Saturday, January 16, 2016

Matt Phillips

As the day teetered towards twilight, the thunder of an overhead train on an otherwise stormless summer night silenced the group. In a synchronized movement, we all stretched our heads upward to make sure that the freight, at least 5 stories above us, wasn't heading straight for the platform we were lounging on. The height of the train tracks was comparable to the buildings that surround us in the city, but the embracing trees, river, and serenity of the night was foreign, entrancing, and very unlike home. My husband and I curated a show in July at One Mile Gallery in Kingston, NY, and we were lucky to have Matt Phillips as one of the artists in it. He, along with a handful of other painters in the show, came up for the opening. When I visited Phillips' studio months later, he shared with me two paintings that were inspired by that night and the percussion of the train. The structure's mysterious hugeness was captured in his canvases and so was our joined experience.





Phillips asked me if I wanted to arrange the paintings before I got started. Curating a studio for a drawing is such a thrill. The work was leaving for Matt's double feature solo show at Steven Harvey Fine Arts in less than 48 hours, so, as you can imagine, the pickings were as rich as the paintings. With multiple points of entry, Phillips' work is generously made. The larger canvases, which often depict familiar fantastical structures straight out of a sixties psychedelic animation, beg for being climbed on and around, making a playground for the eye. The paint that is applied to fill these shapes, in both the larger and smaller paintings, pools together at their edges creating rivers of vivid color. The organic quality of these ridges gently persuades you to take time to look, resting your eye on their furry details. Phillips makes his paint by hand, allowing for it to have the right viscosity to play this game of chance on the canvas. I talked to Matt about how he arrives at his overall patterns, and he explained that he listens to the paintings while he makes them. You can see this in their differences and individual voices. There is an ethereal glow to the work, as there is to the artist.


  
I haven't mentioned Mirabelle yet. She is Matt and his wife Molly's dog, and she is like no other. My adoration for her goes deep. If you get the chance to meet her, do so. Her gentleness and magnetism can only be matched by her owners. Mirabelle spent the day with us watching and listening; the perfect studio companion. Make sure to see Matt's fantastic solo show at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects. Matt is also currently in a group show at Bannerette, curated by Austin Eddy. Matt will be at MacDowell for the month of January. And if you find yourself in Paris, check out the group show at Le Coeur, curated by Timothée Chailou, opening in February. To see more of his work go here http://paintingpaintings.com/home.html .

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Jennifer Coates

There aren't many things I get a charge out of as much as art, but food is definitely one of them. Shortly after emerging from my Thanksgiving daze a month ago, I had the opportunity to combine the two with a day of drawing in Sunset Park. An entire wall of Jennifer Coates' studio is dedicated to her paintings of the food we love (and sometimes love to hate). A conversation on consumerism, the age of instant gratification, and abstract expressionism came to me while I worked. This with only a small portion of the paintings on the wall, pun intended.


The spontaneous mark found in a drizzle of nacho cheese excited me beyond my adoration of food. Coates is a painter's painter. She evokes the chaos of Pollock's drips in one canvas and divides a grilled cheese or doughnut down the middle like Barnett Newman's "zips" in another, while the landscape between two cookies of an ice-cream sandwich oozes with the same visceral qualities of a Joan Mitchell. Jennifer is analyzing the abstract in the everyday and making it more bewitching as she does so. We talked about how the subjects in this series relate to architecture, as they are shaped to be structurally sound or packaged in a perfect parallelogram. In a time where we can stuff ourselves visually looking at hundreds pictures of #lasagna on Instagram, the ocular punch of a food product is as important as its piquancy.

Needless to say, after drawing Jennifer's lasagna, I went out into the world looking for some of my own. Coates not only makes fantastic art, but also curates and writes about it as well. She is co-curating a show with Lauren Adams at Ortega Y Gasset called The Swerve that opens Jan 23. Also, she and her husband David Humphrey will have collaborative work in a show at Lorimoto Gallery in Ridgewood opening Jan 9. And if you find yourself in Kentucky, Coates currently has a painting on view at the University of Kentucky Art Museum. To see more of her work go here: www.jenniferlcoates.com.


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 http://yevgeniyabaras.com/home.html

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 http://www.racheluffnergallery.com/artists/sam-moyer .

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 http://emilynoellelambert.net/section/28244.html

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 http://www.skarstedt.com/artists/justin-adian/

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 http://sarahpetersart.com/ .

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: http://www.lethaprojects.com/.
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