Georges Berges Gallery NYC. Summer group show opening July 12, 2018! . Featuring the work of Laddie John Dill, Kristin Jai Klosterman, Jean Schmiedel, Ben Birillo, Johan Wahlstrom, Michael Carson, Eric Chang, Alessandro del Pero, and Todd Williamson.
"PROCESSIONAL" presented by the MAK Center of Art & Architecture @ the Santa Maria della Pieta Chapel on the Grand Canal.
I received the official letter of congratulations from the Venice Biennale and its been a crazy ride! The idea for the exhibition came up originally in the summer of 2018. I asked Jennifer Chi, a well-respected curator and good friend to write the curatorial statement and began discussing how we could create an exhibition that was exciting and beautiful while also current and impactful. Professor Greg Walter from the UNC School of the Arts is working with me to compose music that reflects the ideas behind the art and to create an auditory experience as you move through the exhibition. The MAK Center of Art & Architecture came on as my presenting sponsor and Priscialla Fraser will be the curator on record for the exhibition. We decided the exhibition would center around "Modern Apostles" or people that have enormous influence and power based on their intelligence, money, position, or celebrity. T he idea of how a "tweet" could create an international best seller or destroy a company. How a person's wealth could be used to create good for the world or lead everyone to ruin. The idea is still developing as I paint and as the music is created. I have 3 of 8 planned grand-scale paintings for the space while at the same time I am working to fund-raise and deal with my everyday art and its needs! I am working with an important NY art foundation (more details to come!) that will be my major sponsor for the event as I finalize the budget. Its been an arduous journey to get a detailed budget and to plan for a 7-month long exhibition in another country! "PROCESSIONAL" will open May 8th and run through November 2019 @ the Pieta Church on the Grand Canal a few hundreds yards from the Grand Canal and the Arsenale.
Williamson has written on canvas the visual representation of a sound melody. A painting that becomes music and music that you do painting. This exhibition contains works that were born from the collaboration between Williamson and American composer Greg Walter, but that collaboration we can talk about works in 4 hands in the sense that each group of notes composed of Walter has paid a brush Williamson imprinted on canvas and vice versa in every pictorial work has paid a note or a series of musical notes that have given life to a symphony. A completely new concept in the history of painting and in which we can say that the musician has "painted" the canvas and the painter has "played" the melody. Williamson has written on canvas the visual representation of a sound melody. A painting that becomes music and music that you do painting. The theme of the works of Williamson remains a kind of abstract landscape made up of horizontal lines, light beams and shadows wise, but in this series of works there is something more: it is the vibration that irrepressibly by the same lines, the blurred edges of color, the color modulations and light that immediately refer to a musical score, to a "visible melody", a "sound" visual. His works pose as real "frequencies" of sounds, "vibrations" of musical instruments, sheet music and grills. The work appears as the visual record of the waves formed by the sound of a musical instrument. The whole of this work in the exhibition is divided into three series that correspond to three "moments" music: "the frequency series", "the Grid series" and "the Light series," as Williamson, focused on particular "moments" such as musical harmonies, the string movement and musical tones. .... "The movements of the musical melody (... .of Greg Walter), deep, rich, are balanced by the composition itself and the shades of color in the painting," which, I might add, it is so permeated with sound. so we speak of "Polyphony" of a pictorial work that is of a variety of sounds that are displayed and made visible on a canvas through the wise calibration of tonal and compositional effects; the colors that are superimposed on the pictorial field, one at a mastery of light coming from the back and from the bottom, which, as Williamson, is more reminiscent of chiaroscuro that resulting from the movement lesson Californian Light and Space, are resolved in a wise interplay that match the color tone of the notes that follow each other in musical composition. The contours blurred and elusive, the light that pervades them from the back, the blows of scathing light invading the composition, give the image of a symphony in the act of creation. The sense of alienation, the loss of awareness of the "here and now" that pervades the viewer in front of the vision becomes the means to "listen" to the work, to "feel" its music, its melody and completely surrender to it . Opening hours November 24 18 Data sheet: Art 1307 presents: Polyphony of a landscape - Todd Williamson pictorial personnel edited by Cynthia Penna Opening Tuesday, November 24, 2015, at 18 - exhibition of paintings and concert world premiere of "I Must Dream" composed and directed by Greg Walter, performed with Manuela Albano (cello) and Janine Hawley (mezzo soprano). Exhibition open from 24 November to 10 January 2016 (visit by appointment) at Villa di Donato - S. Eframo Old, Naples Info and Contacts: Cultural Institution Art1307 - Rampe Sant'Antonio a Posillipo 104, Naples firstname.lastname@example.org tel + 39/081 665 456 Cell: +39/3356924214 www.art1307.com Communication and promotion manager, press contacts: Chiara Royal Mail. email@example.com tel. 0039/3805899435
Our country is at the most precarious point in time and history. The decisions to be made will not only change our lives, but it will also affect the entire world. It is an urgent time and art has always been the best medium to convey the Message of the People. Like in the Russian Revolution, the Russian Avant-garde was born. The works of Kazimir Malevich, Aleksandra Ekster, Vladimir Tatlin, Wassily Kandinsky, David Burliuk and many more gave silenced a voice. Victory Over the Sun was a theatrical work that incorporated the visual and the performing arts. It was their Reality TV. Fortunately, I was able to see a reconstruction of this brilliant political and artistic performance shown at our own Bing Theater at LACMA. It was so moving and powerful in a more tranquil time in our country. However, today it would be more poignant. So that was then and now is a crisis now! I am so pleased that we have artists like Todd Williamson, who has conscientiousness, intellect and talent to awaken us from our sleep – there is a war going on people. Let the dictates of society behold the messages that this artist delivers. Question yourselves about what you are doing to make a difference. Do you think nothing will change?Are you secure in your life and your world? Well, you better partake of what is going on in our country or you only have yourself to blame. Look at Williamson’s message uncalculated on his canvases. Go tohttp://www.artemerge.org – The Disillusionment of Truth and read the words of the artist and click on the link to explore and reflect as you see each one of his works of art. May they be a beacon or a remembrance of a time in which we lived and too few responded. It is like the Gandi and the Dali Lama are holding hands, praying that we bring harmony and peace to the world. Maybe you think your vote on one proposition or one candidate does not matter. Well, if we all have that attitude nothing matters. If we engage ourselves like Williamson everything matters. He has left the questioning up to you. Enjoy the art and take action in however you see fit, Now is the time to activate and respond in kind. Lets make a difference and continue the change from within. This starts in our own homes and moves to DC. The world will be a reflection of our inner strengths and morality. Yes, one poetic painting can say a lot and mean so much more.
By Chevalier Tony Clark www.clarkfinearts.com Share this:http://www.arttoartpalettejournal.com/2016/10/the-ark-is-waiting/
First time applicants, as well as returning organizations with new development personnel, are strongly encouraged to attend the Annual WeHo Arts Grant Workshop, Wednesday, August 10, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. at the West Hollywood City Hall Community Meeting Room located at 8300 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood. Parking is available at the City Hall automated parking garage. RSVP to Weiwen Balter firstname.lastname@example.org to attend the workshop.
Grant opportunities include:
CITY ARTS PROJECT GRANTS – to support the production, performance, or presentation of art projects that serve the West Hollywood community. Non-profit organizations may apply for two years of grant funding with one application and with which the organization can apply for two projects, one for each project year. The maximum award any organization may receive under this grant is $8,500 per year. Application deadline: Friday, September 9, 2016 3PM PST.
CULTURAL RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT GRANTS – to support arts organizations with budgets under $75,000 and an interest in strengthening their organization’s infrastructure. The maximum award any organization may receive under this grant is $2,500 with an additional $1,500 in technical assistance. With its first successful application, the organization would be awarded a three-year contract (maximum grant of $7,500 and technical assistance of $4,500 payable over 3 years). Application deadline: Friday, September 9, 2016 3PM PST.
ONE CITY ONE PRIDE FESTIVAL GRANTS – to support programs, projects and events developed/produced by nonprofit organizations, individual artists and artist groups, to expand the celebration of June Pride Month through arts and cultural activities (visit www.weho.org/pride for more info). The 2017 theme is "Go West!" The maximum award is $7,000. Application deadline: Tuesday, September 6, 2016 5PM PST.
ARTS PARTICIPATION GRANTS – to support arts projects developed by education, social service, or community-based organizations in which art is not the primary mission of the organization or smaller arts projects developed by nonprofit arts organizations. An organization may receive only one grant per fiscal year (July 1 - June 30) of up to $1,000. Arts Participation Grants may be applied for at any time during the fiscal year and will be awarded until funds are no longer available. Rolling deadline.
COMMUNITY ENRICHMENT GRANTS – to support a variety of community-based programs, projects and events developed/produced by nonprofit organizations where a modest grant can make a meaningful and sustainable difference in enriching the cultural life of the West Hollywood community. The maximum award any organization may receive under this grant is $1,000. Rolling deadline.
Absolutely-Too-Muchby Simon Critchley Contemporary art is an easy thing to hate. All the meaningless hype, the identikit openings in cities that blur into one long, banal, Beck’s beer fuelled anxiety dream from which there is no escape. The seemingly endless proliferation of biennials—the biennialization or banalization of the world. One begins to think that everything aspires to resemble the opening of a Frieze art fair and every culture wants its own cheeky Damien or spunky Tracey. Glamour, celebrity, business, and radiant superficiality blend together to give each location the patina of globality with just a frisson of local color. People talk excitedly of what’s hot and what’s selling for millions. Capricious and seemingly tyrannical übercurators wander around quickly with their assistants talking on cell phones. The sharp eyes of eager young gallerists track them like prey, waiting for the moment to pounce. Everyone is either on the make or wants to be on the make. Contemporary art has become a high-end, global culture mall, which requires very little previous literacy and where the routine flatness of the gossip allows you to get up to speed very quickly. People with the right connections or serious amounts of money or sheer stubborn persistence or who are prepared to do anything can quickly gain access to what has the appearance of a cultural experience. God, it’s awful isn’t it? And I haven’t even mentioned how this art system is fed by the seemingly endless proliferation of art schools, M.F.A. programs, and the progressive inflation of graduate degrees, where Ph.D.s in fine art are scattered like confetti. It is difficult not to be cynical about contemporary art. Maybe the whole category of the “contemporary” needs much more reflection. Maybe it needs replacing. When does the contemporary cease to be contemporary and become something past? When did the modern become the contemporary? Will the contemporary one day become modern or will there, in the future, be museums of postmodern art: MOPMAs? Why not call contemporary “present art” or “actual art” or “potential art,” or, better, “actually potential art” (APA)? At least it sounds more Aristotelian. But, then again, why use temporal categories at all? Why not use spatial terms instead? Some have spoken of visual art as spatial art, which is an attractive idea. Whichever way one approaches it, however, the categories need to be seriously rethought through research that is historiographical, institutional, and anthropological. The problem with contemporary art is that we all think we know what it means and we don’t. As a consequence, the discourse that surrounds it is drastically impoverished.
But despite such confusions of reference and the horrors of the contemporary art business model—or perhaps even because of it—I want to defend contemporary art, up to a point. It is simply a fact that contemporary art has become the central placeholder for the articulation of cultural meanings—good, bad, or indifferent. I am middle-aged enough to remember when literature, especially the novel, played this role and when cultural gatekeepers were literary critics, or social critics, often from literary backgrounds. That world is gone. The novel has become a quaint, emotively life-changing, and utterly marginal phenomenon. The heroic critics of the past are no more. I watched this change happen slowly when I still lived in England in the sensation-soaked 1990s and recall, as a kind of cultural marker, the opening of Tate Modern in 2000 and immensely long lines queuing up to see a vast spider by Louise Bourgeois in the Turbine Hall. It was clear that something had shifted in the culture.
Even more, the contemporary artist has become the aspirational paradigm of the new worker: creative, unconventional, flexible, nomadic, creating value, and endlessly travelling. In a post-Fordist work paradigm defined by immaterial labor, artists are the perfect entrepreneurs and incarnate the new faux bohemianization of the workplace. Being a contemporary artist looks like a lot of fun, like being a rock star in the 1970s, except you get to live a little longer.
Perversely perhaps, what I admire about much contemporary art is the negotiation of its own relentless commodification, the consciousness of its capture by the circuits of casino capitalism. To work in a university is to be aware that money is changing hands, but the money is hidden and professors like myself can still give themselves the illusion that they are clean-handed, authentic educators and not money-laundering knowledge pimps. But artists do not have that luxury, which gives them a certain honest edginess and less chronic institutional dependency than academics.
The question is whether art is simply a symptom of the rampant capitalization of the mind or whether it can still engage a critical space of distance and even resistance. This might not be the autonomy of Greenbergian modernism, but is closer to what Liam Gillick calls “semi-autonomy.” Not fully free, but not fully compromised either. A space between critical abstraction and commodification. One thinks here of a project like “No Ghost Just a Shell,” by Philippe Parreno and Pierre Huyghe from the early 2000s, which flaunts its commodified character with a manga character bought for 46,000 yen, but manages to subvert it as well. Maybe there is a certain dialectical inversion at work here, where the compromised character of contemporary art also occasionally permits the opposite to come into being.
One might also note the odd way in which the vocabulary of contemporary art, in particular those tendencies that one associates with the brand “relational aesthetics,” with its emphasis on collaboration, participation, and community, has crept into contemporary forms of radical politics. A friend of mine worked on a book about OWS that is prefaced by an aerial, two-dimensional plan of Zuccotti Park. Looking at it, I thought “Jesus, this looks like an installation.” More specifically, it looks like the kinds of wonderful transient structures built by Thomas Hirschhorn, complete with a kitchen, a media space, a library, a discussion space, and so on. So, if there is a rampant commodification of contemporary art, on the one hand, then there is also the bleeding of art practice into novel forms of sociality and politics on the other.
What might “contemporary” art be doing that it is not doing? I have a modest and uncertain proposal to make. Art should not be comfortable. It should be a blow to the back of the neck, as Bruce Nauman says. But what might that mean now? How might that blow be administered?
Let me shift briefly here into a more philosophical register. In Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment, he makes a passing, but suggestive set of distinctions between the beautiful, the sublime, and the monstrous. The beautiful is the free play of the imagination and understanding, when everything seems to hang together, rather like driving a humming-engined expensive German car through the California desert. The sublime is what is refractory to the formal harmony of the experience of beauty, something formless, indefinite, and mighty, but still containable within the realm of the aesthetic. For Kant, the sublime is “the almost-too-much,” and is distinguished from the monstrous understood as “the absolutely-too-much.” That which is monstrous defeats our capacity for conceptual comprehension. Kant simply asserts that the monstrous has no place in the realm of aesthetics. The great aesthetic danger is the moment when the tamed terror of sublimity—the Alps or Mount Snowden for the English Romantics—might tip over into the monstrous. Indeed, in the founding text of philosophical aesthetics,Poetics, Aristotle makes an analogous gesture when he makes a distinction between the fearful (to phoberon), which has a legitimate place within tragedy, and the monstrous (to teratodes), which has no place at all.
To put this in other terms, we might say that a certain dominant strain in the history of philosophical aesthetics might be seen as trying to contain a dimension of experience that we might call the uncontainable. This is the dimension of experience that Nietzsche names the Dionysian, Hölderlin calls the monstrous, Bataille calls the formless, and Lacan calls the real.
But what might art be when it exceeds the relative comfort of the almost-too-much of the sublime or the fearful and moves toward the absolutely-too-much of the monstrous? What happens when the uncontainable can’t be contained? When art bears at its core something unbearable? At this point, art becomes anti-art and we experience discomfort—the Naumanian blow to the back of the neck. I would argue that this is what has been happening for the past century or so in various arts and media as a way of dealing with our presentiment of the unbearable pressure of reality, however we want to capture that experience—the shocking trauma of the First World War, poetry after Auschwitz is barbarism, or whatever—has been the experimentation with what we might call an art of the monstrous. Examples proliferate here, from Artaud’s Theater of Cruelty, to Bataille’s holy disgust, to Hermann Nitsch’s blood orgies and the theatre of Heiner Müller, even through to that most jaded and overworked of academic tropes: the abject.
It seems to me that if we look back at much of what is most radical and interesting in the art of the last century, we can see that we are no longer dealing with the sublime or indeed with art as the possibility of aesthetic sublimation, but with an art of de-sublimation that attempts to adumbrate the monstrous, the uncontainable, the unreconciled, that which is unbearable in our experience of reality.
Here is my modest proposal: beyond endless video montages and the cold mannerist obsessionality of the taste for appropriation and reenactment that has become hegemonic in the art world, the heart of any artistic response to the present should perhaps be the cultivation of the monstrous and its concomitant affect, namely disgust. Disgust here can be thought of as the visceral register of a monstrosity that can no longer be excluded from the realm of the aesthetic, as it was for Aristotle and Kant, but should be its arrhythmic heart, its hot and volatile core. It is important to keep in mind the link to aesthetic judgments of taste orgustus, which gives us the “gust” in dis-gust, the ill wind in the soft-flapping sails of revulsion. Dis-gust is an aesthetic judgement of dis-taste.
What I am calling for, then, is a new art of monstrosity which is able to occupy a certain semi-autonomous distance from the circuits of capture and commodification. Art now must fix its stare unblinkingly at the monstrous, the unbearable, the unreconciled, and the insanely troubling. The disgust that we feel might not simply repulse or repel us. It might also wake us up.
It is a question of how we think through and deploy the essential violence of art, and perhaps understand art as violence against the violence of reality, a violence that presses back against the violence of reality, which is perhaps the artistic task, thinking of Hamlet, in a state that is rotten and in a time that is out of joint. I think of Francis Bacon. When he was asked to reflect on the purported violence of his painting. Bacon said,
When talking about the violence of paint, it’s nothing to do with the violence of war. It’s to do with an attempt to remake the violence of reality.
He goes on,
We nearly always live through screens—a screened existence. And I sometimes think, when people say my work looks violent, that I have been able to clear away one or two of the veils or screens.
Existence seems to me ever more screened and distanced. This is the risk of a shallow shadow-world whose ideological pancake patina is an empty empathy for a suffering that we do nothing to stop and everything to abet in our passivity, dispersal, and narcissism. None of us is free of this. Maybe art, in its essential violence, can tear away one or two of these screens. Maybe then we’d begin to see. We do not see as we are seen because we are wrapped in a screen. Art might unwrap us a little through its violence.
But what is it that disgusts us? Ay, there’s the rub. I remember giving a Halloween sermon called “How to Become God” in the Cabinet space in Brooklyn a couple of years back. I was dressed as a priest and my friend Aaron was clad as a kind of Satanic elf. We sat on 15-foot-high chairs while on a wall behind us a film of Nitsch’s blood orgies played in gory and graphic detail. Punters happily sipped their cocktails and smiled benignly as they gazed at the spectacle. There was even some playful heckling.
The problem with disgust is that it is a moving limit. What outrages one generation—Bacon, say—becomes slothful banality to the next. The problem here is that art, which is meant to enable or produce some kind of experience of the real in our pushing back against it, might finally be a protection against that experience and end up as a kind of decoration. Perhaps, then, art has to become the enemy of aesthetic experience. In which case, we should become the enemies of art in order to reclaim it. Here anti-art becomes true art in a constant war of position with the degeneration of art’s critical potential into the lethean waters of the contemporary. CONTRIBUTORSimon Critchley
Riffing on the past as it comments on our own time, contemporary abstraction evokes landscapes, bodies, signs, buildings, and much more.
TRENDSAPRIL 2013 THE GOLDEN AGE OF ABSTRACTION: RIGHT NOWBY Pepe Karmel POSTED 04/24/13 7:40 AMRiffing on the past as it comments on our own time, contemporary abstraction evokes landscapes, bodies, signs, buildings, and much more 65884714434.3KIt’s tempting to see the years 1912–25 and 1947–70 as the two golden ages of abstract art, and to feel that the present revival of abstraction is no more than a silver age. But the present is always deceptive: it was not evident to their contemporaries that Malevich, Mondrian, and Pollock were the towering giants they seem to us in retrospect. The fact is, there is a vast amount of good abstract art being made today, and the best of it is every bit as good as the best abstract art of the past. The golden age of abstraction is right now. Museums and art centers have lately been taking a remarkable interest in abstract art, past and present. Last year, MoMA opened “Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925”; the Guggenheim offered “Art of Another Kind,” comparing American and European abstraction of the 1950s; “Destroy the Picture,” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, explored the fascination with dirty, distressed materials among artists of the same era; the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal traced theimpressive history of Canadian abstraction since 1939; the Hunter College/Times Square Gallery presented “Conceptual Abstraction,” a survey (which I curated with Joachim Pissarro) of 20 abstract painters who came to prominence in New York in the 1980s; and MUDAM (the Musée d’Art Moderne) in Luxembourg gathered 23 contemporary European artists in “Les Détours de l’abstraction.” Already in 2013, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis has opened “Painter Painter,” a survey of emerging abstract painters from both the U.S. and Europe, and next month, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago opens “MCA DNA Chicago Conceptual Abstraction,1986–1995,” with works in various mediums.
How do we make sense of all this activity in a type of art that was declared dead 40 years ago? I believe the most useful way to understand abstraction is not in terms of its formal evolution (which does not, in any case, fit the linear models beloved of theoreticians) but in terms of thematic content. The formal qualities of an abstract painting or sculpture are significant not in themselves but as part of the work’s expressive message. Artists work by reviving and transforming archetypes from the unconscious of modern culture. Therefore, the most useful questions to ask about contemporary abstract painting or sculpture are: What themes and forms does it retrieve from the tradition of modern art? How have they been changed? And how has the artist used them to express the social, political, and spiritual experience of our own time?
We might view abstract art as falling into six basic categories. Three respond to nature: cosmologies, landscapes, and anatomies. And three respond to culture: fabrics, architecture, and signs. These categories are not mutually exclusive. It often happens, for instance, that cosmological images include anatomical imagery or that images inspired by fabric patterns include drawn or written signs.
Cosmological imagery in modern art assumes three main forms: orbs, orbits, and constellations. The orbs and orbits in the work of pioneering abstract artists like Alexander Rodchenko and Liubov’ Popova reflected the Russian avant-garde’s obsession with space travel as an allegory of revolution: the cosmonaut left behind the corrupt old world to build a rational utopia in outer space. Another kind of cosmological imagery emerged in the 1920s: the constellation or star chart, consisting of an array of dots connected by lines. In the late 1940s, Pollock took the fixed constellations and set them into motion, in paintings like Reflection of the Big Dipper (1947). Both static and mobile versions of the motif play important roles in contemporary abstraction.
For the Parisian Surrealists, the dot-and-line motif of the star chart was significant as an example of the way that intelligible meaning (the figurative image of Orion or the Great Bear) can emerge from chance events (the random distribution of stars in the night sky). For a contemporary audience, however, the same formal motif is likely to read not as a literal constellation but as the more abstract image of a network.
Chris Martin’s cagelike “constellations” evoke the Internet Age, with its promise of total connectedness and its threat of incessant surveillance. The funky, handmade facture of his painting, with papier-mâché spheres emerging at each node, reasserts the value of flawed humanity over the seamless web of technology. Julie Mehretu’s paintings similarly transform the meaning of her sources. Where Pollock’s swirling constellations appeared to their original audience as images of the Jungian unconscious, Mehretu’s grids and streaks, punctuated by shifting crowds and billowing smoke, express the dynamism and turmoil of the global economy.
2. Landscapes A half-century ago, in the February 1961 issue of ARTnews, the iconoclastic art historian Robert Rosenblum coined the term “abstract sublime” to describe the way that the paintings of Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman call to mind a sense of the immensity and power of nature comparable to that found in the landscapes of such Romantic painters as J.M.W. Turner and Caspar David Friedrich. While the sublime may be out of fashion, references to the natural landscape persist in contemporary abstraction. The huge popularity of Anish Kapoor’s monumental Cloud Gate may be due to the hallucinatory impression it gives of having brought the heavens down to Earth. At the same time, the sculpture’s mirrorlike skin, recalling Brancusi’s polished bronzes, places it in the avant-garde tradition of art that actively interacts with its viewers and its environment. In the setting of downtown Chicago, Kapoor’s silvered sculpture seems to absorb, concentrate, and reemit the essence of a great American metropolis.
Of course, abstract art does not need to be monumental to evoke the natural environment. David Reedshades his gestural brushwork with such precision that it suggests roiling clouds over a western landscape. Gerhard Richter’s abstract pictures glow with the same damp, shimmering light as his paintings of the German countryside. His translucent colors and modulated shading look like photographs even in his nonfigurative compositions.
3. Anatomies In Jonathan Lasker’s canvases, thinly painted stage sets and imaginary landscapes are occupied by brooding presences laid in with thick strokes of impasto. These “presences” have typically come to take the form of P-shaped configurations suggesting massive heads that confront one another, like the haunted eyeballs and truncated feet of late Philip Guston. However, the abstract anatomies of contemporary artists rarely correspond to the image of the human body as a whole. Instead, their work tends to hint at individual body parts, internal organs, or the “abject” substances excreted by the body. The masterwork of sculptor Tim Hawkinson is an enormous installation of floating bladders linked by long intestinal tubes, appropriately titled Uberorgan. Among painters, Sue Williams has created throbbing allover compositions of sexual organs, while Carrie Moyer uses biomorphic curves and blushing colors to intimate arousal in compositions that initially look like abstract landscapes.
Leaving the recognizable body further behind, Ingrid Calame depicts a universe of drips, stains, and smears, their pathetic associations offset by bright, incongruous colors. It seems at first glance that Calame’s skeins and pools of color must have been dripped freely onto canvas, Pollock-style. However, the apparent fluidity of her work is the result of a meticulous process of tracing markings found on sidewalks, floors, and streets. These drawings on translucent paper are archived and then arranged in layers to create new compositions.
4. Fabrics Turning from natural to man-made models for abstraction, fabric has figured prominently as a source of inspiration. Throughout much of the 20th century, male abstract artists rejected comparisons between their paintings and decorative fabrics. In the 1970s, however, women artists, such as Miriam Schapiro and Joyce Kozloff, set out to revindicate decoration and to use it as the point of departure for a new, feminist mode of abstraction. The artists (both male and female) of the Pattern and Decoration movement often incorporated representational and architectural elements into their brilliantly colored compositions. Of the artists emerging from this movement, Valerie Jaudon has remained one of the most severely abstract. In her recent work, she almost eliminates color, using only black and white, or white paint on bare brown linen. But she combines this austere palette with a sensual profusion of pattern, numbing and teasing the mind like a carved wooden panel from the Alhambra. Her designs suggest the repeat patterns of fabric or wallpaper, without ever quite resolving into regularity.
In the 1970s, some American artists, like Kim MacConnel, looked to African fabrics as models of laid-back geometry. Today, it is African artists themselves who are winning recognition as brilliant innovators. Take, for example, the abstract tapestries of El Anatsui, on view in a retrospective that runs through August 4 at the Brooklyn Museum. Anatsui’s tapestries are put together from hundreds or thousands of pieces of metallic scrap—the caps, bands, wrappers, and labels that adorn the bottles and other items you would find in a market or trash heap in western Africa. The shimmering gold and silver of Anatsui’s work offer an image of celebratory splendor. Draped and folded, rather than hung flush against the wall, these tapestries challenge our assumptions about the obligatory flatness of abstraction. Other contemporary abstractionists working with the imagery of fabric and decorative patterning include Linda Besemer, Bernard Frize, Richard Kalina, Ryan McGinness, Beatriz Milhazes,Sean Scully, Frank Stella, Philip Taaffe, and Adriana Varejão.
5. Architectures Peter Halley’s paintings, which launched the Neo-Geo movement of the 1980s, focus obsessively on the motif of a rectangular cell, reminiscent of a house, a prison, a computer chip, or a piece of machinery. Resting on a narrow band of earth or flooring, the structure is plugged into its environment by conduits that run through the ground or take to the sky, connecting it into an invisible urban grid. Instead of a place of refuge, the cell becomes a symbol of the postmodern self: isolated, immobilized, and under surveillance. The pure optical quality of 1960s modernism gives way in Halley’s work to a purgatory of Day-Glo colors and motel-room textures: garish, menacing, and weirdly seductive. Another painter, Sarah Morris, uses tilted grids and pulsing colors to suggest the dazed confusion found in the mirrored facades of corporate modernism. Whereas Halley and Morris propose large allegorical statements about contemporary society, Rachel Harrison speaks to a realm of personal experience. Her sculptures often incorporate beams, lintels, and moldings embedded in cement or pieces of sheetrock fastened into a loose grid, accompanied by toys, framed photographs, and other household furnishings. The works seem like fragments of houses that have been smashed apart by natural disasters or worn down by everyday life. And yet there’s something oddly cheerful about Harrison’s eroded architectures, even when they’re not painted in the primary-school colors she often favors. They have a kind of pluck, as if they’re determined to carry on, no matter what. (In Harrison’s most recent work, architecture has mutated into anatomy, as her stacked forms begin to resemble living creatures.)
6. Signs Peter Halley’s paintings, which launched the Neo-Geo movement of the 1980s, focus obsessively on the motif of a rectangular cell, reminiscent of a house, a prison, a computer chip, or a piece of machinery. Resting on a narrow band of earth or flooring, the structure is plugged into its environment by conduits that run through the ground or take to the sky, connecting it into an invisible urban grid. Instead of a place of refuge, the cell becomes a symbol of the postmodern self: isolated, immobilized, and under surveillance. The pure optical quality of 1960s modernism gives way in Halley’s work to a purgatory of Day-Glo colors and motel-room textures: garish, menacing, and weirdly seductive. Another painter, Sarah Morris, uses tilted grids and pulsing colors to suggest the dazed confusion found in the mirrored facades of corporate modernism. Whereas Halley and Morris propose large allegorical statements about contemporary society, Rachel Harrison speaks to a realm of personal experience. Her sculptures often incorporate beams, lintels, and moldings embedded in cement or pieces of sheetrock fastened into a loose grid, accompanied by toys, framed photographs, and other household furnishings. The works seem like fragments of houses that have been smashed apart by natural disasters or worn down by everyday life. And yet there’s something oddly cheerful about Harrison’s eroded architectures, even when they’re not painted in the primary-school colors she often favors. They have a kind of pluck, as if they’re determined to carry on, no matter what. (In Harrison’s most recent work, architecture has mutated into anatomy, as her stacked forms begin to resemble living creatures.)
Architectural structures also play an important role in the abstract work of John Armleder, Frank Badur, Helmut Federle, Liam Gillick, Guillermo Kuitca, Sherrie Levine, David Novros, Doris Salcedo, Andrew Spence, Jessica Stockholder, Sarah Sze, Phoebe Washburn, and Rachel Whiteread.Signs have been an important element of modern art ever since 1911 and 1912, when Picasso and Braque put stenciled letters and scraps of newspaper into their Cubist pictures. But Jasper Johns’s flag, map, and number pictures of the 1950s and early 1960s initiated a revolutionary transformation in the character of sign painting. His stenciled letters and regular grids came to convey meaninglessness instead of meaning. They didn’t express emotion; they repressed it. In one way or another, his work lies behind much of the most important art of 1960s, from the monochromes of Frank Stella and Brice Marden to the Minimal boxes of Robert Morris and Donald Judd. Fifty years later, Johns continues to exercise a decisive influence on abstraction. Wade Guyton, shown last year at the Whitney, updates Johns’s number paintings, eliminating the artist’s hand by using digital printers instead of stencils. Guyton’s insistent X’s seem less like marks than like cancellations, refusing to signify and then fading into blankness.
Mark Bradford’s paintings resemble the giant computer screens that sophisticated police departments use for real-time surveillance of traffic, crime, and accidents, with data overlaid on urban grids. But in contrast to the flickering pixels of the computer screen, Bradford’s images have actual substance. Like Calame, he works with papers and materials gathered from the streets of Los Angeles, shredding and aging them, then layering them into his compositions. Bradford’s powerful combination of imagery and materials captures the experience of living simultaneously in the parallel universes of information and sensation.
Ultimately, the evolution of abstract art—like the evolution of modern art more broadly—has been a series of responses to the experience of life in the 20th and 21st centuries. As Halley argues in a brilliant 1991 essay, abstraction before World War II was largely inspired by the utopian belief that rational technocracy (i.e., socialism) would create a better world. The technocratic ideal found its most powerful symbol not in the rosy-cheeked workers of Socialist Realism but in geometric abstraction. After the devastation of World War II and the revelation of the horrors of Stalinist Russia, geometry could no longer function as an image of utopia. Changing polarity, it became instead a symbol of alienation.
Much contemporary art—not to mention fiction, film, and television—reflects a Blade Runner vision of a world, in which the individual is rendered powerless by anonymous government agencies, giant corporations, and deafening mass culture. It’s useful to remember that this nightmare vision is itself a romantic stereotype, ignoring the positive aspects of postmodern society. Since 1980, the number of people living in extreme poverty has declined dramatically, both as a percentage of world population and in absolute numbers. The principal reason is the globalization of the economy, which has created millions of factory jobs in the former Third World, lifting workers from starvation in the countryside to subsistence in the cities. Some of the most exciting abstract artists today are those, like Anatsui and Mehretu, whose work responds to this transformation, either by reinventing traditional arts for a global art world or by creating visual allegories of social change that carry us beyond the old capitalism-socialism divide. In 2013, as in 1913, abstraction is how we think about the future.
Pepe Karmel is associate professor of art history at New York University.
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Michael Genovese opened his 3rd solo show at Moran Bondaroff on La Cienega on Saturday night. I have to admit I was very impressed with these intricately painted works and the perfection that Genovese achieved. Large, very gessoed canvas' painted in grids in Polyurethane (basic car paint). The surface was magnificent with few if any imperfections. His concept is that these came from his word searchs on his mobile phone where the colored grids would appear while the phone did its thing. Not entirely sure that I get this connection to the art but they are very nice! Historically they bring up Mondrian and his use of grid and color This show is a far cry from his "cracks in the wall" show Lines and Cracks and Zebras and Horses" at Ow Wow Gallery in 2013.
In the small back gallery were small paintings, really small! Lucian Smith had a series of "small" oil on linen paintings, 5 to be exact. About the size of a sheet of paper and about that interesting. From a distance they could be read as waves on the beach but up close this effect was lost. Forbes featured Smith twice in its 2013 and 2014 list of 30 under 30 in their "Art & Style" list and the New York Times and Vogue Magazine both named him the art world Wunderkind. I didnt get either of those in this small show but hey I did enjoy the proximity to the bar!
"The art world is much, much larger today; indeed, I’d say that there are multiple art worlds. It's more complicated for artists to make it today because it's harder for them to identify where they fit in, to find an authentic voice, and to find a community of support. But, there are also a lot more opportunities out there. I think it’s important for young artists find a network and be part of it, really participate, attend, and engage in what’s around you." I saw this quote today from Elizabeth Ferrer, the vice president of contemporary art at BRIC Arts Media in Brooklyn. The funny thing about the quote is that she points it towards "younger" artists. Those of us that have been in the art world for a while are right there with that mind set! I feel frustrated about not fitting in and not understanding what is important anymore. Im not entirely sure those that do fit in feel like they fit in! It seems like every 6 or 8 years there is a new, weirder than the last time, art movement that just peters away and changes the art world once again and everyone that was beginning to understand where we were going, gets lost again! At a recent art fair, I was struck by how much "art" was really arts and craft and thought to myself that Martha Stewart could have another big career if she ever gets tired of glueing beads on bottles. Why is it that as artists age, movers and shakers start looking for younger and younger artists? Is it kinda like having a mistress? The art world is all about experience and what is on your resume or at least that was what I have always be told. I always thought that the resume dictated prices and the long term value of any artists work, Im beginning to think this is wrong and that I should just start partying with Leonardo DiCaprio. How many times do you go to openings and see artists with relatively nothing on their resume's? No shows, no awards, nothing outside the US and yet the biggest names in the artworld are buying their works as fast as they can and then, ZOOM!, they are represented at Gagosian or Paula Cooper!
Over the weekend, I attended the opening for Alex Israel and Bret Easton Ellis at Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills. I was greeted by a huge, door popping crowd which reminded me more of a rave than a gallery opening. Inside Isreal, an LA native from a local wealthy family, had created many large, billboard size works. They even smelled like billboards. Ellis, a well-known Generation X author, collaborated with Isreal by supplying him with short texts that Isreal then plopped onto stock images that he pulled from the internet and had printed at Warner Brothers in various fonts. The look is very "billboard on Sunset". I was struck by the large, at capacity crowd that could not get enough of standing in from of the works, especially the one titled, "I will Become My Own Kind Of Star". There were young want to be's as well as Hollywood;s A list, artists, unknowns, and established collectors. It was really a shit-show but so very entertaining! I am interested to hear what everyone thought of the show. Did it do what it claimed and capture "celebrity cultures as well as the slick appearance and aspirations of the entertainment capital"? Did it really capture LA or was it really just showing that "reality television personality" that we see every night on the Kardashians?? Was the work a hard look at the creative culture or merely backdrops painted to engage our eyes? Larry Gagosian does create art stars, I am curious to see where this goes!