Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Square Cylinder: Sarah Walker

Sarah Walker
"Mount Meru"
Acrylic on panel
28 x 26 inches
My review of "EYEFINGER," painter Sarah Walker's current solo show at Gregory Lind Gallery, is published on Square Cylinder.

Read it here.

Image credit: courtesy, Sarah Walker, 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A "Murky, Mushy Squishyness"

Allison Gildersleeve
Oil and alkyd on canvas
60 x 54 inches

Last week, I observed that Kota Ezawa's animated video, "City of Nature," "mov[es] from pastoral visions [...] to more abstract, riotous scenes of muted colors and shapes -- piles of leaves and tangles of branches that aren't at once recognizable."

Allison Gildersleeve is currently exhibiting similarly "riotous" visions of nature in "Let Me Show It To You Unfixed," at Asya Geisburg Gallery, in New York. From the press release:
"Gildersleeve starts with the ubiquitous and the known, and ends with the deliriously unfixed. All we are left with are discrete moments of seeming understanding and placement, and open-ended wandering. Instead of fixity, paint's murky mushy squishyness reigns victorious."
Some of Gildersleeve's paintings are too murky and squishy -- these lose the dynamic tension between subject and rendition -- but her best paintings crackle with energy, vigorous hybrids of paintings by (the undersung) Amy Talluto and Cecily Brown. Plus, Gildersleeve has one of the coolest surnames in contemporary art (and that's fact, not opinion!).

Based on the gallery reproductions, I've included images of the show's two strongest paintings here.

Allison Gildersleeve
Oil and alkyd on canvas
58 x 54 inches
Image credits: Allison Gildersleeve images "borrowed" from Asya Geisberg Gallery website

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Unreliable Narrator": Ward Shelley at Pierogi

Ward Shelley
"People of the Book"
Oil and toner on mylar
36 x 75.5 inches
Writing about Ward Shelley's 2009 Pierogi Gallery exhibition, "Who Invented the Avant Garde - and other half-truths," I compared his colorful schematic paintings to taxonomic trees.
"[Shelley's] striking [...] paintings anatomize the development of intellectual and social streams within the humanities. The artist describes them as 'attempts to use real information to depict our understandings of how things evolve and relate to one another, and how this develops over time.'

In spirit as well as in appearance, then, Shelley's paintings are cousin to phylogenetic trees, the taxonomic diagrams that biologists use to denote evolutionary relationships among species. But, though Shelley's genealogies look like mappings of biological exuberance, the subjects of his brightly colored, illustrative works are not so scientific: Frank Zappa; Beat Generation writers; nodes of postmodern philosophy; modern art movements."
Aesthetically speaking, I liked every piece in the show, but the most edifying works were those that considered "significant, sweeping lineages," and I concluded the write-up with the hope that Shelley's lens would broaden.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Review In Brief: Kota Ezawa at Haines Gallery

Kota Ezawa
Still from "City of Nature"
DVD, 4 minutes
Edition of 10
Kota Ezawa's rotoscoped animations of the O.J. Simpson verdict (2002), John F. Kennedy's assassination (2005), and the 2004 NBA "Malice at the Palace" brawl (2008) garnered the artist critical accolades, and deservedly so. Still, I'd wondered how effective Ezawa's stylish technique would be were he to reference less dramatic or famous footage. "City of Nature," originally commissioned for outdoor installation in New York City's Madison Square Park but currently on view at Haines Gallery, provided me with an answer.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Chris McCaw: Drawing Time

Chris McCaw
"Sunburned GSP#420 (Arctic Circle, Alaska)"
Unique gelatin silver paper negative
12 x 20 inches
Chris McCaw created the arresting pictures on view in "Ride Into the Sun," the artist's winter 2011 solo show at Stephen Wirtz Gallery (San Francisco, CA), using an unconventional technique. The artist loads handcrafted view cameras as large as 30 x 40 inches with expired silver gelatin photographic paper, tilts the camera lenses skyward, and opens the shutters for hours. Even on cloudy days, the photo paper is soon overexposed. As time wears on, however, the light-sensitive chemicals that coat the paper are solarized, and the prints' tones are transmuted in curious ways. In many of McCaw's works, the sun appears as a dark, arcing streak and the landscape and sky as shades of grey. During some of McCaw's longer exposures, the sun's brilliance, laser-like, burns through the paper, tracing its progress as a charred tear.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Choosing Past and Future

Francisco Goya
"The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters"
Etching, aquatint, drypoint, and burin
"It is the reviving wine of history that defends the future against the past."

- Lewis Lapham, "Democracy 101"
(Harper's Magazine, April 2011)
As high school students, we're often told that history repeats itself, the implication being that a sound education in history will allow us to avoid repeating past mistakes. I think of this as the "Groundhog Day" school of thought. It's true, despite the fact that most people (and states) tend to trip over the same stumbling blocks time and again.

Still, I prefer Lapham's formulation above because his statement implies that the study of history provides us with the necessary confidence to continue and to hope, to view our progress as two steps forward for one step back. Moreover, it's important for us to choose the bottle of wine that we drink from. As President Obama articulated in his brilliant inaugural address,
"the time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation."
May we choose wisely, and drink deep.