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Bad Boys and Good Girls

The Artist's Life — Two provocative books about individual artist's lives came out early this year —Bad Boy-My Life On and Off the Canvas (Crown Publishers, 2013) an autobiography of painter Eric Fischl written with Michael Stone, and The Woman Upstairs, (Alfred A. Knopf, 2013), a novel by author Claire Messud. Since I read them in sequence, the question arose as to how one book based on facts, and another a work of fiction frames the experience of the contemporary artist. Fischl, an ultra successful painter in the mid-1980's opens his autobiographical account with a coke and alcohol fueled traffic incident in New York after the opening of his retrospective at the Whitney to commemorate five years of unrelenting good fortune, … [Read more...]

The Anxiety of Originality

Made in L.A., 2012 Hammer Museum Biennial – Until the beginning of the 20th century, the education and subsequent “originality” of an artist  depended heavily on the practice of copying from the Masters. Even Cezanne and Matisse openly acknowledged their artistic debts. As epater le bourgeoisie became a requirement of serious Modernist art, however, significations of genius and inventiveness were tied less to technical mastery and more to unpredictability, novelty and eccentricity. Heavily dependent on a cult of individualism and its supposed position outside of mainstream culture, the myth of originality propelled the succession of Modernist movements with its serial overthrowing or “clean breaks” with tradition. The artist’s … [Read more...]

When Art Had Heart

L.A. Raw—Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles 1945-1980  – As part of the massive near year long Pacific Standard Time series of exhibitions exploring the post-World War II Los Angeles art scene, curator Michael Duncan’s survey L.A. Raw - Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles 1945-1980, from Rico Lebrun to Paul McCartney at the Pasadena Museum of California Art stands out as the most memorable and powerful—and least publicized—of all the PST offerings. An in-depth investigation of notable and less familiar artists of that period who were driven by “introspection and angst” to make “socially relevant art ,“ the exhibition raises as many questions about the current state of art in the face of equally compelling issues. In his … [Read more...]

Inside the Artists Studio—Sean Duffy

Dude-entity – Consider the American garage. Besides its primary purpose as storage for automotive maintenance supplies and providing year round protection for our economy’s most important commodity, the 21st century garage might be analyzed in the same manner as Walter Benjamin examined the deteriorating 19th century Parisian arcades. According to Benjamin, the 20th century was foretold in the demise of the 19th century shopping malls with its often absurd contents. Catacombs of surplus and obsolete consumer items, like the arcades, the garage reveals the fashions, consumption patterns, and media trends that define the era but also as importantly, functions as a kind of “dream space” allowing for those who inhabit them to … [Read more...]

Inside the Artist’s Studio – Maren Hassinger

Now Dig Into This – There are opportunities for sculpture everywhere. In a field, in a room, on a stage, in the street, on the ceiling, in front of a camera, etc. Every place inspires a different response. Some responses locate us in space and time and link us to particular people in particular places. These last offerings might be political. There are reactions to given events…..There are sculptures acting like sculptures and people acting like people and sculptures acting like people and people acting like sculptures. There’s stillness and motion. There’s the “littering” of space to mark it. There are pieces that last and pieces that erode. Materials are many—steel to video, plastic bags to newspapers. — Maren … [Read more...]

Inside the Artist’s Studio – Nuttaphol Ma

A River Runs Through It – Badwater Basin in Death Valley, the lowest point in the continental US, is flat, empty, surrounded by desolate, desiccated mountains, and yet the near blinding whiteness of the valley floor symbolizes and enlarges upon the traditional ground zero for the artist—the vacant white studio wall. Or as Jean Baudrillard described the desert, it is the place of “superficial neutrality”, a “challenge to meaning and profundity.” Here on May Day this year Thai American multi-disciplinary artist Nuttaphol Ma began a 6 day, 138.3 mile documented performance/journey to the trailhead of Mt. Whitney—the highest point in the U.S.– carrying a body-sized lightweight handmade “boat” over his head. As recipient of the 2011 … [Read more...]

Inside the Artist’s Studio: Brian Forrest

"Inside the Artist's Studio" is an-ongoing series exploring issues  on contemporary art through direct encounters with the artists themselves. Please click on the image to enlarge and for all artwork details. A Radical Arcadia – “There have always been two kinds of arcadia: shaggy and smooth; dark and light; a place of bucolic leisure and a place of primitive panic”, Simon Schama tells us in Landscape and Memory, one arcadia being “a dark grove of desire, but also a labyrinth of madness and death”. He further describes certain arcadias as purposefully and importantly untamed: “turf, gorse, heather, and timber, trees, shrubs and brushwood” of the heaths outside of 19th century London were a cherished gift to the city … [Read more...]

Inside the Artist’s Studio: Harmony Hammond

"Inside the Artist's Studio" is an on-going series exploring issues in contemporary art through direct encounters with the artists themselves. Please click on the artwork to enlarge for all painting details. The Monochrome Reconsidered – Harmony Hammond and I had just turned onto the interstate leading out of Santa Fe to Galisteo where she maintains her home and studio when traffic assumed the sluggish pace caused by rubbernecking motorists. As if from a slow moving escalator, we then had our chance to gaze at the limp body of a smallish black dog in the center of the left lane, its curvy plush form like a thick brushstroke dolloped on a gleaming linen canvas. A larger mongrel dog frantically circled its … [Read more...]

Urbanature – Coleen Sterritt and Constance Mallinson

New Representations of the Natural A six part serial essay and online exhibition focused on the contemporary depiction of landscape in the painting, photographic and sculptural arts. Introduction and Additional Exhibition Artists: Urbanature, An Introduction, Merion Estes, Roland Reiss and Elizabeth Bryant,Don Suggs and Karen Carson,Linda Stark and Nancy Evans,Ross Rudel and Pierre Picot – COLEEN STERRITT Perhaps owing to the consumer culture and the endless flow of global commodities, for sculptors the present has been dominated by hybridity, the interdisciplinary, and material excess. Moving closer to what Nicholas Bourriaud has termed “Altermodernism”, these artists take into their stride postmodern pluralities, the … [Read more...]

Urbanature – Ross Rudel and Pierre Picot

New Representations of the Natural A six part serial essay and online exhibition focused on the contemporary depiction of landscape in the painting, photographic and sculptural arts. Introduction and Additional Exhibition Artists: Urbanature, An Introduction, Merion Estes, Roland Reiss and Elizabeth Bryant,Don Suggs and Karen Carson, Linda Stark and Nancy Evans,Coleen Sterritt and Constance Mallinson – ROSS RUDEL Once a year at the summer solstice, Ross Rudel runs naked through Griffith Park late at night. Feeling the warm air, the brush of shrubbery almost erotically touch the skin, reverting to animal instincts as one uses all the senses to safely move through the darkened, potentially dangerous space, affirming our essential … [Read more...]

Urbanature – Linda Stark and Nancy Evans

New Representations of the Natural A six part serial essay and online exhibition focused on the contemporary depiction of landscape in the painting, photographic and sculptural arts. Introduction and Additional Exhibition Artists: Urbanature, An Introduction, Merion Estes, Roland Reiss and Elizabeth Bryant,Don Suggs and Karen Carson, Ross Rudel and Pierre Picot, Coleen Sterritt and Constance Mallinson – LINDA STARK Large urban parks are where most city dwellers go to “experience nature”, but Linda Stark’s series of Black Widow paintings inspired by the presence of black widows around her urban studio, reveal a more intimate, near erotic, encounter with the natural world. The spider’s trademark red hourglass shape has been … [Read more...]

Urbanature – Don Suggs and Karen Carson

New Representations of the Natural A six part serial essay and online exhibition focused on the contemporary depiction of landscape in the painting, photographic and sculptural arts. Introduction and Additional Exhibition Artists: Urbanature, An Introduction, Merion Estes, Roland Reiss and Elizabeth Bryant, Linda Stark and Nancy Evans, Ross Rudel and Pierre Picot, Coleen Sterritt and Constance Mallinson – DON SUGGS The breadth and complexity of Don Suggs’ studio work was apparent in his 2007 survey exhibition entitled One Man Group Show, a showcasing of paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs and combinations thereof, from as early as 1969 to the present. Although generalizing Suggs’ interests is difficult, what became clear … [Read more...]

Urbanature – Merion Estes, Roland Reiss and Elizabeth Bryant

New Representations of the Natural A six part serial essay and online exhibition focused on the contemporary depiction of landscape in the painting, photographic and sculptural arts. Introduction and Additional Exhibition Artists: Urbanature, An Introduction, Don Suggs and Karen Carson, Linda Stark and Nancy Evans, Ross Rudel and Pierre Picot, Coleen Sterritt and Constance Mallinson – MERION ESTES Merion Estes’ paintings of the last decade have explored the intersection of nature and culture through multi-layered collages of vibrant printed fabrics, found photographs, and expressive painting techniques in a “maximal visual overload.” Overlaying machine replicated natural images cut from fabrics and cheap art … [Read more...]

Urbanature, An Introduction

New Representations of the Natural A six part serial essay and online exhibition focused on the contemporary depiction of landscape in the painting, photographic and sculptural arts. Exhibition Artists Include: Merion Estes, Roland Reiss, and Elizabeth Bryant, Don Suggs and Karen Carson, Linda Stark and Nancy Evans, Ross Rudel and Pierre Picot, Coleen Sterritt and Constance Mallinson Landscape painting and photography have always been, as Malcolm Andrews termed it,  “the barometer of anxieties over the balance of power between nature and culture.” A landscape is a mediated view of nature, one that has been aesthetically processed, a product of human control over wildness and natural chaos. This pictorial approach always maintains … [Read more...]

Triumph of the Shill

A Decade of Negative Thinking by Mira Schor,  A Book Review The idea is essentially repulsive, of a society held together only by the relations and  feelings arising out of pecuniary interest.  –John Stuart Mill In 2006  a number of notable art critics were solicited to articulate the state and purposes of contemporary art criticism in a little compendium entitled Critical Mess. If any consensus was reached in these diverse essays, it was that the practice itself is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Among the reasons put forth were the entertainment-envy of spectacle driven artworks in which exegis is superfluous, the loss of a single Modernist mainstream trajectory that demanded debate, nuanced reflection, and art … [Read more...]

Now It Is Dark

The Photographs of Mark Ruwedel at Gallery Luisotti, May 22-August 14, 2010 – The 20th Century evidenced an era of supersized ruins. Two epic wars, scores of civil conflicts, revolutions and fundamentalist jihads produced ruination on a scale never before experienced. The photographs, artwork, newsfilms and few extant ruins remain the crucial means of reminding successive generations of the irrationality that foments such destruction, but also of the constant examination necessary as antidote to devastation. Ruination has fascinated artists since the Enlightenment and Romanticism perfected ruin gazing as an art form. The labyrinthine imagined prisons of Piranesi and his endless allee's of crumbling Roman … [Read more...]

What is there There

Nature Morte, paintings by Constance Mallinson Pomona College Museum of Art, through October 18, 2009 As a fiction writer, you learn first that as it addresses narrative, a great piece of fiction is like a path into a forest that never shows the way out. The same is true of poetry as it addresses the act of thought, or of painting as it addresses the act of seeing. (Such desultory ambulations are the crucial difference between these forms and the theory or philosophy that swarms around them, maybe with the exclusion of Derrida.) Woodland Seen, Oil on Paper, 54x96 inches, 2009 In this new work of Constance Mallinson, the act of seeing goes into an imaginary forest from which an essence has been gleaned and transmogrified, but never … [Read more...]