Fresh Breath, Adhesives and Carbonation

July 31, 2014 |

photo 2Full disclosure, as usual:  I’m friends with Phil Cote.  I’ve never seen a show of Phil Cote’s work. I’ve never done a studio visit with Phil Cote.  I’ve been at parties with Phil Cote. I’ve had brunch with Phil Cote. I follow Phil Cote on Instagram. I think Phil Cote has a great sense of humor. Phil Cote slept on my floor once. I know Phil Cote has been making art for a long time, but for some reason we’ve never connected via our art. Now is the time! Fresh Breath, Adhesives and Carbonation is up until August 10th at Bodega! Let’s take the plunge!photo 3

Bodega is in a basement in LES, and from the street both half-bodies and half-paintings are visible.  Walking into the space, I immediately understood that the ceiling was low, but not so low that I had to actually bend my body or crane my neck. It was, however, low enough that two of Phil’s tall and narrow paintings were leaning, one like a forward slash and one like a back slash. Another painting, which happened to be “site specific,” according to the artist, was another tall and narrow rectangle, placed perfectly diagonal within the restricting ceiling to floor relationship.

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The large canvases are largely raw, but full of information.  Phil collages found objects, oil paintings inspired by other oil paintings, cut canvas and other ephemera. The show reflects a method of working that works well for Cote – let’s call him Phil.  The show card for Fresh Breath, Adhesives and Carbonation reads much like the title- it is full of the necessities for making: a banana peel, (both natural and humorous), a sparkling Poland Spring lemon-flavored zero calorie water, (fancy, refreshing, and quenching), and modest watercolors and paper towels. Cote puts it all out there: he is an artist, both a product of Bodega-chic foods and the simple barebones necessities needed to make art.  This comes through in his paintings – a simple but cared for sketchbook drawing adhered here, a hilariously recognizable signature Fredricks canvas logo there, (and by there, I mean where an artist would typically sign a canvas if that was of the time).  This italicized, elegant, and campy Fredricks cut-out further solidified the mix of slapstick humor,  utilitarianism and wit – the inescapable logic – behind Cote’s work.  To put it simply, he goes with the flow, being true to his autobiographical materials that are readily available to repurpose and make new again.

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Thanks for the breath of fresh air, Phil.

Eric’s Trip at Lisa Cooley

July 18, 2014 |

I had the pleasure of attending the opening of Eric’s Trip, a group show at Lisa Cooley Gallery curated by Cynthia Daignault and Mark Loiacono, (but for those of you that haven’t seen it, the show runs until August 1). One of the most striking things about this show, upon my first scan of the room, was the true summer vibe of the show – it just felt right.

David Kennedy Cutler‘s pieces are Plexiglas icy monoliths that function both as minimal sculptures and distorting screens. Positioned throughout the gallery, they make the viewer, (or at least this viewer), nervous in the same way one would be nervous to walk into a perfectly clean glass door in public. These piece are the anchors of the group show. They veil the room with a crunchy, clear, distorting filter that, as you move around the room, bend and fold the works of art that surround them. They are a quiet viewfinder, acting as a lens that is also key to the curatorial concept behind Eric’s Trip. According to the press release, “centering on notions of performance, projection and aura, this exhibition examines the process of narrating consciousness, experience, trip and vision.”

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Jose Lerma’s contribution to the show seems to be a space of worship, consisting of  a truly beautiful and strange rug, a fantasy picnic blanket even, with a Play-Doh floral motif that is worshiping its partner on the wall.  The rug prevents closeness to the piece on the wall, while also promoting adoration of it by locking down a permanent position in the room. This mirroring of image and color made me think about mirroring and what it is to look at something (or look up to something) that you yourself are not but that you aspire to be.

Judith Linhares’ work is also an exciting element of this show for me, because I rarely get the opportunity to see her work in person, even though I am a huge admirer of her strong colorful paintings. The figures in Linhares’ paintings are essentially attendees of this exhibition. They playfully watch over the show, lounging as if they are tanning in the glow of other paintings while they wait to see what we do in the space. I couldn’t help but fantasize that they could see me in the same way that I could see them through Kennedy Cutler’s sculptures.  It was almost as if Linhares’ painting Polly could’ve come to life and lovey Polly could’ve jumped out of the painting and laid down across the room on Lerma’s painting rug.

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Finally, Mathew Zefeldt’s paintings are brand new to me, but seem to be the icing on the cake for my hallucination sunburn fantasy. In one of Zefeldt’s paintings, the gradient of sunset-rainbow-color is emphatically applied in the background while in the foreground an illustrative style depicts a repeat of sculptural portraits that just happen to form a smiley face. To say this was unexpected is a completely honest confession – I didn’t see it coming because I was so distracted by the strangeness of the repeated portrait image – something like an art historical temporary tattoo over and over again, but then Zefeldt really got me with that smiley face. His painting is undeniably smart and funny.

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I wanted to get another perspective on the show, and for that I turned to Cynthia Daignault, half of the duo that curated Eric’s Trip. I presented her with five questions hoping to gain some insight into the thought process behind the show.

SATW: The name for the show, Eric’s Trip, came to us because:

Cynthia Daignault: We love Warhol; we love Sonic Youth; we love Eric’s Trip (the eponymous 90’s band). Actually, the whole show started with Judith Linhares. We knew we wanted to build a show around her paintings, so we were listing adjectives about Judy’s work in order to find the title and organizing principle. Here’s the email exchange from 2013: “Technicolor. Geometric. Psychedelic.” “Maybe we should call it Eric’s Trip.” “I like where this is going.”

SATW: We found the artists that we included in Eric’s Trip by:

CD: All methods. Some of the artists in the show were idols (Judy, Nancy, Sheila), women we really respect who’ve been making incredible work their whole lives. I thought they deserved more, and I realized I could sit around bitching about how the art world is sexist (which it is) and that there are diminishing opportunities for women as they pass 50 (which there are), or I could engender change through positive action. So began the cold calls, and lucky for me they said “yes.” Some of the artists (Jose, David, Margaret) were peers and friends who I’ve met throughout my time in the art world, like David, who I met at 19 in a painting class in Paris. The rest were people we found randomly on the internet and on the streets (Kamau, Mathew, Victoria and Rory). We searched a lot of websites looking at hundreds of artists who seemed to vibe with the show.

Sometimes we knew what we were looking for, a strong black and white photographer, for instance (Rory); sometimes, we just found the artist and then let their work change the show accordingly (Kamau); and sometimes we just met one in the street (Mathew). We didn’t plan for diversity, but we constantly questioned our own biases to leave room for it. I am proud of the range of artists represented. That said, it’s not a coincidence that they are all wonderful people. No assholes. That’s a rule I live by, and that any curatorial project has to follow.

SATW: The most rewarding part of putting this show together was:

CD: Promoting these incredible artists. It’s crazy to get to the point where you have just enough power to help someone else. I mean we’re still at the bottom of the food chain, but I remember Mark saying, “just think how much we will be able to do when we have some real power. We could change the world.” (Spoiler Alert: that’s the plan). I won’t lie. The reality of how easy it is to help other people, gives me a palpable disdain for any artist at the top who does nothing to help anyone besides themselves. It’s nice to think of curation that way, as helping. Art making can be insular in its nature. So, I think it’s important to find ways to get outside your studio and your own head (working, teaching, collaborating, curating). Doing this show, I didn’t need to advance myself as a “curator,” so my only goal was to give these nine artists the place to do what they do.

SATW: As an artist, I enjoy curating shows because:

CD: It was the only 20 days this year that I wasn’t alone in my studio slowly becoming the unibomber. Seriously. Painting is lonely and people are thrilling for an old hermit. I got to hang out with 9 really cool artists and my best friend. What’s not to like? These artists are such cool people, who each made incredible works for the show. I look good as a result of their hard work. And I don’t mean that in a parasitic way. Do you know Baldessari’s piece ‘Choosing Rutabaga?’ It’s a photo series in which he sets up two Rutabaga and asks the participant (seen as a single finger) to choose one. No instructions. No other prompting. Ostensibly, one has to set the criteria for their choice: looks, vibe, size, color, comic value, etc. The point is choosing is everything. It is both the articulation and enaction of a value system. That’s what painting is for me. That’s what looking at art is for me. And that’s what curation is.

SATW: The most memorable feedback we’ve gotten so far on the show was:

CD: Kati Gegenheimer writing this humbling post.

Amy Giovanna Rinaldi

July 4, 2014 |

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Where do you find the supports for your paintings and sculptures?

Each piece goes through a different construction process.  Some of my armatures are made from cut steel and wood – conceived and drawn out before being constructed.  This process is used when I react to a surface material that must be weighted or stretched in a specific way. 
Other sculptures have been born out of the love of found objects.  Parts of chairs, wine racks, back scratchers, and mop handles are collected and remade to eventually serve as an armature for the piece.
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Amy Giovanna Rinaldi, Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York

 

Chelsea Cup Part 1

June 25, 2014 |

25th Street: Joan Mitchell v Joan Mitchell v Joel Shapiro

by Meena Hasan

The contemporary art galleries in Chelsea often function as if they were a World Cup football tournament. Each gallery is a distinct team with its own colors and energy (just imagine Hauser & Wirth as the fun-loving, stylish team of Brazil, David Zwirner as cool, clean Germany, Gagosian as well groomed Spain and Sikemma Jenkins taking the odd-ball, unbeatable Netherlands).

A gallery picks, chooses, grooms and manicures their specific team-members over a period of a few years in preparation for their public debut. The teams are then pitted against each other in groups, or in city blocks as this case may be. They embrace their status as participants in their ‘contact-sport’ by competing  in close proximity with each other, shoving, fouling, assisting, dancing, passing and stretching.

On my most recent visit to Chelsea I could see the yellow cards flying through the air and I could hear the sound of friendly butt-slaps as the teams and players sweatily battled it out. Cheim & Read, now showing an energetic exhibition of Joan Mitchell’s Trees, shares a friendly banter with their neighbor across the street, Lennon, Weinberg Inc., currently showing Mitchell’s The Black Drawings and Related Works 1964 – 1967.

The pairing of the two shows offers a comprehensive look at Mitchell’s distinct and physical mark-making, as well as her ideas about color, light and composition. Her Black Drawings, many of which are also of trees, stand strong across the street from her singularly gorgeous painting, Tilleul (Linden Tree), 1978. I appreciate seeing the pages ripped out of her sketchbook that offer not just preparatory views for a big painting, but also intimate and personal works in and of themselves that are full of experiential emotion. There is an admirable variety as each drawing explores the many variations on the color black in a delightfully surprising manner, moving effortlessly between drawing and painting mediums.

Down the street from Lennon, Weinberg Inc. is another show of works on paper by Joel Shapiro at Pace Gallery. I am a big fan of works on paper because, for some reason, they can be treated as less precious and sometimes reveal a directness in the artist’s touch. In other words, the paper can hold all the secrets. So, I was happily surprised to find myself at two shows, back to back, consisting primarily of drawings.

Joel Shapiro’s works on paper are directly related to his sculptures. They depict odd bulbous forms swimming around their pages. The drawings are sometimes folded to create a symmetry of form. They are made of gouache and charcoal, which at times, meet quite happily to create effective textures, patterns and tonal forms. A number of the works on paper, located at the back of the gallery, depict figures created out of the pressure of folds and pushes. The figures are made of mirrored forms, such as pin-wheel arms and levitating spirits that are sometimes lying or sitting at tables, alluding to an autopsy of an alien half-living corpse. These last pictures frame the others in the context of the human body, our own anatomy and human organs.

Both Joan Mitchell’s Black Drawings and Joel Shapiro’s Works on Paper reveal the two artists’ disciplined exploration of their own repeating forms and compositions. Shapiro’s takes on a more formal attitude that just touches the edge of humor, while Mitchell’s works display her inclination towards sincere emotional expression. Many of Shapiro’s works lack the painterly exploratory touch that Mitchell embraces wholeheartedly. Instead Shapiro strives for a pooling of material that creates the effect of a disorienting and weightless accumulation in motion.

Joan Mitchell’s drawings might represent a projection of the inner psyche onto the outside world whereas Joel Shapiro’s might serve as imagined close observations of our own bodies. Both shows have their merits and faults and both are visually playful in their varieties within repetition. Luckily, there are no goals or stats in Chelsea and certainly no objective winner to declare (of course, if I were discussing the buying and selling of art, or anything outside of the simple activity of looking and creating visual dialogues, that would be a whole other story). Instead we remain in an endlessly looped all-star game rife with substitutions, dirty fouls and the occasional mutual respect.

 

 

In Belated Advance: Jan Verwoert’s, ‘Cookie!’

June 16, 2014 |

By Calvin Siegel

Another mode of performing the ‘I Can’t’ in the key of the ‘I Can’ that art and poetry have always used to great effect is to create moments in which meaning remains provocatively latent. To embrace latency goes against the grain of the logic of high performance. The appraisal of latency  restores dignity to the unsaid, the unshown, and everything that can’t be dragged out into the open in the rush of high performance when the value of all our potentials appears to depend entirely on our capacity to actualize them right here, right now.

-Jan Verwoert, Exhaustion And Exuberance-Ways to Defy the Pressure to Perform, 2008

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In today’s high-performance society it has become too easy to not only exchange the big picture for the necessities of the moment, but to use the caustic tools of irony and skepticism to mock its scope in general. In many of our art-related dialogues, we have become our own little islands, firing on all cylinders toward a goal that, perhaps we have misunderstood from the get-go.

Enter Jan Verwoert, the fresh faced, young scholar hailing from The Netherlands’ Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam. Verwoert applies a surgeons analytics to such fundamental topics as the pressure to perform, love and relationships, and why criticism hurts.  His self-inspective style of writing and broad choice of themes serve as both a magnifying glass and a telescope, focusing intensely on basic, overlooked moments while connecting them to a bigger, more thorough picture than we have yet seen.

Jan Verwoert has a new collection of essays out called, Cookie! published by the Piet Zwart Institute and Sternberg Press, who also published his previous collection from 2007 titled, Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want.