Relatively speaking, Thursday wasn’t such a bad day to walk around New York City to see art.  The “cool” 90 degrees was bearable and with some strategic south-side-of-the-street-shade-walking, the worst of the heat could be avoided (“…walking on the sidewalk hotter than a match head…”).  The No. 6 train uptown, with its working air conditioning, was downright comfortable, if a bit aromatic.  I began my day heading uptown to the Whitney.

Starting at the top floor, I finally caught the “Collecting Biennials” show that I had missed during the Biennial proper and am glad I did.  It mostly felt pretty familiar, with staples such as Hopper’s “Early Sunday Morning” and Duane Hanson’s “Woman with Dog”, but many such as Peter Blume’s surreal “Man of Sorrows” were memorable and new to me.

The real reason I visited the Whitney, though, was for the Charles Burchfield exhibition.  (Note that if you visit, the show proceeds clockwise — start to your left as you exit the stairs — which is the reverse of many shows at the Whitney).  It’s a diverse show, with beautifully composed high contrast landscapes alternating with somewhat chaotic, vibrating images in which it seems the artist was attuned to waves of energy from the objects in his scene.  I liked the more graphic (and less chaotic) pieces best and a few of the paintings that dealt with atmosphere and seasons were sensational.  Burchfield is often grouped into the same set of American modernists as one of my favorite painters, Oscar Bluemner, and so I went to this exhibition with comparisons in mind.  Although there are some formal similarities in the occasional use of stark trees and repeated patterns in abstracted architectural elements, to my eye the Bluemner paintings are so much more exciting.  Hopefully, once the Whitney expands into a second space in Chelsea there will be enough room to show more of both artist’s work at the same time and on a more regular basis.

I headed to Chelsea and began exploring, this time starting all the way down on 19th Street at David Zwirner Gallery for a show entitled, “The Evryali Score.”  It’s a group show of largely conceptual art — not usually my thing, but I point it out because of a few items that caught my eye.  One piece, a portion of a composite work by Mary Ellen Carroll entitled “Alas Poor Yorick”, consisted of a large sheet of paper full of tightly scribbled black ink marks that reminded me of the work of one of my colleagues at Artists’ Gallery, Jennifer Cadoff.

I was surprised to find several pieces by Fred Sandback that were not of the threaded space-slicing sort.  Instead, they consist of framed sheets of paper with a phrase or two of typewritten text.  The text defines, as a sort of a database query onto the world in the style of a linguistic discussion on referents, the existence of a sculpture.  For instance, one piece reads, “There exists a sculpture consisting of all infrared radiation present in my studio on 11th street in Brooklyn.”

Another piece was a head-shaker: a blank canvas hung on the wall — that’s it (remember the old Batman episode where the Joker creates a similarly empty painting and calls it, “Death of a Bat”?).  Well, in this case it was the metadata that made the difference in Bruno Jakob’s piece (or at least made it entertaining):  “The BRAIN Untitled”, Invisible painting: brain on unprimed canvas.  It’s not everyday you see a work where the medium is listed as “brain on canvas”!

Moving along, I found another conceptually interesting but much more optically pleasing exhibition at Kim Foster Gallery in the work of Christian Faur.  Faur uses thousands of “hand-cast” crayons in varying tones as the pixels in pointillist portraits taken from Depression-era photographs.  The crayons are stacked in a grid and bound within a frame so that there’s a three dimensional element to the works: as you move from left to right you catch more or less of the length of the crayon.  Though the crayons are colorful, the overall image reads as a toned black-and-white (or sepia) image through a kind of optical integration that changes depending upon your distance from the work.

Upstairs at Kathryn Markel Fine Arts, a small group show contains a number of eye-catching abstracts.  In particular, I loved the two curvy, colorful abstractions by Julie Gross that combine biomorphic shapes with careful geometry.

At The Pace Gallery on 22nd Street, a show by the enigmatic Tim Hawkinson entitled One Man Band takes a minute or two to register and at first I thought it would be an in-and-out experience.  However, the carefully engineered musical objects are each worthy of some study.  Most of the objects are wired up to motion detectors so that as you approach the piece they “turn on” and something starts moving in such a way as to cause the object to make musical sounds.  For instance, in my favorite piece, a long string of carefully spaced beads winds around pulleys mounted on a large tree branch so that when the beads trigger one or more sensors, a slide whistle receives a burst of air and an adjustment to its length, producing a stream of playful toy instrument notes.

After some much needed fueling up with some friends at The Half King, I went to the opening reception of “New York Moments” at George Billis Gallery.  This group show contains several dozen very finely painted images depicting scenes from around New York.  David FeBland, whose work I first came across during one of the TriBeCa open studio tours five or six years ago, shows a piece that was instantly recognizable as his: I remember his work specifically because of the appealingly expressive textures in the often watery scenes of people splashing through the streets of the city.  Andrew Jones has two fine “stoop paintings” remaining from his solo show last month (featuring lovingly painted handrails and stairs from local neighborhood stoops).  Several artists were inspired by the views from rooftops (“…gonna meet you on the rooftop…”) with water towers featuring prominently, including paintings by Ephraim Rubenstein (whose drawing class at ASL was always full so I never managed to get in) and Lucy Gould Reitzfeld, whose Landscape Painting class at The School of Visual Arts I was fortunate enough to be able to attend.  Her painting, “Snow Light“, is part of her recent series of “Mercer Street” paintings that capture the light and atmosphere of views from atop a building on Mercer Street at various times of the day and year.  The reception was packed and unlike another opening I attended that night, the A/C was working (“…despite the heat it’ll be alright…”)!  A New York themed show was a nice way to finish up a day of exploring art around the city (“…in the summer, in the city / in the summer, in the city…”)

This month I have just one painting on display at Artists’ Gallery, but it’s a favorite one that I haven’t exhibited in quite some time:

Journey, acrylic on canvas, 36x36

This month’s exhibition is up through August 1, 2010, and the opening reception for the featured artists (Carol Sanzalone and Alla Podolsky) is this Saturday, July 10, from 4-7 pm.  Gallery hours are Fri-Sat-Sun 11am-6pm and the gallery is located at 18 Bridge St, Lambertville, NJ 08530.

The painting Change Over Time consists of approximately a dozen layers of marks interspersed with a dozen layers of thinly tinted glaze, creating both physical and optical depth.  The glazing layers contain a mixture of charcoal and “interference” pigments, so that the painting appears to have both coarse texture as well as a very smooth, glossy overall finish.

This piece is on display this month (June 2010) at Artists’ Gallery and will be up through July 4, 2010.

Change Over Time, acrylic and charcoal on panel, 24x24

This month at Artists’ Gallery I’m exhibiting six paintings, including these two “corner canvases”.  The canvas is beveled so that the painting hangs snugly in corners (they also can be hung flat against the wall).  This show is up through July 4, 2010, and the gallery’s hours are Fri-Sat-Sun from 11am-6pm (18 Bridge St, Lambertville, NJ).

Both Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 24x12 in.

Both Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 24x12 in.

I started off yesterday’s trip to New York on the upper east side where I met a friend for lunch, after which I had intended to see the Julie Mehretu show at the Guggenheim. As I started walking towards the museum, I had a déjà vu moment while thinking about why I don’t get to the Guggenheim very often: I’ve done this before, and it’s closed on Thursdays, the day I’m usually visiting the city. So, no Mehretu (or Kenneth Noland) on this visit.

Fortunately, the Met is exhibiting “Picasso in the Met” just a few blocks away. It’s an exhaustingly huge display of all of the Picasso works within the museum’s collection. Unfortunately, shows like this are usually packed and this one was no exception. More frustrating than just being crowded, though, was the exasperating number of people just moving from painting to painting taking photographs with their cameras… and often with just cell phone cameras! It required much restraint to not scream out, “Look at the painting — it’s right there!” But, I need to get over this particular pecccadillo as it’s not likely to go away and isn’t it snooty of me to tell people how to enjoy their museum experience?

I couldn’t spend that much time at the show because the crowds made lingering at any one piece difficult and because I needed to get down to Chelsea to meet a friend for coffee. So I hoofed it across Central Park to the west side and caught the C train down to 23rd Street. After re-fueling and catching up, I started gallery-going in earnest and there are a several shows worth noting.

First up, on 24th Street at Mike Weiss Gallery is Piet van den Boog (the second time I’ve seen his work at this gallery). Big heads (especially the artist’s) are back, along with large bodies in this visually exciting show. The paintings are large, oil-and-clay-on-acrylic-on-oxidized-steel (mounted on stretcher bars), so each piece has a variety of textures: crumbly clay (part real clay, part trompe l’oeil, I think) on the figure’s body, pleasantly stippled brushstrokes in the flesh (especially in the faces), sketchy acrylic underpaintings, and oxidized black steel backgrounds. Consisting of one intense self portrait and perhaps six or seven showing a woman covered with clay, the show is a metaphorical reference to a scene from a Sylvia Plath book where the narrator is paralyzed with indecision about choosing which fig to eat on a fig tree, and while making up her mind she witnesses the decay of the unchosen figs.

Gagosian‘s two Chelsea galleries both are exhibiting impressive, must-see shows from diverse ends modern art history: Roy Lichtenstein’s pop still lifes on 24th Street and Claude Monet’s late Impressionist work on 21st. The Lichtentstein paintings are completely flat and devoid of visible brushwork, using instead a graphic sensibility, bright primary colors, and high-contrast patterns (stripes or Benday dots) for their visual appeal. Though it’s an impressive show, the still lifes don’t have the narrative interest of his comic paintings or the abstract appeal of his brushstroke pieces. The ones I liked the most were paintings that quoted other figures in art history (is that from a Matisse? is that Leger?). The exhibition includes a handful of very enjoyable sculptures that are like graphic paintings that broke free from the canvas and landed on stilts.

With the Lichtenstein show, the pieces are best seen from a good distance away and there’s not much point in getting up close; this type of work looks about the same in reproduction as it does in the gallery. On the other hand, the Monet show on 21st Street needs to be seen in person. These paintings are, of course, brushstroke intensive and worth getting close to (but not too close! The Gagosian guards are particularly aggressive for this show in keeping people at least a few feet away from the works, which is a shame but probably makes sense for an exhibition like this where the insurance costs must be astronomical!). And as is the case with much of Monet’s work, what you see in a painting depends upon how far away you are from it. Up close, it’s brushstroke, scumbling, and swirls of color. If you squint or step back, though, beautiful snippets of landscape pop into place. Especially exciting are the scenes in the penultimate gallery showing “The Alley of Roses” and “The Japanese Bridge”.

I then headed back up to 27th Street to Sundaram Tagore Gallery and an exhibition of acrylic on fabric over panel paintings by Robert Yasuda. In many of these pieces Yasuda is using what I believe to be interference acrylic paints (I’ve used them as well) that produce a “flip” effect as you view them at different angles with respect to the lighting. From one angle, a paint may appear pinkish but from another it will flip to the complementary green. Multiple sheets of these and regular acrylic, either poured or brushed onto the fabric, produce beautiful fields of color that change as you approach the works. Catch the light one way and you see a beautiful haze of purple streaking across the painting but back up a bit and the purple vanishes. In a few paintings, it appears that instead of the interference effect the artist is adjusting the gloss or reflectivity on the paint, so that for instance a reflective golden yellow blends into a matte yellow backdrop. Fabric is stretched across custom-carved wood panels with organic dimples, protrusions, or nooks that add more intrigue to the composition. Unfortunately, it’s probably impossible to capture the visual appearance of these paintings adequately in photographs, so if you want to see them you’ll have to visit the gallery.

Making for a nice comparison with the Yasuda show, McKenzie Fine Art exhibits the work of James Lecce, another artist using acrylics in creative ways to colorful effect. Lecce’s abstract panels consist of multiple layers of acrylic poured under certain artist-defined procedural constraints. The paintings vary between cool, flat color and reflective metallic pigments in biomorphically dimensional abstractions. As with Yasuda, how you catch the light reflecting off the piece changes your perception of lights and darks. I can’t help but think of technique when looking at them and in particular asking questions about how long do those pours take to dry and what happens if you make a mistake? (Working with poured acrylic can be tricky — better get your medium mixed just right and hope you don’t have dust floating around.)

Andy Goldsworthy heads to the city for a nifty show at Galerie Lelong that features several series of photographs documenting patterns of water evaporating on the ground. In one series, a Goldsworthy squiggle appears as a reflection of water painted on the road in between some parked cars. Over time, the scene darkens towards night and the water evaporates so that the patterns begin to fade away. A separate room exhibits a “triptych” of three video projections that show “rain shadows” from various spots in New York: the artist laid down on the sidewalk as it started to rain and then filmed the resulting “shadow” of a dry spot as it changes over time.

Finally, I went to the opening reception for Andrew Jones‘ latest work at George Billis Gallery. This show continues his series of “stoop paintings” that picture the stair railings of (mostly) Greenwich Village in interesting lights and with creative compositions. Even more so than in his last show, these paintings really pop with dimension through control of detail, contrast, and atmospheric perspective. Both the shadows and the lights in these paintings contain variations of color and tone in the brushstroke so that they’re worth looking at up close as well as from across the room. Most of the pieces focus on the “newel”, the post at the end of the stoop on which the handrail swirls to a flourishing finish, though there are a couple with direct-on views of arabesque railing posts that provide a nice semi-abstract variation from the newels.

(After a day full of walking around the galleries (with some very sore feet to show for it — those shoes weren’t as comfy as I thought), I grabbed a quick bite to eat at Rin Thai on 23rd Street between 7th & 8th. I didn’t get to try anything more than my entree (Bamboo Pad Ped, extra spicy), but it was fantastic and wonderfully flavorful (would have been better to share, though).  Recommended if you’re in the area and like Thai food!)

I have one photo in this year’s Ellarslie Open at the Trenton City Museum in Cadwalader Park, Trenton, NJ. It’s my panoramic shot from Mercer County Park, taken last November. It’s stitched together from some 6 or 7 separate shots and there’s so much data that I could print this photo much bigger, but here it’s about 30 inches long.


Mercer County Park, 13×37 inches (framed), © Andrew Werth 2009

My 2-person show is up for another two weekends at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville, NJ. Here’s a wide-angled panoramic view of my half of the show:

InstallationApr2010

This weekend (Apr 24/25) is also Lambertville‘s annual “Shad Fest“, a celebration of a fish I’ve never really heard of. But it’s an art- and food-filled festival right in the middle of the town.  I’ll be at the gallery all day on Saturday if you’d like to stop by and say Hi.

Late last year I finished this painting, Time’s Texture, which is now on display at Artists’ Gallery in my 2-person show with Charles Katzenbach.  The show is up through May 2 and the gallery is open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11am-6pm, or by appointment.  I’ll be at the gallery this Saturday, April 17, from 11am-6pm if you’d like to stop by and say Hi.

Time's Texture, acrylic on panel, 36 x 24

The paintings are hung, the wall labels are in place, the light bulbs are directed, and the gallery is looking mighty colorful!  My 2-person show with Charles Katzenbach, Reflections, opens to the public tomorrow (Friday, April 9).  We’re having an opening reception on Saturday, April 10, from 6-9pm.  Hope to see you there!  The show is at Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, NJ.

Connections, acrylic on panel, 30 x 24

In case you’ve never been to the gallery, here’s a map to help you get there.


View Larger Map

Thank you to Art Educators of NJ (AENJ) for inviting me to speak at their annual Youth Art Month awards ceremony in Trenton today.  It was an honor to discuss my art career with such an art-loving audience and a pleasure to meet so many of the high school students selected to represent their counties from all around the state.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Paintings by Charles Katzenbach and Andrew Werth

Art Exhibit:  April 9 – May 2, 2010
Opening Reception:  Saturday, April 10, 2010, 6-9pm

Lambertville, NJ, March 11, 2010 – Reflections, an exhibition of colorful, eye-catching abstract paintings by Charles Katzenbach and Andrew Werth, will be on display at Artists’ Gallery from Friday, April 9, through Sunday, May 2, 2010. A reception with the artists will be held at the gallery’s new location (18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, NJ) from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. on April’s “Second Saturday,” April 10, 2010.

In Reflections, Katzenbach and Werth offer viewers a variety of visual experiences through the manipulation of paint, pattern, and surface.  As you walk around the gallery, paintings change their appearance depending upon where you stand.  In Katzenbach’s oil paintings on glass and mirrors, your angle of view determines which planes of color are revealed and which are hidden, with reflections from one layer interacting with the paint on another.  Werth’s acrylic paintings make use of thousands of hand-painted marks of color that the eye integrates differently depending upon how far back you stand from the work.  In addition, some works include reflective and pearlescent pigments whose appearance changes as you walk from left to right.

Reflection also refers to a type of symmetry used by both artists in this exhibition.  Katzenbach’s Disorderly Colors, for instance, is reflectively symmetrical in its design both vertically and horizontally, though as the title suggests, not in its dramatic use of color.  Werth’s Conceptual Framework has a diagonal reflective symmetry in its geometry, a tessellation of patterns that include rotation and translation as well as reflection.

In addition to these literal reflections, both artists encourage viewers to consider reflections of a more metaphorical kind.  Katzenbach has long been fascinated with Tibetan mandalas and the deeply spiritual and symbolic Sri Yantra. Werth’s paintings are often about how our embodied minds make sense of the world and are inspired by his interest in philosophy and cognitive science.

Charles Katzenbach studied art both at Princeton University with painter Esteban Vincente and master potter Toshiko Takaezu and then at the New York Studio School.  He was featured in New Art International 2004 and has exhibited in solo and group shows throughout the Northeast.  Katzenbach lives in Hopewell, NJ.

Andrew Werth received degrees in Computer Engineering and Information Networking from Carnegie Mellon University and has studied art at various schools in New York City including The Arts Students League, The School of Visual Arts, and The New School. His paintings have been exhibited at many tri-state venues from Philadelphia through Hudson, NY.  Werth lives in West Windsor, NJ.

About the Gallery:  Artists’ Gallery is now located at 18 Bridge Street in the heart of historic Lambertville, NJ. The gallery is open every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. and by appointment. For more information, visit www.lambertvillearts.com.

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April 9 - May 2, 2010 (reception Saturday, April 10, 6-9pm)

One month from today is the opening reception for Reflections, my next two-person show with Charles Katzenbach at Artists’ Gallery.  The show runs from April 9 through May 2 with the reception on Saturday, April 10, from 6-9pm.  Artists’ Gallery is now located at 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, NJ 08530.

Center of Narrative Gravity, acrylic on panel, 12x12

I recently finished this painting, entitled Center of Narrative Gravity.  The title comes from a metaphor used by philosopher Daniel Dennett in describing The Self in his book Consciousness Explained (and elsewhere).

This year I only managed to make it to two of the art fairs during Art Fair week in Manhattan, but overall it was an enjoyable time spent with a diverse selection of artwork.

First up was The Armory Show, which is open through Sunday at Piers 94 and 92 on the West Side of the city.  As was the case last year, the show is split up into the contemporary art section and the modern section.  This year we arrived at the contemporary section before the show opened and that was a good idea: we did our waiting inside rather than outside where it had not yet warmed up.  The contemporary section has more than 200 galleries and it can be a bit mind-numbing.  You can’t spend a lot of time with all of the work, but then you wouldn’t really want to.  Instead, you have to look for things that catch your eye and focus your time there.

Fortunately, there were quite a few galleries that had work worthy of close study and appreciation, and I will focus on those.  I liked an Odili Donald Odita geometric abstract acrylic painting (at Jack Shainman) on a smokey plexiglass support, where the texture of the painted areas contrasted with the smooth and glassy areas left bare.

My wife and I both admired several Jacob Hashimoto constructions that we found among at least two separate galleries, but in particular the yellow and white “Field of Yellow Blocks” at the Studio La Citta gallery.  It consists of perhaps several hundred paper-like yellow and white waxy rectangles strung together carefully at varying depths between two rows of pegs.  It caught your eye from a distance and then was worth looking at up close from the front and the sides to admire how it  all held together.

Hashimoto @ Studio La Citta

One of my favorite pieces of the day was Rafael Lozano-Hemmer‘s interactive “The Company of Colours“.  It consisted of an LCD screen with a small camera attached; the camera beams out at the world and the screen displays what the camera sees, but does so in a highly pixilated manner.  As you approach the screen, you see that each block of color is labeled with a color name and the image is constantly changing as you move around to reflect the latest colors in the pixilated image.  After a few moments, the screen temporarily changes to show the image using 16 “culturally significant” color palettes in the history of personal computing and gaming (e.g., one of the screens shows a Commodore 64’s color palette, another shows a Sega game palette).

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

The Canada New York gallery had a nice exhibition of works by Xylor Jane.  Jane uses thousands of slightly raised dots of color as a kind of pixel in making paintings that are full of repetition, counting, numbers, pattern, and color.  It’s not hard to understand why I would appreciate these works!

Xylor Jane

Paul Kasmin put on a large exhibition of wonderful James Nares brushstroke paintings.  These huge canvases are filled each with what looks to be one long, swirly stroke of paint as foreground on a solid background underpainting.  I never get tired of seeing these apparently simple looking but elegant pieces.  What you need to know about how they are made can be summed up by this photo.   In at least one of the paintings in this booth, Nares is using a kind of interference paint where the color of the paint changes based upon your angle of view so that as you walk from one end to the other of the 15-or-so foot long painting, you see the paint changing color as you walk.

James Nares

I saw several people that I knew or recognized at the art fairs today.  One was Nancy Chunn, whose painting class I took seven or eight years ago at the School of Visual Arts.  She had a huge exhibition at the Ronald Feldman Fine Arts booth, where she seemed to be always tied up explaining her work to others and so unfortunately I couldn’t say Hi (not that she would remember me, anyway, but I wanted to congratulate her on the show).  Each piece consists of perhaps a couple dozen separate canvases that together provide a neurotic narrative of scenes from the life of a fearful Chicken Little (the overall series is entitled, “Chicken Little and the Culture of Fear).  Chunn paints in a crisp, likeable illustrative style with political content and this series has you wondering how much of Chicken Little is neuroses and how much is prescience…

I also spied John Corzine walking around The Armory Show, both at the contemporary side as well as the modern side.  He was simply strolling up and down the aisles looking at the art but he must also have been amused at the path of “There’s John Corzine” that followed a few feet behind him everywhere he walked.  I wish I had thought to invite him to my show next month!  Of course, that would have been rather awkward and probably rude.

We headed over to the Modern side of the fair where there is one gallery after another of top notch blue chip art.  Since so much of the work here was familiar and very likable, I’ll skip listing the pieces but share a few observations.

Unlike at the ADAA show (which I write about, below), the crowd here was a diverse mixture of “the masses”, young and old, art-world knowledgable and not.  One older couple was admiring a Gerhard Richter painting (there were at least 3 of his very nice signature squeegie abstractions spread around).  I overheard the man telling his wife, “Now that’s a style I like…”  The wife asks, “What’s his name?”  Looking closely, squinting, the husband exclaims, “Hmmm…  Jerard Richter”.

As I was walking down the first aisle of pier 92, there was Chuck Close taking in the sights.  He created a stir similar to that of Corzine, though it had a different flair.  More people seemed willing to approach Close, but for those who didn’t recognize him you couldn’t help but feel that they were missing something: I saw a young couple eyeing a Chuck Close print as if they’d never seen one before and I so wanted to point out to them that the artist was but a few dozen feet away (they didn’t speak English).

Jonathan Boos gallery had a very nice Oscar Bluemner painting ($975,000!).  I’m used to seeing Yayoi Kusama “infinity nets” at the art fairs, but this show included an “infinity petals” triptych in red and black.  James Graham and Sons exhibited some of the recent drawings from John Zinsser, meaning that at least two former instructors of mine were represented in the fairs today. The Modern section of the Armory show makes the whole Armory ticket ($30) worthwhile, since even if you go through the contemporary section without finding much work that you love, any fan of modern painting will enjoy this portion of the fair.

After wolfing down a late lunch along Ninth Avenue, we headed over to the ADAA’s “The Art Show” at the Park Avenue Armory at 67th Street.  The crowd here is much more serious and well-dressed than down at the pier, though on the other hand I’ve never seen so many young children at an event like this.  Whether the parents were trying to get their kids some culture or they didn’t want to spend a few bucks on babysitters, it was actually a bit unsettling.  Young kids running around oblivious to the dollar amount of damage that they could do in the blink of an eye made me very nervous!

There’s a lot of good art to see here, too, though it’s a much smaller show than The Armory Show and so the $20 entrance fee feels more like its meant to weed out the crowd (as well as raise money for Henry Street Settlement).  There were some amazing exhibits, including a small Francis Bacon piece; I don’t remember ever seeing a Bacon painting outside of a museum or a book, so it was nice to see this study for a larger work in the art fair setting.  L&M Arts had a nice collection of de Kooning paintings including one his large, late abstractions in tones of orange and blue on white.  Howard Greenberg gallery had some very fine Edward Weston vegetable photographs.  I saw Chuck Close again cruising through the galleries.  My wife thinks she saw Glenn Close (no relation that I know of to Chuck!) though I missed her, which was okay by me (Fatal Attraction still gives me the creeps).

Finally pooped from so much art and quite a bit of walking around, we headed for home.  I’m not much of a Twitter person and so I am wondering if I missed the news:  did somebody repeal all traffic laws today?  Or was it the new moon?  It seemed that there were more crazy people driving without signals, turning left from right-turn-only lanes, cutting people off, and just going bonkers than I’ve ever seen before.  On the way out of the city we experienced traffic snarlups getting into the Lincoln Tunnel that reminded me of one of the Karin Davie paintings I had seen earlier in the day (sort of like this), though the only color here came from the brake lights and the colorful language motorists were using to vent frustration at the insane drivers cutting people off to squeeze in at the last minute without signaling (or waiting for room).  Thankfully we made it home without a scratch and with enough time left in the evening for me to blog about the day.

I’ve recently been reading Arguing About Art: Contemporary Philosophical Debates and one of the first essays (about whether food can be art — do not read late at night on an empty stomach!) mentions how philosophers can discuss the ontological status of a work of art (what kind of thing it is), and in particular used Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata as an example.  The art is not the sheet music it was originally written on, nor is it a particular performance (there are many of those, they also include interpretation).  One can spend a lot of time figuring out the philosophical distinctions of what is and isn’t art (though that can be fun, too; for instance, see here).  I thought that the subject called for a painting and while the title is a mouthful, making it was mindful.

The Ontological Status of The Moonlight Sonata, acrylic on panel, 24 x 18

Ontological Status of a Moonlight Sonata, 24 x 18

After leaving the Whitney Biennial, I was looking for some more inspiring fare and so headed down to Chelsea for a quick trip to some galleries whose shows seemed promising.  On 26th Street, Galerie Lelong provided a nice jolt of energy with the work of Emilio Perez: large abstractions full of swirls and whooshes, meticulously and intuitively created by cutting out layers of acrylic paint with an exacto knife.  (I would have guessed that the hard edges came from careful masking, but the gallery’s press release corrected my impressions.)  The paintings read a bit like a Julie Mehretu abstraction done in the style of a Lichtenstein brush stroke painting: from a distance you get the sense of a swirling atmosphere but as you look up close you see hard, graphic edges delineating the various “strokes” of paint.

Emilio Perez

Emilio Perez @ Lelong

The next block over there’s a wonderful show of paintings by Jean Lowe at McKenzie Fine Art.  The paintings are intriguing to look at while also quite funny.  Entitled, “Yes, Yes, Yes!”, the show is about excessive consumerism and each of the loosely brushed but still globally detailed paintings takes a slightly fish-eyed view of a large room, part grocery store, part Baroque palace!  In the foregrounds, you see rows of products that could easily have come from a Target store, while the backgrounds and ceilings of the rooms look like European palaces or museums decorated with classical paintings.  The show includes a handmade bookshelf containing a number of hilarious paper mâché faux books with titles like, “Kindle: The Missing Manual” (a huge tome of a book!), or, “The Joy of Pickling: 200 Scenarios”.

Jean Lowe @ McKenzie

Jean Lowe @ McKenzie

Down on 20th Street, Kathryn Markel is exhbiting some colorful abstractions on paper by Diane Ayott that are full of pattern and repitition, addressing some formal issues similar to my own work.  Ayott uses objects such as bottle caps and lids as “stamps” to make repetitive marks in ways that create pleasing patterns and fields of color.

Diane Ayott @ Markel

Diane Ayott @ Markel

Finally, in the same building on 20th Street, Kim Foster Gallery hosts a fine three person exhibition where meticulous drawing catches the eye and invites close inspection.  First up are William Brovelli’s “Timeline project” canvases, each of which contains a grid upon which the artist has drawn a small characters in ink on the borders of each grid cell.  As time passes, Brovelli whitewashes each of the characters and re-works the grid cells with new ones.  The process continues for many months until the work is sold or the artist shuts down the canvas, leaving the viewer with a snapshot of time and a historical record of artistic decisions and moods.

Next up is Diane Samuels, whose obsessive pen drawings on handmade paper are full of thousands of small circles when added up render a kind of microscopic mapping of the street in Pittsburgh where the artist has lived for thirty years.  Varying amounts of pressure applied to the paper during the drawings’ creations cause the paper to bulge here and there providing a third dimension of interest to these works.

Finally, the gallery displays some of Paul Glabicki’s “ACCOUNTING for…” drawings.  These finely rendered drawings begin with an “under-drawing”, where Glabicki hand draws in minute detail pages from a found 1930s Japanese ledger, providing texture and a structure upon which to continue.  Then, the artist records various bits of information over time on top of the existing drawing: snippets of equations, graphs, curves, notes, and other markings.  These reminded me both of John Zinsser’s recent “Auction Lot” drawings (replicated from pages of old art auction catalogs) and of particle accelerator images with swirls and collisions of data flying around the page.

Brovelli, Samuels, & Glabicki @ Kim Foster (details)

Brovelli, Samuels, & Glabicki @ Kim Foster (details)

That ended my day in New York City, but there was still some more art to see back in Jersey.  After about a fifteen minute rest at home, I headed out to the Mercer County Artists 2010 show for a fine opening reception at The Gallery.  The exhibition is full of creative, very high quality work in all media and styles and it was a great show to be a part of.  The show remains up through April 1, 2010.

I made it into this year’s Whitney Biennial…   OK, you didn’t fall for that for a second, did you?  Let me start again.  I attended the Biennial today during member previews, which allows you to spend some time with the work without feeling pressed onwards by a huge crowd.  On the other hand, you don’t get a feel for the “buzz” that might surround the event and for something like the Biennial, buzz is an important part of the experience.

And, just as this year there is no official theme other than the time stamp of “2010”, the takeaways from my visit are elusive.  Thankfully, there are fewer of the large architectural installation pieces that filled much of the 2008 show.  However, quite a few rooms are devoted to video pieces, which I find to be awkward art objects at a museum:  you have to walk into a dark room, let your eyes adjust, try not to bump into anyone; the video is invariably in the middle somewhere; there’s not enough room to sit and you’re not sure you want to devote the time to the piece.  I’d rather that the museum set up a movie theater with fixed screening times so that you could take a seat and settle in for an hour or two.

One video that looked clever, though I didn’t give it more than a couple of minutes, was a Josephine Meckseper piece depicting scenes from in and around the Mall of America coupled with ominous music, clips from a flight simulator showing planes in attack formation, and colored filters that implied war footage.

Another film that I would have liked to spend more time with was Kerry Tribe‘s about “H.M.”, one of the most famous subjects in psychology literature.  H.M. underwent experimental brain surgery in 1953 to treat epilepsy but ended up with severe retrograde amnesia: the inability to form new memories or to remember anything for more than about 20 seconds.  The film is projected onto the wall in two places (from a single strip of film) such that there is a 20 second delay between the two videos, cleverly reinforcing (almost Memento-style) the fragility of memory.  The interviews depicted in this film use an actor; I would have loved to see footage of the real H.M.

I had watched a video with Aki Sasamoto on the Whitney’s website ahead of the exhibition and wasn’t expecting to like the actual artwork, but in fact it turned out to be one of the most attention-worthy pieces in the show.  Filling up one small gallery with wires, nets, video cameras, and dangling glasses of “liquid” (hopefully plastic!), it’s the kind of installation that makes you want to figure it out:  where’s the camera that’s projecting that image?  how do those shadows mingle with the charcoal on the wall?  what’s in the glasses?  why those pretty nets?  The art is entitled “Strange Attractors”, with references specifically to the Lorenz attractor, an infinitely looping butterfly-like mathematical structure (not the same as Strange Loops, but you can see why I was “attracted” to this piece).  The artist has a number of scheduled performances of some sort that go along with the installation, though I didn’t see one and so don’t know what I was missing.

There was not a whole lot in the way of painting-that-makes-you-want-to-paint.  Tauba Auerbach‘s  trompe l’oeil paintings had a number of gallery-goers looking intently from up close and from far away, debating with each other exactly what they were looking at.  At first, it looks like a wrinkled bed sheet hanging against the wall.  When you look up close, you see that in fact it’s a painting and only by reading the wall text would you determine the mechanism of its creation (spraying paint onto carefully folded and rolled canvases).

I also liked the tempera and oil paintings of Jim Lutes, whose “Piece of Barbara” summons de Kooning’s women with its mixture of figurative and abstract elements.  Swirls of ribbon-like color engulf  the representational, in this case the likeness of a 1950s B-movie actress.  Lesley Vance exhibited a series of small abstractions derived from still life photographs that had a nice color tone and palette knife paint handling.

At the entrance to the third floor, a huge tapestry by Pae White depicts a photographic reproduction of plumes of smoke.  From afar you could almost mistake it for a Mark Sheinkman painting.  The Whitney web site (and the wall text) seems to go a bit overboard in describing this work as “cotton’s ‘dream of becoming something other than itself’ by contrasting an image of something immaterial with the physicality of fabric.”  Okay…  Whatever.  I will say that the thick and varied texture of the tapestry did make you want to reach out and feel it (as if you were shopping for a rug).

One overall problem is the need to rely on the wall texts to figure out what you’re looking at.  Some of the paintings, for instance, don’t stand on their own and require an explanation that tries to turn something mundane visually into something meaningful intellectually.  In some cases, I think the wall texts stretch too far:  does depicting a few photographs of Baudelaire next to Michael Jackson in “The First and the Last of the Modernists” really “raise questions about the roles of art and popular culture as well as how modern figures are presented, flattened, and distributed through the news media”?  Well, it raised that question, I suppose.  There were quite a few grunts (with accompanied head-shaking) from fellow gallery-goers after reading some of the wall texts, though I couldn’t tell if they referred to the art or the text.

Speaking of grunts, Mariane Vitale‘s video screams directly at the viewer.  Once again, I missed the beginning of one of these video clips and couldn’t subject myself to the screaming for very long, but I did almost enjoy her diatribe about the products that specific states bring to us, exclaiming (if I heard her correctly), “New Jersey brings us GLUE…”  I didn’t know that.

After the Biennial, I headed down to Chelsea for a quick visit to a handful of galleries for some very fine painting exhibitions (whew, I needed some attention-focusing paintings after being yelled at by that last video).  But I’ll have to report on that in a subsequent post.

I’m happy to announce that one of my paintings, Arising, has been accepted into the Mercer County Artists 2010 show.  The show runs from February 23 through April 1, 2010, with an opening reception on Wednesday, February 24, from 5-7:30pm (at The Gallery @ Mercer County Community College).  This year’s juror was C.J. Mugavero from The Artful Deposit gallery in Bordentown, NJ.

Arising, acrylic on panel, 30,30

Arising, acrylic on panel, 30x30

Charles Katzenbach and I will be hosting an opening reception for our upcoming show, Reflections, at Artists’ Gallery, on Saturday, April 10, 2010, from 6-9 pm.  The show will run from April 9 through May 2 (gallery hours are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, from 11am-6pm, and by appointment).  Please note that as of March 2010, Artists’ Gallery is located at 18 Bridge Street in the heart of Lambertville, NJ.

Foundations, acrylic on panel, 12x12

Foundations, acrylic on panel, 12x12

Most of my abstract paintings are in some way related to my interests in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science.  One of the themes that underlies this work is the notion of embodiment, that how we make sense of the world is very much tied to the physical nature of our bodies.  I became interested in this particular theory around 2004 after taking two classes while I was living in New York City:  (1) Brain Gym, which tried to link certain exercises with a kind of mental fitness (see also the book Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head); and, much more significantly, (2) a course at The New School based on the book Philosophy in the Flesh by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson.

While the number of books on embodiment in its various forms has grown in recent years, I haven’t seen much about it in the mainstream press.  Today, however, The New York Times’ Natalie Angier has written a nice primer on the subject: “Abstract Thoughts?  The Body Takes Them Literally.”  The article highlights some of the fascinating research that shows, for instance, how metaphors we use when thinking about time are so embodied within us that we actually tend to lean forward when talking about the future and lean backward when talking about the past.

Artists' Gallery

Artists’ Gallery is moving to a new location in the heart of Lambertville!  Beginning with our March 2010 exhibition, we’ll be at:

Artists’ Gallery
18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, NJ 08530.

In addition to work from all of the artists at the gallery, the GRAND REOPENING exhibition will feature landscape paintings by Joe Kazimierczyk and Michael Schweigart.  Please join us for this special reception:

Saturday, March 13
From 5-8pm

Our new location is just steps from the bridge linking Lambertville to New Hope, right in the heart of the shopping, dining, and gallery row section of Lambertville.

Artists Gallery New Location