Desaturation seemed to be the theme of most of the shows I saw in Chelsea yesterday: many grayish paintings and photos without a lot of color.  Although that might be a fit for the middle of the winter, it was a sunny enough day that I was really more in the mood to see some brightness (especially since, on the train ride into the city, I had been reading an excellent technical piece on the subtleties of color by Sarah Sands at Golden).

In the Mostly Monochrome show at McKenzie, I did enjoy the black painting, “Churning Sea, A Moment Later” by Karen Gunderson.  The brushy, black oil paint catches the light differently depending upon your viewing angle and makes for a perceptually interesting work.  It does indeed feel like you’re looking at the sea under moonlight, with things shifting as you move left or right by a few inches.  The overall technique reminded me of a Jason Martin painting  that I saw at The Armory Show a couple of years ago.

At Pace Wildenstein, Richard Misrach exhibits large photographic prints that resemble color film negatives, though in fact the artist is using a digital camera for the image capture and “inverting” the image on the computer.  There’s more to the show, though, than just this particular trick.  In addition to the interesting optics, these works can act like puzzles as you try to do the inversion in your head to figure out what it is that you might be looking at.  For instance, what looks in the negative like huge icebergs jutting out of the water, you realize, must actually be dark silhouetted rock formations on land.  Some of the images read like abstract expressionist paintings but are actually carefully composed or cropped landscape photos.

There’s a similar sort of perceptual ambiguity occurring at Luhring Augustine in the paintings of William Daniels.  I put this show on my list of “things-to-see” while browsing one of my art magazines, but from the advertisement I had assumed that these would be huge, wall-sized paintings.  Instead, the paintings in this show are approximately 12 inches square.  At first, it appears that they are purely abstract images but then your eyes start to put together the scene and you notice that there is a certain volume to the shapes; objects are casting shadows… and reflections.  I then realized that in fact Daniels was painting images from “reflective foil”, crumpled and sculpted into a sort of still life (or landscape?).  There’s a sort of satisfaction that occurs as your eye scans the work and puts it all together in your head.

I found some more color at Von Lintel (on 23rd St) in some striking images by David Maisel, whose past work has featured various takes on aerial photography.  His current series, “Library of Dust”, could be described as a “still life portrait”.  The photographs are of decaying copper canisters on black backgrounds where oxidation and other chemical reactions over the ages have turned the copper into colorful messes.  The press release tells us, though, that these cans contained the unclaimed ashes of a psychiatric asylum’s former patients.  This causes you to immediately re-evaluate your feelings about what you’re looking at, from levity at all the pretty colors to a somber recognition that you’re witnessing a kind of “death mask” for someone’s uncomfortable coffin.

The one other show that I’ll mention is Salvatore Federico’s at George Billis Gallery.  My first thought as I entered the gallery was that Von Lintel had moved back into the space!  These are hard edge, geometrical color paintings that are quite enjoyable but very different from most of the other work I’ve seen at this gallery, which mostly has a roster of representational painters.  Several of the works in the show feature a single complex polygon balancing on a sharp point at the very bottom edge of the canvas.  Others are more explicitly grid-based with multiple figures interlocking in a kind of Matisse-like compositional dance.

Although this was a briefer-than-usual trip to Chelsea for me (I ran out of steam on 23rd Street), I did go home feeling energized and ready to do some painting.  (In fact, I’ve finished quite a few paintings recently but have been slow to photograph them…  Expect to see some of them here on my blog soon.)

Chelsea, NYC, Jan 2010

Chelsea, NYC, Jan 2010

For the last 15 months or so, I’ve been a member at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville, NJ.  This month, the gallery is celebrating its 15 year anniversary with a show featuring all of our current members as well as some two dozen or so former members.  The exhibition is up now through February 14, 2010, with an opening reception on Saturday, January 16, from 6-9pm.  I have three small pieces in the show.  Here’s a panoramic view of the front room of the gallery:

Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville (32 Coryell St) hosts its annual holiday party this Sunday (Dec 13) from 2-5pm. Many of the artists in the gallery are hanging smaller works this month, so if you’re looking for a special gift, stop by Fri-Sat-Sun 11am-6pm. One of the eight pieces I have up this month is a panorama photograph from Mercer County park.

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

I headed back into New York City on Thursday for an afternoon full of art that included a brisk tour through Chelsea, a (too) quick visit to the Met to finally see that Vermeer show, and an opening reception for a former teacher of mine on the upper east side.

After debarking from NJ Transit at Penn Station, I made a quick stop over at B&H Photo for some supplies and then walked down to 26th Street.  The first gallery on my list today was Galerie Lelong where Sean Scully has a show of his large grid-based abstractions.  The works in this show are immediately recognizable as Scully.  These new paintings are perhaps a little more chromatic in the red oxide and blue shades than I remember from his last show (in 2005), but otherwise are similarly constructed with horizontal and vertical blocks of color.  In one four-part painting he exposes an aluminum panel that looked like it had been brushed to provide some variations in reflectivity.  Some of the paintings have a nice, blended-on-canvas look of brushy flesh colors; some, though, used brush strokes in apparently random directions (not aligned with the grid) reflecting ceiling lights to produce unevenly glossy highlights, an effect that I found distracting from the otherwise meditative works.

Sean Scully @ Galerie Lelong

Sean Scully @ Galerie Lelong

A couple doors down was a peculiar but compelling show by Teresita Fernandez at Lehmann Maupin.  The works here are made entirely of graphite:  sculptural, chunky, blocks of graphite.  In some pieces, the graphite has been carved and polished into a kind of relief sculpture hung on the wall.  In another, graphite has been somehow machined into a large sculpture of a waterfall with nuggets of graphite on the floor as the foam.  Most interesting, though, was the piece “Epic”, where hundreds or thousands of small nuggets of graphite are affixed to the gallery wall.  Under each nugget is a small streak of graphite drawn onto the wall which can be read as a shadow, but also to me looked like tears or comet tails.

On 25th Street, there are some more David Hockney paitnings at Pace Wildenstein and I think they show even better here than they do uptown; though I love that gallery on 57th Street, these very large works seemed to fit the space better here.  I overheard two people in the gallery mentioning (to someone from the gallery, I think) that they knew Mr. Hockney and were occasional recipients of his “iPhone drawings“, which they were showing off on their iPhone.  I didn’t get a good look at the drawings, however, and didn’t have it in me to butt in, give them my cell phone, and ask if they’d send a few my way.

The most exciting show for me was one that was a surprise — I hadn’t known it was coming and the show hadn’t popped up on one of my standard gallery planning resources.  At Betty Cunningham gallery, there’s a great 2-person show comparing five decades worth of paintings by two artists whose work I always admire:  Philip Pearlstein and Al Held.  As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Pearlstein at a Carnegie Mellon alumni event earlier this year and I always find looking at his paintings to be worthy endeavors.  Here, you see samples of his work starting from expressionist beginnings in the 1950s progressing through to his signature clear-eyed representational style.  (His latest piece was from 2009, a work that I had seen in progress in his studio; so very cool to now see it finished and on display at the gallery.)

Philip Pearlestein and Al Held @ Betty Cunningham

Philip Pearlestein and Al Held @ Betty Cunningham

The first time I learned of the late Al Held’s work was at a show at PS1 back in 2002 where I was blown away by the humongous geometric compositions (probably the largest paintings I’ve ever seen except perhaps for Guernica).  For me, his paintings are like reverse puzzles; I enjoy spending time with them trying to figure out how they “work”. Here at Betty Cunningham, there are only two of his full color “volumetric configurations”, but they’re wonderful to behold.

The gallery has printed a brief essay by Irving Sandler explaining why the juxtaposition of these two very different artists makes sense.  Both started making art around 1950, hung out at The Cedar Tavern, exhibited at co-op galleries around 10th Street, and eventually became life-long friends.  They both rejected action painting early on and both eventually ended up with “hard-edged” styles (Pearlstein, hard-edged realism; Held, hard-edged abstraction).  I would have loved to take some photos of this show, but I made the mistake of asking at the front desk, where an apologetic gallery worker told me that photos weren’t allowed because of the varied ownership of the paintings (another gallery visitor, just moments before, hadn’t asked and had used her iPhone to photograph the whole show in detail.  Sigh.)  Anyway, this is a can’t miss show if you’re going to be in Chelsea before February 13, 2010.

Just down the block at Lohin Geduld Gallery is a nice show of small representational paintings by Joseph Santore.  Like Pearlstein, Santore’s paintings are at least in part about perception:  looking hard, seeing, painting.  The textures on some of pieces have a pleasing “stippled” quality.  A few of the paintings are self portraits, many more of them are complex still life arrangements with an overall abstract quality.  A few charcoal drawings of still lifes take on an almost cubist appearance through their arrangements of lights and darks.

Still on 25th Street, Gallery Henoch has a show of wonderful representational paintings by Kim Cogan.  Some of the pieces are straightforward rooftop cityscapes, painted with Cogan’s brushy style.  More exciting, though, are the high contrast scenes of specific city locales at night, such as Grocery at Dusk.  Here, Cogan’s painterly style excels at capturing the temperature of the light and its reflection and makes you want to keep looking at the painting.  In a few of the pieces, the same figure makes multiple appearances.  Several paintings show scenes from within what appear to be small New York apartments and one, Passengers Manhattan Bound, offers a fisheye perspective of three subway riders directly opposite the artist.

Kim Cogan @ Gallery Henoch

Kim Cogan @ Gallery Henoch

Just upstairs from Henoch in what was formerly Von Lintel is the new incarnation of George Billis Gallery and the gallery is using the new space to its advantage.  The larger walls allow for larger work; there’s more floor space so you can step back a bit (the old space was sort of shoe-horned into an awkward floorplan); and, the extra room that Von Lintel had used for flat files is now additional exhibition space.  Further, by being directly above Gallery Henoch, you now have two reliable galleries that feature representational painting in the same building.  Presently, George Billis has several shows going in the various rooms.  In the front, Enrique Santana has some highly detailed (i.e., every window is painted in the skyscraper) cityscapes full of reflected light.  In one of the back rooms are some charming three dimensional watercolor-on-paper-on-panel landscape-based painting/sculptures by Russ Havard.

I thought I’d give the Caroll Dunham show a chance at Barbara Gladstone, but I couldn’t make it past the image you see upon first entering the gallery.  Ugh.

I’ll mention one last show from Chelsea:  Richard Serra at Gagosian‘s 21st Street location.  Two of Serra’s signature massive cor-ten steel sculptures fill the gallery and as usual, they don’t fail to impress.  I entered the first piece, “Open Ended”, and actually felt a sense of dizziness as the twisted walls reshape your impression of up and down.  The lighting was dark in the gallery and so on this piece I didn’t notice as much variation in the surface of the steel as you often find in Serra’s work.  After a few long “hallways” and a few twists that seem to spiral towards a “center”, you find yourself in the middle of the sculpture.  Strangely, though, you can keep going in the same direction and you’ll eventually find yourself exiting on the other side of the piece.  It’s not that great a trick when you look at the work in a photo from above, but it is a surprise as you’re walking through it that you can keep “spiraling” and yet still make your way out of the sculpture (hence, “Open Ended”).  The second work, “Blind Spot”, leads you towards a dead end and you’ll have to turn around and retrace your steps.  I love reaching the center of these Serra sculptures, especially if there’s nobody else around — you feel like you’re in a world of your own, protected by a massive steel shield (though perhaps at least a little conscious that you’re hoping there’s no way this thing can tip over).  Blind Spot seemed to have more interesting variations of rusty red and oxidized green/blue color.  Unlike in some past exhibitions, however, a security guard (who followed me closely for some reason — I couldn’t have looked suspicious!) said that no touching of the work was allowed.  It’s a shame, as the rough texture and massive size just call out for a brush of the hand.

Richard Serra @ Gagosian 21st St

Richard Serra @ Gagosian 21st St

Finally, I was finished with Chelsea and I realized that the Met closes at 5:15 on Thursdays and so I had better hustle to the Upper East Side.  Fortunately I found a cabbie on his last drive of the day who took a good route and was at the Met in no time.  Still, I realized that I would have to zoom through the Robert Frank “The Americans” show if I wanted to see Vermeer (I’ll have to get the book, I suppose, to spend more time with that historic collection of photos from fifty years ago).

You never know if seeing a famous painting in person will live up to your expectations.  Some of the Vermeers at the Met don’t (I’ve never been a fan of “Study of a Young Woman”, for instance).  But “The Milkmaid” does.  It’s a beautifully painted piece with exquisite handling of light and shadow.  The woman has a real physical presence.  The wicker basket in the shadow is amazingly painted and the pebbly bread actually looks crusty.  Hockney would make a case that Vermeer used a camera obscura or other lens device.  It’s no big deal to me if he did or he didn’t; either way, this is one of those paintings that are even better in person than they are in reproductions and I’m glad I got to see it while it was in town.

Vermeer's The Milkmaid @ The Met

Vermeer's The Milkmaid @ The Met

After “closing” the Met down, I grabbed a relaxing dinner at a reliable Italian restaurant just a few steps away, Giovanni’s.  I’ve been there perhaps a half-dozen times over the years and the food always ranges from quite good to excellent; the servers are attentive even if I’m by myself and under-dressed; and the panna cotta is amazing!  Alas, the place is very expensive to my New Jersey acclimated wallet — well, it’s expensive even to a New Yorker’s wallet, but it happens to be in a great location for where I needed to be and served the kind of food I was in the mood for.

My final art-related stop of the night was to the opening reception at James Graham & Sons Gallery on East 67th Street for John Zinsser’s new show, “Art Dealer Archipelagos”.  I took Zinsser’s (highly recommended) class at The New School some 8 or 9 times starting in September 2001 and he’s largely responsible for my interest in visiting New York galleries so often.  This show is very different formally from anything else I’ve seen of his.  Most of his past work (that I’ve seen, anyway) has explored the interaction of (typically) two colors of paint, either in large alkyd enamel abstractions on canvas that evoke a specific lineage in art history or in smaller works on paper such as his Bible Studies paintings with titles drawn from biblical passages as a way to explore how titles link the content with the meaning of abstract paintings.

Here, Zinsser turns to drawing in two separate sets of work.  The first, and the focus of the exhibition, are the “archipelagos”, some two dozen works on paper, each depicting a fictional island named after a historically important New York Gallery.  “Towns” on these maps are labeled with the names of artists who have had solo shows at the gallery at some time in the past.  The shapes of the land masses are made up but are informed by the atlases the artist consulted in researching this project.  The hand-drawn “typography” is meant to mimic that found on a typical real-world map.  The galleries included are ones that would have either had personal significance to Zinsser in his 25 years of New York City gallery-going or are ones that were historically important in shaping the post-war New York art world.  Since my own experience with the galleries of Manhattan goes back only to 2001, it was interesting to note how many of the galleries represented are no longer in existence and how those that are have changed significantly, either in terms of ownership or in terms of the kind of art they show.  I’m more familiar with Sonnabend gallery, for instance, as a place that puts on top tier photography exhibitions (Hofer, Becher, which are on the map) than as one that would show Winters, McCracken, or Dunham (I like the fact that Koons is an island unto himself).

John Zinsser @ James Graham and Sons

John Zinsser @ James Graham and Sons

The other set of pieces in this show are the Auction Lot drawings, hand-drawn replications of pages from various art auction catalogs.  One of these works that I particularly enjoyed was Zinsser’s “Al Held” page, which echoed nicely a painting I had seen earlier at Betty Cunningham.

I asked John which of the two kinds of drawings in this show were more fun to work on and he hesitated — probably more from the banality of my question than its profundity — and then ditched, saying that the catalog works were fun but that the focus of the show is the archipeligo with the catalog drawings there to round things out.  I suppose it’s like asking a parent which child they like better at the eldest’s graduation — you can’t expect a good answer.

Feeling guilty about my earlier panna cotta and also refreshed after descending from the hot and steamy third floor gallery (perhaps appropriate for a show about an island archipelago?), I decided to walk back to Penn Station.  Progress was swift except for my flawed decision to “see what Times Square looks like tonight”.  The city is getting ready for Christmas.  It was one of those nights that make you miss being in the city with people out and about but not *too* many people, a comfortable outdoor temperature and a lot going on… until I almost stepped on a rat.  OK, it was actually a mouse.  We have them in Jersey, too.

I walked past MoMA on the way back to Penn Station.

I walked past MoMA on the way back to Penn Station.

Today was the first day of the Art20 fair at the Park Avenue Armory and I used the occasion to visit several shows on 57th Street as well.  I had hoped to make it up to the Met to catch Vermeer, but with the wind whipping away under threatening gray skies and a need to get to Trenton by 6pm for an opening, I had to save Johannes for another day.

It’s rare that I’ll return to see the same exhibition at a museum more than once.  In 2002, however, the Gerhard Richter retrospective at MoMA really blew me away.  I recall visiting that show at least three times — there was so much to see and so much variety.  So it was with much excitement that I approached the Marian Goodman Gallery (24 W 57th) for what was Richter’s first NY show in four years.  The first room is full of “White Paintings” (which started out as green paintings): large paintings that have been squeegeed over with white paint.  I couldn’t shake the feeling, though, that whatever was underneath the white might have been more interesting than the result, though one that was less green and more mauve had my eyes searching for gestalt.

Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter -- Abstraction, lacquer behind glass

In the second room, some more familiar looking Richter abstractions of squeegeed, contrasting colors shared the space with lacquer-behind-glass paintings.  The glass works are arranged as diptychs in the gallery, though not on the web site, and the are probably the most enjoyable pieces in the show as they were something different, with the 2-part arrangements giving your mind something to do in puzzling together the composition.

In the back room are some more white paintings as well as a few smaller works that have representational elements, such as this one, which to me reads as landscape (even in its portrait orientation).

Overall, I left this show somewhat disappointed, not because of any real problem with the work or with the installation, but only because I didn’t feel any of that same excitement that came with the MoMA show.  Whether that’s due to changes in my own appreciation of art or in changes to Richter’s work, I can’t tell.

In the same building, the Michael Rosenfeld gallery has a wonderful small show of paintings by abstract expressionist Norman Lewis (1909-1979).  This gallery consistently puts on museum-quality shows with a focus on “expanding the canon of American art” and “increasing the visibility of under-recognized American artists”, often African-Americans.  I wasn’t very familiar with Norman Lewis, but loved the bold colors in works like Fireflower and Pink Boogie, where brushstrokes  read like stick figures and the painting feels like a jazzy dance party.

Norman Lewis Pink Boogie

Norman Lewis, Pink Boogie

There’s a lot more color to be found in the Fuller Building at David Findlay Jr Fine Art where a show by John Opper (1908-1994) calls up ideas from Rothko (turned on its side, perhaps) and Clyfford Still (here).

At DC Moore (724 Fifth Ave), Jane Wilson exhibits some simple but lovely brushy landscapes that capture the skies (and seas, and horizons) of the northeast in mostly pastel tones.  Compositions focus mostly on the sky with just a touch of the horizon to provide some grounding contrast.  Brushstrokes inflect the sky with cloudy texture and capture fleeting effects of moving light.

Jane Wilson

Jane Wilson, Drifting Sunshower

Continuing with my colorful day but perhaps moving out of the influence of Rothko and away from abstraction, I visited the David Hockney show at Pace Wildenstein 57th Street.  This is Hockney’s first New York show of new paintings in twelve years and it features landscapes — part plein air and part studio work — that describe the English countryside in startling, but pleasing colors.  My favorite was “More Felled Trees on Woldgate”, a work full of bright greens, blues, oranges, purples, and pinks.

David Hockney More Felled Trees on Woldgate

David Hockney, More Felled Trees on Woldgate

After finishing up with the galleries in the 57th Street area I headed up to the Park Avenue Armory at 67th Street where the Art20/Modernism art fair is up through Monday.  This is the first year that the art of the twentieth century show was combined with the modernism design fair.  Although I went into the show worried that I wouldn’t care at all about the design component, it in fact provided a nice change of pace with galleries that focus on wall-based works of fine art alternating with spaces dedicated to objects of design (lamps, tables, chairs, etc).  Though most of the design objects felt dated to me (in a sense that I wouldn’t want to live with them the way I would a similarly dated painting), it was visually stimulating to have them as part of this show.


Armory view from the entrance, Bernard Goldberg Gallery

There was a lot to enjoy at the fair (though if you thought a down economy might make buying art cheap, think again!).  There were a number of good Marsden Hartley still lifes scattered throughout but mostly concentrated at BG.  One of my favorite artists, Oscar Bluemner, was present in at least three different galleries.  At Jonathan Boos, a  Bluemner oil painting (which are rarely available) could be yours for the low, low price of (cough, cough) $925,000.  A much smaller work on paper at Levis Fine Art went for $85,000 while a sketch whose margins were filled with detailed notes about color and composition was listed at $75,000 at Michael Borghi Fine Art.  A very nice example of a Sol Lewitt ribbon gouache on paper, priced $38,000, can be found at the Converso space.

I started to head towards the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see Vermeer and Robert Frank, but realized I would never make it down to Trenton if I didn’t reverse course and get back to the PATH train pronto, so I’ll save those shows for another time.

After a long drive down the Turnpike and then over into Trenton, I attended the opening reception for “Point of View” at Gallery 125, where I have one painting in the show.  The reception was packed and the show is full of creative, quality work (including paintings by friends Florence Moonan and Joy Kreves, who both happen to be former members of Artists’ Gallery).  Usually, the first question I get about my paintings is how long they take to make, but nobody asked me that last night:  instead, at least four people asked whether I used a roller to make the marks on my paintings (nope, they’re all hand painted stroke by stroke!).  I received some very positive feedback about the colors in this piece, which made it a nice way to end a color-full day of art.

Opening Reception at Gallery 125

Opening Reception at Gallery 125

After visiting PhotoPlus Expo at Javits, I decided my feet weren’t tired enough and so I hoofed it on down to Chelsea to see some art.  There were quite a few shows that I enjoyed and found worth noting.

At Stephen Haller Gallery on 26th Street, a Ronnie Landfeild show celebrates 40 years since the artist’s first solo show in 1969 with large, wonderfully colorful landscape-inspired abstractions.  Several of these acrylic paintings are grounded on their bottoms by solid, hard-edge stripes of color, above which large fields of paint intermingle and blend together.

London-based artist Andy Harper has his first US solo exhibition at Danese.  The paintings in this show (viewable in the gallery’s very nice online exhibition software) read as abstract from a distance but up close are seen to contain twisted, interwoven organic forms:  leaves, tendrils, vines, hair.  One is struck by the amount of detail found at every level of these paintings and the amount of work that must have gone into them (and wondering what tricks might have been used to assist in the process).

Two years ago, while on one of my regular Chelsea expeditions, I noticed about a half dozen shows featuring mostly monochromatic, chiaroscuro atmospheric abstractions.  Two of the artists from Nov 2007 are back, exhibiting once again at the same time:  David Mann and Mark Sheinkmann.  At McKenzie Fine Art, David Mann’s  paintings are full of biological, cell-like (or perhaps amoeba-like) shapes that are something of a signature mark for the artist: perhaps a careful half-twirl of the brush, perhaps more meticulously rendered.  The compositions are relatively straightforward — either based around a central form or around one or two horizontal or vertical bands — but the surfaces are fun to look at from varying distances.  (This exhibition reminds me of another show I saw earlier in the week, photograms of glass arranged in plankton-inspired compositions by Laura McClanahan at the Hunterdon Museum of Art.)

Mark Sheinkman
is once again at Von Lintel (now on 23rd Street) with smokey monochromatic wisps of oil, graphite, and alkyd on canvas.  This time, the paintings are more minimal and the wisps are less smokey, more ribbon-like.  I very much enjoy this artist’s work, though in this exhibition I found myself wishing for something a little deeper perceptually, even if was perhaps a different (maybe gloss?) finish on these matte works.

Sticking with the monochromatic theme, Abby Leigh’s show “The Sleeper’s Eye” at Betty Cunningham is something to behold.  Although the press release doesn’t mention it, to me the title referred to the “lights” you see when you close your eyes before going to sleep after glancing at your nightstand light bulb.  If you stare at the center of any of these paintings some wonderful perceptual effects take hold as simultaneous contrast and optical afterimages cause your perception of the paintings to change over time.  In fact, the subtle, circular compositions can completely disappear so that it appears that you’re viewing a solid plane, until suddenly as you relax your eyes a bitand the image reappears once again.  In addition to these paintings, a series of drawings made (somehow) from smoke call up target designs by Kenneth Noland as if drawn by Sol LeWitt.  Less dramatic perceptually than the paintings, these drawings still keep your eye moving with their inky wash texture.

Anselm Reyle’s show “Monochrome Age” at Gagosian (24th St) is in fact only partially monochromatic.  Two pieces in the show were most noteworthy:  Eternity, a highly reflective, violet swirl of a bronze sculpture; and Relief, a multi-panel mountainous wall installation back-lit with LEDs that change color over time.

I’ll mention one last monochromatic show:  Jaume Plensa’s “In the Midst of Dreams” at Galerie Lelong.  The front rooms display several alabaster sculptures of elongated female heads.  The artist works from photographs with digital tools to laser-cut the alabaster to form.  The resulting pieces look as if they can’t be sculptures, but rather must be projections or reflections.  Somehow the distorted shapes trigger an expectation of a certain kind of form that doesn’t really mesh with the marble-looking alabaster.  In the back room, a single multi-figure piece takes up the entire space.  Three humongous resin white heads, lit from within, are situated staring at each other among a field of white stones.  Carved into the heads are words describing “states of being”.  I didn’t really know what to make of this piece meaning-wise, but it was interesting to look at.

Finally, for something completely different, there are some beautiful still lifes up at Gallery Henoch.  Ranging from the baseball-themed (sold!) Daniel Greene “Throw ‘Til You Win” from his recent carnival series to the (also sold!) hyper-precise painting of stacks of newspapers (“Recycle”) by Steve Mills, this show is full of finely painted pieces to look at and provided a nice change of pace in the middle of my journey through all the abstract work in the surrounding galleries.

After all of that art, and all of that expo hall walking, my legs had just enough energy left to get me back to Penn Station for the quick and thankfully uneventful ride home.

On Thursday I visited the Jacob Javits Convention Center for the 2009 edition of the PhotoPlus Expo, an annual photographer’s trade show that I’ve visited every year since 2001.  One good sign for the economy was that the expo hall was completely packed with visitors.  Every aisle was jammed and many booths were stuffed with people.  (Other anecdotal evidence of a rebounding economy:  very crowded shopping centers here in central New Jersey last weekend.)

On the other hand, there were two notable absences from this year’s show.  Adobe, which always has a major presence in the front of the expo hall, was amazingly missing this year.  They are one of the big draws with a booth that includes demonstrations and tutorials about using Adobe software, with a focus on Photoshop techniques for photographers (though in recent years there’s been too much time spent on Lightroom, a piece of software that I regret buying and which I found completely unusable).  In the past, the first thing I would do at Javits is check out the Adobe booth, look at the schedule for interesting seminars, and make sure my butt was planted in a seat ahead of time.  No Adobe, though, in 2009, presumably because they’re saving money and because they have no new products to promote at this time.

The other obvious, and perplexing, absence was Panasonic, whose cameras receive rave reviews but which always seem to be in short supply.  With major presences from Canon and Nikon, it seems curious that Panasonic wouldn’t be here to get their cameras into the hands of the people most likely to spread word of mouth.  I don’t recall if Panasonic had been at past shows, though, so I don’t know if this was a new development or par for the course for Panasonic.

As for the show itself, I didn’t sign up for any seminars this year and stuck to the expo hall, which was the same as usual.  Perhaps less new stuff to drool over than in the past (though perhaps that’s because I’m pretty happy with my current equipment right now); a lot of online photo labs pushing their photobooks and other press products; many of the same software products from past years.  One booth that looked interesting was Metal Mural, a company which prints photographs onto aluminum panels.  I plan to give them a try with some reproductions of my paintings.  Also, if you were willing to wait in a maddeningly slow line (I was), you could get a free sample pack of some of Epson’s newest inkjet paper which looks quite promising for artistic purposes, such as Epson Hot Press Bright Paper (they also have a “natural” paper without optical brightening agents, as well as a cold press paper in bright and natural forms as well).  Can’t wait to give those samples a try!

I picked up a book from one of the several book publishers present, Practical HDR: A complete guide to creating High Dynamic Range images with your Digital SLR.  It’s a great looking book that contains some useful information about HDR photography (and some very nice HDR images), but I will admit that I pretty much read the whole book on the 56 minute train ride home from New York and found that you could probably summarize most of the useful information in a couple of pages (or even a few bullet points).  The most useful part was the explanation of how to obtain the proper range of exposures for best results, though afterward you realize it’s not particularly complicated or mysterious.  But I am now inspired to do some HDR photography and see how it turns out.

Time flies and now there’s just one weekend left if you’d like to see my 2-person show with Marc Reed at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville, NJ.  The show is up through Sunday, October 4, and the gallery is open this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11am-6pm.

I’ll be at the gallery all day on Sunday (11am-6pm) if you’d like to stop by, say Hi, and see the show before it closes.

Artists’ Gallery
32 Coryell Street
Lambertville, NJ 08530

I headed into Manhattan again yesterday to check out the Georgia O’Keeffe “Abstraction” show at the Whitney (up through January 17, 2010). Last December I saw an O’Keeffe show down in Washington, DC, which had improved my opinion of her work with some very dynamic, abstracted landscapes.

This Whitney show starts of slowly with a couple of rooms full of early watercolor and charcoal pieces from around 1916-1918. These feel like tentative experiments and don’t have a lot going on formally. Once O’Keeffe moves predominantly into oil paintings at the urging of Alfred Stieglitz, however, around 1918 or 1920, things start to get interesting. The oil paintings make you want to look for a while, both up close and at a distance. They are full of folds and undulations and smooth blending of gradations of color. Most of her abstract pieces are of the “abstracted reality” kind — that is, rather than being completely nonrepresentational, they are abstracted from reality through simplified or exaggerated shapes, close cropping, creative color, etc. Most of the pieces would be instantly recognizable as O’Keeffe, even if they are not of the macro-flower type for which she is well known. However, the final room of the exhibition does have some paintings of a very different sort — large color fields with geometric shapes in one, a grid of cloud-like forms receding into the distance in another. The show includes a few pastels here and there that look almost identical to her oils except that they’re displayed under indirect, reduced lighting. A small room in the middle of the show includes about a dozen intimate, expressive photos of her by Stieglitz.

The members preview day crowd was vocal: I couldn’t help but overhear some opinionated (and rather crotchety) gallery goers. “I can’t wait to go paint,” confided one woman to her companion. “She was very comfortable with Alfred,” another woman noted, slightly embarrassed at the photos. “Why do they stand right in front of the painting talking about dinner plans? That’s so rude!” complained a particularly bitter lady, just loud enough that of course the targets would hear it. Ah, member preview day at the Whitney…  Anyway, it’s a very nice show that’s worthy of your attention if you’re in the neighborhood.

On my way back from the Upper East Side, I stopped in to some of my favorite galleries in the Fifties to see what was going on there. If you like Sol LeWitt (I do!), there’s a very nice show of wall drawings at Pace (32 East 57th). “Forms Derived from a Cube” features large geometric figures that don’t always seem derived from cubes. I love LeWitt ink wash pieces — there’s a certain luminosity to the color that I just enjoy taking in. Several of these pieces are described as being comprised of multiple layers of washes, first gray, then yellow, then red, then blue, with each color overlapping a smaller subset of the previous washes. The resulting figure ends up as gray, orange, and dark brown, though closer examination of the washes yields beautiful details and subtleties of color with hints of blue or red peeking through.

In the Fuller Building, there’s a nice exhibition of Jacque Henri Lartigue photos at Howard Greenberg that creatively capture people and objects in motion and in flight. Around the corner on Fifth Ave, there’s a Milton Avery show at DC Moore that’s worth visiting if you’re an Avery fan. I’ve never really gotten the Avery bug, though it seems that everyone else loves his paintings and he was very influential to many artists of the Abstract Expressionist era. The one painting that really sticks out in this show is the stunning “Orange Nude,” probably the most dimensional work of his that I’ve seen. While you’re in the building, you might as well stop by Babcock Galleries to see a group show from their collection that includes some Marsden Hartleys, a Hopper drawing, and some atypical Stuart Davis landscapes.

It’s been quite some time since I last wrote about a trip to Chelsea.  It’s not that I hadn’t seen some good shows over the spring and summer — the amazing Chuck Close tapestry & painting show at Pace Wildenstein and the Yayoi Kusama show at Gagosian come to mind — but no single trip to the district had me fired up enough to write about it.

Tonight, though, was the big opening night for many galleries and the neighborhood was packed!  It felt to me like the city was ready for Fall, looking for the new art season to push a melancholy summer into the past.  My wife and I made it to perhaps a dozen shows and quite a few were worth noting.  We worked our way down the streets first to hit a few exhibitions during normal gallery hours, then worked our way back northward to some of the official opening receptions.

On 25th Street, at Pace Wildenstein, the James Turrell show of “Large Holograms” was well worth a visit.  The show consists of fifteen “light works”, each approximately five or six feet high and a few feet wide.  Each work is comprised of a holographic panel as well as one or two colored lights illuminating the panel from the ceiling.  Most pieces feature one or two geometric shapes such as triangles or elipses.  Rather than looking like photographic images of more familiar holograms, these look like three dimensional colored shapes of light that move as you change your viewpoint.  The shapes and compositions are for the most part simple, but it doesn’t stop you from wanting to spend time with each piece trying to figure out how it works.

Moving southward, we then visited the other Chelsea incarnation of Pace on 22nd Street for an even more dramatic exhibition.  While Turrell had us moving left and right in front of the holograms, Maya Lin’s “Three Ways of Looking at the Earth” made you want to circle all the way around (and even under and through) the artwork.  The first, and most dramatic piece, consists of approximately 50,000 2×4 blocks of wood laid out in a large rectangle, standing upwards on end.  The planks are cut and arranged so that, taken together, they form a huge wave.  The effect is similar to a Tara Donovan sculpture, where an accumulation of objects turns into something beautiful.  But the hard, solid wood produces a different visual effect than the stacks of every day objects such as plastic cups that you might find in a Donovan piece.  The second Lin work, Blue Lake Pass, is composed of approximately 20 separate components, each of which is made up of a couple dozen boards of wood sandwiched together, with the tops shaved into a sort of pixelated terrain (based upon a region of Southwest Colorado).  It’s a beautiful visual effect that’s hard to describe, but one that has you walking around the piece to take in all of the angles and slopes.  The third piece was less compelling:  it consisted of a large aluminum wire gridded sculpture, suspended from the ceiling, whose shape corresponds to a region of the Atlantic Ocean’s floor.

We eventually reached the southernmost tip of our tour, now in “opening reception” territory, and started heading back uptown.  At Kim Foster gallery, Sherry Karver has an exhibition entitled, “Private Stories / Public Places.” I had first seen and admired Karver’s work last year at the same gallery.  The work here is similar, with a few new twists, and I had a chance to ask the artist about her process.  Each painting depicts a scene from a crowded location such as a train station or a city street, populated with what might have been anonymous passers-by.  But superimposed upon select characters from these scenes are textual elements, mini biographies that reveal in efficient terms a personality, peccadilloes and all.  To make these pieces, Karver begins by printing out (on her own large format Epson printer) black-and-white digitally manipulated scenes that serve as sort of underpainting. The prints are then mounted onto a solid support.  Multiple glazes and layers of oil paint provide all of the color in the images, and if you look close enough you can find traces of brush stroke.  Finally, a glossy, thick resin is poured and spread evenly over the painting to provide a uniform, polished look.  The resin is new to this series, as is the occasional presence of desaturated, ghost-like figures which the artist uses to indicate the passing of time (as if the figure had been there for part of a long exposure, but then had left before the photo was complete).  The typefaces used for the textual elements vary with the particular character and Karver says that matching the font with the figure is an important decision in the painting (hmmm, if you could be a font, which font would you be?)

At Danese, Valerie Giles’s works on paper — her first solo exhibition according to the gallery press release — are fantastic.  The drawings that I liked the best are the more abstract ones, full of curvilinear, biomorphic swirls of the pencil.  There’s a sense of dynamism, confidence, and interplay that makes you want to follow the strokes around the paper.

Finally, Yigal Ozeri’s latest show at Mike Weiss gallery is definitely worth seeing for its virtuosity of paint handling.  Although some of the magic disappears when you learn that Ozeri has a team of assistants helping him to paint, some of whom specialize in areas such as flesh or foliage, the paintings themselves still stand on their own.  In this series, “Desire for Anima”, Ozeri focuses his gaze on youthful women frollicking about in fields.  He begins with a crew of video and still photographers to gather his cinematic source material and then begins the hyper-photorealistic painting process.

It was a very promising start to the 2009 art season!

On Tuesday night I finished hanging the paintings for my half of the upcoming two-person featured show (with Marc Reed), Internal/External.  Whew!  The exhibition starts tomorrow, Friday, September 11, and runs through Sunday, October 4.  The opening reception is on Saturday, September 12, from 4-7pm, and I hope to see lots of you there!

Artists’ Gallery is located at 32 Coryell Street in Lambertville, NJ.  The gallery hours are normally Friday-Saturday-Sunday from 11am-6pm (or by appointment; if you’d like to see the show off-hours, send me a note).

Here are a couple of new paintings that are part of the show:

Reflection, 2009; acrylic on aluminum on panel, 12x12

Reflection, 2009; acrylic on aluminum on panel, 12x12

Insight, 2009; acrylic on panel, 12x12

Insight, 2009; acrylic on panel, 12x12

I recently finished this painting, entitled Multiple Drafts (acrylic on corner canvas, 24 x 12 inches).  The title refers to a theory of consciousness by Daniel Dennett.  Although it’s hard to tell in the online image, this piece consists of perhaps a dozen layers of marks each separated by a thin, glossy glaze layer.  Some of the areas that “pop” the most are in fact the most deeply buried physically in the paint layers.

Multiple Drafts, 2009; acrylic on corner canvas, 24x12 inches

Multiple Drafts, 2009; acrylic on corner canvas, 24x12 inches

The August 12, 2009, issue of the U.S. 1 newspaper has a very nice, detailed profile about my artwork by Susan Van Dongen.  U.S. 1 is the business and entertainment newspaper of the Princeton area Route 1 corridor.  You can read the text version on their site here or you can click on the preview below for a larger image of the newspaper, reproduced with permission of the author.  Don’t forget there’s an opening reception this Friday night (August 14) from 6-9pm for the group show, “Dreaming,” at Gallery 125 in Trenton (125 South Warren Street, Trenton, NJ).


I’m happy to report that my painting Expectation will be included in the Trenton Artists Workshop Association’s 2009  Summer Show, this year being held at Gallery 125 in downtown Trenton.  The title for this exhibition is “Dreaming”.  I recently played a little game where you grab the book nearest to you (you’re not allowed to find the coolest book), turn to page 56, find the 5th sentence on the page, and then set it to your status on Facebook.  I picked up the book Teach Yourself to Dream, sitting on the desk next to me, and found the following sentence:

It is partly because of these deep aspirations that flying is one of the most exciting dream experiences open to us.

Not a bad sentence to go along with this painting in a show about dreaming.

This painting is different from many of my other works in that it’s painted on a solid (very heavy) piece of wood (which in fact was once a table top), approximately 18″ high by 60″ wide, and it hangs a few inches off the wall because of some wooden spacers that were once part of the table.  (These dimensions also make it hard to exhibit properly here on the web site…)

Expectation, acrylic on wood, 18x60 inches

Expectation, acrylic on wood, 18x60 inches

Here’s a detail of the work:

Expectation (detail)

Expectation (detail)

The show, Dreaming, will be up at Gallery 125 (125 South Warren Street, Trenton, NJ) from August 14 through September 4, 2009.  There will be an opening reception on Friday, August 14, from 6-9pm.

I hope that you’ll be able to attend the opening reception for my 2-person featured show at Artists’ Gallery on September 12, 2009, from 4pm-7pm.   This will be my first “featured” exhibit with the gallery since joining last year and my partner in art will be fellow painter, Marc Reed.  The exhibition runs from Friday, September 11, through Sunday, October 4, and the gallery is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11am-6pm, or by appointment.  Artists’ Gallery is located at 32 Coryell Street, Lambertville, NJ.

I’d love to see you at the opening reception, so please save the date!

I recently finished this painting, Nebulous (acrylic on panel, 24×24 inches), and hope to exhibit it at Artists’ Gallery in July.  It’s difficult to capture the look of this piece in the online image as the painting is comprised of approximately a dozen layers of paint with lightly tinted glazes providing physical separation and depth to the mark-making.  The surface is super glossy and almost mirror-like.  For this painting, I was interested in working on a dark background and keeping the color scheme minimal, with light turquoise marks playing against the layers of very lightly tinted red glaze (hard to see in the online image).

Nebulous, acrylic on panel, 24x24 inches, 2009

Nebulous, acrylic on panel, 24x24 inches, 2009

For the June show at Artists’ Gallery, I’ll be exhibiting five small paintings, including this new one entitled Conscious Conscience:

Acrylic on panel, 12x12 inches, 2009

Conscious Conscience, acrylic on panel, 12x12 inches, 2009

I’ve painted this image using a slightly different process than in most of my other paintings, though the difference will be hard to see in a reproduction.  This piece contains many layers of glazing to produce the color gradations (as opposed to palette-mixed colors), providing both a physical as well as optical depth to the painting.

Also on display is another recent work, Any Which Way, as well as Perceptual Present, Sines of the Time, and Yin/Yang.

The show runs from this Friday, June 5, through Sunday, July 5, and gallery hours (as usual) are Friday-Sunday from 11am-6pm (or by appointment).  The opening reception for this show, which features Alan Klawans and Michael Schweigart in the front room, will be on Saturday, June 6, from 2-7pm (CORRECTED TIMES).  Artists’ Gallery is located at 32 Coryell Street, Lambertville, NJ.