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.