Sunday, June 21, 2015

shed a little

East Hampton Shed

Trudy Benson, Yellow Shade, 2015, oil and acrylic on canvas

Tucked away among a forested stretch off Buckskill Road, East Hampton Shed is changing the way we think about the barns and outbuildings dotting the back forty of homes on the East End. Four years ago, Hadley Vogel and Nate Hitchcock transformed a modest structure behind the Vogel Bindery into a space so crisp and white it's suitable for framing.

East Hampton Shed, behind the Vogel Bindery in East Hampton

More than a lean-to, less than a guest house, the Shed has morphed into a micro-gallery exhibiting some of the most interesting young artists between here and Mexico City. Exhibitions have included Lauren Luloff, Landon MetzBrian KokoskaRebecca Ward, Abigail Vogel and Jean-Baptiste Bernadet, among others. Two Brooklyn-based painters, Trudy Benson and Russell Tyler open the season this year.

Russell Tyler, BBPG, 2014, oil on canvas

The evolution of the Shed goes back a way. While studying at Chicago's Columbia College, Vogel began to adapt a curatorial platform. Drawing on Chicago's do-it-yourself aesthetic, she mounted an apartment gallery, maintaining it for three years. "It was a labor of love," she said, noting that the gallery came long before her knowledge of the art market.

Hitchcock and Vogel eventually teamed up, and their shared affinity for contemporary art led them to Mexico City, drawn there in part by Gerardo Contreras's groundbreaking Preteen Gallery. Since then they've mounted off-site events and exhibitions and participated in art fairs in Miami, New York and Mexico. Hitchcock, also an independent curator, has organized shows at galleries such as Johannes Vogt in New York and LA's Honor Fraser

detail, Benson's Yellow Shade, 2015

Back at the Shed, single works by both artists activate this dynamic space. Benson's work is a layered melange of calligraphy, cutaways and viscous swaths of pigment, with strata of gestures pushing forward and sliding back at the same time. Fast paced and blithely haywire, Yellow Shade is a meditation on destabilization. 

While the pictorial field is filled with spatial ruptures, formally the painting thrives on compositional rejoinders like background, foreground and middle ground -- its cacophony yielding to formal balance. 

Benson's strategy is frisky, skillful and tight. She lays down a ground of sprightly lines, creating a hazy playground of airbrushed doodles that pop in an out of focus. 

Mid-ground, abstract shapes function like architectural gateways that both anchor the image field and act as a window into the painting. 

In the foreground, contours of extruded pigment fly over the surface, marking the field like Nazca lines. The effect is radiant and dizzying.

Trudy Benson 

Russell Tyler and friend

On an adjacent wall, Russell Tyler's painting BBPG is ravenous, imbued with an explosive painterly finesse. In his rigorous studio practice Tyler has moved nimbly from the figurative to geometric abstraction, continuing outward from there, always with a long interpretive glance.

Known for paintings that possess a raw structural precision and evocations of obsolete technology, vintage computer graphics and video games, his abstractions convey a deep sense of nostalgia. 

Russell Tyler, BBPG, 2015, acrylic and oil on canvas

Tyler's appreciation of mid-century American abstraction is also nostalgic, and it taps into Reinhardt, Hoffman and Still with a distance that is reductive, refreshing and free of post-modern angst. In figural works he has referenced Goya, and here, BBPG is a tour de force homage to Phillip Guston, abstract expressionism and the New York school. 

His material sensibility is one of such viscidity and so much depth that the paintings veer toward the sculptural, possessing a powerful physical presence.

With a palette that's more Dow Chemical than, say, Per Kirkeby's naturalist, feel-good coloration, Tyler's synthetic colors source the likes of TV screens, patio furniture or plastic refuse. Not unlike Guston, his exploration of color gradients is often limited in tone and hue. 

In BBPG, Pepto-Bismol pinks rub shoulders with blacks and a range of baby blues, cobalt and Payne's gray. The effect is stunning, with blues and grays commingling dead center in a collision of slurpy clouds, painterly schisms and muscular, effusive marks. Tyler is a painter's painter.

Watch for the next iteration at the East Hampton Shed -- it's sure to be memorable.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

if walls could talk

curated by Ryan Steadman

Donna Huanca, MOM, 2015, Paint and latex on reflective material, 47 x 39 x 2 in

If I were a wall, I can't imagine a fuller purpose than to be the thing that artists push against in the creative act. To feel all that psychic and intellectual muscle rubbing against, bearing down on, crushing into one's surface -- what a marvel that would be. Even better if evidence of the act, no matter how simple, was left in its wake, like a vestigial stamp -- neither past nor present -- an indicia robust enough to be both representative of itself and of its own creation. 

Distinct from performance, the performative in art implies a relationship to the viewer as well as to action, reaction and result, and it asks the audience to engage in a different kind of discernment. Of action painting, Harold Rosenberg famously called the canvas "an arena in which to act," noting its inherent theatricality. The canvas is an apt metaphor for artists working in a closed system where aesthetics and methodology are so closely linked.

Recently, a young artist talking about his work said to me, "the content is that I do it." So there. Situational, event driven, documentary; the new performative is not parenthetical, it is the parentheses.  

At Halsey McKay in East Hampton, the nine artists in Performative Process offer works focused on the provocations, signifiers and trace elements resulting from actions inside distinct sets of circumstances. Organized by the artist, writer and independent curator Ryan Steadman, the show delivers a lively examination of process, theater and action.

Donna Huanca creates installation-based works that draw from her travels, and from memory, motion and gesture. Huanca's MOM, installed in the upper level gallery, included an interactive performance by a pigment-drenched model. As in other works by this Chicago born artist, the human form embedded in the installation functions more as a collage element than than a theatrical one, but it is dramatic, nonetheless

Mostly still, when the model did move she pushed against a gallery wall leaving behind a soft violet pentimento. The live painting is a sort of paean to the collaborative process, and its nuanced afterglow offers a glimpse of the intersection of visual art and performance.

Keltie Ferris, L: Venus of Tan-Tan, R: Animal; both 2013-2014, oil and powdered pigment on paper, 40.25 x 26.13 inches

It's refreshing to see Keltie Ferris step away from the fantastic, hallucinatory abstractions for which she is known. Here she addresses figuration in body prints that recall X-ray technology, Rorschachs and the snow angels we made as kids. Raking inky body parts across broad sheets of paper, she leaves behind shadowy after-images of thighs, bellies, breasts and torsos. The results are life-size, ghostly and transformative, calling to mind Yves Klein's "Anthropometries" and the popular death masks of the Quattrocento.

Ben Morgan-Cleveland, Western Rat, 2014, Dirt, debris, binder on burlap, 55 x 120 in

Ben Morgan Cleveland virtually throws himself under the bus to achieve works that exude the grit and pace of city life. Cleveland places assembled sheets of burlap along the busy cobblestone roadways of industrial Brooklyn. As non-stop traffic pounds over the sheets en route to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, the fabric absorbs weeks of non-stop traffic and brutal weather. By the time Cleveland retrieves them they're painted with an urban slag that feels ancient, as if pulled from the hands of the cave-dwellers and poets that live underground. Their patina carries in it an aspect of the urban psyche, and on the white wall they feel like a memento mori or an ode to urban decay. 

Kate Gilmore, Break of Day, 2010, Video, 18 minutes 24 seconds, ed. 2/5

Similarly excruciating and yet sublime, the artist Kate Gilmore slogs through absurdist situations of her own design in performance and works in video, sculpture and photography. In her work, the artist devises ridiculous, often insurmountable physical challenges. Then, dressed in a stylish cocktail dress and pumps, she takes on these self-imposed objectives, often at her own peril. With her allegiance divided between exhaustion and devotion, she embarks on dueling resolutions that anxiously tyrannize the politics of gender, equality and correctness.

In Break of Day, the artist transports gallon after gallon of fuschia paint up a precipitous set of stairs, only to throw each container overboard into a void of structural beams below. Everything breaks, all the paint flies, and the artist, clearly exhausted, is triumphant, if only in the futility she achieves while meeting the directives in a predetermined set of circumstances. 

Elise Adibi, Gold and Osage Aromatherapy Painting, 2014, Rabbit skin glue, gilding glue, 24-karat gold leaf. osage pigment, oil paint and myrrh, bergamot and cedar wood essential plant oil on canvas, 20 x 20 in

Responding to the lack of natural smells in the Bushwick neighborhood Elise Adibi lived in some years ago, she began an investigation of aromatherapy. Her paintings, an amalgamation of grids, oil paint and plant oils, not only smell good they are evocations that carry the process and the act within. Adibi doesn't think of herself as an abstract painter; her works attempt to be nothing more than a record of her pourings.

Brie Ruais, Two Gather (Two Pushes Merged) 268 lbs., 2015, Glazed ceramic, hardware, 84 x 43 x 15 in

Brie Ruais's voluptuous Two Gather (Two Pushes Merged) 268 Lbs, towers among the ground floor installation. Its surface, a briny melange of metallic sheen, footprints and raw physicality yields to the afterglow of what looks like a mammoth struggle between human endeavor and wet clay. 

Ruais also employs a rule-based system that functions within strict boundaries (only so much clay; only a specific angle; just to a certain height, etc.). The creative act takes place inside these margins, complying with the instructions of its making. For instance, the work above references "two" individuals, their combined weight a mere "268 lbs;" each pushing their own mound of clay upward and then merging both elements into an upside down "V." The results chronicle a peer to peer search for the self, as if the two artists were pushing on the earth from the inside out.

Like other artists that have worked in and around instruction-based media -- Susanne Lacy, Sol LeWitt, Kate Gilmore -- the environment Ruais creates folds into itself to become a third thing, the way a glacial rock forms under pressure.

Reuben Lorch-Miller, Untitled, 2011, ceramic, 11 x 5 x 6 in

Reuben Lorch-Miller and Adam Marnie also impose an artistic autocracy on works that possess aspects of formal precision, balance and austerity before havoc is wreaked on them. Lorch-Miller's ceramic sculptures feel like ritual objects, their planar structure sharing formal concerns with the likes of Richard Serra and Anthony Caro. Scorched in a cinderblock kiln, the small sculptures appear ancient, and yet for all their formal balance and materiality they exude a restless ambiguity.

Adam Marnie, Last of the Mohicans, 2015, Hardwood maple, wood putty, spray paint, 63 x 3.5 x 5 in

Likewise, with its precise geometry collapsed at the site of a decisive clobbering, Adam Marnie's Last of the Mohicans offers a glimpse of the artist's DIY minimalism and architectural intervention. Its clean lines shattered, the diagrammatic calm is torn asunder.  

Back to the sublime, Milwaukee-based artist John Riepenhoff paints the night sky in real time, with little more than a small lantern to guide his eye and hand. Plein Air (East Hampton), shown below, was painted here on the East End in the dark of night. As Riepenhoff channels the natural world and its 19th century proponents, the scumbled surface and loose gestures also conjure Dadaism, automatic writing and a painterly choreography that is based in the performative. 

John Riepenhoff, Plein Air (East Hampton), 2015, Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 72 in

Halsey McKay is located at 79 Newtown Lane in East Hampton

Thursday, December 25, 2014

picture pleasures

a few dots 

Rudolf Bauer

Russian Pyramid

Jimmy Caras

arranged diatom

Luigi Russolo, The Art of Noise, 1913

Jimmy Caras

Timur Bagautdinov

Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris


Daniel Spoerri Faux Tableau-piège

folded shapes

Sonia Delaunay

Herbert Bayer Field of Image

Wykobi Cubic Bezier Intersection

Tomas Saraceno

Marcel Duchamp

Billiard trajectories

Kurt Schwitters Merzbau

ice breaker

Muhammad Ali defeats George Foreman

a little picture madness
from me to you

happy new year

Thursday, November 13, 2014

circles and spots, Alan Shields

Parrish Art Museum
Water Mill, NY

detail: Maze

The late artist Alan Shields (1944-2005) was a mid-western export with equal parts gumption, vision and invention. You might be able to draw a line straight from the American heartland to Shields’ resourcefulness – a kitchen table aesthetic that fueled both his art and his radical bohemianism – but you’ll have to dig deeper to understand the fierce intelligence, indefatigability and labyrinthine dialectic that fueled his art. 

So, let’s dig a little, starting at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill where guest curator Jill Brienza has organized a spirited overview of Shields’ complex oeuvre in Alan Shields: In Motion. Selected paintings and sculpture, works on paper and canvas, stop-action animated shorts and performance, on view through January 19, 2015 go a long way toward fleshing out the man and the artist.

Foreground: Dance Bag, 1985, acrylic, canvas, glass beads, thread on aluminum tubing, 40 x 48 x 48"; courtesy estate of the artist
and Cherry and Martin, Los Angeles; Background: Ajax, 1972-73, acrylic, cotton belting, beads, thread aluminum tubing, 96 x 96 x 96" 
estate of the artist, courtesy Van Doren Waxter, New York; Photo Daniel Gonzales

Resolutely individualistic, Shields owned his aesthetic the way a leopard owns its spots. Emerging in the sizzling ferment of New York’s art world in the late 1960s, Shields’ hippie-ish, off-the-stretcher paintings rose to prominence at lightning speed. Unlike many of his peers, Shields wasn’t questioning the-next-inevitable-step, he was establishing his own culture. 

A post-Minimalist, his art embraced pluralism and theatricality. It predated the Pattern + Decoration movement, side-stepping the art world’s considerable resistance to ornamentation and its overall condemnation of craft traditions. How did he do it? The way a leopard wears its spots.

Maze, 1981-1982. Acrylic and thread on canvas, cotton belting, Velcro and aluminum pipe, 87 x 219 x 219 inches. 
Estate of the artist, courtesy Van Doren Waxter, New York. Photo Daniel Gonzales

If you’re concerned about the nature-culture divide, it’s pretty much resolved here. Shields not only employed means that were traditionally female (sewing, weaving, beading), he also pulled the canvas from the wall and then gave it a front, a back and an interior. He turned the structure of pictorial space on its ear and expanded the language of gesture by trading in the brushwork of Abstract Expressionism for decorative switchbacks drawn from the needle of an industrial sewing machine. 

He revolutionized printmaking, advancing the dialogue of perception itself with complex pictorial surfaces that gave way to volume and depth of field. The avatar in Shields continues to influence the work of contemporary artists ranging from Jessica Stockholder to Jim Lambie to Lauren Luloff, and his aesthetic reach is one that crosses platforms, mediums and milieus.

Central to the exhibition is the sculpture/painting Maze, 1981-82. Something of an engineering marvel, Maze is Shields’ magnum opus both in scale and complexity. It dominates the Parrish installation like a latter day Temple of Dendur, yet it can be disassembled and fit, more or less, into a duffle bag. Drawing visitors inside its crisscrosses of lines, painted tubes and canvas walls, once inside one becomes a participant in the work as they walk its concentric interior. 

Like entering the mind of a painting, the logic within Shields’ pageant of color and form remains mysterious; exhilarating in its madness and dizzying layers. 

The paint-saturated walls look variously like repurposed tablecloths or parachute skins splattered with cranberry juice. Ornamented with diamonds, dots and squares, the structure offers a fractured pictorial space that invites the viewer to observe the world through the gestalt of a kaleidoscope.

Still, like all mazes, implicit in one’s entering is one’s exiting. To his credit, Maze is not spectacle – it’s intimate and indiscernible and lacking detours, false doorways and other parlor tricks, it is definitely not entertainment. 

Key to his art is that for all of Shields’ flaming hoops, nothing is calculated -- the driving conclusion is the work itself. 

Robert Hughes remarked of Shields’ contemporaries, the artists Richard Serra and Barry LeVa, that their work functioned like “verbs without nouns;” an apt characterization of Shields, too, and an art that celebrates action while defying description.

The son of a farmer, Alan Shields grew up in rural Kansas among bedtime stories of the Santa Fe Trail and local Indian legends. He learned to sew from his mother and sisters, studied engineering and theater at Kansas State University, and moved to New York before graduating, in 1968.  Within a year, he had burst upon the art world like a brilliant piñata. His first solo show at Paula Cooper Gallery was a rousing success, leading to purchases by the Whitney Museum of American Art and MoMA. By 1971, he had bought a home on Shelter Island, located on Long Island’s east end, where he transformed his own life into something that reads like a John Steinbeck novel.

In Eel Town near Coecles Harbor, Shields created a working compound, ornamenting his new home and studio with a mélange of buoys and ball fenders, fishing nets and beaded tree-necklaces. From there he could navigate the art world while living off the land, mostly. With his shaved head, full beard, rainbow-colored nails and assorted tattoos, Shields fished and hunted, grew vegetables, raised his children and maintained a studio filled with sewing machines and the rudiments of his unorthodox working methodology. 

Once he took up fulltime residence there and until his death in 2005, the six-foot-and-then-some Shields became the captain of the North Ferry, shuttling passengers between the island and Greenport, bald head glinting in the sun like a character from Moby-Dick.

In the same gallery as Maze, in J & K, 1975, Shields all but eradicates the picture plane, dangling fillets and garlands of Milanese beads from a row of epaulets that line the long upper edge of the painting, essentially doodling with impunity inside a framework of narrow canvas strips. The effect is one of joyful abandon and an effusive, infectious sense of bliss.

Dance Bag, 1985
Likewise, in Dance Bag, 1985, strips of pigment-saturated canvas and beadwork are cinched at the top, fanning out toward a circular base with a diameter about the size of a hula hoop. 

Hanging over a mirror, the assemblage reflects its own ornamented interior in a triumph of candid self-examination.  

Nearby, the sculpture Ajax, 1985 hangs from the ceiling like a gigantic tie-dyed birdcage.

Lining the long hallway galleries, a sampler of Shields’ smaller works and selected prints touches on the breath of his focus. Stitchery and layers of rich, pigmented paper pulp morph into mandalas and loose grids in My Sweet Daddy Back and Eggs Are Ready, testament to the poetic rigor and gentle anarchism in his aesthetic canon. 

Rarely on view, two stop-action animated shorts by Shields, Balletfire, 2005 and Birth of a Nation, 2003, run continuously on a large monitor in the main gallery. Emphasizing the interactive nature of Shields work, Into the Maze, a collaborative dance work conceptualized by the curator, was performed earlier this month by the Stephen Petronio Company.

I’m guessing that artists like Alan Shields come along about once in a lifetime. He was one of a kind, and his presence can still be felt here, on the south fork, and mightily, in the art world.

ALAN SHIELDS: IN MOTION, at The Parrish Art Museum, is on view through January 19, 2015

Thank you HAMPTONS ART HUB; please click on the link below: