Saturday, November 21, 2015

Yevgeniya Baras

Having now visited the Sharpe-Walentas year long studio program five times, I still can't figure out how artists adapt so quickly to a new space, like a hermit crab crawling into a new shell. I guess it is inherent to our species. Yevgeniya Baras' studio, which she has been in for a month now, felt as intimate and unadulterated as many of the moments in her paintings. When I came by, she was preparing work for NADA Miami where she will show with Nicelle Beauchene. In their varying stages of production, Baras' paintings are each delegated a space, along with her finished pieces that hung collectively on the corner wall. That corner, complete with a lounge chair, rug, and view of the Brooklyn Bridge, was the most obvious and perfect spot for me to draw.

Baras' painted lines, tactile textural build up, and recurring color themes carry through from one work to the next, but for the most part each painting exists in a category of its own. They bring to mind the stream of consciousness marks on Miro's canvases, or the early cubist constructions that broke the confines of reality and convention. Baras is also breaking out of the obvious limitations of a stretched canvas by using bedsheets as her fabric and reversing her stretchers so that the bars become a part of the composition. In one instance, she has even attached a smaller painting to a larger one for a new take on the diptych. The sense of freedom that I get from not only seeing the work, but also imagining her experience making it, gives me endless pleasure. 

Halfway through the day, Yevgeniya asked if she could catch up with her family on the phone while we worked. The first call she made was to her father. Next she called her grandmother. Yevgeniya spoke to them in Russian, having immigrated to the US in the early 90's. Although I was unable to understand what they were saying, I could hear a strong bond between them and so much love. This is somehow reflected in the paintings; they are made with that same kind of love. To see more of her work go to

Friday, October 30, 2015

Sam Moyer

A blaze of Autumnal light made a slow stroll across Sam Moyer's studio wall as the day came to an end. Cut by the brick arches that divide her space and the windows' segmented glass, the light fit on the wall as methodically as the clean marble and deeply saturated pieces of fabric fit together in her compositions. She has been in this space for a year now, and with a street loading dock and plenty of walls for hanging and leaning found pieces of marble, it couldn’t be more perfect for her practice. Nicky Morano, her studio assistant, let me to get a jump start on the day before Sam arrived. Nicky was like the straight man for their comedy duo. I was secretly forced to put down my pencil on more than one occasion in laughter as I listened to Sam bounce jokes off of him.

The cold marble in Moyer’s new pieces hovers just outside the parameters of their trippy configurations, forcing the viewer to give extra attention to the details of the artist's decision making. Maybe I have been watching too many old Twilight Zones this October, but there is something surreal and fourth dimensional about them. The reflective qualities of the metamorphic rock create natural portals as they pick up the light in the room, while the thick, rough, durable canvases suck you into their manmade void. In other works in progress, large panes of glass leaned against her studio wall, holding captive the painted black gestures smashed in-between them. While further down the wall, brightly colored, sparkle flecked cuts of found formica jutted up against one another to make bold gestures that remixed the scenes from a 50’s diner. Moyer and I talked about how, when putting these together, it felt more immediate to her than her other work, like making a painting.

We talked about the dreaminess of California, LA's art scene, and our favorite chili recipes over lunch  — obviously dealing with pre-winter jitters. The humor and luminosity that spilled over in the studio made it a place in which I would love to spend more time. Catch her work in Miami this year with Rachel Uffner at NADA and with Rodolphe Janssen at Basel Miami December 3-6th. To see more go to .

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Emily Noelle Lambert

Lost in a jungle of color, I spent a day scrutinizing the value differences of certain reds and blues in Emily Noelle Lambert's punched up new 2D and 3D works. Synchronized in their creation, her paintings are easily camouflaged by her sculptures and vice versa. We took the first few minutes of the visit to rearrange the space in order to get the best view of each piece. As Lambert tenderly stroked her towering, larger than life structures, checking for rough edges, I was reminded of the intensity of preparing for a show, soon to be released to a gallery where it will breathe new life. Lambert's solo show, Idée Fixe, will open at Denny Gallery this Saturday, October 17th.

Having made the new work not only in her Greenpoint studio, but also outside among the trees, welding with her brother in West Virginia, and at a residency in Vermont, Lambert undoubtedly spent some of her time exploring the lush freedoms of a summer outside of sweaty Brooklyn. This comes across in the prismatic dances that Lambert's unadulterated gestures make across the surfaces of her canvases and sculptures. Loaded with blocks of color in punched up high contrast, her two types of work play off of one another's negative spaces, allowing for a conversation within her practice. Carved out semi-circles in her sculptures frame the space surrounding them and show up repeatedly in her paintings, interlocking her compositions. You can even find some wood pieces of the same shape sitting on the tops of her canvases, breaking up the rectangle's rigidness. Bringing to mind the recent Picasso sculpture show at MoMA, Lambert stretches beyond the boundaries of pure abstraction to reference the curve of a woman's body, broken light coming through the trees, or a perched feathered friend. There is as much to discover in her painted world as there is in a land intoxicated with Summer.

  The playlists were sing-along worthy, and the snack table was full of cheese and chocolate, so you can imagine how hard it was to end the visit and head into the cold hard rain that was starting off the Fall. It was great to spend time with Lambert and her work before it headed to the Lower East Side. I am looking forward to my next viewing of it this weekend. To see more go to

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Justin Adian

After a lot of years of looking, I think that I have finally started to figure out the secret language of painting. Crazy conversations begin to present themselves once you become privy to the particulars of the phrasing. Color, form and line communicating even in their most abstracted manifestations. From the stripes of Stella's colored canvases, or Flavin's beams of light, to the saturated blocks of color found in the frescoes of the Medici Chapel, I am understanding more of what is being told to me. Justin Adian's work speaks this language quite eloquently. Having taken a brief hiatus from drawing studios, I was anxious to come back to it by making a drawing of his space. The talk that comes from his soft, but spurring color combinations and slowly stretched out gestures made for a dialog I was eager to have.

Adian's studio, located on Broadway in Williamsburg, sits back just far enough from the street to avoid the rumble of the J train and leave room for the mix of country and rock music coming from his stereo. Even though the work for his show Fort Worth had already left for Skarstedt, his walls and tables were still covered with paintings. So much was going on in there that the floor boards seemed to undulate and mimic the movements of his shaped canvases. One of the compelling components of Adian's work is that they are often made up of more then one part. Sometimes these units barely touch and at others they nudge each other out of the way before leaning in to give their full support. They are personified in their movement, the whole wall becoming part of composition, activated by the implied shifts in the paintings. Even the detail of a fold can make the most subtle linear statement, while the paint on the back of a curve lights up the wall with a glow of hot pink that changes in intensity depending on the time of day. It was uncanny how much more there was to see the more I looked.

While I drew, Adian worked next door on a set of shelves for his studio. When we both finished up we had just enough time for a cold can of beer and conversation about our summer hikes and the Brooklyn BBQ joints that pass the Texan's test. It was the perfect way to end the day. His opening at Skarstedt is this Thursday September 10th. It is sure to be an awesome show. To see more of Justin's work go here

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sarah Peters

Even if it only means riding a few miles, I get goose bumps at the sight of an idling car waiting for me to come downstairs. I dart out the door in case the driver might change their mind, leaving me to take the subway. To add to that excitement, last week I caught a ride with my neighbor and master sculptor Sarah Peters to her studio in Sunset Park. I wanted to get a day of drawing in before she took the last two bronze busts to the Lower East Side for her solo show up now at Eleven Rivington. Peters took the time to describe her process as we sped down the BQE. Even though I doubled back with questions as she talked, I still had to ask her to explain lost wax casting again via email. Starting with clay, she makes a rubber mold, casts it in wax, chases the wax, and then takes it to a foundry in Philly where she sleeps on a couch and a whole new set of steps begin. These include spruing the wax, dipping the sprued sculpture in a ceramic shell, burning the wax out of the shell, then pouring the bronze into the empty ceramic shell. After the bronze is poured, they cut off the sprues and chase the metal before applying the final patina which in this case was a rich and sumptuous black. To sum it up, the process is as far-out as the end product.

The range of styles and periods that come to mind in such a satisfying and challenging way is only the beginning of experiencing Peters' work. Is it Archaic or Hellenistic? Romanesque or Neoclassical? I can almost feel the even and cool air of the Met touch my skin as I try to figure it out. And then I get lost in their eerily cavernous eyes and stylized coiffures and start to think of the hair weaves, well manicured eyebrows and OMG declarations of the people around me. If Peters is bringing up idolatry throughout sculpture's history, she is also speaking of it in the present. Extending the beards to highlight their furry significance and all of our current weirdnesses and eccentricities. The spirit of history's iconography is mixed seamlessly with the tenor of the contemporary, and the portal that Peters makes between the two is fascinating. I wholeheartedly believe everything that comes out of these beautifully mysterious heads' shiny little mouths.

The visit ended as we arrived at Eleven Rivington and Sarah gathered up one of her bearded men. I held tight to the littlest bust to walk it into the gallery. It was such an honor to take part in this last step of their journey. As my admiration for these characters grew while drawing, I looked forward to seeing them again all agleam and stoic sitting atop their silky grey pedestals. The show is up until May 17th at Eleven Rivington, and it is a must see. To see more of her work go to .

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Letha Wilson

That feeling I get from a big open space, like the ocean or a heap of mountains with a spread of land in front of it, on a good day, can parallel the feeling I get from seeing art. I remember spending entire afternoons in a gallery full of Rothkos at the Tate in London during a summer that I spent there as a teen. I longed to be the only one in the room, waiting out the time in between when the tourists haphazardly bumbled around. It was the same gooey excitement I got from standing in front of the Grand Canyon with my headphones on a few years earlier. Letha Wilson is able to eloquently combine the intimacy of experiencing art and the grandeur of experiencing nature into one encounter. She was well into working on her next solo show (opening at Grimm Gallery June 6th in Amsterdam) at her Marie Walsh Sharpe studio a couple weeks ago when I came by. We spent the afternoon into the evening watching the sun go down out her window over the Brooklyn bridge. The view wasn't bad, we thought, but it wasn't quite as sublime as the warmer winter nightfalls of the Southwest.

Artists get their ideas across in a slew of different ways, through varied use of materials, dimensions, or colors. Wilson describes her newest works with a different set of variables. One that uses action, gravity, and a collective understanding of the natural world that came before us. Whether or not we have gone to the places that are photographed in Letha's work, we inherently know where those places are and the powers they hold. She takes images, solely with her Yashica-Mat medium format camera, while hiking in states like Utah, California, or Colorado, and hand processes them before adding them to her overflowing flat file collection. Her artworks get their start somewhere in this visual stockpile, and, most recently, continue to be manipulated with the shear weight and chemical effects of cement. It is as if these pieces are made using a sped up miniaturized version of the erosion and compression that make nature's sculptures. Like the multi-colored stratum of Utah's towering land formations and the Northern California wave-sculpted sea cliffs that can be found in Letha's photos. As I learned during our visit, she has come to this process through a lot of trial testing — her studio part science lab. Wilson shared with me her "cement bible" where she has meticulously written down all the factors that are involved with making each piece. The conclusions that she draws are obviously leading her to excellent results. 

A shared bottle of wine later, I finished up my drawing while gabbing with Letha about her recent visit to Milan. She was there on the occasion of her solo show Terra Firma at Brand New Gallery that just came down at the end of February. With loads of other stories to tell, from her hikes to her many residencies, my visit was as insightful as I had expected it would be. After ending our conversations on the topic of women in the artworld, she lent me her copy of A Room of One's Own and I was off to dream of bigger skies. To see more of her work go here:

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Wendy White

I love the anticipation I have after getting off the subway and crossing the street right before arriving at a studio I have never been to before. What will the building look like, or the always fascinating hallways, or, most importantly, the space that I am about to spend the day drawing. The week I visited Wendy White, she was getting ready to ship work to Miami for her show "12th Man" at David Castillo that opens next Friday, February the 13th. Walking into her Sunset Park studio felt like being dropped directly into the paintings that consumed it. There was even a lone sound of melodic percussion coming from who knows where. It played like the soundtrack to this film that took place just above the earth's atmosphere and just below the surface of her canvases. A few minutes in, Wendy explained that there was a recording studio next door. And so, coming back down from the clouds, we began our visit.

I was first struck by the stature of White's paintings and their captivating trophy-like qualities. Their sides were a slick reflective yellow gold and they were leaning stoically against the wall, safely positioned on hand trimmed rugs saturated in neon colors. I could envision them hidden behind the closed door of one of those sacred sports rooms that your friend's dad has—if it wasn't for their larger than life size. The futuristic versions of team colors that Wendy uses make the seconds in time she is capturing all the more heightened and surreal. And her signature airbrushed marks, that move in and out of text, are as satisfyingly immediate as the goals that win the game (and the pitches that lose them). I soon realized that the images of figures that begin as inkjet prints—before being painted into—are frozen in either a euphoric or sorrowful state, the kind that only sporting events can evoke. White represents athletes of both genders, but only women are shown in their times of triumph. For example, Brandi Chastain powerfully possesses one painting as she tears off her jersey just after making the winning goal in the 1999 World Cup. The men, on the other hand, are depicted being faced with, in one way or another, the end of their immediate significance. For example, the image that is used of Derek Jeter is of him turning his back to the camera, hiding any sign of emotion in his last game before retirement. It seems that White is reversing the typical portrayal of gender in the media, showing men in moments of vulnerability and woman in moments of glory and victory. A reminder that in reality women and men have equal triumphs whether the camera, or whomever, catches it or not.

Since the beginning of this project 59 visits ago I have had many encouraging words from my peers, the female supporters being some of my best cheerleaders. I remember running into Wendy at an opening the week I made my first post, and as rough-cut as it was, she gave me props straight away and has spurred me on since. That was worth a lot to me. Like many of those inspiring female sports leaders, White is one of mine for paintings. It was great spending the day drawing her new giants. Also, this spring her show "Double Vanity" will run at Sherrick & Paul in Nashville, Tennessee from April 30 - June 13. To see more of her work go here

Monday, January 12, 2015

Melissa Brown

There are lots of things I like to think I might be able to do if I tried, knowing full well that I will probably never try them. Directing a play, for example, or making a beef wellington. I recently visited with Melissa Brown while she was getting ready for her solo project at Essex Flowers that opens this Sunday, January 18th. I was reminded that not everyone merely thinks about what they might be able to do, but some actually do it and do it really well. Brown has been making stop-animations and paintings in tandem for some time now, not to mention the fantastic prints that are also part of her repertoire. It seems like an easy enough transition from making paintings to animations, but as I discovered on our visit, it takes a lot of finessed imagination, makeshift mastery, and patience to actually do it. We got to work right away, seeing as she had a deadline and I had a drawing to make.

Melissa had three paintings in three different stages of completion up when I visited. They stood long and tall against her walls and I immediately got tangled up in their hot colors and intertwining patterns and shapes. Having followed Brown's work for awhile now, I was very aware of how her newer paintings were taking me to an even more fantastical place than ever before. The story of this place was now being fleshed out by fuzzy edged objects and suggestions of characters or possible situations, as opposed to the more naturalistic landscape references of the previous work. We talked about Melissa's interest in gambling and casinos and the fantasy and spectacle that surround both. Her imagery picks up on that particularly bizarre energy —literally—through the depiction of things like lotto tickets that seem to vibrate in their pre-scratched off state and card suit symbols dancing with bling. It also alludes to the low roller's dream of what "could be,"  after hearing the sounds of a winning slot machine, with tripped out palm tree mirages suggesting destinations for the newly rich. From what I saw of its completion, her animation also closely relates to the subject of gambling culture using some of the same players as the paintings. I imagine the show might put you right in the middle of one of Atlantic City's casinos on a Monday night at 3 am.

It was pretty cool to look up from my drawing to see a single click of her camera before she made a slight change in her composition and clicked again. Only occasionally did we glance up at one another as our conversations went from art to travel to food and back to art again. A couple of glasses of red wine helped us keep warm, even though she had warned me it might be cold in her studio. Located in a predominately Caribbean neighborhood, Melissa also set me up with an amazing and self-proclaimed "best" jerk chicken. Obviously, I am trying to figure out a way to draw her studio again. To see more of her work go here and don't miss her opening this Sunday the 18th at Essex Flowers.