Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Brooklyn Days is Now an Archive

Check out my new business in Philadelphia, Practical Bodywork! I'm writing about health and related issues on the Practical Bodywork Blog. I'm also still posting occasionally on Pretty Lady. Cheers!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lisa Adams: Now, Shamelessly Gorgeous

Lisa Adams, 'The Future of Paradise Past,' oil on panel, 32"x 78", 2008

I first encountered the work of Lisa Adams in 2004, when a curator tapped her for the "Carpetbag and Cozyspace" exhibition at my gallery, Healing Arts. Her work at that time bore little resemblance to what you see above; it was diminutive, cryptic, and engagingly bizarre. She combined odd text phrases with enigmatic and vaguely hostile foreground images, superimposed upon lusciously painted backgrounds. Her artist's statement declared that she was addressing different states of consciousness with each of the elements in the painting--intellectual, emotional, spiritual. I was all over that, of course, and included her work in another exhibition, "Visual Poetry."

Now, four years later, she is still playing metaphysical games with her imagery, but she has left aside the text and the odd objects in favor of the exuberantly pretty--vines, birds, flowers. The pictures pack a hefty consciousness wallop. They have precisely the same effect, to my mind, as extended contemplation of a Zen koan; the intellectual tangles of the sharply painted vines are superimposed upon backgrounds of moody, open sky, encouraging you to let go of your own circular thinking and access the raw emotion underlying those thoughts, eventually releasing even the emotions. Ultimately, the process is one of liberation. Her painterly technique is formidable, all of it rigorously directed toward the goal of taking your mind off technical concerns. The painting is so successful that you forget you are looking at a painting.

For all its universal import, Lisa's work is deeply and specifically personal. She says:
I try in my work to embody my own sense of what it is to be alive, to encapsulate the difficulties in being human, experiencing all the itinerant shadings of joy, sadness, rage and despair, the things I am sometimes afraid to look straight in the face. Most of my paintings ask difficult questions both of me and of the viewer. These questions comprise a larger aesthetic that infuses my interest in spiritualism, pathos and the strangely complicated and enigmatic discourse between human beings.
This, in my view, is what great art does. It moves from the specific to the universal, speaking a visual language which defies intellectual analysis. Looking at painting is an experience. When the medium seamlessly conveys its content, without intermediary translation, that experience is a transcendent one.

Lisa's upcoming solo show will take place at the Lawrence Asher Gallery in Los Angeles from January 10--February 14, 2009. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Status update; Yari Ostovany, Brian Dettmer, Edwina White

As you can see from the sidebar, I now have prints available of selected works from the New York series and the Implicate Order series. The Implicate Order series seems to be winding to its natural conclusion; I've updated my website with favorites (both mine and other people's) and am looking for an appropriate venue to show them. Heart II has sold to some favorite collectors in California. Ring and Blue Orchid are safely home from Pittsburgh, thanks to Jean McClung of Urban Bytes and and Jill Larson of Fe Gallery, who crashed in my living room over Memorial Day weekend and drank me under the table. We had a blast. Thanks, gals!

My next series, I think, will be more expansive, more abstract and less rigid; right now I've been washing a lot of brushes, taking long random bike rides, and sitting on the window seat of the fire escape, fussing over my miniature garden. It feels like I'm being horribly lazy, but I've come to understand that this phase of the process is necessary. If I try to force it I just wreck a lot of canvas. The last two big pieces from 'The Implicate Order' are currently facing toward the wall in the studio, after I hit the wall with them and decided to organize the practical details of my life for awhile.

Last week an old studio mate of mine, Yari Ostovany, found me on LinkedIn. Upon perusing his website, I was thrilled to discover that not only is he producing some gorgeous work, but that we've followed parallel creative paths. He is also dealing directly with mystical and spiritual sensibilities, with series titles like 'Numinous' and 'Koans' and 'Conference of the Birds.'

'The Poet (II)' oil on canvas, 20"x 16" by Yari Ostovany

'Numinous Nr. 10', oil on canvas, 26"x 27" by Yari Ostovany

Yari's work, when I knew him in the early 90's, was surrealistic and expertly rendered; he, like I, was subjected to intense institutional abuse at the San Francisco Art Institute because we both thought it was important to actually learn to paint. The prevailing SFAI aesthetic was 'a piece of the floor,' which dominated not only the painting department but the film and photography departments as well. In the long run it has only added richness, depth and subtlety to the work, as frustrating as it was to be immersed in an entire art community that seemed philosophically opposed to the creation of images.

Finally, I saw a show recently at Kinz, Tillou and Feigen which rocked. The book sculptures by Brian Dettmer needed no fancy statements, or even titles, to blow you out of the water. What he does is obvious; he excavates old books with a scalpel, to wondrous effect.

Pictures don't do these sculptures justice. The layers and layers of images and text have been painstakingly cut to reveal a jungle of free but precise associations, and the outer surfaces of the books have been filed, sanded and shellacked until some of them resemble stones, or other natural landforms.

The other artist in the show, Edwina White, also works with old paper; her whimsical figurative images were economical and enchanting.

Art is looking up.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


This is the kind of patron that gives me a reason to get up in the morning.
My art education is lacking. Yet I come from a long line of artists, myself. Some were quite good. Not even approaching Pretty Lady's level, but then, I have a sneaking suspicion that very few are. When I look at her artwork I have a powerful sense that I'm seeing paintings that the art world is overlooking, and should not be.

These are works of far greater merit, I believe, than she's getting credit for. They move people. It's not just me; I read some fascinating comments about this on her blog. You look at her paintings and things can happen to you, deep down inside of you. I've only felt that before in museums. World-class museums like the Art Institute of Chicago, wondrous place of early art memories for me.

So I want one. There are paintings on her blog that I return to, over and over, falling into them, and I want one.

I doubt I can afford one. Maybe later. Maybe, if I keep on taking care of business here, straightening things out, paying off those old business debts till there's nothing left and we can finally use our bits of money to enjoy ourselves. Walter is all for it; his European love of culture shines happily upon my plans.

So. This precious piece of real art will find a home on a wall in my happy room, my home office, close to me. For now I'll just sit here looking at it in front of me, falling into it. Touching it in its protective sleeve. Happily thinking up frames, and where to put it.

I'm overwhelmed.
It's not about money. It's not about fame, Art World Parties, hipness, fashion, or status. It's about being seen, really seen, both for what is there on the wall and what you had to go through to put it there.

Thank you.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Tenuous Universe

Last week I attended the E32 art series, hosted by Linda Griggs, despite some deep forebodings, based upon past unfortunate experiences with arts groups that met at caf├ęs on the Lower East Side. I am very pleased to report that the past unfortunate experiences were NOT repeated; on the contrary, it is my sober conclusion that this event was far superior, in both content and attitude, to the Armory Fair. At least, I had a lot more fun there.

I was particularly struck by the paintings of Barbara Friedman, which at first sight appeared to be mere blurred photo-depictions, but upon deeper inspection, proved at once more painterly and more metaphysical. The physical world is indeed an illusion, resolving momentarily out of linear time, then sliding away again.

'Ferris Wheel,' Barbara Friedman, 36"x 27", 2006

A salient feature of her style is the bright, almost fluorescent underpainting, which is allowed to glow through the image at key points, intimating the existence of an otherworldly light penetrating into this one.

'The Garden of the Fitzi-Continis, 45"x 60", 2005

They manage to be romantic, melancholic and downright creepy, all at the same time.

'Yellow Splashes,' 36"x 84", 2006

Barbara says that she usually starts out with a specific image in mind, but often her original plan is completely obliterated by the time she is finished. Her work has been compared to Richter, of course, but has a warmth and depth that Richter's lacks.

Then this week, as if my cup weren't already overflowing, I discovered the work of Judith Simonian, through my critique group. Lo! Another rich, vivid, metaphysical painter.

'Twin Boats,' 36"x 48",acrylic, mixed media, collage on canvas, Judith Simonian

Judy told me that she envied people who had had a formal art education in painting technique; I countered that no painting technique was taught at my school, and that her work did not seem to be suffering for the lack of it. I have not been to her studio, but spent a good half an hour on her website.

'Crossing II,' 2007, 42"x 62", mixed media/collage and acrylic on canvas

Again, it seems to me that her work evokes a radiant but fractured world, where physical events and objects are continuously obliterated by light and color, transcending the passage of time.

'Twin Plateaux,' mixed media/collage and acrylic on canvas, 44"x 82"

But maybe that's just what I'm bringing to it. ;-)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Two Percent

I meant to post about the art fairs, really I did, but spring is here. To those of you who do not live in a climate with honest-to-God seasons, I don't expect you to fathom the importance of this. I have been out biking round and round the park, the cemetary and various cute little neighborhoods, soaking in the blooming trees and the sunshine like someone with bipolar disorder in a manic phase.

So I am pleased to announce that David Behringer has taken it upon himself to parse the NYC art scene, and particularly the Chelsea scene, into something manageable for people who do not spend 10-20 hours a week reading art reviews. It's called The Two Percent. Because:
On any given day, no more than 2% of contemporary art galleries are even worth entering. With over 300 galleries in Chelsea, each with frequently rotating shows, finding that 2% is an arguably impossible effort… until now.
I don't know if this guy's taste is all he claims it to be, except that he liked the Pulse art fair, too. So I'm taking a chance on him. Let us know what you think.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Why I am Still a Painter

I was about to write a standard defensive post about why I continue to pursue the hidebound, retro, unfashionable art of painting, even though painting has been declared officially Dead, lo these twenty or thirty years, even though major contemporary art institutions seem to be sharing in this perspective, and even though it seems to be automatically assumed by the Art World Intelligentsia that a painter cannot possibly also be intelligent, progressive, and a unique original thinker.

Then I went to the Pulse Art Fair today, and changed my mind. Go see the Pulse Art Fair. It's wonderful. I will post about it when I'm not between seeing the Pulse Art Fair and throwing a birthday party for my honey. :-)

So, the reason I am still a painter has nothing to do with repeating an archaic Form, in a mechanical manner, the way the vast majority of persons who sell paintings at plein-air art fairs in places like Canton, Texas or Holton, Kansas do. It has to do with needing a complex and subtle language in which to communicate complex, subtle ideas; it has to do with using a medium that communicates kinesthetically and emotionally as well as visually; it has to do with the pragmatism inherent in using a language that has already been invented, and helping it proceed in its evolution, instead of having to invent an entirely new one, and explain it as I go along.

Also, as difficult and expensive as it is to find the space for a painting studio anywhere in the world, the difficulty and expense is nowhere near that of a welding shop, a film studio or a print shop.

(All images--screenprint, pencil and watercolor on paper, product of recent class at Lower East Side Print Shop. Now I must obtain a print shop residency so I can pursue this line of thought.)