Thursday, October 16, 2014

Brian Gaman, an exhibition

installation view, ArtHelix, photography Kevin Noble

B R I A N    G A M A N
An Exhibition of Works: 1987-2014
ArtHelix  |  Bushwick

Untitled, 1987, cast aluminum, 63 x 93 x 62 in, photography Kevin Noble

On view at ArtHelix through this weekend, an extraordinary exhibition of works by the artist Brian Gaman, who died earlier this year -- well before his time. The art, the installation, Gaman's visual precision and his bright and immaculate intelligence -- taken altogether, it's a revelation. 

Organized by Bonnie Rychlak, the artist's wife, and ArtHelix owner and gallery impresario Peter Hopkins, the show circles Gaman's oeuvre with sublime acuity, inviting historic works to resonate alongside recent ink jet prints, some mural size, video and other manifestations of the artist's thinking. 

A poet friend once said to me, "There's nothing vague about great poetry. The language is precise, exacting. It's not obtuse." And so it is with Gaman's work. What may first appear unknowable is the result of meticulous clarity -- a sort of aesthetic bull's eye -- that permeates the breadth of his focus. Take it from me, Gaman's art will live on but there will never again be an exhibition of his work so pure of heart as this one. I urge you to see this stunning show.

Below, a few thoughts about Brian's art from myself and others, along with an excerpt from his own writing. 

installation of untitled globes, circa 1980s, steel, cast iron, aluminum, photography Kevin Noble

"The older work, from the 80s and then into the 90s, was iconographic groupings, 
looking like world globes and eyeglasses and some other things; images and objects congruent, bound up in minimalist seriality and meant to have something to do with the decay of the programmatic. It was precise, but presented as degraded, never cleaned residue left from casting, or mill sale, or rust."

Brian Gaman

above/below: untitled globes at LongHouse Reserve in Diversities of Sculpture/Derivations from Nature, 2012

"This current work is now more disposed toward what's around media and images -- images as such are gone from the current work -- in wider and wider spectacular use. 
Elements and parts from the older work get scanned and pushed through a 
digital sieve and stood up against what's taken to be immaculate is 
scuffed up, scratched, dusty and soiled."

Brian Gaman, courtesy ArtHelix

installation, ArtHelix, photography Kevin Noble

"Sweeping from micro to macro vision, Gaman's works on paper seem to 
move toward distant space, identifying a future that is neither seen nor unseen. 
Extracted from the artist's video sequences, the works infer the phenomenon of 
sight and the evidence of vision as opposed to the merely visible, with imagery 
that is both fleeting and at the same time persistent -- bursting open and 
dissolving into memory simultaneously.

...Absurdity, existence, absence, presence -- these are the seductive 
and unknowable concepts that permeate much of these artist's historic works of 
art and literature. Gaman, an unabashed Beckett devotee, has referred to 
perceptual endgames in his art and the process of seeing, and in this he breaks 
bread with the aforementioned [Bruce Naumann, George Kubler, Robert Smithson], 
embracing the sorts of ambivalence that define (or seek to define) the existentialist mind."

From Blinnk, December 2013

Untitled, 2011, ink jet print on paper, (2 sections), 98 x 88 in, photography Kevin Noble

"At Yale in grad school Gaman was interested in artists concerned with the gap between 
knowing and saying.  That means neither knowing nor saying. So the work is terse 
bordering on mute—hence the difficulty of discovering that occasionally those 
spheres are actually bubbles of hilarity, hiccups escaping from a 
Beckettian black humor hole. Indeed, inebriation 
is the genesis of pieces from the late 90’s"

Howard Foster, Romanov Grave, 2011

installation view, photograph by Kevin Noble

"'s not possible to discuss Gaman's work without acknowledging its 
philosophical margins and the sense of an imagery that is constantly going 
away or moving toward an inevitable void. His imagery, a language of circles, 
spheres and lenses that function both to focus in and focus out is at once 
simplistic in the absurd and all encompassing in its magnitude. Like 
Gaman's antecedents, it places the ironic squarely in his field 
of vision, and this is key to his work."
excerpt from Blinnk, 2013

Untitled, 2010, ink jet print on paper, 153 x 448 in, edition of 5, photography Kevin Noble

installation view, photography by Kevin Noble

Untitled, 2013, inkjet prints, Parrish Art Museum, Artists Choose Artists

In 2013, Gaman was selected by the artist Keith Sonnier for Artists Choose Artists at the Parrish Art Museum. His installation, above, was breathtaking. Two immense ink jet prints on multiple sheets of paper -- titanic in scale -- dominated one wall of the museum, holding their own amid soaring ceilings and the building's velvety, natural light. Enigmatic and absolute, the works were majestic. 

I had the privilege of working with Brian Gaman on a few occasions. Below, his installation for The Moby Project in East Hampton made powerful connections to the moon and sky, to compasses, and to the circles and spheres that have been a constant in his work.  

Untitled, 2013, installation at Mulford Farm, The Moby Project

Earlier this year, Gaman also participated in Redacted, a show I curated for Islip Art Museum. We selected a piece (on view at ArtHelix, below) that functioned a bit like a gigantic sampler of pixels from a digital film or video.  Huge rectangles of white, gray, and black hovered in the image field while a minuscule photo peered out from the lower margin -- like a view to another world.

The work arrived at the museum in a long, cardboard box. The crew and I donned our white gloves and opened the box. I cautioned my young crew to use the utmost care, but they had no idea what we were about to see. We pulled the paper roll from its protective sleeve, and allowed it to slowly unfurl. Everyone in the room gasped. 

"Oh my God!" they said. It was the blackest black, the richest pigment, the most beautiful, big, big page. The moment was spine-tingling, with everyone in the room a bit frozen. 

Brian had advised that the print should be installed with only three push pins, which he provided. I winced as I ran the pins into each corner, and then in the center. When we let go, the sides of the paper were curled dramatically.

"It's so sculptural," said one of the staff members.

I've never had an experience quite like that and it's one I'll never forget. We stepped back from the wall and everyone stared quietly for a very long time.

Untitled ink jet prints, c. 2013, photography Kevin Noble

Brian Gaman (1948 - 2014)

exhibition on view through  October 19, 2014

299 Meserole Street
Brooklyn, NY 11206


16 Harrison Place
Brooklyn, NY 11206

Monday, May 26, 2014

the sum of its parts

at Ricco Maresca

click here to read my review on Hamptons Art Hub




Saturday, May 10, 2014

thinking out loud

springtime in New York

ANDREA ZITTEL at MoMA were in progress on Tuesday -- can't wait to see them -- so far so gorgeous.

a beautiful, bewildering aftermath

Alibis: SIGMAR POLKE 1963 - 2010 at MoMA
it doesn't -- it couldn't -- get better than this
watch for my review in Hamptons Art Hub

 ALICE HOPE - TAB - at Ricco Maresca
a phenomenon -- you don't want to miss this show
watch for my review on Hamptons Art Hub 

                                                                                  Central Park never looked so good

more to come...

Sunday, April 27, 2014

re re re redacted

REDACTED is an exploration of the way contemporary artists amend and transform 
original content through alterations, erasures, reductions and cutaways in the visual experience. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word redact as “to edit”, 
as in preparing a document for publication. But the term has acquired broader 
meaning since the 20th century, inferring acts, often political, of obfuscation, 
disinformation, censorship and conspiracy.

foreground: Stacy Fisher; background: Jonathan Callan

Today, the word “redacted” has implications that stretch beyond blacked out C.I.A. documents. Deletions or disinformation – redactions – in nonfiction can have 
the effect of turning truth into fantasy and excision or concealment in 
written, auditory, or film and video material might alter history, 
obscure entire hypotheses or convert, disguise 
or transform content. 


In the visual brain, imagery can be eclipsed by ocular migraines or sun blindness resulting in a redacted visual field, and in psychology, trauma can result in whole areas of memory that cease to be accessible. 

But since 1953, when Robert Rauschenberg spent that long month erasing one of Willem de Kooning’s favorite drawings, the idea of redaction has been central to the concept of altered content in visual art. 

Eric Dever’s serial paintings examine strict color equations. Elemental and exacting, Dever limits his color use to fixed degreesof Napthol scarlet, Titanium white and Ivory black. The color range – stupefying in its expansiveness – pulses in fields of geometric precision. 

Eric Dever installation; Stacy Fisher's Black and White Objects foreground
NSIBTW-34, 2014, courtesy Berry Campbell Gallery

The act of erasing, transmuting or removing subject matter is something that comes naturally to the visual artist -- one might even posit that it is an inevitable part of the creative process. Josh Blackwell transforms the lowly plastic bag into luscious, fetishized objects – repositories, if you will, that revitalize some of our most 
ubiquitous cultural scraps.

Josh Blackwell, Plastic Basket (Crystal), 2013

A native of Louisiana, Blackwell was witness to Katrina as well as the massive 
debris field left in its wake, and the experience caused a shift in his thinking. 
Enter the plastic bag, so vilified in modern culture yet so indispensible 
to commerce, reanimated with sumptuous fields of ornamentation. 

Josh Blackwell
Linda Miller explores negative space in a series of graphite bowls that act as 
surrogates for corporeality, identity, presence and absence.

Linda Miller, Ashes and Air, 2013-2014

In Brian Gaman’s Untitled, the visual field is so deeply in focus that sight itself is recalibrated to the infinite. 

Brian Gaman, Untitled, 2014

Stacy Fisher, Black and White Objects, 2009

Stacy Fisher conceals the objecthood within her sculpture to such a degree it seems whole concepts might be buried within her inky, bulging forms.

Lauren Luloff, Flame Violet with Window, 2013, Foley Barn, 2012

Lauren Luloff employs a similar resourcefulness in the use of recycled bed sheets 
that serve as her blank canvasses. Her study of textile design and block printing 
in India come full circle here, manifest in patchwork paintings that are 
variously stretched over frames or hung from the ceiling.

Leaf, 2014

Luloff paints in oils or with a bleachy composite, selectively removing pigment 
in splashy, reflexive drawings that are assembled in compositions of bold pastiches, translucent scrim and gossamer swathes of fabric.
Ryan Wallace, Redacted 2.14 I, 2013, courtesy Susan Inglett Gallery

In Ryan Wallace’s Redactor series, the vestiges of earlier works assemble like DNA strands as they form a wholly new but relational family of paintings in which studio scraps accumulate across the painting surface like glacial striations.

Bonnie Rychlak, Formless No. 5 and Formless No. 1

Bonnie Rychlak's use of recycled wax is also regenerative.
As a raw material, wax is distinctively malleable, and here it retains the evidence
of former works in composites of marbled color bands that shift from sea foam
to translucent jade green.

Sharon Butler (foreground), Air quality control, 2013

Sharon Butler’s paintings are an ode to the new casualism (a term she coined) – a concept linked aesthetically to wabi sabi – the Japanese embracement 
of imperfection or impermanence.

Cement Mixer, 2012
Butler paints on unstretched or partially stretched raw canvas that is often a helter skelter of staples, bare stretcher bars and loose threads. But her imagery, at once highly specific and at the same time largely unidentifiable, asserts a structural, even architectural level of observation that charges the pictorial space with positive and negative visual data.

Jim Lee, Untitled (Rose Edge Relief), 2013, courtesy Nicelle Beauchene Gallery

Jim Lee’s paintings assume a somewhat parallel process, with imagery that is inseparable from action.

Untitled, (Tuck and Cover), 2012, courtesy Nicelle Beauchene Gallery

Defining the picture field and its content with a frankness that is physical, experimental 
and utterly unique in form, Lee’s works examine the formal aspects 
of painting and sculpture while quietly serving to overthrow them.

Jonathan Callan, Zurbaran's Color Plates, 2001, courtesy Josee Bienvenu Gallery

 In Jonathan Callan’s arresting work, Zurbaran’s Color Plates,
the artist transfigures the book form into a revelation of 
component parts, chiseling away at its original content until 
it is transformed into his own, in an act of both 
insolence and intellectual finesse.

Ross Watts, Journey to the East, 2014, courtesy Sara Nightingale Gallery

Likewise, RossWatts has mined the written word in Journey to the East in which eleven Hermann Hesse novels are imbedded in concrete bricks of beach sand collected from the shoreline of his Long Island home. 

For Watts, the process is a conundrum that places both his art as well as Hesse’s content, in peril.

Ryan Steadman, Yves at Brunch, 2014

Ryan Steadman, installation view
Ryan Steadman’s ersatz book forms act as painterly doppelgangers -- proxies 
for the written word. At first glance the paintings look like collectibles in book form 
but there are few, if any, visible words -- no title, no author and no publisher – only 
the form itself. Steadman’s paintings offer a whimsical departure 
from the information overload of our time.

Stefana McClure, Redacted (Enhanced Techniques), 2010, courtesy Josee Bienvenu Gallery

Stefana McClure fragments aspects of language in knitted compositions made from surreptitious reportings such as shredded CIA documents. 

The declassified papers, heavily redacted, detail the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” such as waterboarding, one of this country’s most disturbing and clandestine episodes. Her interventions are both beguiling and unnerving.

Stefana McClure, possible side effects may include (Zoloft), 2010, courtesy Josee Bienvenu Gallery

McClure transforms the disclaimers included in every prescription of Zoloft, the world's most prescribed anti-depressant, in Side Effects May Include (Zoloft), above, in a complex examination of the pharmaceutical industry.

Mathias Schmeid, Background, 2006

In Background, Mathias Schmeid explores another media form altogether – the adult magazine. His facile knife work transfigures the imagery and its controversial nature into a delicate waterfall of cascading lines. 

Tim Spelios, Saint Sebastian, 2009

Tim Spelios reorders the history of art in collages that deftly rearrange the visual information and the context held within in some of the most celebrated paintings of the western world.
Letha Wilson, Brown's Park Violet, 2013

And Letha Wilson’s photographic works of the American west reveal the majesty of our geologic past while fracturing it with fierce, tactical interdictions. Her use of poured concrete, slices of lumber and sharp cutaways lend a raw physicality to the artist’s travel photos, as if they have actually been morphed into a gorge along the Colorado River.

2 great reviews:

Karin Lipson in the New York Times

Gabrielle Selz on Hamptons Art Hub


April 13 – June 1, 2014