feathers, or blood red splotches of paint) that can seem downright overt. I doubt that it's easy for any artist to toe the line between the topical and intensely personal in the way that Séguin aims to. He pulls it off with a surprising degree of grace.

Marc Séguin, US Navy Marine Corps (Semper Fidelis), 2011. Oil, charcoal, and ash on canvas. 108 x 78 in.

Marc Séguin, Portrait of Roman Abramovich #3, 2011. Oil, charcoal, and tar on canvas. 24 x 20 in.
Marc Séguin, Native American Man, 2011. Charcoal, tar and feathers on canvas. 24 x 20 in. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

South by Southwest: Totally Still Worth Covering!

Notwithstanding there having been about five bloggers or amateur photojournalists for every one mammal in Austin for the festival (or the fact that it ended more than a week ago), I still feel some satisfaction in sharing Enfant Terrible. More than sixty percent of their membership were available to smile while I took their picture after their set:

I'm not going to try to descibe these guys' sound, except to say that I dug it. For what it's worth, they seem to have quite a bit in common with CSS. At a certain point, their percussionist, improvising in the face of a kick malfunction, turned the whole thing ninety degrees and did the whole job with his drumsticks. It was really impressive. What a cool couple of guys (and girl).

Why Chicago Is Better Than Wherever You Live

     Along with visiting friends, putting them in my car, and transporting them to Austin, I also was also lucky enough last week to be involved in a shoot for a video that Adam Rose and Glen Jennings will be releasing in the near future. It made me want to move back.


      Glen and Adam were nice enough to provide food and drink to everyone while we hung out, got made up, and waited for them to shoot, along with providing some dark tunes to listen to. The Shangri-Las, in the right context, can apparently have a downright shuddersome vibe to them.

     A link to where you can see the final product will be available soon.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Amy Lincoln at Storefront

      At the moment, Storefront Gallery in Bushwick is showing new paintings by Colin Thomson and Andy Spence. They're both definitely worth seeing. What are really worth seeing, though, are some new still lifes by Amy Lincoln.

Amy Lincoln, Still Life with Tokyo Plants, 2010.  Acrylic on mdf. 14.25 x 12 in.
      Lincoln uses a straightforward, even-handed palette in her paintings, most of which measure about a foot on each side. The colors of objects in the background (curtains or wallpaper) have the same texture as objects in the foreground (simply-arranged potted plants, vases). Differences of light and darkness are abrupt, and shadows are blockish and squared-off.  Surfaces of inanimate objects (and even faces, seen in photographs, mirrors, or as primary sources) are decidedly smooth. 

      Given the simplistic, homogeneous aspects of Lincoln's approach, it is perhaps a paradox that her still life paintings are also very individualistic and expressive. Even as details are spared and the distinguishing marks of people or plants are limited, objects in Lincoln's paintings are endowed with a tone of personal import and familiarity; one has the inexplicable feeling of seeing things as someone else sees them--that is, someone else in particular. Her style is at least partly minimalist, and yet a great sense of truly private reflection comes through. It's kind of a mystery.

      Most of the time, when we listen to a story, we take idiosyncratic observations and details that we hear as signs that this is one person's idea of what happened. Most of the Western tradition of still life painting is rooted in depicting nature from the perspective of a unique observer, with spaces, objects, and textures being described according to a single, distinct point-of-view. In Art and Artist (New York: Agathon Press, 1968), Otto Rank connects the emergence of naturalism in pre-modern artistic traditions with a personal, one-on-one engagement with the nature (Lucy Lippard. Overlay: Contemporary Art and the Art of Pre-History. New York: The New Press, 1983, 2nd edition, p. 10). Verisimilitude, detail, and individualism are expected--as a general rule--to go together.

Amy Lincoln, Still Life with Marion, 2011. Acrylic on mdf. 12 x 10 in.
      The lack of verisimilitude in Lincoln's work takes nothing from the viewer's belief that what we see is true to the sensitivity of how the artist sees. Her still lifes (and, for that matter, the portraits that are on her website) apply tension to the intuitive notion that we should separate visual language that is plainly presented and commonly recognizable from what is particular and nuanced. These are paintings that seem to work with both.

Amy Lincoln: new still life paintings is on view until March 20th at Storefront, 16 Wilson Ave, in Brooklyn.

The Opening for Two Riparian Tales of Undoing

The opening was extremely well-attended, and Riley took the role of a ritzy, well-dressed bartender, shaking people's hands and quickly handing them cans of a beer that I don't think I've ever heard of. Riley has earned a lot of publicity for Magnan Metz Gallery (particularly since the time he rode around New York Harbor in a replica of a Revolutionary War-era submarine in 2007), and a lot of people were saying hello, so I guess his position behind the bar had the advantage of keeping the crowd moving.

At the other end of the gallery, another crowd had formed around two gents playing guitar, banjo, and harmonica, playing music that echoed the frontier-themed aspect of the rest of the show. People really dug it. 

With The Armory Show and the ADAA fair going on this week, there's a strong chance that I'll be too busy to do justice to the work of Riley's that's on display now. At any rate, it will be up until April 9th, and I highly recommend giving it a look. Magnan Metz Gallery is at 521 West 26th St, in New York.

Caroline Walker at Ana Christea

      Last week, the British painter Caroline Walker opened a solo exhibition at Ana Christea, featuring a series of interior paintings from a set she fabricated in London. While a lot of these scenes involve mundane scenes of dressing, sorting clothes, and household work, they are flooded by a sense of mystery and surreal distance. The voyeuristic delight one might get from catching someone in one of the many unguarded, vulnerable activities in which Walker depicts her subject is eroded by a feeling that what we see, while certainly private, ultimately teases our desire for catching people in moments in which they are truly being themselves.

Caroline Walker chats with a friend in front of Conservation, 2010, oil on canvas,  79 x 114 in.)

Walker smiled when I told her I had just returned from a trip to the MoMA (to see the Picasso: Guitars exhibit) and saw the Andrew Wyeth painting Christina's World (1948). 

Andrew Wyeth. Christina's World, 1948. Tempera on gessoed panel. 32 1/4 x 47 3/4 in.
      Recently moved from a spot in the hallway near the escalator that made it difficult to look at without getting in the way of people walking to and from the actual galleries, Wyeth's painting is like many of Walker's in that it draws a lot of its emotive power from what it doesn't show about its subject. Noting that both Wyeth's and Walker's paintings are also both of women, it's tempting to cite passages from The Second Sex where Simone de Beauvoir recites a litany of mythical depictions of women that seem to be united almost exclusively to the concept of mystery, with the possible implication that these paintings are the extension of such a tradition. 

      I'd rather not go down that road. For one thing, I can't find my copy of The Second Sex and make a viable argument about it. Moreover, while de Beauvoir describes the collectively-understood connection between femininity and mystery as a reason that women are often denied a strong, active identity in Western culture, Walker's paintings endow their subjects with an agency and control that I don't think they would have if their faces were visible (with the possible exceptions of A Deed Without a Name from 2010 and Second Opinion from 2011). Scrubbing the tiles of a kitchen floor or standing on tip-toe to place a vase on a high glass shelf, women in Walker's paintings are indeed fragile, but they are utterly self-determined.

Caroline Walker: Vantage Point is on view from now until April 2nd at Ana Christea Gallery, 521 West 26th St, New York.