Saturday, December 24, 2011


here's to an artful and loving new year.
...and to all a good night!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Toni Ross: Inside/Out

Some years ago, Toni Ross left behind her potter's wheel and moved from function to sculpture in the ceramic art she has been devoted to for much of her adult life. She began to examine the organic simplicity of the vessel form and its myriad associations to the figure and to femininity, containment, fullness and emptiness. The vessel as an entity became a departure point for Ross, whose recent works are on now view at Ricco/Maresca Gallery in the artist's first one person show in New York City.

Ricco/Marcesa Gallery

The installation is breathtaking, celebrating the stately presence of each vessel. Some stand like sentinels, others hug the surface beneath them in cube or box form. They exude Ross's anima, yet each one seems to possess an interior life all its own. 

Entering the artist's Wainscott studio last week, the first thing that struck me was the huge mirror that straddles her worktable.

"I use a mirror so I can see the sculpture in the round while I'm working," she said. 

This is an absolute revelation to me. Seeing both sides of any one thing at one time is a pretty big idea -- self/other, presence/absence, this life/after life -- the sort of philosophical concept that could keep us talking well into the night. If I've known of another artist working with a mirror to do anything other than paint their own portrait, I don't remember. The presence of the figure is profound in this work, and I wonder to Ross if she is influenced by her own reflection as form emerges in her sculpture. 

"I don't see myself," she said. 

Another revelation. "You mean," I inquire, "you turn the mirror so you can't be seen?" 

"No," she answered, "I just don't see myself -- I'm invisible when I'm working."

detail; currently on view at The Drawing Room, East Hampton
I suddenly realize -- this is going to be an interesting conversation. Ross's "invisibility" is one of those wonderful visual and intellectual conundrums that dovetails with the concept of artistic presence/absence.

The vessel is ripe for these kinds of extrapolations -- it's rich in metaphors that conjure the human soul or the collective psyche. As such, the form easily slips between function and abstraction, or it can serve as a conduit between the two. In Ross's studio the larger concepts are all around me: closed ceramic cubes in which something -- or nothing -- is trapped. Ross is intrigued by these big concepts, but she's down to earth, driven more by process than ideology. The rough edges, abraded surfaces and molten glazes that help define her stoneware are evidence of this. Tall vases peel into earthen, El Greco-like necks and broad pocks and fissures stretch out over belly shapes, mouths and hollows.

She builds via the coil method, a gradual process that suits her temperament. "Throwing clay is a very fast process," she said. "I'm not fast -- in my methodology."

Because Ross's connection to the vessel is pragmatic more than it is theoretical, it can serve as a jumping off place that allows her to move toward pure form. The surfaces, achieved through a combination of Shino glazing technique and the electric grinder Ross uses "like a paintbrush" are expressive and spirited, ranging in effect from fields of milky ferment to coatings of blistery, orange magma. Sometimes she glazes only the vessel interior, allowing the salts and sodas to leach through the clay walls during the firing. The results are always surprising in one way or another -- where the glaze will seep through is totally unpredictable.

"I've had to let go of my absolute expectations," she said.

The concept of addressing only the interior of a thing -- the un-seeable part -- with the anticipation that it may or may not have an impact on the seeable world is a concept that handily converts into another one of those big ideas. The interior life of an object -- a building, a mountain, a person and, of course, motherhood -- these are some of the things embodied in the vessel form.

Ross finds inspiration in a broad spectrum that ranges from the female form to ancient history. After her last major show (at The Drawing Room, East Hampton), she felt compelled to go to Egypt. She traveled there with friends shortly thereafter.

"You think you know what to expect -- you see so many images of the Pyramids, the Sphinx, the landscape," she said. "But you can't imagine the scale -- the vastness -- it's beyond description." 

It seems the ancients are whispering in Ross's ear. During our visit, she pulled out a book on the Danube Valley, recalling an exhibit she saw last year at New York University's Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, located on Manhattan's Upper East Side. The exhibition catalog, focused on works from old Europe circa 4500 BC, explores a level of figuration that high Modernism might have dreamed about -- long bendy arms that crisscross over folded knees, elongated torsos that morph into tapered heads and feet, vessels with bellies and legs, complex architectural models and elegant depictions of animal and human in gold amulets and figurines. Ross's kid-in-a-candy-store joie de vivre -- a result of opening this book -- is infectious. Within seconds we are pouring over the images, one more fascinating than the next.  

Ricco/Maresca Gallery
The images in the book reveal a culture that seemed driven to stake claim to its own structure -- its homes, villages and families -- and the artifacts are rendered with candor and few embellishments. Ross's vessels exude a kindred spirit, galvanized by a calm simplicity that fuels the life inside.   

Two hand built gas ovens sit astride the artist's Wainscott studio

The exhibition at Ricco/Maresca is on view through December 30th.                        


Monday, November 28, 2011

Last Laugh

Norman B Colp, Open Book
Permanent Collection Gallery
November 26 - January 24

The Commuter's Lament or a Close Shave, 1997, tunnel between the Port Authority and Times Square subway stations
Last Laugh

The first time I encountered “conceptual art,” was as a young artist studying in San Francisco. To me, it was a revelation -- as if the world had finally unbuttoned its collar and let loose a thousand years of pure intellect and repressed humor. Threads of identity, pathos, revisionism and slapstick were pulled together using none of the typical artistic mediums. A radical departure from the norm, conceptual artists examined non-traditional methods of creating art, using language and text, cognition and action and the sort of visual tropes that were useful not as images in and of themselves, but as tools to advance the plot. Duchamp’s “readymades” turned art-making conventions on their ear and the dictums laid out by Clement Greenberg fueled a generation of artists who sought to dematerialize the object. For Norman B Colp (1945-2007), conceptualism was his métier. He used it the way a painter uses their favorite brush. 

Steam: My View from P.S.1., 2001, mutoscope
From Hogarth to Richard Prince, the use of text and text-based imagery as an artistic strategy has produced decades of art world witticisms that link the visual and the verbal. Within this same sphere, Colp’s art examined language, humor, sequentiality and minimalism in works that bounced from the ambiguous bon mot to various forms of austere commentary. His best known work, Commuter's Lament or a Close Shave, commissioned by New York City’s MTA in 1997, continues to amuse weary commuters as they traverse the underground corridors linking the Port Authority and Times Square subway stations. A poem of sorts, here Colp’s dry wit was inspired by the ubiquitous roadside ads for Burma-Shave that dotted the Midwest. He cajoles his fellow New Yorkers to laugh a little at the drudgery of daily routine.  The work culminates with the image of tossled bedsheets -- an ode to the sleep deprived.                                                                                                

Colp's oeuvre included handmade artist books, accordian books and flipbooks as well as sequential photographic essays, one of a kind sculptures, installations and postcards. In the 1990s, his flipbooks became the inspiration for a series of artist mutoscopes (above). Invented in 1894 by Hermann Casler, the mutoscope is a device in which images can be viewed on a mechanical spinning wheel which, like a flipbook, gives the illusion of movement. Colp's interest in notions of time resulted in numerous projects that possess an accumulative affect, as if time is passing within the work itself. Artist, teacher, humorist and unlikely poet, Norman B Colp leaves a smile on the world through enduring works of wit and poignancy.                               
J M Goleas, curator

Please join us for the opening reception on December 4, from 2-4pm.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Time travel

Love this: artists interpret their own childhood drawings 
courtesy designboom

'homeroom' at subtext gallery in san diego, california, USA all images courtesy subtext gallery
(above) '4,015' by soey milk with original drawing (left) 18'' x 24'', oil on wood image © soey milk

on view from november 11th until december 11th, 2011, 'homeroom' is a collection from twenty different artists who have reinterpreted an art work from their childhood in their current day style. hosted by subtext gallery in san diego, california, and guest curated by christina conway, the exhibition includes a wide variety of mediums with contributions from los angeles-based audrey kawasaki, canadian illustrator nimit malavia, and chinese artist joey leung ka-yin.

often depicting a dreamscape of mystical creatures and fairytale-based protagonists, the original drawings revisit a more innocent age of creation when imagination met naivety, and crayons were the only necessary tools. the highly personal collection of old and new pieces provides an insightful look into the development of the artists, as well as an endearing attempt at rediscovering the nostalgia of youth.

'all aboard!' by allison sommers  7'' x 5'', gouache on illustration board   image © allison sommers

            original drawing by allison sommers

'wanderer' by audrey kawasaki
12'' x 12'', oil & graphite on wood  image © audrey kawasaki

original drawing by audrey kawasaki

'origami girl' by sean mahan   24'' x 24'', acrylic on wood   image © sean mahan

photograph of mahan and his original drawing

'you lift me up' by katherine brannock 24'' x 12'', ballpoint pen, walnut ink, shellac ink & chalk pastel on paper 

original drawing by katherine brannock

'is the water turned off?' by joey leung ka-yin   48'' x 30'', ballpen, drawing pen, gouache & coloured pencil on paper
image © joey leung ka-yin

original drawing by joey leung ka-yin
thank you designboom

Friday, November 11, 2011

up close and personal: this week's Star:

An Identity With the Process

By Janet Goleas
Drew Shiflett “constructed drawings”
To create her “constructed drawings,” Shiflett methodically snips and slices handmade 
paper into the tiny slivers that she glues and weaves together. Morgan McGivern
    Drew Shiflett works slowly, like the tortoise to everyone else’s hare. Her rhythmic compositions evolve over time, creating an arc that stretches from simple geometries, like grids and parallel lines, all the way to rigorous seriality, minimalism, and the principles of ancient decorative motifs. She employs a degree of precision in her work that is staggering, a level of commitment that is nearly religious in its scope, and a fragile humility that makes it seem okay to be human.

    Her current exhibit, “Drew Shiflett: Constructed Drawings,” the result of winning top honors in the 2009 Guild Hall Artist Members Show, is on view at Guild Hall through Jan. 16.

    Ms. Shiflett’s body of work, now entering its fourth decade, has unfolded over time like a novel or a meandering Hindu narrative. Eccentric, unpredictable, and sumptuous in its use of spatial illusion, poetics, and intuition, the artist’s intricacies have grown to commingle with the sort of big ideas that start with a single drop of water. The Guild Hall exhibit, featuring eight works in total, allows a glimpse of this artist’s minimal/maximal vision.

    Most days Ms. Shiflett can be found in her studio — either here in East Hampton or in Lower Manhattan — methodically snipping and slicing handmade paper into the tiny slivers she’ll glue and weave together until they slowly sprawl into form. Her technique, decidedly low-tech, allows the drawings to define themselves from the inside out, locating identity within the process of their own creation. The works vary in scale but some are immense, resembling wheat fields or the aerial schematics of a lost civilization. As the artist’s subtle decision-making accumulates across the surface, they swell into layers that will serve as scaffolding for what she refers to as “constructed drawings.”

    Ms. Shiflett and her scientist husband, Moses Chao, a professor of cell biology at New York University’s School of Medicine and president of the Society for Neuroscience, began spending summers on the East End some 15 years ago. When the retreat from city life proved habit-forming, the couple found a permanent home in East Hampton. An old garage that sat on the property was gussied up and now serves as the artist’s light-filled studio. The house sits on a secluded village street surrounded by mature trees and bushy coppice, allowing Ms. Shiflett easy access to the daily bike rides that take her through the winding roads of historic East Hampton.

    “For me, bike riding to the beach every day is complete bliss,” she said.

    “It’s very sensual,” she continued, “from the minute my tires first roll over pavement — the wind and the trees, all the smells and colors. I ride my bike in Manhattan, too, but this, this only happens here.”

    She takes the same path each time, captivated by the soft geometry of the sculpted hedges and trimmed lawns along Lily Pond Lane and Lee Avenue. She spends some time at Main Beach and then turns around and heads back home.

    “I don’t know why I go on the same bike ride every time,” she said, “it’s just so peaceful and so beautiful — I never want to miss anything. My friends make fun of me, but I find myself thinking, ‘How could it get any better than this?’ So I want to see it again.”

    Ms. Shiflett’s palette is endowed with the beachy colors of the East End — browns and ochers, slate gray and beige — but the organic qualities within her drawings are derived from an internal vision as opposed to the seductions of light and landscape of the South Fork. Still, its impact on her is profound.

    “Looking at the beach and the tonality of the water, you just feel closer to everything that’s important — all the things you don’t have time to think about when you’re racing from one place to another in your work life.”

    Born in Chicago, Ms. Shiflett grew up in a theatrical family. Though her artistic leanings were evident as a child, it wasn’t until college that she realized her true affinity for the visual arts. The need to more or less masticate the picture plane, something so endemic to her mature work, came later, emerging in graduate school at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

    During the inevitable anxieties that accompanied her M.F.A. candidacy, she began tearing up figure drawings (up to then, her most solid body of work) and assembling the pieces into densely layered collages. Any recognizable images were all but consumed by the process, disappearing into the swollen rectangles that would become the backbone of this body of work. Compulsively maximal, the finished pieces hovered somewhere between painting and architecture.

    As her artistry developed, Ms. Shiflett’s methodology became more Byzantine. Her TriBeCa studio was cluttered with reams of bathroom tissue, gallons of white glue, sticky scissors, and piles of cheesecloth. Her favorite workbench, a vintage barstool, was so layered with glue and pigment that it stood as testament to the weird orthodoxy of her evolving technique. Consumed by the artistic process, the stool was eventually transformed into a sculpture.

    She soldiered on through the 1980s, working against the feeling, shared by so many young artists, that she was doomed to obscurity. In 1992, she received a Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship for sculpture.

    “It was such a boost,” she recalled, “it’s hard to keep your sense of esteem as an artist, especially when you feel invisible. To have your colleagues — all professional artists — validate you in some measure, that’s huge.”

    Back at Guild Hall, Ms. Shiflett’s works hold court in the Spiga Gallery, like a lion’s pride resting in the shade. In “Untitled #56,” thousands of lines stack in procession over a length of papery architecture, puckered and pigmented in layers. Thin as eyelashes, the hand-painted marks and inky lines accumulate in rows as they assemble into a fragile geometry of grids and long sequences that seem to inflate and collapse as they mutate into long image fields.

    In the most recent drawing, “Untitled #63,” skinny lines assemble like train cars across a snowy expanse of rippled handmade paper. They morph into a thick dimensional weave that settles into a rectangle in the upper left corner, like the American flag.

    “My Jasper Johns drawing,” the artist said, smiling.

    Taken as a whole, the elements in “Untitled #63” reiterate twin footprints as they splay out in separate and distinct parts, like a complex series of fugues.

    “I’m continually surprised by Drew’s work and the subtle evocations of space and time she achieves with such minimal means,” said Amanda Church, an artist and part-time East Hampton resident. “In this case, patience rewards.”

    As Ms. Shiflett’s subject matter moves across the picture plane, it erupts like a series of paper cocoons. The structural metaphor in “Untitled #29” unfurls into a modern pictograph in which twin palettes extend into a void. Tartan patterns press forward, nudging against common boundaries in “Untitled #62,” and figuration re-emerges in “Untitled #55” like an ode to the corporeal self or a shield against mortality. Its irregular edges curl inward, puckered by glue and wetness.

    As Ms. Shiflett moves through her own evolution she’s like Theseus, who conquered the labyrinth of Crete by tracing his steps with a single strand of yarn. Guided by an internal compass, she has tunneled through, locating the eccentric pictorial logic that will fuel her vision, one line at a time.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

magic spain

Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, Cloud Prototype 

Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Icebergs

Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Icebergs

Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Dirty Bomb

Inigo Manglano-Ovalle has received the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Individual Artist Award (2008), the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowship (2001), the Media Arts Award from the Wexner Center for the Arts (1997), and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship (1995). In New York, he is represented by Max Protetch Gallery and Galeria de Arte Soledad Lorenzo in Madrid. He lives in Chicago. 

how to do almost anything better

Peter Fischli and David Weiss 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The golden age

Willem de Kooning, Pink Angels, 1945, Frederick R. Weisman Foundation, Los Angeles

I don't think it gets any better than this: 200 paintings, drawings and sculptures
by Willem de Kooning  
at MOMA thru January 9th. 
Two Women with Still Life, 1952, pastel and charcoal on paper, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Organized by John Elderfield. The show is perfection. 
Here's what a few favorites have had to say on the subject:

Holland Cotter, New York Times, on de Kooning's figures:

"...By Pink Angels the figures have lost their clothes, lost their faces, and become monstrously voluptuous, approximately human forms made from chunks of cut-up flesh. It's as if we're seeing the cleanup phase of a sloppy autopsy, but on that took place inside a chamber of gold.

How such a scene can be beautiful, but it is. De Kooning once famously observed that "flesh was the reason why oil paint was invented." It's important to remember that he wasn't thinking only of the milk-white flawless flesh of Titian courtesans but also flesh that bruised, bled, rotten away. The vanitas awareness of the 17th-century Dutch still-life painters was strong in him, the bass note to his force-of-life vigor..."

portrait of de Kooning by Arnold Newman

Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, on de Kooning's early genius:

" 1926, de Kooning arrived in New York with dazzling skills, a yeoman's work ethic, and an allergy to convention. In 1930, he found his mentor, Arshile Gorky, whose harrowing agon with the art of Picasso broached a new mode of pictorial space. By the early forties, his genius bloomed...His Pink Angels has the compacted force of classic Cubism, but with no trace of its jigsaw armatures..."

Collage, 1950, oil, enamel, steel tacks on paper, Solinger Collection
Howard Halle, Time Out New York, on things to take with you:

"...However, the main takeaway for me involves De Kooning’s role as both an exemplar and apostate of the New York School catechism. He was the very model of what the critic Harold Rosenberg defined as an “authentic” artist: someone who treated the canvas as an arena in which to enact the drama of self-creation, free of historical baggage. Yet his continuous oscillation between abstraction and figuration suggests a deep indebtedness to the past. He emerges from this show as a sort of proto-postmodernist: not in the sense of valuing irony, but rather, in understanding that modernism simply constituted another phase of art history..."

Orestes, 1947, enamel on paper mounted on plywood, private collection, (c) 2011 The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artists Rights Society, ARS (New York)

Jerry Saltz, New York Magazine, on the late works: 

"...In the final gallery comes the wintry incandescence of the last works, and they take my breath away. Exquisitely lyrical looping locutions, lone lines and coral-reef color, umbilical curves: They curl and cut back in viscous fields of mysterious expanding space. The widows and chairs of the first paintings are here. As is the space, so hard won. In this gallery is his last rite of visual passage, the perfectly titled The Cat's Meow -- centrifugal harmonies in pastel that let you see the order and ecstasy in chaos, and the chaos in order and ecstasy..." 

The Cat's Meow, 1987, oil on canvas, collection Jasper Johns

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Play with me

click here to go to Borna Sammak's interactive collage at Bevel and Boss. Very cool and a lot of fun.

Monday, September 19, 2011

numbers game

Karen Shaw: Quantum Gravy
Islip Art Museum
 Opening reception: Sunday, September 25, 2-5pm  

The artist in Karen Shaw began to emerge in the 1970s as she mulled over a stack of grocery receipts that lay across her Long Island kitchen table. Applying a simple rubric to these random numbers, she began to make cryptographic poems in which arbitrary sums were composed into pithy word aggregates. The poetry found its way on to bingo cards, supermarket flyers, football jerseys and lottery tickets. Selected works are on view through November 13th in Karen Shaw: Quantum Gravy at Islip Art Museum.

Her Summantic Vocabulary codified numbers and words with a simple equation:  A = 1, B = 2, C = 3, and so on. Like Gematria, an ancient Cabbalistic form of numerology in which Hebrew letters are translated into number equivalents and then used to decode sacred texts and ancient manuscripts, Shaw's word amalgamates seemed to expose the hidden truths and deeper meanings that lay outside the margins of popular culture.

Rejigging the ironies of life and history has become second nature for Shaw, whose visual tropes are cheeky and smart. Definitely worth a trip to Islip Art Museum.