Sunday, June 17, 2012

mind, matter and exquisite things

detail: Daniel Wiener, Mongrel, 2008, Apoxie sculpt

diversities of sculpture/derivations from nature
longhouse reserve
curated by bonnie rychlak 

On view this season, the artist/curator Bonnie Rychlak has assembled stunning works by six contemporary artists. The show, now on view at LongHouse, includes Ronald Bladen, Ann Chu, Brian Gaman, Jene Highstein, Judith Shea and Daniel Wiener

another form of art, also at Longhouse

Rychlak's mission was to assemble divergent works that would create a dialogue not through a thematic concept but across genres, focus, and places in history. A signature work, The X, by the late Ronald Bladen sets the stage for a cross-generational exchange.  

Ronald Bladen, The X, 1965, painted aluminum

Bladen was an icon, and back in the day his impact on my generation of artists was profound. Elegant simplicity, exacting minimalism and economy of means torqued our meanings and the way we, as artists, assimilate symbols, language and abstract form.
Nearby, 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient Judith Shea presents an elegiac work titled Idol. Part of her 9/11 series, The Legacy Collection, Shea's cloaked man overlooks the gushing Black Mirror (by Ray Smith and Associates), that presides over a curious trinity. Flanked by the fountain that is so reminiscent of New York's 9/11 Memorial at ground zero and Bladen's monumental "x", Shea's powerful figure appears at once pensive, judicious, and archetypal.

Judith Shea, Idol, 2011-12, bronze, stainless steel, aluminum

Black Mirror (Ray Smith and Associates)

At first glance, Ann Chu's Maranao Man appears like a boy Harlequin, but closer inspection reveals a disagreeable scowl -- not the stuff of your average jester. Chu's intriguing contradictions bounce between satire and folklore, delivered here with a touch of whimsy and a little intimidation. 

Ann Chu, Maranao Man, 2004, bronze

The Maranao, for which her sculpture is named, are Islamic inhabitants of Lake Lanao in the Philippines. Theirs is a tribal culture that is defined by its Kulintang (gong) music, art and artistry and traditions fueled by folklore. Their complex imagery, derived from legends, storytelling, and their own tropical environs, is noteworthy. Okir, perhaps the best known of Maranao ornamentation, combines the geometric and the organic in complex floral patterns. Chu's Maranao Man is similarly festooned -- his costume embellished with elaborate floral designs -- rendering him sympathetic in spite of his onerous expression.

Brian Gaman, Untitled 3 Globes, 1987, cast iron and steel

The luscious patina on Brian Gaman's orbs is a phenomenon owed to this exhibition, as the works had never before been sited outdoors. The elements have provided a painterly surface treatment, with time and process accumulating in rivulets of color.

As Rychlak notes in her astute catalog essay, these works express a monumentality even though they're not that big. As a concept, "the globe" is immense in and of itself and here Gaman's Untitled 3 Globes reiterate the curvature of the earth, a physical imperative that is implicit among the wide expanses at LongHouse.

Form determines content in Jene Highstein's soaring Flora Tower, a looming stack of hand-hammered stainless steel segments that are gently imposing, ceremonial, and iconic. Highstein has said of his work:  

"Stone age tools, ceremonial objects, and idols fascinate me and are among the source of materials for my work. The content of my work is not so much nature abstracted, but a form which is evolved in relation to nature and which carries with it natural associations."  from The Mattress Factory

For some four decades now, Highstein's body of work has straddled the tenets of modernism and minimalism, yet it remains independent of both. Materiality, process and gesture -- ceremony and ritual -- the evolution of Highstein's art defies categorization.

Daniel Wiener, Mongrel, 2008

Functioning at the other end of the kaleidoscope, in Daniel Wiener's installation, Mongrel, three distinct sculptural forms convulse with energy under the dappled sunlight of this pastoral setting. The works possess a writhing, psychedelic restlessness that is exquisitely modern, and the Guggenheim seemed to agree -- Wiener received a Guggenheim Fellowship earlier this year.

Made of a self-hardening epoxy component and pigmented with swirls of color, the works are exuberant and sensuous, exerting a nervous immediacy and visual intrigue in which there seems to be no rest. A whorl of rubbery barnacles transits into a plinth here or a horizontal riff there, like an exotic coffee table set out in the middle of Arcadia.

Still, the drama and visual ferment in Wiener's sculpture is more subtle than it at first appears.

Intrinsic in these works is their unknowability -- they gush color and form like a subset of action painting, slipping in and out of their own passages as form boils over into structure.

It's summer on the East End when LongHouse opens. Bravo to Bonnie Rychlak for assembling this provocative show among the bucolic meadows of East Hampton's most prized public garden. 

Visiting hours to LongHouse vary throughout the summer. Visit their website for hours, directions and special events.

For more information on Bonnie Rychlak, see Jennifer Landes's informative profile in the East Hampton Star.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

back to basics: color and form

Polly Apfelbaum, Color Nest, 2010-11, Plasticine, polymer clay and glitter; photos courtesy Ameringer McEnery Yohe

Stone Gravy
curated by David Pagel
at Ameringer McEnery Yohe

I love this show. 
Bravo David Pagel, man of many hats including the Parrish Art Museum's own LA-based adjunct curator, whose exhibition Stone Gravy is a perfect summer treat. It's on view at Ameringer McEnery Yohe through July 7th.

Polly Apfelbaum, 4 some, 2010-11, Plasticine and polymer clay

Polly Apfelbaum has been flirting with process, painting and installation for decades, and in that time she's morphed into one of the most interesting artists around. Her works are rascally and sparkling, ingenuous and urbane at the same time, and they stretch the margins of painting to parts unknown. 

Matt Wedle, Flower Tree, 2011, ceramic

While I was busy doing something else ceramics has become a new art form altogether, evidenced here with sumptuous works by Matt Wedel and the forever excellent Ron Nagle, a national treasure.

Ron Nagle, Beirut Canal, 2009, ceramic
Richard Allen Morris, Power Bar, 2000, acrylic on pine panel

The title of the show is taken from "stone soup" -- a folk story in which soup is made for the weary and hungry from inedible scraps. For Pagel, Stone Gravy seems to be a sort of homage to the fundamentals of art making. In the catalog text he attempts to identify the circumstances "...that are intrinsic to the various ways artists make matter matter."

Allison Miller, Solid, 2011, oil and acrylic on canvas

David Pagel, responsible for some of the most intoxicating shows at The Parrish including the current exhibit EST 3: Southern California in New York, on view through June 17th, brings a little California sunshine wherever he drops anchor. 

Don't miss this delightful show.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

coffee, conundrums and convolutions

Bastienne Schmidt at Ricco Maresca

Growing up in Greece and Germany, as a child Bastienne Schmidt was often surrounded by her archeologist father's lifetime of research and the ancient vessel fragments he presided over. The artist's memories of a life silhouetted against the crisp blue of the Aegean serve as a powerful source for the paintings now on view at Ricco Maresca.

Untitled Silhouette Vessel, 2012, polymer paint and coffee on paper

When Schmidt and I spoke at her studio last week, the conversation illuminated her focus in a way that shed new light for me on this complex body of painting, collage, and photography. 

In much of her work she employs a visual alphabet that is informed by language as well as personal biography, memory and the politics of self.

Collection of Soaps, 2003, Chromogenic print

In the above work from her 2010 publication, Home Stills, Schmidt assembled used bars of soap on a floral ground -- a tribute both to the field work her father brought home and to her observations on the artistry to be located within domestic life. 

From the Silhouette Vessel series, 2012

The new works -- part self-portrait, part memorial -- are a sort of homage to the artist's earliest knowledge of structured thinking that she refers to as "typologies" or "declarations of meaning." 

Schmidt's approach to art making might fall under the rubric of the pseudoscientific; as she organizes her thinking, she groups her oeuvre into bodies that range from explorations on the female archetype to mortality to fields of abstraction. 

In the Silhouette Vessels, Schmidt doesn't so much paint vessels as she orchestrates the movement of espresso and paint -- willing it more than painting it -- into form. As the liquids fuse into fractal ridges and pools of color, the dominant hues (variants of an arid Mediterranean blue) ooze into vessel forms that range in shape from spheres and pods to beakers. 

There's a performative aspect to this work, as if memory has washed over Schmidt and come to rest in these vessel forms.

In her studio, we looked at paintings from the Highways series, gigantic works in which loopy lines traverse broad paper geographies, intersecting one another at various junctures. 

The connective imagery within each bundle of crisscrosses are collage elements -- aerial photographs of highway systems, each one carrying long lines of automobiles -- visible only on close inspection. 

Highways, 2011, acrylic and collage on paper, 90 x 42"

Among Schmidt's systems of thinking are other systems -- a little like a mirror looking into a mirror -- that fold over inside of themselves. This is, I think, key to understanding this intriguing body of work. 
detail, Highways

Bastienne Schmidt, Silhouette Vessels, is on view at Ricco Maresca through June 16th.

Bastienne Schmidt, Silhouette Vessels, Ricco/Maresca